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Category Archives: Food

Happy (gluten-free) Pancake Day!

I hope you all had a wonderful Pancake Day yesterday!

Gluten-free crepesWe took a slightly different route this year – still flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants to make crepes on a school night, but this year, we threw in the added challenge of making a gluten-free version.

We followed our tried-and-tested recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini, with a couple of tweaks. We replaced the flour with Cup4Cup, Thomas Keller’s stellar gluten-free flour, and added more milk to thin out the batter. The end result was a crepe that was so pitch perfect, you would never in a million years guess that it was gluten-free, which is really the goal, right?

Kids topped it with lemon and sugar, and then on round two, spread it with Nocciolata, an organic hazelnut spread with cocoa and milk, and were in dessert heaven.

As for me, I went au natural, scoffing it straight sans spread and it was delicious. Here’s the recipe.

Gluten-free Crepes

250 g (2 C) flour (gluten-free like Cup4Cup or all-purpose)
3 eggs
1/4 L (1 C) milk
100 g (1/3 C) sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 L (1 C) still water
butter for cooking, and an assortment of toppings

In a large mixing-bowl, roughly combine the flour and eggs. Whisk in the milk, adding it slowly to avoid lumps. Add in the sugar, vanilla, oil and rum (if using), and whisk to combine thoroughly. Whisk in the water. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours, preferably overnight.

Take the bowl of batter out of the fridge, and give it a whisk to “revive” it. Put a thick-bottomed, low-rimmed frying pan over high heat. Wait until it gets very hot (hot enough to make a drop of water sizzle). Melt a dab of butter in it, and spread the butter evenly in the pan with a wadded paper towel (watch your fingers).

Ladle a little batter in the pan (just enough to cover the pan thinly, we are not making pancakes here), and move the pan around so the batter forms an even disk. Wait until the edges of the crêpe start to pull slightly away from the sides of the pan, peek underneath, and flip the crêpe with a spatula when it is nice and golden. Cook for a few more seconds (the second side cooks much faster) and serve immediately, topped/stuffed/rolled/spread with the sweet condiment of your choice.

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What can you bring me back from the U.K.?

If anyone asks me what they can bring me back from the U.K., the answer is always the same.

Percy Pigs.

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These delish gummy candies from Marks and Spencer are just the best. There are spin-offs with Percy piglets, hearts, sheep and cows but no, nothing compares to the classic Percy Pig.

Flat Iron in London

Flat Iron

It was lunch time in Covent Garden and we were hungry. We nearly went to an All Bar One for old time’s sake, until we spotted a man butchering a huge piece of meat in the window of another restaurant: Flat Iron.

Amidst so many tourist traps, this place was a gem and really the best lunch experience we had in London – very reasonably priced (£10 for the whole shebang), awesome customer service and a unique dining experience. Beef dripping popcorn to start, flat iron steak as the main event (with horseradish because that’s the way I roll) and salted caramel ice cream, rolled in chocolate, scooped on your way out. Small menu so they know what to do and do it well. It was a well-rehearsed dance that was smooth and effortless from start to finish.

Plus, they were very cool with our kids. My son ordered the burger, which was massive and decadent (probably would order without the béarnaise sauce for kids’ next time, but I took a couple of bites and loved it). An ooey, gooey masterpiece.

Flat Iron

Flat Iron

A proper tea

I made the very good decision to schedule our English tea on the day that we arrived. After sleeping only a couple of hours on the plane, I just needed proper pampering and we had reservations at the Park Room at Grosvenor House Hotel.

I’ve never been to Grosvenor House, but it was absolutely perfect for our family. I ordered their special Christmas tea.

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Hot cross buns – one a penny, two a penny

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but we are in the last week of Hot Cross Bun season — the final stretch.

Well, at least the Brits in the room are probably well aware. For Americans, well, it’s been a season of abominations. I’ve come across all kinds, including sweet dinner rolls studded with red and green fruit, others with lemon curd-like stuff where the dough cross should have been. The devil’s spawn in bread form.

It’s been enough to draw us into the kitchen. My husband has already made two batches of hot cross buns from a Delia Smith recipe (from her “Complete Cookery Course” cookbook) and it really has been a revelation. Is it easy? Not by any stretch of the imagination. But is it worth it? Oh yes!

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The British love affair with Cheesecake Factory

When we first moved back to California from the U.K. more than a decade ago, we had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory in Union Square in San Francisco. It kind of epitomized everything that was American – unapologetic, calorie-laden decadence detailed in a really long, laminated menu. It felt like a world-is-your-oyster kind of place. You want pasta? Steak? Omelette? Pizza? Burger? Sandwich? Seafood? Salad? You can get it here. Oh yeah, and of course, there’s over two dozen different types of cheesecake. There is simply nothing like it in the U.K.

Fresh Strawberry CheesecakeBut for me, the Cheesecake Factory ship has sailed. I have nothing against the Cheesecake Factory, but it no longer holds the appeal that it once had. We had no official falling out. It’s just become this kind of American dining experience (like TGI Friday’s, Applebee’s, Sizzler, Outback Steakhouse) that I avoid (not because I am snob, although if the shoe fits …), but because there are so many amazing independently owned restaurants in San Francisco, I couldn’t imagine eschewing them all in favor of a stop at a chain restaurant like the Cheesecake Factory.

And yet, everytime we have friends visiting from the U.K., without fail, they suggest dining there. These are friends that don’t know each other. Relatives that don’t know the friends. No common connection except for their Britishness. But they’re all on the same British Cheesecake Factory bandwagon. They don’t ask about any of the other chains, mind you. They save their love for Cheesecake Factory.

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Gordon Ramsey tries Girl Scout cookies

When I was living in the U.K., I really missed Girl Scout cookies and this general season of Thin Mints, Samoas (now better known as Caramel Delites) and Tagalongs. There was simply nothing like it in the U.K. Sure, they had biscuits, but none delivered via the tradition of Girl Scouts. I think that’s part of the beauty of them – they’re part tasty treat and part walk-down-memory-lane. And as a former Girl Scout, I look back on that time of knocking on doors and confirming cookie orders with such fondness!

And so I found it amusing to see Gordon Ramsey try Girl Scout cookies for the first time on Jimmy Kimmel’s show.

How do you feel about Girl Scout cookies? Yea or nay?

Piecaken

Piecaken

Photo by David Burke Fabrick

On this Thanksgiving, I have to share what has to be one of the most whacked out culinary ideas ever. Ever! Piecaken!

Think turducken – but with pie and cake! How does it work?

Essentially envelope a layer of cake batter around a fully cooked pie, bake it up and then frost the whole thing. It’s a deeply illogical Frankensteinian creation and seems wrong on all sorts of levels, but also kind of right. Of course, I must eat this. Maybe something to work up to next Thanksgiving?

At any rate, happy Thanksgiving! For those celebrating, have a wonderful turkey day with family and friends!

Gansevoort Market stop

British Bruffin

British Bruffin

We had booked a morning visit to the Whitney Museum of American Art, but I wanted to grab a quick bite to eat. Enter Gansevoort Market, an industrial food hall in the meatpacking district, brimming with coffee, baked goods, ice cream, pizza, lobster, macarons … just about everything you could imagine.

I went for a Bruffin – part brioche, part muffin – which could be ordered in a variety of flavors. I got the British, made with bacon and sharp cheddar and topped with a Union Jack flag. They reheated it so wasn’t as amazing as I’m sure it is when it’s fresh out of the oven, crisp and buttery. I’d get a fresh and hot one next time.

Then we stopped at Meyers of Keswick for a cup of tea. The Brit who took our order made a great cup of builder’s tea made with Yorkshire tea with the perfect amount of milk. It’s rare to be able to order a good cup of tea in the U.S., but this was the real deal.

Dining at The Spotted Pig

Spotted Pig

I’ve been wanting to eat at the Spotted Pig in NYC for quite awhile.

With British chef April Bloomfield at the helm, it has reached legendary status among celebrities and foodies alike and has shown the world over that British food can be tasty.

Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris eat at Spotted Pig

Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris eat at the Spotted Pig.

We came for dinner on Friday night around 7 p.m. and were told that it was a two to two-and-a-half hour wait. There don’t take reservations – ever. Only the opportunity to leave your cell number and, of course, there’s this great big beautiful city to browse while you are waiting.

We had a drink at the White Horse Tavern, which was nearby, and best known for being Dylan Thomas’s favorite watering hole (along with many other writers like Hunter S. Thompson, Jack Kerouac, James Baldwin, and the list goes on. It was a cash-only bar and felt like your average local pub in Britain.

Then we just took a stroll, making stops at Goorin Bros. Hat Shop and Sockerbit Swedish sweet shop, where we bought one of these for the holidays:

Swedish trolls

These gnomes are not edible.

It wasn’t until about 10 p.m. that they called our name. Score!

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