y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: April 2012

Comfort Carbs at Great Harvest Bread Co

Like many people these days, in my daily diet I limit my carb intake. When I indulge, it really has to count. That doesn't mean the carbs have to be decadent.

At Great Harvest Bread Company, located in South Pasadena, and many other franchise locations, you can eat your hand-crafted bread and feel good about it.

Each day, they take high-protein wheat kernels from their farmer partners in Montana and stone grind it on a stone mill into fresh whole grain flour.

Within 48 hours the flour gets baked into fresh, nutritious and tasty baked goods. In the morning from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. they serve up hot out of the oven breads.

The chalkboard menu in the store indicates the offerings of the day. You can also pick up a flyer in the store or join their mailing list from the website to hear about specials.

Although I often overlook the flyers into the case of sample breads that they offer for tastings. They will cut you a whole slice to enjoy right away.

In addition to breads, they serve cookies, muffins, scones and other extras. Inside the bakery one can find enticing pancake/baking mixes, kitchen accessories, and recently I picked up some E. Waldo Ward preserves.

One regularly available item I like to pick up for breakfast is their berry cream cheese scone. If you've had the hard and dry scones and didn't like them, try these. 

Crunchy and browned on the outside, the juicy berries and cream cheese add just enough moisture inside to balance it out. Rather than a grainy texture, the stone ground flour imparts a slightly nutty and smooth taste.

I rarely stray from this flavor but have tired their cinnamon chip scone also.

Among their sandwich offerings I discovered this gem of a grilled cheese sandwich. You pick your bread, of course. I go with the Dakota, multi-grain bread,  with a seed-coated crust. Just look at the grill marks on the bread!

They melt in a generous selection of cheeses along with Boursin garlic and fine herb cheese spread which adds even more great flavor. The cheese invariably comes perfectly melted and gushing out.

And they even serve this savory treat with an Andes chocolate mint.

Along with the carbs, the cheese has taken a reduced role in my diet due to recent lactose digestion issues. But when I need the solid comfort of a grilled cheese, this one appeals to every sense.

The flavors in this sandwich form a very 'adult' flavor, not your childhood Kraft single wrapped cheese on white bread with the crusts cut off. Hearty and satisfying.

Stay tuned for a more comfort carb recommendations.

Great Harvest Bread Co. on Urbanspoon

Nine Fun Foods You'll Find in an Irish Supermarket

Almost a year ago I read and devoured author/blogger/pastry chef David Lebovitz's blog post on 10 Goofy Foods You'll Find in a French Supermarket.

While his beautifully written, witty, well-photographed posts always inspire me, this one hit the spot because when travelling I love to visit supermarkets to get a feel for the local tastes.

My cousin lived in Paris for roughly two decades and during my visits there I always made a point to check out a couple of open air markets and supermarkets, with Auchan being my favorite of the latter. I've spent hours there poring through the packaged foods, produce and prepared specialty items.

During a vacation in Ireland a couple of years ago, I tried to escape the pouring rain for a few minutes by stepping into a Tesco supermarket in Dublin. Fresh and Easy, with which we are more familiar within the U.S, is a subsidiary of Tesco.

Much like the U.K., Indian food is quite popular in Ireland. This Chapati Flour caught my eye. chapatis, or Indian flatbreads, are made with wheat flour.

This package probably contained wheat flour, but it was marketed as "chapati flour" simply because it had a recipe on the package suggesting to add cumin seeds, coriander leaves (cilantro) and fresh garlic.

They show some branding ingenuity making a common household pantry ingredient a single purpose item. In my house growing up, my mother only added salt and oil to the chapati dough, but one cannot go wrong with fresh herbs and spices I suppose.

In our local stores we find unusual and 'limited edition' flavors of chips. Just when you think you've seen it all, I found Chili Heatwave flavor Doritos as well as Walkers Prawn Cocktail and Worcester Sauce chips, which they call "crisps".

Walker's also created flavors like Blue Cheese, Pickled Onion and Roast Chicken.

These Irish bread loaves look like dinner rolls in the photo, but these loafs spanned about 10" wide and maybe 4" high. They were piled high with bags next to them.

I like the idea of seeing and smelling the bread before choosing a loaf. The contrast of the white bread with dark crust and the rounded shape looked inviting.

The packaged desserts section left no doubt I was in an Irish supermarket. Fresh custard, bread and butter pudding, sticky toffee pudding, fruit trifle, rhubarb crumble, brambley apple pie and banoffee pie are among the offerings. Not exactly your garden variety Sara Lee frozen pound cakes and strawberry cheesecakes.

The dairy in Ireland satisfies at a whole other level than most places. The descriptors for the milk such as Fresh Milk and Slim Milk sound more appealing than referring to it as 2% or Nonfat as we do in the U.S. The variety of sizes also seems convenient, with the mini bottles on the lower right of the photo above.

KerryGold Irish Creamery Butter can be found quite easily at upscale grocery stores locally.It appeared to be the brand of choice at Tesco and the clean, foil packaging helps it stand out.The golden stack of butter was flanked by many other varieties and choices. Butter vs. margarine dominated, though.

The variety of canned peas amused me - mushy, marrowfat and even "processed", with a sign saying "love fresh food" (?) Peas clearly serve as a staple in Irish cooking.

I've only seen one type of cocktail onions at the market before. On these shelves one gets a choice of hot and spicy, strong, sweet, traditional, pickled. Whatever suits your mood in terms of pickled mini onions, it's probably there.

The sweets leaned more on the exotic side with "Turkish promise", wine gummies and other sophisticated flavors. I don't know whether the Cadbury Roses really look like roses, but enjoyed the packaging with bright colors and planning.

I bought a knit hat from the market in order to stay warm in the rain during my mile long walk back to the hotel, along with a few small kitchen gadgets and small souvenir gifts.

At the checkout I noticed their adorable shopping bags made of burlap with the Tesco logo and ladybugs embroidered on it.It was just over 1€ (Euro) and it's something I still regularly use.

The cashier was quite amused that I was taking it back to California. If only she knew about the photos I took all over the market!

Underground Supper Club: Dinner at Eight

Underground Supper Clubs definitely appeal to me. My friend Abby from Pleasure Palate blog and dining group recently organized a private event at Dinner at Eight.

This group, created by food blogger Elliott Shaffner from F for Food, highlights some great collaboration by some talented and efficient women. The rest of team includes Kathy Emerson Maggie Stebar.

Dinner at Eight Jan12_d table after meal

Their promise is for their 4-course, once-a-month dinner under the stars for 12 guests in the Hollywood hills. The seasonal ingredients come straight from the local farmers' markets and the garden.Meats are sourced from Lindy & Grundy and wine pairings are by Jill at Domaine LA.

The cost of the meal is all-inclusive from cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, the 4-course meal, coffee and even gratuity. It's always relaxing to pay in advance and not think about the bill on the night of the event.

This combination would make any foodie purr with joy, but the setting really adds to the stylish experience, especially if like me, you've fantasized about living in the Hollywood hills.

Dinner at Eight Jan12_a patio lights

Dinner at Eight Jan12_a outdoor fireplace

Guests arrive for cocktail hour out on the terrace. Back on Saturday, January 28, when I attended this event, I had come straight from a funeral, stuck in traffic for a very long time, and thought I'd find it hard to switch gears.

Dinner at Eight Jan12_a cocktail hour Maggie a

Dinner at Eight Jan12_a cocktail hour Leopold's gin

Dinner at Eight Jan12_a cocktail hour pickles

Dinner at Eight Jan12_a cocktail hour Maggie b

Dinner at Eight Jan12_a cocktail hour gin martini with garlic and dill pickled okra
That anxiety disappeared quickly as I took in the clear night air, herb garden fragrances, firelight and relaxing ambiance.

Cocktail hour consisted of Maggie Stebar's classic martinis with garlic and dill pickled okra, along with garlic-rubbed crostini. She laid out the bottle of small-batch Leopold's gin as well as jars of her wonderfully tart, crispy okra pickles.

Dinner at Eight Jan12_b kitchen apron

While she expertly mixed my drink, she mentioned her Maggie Mae Apron Co where she sews vintage-inspired aprons. As we migrated to the dining room after cocktail hour, I noticed one of her charming creations on display.

Dinner at Eight Jan12_b kitchen pots board

The kitchen was indeed on the small, cozy side, so I knew they worked efficiently to serve 2 tables of diners. The chalkboard cabinet contained a shopping list of some of the meal's ingredients.

Dinner at Eight Jan12_b table wine blood orange soda

The drinks are byob, but water, a refreshing blood orange soda and later, coffee, was provided.

Dinner at Eight Jan12_b dining room mantle
Dinner at Eight Jan12_b dining room fireplace detail
Dinner at Eight Jan12_b dining room art

Dinner at Eight Jan12_b dining room lamp

The charming indoor/outdoor fireplaces with candlelit mantel, as well as the artwork throughout the house made for a cozy setting. I enjoyed the Spanish/50's/Shabby Chic fusion going on in the house.

Dinner at Eight Jan12_b table setting b

Dinner at Eight Jan12_b table pickle jar

Dinner at Eight Jan12_b table setting salt and pepper

Dinner at Eight Jan12_b table setting a

The table setting, complete with more pickle jars to take home as a souvenir, maintained that stylish, feminine touch. I always enjoy when the table contains salt and pepper because I tend to like more spice and seasoning than most.

Dinner at Eight Jan12_b table butter dish

We all loved the butter crock that contains chilled water which keeps the butter fresh, cool and soft for hours. Paired with the fresh bread with roasted garlic cloves baked in, it spelled out comfort.

Dinner at Eight Jan12_c 1st course garlic bread and soup

Most of their dinners have themes (you can see previous themes on their blog). In this case Abby worked out a garlic themed menu with them.

Dinner at Eight Jan12_c 1st course creamy green garlic and potato soup black garlic chips bacon

1st Course
Creamy green garlic & potato soup with black garlic chips & bacon

I loved that they used the green garlic and the black garlic chips in this course. A fairly mild and creamy start to the meal that made a strong impression. The glass serving dishes, which varied across the table popped.

Dinner at Eight Jan12_c 2nd course salad arugula strawberries black walnuts Mimolette extra vielle roasted heirloom red garlic vinaigrette

2nd Course
Salad of arugula, strawberries, black walnuts & Mimolette Extra Vieille with roasted heirloom red garlic vinaigrette

This most unusual salad also popped with color and flavor. The peppery arugula against the sweet strawberries, walnuts and the bright orange aged cheese blended well.

Again, I loved the use of red garlic in the dressing.

Dinner at Eight Jan12_b dining table guests

In an underground setting I did not expect restaurant quality service in any way, but the ladies were so attentive with filling glasses and checking whether we needed anything.

I even found my napkin refolded when I left the table for a moment.

Dinner at Eight Jan12_b host b

Dinner at Eight Jan12_c 3rd course Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic charred broccolini anchovies garlic confit roasted domino potatoes bay leaves rosemary garlic

3rd Course 
Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

This abundant plate held three pieces of 40-clove chicken from Lindy & Grundy, charred broccolini, anchovies, garlic confit and a beautiful presentation of roasted domino potatoes with roasted garlic slivers, rosemary and bay leaves.

I loved both of the sides and wanted to like the chicken more. However the skin did not crisp up as much as I'd have liked and the sauce tasted fairly mild and creamy for "40 cloves'.

It also arrived lukewarm and unfortunately both the potatoes and the chicken could have used a bit more cooking time to soften it up.

However, nobody could say they left hungry, nor was there any lack of "love" in the preparation. Their genuine efforts shone through.

Dinner at Eight Jan12_c 4th course honey garlic mousse with pinenut garlic brittle

4th Course 
Honey-Garlic Mousse with Pinenut Garlic Brittle
Served with Chicory Coffee

Dinner at Eight Jan12_b host c Esi and Nastassia

Special guests Esi Imprain and Nastassia Johnson prepared our final course, this bold and textured dessert.

We all loved and devoured it. It hit all the right notes and the garlic made itself known without killing the dessert vibe.

Dinner at Eight Jan12_c chicory coffee and dessert

They hit a home run. In fact, the ladies graciously brought out a couple more plates of the brittle for us to enjoy.

The chicory coffee also tasted heavenly, and once again, I loved the colored glassware. One of my dining companions offered me his cup as a trade because I enjoyed the color so much.

Dinner at Eight Jan12_b kitchen pots stove
Dinner at Eight Jan12_b host a

The wonderful evening and meal ended with a quick trip back outside for some parting photos and we all said our goodbyes.

I am still in awe of their artistic touches and being able to create a sensuous and dreamy environment while serving a hearty yet gourmet meal. Every touch was thought out and executed to perfection.

Find details on their upcoming events on their blog.