Living On The Wild Side Of Food

As soon as spring comes upon us nature begins to deliver her abundance. But when thinking of wild foods most people tend to be reminded of Autumn and the wild fruit and mushroom harvest available then.

This is probably because many people are almost entirely ignorant of wild greens. The wild plants that can be harvested (often in your own back garden) and consumed.

Indeed, as soon as April turns into May edible wild plants spring into profusion. If you know what to look for then you can probably spot six edible species right in your own back garden. If you venture further afield, to a back lane, for example then with a little practice you will see thirty or more wild plants that are both edible and, more importantly, good to eat.

In fact there are well over a hundred common plants (many of them considered weeds) that you can collect and add to your own recipes. There are as many rarer plants again so that anyone with enough knowledge will be able to gather one wild plant or another all year round. Even in the depths of winter there are enough wild plants in abundance for you to be able to create a hedgerow salad.

Here I present two recipes designed around and incorporating wild spring greens.

Early Spring Salad With Creamy Lemon Dressing

600g of any wild salad greens, including shepherd's purse, young hawthorn leaves, dandelion leaves, garlic mustard, young ground elder leaves and any other wild greens that you've gathered?
360ml olive oil?
240ml water?
2 garlic cloves?
1 tsp fresh ginger?
1/2 small onion?juice of
1 lemon?
small handful of parsley or coriander?
1 tsp rosemary?
1 tsp turmeric?
1 tbsp miso?
100g any cooked root vegetables (such as potatoes, cassava, yams, common evening primrose root, dandelion root etc).

Begin by washing the greens. This is easiest done if you place them in a colander (in batches) before placing the colander in a bowl (make sure that the colander is taller than the bowl) then ryn cold water through the colander. This means that the water will flow through the colander and over the sides of the bowl, taking any dirt with it. But the greens can't escape.

Once washed, pat dry the greens in towels. Do this thoroughly, as salad dressing won't cling to wet greens. Chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Meanwhile, place all the liquid ingredients in the blender and mix until incorporated. Now add all the remaining ingredients (except the greens and root vegetables). Render to a smooth puree. Now add the root vegetables and blend to a smooth paste (this will thicken the dressing). Add just enough to achieve your desired consistency.

Toss the salad with the dressing and serve immediately.

Hedgerow Salad

sheep's sorrel leaves picked and coarsely chopped (as sorrel contains oxalic acid which is mildly toxic use sparingly or substitute with cultivated sorrel)?
Ramson leaves shredded (or use chives)?
chopped bedstraw?
young hawthorn leaves?
young dandelion leaves?
primrose flowers?
gorse flowers?
violet flowers?
a few violet leaves?
Hedge mustard (also known as Jack-by-the-hedge) leaves.?
A handful of hazelnuts, chopped (this would have been an excellent way of using-up any winter surplus) or you could use beech nuts.

Preparation is simply a case of washing the leaves and flowers, adding to a bowl and tossing to mix them thoroughly. Sprinkle with the hazelnuts and then serve.

Cottage Pie Recipe: English Cottage Pie

You don?t have to be English to enjoy this traditional cottage pie, but if you are English then you?ll probably keep this recipe among your favorites.

1 pound lean ground beef
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
4 potatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup milk
1/4 pound cheddar cheese, shredded


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Make Meat Filling: In a large skillet, crumble the ground beef and saut? over medium heat for 1 minute. Add in the onion and carrots; continue to saut? until meat is brown (about 5 minutes). Stir in the flour, cinnamon, Italian seasoning and parsley.

In a small bowl, combine the beef broth and tomato paste; mix well. Add to beef mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Spoon beef mixture into a 9-inch pie plate.

Make Potato Topping: Put potatoes into a medium sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender; drain.

Mash the potatoes until smooth. Add butter and milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread potatoes over beef filling. Sprinkle cheese on top.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until top is brown and cheese is bubbly.

=> Cottage Pie Recipe: Moussaka Cottage Pie

A great cottage pie recipe featuring flavorable spices like garlic, cinnamon and cloves. Raisins make a delicious addition as well.

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 medium onions, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1/3 cup dark or golden raisins
1 pound eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 (24 oz.) package refrigerated mashed potatoes, warmed
1 large egg, beaten


In a 12-inch oven proof skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. Add onions and saut? until tender (about 5 minutes). Add garlic, cinnamon and cloves; continue cooking for 1 minute.

Add meat, stirring occasionally to break it up; cook for 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and raisins. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Arrange the eggplant slices on a lipped cookie sheet. Brush both sides of eggplant with remaining oil, and season with salt and pepper. Broil eggplant on the upper oven rack, turning once with kitchen tongs, until golden brown (about 5 minutes per side).

Warm up mashed potatoes according to package directions.

Reduce oven heat to 400 degrees. Lay eggplant in a single layer over the meat mixture. Whisk the egg into the mashed potatoes; spread over eggplant. Bake on lower oven rack for 20 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly.

=> Cottage Pie Recipe: Creamed Cottage Cheese Pie

If you?ve never tried cottage cheese in a pie, you?ll be delighted with this creamy cheese flavored custard pie. It?s something a little different and definitely worth the effort.

1 (9-inch) pie shell
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese, creamed
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 eggs
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/4 cup milk


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Separate the eggs.

Press the cottage cheese through a sieve 2 times.

In a bowl, combine the cottage cheese, butter, sugar, salt, flour, lemon zest, unbeaten egg yolks, raisins, walnuts and milk. Stir well.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into cheese mixture. Bake for 30 minutes, or until brown and firm.

Buying A Coffee Maker

Making coffee shouldn't be a hassle especially when this is needed to make one mentally alert early in the morning. One way is by buying a coffee maker from the appliance store so it will be ready when the person goes into the kitchen. Here are some guidelines for prospective buyers.

The first thing to do will be to determine how much coffee everyone in the household consume daily. It isn't practical to get a big one if there are only a handful of drinkers.

Coffee makers just like any other household appliance cost money. You should come up with a figure as to how much can be spent. The cheapest one may be purchased for less than a $100 while those that will grind the beans and perform other things will go for a $1000. Another factor that will affect the price is whether the machine is made from plastic or stainless steel. Some people say plastic versions can easily break compared to those made out of metal but this really depends on how the owner takes care of it.

You should also think about the kind of coffee that will be made using the machine. After all, these come in different flavors and styles so those who want to drink something unique will have to get something that can do the job like those being used in cafes.

The homeowner should also check if there space in the kitchen where the coffee machine can be placed. Small ones aren't hard to store or move around when it isn't being used but if this is big, there must be a place where this will stay at all times.

Lastly, when talking with the sales clerk, the customer should ask if the item chosen has a warranty. This will make it easy to return if there are any defects or if those in the household aren't happy with it so this can be replaced with something else.

You should remember that buying the best coffee machine on the market won't guarantee that whatever comes out will taste good when consumed. This is because the type of beans purchased is still the deciding factor. The only thing the appliance will do is heat it up and blend the contents with water.

The Beginner’s Guide To Beauty Of Red Wine

The hit comedy film Sideways is about a road trip in the wine country of sunny California where the two main characters, Miles and Jack, taste copious amounts of red wine while dealing with major life dramas. It's a hilarious film that touched so many people with its dark comedy and truly moving portraits of people dealing with love, pain, and wine tasting.

But perhaps the greatest thing about Sideways was how it inspired so many people to go out and become connoisseurs of fine wine! According the Internet Movie Database, the movie made so many of its fans want to buy Pinot Noir (a dry red wine) that sales significantly increased in the US and UK during and after its release. Talk about the effect of movies on people!

If you want to learn a bit more about red wine, dry red wine, and its other variants but feel clueless as to the whole thing, here's a quick wine guide; a red wine for dummy guide if you like!

Why is Red Wine… Er… Red?

Red wine is so colored because of the grape skins involved. There are a multitude of grape types, each as diverse and colorful as the next. You have purple, maroon, deep red, light red - the list goes on. Each variety brings a unique shade of red to red wine and the various colors you can see in wine stores are a direct result of the many grapes used in worldwide wine-making processes. An individual wine's color depends largely on what type of grape was used to make it and how long the skin was left in with the juice before being extracted.

What Are The Different Types of Red Wine?

There are many different types of red wine but they are usually judged by their "body". For example, a light-bodied wine is not too demanding on the mouth and taste buds. It goes well with food that is flavor intensive. A good example of this kind of wine is the French red wine Beaujolais Nouveau.

On the other hand, there is the medium-bodied red wine which is a slightly heavier wine (e.g. Shiraz, Merlot, etc.) but not as heavy and as powerful as a full-bodied wine like French Bordeaux wines and Italian red wine like the Super Tuscans. Full-bodied wines are denser and have higher alcohol content.

How Is Red Wine Served?

You may have noticed at some parties, tasting events, or formal gatherings that red wine is served in a particular glass. It is said that an oval or egg-shaped glass that narrows as it reaches the top(compared to a slim, tall glass) is the best way to appreciate red wine as it allows the wine to breathe and swirl better. The best temperature to serve red wine is 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. Serve it too hot and the alcohol can be overly emphasized; too cold and it will taste bitter.

Red Wine - What Are The Different Varieties?

There are a number of red wines available from all over the world from dry red wine to full-bodied wine to age old wine. There is really no such thing as the best red wine - what is tastiest to you should be considered the best. But then there are many red wines that come highly recommended like Californian red wine, Australian red wine, and then of course every other kind of wine through out Europe like Spanish red wine and the ones previously mentioned.

In time, you will be able to determine exactly what your type of red wine is. For now, why not sample the many great tasting wines out there like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc…

How Healthy IS Red Wine?

Red wine 101 these days will tell you that red wine or dry red wine is actually good for you. There have been recent studies by scientists in the UK that suggest a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon-derived wines will do the heart very good.

So, if you're looking to spice up your meals or simply want to develop a healthier diet, red wine or dry red wine may be just the thing for you. Hopefully, this has been enough information to whet your appetite. Happy wine drinking!

Serving Arabic Sweets In Weddings

Planning for a wedding is never fun. It is actually very hectic and is full of problems and obstacles. One of the issues to solve is what to serve for dessert. Your job will be easier when you consider Arabic sweets as an option. They fit any type of budget and they increase the value of your desserts menu. Most people like them so they are guaranteed to be well appreciated by your audience.

Arabic sweets consist of diverse types of pastries and cookies and it is not easy to choose which kinds to offer. This is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because it means you can make diverse arrangements to cater to a large number of people with different tastes and because the more types an arrangement contains, the better it looks. It is a curse though because this large diversity means that there are many types to pick from and this can be a confusing task because you don't necessarily know what types people prefer, and at the same time you cannot offer all the different types available.

If you are a hands-on person, you can go ahead and choose the types of sweets you want to offer yourself with the help of relatives and family members. However, if you are more of a hands-off person and you don't want to bother yourself with this job, you can ask the bakers responsible of providing the desserts to choose what types to include. They might have a better idea what people prefer in general and they should be able to make a better choice. All you will need to do is provide them a budget and the number of people you are serving.

If you will try to choose the kinds of Arabic sweets that will be on the menu yourself, it is always good to start with the kinds that you like. Then you can ask your friends and relatives what they like, and this way you can collect data about people's preference to help you in your choice. Different sweets are preferred during different times of the years, so you will need to take into consideration during which part of the year the wedding is taking place. The pastries and cookies that you offer during the summer are usually different than those you would offer during the winter for example. You might also need to consider whether you want to offer the cold desserts or those that require heating.

Finally, Arabic sweets are a good fit to serve during weddings no matter how small or large your budget is. The important thing is to make sure you choose the types that people like and those that are compatible with the season or time of year during which the wedding is taking place.

Mexican Restaurants Offer Mexico on a Las Vegas Platter

When it comes to Mexican food, all that one can think of is the stuff that is heavily publicized and already famous like the tacos, nachos or the tortilla chips. However, there are Mexican restaurants in Las Vegas that can give you the real feel of authentic Mexican food in all its glory. There are sumptuous varieties that one can gorge on till he or she has had their fill and can eat no more for the session. However, they are forced to come back by their hearts. The rich cultural diversity that has influenced the Mexican cultural landscape has seeped through into their culinary arts too. And it is this experience that these Mexican restaurants of Las Vegas strive to dish out to whoever enters their premises for a taste of the same. Not just the cuisine, but even the ingredients that go into the making of individual dishes taste mind blowing. Apart from the dishes which are usually associated with Mexican food, as described earlier, like tortillas, tacos and the nachos, there are sweets, savories and different types of drinks too that are reminiscent of the Mexican way of life. In all the centuries that Mexico has been in existence, the indigenous people of the country had a unique lifestyle and their very own cuisine. However, with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors who brought with them, the religion of Christianity as well as their food and tastes to the Mexican archipelago. The Mexicans have a unique drink, Balche, which is made from the bark of the tree with the same name and is naturally fermented. However, the Spanish conquerors had the drink banned and then it was subsequently allowed for consumption again. This piece of historical trivia is an essential part of history. Although this drink is not a part of the usual menu of Mexican restaurants in Las Vegas, many others are. The list of recipes and dishes that Mexican cuisine boasts of is a long one. It is rightly said that the number of Mexican recipes is a close third to those of India and China. However, just as the other two country recipes, Mexican restaurants do not dish out the entire gamut of their culinary offerings to the rest of the world. However, Mexican restaurants in Las Vegas do try to win the hearts of their patrons through their authentic offering of the Mexican cuisine.

Famous Teas In The West Of Yunnan

What Famous Teas Are In The West Of Yunnan?

Fengqing is located south of the Dianxi longitudinal valley and its fame comes from the black tea that it produces in Lincang. Fengqing was one of the first places to produce tea in the world and it has a group of mountains separated by rivers. The Dian Hong black tea was first produced in the city in 1958 and now has gained a national reputation.

The Tea Producing Area South Of Dian

The terrain slopes gently and it is surrounded by the Lancang river, the Yuan river and the Jinsha river. All these conditions create a tea that is gentle and very fresh in taste. In the east of the area, you will find large groups of tea trees which are old in age in a total of 667 hectares which includes six major mountains (Yibang, Gedeng, Youle, Mansa, Manzhuan and Mangzhi).

Simao, Honghe, Xishuangbanna andWenshan

The area towards the lower and middle reaches of the Lancang River is in low latitude and the terrain slopes gently. The climate is influenced by sub-tropical and tropical winds and there is a lot of sunshine. The humidity is usually above eighty-five percent and there is enough rainfall to qualify it as a moist environment. The soil is rated first class due to its content of organic matters, which is above three percent.


Xishuangbanna is considered one of the cradle lands of tea in China and it is one of the places where the Yunnan Pu'ert is produced. There are six mountains that are considered major for purity production.

Xishuangbanna is located in the south tropic and the north tropic. The average rainfall is a total of 120 centimeters each year and the average temperature throughout the year is 18 degrees Celsius. The winter is warm while the summer is cool and that provides a great environment for Pu'ert tea growth.

In the same area as Xishuangbanna you will also find Menghai which can produce more than tea. Teas like Yunhai Pekoe which is a green tea and Nannuo Pekoe. Menghai has a sub-tropical monsoon climate which leads to many foggy days and not much of a difference in the temperature ideal for producing Yunhai Pekoe. Yunhai Pekoe can be described as having a sharp needle and a tight curl cord along with a smooth and soft color. The taste of the tea is mellow and it looks clear, while the tea leaf must look tender and fresh.

The Tea Producing Area In The Center Of Dian

Huafo tea is originally produced in Chuxiong and Mouding. Huafo tea has not been around for a long time but it is already a famous tea. The source of the Huafo tea leaf is the large leaved Menghai in Lincang. The color is a sleek blackish green; it has sharp needles and is tight in shape. The beverage has a long lasting aroma and its color is dark green.


The Cangshan Xuelu tea is made at the bottom of the Cangshan Mountain. It is also produced although to a lesser extent in the shores of Erhai Lake. It was first produced in the Xiaguan tea factory as early as 1962 and has been popular in the market since then.

The Northeast And The Northwest Of The Tea Producing Area Of Dian

There is a lot of sunshine during the day and a great deal of compound material is produced by photosynthesis. The temperature at night is much lower which means that the photosynthetic material is reduced. That allows for nutrients to be well kept. The difference in temperatures between night and day allows for a better production of tea leaves so the amount of Taidi tea tree is the same as you would find in other areas.

Choosing A Home Roaster

As a new ?home roaster? and taking the subject of coffee a little bit more seriously. I wanted to get into this new area but wasn?t sure where to start.

That was the beginning of a journey which led to several discoveries of which only a few are mentioned here.

A good place to start is by asking yourself, what are the benefits to home roasting that outweigh the convenience of simply getting coffee from a bag? Well, freshness is the quick answer to that question.

An issue with store-bought coffee is the quality of the cup that it produces. I quickly found in my research that quality declines quickly after roasting. Yes, fresh batches of roasted coffee need to be "rested" after roasting, but after 5 days the aromatics of the coffee start declining, and after 10 days there is a drop in cup quality.

Who knows how old the coffee sold in supermarkets and cafes truly is. If you have a local roaster near you, and can buy fresh coffee each week. That's a great option! Most people don't have that option at their disposal. Home roasting offers an alternative that might just provide the solution to that problem.

You control every aspect of the ?roast" to customize the coffee to your palate, as well as choose from a vast array of green (unroasted) coffees. Green coffee is quite stable and will not have a drop in cup quality from 6 months up to 1 year from arrival date. But home roasting isn?t for everyone. It's easy enough to try with an air popcorn popper to see if you like it.

It can take very little time and effort to roast your own, but it needs to be something you are willing to do or enjoy doing each week. So start in a small way. You can get a few pounds of greens to get a feel for it. Home roasting is more of an "adventure" in which you find the coffees, the roast, and the technique you like.

Things to expect in ?home roasting?.

Variety and fun

The smaller machines are based on the air popper design - they use hot air to roast coffee. The ideal time range for an air roast is 8 to 12 minutes. Air roasts tend to develop the brighter coffee. Drum roasts tend to develop more body. The larger machines are drum machines and give a slower roast.

Pros of the Air Popper Design

Lower equipment costs (provided you have a stove or oven)
Complete control of the roast
Higher volume batches (up to a pound)

Cons of the Air Popper Design

More labor intensive
No automation of temp or time controls
More smoke (more coffee equals more smoke)

A few words about durability, all the roasters last for an average of about two years. Longer if you use the machine less, roast lighter batches and clean the machine regularly.

In choosing a roaster your considerations should be how much coffee you plan on making and how much you want to spend. Batch sizes are the most important thing to consider (IMO).

Remember, the most important thing is deciding if this is something you want to get into.

Baby Cakes And Other Confections For The Perfect Miami Shower

Planning a baby shower for a special girlfriend? If you've got the venue set, the decorations picked out, and the invitations coordinated and sent out, you may think that you're good to go, but there's one more thing you've got to do- order up the food, of course! What's a baby shower without the nibbles? Poorly planned. So what is the perfect food for a baby shower anyway? Is there some tradition you should be following here? Well, technically yes and no.

Where Do Baby Showers Come From?

Baby showers have been held throughout the world for hundreds of years. Meant to celebrate the coming birth of a beloved child, and to provide the soon-to-be-parents with much needed baby gear and supplies, the term baby shower comes from the idea that the friends and family of the mama to be would "shower" her with useful gifts. While baby showers were once only held for the couple's firstborn child, nowadays we've taken on a more democratic attitude, and hold them for each new addition to our families. Traditionally, there are no set rules for exactly when to hold the shower, or what foods to serve, but holding the shower in the latter months of pregnancy, and serving delectable dainties such as cakes, cookies and cupcakes has become the most commonly accepted shower etiquette.

Shower Confectionary 101

Let's examine the three basic forms of baby shower confectionary, and the (delicious) pros and (are there any?) cons of each.

*Baby Cakes- what could be sweeter? Walking into one of Miami's custom cake shops is like walking into another world- a magical Wonka-like world where ribbons and bows are made of brightly colored chocolate, sparkling jewels are made of delicately spun sugar, and the toys, animals, baby shoes and piles of gifts are all amazingly edible. For sheer wow-factor and impact, a custom cake is the way to go, but if it did have one con, it's that this is no finger food. If you're planning a table-less shower, be wary of guests balancing plates of yummy goodness on their laps or knees.

*Cupcakes- they're like miniature cakes! If you want the style and taste of a Miami baby shower cake, but are looking for something a little less formal- or accident prone- custom designed cupcakes are a popular alternative. They are just as diverse, playful and inventive as any full-size baby cake, these hand-held treats are easier for your guests to eat, especially in a less formal, table-less setting. And they make great take home guest favors. With cupcakes you also get the added variety of a multiplicity of baby cute designs, instead of just one.

*Cookies- the perfect finger food. Cakes aren't the only thing they serve in Miami's gourmet cake shops. When faced with a plateful of mouth wateringly cute baby themed cookies, everyone becomes a cookie monster. Not only are these the safest and yummiest finger food around, they can be a fun way to entertain your guests with edible messages, pictures or a checker battle where you can eat the pieces you jump. The possibilities are endless, and all of them are delicious!

Wasa’s Fresh Take On Sushi

It's 7:30 on a Tuesday night, and 20 people are waiting to get into WaSa Sushi and Japanese Restaurant.

Good sign.

They're chatting happily outside in the winter chill of a shopping center parking lot in Irvine, Orange County, Calif. No grousing about the wait, just lots of chatter about the dining experience that awaits.

Another good sign.

Businessman Bronnie Lee and chef James Hamamori have a hit with their ``new generation'' sushi houses in Irvine and Newport Beach. They're places that stand out in Orange County's crowded sushi world. (The pair are also behind restaurants with the WaSa name in Rancho Santa Margarita and Laguna Niguel).

For fans, it's the novelty of what Hamamori's doing with sushi and other Japanese fare that defines the appeal. And for some detractors who sampled the food with me, it's the novelty of what he's doing with sushi and other Japanese fare.

That novelty comes to life with the ``WaSa Treasures,'' a list of 16 plates that take two-piece sushi servings and fuse them with sharp, saucy flavors. That is melded with a tradition-stocked sushi bar and a host of intriguing cold and hot appetizers and dinner entrees.

That Tuesday night, I grabbed four of the treasures at carry-out and hustled them home. I loved all four -- ahi tuna in wasabi sour cream, smoked salmon with ginger sauce, seared yellowtail with jalape?o and seared jumbo scallop with tangy miso. The sauces were light, just touching on the essence of the raw fish, a zesty punch to my palate. I never even opened my little take-out portion of wasabi and soy sauce.

My wife, who is no fan of sauces on any food, turned thumbs down. She just objected to the sauces, on principle.

The same thing happened when I took three colleagues to lunch two weeks later. One is a relative sushi newcomer, one an aficionado, the third a devotee. I'm somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.

We sat at the bamboo sushi bar and settled into the cool room, which is painted in pastels and decorated in a hip, West L.A. style.

Nice room,'' said the aficionado, who is a designer. When our first course arrived, she hummednice presentation,'' in approval.

``Wow,'' the newcomer said, after biting into the seared yellowtail with jalape?o. The other two nodded in agreement, their mouths full. More full-mouthed murmurs of approval for the ahi tuna with wasabi sour cream.

``This is fantastic, a great place for people who are a little unsure of sushi,'' the newcomer gushed.

And that set the devotee on a mission to see if the traditional sushi menu could stand up to her exacting standards.

She tried the salmon skin roll (baked salmon skin, cucumber, radish, bonito flakes, $3.75), pronouncing it not bad'' while the others bit in and exclaimed,Oh, yeah!''

The lobster roll (steamed lobster, smelt egg, avocado, asparagus and mayo wrapped in soy paper) was too bland for her taste.

We took a side trip to the spicy tuna tartar when we spied a waitress carrying an order to another table.

The mound of raw tuna is piled into a tower, topped with avocado and a spicy sauce, all set on a banana leaf.

It was gorgeous, and we admired it on the plate for a full beat before we dove in.

``I'm not sharing this,'' the newcomer blurted out, though he had no choice. The aficionado and the devotee agreed: It was the best.

After a few more exotic wanderings, the devotee wrapped up with kaki -- an oyster shooter -- and said that it, too, was not bad -- a compliment.

We all agreed that WaSa was a lively, fun place and that the sushi and other offerings ranged from interesting at worst to fantastic at best.

That's what Lee was shooting for when he opened the first WaSa in the Irvine Market Place shopping center in 2001. He'd spent more than a decade as an accountant. But he also put himself through California State University, Long Beach, working in his cousin's restaurant. Then, he spent two years moonlighting as a minimum-wage sushi apprentice, including time working for Hamamori at O Sushi in Brea.

Hamamori worked his way up and through the Los Angeles sushi scene before Lee lured him to Irvine, then Newport Beach.

There was just nothing like what we do going on in Orange County,'' said Lee, an Irvine resident.We brought the West L.A. style to O.C. -- the sauces, the presentation, the whole visual side.''

After opening a small, traditional-sized sushi bar in Irvine, they added a tonier take in the Newport Bluffs shopping center in 2003. More upscale presentation, and prices.

But it's the sauces and the style that they're most proud of.

``We're adding another layer of flavor,'' Lee said.

It's just what WaSa's fans love.