Category Archives: Food

PrepKitchen – The Latest Hot Spot in Little Italy

My lucky star was shining above me tonight when I parked my car on India Street directly in front of the new PREPKITCHEN location in Little Italy. I left work early to make the trek home from my office in Irvine and my agenda was picking up dinner to bring home. When I got out of the car I noticed all signs of construction were gone at the highly anticipated location and I stopped to look at the menu posted in the window. A really nice guy appeared at the door and asked if I wanted to come in and have a drink while they tested out their service. Why yes thank you…that sounds perfect!

I walked up the stairs and was gobsmacked when I saw the space! The transformation from the bizarro water boutique to this absolutely stunning restaurant and lounge is incredible. Prepkitchen is the latest addition to the very popular Whisknladle Hospitality creation’s of Ryan Johnston and Arturo Kassel. These guys clearly have a formula for success. Reclaimed wood, eclectic details and fantastic lighting make for a warm and inviting space. I had no clue this place was so big based on appearance from the street but the architect really did a good job creating division so that it feels cozy in each of the defined areas.

The bar is stocked with great craft spirits. My heart fluttered when I spotted the Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve and the Family Reserve Rye! Holy Impressive Bourbon Selection Batman! The craft beer selection is also notable. They actually represent a diverse style range which encourages experimenting with food pairings. I love that they have Rodenbach on tap and I am hopeful that Prepkitchen Little Italy will consider some innovative “Craft Beer Cocktails” as an addition to the very interesting list of Craft Cocktails and Wine. The prices are, in my opinion, par for the high quality of the ingredients. Their concept is definitely Farm-to-Table and this definitely appeals to the ethical foodie in me. The staff was attentive, friendly and best of all — void of hipster attitude! Please don’t get me wrong — there are times when I enjoy a hipster vibe, but really…I like people who are nice and that take a few moments to engage in conversation. My server behind the bar, John, was awesome. His knowledge of the product was exceptional. It’s hard to believe they had just opened. He made mention of the fact that several people there came from PF Chang’s. This is impressive. Paul Fleming wrote the book on consistent, superior service and I have always had respect for the PF Chang’s culture.

I ordered the Bone Marrow appetizer and a Warm White Bean & Arugula Salad. My cocktail choice was a Manhattan made with Basil Hayden’s Small Batch Bourbon and Antica Formula Vermouth. Wow, wow and WOW! The Bone Marrow was cooked to buttery perfection; topped with red onion, parsley, lemon and served with what I would describe as a ranch-style toast. The Pesto-Tossed White Beans and Arugula were topped with shaved-Parmigiano-Reggiano and the combination was scrumptious. I was totally checking out what other people ordered and everything looked delicious. I have a feeling it will take many future visits to make it through the menu which incidentally, will change daily based on available, seasonal, local ingredients. Prepkitchen sources produce from Suzie’s Farm (My CSA Provider) and several other local farms. This is another great notch in San Diego’s already stellar belt Slow Food restaurants.

Warm White Bean Arugula Salad

Bone Marrow

The official opening is Monday, January 30th. I highly recommend you hustle over to PREPKITCHEN and be one of the early fans! This is a much welcomed addition to my beloved and vibrant Little Italy neighborhood.

Cheers…TheArtofBeer
xoxo

You can check out their website for other locations and get an idea of their concept here ➙➙➙➙➙➙

http://whisknladle.com/about

Fresh Sea Urchin – Yes Please!

I make it a point to buy as much of my food as possible at my Local Farmer’s Market, the Little Italy Mercato.  Every Saturday from 9-1:30 on Date Street, from Kettner to Union, you’ll find some incredible local offerings.

http://www.littleitalysd.com/mercato/

Today I stopped off to sample fresh Sea Urchin at Poppa’s Fresh Fish, a regular at the Little Italy Mercato.  I appreciate their motto:

“If it we any fresher. you would be under water!”

True that!!!  Poppa’s has a killer selection of fresh fish that they source and prepare for sale at local farmer’s markets.  For the first hour at each market they have “Oyster Happy Hour” and that translates to yummy oysters, shucked on the spot for only $1.25 each.  I call them “Breakfast of Champions” and I am not the only one.  There is a cue on Saturday mornings to get them!

You can check out their website here>>> http://www.poppasfreshfish.com/
They have a listing of the local farmer’s markets you can find them at!

Now back to the Sea Urchin…

“we crack’em, we clean’em and you eat’em, right out of the shell!!!”

That’s what they say on the website and Holy Fresh Goodness they aren’t kidding!  For $9 you get the freshest Sea Urchin you will ever taste. I kid not people.  For those who are already fans at the sushi bar,  the taste and texture are familiar but the flavor is different because they are so fresh.  For the Sea Urchin Virgin, I recommend trying them this way.  The taste is salty on the palate at the beginning and then transitions to a beautiful buttery finish.  The texture of this fresh Sea Urchin is custard-like and it just melts in your mouth.

I think one of the best things about stopping at Poppa’s Fresh Fish is watching people stop to look at the Sea Urchin.  Many don’t know what it actually looks like when it is in the sea.  Some have never even heard of it. The looks on their faces are priceless!  Even better is seeing their surprise when they take their first taste and realize that it is absolutely delicious!

Some Sea Urchin Virgins!

If you live in San Diego and have a chance to visit the Little Italy Mercato, please stop by Poppa’s Fresh Fish. I encourage you to sample the Sea Urchin! It does not get any fresher than this…

Don’t forget to shop local when possible!

TheArtofBeer
xoxo

Can You Imagine a World Without Antibiotics?

This is an important issue folks.  It is the responsibility of the FDA to protect American’s.  Why then do they regulate at the hand of powerful lobby groups that are pushing agenda’s that do not have human health and safety in a priority position.  These are the same people that turn their back on the atrocities of factory farms while terrorizing small organic farmers and ranchers.  It is time for you to get involved in this battle.  Please subscribe to the Organic Consumers Association and read the information you receive from them.

Here is an example:

Can You Imagine a World Without Antibiotics?

The World is Run By Those Who Show Up!

Please stand by me as an American who cares about the source of our food.

Sincerely,
TheArtofBeer

Gastronomy: the art or science of good eating…

gastro mk – maison mk – marrakech – morocco

Few words are needed to describe the 5 course tasting menu I experienced dining at gastro mk on December 27th, 2011.  This was my last night in the vibrant city of Marrakech and it was my plan to end with the best.  Prior to my trip to Morocco, I found maison mk listed as one of, if not the best Riad in Marrakech.

http://www.maisonmk.com/

The restaurant, gastro mk, offers a 5 course tasting menu nightly (closed Wednesday) and opens its doors to only 10 lucky people from outside the guests of the Riad.  I was fortunate to receive a booking and gastro mk certainly lived up to my expectations.

Head chef, Omar El Ouahssoussi combines the traditional, yet exotic Moroccan style of cooking with the brilliance of modern french cuisine.  The result is brilliant and gastro mk wins TheArtofBeer 2011 Culinary Excellence Award!

canapés on the terrace

carrot and leek velouté with honey

pumpkin and parmesan raviloi, with pastilla, sauteed vegetables and artichoke puré

leg of lamb confit, carrot and potato purée couscous with crunchy vegetables , moroccan t’faya and red wine jus


other selections offered:

**Or Grilled filet of john dory with Moroccan spiced lentils, beetroot purée, lychee and caramelised mango spaghetti
**Or mushroom tart with tomato concassé, broadbead purée, green asparagus and sautéed broccoli

marcascapone cream with dates, chocolate and banana cigars and mint tea jelly

**Have you ever scoffed down your photo subject before you took the photo? – Well that’s what I did here!!! For those that know me, the shadow of my hand taking the picture post 3 bites of goodness, has an eery resemblance to a “Wide-Billed Duck” shadow puppet — coincidence? I think not :)**

chocolate and caramel fondant, vanilla ice cream, ginger tuile

I rarely eat dessert but this was so enticing I could not stop myself!

The last piece of perfection I need to touch on at bistro mk is the service.  From the moment I walked in the door I felt welcome and comfortable.  The dinner, from start to finish, was nothing short of extraordinaire.  From my experience, this does not happen without a culture that teaches the importance of true service and hospitality.  Cheers to owners Paul & Aoibheann Hopkins along with outstanding manager Mary Teare!  I sincerely hope I will return soon and I will plan to stay at maison mk!

Best Wishes for a peaceful and prosperous 2012

xoxo TheArtofBeer

handcrafted metal lanterns cast gorgeous shadows on the walls & ceiling in the center patio and chill space of the decadent maison mk

maison mk plunge pool in the center patio this decadent space is sheltered in winter and offers fabulous little areas in which to chill

Scottish Curried Bridies

What the hell is “Bridie” you ask? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridie

It’s another one of those traditional Scottish things I grew up with that taste super delicious.  My mum used leftover meat, potatoes and vegetables as the filling, although traditional Scottish Bridies do not contain potato.  Mum made her own puff pastry…me?  No way!  I buy puff pastry dough at Whole Foods.  TheArtofBeer is a busy girl — she has to take some shortcuts in order to make time for adoring fans **cough**!  But seriously..make sure the brand you pick is not filled with preservatives and a bunch of chemicals.  Trust me when I tell you that it exists.

I roll out the pastry so it is fairly thin and cut into squares.  I used the leftover curried chicken meat from last night’s supper and mixed in some diced fingerling potatoes along with a small amount of the sauce.  I use a tablespoon of the mixture, fold over the pastry and press down along the edges.  Next I brush the tops with a little olive oil and bake at 400º for 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

The pastry is divinely flaky and the flavor of the curry inside is awesome.  You can fill them with any mixture you like and it’s fun to experiment with options. These make a great party or picnic food because no utensils are required to enjoy them.  I am taking these over to Renee & Jordan’s house this evening.  I hope everyone enjoys them.  I think I will crack open an IPA and sample my efforts!

Cheers!

Curry & Beer…

My Mom's Recipe File

My Mum, Alexandrina, was an amazing cook.  She had an uncanny ability to replicate things she tasted in restaurants throughout our travels.  She was constantly clipping out recipes from magazines or writing down a list of ingredients on an index card. She stuffed her favorites into a cheap little card file you see pictured to the left.  I cherish this box because the very sight of it fills my heart and mind with visions of my youth.  I can smell the aromas of the foods my mother would make and picture vividly sitting at the table enjoying every bite.

An all time favorite in our house was chicken curry.  My dad first acquired at taste for curry in Malaysia and my mum got a basic recipe from a friend that had also spent time there and in India.  The recipe is more of a British-styled rendition but it is absolutely delicious and oh so simple to make.  My mum’s recipes were never about exact measurements so I play around with quantities when I make things.

I use humanely raised, organic chicken breasts and thighs purchased from either Whole Foods or my local Farmer’s Market.  I realize I preach a lot about choosing ethically raised meat, but the significance is huge.  Please make an effort in 2010 to make better food choices when possible.  It takes a lot of drops to fill a bucket but everyone can contribute to change!

I used 3 breasts and 4 thighs this evening. I leave the skin on because it keeps the chicken more tender but you can remove for less fat.  Other ingredients include one each: tomato, green apple and yellow onion along with 2 tablespoons of curry powder, 1 tablespoon of chutney, 1/2 cup of raisins and a pinch of chili powder.  Finely dice the apple, tomato and onion and place all ingredients (including the chicken) in a nice big pot with a cup or two of water to cover. Bring to a gentle boil and then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for about an hour.  Once the chicken is tender, remove it all from the pot and allow to cool down.  Remove skin, take meat from bone and place in a separate bowl.  Check the pot and remove small bones that may have fallen off during cooking.  Taste for season check and add salt to taste.  I sometimes add a little extra curry powder if needed at this point.  I also pick out the raisins – I love the flavor of them but there is something about the texture that gives me the willies! – Brit saying  🙂 http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/willies

If the apple and onion are sufficiently cooked down, thicken using 2 tablespoons of flour with water.  Add some chicken stock or bullion.  I use an organic one from Whole Foods.  Add the chicken piece back to the pot and simmer on very low heat.  This dish should be served over white rice – I use Jasmine or Long-Grain but you could choose brown rice if you prefer it.  Place rice on the plate and spoon chicken and sauce over it.  In India or Malaysia curry is often served with side dishes such as peanuts, fruit, coconut, etc… My mum’s rendition included mandarin oranges, tomato, apple, chutney, pineapple, banana and anything she happened to have around that she fancied.  I know it sounds bizarre but the flavors contrast the spiciness of the curry seasoning.  Spoon selections on top of curry.  It’s actually delicious.  I made this one mild because my friends Renee & Jordan (seen in photo at right) are not particularly good with really spicy dishes.  I added crushed red peppers to mine because I like things extremely spicy.  I also have to carry Rolaids where ever I go!

We wanted to sample several different beer styles to see what paired best with the flavors in the dish.  We selected Lagunitas Sonoma Farmhouse Hop Stoopid (8% ABV) a Imperial/Double IPA, Bison Brewing Organic Farmhouse-style Saison (5% ABV), Witkap-Pater Abbey Singel(Brouwerij Slaghmuylder-6% ABV) and Brasserie DuPont Avril, a very light (3.5% ABV)Saison-style table beer.

Renee really liked the light contrast of the Avril to rich flavor of the curry.  All three of us liked the Witkap and noted the sweet malt and lemon brought out the complexity of the curry spice.  I enjoyed the Bison Saison combination of fruit and spice. It really brought out some of the flavors in the curry.  The Hop Stoopid was also very good but all three of us seemed to move to it as the finishing beer for the meal.  In the end, we liked all of the beers and agreed it was amazing how different the food tasted when sampled with the different beers.

There is no right or wrong with beer and food pairing.  You should let your senses run wild and explore all the amazing possibilities.  If you like it, that is the important thing.  I adore the endless possibilities of beer and food pairings and celebrate the sheer delight of flavor explosion in my mouth!  This is what I love about craft beer.  It’s all about the journey…

XOXO

Warmest Holiday Wishes from TheArtofBeer!

It is the Eve of Christmas for those who celebrate it and regardless of faith, this time of year is one when family and friends should be celebrated.  I have personally struggled with my faith for many years but it does not preclude me from appreciating and respecting what the holidays mean for others!   It has been years since I had a family to share the holidays with but I am blessed with fantastic people in my life who care about me as if I were family.

For those spending the holidays with family and loved ones, please remember to be patient and love them with all your heart.  There will come a day when your memories will carry you through.

The "Beer-O-Temp" Selection

Today I celebrate by cooking a special dinner for some friends.  I cook with love and nothing makes me happier than spending my time preparing for guests.  The fridges(s) are stocked with the usual amount of amazing craft beer and I am thrilled to share any of these amazing selections with my friends.  I am a tad bit obsessive with the beer collection so I think it’s good that some of the supply will be reduced today.   I just can’t seem to help myself…IT all looks so delicious and I feel it is my personal duty to sample as many amazing selections as I can.  Stop buying so much beer !

Note to self…”New Year’s Resolution #1″

The Prime Rib!

Roast Potatoes - Brussel Sprouts - Winter Harvest Pilaf

I am serving a beautiful 10 lb – 5 Bone Prime Rib purchased from Home Grown Meats in La Jolla.  Please note that I reduced from a 7 Bone after I realized it would feed a small country!  If you live in San Diego I highly recommend this place.  The beef is locally, ethically & humanely  raised.  There are no hormones or antibiotics used.  These are things that are very important to me when I make food choices.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes!

In addition to the Prime Rib, I am serving a Simple Green Salad, Fingerling Potatoes roasted with onion, garlic and Herbs of Provence and roasted Brussel Sprouts!  For those squincing face up in pain at the mention of brussel sprouts – I challenge you to taste mine.  They are delicious and soooo good for you.  There will also be a Winter Vegetable Rice Pilaf courtesy of Whole Foods!  Hey…The Art of Beer only has so many hands!
The beer parings are to be determined when my guests arrive but suffice it to say I have all the bases covered!  Rumor has it there will be a Brew Dog Tactical Nuclear Penguin tasting!  For those picking themselves up off the floor…I’m sorry!  I promise we will Tweet reviews later this evening — if we are still capable of typing that is!
For each of you I wish Love, Peace & Happiness for this Holiday Season!  Remember to hug you family extra tight and tell them how much they mean to you!  Today more than ever, I cherish the memory of mine…
Love,
TheArtofBeer
XOXO

Italiana Grilled Cheese

Ingredients from my local Italian Market!

I live in “Little Italy”, a vibrant neighborhood in beautiful downtown San Diego.  I have the luxury of walking to great Italian Restaurants and even have a great little neighborhood market that sell amazing Italian ingredients.  It’s another rainy day in San Diego and suffice it to say I am loving it.  I guess it’s my Scottish blood that makes me love the rain.

The market had a loaf of Black Olive Artisan Bread  – baked fresh by Bread & Cie , a local San Diego Bakery.  Along with this I selected some sliced Asiago Cheese, Fresh Basil, Roma Tomatoes and a delectable Spicy Sopressata (Salami) Salumi.  I also picked up an amazing fig compote with Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and a tube of Sun Dried Tomato Paste for use in future Grilled Cheese Creations!  I find myself thinking of all the possibilities that make for a great Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

I sliced the bread and the Sopressata thinly then rolled & chopped a few fresh basil leaves.  Using my tried and true olive oil in a non-stick pan, I placed two slices of the bread in the pre-heated pan and covered them with two slices of Asiago Cheese; covering the pan with a lid to melt the cheese faster.  Once the cheese began to melt, I covered one side of molten cheese with the chopped basil and thinly sliced Sopressata.  It dawned on me that a couple of slices of Roma Tomato would be the perfect addition.  I flipped the other side on top and it was grilled to perfection!

The Finished Product!

Mmmmm.....

The inside....

Grilled Cheese Obsession Redux

Smoked Gouda w/Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Bacon, Sliced Avocado & Purple Onion

It’s sunny and not as chilly in San Diego today but there is still a delightful feel of fall in the air.  I decided that I needed a bacon fix today so I started things out by slowly frying up 5 plump strips Of NimanRanch Applewood Smoked Bacon.  You can buy Niman Ranch Bacon at Trader Joe’s and I can assure you will be thrilled with the quality.  Check out the Niman Ranch website  http://www.nimanranch.com/index.aspx and see for yourself.  It’s all about the ethics surrounding the food we eat.

The Niman Ranch Mission: Niman Ranch and its U.S. farmers and ranchers raise livestock traditionally, humanely and sustainably to deliver the finest tasting meat in the world.

We are proud that all our livestock is:

Niman Ranch Bacon!

  • Humanely Raised on Sustainable U.S. Farms and Ranches
  • Never Given Antibiotics – Ever
  • Never Given Any Added Hormones – Ever
  • Fed All Vegetarian Feeds

I was told recently that the Niman Family no longer owns the ranch, but I am still impressed with the quality of the product and the practices that they subscribe to.  Chipotle Mexican Restaurants also use Niman Ranch Pork for their food; a huge reason why I will eat at Chipotle!

Mmmmm Bacon!

Be sure to cook the bacon slowly and evenly so it gets nice and brown.  Don’t be in a rush.  Most things in life are better when done slow & easy.  Please make a note of that guys… I like my bacon crispy, especially for sandwiches because I like to break it into tiny pieces and sprinkle it on the gooey cheese goodness when it begins to melt.  After its cooked to your liking, remove it from the pan and place the strips on a double folded piece of paper towel to absorb the grease.  Use another piece to pat the top.  Then set it aside to cool until ready to make your sandwich.

The same as yesterday I used olive oil in my pan in place of buttering the bread.  Olive oil is still high in fat but it is a good fat and healthier than butter.  I actually prefer the taste of it too but that could be because I have used it in place of butter for so many years.  Be sure to buy a good quality extra-virgin type.  Trader Joe’s has several great selections at a very good price.  I had some TJ’s Smoked Gouda slices in my fridge and I thought this cheese would fare well with the bacon.  I leave the brownish rind on because I like it but you can cut it off.  Smoked Gouda takes a while to melt so covering the pan will help speed that along.  once it starts to swell and bubble , that is when you want to add the bacon pieces to one side.  To balance out the saltiness of the bacon I added some thin slices of a firm avocado.  Avocado has a buttery texture that compliments the bacon and the gouda.   I also added a few pieces of thinly sliced Purple Onion and placed it on top of the avocado.  Gently slide the other side of the bread on top of the side with the bacon and avocado, being careful to keep all the ingredients firmly in place.  Continue cooking until bread is at desired brownness on both sides.  Slide gently on plate and allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting.  I added a little sautéed cherry tomato compote to the plate for garnish-yum!

Hinterland Brewery - Pale Ale - Green Bay Wisconsin

I decided to pop open the Hinterland Pale Ale to enjoy with my latest creation.  I am afterall, a consenting adult of legal age who deserves to be pampered 🙂 and it was 2:00 PM.  I popped open the beer and poured it into one of my favorite glasses.  Details on the beer later but with regard to pairing with the grilled cheeses…It was perfect!  This mellow Pale Ale complemented the salt and smokiness of the grilled cheese sandwich perfectly!

The great thing about creating grilled cheese sandwiches is that there really is no right and wrong choice.  That is a beautiful thing when cooking cause it takes the stress out of the process.  Cheese is one of my favorite foods and I can think of few things that don’t go well with the various styles.  Stay tuned as I experiment with some of the amazing suggestions I received yesterday on Twitter and via the comments section here.  Remember…It’s all about the journey!  CHEERS!

Grilled Cheesegasm! Oh My....