Sunday, June 29, 2008

Cool'a Fishbar, Palm Beach Gardens

Yesterday it was the t-shirt, today its was the haircut. I took my haircut for a long overdue outing to the Cool'a Fishbar at Legacy Place. We arrived at around 6.00pm and the place was creeping up to full with a mix of couples and singles with a few traditional Florida early diners thrown in. The greeter took one look at me, Dr. Dave, Mimi (3) and Ceci (10 months) and said, 'we have no high chairs or booster seats'! I felt like I was back in London already! I'm HOME! Not to be deterred Dr. Dave cleverly retorted, 'She doesn't need a booster and I can get the stroller from the car' GENIUS! The girl said, 'well it'll be a wait as we only have a couple of tables that can take a stroller but we'll see what we can do'. We waited for about 25 minutes - not their fault - the earlybird crowd were milking those discounted drinks for all they were worth.

We got stuck straight into a watermelon martini and a sauvignon blanc; both under $10 and put in an order for the crab cake appetizer $9.95. This was probably the best crabcake I've ever had. It was flaky, pure crab meat, if there was any filler used in its preparation it was undetectable and the quality of the crab was excellent. It also delivered where most freshmade crabcakes seem to fail; it didn't have one scrap of shell! Perfect. Admirably, this restaurant manages to contain its menu to a single sheet. I'd much rather a place executed a few things brilliantly than attempt to spread themselves thin over too broad a menu. I went with one of the house specials; Corvina in a lemon & caper sauce $19.95 and Dr. Dave went with the King Crab Legs $24.95. I always try to go with a special at a fish restaurant; you can be pretty much guaranteed its the freshest and the chef gets to put his own personal touches on an item. Both dishes came with a choice of sides, coconut rice for him and the house signature grated potatoes for me. I highly recommend the potatoes - a sinful mix of grated potato, sour cream, chives & jack cheese baked in a ramekin until molten. How could this be bad?! The fish was perfectly cooked, just done, the sauce made with a light hand and respect for the raw ingredients. The crablegs were fresh & juicy, served 'easy to eat' which is always a bonus. They don't have an official 'kids' menu but at Mimi's request they made her a scaled down shrimp dinner - I was SO proud - no chicken fingers for her!

This restaurant has a great atmosphere and beachy vibe. Think Tommy Bahama meets Gilligan's Island; in fact I think a few of the cast were dining there. As the name suggests, Cool'a Fishbar is unashamedly a fish place - there's not so much for your fishphobic friends - embrace that concept; get a babysitter for those pesky under 3's and head over.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Vic & Angelos, Palm Beach Gardens

Last night we were all in the mood for something light, fun & quick. I, however, was wearing a new t-shirt so I wanted to give it a full and proper premiere. We compromised and ended up getting incredibly full at a long, lazy dinner at Vic & Angelos.

Vic & Angelos has what so many successful restaurant wannabees lack. It has a spectacular atmosphere. It doesn't try too hard, the music is right, the noise level perfect, the seating close but not too close and the wait staff are friendly and welcoming. It sucks you in.

We've had the pizza here a few times and its authentic, cooked at 900 degrees in a coal oven; mega thin, crispy crust, great quality ingredients on top etc., so on this occasion we decided to go off the board. We ordered some appetizers; salami $8 each and some cheese $15 for 3. We went with pecorino, fontina & provolone at the servers suggestion. This comes with a truffled honey, black cherry and apricot glaze. Not really necessary but pretty, I dipped Ceci's bagel in the apricot and she loved it! They also bring to the table a superb warm crusty bread with a bruschetta, olive oil & butter which is a really nice touch. I suggest both diners have a bite of the bruschetta as it packs quite a garlic punch! Then it was onto the entrees, Chicken Picatta for me $19 and Rigatoni Bolognese $19 for Dr. Dave. My chicken was perfectly cooked with caper berries & artichokes and served with a garlic heavy rapini. The Bolognese was excellent, scented with rosemary which I thought was odd for a true Bolognese but it was clearly long & slowly cooked and Dr. Dave loved it. They have a great selection of wines by the glass which is another winner that keeps the bar crowd, of which there were many, very happy.

I spent every summer as a child in Italy and as an adult I toured around the country with food on my mind and I have to say I adore Vic & Angelos; the buzz, the warm service, the effortlessly elegant & authentic food, the spot on music and the people watching. If you've always wanted to go to Italy, take a little detour to Vic & Angelos to put you in the mood. It gets it SO right!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nan's Meat Pie

My Nan was way ahead of her time. She shopped locally and ate seasonal home grown produce years before Jamie, Hugh or Gordon suggested it. If my Grandad hadn't grown it or it wasn't at the bakers, grocer, butcher or fishmonger, she didn't eat it. Simple. She walked to the shops every day and if she left a carbon footprint, it would be dainty size 5.

We would go to Nan's regularly for lunch on Sunday and it was always a treat whether it was stuffed lamb breast, pork belly or topside of beef. She stretched these cuts with vegetables from my Grandad would provide to order; even sending him out at the last minute for fresh mint to make mint sauce on a lamb day. One of our favorites was 'Meat Pie' which could be made one of two ways, with braising steak or ground beef. The only drawback of meat pie was that there would be no Apple Pie after; possibly rock cakes but that's another entry!

Yesterday I alluded to my 2 years spent in Malaysia; well when I first arrived I was clueless in the kitchen and my Nan would send me the odd recipe in the mail as well as give me tips on the phone. I've included her handwritten recipe here which I doubled last night and used ground sirloin rather than braising steak. It was a hit with my family served with mashed potatoes & broccoli trees!

Chicken & Shrimp Salad

In the early 90's I spent two years living in Malaysia during which time I became well versed in the use of many South East Asian pantry items. It was that or starve quite frankly as there are only so many European places to eat and with so much fresh and local produce available why would you want to? When in Kuala Lumpur....

The Marie Claire range of recipe books by Michele Cranston feature some wonderful 'fusion' recipes using global ingredients to create beautiful dishes. They also have some of the most seductive food photography out there.

This recipe is my adaptation of a salad from the 'Lucious' book and combines fresh summery flavors with a hit of Asia from the fragrant dressing. I'd have this in a lettuce or flatwrap.

Recipe Ingredients (looks like alot but if you're a condiment enthusiast you'll have most of them at hand)

2 cups of shredded cooked chicken breast
2 cups of cooked shrimp
Juice of 2 limes
1 English cucumber, seeded & diced
2 tbs sesame oil
4 tbs olive oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp thai fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup of shredded fresh mint leaves
2 tbs toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp cumin or garam masala
1 bunch of scallions, chopped

Recipe Directions
  1. Mix all the ingredients except the chicken and shrimp & sesame seeds in a large bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

  2. Add the chicken & shrimp and stir carefully until coated.

  3. Just before serving sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.

Tip: If you have difficulty finding some of the Asian condiments, try the WholeFoods Market at Downtown at the Gardens; they have a great range.

Friday, June 20, 2008

California Pizza Kitchen, Gardens Mall

A miserable Friday had me out of the kitchen and into the Gardens Mall today and a pitstop at the faithful old California Pizza Kitchen. At prices akin to some of the foodcourt places its a no brainer to come here and take advantage of the big tables, stroller space and friendly service. They also serve a mean Kendall Jackson which is something chick-fil-ay can't compete with!

I went for my old favorite the 'original chopped salad' in a half portion (whole to a normal person). A saintly, fresh mix of leaves, salami, turkey, basil, tomatoes and mozzarella tossed in a light vinaigrette. I love this salad, its a heck of alot of chopping that I don't have to do and its incredibly flavorsome to boot. Dr. Dave veered from his usual 'jerk chicken pizza' to the 'Thai chicken pizza' which is quite a departure for him as he is such a devotee of the jerk chicken here, however, there were no complaints and he finished the lot. I'm guessing it was the peanut and ginger marinade that justified the 'Thai' moniker but the carrot was definitely misplaced. I have to say I'm not such a fan of these adventurous pizza combinations. I've travelled the length and breadth of Italy and never encountered anything so off the wall as stand alone dishes served atop a pizza. Thai chicken; delicious, Pear & Gorgonzola salad; yum... but on a pizza? hmmm.... Yet strangely, if I leave my Euro pizza snobbery at the door and concentrate on taste alone then CPK works. Its not pizza as I know it but however you slice it they offer something for everyone, even me.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Paula Deen

If a picture paints a thousand words then what does the one of the book say? Messy cook? Lets her children get a little too involved with the cooking? Or simply that this particular page bears the hallmark of being made over and over and over again? In Paula's case it is the latter.

My first introduction to the Food Network and the talent of Paula Deen was six years ago when I first started hopping across the Atlantic from London to visit Dr. Dave on a regular basis. I used to potter around in his pitiful bachelor's kitchen trying to organize his cupboards full of cereal boxes, macaroni and pizza menus whilst watching a little portable TV he bought me which I left permanently tuned to the Food Network. At this time Paula Deen was just on one show and it was a cracker. She turned out food I'd never seen before and I couldn't wait to try it. I sent her an email telling her she was converting me from Southern English to just Southern and that her pound cake had a hand in my husband proposing as quickly as he did. She wrote back in great detail which I really appreciated at the time. I know she's gone on to many big things since that one show but this recipe (Grandmother Paul's Sour Cream Pound Cake) from her original book is one that I use over and over from the 'Lady & Sons Cookbook'.
I nearly always tweak recipes and in this instance the only thing I've adjusted is to add a splash of almond extract and I sprinkle the top with superfine sugar before baking to give a bit of a crunchy top.

See Paula make this super cake on Paula's Party on July 11th at 10pm, on Food Network or if you can't wait the recipe is available on and

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

English Scones

These are very easy to knock up in a few minutes. They smell good, taste authentic and you can adapt the recipe to suit whatever you feel like throwing in; raisins, dates, apricots, currants etc. They are so simple I won't even insult you with a structured recipe.

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Sift 1lb of self raising flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Cut half a stick of butter into a small dice and rub it into the flour. In a measuring jug mix 10 fl oz of buttermilk and 4 oz of superfine sugar and add it to the flour. Mix it swiftly and lightly, throw it into the board and press down gently. Cut out your scones or bake a whole round one American style. Brush the tops with milk and bake in for about 15 minutes. Spread liberally with butter & jam whilst still warm.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Filet Mignon & Chianti Risotto

I'd like to say I was pushing the boat out for Father's Day but with the filet on sale for $6.99lb this worked out to be better value than an earlybird at Toojays. The filet is Dr. Dave's favorite cut and of course the leanest so to counteract this lean protein I upped the steaks (ha ha) with a rich Chianti risotto.

Recipe Ingredients (for 2)

2 filet steaks

1 cup of arborio rice

1 pint of chicken stock

1 cup of chianti classico

1 onion finely chopped

1 cup of grated parmesan


Recipe Directions
  1. Heat a heavy bottomed saucepan and add 2 tbs of olive oil & 1 tbs of butter and fry the onion until translucent.

  2. Add the rice and stir until coated with the oil.

  3. When the rice starts squeaking add the chianti and stir until absorbed. Gradually add as much stock as you need, stirring all the while for approximately 20 minutes as the stock is absorbed. Taste regularly for doneness and add the parmesan at the end, mixing it in well. A little extra on top to serve.

  4. For the steaks, I get a good grill pan searingly hot, simply season the meat and cook to desired stage. To get the grill marks just give the meat a quarter turn after a minute or so. Its essential to let the meat rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

The superb meat (quality & price) was from a local gourmet market

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Best French Toast Ever

Growing up in England I never really had french toast as I know it today. I never saw much of it in France either but in the US its on every breakfast and brunch menu across the country; each one touted as the 'best ever'. Luckily I know an expert on the subject. Dr. Dave isn't much of a foodie. In the 'eat to live', 'live to eat' camps he falls into the former, however, he is a complete french toast aficionado. I've made it for him many times to mixed reviews but in recent months my recipe tweaking paid off and this was declared the 'best french toast ever'. That works for me!

Recipe Ingredients (for 6)

1 challah loaf cut into slices at least 1" thick

2 cups milk

1 tsp sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

oil/butter for frying

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

confectioners / icing sugar

Recipe Directions

  1. Mix all the ingredients, except the bread & confectioners sugar, in a shallow dish.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have a baking sheet greased & ready.

  3. Dunk the bread slices into the batter and turn. Soak at least a minute.

  4. Whilst the bread is soaking heat the oil/butter in a large frying pan.

  5. Fry the bread in batches until golden, adding more oil/butter when necessary.

  6. Keep the cooked toast hot in the oven on the baking sheet where it will puff up and become even more souffle like.
  7. Dust with confectioners sugar.

  8. Loosen trousers.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Brewzzi, City Place

Today I broke one of my cardinal rules. I ordered something other than a burger at what is, essentially, a burger & beer place. Brewzzi in City Place is a long established microbrewery and 'American restaurant' with a great reputation for such fare yet clever clogs here ordered the 'healthy chicken platter'. The dish was described as 'grilled chicken breast, brown rice pilaf and steamed vegetables'. It sounded quite saintly and how wrong could I go with such a simple choice? Firstly, the chicken arrived ugly side up and looking quite sorry for its over cooked little self. This is SO basic, to trim any extraneous sinewy, dangly parts of a boneless, skinless breast is the work of seconds and to present it with no care or attention is downright sloppy. The vegetables were nicely undercooked but somewhat gritty which suggests to me they were either washed poorly or not at all. To complete the trifector, the 'brown rice pilaf' had more than a whiff of a Lipton side about it to me. It was all lukewarm and there were several greasy fingerprints on the plate too which is another culinary schoolboy error.

Dr. Dave wisely ordered a barbecue burger and there were no complaints from him. I thought it was OK. Again, just the right side of warm and the fries were nothing to write home about either. Average in every way apart from the service which was delightful.

This wasn't my first visit to Brewzzi's and it probably won't be my last. I've heard wonderful things about some of the menu items here, sadly for me, I didn't order them so I can say that I'll return but next time I'll opt for a beer & a burger in that order!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Banana & Walnut Tea Bread

I try to curb the urge to bake too often as I'm the only member of my family who has no willpower. Whilst they can stop at a single slice, I'll cave in and scarf extras laid out on the sofa watching Hell's Kitchen. However, in the spirit of Dr. Dave's speedy recovery, some baked goods were in order.

Teabreads are a delightful combination of cake & bread. They're lighter than, say, a pound cake but denser than a traditional bread. The Banana & Walnut is a classic and the perfect complement to a morning coffee or afternoon tea; or if you're me, both!

Recipe Ingredients

1 stick of butter (and extra for greasing)

5oz of light brown sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup of chopped walnuts (plus extra for sprinkling)

2 ripe bananas mashed with 2 tbs of milk

8oz of self rising flour

1 tsp of vanilla extract

Recipe Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 2lb loaf pan.

  2. Cream the butter and and sugar together (I used my Kitchen Aid), then add the eggs gradually.

  3. Fold in the chopped walnuts, bananas and flour.

  4. Spoon into tin and sprinkle over the extra nuts.

  5. Bake for 40 minutes and check, if its firm to the touch then remove or bake for an extra 5-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes, remove and let it cool.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Chicken Noodle Soup

A distinct air of malady has invaded my usually healthy home. Dr. Dave has been struck with a mystery condition he describes as a combination of emphysema, pneumonia and whooping cough. If you've ever had any of these conditions, suffice to say its not as bad as his. Being raised with the English National Health Service I'd say he has a bit of a dry cough, however, nurturing wife that I am I pulled out my soup tureen to prepare his favorite restorative broth. Serves 4 at least.

Recipe Ingredients

2 skinless chicken breasts cut into small pieces

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 cup of celery chopped

1 cup carrots chopped

1 large carton of chicken broth (or homemade if you're organized and freeze such things)

1tbs olive oil (not extra virgin)

3 cups of uncooked noodles (I used Ronzoni Wholeweat Healthy Harvest)

  1. Heat 1 tbs of olive oil over a medium heat and gently fry the onions, celery and garlic until translucent but not brown.

  2. Add the chicken and stir until opaque.

  3. Pour in the broth and simmer until the vegetables are soft and the chicken cooked through.

  4. 5-7 minutes before you want to serve, add the egg noodles.

  5. Wait patiently for spring to return to step.
Trust me tip: If you're looking for a way to smuggle extra wholegrain into someone, these noodles are almost undetectable as brown when cooked in this soup.

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Or Scabetti & Meatballs as my 3 year old calls it! Few things are as crowd pleasing or easy to prepare than a steamy bowl of pasta and meatballs. These meatballs are not true Neapolitan style as I use less milk soaked bread (its a legacy from my Dr. Atkins days) but enough to transform them from 'burgers' to soft, true polpette. I've used angel hair here as its easy on my 9 month old but I'd have preferred thicker scabetti myself!

I don't always put serving sizes on my recipes because we all have different appetites in our family; mine being the largest, but count on 4 really good adult bowls with probable leftovers for meatball subs the next day.

Recipe Ingredients

1lb ground beef

1 tbs minced garlic

1 small grated onion

1 cup breadcrumbs soaked in milk

1 beaten egg

1 cup grated Parmesan

generous grinds of salt & black pepper

Marinara Sauce (either homemade or a jar of store bought)

  1. Squeeze the milk from the breadcrumbs, place in a large mixing bowl and break up.

  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well (I use my hands).

  3. Form the mixture in about 10-15 balls. I like them pretty small (less work to eat!)

  4. Heat some olive oil (not extra virgin) in a large frying pan and add the meatballs one by one. As a brown crust forms on the bottom, turn them over (palette knife works best).

  5. Once they are all sealed, add the jar of sauce and simmer for about 10 minutes.

  6. Whilst they are simmering cook your noodles (directions on packet minus a minute or so)

  7. Toss the whole lot into a serving dish, put on some Frank Sinatra and dive in.
Trust me tip: Once you get to the end of your loaf or English muffins, bagels etc., just put them through your food processor and blitz to breadcrumbs. Keep them in the freezer in a ziplock bag for meatloaf and meatball emergencies!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Panko Parmesan Chicken Tenders

Can there be any home cook worth their Maldon sea salt that hasn't discovered the joy of Panko? These Japanese bread flakes make for the lightest, crispiest coating for meat or fish without that cloying breaded taste and texture of other store bought breadcrumbs. We ate at a churrascaria on Sunday night where they served an inspired 'Parmesan crusted pork tenderloin' so, toying with that notion, devised these tasty tenders.

Recipe Ingredients

1lb of chicken tenders (please remove that horrible white tube with a filleting knife or kitchen scissors, it spoils the whole 'tender' experience)

2 beaten eggs

seasoned flour

2 cups Panko

2 cups grated Parmesan

vegetable oil

Recipe Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Remove white bit from chicken tenders!

  3. Dust the chicken tenders in seasoned flour.

  4. Dip in beaten egg.

  5. Mix the panko and Parmesan together and coat the chicken pieces well.

  6. Heat 2 tbs of vegetable oil in an oven proof frying pan and add the chicken pieces and shallow fry on each side until golden brown but not cooked through.

  7. Place pan in the oven for 10-15 minutes.

  8. Serve with your favorite sauce, I'd suggest marinara but my guys wanted more parmesan dressing!

Trust me: Get a block of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano to keep in the fridge and grate at will. It lasts forever and you can use the rinds to flavor soups & stews. The dried stuff in the plastic tubs should really be outlawed.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Boneless Chinese Style Ribs

If you're a collector of condiments like me its highly likely you have all manner of Asian sauces and spices gathering dust in your fridge and pantry. This is a satisfying outlet for all those jars fast approaching their use-by date. These boneless ribs have much less fat and sugar and so much more subtle Asian flavor than their deep fried take away counterparts.

Recipe Ingredients

1 lb of pork loin boneless ribs

2 tbs vegetable oil + little more for frying

1 small onion thinly sliced

2 tbs grated ginger (or the jarred lazy ginger)

8 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup of Chinese wine or dry sherry

2 tbs kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)

1 tsp Chinese five spice powder

2 tbs smokey bbq sauce (optional)

2tbs sweet chili sauce

Recipe Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. Combine all the ingredients except the pork to make a marinade.

  3. Add the pork and toss to cover. Leave to bathe for an hour or so.

  4. Heat an oven proof pan till smoking, add a small amount of vegetable oil.

  5. Add the ribs and cook on one side until brown.

  6. Turn the ribs, add the rest of the marinade and cook in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes.

  7. Leave to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving with a little extra sweet chili sauce.

Lovely Local Tip: If you're in range of a Publix Supermarket, the boneless ribs are on sale until next Wednesday!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Masa's Sagami, Abacoa, FL

Masa's Sagami Japanese Steakhouse is one of the cornerstones of Abacoa town center. Its been in place for several years now and successfully so but regrettably, those years are beginning to show. The floor was gummy and dirty, there were holes and digs in the walls, the paintwork was greasy, you get the picture. We arrived just after opening time so, in theory, the interior should've looked pretty fresh being the first Hibachi of the night. The joint needs work! We're not talking about a facelift of Wildenstein proportions but a little filler & botox would be well placed here along with an industrial dermabrasion of the floor.

To the food. En famille once again, Dr. Dave went with the filet & shrimp, me the chicken and our 3 year old Hibachi enthusiast, the chicken. The soup here is good and the salad is fresh. That counts and was appreciated. The Hibachi chef arrived and some restrained, jaded schtick ensued. The chef was OK. I really want to say he was hilarious, skilled and enthralled us all but that would be stretching it. He was competent, and the food was nicely seasoned, plentiful and he had a generous hand with everything he prepared he just wasn't slick.

Masa himself works the room and says 'hi' to all his diners and that too means alot in a local establishment like this. I'm sure his personality alone keeps punters returning and choosing him over the competition but for me, that's not enough. This place needs something if its going to compete with all the new local Japanese dining opportunities such as the spotless Ra Sushi at Legacy Place and the plush Saito's Japanese Steakhouse at PGA Commons and as I live on its doorstep, I really hope it gets it.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Shepherds Pie Tonight!

My Shepherds Pie

Strictly speaking this should be named
'cottage' pie as its made with beef as opposed to lamb, however, my Mum always referred to it as 'shepherds' and it was never advisable to challenge her kitchen wisdom.

I've read numerous recipes for Shepherds Pie, with ingredients ranging from ground lamb of course, lamb shanks, leftover brisket and pot roast. In our family it was fashioned simply from lean ground beef and, as with all these historic dishes, tastes best when its made exactly how you remember it growing up.

Recipe Ingredients

1lb lean ground beef

1 onion finely chopped

2 carrots finely chopped (I had some grated carrots leftover so used those)

2 sticks celery finely chopped

dash Worcestershire sauce

1tbs tomato puree

1 cup of beef stock

1 tbs all purpose flour

Mashed Potato

1lb potatoes

cream, butter, salt & pepper to taste


  1. Heat 2tbs of vegetable oil in a heavy based frying pan. Add the onion, carrots & celery and fry until translucent.

  2. Add the ground beef and fry until thoroughly browned. If you are fat watching you could tip the pan to one side at this point and drain any excess fat that has been released from the beef.

  3. Add the tablespoon of flour and work it into the pan, followed by the Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree and beef stock.

  4. Lower the heat and simmer until the mixture is reduced; about 15 minutes.

  5. Pour into a baking dish and allow to cool.

Mashed Potato

  1. Peel & cut the potatoes into chunks, boil until tender.

  2. Drain & cover the pan with a tea towel / dishcloth to absorb the excess steam (creates much fluffier mash).

  3. Mash and add cream, butter & seasoning to taste. I favor a potato ricer, my Mum used a retro wire masher and my Nan used a fork. I expect my daughters will have a computer program to do it for them!

  4. Using a palette knife spread the potato onto the cooled meat. (I cool it first so the potato spreads easier).

  5. Bake in a 350 degree oven for around 30 minutes until the potato starts to crisp on the top and the gravy begins to bubble up around the sides. (If you are feeling extravagant you can top with cheese before baking).

Trust me: No matter what quantity of mashed potato you are making, never ever be tempted to use an electric mixer of any description to help you. You will be eating glue.

The Yard House, Palm Beach Gardens, FL

Last night the good Dr. Dave (husband) had a little last minute business to attend to so instead of my planned shepherds pie we all hit a local sports bar, the Yard House. The Yard House describes itself as an 'upscale casual' establishment which is pretty accurate, however, there are plenty of flat screens, rock music and the biggest collection of draft beers, so to me, its a sports bar albeit a posh one.

We've eaten here many times before and always found it consistent for the basics we have sampled. The burgers are great, the salads hearty and their fries are second to none. They are those moreish shoestring style variety that stay annoyingly crispy long after you want to stop eating them! This is also one of the few restaurants whose 'children's menu' isn't an insult to them or me. There's a broad choice of healthy fare and the quality of the ingredients is every bit as good as the regular menu. You don't get the feeling that, just because they're cheap to feed, children are an afterthought here.

Last night, was the first time our visit fell into the 'happy hour' time frame of 3-6pm. Unlike your average 'happy hour' the Yard House offers both 1/2 price appetizers and discounted drinks from their huge menu. This being Florida, the appetizers are a meal unto themselves. I saw most things I usually order for dinner on the happy hour menu. I ordered a 'Spicy Tuna Roll' fully expecting it to be a dainty little affair leaving me plenty of room to snaffle one of Dr. Dave's 'Bearnaise Sliders', a fork or two of his 'Chinese Garlic Noodles' and of course a few of my daughters french fries. Not so. This was a hearty tower of seared ahi tuna, avocado, that legume de jour edamame and cucumber with a wasabi soy drizzle. It was so healthy I think I added a few months to my life just photographing it. Here's the thing, the quality of this ahi tuna was so good, the composition and appearance of the dish so appealing, it tasted so great and it was priced at around $6.00 during happy hour. This has to be below food cost. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a penny pincher when it comes to food; I put quality first always and if I can't have what I want I'd rather go without but nothing was compromised here.

The service was great, we had Chris who was delightful, efficient, not over effusive and fake jolly which I can't abide at these places and he happily replaced my glass of wine when I told him it tasted sulphurous so he gets my vote! If you are on a budget or just want a great early dinner or late lunch in a buzzy, vibrant and young venue, I highly recommend the Yard House.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Beef in Beaujolais

I am neither a wine buff or a wine snob. I can differentiate colors of course and grapes occasionally but amateur sommelier I am NOT. This said, even I know that you don't lay down a beaujolais nouveau 2006! Not so my husband. I was reorganizing our humble rack on Sunday night and came across a dusty bottle of his 'not so nouveau'. I popped the cork, half expecting it to crumble, poured a glass and had a cautious swig. I have to say it had lost very little of its fruity appeal in the aging process, however, erring on the side of caution I repurposed the remaining three quarters of a bottle and a little Beef in Beaujolais was born.


3lbs of lean stewing/braising beef in chunks

1 large onion sliced

4 cloves garlic chopped

1 heaped tablespoon of herbes de provence

a large handful of chopped or baby carrots

3/4 bottle beaujolais


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

  2. In a heavy casserole dish (I favor Le Creuset for looks and durability) heat 2 tbs vegetable oil and sweat the onions, garlic & carrots.

  3. Toss the meat in all purpose flour seasoned with salt & pepper and add to the pot until just turning brown at the edges.

  4. Add the wine and place in oven for around 4 hours. Check and stir after 2 hours.

After 4 hours the dish will be reduced, (hence the appearance of my pot) the sauce syrupy and the meat falling apart. This will serve at least 4-6.

Welcome to the Cookbook Cafe!

This is my place to share, experiment and create recipes, review cookbooks, restaurants, rant, rave and generally vent my culinary spleen.

Why the Cookbook Cafe?

I have a vast and growing collection of tasty tomes, ranging from 'Mrs. A.B. Marshall's Cookery Book' published in 1887; 'Ox palates a la Napolitaine' anyone? through to Heston Blumenthal's ambitious 'Search for Perfection'. I have barely scratched the surface of these treasures and am excited to delve deeper into the pages and share the experiences with anyone who cares to tag along.

I won't be blogging from a place of culinary expertise as I am not a trained chef, but from a place of passion and practicality. I promise only to preach what I practice!