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Adagio in the Afternoon {tea review}

Adagio-Tea-Almond-Oolong

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves — slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” — Thich Nhat Hanh 

There are tea lovers and coffee lovers, just as there are those who prefer mustard to ketchup, or soba noodles to udon. Yet, tea flourishes in an age where drive-thru lattes can be had at any early or late hour. The art of tea is timeless. 

The thick froth
Lustrous like freshly fallen snow,
And resplendent like the spring’s blossom.
~Du Yü, “Ode to Tea”

I’ve loved tea since childhood; I was raised by my very proper British grandmother who poured Darjeeling at tea time (and other various English teas) along with shortbread cookies and tea biscuits. I’ve made attempts to drink coffee in this latte obsessed city, but there’s nothing that can sway me away from a good cup of tea. Tea houses in the Chinese neighborhoods are the best places to have tea in Los Angeles (there’s a plentitude of teas offered) but aside from going out for a pot, making tea at home is best. Besides, you can stay in your pajamas and snuggle up with a good book while sipping slowly. 

“I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.”― Dostoyevsky

I’m quite particular about my tea. I do love black tea the most, with almond milk and a spoonful of honey, though half and half and a heaping spoonful of brown sugar is how I grew up drinking it. My tea cabinet is packed full with many varieties, and soon my pantry may be taken over by tea rather than kitchen staples. But it doesn’t matter how much tea I have at home, there’s a curiosity about different types of tea that will always appeal to the sensualist in me.

TeaCup-Adagio

A package of Adagio teas arrived on my doorstep with samples of a few types of black and green teas. It wasn’t long before the kettle was whistling and I poured a teapot full. My two girls were excited to taste the different blends and have a tea party. We all decided that almond oolong was perfect to pair with macarons I had saved in the fridge just for the occasion. 

Adagio-Tea-Macarons

 The almond oolong tea steeped beautifully in my favorite Chinese teapot. The scent of almond tea awakened with each sip, as the depth of flavor grew richer and more fragrantly pleasing. Nutty with a marzipan aroma, the fruity floral Taiwanese tea delighted my daughters, as they asked if they could have more once they finished the pot. 

Darjeeling is one of my favored tea choices, so the name Ooooh Darjeeling caught my eye. A rare oolong tea from India, its fruity/floral notes finish smoothly without growing bitter as it steeps. It has a smoky aroma that hints at cardamom, yet it remains light and delicately pungent. This tea has an earthy complexity. Darjeeling is typically served as an afternoon tea.

The Black Dragon Pearls are hand-rolled into tea “pearls” which open up and fill the teapot with the aroma of chocolate mingled with an earthy Yunnan black tea. This was the perfect cup for early morning. As my son enjoyed it while readying for the day, he commented on how good it was (teenage boys don’t tend to remark about their morning cup of tea). I made another pot of the Black Dragon tea and understood why— cocoa fragrance, smooth taste, paired well with a non-dairy cashew creamer. 

Pu-erh Hazelberry tea was a great choice for a sample taste, since most pu-erh tend to vary depending on its age and stage of fermentation. The younger pu-erh can be bitter, but this fruity and nutty tea has top notes of strawberry and cream which layers so deliciously together with the hazelnut and enchants without any cloying sweetness. 

Adagio’s Jasmine Pearls are a new household favorite in my kitchen tea arsenal. This is a green tea from the Fujian province of China. The tea is infused with night-blooming jasmine essence in a process that takes twelve nights of the flowering blossoms to perfume the green tea leaves. I’ve enjoyed the tea by placing a tea bag inside a teapot and shared it rather than in a single tea cup alone. There is something poetic about the way this tea is prepared, and it has an aphrodisiac effect upon lovers. I’m not suggesting that the strength of the jasmine pearl tea is an outright love potion, but do not underestimate its effects upon inspiring romantic moments (or bursts of creativity). It has enough caffeine in the right sense to induce a euphoric state, and one that improves mental clarity rather than inducing dreaminess. 

 Tea is a divine herb. ~Xu Guangqi

This post was generously sponsored by Adagio Teas. Ordering was easy and pleasant to do (I nearly ordered enough tea to fill my kitchen pantry… I do love tea that much). I was quite surprised at how quickly my order arrived— possibly the best online ordering experience I’ve ever had. You will find exceptional tea at reasonable pricing available through Adagio teas. 

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Monets-Roasted-Carrot-Soup

Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s cook, Marguerite, used carrots grown in the Monet home garden within many of the dishes served at the artist’s dining table. Since discovering the cookbook Monet’s Palate, I made a recent jaunt to my local farmers’ market, gathering handfuls of carrots to make this soup.

I imagined how this soup would be prepared from Monet’s kitchen garden at his home in Giverny, as the weight of many bunches of carrots selected and placed into my canvas bag pulled upon my shoulder. The bag grew heavier after some fragrant spring leeks were added, a large bunch of celery still covered in mud, and other items I couldn’t resist buying. I went home, washed off the soil from the carrots and prepared them for roasting. Soon the sweet earthy aroma of roasted vegetables filled my kitchen.

In the cookbook, details of Monet’s kitchen garden are explained; which vegetables he preferred (zucchini squash –or courgette— and celery, to name a few favorites) and how he enjoyed his salad greens (“Merveille de Quatre Saisons” head lettuce with red-tinted leaves and a buttery heart, and “Paresseux de Castillon” spinach) heavily seasoned with black pepper. Monet’s kitchen garden was a sprawling 2 1/2 acres. Among the variety of vegetables planted, there were fruit trees, lettuces, herbs, melons, onions, leeks, beans, artichoke, rhubarb, and vegetables with unusual colors “to satisfy his colorist’s eye.” Carrots in Monet’s garden were the deep orange ‘Scarlet Nantes’ variety that dates back to the 1850s and the spike-shaped ‘St. Valery’ which dates back to 1885.

This carrot soup comes alive with ginger, cumin, and coriander, however, the toasted almonds add another dimension to its flavor. When making this soup, adjust the ginger and cumin to your liking, and for my own version at home, I used a sweet potato in place of the suggested baking potato, omitting the honey, adding a dollop of crème fraîche to garnish. If presenting this soup as an entirely vegan recipe, a cashew-based crème fraîche would work quite nicely.

Monet’s Palate Cookbook is full of inspiring and lively French recipes, many of which are vegetarian, or can be adapted as vegan and vegetarian, as the current culinary trends are parallel to Monet’s farm-to-table rustic home cooking described within his family’s cooking journals. From the cookbook: This soup, while still easy to make, is a bit more exotic in taste than a traditional French recipe. Roasting the carrots brings out their inherent sweetness; the addition of garlic, ginger and cumin adds an earthy depth of flavor; and fresh-from-the-garden coriander, also known as cilantro, adds brightness.

Serve this as a vegan lunch or a warm, nourishing bowl before your main course for dinner.

Roasted Carrot Soup with Ginger, Cumin, Coriander and Toasted Almonds

2 pounds (900 g) carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 celery stalk, diced
1 onion, diced
1 large baking potato, peeled and diced (cook’s note: I used 1 sweet potato)
5 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon peeled and chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
3 cups (720 ml) low-sodium vegetable broth or stock
1 cup (240 ml) water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander (or cilantro), divided
1 tablespoon (20 g) honey (optional)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup shredded peeled carrots
1/4 cup (30 g) toasted slivered almonds

Place carrots, celery, onion, potato, garlic, ginger and cumin in a roasting pan or on a large rimmed baking sheet. Add olive oil and toss well. Roast until vegetables are tender and lightly caramelized, 35 to 45 minutes.

Transfer vegetables to a large pot. Stir in broth, water, 1 tablespoon coriander, honey, sea salt and pepper and bring to boil. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Using an immersion blender (or a high speed blender), puree soup until smooth. Adjust seasoning with additional sea salt and pepper.

Return soup to heat. Add shredded carrots and stir thoroughly.

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish each bowl with a bit of remaining coriander and toasted almonds. Serve immediately.

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The Cake Monet Ate

Monets-Green-Cake-Cookbook

The Impressionist artists of Paris captured images of their food with paint daubs on canvas, like Claude Monet, who was just as much a food obsessed gourmand as he was a painter. He began his day with an early breakfast: omelette aux fines herbes, sausage, toast, jam and tea, then off to paint water lilies until lunchtime. Monet employed a cook, grew his own vegetables, planned seasonal menus, ate fresh eggs from his own chickens, and had a cider press. Today he would be considered a homesteader, living off the grid in Giverny. We know all about his beautiful nymphéas (those famous paintings of water lilies) and the Japanese bridge in his garden, however, his paintings of food were still lifes of fruit, sun-dappled picnics, tea and cake underneath a shady tree, rustic fruit galettes and his homemade compote jars full of preserved peaches.

monet-jar-of-peaches

At Monet’s house, guests and family enjoyed organic food without worrying about genetically modified organisms, pesticides, or additives. His housekeeper prepared dishes such as gratin de champignons made with foraged field mushrooms. A chervil soup might begin an afternoon meal, and a crème-laden gâteaux served for dessert. In mid-April, Japanese apple trees blossom outside Monet’s kitchen window, inspiring tarte aux pommes after the apples ripened. 

monet-the-luncheon

Claude Monet’s paintings were influenced by Japanese woodblock prints that decorated his dining room walls, some of which were fortuitously acquired because the boulangerie used the prints rather than newspaper to wrap their daily baguettes one morning.

It seems food and art have gone together for quite a long time.

I’ve leafed through the cooking journals of Claude Monet for many years, usually while hungry. My raggedy cookbook is dog-eared from use. A few recipes have been attempted, such as the Oignons Blancs Farcis Charlotte Lysès, or rather, Charlotte Lysès’s Stuffed White Onions —-omitting the pork, chicken or calves’ liver—- prepared with extra Gruyère cheese to make up for the lack of meat. (No one in my house complained.) The Gratin de Champignons, Glazed Carrots and Cèpes à la Bordelaise are rustic and uncomplicated. I had made the Soupe aux Herbes with available herbs from the farmers’ market, and it proved that sorrel is not easily found in most California supermarkets, although sometimes can be had by purveyors of greens at local farmers’ market stands. The garlic soup, soupe à l’ail, however, is made of 12 cloves of peeled garlic, 6 eggs, ½ cup of butter, 2 cups of croutons, and a handful of parsley (just in case you felt that the butter and eggs were heading toward a sauce).

galette-monet

The desserts, such as Tarte Tatin, Galette Feuilletée, Gâteau au Chocolat, were flagrantly enticing and très français, yet the one cake that caught my eye in the cookbook was the Vert-Vert Gâteau (Green Cake). The glistening smooth fondant of spring green color enchanted my senses; its beauty revealed by the ingredients (spinach for coloring the pistachio cream frosting). I’ve gazed upon this beautiful cake recipe for over a decade within the creases of my well-worn cookbook. The reason, perhaps, why I haven’t yet made this cake is due to the amount of sugar, eggs, butter and flour it requires. Also, white corn syrup is not an ingredient I’d ever consider. I’m sure a few substitutions might be better for a healthier version of this cake, alas, it is a French recipe for gâteau, not super healthy vegan energy bars spiked with chia seeds.

I suppose to at least make this cake just once according to the exact ingredients would be worth a kitchen experiment in honor of its culinary history. Since the quality of the ingredients in Monet’s kitchen were fresh from local sources, it can affect the delicate nuances of taste. Don’t assume eggs are eggs and butter is butter. It would do the recipe some justice to find the best quality ingredients to prepare this cake. Some pastry skills are needed, but it can’t be that difficult to manage, and certainly possible to make, sans years of staging under a chef in a French kitchen.

Coincidentally, I had a good friend send a message to me soon after I had written about this recipe. We haven’t seen each other in 16 years, since we both moved away from New Orleans. In her message, she mentioned a distinct memory of the two of us “sitting on the couch, munching pistachios, talking about baking that green Monet cake.”

I think it is time to finally make this recipe from Monet’s cooking journals. 

(Recipe from Monet’s Table: The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet by Claire Joyes)
Green Cake
(Vert-Vert Gâteau)

(serves 8-10)

Cake
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour, sifted
2 tablespoons ground pistachios
4 tablespoons kirsch (fruit brandy)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
grated rind of 1 lemon

Spinach Coloring
3 cups fresh spinach

Pistachio Cream
4 tablespoons ground pistachios
2 tablespoons kirsch (fruit brandy)
2 1/4 unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons spinach coloring
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 yolks
2 teaspoons flour
1 cup milk

Fondant Frosting
3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons white corn syrup
1 teaspoon spinach coloring
juice of 1 lemon

First make the spinach coloring. bring 1/2 cup water to a boil and blanch the spinach in it for 1 minute. Strain the liquid and pass the spinach through a sieve. This will give a green purée to color the pistachio cream and the frosting.

Preheat the oven to 300F. Grease an 8-inch cake pan. To make the cake, place a saucepan over a low heat and break the eggs into it. Beat them with the sugar until the mixture has doubled in volume. Beat in the flour until it is completely incorporated. Add the pistachios, kirsch, softened butter, and lemon rind. Stir well with a wooden spoon or spatula. Pour the mixture into the cake pan and bake for 30 minutes. Test with a kitchen knife to see if the cake is done. If so, remove it from the oven, turn it upside down on a wire rack and let it cool.

To make the pistachio cream, combine the pistachios, kirsch, and 2 tablespoons of the softened butter into a smooth paste. Color it with the spinach coloring. In a saucepan off the heat, combine the sugar with the whole eggs and the yolks. Beat in the flour and milk, stirring constantly. Heat this mixture over a low heat, stirring, and beat in the pistachio paste. Remove the mixture from the heat and beat in the rest of the softened butter.

Carefully slice the cake into three equal layers. Spread two of the rounds with the pistachio cream, then stack the layers together again. Refrigerate.

To make the fondant frosting, dissolve the sugar in a heavy pan with 2 cups water. Heat, without stirring, over high heat until the sugar dissolves and begins to boil. Check the syrup cooking stage while it is boiling. When the syrup reached the large thread stage (that is, when a little of the syrup is dropped into cold water it forms a large thread), add the corn syrup and the spinach coloring, and remove from the heat.

Lightly oil a marble work surface. Pour the syrup onto the surface and work it with a wooden spatula, until it starts to become opaque. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and continue working until it is a smooth, pale green paste. Roll it into a ball and wrap it in a damp cloth. Refrigerate until needed. Roll it out with a rolling pin and use it to cover the cake.

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Terrine’s Spring Cocktail Menu

Terrine-Spring-Drinks-Header

Terrine’s haute bar scene splashes into springtime with fresh cocktails

Mixologist Ryan Wainwright commands the bar at Terrine, the brasserie by Stephane Bombet, Kris Morningstar, and Francois Renaud. Wainwright’s signature cocktails infuse ambiance into the chic restaurant as he serves up the latest cocktail menu. We sat down at the bar and took a taste of what’s fresh on the cocktail menu this spring.

3SquareMeals-Terrine

While my sights were set on a margarita with a French twist, my guy wanted something a little more unique. He got it: the drink is called 3 Square Meals.

“It sounds like an Irish Car Bomb,” my guy said, “I don’t know if that’s an insult or a compliment.”

Ryan Wainwright laughs. “I was telling my girlfriend, I’m doing this one drink I’m really excited about,” he explains, “it’s such a mess, it has everything in it… lemon juice, cold brew coffee, and bourbon, and beer, and bitters.”

So what’s in that drink? Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Lemon Juice, Menottis Cold Crew Coffee Cordial, Amaro Abano, Dale’s Pale Ale. 

LaMarguerite-Terrine

La Marguerite A subtle French take on the Margarita. Tapatio Tequila, Yellow Chartreuse, Lime Juice, Freeze-Dried White Barbados Grapefruit. The citrusy tang of the freeze-dried grapefruit on the rim was a nice touch for this cocktail. 

 SouthernDrawl-Terrine

Southern Drawl Drinking this cocktail made me feel like Blanche du Bois, relying on the kindness of bartenders. One sip and my New Orleanian drawl started up again. Diplomatico Reserva Rum, Lime Juice, Passion Fruit, Ramazzotti Amaro. All I needed was a to-go cup and stroll in the sultry night. After all, a cocktail’s charm is fifty percent illusion, but when a drink is superb I’ll tell the truth. 

Me and Francois-Terrine

Francois Renaud came by our table and suggested the Soleil Tonique. It was as refreshing as he said it would be: Bombay Sapphire Gin, Grapefruit Juice, Lemongrass and Bergamot Tonic, Lime Juice, Cocchi Americano. Francois sat with us and we chatted about the pleasure of Sichuan peppers, the enchanting quality of a good soubise sauce made with rice, and his fascination for Dr. Pepper soda, an indulgence that cost nearly as much in France as a bottle of champagne. 

Speaking of indulgence, for those looking to try something luxurious and completely worth a splurge, you’ve come to the right place with the right bartender. Terrine’s Premier Menu features quality cocktails with enough backbone to support your barback and your bartender. Nothing but the best premium spirits go into each drink that you won’t find easily elsewhere, using a limited production Bourbon, like George T. Stagg, the 15-year barrel aged extremely hearty whiskey is powerful, flavorful and intense for Terrine’s $60 Bourbon Old-Fashioned. Notes of lush toffee, dark chocolate, vanilla, fudge, nougat, molasses. You get the idea.

Terrine, 8265 Beverly Blvd., 323-746-5130

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Not Your Usual Avocado Toast

Avocado-Toast-Flatbread

Avocado toasts have received much attention over the past year. Even fine dining restaurants have them on the menu. What’s the big deal with putting avocado on bread anyway? Well, I happen to think the avocado is one of the best things to eat since, well… avocado on toast. Perhaps it’s because you can create many different versions using a wide variation of ingredients. 

Avocado toasts are most popular on Instagram. The hashtag #avocadotoast has a staggering number of posts (100s of thousands). Avocado lovers across the world can compare their best avocado toast arrangement, which makes quite a fascinating social phenomena if you really think about it. The green of the avocado is all that we seek, sliced in gentle layers upon the lightly toasted to golden perfection flatbread. (Gwyneth Paltrow would just love this.)

This avocado toast recipe uses a refreshing ingredient changeup: flatbread. Lavash bread, or flatbread, lends a larger amount of space to be creative with avocado. Adding those lovely seasonal kumquats lends a brighter, citrusy note, while crisp cucumbers and aromatic Thai basil leaves works well together, along with the salty taste of fresh miso paste. You won’t want to add sea salt due to the miso.

Here’s how to make this:

Spring Avocado Flatbreads

(makes approximately 4 flatbread avocado toasts)

One package lavash bread or flatbread
2-4 avocados, halved, pitted and sliced
3-5 kumquats, sliced fine
2 cucumbers, sliced
1 bundle Thai basil leaves
4 tablespoons miso paste
1 handful baby greens
pinch of cayenne spices per flatbread toast (optional)
Assembly:

  1. Brush each flatbread with olive oil. Lightly toast the flatbread upon a sheet pan under the broiler.
  2. Remove the flatbread from the broiler once toasted and smear a dollop of miso paste upon each.
  3. Layer the slices of greens, Thai basil, cucumber, avocado, and kumquat slivers upon the flatbread.
  4. Sprinkle a pinch of cayenne upon each.
  5. Squeeze a little kumquat juice upon the entire flatbread.
  6. Serve and enjoy.
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