Wednesday, 17 September 2014

From Ruby Jewel to Ruby Violet - Tufnell Park's finest!

Dear Readers, 

I have found it! 

I have found a little corner of Portland in North London and it goes by the exquisite name of Ruby Violet... Ruby Violet is an ice cream parlour in Tufnell Park and it not only lives up to expectations, it exceeds them. 
If you haven't already been convinced by the above image featuring an exquisite example of this super-fine ice cream parlour's perfect signage, then allow the fact that at Ruby Violet you can count on the milk being organic, the eggs free range and the products as locally sourced as possible and it is impossible not to comprehend that this is quite simply the best ice cream parlour in London. 'Why,' you may well be asking yourself, 'has Silver Whimsy never been here before?' And if, indeed, you are asking this question the answer is simple: I have no idea. I have been asking myself the same question ever since the SIBF and I went earlier this week. 
Once inside the small parlour on Fortress Road, you are instantly made to feel at home by the delightful ice cream creator/server awaiting to acquaint you with the many flavours on hand. We were invited to taste the delicious, candyfloss light delicacies without needing to ask and we were given as much time as we needed to make our choice. And boy oh boy, did we need that time, because in spite of the fact that all of the flavours are bespoke and hand made in small batches, there are still rather a lot from which to choose!
The ice creams here are all made with natural ingredients, so the Kentish Town Honey ice cream has real honey running through it in mouth-watering golden ribbons and  the Mint Choc Chip (which was my final choice) is made with fresh mint from nearby. 
The thought and time that goes into the flavour combinations means that the ice creams are not too heavy. Rather, they are decidedly light and thoroughly English with a delicate flavour and a spun-sugar lightness that means you can leave the parlour after an afternoon treat without feeling too full for your tea!
The Parlour itself is light and welcoming with several super-cute details that bring yet another touch of Portland to NW3. There is a portrait of the original Ruby Jewel on the wall and a collection of magazines and fun books for you to look through as you enjoy your ice cream. Cutest of all is the fact that each ice cream is wrapped in its very own exquisitely illustrated ice cream napkin-square.
I lucked out with the Eiffel Tower, but the SIBF's Union Jack looked kinda cool wrapped around his perfectly pink Raspberry Ripple.
I thought the pastel colours of the mint green and baby pink looked utterly delightful next to each other and also genuinely reflect the delicate taste of these flavoursome and well balanced ice creams.
I was also sartorially pleased that my ice cream seemed to be an ideal colour accompaniment to my shirt. I may no longer have an American manicure, but if in doubt I can still match my ice cream colour to my top and shoes (see below).
So, Ruby Violet:
Should you go? 
Should you go even if you live in South London?
Is it really worth the visit? 
Will I be going again?
As soon as is possible.
Has Ruby Violet captured 'the life of Portland'?
Yes (and it didn't even need to put a bird on it to do so...although if Ruby Violet did start putting birds on their ice cream that might be even better).
(Sorry. Portlandia reference.)
Does it cater to the customer who enjoys a late night ice cream?
YES!! It is open til 10pm Tuesday to Sunday and til 7pm on a Monday!
I'm going to wait until it's super-cold to go again and therefore feel absolutely free to order 'The Hand Warmer' and a cup of coffee and try out the hot salted caramel sauce. 

Ice cream and melting hearts, 
Silver Whimsy x 

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Ruby Jewel: re-capture that summer feeling!

Dear Readers,

And so it is September. And so the summer seems to fade away like a distant memory of a rose-tinted time of wonder and glory. And so it is that a Whimsical girl in want of inspiration must attempt to re-capture that wonder through the medium of the memory of ice cream!
Portland, oh Portland! Land of promise, hand-crafted paper and the perfect ice-cream scoop.

Many local Stumptowners and visitors swear by Salt and Straw ice cream for its most bizarre and unexpected flavours, but for a simple old-fashioned girl like me who is never really in favour of mixing ch**se and ice cream together ( Ruby Jewel make the most perfectly creamy and straightforwardly good ice cream.
The menu is tempting yet simple here with a host of 'Always Flavors' and then a series of 'Specials' depending on the parlour.

Always Flavors include:

  • Caramel with Salted Dark Chocolate
  • Oregon Strawberry
  • Espresso
  • Cookies & Cream
  • Double Chocolate
  • Singing Dog Vanilla Bean

Whilst some of the specials are:
  • Honey Lavender
  • Malted Milk Chocolate Cookie
  • Banana Cream Pie
  • Peanut Butter Dream
  • - – - – Cow Free – - – -
  • Pear Vanilla
  • Pineapple Basil
  • - – - – Soft Serve – - – -
  • Malted Vanilla with Cherry
  • Caramel Latte Fresh Mint with Chocolate Flake

Additionally, you can top your ice cream with delicious home-made sauces, or go for a legendary Ruby Jewel ice-cream sandwich if you're in the need of more than just the ice cream, and, like in any good ice-cream parlour, milkshakes are always available! (Of course, after HOT CAKES there was no way I could have a milkshake!)
I went for the simplest of all options - Singing Dog Vanilla Bean with hot chocolate sauce - and boy, oh boy, was it good! The Vanilla Bean came out strongly and the structure of the ice cream was amazing - super-thick and rich with that distinctively American ultra-fast whipping that leads to the extreme creamy goodness of a delicious and long-lasting ice cream. The thick ribbons of the chocolate sauce added the ultimate extra direction and lead to the ultimate late-night ice cream perfection in a bowl!
The SIBF was more adventurous... He went for a 'Special Flavor' of Chocolate with Rippled Raspberry Jam. We decided it looked a bit like a special effect from a horror film. It wasn't exactly my kind of ice cream, but if you like a raspberry covered chocolate goo mess, then this is the ice cream for you!
In super-cute style, the parlour is filled with pretty 'Flavor Suggestion' cards for you to fill in. I'm not sure what happens if they do make your flavour, but I'm hoping they give you a bell and invite you in for a free scoop! Maybe they'll make mine and go on to pay for my air fare back?
When you've made your suggestion, pop it in the pink post box and sit by that telephone waiting for the call! 
 So, Ruby Jewel: a perfect parlour for an ice cream pick up. Why isn't there one near me?
Until next time,
Silver Whimsy x
 PS SIBF made it to the end of the Monster SFX Chocolate and Blood Ice Cream Cone... but he's never been the same since...

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Voodoo Doughnuts

Dearest Readers,

Yes, it might be the most talked about donut shop in the world, but is that going to stop me from sharing my own experiences of the legendary Voodoo Doughnuts? No.
The SIBF and I had been hankering after this moment for the length of our trip - people had said 'You're mad to queue for doughnuts!'
But ya know what? We really WEREN'T mad to queue for donuts, for Voodoo Doughnuts is more than just doughnuts. It's a way of life.
The soft squishy doughnut dough, the to-doughnut-for thick luscious icing, the vibrant colours of joy...
These doughnuts are works of miniature art, each and every one, and the experience of being behind those gold glitter bricks and within those purple walls is like no other.
Everyone is happy! It's a Doughnopia (Doughnut Utopia) and actually BETTER than you think it might be. The shop itself is amazing both exterior and interior. A giant donut hangs over you next to glittering golden chandaliers, neon lights invite you to read into the Voodoo Doughnut History and merchandise lures you towards out of proportion Retail Therapy.
But, despite these visual pleasures, the doughnuts are still The Main Thing.
Trays and trays of them are being taken from the oven every second - the multicoloured magic glints at you from behind the counter, each Doughnut crying "Pick Me!" as you gaze with the eyes of the Doughnut-Eater.
The menu offers mutiple Doughnut challenges and sings out with Doughnut Potential, and it is hard for a first timer to make their choice before they're at the front of the queue.

Best of all are the magical pink boxes piled high and awaiting their Doughnut filling. Everyone gets a box - even with just one Doughnut - but this isn't wasteful for that box you will cherish and (in our mad case) travel halfway across the world and back with because it reminds you of the essence of the Voodoo Doughnut itself.
If you're still not convinced, check out the Doughnut themed stained glass windows and the multi-coloured local band vinyl:

So which Doughnuts did we choose? The giant Doughnut on the ceiling spoke to me and I went classic: Vanilla and Sprinkles:
It was sheer pop candy perfection (and someone once told me you should always match your donut to your nail polish so I had to choose this one).
The SIBF went for the Voodoo Doll - the Doughnut for which Voodoo Doughnuts is famous. Who could blame him? This Doll comes with it's very own pretzel stabbing stick and is iced in one eyed glory. Its little arms reach out to you and the thick chocolate icing, umptuous and gooey, matches perfectly with the 'howdidtheymakeitsodelicious?' sticky jam inside.
These are Donuts to savour. They are Doughnut Fine Art, and who knew Doughnut making could be such an exquisite art form? Am I desperate to go back? Yes. Is it worth going to Portland just for Voodoo Doughnuts? Yes. Did I buy enough doughnuts whilst there? No. Did I need a cup of coffee with my donut? Extraordinarily, NO! The Doughnut speaks for itself.

With fondest dough,
Whimsy x
 PS - the bloody jam goo leftover on the greaseproof paper from the Voodoo Doll says it all...
 PPS They even have a pink on-the-run Voodoo Doughnut Van for Doughnut-a-porter!!!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Oui Presse? Mais oui!

Dear Readers,

I have found it. I have found the ultimate Pacific North West coffee shop and it goes by the name of 'Oui Presse'.

Frequent Readers of 'Confessions' will be well aware that my top ten list of coffee shops around London fluctuates on a relatively regular basis, well, we now need to reserve the Number One Spot for Portland's 'Oui Presse' - the most perfect coffee shop I have encountered on my American Adventures so far.

I've enjoyed coffee shops in Seattle, and I've appreciated some of the coffee houses in Portland, but I have constantly been searching for something more, something with a certain je ne sais quoi, and I finally found it after a long walk through Southeast Portland's Hawthorne District.

Whilst 'Oui Presse' is slightly further away from the main strip of Hawthorne it is well worth the detour and the wait - I urge you NOT to stop at any of the other places on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard but rather to wait until you reach Hawthorne and SE 18th and visit this most delightful, super-cute and ultra-delicious of coffee shops.

I have been thinking a lot about the art of the coffee shop on this trip and, whilst I appreciate different customers want different things from a coffee shop, I am certain there are some universal truths. And they are that a most wonderful coffee shop should contain:

  • a beautiful interior
  • something to distinguish it from other places
  • a unique sense of self (see above) 
  • friendly staff 
  • a calm, super clean and comfortable layout and, above all, 
  • most excellent coffee
and I am pleased to say that 'Oui Presse' has all of these things. 

Beautiful Interior

Something to distinguish it from other coffee shops

It not only has an ice cream scoop collection as shown above but also curates magazines from across the world, meaning there is no shortage of reading matter if you turn up and realise yo have forgotten your book!

A unique sense of self

I didn't manage to take photos of the thermos collection hanging on the wall, or the bunny slippers - see the website, believe me, you're going to want some - but I think the picture above of hand-drawn cakes as a substitute for the real thing will suffice to give you a sense of the uniqueness of 'Oui Presse'...

Friendly Staff

You can just about make out the completely delightful, friendly lady who made our amazing coffee in the picture above.

Calm, Clean,. Comfortable

This image is taken from inside the shop looking out - who doesn't want to see a silhouette of a girl with a ponytail while they're drinking coffee?

And this photo is of the door to the restrooms, because who doesn't want to be reminded to 'EAT CAKE' and 'SHOP' when they're in a coffee shop?!

Most Excellent Coffee

But above all, the coffee was the BEST I have had in the whole of Seattle and the whole of Portland so far. And that is saying somehting. SIBF had a cappuccino pictured above, but I had the most wonderful  confection called a 'Noisette'. It was the most perfect coffee I have ever drunk. I wish I could go there every day and drink a Noisette whilst writing in the corner. I might even eat a slice of Pistachio Cake too. 

Readers: the message is simple. When in Portland, visit 'Oui Presse' and find yourself leaving with a desire for bunny slippers and wishing that you lived in Hawthorne so that you could go everyday. 

Whimsy x 

Monday, 11 August 2014

Get your HOT CAKES!

Dear Readers,

And so my American Adventures continue via HOT CAKES in Seattle's beautiful Ballard district.

The SIBF and I mastered Seattle's public transportation meaning that we were able to meander away from Belltown's PUNK cafe and towards Ballard's deliciously indie bunting clad twisting avenues and seaside ways.

Number one on my list in relation to this beautiful spot was HOT CAKES (an exquisitely designed molten hot cake establishment). Years ago on a cookery course I went on, we were told that whenever a hot pan was being moved across the kitchen we had to shout HOT PAN so that everyone else knew to keep out of the way. And that shouting capitalisation is how I feel about HOT CAKES! It seems like a name that needs to be yelled, which completely goes against the relaxed, sugar-sweet and comfort vibe you get when you're inside this mighty fine establishment.

Beautiful twee aesthetic apart, HOT CAKES is amazing because you can actually see directly into the bakery where all that molten chocolate marvel happens from the cafe. It was hard not to stare - the bakery is on a huge scale in contrast to the small public area - and all the cafe workers are also the bakers. Hence we discovered when SIBF commented on having 'blowtorch envy' that the lady who made our beyond delicious to the power of five thousand milkshakes is also a pastry chef who brulees bananas when she makes her kids a banana split! That sounds like my kinda mom!

But enough - onto the milkshakes. Whilst I was incredibly tempted to go for one of the alcoholic variations (see impressive liquor shelf in the photo below!), the earliness of the hour made me sensible and I had Vanilla Bean instead.

SIBF went for the seasonal and local Raspberry Milkshake. I have to say the HOT CAKES milkshake is the best milkshake I have ever had.

Thick, creamy, full of real vanilla bean black pinpricks AND with a scoop of supersoft puffy whipped cream and a sprinkle of vanilla sugar on top. HOT CAKE HEAVEN.

If you're ever in the area (and by that I mean the Pacific NorthWest) believe me, HOT CAKES is worth the detour.

News of Portland's best coffee shop coming in the next edition!

Stay tuned and stay sparkling,
Silver Whimsy x