Santa was truly good to me this year. He brought me Rachel Comey Copperhead Heels.
Le Creuset pitcher for wine (and water, too, maybe).
American Apparel floppy hat for picnics.
NARS heat wave lipstick.
… and the best of all, two tickets to see SADE this summer!!!!
We recently bought my mother a gift from the La Jolla Farmers Market – my favorite succulent of all, the delicate string of pearls. I’m obsessed with it. The best gifts are the ones you want to keep for yourself.
‘The Vegetable Garden,’ 1850-1895. Scanned from a Taschen magazine, images all courtesy of the seriously amazing blog, Old Paint.
A very good lunch (Marisco’s German taco truck — 4 fish tacos for $4, maybe the best $4 you will ever spend)
And a not-so-good lunch (two forgettable salads at Brockton Villa, about $40 including some decent Arnold Palmers).
Proof that an expensive meal isn’t neccessarily a good meal. We’ve been going to Brockton Villa my entire life, but the food just keeps getting blander and blander. In no way should a beautiful seared Ahi tuna salad taste like absolutely nothing. And their ‘Greek’ chopped salad was like a cheap diner knockoff. Yet the fish tacos from Marisco’s, at only $1 each — served with a few finger limes that we brought with us — eaten in the back of my pickup truck, remain one of the most delicious, fresh snacks you can buy in San Diego.
I will rarely slavishly follow a recipe’s directions — it’s just not my style, too fussy and doesn’t feel me – but in the case of a big, British, uber-traditional roast beef, I knew had to get it right.
It all began on a recent trip to NYC, where we bought a used copy of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s weighty tome The River Cottage Meat Book. It’s not perfect — his long-winded rhetoric could definitely use a judicious round of heavy editing — but there are some gems buried in all of the redundant technical chatter. For one, he presents a near-flawless argument for dry-aging meat, and his menu for roast beef looked particularly tantalizing (admittedly because of all of the tasty side dishes, including my favorite: Yorkshire pudding).
So, we decided to do it. Exactly by the book. (One link to the recipe can be found here). And after plenty of research, we decided to buy a hefty five pound roast — dry-aged no less than 30 days — from La Jolla’s butcher, Homegrown Meats. It wasn’t cheap (I’ll spare you the knowledge of just how much it cost), but the rich, deeply concentrated flavor of grass-fed, dry-aged beef is utterly indescribable. As a once-in-a-lifetime thing, it’s worth doing.
Naturally, I was in charge of the Yorkshire pudding (surprisingly easy, and results astonishingly moist) laced with glistening roast beef drippings, pan-fried leeks with shards of kale, buttered peas with torn mint, and hand-folded horseradish cream (made with creme fraiche and fresh horseradish root, be super careful when you shave it up, it cleared my sinuses rather furiously). I also made a quick appetizer of mashed potato croquettes (in homemade breadcrumbs with parsley), which was pared with Adam’s sauteed lobster tail. On his part, Adam was in charge of the wine (definitely the most important task), sauteed mushrooms, thick red wine gravy, as well as jointly keeping an eye on the roast.
British food, in my opinion, is not one of the world’s…. greatest cuisines, but this meal — so quintessentially English in nature — happens to be one of my very favorites.
For my latest trip west, I decided to cling on to my jet lag like a life preserve, and really experience — naturally, pleasantly — the early morning hours. So for the last two weeks I’ve been collapsing, exhausted, every night between 9:30-10pm, and rising automatically between 7-8am. It’s actually kind of exhilarating — mornings are so pretty! mornings are so quiet! – and who needs to stay up late, anyway? On mornings when we haven’t been driving out to Bird Rock Coffee Roasters or Pannikin for hot coffee (and sometimes breakfast burritos), I’ve been hand-squeezing bountiful glasses of fresh, sun-sweet orange juice (Rancho Santa Fe oranges given to us from a family friend’s orchard) almost every morning and drinking them on our sunny deck. Montreal, who?
(Oh, and thanks to the awesome forestbound for the sweet mention on their blog. I’ve always adored their designs and daydreamed about owning a bag myself — I bet this elegant number would be perfect for all of my picnic adventures!)
At home, I finally tackled one of my very favorite untouchable ‘restaurant’ dishes: osso buco, Italian for ‘bone with a hole’. A savory, rustic Milanese veal dish — perhaps no other dish is a better pairing for a frigid winter night – osso buco partly derives its intense richness from hours of braising exposed bone marrow, which gently leeches its jellied fats into a thick burgundy sauce. The resultant braise is imparted with an ineffable meaty richness that is truly incomparable. In fact, the best part of the meal might be at the finish, when the bone’s exterior has been picked clean and the inner marrow ready to be scooped out with a spoon. (I prefer the bone marrow — perhaps too rich to eat on its own — to be spread on a piece of fresh bread and sprinkled with plenty of gremolata, and chopped shallots, too, if you happen to have it).
I picked the traditional River Cafe recipe for its purist ingredient list (no anchovys this time) and verdant gremolata (I used lemon zest, parsley, and an excessive amount of raw garlic), and at the market splurged on three gorgeous, juicy, thick-cut veal shins. After two and a half hours, the veal was impossibly tender, the sauce luscious and shiny. Although traditionally served with a risotto Milanese (that’s with saffron), I had my heart set on a fluffy mashed potato bed to soak up the crimson juices. And to finish, the apple cake that I am sure we are all tired of by now, but which I cannot seem to get enough.
As you can see, we weren’t the only admirers of my osso buco — poor little Joni patiently watched the festivities from the sidelines. We satiated her little feline appetite with small bites of veal… there was certainly more than enough to share.
Posted in baking, celebration, color, dinner, family, food, home
Tagged apple cake, mashed potatoes, milanese food, osso buco, river cafe, special dinner, veal shin
I still get a rush out of buying fresh produce in January, especially when I make my annual Sunday visit to the La Jolla Farmers Market — at my most recent visit, I bought bags of local avocados, guavas, oranges, golden beets, purple kale, and some potted succulents. But the tastiest corner of the market might be Umoja Vegan Galore, sort of what I imagine the Ethiopian version of Macro Mama’s to be. I always bring home a hefty carton of collard greens and black eyed peas (fried in avocado oil) and crunchy knobs of okra (miraculously never, ever slimy).
Really trying to make the most of my final moments in Southern California, including another trip to Chino’s Farm, knowing in the back of my mind that once back in Montreal, fresh baby lettuces will be no more than a distant fond memory. Sigh.
PS. Finally watched Deliverance for the first time. HI, TERRIFYING MOVIE.
California inspired Christmas day supper:
Zuni Cafe roast chicken with rosemary and thyme
Zuni Cafe sourdough bread salad with mizuna, mustard greens, golden raisins, pine nuts, scallions and garlic
Roasted golden and chiogga baby beets with salt
Seared baby brussels sprouts with bacon, shallots and lemon
Roasted vegetable medley with cauliflower, purple fingerling potatoes, baby fennel, purple and orange carrots, garden rosemary and olive oil
Comice pear crostata with cardamom and orange zest
I’m tentatively testing out roast chicken as a new holiday tradition — happily aligned with our decades-old tradition of Chinese hot pot the eve before – as an alternative to the unneccesarily outsized turkey. Happy to report: the Zuni Cafe roast chicken continues to have the crispiest skin and juiciest meat around. Almost all of our produce was purchased at Chino farms, and the baby brussels sprouts were a new thing for me — so tiny and sweet, like little peas. And though my crostata was painfully lopsided, its spiced pear interior was moist and sweet. I felt really great about how healthy and fresh the meal was – perfect way to finish the year.
[PS. I recently spotted, with great longing, the New Year's Eve menu at Navarre. Sometimes I really miss Portland.]