Posts from December 2011

Afro Brazilian Roots to Cooperative Economics of Ujamaa, Kwanzaa Culinarians

Christmassy, gluten free, vegan, galette des rois, holiday traditions and recipes come in many flavors and strands.

One of them is offered by Kwanzaa Culinarians, a collective effort sharing writers heritage, family recipes and meaning of the holiday which runs until January 1, 2012.

Afro-Brazilian roots are showcased in Emme Ribeiro of Food Samba Celebrates Umoja (December 26) with a Braised Oxtail and Collard Greens Stew as one of the dishes.


Seletta “Luna” Raven of Oakland, California in “Luna’s Kitchen Magic” Celebrates Ujamaa (December 29) looks at cooperative economics of Ujamaa.

You can read more from Emme Ribeiro on her site Food Samba...

Holidays and the African diaspora

(* Braised Oxtail image courtesy of Emme Ribeiro of Food Samba, all rights reserved)

It's All in the Nose, Whisky Tasting Advice by Charles MacLean from Malt Whisky

Some Champagne makers trust their nose more than their palate to compose their latest cuvee.

When it comes to whisky tasting, it's all in the nose according to 'tasting' chapter in Malt Whisky 'The Complete Guide' (Mitchell Beazley, Fall 2011) by Charles MacLean.

He starts by quoting Aenas Macdonald bemoaning lack of appreciation for malt whisky in the 1930's:

"Let us number their sins. Foremost amongst these is that they drink not for the pleasure of drinking nor for any merits of flavour or bouquet which the whisky may possess but simply in order to obtain a certain physical effect. They regard whisky not as a beverage but as a drug, not as an end but as a means to an end...Whisky suffers its worst insults at the hands of the swillers, the drinkers-to-get-drunk who have not organs of taste and smell in them but only gauges of alcoholic content, the boozers, the 'let's-have-a-spot' and 'make-it-a-quick-one' gentry, and all the rest who dwell in a darkness where there are no whiskies but only whisky-and of course, soda."


The author then moves on to note in 'sensory evaluation' that "whisky 'tasting' is something of a misnomer, since most of the work of evaluation is done by the nose not the palate, Professional whisky tasters are themselves called 'Noses'. We should really be talking, more correctly, about 'sensory evaluation', for the proper assesment of a glass of whisky employs four of our five senses- sight, smell, taste and touch."

His take on the importance of 'Smell':

Although it is under-used in daily life, smell is our most acute sense, and can have a powerful subliminal influence upon our reaction to a place or a person. The acuteness of our sense of smell is demonstrated by the fact that scientists have identified 32 primary aromas, while there are only three primary colours and four primary tastes. Smell is also the most evocative trigger for memory- think how scenes of childhood can instantly be conjured by certain smells- and professional whisky noses and wine tasters consciously store their memories with key aromas, with standard norms and exceptions to the rules."

The chapter concludes with two pages on 'the chemical derivation of flavour' (where do flavours come from) illustrated by whisky wheels of 'aromas' and 'taste and mouth feel'.

Next chapter is dedicated to Whisky Regions followed by Directory of Whisky Houses including some now defunct.

Malt Whisky, the complete guide by Charles MacLEAN is a book to sip slowly.

(* Excerpts from Malt Whisky, the complete guide by Charles MacLEAN-published by Mitchell Beazley- 2011- all rights reserved)

Universe in 3 Pounds of Chocolate, Aztec Calendar by Casa de Chocolates

When I asked Arcelia Gallardo for her inspiration in starting Casa de Chocolates her answer was:

"My inspiration is to tell the true story of chocolate though chocolate itself; although we know the word cacao comes from the Olmec  and  that the Maya used cacao as currency, the Aztecs left us proof that cacao was actually consumed in the form of a drink."

Looking for a gift to be remembered, the Aztec Calendar, 3 pounds worth of chocolate by Casa de Chocolates will leave a mark.


"The Aztec Calendar represents the Aztec’s concept of the universe; it consists of an agricultural calendar cycle and a sacred calendar cycle which taught the Aztecs how to maintain the universe’s delicate equilibrium."

Ingredients are cacao, cocoa butter, sugar and cinnamon

Retails for $70.

Casa de Chocolates is based in Berkeley, California.

London Sights as Sweet Treat courtesy of Biscuiteers Book of Iced Cookies

I did get the galley for this book by Harriet Hastings, cofounder of UK cookie company Biscuiteers, and creative director Sarah Moore yet it fell off my radar maybe because of its mid-August publication.

The book, Biscuiteers Book of Iced Cookies (Kyle Books, U.S publication, August 2011) lays out all the basics from dough to piping and decorating as well as DIY gift ideas for holidays, baby showers, fashion events.

Armchair travelers can dream of vacations with cities as treats.

I selected their take on London.


This is home ground for Biscuiteers. We have cherrypicked our favorite London icons and iced them just for you. Add a few of your own landmarks, too. Buildings are particularly good as you can just ice them onto easy-to-cut squares and rectangles.

circle (for Tube sign)
telephone booth
Big Ben
London Bridge
oval (for London Eye)

1 quantity Super Chocolatey Cookies dough (see page 34); makes at least 15 cookies
1 quantity Basic Royal Icing (see page 21)

Line icing
bright yellow
teddy brown
donkey brown
gentian blue

Flooding icing
gentian blue
teddy brown


Tube sign
Ice yellow line around rectangular nameplate and outer circle. Ice around inner circle in white. Allow to dry for 5 minutes. * Flood nameplate in blue, inner circle in white, and outer circle in red. Leave to set. * Pipe name in black.

Pipe outline of bodywork and windows in black line, leaving space to ice on wheels later. Leave to dry for 5 minutes. * Flood with black. * Add wheels in black line icing. Leave to set. * Fill windows and add a radiator cover with gray line icing. Use line icing to add all other details.

Telephone booth
Pipe all red line details and pipe base outline in black. Allow to dry for 5 minutes. * Flood top of box with red and base with black. Flood light at top with white. (Leave windows uniced.)

Ice top of box in red line and base in black line and lines in between. * When dry flood top with red and
base with black. Allow to dry. * Use red, black, and white line icings to add details.

Big Ben
Outline whole shape in white line and leave to set. * Flood with white runny icing and, when dry, use teddy and donkey brown and gray line icing to add bricks and clock face.

London Bridge
Look carefully at a picture of the bridge before you ice it. Use donkey brown line to add all outlines for stone sections, including line down center of each pillar that divides teddy brown and white flooding icing. Leave a gap for walkway. Leave to dry for about 5 minutes.
Flood base of pillars and left-hand side in teddy brown and right in white.Allow to dry. * Use brown line to add detail to pillars. * Add all blue and white line details that make up remainder of bridge.

London Eye
Use white line icing to pipe frame and wheel. * Add spokes and inner frame in gray line. * Ice tiny capsules in black and gray line icing.

(* Image and Excerpt from Biscuiteers Book of Iced Cookies by Harriet Hastings and Sarah Moore-Kyle Books, U.S publication, August 2011- all rights reserved)

Bridged to the World in 700 Letters, Tsune Sesoko, Thought in Japan, Gallery A4, Tokyo, Til' January 19

Before text messages, twitter, facebook and blogs, for decades people located in different countries and continents exchanged news and ideas via air mail.

A vivid example of that is 'Thought in Japan, 700 Air Mail Letters, Japan Bridged to the World by Tsune Sesoko' an exhibit at Gallery A4 in Tokyo.


Exhibit runs until January 19, 2012.

Gallery A4 is closed from December 30, 2011 to January 3, 2012 for the New Year holidays.

Art of letter writing for Tokyo Thursdays # 216

Previously: Nikka, Whisky Flavored Bread by Kenji Kobayashi


(* image above from Gallery A4 site, site is mostly in Japanese)

Au Chaud Lapin, Tops List of Montreal Restaurants Opened on New Year's Eve

I am sure the intention of Alsace au Menu was not to invite revellers to let their libido go wild.

Blame it on having list of Montreal Restaurants Opened on December 31, 2011 to celebrate New Year's arrival in alphabetical order.

I was amused nevertheless to see Au Chaud Lapin top the list.

A chaud lapin in French is a man with a big appetite for carnal pleasures.


(* List of Montreal restaurants is in French only)

Northern Cocktails,Traditional Glogg Recipe from The Scandinavian Kitchen

I was looking for drink recipes beyond martinis, tequila and rum based cocktails and thought this drink from one of my favorite cookbooks of the past year, The Scandinavian Kitchen (Kyle Books, U.S edition, May 2011) fit the spot even though Christmas is behind us.

Maybe you can try it for New Year 2012.

Traditional Glogg

The traditional glogg is made from red wine and a reduction of spices boiled in water to a concentrate, sweetened and spiked with more schnapps and often port wine. The mixture is heated but must not boil, and is served in tall glasses with raisins soaked in schnapps and blanched almonds. It can be lovely, even if you tend to have too much of it during Christmas.

The spice mix must be made from whole spices; they have more flavour and will yield clear, pretty syrup which will keep for a long time in the fridge, if not used at once. The alternative method is to steep all the spices and zest in rum or schnapps for a fortnight, then add directly to the warm wine. Both methods are fine. You can add raisins and almonds to either version. If using raisins, plump them up in extra rum or schnapps for a day, then add at the last minute with the almonds.

Serves 10

2 bottles red wine .

1 and 3/4 cups unflavored schnapps (optional)

1 and 3/4 cups port

3/4 cup sugar

2/3 cup raisins

2/3 cup blanched almonds

For the spice mix:

1 tbsp. cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

1 tablespoon whole allspice

½ teaspoon black peppercorns

1 blade of mace

Grades zest of 1 orange


Either, steep the spices and peel in the schnapps for a couple of weeks. Sieve. Heat the wine and port and sweeten to taste, adding the schnapps at the last minute. Or, boil the spices with 4 cups of water for an hour, or until reduced to 2 cups. Sieve, sweeten the flavored water to a syrup, and add to the heated wine and port. Put raisins and almonds in the glasses, if you wish, pour on the glogg and serve.

(* Recipe from The Scandinavian Kitchen by Camilla Plum- U.S publication, May 2011 by Kyle Books- all rights reserved)

Faraway Scents, Rooted in Tradition, Galette des Rois 2012 by Gontran Cherrier

Are you ready to crown your queen or king on January 6, 2012?

One of the poster boys of the New Wave of French boulangerie, Gontran Cherrier announced his Galette des Rois 2012.

He describes the galette des rois as a high point in the life of the baker.

His taste goes for a galette des rois (king crown) whose crust crumbles nicely, an almond paste filling that tastes like real almonds and butter, and scents that tell a story, an emotion, a feeling.


In a nutshell, he writes that he created something that speaks of his faraway dreams yet is rooted in tradition of French cuisine.

If only I could taste it, then i would know if Gontran Cherrier made his vision come true.

Aspiring bakers who happen to be near Vevey (Switzerland), can take a Galette des Rois & des Princesses class at Atelier Cuisine on January 7, 2012. There are 5 seats left at the time of this writing.

To Do By January 1st, Visit African Headwear: Beyond Fashion Exhibit at Dallas Museum of Art

A thread seems to flow through on certain days.

On Wednesday Tell Me More had a segment on African Prints More Sophisticated, Subtle In 2011 with Dolapo Shobanjo of My Asho (Local Fashion made Global), a London based online shop.

Almost as a counterpoint, i discovered that one of the current exhibits at Dallas Museum of Art is titled African Headwear: Beyond Fashion.

"African Headwear: Beyond Fashion, an exhibition of approximately fifty objects from the Museum’s collection of African art, internationally acclaimed as one of the top five of its kind in the United States, explores the way in which headwear signifies status in traditional African societies. Often made of unusual materials, such as the skin from a pangolin (spiny anteater), wood and copper, various types of nutshells, lion mane, and human hair, African headwear can also include glass beads, plastic buttons, and ostrich feathers used in unfamiliar ways."

Royal crown (ade) (2)

If you are in the Dallas area this week-end, make it part of your end of the year plans as the show closes on January 1, 2012.

To do by January 1st List

(* Image credits: Royal crown (ade), Nigeria, Yoruba peoples, late 19th to early 20th century, glass beads, cloth, basketry, and fiber, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation)

Debunking Myths on Cleaning Mushrooms courtesy of All About Roasting

How many of us throughout our lives keep doing things a certain way without wondering if the rationale we give to our actions has any firm foundations.

In All About Roasting (WW Norton, November 2011), Molly Stevens debunks a few myths including one about cleaning mushrooms with water.

Cleaning Mushrooms

The maxim that mushrooms are thirsty little sponges that become waterlogged if they get so much as
splashed with water has been etched into my kitchen consciousness. In recent years, however, several credible sources have debunked this myth by weighing mushrooms, dousing them with cold water, and then reweighing them. The result: The water-washed mushrooms don’t weigh any more than they did
dry, meaning that they aren’t at all spongelike and don’t soak up water. So if you like to wash all produce thoroughly, go ahead and wash the mushrooms—as long as you do it immediately before using them. Mushrooms will deteriorate very rapidly if left wet, so unless you’re planning to add them directly to something liquid (soup, sauce, etc.), it’s important to wipe them dry immediately after washing. The two most common methods for washing are to give them a quick rinse with a sprayer or to swish them around in a bowl of cold water. If you’re roasting or sautéing, you have to be extra-sure to dry mushrooms thoroughly—damp ingredients don’t brown up very well at all.


Now that I’ve said all this, if, like me, you’ve always cleaned mushrooms simply by wiping the surfaces with a paper towel, there’s no reason to change your ways. For very dirty mushrooms (the “dirt” on cultivated mushrooms is actually a specific type of sterilized compost), I sometimes use a damp towel.

(* Reprinted from All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art by Molly Stevens. © 2011 by Molly Stevens.  Photographs © 2011 by Quentin Bacon.  With the permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.)