Thursday, May 18, 2006

Oh the Sandwiches!

When in London, I can never say no to the simple prawn sandwiches. Suddenly I'm giddy over the iceberg lettuce, sliced sandwich bread, and the variations in mayo. I make it a point to try as many varieties as possible.

I experienced a version of this classic at a great little Fleet Street-meets-Halls of Justice joint called El Vino featuring prawns in a sweet chilli mayonnaise with iceberg lettuce on fresh seedy granary bread. The Tate Modern CafĂ© 2 serves theirs with lemon zest. I noticed the mayonnaise is a bit thinner in consistency than here in the States – not at all stiff or globby. Then my pal Ralph told me that it most likely is not just mayo, but a traditional sauce called Mary Rose sauce.

Mayo or Mary Rose aside, I find these little delights just divine.

(Photo by Brett Cody Rogers)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fish & Chips at The Approach Tavern:
I Have Arrived

You know you've finally landed in London after your first meal of fish and chips in a pub.

What arrives at your table is a gorgeously puffy piece of cod in a substantial batter, golden fried to perfection with the proper balance of grease and salt; thick wedges of chips and a subtley sweet puree of mushy peas.

My half pint of choice is the Belgian ale, Leffe -- pronunciation of the last "e" is questionable.

(Photo by Brett Cody Rogers)

Restaurant Review HAIKU
St. JOHN Bar & Restaurant
East London

haute brute fare at this
"nose-to-tail" establishment,
meat not for the meek

More Reviews: London-Eating, Time Out London

St. JOHN Bar & Restaurant
26 St. John Street
London UK EC1M 4AY
020 7251 0848

Monday, May 15, 2006

When in London ...
Must Have Mutton

OK, ok ... before I get lambasted by my Londoner pals whose tables would be graced by nothing but the finest, most tender spring lamb, let me correct myself:

When in London, one must have the succulent lamb.

Mutton, of course, is the flesh of an adult sheep that can be tough at times. I've also been told that in slang terms, mutton (as in "mutton dressed as lamb") is a woman past her prime who sadly dons the trendiest wear for twentysomethings from TopShop, H&M, and the like. Mutton is second only to my favorite bit of new slang learned so far on the trip: Chav. A Chav is defined as someone sporting "white trainers and fake Burberry." It follows in the line of naff.

Needless to say there were neither chavs nor muttons present Sunday evening at the Barbican where Charles Kassouf and Katie Barry prepared a gorgeous leg of lamb to serve as our Sunday roast. Nothing could be more delicious or fitting for our springtime visit to England.

Roasted Spring Lamb
Sauteed Savoy Cabbbage
Roasted New Potatoes With Herbes de Provence
Roasted Butternut Squash Rubbed With Harissa
Cannelli Bean and Bell Pepper Salad
Freshly Baked Pita Bread

The Kassoufian Method for Succulent Spring Lamb

Score the leg of lamb and rub in 1/4 cup olive oil, 3 cloves of minced garlic and minced fresh rosemary. Broil in oven on high heat, 200 C (450 F), until the top flesh carmelizes nicely with the embedded herbs. Turn the heat down to 170 C (300 F) and roast "slow and low" for approximately 1-1/2 hours. When it's done, the lamb should reach an internal temperature of 140 C.

Charles' Homemade Pita Bread

(Adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

Combine in large bowl (or bowl of heavy duty mixer):
3 cups bread flour
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/4 cups room-temperature water

Mix by hand or on low speed for about 1 minute to blend all ingredients. Knead for about 10 minutes by hand (or with dough hook on slow to medium speed) until the dough is smooth, soft, and elastic. Add flour or water as needed; the dough should be slightly tacky, but not sticky.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and toss it once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Punch the dough down, divide equally into 8 pieces, and roll the pieces into balls. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. If you do not have a pizza or baking stone, place baking sheet upside down on an oven rack to serve as hearth.

On a very lightly floured surface, roll out each ball of dough into a thin round, about 8 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick. Spray the stone or baking sheet with a mist of water, wait 30 seconds, then place as many dough rounds as will fit without touching directly onto the hearth.

Bake until the dough puffs into a balloon, about 3 minutes, wait 30 seconds, then remove each bread to a rack to cool. If you leave the breads in the oven too long, they will not deflate to flat disks.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Restaurant Review HAIKU:
Downtown LA, CA

a pho so simple
clearest broth, silken veggies
heart stops tastebuds weep

More Reviews: Daily Candy

426 S. Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 623-1973

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

My Favorite Mycologist

Gary Wolf uncovers the obscure and grotesque rush of the
morel mushroom trade, in the New York Times Style Magazine's
Living Spring 2006 special issue.