Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Blog Standard, not Bog Standard

Welcome to any new British readers of Delicious magazine who might have found this blog through the new March issue's "Blog Standard" feature. You can find out more about what we are about on this blog by reading my 'about' page. If you are looking for recipes, please scroll down the blog roll to your right to find the indices. And if you want to help me put English food on the world map, be sure to check back at the end of this month for an announcement about my 2007 St George's Day Food Celebration, "Fish & Quips". It's going to be a lot of fun.

Special thanks to my sweet friend Keiko for emailing me the article before the magazine had even apparently even hit the shop shelves. (My mum checked in Sainsbury's only yesterday and couldn't find it.) And congratulations to Johanna who was featured last month in the very first edition of Blog Standard.

2006 | Guest Blogger Shelly Butcher now has her own blog!
2005 | Soy Kaviar



Tuesday, January 30, 2007

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, MGM Grand Las Vegas

Giving Thanks...

Stepping into the shiny, black marbled room accented with splashes of glossy scarlet that is the Vegas outpost of Joel Robuchon's L'Atelier, so 80's is the colour scheme you almost expect Robert Palmer and his bevy of thick-lipsticked harsh-looking guitar-strumming girls in power suits to be performing behind the counter.

Such sterotypes are quickly forgotten when L'Atelier's French manager gently and warmly welcomes you, showing you to your seat at the long bar where, along with the other couples dining tonight, you will eat your meal side by side instead of face to face. Sitting down to peruse the space you might note whimsical decor touches, a fish bowl full of eggs, vegetables beautifully sorted by colour, red Staub cookware. Against the black backdrop, all of these things shine.

Fresh Anchovies Marinated WIth Sliced Eggplant Confit

The menu sings to me. It is packed full of things I want to eat, tastes I can't wait to try, combinations about which I wonder. It is one of those menus where I just can't decide what to have. I greedily request four different things from the menu of small tasting portions.

Egg Cocotte Topped with a Light Mushroom Cream

It turns out that the food is decent enough but it doesn't blow me away as I expect and hope it will. At every course, at once I wish I'd ordered the other thing that had caught my eye. Glistening silver anchovies alternate with strips of red pepper to mimic an exquisitely wrapped gift. But the crimson capsicum overpower the poor aubergine who I expect to be the leading vegetable in this presentation.

A barely-cooked egg, is engulfed by a thin but flavourful mushroom cream and then served in a martini glass. Having tried Manresa's ode to the Aperge egg just a few days before my dinner at L'Atelier, Robuchon's preparation, although adequate, just can't live up to my new epitome of egg. I am certainly not averse to runny egg, but since even the white was not opaque all the way through, I would have preferred it just a little more cooked.

Lightly Seared Tuna Belly with Crispy Onion Rings, Robuchon's famous potatoes in the background

A chestnut veloute with caramelized foie gras and crispy bacon is a modest precursor to my final savoury course, seared tuna belly. No diner should expect the lightness and freshness more often afforded by tuna on restaurant menus after reading the words 'onion rings' and 'belly' in the description of a dish. Indeed, it was rich, oily and much larger than I expected for a small plate. Together with the famous Robuchon potato puree I was kindly treated to after I'd made a request to try it, I was almost beaten by this course. However, once I tried the incredibly smooth potatoes, whipped together with what must surely be considered more than a fair share of butter, I couldn't stop myself from returning to it for spoonful after spoonful.

Fred made much more simple choices than I did. Robuchon's French-style hangar steak with fried shallots is something he still excitedly talks about today, two months after the meal. In fact he can't wait to return to L'Atelier. And even though the food didn't thrill me, the overall experience of our meal did, and I wouldn't hesitate in joining him to give it a second try.

The service was genuine and warm. I loved the interaction with other the guests sitting to each side and between customers and the kitchen, the chance to watch the line cooks at work, the fact the Chef comes to personally greet every one of his guests. Our server was engaging, genuine and astute to our questioning. He helped us with wine pairings, advised us on portion sizes and seemed to know the menu like the back of his hand. He made us feel comfortable and at home.

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon reminds me that an enjoyable dinner is not only about the what's on the plate, and when an establishment hits the service element right on the spot, then the memory of the meal will usally be a far more fond one than food could ever elicit by itself.

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, MGM Grand, Las Vegas, (702) 891-7358

This review was a first impression.

2006 | Low Sugar Dessert Recipe Roundup
2005 | Views from Citizen Cupcake

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L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, MGM Grand Las Vegas

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Washington Square Bar & Grill meets...

...Bay Area Blogger of the Week, #60

Our new friend, my Bay Area Blogger of the Week, Beth Spotswood is funny and smart and gorgeous and perhaps a little brave given that she invited us, her previously virtual-only friends, to her Birthday bash at the Washington Square Bar & Grill last night.

Despite having once lived for 18 months only two blocks away from this old-school San Francisco eatery, I'd never been before. But I was noticeably impressed. Our bartender, who served us aperitifs was all smiles, friendly and witty to boot. And when the 25 of us sat down to dinner, everything ran more smoothly than I would ever expect from an establishment providing dinner for such a large and boisterous group. We were even allowed to order a la carte despite being warned to expect a set menu. The food is not revolutionary but it doesn't need to be. This is the menu where you'll probably find something you will simply just enjoy eating. I ordered a tuna tartare and linguine with clams which were nothing extraordinary, but Fred's succulent Asian Spiced Baby Back Ribs with Tamarind-Ginger Barbeque Sauce and Peanut Cabbage Slaw were something I might have to return for. His carbonara was irresistible too, I think I ate more off his plate than I did off of my own. The Washington Square Bar and Grill did a stellar job of catering for a group and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it as a destination for large celebratory occasions.

And as for Ms Spotswood, although she writes about Top Chef from time to time, I can't really pretend she is a food blogger, but if you live in the Bay Area please don't pass up on her witty commentary and her love for Gavin Newsom over at her hilarious blog I'll Flip You. Flip You For Real.


Washington Square Bar & Grill : 1707 Powell St at Union St, San Francisco, CA 94133,
Telephone (415) 982-8123

Local Resources
Other local bloggers in attendance:
Jackson West
Eve Batey

2006 | Noodles? For Sunday Brunch?!
2005 | Scrambled Egg on Toast with Prosciutto

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Washington Square Bar & Grill meets...

Friday, January 26, 2007

Idiot-Me's Chocolate Raspberry Tart for Sugar High Friday #27

using ScharffenBerger 62%

avoca cookbook chocolate raspberry tart

For some reason, I had it marked on my calendar that the deadline for David Lebovitz's Sugar High Friday event on the subject of Chocolate cooking by Brand was today. But somehow I had gotten my wires crossed and I was too late and David has already posted the roundup. I was under the impression that I do nothing but read food blogs all day long so I how I managed to not notice the over one hundred entrants in this event, I'll never know. I guess I have some catching up to do.

So since the emphasis was on brand - what brand of chocolate do I use? The staple in my cupboard is ScharffenBerger's 62%. I always have at least two 9.7oz blocks in stock. For eating purposes it is a little too sweet for my taste, but for baking I find it neatly bridges the gap between those who prefer dark and those who prefer milk. It manages to somehow get away with pleasing both parties, which is why it is my pantry standard.

One of my colleagues is leaving today and so I offered to make him a sweet treat. I asked him if there was an ingredient he is particularly fond of. "Raspberries" he replied. I teased him for a while about the fact that raspberries aren't in season, knowing full well that there was a bag of frozen organic raspberries sitting wistfully in my freezer, waiting their turn for a chance in the spotlight.

Looking for raspberry recipes, I flipped open my Avoca Cook Book and saw just the thing - A Chocolate Raspberry tart. If you have ever been to the Avoca Cafe in Ireland you will know that their desserts are huge. This makes them perfect for entertaining large groups - we have about 20 in our team at the office. The tart tin I used measures a full foot across and has high edges to boot. Anything smaller would not have had room enough for the chocolate filling.

Aside from the crust part, this tart could not be easier to make. You first need to prepare and blind bake a sweet shortcrust pastry shell. Reserve a handful of raspberries from a pound of the fruit for decoration later, and then spread the rest in the bottom of the cooled pastry case. Bring 1.5 pint of cream to the boil, take off the heat and then whisk in 18oz of finely chopped Scharffenberger 62% chocolate, until blended. Add a couple of tablespoons of rum (I didn't have any, so I added framboise), whisk again, leave to cool a little before pouring over the raspberries. Leave to cool in the fridge for at least two hours. Decorate with the reserved raspberries before serving. If you want to make a smaller version I imagine you could bake a smaller 8 inch crust and halve the ingredients for the filling without any dire consequences.

As you can see from the picture the tart, in keeping with all of Avoca's recipes, is more rustic-looking than elegant but what does it taste like? I haven't a clue. I am about to lug it off to work where it will wait in the communal fridge until it has its moment later this afternoon. And then I'll post a little update as to the reaction. Watch this space.

After the Pie Was Over
Served with a little whipped cream to cut through the richness, this huge chocolate and raspberry tart, a foot in diameter, was annihalted in a matter of minutes. Not a scrap was left over. Because the tart is so simple, it is clear when you eat it that it relies totally on the quality of its ingredients. Hence the Scharffenberger chocolate shone through and ruled the day with the organic cream and raspberries playing supporting roles that were equally appreciated. Simple to make, great satisfaction levels. Would make this again, especially when feeding a large crowd.

Bay Area Chocolate Factory | ScharffenBerger
Previous Avoca Cookbook Experience | Avoca Bread Baking
One of the many | Vists to Avoca
Avoca, Ireland | Website

2005 | Whacky Names Wines - Pansy!

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Idiot-Me's Chocolate Raspberry Tart for Sugar High Friday #27

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Who's the Cutey?

Happy Birthday Mum

2006 blogathon 24 hours of blogging to raise money for food runners in san francisco on july 29th 2006

Please go and visit my mum and wish her a Happy Birthday. She's the little one in the photograph above. The beautiful woman holding my mother in her arms is my adored grandmother who was suddenly discharged from hospital after being there for several weeks. Today I have two good reasons to celebrate.

2006 | Happy Birthday mUm
2005 | Scala's Bistro

Who's the Cutey?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Nought - to - Twenty in...

Food & Things!

I tired of 'memes' a long time ago, but when I spied this one on my sister's blog I thought it was interesting and I was inspired to give it a try, albeit with an emphasis on food. It's harder to do than it looks...

0 The number of gas rings on the top of my oven
1 The number of times I've met Mario Batali
2 The number of 2007 Visual FX Oscar-nominated movies I worked on as a VFX artist.
3 Number of days to go until my six-year anniversary of moving to America
4 The number of Cooking Courses I've taken at Tante Marie
5 The number of hours I spent trawling and tasting my way through 1000 exhibitors at The Winter 07 Fancy Food Show
6 The number of courses I was actually treated to at Campton Place when I recently visited to try their 3-course DAT $21.95 lunch special
7 The number of other people's new-to-me recipes I've tried so far in 2007
8 The number of ounces of sugar, flour and butter that would go into making a large Victoria sandwich, along with four eggs and some jam for the filling.
9 The number of bottles of wine in my house
10 The number of hours I left my oxtails in the oven.
11 The estimated number of Weightwatcher points in just one Fatted Calf toulouse sausage.
12 The number of place settings I can cater for with our brand new Villeroy & Bosch cutlery set.
13 The time of day when I think about lunch.
14 The number of pounds in a stone.
15 The number of loaves of 'no-knead' bread I have made since I first baked it in December 2006
16 The birthday when I had a Pierrot iced on my cake.
17 My age when I first encountered asparagus sandwiches (here).
18 The number of jars of jam and marmalade I am currently hoarding in the fridge and the pantry.
19 The age at which I became a vegetarian.
20 The Number of Weightwatcher Points I am advised to eat per day if I want to lose weight.
865 Number of blogs in my feed reader

2006 | Cauliflower Cheese Flatbread

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Nought - to - Twenty in...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Chowhound, CNET & Chow Row

Chow and Chowhound merge to a state of No Distinction

the chowhound and cnet merger seems to suit no one - everything  is compromised and is suffering because of it

Leaving Supporters on Both Side of the Fence Unhappy

I like liked That they were somehow connected to the evil, ill-tempered, non-transparent, repetitive, bullyish juggernaut that is Chowhound, I pushed to the back of my mind, clearing me to enjoy for its cocktail coverage, sometimes quirky food-related subject matter and for its blog, The Grinder.

Yesterday, as I do several times a week, I visited to see what was up. Something was up alright. I was horrified to see they had incorporated the actual Chowhound boards into their front page and that snippets from the boards under the banner "The Digest" were also turning up as blog posts, all mixed in with The Grinder posts. [Hey Chowhound contributors - did you know that CNET own every word you write and they can, and now do, lift whole passages of your prose for use in their blog? Grinder writers get paid - but I bet you don't.]

I am pretty sure I am in the minority of people who liked Before this even happened I had been hearing stories of them editing butchering copy and upsetting writers, so I am not sure I would have stuck with them much longer anyway. But now that Chowhound are crawling over Chow's face like a bad rash, I think I will wean myself off the whole mess for good.

The funny thing is those on the other side of the fence - the Chowhounders - are much more upset than I am. They are mouthing off all over the place. CNET has got some work to do, to calm this lot down. Fight, fight!

2006 | A Trip to Tahoe & Back
2005 | Ways not to make Mayo, period!

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The Chowhound, CNET & Chow Row

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Overheard at the San Francisco Winter Fancy Food Show '07

Choice Eavesdroppings & Future Food Trends

hot chick amanda berne on a jelly belly bike
Dreamy: Hot Chick on a Jelly Belly Bike at the Fancy Food Show

Five hours fly by when you are having fun stuffing your face with chocolate and cheese at the 2007 Winter Fancy Food Show. Whilst we were chomping others were talking and we kept notes...

Everbody in UTAH puts these in their gift baskets. If she wasn't married we could go out tonight. Ach, that was disgusting, I can't believe I put it in my mouth. [After trying a Harry Potter 'vomit' flavoured jelly belly], it tastes like the cheese you just ate. [In Australian Section] I like the English things better. I hate to say it but that earthworm tastes exactly like how you expect an earthworm to taste. There are lots of blocks of cheese with stuff on it. They all look too serious for me!

Most Memorable New Discoveries

Meeting Becks & Posh reader, the lovely Yumna from Mystipies, a product I look forward to trying soon - she'll be at the San Francisco Farmers' Market from February 3rd under the banner of La Cocina.

Meeting the exquisitely dressed Carolina from cmb.sweets who will be launching at the farmers market with Yumna and La Cocina. A sneak preview of her adorable new jam jars which I guarantee will become collectables.

The Italian wine producers Cantine Silvestri who poured me a taste of a bubbly sweet red wine that made we swoon. The wine in question is not listed on their site and they haven't found a stockist for it yet. I am hoping a San Francisco based wine merchant took note so that I'll have somewhere to buy it soon. It's like Brachetto but better. I'll have to email them to find out what it was called.

A soft, haunting, dreamy marinated feta from 34 degrees - foods with latitude which is apparently available from Wholefoods. Great fruit pastes too.
Chilean Carica from Tamaya
Unusual and unheard of fruits are two-a-penny at the the Fancy Food Show. Just one of them caught my undivided attention, the Chilean Carica from Tamaya. Sweet and delicate to taste, this fruit is firm in texture despite being preserved. You can drink the juice too - a great base for an exotic cocktail perhaps?

Fit-for-a-princess petit fours made locally here in the Bay Area. It's hard to choose between Divine Delights in Petaluma and Dragonfly Cakes in Sausalito - they are all so sweet and prettily turned out.

Unfortunately not listed on their website, The Devon Cream Company have a wonderful, English, yellow, salty butter that I hope they manage to persuade Cow Girl Creamery to stock. Good luck guys, you've got your first customer in me, guaranteed.

My first taste of Vignette Wine Country Soda made me sparkle with joy. Why you wonder? Because they actually sell this product in my work canteen. How lucky I am I? I liked this product and I am now kicking myself for not trying it sooner. As well as being a smart change from soda in the office, it will make a great and sophisticated alternative to wine for designated drivers on summer picnics or at parties. I hope they come up with larger sharing-size bottles soon.

Last but certainly not least, the tip I don't really want to share, the prize information I want to keep all to myself. Based in the misty mountains of North Carolina, Real WasabiTM
are now growing enough of this spicy root vegetable to be able to sell it by the half pound, mail order. Horseradish, the pretender, may finally have had its day.

Were you at the Fancy Food Show too? I'd love to hear what caught your eye.

2006 | The Hungry Hedonist
2005 | Who then knew it would soon be my local: Moshi Moshi

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Overheard at the San Francisco Winter Fancy Food Show '07

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bay Area Blogger of the Week # 59

The Finicky Lawyer - Dulling the Pain With Food and Wine

the finicky lawyer blog san francisco

The Finicky Lawyer is the restaurant review site of an anonymous lawyer who does a lot of eating out, including some rather fine dining not only in the Bay Area, but all over the US. What I recently found most interesting was a list of Places I've Eaten in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Finicky Lawyer emphasises restaurants in the list that really shine by italicising them.
"I eat out frequently, whether I am home or on the road, and I am generally unlikely to visit any eatery more than once (with the exception of fast food places, which is more a function of time and convenience as opposed to preference). This is not to say that the un-italicized restaurants are not worth going back to (although that is true in some cases) or that I have never gone back to some of those restaurants. Rather, the places I have italicized are the ones that have stood out in some meaningful way from the others, whether because of a single memorable dish that I crave tasting again or because the chef's creativity holds something that draws me back". The Finicky Lawyer,2006
Check out the Fincky Lawyer's list in your area. Do you agree or not?
San Francisco
New York
Southern California
Washington DC

More new My Bay Area Food and Blog Finds:
chuckeats | Mission Eats | The Fud Court

2006 | Fresh Coconut in Fiji
2005 | Our first ever press mention

Previously Featured Bay Area Food & Drink Bloggers & Friends:
The Ethicurean | The Grub Report | Food Notebook | Give me Some Food | Restaurant Girl Speaks | Savory San Francisco | Civic Center | Meathenge | Jennifer Jeffrey | Sex & The Kitchen | Eating Surburbia | Cocktails with Camper English | Bullpen Baker | Cooking With Amy | Knife's Edge | Culinary Muse | Hungrig in SF | Mary Ladd's Food Finds | 2 tasty Ladies | Dessert First | Ms Glaze's Pommes d'Amour | Hedonia | Dive | Sweet Napa | Cupcake Bakeshop | Tea & Cookies | Albion Cooks | Blogher | Bay Area Bites | Hungry Hedonist | Mighty | Chez Pim | The Blue Bottle Clown College | The Novato Experiment | Amuse Bouche | Feeding Fashionistas | All In | Dr Five Pints | SF Gourmet | Small Farms | In Praise of Sardines | Life Begins @ 30 | Gastronomie | Confessions of a Restaurant Whore | Bunny Foot | Sweet & Savory | I'm Mad and I Eat | Yummy Chow | Nosheteria | Vivi's Wine Journal | Epicurian Debauchery | Food Musings | Pfiff | Marga's Food Blog | Where the Wild Things Are | Eggbeater

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Bay Area Blogger of the Week # 59

Friday, January 19, 2007

Fatted Calf "Petit Jambon" - little smoked Heritage hams

More than Just a Vehicle for Mustard
2006 blogathon 24 hours of blogging to raise money for food runners in san francisco on july 29th 2006

There's ham, and then there's ham. I don't care what any of you think about British food and its reputation. All fool your ignorance if you snigger and still think British food always sucks. You can get truly wonderful ham in Britain. Real ham, thick crumbly ham, ham on the bone, ham that isn't covered in a putrid sticky honey glaze. In my experience (5 years, 50 weeks and counting) American ham doesn't even come close. Or should I say, didn't come close? Can someone please explain how I shopped at The Fatted Calf for two and a half years before even noticing that they sell ham. It took a chance meeting and food-filled conversation with a fascinating wine distributor, Hollis, from Kermit Lynch, at a wine and Michael Recchiuti chocolate pairing last December at Yield to find out about this ham. Hollis told me she had served it the Southern way, with biscuits, and that it had gone down a storm with guests at a party she had attended. My interest was piqued. I have bought two of these hams since then. The first for my Christmas Eve party where every scrap was gobbled up before I had a chance to stash some away for a private indulgence and the second which I took to a little pot luck gathering of some blogging friends who appeared to be instant fans. My personal preference might prefer it unsmoked, but this ham is so addictive, so succulent, so buttery, so moreish I can't help but forgive its subtle ashy overtones. Mmmm, 2007, the year of the pig ham!

Sign up for the Fatted Calf Newsletter to find out when the ham is available.
Petit Jambon little smoked Heritage hams (weight 1.5-3 pounds each) $10.00 per pound

2006 | On the Jukebox: To Sir With Love: Retro Blog Party

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Fatted Calf "Petit Jambon" - little smoked Heritage hams

Thursday, January 18, 2007

June Taylor Tomato Ketchup

I'll be jammed, this stuff is good!
2006 blogathon 24 hours of blogging to raise money for food runners in san francisco on july 29th 2006

When I was a kid I really, really wanted one of these. I begged and pleaded, but my mother was firm. "No", she first of all insisted, "they are unhygenic". Maybe, eventually, she actually relented because I seem to remember, later, giggling at the table whenever the squeezy bottle made a wet farting sound caused by a combination of air trapped in the bottle and build up of congealed tomato ketchup around the nozzle.

In my adult life I haven't been much of a consumer of tomato ketchup. In general I don't purchase a lot of processed food but at the end of 2004 I bought a bottle of Heinz Organic tomato sauce for a Food & Wine or Gourmet recipe that I was cooking for Christmas dinner. Thereafter, the bottle lingered at the bottom fridge, unloved, for almost two years before it was eventually discarded for having dared to live past its sell-by date.

These days, another ketchup bottle stands in its place. Last year, June Taylor caught me out by insisting I sample a little of her handmade sauce. I was immediately bewitched by the rich, sweet, smooth tomatoes and the mouthwatering but quite secret combination of vinegar and 'spices' that make up its alluring personality. I can't put on a finger on it, but her ketchup reminds me somehow of England and a taste from a distant memory. That is no surprise, June is English too and since she actually said to me "You're English, you'll appreciate this" as she handed me a taster, she must have intended to capture something distinctive to make me sigh with satisfaction.

At $14 a bottle, some might balk at the price of June's Ketchup, but for those who appreciate that it is made in small batches, by hand, from the most wonderful local tomatoes picked at their prime, the chance to have a very grown-up version of a little blob of childish sauce on the side of the plate, is not one to be missed. Get it whilst you still can.

June Taylor's products can be purchased locally at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market, or for those further away, you can find it online here.

Transparency: June Taylor is aware that I write a blog and am interested in obsessed with food. After she provocatively enticed me with the sample of her irriesistable sauce and I agreed to purchase a bottle, June kindly gave me a $2 discount.
2006 | Foodblogging makes you FAT!
2005 | Royal Frank - Fourth Street - San Rafael

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June Taylor Tomato Ketchup

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Heston Blumenthal's Oxtail Stew Recipe

aka: Why I could never be a chef!

heston blumenthal recipe for oxtail stew found in the guardian

What is it with the oxtails? Last week, over dinner at The Blue Plate, I caught up with a friend, a San Francisco native, who had just returned to the city after 18 months working in Australia. "Why is it?", she said, "that every menu in town has oxtail on it? When I left it was the butternut squash that was ubiquitous, now it's the oxtail." Ubiquitous or not, I couldn't help but order the Blue Plate's version, oxtail and mushroom bruschetta, pine nuts and preserved lemon and it was so delicious, I immediately resolved to learn to cook oxtail as soon as I could.

I looked up some recipes in my collection and online, and without too much thought, clearly, I settled on this one, entitled "The Twist in the Tail" by Heston Blumenthal. Had I read this tounge in cheek warning beforehand, maybe I would have thought twice:
"However, his emphasis on slow cooking seems to me salutary and admirable. And by slow he means very slow. I was cooking oxtail stew the other day and naturally, pedantically, checked a few recipes for how long to give it. Alastair Little two hours (you're joking), Fay Maschler three, Frances Bissell four (getting warmer). I think I gave it five, and two subsequent reheatings of 45 minutes each only enhanced the tail's fork-meltingness. Mr Blumenthal probably has a recipe that involves giving it the full cycle of the moon." Julian Barnes
Yes he does, Julian, of course he does, and muggins here fell for it. I started making this stew on Saturday last, I didn't sit down to eat it until Tuesday evening. Not only that, I had to call my bank to try and get a second mortgage for the cost of the ingredients. Oxtail just isn't cheap any more, as Elise remarks:
"My father remembers growing up during the Depression that oxtails were considered food for people without much money (of which he was one). You could get them for pennies a pound. Now they are considered choice - hard to come by and expensive. He figures that the "gourmandes" finally caught on and have driven the prices up, much to his regret."
I paid $20 for a bag of oxtails which may sound steep, but I did purchase them at Prather so I could be certain that the beef had been produced using only sustainable organic agricultural practices. The guys kindly gave me a discount, I have no idea why, the price on the label was actually over $23. But in the grand scheme of things, a $3 saving didn't ease the blow that much. On top of the meat, the stew contains a multitude of vegetables, all of which are strained out of the stew before the final presentation: 6 onions, as many carrots, a whole head of celery, a mass of mushrooms, lots of leeks and tons of tomato (I used my puree, frozen from when tomatoes were still in season)*. And then there was the wine - two whole bottles of my finest red that were reduced to practically nothing, along with a generous splash of dry white and a good slurp of port. I'd be lucky if I managed to make this recipe for under $100!

And then the recipe instructions are confusing, even for me who is not a total novice in the kitchen. At every stage they fill me with doubt over my actions. Why does Heston worry about people biting on a peppercorn when further down the line the sauce is strained anyway? Did I really have to place the spices in a little muslin parcel? "Quarter the onions", Heston says, "it's easier to remove them later". But Heston, unless I am missing something you never tell me to 'remove them later'. And what about the part when I nearly burnt down my kitchen. I was actually scared at that point, to tell the truth. What do you mean by "unrefined sugar"? Have you ever tried caramelizing natural pure cane sugar, Heston? There is no caramelizing as far as I can tell - just melted or burnt, nothing in between.

Despite all of this, and the added expenses of leaving the oven on for 10 hours whilst I cooked the stew over night, and having to open the bottle of Chateau Neuf de Pape to accompany dinner because, frankly after what I'd been through in getting this stew to the table, nothing else in our cellar would have done the meal justice, the result was very rich and very tasty. In fact I would go so far as to say it was the most delicious stew I have ever eaten. But was it worth it? Was it worth the effort? Was it worth the $100+ bill? I don't quite think so. I could have happily eaten a Chef's tasting menu at Manresa for that price without even lifting a finger.

*Don't fret my frugal friends, I have saved these important vegetable players, dismissed from the grand stew finale on a fancy whim, to star in another dish on another day.

2006 | Joining the Elite
2005 | Hachis Parmentier de Canard

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Heston Blumenthal's Oxtail Stew Recipe

Monday, January 15, 2007

Menu for Hope - US West Coast Prize Winners

photograph picture Menu for Hope 3 Last night, at my request, Pim sent me an advance list of the US West prize results for Menu for Hope so that I could prepare an announcement post for today. It was a special moment, reading through and seeing the names of the lucky winners, some of whom and I recognised, some who I didn't. I imagined their future joy on hearing the news that they had won one of the raffle prizes on which they'd bid last year to help us raise the $60,000 we collected to help The United Nations World Food Programme.

But my thoughts of joy quickly turned to thoughts of sadness when by some strange turn of random, haphazard link-clicking events, I stumbled upon a news story which reminded me that whilst we congratulate ourselves on our successes and celebrate them, other people are not quite so lucky. People are putting their lives at risk simply in order to try and help get food delivered to human beings in dangerous, war-torn parts of the world. It is easy for me to give some money, donate a prize and spend some time helping with the organisation of these events, but if I had to give my life, I think I might draw the line. Other people take far greater risks to help others than I do and it humbles me at times like this to remember just how lucky I am.

It has been an honour to be able to use the power of my blog to do small things to help those who need food in 2006 and I would like to thank all my readers for their continued support, not only of this spectacularly successful edition of Menu for Hope but also with the Blogathon last summer which raised money to help hungry people right here in San Francisco. That I could squeeze $2.5k out of my readers with no promise of any reward except watching me blog non-stop for 24 hours was frankly quite astounding. I am not quite certain I could go through it again, however, we will see nearer the time? One way or another, you can be sure that somewhere along the line I will be doing something to help someone be fed in 2007, too. I hope you will all continue the journey with me...

And now for the winners: Without further ado, below is a summary of the US West Coast Prize Winners only, listed with the username that was entered when the prize was bid for. Some of these usernames will be totally recognisable and some will be more generic so you might not be quite sure if you are the winner, or if another person with the same name as you might have been the lucky one. If you know or think you might be a winner, please contact the appropriate prize host with the email you used to bid on the prize with. They will then check your details with an adjudicator who will confirm whether your details do or don't line up with the donation records. For exact details skip to the bottom of this post. Not on this US West Coast Winners list? Did you bid on something outside the West Coast? For the full-on grand list of prize winners from all global regions, and more details, please check Chez Pim.

Menu for Hope III US West Coast Prize Winners List: - UW01: Manresa Dinner , Chez Pim

Kate Gardiner - UW02: Coffee with Thomas Keller, Chez Pim

Liam - UW03: Tea With Harold McGee, Chez Pim

Jumbo Empanadas - UW04: food writer package, Blog Appetit

Carolyn - UW05: A Taste of Australia, Matt Bites

Liz - UW06: Homemade chocolate coconut macaroons, Orangette

Lara - UW07: Wine & Olive Oil, Fifth Flavour

la contessa - UW08: TASTE3 Full Conference Pass, 101 Cookbooks

Francie Salle - UW09: Pangea Organics, 101 Cookbooks

Lara - UW10: Photography Lesson & Signed Cookbook, 101 Cookbooks

Kris - UW11: Coffee Lover's Package, Cook & Eat

Celery - UW12: 1 year sub to all 18 Edible Communities, Edible Nation

Melissa's Mom - UW13: Mocha Me Happy, Cooking With Amy

cn - UW14: Taste of Hawaii, Ma'ona

rosie - UW15: Arabesque & Gift Voucher, Erin's Kitchen

Lianne - UW16: Impromptu Wine Bar Dinner, Gluten Free Girl

rachel k - UW17: Delfina Dinner with... ...The Restaurant Whore

Kristen - UW19: Signed Alice Waters Plate, Kungfoodie

estelle - UW20: Homemade Sonoma Hamper, Life is a Banquet

Elise - UW21: California Wine Country painting, Life is a Banquet

selena - UW22: A Taste of Humboldt County, Christine Cooks

Catherine, Albion Cooks - UW23: 10 Speed books, The Bunrabs

st - UW24: Rare Star Wars Memorabilia, Becks & Posh

Carmen - UW25: Blogher 2007 Conference Pass, Blogher

brett emerson - UW26: Cookin' at the Costello, Hedonia

brooklynmili - UW27: Rancho Gordo Products, Steve Sando

prairieknitter - UW28: Signed San Francisco Chefs, Food Musings

boranam - UW29: Mamouls - rosewater flavored cookies, Mahanandi

Aparna T - UW30: traditional Andhra Sunnundalu, Mahanandi

Beccy - UW31: Gift basket, French food delicacies, Simply Recipes

Daniel Moon - UW32: premium artisan olive oil, Simply Recipes

Prava - UW33: Cooking at home with Pedatha, Mahanandi

award - UW34: Armchair Food Tour of the Bay Area, Married With Dinner

grundoon - UW35: A Chef in Your Own Home In Praise of Sardines

Rory C. Berger - UW36: Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, S F Gourmet

Josh Friedland - UW37: French Laundry Cookbook, I Heart Farms

Clotilde Dusoulier - UW38: A Persian Pantry, Gastronomie

anonymous - UW39: one swingin’ cocktail kit,

Maggie Y - UW40: Chronicle Books Collection, Tea & Cookies

Chris - UW41: Unique T-Shirt, Eggbeater

Paul - UW42: a signed copy of Tartine, Eggbeater

kallen - UW43: $200 Aziza Voucher, Eggbeater

FJK - UW44: Cooking Classes, Eggbeater

Woland - UW45: Cradle of Flavor, Rasa Malaysia

fantasty - UW46: Cradle of Flavor, Rasa Malaysia

Woland - UW47: Famous Street Food of Penang, Rasa Malaysia

Jeanne Feldkamp - UW48: Hangar One Vodka, Gastronomie

paul - UW49: A basket of goodies from Soif, Chez Pim

foo - UW50: BIN 8945 Wine Bar and Bistro dinner, Chez Pim

Small Print:

Instructions for the winners:

1. Visit the blog which hosts the prize or prizes you've won (just click on the prize name) and let the blogger know that you're the lucky winner of his/her fabulous prize.
2. Please be sure to use the same email address you gave us on your donation form. The email address will identify you -and not any other 'Liz'- as the real winner.
3. You are responsible for contacting the blogger and providing him/her with the shipping information so the prize could be mailed to you.
4. Then sit back and wait, your prize should be mailed to you shortly.

Instructions for the donating bloggers:

1. For bloggers hosting prizes with the code prefixes AP, CA, EU, and UC, please contact Brett at In Praise of Sardines to verify the email address of the winner of each of your prize.
2. For bloggers hosting prizes with the code prefixes UE, UW and WB, please contact Fatemeh at Gastronomie SF to verify the email address of the winner of each of your prize.
3. Please ship your prize(s) to the winner(s) promptly.

Got a problem or question? Please contact the following Menu for Hope Prize Managers:

* For prize codes AP, CA, EU, and UC, please contact Brett at In Praise of Sardines.
* UE, UW and WB, please contact Fatemeh at Gastronomie.
* Or you can also contact Pim directly.

2006 | Making Pork Rilettes at home!
2005 | Chef's Market, Davis

Menu for Hope - US West Coast Prize Winners