You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. C.S Lewis
Every year I set out to learn something new. I’ll be damned if I don’t have some personal growth every year of some sort. Besides, life is short or long depending on how you look at it; I am going to try to eeek out every experience I can before I die.
This process is really a hit or miss process.
One year I set out to learn everything I could about whiskey. I still don’t know my ass from my elbow when it comes to most whiskeys. However, I did learn quite a bit and sampled 27 different varieties till my impending motherhood put the kibosh on drinking. I would consider the whiskey drinking a bit of a miss only because of the kid but I did discover that I am indeed a 76-year-old British man deep down inside complete with tweed hat. You may call me Edmund Nigel Rickwillow III.
This is all a roundabout way to talk about my Tea challenge of 2013. Fifty teas in 365 days. No duplicates. Holy shit! How am I going to do that? With great joy and furious vigor that’s how. Annoying amounts of vigor
Typical household conversation while on the quest:
“Hey, honey I heard there is a tea shop that mixes their own teas a short fifty-mile drive from here.”
“It will be fun!”
“Yes, it will. Don’t
make that face.”
“Sweetie, please don’t hide in the bathroom. C’mon we are going on an adventure!”
Annoying amounts of vim and vigor! Hell, even I annoyed myself. But, I love to talk exhaustively about my current mission/goal that totally isn’t obsessive. Yes, it is still cool. Please be my friend. ahem.
Here is what I discovered. I think in the same way wine is very much up to the user’s palette so too is tea. Yes, there are flavors out there; blends, mixes, regional variations that impart greater richness to the flavor profile. Again much like wine. However, if you are someone who can not tell whether the tea was picked in rainy season or sunny, that the person who picked it wore gloves and there was dew present on the tea. Who gives a shit! The most wonderful part of tea I think, I only speak for me, is that it is a hug from the inside out. It feels good in your hands, it feels good in your mouth, it relaxes the soul and gives you a hug. That is what it is all about and frankly, I think we all need more hugs. Internal and externally. I’ve attached my exhaustive list of tea I tried below. Some were very good, some tasted like satan’s asshole.
Teavana English Breakfast served cold. Only had it hot. Yummmy
Peach Tea by Stash. Serious yum. Mixed it with regular
I had a delicious English breakfast at cafe brief across from the library. Researching the brand
sweetheart valentines day tea by Bigelow. Bleh. Cannot stand red-hot candies and this is reminiscent of them complete with red food coloring…
Teavana Lime tea
white chocolate tea from Bigelow. Kills my sweet tooth craving for chocolate. But it is not really sweet.
St. Dafour organic black cherry tea
adagio peach oolong
bengal spice celestial seasons tea is delicious. I adore cinnamon tea and this is perfect non-bitter tea
Teavana – Kona Pineapple pop. YUMMY!
Teavana – wild orange blossom. Way to bitter for my tastes
Teavana – Blueberry bliss
Teavana – Citrus Lavender sage
Teavana – Opus rouge
Teavana – Strawberry rose champagne
Teavana – Maharaja Chai Oolong
stash – decaf chocolate hazelnut
Red Leaf Tea Company – Maple matcha
Peach Apricot – The Tao of Tea at the Portland Chinese Garden
Mint lime Mojito – Zhena’s Gypsy Teas. I own this tea but never had it hot. Total meh
Lemon Zinger by celestial seasons. Yummy lemon. Going to try iced.
Teavana Wonderberry chocolate truffle. This I liked a lot. But mark deemed it from Satan’s Asshole.
I am never one to shy away from a bucket list or reading list of any sort or really.. anything numbered.
I feel like I haven’t been doing much of anything lately and that is rough on me psychologically. I suffer from “I need to get things done or my life is being wasted syndrome.” Followed closely by, “I’m tired and don’t want to get out of bed (depression)” and “I am to freaked out by the immensity of living that I am just going to curl up into the corner over here and rock back and forth (anxiety).” Basically it’s fun to do things, it’s fun to not be sad and it’s fun to be like, “I did that, I level up myself.” So I made a happy list that I will update regularly. Also, if anyone has any additions that I can add I would love that! I am all about trying stuff. If I end up trying it, ill write a post about it.
Tales from the tabler household.
Mmmmm raw bacon. Just needs a cardboard shovel and a nice chianti
“I was at the grocery store tonight. I’d had chicken fingers for dinner, but that didn’t quite do the trick: felt kinda snackish, figured some cold cuts would about hit the spot. Looked at my options, wasn’t feelin’ the salami or the prosciutto, so I grabbed something that looked kinda bacon-y.
Driving home, opened up my treat. Looked rather oilier than I had anticipated. Didn’t want to try and eat it with my fingers, but didn’t have anything really handy. So I tore a corner off of my chicken fingers box and used it for a kind of makeshift spoon.
Got home, snack finished. Looked again at the packaging. “Diced Pancetta.” Despite sitting – literally – between the salami and the prosciutto, it is not pre-cooked.
Turns out, my proudest moment is *not* the night I ate an entire package of diced raw bacon with a goddamn cardboard shovel. Somehow, the fact that it wasn’t just bacon, but fancy imported Italian bacon, isn’t helping. On the other hand, the cardboard shovel’s previous life as a fast food wrapper *does* make it a little worse.
All of this is a long way of saying that I can now be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Dune is a ridiculous book. Don’t hate on me for saying it. I only read the first book, so maybe in the sequels it gets less “odd.” I am not honestly sure. It is probably the perfect book for the sci fi lover who likes out there works like Dune and Octavia Butler. But, seriously. It was so ridiculous in parts that it made me giggle uncomfortably. The movie with Sting did not help much. Even if it was true 1980’s in all it’s glory.
That being said, the book has some seriously kick-ass quotes and the sand worms are awesome. I decided that the, “The Spice must flow,” is the quote for my spice wall. I have a lot of spices, some of which I have never used. But it is like tools, eventually you get around to using it for something. Besides, it gives me a chance to go out and make odd dishes for the hell of it. The moral of this story is “Must have many odd spices.”
I decided to make a wall of spice. I still want to get a picture of a sand worm instead of the cooking picture. But you get the point.
This is just a brief post to describe the wonders of the Mezzaluna. I love it so much I wrote a haiku:
It is shaped like the half moon
You get the idea.
I learned about this wonderful cooking tool while going to school in Italy, I had to make dinner for 25 people and did not have a knife. I sliced pounds and pounds of carrots, celery, basil, and fish with this baddy. It is shaped like a half moon and the user uses a rocking gesture to cut. I think it is originally used as a tool for cutting a chiffonade of herbs. However, I find that it is freaking awesome at cutting food for a toddler. And, it is fun. Much better than slice, slice, slice. I would do the quick chop, chop, chop. But I did not go to culinary school and I would like to keep all my fingers.
I always wondered what the magical fascination was about San Francisco. California’s great “northern” city that is actually located more or less in the middle of the state. I was so perplexed by the fascination that I purposefully skipped visiting San Francisco five or six times as I drove the length of California to my home in Oregon. It was too much of a pain in the ass to have to deal with the traffic, hills, and the expense. Let’s just say that I am more inclined to drive two hours out of my way to see The Jelly Belly Factory (I have a weird fetish for Jelly Bellies) than to visit the great city of fog and hills.
That being said, I had an opportunity to stay at a fancy schmancy hotel in downtown San Francisco while my husband was there on a business trip, so I took it. I lived THE life on the 26th floor over looking the plebs for an entire week.
I was alone for the first few days of the trip and my folks later joined us. I have found that the best way to embrace and/or experience a new city is to do it alone and on foot. We as a viewer miss so much of the richness of a city when we do it from the protected vantage point of a moving car. The sites, smells and sounds are muted. With this in mind, I tend to take things one step further and I try and get lost. It is a lot less scary than it sounds. Especially in the day and age of google maps and Uber. Yes, on my lost adventure I accidentally ended up at a gay/bondage book/fetish shop that was loudly and very unabashedly playing bondage gay porn on a 10′ by 10′ screen hanging in the air. The patron of the shop gladly pointed me to the right direction, I got a great story and a visual that will stay glued in my head for all eternity. Nothin says lovin like a man named Bernie wearing a studded collar, and green latex hot pants.
As you know if you have been following this blog at all, I have a weird fascination with lists and I found this one. The Best Dim Sum Restaurants in San Francisco Oh sweet jumpin jesus on a pogo stick I love dim sum. To me dim sum is Chinese for “way the hell too much food. Roll me out of here like Violet Beauregard.”
You are totally singing the Oompa Loompa song now aren’t you. C’mon admit it.
I knew on this particular trip I couldn’t possibly get to all the dim sum places on the list, that would be ridiculous and something I will totally do on another trip. My husband and I decided on Yak Sing. Both because of the nearness in location and because the menu looked amazing. This is the moment when I was introduced to the soup dumpling, and my life has never been the same. Have you ever loved something so much that you want to roll around in a pile of them like a golden retriever. No? umm, yea me neither. Moving on.
Yak Sing is world famous for their dumplings. I don’t think I will ever be able to recreate this recipe. It is insanely complicated and frankly, I just would rather have someone one feed me them while fanning me with palm fronds. Here is the recipe for it in case you are feeling really creative.
A 1″-diameter wooden dowel, a bench scraper, a ruler (optional); a bamboo steamer
ACTIVE: 3 HRSTOTAL: 4 HR 30 MIN
Place pork skin in a small stockpot or large saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil; drain and rinse with cold water. Slice skin lengthwise into 1″-wide strips, trimming any fat, then slice strips crosswise into about ¼”-wide pieces. Return skin to same stockpot and add bones, foot, scallions, ginger, wine, and 8 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, skim surface of any foam, and reduce heat. Simmer, skimming often, until liquid is almost opaque and reduced to 2 cups, 60−75 minutes.
Strain liquid into a 13×9″ baking dish; discard solids. Season with salt and chill until set, at least 2 hours and up to 3 days. If making ahead, cover soup with plastic wrap once jelled.
Mix ground pork, scallions, garlic, soy sauce, salt, wine, sugar, oil, ginger, and pepper with chopsticks in a medium bowl, stirring in one direction until it all comes together and a light film forms on the sides of bowl, about 20 seconds.
Cut a fine crosshatch pattern in jelled soup to create very small pieces (about ⅛” squares). Scrape into bowl with filling and mix to combine. Cover and chill until ready to use.
Place 3 cups flour in a medium bowl. Slowly drizzle in 1 cup very hot tap water, mixing constantly with chopsticks or a fork, until dough starts to hold together in shaggy pieces. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest 15 minutes (this allows flour to hydrate).
Add oil and mix until dough comes together and forms a shaggy ball. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking, until dough is very soft, smooth, supple, and just a little bit tacky, about 10 minutes. Dust dough lightly with flour and wrap in plastic. Let rest 1 hour.
Mix scallions, ginger, vinegar, and soy sauce in a small bowl; set aside.
Place several large cabbage leaves in steamer, leaving about a 1″ border around the sides for steam to travel through. Lightly coat cabbage with nonstick spray (a dumpling that sticks is a dumpling that tears) and set steamer next to work station.
Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time and keeping other pieces covered with plastic wrap, roll out dough with your palms to make 12″-long ropes.
Cut each rope into twelve 1″-pieces with bench scraper. Using a ruler as a guide means all your pieces will be the same size, resulting in uniform dumplings. You’ll look like a pro!
Working with 1 piece of dough at a time and keeping other pieces covered in plastic wrap (it’s important to keep the dough covered while you work because it dries out very easily), press your thumb into cut side of dough to flatten.
Dust very lightly with flour and use dowel to roll out into thin rounds, about 4″ in diameter—work from the center moving outward, applying slightly more pressure as you reach the edges to make them a little thinner. Cover with plastic.
Lay a wrapper across the upper part of your palm and bottom half of the fingers of your nondominant hand. Spoon 1 Tbsp. filling into wrapper, making sure to get some pieces of jelled soup.
Lightly spread out filling with the back of the spoon, leaving at least a ½” border. Spoon a couple more pieces of jelled soup into center of filling. Slightly cup your palm around dumpling and gently grasp edge of wrapper between your thumb and index finger. Position your other thumb and index finger ½” away in the same fashion.
Using fingertips on one hand, gently pull and stretch wrapper outward before bringing it in to meet opposite fingers. Carefully fold stretched area in on itself, creating a pleat. Pinch to seal.
Rotating dumpling as you work, repeat process to create a series of 18 pleats, leaving a small hole in the center. You’ll probably get only 10 or 12 pleats the first few times you do this; as your skill increases, so will your folds.
Cradle dumpling in your palm, gently rotating it and working filling upward so dumpling is shaped like a fig. This step elongates the dumpling, eliminating air between wrapper and filling.
Pinch edges together and gently twist to seal. Place dumpling in prepared steamer and cover with plastic wrap.
Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Work relatively quickly to keep edges of wrappers from drying out while you work.
Remove plastic wrap. Place steamer over a large skillet of rapidly boiling water, making sure water doesn’t touch steamer, and cover. Steam dumplings 8 minutes (10 if frozen). Serve directly from steamer with reserved dipping sauce alongside.
Do Ahead: Make and freeze dumplings 1 month ahead. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets that have been coated with nonstick spray. Cover with plastic wrap lightly coated with nonstick spray and freeze solid. Transfer to resealable plastic freezer bags. Steam directly from freezer.
Life list item achieved – Best dim Sum in San Francisco
A quick post today about the powers of umami and why eggs are so awesome, or what I like to call the “damn yummy. Get in my Belly,” taste . According to Wikipedia, “A loanword from the Japanese (うま味?), umamiis translated as “pleasant savory taste”” . Basically, Umami is why meat tastes so unctuous, fatty, and delicious. Or, why mushrooms taste so earthy and rich. It is a hard taste to describe. Take away sweet, salty (although salty and umami are usually paired), bitter, and sour: you will find the glory that is umami. I freaking love umami and I am a truffle-holic. If I lived in France and had a pig: hunting truffles would be my livelihood. Heck, I know that truffles grow in the pacific northwest but with my history I am more likely to find a piece of petrified cow dung and think it a truffle, than an actual truffle. I’ll explain in great detail about me accidentally ordering freeze-dried cow shit in a future post. It was hilarious… to my family..
One of my favorite recipes that revels in umami is Chinese Tea Eggs. Not only are they works of art when finished, they are delicious. I was at the Local Lan Su Chinese Garden taking in all the beauty when I got the opportunity to try a dish of these.
They are rather difficult to procure in Americanized Chinese restaurants. I have only seen them offered once and that was at the tea house at Lan Su. If you don’t try the eggs, the tea house and garden are reason enough to visit. Nestled in downtown Portland, upon entry you are transported to what seems like a cloud of serenity and balance. Outside is the hustle and bustle of bike messengers going upon their daily errands, and trains and/or buses taking the hurried passengers to their next stop. But inside, the walls keep out the sound and the glorious tea and eggs make it feel like you can breathe again. I kid you not. It is transportative.
However if you are not one to try making your own, a daily staple of mine that is both keto and delicious is hard-boiled eggs drenched in soy sauce and sesame oil. Amazing when you need something delicious to dance on your tongue and a nice jump from having scrambled eggs or egg salad all the time. I suggest serving them with a side of bacon, because everything tastes better with the noble swine.
1 tbsp. loose-leaf smoked tea, such as lapsang souchong (available from Amazon)
Bring soy sauce, sugar, peppercorns, fennel, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, and 2 cups water to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan; remove from heat and add tea. Let steep for 10 minutes. Pour marinade through a fine strainer into a bowl and keep warm. Place eggs in a 4-qt. saucepan; cover by 1⁄2″ with cold water. Place saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil; cover pan, remove from heat, and let sit until eggs are soft-boiled, about 5 minutes. Drain eggs. Crack shells all over but do not peel eggs; return to saucepan along with marinade. Bring to a boil and let cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 cups ice. Let cool in marinade before serving.