Monday, December 29, 2014

Greenwell Coffee Farms, Kona Hawaii

America is not known for its quality coffee however the tropical island state of Hawaii is the exception that proves the rule. Quality high altitude coffee beans create a rich bean not dissimilar to South American coffee. 



When a work trip to Hawaii came up I insisted that we stop at a coffee farm on our way to the usual mountain and volcano site seeing. The Greenwell Coffee Farms at Kona are open to the public and include free tours that are of great interest to the coffee fanatic and gardener alike. 


They begin the tour with a discussion of the farming co-operative that makes up Greenwell farms and it's history starting with pre-colonial history to the modern operation of the growers in the area. 


They then run through the life cycle of the coffee tree itself explaining the seasonal fruiting and seeding. Coffee is a time consuming crop to harvest since the fruits mature at different stages and only ripe cherries can be used for coffee beans. This means that mechanical methods of harvesting fruits used for other trees cannot be used for coffee and manual fruit picking is still the standard method today. 


Numerous groves are on the main farm, though today these are kept for Private Reserve blends.


Most of the fruit processed at the farm is brought in by small growers in the Kona co-operative. The cherries are processed and roasted on site making a truly single origin coffee production facility. 


Ripe fruit is sorted by quality and then the pulp of the coffee cherry is removed. Greenwell use a wet method to remove the pulp churning the fruit through a specially devised machine with plenty of water to remove the soft parts of the fruit and expose the coffee bean. 


The green beans are left out in the warm Hawaiian sun and raked regularly to ensure all the moisture evaporates. 


Several stages of the drying process can be seen on display, the beans darkening with each step. After the beans are entirely dry they are roasted and blended into the grindable drinkable roasted bean we love to obsess about. 


The farm offers plenty of free coffee on hand for tasting. 


Blonde through to dark roasts are on hand as well as decaf and flavoured coffee. If you're a fan of a brew they're bound to have something on hand that suits your fancy. The coffee itself is quite rich and oily, much approved by this coffee snob.


Of course one must exit through the gift shop but with plenty of beans, chocolate, nuts and local honey this is the perfect tourist stop for any foodie visiting Big Island. 


Greenwell Farms


81-6581 Mamalahoa Highway
Kealakekua, HI 96750
Phone: (808) 323-2275

Boutique coffee farm and gourmet souvenirs

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Review: Le Pub, Sydney

As a lover of a tipple and good company it's unsurprising that the Gastropub is one of my favourite cuisines. The laid back atmosphere, unassuming dishes and conversation friendly layouts make the perfect night out with a mate or 10.

Sydney has recently had a rash of Gastropubs and small boozey venues pop up after a change in the alcohol licencing laws favouring smaller venues. Le Pub is the French bistro gastropub offering by the same people who run the Bavarian Beer Cafe and brings with it the same professional air. Matchings for both the beer and wine drinker are provided with each dish on the menu.


Croquettes $16AUD

Pea, mint and gruyere mash is breaded and fried served with a red pepper mayonnaise and lemon wedges. This kind of fried snack is just what you want with pints of good beer. 


Assiette de degustation $29AUD

Pickles and charcuterie are two of my favourite things and I find the nibbly nature of platters like this just perfect with drinks and good conversation. The size is shareable for 2 or absolutely indulgent for 1. Offerings seem to vary based on what's in the larder as any good assiette will. This came with duck rillettes, cured beef, iberico ham, cornichones, olives and crusty sourdough bread. 


Steak Frites with Cafe de Paris butter $23AUD

Good quality Gippsland Australian beef is cooked to your liking and served with a choice of sauces. I order Cafe de Paris butter whenever it can be found but other classic French sauces like Bearnaise, Mushroom and Pepper sauce were also available. Crisp but soft fries are just perfect, though the basket for each person was probably overkill. 


Onion rings $9AUD

More fried snacks are just what the doctor ordered after a few pints, light crisp battered onion rings are just delicious. The batter is a super light beer and corn flour affair that goes wonderfully with the lemony aioli. 


Gaufre Belge $16AUD

If you have room for dessert there's a number of great classic options like Creme Brulee, Tarte au Chocolat, Mousse d'Orange or cheese plates. For me though the only option had to be the Belgian style waffle dripping in chocolate sauce, hazelnuts and rich vanilla bean ice cream. 

As a semi regular business traveller to Sydney Le Pub offers the perfect venue for 1 on 1 meetings and team outings. Reasonably priced food, table service drinks, sheltered tables perfect for chatting and stumbling distance from CBD offices and hotels.

There is one major flaw in this venue though, and I hope in part that this will go away over time. The service was terrible; sure they were attentive and my food was on point but the staff didn't know the menu or in fact anything about French food. Both myself and my companion were left blinking a number of times after comments were made like "what sauce did you want with the steak au poivre?" and "did you want fries with that steak frittes?" I suspect that the servers were chosen for their looks and not their intellects - hopefully the management realise that this was a mistake and institute better training or better staff. 

Le Pub


66 King Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Australia
+61 2 9262 3277

http://www.lepub.com.au/

French style gastropub, perfect for small groups and first dates

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Recipe: Five Pepper Goulash

This is one of my winter favourites and much loved in my household; you really want to take as long as possible to cook it to mature the flavours.

Gochujang (Korean malted red pepper paste) is my secret ingredient for this dish and while it seems out of place in a European dish it adds a richness to the pepper flavour and brings instant umame - you can buy it at most Asian supermarkets in large tubs. If you can't find it you should substitute Red Pepper Relish or 3 tbpsn of Worcestershire sauce and 1 tbspn of sugar to ensure the same savoury depth.



Five Pepper Goulash


500g beef
4 strips bacon and/or 2 tbspn purified bacon grease
1 brown onion
2 gloves garlic
2 capsicum (bell pepper)
2 fresh chilies (birds eye)
2 tbspn smoked paprika
1 tbspn red chilli flakes
2  tbspn gochujang
1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
1 small tin (170g) tomato paste
2 cups beef stock
1 cup red wine
oil for frying
salt and pepper
1/2 cup sour cream


Method



  • In a large stock pot heat a pool of oil the size of your palm. Dice the onion and add to the pot then cook on a medium heat until the onions have sweated
  • Dice the bacon and fry with the onion, if you keep bacon grease on hand you can use this in place of the bacon since we only want the smoke infusion. 
  • If you're feeling indulgent you can also subsitute the bacon for chorizo which adds more paprika with the pork flavour.
  • Dice the bell pepper and fresh chilli and fry with the onion / bacon mix until softened
  • Mince or finely chop the garlic and add to the vegetable mix
  • Cube the beef into bite sized chunks and add to the pot, stir occasionally on medium heat until the meat is browned
  • Once the beef is cooked add the dried peppers - the chilli flakes and smoked paprika. Stir fry until the chilli is fragrant and the meat well coated.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes and stir well, once incorporated add the beef stock, tomato paste, gochujang and red wine in that order. Don't be tempted to add them all at once, you want each ingredient to add to the mixture before adding the next.
  • Leave to simmer for around 20 minutes and then taste, this ensures that the tomato paste is cooked down and the alcohol is cooked out of the wine.
  • Season with salt, pepper and if desired more smoked paprika then leave to simmer on a low heat for as long as possible - 2 - 4 hours is ideal.
  • If too much of the liquid boils off add 1 cup of water or a low sodium beef stock to the pot and continue to simmer.
  • Turn the heat off for 5 mins before serving. If you like a creamy goulash add the sour cream and fold gently through the sauce or serve as I have with 1-2 tbspns on top of each serving. 
  • Serve on top of buttered noodles, mashed potato or with hot sliced bread. Garnish with small bell pepper slices and sprinkle with smoked paprika. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: Waraku, San Francisco

Our attempt to eat at all the ramen restaurants in Japantown, San Francisco continues and Waraku is an excellent staple with a slightly more upscale feel than the other offerings in the neighbourhood.


Waraku is definitely the kind of place you want to go to for a mid week meal or in the afternoon. The decor is wonderful and the staff attentive but the place can get very busy and I feel like they've added too many tables. This is definitely not a place for a first date, I feel like sometimes I am sitting at a table with strangers and I find their conversation invasive. Being only about a block from the Peacetown mall this is a surprisingly easy oasis during events in Japantown.

The food at Waraku has a limited menu but absolutely everything we've had there has been wonderful; so long as you're not after Vegetarian food.

Hanetsuki Gyoza $4.50USD

Thin skinned pork and vegetable dumplings are cooked in a way that causes a skin to form allowing you to play pull apart games with your friends. Good fun with good dumplings. 



Hiyayakko $4.50USD

Cold tofu is topped with generous amounts of ginger, scallion, dried nori and bonito. The tofu is obviously made fresh and has the telltale cottage look of air throughout. I would have preferred a slightly smoother tofu but one cannot knock fresh tofu in the US and this is a very good dish. 


Karaage $5.00USD

The ubiquitous fried chicken snack in a sesame and soy batter. This version is crisp and crunchy and not too oily. Thankfully the serves are also on the small side so you don't find yourself eating a day's worth of calories in one dish. 



Tofu salad $7.00USD

When I ordered the Tofu salad I was expecting a side dsish but instead a huge platter of tofu and greens came out. Served in a toasted sesame (goma) vinaigrette and simply covered in cubes of the freshly made tofu. Good for those avoiding the fried food. 



Kakuni-don $4.50USD

Small rice bowls can be bought on the lunch menu that are not much larger than a soup bowl and perfect for tasting a few things on the menue. This one is kakuni which is a braised fatty pork belly seasoned and topped with scallions.


Shoyu chashu ramen $10USD

A plain soy ramen served with wilted spinach, bamboo shoots, pork and egg. The noodles are a good quality chewy egg noodle. Tonkotsu (pork bone) soup is available for those who like a meatier soup and I find that this is the best broth of any of the ramen offerings in Japantown. If one could combine this soup with the noodles from Sapporo-ya you might almost have the perfect local ramen. 

They also offer a tsukemen tonkotsu version with the noodles on the side with a thicker soup for dipping for $9USD. Additional toppings like pork, mushrooms, sprouts and tofu can be added for $1-3USD. Their spicy miso ball (50c) can be added to any soup and is highly recommended for those who like a stronger ramen.


Tantanmen $9.00USD

Tantanmen is my all time favourite noodle dish and unfortunately Waraku only serves it during the colder months. Minced pork is fried in a sweet and savoury seasoning and served in a spicy sesame tonkotsu broth with coriander smoked egg.


The noodles are decent, the broths are good but the real star of this restaurant is the smoked soft boiled egg, order two it's worth it. Boiled to  soft gelatinous perfection you get one in the ramens but an extra can be ordered for $1USD or as a canape on their own for $4.50USD.

Waraku



1638 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94115

Upscale ramen eatery in Japantown, San Francisco

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Review: Fat Angel Food & Libations, San Francisco

As a foreigner living in San Francisco this can mean a lot of international visitors due to the proximity of Silicon Valley. Fat Angel is the perfect place to take visitors and business colleagues for a catch up and a good drink.


The theme is high end gastropub in the Fillmore district off the back of Japantown. An intimate environment that is just perfect for small groups or couples on dates - being so close to the Fillmore Theatre this would be a great choice for a pre or post show drink. The venue isn't large though so we tend to go early, either after working from home or on a weekend afternoon. This ensures a choice of tables and no wait, but be aware if you do this the kitchen only opens at 5pm. 


The craft beer list is extensive, several pages including imported and local options, ciders and gluten free beers. Watch the specials board and try their rotation to get a good grasp of the menu. We're particularly fond of some of the unusual beers like sour cherry and dark chocolate porters. 


2007 La Rioja Alta ‘ViƱa Alberdi’  Rioja Tempranillo $12USD and 2013 Domaine de Sulauze ‘Pomponette’  Aix en Provence, France Pino/Syrah $10USD

For the wine drinkers there's an equally impressive selection by the bottle and by the glass. Lots of new world and European wines are available that pair perfectly with the small plate food. 


Pretzel $5USD

Fresh pretzels with a lye wash and not too much salt are great with cold beer, they're served warm with a rich and hearty seeded mustard.



The real winner here though are the sharing boards; all equally delicious with wine or beer and served with crisp sour dough toast points. The cheeses come with a number of side additions like pickles, sweet marmalade and nuts that pair perfectly with the sharp cheeses. Extra points for a number of non cow milk options for those of us with more sensitive palettes. The pickled candied walnuts that they sometimes serve on the cheeseboard is one of the best things in the venue and worht looking out for. The charcuterie includes a number of dried and fatty meat options and a liver parfait. 

Charcuterie selection $5.25 each, 3 for $15, or 6 for $28
  • Chorizo 
  • Duck Salami 
  • Genoa 
  • Pheasant Terrine 
  • Speck 
  • Soppressata 
Cheeseboard selections $5 each, 3 for $14, or 6 for $27
  • Vella Dry Jack hard cow 
  • Capricious hard goat 
  • Fleur de Marquis semi-soft sheep 
  • La Oveja Negra semi-hard sheep 
  • Petite Supreme soft cow 
  • Buttermilk Blue Afinee soft cow
Not shown here are also fancy butter selections ($4.75USD each) served with warm fresh bread. This is exactly what I crave when I'm eating carbs and they don't disappoint. Selections include Lemon caper sage, Garlic chili, Maple bacon, Philz coffee or Honey Butter. 


Tomato, spicy sausage and arugula with parmesan $12USD

The flatbreads are served on a very thin bread crust with plenty of toppings. The arugula gi''ves as peppery edge to this dish that cuts nicely through the sausage, combined with the thin crust this makes a lighter more refined option for those craving pizza.



Apple Bread Pudding $7.50USD

There are a number of sweet and after dinner dishes making this also a good stop for post theatre coffee and sweets. This apple bread pudding is rich and delicious served with fresh whipped cream.


French press coffee - enough for 3 cups $9USD 
10 Year Old Malmsey Madeira Blandy’s  Madeira, Portugal  $9USD

Sadly they lack an espresso machine but the French press can be bought for 1 or in a larger format to be shared like this. It's a good quality dark French roast enough to keep a coffee snob happy. There's also a very large range of aperitifs and after dinner drinks including this delicious Madeira which can be hard to find in the US. 

Fat Angel - Food & Libation

http://www.fatangelsf.com/

1740 O'Farrell St
San Francisco
CA 94115
(415) 525-3013

Intimate gastropub and post Theatre share plates




Saturday, November 29, 2014

Review: 4505 Burgers and BBQ, San Francisco

If there is one cuisine that Americans have perfected it is BBQ; often though excellent rubs and sticky sauces hide less than stellar meat. 4505 Meats has been selling Artisan meats in the Bay Area at farmer's markets and their butchery for years, now they're turning their fine meats into finer BBQ. 


4505 is as self service casual dining experience; you order at the window from a large board of choices and take a number to a table in the yard outside the restaurant. Drinks can be ordered at the bar inside the restaurant but roaming servers will collect plates and take orders for additional drinks. 


Smoked meats include brisket, pulled chicken, pork shoulder, pork rib racks and mild or spicy smoked sausage. 

You can order meat by the pound, on a sandwich or a set plate with sides. They offer standard sides included with the meal or Fixin's which are 'deluxe' sides that can be added to your meat platter for 75c or up from $4 each. All of the sides are plentiful and delicious and appeal to a wide set of tastes from fried Mac and Cheese  to Beans or Fries. Each platter also comes with fresh pickles and a 'posh' locally made Hawaiian style dinner roll.




This is definitely a venue for the food lover rather than the fine diner; picnic table dining, cutlery buckets and cold beer are the order of the day. They have a huge range of craft beers on tap as well as all natural soft drinks made from cane sugar. Perfect for a warm sunny California day in the sunshine. 


Chicharrones $4USD or as a Fixin' + 75c on a meal

The Chicharrones are definitely worth a mention - the ultimate moreish low carb snack of pork rinds that have been dried, deep fried and salted. As well as being rich sweet 4505 pork fat these are salted and seasoned to perfection with a light chili lime dusting. Perfect with a cold beer or on their own. 


Condiments - Free and communal

The condiment selection is a little limited but also not as necessary as you might think. They include a mustard/vinegar sauce, a Carolina style BBQ sauce, Ketchup and Louisiana Hot Sauce. I admit when I take this home I indulge in Kansas style sweet sauce; brisket and sticky sauce is my idea of heaven. 


2 Meat Platter with Chicken & Hot Link $16USD

The chicken is soft and juicy with a rich smokey flavour. Here the sides are Fries (included) and Frankaroni ( +75c Fixin' or $4.75USD on its own). Frankaroni is an indulgent Mac and Cheese mixed with cut Hot Dogs breaded and deep fried - a delicious heart attack.



2 Meat Platter with Brisket and Mild Link $16USD

Served with double Coleslaw. The smoked sausages are fantastic but I find the heat of the spicy link overpowers the brisket so I skipped my usual mouth burning affair. The brisket melts in your mouth with the right mix of fat through the meat; I could eat an entire side of this stuff and wish to high heaven they made burnt ends.


BBQ Sandwich $9.75USD

Most BBQ joints in the US will only serve Pork, premixed with sweet sauce. 4505 will let youchoose any of the smoked meats as well as a fried chicken strip option sure to please the kids. The meat is topped with coleslaw and served on a good quality brioche burger bun. The burger doesn't come with sides as standard - fries are an extra $4 but the burger is man sized and doesn't need them. 

4505 offer take home dinners which are shareable sizes with 2 classic sides or party packages if you're catering. They're open late for evening pick up - great if you're watching the game or just want to head home after work but still eat delicious.


To top all this off 4505 is walking distance from Comix Experience and Isotope Comics.  A walk in the sunshine to the comic book store followed by cold beers, great meats and new comics is about the perfect Sunday afternoon San Francisco activity. If you're less geek centric try the Farmer's Market next door on Divisadero open till 1pm on weekends.

4505 Burgers & BBQ


705 Divisadero St
San Francisco
CA 94117
(415) 231-6993

Slow smoked artisan meats served in a no frills environment

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Recipe: No bake low carb cheesecake bites

You can see I'm stocking up on low carb sweets at the moment, having desserts around that fit in a restricted calorie or carb diet make it easier to maintain my weight. I also like to portion control any treats, you'll notice I  use small tins and moulds for many desserts. This avoids the temptation to take "just a little more" and gives me an excuse to make whimsical looking sweets

I tried a number of baked low carb cheesecake recipes with no success on texture, this no bake fridge/freezer cake is my best yet. This is a terribly easy recipe that is delicious and can be adapted to any flavour, whether you're carb watching or not!

Low Carb Cheesecake Bites





Crust



1/4 cup roasted almonds (unsalted)
1/4 cup walnuts
3 tbspn melted butter
1 tspn pumpkin pie spice (or nutmeg/cinnamon/ginger)


  • These cheesecake bites are lovely on their own but add a crust if you want the real dessert experience
  • This mix of nuts and spice makes a great low carb crust that is reminiscent of a Graham Cracker crust
  • Chop the nuts in a mixer or by hand
  • Add the spice, then add the melted butter 1 tbspn at a time until a moist consistency is reached
  • Line the bottom of a pie tin or cupcake tins for individual portions, 1 tspn per mini cake is more than enough

Filling


225g (8oz) Neufchatel or Cream Cheese
125g (or 1 stick) of Salted butter
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup Splenda granules or equivalent sweetener
1 lime or small lemon


  • Neufchatel is the best cheese to give that "just like Sara Lee" taste, but if you can't find it at your local supermarket then any brick of Cream Cheese will do just as well
  • I keep these in the freezer so that 1 batch can last many days, I take out one portion about 20 mins before I intend to eat it
  • If you like a stiffer consistency or would like to serve straight from the fridge rather than the freezer then add 1 sheet of gelatin or replace the sweetener with a box of Sugar Free Lemon jelly (jello) dissolved in half a cup of water
  • Using other flavours of jelly (or sugar free flavour syrups) allow you to mix and match flavours like cherry, raspberry or orange. 
  • Soften the cream cheese either by leaving it out of the fridge for an hour or by microwaving for 30 seconds (make sure to remove the foil!)
  • Melt the butter on the stove or in the microwave; I melt the butter and then take out a couple of spoons for the crust and use the rest in the batter. 
  • Using a hand mixer or food processor mix the Cream Cheese and Butter together. Make sure that you have returned the butter to a luke warm temperature or it will cause the cheese to curdle
  • Grate the rind of your lime (or half of a lemon) and juice the fruit, add both the rind and the juice to the cheese/butter mix
  • Add the cream and the sweetener and then mix on a medium speed until all the ingredients are combined
  • For easy serving into moulds or tins I then transfer the mixture into a measuring jug for easy pouring, the mixture should have the same consistency as melted ice cream
  • Pour your mixture into your moulds and then move into the freezer, this recipe will take around 2 hours to set. 
  • I use silicon moulds for freezing, these are perfect in cupcake form. I put the silicon liners in a cupcake tray and then put the whole tray in the freezer.




  • These make great frozen 'bites' without the crust, use fancy jelly or ice moulds to make small treats you can pop out any time like these Mooncake shapes I've created with a cheap jelly mould. Without the crust, and in smaller sizes, make these closer to an "every day" treat at around 100 calories each
  • To ensure the shape stays 'perfect' prepare the night before and don't be tempted to pop out until the mixture is firm!
  • This recipe makes 9 mini cupcake desserts, or more if you choose a smaller mould. Macros for 9 servings are 264 calories, 25g Fat, 3.5g Carbs (2.5g Net) per serving
  • Top with a slice of citrus, nuts or fruit toppings if you're not a low carb eater











Friday, September 26, 2014

Recipe: Low Carb Pumpkin Pie

It's Autumn in the US (or Fall if you must) and that means one thing - Pumpkin Spice everything! Rather than miss out it was time to investigate my own low carb recipe. If you want you can add a ground nut and butter crust but I think this is just delicious on it's own with whipped cream.

Low Carb Pumpkin Pie




3 eggs
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tin of canned pumpkin or 2 cups mashed fresh pumpkin
1 cup Splenda granules or equivalent sweetener
1 tspn Vanilla essence
2 tspn Pumpkin Pie Spice OR
1/2 tspn each of Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Ground Ginger & 1/4 tspn Ground Cloves

Method


  • Preheat the oven to 180C (350F)
  • In a bowl beat the eggs until fluffy and then add the vanilla and spices
  • While on a medium speed add the sweetener and beat until blended
  • Add the cream and beat until a stiff consistency is achieved
  • Reduce the speed on your mixer, add the mashed pumpkin 1 tbspn at a time until the mixture achieves a consistent orange colour
  • Spoon the mixture into a pie tin or 6 small moulds, in the picture I have used a mini bundt tin
  • Leave room for the pie mixture to rise
  • Bake for 30 mins, then turn the oven off and leave to cool in the oven
  • Serve with whipped cream
  • Macros below are for the whole recipe - serves 6 at 150 Calories, 11g Carbs (9 Net) per person





Sunday, September 21, 2014

Recipe: Chicken Saltimbocca (Low Carb & Gluten Free)

Saltimbocca is an underated dish especially for low carb eating since it has no starch and high fat content, but the sharp ham, citrus and pickles cut through the fat leaving a happy tummy. In particular this is a great dish to order in Italian restaurants while you watch your friends eat pasta! Even if you're not low carb or gluten free this is a relatively quick meal to cook that pleases the whole household. 


Chicken Satimbocca


500g (1lb) chicken
3 slices prosciutto
4 sage leaves
60g (2oz) salted butter
1 tbpsn capers
2 marinated artichoke hearts
1 lemon
salt and pepper

Method



  • Prepare the chicken by separating the tenders from the breast and cutting the breast in half. 
  • This should leave you with 2 large fillets and 2 small tenders, flatten the chicken using a meat tenderizer and then season with salt and pepper
  • Place a sage leaf on top of each piece of chicken and then cover with a piece of prosciutto. For the tenders cut one piece of prosciutto in half and use on the smaller chicken pieces. 
  • Put half the butter in a pan to heat on medium heat and then fry the chicken in the butter with the prosciutto attached. 
  • Once the chicken is browned add the juice of the lemon and the rest of the butter and simmer gently until the butter has melted
  • Cut the artichoke hearts into small pieces and add to the pan with the capers and simmer for 1-2 minutes
  • Remove the chicken fillets to a plate and continue to simmer the sauce until thickened
  • Pour the sauce and pickled vegetables over the chicken and serve with fresh green vegetables
  • Serves 2 people with only 3g net carbs per person