Reviews

John Saturnall’s Feast

Normally, I’d post a cookbook review here on occasion, but I mainly write about food.  This book however, is so foodcentric, that I just had to write about it here.

Title:  <a href=”http://www.groveatlantic.com/?isbn=9780802120519″>John Saturnall’s Feast </a>
Author:  <a href=”http://literature.britishcouncil.org/lawrence-norfolk”>Lawrence Norfolk</a>
Publisher: <a href=”http://www.groveatlantic.com”>Grove/Atlantic, Inc.</a>
Imprint:  Grove Press
Pub Date: September 04, 2012
ISBN: 9780802120519

JOHN SATURNALL’S FEAST is the story of a young boy who’s mother was accused of witchcraft in pre-Cromwellian England.  As she and her young son are driven out of the village to starve during the winter, his mother regales him with tales of a marvelous feast from the pages of her precious, old and illuminated book.  John learns to read from these stories of food and the Garden of Eden.  His starving belly filled with the descriptions of recipes, fruit, and wondrous dishes.

After his mother’s death,  John finds himself living in the manor house as a kitchen boy.  His obsession with the feast and food uplifts him amongst the servants as he impresses the Master Cook with his ability to discern spices in a broth.  John quickly learns his craft, the feast always in his mind as he endeavors to create the best dishes.  He finds both forbidden love, friendship and enemies in his new life, but nothing can keep the feast out of his head.

The author took twelve years writing this book and it was well worth the wait.  The writing is lush, evocative and beautiful.  The gorgeous descriptions of food in both medieval language as excepts from his precious book or in the regular language of the book are riveting and delicious. The Feast is ever present and if there was ever a Garden of Eden, I want it to be the one Lawrence Norfolk has created, one where this marvelous feast is served.

Fans of language will love this book.  It is replete with marvelous words and language, masterfully written.  Foodies will adore it, history buffs will linger long on its pages and romance lovers will cheer and sigh.  JOHN SATURNALL’S FEAST is truly a feast for the literary senses.

Publisher’s Blurb:

A beautiful, rich, and sensuous historical novel, John Saturnall’s Feast tells the story of a young orphan who becomes a kitchen boy at a manor house and rises through the ranks to become the greatest cook of his generation. It is a story of food, star-crossed lovers, ancient myths, and one boy’s rise from outcast to hero.

It is the early-seventeenth century and John Saturnall is a young boy grow­ing up in the village of Buckland. He is bullied by other children, who claim that his mother is a witch. When many of the children in the village become sick, John’s mother is blamed, and she and her son are chased out of the village. They move to a forest, where it is said a witch called Buccla once grew a legend­ary garden. Giving what little she can forage to her son, John’s mother soon dies of starvation, but sees to it that John is taken in at the Buckland Manor house, where he begins working in the kitchen.

At the manor, John’s keen palate and natural cooking ability allow him to quickly rise from kitchen boy to cook. However, he soon gets on the wrong side of Lady Lucretia, the aristocratic daughter of the lord of the manor. In order to inherit the estate, Lucretia must wed, but her fiancé is an arrogant buffoon whose face Lucretia thinks resembles a water parsnip. When Lucretia takes a vow of fasting until her father calls off her engagement, it falls on John to try to cook her delicious food that might tempt her to break her fast. As John serves meals to Lucretia, an illicit attraction grows between the pair, but fate is conspiring against them. Lucretia’s betrothal cannot be undone, and soon the household is thrown into chaos as Cromwell’s Roundheads go to war with the loyalist Cavaliers and the English Civil War begins.

Reminiscent of Wolf Hall, Jonathan Strange &amp; Mr. Norrell, and works by David Mitchell and Peter Carey, John Saturnall’s Feast is a brilliant work by a writer at the top of his powers, and a delight for all the senses.

About the author:

Lawrence Norfolk is the bestselling author of Lempriere’s Dictionary, The Pope’s Rhinoceros and In the Shape of a Boar, three literary historical novels which have been translated into 24 languages. He was born in London in 1963 but moved with his parents to Iraq shortly after. They were evacuated following the Six Day War in 1967 and he grew up in the West Country of England. He is the winner of the Somerset Maugham Award and the Budapest Festival Prize for Literature and his work has been shortlisted for the IMPAC Prize, the James Tait Black Memorial Award and the Wingate/Jewish Quarterly Prize for Literature. In 1992 he was listed as one of Granta magazine’s 20 ‘Best of Young British Writers’. In the same year he reported on the war in Bosnia for News magazine of Austria. His journalism and reviews have appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout Europe and America. He lives in London with his wife and two sons.

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The Cook’s Herb Garden: Grow, Harvest, Cook

The Cook’s Herb Garden: Grow, Harvest, Cook

Author: Jeff Cox, Marie Pierre Moine
Publisher: DK Publishing

ISBN-10: 0756658691

ISBN-13: 978-0756658694

The Cook’s Herb Garden is a wonderful little book. It’s jam-packed with full color photos of the herbs with handy diagrams and info. The book is divided into four sections: Choose, Grow, Harvest and Store, and Cook. It comes with a photographic herb catalog which gives a lot of information about the herb in question like where it grows best, if it’s a perennial, best way to grow, growing conditions and culinary uses. I particularly liked the Climate section listing hardy, half hardy, and herbs tolerant of wet soil. There’s a section on growing from seed, another on propagating and even one on weed control.

There’s step-by-step advice on planting, harvesting, making homemade vinegars, flavored herb butters, rubs and marinades. In the Cook section you’ll find over sixty recipes and there are some delicious ones. I loved the Black Currant Cordial and the Lemongrass and Chili Salsa just to mention a couple of the yummy recipes in this book.

I loved this book and keep it handy in the kitchen. Not only is it gorgeous with the wonderful photos, but it’s so useful and any cook would be proud to have it in his/her kitchen. I loved reading about how to pick plants for certain places in your yard or garden, plant partners and creating beds and borders using herbs. I’ve long been fascinated by partner or companion plants and how they work together, so the little section on them was especially fun for me.

This is a great book for families as well as the cook. Kids will love the photos and working with their parents, or other family members in planning out the garden, making the recipes, harvesting and storing the herbs. Using the book to plan and grow a culinary herb garden will be a long-lasting and fun project that will give them skills and knowledge that will last them all their lives, not to mention some fabulous and fond memories. Teaching children about where food comes from and the process of seed to plate is a great lesson and in my experience, one they love. My grandchildren love making the herb ice cubes and experimenting with different herbs and spices. They get even more fun out of it knowing they helped plan the garden, planted and grew the herbs and took a large part in the harvest and storing of them.

This book is highly recommended for anyone and makes a great gift.

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Mi Tierra Restaurant: Machaca

Mi Tierra's Machaca Plate

Mi Tierra's Machaca Plate

One of our favorite places here in NoHo is the Mi Tierra Restaurant on Victory.  It’s an unassuming little place till you walk in the door and the aroma of heavily cinnamon scented coffee wraps around you like a lover’s arms.  There’s a big screen TV and posters of all the FIFA soccer players with the Mexico team prominent.  There’s a jukebox that plays Vicente Fernandez with too much bass but it’s all kinds of awesome.

I love to go their for breakfast and sit watching soccer with very vocal fellow customers.  During Copa Mundial, it was the place to be for breakfast.  The waitresses are super sweet, know their futbol and are constantly filling your cup with the deliciously seductive cafe.  I can’t stop drinking that stuff, it’s THAT good.

I love their breakfasts.  The tortillas are freshly made to order, the beans taste like home and all their breakfast dishes are authentic as well as delicious.  The other day I had their machaca for the first time and absolutely loved it.  I love machaca (shredded beef with eggs) but some places just make it so dry.  I know, I know it’s a contradiction in terms.  Machaca was originally a dried, spiced beef which was somewhat like beef jerky but with a Mexican flavor.  The rancheros of Northern Mexico are said to have invented it.  Their way of making machaca was to soften the dried beef, then cook it with eggs and some people still make it that way in Mexico where the beef is more dry.  The problem I sometimes run into is that sometimes the eggs are dry too and that’s just icky.

Mmmmm Machaca

I was pleasantly surprised by Mi Tierra’s machaca.  The beef still had that almost dry, chewy texture that is so yummy but the eggs were fluffy, moist and perfect.  With the beans, rice, salsa and fresh tortillas it was beyond delicious and I was a happy girl.

Mi Tierra's Huevos Rancheros

Other menu items include amazing breakfast burritos, menudo, huge shrimp cocktails, camaron ala plancha, chilaquiles and much more.  Everything I’ve tried so far has been pretty wonderful but there’s tons yet to try.  Breakfast plates are in the $5.00 range so it’s budget friendly.  Make sure you have the coffee.   It’s the best.

Mi Tierra restaurant is located just off of Lankershim on Victory Boulevard at 11746 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91606.  Their phone number is (818) 755-9192.

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Quesadillas Lupita

The carne asada auesadilla waiting for toppings

The carne asada quesadilla waiting for toppings

When we first moved here to the North Hollywood fixer upper house, we couldn’t cook. There wasn’t electricity for three weeks, we couldn’t move the stove in, obstacle after obstacle blocked us so we got to know the local eating places right away. On our first trip to the local Superior Market for some much needed coffee and pan dulce, we spotted a quesadilla truck parked on the curb. My roommate wasn’t excited but I sure was and as I dragged him to the truck grumbling, the smell hit him and he rapidly changed his mind.

Our first visit was hilarious. The truck owner, Alvaro is a character. As we hemmed and hawed trying to decide if we’d get a quesadilla or not, he made up a big one and proceeded to eat it right in front of us the whole time making orgasmic food noises, “mmmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm”. When we finally decided and ordered, he wondered why were weren’t ordering more. He flirted, clowned around and all but capered and turned cartwheels around the truck. I was dying laughing. He didn’t need all that fanfare though it was highly entertaining and reminiscent of Tijuana vendor antics while waiting in line to cross the border.

The Quesadillas Lupita truck

David ordered a carne asada quesadilla and I ordered nopales y hongos (cactus and mushrooms). The tortillas were big, homemade flour cooked on the grill. The quesadillas were stuffed to the max with cheese and filling. Beyond that there were all kinds of toppings to add along with chile verde or rojo. Once we’d made our $3.00 quesadillas and got them home, the smell torturing us in the truck we couldn’t wait to dig in. When we did, OH MY GOD! They were delectable, delicious, melt in your mouth happiness. We practically lived there for the next three weeks.

Once we got our kitchen working soundly, we rarely thought of the quesadilla truck because of the nature of this fixer-upper. Constant work and drama have kept us away but we’ve finally come to a place where we could go out and eat again, not out of necessity but for fun. The first place we thought of was Quesadillas Lupita.

What shall I order?

Our afternoon trip wasn’t quite the same as our first. Alvaro seemed subdued but he let me take pictures. I full on expected him to clown for the camera but he refused shyly. Upon prodding, he whispered, “la chaparita es mi esposa” (the short girl there is my wife). LOL. I guess he’s been taken to task for his flirting and clowning so no photos of him in this post. You’ll just have to take my word that he’s an entertainer. The food on the other hand was the same, excellent melty goodness. I had the nopales y hongos again, David had carne asada y hongos and Phillip had plain carne asada. We filled our quesadillas with toppings till they couldn’t close, dripped on salsa and crema and dusted them with a little cotija and were on our way home. Happy munching ensued.

Toppings!

The quesadillas from Quesadillas Lupita are luscious. The tortillas are made to order, they don’t skimp on ingredients and for $3.00 the portions are huge. They’re located on the market side of Etiwanda just off of Lankershim from 9:00 a.m. till about 3:00 p.m.

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Review: Lovin’ Scoopful Ice Cream

I recently had the pleasure of being asked to review Lovin’ Scoopful ice cream, a product I was extremely interested in not only because of my love of ice cream but because the company donates 25% ($50,000 minimum annually) of its post-tax profits to the Special Olympics. Full disclosure: I received two coupons for free ice cream, a t-shirt and some $1.00 coupons.

As most of my readers know, I live in Los Angeles and you would think it would be easy enough to find this ice cream. Once I had my free coupons in hand, I roamed every Albertson’s and Ralph’s searching for it to no avail. I was starting to get a little desperate for ice cream when I finally found it at the Albertson’s on Central and Chevy Chase in Glendale. I was really drooling and looking forward to the Raspberry Cheesecake flavor but the market I found it at only carried chocolate and vanilla so that’s what I got.

I was expecting a not so creamy, kinda diet flavor in the ice cream given it has half the calories but was absolutely blown away by the rich, creaminess to it as well as a luscious taste. There were some incredibly happy people in my household. We want more!! We’re dying to try the other flavors and are begging our local markets to carry the brand and more than just chocolate and vanilla. Raspberry Cheesecake please!

I highly recommend the ice cream if you can find it. It not only tastes great and is less calories for your hips, but it’s ice cream for a cause and a good one. Think of it as socially responsible ice cream. You’re not cheating on your diet, you’re helping your community.

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For a map and a full list of stores carrying Lovin’ Scoopful ice cream, visit the brand’s official website. For areas not yet served, consumers are encouraged to request that Lovin’ Scoopful be added to ice cream shelves of your favorite store by simply asking the manager in charge.

Lovin’ Scoopful is very excited to announce its newest social media tool to the world, a brand new Facebook application called: What Flavor Ice Cream Are You? Lovin’ Scoopful has created a new Facebook application designed to be fun and engaging for new and existing fans of the brand. Facebook fans will be able to interact directly with Lovin’ Scoopful through a series of playful and light-hearted questions. This quiz app will allow fans to tag themselves and their friends as specific Lovin’ Scoopful ice cream flavors, based on their answers. This app provides fans with an entertaining way to match their personalities with ice cream flavors that best represents them. Fans will be able to invite their friends to participate and challenge them to take the quiz to see how well they match-up.

Join the conversation!
Find us on Facebook and become a fan: http://www.facebook.com/lovinscoopful
Find out what flavor of ice cream you are by trying our new Facebook application:
What Flavor Ice Cream Are You?

Follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LovinScoopful

ABOUT LOVIN’ SCOOPFUL
Lovin’ Scoopful is a premium ice cream company operating with the objective of making not only its customers happy, but making many others happy as well through significant contributions to causes that help empower the human spirit. Tim and Maria Shriver, Angelo Moratti and Dan Samson, launched Lovin’ Scoopful in 2008 with the intent of offering a high quality, fun and health conscious product that would also serve as an ongoing source of revenue for worthy causes. Currently, the company is proud to donate 25% ($50,000 minimum annually) of its post-tax profits to Special Olympics. As the company’s creative director, Maria has been involved in every step of the product development process. “I’ve loved having a hand in all aspects of the company, from creating the sumptuous flavors and coming up with the product names and logo, to ensuring that the quality of our ice cream is the best our customers have ever experienced.”

Lovin’ Scoopful – “Loves you as much as you love it!”
For the full scoop on all Lovin’ Scoopful fabulous flavors, visit www.lovinscoopful.com

ABOUT SPECIAL OLYMPICS
The Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives by promoting understanding, acceptance and inclusion among people with and without intellectual disabilities. Through year-round sports training and athletic competition and other related programming for 2.8 million children and adults with intellectual disabilities in more than 180 countries, Special Olympics has created a model community that celebrates peoples’ diverse gifts. Founded in 1968 by the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, and demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org.

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