Providence L.A. – Sublime Modern American Seafood…Beautiful Food, Sustainably Sourced

 

Providence sashimi...first dish...fluke, cucumber yuzu ...Normally I don't eat raw fish...this was just stunning with flavor, freshness, and the best of the ocean

Providence sashimi…first dish…fluke, cucumber, yuzu …Normally I don’t eat raw fish…this was just stunning with bursts of flavor, freshness, and the ocean

Well, happy birthday to me! My dear husband surprised me with what he knows to be my favorite gift…awesome foods, prepared with finesse, leaning towards  healthy, made with the  best  quality ingredients – which are  creatively manipulated into flavorful, beautiful,  bites…thus was our experience at Providence Restaurant in Los Angeles the other night…and it came with gracious, comfortable, un-austentatious service.  Enjoy the photos of our  courses…each were just a few bites…making you want more, and then the next stunning dish came…and mmmmmm….we were awed again and again.

Uni egg...Santa Barbar sea urchin hiding beneath soft scramble eggs...ok...I almost asked for a substitution dish here...but I am a sucker for anything custard-like...so I went for it..I am now an uni fan as long as it is covered with custard :-)  This dish reminded me of my 7 year old experience eating 3 minute soft boiled eggs out of the shell in my Italian grandmother's kitchen  ..just soft and comfortingly delicious

Uni egg…Santa Barbara sea urchin hiding beneath soft scramble eggs…ok…I almost asked for a substitution dish here…but I am a sucker for anything custard-like…so I went for it..I am now an uni fan as long as it is covered with custard 🙂 This dish reminded me of my 7 year old experience eating 3 minute soft boiled eggs out of the shell in my Italian grandmother’s kitchen ..just soft and comfortingly delicious

Maine Lobster with matsutake mushrooms...in season now...porcini like and stunning...can't believe this is the 2nd time this week I was graced with the pleasure of these mushrooms...our Chef friends served them to us Saturday night...they are  just wonderful..

Maine Lobster with matsutake mushrooms…in season now…porcini-like and stunning…can’t believe this is the 2nd time this week I was graced with the pleasure of these mushrooms…our Chef friends served them to us Saturday night…they are just wonderful..

 

Possibly THE most beautiful course of the night...scallop with curry, makrut lime, mint

Possibly THE most beautiful course of the night…scallop with curry, makrut lime, mint

 

This was my favorite course of the night...striped bass, turnip, brown butter, smoked sesame ... just incredible textures and bursts of flavor...you taste buds tingled mmmmm

This was my favorite course of the night…striped bass, turnip, brown butter, smoked sesame … just incredible textures and bursts of flavor…made one’s taste buds tingle and come alive… mmmmm

…we  chose the main course …I opted  for John Dory – a white fish…David chose the Liberty Farms Duck…then…since we had eaten so “light” … the artisanal cheese cart came, just perfect for sharing…and finally elderflower sorbet and then my chocolate dessert (with a discreet birthday candle 🙂 …this was just possibly the best meal of my life – certainly a perfect one at this point in my life  …

Duck, John Dory, Cheese plate for two...green tea now...petite perfect desserts...sorbet and chocolate torte

Duck, John Dory, Cheese plate for two…green tea now…petite perfect desserts…sorbet and chocolate torte

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So, who are these guys 🙂 ?  Their website states:

“For a decade, Providence has elevated the standard of modern American seafood restaurants. We invite you to experience Chef Michael Cimarusti’s award-winning cuisine in the heart of Los Angeles, welcomed by one of LA’s legendary hosts, co-owner Donato Poto.
Chef Cimarusti is completely dedicated to procuring the finest sustainable seafood—from regional coasts and international waters—and treats those ingredients with uncompromising respect and sophisticated technique. “First and foremost, what guides us here is sustainability,” Cimarusti says. “We use only wild-caught, sustainable products, mostly from American waters, and look to highlight their finest qualities.”
The accolades for Providence include multiple James Beard Award nominations; “Top 50 Restaurants in the United States” by Gourmet magazine; “Best Seafood Restaurant” by Los Angeles magazine; the #1 ranking in “Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants” in the Los Angeles Times; and two highly coveted Michelin stars.

I actually signed up to vote for them for the 2015 James Beard awards, something I’ve not been motivated to do before…

Of course, I finished with a lovely cup of green tea…beautifully vegetal and light, expertly served in an iron tetsubin pot. Just lovely!

 

 

 

Your Entire Life Leads You To The Next Step…

I found this quote scribbled on a pad I pulled out of an old box of papers I had stashed away some time ago…I like it. These kind of sayings inspire me.  The Natasha Bedingfield song, “Unwritten,” touches me too…she writes…

“Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten”

A few months ago I ran into a former work associate/friend – this incidental “run in” at a Cinco de Mayo taco party on the bluff in Dana Point led to my life’s next step…and, you may have noticed, has distracted me a bit from posting here about my favorite tea and food rituals 🙁 .

Ironically, while I got the opportunity to take on a job I’ve wanted to do for a long time…teaching part time at a wonderful university… this experience also led me back to the tea shop that first got me excited about what I call – the contemporary tea shop  – Cha For Tea in Irvine.  On my first day teaching, I had a long break between classes and sought out Cha For Tea…hoping it was still in the same location.  It had been ten years since my first visit to their tea bar. Back then, when the tea barista handed you your cup of tea, he said, “if this needs any kind of adjustment, let me know, we’ll make it to your liking”.  Well, I found them.  Not surprisingly, they were humming with business…they really focus on preparing your great cup of tea.  Your tea choice is steeped in front of you with a timer in your individual infuser. Thrilled that I re-discovered this fabulous tea bar, I ordered a brew.  When the tea maker handed me my cup, she said,  “if this needs any kind of adjustment, let me know…bring it right back to me”.  I had to smile, how cool.  Awesome!  For me…there is great comfort in ritual.  I love my tea rituals – and to tie it to fulfilling one of my life dreams made it even more special.

Cha for tea…check them out.

Cha For Tea, Irvine...your tea steeped to order in an infuser...adjusted to meet your taste...

Cha For Tea, Irvine…your tea steeped to order in an infuser…adjusted to meet your taste…

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Cha For Tea has three locations...

Cha For Tea has three locations…and offers tasty food to eat in or take out

……

Infusers and other tea gear

Infusers and other tea gear

Tea 101… Practice Makes for YOUR Perfect Cup!

Last week we held an intimate class called Tea 101 at the fascinating, old-world styled spice / tea shop in Laguna Beach called Spice Merchants.  I posted about them last week here.  I hadn’t put on an “intro to tea” class in awhile; therefore, while pulling the materials together for the class, I was reminded of just how simple preparing a great cup of tea can be, and yet, how easily it can go all wrong.  Below are a few photos of our class set-up at Spice Merchants.  Our students were engaging and really interested in learning more about tea.  We had fun while tasting four different pure teas from the shelves of Spice Merchants, paired with a few tasty food bites.  Below are my tea making tips…it’s almost as easy as boiling water…a little practice will get you the results you desire.

Tea 101 ... ready to go at Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach...an intimate sized class for a few students desiring to know more about tea.

Tea 101 … ready to go at Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach…an intimate sized class for a few students desiring to know more about tea.

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In Tea With Betty, my tea manual, I include details of what key ingredients are needed to make a good cup of tea (there are 4)…along with steps about how to accomplish this fete :-).   While preparing a great cup of tea to your taste should be as easy as boiling water and tossing in some tea leaves….it’s often not…there are questions such as … what type of water to use? And at what temperature for which tea?  What type of tea to  use? Just how much tea for how much water?  And how long should the tea leaves sit on the water? Then, how do you effectively get the leaves off the water?  And finally, when do you add things such as milk (for black tea only plleeease!) …all these considerations go into the simple process of preparing a great cup of tea.  It sometimes feels like all the stars need to be aligned for the resulting brew to come out just the way you want it. Whew.

However, it is REALLY simple.  Here’s what you need.

1).  Good, clean, fresh spring or filtered water.  Tap water may have chlorine or other minerals which can distort or cover the lovely flavor of your delicate tea leaf as it exudes it’s liquor.

2). Use quality, leaf teas… tea leaves (not tea dust). I am careful to know where my tea leaves originated from…I primarily use teas from Harney & Sons, Mighty Leaf Teas, Adagio Teas, Tea Forte, Numi Organic Teas, Peet’s Teas, Steven Smith, Tazo, and a few others.  Spice Merchants teas are sourced primarily from these established tea purveyors.  It matters where your tea leaves come from…you are dousing them in water and ingesting the liquor these leaves leave behind…I want to know if these leaves are from a farm using sustainable practices and fair trade methods.

Variety of leaf teas on display

Variety of leaf teas on display – whole leaves, no tea “dust”…

Quantity of leaves to water ratio is where you will want to “test things out a bit to meet your preferred taste”; however, a rounded teaspoon per 8 ounce of fresh water is the place to start.

3). Water temperature makes a difference and varies depending of the type of tea you are brewing…just to boiling 212 degrees for black teas.  Greens and white teas scorch at this temperature, so go lower with these tea types (160 – 190 degrees).  Don’t boil your water to death, the oxygen in the water as it is coming to temp assists in releasing all the excellent flavor from your tea leaves as you pour the water over the leaves.

4) Brewing time matters.  Do not steep your tea longer than recommended or it will taste bitter.  The reason many Americans say they don’t enjoy tea is that they have experience leaf teas that have sat on the water too long and gotten astringent…not a pleasant thing to consume at that point.  Remove the tea (liquor exuded from the steeping leaves) as soon as they are done steeping.  Pour the tea into another warmed pot to serve or into your awaiting cup.

That’s it…not too difficult.  And practice a bit with a few steepings to determine what your favorite taste is…in the end, it is all about what you prefer.  Practice does make the perfect cup of tea for YOU!

 

 

 

 

Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach…Go for the Spices & Join us for Tea 101

Have you ever come across a recipe you want to try which calls for one teaspoon of a spice you don’t have in your pantry?  You vacillate about preparing it as you realize to purchase the required ingredients at the traditional grocery store demands an investment of dollars beyond your liking, and… you already have a cupboard full of aging spices from other recipes that asked for a teeny bit of this and that spice.  What to do?  Go to Spice Merchants in Laguna Beach, Ca….they have an enormous selection of spices… and, with their expert assistance, they will dole out the amount you need.  They also have a wide selection of whole leaf teas and herbal infusions, as well as, beautiful tea ware, gift packaging and air tight tins of various sizes for storing your purchases.  You can create unique, custom gifts of spices or teas with their skilled guidance too.

Spice Merchants on Ocean Ave. in Laguna Beach...offering a wide array of spices and teas with beautiful gift packaging and tea ware

Spice Merchants on Ocean Ave. in Laguna Beach…offering a wide array of spices and teas with beautiful gift packaging and tea ware

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We will be holding an intimate, first time, Tea 101 class at Spice Merchants this coming Tuesday, October 14 at 7 p.m….

Come learn a bit of history about tea, how to prepare a great cup of tea, and taste a variety of types of teas.

We will taste tea in their “tea room” towards the back of the shop pictured below  (center display will be moved out for our tasting experience).  Check out details on our “events” page and call Spice Merchants to hold your spot.  Their contact information is phone: 949 715-9600 and are located at 311 Ocean Avenue, Laguna Beach, Ca 92651

The tea room at Spice Merchants -- a wide variety of teas and tea ware from various purveyors are available.

The tea room at Spice Merchants — a wide variety of teas and tea ware from various purveyors are available.

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Spice Merchants offers  teas from quality purveyors…

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Quality teas from Spice Merchants...in tins or you choose how much you want to try...

Quality teas from Spice Merchants…in tins or you choose how much you want to try…

It’s also just a great location to come to and wander around town before or after class.

Welcoming, Dutch door at Spice Merchants...come on in...

Welcoming, Dutch door at Spice Merchants…come on in…

In visiting the shop this morning, I saw they just got in beautiful soup fixings too…they are ready for fall … as most of us in Southern California are…hoping the heat stops soon.  I’m ready for soup and hot tea!

 

 

Our Prolific Pomegranates…Fall is here!!!

Pomegranates are good for you!  The juice from the seeds have high levels of powerful antioxidants (similar to what you get from a whole leaf tea)!  I didn’t enjoy them much as a child, as they were usually too tart for my delicate palate; however, they’ve grown on me since using them as an ingredient versus eating them straight.  The tree is a beautiful sight.  We planted one about 20 years ago.   This year we have an incredibly large harvest of huge fruit.

 

Our prolific pomegranate tree...this year we have giant fruit and plenty of it...

Our prolific pomegranate tree…this year we have giant fruit and plenty of it…

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Our tree was planted more for it's ornamental value as a centerpiece for our other fruit trees...we have come to love the fruit for more than just harvest table decorations...

Our tree was planted more for it’s ornamental value as a centerpiece for our other fruit trees…we have come to love the fruit for more than just harvest table decorations…

We picked a basketful of poms. last week, along with some of my husband’s favorite Fuji apples (which he will not share with anyone), and a couple Fuyu persimmons, most are not quite ripe yet.

The morning harvest...plenty of giant pomegranates, some fuji apples and a couple fuyu persimmons...then the last remnants of our summer garden cucumbers and jalapeños

The morning harvest…plenty of giant pomegranates, some fuji apples and a couple fuyu persimmons…then the last remnants of our summer garden cucumbers and jalapeños

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Pomegranates are excellent as toppings for salads…adding a nice crunch and acidic flavor.  They also make an excellent juice … straight … or with a bit of sugar.  My husband has figured out an excellent way to get the seeds from the fruit without turning everything pink…he breaks open the fruit in a deep bowl of water, pull the seeds out by knocking the back of the opened fruit with a spoon (or with your hands).  It works well.  Remove the seeds from the water and juice them or use whole seeds.IMG_4105 IMG_4020

 

My favorite is sprinkled into a super chilled glass of bubbly.  Pomegranate infused teas are also available from many quality purveyors.  Harney and Sons has a delightful pomegranate oolong.  Peet’s teas has a pomegranate cooler.

 

One of my favorite ways to use pomegranate seeds...with the bubbly

One of my favorite ways to use pomegranate seeds…with the bubbly

What’s Been Going On? Relaxing, Reading, & Drinking Tea (of course)…

The past month just flew by for me… so, while my posts are normally singularly focused on a specific topic…this one will be a “mish-mosh” of sharing and catching up…and yes, we will end up with some tea talk too.

What’s been going on? Relaxing on the beach, reading food history books, and consuming plenty of tea…

Life's A Beach...in Carlsbad Ca. this summer...my spot is the one on the far left...

Life’s A Beach…in Carlsbad Ca. this summer…my spot is the one on the far left…

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We just returned from our annual family vacation to the beach in North San Diego County.  It’s just sooooo enjoyable having sustained time with the family. This was our tenth year with lots of sun, sand, boogie boarding, Uno Mod ( the new favorite game for us), and Auntie V. bought the boys their own Monopoly game.  Each morning, just a short walk from our condo, my favorite French pressed tea latte from It’s A Grind, the local’s coffee shop, was waiting for me.

My French Press Latte...ready to be "plunged" by one of my grandsons (they liked pushing down the leaves with the press button).  This is a comfortable, cool, local coffee / tea shop...lots of locals...we are locals for one week a year :-)

My French Press Latte…ready to be “plunged” by one of my grandsons (they liked pushing down the leaves with the press button). This is a comfortable, cool, local coffee / tea shop…lots of locals…we are locals for one week a year 🙂

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On the literary front…I’ve been fully engaged and enlightened by reading two books on the history of food.  They are literally changing my view of eating…both books were purchased from the famous, city-block sized Powell’s Books from our Portland trip last spring.  Am so glad that I have the actual books (not e-book format) so I can go back and forth and easily re-read portions.  Check these out!  The question of “what’s for dinner?” will never be the same (or simple) after finishing these well-crafted and researched books.

Outstanding food books...Reading Empires of Food is truly enlightening as the authors chronicle the fate of people and societies for the past 12,000 years through foods they grew, hunted, traded, and ate...and offers devastating insights as to what's to come... Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, a James Beard award winning book, is engrossing and makes you think about the politics, perils and pleasures of eating...both make the question "what's for dinner" not such a simple answer ...

Outstanding food books…Reading Empires of Food is truly enlightening as the authors chronicle the fate of people and societies for the past 12,000 years through foods they grew, hunted, traded, and ate…and offers devastating insights as to what’s to come… Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, a James Beard award winning book, is engrossing and makes you think about the politics, perils and pleasures of eating…both make the question “what’s for dinner” not such a simple answer …

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A gift from a friend…sometimes, friends surprise you with their thoughtfulness…as my exercise buddy did last month.  She knows I love tea, and she loves Tea With Betty, so when she and her husband were downsizing, they  decided that this beautiful Chinese tea set should come to me.  I am looking forward to serving tea from it and inviting her over…a dim sum tea with some of our mutual friends…when the weather cools a bit.

I was handed this beautiful, somewhat mysterious looking, Chinese box...

I was handed this beautiful, somewhat mysterious looking, Chinese box…

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I was handed this beautiful, somewhat mysterious Chinese box...lifting the lid exposed this stunning tea set...finely painted with a story I will attempt to figure out on the pot and cups...each are meticulously and finely detailed...the cups are double walled so easy to handle...just lovely.

Lifting the lid exposed this stunning tea set…finely painted with a story I will attempt to figure out on the pot and cups…each are meticulously and finely detailed…the cups are double walled so easy to handle…just lovely.

 

Lastly, exciting news? Tea Classes are coming.  I will be teaching Tea 101 classes at the Spice Merchants in Laguna Beach in October.  Next week I will share  information on Spice Merchants.  We plan to do several tea classes – specific to various tea types, countries of origin and brewing methods.  Watch for the details coming soon!

Leaf & Kettle…Fine Tea Delivered with Finesse!

Leaf & Kettle Tea Shop...Beautiful, contemporary, over 100 teas waiting for you to taste...well, maybe just three at a time...excellent and knowledgeable staff too.

Leaf & Kettle Tea Shop…Beautiful, contemporary, over 100 teas waiting for you to taste…we tasted four and will be going back soon.  It is an excellent experience with a knowledgeable, engaging staff, displays of gorgeous tea ware set in a clean, fresh, upscale, yet accessible, environment.  Located in Del Mar, California

Occasionally I literally “run into” a fine tea shop. Such was the case with Leaf & Kettle Fine Teas and Teaware in Del Mar, Ca.

Several weeks ago,  we trekked down to a  restaurant/bar in Del Mar, North San Diego area, to   hear live music from one of my husband’s favorite up and coming artists. Upon leaving the restaurant, I spotted this cool looking tea shop.  As it was late, the shop was closed, so we put it on our agenda to check it out soon.  We did, and what a treat. This contemporary tea shop…with tasting bar and over 100 fine teas was certainly my kind of tea house.  Sometimes I get in my own little world of tea and forget that there is this vast population of tea fanatics like me out there.  This shop was the epitome of what I enjoy about going to a tea shop.  We got to sit at this beautiful wooden bar and try four teas of our choosing while engaging in a lively, dynamic and informative dialogue with Leaf & Kettle’s tea smart manager.  The tea preparation was precise, ritual-like using Gaiwan lidded steeping cups, and an invigorating experience.  It was also fun.

Leaf & Kettle tasting using a gaiwan lidded cup and tiny tasting bowls made for a special experience

Leaf & Kettle tasting using a Gaiwan lidded cup and tiny tasting bowls made for a special experience – o.k., and yes I did go home with some of those darling little tasting cups and the wooden tray/saucer

 

About LEAF & KETTLE – they state:
“We are dedicated to providing our customers with a wide selection of high quality teas and tisanes backed by superior customer care and a passion for excellent service. We purchase in limited quantities to ensure all stocks are sold through and remain fresh. Season-specific teas, especially white and green teas, are always from the current harvest year unless otherwise noted.

One of our favorite aspects of tea is that it can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. We don’t believe there is a “right” or “wrong” way to enjoy it. Some people would not dream of adding milk or sugar to their tea, while others have formed entire tea drinking rituals around the addition of these items. We believe you should enjoy tea in any way you see fit. We love it all and usually prepare our style of tea based on our mood, the weather, time of day, or how much time we have. On cold winter mornings, piping hot tea steeped in a pot is such a treat. For others, they may prefer a nice Wuyi Oolong with its dark, sweet roasted character best coaxed from a traditional Gaiwan (lidded cup). On a hot day, a freshly shaken glass of iced tea always hits the spot. Consider all of the different tea cultures around the world: tea taken with milk and sugar throughout the UK, the spicy sweet Masala Chai of India, the refreshing sweetened mint green tea from Morocco. And these are just a few! There are countless other ways tea is enjoyed around the world, all of them valid. So, establish your own favorite rituals and take your tea however you most enjoy it. That’s what we do!”

And I will say, they do it well and we came home with superior teas that I hadn’t tried before.

Photos also depict Casey, our tea barista, pouring my tasting of two Japanese green teas and, my favorite of the day,  Iron Goddess Reserve Oolong…I went home with 4 ounces of this well-balanced tea which was perfect after the lunch we came from.  It tasted warm, sweet, creamy with a slight hint of maple (one of my favorite flavors)…fresh, light and yummy at the same time.  My husband went for a large iced tea to go also…and the freshly steeped tea, shaken in ice and poured over ice is just stunning.  I now do it that way at home with a martini shaker that I hadn’t used in years.  The inside of the shop has beautiful tea ware.  Will share more of the tea ware later as I did pick up my new favorite everyday cup from them that day too.  All in all, a great tea day!!!  Thanks Casey and Leaf & Kettle!  We’ll be back.

We tasted and purchased several teas.  My favorite was No. 49 Iron Goddess Reserve Oolong...we also took home a fruity tisane I would be infusing for an  iced tea tasting class...it was called Island Tradewinds - a blend of coconut, kiwi and ripe cherries.  Light and refreshing...

We tasted and purchased several teas. My favorite was No. 49 Iron Goddess Reserve Oolong (pictured above)…we also took home a fruity tisane (pictured below) which I would be infusing for an iced tea tasting class the following week…it was called Island Tradewinds – a blend of coconut, kiwi and ripe cherries. Light and refreshing…everyone in the class loved it for its mild, yet distinctively fresh fruit flavor and it’s simply beautiful pink blush color.  My husband tried a handful of the dried fruit – which prompted a few of the students to do the same, they claimed it tasted similar to a trail mix.

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The Finesse of the Donut @ Blue Star Donuts

Blue Star Donuts...this way, you couldn't miss it with the line out the door.  The line moved along quickly and efficiently...it was fun being there and gave you a bit of time to figure out which donut to choose

Blue Star Donutsthis way>>> Actually, you couldn’t miss it as there was a  line running out the door. The line moved along quickly and efficiently…it was fun being there and moving through the line gave you a bit of time to figure out which donut to choose.

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Visiting Blue Star Donuts on a drizzly Portland, Or. morning

Visiting Blue Star Donuts on a drizzly Portland, Or. morning

Portland, Oregon offers a plethora of fabulous, remarkable, and renowned cafes and bakery establishments….none more popular (and rightly so) than Blue Star Donuts.  With a line of patient patrons running out the door, this Food Network featured cool shop, known for offering unique, quality donuts which reflect a high degree of craft, understanding of ingredients, and skill in creating is totally worth the wait and the calories.

The display of products was tantalizing, clean, and simple…and donuts are just about made fresh to order.

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The donuts...

The donuts…using fine ingredients such as Valrhona chocolate, hazelnuts, and my favorite combination, maple & bacon Mmmmmmmm

Who would have thought a donut could be cool.

The staff was delightful and helpful.  I love an open kitchen, theirs reflected great organization and was really clean!  My nephew said he once heard Chef/Owner Stephanie Thornton say “we just make donuts.” How nice to see someone master their craft, do it well, and offer remarkable consistent products which tantalize your taste buds with diverse combinations.

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Blue Star kitchen...organized, clean and lots of brioche donuts ready to get dressed :-)

Blue Star kitchen…organized, clean and lots of brioche donuts ready to get dressed 🙂

The decor was cool, white, and clean with really neat descriptions of their philosophy of quality and a good education in the definition of various social media platforms…note the use of Steven Smith Teas…and Portland’s Stumptown Coffees. All consistent with the quality of the donuts.IMG_1689

 

It's about "quality" and I got schooled too in social media defined...

It’s about “quality” and I got schooled too in social media defined…

My biggest challenge was managing how to eat breakfast at one of the awesome breakfast eateries and  fit in donuts!  It was work, but we figured it out :-). While we did a good job getting to several eating establishments on our Portland must do list, we will definitely need a few more trips back to this wonderful city to consume more of the beautiful products offered.

It’s All About Finesse…

Thomas Keller signed my copy of The French Laundry Cookbook in 1999 ...I didn't realize the phrase "It's All About Finesse" has long been his mantra

Thomas Keller signed my copy of The French Laundry Cookbook in 1999 …I didn’t realize the phrase “It’s All About Finesse” has long been his mantra until our visit to Yountville, Napa Valley earlier this year

What excites me in the food arena are those things which require finesse.  A stunning afternoon tea menu takes a good deal of finesse.  Beautiful, whimsical, petite bites require skillful élan and artistry to pull off effectively.  There is certainly a time and place for quick and easy food prep; however, that’s not what energizes and motivates me.  Experiencing awesome ingredients, finessed into even more awesome food bites is what I seek.  I appreciate the artistry, mastery, and subtlety required to put together a composed dish, along with the effort it takes…whether a home cooked meal or one at a famous chef’s establishment.  Many of my favorite moments in life are spent contemplating, perusing, and indulging in these artists’ works.

Finesse doesn’t have to mean complicated, although at times it is, and it doesn’t necessarily equate to expensive, although sometimes that is the case (I save up for those rare occasions – i.e. The French Laundry 🙂 ).

Several months ago, we were at our favorite Napa Valley town, Yountville …often referred to by locals as “Kellerville” as Thomas Keller has three restaurants, one bakery (talk about awesome), and his beautiful vegetable garden including chicken coop running down the main street in this small burg.  On this visit I noticed a new magazine in our inn titled Finesse, then saw he has this beautiful small store hidden away in town…

Finesse...Keller's magazine, as well as, his cool shop located in an inconspicuous small center in town...

Finesse…Keller’s  cool shop located in an inconspicuous small center in town…

While undeniably one of the best chef’s in the world, Keller is also an obvious master at branding.  His shop features his clean, cool, finessed style reflected in the items he brands to his French Laundry, Bouchon, and Ad Hoc environs.  I couldn’t resist purchasing a few small things (as expected, nothing was inexpensive there…but the quality excellent of course) and the store manager knowledgable, conversant, and  engaging.  Below are photos of his teeny shop.

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Inside Finesse, the shop

Inside Finesse, the shop

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Our dear friends, who are Dutch (and J. is an  incredible chef too), introduced us to the French Laundry restaurant in early 1999.  We get to enjoy dinner at their home a few times a year where they now “whimsically” set the table using  “Dutch Laundry” clothespins they’ve created at each place setting (a trademark of the French Laundry is the clothespin with each napkin).  Here are my purchases and a small gift for our “dutch laundry” buddies …

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French Laundry kitchen towels, wooden spoons with their trademark logo of the wooden clothespin...and our dutch laundry friend's clothespin version :-)

French Laundry kitchen towels, wooden spoons with their trademark logo of the wooden clothespin…and our dutch laundry friend’s clothespin version 🙂

Lately I’ve felt that some main market food media, whether magazines, online or television, have focused content on the “dumbing down” of meal preparation.  Learning the basics is important and a good thing, but let’s elevate our experience too.  Julia Child made French cooking accessible to us…she didn’t try to make it fast…or easy…or diminish your skill in preparing it.  Over the next few posts I will feature some of the finesse in food I’ve recently come across. Sometimes it’s all about the garnish…sometimes the food product.  All of it is perfect with a nice cup of finely grown and harvested tea….of course.

 

Our New Kitchen Gadget…Juice It Up!

My darling husband has claimed that the best gift I ever got him was his Nespresso coffee machine. The second best, his soda stream for creating his own sparkling water – yay, no more lugging home cases of Pelligrino from Costco.  However; he says my latest gift to him ranks right up there too… our new Breville citrus juicer. He is just in love with it and is “citrus” juicing up a storm…meyer lemons primarily.  Breville products are outstanding in function and design.  This juicer is much larger in size than we expected, but boy, does it get the juices flowing.  It’s addicting.  Once you start, it’s hard to stop.

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Our new Breville Citrus Juicer...beautiful design, stainless steel, easy to clean..a bit large for the counter---actually rather "giant"

Our new Breville Citrus Juicer…beautiful design, stainless steel, easy to clean..a bit large for the counter—actually rather “giant”

 

 

 

 

 

Last week, he juiced more lemons than needed, so I snagged a cup and made my infamous, tart, lemon curd, the recipe is here.  It’s quick to prepare…don’t sweat the seeds or lumps, as you will strain the end product to come out with a smooth, luscious curd.

Silky, smooth lemon curd...straining out any lumps, seeds, or bumps.  My recipe is below...it is on the tart versus sweet side

Silky, smooth lemon curd…straining out any lumps, seeds, or bumps.

This prompted me to fulfill a few requests from friends for scones…so I threw together a batch (takes all of 10 minutes) and I had instant gifts for two of my scone and lemon curd-loving friends (after I taste tested a few, of course).   Note: my favorite little biscuit scone (recipe here).  Chunks of butter show and the dough is light and fluffy (not rolled or flattened), this makes for a delightfully light texture in your scone.

Of course, this curd and scone is lovely with a cup of tea…in particular a Jasmine Pearl green tea.  Enjoy.

My favorite biscuit scone...note the chunks of butter ...these make for a nice texture...and the dough is light, fluffy (not rolled down)...again, makes for a finished product that splits apart easily to take on your curds, creams, and jams...

My favorite biscuit scone…note the chunks of butter …these make for a nice texture…and the dough is light, fluffy (not rolled down)…again, makes for a finished product that splits apart easily to take on your curds, creams, and jams…

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