Monday, October 10, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Some thoughts about Canadian Thanksgiving or as I call it, Thanksgiving.

This is one of those odd holidays that means a lot of things and many of them aren't particularly nice. Even if we accept the narrative that indigenous people welcomed the Europeans to the New World with a feast, it is still shameful what happened afterwards. Even if you are someone who believes in finders keepers, there is an inherent meanness to treating those that showed you hospitality and how to survive here the way that the Europeans did.

Even the bitter and racist saying of "Indian giver" hints that somehow there was a big misunderstanding that went to the benefit of the white people. So, Thanksgiving as a celebration of that one nice dinner party we had that time with those nice folk, and gosh, whatever happened to them? doesn't cut it for me.

A second, more generous interpretation of being an ongoing festival of harvest time sits a little better. I remember these days well where you pulled up the last of the garden and canned and celebrated the final warm days before winter. It seemed like a time to show gratitude. In our case, it was God, the church and the crops. We have lost our connection to the soil and so much is now bought in cans, packages and wrapped produce but still not all is so glum. Even if you are the staunchest atheist who believes that humans are all self made, you must be thankful that the science, culture and civilization that got us here still hasn't destroyed us all. Hubris and pessimism is a tough row to hoe and it yields very little productive crops. Still, we are where we are and that is at least something to be grateful for.

For me, there is a third theme that underlies Thanksgiving. Every year, around Christmas, my former spouse and I would invite friends for a chosen Christmas. It was a leftover from my days of living in a house with my friends when we would invite over all of our friends to share a meal and party. Part of that was that it was the first time that we could all breath and relax during university and partly, as a way to share with those few friends who were not going home. Sometimes it was due to work, being too far away, being estranged or any other reason. My former spouse and I invited people who were our friends in the same way. It was a way of sharing and showing our gratitude for their friendship. In the last few years, I have not done any of this and it makes me sad to not have that moment to thank everyone.

This year, I made a mini feast; stuffed turkey breast, boiled turnip, roasted potatoes and a pumpkin stout cheesecake. I shared it.

When I was at my mother's this year, we had a ham. One of my sisters and I made the supper as Mom had had surgery about a week before and couldn't do all the cooking. It was a simple meal made better by us all helping and that the surgery had gone well. Small, simple and generous.

I still have most meals with the kids around the table and I am thankful every time I sit down. Not in the Hallmark card way but a genuine sigh of contentment. There is something about just existing and enjoying the moment that makes me want to share it with people who are close to me but are unable to share it with anyone.

I think I will do a Christmas dinner party this year and maybe start to think about how I can get back to those moments of grace once again.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Passing of a Restaurant

I have been blogging for a while now and eating out at new restaurants for way longer. I am linking to one that has recently closed nearby. If the link breaks just know that it was a local cafe that served rotisserie chicken.

Brickyard Grounds.  It is one of the many that I have reviewed over the years. Here is an excerpt from when I reviewed it.
Further down the strip, Brickyard Grounds has high gloss wooden tables, coffee and light fare. The light fare part is important. The whole place, in the best way, reminds me of the converted Coffee Times. Now hear me out. When I came to Toronto, the cafe scene was a little odd. The only places that felt as if you had a community were these ex-franchisees of Coffee Time. I wrote a post about how each was a reflection of their owners and the community. This is a great thing. The light fare reflects the area in the offerings. There are flavourful and pronounced spicings available. They sell rotisserie chicken and are working on getting local craft beer -- on TAP! It is an updated Mom and Pop Greek shop. This is a place to come as family...
...Will all of these places still exist when I get around to posting a third update? In short, I think they all serve a particular community. There is not much in the way of difference for the product they are supposedly serving, coffee. None of these will win barista awards or become destination eateries. The real value in these neighbourhood places is in the community they bring and serve. A friend recently talked about how she needed a new cafe in the neighbourhood so that she could talk about the women who frequented the cafe where she usually went.
So far this is the first of the four places mentioned in that review to close. I still stand by the idea that each of these places served a particular need within the community but somewhere along the way, this place started to go down a hard path.

Firstly, there seemed to be doing well until a fire shut them down for a while. When they came back, some of the momentum and steam had left. When you, as a business, start to falter and become a little unreliable, the good will built will dissipate. It will take a while to get it back.

But there is a pattern to failing restaurants. Menu items start disappearing or not being available. Substitutions are made for more inferior items. Staffing is cut. Hours are cut and erratic. And finally...

So, they re-opened with a modified menu and brunch. Each time I went there for brunch it was packed. Service could be a little odd and disorganized but it seemed to work for a small shop. The hardest thing for a small business is the people aspect. Staff started to leave but not at first. First the coffee began to be tweaked in major ways. The coffee began to taste more 'robust'. Menu items began to change.

Already, the hours had been cut for the shop times and it was erratic. It seemed as if the place was already cutting corners. At first, customers don't notice but eventually, after a few times of showing up at the door and finding the cafe unexpectedly closed, I stopped going.

There is no malice here. It is just another story of a business that chose to start cutting corners where the money was instead of where it wasn't.

If the place had opened earlier in the morning and wooed the morning crowd and tried to stretch into the families in the area, it may have done a little better. If rotisserie chicken is offered for supper then make sure to stay open late enough for those coming home from work to get it. Find where the money is and exploit it.

I genuinely liked the owners and wished them well both then and now. The restaurant is a hard, fickle business and it is easy to armchair quarterback. It is just to see so many places come and go with the same pattern, it becomes easier to see where it is headed. There is something great about watching a family business thrive. Those successes are nice when you can say that 'you knew them when' but no one really takes much joy when they fail.

Good luck to the owners of Brickyard Grounds. I wish you all the best in whatever you do.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Pumpkin Blondies: A Study in Plagiary #1

Okay, I took a recipe and modified in such a minor way that I am calling myself a plagiarist but hear me out. I promise not to trot out the same excuses that others have used. For example, the blondie recipe is an old one and how can you even make it new? Anyone publishing the full recipe is just changing a
few parts and who can blame them?

Also, seeing pumpkin spice everywhere; today alone, pumpkin mini wheats, pumpkin creme cookies and pumpkin Flaky. So, just got a hankering for that spice. I will go back for the Flakies because, just because.

Anyway, in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday next weekend, following this link for pumpkin blondies and then look at the changes I have made and come up with some of your own.

So, I changed the spices: added a little cayenne, used freshly ground allspice, fresh grated ginger, omitted nutmeg, and added garam masala.

Instead of the three cups of added ingredients, the chocolates and pecans, I substituted coconut, semi sweet chocolate chips and walnuts. If I had thought harder, I would have went out back and gathered the black walnuts that fell off the tree but if this turns out, then I will.

I guess if you look at that recipe there are three broad components; the dry mix with spices, the wet mix with the sweetener and pumpkin, and the dry extras. It is really safe to swap the spice mixture and dry extras. Where I worry is playing with the wet ingredients. It may have been cool to add coconut milk but then there would have to be an adjustment to probably the butter and the dry ingredients, so I left that for another day.

I am scared of baking but taking a few steps like this makes me more confident. I'm sure there will be failures but not today. Should have added that chocolate banana ice cream to the cart to serve with this beast.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Book Review: Something to Food About

Been a long time since I have done a cookbook review. There haven't been a lot that has got me excited about food and I am not sure why not. What I am sure about is that even though this isn't a cookbook, it has got me thinking about food again.

This is a book where Questlove interviews ten food people and caps it off with a meal by those Modernist Cuisine people. Why would that be interesting and why was I excited to pick this book up from the library?

Okay, maybe some free form stuff that will eventually connect the dots or not. While I am writing this I have Nardwuar vs Questlove cued up and listening. Now you may know Nuadwar as an intrepid interviewer who asked Rollins about his soup can dick or as the guy that has been embraced by hip hop and rap as he dives into the crates of their past. He asks a few history questions and pays respect to the past and the people he is interviewer. It can be a bit off putting. Let's leave that there for now.

BTW, Questlove is talking about how hip hop artists found out about sampling from the Bill Cosby show. It affected many young rappers at the time.

Okay, next up. Food is the New Rock is a podcast that has the idea that the same way that music used to occupy us (and that whole deep crate diving before the internet) is the way that food and chefs occupy us now. The idea that both music and food are performance. However, you can record and package performances now but you still cannot record and playback food. So, he showed up there for me. Action Bronson is on Food and on Nardwuar as well. There are plenty of crossovers.

My son is watching Fresh Prince of Belair and just heard Questlove talk about the guys who twirled Will Smith in the opening.

If you want to have fun going through history told by another white guy, Ed Piskor, Hip Hop Family Tree. It is another under represented era on the internet and worth looking into.

I have the Modernist Cuisine at Home and Myhrvold is the first interview. The end of the book is the meal they had there. The interviews have a similar set of questions about first foods, racism and sexism, inspiration, aging and changes in approach, and local foods and fads.

Questlove spends a lot of time drawing parallels between his career and music and cooking. At first this seems like self promotion until you realize that he is really into these chefs. He is really into food. I had some of that background given the rest of the stuff but it eventually became clear as you went through it. Of course Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the film and the chef that kicked this all off. In case you didn't know, Anthony Bourdain who writes the intro wrote a graphic novel based on a sushi chef called Get Jiro!

I got two good ideas from this book that I am going to write about at some point and time; pickled strawberries and using movies as a reference point. There is a cool story about a Twin Peaks dinner that Questlove attended with Lynch to Ryan Roadhouse, the chef. Also, found out that Ludo Lefebvre may have started the pop up craze and stuff about Daniel Humm and... it was like listening to a foodie interview by Nardwuar.

I guess my point is that is some ways this is like crate digging with a friend on a Saturday afternoon, making connections and feeling smart by what you know and blown away by stuff you didn't. A great read for Something to Food About. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Strawberry Sandwich

I've been meaning to post this thing about strawberry sandwiches. It seems silly to type out a recipe that is really about strawberries on bread but I got to thinking...

Been reading Something to food about by Questlove and he likens food to performance based music. You only get one chance to experience it. There is no way to record an eating experience in spite of the the Instagram and reviews.  I'll have more to say about that later.

I wonder how much of this leads to more nostalgia about food. In particular, I am thinking about strawberries. While I am writing it long past the wild strawberry season, we have found a way to approximate a seeming berry and sell them year round. A hint that I have made use if time and again has been to add a little orange blossom, sprayed or dropped, into a bowl of strawberries to give them a wildness that is missing.

I used to go picking berries on the side of the road with my grandmother. We hopped out of the car and headed to the edges and picked. Some if the berries were dusty and those were often warm, even in the morning, from the sun. Popping them into the mouth when. Grandma wasn't looking. Heading to the undergrowth where the berries were cooler and juicer or taking an occasional green or white berry for their sourness. There was nothing uniform about these little bites.

When we had git them home, we would be happy if we picked them clean without the stems or we would spend more time cleaning the berries. A small snack would be put in a bowl with sugar spooned over top to sit in the fridge until lunch or snack.

Two white bread slices, berries, and some of the juice. That was all.

So with much ado, I present the modern version that my grandmother would not recognise.
Take strawberries, clean and slice. Sprinkle sugar generously with sugar. Add a dash of vanilla and orange blossom water. Set aside, unrefrigerated for at least an hour. (This is called macerate if you want to be fancy).

Take two slices of white bread, add berries. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tea Time: Three Rough Takes

Been lazy this summer in terms of writing. Maybe it is the heat but I had promised to do better on the blogs. It isn't as if I haven't been having food adventures but it has been less talking about it.

One of the constants of the summer has been cold tea. I hesitate to call it iced tea because it really is just putting some tea in cold water overnight, straining and then storing. This started as a way of using loose leaf tea that had been sitting for too long in my cupboard. I had some left as I always had some on hand as my former partner is a tea drinker. I kept some on hand. Was it habit, wishful thinking or common courtesy?

I made the tea and then found ways to use it. One of my sons occasionally drinks Nestea, so I made a lemon simple syrup (more on that in a later post), and made him a reasonable facsimile. We have made many more since.
Simple Ice Tea: Take the tea, add simple syrup and lemon juice. All to taste. 
Is this some kind of metaphor? Taking tea for courtesy and possibly longing and make it into something else? Probably not. Probably just a way to use up old tea.

In the last few weeks, my mom has gotten ready for moving. This included handing me a large bag of tea bags that she had bought for my former partner. It is her favourite brand. It has been almost three years since they have seen each other. The tea predates that time. So, after a summer of using up my stash, I am given another stash to deal with.

I have taken to using the cold tea in mixed drinks. This is refreshing.
Simple Tea Drink: Using an old fashioned or highball, depending on the time of day, add 2 oz booze, ice cubes, dash of bitters, simple syrup or one of those water flavourers, and top with tea.
I guess we could go with another pseudo sad story because I am in the mood to add the slight bitterness but calm reflection that tea brings into a post about tea... I had the tea for visitors who never came; not because they were not wanted but because I did not invite them. There were a few tea people early on but I did not keep up.

Now, to put the better light on it, lately, I have been sharing beer instead. It is more of the thing that I like. I have found that I like to share with people. Mostly I go out to events but sometimes I will share a rhubarb beer with someone special or some adventurous ales with others or just my homebrew.
Simple Tea Shandy:  Particularly good with hefeweizen and hoppy brews. Glass, beer + tea to taste. 
It is strange to start my posts with a kind of odd, meandering narrative around tea but it seems that tea brings out the reflection. And it has brought out the person who wishes to share, again.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Restaurant Review: Two Headed Dog

I've been toying with reviewing the bunch of new pubs in the area in one big omnibus blog post. It seems easy to dismiss them as all being the same. It wouldn't be that far off the mark but it may be a bit unfair.

Most of THESE places are Anglo inspired, macro brewery listed and food service sourced foodstuffs. An awkward sentence for an awkward phenomenon. The difference between them being location and variation in decor. Some do a better job on their beer list than others. There are grace notes on the food service food such as different gravies and sauces or a better variety of fry. This is how I assess new pubs in the area, and in general.

I have been to the Two Headed Dog several times. It is close but not the closest. Both Eulalie's around the corner and the Corner House Pub stand between me and there. It is one of the only family pubs on the Gerrard Street India Bazaar as Eulalie's pitches more hip and less stroller. So, location is a plus.

Decor is German Anglo inspired with sports bar accouterments. Set with a garage door out back, there is plenty of light in the booth section where you can be distracted by the happenings outside and the televisions. Not great for date night but good for those nights when the kids want to eat and you are too lazy.  Aside from the back room of booths, there is a more bar like setup towards the front. A decent rail displays standards and a tap lineup.

On the first week, there was only macro brewery imports and standards. On a subsequent visit, I was told that they had a lot of requests for local beer and were working on it. There still only remains a single independent brewer from down the street on the line up, Left Field. It has been a few months. So, a middling grade there.

So far nothing stands out except their location. This leaves the last consideration of food. English pubs mean curry. There are a few of these type of curry pub dishes and strangely, these are the ones that have a "made here" note on the menu. Ah yes, differentiation. It is taken for granted that people realize that most of their food is not made in house and so the difference maker is telling them when it is. These are the better dishes available or at least the ones that stand out from other beer drinking places.

There are three items worth trying that are different than standard fare offered in pubs; Butter Chicken Poutine, Shepherd's Pie and Sri Lankan curry.

That little orange lettering says Made Here.
Season Infused Salt - sounds weirdly like a Food
Network groupie wrote it. 

A sloppy mess of butter chicken sauce with cheese and standard fries. This poutine is nothing like a poutine but it is a messy and joyful mess for the enjoyment of those who like butter chicken. For those of us who feel butter chicken is not quite Indian food, this is at least a starting point for actually enjoying it for what it is; a slightly sweet gravy that marries well with cheese and salty fries.

The Shepherd's Pie. Yup, more like mashed potatoes on fried ground meat and topped with gravy. It brings back memories of boiled chuck, potatoes and onions in a pan gravy that I used to eat as a kid. This is a good thing. Salty and flavourful and different. My dining companion mushed it all together and ate it like that. I would have added ketchup and that would have made it complete. Don't expect cuisine but expect comfort.

On this last Sunday trip, the daily special was wings. I had the Korean BBQ sauced wings. This is more typical of expectations. There is nothing wrong with the food. It is the same as every other place. It is the little bits that make the difference. Is this a place to revel in the little bits and travel for it? No. But it was worth the few extra steps to move away from a far more food service heavy place. If there was a place with better taps...

I guess the short of it is, GET BETTER TAPS.

Anyways, I often feel like writing these reviews is like dining in these places. It is easy to do an up and down, throw a pic, throw some words down on the page and say something meh and move on. Maybe this is why there are so many pubs that don't reach higher; they don't have to. With so many blogs and reviewers out there, there is no need to be better either. No need to describe food that is so much the same that there is nothing remarkable. Go up and read this review again. See what is remarked on by me. It isn't the food but the difference. Just a few bits of difference can mean the world.

Two Headed Dog Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, April 18, 2016

Near Misses #2: Cheeseburger Ramen

My kids are often the driver for food ideas. Sometimes, I am trying to think of something that they will love and other times, it is me trying to make their idea into a reality. It is when I am stretching for something that I can learn something new and make something incredible or it can fall flat.

Here is a flat recipe inspired by seeing a recipe for cheeseburger soup and wondering if ramen would make a good switch up.

The recipe as made was:

Cheeseburger Ramen

1 slice of ham steak
1 lb frozen italian meatballs
2 sliced green onions
1 cup frozen corn

3 rafts (?) instant ramen noodles
4 cups ham broth
2 cups water
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp mustard

Cheese to top

Fry ham and then add liquid. Bring liquid to a boil. Add condiments. Add meatballs and warm through. Add ramen and corn cook until done. The pkg I had said three minutes. Then add onions and pour into bowls. Top with cheese. 

What worked: Overall the flavours and concept were sound. It tasted just a little bit like a cheeseburger. It was good that the corn was there to provide some juicyness.

What didn't: Lack of concentrated beef flavour. Should have used beef stock and swapped the ham out for bacon. The original idea was a bacon cheeseburger but I got lazy on the bacon. 

The condiments were a nice add but needed a stronger foil of some type of spice or robust flavour. The broth was the thing that the kids actively disliked. 

Should have broken the meatballs down into smaller pieces. This was the kids favourite part but once they were gone, there was not much else to hold the soup together. 

What to do different: 

Use beef stock. Add some spices. Use bacon or eliminate ham altogether. Break down the meatballs.

Now, will I make it again? The kids were lacklustre about the whole affair. My eldest did not finish the broth and my youngest only ate half his bowl. They bowl were not sure that they would want another attempt. Unless I am hit by inspiration, I will give it a pass. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Easter Leftovers: Ideas

It is a Sunday morning that is barely holding on in the last days of a season that is barely holding on. Forget the end of hockey or the beginning of baseball because I am seeing the last of the Easter season. A few bones of ham and turkey are simmering for stock to go into the freezer for the return of fall or winter.

I guess it is apt that finding ways to squeeze as much out of leftovers is a good post for a time when winter seems to be squeezing out its last from us. I am not a lover of the big-huge-gigantic-enormous-gut-wrenching-and-busting meals of family holidays. Well, I like to eat them but it is always within a certain range of enjoyment. There are few surprises in the meal and more in the conversations. I prefer the conversational surprises more. This year, however, the ancillary meals, the ones that tide you over between big meals and the ones that happened after made me a little more happy.

I want to share some of the recipes and ideas because I am obviously self absorbed and feel that may take on food is so important...or, maybe I wish that a few of these will help bored eaters everywhere on what to do with those meals that you kinda hafta have.

We used to have a fresh ham and have it all done up with mustard, brown sugar and cloves but nowadays we have a prepared smoked spiral ham. Given the compressed schedule, this was served on store bought croissants with swiss cheese and mustard, or ketchup for the pre-teen crowd. It was a good break from the last few years but we had a whole bunch of croissants and a ham bone leftover.

So, with Easter chocolate in hand, we unwrapped the eggs onto the croissants and placed them in the microwave for a little while and had an instant dessert that we repeated a few times.

Leftover turkey and Christmas' turkey got made into a ramen. This was really good. Very little adjustments had to be made for the turkey. A little of the same herbs and spices that were used in stuffing were added to bump it up and corn for some crunch.

Ham stock was used in an attempt at cheeseburger ramen but I will leave that for another post. It was a partial failure and worth an examination on its own. 

I wrote this post about leftovers and other ways to look at the holiday meals but I realize that in some ways, this attitude stretches the holidays in terms of memories and flavours. It is rare to get together with extended family. Those times are often compressed and stressed with very little time spent talking and reconnecting. Some of these ideas get at a way to do less and get more during the holidays and some of these ideas stretch those holiday feelings. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Lentil Corn Bean Chili

Making something for an unknown crowd can be nerve wracking. You wonder about spicing and whether the kids will eat it. You always hope that yours is not the only one leftover and a myriad of things that are not any reflection of your cooking and what you choose to make. You want it quick, cheap and flavourful.

This is a mild chili that you can bump up. It takes faintly of cumin but has no real overpowering spices. A lentil soup texture broken up with corn and beans seems like a good dish for a chilly day.

So, here is a vegan recipe made for the 2016 Bowmore "Make It!" Fair...

1 stalk celery, chopped  (reserve celery leaves , no biggie if you don't have any)
2 large carrots, chopped
1 large white onion, diced
tbsp of oil

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp chili powder
4 cloves of garlic

3 cups red lentils
2x 540 ml (19 oz) cans black beans
2x 398 ml (14oz) cans cream corn
1 1/2 cup of frozen corn
1.8L of vegetable stock
2 bay leaf
reserved celery leaves (chopped)

1. Take the celery, onion and carrots and soften them over medium heat in a dutch oven or pan that will hold about 4-6 L. Add salt.
2. Add the spice mixture and garlic until it starts to smell. Between 30 seconds and 2 minutes.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil and then down to a simmer. On my stove this is High and then 2 or Low but appliances will vary. Simmer until lentils are soft (25-30 minutes).

This recipe can be dressed up or dressed down with green onions or sour cream added at the last. Add more spices or whole chile peppers. Hot sauce in your bag which I would do. I do think that cooking is one of those DIY and hacks that anyone can get into.

The fair runs today from 11 am - 3 pm. Come see us with your bowl and spoon.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Beach Wanderings

Spent Sunday morning with one of my sons wandering the beach. Part of the draw was going along the sand and looking at the art that dotted the Beach. Another motivation that drives the walks is always food.

My son looks at the walks as a way to get to a restaurant. Even though we could walk straight there, the excuse of the excursion makes some time for us to talk about what is going on in his life from Magic to grade school. When taking a break and just strolling, it is easier to wonder while you wander.

On this trip, there were a few things that caught my eye. Found a community garden with raised beds. We stopped for a few minutes while sand left shoes. So many questions about this type of gardening. I know that this type of gardening can never replace agriculture but the gesture of growing something still pleases me.

And then a few minutes later, we stopped at Athen's Pastries right by the beach. I had forgotten this was there. It was a washroom break with coffee. The coffee was lacking but the custard pie served on plastic with plastic was real good. My son loved the bottom which was tough but filled with sugar and caramelized. It was a nice break in the closest bathroom with a sweet dessert. There were savoury pies and honey balls too. This would be a good respite on hot days too.

Then we finally got to the restaurant. It was the Breakwall which purports to be a smokehouse. He had a burger with pulled pork and I had a brisket sandwich washed down with a Leffe Brune. Nothing was spectacular but it was enough to make my son want to come back and try something else. On the plate when I asked for the seasonal veggies, broccolini showed up. Curious. I have just started seeing these bitter greens show up regularly. For a while, it was mesclun mix, then kale and greens. I think we are finally seeing a more varied selection of bitter vegetables show up. I wouldn't be surprised to see the full breadth of chinese bitter greens begin to reach restaurant plates.

I am showing the food highlights, small snaps taken quickly while we conversed and played coin hockey while waiting for our meal or waiting for someone to empty their shoes of sand. I am food obsessed but it shouldn't be a reason to ignore your companions or be the sole discussion. Though, sometimes, it is the destination or way stations along the path. While my son was looking at the restaurant as an excuse to wander, I was looking at the trip as an excuse to spend some time with him. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

How to Read a Recipe: Carrot Ginger Soup

This is one of those recipes that I learned in university. It was quick, cheap, easy and could be made in a pinch on a hot plate in residence as long as you had access to a blender. My understanding is that there were a few people making margeri... smoothies in some of the rooms. On an unrelated note, it was National Margarita Day on February 22.

The basic recipe is so easy, boil carrots in a liquid and add spices and blend. There. No real reason to read the rest of this post except if you are no longer an university student. Below is a variation I made a couple of weeks ago and you can see how it has changed.

Carrot Ginger Soup

1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cups beer
2 tbsp minced ginger
2 tbsp miso
2 tbsp of butter (or more)

1. Take carrots and garlic and roast them in a 400 degree oven until knife tender. Check at about the 15 minute mark and check them every now and again until they are on the softer side. Remember you are boiling them later so no need to be ultra precise. 
2. In the meantime, you can do each of these steps in a row and spend the next half an hour or so watching a Netflix episode of some cooking show or you could cook the onions in butter at low heat until they caramelize. That's when they get all sticky and sweet and um, caramel-y.
3. Add miso and ginger and cook every so slightly. For a bigger ginger pop, use powdered ginger and add it a little later in the process.
4. Now, if the timing worked out, add onion mixture and roasted carrot stuff (technical term) into a pot that can hold all those and the beer.
5. Add beer, and water, if needed, and bring to a boil and turn it down a few notches, an anti-Emeril if you will. Simmer for those who know those jargon laden culinary terms. Cook until carrots are beginning to fall apart.
6. Blend into desired texture. Add water to thin it out, if you like it thinner.

Seriously, that is all. Nothing to it. I could have written less steps but then it feels like less of a recipe.

Umami Bomb: There is a lot that can be done to boost flavours in the soup. Roasting the vegetables and coating them with miso or tomato paste. Also, just frying some tomato paste with the spices to reduce it a little. If you want to add "meatiness", one star anise is good. Such a slight licorice flavour without overpowering everything else going on.

Spice it Up; Harissa. Carrots love harissa. It is a pepper blend that is pretty freaking awesome. It has caraway which is another natural pairing for carrots along. Other spices that pair well are coriander, cumin and nutmeg. Just a little will change what is happening. Moroccan warm spices.

Change the Liquid: Change up the liquid. I used beer above. Wit or white beer with coriander will work. Add flavourful stock, especially beef stock works well. Remember pot roasts? Almost always cooked with carrots. There is a reason why. Oh, and if you want to boost the carroty goodness, try adding carrot juice.

Sides and Toppings: So remember up there when I talked about harissa? It makes an awesome topping. If you want, add some sour cream and harissa and you are starting to get fancy. I like to add pickled carrots to make the rest of the soup pop because I always like some acid to make veggies taste great. Pesto also works well. Check out what sauces you have in your fridge and try it. I haven't added chili sauce but why not? A few chickpeas or lentils on top add a little protein and some texture.

Refinements: Oh wow. You can get really cheffy with this. Use a food mill to get it silky smooth. Add a bit of butter at the end to make it glossy. Cream. Lemon. Thai ingredients.

I guess my point is that simple recipes can be used as a jumping off point. Since you are using such a humble, by which it is normally read as cheap, you may be able to afford to experiment unlike when you were in university. I guess some of us may have experimented but not with anything that cost money...

Monday, February 29, 2016


Another Monday morning, and another attempt at keeping this blog going. It's not as if I don't have any ideas or doing food things but rather that I am too busy doing to write. This is a short rumination about, funny enough, ritual. I have thought a lot about food rituals, so these posts are an easy one for me while I finish off a post about carrot soup and try to get an application in for BlogTO. I'm not sure that I am the writer that they are looking for due to my lack, and maybe disdain, for listicles and the anti faddishness of my food views. But sometimes when I am feeling lacklustre and bored with this writing thing, I look at some of my posts and think, damn that was a good post. So, I'm gonna apply. Anyways, enough of the chit chat and on with the post.

My one son is having some minor issues of organization so I went hunting for a cool to do list application and found Habitica - a role playing one. It didn't work for him because he is at the uncool Dad stage but my youngest uses it to track his time on the computer when doing daily tasks such as make bed.

I put do dishes and make bed as my daily work. I put it up there because my mom had always told me that I should do those things. I have often used her words of cleanliness when I plan on having a lady friend over and I am rusty in all these things due to being married for a long time. So, I am starting to force an old habit back.

I have a dishwasher. With two kids staying intermittently and the rest of the nights composed of eating cereal out of those little boxes... I'm kidding but the reality is that I do not have enough dishes to fill up the dishwasher without using Mason jars and mixing bowls for cereal and juice. Every morning for the last few weeks, I wash my dishes.

In that time, I find myself slowing down for the morning rush and forced to take a breath. Hot water and clinks lull me into a more calm spot. As I reach the last of the dishes, the thoughts of the day kick in and I can start to plan from a better place. Is the kitchen a type of heaven for me?

Even when the kids are not around in the morning, it makes me feel as if life is normal. When they are there, I am setting an example and get the occasional help. When they are not, I can pretend I hear the one son clacking away in the other room on his laptop using up his time or the other stomping occasionally upstairs.

I often, leave the pans for the evening after work or before bed. Just a little bit of hard work to close off the day. There is something about coming home and putting away the dishes that makes me feel useful without having to do too much. These rituals make my life feel like a palimpset; writing and rewriting my life. Sometimes the chores are a direct copy of the previous day but more often they are slightly different to obfuscate the bits below. When I get home from another day of learning another new thing, it is relaxing to be able to just do the same thing that I know how to do. Comforting. Okay, a bit deep and probably navel gaze-y but what the hell else am I supposed to think about with my hands elbow deep in hot water, suds and food detritus?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Food Gifts

In the past few weeks, I have received some food gifts.  Mostly because at some time in the past, I have either shared something or shown an interest in the food that people eat, they return the favour with actual food.

I have in my possession coffee beans from the Kaffa region in Ethiopia which is coffee's birthplace and one of the contenders for how the brew got the name. It came from a backyard of coworker's sister. I will be writing about this and trying the Ethiopian coffee ceremony at home.

Also, some wild oregano and sour plum jam from a Greek friend. The oregano was shipped from Greece and has already made it into some goodies.

Homemade idli from an Indian mother who is visiting her child for the next month or so. Really excellent home cooking.

Homemade brown ale made with saison yeast for a Christmas dubbel.

Shared the other way, lime curd for someone to try mixed in with their yoghurt, spicy tamarind balls and the odd produce.

This sharing goes on all the time and while I feel aware of my culture appropriation, it still comes down to people sharing food and stories. I am hoping to write yet another white liberal male post on Beyonce and so I am forewarning you...

Monday, February 15, 2016

Kids Ideas: Breakfast Ramen

Family Day 2016. My kids and I have been trying to make a breakfast ramen for a while. This mythical beast includes bacon, broth, carrot, onions, and egg. 

So, being the dutiful dad, I have had for about three weeks, the essential ingredients handy. The following is a general guide on how to achieve a child's dream.

We took a package of bacon and put it in the oven at 350C to get it to the point where it is crispy; Kid took apart the bacon and loaded it onto the tray. After the tray went in the oven, he cut baby cut carrots into the size he wanted, followed by a green onion per person, whites separated from greens. I poured off the bacon fat and he added both beef and chicken broth and heated to warm. Once it got there, we added the carrots. Then we waited until bacon was done. 

When the bacon cooled a little, we poured some bacon into a fry pan for the eggs. He crumbled the bacon and ate a few pieces. I may have had a few too. Added udon noodles, onion whites. When they began to separate, we added green peas sliced thin and the onion greens. This is what it looked like.

After a few minutes while everything was separating, I fried an egg in excess bacon fat. The bowl went something like this.

 It was really amazing. The original conception called for shrimp and it could be done. The other adjustments would be more carrot and bigger slices of peas. My point is that it got my son into cooking and coming up with a concept that he owned. We ended up spending 45 minutes of time together in the kitchen where it didn't feel as if I was guiding the process but just offering suggestions to what he was doing. Grace notes to his whole piece. If felt good to offer suggestions and help when he needed instead of being about helping me. I helped him. More importantly, he wants to do it again.

Happy Family Day, all.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

So I have this Drinking/Writing Problem... Gendered Drinking

I have been asked to use a rye vodka and to try their his and hers cocktails for Valentine's Day. I jumped at the chance because I had an idea.

If you have been following me on twitter, one of the things that gets me going is using sex to sell booze, especially sexist claptrap. It is a bit odd to be pushing something that blurs judgement around sex where in the best of times it can get murky, like consent. Booze and sex are often paired. I'm betting many of us have made decisions involving alcohol that we would not have made otherwise.

There are whole internet memes around slut shaming dedicated to the night before leading to the day after. Jokes around what it takes to make a person turn gay, ugly partner jokes and courage; so many jokes about needing alcohol to get laid.

I'm not humourless about it, I just think that maybe we shouldn't use the same tired ideas to sell it. So, that is one thing that struck me about this request.

The his and hers drinking is an extension of this type of sexism. The idea that women like girly drinks that are fruity or wine is rampant. The corollary is that fruity drinks are drank only by females or, er, fruits is ridiculous. If it is true, and wine is higher ABV, then all you beer swilling gorillas can't hold your liquor. Have you ever tried to drink high octane drinks in high heels?

The male suggested drink is manlier in that it has mint instead of fruit because we all know that mint is a man's drink. Reminds me of mint juleps. I like them. Every time I bring them up, some one talks about how they are an old ladies' drink and southern and stuff, until they taste them. They have a seasoned soccer player's kick. Funny how time changes things like what constitutes feminine and masculine.

I guess the idea is that you both make different cocktails to get the engine started in either a new relationship that requires a loosening effect or you are in an established relationship that requires some soft mood lighting and numbing. Maybe I'll use some part of this post as a jumping off point for my review.

Anyways, there are a bunch of things that are swirling around in my head. I did decide to take the write up but hope to use some of these thoughts against themselves. We'll see how it goes. I expect to see a package in the mail today and start experimenting tonight and for the next few days. I waiver between drawing attention through comedy and doing a "straight" review with standard bits. I'm doing this for eat drink travel and my editor is urging me to push it a bit after I described the idea.

We'll know in about a week's time as I start to spool out the words onto the electronic page.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Foodist Resolutions: 2016

Yeah, I put foodist instead of foodie, cause I`m wicked like that... and I really liked that John Wayne movie, the Shootist.

Anyways, lists and resolutions abound so why should I miss all the fun. Here is my list clumped together like so much kitty litter.

Booze and Booze Making

  • Why not try making a cider recipe or two?
  • Dry hop some liquor stuff, like cocktails, ciders or lagers. Try not alcohol things too - tea, lemonade, whatever.
  • Make another beer at home. The last one turned out ... oops, spoiler alert and that brings us to the next section.

Food Writing Stuff

  • Finish those damned series. I have two to finish. The coffee beer thing and the gluten free beer. 
  • Write, write and write. A post a week would be good.
  • Be aggressive and publish somewhere else. I have published a bit but those have been requests. I really do need to publish elsewhere. I guess I should learn the business of selling.

Internet Stuff

  • Instagram, tweet and all that jazz. I eat so many new things, if I just instagram it, it will be the most popular thing on the internet except for cats and porn. Oh wait, I did start it and told no one. Hey everybody, here is my instagram account.
  • Fix up my lame ass blog site. Well it is. 
  • Learn how to take a few more photos and deal with layout. See point one here. 

Mad Skills

  • Learn to sharpen my knife. 
  • Learn to use attachments on the mixer - fresh sausage and pasta awaits.
And if that is not enough, use all the f'ing liver in the freezer and clean up your recipe box.

Sheesh. Almost sounds like a list of admonishments or an airing of grievances. Anyways, stick with me this year and I'll see how much I will disappoint or astonish you, me and all those new found followers from the internet stuff category.