When I think about South Africa, what comes to mind, of course, are Nelson Mandela, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Johnny Clegg, and, the large South African Jewish expat community in San Diego. I can't say I've ever given any thought to the food.
What a fool! It turns out that I've been missing out on some wonderful meals, influenced by the British and Dutch, but also the Portuguese, French, and, Indian--South Africa has the largest Indian population outside of India. And, of course, the African tribes.
So, you get Portuguese peri-peri sauce, British sausage rolls and pasties, Dutch bobotie (curried chopped meat) and melkterts, and Indian curries and biryani.
I discovered all this recently at a tiny shop tucked away in an industrial park in Kearny Mesa. Deli-SA, owned by South African Graham Perkett, is nominally a store and more an experience. Yes, there are shelves stocked with packaged goods a homesick South African would crave, but the real delight of Deli-SA is in the homemade dishes Perkett, his wife and staff make. And, the fact that every Saturday afternoon, South Africans longing for a touch of home gather family style around large tables at his barbecues.
Perkett, who had originally had a career in automotive engineering, opened the shop in the spring of 2008. Before that, he had been selling his food and doing catering from his home. It was a return to what he'd wanted to do all along as a young man--cook. The shop is a reflection of his love of his homeland. The walls are painted blue, red, green, and black in the colors of the South African flag, and on the dark blue wall is a large acrylic portrait of Mandela painted by a friend of Perkett, along with framed pieces of tribal art for sale. Against another wall are shelves filled with all sorts of intriguing foodstuff. You'll find cereals, sauces, jams, marmite, pickles, cookies, soda, and candy. And that's just for starters.
I bought a couple of jars of the peri-peri sauce. Peri-peri is a hot pepper used in Portuguese and African cooking. According to Perkett, it makes for a great marinade and barbecue sauce for chicken. I found he was spot on. But I also enjoyed it on a broiled lamb shoulder chop.
Perkett pointed to other South African cooking and snacking essentials--authentic oxtail soup mix, Tennis biscuits--cookies that are used for tarts, Bisto gravy granules, and Milo, a malted milk powder made by Nestle that is just like Ovaltine.
What had me salivating, though, was the case filled with savory pies made by his wife. That day, Perkett had steak and mushroom, chicken mushroom, pepper steak, cornish pasties, and chicken curry. I took the last home. It reheated beautifully at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. The flaky crust yielded small cubes of chicken mixed with carrots, onions, and peas, all enveloped in a smooth curry sauce.
I also enjoyed the beautiful samoosas. You can buy packages of these--chicken, beef, or potato--frozen and ready to reheat in a little oil on the stove.
Perkett makes his own beef jerky, or biltang, and it's nothing like what is packaged in the U.S. Thicker, moister, and powerfully flavored with clove, nutmeg, and coriander, it's a delicious snack. He also makes the hugely popular boerewors, a fresh beef and pork sausage that is grilled, stuffed in a bun and smothered in a tomato sauce.
And, that's what you'll find on the grill behind the shop on Saturdays, along with fish and chips, and bunny chow--a marvelous name for one of the hugest meals I've ever seen on a plate. Perkett makes a curried lamb stew using lamb shoulder pieces. Once it's ready, half loaves of white bread are hollowed out and the stew is ladled inside. The scooped out bread is dunked in the stew juices. It's a hefty and delicious dish.
I tried some of these dishes at one of the Saturday barbecues. Not only was the food very good, but I enjoyed the friendliness of the South Africans who had gathered 10 around a table. Some parties all knew one another. Others met during the meal and compared notes about their lives. All had heard about Deli-SA through word of mouth, including a couple with two young daughters who had driven there from Phoenix. It was their first stop for a weekend getaway in San Diego.
Now you can't end a meal without dessert. You'll find some unusual and all-too tempting options at Deli-SA. These are made on site as well. First Perkett pulled out a melktert, or milk tart. The best way I can think of to describe this lovely custard sweet is rice pudding without the rice, dusted with cinnamon on top and sitting on a light vanilla cake. That, at least, is how the Perketts make it. I've found in doing some research that it's also made with a sweet pastry tart and filled with custard. Either way, it's comfort food.
The koeksisters, with origins from Cape Malay, is not comfort food. It's sheer decadence. It looks like a braided donut, and it is. Kind of. But, it's harder that what you'd expect and drenched in a rich sugar syrup. This is napkin food and only for those with a real sweet tooth.
The lamington squares are a whole other type of sweet. These are Australian, actually, and basically a butter cake dipped first in chocolate and then in coconut. Very nice.
My favorite may have been the tipsy tart, a dense cake with dates and walnuts in this case, but sometimes pecans, baked, then infused with a butter and brandy syrup. This is simply luscious. In fact, it looks very easy to make and come fall, I'll probably try this recipe from Group Recipes.
Perkett also does catering. He has a large contingent of customers from around Southern California and into Arizona. He bragged that one of his clients is playwright Athol Fugard, who lives in Del Mar. While there are people who make some of the sausages and jerky, apparently, Perkett's the only one in the region with a shop and full assortment of South African dishes.
Deli-SA is located at 8360 Clairemont-Mesa Blvd., Suite 112 in Kearny Mesa, just west of Hwy. 163. The phone number is 858-694-0212.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
When I think about South Africa, what comes to mind, of course, are Nelson Mandela, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Johnny Clegg, and, the large South African Jewish expat community in San Diego. I can't say I've ever given any thought to the food.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
How do you get kids to develop good eating habits and avoid the diseases caused by obesity? Parents are key, but so are schools. The National School Lunch Program provides a nutritionally balanced low-cost or free meal to more than 30 million children every school day. This fall the Child Nutrition Act, which governs the National School Lunch Program, is up for re-authorization in Congress. It has been in place since Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act into law in 1948.
More than 250 Eat-Ins have been organized in all 50 states. One of these is being held at Captain Cooks Culinary Academy, located in
Another, which I'll be attending, is a picnic at Balboa Park's World Beat Center, held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. This one is organized by Slow Food Urban San Diego.
To find an Eat-In near you, go to the Slow Food USA website for a list.
If you enjoy contemporary art and wonderful food, you'll want to attend the upcoming Beyond the Border International Contemporary Art Fair and its companion event, The Art of Wine and Food, the weekend of Sept. 2 - 4. Both will be held at the Grand Del Mar Resort.
The three-day art fair will include national and international galleries representing over 500 juried works by both established and emerging contemporary artists from around the world, along with curated art installations. We're talking investment-grade pieces, a first for these galleries in San Diego.
In conjunction with the art fair, on Thurs., Sept. 3, The Art of Wine and Food will offer a five-course meal with wine pairings, sponsored by The American Institute of Wine and Food, at Addison, the Grand Del Mar Resort's signature restaurant. Addison's chef, William Bradley, will be one of four featured chefs and two sommeliers.
Joining Bradley will be chef Angela Tamura of Napa's ZuZu restaurant; local chef Javier Placensia of Romesco in Bonita; chef Wolfgang Gussmack of 3 Square in Venice, Calif.; guest sommelier Chris Blanchard of Chappellet in Napa; and Addison's advanced sommelier, Jesse Rodriguez.
The event begins at 7 p.m. with a reception at which champagne and canapes will be served. Dinner begins at 8 p.m. Tickets for the dinner are $200 each or $170 for AIWF members, and can be purchased at the Beyond the Border website or by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tickets for the art fair can also be purchased on the Beyond the Border website.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Who doesn't love a good burger? I don't eat them as often as I would like, but it's a pleasure when I find one I really enjoy. My friend Alex Hart invited me to join her at O'Brothers at Horton Plaza, so we met there this afternoon for lunch.
Cheers to brothers Derek and Craig Cowling for turning Craig's penchant for great burger grilling into a sleek, hip burger joint. Their hook? Everything, but everything is organic. The meat is local, from Matt Rimel's Homegrown Meats. The buns, the ketchup, the fries, the salad greens, and even the beverages, both sodas and beers and wine, are organic. If you need to drink a Coke with your burger, you'll have to bring it in because they just don't serve it.
The restaurant, on the second level of Horton Plaza, facing Broadway, has been open since February. It's a big shift from the previous family business, Dixieline Lumber. The restaurant business may be new to them, but the food is very good and the ambience, thanks to designer David Robinson (whose previous clients include Stone Brewery, Mille Fleurs, Roppongi, Pacifica Del Mar, and Paradise Grille), is another of a growing number of modernist yet warm environments, complete with an open kitchen. Pull together tables for a group lunch or pull up a stool and sit at the counter to watch your meal being prepared.
The menu is simple and tightly limited. There are six burgers. Well, five if you take into account that the veggie burger is really just a veggie sandwich. There are a couple of salads, including a new grilled vegetable salad, fries, and onion rings. And usually a couple of desserts, made on the premises.
I was told that "The Big O" was their most popular burger, so I tried that. It's a quarter of a pound of meat, cooked a nice pink medium rare, and topped with crisp bacon, cheddar cheese, a slice of tomato, red onion, and thinly fanned avocado. A dollop of ketchup on top was the finishing touch. The burger is, well, good. Really good. Not too big, full of flavor, and mouth friendly.
With the burger comes, not fries, but a nice sized green salad with either ranch or balsamic dressing. I tried the ranch dressing and found the salad to be a solidly tasty addition to the burger. But, of course, we had to order the onion rings.
They looked great, but actually turned out to be disappointing. The crispness was fleeting, and the flavors were just off. Apparently, they've got various Italian spices in the flour and then another set of spices in the breadcrumbs that form the outer crust. They don't mix well, and even Derek acknowledged that the recipe needs revisiting.
On the other hand, the fries were delicious. A beautiful golden brown and crisp on the outside, but with a soft interior. They were just salty enough. And, they were wonderful with the homemade barbecue sauce they were served with.
What would I really like, along with improved onion rings? Well, a milkshake, of course. And, a root beer float. I hope they'll add these to the menu at some point. It sounds, though, that their focus is now on expanding the restaurants -- adding five or six in San Diego, looking at south Florida for up to 20 locations, and then Northern California. So, San Diego, we're the test location. And, really, I couldn't be happier.
O'Brothers is located at 188 Horton Place, above the Levi's store.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Back in the early 80s, when I was living in
I took that pot home with me and used it almost daily until last year when the handle broke off and I finally had to part with it. It may not have retained its original gloss but we’re talking about 25 years with one pot, and, believe me, I mourned the loss of this morning companion. Since then I’ve been using a Bialetti Moka Express. I don’t love the pot but I’m really a fan of the robust coffee these Italian stovetop coffee makers produce, especially since I have to drink decaf.
A good coffee maker is certainly one of the key components to delicious coffee, but, of course, it all starts with the beans and roast.
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters
Earlier this summer, I spent some time at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. Owner Chuck Patton gave me a run through of some coffee basics, as well as how he buys and roasts his beans. I also spoke with John Weaver, master roaster and president of Weaver’s Tea & Coffee.
Weaver had been a longtime roaster at Peet’s Coffee until 2007, when he formed his own company. He’s just celebrated 30 years in the coffee industry, and says that his new roasting style for his own business is “juicier, more flavorful with a smooth profile in the flavor.”
But how do you get these flavors? Like any agricultural product, the quality and flavors of coffee beans can vary from season to season, depending on weather, the soil, proper fertilization, pest and disease control, proper pruning, and watering.
Just as important, it turns out, is altitude. The higher the elevation, the slower the beans are to mature, resulting in more flavor. Arabicas, of which there are at least some 20 varietals, are grown at a higher elevation. You’ll find many of these varietals in
“I buy only high-altitude coffee beans,” says Weaver. “They have more flavor and acidity.”
Robusta beans usually are grown at lower elevations. The trees are hardier and produce earlier than Arabica trees, but the beans are not of the same quality. These are your supermarket beans, and, they’re often mixed with Arabica beans to bring down prices. However, they do have twice the caffeine as Arabicas.
Patton points out that every country puts out beans with distinctive characteristics. “Sumatran beans have a thick body, are spicy, herby, and earthy,” he says. “Costa Rican beans are more vibrant and lighter, while Mexican beans are more balanced. Beans from
But, even regions in the same country will produce beans with varied characteristics. Patton considers the Huehuetanango from northwestern
While there’s been a marketing blitz to promote the Fair Trade program—and Weaver’s Coffee & Tea uses certified organic and Fair Trade-certified beans—Patton is involved in what he calls a “direct trade model.” “We’re a Fair Trade licensee but the money goes to the co-op, and how well run are the co-ops?” he asks. “I’m pulling out of the licensing agreement. I want to work directly with farmers or farming groups and make direct rewards based on the effort and investment they make in their farm.”
Patton is involved in the Las Mingas Project in
“I’d rather take that $1,000 a year for the Fair Trade license and give it to independent farmers,” he says.
The roasting room at Birdrock is filled with burlap bags brimming over with beans, some still green, awaiting their roasting, and others a deep burnished brown and ready for packaging. Patton uses a cast iron drum roaster that can roast up to 25 pounds of beans at a time. It takes about 15 to 18 minutes to roast the beans, with the precise timing dependent on the type of bean, the weather and humidity, and what brings out the best in the varietal.
“The roaster has guidelines, but adjustments can be made,” he explains. “We’re aiming for consistent flavors and the sweet spot. It can happen in less than a minute, and making mistakes can lead to a sour flavor, burning, or underdeveloped flavors.”
Weaver explains that he doesn’t create the flavors during the roasting. “I bring out what potential the coffee has. It’s load, size, time, temperature, and air flow.”
He notes that while there’s been a movement to light roasted coffees, it’s not his style. “The consumer palate has developed a deeper flavor profile in coffee. Not darker—that’s just burnt.”
Patton, though, says he does roast lighter. “The more you roast, the more you lose the varietal flavor,” he explains. “We want a bean’s fully developed flavor to peak in the process.” And, he points out that qualities inherent in the bean will determine roasting times. “Green Sumatra beans are dense and need more roasting than beans from
I met Tony Gomez, Patton’s roaster of five years. He was working with decaf Papua New Guinea beans, giving them 16 to 17 minutes in the drum at 420 degrees. As the roasting time was drawing to an end, he repeatedly checked on the beans to take in their color and make adjustments. Once the roasting ended, the beans spilled into a bin to be cooled for about five minutes. Then Gomez deposited the batch in a big can to continue cooling and then poured 22 pounds of organic Brazilian beans into the roaster.
Gomez showed me the roasted decaf beans, pointing out that these beans have a matted finish to them, compared to the glossiness of regular beans.
Both roasters use water processed decaffeinated beans. “It allows the inherent flavors to remain in the coffee,” Weaver says. “But it’s an expensive process so the coffee is more expensive.”
I found the decaf beans from Weaver’s and Bird Rock to be wonderfully rich and flavorful. The difference between what people like me—who just can’t tolerate caffeine—can enjoy now compared with, say 10 years ago, is dramatic. The options are greater and the quality is so much higher. I’m admittedly not someone who can give you nuanced descriptions of each bean. I haven’t developed that ability—at least not yet. And, it is an art. But, I can give you some suggestions for decaf beans to try that I think you’ll enjoy.
- Weaver’s Decaf House Blend
- Joes on the Nose Decaf Peru and Decaf Mexico (David Wasserman, the outgoing young guy in the orange truck at the Little Italy Mercato and Hillcrest Farmers Market, gets his beans from Bird Rock Roasters.)
- Bird Rock Coffee Roasters
Papua New Guinea
Calabria Costa Rica
Bird Rock Roasters is at
Weaver’s Coffee can be found at some Whole Foods stores or ordered at www.weaverscoffee.com.
Monday, August 3, 2009
We've heard a lot in recent years about Walmart's efforts to get their supercenters into communities, some of which have been resistant. Well, last October, Walmart launched a new approach to bringing groceries to the masses who may not have time to do big shopping in a supermarket. It opened four Marketside grocery stores in the Phoenix area: the cities of Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert, and Chandler.
The markets are said to be a pilot project to gauge customer response to a smaller, neighborhood market. It's no doubt a direct challenge to Tesco's Fresh & Easy shops. At about 15,000 square feet, they're about the same size with similar merchandise, and pint-sized compared to the supercenters, which tend to be more than 180,000 square feet.
Recently I was in Tempe and visited the store on the corner of Rural Road and Eliot. It had taken over the building that had previously housed an Osco drugstore. That gives you an idea of the size we're talking about.
Inside, the store is a tiny version of a supermarket. You'll find a petite produce department called, ahem, "the garden," at the entrance. It pretty much has all the basics, something to fill the fridge without much fuss.
Behind that section is a deli counter with Dietz & Watson meats called "the kitchen." The section also has prepared foods, which are cooked off site, and include sushi, rotisserie chicken, meatballs, BBQ chicken, quiche Lorraine, and flat bread pizzas.
My niece, Samantha, and I picked out a Mediterranean flat bread pizza with spinach, tomatoes, feta, and Romano cheeses. The pizza can be cooked in the oven at Marketside or you can take it home and heat it up it in your oven (350 for about 20 minutes). We chose the latter. It wasn't spectacular, but it wasn't bad.
Chanel, a young woman helping us at "the kitchen" counter, told us that she and her co-workers are trained in wine, meat, produce, and prepared foods. "Everyone has to be able to do everything," she said.
There are aisles of additional packaged prepared foods. Teriyaki chicken was alongside lasagna and spaghetti and meatballs. There was crusted flounder fillet, grilled vegetables, pasta, salads, soups. Basically, many of the items you'd expect if you wanted something quick to take home for dinner. We bought a private label medium salsa and tzatziki. Both were actually pretty good.
From there, you get into the basics. There was fresh meat and poultry -- but no fresh fish. Lotsa pasta, including Barilla Plus, the whole wheat pasta by Barilla. There's a pretty good dairy and cheese selection, lots of snack items, of course, and a variety of breads and desserts.
In the baking aisle were all the usual suspects, but the surprise was seeing a nice array of Bob's Red Mill baking products, including soy flour, vital wheat gluten, and dark rye flour.
In fact, there was a surprising selection of healthy food products. Kashi cereals, organic granolas, agave nectar, and a display of gluten-free products took up what looks like valuable shelf space for a small market.
Marketside has a few aisles of wines, beers, and spirits.
And, there's a household section with detergents, TP, and health and beauty aids.
One of the attractions of Marketside, at least according to Samantha and her mother, is the Redbox movie machine. For $1 a night you have immediate access to a variety of rentals.
So, is Marketside coming to a location near you? That remains to be seen. For obvious reasons, they'll site future locations near current Walmart stores to take advantage of product transport. But, it's not even a sure thing that more stores will open. In a June Reuters story, it was reported that given the economy, Walmart isn't planning on accelerating the pilot and is waiting to have more data before proceeding with opening more stores.
Last spring I was invited to join the San Diego chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier. Last night the group had a summer BBQ potluck. I'm not usually a fan of potlucks, mostly because you just never know what kind of food will arrive. But a potluck with dishes by women who are restaurant owners, caterers, cookbook authors, and cooking school teachers? Now, game on.
As it happened, the organizers also enjoy making it just a little competitive, and they had a contest for the best salad. You could also bring an appetizer or dessert, but since I was pressed for time and happened to have the ingredients on hand, I decided to make my version of Mark Bittman's Israeli couscous salad. This salad really takes advantage of the bounty of summer produce. And, I love the impact of the cinnamon, cumin, and preserved lemon.
Anyway, there were a lot of salads on the table last night, each one different, each delicious. Most, like mine, were simply plated in large bowls, but cooking teacher Edie Greenberg made a potato salad in the shape of a hat, decorated with flowers. It was absolutely charming. Another salad, linguini with shrimp, was arranged in a huge margarita glass. Along with the salads was an array of barbecued chicken thighs, pork ribs, and lamp chops. And, I don't have to tell you how delicious the half-dozen desserts were.
Okay, so the salad competition. The newbie won. I was pretty surprised and delighted. And my prize? A stunning plastic tiara. Because, of course, every girl should have one. This Les Dames experience is going to be fun!
Israeli Couscous Salad
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Israeli Couscous Salad from “How to Eat Everything Vegetarian”
1 8.8 oz. package of Israeli couscous
1 small chopped white onion
1/4 cup plus 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
2 cups boiling water
2 T. sherry vinegar
½ t. ground cumin
1/8 t. ground cinnamon
1 preserved lemon, skin only, sliced thinly
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup currants or golden raisins
½ cup drained canned chickpeas
2 T. capers
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
½ pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
½ pint roasted cherry or grape tomatoes*
Kernels from 1 ear of fresh white corn
6 shishito peppers, chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Using a large frying pan, saute the white onion and half of the shishito peppers in 2 T. of olive oil until the onions are golden brown Add the Israeli couscous and stir until the couscous begins to brown. Add salt and pepper, then add two cups boiling water. Cover the pan and simmer for eight to 10 minutes.
Pour the couscous into a large bowl and let cool. Then stir in oil, vinegar, and spices. Add the remaining ingredients. Let the salad stand at room temperature for an hour before serving. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
*I used Peggy Knickerbocker’s recipe below for slow-roasted tomatoes:
36 to 48 cherry tomatoes, or more
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 to ½ cup fresh chopped herbs: any combination of parsley, marjoram, oregano, chervil
Sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, optional
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half width-wise. Place the halves in one or two baking dishes cut side up in one layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the olive oil and a few drops of balsamic vinegar.
- Bake for three to four hours or until the tomatoes soften and almost collapse. Fifteen minutes before the baking is completed, combine the garlic and herbs in a small bowl. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and sprinkle the herbs and cheese on top of the tomatoes. Return to the oven for the remaining time.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
My note: These tomatoes freeze well.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
I'm a big fan of Nutella. I love its sensuous creaminess, the blend of chocolate and hazelnuts that creates its own unique flavor sensation. So, when I took a long spoonful of the Black Forest jam that Foodzie.com sent me, I was surprised to find myself thinking that my Nutella days may be numbered in favor of this delicious spread.
The people who make this jam, Sunchowder's Emporia, have taken individual ingredients that are marvelous by themselves--blackberries, Callebaut chocolate, and Chambord--mixed in a little sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest, and created a thick, luscious spread that can be eaten by the spoonful, on toast, or, in fact, used in any recipe for which you would use Nutella.
"Jam" is really a misnomer. It's the smooth, rich chocolate that shines here. The chunks of blackberries, along with the lemon zest, add brightness and the undertones of the Chambord's raspberry flavor bring an element of complexity to the flavor.
This is a spread worthy of a warm home-baked scone or a stack of crepes. It would make a smooth filling for meringue cookies or perfect atop a scoop of French vanilla ice cream. I've enjoyed it on my favorite cracked wheat sourdough toast. It made for a decadent breakfast along with a cup of cafe au lait. Now, though, I'm envisioning a Black Forest Jam pannini using home-baked challah.
You can find the Black Forest Jam on the foodzie.com website, along with several other preserves and butters that Florida-based Sunchowder's Emporia makes. None of their products include corn syrup, commercial pectin, or preservatives, and they have a penchant for mixing and matching surprising ingredients with great success.