Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The "Riesling Royale" Salad

When the last WBW was announced, I just chose to ignore it. "Riesling", I thought. "I don't drink that. It's white, and I think it's sweet, no, we'll give that one a miss". I looked in my fridge. There was a Riesling some one had left there at some party or another. "Phew", I noted, "it's German, not New World, so it won't count, still off the hook".
Two weeks ago my friend Ian came around to help me make candies and sweets for a Charity Bake sale. Bless his little cotton socks. He bought a bottle of 2003 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Johannisberg Riesling. He claimed it was his current favourite value wine and promptly left in the fridge leaving me no valid excuse for wriggling out of this particular wine tasting.
I was stumped. What should I do, what should I serve it with? I promptly started searching the internet for wine pairing ideas. I was pleasantly surprised. Riesling, it was claimed, goes well with an awful lot of different foods. An idea started forming in my head. I would make a stupendous salad, packed full to the brim with things that go well with Riesling. This salad would be so grand, I would christen it the "Riesling Royale"...

click on photo to enlarge

Riesling Royale Salad (serves 4)

First, in a pan:
poach 1 large seasoned chicken breast (first beaten flat with a rolling-pin) in 1/3rd of a bottle of New World Riesling, together with a generous grinding of 5-colour-pepper, a bay leaf and the chopped leaves from a celery bunch. Simmer for 10 mins til cooked through and turn off the heat once done.

Meanwhile, in a large presentation bowl:
slice, then make a bed, of two hearts of Romaine.

In another largeish bowl assemble the following ingredients:

2 chopped stalks of celery
1 cup of large white seedless grapes, halved,
1 cup of skillet-toasted walnuts
1 chunk of Neals Yard Raw Cheshire cheese, cut into little cubes,
1 Granny Smith apple, cubed (skin left on)
the warm, poached chicken breast, drained, deskinned and cut into bit-sized cubes

For the dressing

2 large tbsp dollops of Greek yoghurt (I used 0% fat)
1 large tbsp dollop of mayonnaise
1 large tsp dollop of creme fraiche
1 large tsp dollop spicy Dijon Mustard
1 finely minced shallot
1 glug of Olive oil
salt and pepper to season

Stir dressing into the mixed ingredients until they are all well coated.
Carefully place on the bed of chopped Romaine.
Serve with chilled New World Riesling.

How did it taste?
Well, it was actually a delicious, flavourful melange of soft and crunchy, crispy and creamy, savoury and sweet. It even passed the Fred Test. It should be noted here that Fred generally refuses to eat chicken, sweet things, celery, apples, grape and any cheese that either isn't cooked, isn't French, or isn't Parmigiano.

No, duh, this is a wine tasting! How did the wine taste?!
Well, errh, it was sweet. It was very drinkable, but too sweet for our tastes, especially with a savoury course, even though it did seem to match the food perfectly. I might have preferred it, simply, as a dessert wine or as a drink to accompany simple cheese and grapes after dinner.
Click here to read the extensive notes for this vintage on the Mondavi website.

I did read, somewhere, whilst doing my Riesling research, that American Riesling is nowhere near the quality of European. It was suggested that the only American Riesling worth drinking is the Johannisberg variety, so I was pleased that was the one that Ian kindly left us in our fridge.

The following night we finished the rest of our grand salad. This time I shaved some extra Cheshire cheese over the top to give it a more salty bite, and I cracked open the German Riesling to compare with the US variety. The bottle, that had been sitting, neglected, in our fridge for perhaps 6 months, was a Rudi Wiest Mosel River Riesling, 2001. It was slightly less sweet, and a touch more acidic than the previous night's Riesling, with a slight fermentation, or fizz to it. With the extra cheese on the salad and less sugar in the wine, I found the combination even more pleasing.

That said, I am no hurry to convert to a life of chicken salad and sweet white wines, in preference to rare steaks and Bordeaux, any time soon...

Original Recipe Copyright Sam Breach
The "Riesling Royale" Salad

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Ghostbar - The Palms - Las Vegas

Visit the Ghostbar website here

One of Vegas's most talked about bars is on the 55th floor of The Palms.

We stayed in the Palms hotel for our recent trip to Vegas because we heard it's a bit hip and happening. Famous for hosting MTV's Real World, having a tattoo parlour in the lobby and as the place where Britney was staying when she went through with her first, later annulled, debacle of a marriage.

You'd think that Fred and I are both too old for this kind of thing. In truth, we are, but we like to kid ourselves we're still young and cool, and anyhow, we just love to party...


The Ghostbar has an outside patio with amazing views of the strip, from the Rio to beyond.


There is even a glass floor with a murky, vertigo-inducing view down to the pool, 55 floors below.


From inside you can see the Strip mingled with reflections of the bar's funky ceiling lights.


The area between inside and outside, blue steel and cold, especially coming from the hot steamy inside. The temperature drops quite a few degrees at this point and this is where you have to swap your glass for a plastic cup.


The luxor in the distance, a striking view.


Back inside, girls wearing very few clothes dance for our entertainment.

Tip: The Palms hotel guests may be able to get the front of the line for entry by flashing their room key on a weekday. At weekends, if you wait until after midnight, this doesn't work and you might be asked to join the one and a half hour queue instead. (Don't bother - it's not that great). The bar owners also own the restaurant N9ne next door, so eating there first might assist your access to the rooftop bar. We had no problem being let in on Thursday night, but Friday, after midnight, was a different story...
Ghostbar - The Palms - Las Vegas

Osteria Del Circo - The Bellagio - Las Vegas

Visit Osteria Del Circo's website here

Date of visit, Thursday 25th November 2004, 8pm.(Thanksgiving Night)

It wasn't planned. All we'd had to eat all day was a bag of SouthWest peanuts. We were hungry, in Las Vegas, on Thanksgiving night without a dinner reservation. Traipsing from one place to the next looking for somewhere without a set menu and a spare table, we eventually stumbled upon Circo where there just happened to be a spot for two at the bar. We grabbed it without even pausing to double check the menu.


The gaudy decor should have been a warning sign. This is Vegas, Everything is over the top. Show without substance. Circo is no exception. I find the large red and white balloon lighting decorations particularly ugly. I think Circo should spend less on the decor and more on getting a better chef.


This is Vegas. Vegas is good at parting you with your money. Consider a wine list, as thick as a bible, where it is impossible to find a wine under $50 a bottle. Pair this with unenthusiastic, personality-deficient bartenders who when asked for wine advice clearly have no vino knowledge whatsoever. I had to do my usual, random price-range/name-pick method. We ended up with a bottle of ZD Pinot Noir 2001 at $69. Thankfully it was very good. (It appears to retail between $25 and $29 a bottle).


Insalata Mista $12
Bland, under seasoned, unexceptional.


Taglia Tonno $17
Described as lying on a bed of intriguing sounding pearl orzo which turned out to be nothing more than plain barley. What a let down! The tuna didn't taste the freshest. A little dry and slightly chewy, too fishy tasting. Again, unexceptional.


Pizza Margherita $16
You've guessed it - unexceptional. Crust not crispy enough by far.


Sformatino with white truffles $35
Possibly the most expensive appetizer I've ever ordered. You'd think at that price they could at least manage to get the delicate moulded custard out of it's cooking container in one piece. I can't believe they served it broken and mushed up like this. The potato crisps adorning the top were stale and chewy. Yes, really! I had trouble even cutting one of the chips in half with my knife and fork. Unforgivable for food charged at such premium prices. Shocking.


Bomba di Cioccol $14
Sure it looks pretty. But how did it taste? Unmemorable. I can't even remember what flavour it was. If I hadn't taken a photo, I think I might have forgotten I'd even had any dessert.


Conclusion Total Damage for the dinner as described (+ two premium drinks) = $201 before tip. Daylight robbery for such an uninspired meal!
At least they served Hangar One Vodka , my favourite, and the only place in Vegas we found who stocked it, plus we got to meet Harvey, from New York, one of the youngest-looking fifty year olds we've ever met. We all made the good times, because Circo didn't do it for us...

Osteria Del Circo - The Bellagio - Las Vegas

Thanksgiving Treats Part 3

My friend, Ian, painstakingly made some beautiful Ginger Bread Men using Delia Smith's Recipe which is available online.

Thanksgiving Treats Part 3

My Final Images from Copia

COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts


The Copia grounds are filled with quirky food-connected sculptures!


"Tongues of Taste"
My Final Images from Copia

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Feeding the Workers

The least I could do for my five kind friends who gave up their sunny San Francisco Sunday afternoons to come and help me candies and sweets for the charity bake sales I have been organising at work to raise money for the AEF/BCEF, was to provide them with a tasty brunch. All of us are big lamb lovers, and as I had a de-boned leg in the freezer and my new Jamie's Dinners cook book to try out, I decided to make them the Naked Chef's Moroccan lamb recipe.

Naked Lamb

This is a really simple and tasty meal to make with loads of flavour. The lamb is marinated in a mixture of yoghurt (I used Greek Total ) with garlic, chickpeas, mint and cilantro and then roasted, on the oven shelf over a pan of cumin-dredged veggies. I used squash, turnips and onions (forgetting to purchase the carrots also included in Jamie's recipe, oops). Thanks to a tip on Jamie's forums , I learnt that cooking the lunch this way might lead to a hot and smoky kitchen, hardly optimum conditions for a candy-making exercise. Luckily our landlord was kind enough to leave us a huge gas grill on our deck. It even has a spit. Today was the day to learn how to use it.
I left the lamb turning on the grill, with the vegetables in a roasting tray underneath, the lid closed. After an hour, brunch was ready, without filling the house with fumes. I served it up, outside in the sun, with grilled pitta and the remainder of the marinade (as Jamie suggests), which makes a tasty sauce.


I could hardly expect my guests to spend all afternoon creating sugary goodies without something to satisfy their own sweet teeth. I fell back on a reliable recipe from The French Laundry cookbook which never lets me down, "Sally Schmitt's Cranberry & Apple Kuchen". It's easy to make and tastes delicious, especially warm from the oven. The sharp cranberries and apples make a piquant contrast to the mildly nutmeg and cinnamon-spiced white cake.
Feeding the Workers

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thanksgiving Treats, Part 2

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Another successful item we made to sell at Monday's Candies, Sweets and Thanksgiving Treats bake sale to raise money for the AEF/BCEF was Spicy Cranberry Chutney. I used the very easy recipe in the Fall 2004 Edition of Eating Well magazine.


I bought some cute little terrine jars from The Container Store which cost $2.29 each and some darling little porcelain condiment spoons from Crate and Barrel at $0.95 each. The spoons have a very convenient hole at the end of the handle which delivers the perfect excuse to tie them to the jar with a colourful ribbon. Before I cooked them I took and printed a 4x6" glossy close-up photograph of the cranberries which I cut into 4 and used as a label (with the ingredients listed on the back with a fine permanent marker).

Unfortunately I only bought 4 of each container, even though it turned out that I made enough of the chutney to fill 8 jars. (I guess I did my maths wrong!) I sold the jars at $8 each and they went very quickly, so I wish I'd made more. Fortunately, I managed to sell the rest (less exotically packaged in a GLAD container) to some friends for their Thanksgiving Dinner, making another $5 for the good cause.
Thanksgiving Treats, Part 2

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Thanksgiving Treats, Candies and Sweets, Part 1

Anyone who reads Becks & Posh regularly will have gleaned by now, that I have been organising a series of bake sales at work to raise money for the AEF/BCEF. This Monday, our theme was "Candies, Sweets and Thanksgiving Treats". Knowing how easy it is to have a disaster when attempting to create home made goodies of this kind, I enlisted a bunch of my mates to come round and help me. In return for them spending their Sunday afternoons hard at work in the kitchen, I promised them Brunch (more on that another day), and mimosas. My blackmail attempt worked and no fewer than 5 good people showed up to help me.
Let's start with one of our success stories. I love After Eights and Junior Mints so I decided to have a go at making Peppermint Creams as I sometimes did when I was a child.
4 cups icing sugar
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl.
Stir in the egg whites and peppermint.
Mix to form a stiff dough.
Break off little half inch pieces, roll into balls and press down with your thumb to make mini patties.
(Note: you could roll out the dough and use mini-cookie cutters to shape your candies. However, I found this method unwieldy. The dough started to dry and crack and the edges weren't perfect.)
Leave at room temperature on wax paper for at least 12 hours to dry out, turning each one over at the half way stage.
If you like, once dry, dip in a little dark melted chocolate and leave to set.
These candies look pretty in a clear cellophane bag. I took photographs of the creams prior to packaging which I printed out then used as labels. Remember to write on the label that these sweets contain raw egg, as a warning to people, particularly pregnant women, who may not want to consume them.
As predicted, however, not everything was a success. But at least we had a larf trying.
Take, for example, the Burnt Sugar Lollipops from the Fall 2004 issue of Eating Well magazine. I handed this task to Ian who was fastidious in his preparation of the ingredients and confident he would turn out beautiful little golden lollies as shown in the magazine's photograph.
Confidence still high, pre-crystallization, Ian in action.
Our version versus theirs. Erhmmm....?
At least one of our batch, kind of, looked good enough to eat.
(Too bad it didn't taste so good.)

Next time maybe we shouldn't substitute cream of tartar with vinegar, even if an internet search suggests it might work. And maybe Eating Well could issue a temperature guide for boiling of the sugar. I imagine that could be another factor in the key to success.
Stay posted for more tales of our attempts to make Thanksgiving treats, coming soon.
Thanksgiving Treats, Candies and Sweets, Part 1

Monday, November 22, 2004

Oola - 860 Folsom St - San Francisco

Oola, 860 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94107 415 995 2061
Visit Oola's website here
Date of visit: Saturday 20th November, 2004

On Saturday night Fred and I revisited Oola. Our first visit was on their second night after opening, so this was a great opportunity to see how they'd settled. We called, not long before arriving, to see if they had a table. We were told yes, but we'd just have to wait at the bar until one became available. This was no problem for me, although it was late (after 9pm), I was in the mood for a slow drink before dinner.

As it turned out, we had enough time for two leisurely cocktails. My Negronis were excellent, particularly because I love bitter Campari. I remarked to one of the (very friendly) bartenders, that I am not really a fan of gin since a teenage experiment with an excessive amount of Gilbey's, but that in a Negroni it works just fine for me. He asked me when was the last time I'd tried gin neat. I estimated almost 20 years. You have to try this, he said, pouring me a taste of the Scottish Hendrick's Gin from a cute, dark, stumpy little bottle I had actually been admiring, purely from a visual perspective, earlier. It was delicious, scented with rose petals and cucumber and with a stiff kick of alcohol following. Hmm, I guess Mothers Ruin has a new fan. Good job I don't have any children - I hope that fact makes me exempt from future downfall!

We started with foie gras. The presentation, on a rectangular plate looked much like the foie gras we recently had at Frisson. It was still gimmicky, but not quite as gimmicky, as the Frisson version. Oola's foie gras is served with tiny round toasts, dark, rich, chewy fig jam which made a good match, and vanilla scented persimmon puree which didn't.

I also had a couple of oysters, just two as a taste, Kumamotos, which gave me the fix I needed.

We ordered just a couple of glasses of Australian Pinot Noir, deciding that after our stiff apperitifs, a bottle would be too much. Eugh. I didn't care for it at all. I asked the waiter for something different, totally prepared to bear the brunt of the cost for doing so. He rushed to find me a replacement, after giving my glass to Fred who wasn't as averse to it as I was. I didn't expect it, but later, all 3 glasses of wine were absent on our check. It was a very kind and much appreciated gesture.

For my main course, I had a small portion of baby back ribs. These were sublime. Sweet, sticky, tender pieces of meat that just fall off of the bone before melting in your mouth. My accompanying fries with parmesan and truffle oil were unremarkable, proving that merely garnishing chipped potatoes with such attractive sounding ingredients isn't enough.

Despite Fred's previous disappointment with Oola's burger, he decided to give it another try. This time he declared the burger itself "A+" Since Fred had recently declared Chez Maman's burger the one by which he would judge all other burgers, I wanted to know how they compared. He couldn't tell me. All he could say was "They are both good, but they are different, Oola's is a different beast". He was very happy, though.

The waiter was so friendly with us. He told us he was going to bring us dessert. We protested, but he insisted we had patiently waited too long for our table and that we could choose a dessert on the house. None of the desserts really appealed to me by their description but I finally agreed to try the apple pocket. We were bought complimentary glasses of Black Muscat too, as were the table next door, where a celebration was happening and we all joined in and sang "Happy Birthday". To be truthful, the dessert was bland. The apples were flavourless, they really needed to be ultra-sharp to provide contrast to the greasy, sugary, sweet fried batter surround.

Oola is a lot of fun, great atmosphere, fantastic ribs (I have been dreaming of them ever since), decent burgers and spot-on staff. Michael Bauer in The Chronicle wrote them up today and reported on inconsistency over several visits. I could see that might be the case, but it's not going to stop me from dropping in for a plate of those ribs, or a late evening cocktail from time to time. We'll be back, soon, for sure.
Oola - 860 Folsom St - San Francisco

Another Image from Copia

COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts


How does your lemon grow?
Another Image from Copia

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Cookies, both savoury and sweet!

I am not normally a big eater or baker of cookies, or biscuits as we call them in English. As chance would have it, though, this month's IMBB coincides with a series of bake sales I have been organizing at work to raise money for the AEF/BCEF. And as we all know, cookies are the perfect items to make for bake sales.

The bake sales (there are 5 of them in total) all have themes which gave me a little more direction when looking for inspiration. For our "International" bake sale I was idly toying with the idea of making some Bourbons . I don't know why? I guess they were my favourite when I was a kid and although I'd never encountered a homemade one before I did manage to find a recipe online. True inspiration, however, came when I found an unread copy of Eating Well from Spring 2004. A recipe for Spanish Marzipan Pine Nut Cookies (Panellets de Pinyons) caught my eye. These were incredibly fun and easy to make, contained a bizarre ingredient (mashed cooked sweet potato), tasted amazing (I am a such sucker for marzipan) and sold extremely well at $2 each. I cheated by buying pre-ground almonds from Trader Joes. As I don't have a decent food processor, I am sure this made the procedure less painful.

jamie jamie

The following week our bake sale theme was "savoury". I wasn't planning on making cookies (as I was already making Spanakopita and bacon/corn muffins). But my December issue of Food and Wine arrived and I couldn't help noticing a recipe for Parmesan Prosciutto Biscotti that looked fairly simple to make. Indeed they were, although, as I found out, the Parmesan results in a lot of oil. I found I had to change my parchment sheets a couple of times and mop the tray of fat whilst cooking. I also had to leave the biscotti in the oven a lot longer than indicated so they would dry out and crisp a little more. If you don't keep these biscotti in an air tight container they will soften very quickly.

jamie jamie

Links to my other Bake Sale Posts

International Bake Sale - Almond Apple Marzipan Tart
International Bake Sale - Greek Baklava
Pot Luck - Lemon Drizzle Cake & Rich Little Chocolate Hazlenut Cakes

Read about the other entries in the Domestic Goddess's IMBB Cookie Challenge here
Cookies, both savoury and sweet!

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Images from Copia - Take 3

COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts



The most beautiful, vivid reds.
Images from Copia - Take 3

Thursday, November 18, 2004

My First French Laundry Meal - Yabba Dabba Do!

No, I didn't make it to the United State's most famous restaurant, yet, but why travel all the way to Napa when you have a friend in Marin who'll slave over a hot stove for a few days cooking you a meal from Thomas Keller's The French Laundry Cookbook instead?

Last night, we had such a friend, who blew me away with an incredible dinner.

The Menu
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, based on a Tra Vigne Recipe
Roasted Rib Steak with Golden Chanterelles, Pommes Anna and Bordelaise Sauce from the French Laundry cookbook
Green Salad and very smelly cheese

raw meat
D prepped the meat himself a day earlier. It looked beautiful before he even started cooking it.
Fred a) doesn't care much for soup, b) won't go anywhere a squash unless it is called a courgette c) generally turns up his nose at sweet things. I was consequently amazed that he loved this bowlful of soup, made with butternut squash that had been roasted with sugar, balsalmic and dark, unsulphured molasses. I can't blame him though, it was absolutely delicious, the melange of flavours was so subtle and I couldn't help feeling a large twinge of disappointment once my bowl was empty.
potatoes ana potatoes ana
D's mandolin had broken so he spent hours engineering the paper-thin potato slices by hand. We were pleased when he told us that the Kyocera ceramic knife we gave him for his birthday earlier this year came in very handy for the task.
potatoes ana potatoes ana
Cooking this kind of meal is out of my league. Clarifying butter, spending hours making veal stock. D explained the processes to me. Cooking the stock for ages before adding more liquid then reducing all over again. "What is the liquid you add?", I asked. "Chicken stock", he replied. Then it dawned on me..."So you have to make the chicken stock in order to make the veal stock?!" Oh yes, but of course you have to start with the chicken a day earlier...
raw meat
Dinner as served. Delicious. As good as many a fine restaurant. Potatoes Ana, by the way, are layered with prunes.

Superb dinner, heartfelt thanks to Chef extraordinnaire, D and his lovely wife K. Bon voyage and best of luck to them on their journey Down Under.
My First French Laundry Meal - Yabba Dabba Do!

The Hungry Cyclist

Check out The hungry Cyclist Website . Not only is it a neat looking site, it's an amazing idea too.

Starting in May 2005 Tom, a 26 year cyclist who lives in London, is setting off from Toronto in Canada and heading south for Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, the long way round. When he's not pedaling and building up my appetite he intends to track down the most exciting and interesting ways he can indulge his hunger. At the same time he hopes to be raising money for charity.

His planned route projects he'll be passing through San Francisco at some point, so I hope we'll be able to help out with some seriously good eating ideas whilst he's in the area.

Why don't you email Tom and let him know where in the world you think he should stop for a bite!
The Hungry Cyclist

Picnic Lunch at Copia

COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts

Date of Visit: Saturday November 13th 2004

We ordered our delicious, healthy, wholesome and very reasonably priced picnic lunch from Copia's American Market Cafe

click to enlarge, fresh tuna sandwich served with salad. We wished the tuna had been a little more on the rare side

click to enlarge, cream of mushroom soup drizzled with a port reduction, served with salad and caraway bread. Superb soup, supremely comforting, but why did they have to go and ruin the bread with those attention-grabbing little caraway blighters?

click to enlarge, coconut sandwich cookie with chocolate fondant centre that goes all gooey and messy when left in the sun. Fingerlicking good!

click to enlarge, light and fluffy banana cake

Price for lunch $24 (two soups, one sarnie, one cookie, one cake and a cappucino). The picnic idea is a really great one, but I couldn't help thinking how nice my soup might have looked sitting in a large white ceramic bowl, not to mention to the wastefulness of using non-reusable containers. It seems Copia are aware of this issue, and have provided several different recycling receptacles, going some way to try and make amends.

Sitting outside on the cafe's picnic tables, on a really hot, beautiful, Autumnal afternoon, overlooking Copia's attractive formal gardens, with a tasty lunch should have been a perfect and tranquil occasion. Unfortunately, the group of four, middle aged men and women seated closest to us had other plans. They thought it might be a good idea to hold a conversation in which each of them felt their own opinion had more merit than everyone else's. Consequently, the number of decibels each of them used to put accross their own point of view were clearly in triple figures. I would be surprised if you couldn't hear their dreary discussion in San Francisco. Why can't people just be nice and quiet, when they eat? I vote for more 'hushed tones' in American restaurants.
Picnic Lunch at Copia

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Merguez and Navy Bean Stew

The colder, crisper, November weather calls for more warming, wholesome dishes.


1 cup navy beans, soaked in enough water to cover them, in the fridge, overnight
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 large shallot, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
4 rashers of bacon, diced
2 merguez sausages, sliced into small rounds
half a vegetable stock cube
olive oil
Fresh sage

-Bring beans to the boil and simmer for an hour
-On the stovetop, in a large ovenproof pan, brown the bacon and sausages.
-Add the onions and garlic, and cook in the meat fat until soft.
-Add the beans, stock cube and diced potato.
-Cook in a preheated oven at 350F with a lid on for 30 mins.
-Remove the lid, stir, and cook for a further 30 minutes.
-At each stage, appraise the amount of liquid, if at anytime you think the mix is too dry, add a cup or so of water.
-Season with Salt & Pepper at the end of the process.
-Flash fry sage leaves in a little olive oil to garnish.
-Serves 2 to 3 people

The fat from the bacon and lamb sausage makes this an incredibly rich and flavoursome dish. The merguez also add a warming spicy kick to this simple stew.
Merguez and Navy Bean Stew

Monday, November 15, 2004

The Naked Chef - Jamie Oliver - Talks at Copia in Napa

Jamie Oliver is currently on tour in the USA promoting his new book Jamie's Dinners

I unsuccessfully tried to persuade my friend, P, to take me snowboarding for the day in Tahoe in her very practical Subaru. When she declined, next best thing, I thought, was to get her to come with me to see Jamie Oliver give a talk at Copia . The tickets (a whopping $50 each) were sold out but we put our names on the cancellation list. Sure enough, at around 4pm the next day, Copia called to let us know there was a space for us at the Saturday afternoon lecture.

So, the next morning, a beautiful, crisp, Autumnal Saturday, off we zoomed to Napa where we saw Jamie being interviewed by Joey Altman host of local cooking show , Bay Café. To be honest, the interview itself wasn't as great as we were hoping. Joey and Jamie didn't quite seem to gel. Some of Joey's questions seemed a little banal and at other times Jamie seemed a bit lost for words when it came to answering them.

However, it was clear from what we heard, that Jamie has done wonderful and amazing things by using his skills as a chef and combining them with his skills as a 'people person'. His influence, it seems, has stretched out to both the community and society. He is changing the way people think, cook and eat. He has an amazing gift and it is so refreshing to see him put it to extraordinary use.

Jamie's Fifteen project aims to provide unique opportunities for unemployed young people to learn about the hospitality and catering industry through training and practical experience.

Jamie has also helped out improving School Dinners at a school in the Borough of Greenwich, London (which is where I lived for many years until I moved to the US). Read the recent news report here. I have such horrific memories of School Dinners from when I was a kid, so I am encouraged to hear that Jamie is doing so much to help improve the situation for the sake of the children's' health, even though, as Jamie recounted for us, one of the cheeky little blighters ruined some filming in the school playground by shouting out "Jamie Oliver is a Wanker" at the top of his lungs, just as the camera was rolling!
jamie jamie
When we met Jamie at the book signing, his adorable personality really shone through. His first words to me were "Awright, Sweetpea, 'owa yer doin'". How could I not be charmed? He picked up on my English accent and we chatted a little and had a bit of a larf.
jamie jamie
Jamie was really sweet and accommodating, letting us take photos. It's a real pleasure to see someone so young, using his fame to do a little good in the world, whilst staying faithful to his young family but never forgetting how to have fun and enjoy himself. Jamie! Good on yer mate...

You can check out Jamie's own moblog with pictures from his tour, all taken on his mobile phone here
The Naked Chef - Jamie Oliver - Talks at Copia in Napa