Dinner and a Show: Ham Yard's Pre-Theatre Menu & An American in Paris

Dinner and a show seems a bit of an old-fashioned date, doesn't it? But as someone who loves a little old-school romance, I was delighted when I received the gift of theatre from Ben as one of my Christmas presents.

Since our chances of seeing Hamilton for a reasonable price were slim to none, Ben opted for the next best thing- tickets to An American in Paris in its last week of showing in the West End! As big of a fan of musicals as I am, I wasn't all too familiar with the show. But knowing that the score was the music of George and Ira Gershwin brought out my inner music geek (my final piano performance ever was Rhapsody in Blue). 

So on a chilly Wednesday night, we set off for the West End ready to be whisked away into the jazzy music of the Gershwin brothers, complete with song and dance. But not without something to eat first. London is bursting at the seams with pre-theatre set menus. Of course, you don't need to be going to a show later on to cash in on these deals, but you will have to eat on the earlier side. After a little bit of sleuthing, I decided that the Ham Yard restaurant had the best deal and was in close proximity to the venue. 

The Ham Yard restaurant is attached to a hotel of the same name. Located off of the main street and in its own little courtyard area, you're greeted with twinkling fairy lights in the trees. The perfect way to start off a magical night of music. The restaurant was already buzzing by the time we arrived at 5:45. Clearly, everyone else was having the pre-theatre deal. That, or there was a large cohort of post-work cocktail seekers in the restaurant. 

Ham Yard's pre-theatre menu, while limited, is packed with flavor in every dish. Seriously- there's no plain food around these parts. I've been on a real goat cheese kick lately, so I started with a light option of grilled goat cheese and endive salad. I'm not really a salad gal but the combination of crunchy hazelnuts with creamy, tangy goat cheese really hit the spot!

My second course was a coq au vin. While I'm not usually one to order chicken at a restaurant (I hate to say it, but I find chicken super boring) but this dish elevated the often-bland chicken to the next level. The red wine jus and creamy potato mash made this the ultimate comfort dish.

We skipped out on dessert (we had pre-emptively bought some ice cream for later) and, if you noticed in the photos, we opted out of the complimentary glass of prosecco. We're doing a semi-dry January, so we went for soda instead (it's a tragedy, I know). That being said, the two courses with a glass of prosecco normally comes to £19.50 on the pre-theatre menu- such a deal! You can find out more about the deal here

After filling up on our meal, we headed to the show. Now, I don't want to give away too much (and a detailed synopsis probably wouldn't be too interesting), but I'll fill you in on a few highlights of the show. As I said earlier, I didn't really know the plot or the songs from An American in Paris. But the second the show started, I immediately recognized the first song- "I Got Rhythm." Even as the show went on, this continued to be my favorite song!

Plot-wise, An American in Paris is a simply-complicated love story. In post World War 2 France, Lise, an elegant young French woman and aspiring ballerina, is pursued by three men- a Frenchman, her long-term partner, and two American expats. As always, drama ensues. I think the best, and perhaps most unique part, of this show is the dancing. It's largely a ballet-based show, so you're really getting two-for-one!

While An American in Paris is unfortunately no longer running in the U.K., keep your eyes peeled because I have a feeling it might come back by popular demand! In the meantime, you can always check out the film ;)


New Years Celebrations: Oxford and St. Albans

Confession: I haven't decided on my New Year's resolutions yet. So I guess I'll have to add "being on top of things" to my prospective list. Anyway, while I'm not quite ready to set any resolutions or goals for this year, I thought I would recap what I did to celebrate this New Year.

I find New Year's Eve to be a terribly overrated holiday. So. Much. Pressure. Especially as a young person. I was speaking to my best friends about this, and they all seemed to agree (especially my bestie who lives in NYC- I can't even imagine the pressure and the price!).

I've been lucky enough to have spent the last three New Years in three different places. From New York City to back home in Newton/Boston to ringing in 2018 in England this year. Even though I was spending New Year's Eve away from home this year, it was still very low-key. And I think that's by far the best way to approach the holiday.


Christmas Traditions

In our house, Christmas is all about the food, the fizz, and the family. As we collectively grow older, all the material aspects of Christmas begin to matter less and we recognize that the company we keep is invaluable.

But there's one thing that makes the holiday season more special than any other time of the year- and that's tradition. Maybe it's because I'm feeling nostalgic in my older age or because I won't be home for as long this Christmas as I normally am, but I find myself holding tighter to these traditions now more than ever.

My family isn't particularly religious or "traditional" per se but there are a few little family traditions that we've kept up over the years that I look forward to every season (and am sad to see go as the 25th comes and goes). So today I thought I'd share with you a few of my favorite family Christmas traditions.

Christmas Cookie Making 

One of the best things about traditions is how they not only serve to create memories but also how they sometimes conjure up the same conversations every year. With Christmas Cookie making, this couldn't be more true. Every year, we say "this isn't enough cookie dough!" as my grandfather rolls out the dough on the counter. Of course, it always ends up being more than enough, especially considering that there are always so many sweets in the house. And decorating the cookies once they've been cooked is always the time where competition ensues. Who's the best decorator? The neatest? The most creative? (spoiler alert: it's always me) We always end up eating half of the decorations, and my grandfather is forever in charge of cutting out and decorating a Rudolph cookie (always the most delicate of the bunch). We're definitely creatures of habit!

Yearly Christmas Ornaments 

My mom is truly a Christmas fiend. The second the Thanksgiving Turkey is eaten, we're already scoping out a tree. And because the tree is up at the end of November, my mom has to get started on one of my favorite family traditions pretty early on. For as long as I can remember, my mom has been gifting each of us an ornament every year. And not just any ornaments- ones that are unique to the person and sometimes unique to that time in their life. If you think about that in the scope of my family, with four kids, two parents, and countless years together, you can imagine our tree is pretty full. Some of my personal favorite ornaments are my swan (to go with my namesake) and my American Girl Doll "Samantha" ornament. This year, my favorite new addition was my brother's Bean Boot.

The Boston Holiday Pops

This tradition never fails to put a smile on each of our faces. And even though we see the same show every year, the Boston Pops Orchestra always switches it up and it's always a new adventure for us. From the classics like Sleigh Ride to the legendary Boston Pops own version of Twelve Days of Christmas (listen to it here- you won't regret it), there really is something for everyone. And the best part is always the sing-along. You can bet I'm always going to be belting out my favorite Christmas tunes whenever I get the chance!

As we face a lot of changes in our family what with us kids growing older and creating our own lives, it's comforting to know that some things never change. Even when I feel like my life is moving forward at a mile a minute and I'm not quite sure where I'm going, I know I can always reach for and remember these strong family traditions.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year!


Forage & Chatter: A Can't-Miss Culinary Highlight in Edinburgh

Memorable meals come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. We might remember a meal fondly because of the people we shared it with or the events we were celebrating. But having an unforgettable meal based solely on the excellence of the food? Those ones are a bit more rare.

Last week, I had the pleasure of having a meal that I'll truly never forget thanks to Forage & Chatter.

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