Monday, 19 December 2011

Mi Pueblo & Meyer Lemons

Lunch time and a visit to Mi Pueblo Food Centre in Seaside, a stone’s throw from KK’s parental residence.  We have been before and KK has been dreaming of going back for lunch.  It is a lovely store, bright, clean, cheerful and full of excellent things to eat and pleasant, smiling, bilingual people.  Which is great for me, since I speak no Spanish.

Lunch called – it fairly bellowed. We passed the case full of pork – pork scratchings, deep fried slices of belly pork, carnitas (I love carnitas), pigs ears, snout and cheek. Soups, salsas, beans, tamales, horchata, jamaica, mango drink, burritos, tacos, sopes…and we ate: deep fried pork belly, a tamale, BGK had a sope with bean, carnitas, lettuce, crema and queso fresco – lovely; KK & I shared tacos de carnitas served with a clear hot red salsa & lengua with a green salsa. 
Tacos - the tongue ones are at the back

The red salsa fairly blows your head off.  We drank jamaica made with hibiscus which reminds me of living in Africa where we made it in bottles set in the sun and BGK had horchata. The very cute child next to us threw her horchata all over the table and floor which didn’t seem to faze anyone.  Then we shopped.  We bought limes because they are so much cheaper in Mexican stores, and then I smelt the guavas, only some were pink but all were fragrant, so we bought some of those, and avocados and beautiful, plump ginger root (see below). 
                         very, very hairy chayote

cones of raw sugar, tamarind, cinnamon bark & hibiscus flowers for tea

Veg & pinatas

 We remembered the walnut yogurt from the summer - oh, this yogurt is a poem of a yogurt and due to indiscriminate experimentation we have discovered that it is excellent as frozen dessert.  
Yogurts: walnut, mango, strawberry, coffee; and crema 

This is definitely something to try making in France with our own walnuts and local honey.  We looked at the meat which is all cut very thin except for all the odd bits of offal which are in chunks.  I find it fascinating to see such a great meat counter, so many different cuts and types of meat that are unavailable in “main-stream” markets.  Chicken feet packaged with hearts and livers – presumably for soup.  Oh and look at the fish!  

Tequila galore, new kinds of Mexican chocolate – in powder form and happy smiling people.  

Then we went to megaland – what a contrast! After much unneeded sampling of products we weren't going to buy (we bought one, so we fail), at the check out a woman behind us had an enormous package of beautiful Meyer lemons, so I ran to the back of the store – it was a long way (my exercise for the day) but my feet were like wings in a good cause and I arrived back at the check out in the nick of time bearing fragrant, golden fruits.  I expect that some of you are wondering why the fuss about Meyer lemons? The Meyer lemon is a roundish, thin, smooth-skinned and very fragrant, less acidic lemon.  It's not very large but it is very yellow. According to Wiki, Citrus × meyeri is perhaps a cross between a lemon and a mandarin or orange and was introduced to the US in 1908 by Meyer an agricultural explorer and employee of the USDA. I think lemon curd would be delicious made with this. Of course, lemon curd is almost always delicious, since it is mostly made of butter.

Two plans so far: make ice cream using the method I used for Thanksgiving Pumpkin ice cream (more later) and candied Meyer lemon peel for Florentines (in honour of RI who is not here to eat them but spoke eulogistically of the ones I made for Thanksgiving in a  Proustian mode, evoking bygone days in Oxford).  

Also, I have to report that Meyer lemon juice makes a very good cocktail when combined with ginger syrup, ice and gin – the Kelly Kick we are calling it – or, as this evening – combined with other left over citrus lurking around – a tangerine, half a pink grapefruit – truly delightful.  

Dinner was simple: fresh crab. And white wine. 

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Travelling with & for Food

  Eastern Sierras with plane engine
We arrived in Oakland, California for our winter visit to the West Coast having outdone ourselves.  No, really - I believe I've already bragged about the travel sandwiches that KK makes for me that make fellow passengers drool with envy, but this was different. The previous evening we grilled a side of wild caught salmon and ate it with Carolina Gold Rice, wilted spicy greens from the garden and an improvised and wholly delicious sorrel sauce  – sorrel from the garden, loads of butter, some wine from the box left over from BGK’s visit last winter and the yolk of a freshly laid egg of the white hen. Thanks, white hen.  So we mixed our leftover salmon with a very little mayonnaise and took with us slices of home-made bread, arugula & mustard greens from the garden and jolly tangerines. It was all delicious and so much nicer than airport food, which in any case, we wouldn’t have had time to purchase, as we made our flight with barely five minutes to spare - luckily it was only two gates away, barely far enough to get out of breath. 

So, back to Oakland.  KK had already requested a food pilgrimage  to the Nordic House on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley ( to buy Scandewegian food for Christmas. It's a proper store - i.e. smallish, with wooden floors and shelves and everything visible from one place.  Christmas decorations, books, candles that only smell of candle and specifically specific cooking tools.  

Aebleskiver pan for Danish pancakes
  Fattigmann cutter (???) for cookies
our Danish wedding cake was like this

As well as a vast panoply of implements for cutting and slicing cheese.  In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Blomquist goes to stay on the island and looking through the drawers in the kitchen of the cabin, notices the absence of cheese slicer. This is of major cultural importance - we live in a house with four cheese slicers (and spare cheese wires) and hardly ever eat Danish cheese. The French house has no cheese slicers. There was a lot of pickled fish - mostly of the herring variety (delicious looking smoked eel), cured & fresh sausages and many kinds of extremely buttery cheeses. I remembered eating Samso as a child in Welwyn Garden City and so BGK kindly bought some for me but there were also a dozen varieties of Havarti, Gouda, Danbo aged and with caraway, Esrom (another mystery cheese from childhood) and creamy blue cheeses, some in tubes (!). We left, not quite weighed down but with the essentials – leverpostej (liver paté) & medisterpolse   (Danish pork sausage) – the anchors of a well-behaved Danish cold table.  Asier was new to me  - pickled cucumbers to be eaten with leverpostej. I have tasted it. There were delicious looking biscuits & chocolates, marzipan and licorice in many forms, but we resisted the lure.  Except for the essential palaeg chokolade - thin tablets of dark (or milk if you must) chocolate especially designed to be eaten on buttered bread. We Frenchies like to eat dark chocolate on buttered bread and the Dutch eat chocolate sprinkles on bread, but it was a revelation to me that someone actually deliberately designed chocolate for bread. And it's good and you can't find it just anywhere (it doesn't even appear on the website). In Munich airport I was thrilled to discover a German equivalent - a little thicker but still perfekt. As you can see, the packet is still intact!    

KK then mentioned that on a previous visit to the Nordic House,  AK had taken him to an ice cream shop which he remembered quite fondly, so he nipped back into the store and asked for directions. Sure enough, it was just around the corner and we hied ourselves thither for dessert. 

ICI – 2948 College Avenue, Berkeley – their slogan is “Ici – ice-cream made here” – so full points for punnishness.  It’s a small store front on a street with interesting small shops and eateries, including a shop selling beautiful wool and silk clothing from Nepal and Burma – fabulous.  But I digress….we ate: Meyer Lemon ice cream – deliciously creamy and fragrant;  Pear and Quince sorbet – pretty in pink and slightly grainy – excellent flavour;  Chilli, Cashew and Coconut Ice cream – not overwhelmingly coconutty (a plus in my book) with the chewiness of slightly toasted cashews and a point of chilli; Pistachio and Sour Cherry ice cream -  looked so good I tasted it twice despite my pistachio problem, with a depth of pistachio flavour and the tartness of the cherries to help lift the flavour; and Coconut Sweet Rice  – light and pleasant. They make their own cones but we did not have a cone – not even one between us, which we regret. They were selling (rather expensive) ginger snap and Meyer Lemon ice cream sandwiches – what a good idea!  Regret those. And we did fall for an impulse buy of passionfruit marshmallows – guess whether they were good? In fact, marshmallows are not something to which I am culturally habituated, but a real, proper marshmallow made from the mallow and delicately flavoured with passion fruit which is a flavour I cannot resist is not bad. Their menu says that they make ice cream bonbons - bite-sized squares of ice cream dipped in chocolate - quelle bonne idée! I feel a dessert party coming on.

On the following day we went to .... that's a story for tomorrow but it does involve food and especially Meyer Lemons - bon appétit