Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Brunch is Back in North Pacific Beach--at Table 926

Where do all the cool folks in North PB go to leisurely sip their Bellinis and Mimosas on a Sunday? Poor things have to travel a ways if they're in the mood for brunch. Oh, wait! Not anymore. Table 926 is launching Sunday brunch starting March 2 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Chef/owner Matt Richman has been doing tastings with family, friends, and media--and is now finally ready to debut his seasonal brunch menu.

I got to enjoy a preview this past Sunday, dining to the music of Zach Barnhorst on guitar (who, apparently, also makes very cool bow ties).

Brunch is a mix of flavor profiles. There's south of the border flair, with a couple of dishes featuring a little spice and tortillas. There are the breakfast tacos, accompanied by scrambled eggs, Monterey Jack cheese, and micro cilantro--with a dash of salsa. And the creamy Chilaquiles Verdes with queso fresca, red onion, and corn tortillas topped by a lush poached egg. This was one of my favorite dishes.

Also on the menu is a Breakfast Empanada with applewood bacon, eggs, and pepper jack cheese.

Want a more healthy munch? How about a creamy/crunchy Berry, Greek Yogurt, and Granola Parfait?

Richman plated a sampler dish for us that included four of the menu items: Clockwise from the upper left are a "Bread Pudding" French toast with berry compote, maple syrup, and brown sugar; a breakfast panini on ciabatta filled with ham, slices of breakfast sausage, pecans, mozzarella, and green onion; the breakfast tacos with salsa; and a truly scrumptious Duck Confit Hash with breakfast potatoes, roasted root vegetables, caramelized onions, piquillo peppers, and a beautifully runny poached egg. This would be my other favorite.

All were enjoyable in their own way, although the bread pudding French toast could be a little thicker and the panini a little easier to eat. The flavors are all there but they just need a little more refinement.

I also loved the house-made mini blackberry jam scones served in a basket at the table. Hopefully, that will be accompanied with some creamy whipped butter.

The menu additionally includes a burger, steak and eggs, salad, and frittata. Of course, you'll get a choice of cocktails, from orange juice mimosas and bloody Marys to sangria, a vodka screwdriver, and a variety of bellinis. We had a choice of mango, prickly pear, peach, and lychee. And, Table 926 serves coffee and teas from The Pannikin.

Brunch at Table 926 is a great addition to a neighborhood lately bereft of a brunch destination. The food is lovely and Barnhorst's music adds to the relaxed Sunday ambiance. And, hey, you can park in the lot in front of the restaurant!

Table 926 is located at 926 Turquoise St. in North Pacific Beach.

Print Page

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Witch's Brew? But Good for You!

I've known Quinn Wilson for quite awhile now. She's a terrific chef, a wonderful cooking teacher, and just a good person. But I have to admit, my eyebrows have been raised since I heard about this new business she started called Balanced & Bright. It's a result of an interest she developed in traditional foods a couple of years ago. As her business card says, it's all about health, wellness, and radiance. And it comes in the form of a bone broth that is her new product. Now, if you Google bone broth you'll find it referenced as a magical elixir with healing benefits. I tend to be a skeptic about these things, but I also grew up with a grandmother who relied on a lot of homemade, what we might today called homeopathic, remedies. And I have to think that bone broth tastes a lot better than her boiled grapefruit--although not nearly as good as honey and lemon for a sore throat.

Quinn is also making another product, which is what I recently got to see her make, along with our friend Julie Darling. It's a master tonic that is touted as being able to put the kabosh on viruses (once you see what's in it, you'll get behind that), but also said to maximize blood circulation, detoxify the blood, and even "turn around the deadliest diseases." Okay, that's pushing it as far as I'm concerned. But as someone raised on Jewish penicillin, I can see how an herbal mixture brewed with apple cider vinegar can be a formidable opponent to the common cold.

I tasted Quinn's bone broth and it's quite lovely. The boiled mixture of beef bones from pastured cattle, water, apple cider vinegar, and a secret ingredient (I know what it is but was sworn to secrecy) has a gentle, sweet flavor. The fat, collagen, gelatin, and vitamins and minerals drawn from the bones by the vinegar are said to help with joint issues and digestion. Quinn noticed that after making it at home for herself her skin became smooth and supple, her hair shinier, and her nails stronger. Quinn drinks it like a tea, but also cooks with it. In fact, she recently sauteed apples in the broth which she baked into an apple pie. She also adds it to her dog Honey's food,which she says has made the dog's coat soft and shiny. In fact, Quinn is working with a dog food company to add it to their food.

You can make bone broth at home, of course, but Quinn emphasizes that the key to making a quality bone broth that lives up to addressing medical issues is that the bones must come from pastured cattle. She gets her bones from Da-Le Ranch, Sage Mountain Farm, and Homegrown Meats. And, she suggests that for general health and healing, a person must drink between three to four pints a week, and six pints a week after having surgery. You can order it by the pint on the website Big Cartel. It comes frozen, so defrost it overnight in the refrigerator before using and be sure to skim off the fat on the top--but use it to cook with, too.

Now for the Master Tonic. This witch's brew literally took my breath away. And Julie's and Quinn's. And made their eyes run. Why? Because the ingredients are limited but oh, so potent: fresh horseradish, fresh chiles, onions, ginger root, and garlic cloves. All in equal parts. All chopped or grated as the ingredient warrants.

I remember my grandfather peeling, then grating fresh horseradish for Passover seders when I was a kid. This was no more fun--there's a reason why most of us buy it prepared at the market. Between that, the jalapeños, and the onions, Quinn and Julie were vying for the goggles. And I was reeling, too.

You can buy the tonic from Quinn but, should you want to make this yourself, here's the recipe they use. Note, wear gloves and goggles when making it.

Master Tonic

1 part fresh chopped garlic cloves
1 part fresh chopped white onions (or the hottest onions available)
1 part fresh grated ginger root
1 part fresh grated horseradish root
1 part fresh chopped chiles (cayenne, jalapeños, serranos, habaneros, African bird peppers, or any combination of the hottest peppers available)
Raw, unfiltered, unbleached, non-distilled apple cider vinegar

Fill a glass jar 3/4 of the way full with equal parts of the fresh chopped or grated ingredients. Then cover completely with the vinegar.

Close and shake vigorously. Then top off the vinegar if necessary. Keep the jar in a cool, dark place for two weeks. Shake the tonic daily a couple of times.

The recipe calls for beginning the formula on the new moon, then straining and bottling the mixture on the full moon two weeks later. Filter it through a clean piece of cotton, coffee filter, or colander, then bottle and label.

Don't toss the solids. Think of what you have there! It's the makings of a marinade or salad dressing or dip. Julie added some to a mashed avocado to make guacamole.

As for drinking the tonic. I tried a shot of it and rather liked it, except for the whiff of fermentation it gives off. It's strong and spicy, as you'd expect. The suggested dosage is 1/2 to 1 ounce two or more times a day as needed. Perfect in a shot glass. Store your master tonic in a dark place. It won't go bad (given the ingredients, could it ever?). I can absolutely see how it would give a cold or flu a good fight. My nana would have loved it!

You can contact Quinn at balancedandbright@gmail.com to order the tonic.

Print Page

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Honeyed Jams for Valentine's Day

I know I shouldn't have favorites, but when it comes to local honey, someone's going to have to convince me not to love Rachel Adams' San Diego Honey Company. I first found her at the Solana Beach Farmers Market last June and wrote a Local Bounty piece about her for San Diego Magazine then. 

What I didn't really mention were her jams because I was so wowed by the honeys--special favorites of mine include the dark, full-bodied San Diego Wildflower Honey; the light and vanilla-toned Grapefruit Blossom; and a new variety, Sage & Rosemary Infused Honey, which I'll be using to glaze chicken or drizzle over cheese.

Last week I ran into Rachel at Simply Local, where she also sells her honeys, and she mentioned she had put up some new jams using honey--of course--instead of sugar. When she described them I knew I had to taste them, so on Sunday with my parents in tow, I drove up to the Solana Beach market to pick up some jars.

Rachel is relatively new to jamming. She says she started making jam in 2010 while in England for a few months. She found that jams there aren't as sweet as they are here and, inspired by a few local jam makers in her home town of Leiscestershire, she gave it a try. "I was hooked from the first jar because I loved being able to adjust the product to the right level of sweetness and let the fruit take center stage."

But it was only recently that it occurred to her to switch out sugar in favor of the honey she curates and sells. And with that, she now has a unique product.

In the past, Rachel created some intriguing flavors using sugar, including Orange Whiskey Marmalade, Brandied Persimmon, and Pear with Chardonnay. Yes, there's a theme here.

This week we found Raspberry Amaretto Honey, inspired by a jam she tasted in a little village in Wales. Rachel has a light hand with the amaretto. You get undertones of it to complement the bright raspberry flavor.

My dad--and I--fell in love with her Blueberry Blackcurrant Honey jam. The distinctive blueberry-ness was front and center with a terrific texture thanks to the presence of large, plump blueberries, but it was mellowed by blackcurrant concentrate, a blend of blackcurrant and honey she also makes and sells.

Less successful, for us at least, was the Blackberry Vanilla. Here the vanilla was just too pronounced and just didn't marry well with the fruit.

I don't need to tell you what to do with these jams. But this morning I added a dollop of the Raspberry Amaretto to my morning oatmeal and it made me smile through every bite.

And, of course, since Friday is Valentine's Day, I had to use it as the filling for heart-shaped icebox cookie sandwiches. I won't tell you who's getting them. It would ruin the surprise!

You can find Rachel's jams at her stall at the Sunday afternoon Solana Beach Farmers Market, at the shop Pangea is Flower Hill Promenade in Del Mar, and online.

Print Page

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Milk-Braised Pork Shoulder with Creamy Gravy

Feeling a little chilly? Well, it took a trip to the heartland--Chicago, specifically--to be introduced to a dish that warms the soul. Rich, succulent...this dish, Milk-Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes, which my friends Candy and Dennis Wallace and I enjoyed at The Purple Pig, made us gasp with delight. And, it sent Candy straight to her kitchen once back in San Diego to try to recreate it.

Lucky me. I work with Candy and Dennis on their wonderful business, the American Personal & Private Chef Association, handling social media and other writing for them. (You can find APPCA on Facebook and Twitter.) For decades this trade organization has been training chefs and capable home cooks to run their own businesses shopping for and preparing personalized meals for families and individuals--whether they have special health needs or just no time for or interest in cooking. When we had a strategy meeting at their house recently, Candy, a chef for more than 30 years, set about preparing her now refined recipe for us to enjoy at lunch. It's a bit different from The Purple Pig's, and utterly divine.

The key to the success of this dish is making pork stock, a much neglected type of stock. Why we regularly make chicken or fish stock and don't have rich pork stock at hand is beyond me. It's easy to make and imparts a luscious, unique flavor. I know someone who uses it for French Onion Soup, but beyond that, I don't see that it's widely used or available in a ready made form. So this recipe is even more of a keeper just for the stock recipe.

But make the whole dish for a Sunday supper when there's time to relax and revel--and take a nap afterwards.

Candy Wallace's Milk-Braised Pork Shoulder with Creamy Gravy
Inspired by Chicago’s The Purple Pig
Serves 4
It takes two days to prepare this dish, although the actual work time is minimal. On day one, you’ll make the pork stock. You can trim the bone from the pork shoulder you’re going to braise and use that with the rest of the pork stock ingredients listed below. Tip: if you want your stocks or soups to be clear instead of murky, never let them reach a hard boil (like what you want when cooking pasta). Instead, keep to a gentle simmer—low and slow.
For Pork Stock:
2- to 3-pound pork shoulder or shank and any pork bones you may have stored in your freezer for stock
1 ½ gallons water
1 head garlic, whole and unpeeled, halved through its equator
2 onions, peeled and quartered
2 to 3 carrots
3 stalks celery
4 to 5 bay leaves
6 black peppercorns

For Braised Pork Shoulder
1, 4-pound bone-in pork shoulder
2 onions, peeled and quartered
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 to 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 to 3 stalks of celery, chopped into large pieces
1 bunch of fresh thyme
6 large bay leaves
1 ½ gallons milk
1 ½ gallons pork stock

For Gravy:
¼ cup Marsala
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Cooking liquid from braised pork
Salt and pepper

1. To make stock: Brown the bones, meat, onion, and garlic in a roasting pan. Cover with water, bring to an active simmer, and skim off any scum as it appears. Add the carrots, celery, and spices, reduce the heat, and allow to simmer at least four hours, adding water to cover as needed. Strain stock. Allow to cool and refrigerate, leaving layer of fat intact.
2. The next day, break down the pork shoulder, removing the bone and cutting the meat into 6- to 8-ounce servings. Tie them with string. Season generously with salt and pepper.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a large roasting pan and sear the pork pieces. When all sides of the meat have been browned, add the vegetables, fresh herbs, milk, and pork stock to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Season with salt and pepper again, and place the covered pan in the oven to braise for two to three hours.

4. Remove the cooked pork from the pot. Cut off the string from each piece. Cover and let rest. Strain the braising liquid into a bowl and discard the solids.
5. Place the pan on the stovetop, add back the braising liquid, and reduce by half. Add the Marsala and cook for a minute. Mix cornstarch with cold water and add to the hot liquid to thicken the gravy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Serve pork on a bed of hot, creamy mashed potatoes, cover with gravy, and top with sautéed or roasted asparagus.

Print Page