Thursday, January 31, 2008

Adante Crottin & Meyer Lemon Confit on Toast

Viral Meyer Lemon Love Continued...
picture photograph image meyer lemon confit adante goat cheese and toast 2008 copyright of sam breach

I think I might have mentioned it before, my recent post on Recipes for Meyer Lemons produced lots of inspiring suggestions in the comments. One more that caught my eye was from someone who decided to remain Anonyomous: "A friend introduced me to meyer lemon sandwiches - lightly grill a generous slice of crusty bread and butter it. Thin, thin, thinly slice some meyers and place a few slices on the bread. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Use a vegetable peeler to slice a few pieces of pecorino romano on top."

My own response to that was to spread some toast made from Acme's 'Upstairs' bread with the lemon confit I made earlier in the week using the LA Times suggestion, top it with thin slices of Adante's wonderful Crottin goat cheese and a dribble more of the oil from the confit and pop it under the grill(broiler) to warm through before cracking black pepper on top. So simple but so satisfying too. Much quicker to make and tastier too - is lemon confit the new preserved lemon?

PS. Ever since we first met, Fred and I have NEVER, not once, eaten our dinner in front of the tv. We always lay the table and sit down to a proper dinner, even if it's only toast. That is all set to change tonight because I can't even begin to tell you how excited about the new season of Lost. 31 minutes to go and counting...

QUESTION OF THE DAY graphic copyright sam breach
?Are you tired of my, my, my, uh?, meyer lemon posts yet?
Don't worry, I think that might be it for a while.

Other Resources & Further Reading
Quite by coincidence, someone else was (almost) on the same page as me.

2007 | Me: In British Food Magazine, Delicious
2006 | Guest Blogger Shelly Butcher now has her own blog!
2005 | Soy Kaviar

© 2008 Sam Breach
Adante Crottin & Meyer Lemon Confit on Toast

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Do Restaurants Reserve the Right to Rush You Through Your Dinner?

Reservations - What do they Actually Mean anyway?

I am one of those people who takes restaurant reservations seriously. I have a huge amount of respect for the restaurant business and try to be an exemplary customer. However, I do have expectations and one of them is to be treated fairly - and that means the same as everyone else. I dined at a restaurant recently where the only available spot on Opentable was at 10.15pm, later than ideal, but we confirmed nonetheless. Ten minutes after we were seated, and before any pleasantries or the offer of an apperitif, we were somewhat unceremoniously informed by our waiter "I'll have to rush your orders through straight away because the kitchen is closing in 5 minutes". Was this a reasonable action from the restaurant or not? Have your say in my poll...


review results here

(PS - I am planning an update on this story, most likely next week. I was hoping for a response from the restaurateur but nothing yet. I wrote to him a week and a half ago.)

QUESTION OF THE DAY graphic copyright sam breach
?Have you ever been rushed through a meal because the kitchen was closing? How did that make you feel? How did you deal?

2007 | My first Impression of what has since become a firm favourite
2006 | Low Sugar Dessert Collection
2005 | Citizen Cupcake

© 2008 Sam Breach
Do Restaurants Reserve the Right to Rush You Through Your Dinner?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Um? Do you think I can keep Chickens in My Loft Appartment?

Would my landlord mind?

© 2008 Sam Breach
Um? Do you think I can keep Chickens in My Loft Appartment?

Tuna & Meyer Lemon Confit, White Bean Puree

Inspiration is a Chain Reaction

picture photograph image ALT 2008 copyright of sam breach

Yesterday's post about meyer lemon recipes prompted several readers to leave me even more good suggestions in the comments section. One of them, from Allen at Eating Out Loud proved irresistible. He said "[I] enjoy it more in savory dishes. I like cooked/flaked tuna tossed with chopped kalamata olives, red onion, a bit of celery, meyer lemon zest, fresh black pepper, and a good dose of extra virgin olive oil." His suggestion led to remind me of a wonderful thing I'd eaten just over a week ago at The Restaurant Whore's Birthday party, held at The Slow Club and cooked by my new food crush Serpentine Chef Chris Kronner. Amongst other delicious appetizers, such as perfectly cooked slabs of juicy steak, the freshest of Caesar salads, charcuterie, olives and irresistible flat breads straight from the oven (I've never seen Fred return to a buffet so many times), were the morsels that interested me the most: Plates of grilled toast topped with white bean puree and tuna confit.

I took a leaf out of both their books then added my own leaf and made a delicious (albeit rather late) lunch. First up was Meyer lemon confit from a suggestion in the LA Times - three thinly sliced Meyer lemons in a small pan, covered in olive oil and left over a low, low heat for an hour. I removed the lemon slices to cool and added a tuna steak to the lemony oil. I left it at the same, low temperature for about half an hour (turning once, at half time), until the fish was barely cooked all the way through. I removed it from the pan and left it to cool too. In the meantime I had soaked half a pound of Rancho Gordo's Giant White Lima beans in cold water for an hour. I added them to a large pan with plenty of water, a few sage leaves and a whole head of garlic, sliced straight through the center. I brought them to the boil and then let them bubble for 45 minutes until they were soft. I drained, them, reserving the cooking liquid, and scooping out the softened garlic cloves from their skin. I discarded the outside of the garlic and the sage leaves, leaving the beans and garlic to cool before pureeing them together in the blender with plenty of salt, pepper and enough of the reserved cooking liquid to smooth the puree.

My open sandwich was quick to assemble. Some flat-leaved parsley, a few slices of the oily lemon confit, pitted Nicoise olives and a large shallot, all roughly chopped and haphazardly mixed together with flaked pieces of the tuna, a few small capers, a crack of black pepper and some Maldon salt. I brushed both sides of a thick slice of Acme Levain with some of the leftover lemony oil I had used to poach the tuna and threw it on the panini maker for a grilling. Once that was ready, I simply spread it with the bean puree and then topped it with the confit.

Just perfect. Fresh, bright, glorious. It almost made me feel better. Time for another hot toddy?

© 2008 Sam Breach
Tuna & Meyer Lemon Confit, White Bean Puree

Monday, January 28, 2008

Recipes for Meyer Lemons

picture photograph image chocolate meyer lemon sorbet 2008 copyright of sam breach
(Totally vegan) Chocolate & Meyer Lemon Sorbet starts a battle in your mouth. It's like when you're in a darkened cinema and you happen to gorge on a handful of sour, sugary, gummy worms at the exact same time as a chunk of chocolate from a bag of Pick'n'Mix. Every single taste bud becomes a boxing bag as the acid onslaught begins, but no sooner has the torture begun, a bitter sweet swathe of chocolate velvet floods through to calm and soothe, and so you take another spoonful and then another...

When life a work colleague gives you Meyer lemons, the fun is deciding what to do with them. This past weekend I was down with a sore throat so my first thought was to get out the ice cream maker and make something cold. I riffed on my friend David Lebovitz's Chocolate-Tangerine Sorbet, from the copy of The Perfect Scoop he gave me and I was delighted with the crazy, vibrant-tasting result of using Meyer lemons instead of tangerines. The startling combination was akin to Lime and Chocolate truffles I've enjoyed before. Chocolate and lemon. They're just not put together often enough. Get out there and play with them, both at the same time.

Meyer lemons are so versatile. As well as the sorbet, I made a simple but lovely lemony spaghetti with them too. All it took were a couple of shallots, Parmigiano Reggiano, walnut oil, a teaspoon of creme fraiche and lots of salt and pepper. (Too bad I had no parsley which I suspect would have raised the bar from muggle-dish to magical.) As with the chocolate, Meyer lemons go so well with cheese: I've been dreaming of a special white seasonal pizza I had a few weeks ago at Piccino, where slivers of the lemon and florets of broccoli rabe were spread out on an gooey melted bed of cheese, dotted with spicy dribbles of chili oil. It was divine. Aside from a splash of Meyer lemon I used to brighten a healthy soup, fashioned mainly from beet leaves, ready for next week's healthy packed lunches, the only remaining use I have for my favourite citrus this weekend is a hot toddy. When you have a head cold there's only one thing for it: Lemsip. Thing is, I am certain it will go down much better with a squeeze of real juice and a glug of something potent to help me sleep. Has any one ever tried a hot toddy made with Amaretto instead of Scotch? Well, there's a first thing for everything. Better, methinks, to be a Shepherd than a Sheep, although I wouldn't say no to following any of these great-sounding Meyer lemon recipes either...

More Things to Do With Meyer Lemons:

Bars & Cookies:
Meyer Lemon Butter Cookies
Meyer Lemon Sablés
Luscious Lemon Bars
Ice Meyer Lemon Cookies
Meyer Lemon and Black Pepper Icebox Cookies
Tartine (Meyer) Lemon Bars on Brown Butter Shortbread
Coconut-topped Meyer Lemon Bars
Meyer Lemon Shortbread Cookies
Meyer Lemon Bars
Meyer Lemon Curd Bars Cockaigne
Meyer Lemon Bites

Cakes & Tarts:
Meyer lemon Cake Roll
Iced Meyer Lemon Cupcakes
Plum Meyer lemon Jam Coffee Cake
Meyer lemon Tarts
Meyer lemon Loaf
Meyer Lemon Skillet Cake
Blueberry Tarts with Meyer Lemon Cream
Meyer lemon- chocolate tartlets for my Valentine
Meyer Lemon Tartlets
Meyer Lemon Custard Cakes
Meyer Lemon Tea Cake
Tonka Bean and Meyer Lemon — Gâteau léger à la fève tonka et citrons Meyer
Gluten-Free Lemon Tart with Bittersweet Chocolate

Curds and Preserves:
A Meyer lemon Curd Throwdown
Messy Cucina Preserves
Charlotte's (Mom's) Lemon Curd
Seattle Bon Vivant's Meyer Lemon Curd
Meyer Lemon Marmalade
Cranberry Meyer Lemon Compote
Preserved Meyer Lemons previously on Becks & Posh

Cardamom Meyer Lemon Créme Brûlée Bubbles
Meyer Lemon Budino
Meyer Lemon Posset
Meyer Lemon and Ginger Pie
Chocolate-grapefruit crepe suzette with meyer lemon confit
St Benoit Meyer Lemon Yogurt

Meyer Lemon Sorbet with Limoncello
Kim's Meyer Lemon Ice Cream
Move over Vanilla Ice, Meyer Lemon Gelato is in da house...
Meyer Lemon Sorbet

General Ideas:

100 Things to Do With Meyer Lemons
All About Meyer Lemons

Meat and Fishes:
Meyer Lemon Pork Roast
Pan Seared, Oven Roasted Freshwater Bass with Meyer Lemon Zest and Capers
Sea Urchin & Meyer Lemon Gelee with Fennel Cream, Caviar & Kalamata Oil

Pizza, Pancakes, Pasta & Rice:

Meyer Lemon Pizza
Meyer lemon and ricotta Pancakes
Meyer Lemon Risotto with Basil
Meyer Lemon Risotto 101
Spaghetti with Meyer Lemon Zest and Crunchy Sea Salt
Zesty Pasta: Meyer Lemon, Yogurt, and Parmesan Tagliatelle
Pasta with Meyer Lemon, Spinach and Walnuts
(meyer) lemon artichoke pesto
meyer lemon pasta with fennel and artichokes

Vegetable Dishes:

Roasted eggplant with Meyer lemon vinaigrette

QUESTION OF THE DAY graphic copyright sam breach
?If Life Gave YOU Meyer lemons - what would YOU make?

2007 | The Washbag (no more)
2006 | Healthy Leek Noodles
2005 | Scrambled Egg with Prosciutto

© 2008 Sam Breach
Recipes for Meyer Lemons

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Even More Bay Area Food Media

Fifteen Delicious Reads for a Miserable, Grey Sunday

Lunch in a Box: Building a Better Bento, is written by 'Biggie' who I had the immense pleasure of spending an evening with just last week. Biggie lived in Japan for nine years and I can't think of a more entertaining and well suited person than her to translate the glory of Bento to the American market.

CSAbc's: Two moms, trying to feed their family sustainable food in a manner that they can maintain.

Profumo Profondo
: Half Sillicon valley, half NYC, "profumo profondo della mia carne, the perfume of her meat", a phrase from Bill Burford, referring to the scent of a sausage-maker’s kitchen in Italy is, in Rachel and Claudia's minds, resonant of the deep, nonverbal connections that we make to food, and therefore seemed to be an appropriate name for a blog about food and cooking.

: Wherein he makes a mess of the kitchen.

Chef Ann: Cooper is a renegade lunch lady. As director of nutrition services for the Berkeley Unified School District she works to transform cafeterias into culinary classrooms for students — one school lunch at a time.

OHC: Omnivore Herbivore Carnivore: Kyla is a writer and a cook. Born and raised in Canada and a PhD in literature, history and food studies from Stanford, she's written about culture and food for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Globe and Mail and many other publications. She's a former restaurant critic and food writer and part owner of two restaurants in the Caribbean.

Spice Dish: In which Erin started her blog to share her collection, her culinary experiments the (dorky) thrill she gets from all things food.

Dena's Recipes
: Dena taught herself to cook several years ago, with the help of many cookbooks, many cooking shows, patient friends, and an even more patient husband.

Blog Appetit Does San Francisco:
designed to make discovering the San Francisco Bay area more rewarding for visitors and locals alike.

Luisa Confidential: This really means nothing to me, but this blog advertises itself as "A blog to (ahem) celebrate the eccentricities and out-and-out weirdness of San Francisco's worst entrepreneur, Luisa Hanson." Maybe you know what they are talking about?

Vezeo: Ve - ze - o (veh-zee-oh) -noun
1. a passion for living well.
2. an online magazine focused on international dining and travel.
Based in beautiful San Francisco, Vezeo features articles about superior restaurants, hotels and resorts.

Vanessa Barrington: Articles, classes, and latest obsessions and interests in the world of food and sustainability. Recipes, food and restaurant finds, and random, interesting things and ideas that please her. Vanessa is currently writing a cookbook about heirloom beans, co-authored with Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo.

Feast: is by Carolyn Tillie, a modern-day Renaissance woman. She is an accomplished writer, jewelry and metal craftsman, and culinary artist. She even makes amazing jewellery from Rancho Gordo beans as well as writing a wine blog too.

In My Box
: Is one customer's weekly exploration of the CSA box from Eatwell Farms. A simple record of what came in each box and what was done with the vegetables and fruit as well as as a place to log any disappointments, errors, special surprises and as a place to refer people who are curious about the Eatwell CSA box.

The Rosy Pescetarian
: a musician/librarian who loves to own and care for herds of cats and who loves to cook for other people hopes to accumulate a list of healthy vegetarian recipes here, which may include several fish recipes. Hence, the pescetarian.

That should keep you all busy for a while... Enjoy!

PS: Today is my seven year anniversary of coming to live in America. And here I still am. Now, if only that green card would hurry up and materialise...

QUESTION OF THE DAY graphic copyright sam breach
?Are there any more Bay Area Food Bogs I don't know about?

2006 | I am a Miserable Failure
2005 | Incanto

© 2008 Sam Breach
Even More Bay Area Food Media

Thursday, January 24, 2008

picture photograph image reef fish caught fishing in fiji 2008 copyright of sam breach

because sometimes you have the picture before the words

© 2008 Sam Breach

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Read Food Media? Reside in the US?

This question of the day is for you then...

QUESTION OF THE DAY graphic copyright sam breach
?Please will you help a Masters in Gastronomy Student with this quick, fun, food-centric survey that will be the basis of her final dissertation?

Hurry - the survey ends soon and the more respondents, the more useful the results will be.
Thank you!

© 2008 Sam Breach
Read Food Media? Reside in the US?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Potato Stew with Olives, Mushrooms, Bacon & Onions...

Inspired by a Recipe from Michel Richard's Happy in the Kitchen

picture photograph image potato stew with mushrooms and bacon and olives and onion 2008 copyright of sam breach
I don't like stew. I don't like wet stew. I don't like photographs of stew. But you, ugly, dry stew, I do like you. You are my easier, less fussy, slightly healthier version of Michel Richard's Potato Stew and I do love you. You are the stew where I use small potatoes instead of wasting time and vegetable turning larger potatoes into spherical rounds. You are the stew where I use slices of bacon cut lardon-style instead of a slab because it's not only easier to find, it disperses itself more equally through the dish as well. You are the stew where I decide that at $10 per mushroom I am not going to use Porcinis because cheaper King Trumpets and Portobellos taste quite delicious instead. You are the stew where I can easily leave out the sugar and cut down on the oil so you fit in with my healthier eating plan. You are the stew who tastes more savoury and meaty than a mere two rashers of bacon would ever have you believe. You are the stew who is a perfect foil to cold, wet, miserable weather. You are the stew I make again and again. You, stew, are the stew for me. Are you the stew for you too?

2 lbs small potatoes (substituting half these potatoes for sun chokes works too).
3 oz tasty black pitted olives
1/2 lb portobello mushrooms
1/2 lb king trumpet mushrooms
2 rashers of good, thick bacon (add much more bacon if you like!)
1 Tbsp olive oil
Pinch Madras curry powder (I made mine using this recipe from Coconut & Lime)
1/2 cup shallots
A few sprigs of time
12 large garlic cloves, peeled,
1/2 cup reduced chicken, goose or duck stock
Freshly ground black pepper
Fleur de Sel

- Heat up your your oven to 325F.
-Peel potatoes (and sunchokes if you are substituting any of the potatoes with them) and put aside in a bowl of cold water.
- Put pitted olives in a small pan, cover with cold water and then bring to the boil.
- Drain, rinse, repeat.
- Cut Portobellos into thick slices and King Trumpets into halves.
- Cut bacon into lardon style pieces.
- Peel the shallots
- Find out a frying pan or skillet large enough to fit all the mushrooms without any overlap, if possible.
- Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over high heat. Add the bacon lardons and fry for a couple of minutes to render out some of its fat.
- Remove the bacon from the pan and set it aside on a plate.
- Add all the mushroom pieces cut-side down into the hot frying pan, sprinkle with madras and leave without turning for 3-4 minutes until they are golden brown on one side only.
- Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set the aside on a plate too.
- Turn the heat down to low and add the shallots to the pan. Cook gently until caramelized on the outside.
- Drain the potatoes and pat them dry with paper towel.
- In a large Le Creuset or oven proof casserole dish with a lid, put the drained olives, mushrooms, bacon, potatoes, thyme, garlic, stock, salt and pepper.
- Close the lid and cook in the 325F oven, centre shelf for one hour.
- Open up the lid and baste all of the vegetables and meat in their own juices before returning to the oven with the lid on for a further 45 minutes.
- When the vegtables are glazed and tender and the liquid has reduced, the stew is cooked. Leave it in a warm place to allow the flavours to mingle before serving with fleur de sel and pepper to taste.

This healthier version of M. Richard's stew serves 4 people at a cost of 7 WeightWatcher [WW] Points per person.

QUESTION OF THE DAY graphic copyright sam breach
?Have YOU made any recipes from Happy in the Kitchen? If yes, how did you get on with Michel Richard's book?

In addition to the Potato stew [page 26], I have had enormous success with the Leek Tartare [page 97] and the Thyme Glazed Baby Back Ribs [page 210] all of which I have made several times. Despite being somewhat expensive to make, the 'shroomwhich [page 56] was a hit at the first ever Samanda dinner party. And although they didn't turn out quite as large as I expected, the Orange Cheesecake flans [page 264] which I made a lighter version of, without crust, went down extremely well when I served them up for a friend's birthday dinner. There are several other recipes in the book I can't wait to try, too. How about you?

Local Resources
Bacon and Duck stock from The Fatted Calf
Potatoes from David Little
Shallots from Dirty Girl
Garlic from Chue's Farm
Thyme from Eatwell
Olive Oil from Bariani
Mushrooms from Far West Funghi

Other people cook from Happy in the Kitchen
Happy in the Kitchen experiences on Chowhound
Chicken Faux Gras by Little Bouffe
Thyme Glazed ribs also by Little Bouffe
An Entire Happy in the Kitchen feast including Low Carb-o-nara by The District Domestic
Happy Kid Pudding by MaiaPapaya
Foie Gras Brulee from Veronica's Test Kitchen
Filet Mignon with Simple Syrah Sauce by Other People's Food
Carrot Ribbon Salad with Aromatic Spices, Mint, and Oranges from Jumbo Empanadas
Lamburger by Other People's Food
Chicken Faux Gras by Jaden's Steamy Kitchen
Reconstructed Lemon Egg by Wine & Dine

More Michel Richard
Q&A: Michel Richard [Washington Post]
His Collard Greens and Lentils by the Wednesday Chef

2007 | Overheard at the Fancy Food Show
2006 | The Hungry Hedonist
2005 | Moshi Moshi visit #1

© 2008 Sam Breach
Potato Stew with Olives, Mushrooms, Bacon & Onions...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Local Kitchen - Bar Jules - Spork - Fish & Farm: San Francisco

Dining Notes: First Time Dining Impressions

View Larger Map

Local Kitchen & Wine Merchant
: 330 First St San Francisco, CA 94105

I have nothing bad to say about Local Kitchen and Wine Merchant, the new place from Ola Fendert, but I can't think of anything great to say about it either. The problem starts with their menu which is uninteresting at best. Don't we already have enough average pizza in this town? I wanted to love Local, but although our pizza slid off its precarious perch, the sparks didn't fly, so I'll stick with our perennial favourite, Fendert's Oola instead.
This review was a first impression. Sunday December 30th, 2007.

Bar Jules
: 609 Hayes St San Francisco, CA 94199

There is nothing more appealing to me on paper than new kid on the Hayes Valley block, Bar Jules. I love the concept of its small, changing daily seasonal menu, their support of local farmers and their commitment to sustainable meat and fish. The space is bright and fresh, the staff are friendly, it's a relaxing, welcoming spot for Sunday brunch. On my next visit I'll skip the simpler bacon and egg option for something I wouldn't make so easily at home, like a delicious lamb stew or perhaps a chestnut and farro soup. Because of the limited options, this is not the place to take a fussy eater, but I'd return again in a heartbeat, especially with people who would appreciate Bar Jules' sensibilities which are similar to my own.
This review was a first impression. Sunday January 6th 2008.

: 1058 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

We might be getting too old for the ear-shattering decibel levels we encountered at Spork, but we're still compus mentis enough to enjoy the playful decor inside this ex-Kentucky Fried Chicken diner-like space. The menu managed to be both eclectic enough to intrigue me and traditional enough to please my less adventurous dining partner. I revelled in my discovery of the most delicious brussel sprouts in the history of the world (hint: crisp them up and serve with griddled calamari and lemon aioli) whilst he happily feasted on the freshest of salads and a bavette steak before declaring "I want to come back here - on a weekday, really late, so I can enjoy my food without the noise."
This review was a first impression. Friday January 11th 2008.

Fish & Farm
: 339 Taylor St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Fish & Farm is another San Francisco restaurant putting farmers and sustainable food sources at the heart of its menu. What sets them apart is their promise to stick to a 100-mile radius in sourcing their produce. Despite the self-imposed limitations, the menu still has plenty of choice. Although the squid and mushroom ragout dishes I settled on were just ok, both the bone marrow and ribeye steak I tried from other peoples' plates really got me salivating. I loved my chocolate caramel dessert too. A good thing to note is that F&F have a funky private dining room. Its decor is nowhere near as special as the eggshell blue painted walls of the main restaurant, but it's perfect for those occasions when you would prefer to keep your revelries to yourself.
This review was a first impression. Friday January 18th 2008.

QUESTION OF THE DAY graphic copyright sam breach
?Have you tried Local Kitchen, Bar Jules, Spork or Fish & Farm? Would you revisit?

Local Resources
Serpentine will start taking reservations next week [SF Eater]
This months Bay Area closures that make me sad:
The Washington Bar and Grill closed before I had a chance to revisit. [SF Eater]
The City has lost the sweetest little gem - Petite Patisserie. [Tablehopper]
San Rafael loses its Royal Frank after 36 years [Marin IJ]

2007 | The Finicky Lawyer
2006 | Fresh Coconut in Fiji
2005 | First Press

© 2008 Sam Breach
Local Kitchen - Bar Jules - Spork - Fish & Farm: San Francisco

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Yelp Uncovered

Jeremy Stoppelman and Russel Simmons

So - this is rather old news, but it only just popped into my head again. Last year I attended a Commonwealth Club Inforum lecture with the the founders of Yelp moderated by Greg Sterling. Yelp's mantra is 'real people, real reviews' and anyone who has looked for restaurant reviews online will not have been able to escape its influence, right there near the top of a google search every time. Love it (or claim to hate it but secretly refer to it every time every time you go out to eat), there's no denying Yelp's impact on the restaurant scene.

You can listen to the Yelp lecture via the link found here.

You might even find yours truly timidly asking a question just after the 49 minute mark. My bravado was, perhaps, dampened by the blush-inducing crush I have on a certain Mr Stoppleman...

QUESTION OF THE DAY graphic copyright sam breach
? Yelp: Do you love it, hate it or have mixed feelings ? If you're a restaurateur, now's the time to get your own back!

2007 | Heston Blumnethal's Oxtail Stew
2006 | Joining the Elite
2005 | Hachis Parmentier de Canard

© 2008 Sam Breach
Yelp Uncovered

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Fijian Kava Drinking Ceremony

Yaqona, the real drink of Fiji

picture photograph image Ratu preparing traditional Fijian Kava for a Kava ceremony at Navutu Stars resort on the island of Yaqeta in the Yasawas 2008 copyright of sam breach
Ratu prepares the Kava before the drinking begins

I've already talked about some of the cocktails, beer and bar snacks that can be found in Fiji. But such things are mainly for tourists. You haven't experienced the real Fiji until you get down on a hand-woven coconut mat on the floor and drink kava with the locals. Kava is made from the dried ground roots of the kava plant, a Pacific relative of the pepper plant. The root powder is put in to a small bag that is thoroughly kneaded and squeezed in to water as Ratu is doing in the picture above. The result is a muddy-looking liquid. At Navutu Stars they use a traditional-style hand-carved tanoa (bowl) from which to serve the drink to guests. However, if you travel more extensively through Fiji you might find you are sometimes offered Kava from a far less grand receptacle, like a plastic bucket or a weathered washing up bowl. I don't think this makes any difference to the taste.

picture photograph image the kava dealers at Suva market Fiji 2008 copyright of sam breach
The Kava dealers at Suvu's market, the largest in the Pacific, have an entire floor dedicated to the sale of this root. (This picture we took on our previous trip in 2005.)

Although Kava is drunk throughout the islands of Fiji, its main production takes place on the mainland of Fiji, Viti Levu from where the roots can be purchased.

picture photograph image the kava dealers at Suva market Fiji 2008 copyright of sam breach
The Kava is transferred from the tanoa (ceremonial bowl) to the bilo (coconut shell).

During a Kava ceremony, the tradition is to sit on the floor with your legs crossed. When you are handed a coconut shell full of the drink, you should first clap and say "Bula" before accepting the cup and drinking all of its contents quickly, down in one. As you hand back the empty cup you clap three times and everyone else joins in. The word "Bula" described by one traveller as "one fourth of everything that comes out of a Fijian's mouth" actually means "health" or "life" but in practice is used as a greeting too. What I have described is a relaxed version of the ceremony which should get you by in casual, social situations. If you are required to attend a more formal ceremony you will need to brush up your knowledge on local protocols and pecking orders.

picture photograph image Seruvi illustrates the correct sitting position traditional Fijian Kava for a Kava ceremony ay Navutu Stars resort on the island of Yaqeta in the Yasawas 2008 copyright of sam breach
Seruvi illustrates the correct sitting position for a kava ceremony

picture photograph image kava ceremony on christmas day 2007 at Navutu Stars resort on the island of Yaqeta in the Yasawas 2008 copyright of sam breach
Kikau sings Eric Clapton: entertaining the guests with Kava on Christmas Day 2007

True to its apearance, Kava actually tastes like you might imagine muddy water would taste. The drink has a mildly numbing effect on the teeth and the tongue but otherwise it had no noticeable effects on us. According to some sources, it is meant to make you feel relaxed, de-stressed and sleepy, but since for me that just about sums up the whole Fiji effect it's hard to tell. It doesn't bother me in the slightest, but some people are apparently not keen on communal sharing of a drinking cup because of hygiene issues. If you are a germaphobe, you had better stay away from the Kava!

And do we like it? Erhm? Well, put it this way - we came home from a previous trip to Fiji with a huge stash of dried Kava root and big plans for throwing a Fiji party. Almost two and a half years later the Kava is still sitting in our fridge untouched and no such party has ever materialized. But when in Fiji - I can't get enough of the Kava ceremony. Any personal opinions of this drink aside, the chance to sit with a warm, friendly group of Fijian people and share such an important and historic part of their culture with them is always an honour.

QUESTION OF THE DAY graphic copyright sam breach
?Have you ever tried Kava - and if so would you ever try it again?
Local Resources
I have heard you can buy Kava root at Rainbow Grocery but haven't confirmed this.

Other Resources & Further Reading
Kava on Wikipedia
Kava by Herbalgram

Previous Posts about Fiji in 2007 on Becks & Posh
Deep Fried Coconut"
Fiji Bitter
The best Mojito in the world?
Previous Posts about Fiji in 2005 on Becks & Posh
Coconut Buns
Fijian Indian Food & Bay Area Fijian Food
Pit Stop - On the Road
Fresh Coconut Juice
Catch of the Day
The Sweetest Girl
Exotic Fruits
Forbidden Food
Nature's Communal Oven
Nama Sea Grapes

2006 | Catch of The Day (another Fiji Post)

© 2008 Sam Breach
A Fijian Kava Drinking Ceremony

Friday, January 11, 2008

My Mother is in BIG Trouble....

as Chez Pim Announces the Menu for Hope Raffle Winners

Becks & Posh bidders managed to raise a whopping $2020, so thank you all so much for supporting the prizes we offered! It was a pleasure to be part of such a huge and astounding group effort which raised a staggering $91,188.00 to help feed the Children of Lesotho through the United Nations World Food Programme.

Becks & Posh Winners are as follows:

Christine M Burridge wins an English Afternoon Tea package including June Taylor conserve.

Sybil Evans wins a $100 gift voucher to spend with the Fatted Calf

Congratulations to both of the winners! I told my mother, a certain Mrs Burridge, on no account should she bid on my prize because I would be mortified and embarrassed if she won. I begged her to please bid on other peoples' prizes instead. But you have understand mothers - that is what mothers do - support their own children before and above anyone else. They certainly don't do as they are told. I guess she couldn't resist buying one little ticket for my prize. I know she put the bulk of her money on something else - something she really wanted. I think she bought just one, tiny, supportive ticket among the 168 that were attempting to get their hands on my tea package and she had to go and win it. I am still reeling from the shock of the result. I had words with her this morning and she meekly told me just wanted to help boost the takings for my particular prize as I was trying to reach a magic figure of $2500. I love my mother. She doesn't even like tea.

picture photograph image english cream tea 2007 copyright of sam breach

I had a small set-back in my "Experimental Clotted Cream Kitchen" but I have been working hard on the formula despite having a certain ingredient-sourcing issue. You may remember I promised to send all entrants who bid on my English tea package details of my secret to making clotted cream. Those cards will be sent out in the next few weeks to everyone who registered their addresses with me.

I am sorry I am not able to give any of you the gift June Taylor in person this time around, but what I can do is share this inspirational interview with her, recorded last December. June was interviewed by my friend Jen Maiser who was instrumental in setting up the Eat Local Challenge blog and writes at at Life begins at 30. I think there might even be a question from yours truly at the end. I haven't listened to the recording yet, but I was there at the time, so I know how inspirational June's words were.

Thanks again - really - all of you - for being such a big part of helping such a fantastic cause.

Now, I don't know about you - but I just can't wait for next year....

QUESTION OF THE DAY graphic copyright sam breach
? What do you think could be done to make Menu for Hope even more successful in 2008 ?

2007 | Carrot Pluot Soup
2006 | American Brunch Il Flottante
2005 | British Cookie Commission

© 2008 Sam Breach
My Mother is in BIG Trouble....

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Fiji Bitter aka Drinking Beer on Vacation

Life moves differently whilst you're on holiday...

picture photograph image ALT 2008 copyright of sam breach
...why else would I drink beer? I rarely drink beer. I don't much like beer. Do I? I prefer Champagne. Wine. Spirits. But there is something about being on vacation that makes me want to drink beer. Not all of the time, but some of the time. When the temperature is 30c, snorkelling on beautiful reefs where startling fish dart in and out of pretty corals is thirsty work. You need something refreshing, something tall and cold to quench that thirst whilst you are, perhaps, patiently waiting for the world's best Cocktail to be carefully assembled.

This is Fiji Bitter. You would probably never want to drink it anywhere else in the world. But in Fiji itself, Fiji Bitter sure hits the right spot. Being in Fiji makes everything good. You are peace with the world and and all of its mediocre beers.

Memories can be stronger than the alcohol content: Strangely, I have a few crystal clear vacation beer memories, which is odd, as I have already explained I don't like beer. The best beer I think I ever experienced was an icy cold wheat beer, topped with a thick slice of citron a long, long time ago in Paris. That was a glass of beer I can honestly say I relished. And it's true what they say about Ireland too - the Guinness really does taste better there. I order it by the glass - as a pint is always too much for me. Back in the US we rented an appartment for a year in San Francisco which had a Guinness fridge and tap in the kitchen. I can tell you - it is quite something to have a small glass of Guinness before heading off to work. Guinness is good for you, I convinced myself as an excuse for my outrageous breakfast.

QUESTION OF THE DAY graphic copyright sam breach
? Just high days, holidays (& breakfast), or all year round? What kind of a beer drinker are YOU ?

2007 | The Great San Francisco Chicken Crisis
2006 | Homemade Ricotta
2005 | The British Grocery, Potrero Hill

© 2008 Sam Breach
Fiji Bitter aka Drinking Beer on Vacation

Menu for Hope Prize Winners

Announcement Delayed until Friday

If you are visiting Becks & Posh today to see if you won one of the two prizes we hosted for Menu for Hope, I have found out from Pim's website this morning that due to technical difficulties, the names of the winners will now not be published until the end of the week. As soon as I know the names of the lucky recipients of my English Tea prize and The Fatted Calf Voucher, I will post them up on this blog.

In the meantime, thank you for your patience (the suspense is getting to me as much as I expect it is getting to you) and also thanks to everyone who supported Menu for Hope at the end of 2007 and helped raise over $90k to help aid the children of Lesotho.

© 2008 Sam Breach
Menu for Hope Prize Winners

Monday, January 07, 2008

Deep Fried Coconut

Deep Fried in Coconut Oil. Seriously

picture photograph image bar snacks including deep fried coconut at Navutu Stars in Fiji 2008 copyright of sam breach
Deep fry slices of coconut in its namesake oil and the result is rather intriguing. The flesh loses it's milky qualities, its fibrous texture and becomes tender, almost like a slice of fried mushroom. If I'd had my eyes closed for the first bite and someone had asked me to guess what I was eating, I am not sure I would ever have stumbled on the correct answer.

Piled together with contrasting fresh coconut slices, peanuts, potato chips and a sweet chili sauce for dipping, these treats were part of the service, every time we ordered a cocktail at Navutu Stars in Fiji this past December.

Since I started myself on an healthier eating endeavour today, it's probably just as well that Deep Fried Coconut is now little more than just another happy memory.

QUESTION OF THE DAY graphic copyright sam breach
? Mars Bars aside - What's the strangest thing YOU'VE eaten deep fried ?

Previous Posts about Fiji in 2007 on Becks & Posh
The best Mojito in the world?
Previous Posts about Fiji in 2005 on Becks & Posh
Coconut Buns
Fijian Indian Food & Bay Area Fijian Food
Pit Stop - On the Road
Fresh Coconut Juice
Catch of the Day
The Sweetest Girl
Exotic Fruits
Forbidden Food
Nature's Communal Oven
Nama Sea Grapes

Other Resources & Further Reading
Is Coconut Oil Healthy or Not?
Navutu Stars Resort Website

2007 | About Becks & Posh
2005 | Fatted Calf Post #1

© 2008 Sam Breach
Deep Fried Coconut

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Best Mojito in the World?

Navutu Stars on the Island of Yaqeta in the Yasawas, Fiji

picture photograph image a mojito made by Noah at the bar of Navutu Stars Yaqeta Yasawa Fiji 2008 copyright of Sam Breach
My first Fijian Mojito made by Navutu Star's popular bartender, Noah

picture photograph image  the bar of Navutu Stars Yaqeta Yasawa Fiji 2008 copyright of Sam Breach
On our first evening at Navutu Stars the Mojito was a "Special" named for fellow guest, fellow Mojito fan (& fellow Brit), Julie*. Every day there would be a different featured cocktail but our hearts were set on the Mojito from the moment we tried it. Long, cool refreshing and perfectly balanced, this was the drink of our vacation. [*Name checking Bob too, else I might be in trouble and believe me, Bob is no stranger to causing trouble].

picture photograph image a the little garden at Navutu Stars Yaqeta Yasawa Fiji 2008 copyright of Sam Breach
Grown in a small garden at the resort (click on picture above to see it), the mint for these Mojitos is as local as it gets. As for the fruit - sometimes limes are used, some times lemons. On this island "bush lemons" grow which have greenish skin and orange flesh. And of course, to sweeten the Mojitos, Fijian-produced golden cane sugar is key.

picture photograph image Varani shaking Mojitos at Navutu Stars Yaqeta Yasawa Fiji 2008 copyright of Sam Breach
Just when you think you might have tasted the best Mojito in the world, it gets even better. Imagine sipping your drink aboard a little boat headed towards the sunset whilst all the time being serenaded by Fijian music.

picture photograph image Varani making Mojitos at Navutu Stars Yaqeta Yasawa Fiji 2008 copyright of Sam Breach
Every mojito is made from scratch with patience, care and attention to detail. It's important that the task is taken slowly. I am fascinated by every move that is made - the tender way the leaves are pulled from the precious mint plants and how the soda is carefully poured into the shaker, to wash out any remaining snatchets of flavour before it is used to top off the glass. Varani (above), Noah and Eta all made us perfect Mojitos every time, vinaka!

picture photograph image Seruvi and grace from Navutu Stars Yaqeta Yasawa Fiji 2008 copyright of Sam Breach
None of the other resort guests signed up for this sunset escapade, so Seruvi and Grace played and sang for our ears only whilst Varani got to work on the second round...

picture photograph image by Frederic Schmidt Mojito ahoy Navutu Stars Yaqeta Yasawa Fiji 2008 copyright of Sam Breach
I returned to the US laden with bags of Fijian sugar and bottles of Fijian rum imagining I could simply replicate this Mojito magic at home using the instructions that Eta had helped me jot down. But a Mojito doesn't taste quite the same on a dark, stormy Saturday night in nippy San Francisco. And as my cocktail-go-to pointed out, Jeffrey Morgenthaler perhaps hit the nail on the head when he decreed "Do not order a mojito when the weather is below 70°F. This is almost as bad as ordering a Bloody Mary after the sun has gone down." I turned up the heating in our apartment, but it didn't make my version of the drink any better. So since you can't come round to mine for the best Mojito in the world, you might have to consider heading to Fiji instead!

QUESTION OF THE DAY graphic copyright sam breach
? When and Where did YOU try your best ever Mojito ?

Previous Posts about Fiji on Becks & Posh (2005)
Coconut Buns
Fijian Indian Food & Bay Area Fijian Food
Pit Stop - On the Road
Fresh Coconut Juice
Catch of the Day
The Sweetest Girl
Exotic Fruits
Forbidden Food
Nature's Communal Oven
Nama Sea Grapes

Other Resources & Further Reading
Kittalog, the Mojito Hunter
A fellow Navutu Stars guest on relaxation and a shark dilemma
The Yasawa Islands on Wikepedia (Tourism only started here 20 years ago!)
Navutu on Flickr
The Hacking Family Sail into the Yasawas
Kayaking the Yasawas
Fiji's Final Frontier

2007 | La Galette des Rois
2006 | Tagi's Golden Syrup Recipe
2005 | English French and Californian Cheese Board

Some viewers might notice over saturation on some of the photographs. We have new software and are still in the process of working through some colour management issues. Thanks for your patience.

© 2008 Sam Breach
The Best Mojito in the World?