Torching Some Mistakes Works Out!

Baking is such an exact science compared to cooking, unless you’re cooking using molecular gastronomy.  Sometimes baking scares me.  Particularly when it comes to making meringue topping.  I have not figured out why I can’t count on my meringue coming out perfectly stiff and fluffy every time.  It always tastes delicious, but sometimes it droops.  Normally I am cooking for friends and family and don’t worry about how everything looks…but a few weeks ago that wasn’t the case.  It mattered a lot to me that these little tarts looked gorgeous.

A new friend, C.,  who loves Tea With Betty, asked if I’d help her with preparing some petite sweets for a gathering at her house.  We chose three items from the book that she really enjoyed.  One was the lemon cream tart with meringue.  She had them at the birthday tea we did last month and particularly wanted that item. Those tarts came out FABULOUSLY well…delicious, rustic, perky meringue mmmmm  .. they looked like this:

Petite macaroons - Lemon curd tarts with a meringue with a mind of its own

Petite macaroons – Lemon curd tarts with a meringue with a mind of its own

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C.  was coming over to pick up her sweets for her dessert party…I boxed up the

 

Deliciously Decadent Dark Chocolate Brownies (with pecans and Valhrona Chocolate) and my Macaroons made with Bob’s Red Mill unsweetened coconut and egg whites.  I waited to top the tarts til just before she was to arrive so they would be fresh … but oops… the meringue wasn’t stiff.  It tasted perfectly delicious, but kept sliding off the lemon cream.  I think it needed to be chilled for a longer period of time as the remainder did firm up a bit when I checked later; however, she was almost due to pick up and this just wasn’t looking good.  I began to panic and then thought…”Aha…why not try torching the tops and see if it stops them from sliding.”  It worked, sort of… it also helped that I put them directly into the freezer after torching for about 15 minutes.  The sliding abated.  And surprise, the tops tasted like toasted marshmallows at a beach campfire.  They were delicious too.  Disaster averted.  While I would have preferred a stiffer meringue, I like this toasted meringue a lot!  I still want to get more comfortable making meringue though, will need to practice when there is no pressure.

All’s well that ends well.  C. said her quilting group loved the desserts.

You might enjoy checking out Bob’s Red Mill website for some spectacular quality products, prepared with health and quality in mind.  Whenever I can use their products, I do, such as their unsweetened coconut for macaroons. It makes a difference and this company works to ensure their products are the best.

After C. left, I sampled a few of the rejects with a cup of Jasmine Pearl Tea and relaxed.

Street and an American Idiot

Oh, and a great glass of tea!

My husband loves to go to plays.  We’ve had season tickets to one of the best regional playhouses in the country for years, La Jolla Playhouse.  Occasionally, we get up to L.A. for a play, usually at the Ahmanson Theater.  My favorite part of “play day” is that we always go to an interesting restaurant before or after.  Whether the performance is good or not “almost” doesn’t matter to me, as there is always a great food adventure attached.  As usual, I go for the food 🙂

We most often go to matinees…this way we have a wide window as to when to eat.  Again, for me, it comes down to the food.  Sometimes we get to eat before AND after the play (hurray.)

Sunday we saw Green Day’s American Idiot musical at the Ahmanson Theater.  Prior to the show, we ate…at Susan Feniger’s Street.  Very cool.  Very interesting and delicious food and ambiance.  I believe the first cooking show I got hooked on was The Two Hot Tamales.  My sister and I diligently watched them .  We loved Mary Sue Miliken and Susan Feniger.  They taught us well and were entertaining in a natural, authentic way.  We have always had a warm spot in our hearts for their shows and foods.  When they appeared on Top Chef Masters, we rooted for them.  We chose Susan Feniger’s newest restaurant, Street, for Sunday Brunch.

Susan walked in.  She was just like on her shows – warm, authentic, and quite interested in her guests, helping each choose their food items.  Of course, my husband talked to her (he is quite social) and made her laugh.  He got this photo.

Street is all about global, small plate, street foods.  The tea menu reflected the global nature of teas.  For me, this was the perfect tea menu.  It reflects great thought and covers the pure teas you’d want, along with interesting, contemporary preparations.  The presentation was spot on…whole leaves, steeping in a vessel…urban, quality.

Susan Feniger saying good-bye to my husband...she was gracious and kind

Susan Feniger saying good-bye to my husband…she was gracious and kind

The Tea Menu (I cut off the part that had rooibus and a few others, oops):

Tea service…of course I ordered an oolong as it goes so well with all foods…

Street Restaurant ... tea list, their tea service, decor is "street" cool.

Street Restaurant … tea list, their tea service, decor is “street” cool.

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I want to go back for lunch or dinner when the full “small plate” menu is available.  We loved our food.  The service enhanced the whole experience. We ordered a couple small plate items they are known for which did not disappoint.  The fritters were just AWESOME…doughy and chewy…the applesauce made them “pop.”   Wish I had some of that apple sauce right now!

These went great with the oolong tea, I “had” to try them.

The ambience looked just like an urban street. Quite relaxing.  The restaurant had a nice “hum” to it.

We’ll be back…there is more tea to pair with a variety of menu items still for us to taste.

Drink tea!

The Pinot Noir of Teas…Oolongs

Lately when ordering tea at restaurants and tea houses, I ask for an oolong.  Normally I have had my black tea with a bit of milk in the morning at home, and am ready for a tea adventure if eating out.

I used to think  it sounded kind of cool to say, “I’ll have an oolong.” 🙂 …just a bit mysterious, as if you’re “in the know” about tea.   When writing my tea book, I used to struggle with whether or not  to capitalize the first “o” in oolong (no, you don’t.)  When preparing an oolong at home, I use one special  Yixing clay teapot.  It’s the only type of tea I put in that pot.  I had been told that over time, I can just pour hot water in the empty pot and it will retain some flavor of the oolong teas that have been brewed in it.  Whenever I use this gorgeous pot and and drink from the petite cups, a feeling of serenity comes over me…and one of doing something healthy for myself.

My Yixing teapot...gives off an earthy aroma

My Yixing teapot…gives off an earthy aroma

In my research about teas, oolongs are the ones which fall in between green and black teas, and which carry some mystique about the ancient art of how to process this tea leaf.  They are a favorite of tea connoiseurs due to their amazing flavors and aromas.  Their colors and tastes vary from lighter teas to darker, bolder tea flavor depending on the type and the level of oxidation.  Flavors range from light green floral to roasted peach and to that of darker teas.

Oolongs actually originated in the Fujian provence of China.  It is semi-fermented, combining the best of characteristics of unoxidized green teas and oxidized black teas.  It is said to have many health benefits (which is reflective of nearly all whole leaf teas whether, white, green, oolong or black).

As with most quality, whole leaf teas, the preparation of your oolong tea has great influence on its taste. Quality of the water, tea, measurement, steeping time, vehicle used to prepare tea and time on the water make such a difference in the resultant tea.  The preferred temperature for steeping oolongs is in between that of green and black teas (makes sense, right 🙂   at about 195 degrees F.)

When partaking of lunch at my fave tea house, Tranquil Tea Lounge, this is the Monkey Picked Oolong I enjoyed.  It was delicious, smooth, clean on your palate.

I have come to think of oolong teas as the pinot noir of wines.  They are both a bit complex, earthy, fruity, can be delicate to process and pair wonderfully with almost any food.  Try one next time you get a chance.  While available in many locales, they can be ordered online too.  Teavana and Adagio Teas have an extensive, quality assortment to choose from.

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Oolong...steeped and flavorful

Oolong…steeped and flavorful

Drink tea.

Dim Sum Anyone?

Yesterday I met friends for lunch to continue the celebration of my best friend’s birthday.  I don’t remember what prompted us to do this; but, a few years ago we fell into the habit of celebrating each other’s birthdays with multiple get togethers…we jokingly say we “celebrate our birthday month…all month long.” We’re glad to be alive and grateful to feel good so, what the heck, we celebrate.

Our meeting spot was the Irvine Spectrum, a major entertainment destination for shopping, movies, and restaurants in South Orange County, Ca.  We had decided where to meet, but not on the restaurant …I was early and parked in the wrong lot … but it worked out fabulously for me because I came across a fairly new, gorgeous, large, dim sum restaurant called Capital Seafood.  I looked in the window and saw darling petite square white tea cups on the tables (covered with white table cloths), and then saw servers wheeling around dim sum carts.   I hurriedly called my friends and told them where I was parked and that I found our place for lunch.  They were game…we had a wonderful time.  Their oolong tea was delicious with the dim sum.  What a find, we’ll be back.

I love anything called a dumpling…so, several years ago, when I discovered that there were dim sum restaurants, I was thrilled.   Servers pushing carts filled with dozens of varieties of steamed, pan fried, and fried dumplings come by your table and you get to point and choose and nosh and gobble up the most tasty little bites of food.  We enjoyed delicate steamed shiu mai filled with minced pork,  shrimp har gow, BBQ pork buns (char siu bao), Shanghai dumplings and more.  The steamed dumplings are my favorites.  The sticky, chewy, texture of the almost translucent rice wrapper of a har gow makes you feel like you’re in China as you bite into one.  It’s an exciting, bustling environment.

We had no idea what each item cost and were pleasantly surprised at how reasonable the bill was when we got it.   We highly recommend Capital Seafood Restaurant.  And if you have little time, this is the place, they move fast.

Dim Sum cart at Capitol Seafood

Dim Sum cart at Capitol Seafood

Dim Sum means “touch the heart.”   One of my favorite tea experiences is a dim sum tea I prepared for ten friends a few years ago.  It’s a featured menu in my tea book, along with several recipes of dim sum.   I made everything from scratch for that afternoon tea.  It took me 16 hours.  My husband steamed the dumplings and served while I paired and poured three different teas to our group.  It was fun and thrilling.  But, gotta tell you, I found going to the this high quality dim sum restaurant as fun and more thrilling as I got to point and eat versus doing the work of preparing fillings and wrapping dozens of dumplings  :-).  I have a great deal of respect for the detail, skill and effort that goes into preparing dim sum.

I seem to have deleted my photos of the dim sum carts from Capitol Seafood...so here are a few crab rangoons that my buddy Hils and I made....I LOVE dim sum

I seem to have deleted most of my photos of the dim sum carts from Capitol Seafood…so here are a few crab rangoons that my buddy Hils and I made….I LOVE dim sum

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Eat dim sum… drink tea …

Strawberry Fields Forever….seemingly

Last week while shopping in Carlsbad, Ca….we drove by these fields near our freeway offramp. We are so happy to live in an area which provides us with access to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, year round.  And we couldn’t resist stopping to buy some of these beauties.  Glad we got them as it rained this week (which is just terrible for the strawberry fields.)

Carlsbad, California - Strawberry fields...forever

Carlsbad, California – Strawberry fields…forever

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