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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lunch With Beth–Crab Splurge

Beth and I were at Garden Restaurant at Kearny and Merchant (between Clay and Washington), where we usually order the Roast Duck and Barbecue Pork plate and an order of Duck Chow Fun, but when we learned that the Salt and Pepper Crab was only $28, we decided to splurge. Our waiter gave us a hard sell on a bowl of rice, but we opted for Deluxe Mixed Vegetables instead.

The vegetables arrived first, which gave us a change to appreciate them, and also kept us from being too hungry to truly appreciate the crab, which was amazing. And gorgeous. The vegetables were so inviting, and so good, that we almost forgot to take a picture before they were gone.

 

We expect to be splurging on more crab before the season is done. What's your favorite place to eat crab?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 14: O'Neill's Irish Pub, Kings Cross, London


Heya, Adventurers!  This is J.K.’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

My last outing in England was an inside-the-stone-circle tour of Stonehenge.  September, it turns out, is the high season for Stonehenge, so if you have a hankering to do more than walk up a path and stare from a distance, plan ahead.  Inner circle tours are limited; be prepared for an extremely early morning departure from London if you can’t get the late afternoon tour.

And yes, one of the quotes about Stonehenge on a wall in the new visitors center is from guitarist Nigel Tufnel.  You know the one.

My late afternoon in London was comprised of tourist highlights but for one thing.  Another new friend and I bailed at Earls Court (her stop) rather than sit in that day’s bad traffic, and she made me pose for the obligatory shot of pretending to enter the police box there (the original for Dr. Who’s TARDIS).  I got across town on the Underground and a walk just in time before the Temple Church closed to get photos of the effigy of William Marshal (the 1st Earl of Pembroke one).  Best.  Medieval knight.  Evah.  As regent for young Henry III, he reissued the Magna Carta, twice, after John got the Pope to excommunicate the Barons who engineered it.  He saved England from falling to the French at the Battle of Lincoln, when he was 70 years old (Richard the Lionheart had chewed him out once for climbing a siege ladder when he was in his 50s).  The US Naval Academy site has a lengthy essay on him.  Fascinating dude, on that Sandford maternal line family tree (him and two daughters).




The Temple Church is the church of the Templars, and they do play trippy music and sell Da Vinci Code stuff.  From there, the original Temple Bar is a short walk; it was the end of the day and I saw a couple of barristers walking down the street with their perukes in hand or a bad, looking as though they’d had long days before the courts.  Then to Trafalgar Square, and on to hear Big Ben peal, passing tourists taking selfies with a long-suffering decked-out guard at Downing Street.

Then back to Kings Cross, and supper at O'Neill's Irish Pub.  Wild boar and chorizo burger, with Irish cheese.  And a Guinness.  The burger was fabulous, flavorful with dense texture.  The chorizo was a thin slice, Spanish style, not the Mexican sausage type.  The Guinness, alas, wasn’t the original and it wasn’t room temperature.  Great way to finish a special day, though.



Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 13: Brough Castle Tea Room and Ice Cream Parlour



Heya, Adventurers!  This is J.K.’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

So my Wednesday in Cumbria was going to be a big day:  Setting foot in the actual ancestral village of Sandford, where Sandfords had been documented back to 1186 and were probably there earlier.  There’s a B&B and pub, the Sandford Arms, said to be on the spot of the long-vanished Sandford Manor.  Unfortunately, it was closed for lunch on Wednesdays, so I missed an opportunity to drink in the footsteps of my ancestors and have an ancestral village Tea Time Adventure.

The plaque I’d seen on Google maps street view that had looked like a marker for the original Manor was about local public footpaths and bike paths.  A gentleman unloading yardwork tools out of his car saw me photographing it, and struck up a conversation.  He grew up there, on his grandmother’s farm, and had never known any actual Sandfords.  (This related to a joke the cousins have passed around, regarding the “Sandford pate” on the pub’s menu, that we hoped it didn’t contain any actual Sandfords).  He did suggest that I continue walking that road over the hill and down to the River Eden.  I did, and got my glam shots of the ancestral countryside.

Meanwhile, I had gone back there, and there was no there there.  However, on a return look at the plaque (they call them “boards” in England), next to the “You are here” (you bet I was!) was a notation that said Sandford Manor.  That was just off the fork in the road, and I investigated.  There was one old barn, etc., but it didn’t look as though it could be original with an updated façade.  I took pix anyway.

Walking back toward the bus stop, I saw a suspiciously old-looking building and snapped that.  It had a typical stone garden wall, but at the corner of it was the ruin if something much, much taller.  It was “cob” (stones in a binding material), it looked ancient, and it could only have been the remnant of a Sandford Manor wall.  I’d gotten on the ground, and had actually found a little bit of there there!  This made the trip a little more than “Well, I set foot there!”  It had still been mostly an academic exercise, but our Sanford family in the States had touched the earliest known Sandford dwelling.

With no lunch (or WC stop) to be had in the village of Sandford, I walked down the road to Warcop.  There, where the local is now closed, a gentleman responded to my inquiries by inviting me in for a pit stop and then a cup of tea.  This was the delightful Joseph Richardson, wildlife photographer and campaigner to save the native red squirrel (article but not the promised photo at http://www.cwherald.com/a/archive/eden-man-provides-a-glimpse-intohidden-world-of-red-squirrel.247716.html; see http://www.wildfoxproductions.co.uk and I have to see if there's a US region version of the DVDs or hope he still has VHS tapes).

Since Joseph had some shopping to do in nearby Brough, he dropped me off at my destination there, after we exchanged contact info so we can be pen pals.  I am truly my grandfather’s daughter; Samuel Elliott Sanford traveled the world and made friends wherever he went.  I presume he had the same good taste in new friends.

At my final destination for the day, I had my Tea Time Adventure:  a burger made from local beef, the beef shorthorn (as opposed to the dairy shorthorn).  It was, as happened in the afternoons, clouded up, so I ate this and the green salad (with grapes!) inside amidst the livestock and ranch gear posters.  However, I could have eaten at the picnic tables outside the Brough Castle Farm Ice Cream Parlour & Tearoom.  Forget the stereotypes of Wimpy burgers you may have of England; this was another that had a dense texture and a full, beefy flavour.

And they promise their sundaes can make you more likely to get pregnant, if you're aiming at that.





As for the backdrop:  Whereas Brougham Castle, with only two more letters, is pronounced “Broom,” Brough Castle is pronounced “Bruff.”  Go figure.  It’s another Vieuxpont/Clifford castle restored by Lady Ann Clifford that fell into ruin anyway.  That may sound blasé but it’s not; I will be “digesting” my exposure to this big batch o’ family history in the Border Country for some time to come.

And remembering the burgers already digested.










Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 12: Indian Plaza, Penrith


Heya, Adventurers!  This is J.K.'s friend Beth on location in England and remembering from time to time to photograph meals.
On my last night in Penrith, I was ready for a sit-down meal that might include a taste of English roast beef. What I turned to instead, out of tiredness and deciding against a full European restaurant experience, was Indian Plaza.
I like saag. In the States it's a dish of creamed spinach with some chunks of lamb. At Indian Plaza, it was a lamb dish with spinach. Big difference. And it was very tasty. I started out with pakoras, which were a little chewy rather than crisp. I liked them.
I had garlic naan with the lamb, which here is called saagwalla.
The restaurant is next door to the cinema, and looks as though it used to be a movie theatre big lobby. There were interesting colored lights, the colors subtly changing one into another, shining from under a lip under the ceiling. The place was partitioned into a couple of squares, so there was more than one light show going on at any one time. The cinema next door had a poster for a broadcast to theatres live production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Gillian Anderson. Hope a film gets to the States some time, but I fear the drawls will be bad, or, worse yet, they'll do Southern characters speaking with English accents.
Overall ... I had a tasty meal, and know I will be nostalgic for saag, walla or not, that actually contains a more than decent amount of lamb. There's an Indian restaurant off I-80 in Dixon; I'll have to try that some time. Lamb capital of the USA, can you compete with the sheep country of Cumbria?






Thursday, December 11, 2014

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 11: Askham Hall


Heya, Adventurers!  This is J.K.’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

Wednesday in Cumbria meant my long-anticipated visit to Askham Hall.  This involved taking a bus to the Lowther Estate Office stop and walking a mile through beautiful English countryside studded with grazing sheep.

Askham Hall is a major Sandford site.  A Sandford and a Lowther show up as witnesses to a grant of a priory in 1186.  Before that, who knows?  William the Conqueror never conquered this far north, so no Domesday Book references.  My Sandfords lived in Askham Hall for one generation, when it was basically a pele (“peel”) tower that kept them safe from raiders.  Given that animals lived on the ground floor, Sir Edmund and Idonea L’Englys Sandford had about as much living space as I do today in my house in Oakland.  They had more “housemates,” too.

Edmund and Idonea bought the “starter” Askham Hall from the Swinburnes in 1373, and Sandfords lived there into the early 18th century, when the line “daughtered out” and the Lowthers came into possession of it.  My Edmund Jr. set up in Yorkshire with wife Katherine Ughtred (and that powerhouse castle-owning family tree).  A Sandford down the line built it out into the size and shape it is today.

The Lowthers have a family history in this valley of literally a thousand years.  They are the last major family left standing, and in addition to sheep and cattle they own attractions.  Nearby, they are rebuilding Lowther Castle and the gardens trampled by military training in World War II, as a tourist attraction.  The brother and sister team of Charles and Louisa opened Askham Hall as a hotel a year ago, and it’s become a major wedding destination.


And good for them!  Charles was gracious enough to meet me and give me a private tour.  There aren’t Sandfords around there anymore, and he was happy to meet one of the rare migratory ones returned to the nest.  He’s happy to be able to share a lovely place with the public, and he and Louisa have replaced great-grandfather’s portrait gallery in the main staircase with one of Louisa’s paintings and modern light fixtures to make the visuals more comfortable for a new generation.

One of the original (narrow stone) staircases is just off the room that was the first floor of the pele tower.  The chapel room has some of the original early 15th century paneling, which has been matched.  It’s now a dining hall in which Prince Phillip has eaten annually for 30 years (kathunk!  … sound of a dropped name).  Two degrees of separation now?

Charles is a cattle breeder who likes to run the fells, and, after a chat on genealogy, he left me in the café’s capable hands to head off for lunch and a run.  I said if he ever gets to Northern California, he might want to time the trip to do the Dipsea Race.  I wandered the gardens after enjoying this lovely ham and cheese toasty in the garden.  A raptor (looked like a redtail hawk without the red color) soared overhead, possibly from the nearby birds of prey centre.  It was a really happy family history day.


So, the 8th Earl of Lonsdale’s family (kathunk!) is well represented by a gracious and visionary modern man who didn’t even know he was in the California cuisine groove:  locally grown and sourced organic food and seasonal menus.  I’m glad I could not only hang, but represent my family well.

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 9: Angel Lane Chippie, Penrith


Heya, Adventurers!  This is J.K.’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

After my Teatime Adventure at Brougham Castle, I continued my circle with a stroll to the Mayburgh Henge, south of Penrith near Eamont Bridge.  It’s an earthen henge with a standing stone in the middle (apparently one of an original four), set in a cow pasture.  Wow, did it feel like being in church in there.  Stonehenge may be the glam spot, but this was a power spot.

After walking back into town and stowing my backpack in my room, I went to the town centre and found the Angel Lane Chippie.  Apparently it’s won awards consistently, and I can see why.


Basically, I discovered just how badly we Americans suck at fish and chips.  J.K. and I used to hit the Irish Bank regularly when I worked close enough to pop 'round for lunch, and their fish and chips always got high marks.  Here at the Angel Lane Chippie, though, I got an eight ounce piece of cod and chips that were simply delightful.  It was a Sunday evening, and there was no oil fatigue.  Everything tasted light and fresh, with perhaps a little bit of malty flavor to the breading.

Look at the picture:  the container was as deep as a Big Mac container but a bit over twice as wide.  This and a ten ounce Coke (because caffeine) for £6.35, maybe $10 US.  Of course, this isn’t in a big city, but if fish and chips is going to be one of your country’s signature dishes, you want it to be this good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 8: Smoked in the Lakes, Penrith


Heya, Adventurers!  This is J.K.’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

Having come across the storefront of Smoked, where the sandwiches looked tempting, after hours, I crossed my fingers that it just might be open the next day, which was a Sunday.  After all, I had a picnic lunch to score before setting off on a six-mile stroll around the lovely English countryside.

Well, this time I lucked out.  The door was open Sunday morning, but I wasn’t sure the shop was.  The owner hailed me, and said he was going to open today just so he could take Monday off. However, the trade laws said he had to wait till 10 in the morning, could I come back?  Indeed I could.  I wandered a bit, listening to the church bells.

I went back at 10, and had a lovely chat with Greg Forbes, the proprietor of this fine establishment.  He’s a former caterer who got the bug while smoking fish he’d caught on an outing.  He says he smokes with beech, so it’s a light smoke.  I told him about my kin in Texas, where smoke and barbecue means beef.  Greg said he once got a custom order for a brisket, on which he put a rub and vacuum sealed the cut for two days.  Another satisfied customer.  In his shop, he smokes about anything.  In addition to meats, fish and cheeses, there are olives (and olive oil) and the like.  He’s a nice guy, too!

So, for my picnic lunch, I bought a smoked duck breast sandwich with Cumberland relish and a packet of crisps.  For any of you reading this on a mobile device while in line at the Bi-Rite Market take-out, hold it tight so you don’t drop it when I tell you the sandwich was £2.95.  $4.75, tops.  Ah, the wailing and the gnashing of teeth! The smoked duck breast sandwich? Sho 'nuff boss chow.
  
And where did I savour this delight?  Here, at Brougham Castle, a mile and change outside Penrith.  This is up in the Border Country, now Scotland, now England, with each side raiding the other on a fairly regular basis.  Brougham (“Broom”) Castle was a Vieuxpont/Veteripont (and even spelled Vipont in places) stronghold.  Some of the men died young.  Robert rebelled against Henry III and died of wounds in a 1164 battle, leaving daughters Isabel and Idonea.  They came out smelling like roses, marrying into the families of their guardians.  For Isabel, it was Roger de Clifford, a marriage that really created a powerhouse family.  Roger was the Sheriff of Westmorland, and when he died, Isabel took over as Sheriffess (yee haw!).  She shared the financial proceeds that came along with her sister.  And, yes, they’re on a Sandford maternal line.

The big kahuna of the Clifford castles, though, was Lady Anne Clifford.  She had trouble inheriting because she was a woman, and fought uncles and brothers for a long time, in the mid-17th century.  Fortunately, she was successful, restored her castles, and moved about from one to the other.  She was stylin’ while my Sanfords were in considerably more Spartan accommodations in colonial Virginia.  Unfortunately, a grandson moved elsewhere and salvaged the roofing materials for his own new pad, and Brougham Castle became a ruin.  English Heritage keeps it a splendid ruin, though, and I got to eat my smoked duck sandwich where ancestors may have eaten smoked duck, too.  With something other than crisps.




Alice Medrich at Dandelion Chocolate's 12 Nights of Christmas

Dandelion Chocolate is repeating its successful 12 Nights of Chocolate, a benefit for the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. I went to Night 3, which featured Alice Medrich and recipes from her new cookbook, Flavor Flours, which focuses on matching the flavors of the non-wheat, gluten-free flours with complimentary ingredients, instead of trying to force them into substituting for wheat in existing recipes.

  

As soon as I arrived, I grabbed a seat with a good view, then purchased a cookbook and requested a cup of Dandelion's House Hot Chocolate, which I garnished with several of their house-made marshmallows. I'd make it the way Calvin does, but they (wisely) don't let me pour my own.
  
 Two views of my cup of hot chocolate
 We started with a trio of treats: Nibby Buckwheat Sablé, Chocolate Coconut Tartlet and a Peanut Crunch Brownie.
 Our second course was Camino Verde Soufflé with Cocoa Bean Cream. The Cream was infused with Dandelion's chocolate nibs, which were then strained out.
  

Last, but definitely not least, the Chocolate Tweed Torte, accompanied by Alice's House Truffle, and a slice of Dark and Spicy Pumpkin Loaf.
Adding to the bounty of the evening, we were given a bag of House Truffles to take home.
Check out the rest of the line-up, and let us know in the comments if you attend any of them!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 7: Breakfast at the Brandelhow Guest House, Penrith


Heya, Adventurers!  This is JK’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

Lanie and Mel at the Brandelhow Guest House have four breakfast specials (in addition to Continental buffet).  I had a proper English breakfast on my last morning there (eggs, bacon, tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, toast, baked beans), but I fortified myself for a significant outing with kidneys.  Stewed in tomatoes with potato cakes and an egg.  They are one of the gentle organ meats, and this version was indeed tasty.  And, I got points for going beyond any imagined American comfort zone.






Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 6: India Gate, Penrith


Heya, Adventurers! This is J.K.'s friend Beth on location in England, having adventures and remembering to take pictures of some of the meals.
My first night in Penrith, after a train ride with two transfers from Salisbury, the Italian restaurant the guest house proprietors recommended had a 45 minute wait because they had a large party. This was another building that looked modern on the outside but on the inside looked Tudor: low doorways and bent wooden frame. They used green oak for building because that could be worked, whereas seasoned oak is hard, hard, hard.

So I wandered and found India Gate, "modern Indian cuisine." The balti is a red curry stew cooked in one of these flat-bottomed cast iron pans used by Khyber Pass tribesmen. I had that and plain naan, and it was tasty and satisfying.





This was my first exposure to the practice of pushing papadums as appetizers. I passed because I was having a big piece of bread. I also passed on ordering rice for the same reason.

India Gate is well appointed and service is constant. There's a fancy section toward the front (up a flight of stairs), but I and others not dressed up for a Saturday night were seated in a rear section. It was still quite comfy.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 5: Haunch of Venison, Salisbury


Heya, Adventurers!  This is J.K.’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

When I walked down the hill from Old Sarum into New Sarum (Salisbury proper), I walked the river walk along the Avon down to the Cathedral for Evensong.  After a stop at my hotel room, I went back out to the Haunch of Venison, because venison and smoked bacon casserole.  It came with a serving of cabbage with bacon, so I was baconing out.

The Haunch of Venison is an old building, and the restaurant upstairs has a very uneven floor.  Parts of it were a church building, and it’s said to be haunted.  It’s quite charming with all its nooks and crannies.

Most of the venison pieces were tender, but a couple were a tad chewy.  The bacon was more flavoring in the gravy than distinct pieces in the casserole, but there was plenty of bacon amidst the cabbage.  For a beverage I had a local brew, Ringwood 49er ale.  It’s 4.9% alcohol by volume, and when they achieved that result, they decided to name it after the California Gold Rush.  An ale named for the California Gold Rush, in Wiltshire.  Go figure.



49er Ale Ready For Its Close-Up
I was up for dessert that night, so I had the Haunch Berry Mess, strawberries and blueberries with clotted cream and meringue. £22 altogether, not bad for a full meal.  (I’d decided to treat pounds like dollars and not worry about the exchange rate, since I’d already been nicked for that at the currency exchange in San Francisco.)




Thursday, November 20, 2014

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 4: Reeve the Baker, Salisbury

Heya, Adventurers!  This is J.K.’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

After my walk about the Avebury henge (stone circle, inner stones, earthen henge), I took a bus down to Salisbury.  The next morning I took one of the free walking tours.  It’s a lovely, lovely city, though I was a tad unnerved by seeing, among the flags flying in the market square, a Mexican flag.  It belonged to a burrito stand.

Needless to say, I skipped the burrito stand in favor of a Wiltshire pasty from Reeve the Baker.  Now, the Cornish are proud of their pasties and will say that you can’t call something like that from elsewhere a pasty.  Nonetheless, it made for a good lunch, flaky pastry around a beef and carrot filling.  For dessert, an almond paste and jam tart with a fondant frosting.  And a cappucino.  Somewhere between £5 and £6.  Reeve the Baker is a place to know about in Salisbury.  There’s the bakery, and a smaller take-out.


After that, I took the suggestion from someone at the Information Centre and did Old Sarum by taking a bus up (since it’s uphill) and walking back. Have you been to Salisbury? Got any secrets to share? Spill the beans Adventurers!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 3: Red Lion Pub, Avebury

Heya, Adventurers!  This is J.K.’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

On the road to Avebury you will likely pass the hillside with one of the older chalk horses, the Westbury chalk horse, carved out.  Locals added more during Victorian times, and I don’t know if that’s cheating or not.  It’s good that they keep them cleaned out, though; they’re a really fun sight.

When you get into Avebury, unless you’re coming from the north, you will drive in on a road that goes through one side of the circle.  It’s interesting that the edge of town grew up in the circle, a decent part of which survived the two major destructions of standing stones out of religious fears and superstitions.  The road takes a zig-zag to the right, and at the zig is the Red Lion Inn.  I had this dish of haddock with cream sauce, inside because the day was somewhat cool, but there are picnic tables at which you can eat with a good collection of stones in view.



The stones are really friendly to those who want to commune with them.  And lunch was tasty.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 2: Coach and Horses, Melton


Heya, Adventurers! This is J.K.’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

I have cousins in Colchester, Gary and Jen and daughter Emma. Emma has actually worked in the States and is a baseball fan, disappointed she didn’t get to go to a Giants game when she was on the West Coast. I made a standing promise to take her to one.

Gary and Jen have a friend, Pauline, who’s a docent at Sutton Hoo, a 6th century Saxon burial site north in Suffolk. The lady of the manor, who was something of a spiritualist, had a vision of a warrior standing on one of the many mounds on her property. She hired an archaeologist, Basil Brown, to do a dig.  He was good, but he didn’t have the degrees or affiliations to get treated with importance locally. When he went down to the pub after a day’s work, people would tease him by asking, “So what did you find today, Basil?” And one evening he answered by pulling out a big, beautiful gold belt buckle with really fine inlay work. No more teasing, even if he did have to put up with an important archaeologist who went to The Right Schools becoming the public figurehead.

They’ve now found three of these ship burials, with someone important being buried in each ship, laid out in the cabin with treasures. Those Saxons were trading with Byzantium, so there’s been some fabulous jewelry.

Between a site tour and Pauline’s special museum tour, we went out for lunch at the Coach and Horses pub in Melton, outside nearby Woodbridge (where Gary and Jen first met).  Pauline and I each had a smoked fish platter (trout, mackerel and salmon) that came with a dessert, a lemon posset with almond biscotti.  Salmon and mackerel and trout, oh my!  I went for a local brew, an Adnam summer bitters.  Yum.


 


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 1: Fish and Chips Outside the Tower of London


Heya, Adventurers!  This is J.K.’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

On my second day in London, I finally got to meet my adopted cousin Henry. Forget those Dos Equis commercials, Dr. Henry Ayshford Sanford is the most interesting man in the world, a brilliant polymath with a degree from Cambridge and a great uncle who was a fabulous art deco artist.  We’d been corresponding for years about Sanford family history and genealogy research. When the tale of the scrape (DNA evidence) proved we weren’t his Sanfords, he was quite disappointed. We told him not to go anywhere, because we thought he was incredibly cool and intended to adopt him.

We met at the Tower of London, outside the White Tower (William the Conqueror’s original building). England is, understandably, making a huge deal about the centennial of the Great War, and we encountered a living history sketch. An officer was recruiting stockbrokers for a new regiment, on the “pals” theory that men from the same class and profession would bond quickly as comrades in arms. He and his sergeant (a dead ringer for Rowan Atkinson in the Great War season of Blackadder) were doing their God and Country thing when they were interrupted by Sylvia Pankhurst, the suffragist.


“Let’s get out of here,” said Henry. “This is the 10th Fuisiliers. That’s my old regiment. They may recognize me and try to pull me into this.”

So, together we toured the White Tower, now an armour museum. He wanted to take me through the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula (in Chains), but it was closed for refurbishment. Many who roam the Bloody Tower with their heads tucked underneath their arms are buried there, and there’s a lovely modern memorial to them outside.

After chatting on a bench, Henry bid me cheerio until the next day, when he was giving Cousin Gary and me lunch. I spent the rest of the day at the Tower, which is quite fun.

Around closing time, I exited (or, in British fashion, should I say way outed?) and looked for something to eat. I saw people with fish and chips, and up the rise outside the Tower entrance I saw a small chippy tucked under a carpark promising fish and chips for £5 if you showed them your Tower ticket. I did, then tucked in, slanting my chair at the picnic table to have the backdrop above. As you can see, when they serve you fish in England, they don’t mess around.



When I went to toss my container in the dustbin, a lady offered me a seat, thinking I was bringing over my meal. I explained that I was done, and disposed of the container with my best Ringo line, “I like to keep Britain tidy.” They were finishing up, too. One of the daughters had just spent a day as a volunteer placing ceramic red poppies in the dry Tower moat. It’s an art installation, aiming at placing 888,245, one for each British or Commonwealth war casualty. A worthy endeavour, and a striking piece of art: you see a lot of poppies, turn a corner and see more, turn another corner and see even more. They flow down from a wall of the Tower as though in a waterfall.  Makes you stop and think.


Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 10 - Breakfast at the Brandlehow Guest House, Penrith


Heya, Adventurers!  This is J.K.’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

While in Penrith, I stayed at the Brandelhow Guest House, where Lanie and Mel Hancox have won Automobile Club awards for their breakfasts.  Deservedly so.  I had this egg with haddock cakes on a bed of leeks with hollandaise before catching a bus to Keswick (“Kezzick”) for a stroll.  It fortified me for a walk along Derwent Water (beautiful Lake District Lake), then up and over one of the fells (hill/mountain ridges) and on to the Castlerigg Stone Circle, which is a thousand years older than Stonehenge.

Now, at the top of the Walla Crag ridge, I had a couple of bars, so this backdrop doesn’t match the breakfast picture.  But what the hey.


Keswick is indeed a tourist town, though theirs aren’t as tourist-tacky as ours; there isn’t quite the souvenir t-shirt culture as in the States.  So, I wouldn’t take it as a knock when I apply the Carmel appellation and say Keswick is Carmel with fish and chips (like Santa Fe is Carmel with chile peppers, etc.).  I had a steak pie in a pub at the end of my day, but didn’t get a picture; I was too involved in a delightful conversation with a couple from Dorset who get to the Lakes often.







Monday, October 27, 2014

Red Sauce Meatballs


I finally caught up with Red Sauce Meatballs, at the Streat Food Park. The menu is short, but it covers everything that can be done with meatballs. I chose a one-of-each meatball sandwich, with cheese. Unfortunately, they were out of parmigiano, but the proprietor suggested a substitution of ricotta. It was messy, but tasty. The arugula on top is a nice touch, too. He also gave me a veggie ball to try. It, too, was excellent—a real veggie ball, not fake meat.

If you're not into meatball sandwiches, you can have them on pasta. And there is a bowl of meatballs for the low-carb crowd.





Oakland Chocolate Company

Nancy Nadel is not hiding Umpa Lumpas like Willy Wonka, but her Oakland Chocolate Company factory in Emeryville is a wonderland all the same. Our group (SF Bay Area Chocolate Meetup) booked a tour online and got to enjoy both a tasting and tour of her mini-masterpiece factory. The tasting takes place in her front room, furnished with a lovely wooden table and chairs and decorated with photos of Jamaica where Nancy sources all the cacao beans and some other ingredients that she uses in her chocolates.

Ready to taste!
and take notes/order chocolate
Oakland Chocolate Company is a bean to bar company. Nancy orders her big bags of beans and after delivery, she tests them for consistency and purity using a fancy slicing tool.



After the beans are sorted, they have the husks winnowed from the beans in this custom machine. One reoccurring theme in small chocolate factories is the lack of small batch equipment! So if you're a fabricator, get out there and fill the niche.


There is a myriad of other little machines in the kitchen and Nancy explains them all! Since we had a few knowledgeable people in our group the discussion was quite informative and there were a lot of questions.




tools of the trade

staying to the city code!

tempering Jamaican chocolate
Our tour included take home chocolate. Our choice of two bon bons/truffles and two bars. We also got to peruse her table of wares—usually you'll only find her set up at the Montclair Farmer's Market or at the Oakland Art Murmur/First Friday. Nancy also has a list of retail stores that carry specific products (but not the Oakland Chocolate Company's full line).
J.K.'s pick—rosebud bonbon (l) and rum raisin barrel (r)
J.K. goes for the classic bars
Angela's pick—cocoa tea (l)  and caramel (r)
Angela's pick—Same bars front

and back—Jamacian almond and black salt bars

JK and I both got some goodies from the product table as well!
There is a lot of local chocolate making that goes on in the Bay Area! From Dandelion and Charles Chocolates in the City, it's just a hop skip and jump over the bridge to Emeryville to find the Oakland Chocolate Company!

Do you want to book a tour? Here is Nancy's blurb about booking a tour (taken from the website)
"Our tasting room at the Beach Street location is ready for Small Group Tours and Tasting. Please call 510 545-2462 to make a reservation.  We suggest a month in advance of the desired date. The tasting room seats 12 comfortably. The Tasting and Tour Program includes tasting our Jamaican chocolates of different cacao concentrations and compare to another origin sample. Guests also receive 2 1-oz. bars of their choice and 2 truffles or bonbons. The tour of the facility includes a demonstration of fermented bean testing, a talk about how chocolate grows and how the export system works in Jamaica."

sorry this photo is so blurry!