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London: The Next Great Foodie Town

            England has been plagued for years by their unfortunate culinary reputation. The generally accepted connotation of British cuisine is one of the heavily fried and beer-battered pub food they’ve become famous for championing. Admittedly, London has far more than it’s fair share of this particular cuisine, but the city has been evolving over the past decade to join the ranks of other culinary capitals such as Paris or New York.

            Much in the way that British fashion designers are known for their pioneering of new and creative techniques on the runway, there’s a new class of intriguing culinary talent developing their own foodie dialogues for the masses.

            The eating out crowd is much less scene-y than their counterparts in other locales (particularly New York), but that hasn’t stopped them from creating dining spaces that are just as stimulating as the food they are serving. Walking around London I am frequently tempted to grab a bite just so I can sit inside and properly take in the décor. Fortunately for my wallet and belly, there’s only so many hours in a day! Here are a few of my favorite places so far: 

33 D'Arblay Street, Soho, London W1F 8EU

Based on name alone you get a sense of the kind of the kind of hipster eatery/clientele that TBC attracts. This all-day breakfast spot opened in SoHo in 2005 and has since opened a number of other locations around London. 

As it happened, the day we went was national pancake day. To commemorate the occasion, they featured a challenge- if you can eat 12 pancakes in 12 minutes then your meal is free. The catch (well beyond the obvious challenge of eating 12 pancakes in 12 minutes) is that you only got one tiny glass of water and a small pot of syrup. I was not nearly bold enough to attempt such a feat, but two sisters sitting across from us did. They didn't make it, but they came damned close. The spectating was an experience in and of itself.

Also, be warned: even during the coldest days of the winter, the line snaked around the block. I'd recommend going as early as possible on a warm weekday! But it's worth the wait once you're inside. 

59 Sloane Avenue, London SW3 3DH

Located on an unassuming street in South Kensington, The Good Life Eatery is always filled to the brim (quite literally spilling onto the street most mornings) with posh, modely-looking types. The fact that we're all willing to endure the hassle of securing a table is a testament to the taste of their incredible healthy 'bowls,' filled with every lovely ingredient you could possibly think of.

While there's no shortage of organic-only cafes and cold pressed juiceries in London, it's nowhere near as health-food-obsessed as New York (at least in my opinion). There are still a number of places I want to try, but The Good Life Eatery is by far the best healthy option I've experienced in London.   

10 Berners Street, London W1T 3LF

Berners Tavern, located inside the buzzy Edition Hotel in Fitzrovia (just south of SoHo + Oxford Street), is certainly a place to see and be seen. The friend I was dining with joked that it would be an ideal place to go man-hunting at cocktail hour. And she was quite right, the place was filled with smart-looking businessmen and trendy waifs at lunch meetings. The food itself is reason enough to go, but the decor is really a standout here. 

139 Brick Lane, London E1 6SB

It might not be a foodie's paradise, but Cereal Killer Cafe is definitely a must see. Much like with modern art, the concept of the cafe is very 'why-didn't-I-think-of-that!' Why a place like this had never existed before is a mystery. But one thing is for sure: they found the perfect niche on Brick Lane, a section of the city infamous for it's predominantly hipster population. And hipsters love cereal, I guess, because it was packed with 20-somethings wearing sweatshirts with ironic phrases and thick-rimmed glasses I am guessing most of them didn't actually need. 

Also, you can order cereal with chocolate milk and crushed Oreos on top (or Reese's, marshmallows, bananas, blueberries, etc). I don't know about you, but that's enough to get me out of bed in the morning... or anytime of day, tbh. 

Escape to Barcelona

            I feel a little bit guilty complaining about the weather when all of my friends back in New York are experiencing the worst winter on record… but after having been in London for nearly three months I’ve become a pansy.  So when I heard that they have something called ‘reading week’ here  (meaning that I had a surprise week off from classes) I jumped at the opportunity to head down to Barcelona and remind myself of what sun felt like.

            Though I’ve spent a decent amount of time in Spain previously, I’d never made it all the way to Barcelona. I’d heard stories from friends who had visited the city telling me that it was amazing and I absolutely had to visit, but it had never jumped out at me for some reason. When I got there I was happy to find that what they had said was true.

            Due in part to its proximity to the ocean, Barcelona feels more like a beachside town than a major Spanish city. And there whole siesta-culture is definitely something I could get on board with… along with their need for a glass or two of sangria to accompany every meal, no matter the time of day.

            Even though it’s one of the warmed places in Europe at the moment, its still not quite optimal tourist season which worked well in our favor. It felt like we had the entire city to ourselves! Barcelona was ours to explore.

One of the highlights of the trip was watching the sun set into the ocean over the vast Barcelona skyline from Gaudi's Park Guell. 

(Because it's never too cold for ice cream, amiright?)

Pumpkin soup and bellinis taken alfresco (!) at Picnic

Sangria should only come in glasses the size of your head!

Dear good people of Barcelone, 
I am sorry that I kept insisting on calling Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia. The Sangria Famiglia. Really, I am... 

From café hopping around town to getting stuck at the top of Park Montjuic, we certainly got into some shenanigans. But what good trip doesn’t have lasting memories to match it?

How Is Harry Potter Like Fashion? (with thoughts from A$AP Rocky)

            In the interest of full disclosure, I should let you know that I am absolute geek in all areas of life when it comes to Harry Potter. I have a horrid tendency to relate every situation back to a quote or a fact from the books whenever the opportunity presents itself (and often in wildly inappropriate settings).

            In both Potter and fashion, it seems that A$AP Rocky and I have found a point of shared interest. The ‘Fashion Killa’ rapper was quoted comparing the two entities in a recent interview with Complex magazine. “Your wand chooses you, as opposed to you choosing your wand. That’s what fashion is like, man. You gotta let it take control.”

            Moving beyond the initial ridiculousness of this statement, it got me thinking. Maybe there was some validity in his words. After all, both the fashion industry and Potter universe aim to create magic, whether that magic is the literal kind or the kind that can only be achieved by capturing that perfect moment on camera. And certainly, both worlds are seemingly incomprehensible to outsiders (muggles). But moving beyond these obvious comparisons, how else is fashion like Harry Potter?

            The moment that first years arrive at Hogwarts they are filed into the great hall to take place in a sorting ceremony that will decide on their home for the duration of their schooling. When placed on his or her head, the sorting hat is able to read the mind of each student in order to place them in the house best suited to their individual qualities. There are four houses: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin.

While fashion moves at a quick pace and is always striving for the new and modern, there are a number of historic houses that we return to each season. The majority of young/new designers aim to be placed within these institutions to receive proper training before venturing out on their own. Which house they are placed in is based on their personal aesthetic choices and capabilities, much like the sorting process at Hogwarts.

For the bold yet elegant ladies who lunch breed there’s the house of Oscar de la Renta. For the more conceptual types we have Comme Des Garcons (Ravenclaw). For the cool, younger sister who maybe parties a little too hard there’s Alex Wang (Hufflepuff). And for the troublemaking dame with slits up-to-here, there’s of course, the house of Versace (Slytherin).

Taking on the position of the sorting hat are industry luminaries Anna Wintour, Delphine Arnault, and the late Louise Wilson. When the editor and academic put a call into the right people, jobs are created and futures are made. Lazaro Hernandez, of Proenza Schouler, once told the story of how he got his first job after writing a note to Anna Wintour on an airplane napkin and slipping it under her drink. Though Wintour didn’t acknowledge him at the time, Hernandez received an offer from Michael Kors two weeks later saying that Ms. Wintour had passed the note onto him. Alber Elbaz of Lanvin has also been quoted saying that anytime Louise would call him telling him to hire one of her recent graduates, he would do so immediately.

The room of requirement, first introduced to us in The Order of the Phoenix, has an eerily similar function as a fashion closet does during a photo shoot.  Located on the seventh floor of Hogwarts, the room of requirement is described by Dobby as “a room that a person can only enter when they have real need of it. Sometimes it is there, and sometimes it is not, but when it appears, it is always equipped for the seeker's needs"

Well, if you’ve ever worked on a photoshoot you can understand the usefulness of a room like this. How many times does someone on set suddenly decide that life isn’t worth living anymore if we don’t have “that silver cuff from that Marni show three seasons ago”?  Do you expense an urgent messenger to head to the Karla Otto offices stat? No, you can just pop into the room of requirement (options closet)! Hallelujah! The day is saved.

Correct pronunciation is crucial! Harry learned his lesson the first time he used floo powder to apparate in The Sorcerer’s Stone. Instead of going to Diagon Alley, he shouts that he wants to go to “Diagonally” and ends up in the depths of Knockturn Alley instead. Similarly, if you mispronounce the name of a designer or house, prepare to be shunned for the rest of the season.

As for the role of Dumbledore, it must be said that there are number of similaries between the Hogwards Head and Karl Lagerfeld. Like Dumbledore, he occupies a magical position in the center of our world where age is rendered meaningless.

Finally, there is the transcendent role of transformation the fashion plays in Harry Potter.  When Hermione, the bookish and fluffy-haired female lead, descends the stairs at the Yule Ball in a fancy pink gown, she manages to take everyone’s breath away. It’s the first time that we actually get a proper glimpse of how beautiful she has become. We, along with Ron in particular, finally realize that she isn’t just one of the boys but has in fact developed into a lovely – and stylish - young lady.

My fellow-Potter nerd friend and I went to the Harry Potter studio tour out on the Warner Brothers Lot in Leavesden. We felt that a selfie in the Mirror of Erised was necessary.


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Caroline Mason: 20. Native New Yorker (and one time North Carolinian). Assistant to Derek Blasberg. Just a girl who is OCD about all things fashion, drinks way too much coffee, and has an affinity for late night talk shows and travel books. FIT class of 2016. Previously with Karla Otto PR, Lori Goldstein and Lester Garcia.

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