Queen of Tea and Grains

May 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

I just pulled a batch of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven but those are going to have to wait another day. I returned from Victoria, Canada the other day from a brief visit with my grandparents. They just bought a condo in Victoria, in addition to their house by the mountains, and the past couple days have been filled with the logistics of setting up a new home as well as a couple afternoon getaways. The trip included the obligatory trip downtown to Roger’s chocolates, where we picked up a couple boxes of dark chocolate mints and a bag of chocolate-covered English toffee for me to bring back to San Francisco. Soft maple sugar candies also found their way into my carry-on. I was that kid sitting in the coffee shop eating the sugar cubes meant to go in grown-up coffee and I still firmly believe I could go days on sugar alone. Maple sugar is even better than cane sugar, as it has a melt-in-your-mouth translucency and comes in the pretty shapes of maples leaves and acorns.

We also spent an afternoon at the James Bay Tea Room, which is a small white cottage on the outskirts of downtown. With a pot of the house tea — orange pekoe — we got scones with jam and whipped cream, mini quiches, butter-raisin and lemon tarts, and triangle egg and tuna sandwiches. The tea service was slightly spoiled by the fact that the sugar came out of a large jar and the strawberry jam out of plastic packaging.

While the tea was satisfactory, it did not live up to expectations. Last summer, we went to the Point Ellice Tea House, which is further out of downtown, which was much better. While Point Ellice didn’t have authentic Devonshire cream (Grandpa was adamant that authentic cream is thick enough to be cut with a knife), it offered a full array of sweets, including lemon loaf and trifle, and savories like tomato soup and cucumber sandwiches. A lovely afternoon.

I had another lovely experience last night at 18 Reasons, which is a small storefront run by Bi-Rite Market on Guerrero in San Francisco. The non-profit runs a series of events about food and art for the community, including presentations by local food producers. Last night, it held a potluck dinner with Kim Boyce, author of Good to the Grain. Every attendee made and brought a recipe from the book and we sat around a long wooden table enjoying the wide array of baked goods. Good to the Grain is all about baking with other grains besides white flour, including whole-wheat, barley, rye, buckwheat and spelt among others. The food table concentrated mostly on sweet rather than savory and boasted ginger-peach muffins, olive oil rosemary cake with chocolate chips, quinoa cookies, whole wheat chocolate chip cookies and my own contribution, summer peach pie.

This was my first time making a pie with a real pie crust. I’ve made my fair share of tarts, as well as a pumpkin pie, but never real pastry dough. Everyone said the pie turned out beautifully and we were instructed during introductions that we were not allowed to apologize for whatever we brought, but next time I will be careful to ensure the crust is sealed on the edges as some of the peach juices seeped out.

I won’t give you the recipe for the pie but rather instruct you to go buy Kim’s book. The photos are beautiful and I’ve already made several of the recipes which turned out wonderfully. If you’ve never cooked with other grains before, you should definitely try it out. Even the simple switch to whole wheat flour lends a new dimension to whatever you are baking. I won’t say anything more about whole wheat flour now, as it might spoil my next post!

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