Sunday, October 30, 2011

What's Cookin?: Potato, Leek and Kale Soup

As the weather cools down, I start to crave soup.  This soup is a slight modification of Emeril's recipe.  It makes a nice creamy and hearty soup.  You could easily make a vegetarian version by omitting the bacon and using vegetable stock instead.  I added kale to make it a little more nutritious and to take advantage of the season's offerings.  It's a delicious soup on a cold fall day!

Potato, Leek and Kale Soup
Adapted from: (Emeril Lagasse, 2003)
Serves 6

1 large or 2 small leeks (about 1 pound), use only tender light green & white parts, sliced
2 bay leaves
20 black peppercorns
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 strips bacon, chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 c. dry white wine
4 c. homemade chicken stock (or high quality store bought version)
3-4 medium russet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and diced
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 c. heavy cream (or heavy whipping cream)
1/2 bunch Lacinato kale, remove center ribs and roughly chopped

1) Trim off the top dark green portion and bottom roots of the leek.  Halve the leek lengthwise and rinse well under cold running water to remove any dirt or sand.  Slice the leeks thinly crosswise and set aside.

2) Make a bouquet garni by bundling the bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme in a piece of cheesecloth and set aside.

3) In a large soup pot over medium heat, cook the bacon for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the back is soft and has rendered most of its fat.  Add the butter and leeks to the pot and cook until the leeks are wilted, about 5 minutes.

4) Add the wine to the pot and bring it to a boil.  Add the bouquet garni, chicken stock, potatoes, slat and pepper.  Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.  Stir occasionally.

5) Remove the bouquet garni and discard.  Work in batches to puree the soup in a food processor or blender (do not fill to the top).  If you have an immersion blender, puree the soup directly in the pot.  You can either puree the entire pot or only 1/2 of the soup to keep some texture.  I prefer the texture in the soup.

6) Add chopped kale to the soup and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes or until  the kale is wilted.  Add the whipping cream and stir well.  Adjust seasonings if needed.  Serve soup hot with crusty bread or rolls.

Restaurant Rambling: The Breakfast Club (London, England)

I stopped for breakfast at a neat joint called The Breakfast Club.  Who wouldn't want to try it out just for the great name?  That was one of my favorite movies in the 80's.  It's a small restaurant with limited seating.  I got there early to fuel up for another busy day of sightseeing.  
There are several locations around London and I visited the Soho branch.  The restaurant is hard to miss.  It's bright bright yellow!  What to get?  They have an espresso machine and it had been a while since I've had a nice latte.  However, they also had some amazing fresh pressed juices.  Decisions decisions.....
Being purely practical (I felt I would need the caffeine), I ordered a delicious Caramel Latte.  Yummy!  

I had an even more difficult time deciding on what to get for breakfast.  I ended up getting the Chorizo Hash.  I was told that was an excellent choice by my waitress.  I wasn't disappointed.  It was very filling and the chorizo was nice and crunchy on the outside but moist in the inside.  
After my breakfast, I noticed the place had really filled up.  There was a line waiting outside the door.  The Breakfast Club as a delicious stop for a filling breakfast and it seems it's quite popular with the locals!

The Breakfast Club
33 D'Arblay Street
Area: Soho

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Restaurant Rambling: North Sea Fish (London, England)

One food Britain is known for is fish and chips.  Who can go to London and not have the iconic fish and chips?  After researching for the best restaurant for this, I found the North Sea Fish was not very far from my hotel.  I walked over to try the real deal.  
North Sea Fish has a take away shop and a sit down restaurant next door.  The restaurant offers more selection, however, I knew exactly what I wanted.  It is much cheaper to get your fish and chips to go at the take away shop.
You maybe thinking, 4.80 GBP for one piece of fish?  Believe me, it's ginormous and more than filling!!!  I couldn't decide what to get but for the authentic experience, I decided on the cod.  When in London.....

Like I said, the cod was huge.  It was a large fillet of fish that was deep fried crispy and delicious!!  I'm drooling just thinking about it!  The french fries were also good.  They weren't greasy but I personally would have preferred them a little more crunchy.  Nevertheless, the meal was excellent and very affordable.      

I had planned to return for another go at the fish and chips but ran out of time.  BOO!!  Oh well, I guess this calls for a return trip to London!

North Sea Fish
7-8 Leigh Street
Area: Bloomsbury

Travels: St. Paul's Cathedral (London, England)

 I strolled through the St. Paul's Churchyard.  It was a lovely spring day in London.

I love this photo of a wooden park bench etched with "City of London" and the beautiful spring flowers in the background.

The current St. Paul's Cathedral was built between 1675 and 1710 and designed by Sir Christopher Wren.  It is the 5th cathedral to be built on this site.  Admission is 9.50 GBP for adults.

St. Paul's Cathedral has the largest swinging bell in Europe, Great Paul, which strikes daily at 1pm.  The hour bell, Great Tom, strikes the hour and marks the death of royalty and senior churchmen.

A water fountain with a statue of Queen Anne sits in front of the cathedral. 
The design of the cathedral is a work of art.  If you climb the 259 steps to the Whispering Gallery you will be treated to an acoustic marvel.  Whisper against the wall and you will be heard at the clear other side of the gallery.  Climb 530 steps to the Stone Gallery for amazing views of London.  Even further up is the Inner Golden Gallery, at the top of the inner dome.  
This is a view of the Millennium Bridge and Tate Modern from the top of St. Paul's.

St. Paul's Cathedral
St. Paul's Churchyard

Restaurant Rambling: Pret A Manger (London, England)

London is an expensive city.  Restaurants charge top dollar.  For an inexpensive lunch or dinner, have a meal at Pret A Manger.  They're a chain in London that serves up ready made sandwiches and salads.
After a long hard day of sight-seeing, I decided to pick up a quick bite to eat.  Luckily, there was a Pret A Manger right across the street from my hotel.  I had the Pole & Line Caught Tuna and Rocket Bloomer (tuna salad with cucumbers and arugula).  The sandwiches are good and are a nice break from your average Subway sandwiches in the states.  P.S. Their cheddar and onion chips rock!!  If you take your meal to go, it's also cheaper.  But if you want, you can eat there and relax.    

Pret A Manger
Multiple Locations
296 Pentonville Road
Kings Cross, London, ENGLAND

Travels: Tower Bridge (London, England)

The Tower Bridge is one of the world's most recognized landmarks.  It is also one of the most photographed and painted bridges on Earth.  This is presumably the bridge that the Arizona businessman thought he was purchasing when he bought the "London Bridge".  The bridge was built in 1894 and sits on the Thames River.  

You get a great view from the Tower of London or as you exit the Tower.  

Travels: The Tower of London (London, England)

I took the Underground or Tube (London's version of the subway) to the Tower of London.  I went in the afternoon to hopefully miss the crowds.  The Tower of London is located right on the Thames River.  
The Tower is where many Englishmen and women in history lost their heads.  It's previously served as a palace, prison and a royal mint.  Most importantly, it's a symbol of Britain's history.  The Tower draws crowds for the legendary figures that were imprisoned and/or executed here.  Important prisoners include Sir Walter Raleigh, Robert Devereux, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Sir Thomas More and  Lady Jane Grey.   Stories are still told of the spirits that linger in the Tower.  Admission is 16 GBP for adults.

The Tower of London is actually comprised of 21 towers and numerous other structures.  Each building was built for a specific purpose.  The entire complex covers an area over 18 acres.    
The Bloody Tower perhaps holds the bloodiest tales of London's past.  It was here that according to Shakespeare, Richard III's henchmen murdered the two princes (the young sons of his brother, Edward IV).  Richard knew his position as king would never be secured as long as his nephews were alive.  Sir Walter Raleigh spent 13 years in the Bloody Tower before his execution.
Traitors' Gate is an oak and iron watergate in the outer wall where prisoners passed through.  These prisoners included figures such as Robert Devereux (the second Earl of Essex and a favorite of Elizabeth I).  
According to legend, the Tower of London will stand as long as the ravens remain.  To be on the safe side, one of the wings of each of the 6 resident ravens are clipped.  The Tower Green is an area within the complex that was the place of execution for nobility, including Lady Jane Grey (1554) and two of Henry VIII's wives, Katherine Howard (1542) and Anne Boleyn (1536).  
Located in the Jewel House, is the Tower's greatest attraction, the Crown Jewels.  The Crown Jewels are some of the world's most precious stones set into robes, swords, scepters and crowns.  The most famous crown on earth, the Imperial State Crown, is housed here.  It was made for Victoria in 1837 and later recreated for George VI in 1937 and worn today by Queen Elizabeth II when she opens Parliament.  The Imperial State Crown is studded with 3,000 jewels (2,800 diamonds), including the Black Prince's Ruby and Edward the Confessor's sapphire (in the cross).  Also here is the 530 carat Star of Africa, a cut diamond on the Royal Scepter with Cross.  
You'll be able to view all of these jewels from moving walkways.  If you're like me, you gawked twice through.  It really is amazing to behold.  Who can even imagine what a 530 carat diamond looks like??  And who can actually say they've seen the Star of Africa?  Me!!!  Of course, no photos are allowed.  If you google them under images, you'll get a peak of these famous jewels.

The White Tower is the oldest structure on Tower Hill.  It was started by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was completed in 1097.  Later rulers added other towers and buildings around it.  Until the reign of James I (in 1603), the White Tower was used as a royal residence.  
The White Tower is 90 feet tall with walls 15 feet thick.  In 1240, it was whitewashed inside and out, giving it it's name.  Today, the Royal Armoury has displays in the White Tower.     

The Tower of London
Tower Hill, EC 3
ph: 0870/751-5175

Travels: Covent Garden (London, England)

Covent Garden used to be an old fruit and vegetable market.  It went on to become the city's first planned square and was laid out in 1633 by Inigo Jones.  Recently the Royal Opera House was added to the square.  

Today, Covent Garden is a bustling district at the eastern fringes of the West End of London that features many restaurants, pubs, cafes and shops.  As you pass through this area, there are also a lot of street performers.      
At the center of Covent Garden is the Piazza (the old market) as well as Jubilee Market which now features many handmade crafts.  It was nice to look around, window shop and people watch.  

On my first visit through Covent Gardens, I had already had lunch so I mostly window shopped.  On my second visit however, I couldn't help but get a snack from Ella's Bakehouse.  The devilishly delicious cupcakes called out to me.                 

I got a Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cupcake.  If you know me, you know that I can't resist the combination of chocolate and peanut butter.  This cupcake was almost too pretty to eat.  I said almost.  I chowed down.  It was so moist and delicious!!

Ella's Bakehouse is located right at the Piazza of Covent Garden.  Be sure to visit their tiny shop for a delightful treat!

Ella's Bakehouse
20a The Piazza
Covent Garden

Friday, October 28, 2011

Restaurant Rambling: Koji Osakaya

After a day of adventure in the Columbia Gorge, we stopped at Koji for a late late lunch or early dinner.  I've talked about Koji before.  Luckily they were open.

I was starving!  This roll sounded good but I don't remember the name of it.  It was a spicy scallop roll with salmon on top.  It went great with an iced cold Sapporo beer!

I decided on the Miso Katsu Donburi for my entree.  It's deep fried pork with a sweet miso sauce.  It's served over a bed of rice and thinly shredded egg omelet.  Yummy!!

Koji Osakaya
10100 SW Barbur Blvd
Portland, OR  97219
ph: (503) 977-3100

Columbia River Gorge

The other weekend a friend and I took a drive out to the Columbia River Gorge.  Oregon has such amazing displays of nature.  The Columbia River Gorge features amazing waterfalls and nature at it's best.  The best thing is that it's so easily accessible from Portland!  

The Columbia River Gorge is just a short drive East of Portland.  Take Hwy I-84 East from Portland to Corbett.  Take the Historic Columbia River Hwy to tour some amazing areas for hiking and a handful of waterfalls.   

Your first stop should be Chanticleer Point or Women's Forum State Park.  From here, you'll find amazing views of the Columbia River Gorge.  Perched on the cliff at the right is Crown Point Vista House.  
Further down the road is Crown Point Vista House.  There's also amazing views of the gorge below from this point.    

After this, you'll drive through beautiful forests and hit several waterfalls.  The first is Latourell Falls.  Latourell Creek plunges 249 feet over a cliff to create this waterfall.  From the parking lot, a short trail will take you to the falls.  

Further along the Historic Columbia River Hwy, at milepost 28 is the parking lot to Bridal Veil Falls State Park.  The walk to the falls is about a mile roundtrip but is semi-steep with switchbacks.  Once you get there though, prepared to be in awe.   

Bridal Veil Waterfall is a 2-tier waterfall.  The top falls about 60-100 feet and the lower falls drops about 40-60 feet.  It is absolutely gorgeous!

Multnomah Falls is the most visited natural attraction in Oregon.  The falls gets about 2.5 million visitors per year.  It is made up of 2 falls with a total drop of 620 feet.  Benson Bridge makes the scene very picturesque.      

Horsetail Falls tumbles down about 176 feet and can be viewed from the road.

It was a great fall day for a trip to the Columbia River Gorge.