Tuesday, June 18, 2013

New Website: Portable Priscilla

It has been a transformative year for me as a blogger and photographer. I've learned so much from this blog and it would not have been possible if it wasn't for your support and input.

Please visit our new website www.portablepriscilla.com and continue to follow my journey. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Coffee and Gourmet Sandwiches @ The Missing Bean, Oxford

If there is one place I'm thankful for in Oxford, it would be The Missing Bean. Tenderly tucked in Turl Street, this small independent coffeeshop is an oasis for Oxonians in need of hair-raising espresso or rustic gourmet sandwiches. 

I'm one of those coffee lunatics who drink so much coffee that I could have it infused to my blood from an IV bag. As someone who has been terribly pampered by New York coffee roasters, I was glad to find a venerable coffeeshop like The Missing Bean in Oxford, on which my survival the past year entirely depended. I go to The Missing Bean so often that the owner once joked to me that he was going to start charging me rent. 

The quality of the coffee is unrivalled in Oxford. I'm also a fan of their bagels and sandwiches. My all-time favorites are the smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel, and the goats cheese, roasted aubergine and pesto sandwich.

The floor to ceiling windows of the cafe means that the place is also good for reading and people watching. The place is busiest in the morning and around lunchtime so I wouldn't recommend going there during those times. But once the crowd has simmered down, there is nothing like sitting by the windowsill with a book and a hearty cup of chai latte.

The Missing Bean 
14 Turl St
Oxford, OX1 3DQ

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Peach and Pistachio Cake @ Rick's Cafe, Oxford

It's my last week in Oxford and I realize that, besides Oxford's glorious libraries and meadows, there aren't too many local establishments that I will miss. In a student town like this, where the gastronomy is nondescript and good coffee is hard to come by, it is the people that will continue to inscribe nostalgia in Oxford's cafes and pubs.

I visited Rick's Cafe on a somber winter afternoon with a friend. Hoping to ignite ourselves with pastel-colored macaroons and sugary delights, A and I took a bus down to the hip Cowley Road, just slightly off Christ Church Meadows.

Rick's is a beloved local coffeeshop. Bland and unassuming, the place teems with impatient regulars and pensive students with laptops perching on their lap.

A and I decided on a selection of macaroons and a pretty looking peach and pistachio cake with candied mango. The macaroons, sad to say, were terribly disappointing - too far off Pierre Herme to be mentioned in a blog post, but the cake wasn't too bad.

Sunday had a way of spending its youth. A sipped her chai latte and poised herself with the view of Cowley Road traffic. We lingered until dark.

I never went back, but I know people who do for the mediocre coffee and free wi-fi.
Rick's Cafe 
88-90 Cowley Road,
Oxford, OX4 1JB

Friday, June 7, 2013

Hello Amelia Rope Chocolate, You So Fine

I believe there is chocolate, and then, there is chocolate. The latter variant compels you to eat with your eyes closed. It commands a special occasion, a special person, a special moment.

Amelia Rope makes such divine artisanal chocolate. Handmade, individually numbered, beautifully packaged, the chocolate bars make exquisite gifts, if not pure self-indulgence.

I tried the Pale Coffee Bean Edition 01 two days ago. After my first bite, I was determined to stock up on the chocolate. I ordered the same chocolate bar, along with two other (award-winning) flavors: the Pale Rose Edition 01 and the Pale Lemon & Sea Salt Edition 01. All three of them came in the mail today – along with a handwritten note from Miss Rope and labeled chocolate samples from the kitchen.

I’m not a big chocolate person, so when I say these chocolates are fantastic and to-die-for, my endorsement is worth double. The flavors are smooth, quirky and novel. And as banal-sounding as rose chocolate is – this is something else. The Pale Coffee Bean Edition 01 is great if you want to try something new. You’ll find crisp whole coffee beans embedded in the bars whose flavors add to the depth of the chocolate.

If I had to pick one though – which is obviously a hypothetical case since I could never buy any less than these three solid flavors – it has to be the Pale Lemon & Sea Salt Edition 01. I bought this one partially craving for some sea salt and caramel chocolate. Miss Rope does not make sea salt and caramel chocolate, but the lemon, I assure you, is a million times better than any caramel combination. The lemon is artless – almost a stark combination with the chocolate.

All in all, Amelia Rope will make you re-think what you know about chocolate. If you have never lavished on yummy top end chocolate before, do yourself a favor and order a chocolate bar.

Monday, April 22, 2013

An Early Birthday Treat: Yellow Velvet Cake from Harvest

I'm a perpetual victim of advertisements - and happily so. Last week, when I was back home in Jakarta, I saw this giant billboard from Harvest bakery, advertising their latest creation: the yellow velvet cake.

After seeing the billboard I went straight to the nearest Harvest and learned that the "yellow velvet" is lemon cake layered with lemon mousse.

Normally, I would never get a cake from Harvest. I've had their cookies, macaroons, and whatnot, and was never pleased with my purchase.

But this! This is delicious - light, fluffy texture, not too sweet, incredible citrus mousse.

And it's a damn good bargain at 300 thousand rupiah apiece.

The cake was so good that for my birthday dinner two days later, I asked for the same cake. Everyone at the dinner loved it. My friend J even said, "This is the best birthday cake I've ever had."

Technically, it's not my birthday yet - but my aunt wanted to cook for me and I needed an excuse to get a second cake.


My aunt and I just moved to a new home with a fabulous new kitchen. Below are some of the things she made while I was home. (The last picture is of an ice cream cake from Huize van Wely.)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

At Home: Swede and Parsnip Soup

It's true that I self-medicate with food. I've been sick as a dog since last week. My condition is so poor that the doctor prescribed me a ridiculous amount of painkillers to mitigate the pain and bring down my fever.

When I'm this sick there are only two things that can make me happy: food and flowers. On my way home from the pharmacy, I stopped by the Covered Market to eye fresh flowers and vegetables to take home with me.

I got myself the fattest Sweet Naomi roses and a bunch of wax flowers. As for the vegetables, I went with swede and parsnip, which virtually cost me nothing. I like swede for its honeyed sweetness, parsnip for its cool mint. Together, they make a fantastic spring soup. Bright, airy, with just the right amount of sweet.

Friday, February 22, 2013

At Home: Bacon and Brie Sandwich

Most Oxford students tend to fly from lecture to lecture with little time to indulge themselves in a proper sit-down meal. Naturally, sandwiches and paninis are the popular choice for lunch among students. The campus abounds with purveyors of gourmet sandwiches, from one-off establishments like The Alternative Tuck Shop and The Missing Bean to big chains like Pret a Manger, Taylor's and Mortons.

I was in a hurry the other day and made this bacon and brie sandwich based on my favorite panini from Mortons. It doesn't require too many ingredients and is an elegant substitute for the classic ham and cheese sandwich. I used onion marmalade for this recipe but if you can't find that in your local supermarket, it's easy enough to caramelize your own onions. The sweetness of the onion will bring out the subtle flavors of the brie.

Cheddar is such a thing of the 90s. If you're going to have one cheese in your fridge, I recommend going for versatile variants like brie, manchego, buffalo mozzarella, triple cream and goat cheese - all of which are not too pungent and will complement a lot dishes (or serve as decadent snacks when you have nothing else to eat).

Enjoy your weekend!