Learning about food, photography, and writing. Sharing what I find.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tiffany, History and Sushi, All Good Things

Today was a good day to be me.

First, Sushi.

After more than a year of torture, I've had my first positive sushi experience since moving to the UK. Taro on Brewer St. was one of those places where you really enjoy your food (and the incredibly generous portions, btw), but you still look over at everyone else's tables and wish you order that, too. We did bento this time around and will definitely go back for one of their steaming, massive bowls of ramen soon.

Photo courtesy of Route79.

Second, Tiffany.

My reward for surviving Selfridges on the Saturday before Christmas appeared under my nose in the form of a mini cupcake on a silver tray as we muscled our way toward the exit.

That's a cupcake. In Tiffany colors. With fresh lemon zest in the icing.

Finally, History.

For those of you who read about our Thanksgiving Feast for Two, you got a bit of my culinary back-story. When I wrote about the origins of my family's Pumpkin Pie recipe, I didn't have any pictures to-hand of my fabulous grandparents gallivanting up and down the East Coast during their newly-wedded years. But NOW, since I begged my father to scan pictures so that I could submit them to the New York Times in honor of my grandfather, I now have a hi-res, digital copy of their 1940s fabulosity. Here they are in the snow on Bromley Mountain in Vermont (where they worked winters preparing and serving food to the rich and famous vacationers), posing for a newspaper in borrowed ski gear. I just couldn't love them more.

Margaret 'Sis' Wells Menzies and John 'Jack' Cameron Menzies

And, just because it's THE CUTEST thing in the world, here's my grandfather as a little boy holding a chicken.

Now for popcorn and Love Actually.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Blogger Bonding

It was an exciting night to be a London blogger.

My lovely friend, Lauren, AKA Aspiring Kennedy, and London's own Helena, of A Diary of Lovely, hosted us all at the much-talked-about Flat Planet (we alllll know how much I love flatbread pizza. Or any pizza, really). The 'Free Range People' at Flat Planet did not disappoint.

I inhaled the Mediterranean Chicken Flatbread (I held-off the sun-dried tomatoes because they can be quite pushy).

And Ele, of The Kitchenist, generously allowed me to steal her Moroccan (?) Flatbread for a picture.

Looking pretty fresh, Flat Planet. I approve.

I forgot to take pictures of people while we were there, so here's last month's picture of Lauren and me meeting the Queen.

She wrote about our run-in with royalty here.

An what's better than a favor to take home that will fuel me in the morning after partying-it-up on a Monday night? One for me (perpetually dieting) and one for the man (perpetually needing fattening up).

Thanks for a great night and here's to many more!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tuscan Kale Inspiration

Sometimes you come across an ingredient that is just so beautiful it demands to have its picture taken. This Tuscan Kale was just like that. A wrinkly, green supermodel pouting up at me.

"You can't ignore my charm."

Well, when I was only beginning dinner at 8:15pm last night, I really WANTED to ignore its charm, but, alas, I couldn't.

Gorgeous, right?

The organic produce guy at the Swiss Cottage Farmer's Market never fails me, though I sometimes get overwhelmed by the wall of greens he's got going on this Autumn.

Kale (see Tuscan, above)
Rainbow Chard
Pak Choi
Red Lettuce
Green Lettuce

I've been dabbling in a bunch of them, but this kale really stood out last week and, well, I miss Tuscany.

That's me in Arezzo on a day trip from our home in Orvieto during '09. Open wine bottles in public are classy. But seriously, the vendor who sold it to me at the market opened it for me!

Lots of people don't like kale at all, including the woman from whom I adapted the recipe below, but when it's swimming in piping hot broth and cooked juuuuust right, I don't see how it's possible to hate on kale if you like any other green and leafy, hearty plant.

So, you get a bonus recipe this week because this kale was too pretty to leave unrecorded.

Tuscan Kale and Chick Pea Stew with 
Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper Pita Chips

Majorly adapted from here
*I was ready to make toast for dinner because I felt like I had an 'empty fridge,' but this type of soup is always make-able if you've got a relatively stocked pantry. I love surprise deliciousness from a depressingly vacant fridge.*

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thanksgiving for Two: Two Traditions, One Meal, Right Taste, Wrong Continent

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. And it's only 85% to do with its food-centered-ness.

No but seriously, Thanksgiving has always been something really and truly special in my family. Maybe it's because it was the one holiday during the year that brought both sides of my family together, completely, for the whole day; Maybe it's because, for 25 years, I never celebrated it in a house built less than 200 years ago; Maybe it's because on Thanksgiving day, however chaotic, my parents (and later we daughters) steadfastly put out platters of food that smelled, tasted and looked exactly right, a yearly reminder of the comfort and reassurance of tradition. Okay, okay, so my Turkey Day love is 50/50: Family and Food.

In my family, to be honest, those two things have always been inextricable.

So, when there was no way in God's Green Earth that Penn and I could get home for Thanksgiving this year (from our now-home in London), I went slightly insane to the supermarket (and the farmer's market and back to the supermarket and to the corner store twice and— well, you know how it goes). In only four days, I would gather and prepare us a proper Thanksgiving Feast for Two . . . in the UK . . . while working full-time. This meant gathering recipes along with ingredients and taking my first whack at roasting a bird weighing more than three pounds. I knew I could handle all the dinner stuff.

Cornbread Stuffing with Leeks, Sage, Celery and Wild Boar & Apple Sausage

Anything that calls for 'dotting the top with remaining butter' is fine by me. This recipe is an adaptation of the one found here.

Green Bean Casserole with Deep Fried Leek Rings

It took all my strength not to eat all these before topping the casserole. Someday I'll share the recipe for this gorgeous fried exterior. It's good on everything.

Baked Sweet Potato and Apple with a Sherry, Brown Sugar, Sage and Butter Glaze

Dusted with cinnamon and nutmeg, of course.

Fresh Cranberry Sauce with Very Little Frills

Only a wee bit of lemon rind and sugar in the pot with the cranberries.

Oh, and The Turkey, of course.

The packaging read: "Feeds 8 minimum." Hahahhaahaaaaa Joke's on you because I just ate the last turkey sandwich from this sucker.**

Believe it or not, in the middle of it all, it was the Pumpkin Pie that scared me. All I know is that our family's famous recipe is critically-acclaimed and wildly temperamental (kinda like me!). But, it's not Thanksgiving without Pumpkin Pie. "I shall do my family proud!" I decreed.

To prepare you for the big recipe reveal to follow, you'll need a bit of history on this food-family of mine. I often forget it, but my crazy passion for food comes from a loooong line of other crazies. :) The story most relevant to my Thanksgiving endeavor is that of my grandparents' history in the food business.

Mamen and Pop-Pop weren't always called that. Margaret 'Sis' Mendillo and John 'Jack' Menzies met as toddlers. They grew up as neighbors, fought like siblings, fell in love, parted ways, endured wars, reunited, got married, and never stopped adventuring. If I really think about it, their newly-wedded years were pretty awesome. They spent years (pre-Southwest-Airlines years, mind you!) going up and down the East Coast working 'seasons' in Florida, Vermont and The Cape. My Grandfather was a cook and my Grandmother was a hostess (though she cooked up a storm in her own kitchen for sure). They served and rubbed elbows with the rich and famous of their time at some of the top destinations for people of that status.

The place we all heard about the most growing up was 'Lathams', one of the finest restaurants and inns ever on Cape Cod. (If this old postcard is to be believed, the place was subtitled, An Inn of Distinction.) My newly-wedded grandparents worked several seasons there and there's a story for almost every day. Many of those stories involve the owner of Latham's, Pa Latham, as he was called. He was the mastermind behind this '40s-era hot-spot and the culinary genius who kept big-wigs coming back year after year. I'd bet it was Pa Latham who taught my grandfather to carve a roast like a pro, and my grandmother to host dinners fit for royalty (though I know Pop-Pop's upper-class upbringing taught them both a thing or two about polished silver and cloth napkins). One thing we can confirm as a "Pa Latham Legacy" to my grandparents is his Pumpkin Pie recipe.

Pa Latham taught Pop-Pop, Pop-Pop taught my dad, and the extended family has enjoyed it on the last Thursday in November for decades. No one else in history has ever tried to replicate it until THIS YEAR. No pressure. (The pressure was slightly abated by the fact that my co-UK sister was also trying it for the first time up in Scotland. Phew.)

With 70 years of legacy on my shoulders, and a very hungry husband, I embarked on the great adventure to replicate Pa Latham's Pumpkin Pie.

And I did. Wanna know how to achieve the magic? Read on...