Archive for November, 2010

Get to Know the Chez Panisse Foundation

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

The Chez Panisse Foundation was founded in 1996 by Alice Waters in celebration of the 25th anniversary of her famous Berkley, California restaurant, Chez Panisse. CPF supports educational programs that “nurture, educate, and empower youth” through food. Additionally, the foundation is very involved in the school lunch reform movement, specifically in the Berkley Unified School District.

Chez Panisse also works through the Edible Schoolyard project at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, which consists of a one-acre organic garden on the school grounds as well as a fully functioning kitchen classroom. All students in the school participate in the program and learn the importance of healthy diets, hard work, and the plant life cycle. In 2008, King Middle School’s new lunch room, the Dining Commons, opened. Here, students are able to learn about and utilize composting and recycling, as well as real table settings, allowing children to make the connection from garden, to kitchen, to dining room.

The Chez Panisse Foundation also helped found an affiliate program in 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana, at the Samuel J. Green Charter School. Since then, CPF has also partnered with the Boys and Girls Club at the Willie Mays Clubhouse in the Hunter’s Point area of San Francisco, The Greensboro Children’s Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina, and recently broke ground on The Edible Schoolyard New York!

Throughout the month of November, Pacific Merchants Trading Company is pleased to offer a $25 gift certificate to those who donate $25 or more to the Chez Panisse Foundation! Simply email proof of donation by November 30th to [email protected] and get a $25 coupon toward your purchase!

Learn About Tea with Price & Kensington

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Get ready for your next tea party!

Most people don’t know their pekoe from their earl grey—the average person just knows their opinion of hot tea. If you’ve never found the tea that floats your boat, but would like to give it a try, take a trip with Price & Kensington and Pacific Merchants and learn what you need to know in order to find the right tea for your teapot!

Tea is made from the dried processed leaves of camellia sinensis. Chinese teas are smaller leaves that tend to grow at higher altitudes, while Indian teas usually have larger leaves and grow at lower altitudes. There are four types of tea: black, white, green, and oolong, and they differ due to the techniques used in processing.

White teas, the latest trend in tea, are not oxidized during production, so they are fired as quickly as possible in order to prevent the opportunity for oxidization. These leaves are not rolled, broken, or bruised in order to ensure a premium product, and often times you will still find tiny silver hairs of new growth present on the buds, which has led to them being dubbed “silver needle” teas. A 2004 study found that white tea can help your immune system and it is also purported that white tea has the highest amount of antioxidants of any tea variety, giving it the highest cancer-fighting power.

Black teas are leaves that are fully oxidized. Typically, these leaves are rolled and left out for up to a day in order to allow all of the moisture from within the leaves to evaporate. Often, the most caffeine is found within black teas. Black teas are known for their power in preventing strokes as they help promote high-functioning arteries, as well as their excellent anti-inflammatory properties.

Green tea leaves are not allowed to oxidize, much like white teas. The leaves are often laid out to allow for evaporation, but are then immediately steamed or pan fried in order to neutralize enzymes. The leaves are then rolled in preparation for their final drying, and then packaged. Green tea is high in antioxidants and has been found to lower LDL cholesterol levels. Additionally, green tea has been found to aid in weight loss in many studies.

Finally, oolong tea is a bruised leaf that is partially oxidized, and then steamed in order to end the oxidization process and neutralize enzymes. Some oolong teas are more like black teas, while some are more toward a green tea. Oxidization rates range from 10-70%. Some of the noted benefits of oolong tea include possible reduction in cholesterol and many people have claimed that it aids in treating digestive disorders.

No matter what type of tea you choose, or what benefits you are seeking to receive from your tea (even if it’s just a moment of relaxation), Pacific Merchants has a full variety of teapots, tea sets, and tea cups perfect for any occasion. Whether you’re having a spot of tea by yourself, or having a full-fledged tea party, take a look at Pacific Merchants wide selection of traditional Price & Kensington tea items.

Christmas is Coming… and Guess Who’s Getting Fat?

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

The Royal Christmas Pudding Basin by Mason Cash

The British Royal Christmas Pudding

Christmas Pudding is a big deal in Great Britain, even for the British Royal Household. For the past several years, Queen Elizabeth II has gifted hundreds of her loyal subjects, family and friends with Christmas Puddings prepared and presented in none other than Mason Cash pudding basins! We are proud to offer a brief and fascinating history of Christmas Pudding in the English tradition, and a tremendously long and deliciously overwrought recipe for same.

Happy Holidays!

Family recipes for Christmas Pudding are often closely guarded secrets, handed down from generation to generation. Many are based on the Royal family’s Sandringham recipe – rich with dried fruit and spices, some include nuts, grated apple or carrot – harking back to years when sugar was scarce.

The first Sunday in December is ‘Stir-up’ Sunday, the day when the best puddings are begun. It’s already time to roll up your sleeves and think about making the Christmas pudding. Some cooks go so far as to prepare it six months to a year in advance. In the old days, it was traditional for everyone in the house to come into the kitchen and give the batter a stir while making a wish. The puddings are cooked, cooled and tucked away in a dry place to wait for their final steaming on Christmas Day when they will be turned out onto a handsome dish, decorated with a sprig of holly and wreathed in blue flames from a generous dousing of warmed spirit.

It seems as if all of Fortnum and Mason’s stock goes into the recipe: currants, raisins, sultanas, almonds, candied fruit, ginger…. There may also be cherries and citron, or one of the two, or neither, depending on the recipe. Some chefs add to the mixture a diced russet apple and a grated carrot.

Tradition dictates that six objects be found in the pudding: two rings to bring love, a sixpence as a sign of prosperity, a trouser button for the bachelor, a thimble for the spinster, and a little pig who will determine the glutton at the table. The tradition of hiding silver coins in the pudding is a link to earlier days in English and Scottish courts when the leader of the Christmas revels was chosen on Twelfth Night by finding a bean hidden in the pudding

At the end of Christmas Day, after having listened to the Queen’s Christmas Message, the plum pudding is brought out to be enjoyed for tea on the stroke of five, as one raises a drop of port to toast the Queen!

The presentation is a festive affair. Dickens describes the arrival of the Christmas pudding in “A Christmas Carol”:

“Mrs. Cratchit entered, her face crimson, but smiling proudly, with the pudding resembling a cannon ball, all speckled, very firm, sprinkled with brandy in flames, and decorated with a sprig of holly stuck in the centre. Oh! The marvelous pudding!”

All guests receive a slice with a little dancing flame so that they can make a wish before it goes out.

Countrywide, brandy butter is served with the pudding alongside cream or custard, it’s a tradition that originated in Cumbria – where the best brandy butter is still made today, a delicious blend of butter, sugar and spirit with a hint of spice.

Ingredients

- 250 g (9 oz.) sultanas
- 250 g (9 oz.) seedless raisins
- 250 g (9 oz.) currants
- 10 g (2 tsp.) candied lemon zest
- 10 g (2 tsp.) candied grapefruit zest
- 20 g (4 tsp.) candied orange zest
- 20 g (4 tsp.) candied citron
- 125 g (4 oz.) candied cherries
- 60 g (2 oz.) blanched almonds
- 60 g (2 oz.) chopped almonds
- 500 g (18 oz.) chopped suet
- 250 g (8 oz.) rye bread crumbs
- 125 g (4 oz.) brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp. powdered cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. ginger
- A pinch of salt
- 4 tbsp. brandy
- 250 ml (1 cup) milk
- 30 g (2 tbsp.) butter
- 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 125 g (4 oz.) flour
- 2 tbsp. baking powder

Brandy butter

- 250 g (9 oz.) unsalted butter
- 250 g (9 oz.) icing sugar
- 50 ml (2 oz.) brandy
- Grated zest of 1 orange (optional)

Method

Quick method (only 7 hours!)
1. Chop the raisins, currants, cherries, candied fruit and peel;
2. Place all the dry ingredients into a large non-reactive bowl and combine; add the other ingredients and mix until thoroughly blended;
3. Line a Mason Cash pudding basin with a large piece of cloth that has been buttered and floured on each side; pour the mixture into the basin and enclose by folding in the four corners of the cloth; top with a piece of buttered parchment; cover;
4. Place the pudding in the oven in a pan half-filled with water or in a steamer on the stove top; cook for 6 hours at a bare simmer, checking the water level from time to time;
5. Remove the pudding from the pan and let cool;
6. Cover with a fresh cloth and parchment; replace the cover or wrap in aluminum foil and let ripen in a cool spot (not refrigerated) for at least one month. It will be even better if it ages longer!
7. On Christmas Day, return the pudding to the oven or steamer (as described in step 4) for 3 to 4 hours; unmould;
8. Flambé with brandy or cognac and serve hot with brandy butter.

Longer method… 216 hours! (7 days macerating time)

1. Chop the raisins, currants, cherries, candied fruit and peel; pour 1 litre (4 c.) of rum over top and let sit for 48 hours; drain, reserving the rum;
2. Combine all the ingredients except the eggs; add 200 ml (generous 3/4 cup) of the reserved macerating rum and the juice of an orange and a lemon; cover the bowl with a cloth moistened with rum and let sit 7 days. Stir the batter once a day, adding a little rum if necessary to keep the batter soft;
3. If the batter becomes too stiff, thin it with a small glass of old ale; if the batter is too thin, add a little flour and mix gently; continue with the recipe (above). As adapted from worldwidegourmet.com

Pacific Merchants Gives Back with the Vista Inspire Program!

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

VIP Participants and Inspired Teens Using Mason Cash!

Recently, Pacific Merchants Trading Company became involved with the Vista Inspire Program at Vista del Mar Family and Child Services right here in Los Angeles. Founded by Elaine Hall, aka “Coach E,” Vista Inspire provides opportunities for children with special needs, including Autism.

The Vista Inspire Program was founded using the principles of the Miracle Project, which helps develop new skills and amplify individual abilities within perceived disabilities. Synergistic and life-affirming curriculum is made available for families and children with disabilities, giving them the opportunity to learn dance, theater, music, visual arts, sports and recreation, Jewish education and healthy lifestyle fundamentals. Furthermore, VIP offers integrated social events for those with disabilities, increasing their opportunities to interact with the world around them.

Vista del Mar is also home to the “Inspired Teens” program, which fundraises, hosts events and is involved with different VIP programs in order to raise awareness within the community and connect teens of all abilities. All of the work completed by the Inspired Teens program aims to positively influence and enrich the lives of special needs kids in one way or another.

VIP Participants Making Aprons

Pacific Merchants Trading Company was recently able to partner with Vista del Mar and their Vista Inspire Program to help offer a new cooking class.  Not only did Pacific Merchants supply several Mason Cash mixing and serving bowls for the cooking class, but Vista del Mar’s “Inspired Teens” group was also involved with this wonderful organization and spent one-on-one time impacting the lives of the participants in the VIP program.  During the summer cooking program, campers were able to prepare different recipes daily, learn vital kitchen skills, and even decorate their own apron! Pacific Merchants is proud to partner with such an revolutionary program and we can’t wait for next summer!


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