London’s Calling: Kasteel Cru

Kasteel Cru

Kasteel Cru

Rarely does a beer make such an impact on me.  Not that I don’t like beer.  I know what I like, and I know what I don’t.  But that doesn’t mean I’ve ever found true love.

I had this Kasteel Cru a couple of days ago with a fish and chips lunch at Fish! near Borough Market.  I love the label.  I don’t know if it’s real beer-ology or just marketing, but the idea of “sparkling bière brut” made it sound so much like fine champagne.  And the light moonlight color, and the fine bubbles.  Also like champagne.  And then the waiter told me the beer is made with champagne yeast.  I’m not sure what that means, but I loved the delicacy of the beer, its dry finish, and its, yes, elegance.  Ale drinkers may shrink back in horror, but I just loved it, and if you like something light, but still with character, I think you will too.

Kasteel Cru

Available from Asda, Ocado, and Sainsbury’s

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Categories: Finds, London, Voyages

The Secret Ingredient (Black Pepper) Part III: Sweet Cream Ice Cream with Strawberry Black Pepper Sauce

RECIPE: Sweet Cream Ice Cream with Strawberry Black Pepper Sauce
Sweet Cream Ice Cream with Strawberry Black Pepper Sauce

Sweet Cream Ice Cream with Strawberry Black Pepper Sauce

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

There was a point in the last few years when the combination of strawberry and black pepper became quite trendy. In fact, I believe the reason I got into business school is because I wrote a strawberry-black pepper tart recipe for my interviewer. Except I never tried it! Never tried the tart, never tried the combination.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Desserts, Easy, Eat, Frozen, Fruit, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetarian

London’s Calling: Magic Corn

Magic Corn Standg

Magic Corn Stand

This is what I least expected to find in London: a street cart selling nothing but steamed corn.  But yesterday, touring around with Mr. English and Mr. and Mrs. Miami on the South Bank, I saw this stand.  Magic Corn, it read on the sign strapped above the cart.  “Magic corn?”  I thought.    What can it do?

Magic Corn Flavors

Magic Corn Flavors

It was that question that I asked the salesman behind the cart.  He showed me a huge sac of frozen corn kernels, that instead of putting into an oil popper, he put into a huge vat steamer.  No added fat.  I was excited!  Then, he asked what flavor I wanted.  I was torn, but I told him cheese.  He added some suspicious orange cheese spread, and that kind of cheddar popcorn topping to some hot corn in a thermos, and started shaking it like a martini.  He gently poured the nuggets of cheesy corn in a little Styrofoam cup and handed it to me.

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Categories: London, Restaurants, Voyages

French in a Flash: Creamy Mushroom Fettuccine

RECIPE: Creamy Mushroom Fettuccine

Creamy Mushroom Fettuccine

Creamy Mushroom Fettuccine

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

I love eating pasta.  And I love eating pasta in France, because they do Italian with such French flare.  Ratatouille over rigatoni.  Roquefort cream sauce over ribbons of pappardelle.  Brick-red pistou slathered on spaghetti.  It’s just so good, and somehow, so French!

This pasta dish is sort of a giant mushroom duxelles piled on top of fettuccine.  I always write that crème fraîche is a magic ingredient, because it just refuses to separate.  You can do anything to it, and it is completely resilient.  Add some in with the mushrooms in this dish, and you have an instant cream sauce, full of woodland flavors of mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and thyme, that wraps itself around the expectant pasta.  I love this dish because it is earthy, and easy.  Perfect as a side next to some seared and sliced steak.  Or on its own with a drizzle of truffle oil.  Magnifique.

Creamy Mushroom Fettuccine Zoom

Creamy Mushroom Fettuccine
serves 4 to 6

Creamy Mushroom FettuccineIngredients

  • 1/2 cup low-sodium organic chicken stock (use water if vegetarian)

  • 1/4 ounce dried wild mushrooms

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, cut in eigths

  • 1 extra large shallot, minced

  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped

  • The leaves from 2 large stems fresh thyme

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly cracked black pepper

  • 1 pound dry fettuccine

  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche

  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan


Bring a large pot of water to boil.  In a small covered pot, heat the stock and dried mushrooms together over medium heat, to reconstitute the mushrooms.  In a large, high-sided braising pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and sauté, stirring often, until golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes.  Add the shallot, garlic, and thyme, and season with salt and pepper.  Sauté on low until the shallot is soft, 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove the reconstituted dried mushrooms from the stock.  Add the stock to the fresh mushrooms and shallots, and cook until almost absorbed, 1 minute.  Turn of the heat, and cover the pot.

Salt the boiling water, and cook the fettuccine until al dente, reserving 1/4 cup of cooking water before draining.

In a mini food processor, blend together the reconstituted dried mushrooms and the crème fraîche.  Add the mixture to the fresh sautéed mushrooms, and stir to melt the crème fraîche into a sauce.  Toss in the pasta, and add just enough pasta water for the mushrooms mixture to lightly coat the strands of pasta.  Toss with Parmesan, and serve alongside a sliced seared steak, or on its own with a drizzle of black truffle oil.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian

Great Restaurant: Mercadito in Miami

Holy Molé!

There seems to be two schools of Mexican food.  The first is the kind of Mexican food you go to, to eat as much chips and melted cheese as you can until you pop like an overblown balloon.  Which I totally love.  And then there’s Mexican food, said with gravitas, made fresh fresh fresh, and with so much flavor it punches you in the mouth.  Which I love even more.  Both are hard to find in South Florida, which is surprising, given our population’s affinity for seafood and spice.

I grew up an hour outside of Miami, but now that many of my friends, including my best friend, Mrs. Miami, have moved there full-time, I have the occasion to venture in, and try some of the city’s hopefully best restaurants.  We’ve had some hits and we’ve had some misses: last Friday night at Mercadito was a HIT.  Imagine three Mexican-starved twenty-somethings–me, Mrs. Miami, and her fiancé Mr. Miami–, finally finding aqua fresca in a midtown oasis, inhaling guacamoles, other moles, and basically everything within the limitations of our table.  We were pretty hilarious in our enthusiasm.

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Categories: Restaurants, South Florida, Voyages

Great Ingredient: Microarugula

RECIPE: Tortellini with Cheese, Microarugula, and Pepper


If you’ve been reading my Serious Eats columns, you’ve probably been seeing this in a lot of posts.  I love microgreens: they’re like the powersuit of a home cook.  Use some in a dish and you look instantly professional.  They’re not cheap, about $6 at my local Whole Foods, but they’re perfect for something special.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Recipes, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian

The Secret Ingredient (Black Pepper) Part II: Steak au Poivre with Truffled Microgreen Salad

RECIPE: Steak au Poivre with Truffled Microarugula
Steak au Poivre with Truffled Microgreens

Steak au Poivre with Truffled Microgreens

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

I’ve been doing something I never thought I’d do: researching black pepper.  I wasn’t surprised to find that it is the most in-demand spice on the market, or that it causes sneezing.  But did you know that the green peppercorn, which I often buy in brine, is just the unripened black peppercorn?  Or that the white peppercorn is just the black peppercorn without its little black outer shell?  Or that Egyptian mummies had black peppercorns stuffed up their noses?  Or that the peppercorn might be the very reason America was discovered, as explorers searched for ways to find their ways to eastern spice markets?  We do owe the little black peppercorn a debt of gratitude, so I am glad you can find it on almost every single table, right next to the salt.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Meat, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient