25 February 2012


Menu du jour
English Breakfast with Spelt Risotto

Cook pearled spelt with same technique to that of traditional risotto rice. For this dish, Cyrille cooked the pearled spelt in a smoked bacon and mushroom stock. Finish with farm cheddar and salted butter. Garnish with fried bread, black pudding, fried quail egg, roasted cherry tomato and Abalone mushroom.

While in New York last month, we enjoyed brunch at Park Avenue Winter, a trendy spot on the Upper East Side whose decor and menu changes with the season.

As Cyrille loves nothing more than celebrating the best of each seasons’ produce, he was excited by the concept of this hot spot. A featured item on the menu was Breakfast Risotto. While we found the idea innovative, the end result was somewhat disappointing. Nevertheless it inspired a new dish of which Cyrille brought back to England to perfect.

Last Sunday, Cyrille made brunch in our cottage—dress code-- pajamas.  Plated before me was one of the more inspiring dishes I have had in a long while.

Cyrille took the traditional English breakfast* and gave it a gourmet makeover.  Through his research he discovered the versatile use of spelt which gives the traditional Italian rice risotto a rustic twist.

 I leave the photo to speak on its own. In the spirit of Lent... This is my nomination for The Last Supper.

Full English breakfast (n.) A must try meal for first time visitors to England. A traditional cooked dish featuring: a fried egg, sausage links, black pudding, mushrooms, baked beans, tomato and fried bread.

This past Wednesday marked the first day of Lent. For 40-days, (most) Catholics and (some) Protestants give up something they think they cannot live without--chocolate, caffeine, checking their blackberry outside working hours, booze, etc. If you have failed to follow through with your New Year's resolution... here's a chance to redeem yourself. Though I typically do not observe Lent, it got me thinking if I did, what would I sacrifice for 40 days? 

And then I had an epiphany- at 3am aside my daughter's crib. I have been observing Lent for over a year. What have I given up? Sleep.

Rare footage: Ouisie asleep
Ok—so not entirely. I still catch a few winks. I enjoyed eight hours of sleep a least two times last year. Next week Ouisie will knock out Round 13 (months) as reigning champion over Mr Sandman. The sand bags under my eyes confirm she is a fighter.

I am back to work and, after a year out of the office, I  do the following to keep ahead: make my morning coffee extra (make that a double extra) strong,  apply two layers of concealer so as to appear well rested at the morning meeting,  and repress the urge to sing aloud Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star around 2pm before curling under my desk for an afternoon power nap. 

With week three under my belt, the baby brain cobwebs are thinning. The nursery rhymes are no longer on repeat and at full blast in my head. My negotiating skills are returning; although I find losing a piece of business harder after being a constant winner to Ouisie for the past year.

Tomorrow is Sunday, a day of rest.  I wonder if I could convince Mr Sandman to bring Ouisie an extra scoop of sweet dreams tonight... I think he has already delivered mine... time to take off the concealer and let the zzz’s have a chance before the 01:30 reveille. 

43 days until Easter...hang in there. 

Sleepless in Hampshire,


14 February 2012

Four Seasons Hotel New York: Eloise’s new residence

To some, New York City is not the preferred choice for a relaxing vacation with a 1-year old. The logistics of just getting to/from the airports is reason enough to travel alone-- with one carry on bag. 

En route back to London, we decided to continue our daughter’s 1st birthday celebration in the Big Apple. As I squashed the (4th overstuffed) suitcase close and scanned my parents’ floors (again) for stray birthday gifts without a bag to transfer back home, I (again) wondered what my husband and I were thinking the night we booked a red eye flight to Newark Airport. Would it not have been easier to just book a direct flight back to Heathrow?

Eloise & Eloise swap Hotel stories
I tossed and turned all night anticipating my 3am alarm to sound. As I splashed water onto my bleary eyes, I reminded myself—Four Seasons Hotel New York, not Newark Airport, is your final destination today. Suddenly airplanes, trains, trams and taxis faded into a serene montage of my family taking an afternoon nap, drapes drawn, snuggled together under our plush duvet.

As my husband and I are both hoteliers, I often get asked if we named our daughter, ELOISE, after the ever popular children’s books series by Kay Thompson. In short, we did not not not. But just like the precocious Plaza resident, our Eloise is learning early on that Oooooooooo she absolutely loves loves loves nice Hotels.

It seems that Eloise may be a city child. In her first yellow taxi ride from Penn Station to Four Seasons Hotel New York, she squealed with laughter and ooohhhed and aaawwed at all the sights seen through the window. At traffic lights, she waved to fellow taxi passengers as if to tell the City- Bonjour! Je suis arrivé....

News of her recent 1st birthday had filtered to the Hotel staff who welcomed her with celebration for her crowning achievement. Reception presented a basket overflowing with stuffed animals, all hoping to be her newest favourite toy of the minute. After some convincing, and prying other beloved stuffed animals from her locked fingers, a sock  monkey joined our troop as we went up up up to the 27th floor.

Birthday plate, Four Seasons Hotel 
Although Eloise shared a room with us, it was set as if she was travelling alone. We found our room stocked with a beautiful crib, child's duvet and matching bumper pads, high chair, baby food, bathmat, toys, soap, powder, shampoo, lotion, I NYC t-shirt... and a personalised birthday cake. 

Ooooooooooooooooo we absolutely love Four Seasons Hotel New York! 

After Eloise took in the view from above, we decided to head out for some fresh air and to find a playground to unwind. 

A few blocks from the Hotel is Central Park.  The rows of street vendors and horse carriages are tell-tale signs that you have found the City’s oasis! 

Swing time, Central Park
I have always been in Central Park during the summer, but discovered I enjoy it as much, if not more, in the middle of winter. As the trees are bare and you are restricted to the footpaths, I paid more attention to the surrounding skylines and diverse architecture of the buildings. 

We watched the ice skaters for a while and I imagined us returning to this same spot in a few years with Eloise ready to take on the rink in her first pair of ice skates.

The next morning as we were leaving for brunch, my husband stopped to chat with the Hotel Manager, Mr Ioannidis, in the lobby. 

Sometimes Eloise has a temper fit. But not very often. It was her mid-morning power nap time, and I was trying every trick in the hat to prevent a melt down on the newly polished marble floors...

Eloise helps with check-in
We took photos with the receptionist. We admired the beautiful jewelry display- three times. We practiced standing up in the lobby furniture. Oh my Lord. Eloise is soooo busy. 

But she wanted to crawl. And so she did. 

Mr Ioannidis caught a glimpse of the determined infant on the move and suddenly appeared with an armful of toys which he placed on the floor in front of Eloise. 

Play time with Hotel guests

At the same time, the elevators opened with Hotel guests wishing to stop by reception. As I lunged towards Eloise, and the toys, to clear the walkway, one of the Hotel's guest kneeled down and began to play with our daughter. 

The power of a cute smile- for Lord's sake.

After three nights in the city that never sleeps, it was time to load up the yellow taxi with our overstuffed bags and head back to Newark Airport for the final leg of the journey. 

Ooooooooooooooo I absolutely love Room Service!
Oh my Lord. There is still so much to do!

I guess we will just have to keep coming back to New York... 

Thank you very much, NEW YORK! 

And charge it please-


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