I am in Love ( with Smushed Avocados that is !)

Ever since going to Mexico City about five years ago to visit number one daughter ( The svelte Blond) and her family ) I have become addicted to Avocados and poached eggs. And so it would appear that the rest of the world has also fallen in love with Avocados, at least.

According The  Telegraph a couple of months ago, the world demand for Avocados ( a Mexican staple) has caused Strikes in Mexico and a crime wave in New Zealand!

£128 million was spent in the U.K. On Avocados, which was more than what was spent on oranges, last year. The UK demand has risen by 1/3 year on year. Coupled with poor seasons in New Zealand and California Avocados have reached world high prices. The Mexican farmers obviously want their share of profits as well, hence the strike. The UK gets most of its Avocados from Chile, Israel, Peru and South Africa, but in the meantime there has been a drought in South Africa and China has put in a demand for 10,000 tons of the green fruit annually!

Theft from Avocado farms in New Zealand has become common place and in Australia some are equating Avocados with Cash! Hence the amusing picture from the Telegraph, taken outside an Australian supermarket! 

Many restaurants, both large and small now in London at least, have started serving this my current favourite breakfast.

I feel I am on a mission to find the perfect Avocado breakfast ( apart from me cooking it myself that is) ! Lardo in Condesa Mexico City is pretty much perfect, but sadly that is a tad too far to go for a regular “Fix”. The newish chain of “Bills” does a fairly satisfying version and there is one such restaurant just around the corner from my home. The Famous Ivy restaurant and now all of the “Baby” Ivy cafes also serve Avocado with poached eggs. This version I am less keen on as they serve it on toasted granary bread! Ugh! It goes soggy just looking at the smushed Avocado and when it is served with the poached eggs and a delicious sesame sauce, might just as well have the toast on the side as it ends up being a bit like a soggy bath time sponge!

My current favourite cafe in which to to eat my current favourite breakfast is Baker and Spice on Elizabeth Street, a smart street, halfway between Victoria and Sloane Square. Full of small independent shops and cafes, Baker and Spice is a cafe come bakery, come deli. A few tables inside and half a dozen or so outside which come supplied with blankets to snuggle under if the weather is chilly. Too lazy to smush your own Avocados? But want to eat at home, then head to Selfridges food hall and there one can find a Baker and Spice stand, selling much of what is available in their Elizabeth street store.


Last week however, for a birthday breakfast, we tried a new venue, not new in so much as, being physically new, and not New as a restaurant for us, but newish for us for breakfast. This is, a sister restaurant to The Wolseley. Fischer in Marylebone is much more low key than some of its other sister restaurants ( The Delaunay, Colbert, The Wolseley) it is based on an Austrian theme, more like a smart hunting lodge. And they now have Avocado breakfast! This time it was served on Sourdough with poached egg and a tomato salsa! Yummy, so now I have three go to places, Bills, being almost next door, Baker and Spice, ( the preferred one, but further to go) and Fischers ( walkable).

Above are some pictures taken in London recently and below two examples of Avocados on Sourdough toast.

Of course super simple to make at home but sometimes it is nice to be treated and eat out, especially when it is with the lovely willowy brunette.

Back to Sake No Hana

Back to Sake No Hana

cherry blossomSake No Hana has fast become my favourite Japanese restaurant and as such the willowy brunette and I ventured forth for a Sake Master class, which was held there a couple of weeks ago.

Willowy brunette declared that she had never even tasted sake previously but was ready for anything. We arrived at 10.15 at Sake No Hana , which is on St. James in London.  We were introduced to our two teachers, Christine Parkinson who is the head of wine for the Hakkasan group ( Sake no Hana is part of this group) and Anthony Rose, a former solicitor turned wine correspondent for the Telegraph. Both of them have been exploring all things Sake for the last ten years or so and have been judges at the Sake tastings in Japan.

Sake is basically Rice and water,  the process is probably no more complicated than Whisky or Rye or Vodka. Three quarters of all Sake made is of the FUTSU type, ie. the basic type of Sake. 22 % is of premium quality, 7 % of better premium and only 3% is of the top quality Sake. Hence the best Sake is fairly expensive. The better sake is made from rice that has had a larger % of rice polished. in its making.

An off shoot or rather  an unexpected bonus for sake makers, is because traditionally they mush the fermenting brew around with their hands, the skin on their hands is almost like that of a new-born. Consequently there are now many beauty products on the Japanese markets, using by products from sake .

During our morning lesson we tasted about 8 different sakes, including a sparkling one, which we all tried to classify in our own minds. Tizer was one description and Babycham was another.

Needless to say, there is a whole industry as well as tradition  surrounding everything Sake and below are just a few such items.

Then we were treated ( again) to the very special Sakura Menu, this is the menu created to celebrate Cherry Blossom season in Japan. It was the same menu as I had tasted previously, but this time I chose the Salmon ( the beef was better in my opinion) and the brunette chose the Tempura. We were served several more different Sakes with each course and so by the time lunch and Sake master class were over, I needed to go home for a snooze!!

 

Cafe Kranzler is dead

On our recent visit to Berlin, we went on a nostalgia trip around the city.

Himself was at University here a life time again, when indeed it was two cities, with the wall keep the two Germanys apart. Back then, on every street corner and in particular on the smart shopping streets were Konditoreis, where the black clad war widows ate their daily portion of Cafe Kuchen , ( coffee and cake). The most famous of these was Café Kranzler, we knew exactly where it was, on the Kurfürstendamm, not far from the equally famous Department Store Ka We De. We eventually saw the awning announcing the cafe, but wait a moment, didn’t it open onto the pavement? No! We had to climb 2 flights of stairs through a trendy clothing store to find, a small coffee bar and not Café Kranzler at all, and no cakes !!

Walking around it took us back to the late 60’s, on visiting the DDR one was obliged to exchange Deutsche Marks for DDR Marks, and could not change them back, they had to be spent. Shops were few and very un exciting, but we finally found a cafe, and although the cakes were not a patch on the western ones, at least we could spend our money.

Back to today. The traditional cafes were not to be seen, ( lots of Starbucks !) but not to be out done, we ventured into KA WA DA, which is still there and smarter than ever. Up on the top floor , we found a large cafeteria type restaurant, but very much up market, and what did they have? Cakes!!! And in abundance! Cakes are not something I usually crave, but we were on a mission, and it was hard to choose!!!

Having eaten at the Wonderful Facil, the previous night we went down market  and decided to go to a Beer Hall, more in keeping with München maybe but fun nonetheless. We had stopped for a drink previously and thought that the food looked copious to say the least, even if not refined.

The place was extremely popular with students and older people alike. The speciality seemed to be “Die Beste, Krosse Ganze Hinterhaxe vom Schweineschinken, ein gutes kilo, mit bayrisch Kraut !!! Translated as a whole pork shank, which weighs at least a kilo and comes with Sauerkraut!  It was indeed very popular, so much so, that I wonder if there are any pigs left!! And amazingly, the crackling was superb!

Me on the other hand, had the Weiner Schnitzle, which was great but I chose to forgo the Potato  and gherkin  warm salad and had Pommes Frites instead. Needless to say we did not have a starter nor a dessert. It was very much for old times sake and not something to experience everyday. It would appear that the beer hall very much catered for groups and students.

Berlin is a very nice city today, but although we stayed in Potzdammer Platz, which in the cold war days was very much a no mans land today it is smart and bustling. The hotel where we stayed was the venue of the recent Global female Leaders conference       ( read Ivanka Trump). The Berlin Bear could be seen in many guises. We toured around, though this time not on a bicycle, though the city is flat and bicycles are everywhere.

We saw what is left of the Wall, which is in the EAST side as well as Alexander Platz, which was the centre of the old East Berlin, along with its TV tower. Many of the residences  still date from the times of the DDR, rather austere and propaganda paintings on the walls.

We went to Potsdam, the city once the home of the Prussian Kings but more recently the site where Churchill, Truman and Stalin, met to decide the fate of Germany after WW2.

Today it is only 40 minutes on the train from berlin city centre and seems a little run down, remnants of the old East. However there si a Chateau worth seeing Chateau Sans Souci, which was the summer palace of  Frederick the Great. It was his answer to rival Versailles and is well worth a visit, but a guided tour only.

Bottom line? Berlin is a city with a wealth of history, easy to get around, either by bus, UBahn, S Bahn or of course Taxi.

 

The millionaires diet !

tableI have found the perfect diet!

Forget the calorie counting, forget the 5:2, forget the Atkins and the South Beach! Forget them all! The best way forward is the Millionaires Diet! The clue to succeeding with this diet, is to only eat in Michelin starred restaurants, a) because the portions are usually small and b) one can’t usually afford to eat in them everyday! Or alternatively go for the other sure thing diet ” And only keep Champagne in the refrigerator”

On our recent nostalgia trip to Berlin we ate in a two Star Michelin restaurant, and it has to be said that himself has been waxing lyrical about it ever since. To his mind it replaces his former favourite ” Indian Accents” in New Delhi ( a bit too far to revisit, maybe)

Facile was exceptional, I am sure that in our former life, we could not afford such an outing, but back in divided Berlin, maybe such a restaurant did not exist. Actually I do not remember too much about what we ate back then except for some amazing cakes, but that is not for this blog.

From the moment we arrived, it was just spectacular. The table decorations all beautiful and even though we were in the city centre, looking outside was just an array of garden lights.

W decided to take the tasting menu, simply because, such a menu usually show cases the chefs talents well. And from this, we both chose the Brown Crab, but himself chose the Grilled Mackerel, whilst I, the Venison, and for the main course there was Lamb. We could have chosen, 4 from the list or more, but thought that four savoury courses would more than suffice and we could always decide later on the dessert.

The wine we chose, ( although it says Stockholm on the bottle) was from the Baden region of Germany as well as a Graubunder White Wine from the Pfalz. Again this was nostalgia, having lived in Southern Germany when first married. We were served an assortment of breads, with these being the prettiest, along with some pre-dinner nibbles.

The picture on the left is just sheer invention, it looks like yellow caviar, but is in fact lemon . There is a Tofu chip and then a kind of lemon mascarpone cream with lemon caviar on top. The caviar is little balls, of intense flavour filled lemon , just amazing. The dish on the right is the brown crab  with grapefruit, basil and green asparagus.

Here, we have the grilled mackerel with turnips, kale and curry.  The middle picture is tartar of venison, with fois gras, apple and burdock root, and finally the veal sweetbreads with smoked eel , mushrooms and cider foam.

lamb

And finally the rump of lamb, which had been cooked sous vide, with some moussaka, whisky and cucumber and caramelized eggplant ( aubergine).

In the end we could not resist trying the dessert which was simply called Rhubarb. As himself loves rhubarb, it really became a no brainer., However it came with Gianduja chocolate, Sorrel and Yuzu ( the Japanese/Chinese/Korean citrus fruit )and as you can see from the photo, it was picture perfect. and then we were served some petits fours as well.

And finally a photograph from the entrance hall, as you can see, everything was done to perfection, BUT not in any way was it pretentious, there were like us couple dining as well as a group of 17 business people, but everything was calm, and if I ever go back to Berlin, it will be number one on my hit list !!

Facile

 

The Hiatus is over!

I have been taking a Hiatus from the kitchen for a while ( about 3 months to be precise). Himself has been cooking, under supervision, of course. However, I have a new gadget and I need to learn how to use it. It is a “Sous-Vide” device. Have not quiet worked out the “How and Why?”, ( am working on that aspect) but so far so good. Have cooked chicken breast, result moist and succulent. Ongelet,  ( Hanger Steak) a cheaper, but full of flavour steak, and last night rack of lamb. All it requires is some forward planning, which in my case is sometimes difficult, as I tend to open the refrigerator or freezer and say, Ha yes, that is what we will have for dinner!

But with a sous vide machine, food is cooked vacuumed packed in a water bath for several hours, hence the need for advance planning. Chicken Breast only needs an hour, Rack of Lamb 2, Onglet 6-8 and Lamb Shank a whopping 48 hours!! however, once it is set up and on, it needs no attention ( only if there is a power cut ) and only needs finishing when the timer beeps at you. For example, flash fry or grill the Onglet. Himself on first experiencing Onglet, cooked Sous-Vide, thought he was eating a very large Filet Mignon!

Onto this Sunday, I decided that the menu, ( all of which was either fresh in the refrigerator or frozen) would be sautéed Scallops and Shrimp, with a Sauce Vierge, Rack of Lamb with Herb Butter and Parmesan  and Wilted Baby Gem Lettuce, and followed by ( and desserts are not really my forté) a Satin Chocolate Mousse.scallops

Very often shops sell scallops without the coral, I personally prefer them with the coral attached. When I lived in Normandy I could buy then quiet cheaply in the shells in the local supermarket, but today they tend to be much more expensive.

Allow a minimum of 3 scallops per person as a starter. brush them lightly with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  heat a dry pan until it is very hot and sear the scallops on each side for a couple of minutes.  Finely chop together some green onions, some coriander, maybe a few basil leaves and a chopped tomato. Warm about 50 mls of olive oil in the pan and add  the above along with the juice of a lemon, spoon over the scallops and serve.rack of Lamb

This Rack of Lamb had been in the water bath at 134F for 2 hours. Then it was patted dry. A herb butter was made with soft unsalted butter, mixed with a clove of garlic, crushed and some chopped rosemary leaves and some herbes de Provence. The lamb then was seared on both sides in a hot pan, and  then browned for about three minutes, fatty side down. Pour over the herb butter, whilst till in the pan, spoon over the butter onto the rack on the plate and top with grated parmesan. For the wilted baby gem, simply wash, pat dry, cut into halves, and sauté in unsalted butter, turning once until wilted.choc mousse

This Chocolate mousse is called Satin, as it is very smooth and not so rich as a normal chocolate mousse as it only contains egg whites and not the yolks.

For this you will need

200 grams of 70% dark Chocolate broken into pieces.

pinch salt

a dash of vanilla essence

13/4 cups double cream ( about 400 mls)

3 egg whites stiffly beaten to stiff peak form

75 grams icing sugar. )

Pu the chocolate and cream into a pan and heat until just melted or can be melted in the microwave take care not to make it too hot, cool a little

Carefully stir the sugar into the egg whites, and then carefully stir the whites into the  chocolate mix that has been cooled for a while. Fold in with a spatula and then once all incorporated  spoon into glasses and chill until ready to serve. Can be decorated with chocolate bits, whipped cream, etc.

 

Bob Apétite

 

A mediocre dinner and an Outstanding dinner.

Easter Monday saw us and many others dining at Stoke Park Country club where we had all been playing golf in the Easter Cup Competition ( we did not win, nor even came close!) After the golf, there is always a dinner, which socially is always fun and the food usually very good as well.

This time though, not so good. For starters there was Paté, which I chose not to have, ( I had melon and Parma ham, no problem there,) but himself had the Paté, a biggish chunk, , which he commented ” I could taste it all night “. The main course was salmon, with Asparagus, Samphire and a champagne sauce. All very well, except the salmon was over cooked and had SLOPPY SKIN. Please, either serve it crispy or remove it, there is noting more disgusting that sloppy fish skin, and this was a second time in a row! Te dessert, which I also did not have, was a Bitter Chocolate Cremeux, Caramelized Banana Ice Cream and Toffee Sauce, which if you have a sweet tooth, as Himself does, then it was fabulous.

Onto our next dining experience, 5 years ago after the Japanese tsunami, we went to a Japanese restaurant in St. James London for a charity event, and we were blown away by the standard of food, service an everything about that evening.

Therefore we have been saying ever since, we must go back, and so this week we did. We went with friends one of whom is Japanese, one Dutch/ Brazilian, one Egyptian ( by birth) and three British. The restaurant in question is Sake No Hana and is on ST. James Street. There was a special menu for the Sakura Season. Sakura is Cherry Blossom and during the Cherry Blossom Season in Japan, it seems that the world revolves around it! And this was not different. Even the decor for the Sakura season are clouds of white and pink cherry blossoms.

The head Chef created a special Sakura menu, which included, of course, a Sakura Cocktail. This was composed of Sake, Vermouth, Cherry liqueur, Bold Aperitif and lavender bitters, beautiful decorated as well.Cocktail

Our starter was  Miso Soup, with Tofu cake, spring onion and something called wakame , which according to Wikipedia, is a sea vegetable, or edible seaweed. The tofu cake was I think fried and not soft white tofu, or it could have been smoked tofu.

Sushi, was next,  served in a box, I think representing a bento box. This consisted of Nigiri with Maguro (Tuna) and  Amaebi (Sweet shrimp), Maki with spicy Chirashi, Shiso Okra, and  Salmon, Along with Suzuki Sasa Sushi, which was Sea Bass wrapped in a bamboo leaf. All of these were delicious.sushi

For the next course we had options, we had the choice of Rib Eye beef Sumiyaki with chili Ponzu, Prawn and Vegetable Tempura, Salmon with Champagne Yuzo Miso or Agedashi Tofu. We were a party of 6 and strangely, without any consultation we all chose the beef. Beautifully presented and just a wonderful flavour.meat

It was at this point that the girls decided to have some Sake. Sake might be an acquired taste but smooth sake is quiet delicious and obviously goes very well with Japanese food. Our dessert was actually the pièce de resistance. It was a Cherry Chocolate Delice with Sakora Jelly, Bitter Chocolate and Sour Cherry, absolutely divine!!. They are having their special Sakura menu from now until June 10th. If you like Japanese food, or if you are a novice, then this is the one for you. Two of our group had never tried Japanese food previously, but loved it.

On a simpler note,  we have recently discovered Baker and Spice. They have a stand in Selfridge food hall, but we found their cafe, quiet by chance, one day when we were out and about. Yummy for lunch and very popular.

Can’t make it to the cafe, which is in Belgravia, Elizabeth St., halfway between Victoria and Sloane Square, then there is a deli or shop, in Chelsea, Maida Vale and Brighton

Lunches and a Dinner, a Late lunch, and Sunday Lunch.

So seem to have been out a lot recently, feast or famine or so it seems.This week saw us having lunch with Ray White, well actually at Raymond Blancs famous Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, in Great Milton Oxfordshire. Dinner at Stoke Park Cub, a girls lunch at the Swallow Street rooms ( part of Bentleys restaurant) in Swallow Street London, a very late Good Friday Lunch with the willowy brunette, lunch with friends in Sloane Square and Sunday Lunch with son and wife in Fulmer

Needless to say Le Manoir topped the list both for food and service, not to mention the location. This world-famous restaurant and hotel is now part of the Belmond group of hotels ( formerly Orient Express group). I love Le Manoir, ever since we returned to the UK, it has never failed. The service is exemplary , food delicious, they encourage children to come, as well as encourage photographs to be taken. Raymond’s eldest Son, Olivier  (Olly), happened to be in the same french class at school as my eldest daughter. The french master always took great delight in the filling in of the blancs in a french test by saying Remplir les Ollys! Very odd, but something that has always stuck in my mind.

We went with  friends and their friends, the sun shone and the gardens as well as the food was perfect ( apart form the constant arrival of guests, Via Helicopter!

The next visit was to The Swallow Street rooms, for a birthday girls lunch. This was wonderfully organised by the lovely Antonia for her Mum, and it turned out to be a complete surprise with girl friends descending from Belgium and far-flung places.

As Cate, the Mum, is from Wales originally, Antonia took the opportunity in her dad’s absence to have Lamb as the main course.c1

The Swallow Street rooms are a private dining room which seats 24 or so below Bentley’s. The room is made to look like a smart library with sage green Panelling and mirrors. Bentleys is the place to go for Oysters and people watching as it would seem that a lot of M.P.s go there as well!

Onto Stoke Park Country Club, for dinner with the older male members, a once a year event, which I have the impression is just an excuse to raise money for their drinking fund! However it is usually a very nice evening in good company. For dinner this year, the starter was poached salmon, which tested very nice, but to my mind it was a pity that they did not remove the skin, crispy skin is great but sloppy skin, on poached fish, Uh No No!, For the main course it was  Pork Cutlet with Ham and Swiss cheese, again I feel that the execution was not the best, it looked very dry and burnt at the edges. If this was me cooking it, I would make a pocket in the pork, fill it with goats cheese and wrap in Parma ham. Fortunately, I chose the alternative choice which although a bit skimpy was a far better dish, Salad with King Prawns. Dessert for those who have a penchant for Puds, AN apple crumble with Blackberries.

Onto Saturday Lunch. we went to Colbert on Sloane Square to have lunch with friends from the Cotswolds. Colbert is part of the group of London Restaurants run By Corbyn and King. Fortunately it is Jeremy King and Chris Corbyn ( and not Jeremy Corbyn, otherwise we might indeed be a bit concerned.)

Apart from Colbert, they also own  The Wolseley ( my favourite) The Delaunay, on Aldwych, Fischers in Marylebone, Brasserie Zédel in Piccadilly, The Beaumont a hotel in Mayfair, which won best hotel 2016, and within the hotel the American Bar and the Colony Club grill. There was one other, on Lower Regent Street, but they changed their format, and it just didn’t  work, it is no more. So all of the above have a similar theme, a grand European Brasserie type restaurant. Fischers, is based on an Austrian Theme, Brasserei Zédel, very much a french brasserie with a Prix Fix very good value menu.

Maybe I have just eaten out too many times in the recent past, plus himself is learning to cook, as I was left disappointed with my lunch. My starter salad was beetroot and goats cheese which i really liked, but when I see dressed crab on the menu, i expect os see A Dressed crab, not a tiny pile of crab on a plate for £17.00 and himself chose the Feuilletés Anchois as a starter, and expected the very least a small pastry case filled with Anchovies, but think again, it was just like Cheese Straws with a smidgen of Anchovy. I have to say that the Filet Americain however was good, or so he said. Our waiter was on the other hand surly, too quick to remove plates and generally did not seem to love his job. So not good marks I am afraid, they must do better.

Col1

Sunday Lunch on the other hand was for the most part what the Doctor ordered. We had, ham Hock Fritters and heritage tomato salad, followed by, Sausages and Mash, Smoked haddock fish cake with a poached egg, beer battered haddock and chips followed by a crumble and Ice cream. This was in The Black Horse, in Fulmer, a small very pretty village in Buckinghamshire, worth a visit, they have rooms lots of outside tables, parking and seem to serve food at least on a Sunday, pretty much all day.

And finally, it being Sunday, breakfast was cooked. A His and Hers.

His was Sautéed mushrooms on Toasted Sourdough Bread with Soft Poached Eggs, Rocket, Tomatoes, Chimichurri sauce and a Mexican spicy salsa.

Hers a bowl of Berries!

his and her