ARC – A Literary Tea Party by Alison Walsh

36227307I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I absolutely love the ideas in this book. I am a book lover, but also a lover of the ideas and scenes in books. Cooking can be a great storytelling tactic. Everyone has to eat, and many memories can be shared over tea or scones, or scotch eggs for example. Recipes whose sole purpose is to transport you back to a specific scene in a novel that you found evocative is such a fantastic idea. Many of the recipes are from well-loved children’s’ books. This opens up such a wonderful opportunity to share something special with your child and make a memory. The recipes are easy to follow, and the pictures are lovely and well framed. The writing is concise and easy to understand. I thoroughly enjoyed the ideas and writing in this book and look forward to testing out some of these recipes with my own daughter when she is older. For now, I will have to make some Winnie the Pooh Hundred Acre Tea with her and watch the movies.

But First, Fifty Teas.

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. C.S Lewis

tea-m-1

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!”

71KVRzZ8OFL._SL1500_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 bmr-tea-1reakfast 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.
Tao of Tea Vanilla almond
Teavana – salt caramel tea
Teavana – Banana foster
Teavana – Peach tea
Strawberry Cream Tea Teavana – Too much hibiscus
Spiced vanilla chai blend – teachaiate
Vanilla tea from Camilla tea
Cinnamon tea from Camilla tea
lychee tea from Camilla tea
berry tea from Camilla tea
berry almond amaretto from Teavana
pineapple tea from Teavana
lime cola tea from Zoomdweebies.com
samurai chai mate from Teavana
maharaja chai mate from Teavana
dragonfruit devotion from Teavana- Yum from April
berry kiwi colada from Teavana
Peach Tea from Teavana
constant comment
house tea from Dragon tree
apricot creme from Thea.
Scottish breakfast tea
Twinnings Irish Breakfast
Tazo cinnamon spice tea
Tazo Organic Iced Green Tea
Teavana – Strawberry Sangria
Teavana – Fruit Bomba

 

Portland Bucket List

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.

  1. Eat at a food cart
    1. Do a food cart hop
    2. Do a bar hop
  2. Get caught in a downpour on your way home.
  3. Float the river
  4. Try worlds hottest fritter.
  5. try worlds largest pancake
  6. Swim in the Willamette
    1. Swim across the willamette
  7. Hike to the top of Multnomah Falls
    1. Hike to the bridge at the falls
  8. Eat all the donuts..
    1. Old Dirty Bastard at Voodoo Donuts.
      1. Better yet, do this at 2 am because why the hell not.762f8517dfefd20c695debfd6d7ce571
    2. Blue Star Donuts. All I can say is “yaaaaaaas Queen” You so fancy.o
    3. 180 Donuts. Their Instagram looks fabulous.
    4. Delicious Donuts
    5. Pips Original Donuts
  9. Have a Spanish coffee at Huber’s
  10. Go skiing in the summer
  11. Watch the sunset from the Bluffs
  12. Get lost in the corn maze on Sauvie Island
    1. Pick berries at sauvie island
  13. Wake up hoarse from all the yelling and screaming at a concert.
  14. Understand, conceptually, how to make beer
  15. Complain about gentrification
  16. Eat two dozen wings at Whiskey Soda Lounge while waiting for a table at Pok Pok… and drink about half a dozen whiskey sours.
  17. Be “that guy” on a distillery tour
  18. See the Vaux’s Swifts fly into Chapman School
  19. Go to a strip club
  20. See the West Coast’s oldest drag queen
  21. Talk your way out of getting fined on the MAX
  22. Read an entire book on the floor of Powell’s
  23. Smell the roses At the International Rose Test Garden.
  24. Poke around the Shanghai Tunnels
  25. Have an after-hours shot of fernet
  26. Listen to Elliott Smith while it’s raining
  27. Visit the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
  28. Have your “art” featured in a coffee shop
  29. Visit the largest park in city limits: Forest Park
  30. Buy pot. Legally.
  31. See a local comedy show
  32. Visit the ZooLights
  33. Visit Sunshine lights thing
  34. Visit the street of decorations
  35. Judge the people in line at Voodoo Doughnut
  36. Get a tattoo.
  37. Watch porn with a crowdSure, Hump! Film Festival.
  38. Watch the sunrise from Mount Tabor
  39. Watch the Naked Bike Ride
  40. Visit Pittock Mansion
  41. Visit the Japanese Garden
  42.  Chinese Garden
  43.  Rhododendron Garden
  44. Starks Vacuum Museum
  45. Go to a brewpub Movie Theater
  46. See the smallest park in the world
  47. Take a picture under the keep portland weird sign
  48. Visit the Witches castle in Forest Park
  49. See the Jetliner in the woods
  50. Visit the Towering Redwood Grove
  51. Visit Powells books
  52. Take a photo in the photo booth at Ace Hotel
  53. Get a picture of the Paul Bunyan Statue
  54. Visit the set of the Goonies House
  55. Get Pictures of Castle Rock
  56. Ride the aerial Tram
  57. Visit Detention Liquor
  58. Play Dark Mini-golf
  59. Visit the Belmont Goats
  60. Visit the Freakybutttrue Peculiarium
  61. Eat Dirty Fries at Lardos
  62. Tacos at Por Que no
  63. Pancakes at slappy cakes
  64. Eat Pigeon at Le Pigeon
  65. Eat ice cream at Salt and Straw
  66. High five the Unipiper
  67. Drink a flight of whiskey at Multnomah Whiskey Bar
    1. Highland Stillhouse

Excerpts of the above list were taken from a few different sources and collated into something that works for me. All credit given to the original authors:

  1. https://www.thrillist.com/lifestyle/portland/portland-bucket-list
  2. http://www.bestfoodfeed.com

An Egg-ceptional amount of Umami

 

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?), umami is 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.

IMG_0249-3
The Magnificent Koi Pond directly outside the tea house.
IMG_0239.jpg
The pathway leading into the tea-house

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.

7-SAV144-ChineseTeaEggs-400x597
I wasn’t kidding when I said they look like little works of art or a petrified dinosaur egg. Either works.

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.

The recipe that I have used in the past to make the traditional eggs is found at Saveur,  Chinese Tea Eggs (CHA YE DAN).

Chinese Tea Eggs (Cha Ye Dan)

Ingredients

12 cup soy sauce
12 cup sugar
12 tsp. whole black peppercorns
12 tsp. fennel seeds
8 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 sticks cinnamon
1 tbsp. loose-leaf smoked tea, such as lapsang souchong  (available from Amazon)
8 eggs

Instructions

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 12″ 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.

Life list item achieved – Made a Chinese tea egg.

The World in a Spoon of Cream

“Too much of a good thing can be wonderful!”
Mae West

DSC_0184.jpg

 

There are few things in this life of the mundane day to day that the average Joe or in my case Josephine could call decadent. I suppose it depends on your personal experience and perspective on life, but in my life not much is truly decadent. That may be a failing on my own part. But I try to bring out the joy, sexy-ness, gaity, exuberance, gratification, indulgence, rapture and ravagement in the most ordinary of things. I fail sometimes at this, but I am on a neverending quest to experience what I can in this world before I go…

All this is a round about way of asking, “Have you ever had the first scoop of cream from the top a glass bottle of cream from local grass fed Jersey Cows?”  It is a very specific sensation, very specific taste. Generally, we take cream for granted. Weird thought right? We put it in or coffee’s from little plastic hermetically sealed pop top containers. We don’t know where the hell they have come from, and they probably have been sitting on our Denny’s restaurant table for a week. This led me on an investigation of sorts. I wanted to try what real cream tasted like. From a fucking cow that was located in my own state, that ate grass. You would think that this would not be a lot to ask. I found it at a local “fancy” grocery store for 6 dollars a container. It came in a glass bottle and was so thick that it did not slosh around.

DSC_0187.jpgIn my first bite, I had an “aha” moment. “So this is what it should be about.” I don’t always buy a container of this cream, it is expensive and really it is not for cooking. It is for savoring. But when I can buy it, I always get my spoon ready for the first delicious bite. Imagine if butter and whole milk had a baby, and add in some sugar. It is almost like frosting, but not as sweet. If you are of the mind to try something new, I highly suggest this small decadent expenditure. I may make a cream-aholic out of you yet, than again a friend of mine tried it and said, “what the hell is this shit, it tastes like grass.” Your mileage may vary.

 

Odin’s Nuts

If great and mighty warriors that had been brought to Valhalla by the Valkyries after being slain in battles were to eat a tasty seasoned nut. THIS WOULD BE THE NUT. These nuts are not for the lighthearted, seriously, these are Odin’s nuts.

wn-truffle-marcona-almonds.png
Traderjoes.com

I present to you Trader Joe’s Truffle Marcona Almonds. But.. but they are Italian, and …almonds. Almonds do not scream Thor and Odin, and freaking Valhalla. Almonds do not make you want to run wildly down the street, wearing fur, chanting a warriors chant about to slay your foes. No! That is the realm of the majestic walnut.

Not this time!

A friend of mine gave me a few of these nuts at his house last week, and I took the bag and refused to give them back till I had consumed every last one of them. They really are the perfect taste. The Umami of the truffle salt paired with the sweeteness of the Marcona Almonds  is perfect. They are “beefy,” the food of a warrior and ridiculously good. I am on my fourth bag of them. Maybe I am not a warrior, but I am a viking inside and these make me want to go slay something. So folks, go out and make Odin proud by eating his nuts. They really are excellent.