Beryl’s Scones

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My mum, Beryl, loves nothing better than a good “Devonshire Tea”…

I can’t measure the miles we’ve driven or the times we’ve travelled to out of the way craft shops and cafes in small towns ‘cos mum heard they “did a good afternoon tea”.
And understand that “good” is more than just good – it’s an all encompassing concept that includes the tea, the presentation, the staff or owner, the cups, saucers and plates, and finally the scones and cream!

Good afternoon tea: 2 fresh scones, whipped cream, option of butter and homemade jam. Nice cups and saucers. Good sized teapot, preferably one not individual pots. Tea strainer if needed. Cosies optional.

The irony is, rarely are the scones anywhere near as good as mum’s.
Too often dry and chewy (heresy) or gummy and heavy (sigh with disappointment) we spend almost as much time discussing the dreadful attempt as actually enjoying those that pass the test!
“Most people just can’t make a decent scone these days”
This is followed by remembrance of bad scones past and the worst offenders if known by name.

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Beryl downplays her cooking, and scones in particular, with a ” Well…..I don’t do that much now” which reduces the rest of us to out loud laughter. Open up the kitchen cupboards and there are tupperware boxes with little jam drops, pastry cases for lemon curd, coconut or shortbread cookies and maybe a slice or two (hopefully the caramel one, but there’s an almondy apricot one that runs a close second).
Then in the freezer at least 6-8 scones from the last batch “just in case someone pops in”.

No greater sin than having to offer a store bought biscuit to accompany the cup of tea. Better to go the savory route with cheese and tomato on crackers than plate the Iced Vovos or Kingstons for company.

Beryl’s tips for scones: make them quickly with as little handling as possible (easier said than done!).
And note that the recipe is just a starting point as she doesn’t use commercial measuring cups but rather a particular tea cup and spoons from the drawer.

2 cups of self raising flour
2 dessert spoons of caster sugar
1/2 cup of cream (heavy whipping cream in the US)
1/2 a cup of milk
1 egg

Beat the eggs and sugar till creamy. Beryl uses a hand mixer.
Stir in the cream and milk.
Add the flour, mixing w a knife.

Flour the counter and gently pat out the dough.

Cut out the scones w/ a cutter (or a teacup or empty tin can)

Place on a tray, brush with an egg wash or a little milk, and bake in a 200 degree C oven for 12-15 minutes (fan forced/convection). Serve with freshly whipped cream (absolutely no sweeteners or flavoring) and good jam.

Hierarchy of Jams:
Dark, rich berry jams like blackberry, raspberry, strawberry or blueberry. Maybe a goopy sticky apricot. Or go avant grade w tropicals like mango-ginger or pineapple guava. Lemon or passionfruit curd may be ok (and in our mind a little pretentious) but never a marmalade, which are just for breakfast and toast!

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A visit to the UK and exploration of Devonshire and Cream Tea haunts confirmed what we already knew: the aussie bush version was better. Mum didn’t take to the clotted cream, or heavy triangular scones we had in Scotland but she did love that everywhere we went there was strong black tea in a pot, served with milk and sugar and a pretty plate of cakes.

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Special once in a lifetime pilgrimages to Fortnum and Mason and Claridge’s were amazing, beautiful and ritualistic with silver service, petite sandwiches, specialty Darjeelings and tiered cake stands full of eclairs and petit fours.
Never to be forgotten, but we couldn’t wait to get back home and have scones from Beryls oven, dollops of whipped cream, yummy home made jam and bolstering amounts of Liptons tea.

Afternoon tea heaven.

And from across the other side of the Pacific  I think maybe any afternoon tea with my mum is heaven 🙂

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Sweet Lucie’s

When Mike and Geri Czako first founded Sweet Lucie’s, their organic ice-cream company, they were renting the Nosh kitchen after hours to create and perfect their signature flavors and premium product, seemingly years into a painstaking restoration of their 1959 vintage ice cream truck and juggling full time careers in advertising and business…

and parents of a very sweet little one year old girl called Lucie.

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Fast forward to 2014: hundreds of appearances and events under their belt, products on the shelves at WholeFoods and speciality retailers, collaborations with artisan bakers and a whisky producer, and a new addition to the Czako family, a baby boy, Jack.

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From a craving for ice-cream when she was pregnant with Lucie and a desire to eat well and organically, Geri is justifiably proud of the company she and Mike have created and their USDA certified organic product.

They now produce over 28 flavors and 18 fresh fruit sorbets (plus toppings and sauces)
at their immaculate manufacturing facility in San Pedro. All made from scratch in small batches using locally sourced ingredients. Banana, Black Sesame, Blueberry Pie, Butter Pecan…and that’s just the B’s!

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Their yummy ice cream and iconic truck are much in demand for celebrity and media events, and both the truck and the very cute gelato carts have been featured in magazines (Sunset and C to name a couple), pop videos (Katy Perry!) and catalog shoots (the adorable Pottery Barn Kids).

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The company is now full time for Mike and Geri, with leaps forward almost every week: a brick and mortar store to open soon on the Westside, Sweet Lucie’s now scooped on the USC Campus, and even more flavors and ice cream treats being added to the mix.

http://www.ilovelucies.com

The world is your oyster.

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I thought when I started writing this blog that I would be mostly sharing stories about food.
What I mocked. What I cooked. What I loved or loathed. Maybe my adventures in the food industry, off and on for 30 years.

However, it seems people or poems or places occupy me and it made me ask myself, “what food DO I love?”

The answer came in a long, tedious and still not completed transfer of photos from my old to new computer.

What treat is documented every time I indulge?
How many photos do I have of oysters in my files?!
Guess what I could eat every day??

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As a kid I was mystified by my dad’s love of oysters… straight from the rocks, opened with his penknife and slurped down immediately. We would walk for miles along the river just hoping to find a renegade, a freebie not on an oyster lease, waiting to be devoured.

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Second best, a jar of opened: squirrily looking jars of grey floaty gobs in brine.
Mum would turn them into Oyster Vol au Vents. Oysters in a rich creamy sauce and baked in the oven until we couldn’t wait any longer… nothing like a cheesy sauce and buttery pastry shells to turn doubters into lovers.

On those rare nights out at a restaurant (probably the RSL Club) we would be allowed to share a plate of Oysters Kilpatrick.

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Broiled with a little bacon and Worcestershire Sauce, it’s still a favorite: freshly shucked and perfectly “just cooked” with crispy, salty, smokey bacon.

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My first fall into oyster oblivion (heaven) came one weekend at college when we camped at a friend’s place on the coast. His family owned oyster leases so we gathered buckets full, threw them on an improvised grill over a fire and waited as they popped open. Warm and juicy. No frills. Accompanied by hoots, hollers, beer and wine.

A favorite from then on.

oyster harvest

2 years ago, bored with the Thanksgiving routine we drove downtown to Los Angeles Fish Co, struggled out with as many as we could afford and set to opening, in-between turkey prep, household art direction and cooking chores.
2 oyster knives and 2 chain mail gloves from the kitchenware store and we were ready to go.



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Slow to start, our speed picked up and by the time thursday afternoon arrived we had platters of Oyster Rockefellow and Oyster Kilpatrick ready for the oven as well as iced trays of Kumamoto and Malpeque.
Some mignonette dressing (re wine vinegar, shallots and onion), some lemon, sweet chili for the beginners, and it was time to celebrate.

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And did you know Oysters were served at the first Thanksgiving? Justification indeed!

Road Trips Rule

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There is nothing so awful that can’t be improved by a road trip..( and not to trivialize truly tragic, awful things).

Give me that moment, the heightened sense of expectation as the car is loaded and the house is locked.

Time for an adventure!

The best place for a road trip is my adopted home, the US of A.

Along with great good roads, cheap gas ( and my baby Prius) , you can’t help but stumble upon mythic otherworldly landscapes, folk art extravaganza and weirdly quaint, niche businesses, cultural icons of every sort: the place where the movie was filmed, the star was born, the songwriter died, the poet or the president lived, the novel described.

Uber Americana as far as the eye can see!!

road 1 Note: The best trips start here in the West. (Sorry, but explorations of the green East are never as epic.)

From LA there’s a first long day of driving to get anywhere. Brutal moonscapes, big dry mountains, stretches of interstate, desolate and dissolute…life slows and one becomes introspective. Alone, I talk to myself- animated arguments or rants, poetic and witty observation or sing at the top of my lungs, favorite songs over and over. ..and over and over again.

Bliss.

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With a friend or husband, it’s hours of chat, sometimes a nap, but definitely a stop at the In & Out in Barstow, or at the bottom of the Grapevine. Opens at 11am, perfect timing to get that fast food monkey off your back AND in a social justice, sorta healthy way. From now on, it’s picnics,fruit and nuts and margarita dinners.

roadiburger Depending on the direction, the first night can be Grand Canyon or Chinle, Winslow or St George, Utah , maybe San Francisco or Tuscon. The West rules!!

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When it comes to beds on the road the trick is to alternate .Cheap as chips ( but clean, not scary) OR ultra splurgy .  The more remote and less traveled, the more meaningful the historic hotel/motel becomes.

Often the mainstay of what’s left in main street, they hold the stories, the economy, the history and the community within their walls. Think La Posada, Winslow or Hotel Capitan, Van Horn Texas, Price Tower, Bartlesville OK, Hotel Paisano , Marfa …cool architecture and public spaces .

They are the historic beating hearts of their town.   hotel2The other useful rule of thumb:the further you are from a city, the better the Motel 6 ! Chatting to the chic woman in black at the concrete Motel 6 pool in Utah as we watched  kids swimming (yes,an editor of German VOGUE) I was reminded of how the Euros travel in the Southwest: clean cheap beds, bespoke tours and helicopters at sunrise.

road666 My necessities. A cooler on the back set with picnic stuff (fruit, salad and water), tea kettle and caffeine supplies ( hot, black tea w non fat milk & sugar for when I open my eyes), wine (not always available ), lots of paper maps to spread out and see the possibilities, story books to read and whatever device to photograph.

Sunglasses, swimmers, hat and sneakers. A phone.

An excuse to get in the car ( destination, baby) and at least a week or more… mmmmmmmm

Thank you Beatrice

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She’d got used to being stuck.
but suddenly
Beatrice calls

and lures her forward
with saris and pots

mama of dada,
lover of love
vessels and vases

So tired when she started
and now such joy
Susan’s joy!

Time stretches but nothing looms…
shapes and songs and words appear

brooms sweep
making a place
My space.

muses, craft and beauty beckon…lustre and grace

BW in red sari

Rock Anthem Power Ballad

journey-unauthorized Hard to believe I had missed a whole school of music, and one amazing song in particular… Lots of Oz Rock (and that’s an Encyclopedia of Greatness), West Coast sound, Dance and Trance, hearing the Sex Pistols and knowing, in that moment, everything had changed .

So I moved to London.Hung out in clubs and pubs, danced and devoured everything the UK music scene could offer.

Saw The Clash, The Specials, UB40, Siouxsie and the Banshees, XTC, Black Uhuru, The Pretenders,Elvis C, Graham P, U2 ( when Bono was plump) and pilgrimaged wherever The Jam went. Epic nights of music .

A decade later, a marriage and move to LA, it took freeways, interstates and local radio to beat me into submission….

YOU WILL LOVE BIG AMERICAN STADIUM ROCK

YOU WILL SING POWER BALLADS AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS ..

YOU WILL THINK DON’T STOP BELEIVIN’ IS THE GREATEST SONG EVER WRITTEN.

In spite of a preference for West Coast road trips it’s hard to argue with the big and loud and wide and deep of commercial radio in the midwest. An the incredible power ballad gorge-a-thon when you drive from Milwaukee to St Louis, to Detroit and Cleveland and Chicago.

The genre kills: inescapable, emotional, ubiquitous .Journey with skinny Steve Perry screaming “Don’t Stop Believin” is the rallying, pump-up song for the White Sox, the Dodgers and nearly every second high school football team.

It’s the best selling song in digital download history ( until Imagine Dragons”Radioactive”…yuk)

Released in 1981, I missed it first time around.Apparently it reached only 100 on the Aussie charts, just a little better in the UK.

Described somewhat sourly by music critics as a “Kareoke Pop Ballad” .You’ve got to be kidding!?! Who can sing it like Steve Perry? I like the Jezebels Triple J version , but it’s a little knowingly hipsterish and twee, love the Glee cast rendition ( you tube people) and can’t believe I found a thumpy amped up dance version downloaded in my library ( tequila?)

I forget how much I love it when I”m just living my regular,day to day SoCal life .

Steve, Journey and The Song fade into a mushy background like books I read long ago or old boyfriends.

However, I’m reminded of Al Gore’s wry comment describing “winners, losers and that lesser known, third category”.

Song as Olympic Games opener anyone?

Season 2 finale of Lillehammer and Trond Fausa Avrag’s heartbreakingly vulnerable Torgei tries out for the local production of Glee…

“Just a small town girl

Livin’ in a lonely world

She took the midnight train

Goin’ any where

Just a city boy

Born and raised in South Detroit

He took the midnight train

Goin’ any where

A singer in a smokey room

The smell of wine and cheap perfume

For a smile they can share the night

It goes on and on and on and on

Don’t stop believin”

Fritter Time!

This week, Sunday night hit with fatigue: bummed after losing our big tree, rattled by an earthquake, and bored with the dinner options, we stared into the fridge feeling more and more depleted by the minute.

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The midlife health crisis didn’t help. Trying to limit carbs and fats and salts and sugars meant all those standby indulgences which turn veggie bin scraps into bowls of creamy pasta or baked saucy goodness were off the table.

Then it hit me!

Sunday night was fritter night at our house when I was a kid.

Mum would chop something (leftover corned beef our favorite- but mostly potato, onions or corn), mix into a fritter base and fry up for a simple sunday supper.

So with 2 grilled cobs of corn, passed over all week on the evening dinner dating game, it was time to make fritters.

Super simple.

Cut the corn off the cobs (we had 2 REALLY big yellow ones) and put in a mixing bowl.
Chop some green onion, about a half cup, and add to the corn.
Break one or two eggs, and add 1 dessert spoon of flour for each egg.
If there’s some cheese, grate a spoon or two into the mix. We had some sharp cheddar but a little feta or goats cheese is good and maybe a fresh herb from the garden like parsley, cilantro, or basil. Last night we were too tired to even think of heading down the back yard so ours were plain.. a bit of basil from the deck to garnish, the best we could do.

But so good!

Fry in a little oil and eat with a goopy condiment. For aussie kids it was tomato sauce, but now whatever floats your boat – thai sweet chili, sour cream or yogurt, cilantro chutney or hot sauce.

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Kelley Hart Custom Cookies

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Kelley Hart Jenkins is a musician, calligrapher, fabric artist, clothing designer, and owner of bespoke decorated cookie business “Kelley Hart Custom Cookies”. She works from her design studio in the Averill Park neighborhood of San Pedro.

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Since she started selling small batches of seasonal themed cookies at the Corner Store over 10 years ago, she has created well over 1,000 unique designs for clients across the USA: corporations, families, event planners – even the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. who needed replicas of Faberge eggs for a special reception.

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She bakes, creates, teaches, and ships the edible art pieces. Inventive and graphic, the designs are colorful and seemingly too special to eat but they are impossible to resist. The experienced baker shines through with each delicious mouthful.

Each season Kelley offers cookie decorating classes at the studio. It’s always a festive atmosphere, with a signature cocktail included! Valentine classes are scheduled for January 30th and 31st.

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She is also expanding and developing her clothing line division “Kelley Hart Creations”: adorable reworkings of classic children’s clothes using repurposed vintage fabrics, treasured crochet and knitted pieces, and whimsical complementary gift items.

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Keep up with all things cookies on Facebook at Kelley Hart Custom Cookies.

http://www.kelleyhart.com

Dustin Trani

To many San Pedrans, Dustin Trani is still the kid who grew up in the restaurant – a 4th generation chef with 20 years experience (he’s 30) in the kitchen.Image 1crop dustin

But many were surprised to see his impressive win on Esquire Networks “Knife Fight” where he made fast work of the task, the ingredient, and Chef Vartan Abgaryan of Cliff’s Edge in Silver Lake. And then there’s the inclusion in many “Top Chefs to Watch” type lists in the foodie press.

dustin plate

Now Executive Chef at DOMA, he partners with Sonja Perencevic (owner of the iconic Dan Tana’s) to create a classic Beverly Hills gem of a restaurant – to quote Huffington Post “sophisticated and beautiful”.

His food continues to be inventive, massively flavorful and somehow old and new at the same time. Time spent in Asia informs lovely combinations of Thai textures and tastes, and often the simplest plates surprise with an extra crunch or contrast or combination of ingredients.

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The good news for those who have tracked Dustin’s career is a remarkable pop-up menu some Mondays at J.Tranis on 9th Street in San Pedro.

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Just a few dishes, some appetizers, and small dynamic mains: these are some of the best plates in Los Angeles and well worth a phone call to check if Dustin is in the house, and if so, to make a reservation!

http://www.jtrani.com

http://www.domabh.com

99¢ Store love

Every so often the gods smile and fabulous glasses rain down from the shelves at the 99¢ store!

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7 years ago it was the very cute, painted faux French juice glasses, radiating citrus sunshiny happiness. So charming they were the official glasses at Cafe Nosh until we had bought, used, broken or sold every single one available in the LA basin (do you know how many 99c stores there are?).

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Another time it was the teal blue water glasses, much loved by the Metlox dinner plates Becky found for me at a garage sale in Westminster. Pretty, funky and retro in equal parts they have been used and used, with the stash dwindling at an alarming rate: initially enough for parties, now just enough for thanksgiving dinner if we scour the bedrooms, bathrooms and cupboards for truants and runaways..

Enter the refined heavy smoked glass tumblers!!
Elegant, minimalist and sophisticated they are SERIOUSLY grown up.
They call for important nuanced tabled settings and textured black, white and stone. Masses of sunlight or candlelight.

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Oh how I love you, 99c store!!