Impressions of light
A little confession. I have always been afraid of making large meat dishes, you know, the traditional American pot roast, meat loaf, roasted turkey, etc. But since we moved to Ireland, where I find the diversity of vegetables is far less than the States, I started to turn my attention to the abundant and high quality Irish meats. Lamb, for example, is far superior and more available in Ireland than the States. I started roasting lamb with cumin after I visited Morocco in the spring.
My friend that I went to Morocco with is a huge fan of meats in general. Well, he was in heaven. We found a couple of street vendors that make succulent roasted lamb in the corner of the busiest square, Jemaa el-Fnaa, in Marakech. The meat was dirt cheap and they sell out very early in the day. The shops have an earth oven built into the ground, out of which they lifted out lamb or pork that have been roasting all morning. Big chunks of meat fell off the bones, served in foil and a generous serving of cumin and salt mixture. No utensils, hands only. I tried eating with a camping spork and resorted to my hands in the end. The meats were tasty but they were gamey. I realized that cumin salt was an excellent spice that helped to cover up the strong meaty taste or anything that might have indicated the meat as being less than fresh.
With lack of patience to roast my lamb for half a day, I opted for a medium rare roast. Here is my simple recipe, great for people who are afraid of making a big meat dish like me.
1. I chose a leg of lamb, but a shoulder of a lamb would work just as well.
2. Make incisions in the lamb, and embed cloves of garlic into the meat.
3. Pat the lamb generously with salt, pepper, and whole cumin seed.
4. Roast the lamb in a pre-heated 200C oven for 10 minutes, then roast for 40-ish minutes at 160C depending on the size of the leg.
5. Take the lamb out of the oven and tent it for 10 minutes with foil. Carve and serve.
I tried serving the lamb with chopped mint and basil in olive oil this evening. My boyfriend loved it. Sometimes I serve the lamb with rice and vegetables, but tonight it was served with potatoes and kale. I do live in Ireland after all.
I’m overdue for a post and some alone time with my computer and photos. In the last 3 months, Mike and I traveled from Seattle to Delaware, Baltimore, Washington DC, Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia Atlanta, Ashville NC, Smokey Mountains, New Orleans, New York, and finally settled down in Dublin, Ireland. It had been a difficult and long process. We found ourselves in low times, high times, sick times, and finally happy times. We grew closer to each other with not a single doubt that we’d stick through it all. Dublin turns out to be a strange place to be. It’s like a bastard child of European Nations. There are some things I absolutely love about it, like its butter, cheese, meats products and the international communities here. There are things that are surprisingly terrible like its inefficiencies, especially the infamous recent ulster bank glitches. All in all, we dealt with it and moved on. We found an apartment in the city center, in which I enjoy making delicious new dishes in the modern kitchen. The latest is a Guinness beef ragu over home-made noodles. Irish butter makes my scones irresistible. We frequent the Saturday farmers market in temple bar where I forage for fresh local produce and authentic Italian buffalo cheese. Life is finally coming together. Even going to work at my new job contributes a tremendous amount of satisfaction. Months of boredom is finally way gone in the past.
Here is a photo of my favorite bridge near our apartment in the newer part of town. The bridge is called Samuel Beckett, named after the famous author. It’s shaped like a lying down harp. I just learned recently that the harp is the national symbol of Ireland, which used to be on the old flag before it became the republic. If you look carefully, this bridge is actually a draw bridge. What a brilliant design.
By the perkiness of her whiskers, I knew she wanted to sniff the big lens in front of her. That’s how she explores the world. I believe that is because it’s utmost important to Gizmo to identify all delicious ingestible matter. Whenever I feel sad, all I have to do is to run my fingers through Gizmo’s soft fur. Her innocent glittery lazy eyes seem to tell me “all is good.” And by that, it means there are still plenty of kibbles in her bowl.
Three years ago, I took a coffee tour in NYC. Last month, I did just that in SF and visited some of the major popular artisan coffee shops. I don’t know a lot about coffee like the experts but I do know when I get a good cup in my hand.
My first stop on the tour was Blue Bottle in the Mint Building. On a mid Saturday afternoon, tucked in a quiet street in the financial district, this shop was buzzing with patrons and a line that went out of the door. The line went super fast without a fuss. We also surprisingly quickly found some seats in the shop, which was filled with light pouring from the large cut out windows looking out to the backside of the Mint building. I was impressed with the barista’s efficiency. The opposite of snobbery was also refreshing. My macchiato was alright, but not too bad. I walked away with hope that there might be some good coffee in this town to look forward to.
My second stop is Jane on Fillmore, visiting an old friend Matt. Mike had known Matt for years working in the Seattle coffee business. Matt had moved down to SF to manage this new bakery/coffee shop. The decor in Jane is whimsical and charming, completed with stylized staff wardrobe with a personality. They serve coffee made with beans roasted at Four Barrel. Matt made me a delicious shot of espresso despite of the fact that he said he hasn’t been on the machine all day. Although in the back of my mind,I thought I have had much better from Matt when he was in Seattle.
Third stop was Sight Glass, which happened to be right next to our hotel on Market Street. The open warehouse look of Sight Glass put an emphasized the fact that it’s a roaster. An old beginning of the century roasting machine sits front and center to the shop, albeit surrounded by railings. We would order our coffee at the cashier along with pastries before walking over to the side where the barista would whip up our drinks. Perhaps our barista was really serious about his work. I shrugged off his aloofness and took my macchiato to the side. Upon first sip, I felt disappointed: so much grandeur and pretentiousness for such a crappy cup of coffee. The sight of a small group of “expert” looking people cupping next to the roaster turned me off.
With a glimpse of hope from Jane, I decided to visit Four Barrel itself in the Mission. Rumor says that Stumptown from Portland had helped this SF local roaster at its start. Does it mean it would at least roast decent coffee? Unlike Sight Glass, the store has a rustic feel to it. The roasting machine, also an antique, sat in the back of the warehouse sized store. A friendly cashier took my order and a grumpy looking barista made my macchiato. The taste of of the coffee finally convinced me that SF is far from producing a good cup of coffee. There is a lot of money poured into creation of the shops but the scene has yet to mature if people could give up that pretentiousness.
The trip wouldn’t be complete without a final stop at the local favorite Philz Coffee in Castro. Philz makes drip coffee of your choosing from some 15 blends. I chose the classic blend and got a free cup which was made per the prior homeless customer who couldn’t afford it. Mike asked why they would rather give the cup to me instead of just giving the cup to the homeless guy. Sadly, the coffee was so bad that I almost threw up. Mike and I walked for blocks with our coffee in hand without drinking any. We finally found the homeless guy that was desperately looking for coffee in some trash can and gave our coffee to him.
Well, this concludes my little coffee adventure in SF. I might return to Blue Bottle or Jane for a decent (but not great) cup and a good experience. This foodie-filled city has a long ways to go in coffee. It would certainly never fly on its hipster altitude.
A little fuzzy beast taking an afternoon nap on a fuzzy blanket is a sighting of happiness. It has been almost four months since my immediate family tripled in size. We went from getting freaked out, to getting acclimated. From aimless to finding a direction. Regardless of what the situation was, we start the day with a cup of delicious coffee at the table. I learned that real love is loving that person even if he wasn’t perfect. Life is not perfect and that is real. I learned that happiness is growing together by going through difficult conversations, even if it means saying or hearing things that weren’t meant to be said. And I learned that time flies when we are happy, only to be seized by a sighting like this.