I was lucky enough this year to be part of Spirit of Summer as the manager of the Lifestyle Workshop and Theatre. We had some fabulous talks, displays and demonstrations from top chefs, artisans, florists, garden artists and interior designers. We even had Nina Campbell and Fiona Scholti! (If you don’t know who Fiona is, fear not, you will very soon because let me tell you- that woman is a culinary chocolate genius and she’s about to go big, you can count on it.)
A few highlights, among many- we hosted chefs from the Caprice Group, which includes The Ivy, Daphne’s and J Sheekey, Cookie Girl, who taught us how to ice Union Jack cupcakes, and Laurent Perrier, who gave us free glasses of rose champagne while we watched the likes of Ercole Moroni make beautiful floral arrangements. A local to my area, Adam Byatt, proprietor and chef at Trinity in Clapham Old Town and a TV chef to boot, taught us how to make the most perfect picnic. This came in rather handy of the past few days in the sun! See his book on the left and visit his restaurant. I am going to, as soon as I can get a table! It was a fabulous four days at Spirit of Summer.
Many congratulations to House and Garden Magazine and Clarion Events for putting on such a wonderful show for us, and of course, thank yous are due to all the vendors who filled our shopping bags with amazing and unique products. Looking forward to seeing you all next year!
Borough Market, 8:30, Roast. I have been meaning to go to this restaurant for ages, partially because I am never disappointed by anything from Borough Market, and partially because I just love the idea of an entire restaurant based on roasting things. I mean, it’s not exactly genius, the roasting bit – every British food seems to be roasted anyway. Roast meat and two veg. Roast veg. Seriously, a roast is the quintessential British dish. Forget Fish and Chips! It’s all about the roast beef, roast pork, roast game bird, roast meat wrapped in filo pastry… Oh, if you haven’t had Beef Wellington, you haven’t lived. No, Roast is not genius really, but it is clever and it does do what more restaurants ought to do – it uses local produce to create well cooked, simple, beautifully presented fare.
I took the liberty of ordering Maldon Rock Oysters because I just cannot say no to oysters, especially when served by singles for £2.75 so you don’t have to order half a dozen at the least. I can never eat six oysters before a big meal so I ordered four. They were delightful, served with a very simple vinegar and shallot dipping sauce or sorts, and Tabasco, one must always have the option of Tabasco with an oyster in my humble opinion!
For my main, and don’t mock me for this, I ordered fish. I know, I know… fish at a restaurant known for meat? Honestly? Well, yes. But don’t worry, my husband ordered the rib eye and I got to have a couple tastes. And it was fabulous. Really fabulous. Back to my fish. I had the char grilled fillet of wild sea bass, served with shaved asparagus, fennel and orange salad. It was delicious. They don’t over-season the food, they accompany it with perfectly matched sides, the bite I had (or two) of my husband’s steak was GORGEOUS… I highly recommend it and I can’t wait to go back.
Sorry for the lack of photos – I was far too distracted by the food and the view. Next time I’ll remember… Hope it’s soon! Make sure to look at their fab website, which will tell you all you need to know.
I don’t normally post about anything that doesn’t involve taste buds in some way or function, but I just received a package from Liz Earle, a wonderful British natural cosmetics company, and I just have to shout out to those LOVELY LADIES who packed up my facial goodies so prettily for me.
I know the people who packed up my goods are ladies because their delightful hand written signatures graces the bottom of the packing note. This is pretty special. Along with that hand signed note (and I know it’s silly but it really made me happy), my receipt was accompanied by a thank you letter from the customer service manager telling me how proud she is of their product and how to get in touch if I needed anything else. Above and beyond what most online retailers do, I assure you. Mary Portas would be so proud! I certainly am.
Liz Earle won the Which? Best Online Retailer award and the Beauty Insider’s Choice Best British Brand Award. These are pretty high flying flags among competitive retailers when it comes to making it in the market and I can see why Liz Earle won it. Everything from effectiveness of their products to presentation is top notch. In a world where we see many retailers cutting corners, making their customers feel underwhelmed and slightly cheated beyond the purchase, anyone who sells anything should take a page out of Liz Earle’s book.
So there’s an on and off recession going on- that means people are less likely to shop in the first place, so don’t scrimp on customer care, you’ll just lose customers! Get creative, not lazy.
Buying from Liz Earle is like lying around the pool on holiday… but rather than having screaming kids (not your own so doubly bad) jumping in and out of the pool- a very handsome gentleman brings you a free Mai Tai in a beautiful glass WITH A COCKTAIL UMBRELLA in it to enjoy in the quiet sunshine. That kind of service doesn’t happen often, but when it does you just about giggle with joy!
My box arrived neatly packed with each bottle individually wrapped and with a little Liz Earle sticker holding each bundle together. I really felt like I was receiving something much more expensive than I actually paid for and certainly with a lot of care put into it. They even sent a freebie travel size cleanser and an extra muslin cloth. Now if that doesn’t keep your customers loyal, I don’t know what will. I’ll tell you what- a friend recommended this cleanser 3 years ago and I have been using it ever since because it works, it’s well priced and it smells gorgeous- now the LOVELY LADIES on the online retail team have given me another reason.
Love from Maggie
After The Market
Photograph and fabulous cleanser courtesy of www.uk.lizearle.com
Alright, I know we have already had a drought and it’s not even May, but this thunder and lighting and bucketing down rain is enough to make someone yearn for a hosepipe ban! The bad thing about the rain is that it stops me from exploring… I would rather not soak my new DSLR thank you very much! In case you were wondering, yes, I am soooo excited about this new and seriously long overdue edition to our home! I am going to get so snap happy as soon as this rain stops…
The one good thing about being cooped up inside is that it means I get to spend some guilt-free time in the kitchen!
I have been discovering the joy of lentils recently. They are amazing! I know I have made a habit of taking these for granted- one of my favourite cheats is Merchant Gourmet’s ready made lentil packs. There are so many ways to eat them! Try the Porcini Mushrooms and Thyme Puy Lentils, they are to die for.
Toss them with spicy rocket salad or eat them warmed up with crackers and cheese… either way they make a gloriously easy and healthy sit-in meal.
If you want to venture a bit further and make your own, they are nearly as easy and twice as satisfying. Think of them as like potatoes- you can add almost anything to your lentils, actually- you can also add potatoes!
My favorite combo so far is sliced and grilled chorizo, diced onion, carrot, and celery with a little thyme and bay leaves. Fry the chorizo in a heavy bottomed pan, my teal Le Creuset does the trick perfectly.
Rinse the lentils (I used the puy as they hold texture nicely), and add all to the pan with the chorizo your veg, herbs, a little ground black pepper, and a stock cube. Cover with water and bring to a boil, stirring as you go to dissolve the stock, then simmer for 30-45 minutes. Add some potato chunks at the beginning if you want some starch.
The husband and I just had this dish for dinner with a glass of red.
Now that I think of it, the rain isn’t really that bad….
Made by Maggie
After the Market (but today just out of the cupboard…)
Seattle is getting a lot of love these days. More people are starting to notice how great a city it is and it’s making Seattlites (as we call ourselves) pretty nervous because as friendly as we are, we like our peace and quite too.
It rains a lot, which keeps the crowds out, but Seattle is pretty amazing for reasons big and small- normally manifested in big flavours, big shows, big culture and…small crowds. That’s why it always makes the most livable cities list- a lot of big fun but without the trampling.
As it happens, some incredible pop-up restaurants are growing from small to big on the popularity scale! If you find yourself in Seattle on a Monday you might consider giving a pop-up a try. Let me tell you, I bet you’ll taste something that will change your life- particularly for those poor souls who have never eaten real Mexican food…(London, I’m talking to you).
Pop-up restaurants add an international flavor to Monday night dinners. Pop-up restaurants make a debut every Monday night at some local establishments. These one-night-stand restaurants take the cuisine in a decidedly different direction than what you usually would find at the address.
ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES
At top, arrays of colorful Mexican tacos, including these Nopales cactus tacos, are served at Alvaro Candela-Najera’s Monday pop-up restaurant at Sitka & Spruce, where, above, Sandy Ha, left, and Dustin Schulte await dinner.
You’ve seen these Monday ethnic-themed dinners, right? It’s hard to miss them if you dine out that night. You may find Mexico City food at a restaurant where you usually would be served poached sea cod and New American cuisine; Indian comfort food where Mediterranean fare normally would be presented.
These are pop-up and pop-up-inspired meals. Most are run by line cooks and sous chefs who rent restaurant space to run a once-a-week eatery. In other cases, it’s the chefs doing it in their own restaurants — comfort or street food that you wouldn’t find on their regular menus.
Pop-ups usually take place on Monday nights, when restaurants normally would be closed and available to rent out. The plating is less fussy, the cooking more like your grandma’s.
The concept isn’t new. But in recent months, it has become so popular that the dining rooms for pop-ups often fill up quickly.
Every Monday, chef Matt Dillon of Sitka & Spruce turns over his kitchen to his former server, Alvaro Candela-Najera, who does tacos with Mayan-style braised pork and milk-soaked beef belly.
At the Mediterranean hot spot La Bete on Capitol Hill, chefs Aleks Dimitrijevic and Tyler Moritz used to rent out their space for Monday pop-ups. Now they do their own. Walk through the front door on Mondays and you get whiffs of coriander and cumin, the smokiness from the naan being grilled in the open kitchen.
In Wallingford, chef David Kong of Perche’No Pasta & Vino normally cooks Italian food, but once a month he pays homage to his homeland and does Monday Malaysian food night.
Most pop-ups are run by young cooks. Like the food truck, the pop-up is an economical way for aspiring chefs to showcase their talents until they have the money or the following to go the brick-and-mortar route. The concept is most popular on Capitol Hill, where a dozen young cooks are giving it a go.
David Howe and Kalen Schramke, both from Rover’s, do Korean, Caribbean and other ethnic-theme dinners at Volunteer Park Café on Capitol Hill once a month. By summer, they will add a second pop-up at another location with star bartender Jay Kuehner of Sambar. Irbille Donia debuted his Filipino cuisine at Olivar restaurant on a recent Monday, the same Capitol Hill restaurant where he works as a line cook on other nights doing Spanish cuisine.
Former Lark sous chef Wiley Frank and his wife, Poncharee Kounpungchart, helped popularize the concept. In fall 2009, the couple started a Thai street pop-up, first at Licorous, then at La Bete. It became a cult hit and led the couple to open a takeout shack, Little Uncle, on East Madison Street earlier this year. The couple miss the frenetic energy of a pop-up and plan to do it again this spring.
Here are five places to find pop-ups or pop-ups-inspired dinners. Check the restaurants’ Web pages, most have references to their Monday-night dinners. Many pop-ups call it a night after they run out of food. Reservations recommended.
Judkins Street Café: Skillet line cook Adam Trujillo plans to do one to two Monday dinners a month, specializing in the comfort food of his homeland, Mexico, including a Posole soup from Jalisco. Café owner Michael McGloin plans to fill up the other Mondays with a Southwest- theme dinner, meatless Monday and other pop-ups. 2608 S. Judkins St. judkinsstreetcafe.com
La Bete: The chef does an “Around the World Dinner Series.” Their Indian-theme dinner was memorable — juicy veal meatballs in a Kashmiri stew, served with stuffed Paratha flatbread; shrimp fritters to dip with the spicy chutney. Next up, an Eastern European-theme dinner with Hungarian goulash and smoked meat. This summer, they head south with an Oaxacan-theme meal. 1802 Bellevue Ave., labeteseattle.com
Sitka & Spruce: Candela- Najera, a former server at the restaurant and now bartender at bar ferd’nand, hawks his Mexico City-inspired comfort food. It’s a simple half-page menu of mostly chicharrón and gourmet tacos. 1531 Melrose Ave. www.sitkaandspruce.com
Skelly and the Bean: Chef and owner Zephyr Paquette runs her restaurant from Wednesday through Sunday and rents the space Monday and Tuesday to young cooks and culinary students. Terra Plata’s cook Shauna Scriver will take over the first two Mondays in April to do tamales, and Kevin Burzell formerly of Ba Bar will do Malaysian comfort food the last two Mondays. The couple behind Little Uncle will do some Monday dinners here soon. 2359 10th Ave. E.skellyandthebean.com
Sitting on a bright corner along the Camden Passage in Angel are two stacks of the most wonderful pancakes you have ever seen. Each stack with four perfect pancakes and a wonderful stiff custard cream cloud floating above them, carrying sliced strawberries and plump blueberries, and accompanied with syrup. I feel like I’m floating on my very own cloud as I munch them down in the sunshine with my friend. I would post a photo, but it would cause a stampede…. (actually I forgot to take one as I was in a pancake trance, so you will just have to trust me.)
The Breakfast Club is busy, busy, busy and the staff behave a bit like friendly bees, bumbling around quickly and efficiently the whole time but without hovering too much so as to make you feel they might land on your plate. You go inside to get your menus and once you’ve picked -which is hard because everything looks AMAZING- you go back inside, past the ‘Sex, Drugs, and Bacon Rolls’ sign, to the till to order. Your coffee comes out so quickly you can’t believe you were ever without it and the food comes out nearly as fast but not so fast as to make you think you’re in a fast food joint. This is definitely not fast food, it’s so delicious it practically stops time.
The decor is definitely shabby chic, but it seems to have progressed naturally rather than being purpose built and bought- everything is as bright and cheerful as the staff. It feels like a community has made it, which is why I think it lives up to its name as Breakfast Club. All I know is, I want to be a member.
I am enjoying another enormous bite when our waitress comes out and shouts in excitement ‘Look what I found!!’, holding up the centre piece of the old seat I am using- an old iron cafe chair painted bright blue- and quickly jams it in, replacing the pillow under me before I can sit down again. She smiles a huge, bright smile and I say thank you as she pulls a bottle of syrup out of her apron, ‘AND more syrup for you too, just in case…’. There is joy here, and even though we paid the bill at the beginning, my friend and I agree we could sit here all day… and come back again tomorrow.
Love from Maggie
After the Market
The Breakfast Club Cafe, Angel
31 Camden Passage N1 8EA