D-Squared T-Squared – Week 46

 

 

This week I was solo in my crazy creative endeavor. I attended a cheese-making class. Cheese, y’all! Cheese!

 

 

Held at The Ebell – a place I’m presently smitten with – the class was taught by Chef Louis Pechan and it was awesome. I’ll be honest though, it wasn’t what I expected. I’ve been to many a cooking class and based on those experiences, I thought I’d get more of a hands-on evening.

 

 

When I walked in and saw the beautifully set tables with their fascinating centerpieces, I knew I was way off. The class turned out to be a watch-and-learn sort of gig. So I watched. And I learned.

 

 

Chef Louis demoed Halloumi cheese…

 

 

Mozzarella cheese…

 

 

Burrata cheese…

 

 

(Ricotta cheese was also made, using the whey from the Halloumi process.)

 

 

Anyhoo, after a couple of hours of cheese-making, we were treated to a stunning feast, featuring the cheeses we’d seen being made. It was amazing, y’all. I was a happy, happy gal. And then something incredible happened: We ate our centerpieces! They turned out to be baby radishes “planted” in a layer of yogurt, with pumpernickel bread crumbs on top. Edible centerpieces! I loved it! And I’ll definitely be stealing that idea.

 

 

When all was said and done, I felt like I got a pretty good overview of basic cheese-making. I definitely felt inspired to give it a go at home in the near future. And though I learned it is cheaper to buy cheese than to make it, I won’t be deterred. I mean, I didn’t witness gold being made or anything, but it still felt like a bit of magical dairy-based alchemy. And I loved it.

Say It Ain’t So, Paseo!

 

 

Remember when I wrote about a D2T2 project revolving around trying to replicate a Paseo Cuban Sandwich? Remember how much I looooooooooved that Paseo sammie? And if you’ve ever been to Paseo in Seattle, remember how much you loved it?

 

Grab a hankie, friend, for I bear sad news: Paseo is no more. My Seattle buddies sent me a link for a short news bulletin, alerting folks to the shop’s closing. When I read it, my heart sank. Not only did I not enjoy learning of possible abuse of employees, I also ached to think I’ll never stand in line and be rewarded for my patience with the most succulent amalgam of ingredients ever to call itself a Cuban Sandwich. (You can read a Seattle Times piece about the saga here.)

 

Food memories are important. They have the power to transport us through space and time. Think about it. Is there some particular food from your childhood – a food made only by someone no longer with us – that you remember so clearly as to lead you to believe you can smell it right now? And where do you see yourself eating it? In your mind – didn’t you just go there?

 

 

As I write this, my body is in Los Angeles. But my soul is sitting at our dear friends’ inviting table in Seattle. Their kids are running around, happy as clams, and the grown-ups are unwrapping gi-normous gifts of juicy pork, soft bread, pickled jalapenos, sauteed onions and a sauce so mesmerizing and mysterious we can hardly believe it. Almost too big to hold, we take our first magical bites…

 

The food world will never be the same.

D-Squared T-Squared – Week 43

 

 

 

This past weekend’s creative endeavor was pasta, in honor of World Pasta Day.

 

Mister and I decided to make a pumpkin-ricotta stuffing for ravioli and we got to rolling. And stuffing. And eventually – eating.

 

Here’s the straight dope: it was okay. The pasta could have been thinner. The ravioli could have been smaller. (The giant pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter we used was a bit too big.) Even the brown butter-sage-balsamico sauce could have been, well, something.

 

 

In the end, everything simply was what it was and that was that. It was a lot of effort for a so-so dinner. And the experience might have caused some to stick to store-bought. But we’re not giving up. We think we can make better pasta and we’ll keep at it. I mean, it’s food. And food can be marvelous, delicious art, right? Right.

Punkin Time

 

 

As I’m about to dust off this recipe and make a batch for Halloween, I thought I’d remind you to do the same. Dorie Greenspan’s Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good is something I look forward to all year. And now I don’t have to wait much longer. Dorie Greenspan – how do I love thee? Let me count the calories…

World Pasta Day

 

 

Something or other is probably denoted on each day of the year as X Day or Y Day. To be perfectly honest, I don’t usually give a hoot about any of that. But today’s designation is something I can really sink my teeth into: World Pasta Day.

 

I think this began almost 2 decades ago, probably to encourage more global consumption of pasta. But I have to ask – do we really need to push pasta? Aren’t we all consuming more than our share? No? Just me?

 

I have lived most of my adult life thinking pasta was brought from Asia to Italy by Marco Polo, back in the 13th century. But I’ve recently read that pasta in Italy dates to Etruscan times, way before young Polo’s adventures. Believe it or not, this information has kind of thrown me for a loop. I mean, what else do I “know” that’s wrong?

 

My neurosis aside, I do love pasta and think that today I’ll get out the old pasta machine and make a fresh batch. Maybe I can enlist Mister’s help. Maybe we’ll even toast Marco Polo and the Etruscans. Yep. I’ll drink – and eat – to that.

Old

 

 

 

Recently I helped prepare dinner for women and children living in a transitional home in Los Angeles. These women come from every imaginable background, every imaginable circumstance. A particular group of volunteers – a group I’ve fallen in with – provide home-cooked food for this home once a month and it is greatly appreciated.

 

I had taken the food I’d prepared in a foil tray. In case there were leftovers, I wanted to be able to leave the food there without worrying about my dish. As the foil tray wasn’t the most sturdy, it was placed on one of my old cookie sheets – for support. I’ve had that cookie sheet over 25 years. It isn’t the prettiest kitchen goo-gaw, I admit. But it has supported far more than charitable goods through the years. It has held sweets and savories alike, and though it’s old and – I’ll just say it – ugly, it shows up when called upon.

 

Anyhoo – at the evening’s end, one of the volunteers turned to me and said, “You don’t want that cookie sheet back, do you?” I suppose she thought it was too pitiful to be of any future use. I think I must’ve looked at her like she’d sprouted an arm out of her neck. I said, “I absolutely do want that cookie sheet.” I picked it up and held it close, lest anyone think it was up for grabs. I was holding it close in the car, as we made our way back to our original meeting point. I kept it on the seat beside me as I drove home. Once there, I washed it and put it away – right next to the newer cookie sheets, where it waits until needed again.

 

I desperately wish I had some of Granny Vera’s old cooking gear. How I would love to think of her each time a particular skillet or chipped china cup might be pulled from a cabinet. But I have nothing from Granny’s kitchen. Aside from a few photos, I have nothing of Granny.

 

So my old gear will have to do. Lucky for me, it does quite well.

Eater

 

 

It’s no secret that I love food. More than mere sustenance, food is one of the greatest pleasures of life. Or rather, it can be. And dang it! It should be! But I digress… As a food lover, I constantly search for the best fill-in-the-blank around. Whether Thai street food, alligator sausage or a good ol’ cheeseburger – I want it to be delicious, y’all. It feels awful to spend time and money on bad food.

 

I know there are a plethora of websites out there, rating restaurants and dishes and providing info at the snap of one’s fingers. But I rarely use these, as I don’t always trust the reviews as being honest. There are far too many stories about fake reviews for me to deem some of these sites reliable.

 

Instead, I turn to Eater. And I love it. Not only am I signed up for Eater Los Angeles and Eater National posts, I also check Eater when I’m traveling. Most major US cities have a dedicated Eater section. And when Mister and I were in London recently, Eater London’s Heatmap was a godsend.

 

I tell you this for no reason other than to share information. If you eat out – ever – I encourage you to go to Eater, find your location and sign up for regular updates. Honestly, I’ve learned about so many new restaurants I can’t keep count. And some of the posts are just plain fun. For instance, last week there was a post about the best places for Mac and Cheese in Los Angeles. Mac and Cheese! That one broke me, as you can see from the above photo.

 

Again, I encourage you to try Eater for yourself. I rely on it more than I probably should. But you know what? I don’t care! I love it! Woo-hoo!

London – Heaven and Earth – A Wrap-Up

 

 

“Some moments that I’ve had,

Some moments of pleasure…”

Kate Bush

Moments of Pleasure“ from The Red Shoes

1993

 

 

I’ve been writing about London all week now. And today’s post shall serve as a wrap-up. But first, our final day in London…

 

 

Just because we’d managed to eat breakfast the day before, we saw no reason to break from the path of deprivation on our final day. So we got up and readied for a trip to Highgate Cemetery. This was another of those places we’d likely never have gone on our own. But thanks to the dude who blogs at The Endless British Pub Crawl, we had traveled to London with this recommendation on our to-tourist list. And boy were we glad we had.

 

 

As one needs a reservation to tour Highgate Cemetery West, and as all reservations (at that time) were booked until October, Mister and I only toured Highgate Cemetery East.

 

 

It is truly beautiful, and I felt so at ease. (Honestly – if they offered a camping / sleepover sort of deal for the living, I’d sign up.) If all we’d done was simply walk through with no knowledge of anyone buried there, we would have enjoyed the morning. But we were given a handy-dandy guide upon entrance, so we were well aware of some of Highgate East’s residents. For instance, I fairly dorked out over Douglas Adams’ gravesite.

 

 

George Eliot is buried here also. For those who don’t know, George Eliot was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans. She wrote Middlemarch and Silas Marner, among other works. Some think she’s buried in Westminster Abbey, but the plaque there is merely a memorial stone in “Poets’ Corner.”

 

 

I was also moved by Malcolm McLaren’s grave. His hands stirred the punk movement soup to a great degree (New York Dolls, Sex Pistols), and he also played a big role in ’80′s music (Adam Ant, Bow Wow Wow).

 

 

There were beautiful graves of folks I’ve never heard of, too…

 

 

And then there’s Karl Marx. I don’t know why this one surprised me, but it did. Hey – socialists gotta be buried, too.

 

 

After a few hours in the peaceful cemetery, we decided to head back into London proper. We definitely needed lunch and we had a destination in mind: Newman Arms.

 

 

We’d had this one on our to-eat-at list and were so grateful we fit it in. We each had pie and it was sublime. I would definitely go back to this joint.

 

 

After lunch, we figured we could get one more item ticked off our list: Westminster Abbey.

 

 

We have no photos of the interior, as photography is prohibited. But trust me when I tell you it is an amazing experience, simply to enter this structure. The history! Construction of the present church began in 1245, for cry-eye. And some mighty historical folks are interred here, friends: Elizabeth I, Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, Henry VII, Charles Dickens, George Frederic Handel, Laurence Olivier, Henry Purcell, Alfred-Lord Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling, Mary Queen of Scots – big breath – and about a jillion others.  Coronations have taken place here since the 11th century and include Henry I (my distant relative), Henry VIII and the reigning Queen Elizabeth II. And if you caught any of that there Royal wedding in 2011, you got an eyeful of The Abbey.

 

 

Anyhoo, we walked around and saw as much as we could, then headed back to the hotel to pack up before the next morning’s flight. Once that task was handled, we went out for dinner (yep – 2 meals that day).

 

 

 

We were mostly quiet during dinner. I think we were processing the adventure of London. As vacations go, we’d done quite a lot. It was the first trip in ages where Mister wasn’t working or stressed about work. That made a huge difference in the experience – for both of us. Yes – I fell ill, but it could have been worse. The London Croup wasn’t a cakewalk but it wasn’t debilitating, either. Could we have done more while in London? Sure. (We certainly could have eaten more than one meal per most days, but I’m trying to forget that.) The truth is we had checked off a lot on our to-tourist list, and if we’d managed to slot in a few more activities, I’m afraid certain experiences would have suffered. Besides, now we have the beginnings of a new To-Tourist List – for the next time.

 

 

The next morning, we woke early, dressed and checked out of the hotel. We took the Tube one last time, then boarded Heathrow Express. Within minutes we were at the airport, bags checked and ready. We found ourselves one final Bacon Butty and we proceeded to the designated gate.

 

When I think about it, it would have been far easier if this trip never happened. Let’s face it – it was a big commitment. Time, money, energy – all those things were required in spades. Preserving those precious commodities would have been so much simpler. But that’s not what we chose. No, we opted to check an item off a Bucket List. To be perfectly honest here, I didn’t know I had a Bucket List until I made that middle-of-the-night Kate Bush-concert-ticket purchase. And once I realized the magnitude of what that meant, I was a bit thrown. Bucket Lists are for old folks, right? I mean, am I of the age where I need to start ticking things off lists, as I may not get another chance?

 

The short answer is yes. I am of an age. And thinking about this could attract a rain cloud above my head so fast as to make me dizzy. But as I’ve contemplated my Bucket List and what it means to own that, I’ve realized I’ve always had a Bucket List. I just never called it that. When I was 16 and wanted to skydive – that was a Bucket List item (checked off). When I was 20-something and wanted to experience Italy in all its wonder – that was a Bucket List item (checked off). I could go on and on with items both large and small. Some are checked off, others not. The younger me would simply think ticking off Bucket List entries is cool. Present me – the of an age me – is a bit more grateful. A bit more emotional about the gravity of life’s passing. I suppose that’s why Mister and I chose to take this big trip to London. We knew we may not get another opportunity for such an adventure.

 

 

This trip was amazing and there were multiple moments of pleasure. We got to see Kate Bush. Kate friggin’ Bush! We got to eat at one of the best restaurants in the world. We got to spend 4 1/2 hours touring all things Harry Potter. We walked in and out of history. We had exactly 1 argument (and only 1). For the first time, we felt like we understood The Underground. (We must have appeared confident, as we were constantly being stopped by other tourists with their direction requests.) In short, we loved London. And we loved each other. And while I will take many, many memories from this trip along life’s journey, I hope the memory topping that list is standing side-by-side with Mister, singing the final notes of “Cloudbusting” while Kate Bush directed us from the stage, just before she herself sang “The sun’s coming out. Your son’s coming out.”

 

 

London – The Weekend

 

 

“When I was a child, running in the night

Afraid of what might be.

Hiding in the dark, hiding in the street

And of what was following me…”

Kate Bush

Hounds of Love” from Hounds of Love

1985

 

 

When I woke Saturday morning, I was still floating from the joy of the previous day’s Harry Potter adventure. I was also still dragging from the London Croup. Mister had kept quiet so I could sleep in a bit, and I greatly appreciated that. But I knew it wouldn’t be enough. I was willing to try and muster up the energy to tick a few items off our to-tourist list, so I bucked up and put my big-girl pants on.

 

 

 

As it was post-breakfast and I knew I couldn’t handle one more day of skipping meals, I practically begged Mister to go out with me for a nice Indian lunch. The way I saw it, some hot, spicy curry might help the symptoms of my evolving London Croup. It was worth a shot, right? So we made our way to the Covent Garden area to Dishoom. When we walked in to find nearly half of the customers resembling folks of Indian descent, we knew we were in the right spot. After feasting on a lunch of amazing food, we were incredibly happy with our restaurant choice. If you’re ever in that area, I highly recommend Dishoom.

 

 

 

After lunch we walked and talked, taking our time. There was no place we had to be, so we simply roamed. At some point we decided to refer to our list of things we wanted to do in London.

 

 

Our next agenda item was The Courtald Gallery, located in Somerset House (which has a fairly interesting history in and of itself). This is one of those places we would never have known about, had my art teacher not recommended a visit.

 

 

It’s not as vast a gallery as The National Museum, but it’s still impressive. Now that I think about it, maybe the fact that it’s more manageable in scale is part of its attraction. We saw the whole joint and it was pretty danged cool.

 

 

From there, we walked in the direction of our hotel.

 

 

As we neared the hotel, Mister’s curiosity could wait no longer. You see, each day we would pass a pub called Bag O’ Nails and each day Mister wanted to go in. I wasn’t completely against the idea, I just thought it would probably be a little too touristy, as it was across the street from the Tube. (I do realize we ourselves were tourists.) As we were still fairly full from lunch and would not be ordering food, I said okay. So the Bag O’ Nails it was. Mister ordered a pint and I ordered tea – London Croup and all.

 

By the way, have I mentioned that I had my last drinks after the Harry Potter experience? I tried, thinking a bit of alcohol might serve a medicinal role. That didn’t hold true, however, and I was therefore off the drink. Sad. Sad, I tell you.

 

Back to the Bag O’ Nails. Mister had his pint and I had my tea and by then we’d both had quite enough. It wasn’t a terrible place, but it wasn’t grand, either. It was, however, checked off. And that meant a short walk to the hotel and sleep.

 

 

When Sunday morning arrived, I was more rested. I was also more ill. I mean really, London Croup! What the hell? Anyhoo, against all odds, Mister and I woke during breakfast hours. And we actually had breakfast! Can you imagine?

 

 

We ate and then walked around a bit before heading back to the hotel, via Buckingham Palace. Food had helped, but I was beat. I encouraged Mister to head out on his own, so as not to waste the day, but he’s not that kind of guy. He stayed in with me and we did a bunch of nothing. For reals. Just - nothing. We read a bit. We watched telly. We chilled. And it was awesome. By early evening, I was more rested, but also tired. I know it sounds crazy, but that’s how I felt. And I couldn’t have appreciated Mister’s willingness to let me off the hook any more than I did. Honestly, that day in felt like it saved my life.

 

 

At some point we thought to go out for dinner. It was one day before the official start of Autumn, but London seemed to have already crossed over. The air was crisp and the temperature dropped. We walked around the corner to our “local” – The Phoenix – for one last meal. As it was Sunday, we ordered The Roast (for 2) and dug in. For those of you keeping score, that meant we ate 2 meals that day. A record!

 

 

After dinner, it was still fairly early, so we opted to walk a new-to-us route back to the hotel.  There were some interesting sights along the way.

 

 

Back in our room, we made plans for the next day, knowing it was to be our last in London.

 

 

With full bellies, we settled in…

 

 

To be continued…

London – Big Night

 

 

“Take the stone out of the mango.

You put it in your mouth and pull a plum out.”

Kate Bush

“Eat the Music” from The Red Shoes

1993

 

 

The morning after the Kate Bush show found us happy. Happy and famished. This one meal per day business was for the birds, I tell you. We pulled on some clothes and headed around the corner to The Phoenix, our temporary local, for breakfast lunch. Neither of us wanted to overdo it, as we knew we had a Big Night before us. And by Big Night I mean a spectacular dinner reservation. Once sustenance had been obtained, we got in a bit more tourist-ing.

 

 

After making our way to the Trafalgar Square area, we stopped in St. Martin-in-the-Fields church. Years ago on a London trip without Mister, I had gone there almost daily for the lunchtime concerts. I wanted him to see how beautiful it is. Musicians were assembled and rehearsing a bit of Vivaldi. It was lovely.

 

 

There’s just something about this church that’s relaxing and calming. Clearly, we weren’t the only ones finding respite within its walls.

 

 

We then moved over to the National Portrait Gallery. As the name implies, this museum is filled with portraits – the largest collection in the world. Some are traditional, some are contemporary. It was a gorgeous outing, but I have no pictures as photography was not allowed. Still, I’m glad we went. There were some amazing works and I learned a lot.

 

 

At some point we realized we needed to get back to the hotel to ready ourselves for dinner. Dinner! We had made the reservation 3 months prior. That’s right – 3 months. Is it a hot ticket? Yes. Worth it? Dear Lord, yes. Anyhoo, we made ourselves presentable and traveled the short distance to Hyde Park and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Here’s the gist: Chef Heston Blumenthal has unearthed a bevy of old and sometimes ancient recipes. He has updated them to suit today’s palates and ingredients and serves these dishes in his beautiful restaurant. It ain’t cheap, y’all. But for a special occasion, I highly recommend it.

 

 

We had talked it over beforehand and decided to really be present at dinner, and to focus on the meal (and each other). So we have only a couple of photos of food from the entire night…

 

 

This dish is called Meat Fruit and the menu describes it thusly: Mandarin, chicken liver & foie gras parfait, grilled bread. The original recipe dates from between the 13th and 15th centuries (!) and is super-fabulous. I first learned of this amazing starter a few months back when I read a beautiful step-by-step, with photos. The tutorial didn’t make me want to prepare this dish, but it did make me want to eat it. And eat it we did. With gusto.

 

 

By the end of dinner, I was so pleasantly plump that I wished for a wheel barrow to take me to the hotel. Since none appeared, Mister and I took the Tube back and were ready for beddie in no time.

 

It had been another privileged day, and it wasn’t lost on us. Just before nodding off, we remembered what the next day held…

 

To be continued…