Thanksgiving in London

Maple Leaf Pub in London, EnglandThanksgiving was last week, and thankfully there’s one Canadian pub in town that saved me from going sad and turkeyless (and considering that it’s called the Maple Leaf and it’s absolutely festooned with Canadian flags, there’s no mistaking it for anything but a Canadian pub).

They served a traditional turkey dinner with pumpkin pie for dessert, and it was actually pretty awful, but hey — it saved me from spending Thanksgiving without eating turkey like some kind of maniac, so I can’t complain too much.

Turkey dinner at the Maple Leaf Pub in London, England

I will say, though, that the whole thing tasted like it was prepared by someone who knew what a Thanksgiving dinner is supposed to be in theory, but who had never actually tasted one.  The gravy was all wrong, the turkey was insanely dry, and though the stuffing was actually not bad, they only give you two golf-ball-sized portions of it, so there isn’t nearly enough.

Pumpkin pie at the Maple Leaf Pub in London, England

As for the pumpkin pie, aside from the fact that it had raisins in it (no dessert in the history of desserts has ever been improved by adding raisins), the crust was mushy and it was served piping hot, which was just bizarre.

I’m sorry, did I say I couldn’t complain too much?  Yeah, clearly I was wrong about that.

Ben isn’t Bonging

Big Ben in London, EnglandHere’s a pretty big bummer: Big Ben is currently under a pretty substantial renovation, which means that the outside is almost completely covered in scaffolding, and its iconic bonging has been silenced.

If you go to London and you didn’t see or hear Big Ben, were you even there?

Movie Overload at the London Film Festival

BFI London Film FestivalYou wouldn’t know it from this blog, but I’ve actually been in London for the last couple of weeks — I had a fairly substantial backlog of posts that I’ve been working through.  Which is a good thing, because up until a few days ago I was doing pretty much nothing but watching movies at the BFI London Film Festival and then writing about them.

I saw 37 movies at the festival, and wrote about 35 of them.

The best film I saw?  Brawl in Cell Block 99.  It’s a gritty, ultra-violent ’70s-inspired prison thriller featuring an absolutely electrifying performance from Vince Vaughn (if all you know him from are his silly comedies, prepare to have your mind blown).

The worst was, surprisingly enough, Manhunt.  This is John Woo’s return to the type of action movie that made him famous, and it was surprisingly awful.  Please don’t watch it, unless you want to be sad.

Paris Croissant Roundup

Seeing as how I’m a reasonable person who spent some time in Paris, I ate a lot of croissants.  Do you want to hear about them?  Every single one?  No?  Okay, here they are.

Croissant in Paris, FranceDes Gateaux et du Pain
This was a solid croissant — maybe a little bit too aggressively crispy, but otherwise quite good.  Still, it worried me a bit; it was good, but very comparable to the better croissants I’ve had back home. Were Paris croissants not going to be as amazing as I had hoped?  The next one I ate answered that question pretty conclusively.

Croissant in Paris, FranceStohrer
And there it is — the croissant perfection I had hoped for.  The contrast between the perfectly crispy exterior and the soft, buttery interior was pure joy in pastry form.  It was actually kind of insane how buttery this was.  I held onto it with the paper bag as I ate it, and by the time I was done that bag was practically transparent.  And yet it didn’t taste greasy at all — just pleasantly buttery in all the best ways.

Croissant in Paris, FranceMaison Decorde
This actually wasn’t on my list of places to check out — apparently most bakeries in Paris are closed on Mondays, so after striking out a couple of times, I wound up at this place completely at random.  And the croissant was pretty good, with a lightly crispy exterior and a mild buttery flavour.  But the texture of the interior was weirdly tough; it was still a pretty good croissant, but this is Paris, so pretty good is actually kind of awful.

Croissant in Paris, FranceChatillon Pascal
Easily the daintiest croissant I’ve had, this had an ultra-light, almost ethereal outer layer of crispiness, and a super fluffy interior. It was also a little bit sweeter than the other croissants I’ve had so far. Not mind-blowing, but quite tasty!

Croissant in Paris, FranceBlé Sucré
I actually wasn’t crazy about this one. Though it was mostly okay — nice crackly exterior, fluffy interior — it was the greasiest croissant I’ve ever had.  It left my mouth and lips unpleasantly grease-slicked, like I just took a swig of oil.  And yet it didn’t have a particularly pronounced buttery flavour.

Croissant in Paris, FranceMaison Landemaine
Well, that was extremely middle-of-the-road. It was mostly pretty good — nice and buttery, good interior texture — but it was lacking the exterior crispiness that you’ve gotta have in a great croissant.

Croissant in Paris, FranceCafe Pouchkine
Quite good, but extremely untraditional — aside from the fact that it’s lightly glazed in some kind of syrup, the interior is sprinkled with a small amount of cocoa (I think — there was very little of it, but there did seem to be a mild chocolaty flavour). It’s actually really tasty for what it is, but come on, man. Don’t mess with the croissant. Also: at two Euros, this was the most expensive croissant I’ve had by far.

Croissant in Paris, FranceEric Kayser

Croissant in Paris, FranceDominique Saibron
I actually had to stand in a pretty long line for this one, so I had high hopes that it would be something special. And though it was one of the better croissants that I had in Paris, the exterior crispiness wasn’t quite there.

All in all, it might seem like I’m pretty negative on a lot of these croissants.  I was being tough on them, being in Paris and all, but I’d be happy to eat any one of them back home.  I did peak early though — the best croissant was easily the one from Stohrer.