Monthly Archives: November 2012

Drink of the Week

Melabu

  • 2oz AppleJack
  • 3/4oz Apple Verbena Syrup
  • 3/4oz Fresh lime juice
  • 1 bar spoon Ground Cinnamon

Garnish: Lime wheel skewered with ground cinnamon.

This is another great drink inspired by Fall flavors. It is basically a ‘Jack Rose‘ with the addition of cinnamon.  I have to admit I’m not the biggest fan of cinnamon, but once in a while it really works in a drink and this recipe is a perfect example of such.  Apple and cinnamon are a great pairing, especially for an Autumnal feeling.

For those who don’t know, Applejack is one of Americas oldest alcoholic spirits and is completely produced from apples. It was historically made by concentrating hard cider using the traditional method of freeze distillation. The term applejack actually derives from the word jacking, a term for freeze distillation.  The product sold in stores today is no longer produced using this traditional process, however they maintain the product created is almost identical to the applejack available in colonial times.

The Melabu is another option from the ‘Autumn menu’ at Hostaria Del Piccolo in Santa Monica and was created by their beverage director Greg Bryson. It is a drink that is slightly sweet but not over the top, I think it will appeal to a lot of people in these colder months.

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A “British” contribution to Thanksgiving Dinner!

Today my post will be a Fussy One first… I am going to give you a FOOD recipe! As everyone in the United States should be aware, yesterday was Thanksgiving.  This means there was probably a lot of drinking and even more eating across the country. As most of my readers know, I myself am not from the US, however I have been living here in Los Angeles for 5 years in January (is it already that long??!!) and have plenty to be thankful for.

I live with my Beverage Consultant boyfriend, (known on this blog as FutureGreg or FG) and his wonderful family.  Every year on thanksgiving we have a big sit down dinner with extended family and friends, and although FGs Dad does the majority of the cooking, most of the guests bring a dish as part of the meal.  For the past few years I have been contributing the following dish and it’s proved so successful I thought I would document it for the blog this time.  So here you go, the first cooking recipe on the fussy one…

STEAK AND GUINNESS PIE

This recipe is a variation of one originally created by British Chef Jamie Oliver.  I admit, it does take a little while to make this one (a good 2.5 hrs in the oven stewing the ingredients) but it is well worth the effort because the pie itself is delicious.  Jamie calls for mushrooms in his recipe, but considering I can’t stand the texture of mushrooms when they’re hidden in food I have chosen not to include them.

Ingredients (Serves 4-6)

  • 2.2 lb.. (1kg) Brisket of Beef
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 30g of Butter
  • 2 Sprigs of Rosemary (leaves picked and chopped)
  • 2 Sticks Celery
  • 2 Carrots
  • 3 Medium Red Onions
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 can of Guinness (440ml)
  • 2 Heaped tbsp of Flour
  • 200g Grated Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 large Organic Egg (beaten)
  • Pastry Sheets (pre rolled) or 500g ready-made all-butter puff pastry

Making the filling

  1. Ok, first off lay out all your ingredients and equipment to check you have everything you need. I don’t cook often so when I do I get pretty frustrated when I realize half way through I don’t have the correct pan or am missing a vital herb!! This recipe calls for a pan that can transfer from the stove top to the oven, so double check you can do that. I have had issues before when I realized the pan i’m using will not last in the oven.
  2. Pre-heat your oven  375ºF/190ºC/gas 5.
  3. Next start chopping the ingredients.  Bare in mind that 3 medium red onions looks like a lot when chopped up and I always worry it’s too much, but it reduces completely in the stew so don’t be put off by how much there is.  I personally think it’s a good idea to finely chop the celery and carrots (mainly because I hate the texture of ‘bits’ in my food) but you can chop them larger if you prefer.
  4. Cut the meat in to 1 inch thick cubes.
  5. Pour a ‘glug’ of olive oil in to the pan. A glug is the ‘technical term’ Jamie Oliver gives, I take it to be about a tablespoon or so…just to get the onions frying without burning. Add the onions and on a low heat start to reduce them, stir for about 10 mins.
  6. Add the garlic, butter, celery and carrots once the onions start to go clear (but don’t let them burn).
  7. Mix everything together before adding the rosemary and then the chopped beef. Season with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of black pepper. (You will season more later.)
  8. Fry fast for 3 to 4 minutes then pour in the Guinness, the flour and just enough water to cover all the meat. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan then place in the preheated Oven for 1 1/2hours.
  9. After an hour and a half take the stew out the oven, give it a stir and place it back in for another hour. The house will start to smell so yummy by this point, but don’t be deceived…still a long way to go!!!
  10. When the time is up and you take it out, the meat should be tender and the stew  should be rich, dark and thick.  If there still seems to be a lot of liquid (almost always is with mine) then reduce it on the stove for a little longer. A good filling needs to be robust. At this point stir in half the grated cheese too. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you want to stop at this point you can cool the mixture and place in the fridge over night until you’re ready to fill the pie. I always make my mixture the night before, then cook it in to the pie an hour before I plan to serve it the next day.

Filling the pie

  1. The next stage varies from person to person. The original recipe calls for “Puff Pastry” but I have established that most Americans don’t know what this is and certainly don’t sell it pre-made in Los Angeles.  You can choose to make your own puff pastry or buy a pre-rolled regular  pastry.  Puff Pastry, for those that don’t know, is a deliciously flaky pastry used in pies in England. It is buttery and divine, but don’t be disheartened if you struggle to find a recipe because regular pastry works fine too…it’s the filling that makes this pie in my opinion!
  2. Roll out your pastry (if needs be) to make sure it will fit a deep dish pan.
  3. Line a deep dish pan with the first sheet of pastry and make sure the edges are dangling over the sides so you can fold them together at the end.
  4. Pour or spoon the mixture in to the lined pan and even it out.
  5. Sprinkle the rest of the grated cheddar on top.
  6. Roll the second sheet of pastry over the top. I like to twist the overlapping pastry together to make it look pretty, but you can simply crush it with a fork and cut off the excess if you like.  Poke some holes in the top and brush with a little beaten egg.
  7. Place the whole pie in the oven on the bottom shelf for 45 minutes at 375ºF/190ºC/gas 5.  
  8. When the top is golden, take it out and serve. DELICIOUS!!!

I hope you like this recipe, it’s very British to have a pie on a cold day and although it never gets THAT cold here in LA, it still is a great dish to make once in a while.  If it’s not a holiday you can serve it simply with mash potatoes and peas, always goes down a treat. 🙂

Thanksgiving is a day when we get to say what we’re thankful for, and so I want to say “I am thankful for my American family.”  My loving boyfriend and his wonderful parents have always made me feel so welcome in their home and I appreciate them so much…his brother and grandparents, Aunties and cousins have done the same and made me feel part of the family every year.  I am also thankful to my parents in England, and this British pie is a representation of them too.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

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Drink of the Week

The Brown Turkey

  • 1oz Aged Rum
  • 1oz Fig and Brown sugar reduction
  • 3 dashes Orange Bitters

Shake in ice and strain in to a flute

  • Top with 2oz Sparkling Wine

Garnish: Orange Twist

Fig and Brown Sugar Reduction:

In a pan on medium heat, dissolve 1 cup of brown sugar in 1 cup of water. Add 1/2 Cup of chopped fresh figs (or substitute dried figs if no fresh available) and bring to a boil.  Cover and remove from heat, let steep for 25 minutes. Fine strain into a glass bottle and keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

* * * * *

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought this sounded like a fun and somewhat different kind of drink option for the holiday.  I found this recipe in this months ‘Special Holiday issue’ of Imbibe Magazine and think it sounds really quite yummy.

Imbibe Holiday issue Nov/Dec 2012

I have to say, this is the first time I am putting up a drink as ‘drink of the week’ that I have actually not yet tasted!

It’s an intriguing recipe that sounds like it would be quite tasty though. I love figs and find them to have such a delicious natural sweetness that I believe would pair beautifully with aged rum.

The drink itself was created by Justin L Chamberlin of ‘Sagra Trattoria and Bar’ in Austin, Texas and is described in the magazine as being;

‘A formula that combines subtle spices of aged rum with the sultry sweetness of figs and a pop of sparking wine’.

I’m curious to see if the addition of bitters comes through strongly or not though.

I do intend on having my boyfriend create it next week to go with our thanksgiving feast, and I will be sure to report back on how it turns out. For now here is the recipe for all my Fussy readers who may wish to attempt it themselves, feel free to get in touch if you do make it and let me know how it goes.

Enjoy!

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SugarFish

SUGARFISH
1345 2nd Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
 
Phone: 310 393-3338

 .

This week I wanted to write about a restaurant that is always consistent, seeing as recently I keep finding places I love (and write about) have changed their menus a week later (to keep up with trends) and the items I craved have been taken off! 😦 I do understand that some foods are seasonal but it’s so hard for someone like myself (fussy) to find a dish i’ll eat at all, so once I have done it’s even more distressing to not be able to get the same meal again on the next visit.

Anyway, I have been coming to SugarFish for over a year now, and their quality of food has always been above and beyond. They also never change their set menu (hooray!), which is what I’m going to cover in this review.

A lot of people tend to be very shocked that I am a huge sushi lover, and I have to admit I don’t understand it myself.  The fact that I never used to eat anything other than pasta, and now regularly enjoy raw fish is a somewhat dramatic leap. Yet, for some reason, it is a genre of food I really enjoy.  I have always liked smoked salmon, so when I first went to a sushi restaurant I tried the salmon sushi and found that the  raw salmon is a similar consistency to smoked, which didn’t bother me at all. From eating salmon sushi, I eventually branched out to trying other light fish like ‘yellowtail’ and ‘halibut’ although I never found myself wanting to try tuna. For some reason the smell of tuna really bothers me (well canned tuna anyway) and for the longest time I couldn’t get my mind set out of that.

Anyway, walking in to SugarFish about a year ago, my boyfriend (FG) and I didn’t know what to expect.  The place itself is small with bamboo style wood everywhere and plants on one of the side walls. They don’t take reservations so make sure you arrive well in advance of when you want to eat, because they do fill up quickly. We had been told repeatedly by people that they make ‘great sushi’ but our understanding at the time was limited and we really just thought, ‘it’s just rice and raw fish, how good can it be’. How little did we know!

Chef Kazunori Nozawa is a Japanese Chef who has been working with sushi since he was 15 years old.  When he came to America he started Sushi Nozawa in Studio City, California with the aim to get Americans out of the thinking of extravagant rolls and back to the no-frills basics of what Japanese sushi really is, very simple yet exceptional quality seafood.  Sushi Nozawa closed this year (2012) but the SugarFish chain continues his philosophy and the ‘Trust Me’ set menu is similar to one at the original Sushi Nozawa location.

The ‘Trust Me’ set menu is the one we always get, not just because of it’s value for money ($29.50 pp) but because it has a nice range of dishes within it.  The first item is the Edamame.  Plain, simple and nicely chilled with a little salt but not too much.

Next is the tuna sashimi. Now, as I said before, I never wanted to try tuna but on my first visit to SugarFIsh I felt obliged to try it as it was part of the set menu and they don’t bring the next dish until the one you have is finished!

So worth it, WOW this dish is good. The sauce is divine.  It is slightly sweet like a ponzu sauce but a little more citric and sharp on the tongue. The scallions on top gives a nice change in texture to the moist soft flesh of the fish. Yummy.

What immediately stood out to me was how ‘non-fishy’ it tasted, in fact all the dishes at SugarFish have that same quality and it’s because they use the freshest fish daily, never from frozen.

Next come 4 little sushi pieces, two of albacore and two of salmon.  The Albacore on my most recent trip (last night) was exceptional. It had the softest texture and melted in the mouth, there was a subtle sweetness to it and the cold fish over warm rice made for a really delicious combination.

The salmon was also flavorful but I have had salmon sushi so much now, I find it dull in comparison to the other options.

Next dish was the Yellowtail sushi (2pieces) and Halibut sushi (2pieces).The Yellowtail was the lightest in flavor but it had a nice texture and was clearly very fresh and slightly firm.  The Halibut had a citric almost spicy tasting sauce added to it, which paired beautifully with the flavors of the fish itself. Another two great sushi pieces.

I should mention, they do give soy sauce and wasabi on the side but we often find ourselves not using it at all because the fish flavors really speak for themselves.

The Toro roll came out and our waitress told us it is best enjoyed whilst the seaweed is nice and crispy. I have to admit, i’m not a big fan of seaweed wrapped rolls usually but this one was good… Soft moist chilled toro inside warm rice with a crispy seaweed shell.

The Blue hand crab roll was the last item to come out, and the crab was almost creamy in texture. It was very cold crab meat which is an odd sensation against the warm rice but seems to work and this is apparently the true Japanese way of preparing sushi.
After the crab roll you’re all done off the set items, occasionally they have a special of the day they feature instead or as well as.  There are also other set menus (a larger and lite version) or you can order off the general menu, but value wise and selection choices makes this particular set option our favorite.  All the dishes appear tiny (by Western standards) but the leisurely timing in which the items are brought to the table somehow fills you up and we feel very satisfied every time we eat there.

On our last visit we also enjoyed a nice bottle of Nigori Sake called ‘Sho Chiku Bai’ which was creamy, silky and mildly sweet. It paired beautifully with our dinner and I highly recommend.

Food rating gets 5 out of 5 platters

I’m yet to have a bad experience here, so they get full marks!  It sounds obvious, but it makes SUCH a difference when seafood is so fresh. I always thought I knew good sushi until I came here, now I won’t go anywhere else. Their consistency of both quality and taste makes them one of the best sushi places I have ever been to and although the service can be slow at times, the staff are all very friendly and helpful so they don’t lose marks their either.  If you like good sushi then this is certainly a restaurant you should check out.

The Santa Monica location is the one we personally know and love, but SugarFish have a number of venues now, so look on their website for the closest one to you.

Enjoy!

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I VOTE for… Tasty drinks!

Tomorrow (6th November 2012) is a big day in the USA, it is the day the American people will cast their vote for either Democrat President Obama or Republican Mitt Romney. I certainly know who i’d be voting for but I won’t say it here as it’s pretty irrelevant since I am not a citizen and therefore can’t vote anyway!

I thought i’d put a few election inspired drinks up though…you know how I love a good theme. 😀

In the BLUE corner…

There are very few ‘blue’ drinks I approve of, and no ‘Classic’ concoctions with a bright blue hue.  I had first planned to put up a drink with blueberries in but realize that using muddle blueberries creates more of a purple color. Sadly the only really blue drinks are ones that use a fake ingredient like ‘blueberry syrup’ or food coloring.  The drink I have chosen is the only drink I really like that has a bright blue color, and Paul Martins American Bistro (PMAB) is the only place i’ve seen a Lemon Drop made this way.

The PMAB Lemon Drop

  • 2oz Vodka (or Gin)
  • 3/4oz Lemon Juice
  • 3/4oz Simple Syrup
  • Splash of Blue Curacao

Garnish: Lemon Wheel and Sugar rim

I know it sounds terrible to the real drink connoisseurs  but I have to say it’s really tasty! Great if you have a sweet tooth (the sugar rim certainly does it for me!) and the pop of color makes it stand out. If you ever find yourself at a Paul Martins and want a sweet refreshing vodka drink, you should certainly give this one a go.

In the RED Corner…

There are plenty of Red options to choose from, but seeing as the drink name has ‘America’ in the title, this one seems appropriate!

Americano

  • 1oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 1oz Campari
  • 40z Soda

Garnish: Orange Peel/Slice

This drink dates back to the 1900s when it was first served in creator Gaspare Campari‘s bar, Caffè Campari, in 1860. It used to have a different name, (‘Milano-Torino’) but the drink creator supposedly changed it when it proved so popular with the American tourists.  It is actually a very interesting mix of flavors.  Using the beverage bitters (Campari) you get a gorgeous red color and the drink itself is a bitter sweet mix with a taste that makes you want to drink more.

Who will live in the White House?

On a recent trip to Washington DC we met and befriended legendary barman, writer, illustrator and fountain of knowledge; Derek Brown. The drink below was created by Derek (AKA The Presidents Mixologist) and is particularly fitting for my election theme because it has been served AT the White House itself. Derek probably thinks ‘The Presidents Mixologist’ is a bit of a pretentious title, and if you met him you’d know he would never want someone pushing for it but frankly that is what he is! He has been chosen to create drinks for the White House on more than one occasion, has interacted with President Obama personally and is pretty much the ‘King of Cocktails’ in Americas Capital City. To me he is certainly the Master when it comes to mixed drinks and also just an incredibly lovely man.

When thinking of drink recipes suitable for this Election week he was the first person I wanted to ask for input.  He wouldn’t reveal what the President drinks, pointing out that “pouring and telling in DC is a political no-no!”  He was, however, kind enough to give me the recipe for one of the drinks he prepared for the White House holiday parties back in 2009.

Robert Frost Cocktail

  • 3/4 oz. Bourbon
  • 3/4 oz. Dry Amontillado Sherry
  • 3/4 oz. White Port
  • 1/4 oz. Simple Syrup
  • 1 dash Orange Bitters

Combine ingredients with ice and shake until cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish: Thinly sliced orange and lemon wheel.

Derek told me that ‘The Robert Frost Cocktail’ is based off the ‘Whispers’ or the ‘Frost Cocktail’. He says he also chose the name because Robert Frost is one of America’s top poets and a poet laureate who embraced progress while recognizing what made America great. Frost actually read at the inauguration of John F, Kennedy too. Derek told me; “Frost just seemed like the perfect inspiration to honor America’s new direction.”

This drink is DELICIOUS! I tried it for the first time today and think it’s just beautiful. Perfect for all kinds of drinker. The Port, Sherry and Bourbon make an incredibly delicious mix. It is balanced with both a strength and sweetness to it. If you can get the ingredients together, it’s certainly worth a shot making it at home.

So there you have it, 3 somewhat random drinks to sip on this week as you watch the polls go one way or the other.

!!!!DON’T FORGET TO VOTE ON TUESDAY!!!!

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