Friday, January 2, 2015

Dregs Round-up for December 2014

Here are a collection of links and interesting rumours that haven't made it to a full post.

Toronto and Montreal got a shout out from Daniel Boulud as cities to watch for interesting food.

While I am starting to think about a series on the issues that foodies face while grocery shopping, along comes an article that talks about replacing meat with vegetable protein. While it handles many issues of higher inefficiencies that in converting plants to muscle, it doesn't say enough about the issues of eating less processed food. I think the article in some ways furthers the more mechanistic and nutrionist leanings of food culture. The idea that animals are nothing more than conversion machines. Anyways, it was a good read and I am definitely interested in protein from other sources and of course, have issues with fake meat.

Just yesterday I talked about beer flavoured coffee and updating my quest. Seems Starbucks has beaten me to the beer barrel. The good news is that the tasters aren't exactly loving it. My experiments are here: 1st Attempt, 2nd Attempt.

Speaking about coffee and beer, Boxcar Social which I reviewed here will be opening up another location on Queen East in the land of decent coffee. There place will have a good beer focus as well. Not sure of the opening date but they have inked the contract.

Boxcar let slip that they believe a brewery will be opening up beside their new location. There is already a bunch of breweries looking or set up on the East Side. Left Field, Sweetgrass and Louis Cifer are the ones that are well known and given coverage. On Mom and Hops, there are a number of planned breweries for Toronto and some seem to have an eastern connection.

- Danforth Brewing
- Strathmore Brewing
- Muddy York Brewing, and
- The Only Nanobrewery.

None of these seem like the likely candidate and so I wait to hear more. Anyways, there are a few morsels that I couldn't quite make into a full blog post unless I did some serious work.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Resolutions 2015

Today I was going to write about either microwave cooking or some type of foodie resolutions of eating better, or smarter or whatever. Instead, after a discussion with a close friend, I'm going to be more ambitious with this post. No resolving to change behaviours or achieving measurable goals this year; I want to focus on shifting priorities. I want to describe the journeys that I want to go on this year and where I hope to end up.

Jordan St. John has posted a good post on what is happening in beer policy land and I am still skeptical on how to achieve the goals of replacing a whole sail system with bits and bobs of fabric and expecting it to stay afloat. If something can and does shift this system, it would be interesting if some of the same approaches could be used in the food system. If this doesn't make sense to you, it is because I haven't unpacked any of it and that is what I hope I can post about. Examples include:
- Farmers' market and whether they are just feel good for urbanites
- Maybe our grocery stores are a type of ogliopoly
- CSAs and how they are supposed to work
- Big business got that way for a reason such as reducing inefficiencies in the system so what is the purpose of these smaller markets or to put another way, goals such as sustainability bring what value?
- Are small and craft sustainable? If not, should we look at ways of helping make it so?

A bunch of my experiments disappeared and I need to bring them back and update them.
- beer flavoured coffee
- teff beer
- post about more of the "failures"

Evolution (just so I can use another E word):
- changes in my approaches to food now that I am a single dad or just single sometimes
- expand on my drunk reviews, maybe even split em off. Not related at all to the first bullet.
- more reviews on vegetarian and vegan places or even damn good dishes

End targets:
- publish more posts in more areas and more sites
- you mean I can get paid for this?

So those are my best guesses at things that I'd like to do with this blog this year. Of course, there will always be posts on whatever strikes my fancy but I think it is time that I started focusing on a few things...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Leftover Breakfast #1

Almost New Year's and I'm thinking about starting a new series of blog posts and reviving some older ones. Hopefully, it will last longer than most resolutions that die before a month is over. Anyways, I have been reading too much of Ideas in Food blog because once again their type of thinking has inspired me to look at my leftovers a bit differently.

Today, using some leftover naan, we had French toast naan. There were several aha moments and I could and should milk those insights for multiple posts but I'm so excited how the whole thing came together that I am going to do all of it right now.

French toast is like fried custard 
On some level, I know that but soaking some of the bread for a while in the egg mixture reminded me of how alike french toast and bread pudding are. I wonder what frying leftover bread pudding would be like?

Bread is Bread
Speaking about frying bread pudding, there are so many breads that are non traditional for french toast. Makes me want to make a spice loaf or a pumpkin loaf just to toast and the dip it in egg mixture and have a desserty french toast. The texture of the naan was pancake like. I wonder how pancakes or bannock would taste. Sometimes this is a case of more is more and this piling on of flavours will collapse into turducken territory. But these were leftover naan and definitely stale.

Sugar is Sugar
Had way too much apricot gomme from a review I did for beer cocktails for eatdrinktravel. Apricot gomme is just a simple syrup that is thickened with a gum, or in this case, I used apricot paste. It is thick and sugary with a light apricot taste. It is a syrup and tasted great poured over the naan. Reminds me of the time that I made a smoke simple syrup to be poured over fried leftover oatmeal.

I guess if you fry most leftovers and pour syrup over it, you can call it breakfast? So many interesting (to me) ideas that I may have to purposely make some leftovers.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fall musing

A while back, I posted an ee cummings poem as a way of starting to talk about the first signs of spring. In-Just is the post where I talk about the older Greek ladies weeding the side of the road and collecting food.

Earlier this month, I talked about black walnuts and food falling from the sky. I went for a walk where I saw the women foraging their food and it has been replaced by a community garden. There is not a single food plant. The spaces between ivy are covered in wood chips that will prevent food from growing.

I understand the idea that this side of public roadway was poorly maintained by the city and that it was a need project to bring community. But sometimes when we circumscribe a public space for public beautification, we do see what was already there.

I saw a place in spring where food was picked. In summer, it was a source of my allergies and a way for critters to get from place to place without being exposed. In fall, it replenished itself and winter was rest.

This has been replaced with pretty. I lament this loss and others. Here is a fall poem by ee cummings called l(a.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Food from the Sky

Moved into a new house in October and in days it began to rain hard fruit on the roof. There is a walkout that is begging for a patio to be built next year and it was covered with these yellow greenish fruit. When you squished it, there was this yellowish stain that turned quickly to black. The stain took days to fade and required much scrubbing.

My sons had tons of fun taking the fruit and throwing, kicking, squishing and taking the insides out. We had to use gloves to make sure that we didn't become permanently stained. 
Found out that this is what black walnuts look like. So we spent several hours repeating the activity until the kids got bored. We just removed the outer fruit to expose the nut. It turns out that the flesh was used to make stains and dyes. It really is hard to get off. Even with the gloves, my thumb got stained and stayed that way for about a week. 
The shucked nuts have been drying in the porch for a while and we are going to figure out what to do with them. Fresh nuts have a different taste than the ones you get in the stores. Last year, I got some black walnuts from Forbes' Fine Foods and used them sparingly to add a slight bitterness and nuttiness to salads and soups. This year, I have more and picked by my own hands. I wonder if that will change how precious I feel about them? 

The boys had fun and are proud of their work. They are really interested in trying them. It helps kids to connect to food when they can see how plants grow and the fun you can have. When I was younger, my folks kept us out of the garden except for weeding. We were fairly destructive and it was probably a good thing. But some nights when we went picking for beans for that night's supper, I would find myself taking a few extra to have right there in the garden. 

Here is the free food from the sky, drying. Next weekend, we are going to crack open some of these. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Simple Lifts

I'm recently separated from my wife and have been trying to deal with cooking. Cooking or rather eating on the off days when my children aren't around can be trying. You don't want to make a bunch of dishes that you aren't going to eat and just leave the leftovers to gather blue moldy friends in the fridge. So, a few tricks for those who want to cook but don't want the hassle of "cooking" or the over reliance on processed foods.

Cook Simple

Make a simple dish that can be changed up every day. Think of it as a base recipe that can be used over and over. Stock and tomato sauce are two good examples. Stock is really easy and can be made into soup, sauces, and used to cook vegetables in and all sorts of fun stuff. Tomato sauce has similar properties. Pasta sauce, used on a sandwich, base for chili or curry, add flavour to a soup...

Add Something Special

Some good ingredients from your pantry can be added to a regular meal and make it something different. This is especially helpful if you have leftover carbs (potatoes, rice, pasta, bread and on and on). What you have in your pantry that you consider special is up to you. I like to have different kinds of curry powder, dried fruits (currants, goji berries, tomatoes), different dried peppers, vinegars and flavoured oils. These are more geared towards adding to salads and rice but if you were a potato person make sure to have dill, celery salt, flavoured oils and other things that work.

Mess Around

The risk when cooking in a small batch is low. If you mess it up, you only have to throw out a little. This is a great time to experiment and see how chopped up pickles work with fried potatoes or dropping a few fruits into miso soup. Cook like a hippie with the munchies. You never know what will work.

Make Something Special

You deserve it. It doesn't have to hard.

I made these poached pears to add to sandwiches or to act as a savoury sweet component to desserts like ice cream or served with some cheese. It took fifteen minutes. There are pears, sugar, maple syrup, black pepper, saffron, bay leaf, clove all put together and simmered. That is it. The hardest part was cutting up the pears. 

I'm not quite sure this post will inspire anybody to change their Chef Boyardee ways or I suppose now a days it is Lean Cuisine but hopefully it will get you to thinking. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Cafe Review: Marvel Coffee Co

So, there it is. A coffee shop on Donlands at Danforth. Marvel Coffee. The stuttering half sentences that morning brings often requires some form of caffeine to stretch nonsense into sense. It would be easy to write a puff piece on what they offer and whether or not their baked goods are worthwhile.

It is interesting to see how this space and focus separates itself from the One in the Only which is around the corner and Starbucks which has been making its way ever eastward along the Danforth. It is a clean white space that uses marble, high bar stools and metal highlights. They use Social Coffee, a solid local roaster. The espresso comes out aggressive and the roast is evident in the flavour. While that does not appeal to me in an espresso forward drink like an americano or straight shot, there is something to be said for having it in a milk based drink. 

There is a nuttiness and coffeeness to a drink made with medium dark and above blends that you just don't get with the coffee roasted for coffee nerds. It is one thing that I wish could be addressed and believe that we are on the cusp of a revolution in coffee. I chide some of the higher end coffee shops for this. Why does it have to be good milk drinks or sublime espresso? But that digression will have to wait. 

The placement on a side street before the subway stop points out an obvious thing. This place is meant as a quick liminal spot between house and work. There are a number of seats that really benefit someone coming in for a quick drink and bite before braving the TTC. The owner is happy to talk to you and often greets regulars with questions about their business. This is a local shop that is about that first moment that people get in the mornings to talk to a person. For many people, the first words they speak are to the barista for the coffee order. Makes me wonder why there aren't these type of commuter coffee bars inside stations but I guess we have Gateway to thank for that.

In terms of being around the corner from the One. Think of the One as being an extension of the bar and hostel where baristas sometimes look like patrons and there is a tendency to nest and nurse. One invites you to sit, brood, read and feels like home in some senses. Marvel is the friendly neighbour you wave to on the way out the door. It offers you a gentle way back into the world. 

I'm glad that Marvel is there to offer TTC travelers an option. This is not a destination coffee joint but it is definitely on my way to work. 

Edit: Ooops. Meant to mention that in order to be a destination spot, they may want to reflect Greek culture on their menu by adding a frappe or doing a new version of the custard pie or traditional doughnuts. If I had remembered, the prose would be flowery and the proper spelling of the goodies that I am talking about would be there. Also, not too sure whether that would sell but it would generate interest...

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