I grew up in the business. My parents had a little hotel and butcher shop in Germany in a place called Spaichingen, which is about fifty miles north of the Swiss border. I helped out early on: setting tables, taking the luggage from customers, all sorts of little tasks. Then I went to hotel school. At the time I thought of being a general manger, but soon I discovered I didn’t like that and I turned to cooking although as yet I had no formal culinary education. I read a lot about food: different magazines, books from all over the world. Living in San Marino, I also go very often to farmers markets--Pasadena or Alhambra, for example. Eighty percent of the year, I can get the same items--fruits, vegetables.
To preserve them, we cut them in half and squeeze out the juice. Then we pot them with salt, sugar and spices and store them for two weeks in a cool, dark room. One of our most famous dishes is black bass en croûte with a beurre blanc made with Meyer lemon. It also blends wonderfully with olives. You can even just emulsify its juice with a good olive oil to season a salad or a nice raw fish.
The Meyer lemon is rounder, with a smoother skin than an ordinary lemon. As it ripens, it takes on a deep orange-tinged color. It has a marvelous aroma and is sweeter and less acidic than the Eureka lemon. I can pick them everywhere: in the parks, on the golf course or from my neighbor’s tree! But for Patina I get them from Ojai Meyer Lemon in Ojai Valley. We always keep a jar of preserved lemons on hand.