Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Can't Get to Paris? There's Always Euro Food Depot

I do wish I were in Paris now just to go food shopping before Christmas and New Year's. I've never been there this time of year but my fantasy is that the food shops are bursting with special delicacies that would make me even crazier with joy than I have been on past visits when nothing especially momentous was going on.

So, when my friend Stephanie Thompson sent me a note about a new place selling European foodstuff that just opened in Sorrento Valley/Mira Mesa I made a point of hightailing it over there to get a fix. Euro Food Depot, however, is only passingly a shop with a physical location. It's working its way into becoming the online gourmet food retailer its owners intend, but that won't happen until January. In the meantime (and probably once or twice a month once the site launches), the owners have set up a little delicatessen-style shop for locals in a warehouse. And that's where I found most of San Diego's French expats last Saturday.

The owners, Franck Danglard and Fabien Faucheux, have been in San Diego for years; Faucheux has been in the food and beverage industry, while Danglard has owned a variety of local businesses. Danglard's wife, Sandrine, explained that the goal is to get in the neighborhood of 600 delicatessen products--cheeses, sausages and other meats, seafood, condiments, candies, cookies, cakes, and beverages--to market at discount prices. In fact, many of the products I saw--they've got about 200 products in so far--can be found at other local shops and online, but Sandrine said that as a warehouse they can sell these products for much less than their competitors.

"We think we're about 20 percent or more cheaper than Whole Foods or Bristol Farms," she said.

Bernard'O's chef Patrick Ponsaty made a foie gras au torchon that Euro Food Depot is selling. And, there are the familiar pink boxes of nearby Opera Patisserie's light and lovely macarons. Sandrine noted that they're going to be on the hunt for other products made locally that can be included in their list of wares. Additionally, they welcome requests for products--and hope to be able to fulfill them with enough interest from customers.

So, what will you find? I'm basically going to give you an idea visually. Don't drool.

Enjoy these pommes dauphine sauteed in rendered duck fat, which Euro Food Depot also sells.

I picked up a bottle of French olive oil and white wine vinegar. The prices were quite good. I also came home with a trio of sheep, goat, and cow cheeses--La Vache de Chalais, Crottin de Champcol, and Perail Papillon--along with cured duck salami and a smooth rillettes de porc, both from Fabrique Delices.

Of course, you need cornichons to accompany them. These are Lutece brand and wonderfully crunchy and vinegary.

Euro Food Depot emphasizes French products, but you can find a variety of other European foods, like Spanish paprikas and rice, de Ceco egg noodles, and a good variety of dried beans. Not surprisingly, you can pick up containers of whole chestnuts, chestnut puree, and chestnut spread. There are chocolates, mustards, aioli, flavored syrups, crackers, sodas, dried forest muchrooms, escargot stuffed with garlic butter, truffle butter and oils, olives, and duck gizzards. Sandrine loves these sauteed in butter and topped on a salad for a Salad Landaise, a specialty of Southwest France. Slice some fresh pate to spread on toast and you've got a great meal.

Euro Food Depot will be open Wednesday, Dec. 23 and Wednesday, Dec. 30 so you can pick up treats for Christmas and New Year's. Then, stay tuned for their online launch in the new year, and their monthly Saturday store opportunities.

Euro Food Depot is located at 6370 Lusk Blvd., off of Mira Mesa Blvd. The phone number is 858-452-9200. You can also reach them at sales@eurofooddepot.com.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Clay Pot Cooking: Food of the Soul

The first clay pot Paula Wolfert purchased was an earthy, full-figured tripière, a pot used for cooking tripe. Wolfert was all of 19 and was attracted to the pot because of its looks; she didn’t even know what tripe was. But, it sparked a life-long passion for clay pots and the techniques for cooking in them. Today, Wolfert is the author of eight cookbooks and the recipient of numerous awards, including the James Beard Award, the Julia Child Award, and the M.F.K. Fisher Award. In 2008, the James Beard Foundation inducted her work into the Cookbook Hall of Fame.

If you don’t already know Wolfert, you should get acquainted now. Back in the 1970s, she introduced eastern Mediterranean foods to Americans, including San Diegans. Along with Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, Wolfert taught at The Perfect Pan Cooking School, San Diego’s culinary focal point in the late 70s and 80s.

Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking: Traditional and Modern Recipes to Savor and Share
Her new book, Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking, collects all the tidbits and techniques she’s learned through her travels and years of living in Morocco and brings them to us, home cooks looking to transform the basic ingredients of a meal into something sublime. Wolfert says she was looking for the oldest dishes made in the Mediterranean that are still being cooked. These are the important dishes and they’re truly the ultimate in slow-food cooking.

The original title of the book was supposed to be Confessions of a Clay-Pot Junkie and it’s easy to understand her addiction. I’m the same about teapots. It’s all about the textures, the curves, the colors. And how the properties specific to the elements these beautiful pieces are composed of dictate the results of what we ultimately eat and drink.

“Food cooked in clay tastes different,” she says. “Especially in unglazed and micaceous clay pots. It cuts down on the bitterness of foods. There’s a sweetness to it. And, the way the food cooks in clay holds its shape better and holds in nutrients differently than when food is boiled or fried. A metal pot is inert. An unglazed earthen pot brings out more flavor and even absorbs flavor.”

Wolfert is most fond of stovetop cooking and the book’s recipes reflect that, although it includes many recipes for oven cooking. An inexpensive Chinese sandpot on the stove on low heat can cradle simple small Yukon gold potatoes with sea salt. “Shake them in the pot from time to time,” she instructs. “The moisture from the potatoes stay inside. Or, cube peeled butternut squash and put them in a sandpot and cook it slowly at low heat. The voluptuousness and flavor of the squash comes out. The moisture stays inside.” The latter is  the beginnings of her “Pumpkin Soup with Creamy Roquefort.”

One of my favorite recipes in the book is the “Garlic and Egg Soup as Prepared in the Aragon.” Years ago, I used to eat something similar at a little Spanish restaurant called Iruñas in Cambridge, Mass. It’s a very simple recipe that uses an inexpensive Spanish cazuela. Slowly sauté sliced garlic, add dried bread cubes and fry them. Season with pimentón de la Vera (smoked Spanish paprika). Add hot water to cover the bread and cook until the soup is thickened. Season it with salt and pepper, then break a couple of eggs into the cazuela, place it in a pre-heated 300-degree oven and bake for about five minutes until the whites are set and the yolks still runny. Delicious.

In her book, Wolfert details the variety of pots, the differences between the types of clay, and how best to use each kind of vessel. She explains that unglazed earthenware pots “coddle food, bringing out bright natural flavors and aromas…” Stoneware, which is high fired and usually glazed, is wonderful for oven baking, but should never be used on top of the stove. Many of us already are using clay for cooking but not thinking of it that way. Your Emile Henry casserole dishes are ceramic, for instance. So, is the insert in your crockpot.

But wait. Wolfert doesn’t equate cooking in a crockpot to cooking with clay pots. “The problem with the crockpot is that it makes everything steamy because of the high walls and the metal on the outside,” she explains. “The heat goes out first and then back to the clay. That’s why it takes seven or eight hours to cook something. With a glass cover, there’s no way for the steam to get out or allow some evaporation.”

Using a Moroccan tagine, however, creates a different slow cooking environment. Tagines, with their shallow base and typically high conical or dome-shaped cover, are meant for stovetop cooking. The cover is like a closed chimney. Moisture goes up the dome and falls down onto the food, which is receiving bottom-up heat.

La Chamba Clay Casserole, Large
So, if you are curious about clay-pot cooking and want to buy a few pieces to start, which do you select? Wolfert jokes that you can give up prime rib and buy spareribs. With the price difference, you can buy a sandpot. Instead of leg of lamb, buy a shoulder and a cazuela. Substitute another expensive cut of meat with something cheaper and get a tagine. Or move into a Korean clay pot or a bean pot. Many of these pots are interchangeable in terms of function. Among Wolfert’s favorite pots are the Catalon Le Flambadou casserole and the smooth black La Chamba casserole. You can find online sources for all of these in the book.

When I mentioned my intention of buying from local potters, she was quick, however, to warn that potters who work with lead-based glazes and who are baking clay at home kilns may not be able to reach a high enough temperature when they fire their pots. That could result in lead leaching into food. It’s why she also doesn’t recommend people buy Mexican pottery for cooking, even cazuelas. There’s no color in the glaze, but some of the Mexican cazuelas use additional color glazes for decoration, which could cause problems.

Wolfert’s hugely enthusiastic about the new flameware pots coming out. These very practical flameproof ceramic cookware pieces contain mineral elements that prevent the vessels from expanding and contracting with sudden changes in temperature, which allows them to be used over direct heat on a stovetop or even under the broiler. “It doesn’t give you the taste of the earth,” Wolfert says,” but it cooks evenly and beautifully.”

Emile Henry has a new line of Flame-Top Ceramics. Nigella Lawson also has a line. And, there are vendors selling their own versions online, including claycoyote.com and Bill Sax.

Now those home cooks who have gas burners or traditional electric coil burners should be fine with stovetop clay pot cooking (you’ll need a diffuser with electric burners, of course). But those who, like me, have a ceramic cooktop will have to take a different route. You can’t put the clay pots directly on the cooktop and my research (and a call to Maytag customer service, which is the manufacturer of my stove) determined that you can’t use a diffuser either. Wolfert patiently helped me through this challenge, and at her suggestion, I ended up buying a CucinaPro 12-inch Griddle and Crepe Maker. The griddle acts as a diffuser. You get great temperature control and the heat can go up to 450 degrees. I used it to make the “Clay Pot-Roasted Eggplant with Cheese” and admittedly it takes longer, but it worked beautifully.

Yes, it all takes longer. Clay pot cooking just takes awhile and requires some patience, but it yields magnificent flavors and textures you won’t get from metal. “I’ve been cooking in clay for 50 years,” says Wolfert. “I do notice the difference. But you have to put in the extra time.”

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Cookbooks for Under the Tree

My shelves are bulging with cookbooks. They've spread to create stacks on my kitchen table, and have migrated to my living room coffee table and the desk in my office. And yet I continue to indulge in more and more of them. There's always that special, must-make recipe. The gorgeous photos. The worthy technique or unusual ingredient combination. The riveting stories. This year, I found myself in a bread-baking mode and discovered some new takes on ethnic cuisines and even standard fare that has me wanting to simply move into my kitchen and never leave. Here are some that particularly caught my fancy and that you might want to give as gifts to your favorite foodies:

Flying Pans:Two Chefs, One WorldFlying Pans: Two Chefs, One World by Bernard Guillas and Ron Oliver. What a wonderful concept this is by two chefs local to San Diego. Guillas and Oliver are mainstays at The Marine Room, but they are also globe trotters, who realized that between them they've been to 40 countries. So, they wrote a cookbook that reflects and was inspired by their journeys. The collaboration resulted in a gorgeously photographed book with a fascinatingly eclectic collection of recipes meant to be made by the home cook. Hurray for the Apricot Ginger Glazed Tasmanian Salmon with its pistachio and Madras curry crust. I'm still enjoying the memory of the Isla de Vieques Vanilla Spiced Shrimp with Chickpea Salad and Annatto Pineapple Emulsion. And, oh, the Amarula Creme Brulee. I'll be returning to this book again and again.

The Elements of Life: A Contemporary Guide to Thai Recipes and Traditions for Healthier LivingThe Elements of Life by Su-Mei Yu. Su-Mei Yu and her Thai restaurant Saffron are San Diego fixtures. I'm mad for her Thai barbecue chicken with peanut sauce and her drunken noodles. So, when I learned she had a new cookbook, I was ready to leap into it and try out her dishes. But, Su-Mei didn't just write a cookbook; she wrote a philosophy of living and eating that integrates people's "home elements" -- fire, water, wind, and earth. Her belief is that we can improve our health and spiritual well-being if we cook foods that satisfy our individual home element in combination with the time of day and the weather. The cookbook takes the reader from determining their own home element through understanding how to plan meals around it. And, then you get the recipes. It's all about balance, fresh fruits and vegetables, and common sense. And, it's all packaged in a beautiful, elegant book that also includes several "recipes" for outer bliss -- a watermelon, yogurt, honey, lemon juice, and cucumber mask; a rose and patchouli hand and foot rub; and cucumber, papaya, and chamomile facial mask. Joy for your inner and outer self.

Soaked, Slathered, and Seasoned: A Complete Guide to Flavoring Food for the GrillSoaked, Slathered, and Seasoned: A Complete Guide to Flavoring Food for the Grill by Elizabeth Karmel. Okay, I'll admit, I haven't made any of the recipes from this book yet. But I'm going to. I've met Karmel and she's a real kick. And a very savvy woman who knows grilling and barbecue. These sauces and marinades, brines and glazes, mops and jellies look irresistible. And, for those of us who enjoy a little grill work, they'll be great inspiration not just for summer cooking outdoors but stovetop grilling in this chilly season. Plus, Karmel does a good job of providing extra little tips about sauce shelf life, the right way to use a rub, and useful cook's tools. I like it.

Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free IngredientsHealthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. & Zoe Francois. The authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day have put a new twist on their bread baking in 5 concept. These breads feature whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and gluten-free ingredients. Because of that, they are more challenging. Baking with whole wheat flour can result in a heavy, dense bread. But, the duo--who are terrific at explaining in simple terms the science behind the technique--have created recipes that are tasty and easy to make. Try the Whole Grain Garlic Knots with Parsley and Olive Oil and riff on the Oven-Baked Whole Grain Pizza with Roasted Red Peppers and Fontina. I'm still intrigued by the Red Beet Buns and the Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country GirlThe Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond. Ree Drummond has a huge following for her blog, The Pioneer Woman. So it was no surprise that her cookbook would be such a hit. This is part family story telling with lots of photography and part a collection of recipes of food that would fill up a hungry cowboy--like her husband, whom she refers to as Marlboro Man. You'll meet him; their four kids; the horses; Charlie, the basset hound; and even the cattle on their Oklahoma ranch. And, you'll learn how she feeds her cowboy clan--with the expected: Fried Chicken, Buttermilk Biscuits, and Braised Beef Brisket. And, some unexpected treats, like Burgundy Mushrooms, Potato-Leek Pizza, and Sangria. Enjoy a hearty helping!

The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook: 101 Asian Recipes Simple Enough for Tonight's DinnerThe Steamy Kitchen Cookbook by Jaden Hair. Like her friend Ree Drummond, Jaden's Steamy Kitchen blog has catapulted Jaden into the mainstream media food world. Her beautifully photographed Asian recipes are completely accessible to the home cook, and she gives precise, step-by-step instructions to create beautiful dishes such as Mom's Famous Crispy Eggrolls, Clams Sauteed in Garlic and Black Bean Sauce, and Korean Jap Chae Noodles with Beef. I've been mesmerized by Jaden's recipes for years and I'm glad she has some of her best collected in this beautiful book.

Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking: Traditional and Modern Recipes to Savor and ShareFinally, there's a new favorite of mine, Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking by Paula Wolfert. I'm not going to say much about it here because I've got a full piece on it that I'll post in a couple of days. But, let me just say that if you are a "slow food" fan, this is your kind of book. Wolfert has pulled together a career's worth of tips and techniques gleaned from her life writing about Mediterranean cooking and a passion for clay pots to create a compendium of magnificent recipes for home cooks who want to take the time to let the elements of clay and fresh ingredients work their magic. Cooking in a clay pot creates a dish with a very different flavor and texture than cooking in metal. Wolfert shares her love of this cooking style with updated versions of recipes that have been made for generations -- and for good reason.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cheers & Thanks: Food 4 Kids Backpack Program Fundraiser a Huge Success!

For days I've been trying to figure out the most eloquent way to thank everyone who had a part in the inaugural San Diego Food Bank Food 4 Kids Backpack Program food blogger fundraiser. I'm not sure what I was really hoping for when we first started planning it. But, I truly didn't expect the outpouring of support we--and by "we" I mean Alice Robertson (aliceqfoodie) and I--received.

We got the full social media avalanche--bloggers wrote posts about the project, friends on Twitter tweeted our activities and incremental successes, and many people we didn't know retweeted them. It went on Facebook. And, before we knew it, we had money and backpacks and food coming in.

Alice had set our fundraising goal on firstgiving.com at $5,000. We've raised over $6,000--in the course of just three weeks. That was through a combination of individual checks sent to the Food Bank, firstgiving.com donations you made (that page is open through May, by the way), and the generosity of two restaurants. Matt and Jacqueline Rimel, who own Rimels and Zenbu, offered to give us a dollar for every "hot rock" dish on their menu they sold through Dec. 12. They're sending the Food Bank a check for $75. They also contributed gift cards for our raffle. Thank you very much, Matt and Jacqueline!

Then there was Urban Solace. Owners Matt Gordon and Scott Watkins adopted this project early on and made it their own. They offered to give us a dollar for every mac 'n cheese or duckaroni entree they sold, they gave us gift cards for the raffle, and they encouraged customers to bring in non-perishable food. On Saturday, they came out to our booth at the Little Italy Mercato with a check for $300. I said on Twitter that they're the greatest. They are. Simple as that. Thank you!

That brings me to our Dec. 12 collection day at the Little Italy Mercato, which Mercato manager Catt Fields White orchestrated for us. She provided a tent, tables, and chairs--already set up for us that morning. In the rain. ("In the rain" is a big theme for what happened that day.) And, she promoted the hell out of it. Plus, she and husband Jerome made a financial donation. We are so grateful to you, Catt!

And, in the rain, despite the rain, several volunteers came out to help Alice, Trisha Gooch of the Food Bank, and me. Thank you to Barbara Metz, Amanda Simpson, Rachel Going, Angie Vorhies, and Quinn Farrar Wilson for so enthusiastically enduring such miserable weather!

They weren't the only ones who made a point of joining us that day. The amazing Lori Lange (Recipe Girl) not only made a donation, her young son Brooks contributed. And the two rounded up the neighborhood and Brooks' school. The Gustinis, Coopers, and Haynes families collected and contributed baskets and bags of food for the kids.

See those full barrels? We had seven of them, plus tables, overflowing with nonperishable food--in the rain! It ended up totalling 628 pounds of food. We had a brownie troop from Scripps Ranch show up with their collection and a number of individuals all contributing food and cash. Thank you very much, and especially Lori and her friend Robin Gustini!

There was also a behind-the-scenes solicitation that will make a huge difference. My friend Amiko Gubbins, now a chef at Sysco, contributed a whopping $250 on her own and started collecting backpacks and food from her neighbors and co-workers. Then she approached her boss about making a contribution. Well, it turns out he's on the Food Bank's board. The result is that Sysco trucks will be delivering food to fill the 1,000 backpacks donated independently by skateboard marvel Tony Hawk. Thank you Amiko and Sysco! Your generosity is simply stunning.

Something that helped make this fundraiser such a success was the wide range of contributions we received for our raffle. We had foodies, chefs, restaurateurs, photographers... all sorts of people who love food and care about children... participating. Thank you very much for sharing your goods, services, time, and heart to encourage people to give. A complete list of those donations is on Alice's blog. We truly appreciate you!

And, finally, I want to thank the magnificent Alice Robertson for being such a wonderful partner in this effort. She worked incredibly hard in so many ways to make this a success. I'm looking forward to our next event. We'll be doing this again in the summer to launch the new school year. We'll have more time to plan and hope to bring you on board again to help us feed hungry kids.

Until then, however you helped, your help was appreciated and will make a big difference!

Thank you!

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

South Park's Halcyon Tea: Comfort in a Cup

Most of us take tea for granted. If you're not picky about quality, you can pick up a cheap oolong or Darjeeling on the shelves of your local supermarket. When I first started experimenting with teas, I was just out of college and living in Manhattan. I discovered green tea and bought tins of it at Pier One Imports, back when they sold housewares. I have a palpable memory of sitting at the little table of my little fifth-floor walk up overlooking Riverside Dr., the Hudson River, and toward the Palisades on the New Jersey side. On the table was a little yellow teapot my grandmother had given me filled with a sourish green tea, a clear stubby looking glass mug from one of the Bazaar shops that used be in most Manhattan neighborhoods, and a big bag of potato chips. I don't know why I thought they went together, but this was how I spent hours on weekends in the winter as I reviewed manuscripts from my job in the literary department at the William Morris Agency. It was bliss.

Over the years I'd like to think my taste and knowledge have evolved. For years I've ordered a wide assortment of mostly green and white teas online from Upton Tea Imports and have enjoyed buying teas where I've traveled. But, it really wasn't until just recently that I got the tea education I turned out to have been lacking. And, some wonderful teas to test this new-found knowledge. And, I have to credit James Bowman and his year-old Halcyon Tea shop for that.

The shop is on Beech St. between 30th and Fern, just around the corner from Alchemy, which I learned serves Bowman's teas. Halcyon Tea is modest looking and eco-friendly.

There are shelves displaying all sorts of tea pots and paraphernalia, as well as Zojirushi water dispensers (more about them momentarily), and, behind the counter, row upon row of stainless steel containers holding some of the most fragrant teas you can imagine. At the front of the shop are some comfy chairs around a little coffee table. And, in the back are a couple of chairs along the counter that customers can sit in while they taste test teas.

So, you get the picture. It's not Harrods at high tea. It's a neighborhood retail shop where you can enjoy some tea but really come to buy it. Bowman has about 60 teas at any one time from around the world, including a number of single-origin teas. "I wanted to create a tightly curated list of teas," he explained. "It can be too overwhelming to customers to have too many choices and how do you keep the tea fresh? I wanted this to be as accessible to customers as possible."

You can sit at the counter and chat with Bowman about the types of teas you like -- green, oolong, herbal, whatever -- and with his product list, you can choose some to try. I love green teas so I started with the fukamaishi, which is new to the store. It's a sencha that is deeply steamed -- a Japanese technique that differs from Chinese pan firing, which is done to remove the moisture from the leaves. The fukamaishi has a lovely umami flavor, almost like seaweed. I fell in love. But I still had others to try.

Like matcha. Many Americans are now familiar with this vibrant green powdered form of tea, but may be unsure of how to prepare it. It's actually a lovely ritual to watch or perform yourself. You'll need a small whisk.

Pour hot water on the whisk and into a small bowl. Measure out two scoops -- less than two teaspoons -- of the matcha and push it through a fine strainer into the now warm bowl. This will keep the powder from clumping when you pour about three ounces of hot water -- 185 degrees -- into the bowl. Whisk the matcha and hot water together in an "M" motion, raise the whisk a bit and continue the motion around the surface of the bowl so you get a nice froth on top. Divine. Especially with the two pieces of Sea Salt Eclipse chocolate that Bowman served with the matcha.

Let's talk about oolong tea. If you eat at Chinese restaurants, that's usually the tea you're served. But the oolongs you find at Halcyon Tea are nothing like this. Take the Tung Ting I tried (and then bought). It's a very mild floral oolong from Taiwan. Nothing beats this on a chilly afternoon. Bowman's trick with this tea is to wet the leaves before actually infusing them as a way of priming them for full saturation.

In fact, another great piece of information I learned was that all of these teas -- well, not the matcha, of course -- can be infused multiple times. One of the concerns people tend to have when they buy fine teas is the price. But, in fact, you use different amounts of tea depending on the type, density, shape, and size of the leaf, and you can infuse them up to three times. So, an ounce of Silver Needle Reserve -- a white tea from China -- that costs $8.00 an ounce can actually cost a whole 27 cents a cup. That's less than the Hibiscus Breeze Organic, which sells for $3.75 an ounce, but winds up at 30 cents a cup. Really, neither is particularly pricey when you get down to it. This is something Bowman can explain when you come in.

Something else that can dramatically change your experience with tea is the water temperature and the temperature of the pot and cups. Most of us bring a kettle of water to a boil and submerge the leaves -- set in a filter or in a teabag in a teapot or mug -- to infuse for a few minutes. But different types of teas require different water temperatures and lengths of time to infuse -- from one to five minutes. Some electric tea kettles now have temperature controls and keep water warm for about 20 minutes, but Bowman introduced me to the Zojirushi water dispensers he uses.

Not only can you set the temperature to what you need for a given type of tea, but the water dispenser will keep the water at that temperature for hours. This means you can make smaller pots of tea over the course of a couple of hours rather than a large pot that's no doubt going to get cold. And you won't cook the leaves of a more delicate tea with fiercely boiling water. Of course, the other trick to remember is to heat your teapot and cup with hot water (even from the tap) before you make your tea. That way, the temperature of the infusing tea won't drop once the hot water hits the pot or cup.

I've tried a number of teas at Halcyon Tea. I ended up buying the Fukamaishi, the Tung Ting, the Huang Shan Mao Feng (a Chinese green tea with a subtle nutty taste to it), and the Organic Rooibos Fair Trade. I love that Bowman writes directions for each package, noting how much tea to use with how much water, the suggested temperature for the water and the infusion times for each different infusion. And, if you like, he'll note the teas you purchased so you can buy them again (in case you forget the name).

Halcyon Tea is located at 3009 Beech St. in South Park. On Friday afternoons, you can attend "4 o'clock Fridays" to taste the week's featured teas. The phone number is 619-450-4224. You can also shop online or read Bowman's blog at www.halcyontea.com.

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