It is my family’s tradition to have an austere meal on Christmas Eve. Just a simple brothy soup and homemade bread, twisted into a pretzel. This is our pre-penance, in preparation for the gluttony that occurs the following day.
We had this dinner, and I did not take photos, except for our not-so-austere dessert: a steamed persimmon pudding.
Set aflame with brandy by yours truly.
I think Kris and I had been talking about having dinner with her family for three years, and tonight we finally did it.
Her whole family is passionately engaged with food. Researching it, making it, writing about it, definitely eating it. Their kitchen is massive, with the largest center island/chopping board I’ve ever seen in a home. And the whole family contributes to the dinner process.
Shaun did the main dinner, making two of his favorites. First, pizza bread rolls. He made two kinds, one was vegetarian with lots of broccoli, the other was a sweet/spicy bbq chicken.
While waiting for dinner to bake, I browsed the kitchen, where a number of persimmons were hanging up to dry. This process is called hoshigaki, where persimmons are peeled, and gently massaged, resulting in a thick, chewy dried fruit covered in natural sugar crystals.
But back to dinner! I forgot to get a photo of the soup. This is also a specialty of Shaun’s, named Dada Soup. It’s made of ultra fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables, pureed and run through a chinoise, resulting in a rich, nutritious and creamy soup, even though it’s completely vegan. His young daughter loves it, and this is critical, as she gets many servings of healthy fruits and vegetables from it. Tonight’s soup had a lot of beets and carrots in it, resulting in a deep velvety orange-red soup that might look like it had tomatoes and cream in it, but actually had none. It was really really good.
The pizza rolls…well, how can you go wrong with fresh bread out of the oven. We ate way more than we should have.
Nancy was in charge of dessert, and she made a delicious bread pudding. While dinner was being prepared, there was vanilla ice cream freshly churning, and we got our pudding a la mode.
Last but not least, a carefully pulled cafe latte from Shaun, using Blue Mountain Kona beans and a special pump espresso machine. There was even latte art.
I was so full, he understood that I wouldn’t be able to finish the cafe latte, but I was happy to have a go at it.
This family knows their shit! My gift to them was two year’s worth of Saveur magazine, which I hope they’ll enjoy reading as much as I did and maybe inspire them. They’re already the types to travel abroad to learn different culinary techniques.
As if the day was long enough, stomping all around London and visiting all those art galleries. This was actually the night set aside to sample Wallage’s fine cooking in Stepney Green. After throwing our stuff on the floor and a near crying fit from me because my feet hurt so much, we settled down for a very late night dinner.
Gorgeous roast chicken, asparagus and risotto. Followed by a fluffy lemon sponge, lemon custard and homemade ice cream for pudding. I’m still working on Wallage to hand over the sponge recipe.
Btw, we didn’t make it home that night. We were too knackered to make it to trains on time! CHEERS!
The Wine Cask is split into two distinct sections: the more formal dinner dining area and the casual brunch and dinner bar/cafe. This write-up is about the bar/cafe.
It has different service hours and a different menu to the proper Wine Cask restaurant, longer hours actually, with a casual menu ranging from seafood dishes to flatbreads and burgers.
Most of Santa Barbara, wishful for the nostalgic good old days, have been eagerly awaiting the reopening of the Wine Cask under its original ownership. The wine portion is original ownership, but the food/dining portion is now run by the fellow who does bouchon and seagrass, both higher-end restaurants in town that have garnered many 5 star reviews, except when someone’s expecting free rose petals strewn at their feet and water refills on the minute, then it’s like 1 star or something. But I digress.
I’m part of the crowd that was happy that the Wine Cask as reopened, although I really couldn’t care about the eucalyptus tree. Bloody invasive plants they are.
This gang tried one of every flatbread, and I would be hard-pressed to pick one of them as a favorite, they are were all good in their own ways. The duck confit was decadent, while the mozzarella, tomato and basil pesto was pure and simple tasting.
Most people who ordered burgers or sandwiches were only able to eat half, and this included the dudes.
There was one order of mussels in a cream sauce. No leftovers.
A handful of us shared the butterscotch pudding and shortbread cookie, and it is good to share as it is very rich. Not crack-your-teeth-because-there-is-so-much-sugar rich, but a deep flavorful rich. Not rich on the bill either, it was just $6.