This Sh*t's Delicious

Exploring the world through cocktails, shit hole restaurants, and UrbanAg

Riding Mumbai Trains, Feeling Fly Like a G6

It has been a hectic couple of days of checking out south Bombay. After being holed up in the “quiet” suburb of Mulund for the last 3 days we finally made our way down to the “city”. The plan was to check out some major tourist sites such as Gateway of India, Haji Ali, Mahalakshmi Temple, etc before going on walking tours.

But first, we had to navigate Mumbai’s intense train system to get from the ‘burbs to where the action is: South Bombay. Mumbai has a pretty extensive, efficient, cheap, if not over-crowded train system. A 50 km trip will cost you Rs. 10 or less than 20c. This is how a majority of the suburban population travels in and out of the city as this is the quickest, cheapest, if not intense way of traveling.

What I find amazing and humbling about this experience is the friendliness and helpfulness of the people. If someone sees you lost in the train system, they will actually walk you in the right direction. Passengers watch out for senior citizens and make sure they get onto the train and get off at the right stop. People will help ferry your handheld items to luggage storage racks running along the top of the trains.

Everyone’s in the same boat and they know it. But there are separate compartments for women though. Can’t trust the Indian male to not take the chance to “accidentally” feel up a woman during the bone-crushing peak hour rush.

The most hilarious thing about the trains is the whole “front of the bus” phenomenon. No matter how not crowded the train, there’s always people hanging off the front.

Here’s a video. Link to Dave’s excellent blog post on this same subject.

We have been riding the trains like pros now for the last two days. If you are ever in Bombay, riding the trains is the best way to feel the pulse of the city.

Chindian IT Tech Support

Normal priorities while travelling tend to be shelter, water, and food. Our first priority was INTERNET.

One feels so naked now without Internet or cell phones. Can’t imagine how ppl travelled before 2000s. I guess you just learned to read maps and talk to ppl. So hard! The plan is to live, work, and travel out of Bombay for the next few months, hence the focus on getting Internet setup right away. Using my parents’ apartment in Mulund makes it much easier and convenient.

So much has changed in the last 7 years since I have been. Everyone carries smart phones now. Internet cafés have all but disappeared as more upper middle class Indians get on the internet bandwagon.

 But mostly it is the same. High rises next to slums. Women picking through garbage for something to sell. The constant din and noise and ppl…It is going to take a while to get used to the constant noise.

It is a weird feeling being here. I don’t feel out of place. Yet, I am not totally comfortable. I am not overwhelmed, but yet I feel weird that I don’t feel out of place or overwhelmed. Weird.

Got lot accomplished in the first day and half. Got our internet and cell phones lined up. Getting a pre-paid phone here is an absolute pain in the ass. You have to first provide a photo of yourself.

Then you have to have a local who can vouch for you. The phone company then calls the contact to verify that the applicant is real. So if you didn’t have someone local, you would be fucked. There would be no way to get a prepaid cell service. It is the most bizarre thing I have seen. I suspect it is to keep the terrorists at bay though. Which is stupid cause it is pretty easy to find someone to vouch for you. You wouldn’t be much of a terrorist if you couldn’t accomplish something that simple.

The other first priority after landing was eating my favorite thing in the world: vada pau. If I was a millionaire baller, I would fly First Class every weekend to Mumbai just to eat a few vada pau’s and then fly back. That’s how awesome these fried, doughy goodnesses are.

This typical Bombay street food retails for Rs. 12 or < 0.50 cents. This is Bombay’s answer to venerable pizza. The basic concept is pretty simple:  Take boiled potatoes. Mash them up. Add spices. Cover in dough and deep fry. Spread tamarind chutney inside pau (bun). Garnish with fried chillies.

Bam! Done! Best drunk food ever.

Dave was a big fan. This is the perfect way to start my stay in Bombay. And it is something Dave can eat cause it is deep fried.

We also had to get Dave some Indian rupees. Here’s a local tip: most jewellery stores for some reason will exchange foreign currency, esp 100$ US bills. We got 62.5 Rs for 1 USD which is almost better than market rate! I don’t know why they offer this service or what they do with these USDs but it is fucking awesome.

> “Let’s blow this shit on hookers and blow” – Dave J. Cheung

Links I liked

The magnificent multitude of beer – An incredibly detailed chart of the many different types of beer and the glasses they belong in.

Coffee grind chart – How fine are you supposed to grind your coffee? This article explains.

Beakerhead: Engineered Eats

What’s this? A new blog post? No, your eyes are not deceiving you – after having the privilege attending the Beakerhead Engineered Eats sneak-peek on Monday, I felt obligated to dust off the keyboard and give it a plug. After all, a food-based event for a grassroots festival in Calgary based on art and science pretty much pushes all of my buttons!

What better symbolizes food + science than sous-vide?

Of the seven Calgary restaurants who are participating in the 5-day-long Engineered Eats program, five of them were present at the sneak-peek – Mango Shiva, Charcut, Taste, Raw Bar/Yellow Door and Muse (the last of whom hosted the event). Each had brought a special concoction or two featuring science-y “molecular gastronomy” techniques – be it gels, foams, sous-vide, caviar, etc. – and in keeping with the Beakerhead theme, most of the dishes and cocktails were assembled in a creative and artful manner.

Looks like a lot more than "just 3 ingredients" to me ;) (Muse's description says it's just tomato/basil/watermelon)

To start off, I hit up Muse’s table for their “tomato and watermelon inversion” (my description, not theirs). It was a daintily put-together mini-salad, featuring tomato, watermelon and basil in numerous combinations meant to f*ck with your mind ;) Indeed, what appeared to be a scooped watermelon ball had the vegetably-tartness of a tomato, and the meticulously-crafted watermelon slice was of course an intensely-flavoured tomato bomb (the cucumber rind was a perfect choice!). Even the watery sauce with sprinklings of dehydrated buckwheat modelled the innards of a tomato remarkably well. Muse also offered a cocktail of sorts, a Tequila Sunrise push-pop. Utilizing a dollop of sous-vided fruit gel and topped with slushy ice, their cocktail was also an inversion of sorts (this time a thermal one!) – the mix of cold and hot sensations is a fascinating one, though the leakiness of the push-pop device proved a little problematic.

Modernizing an ancient cuisine

The strong aroma of Indian spices was difficult to miss, as Mango Shiva’s chef doled out portions of delectable chicken tikka and gol gappa on demand. There always seemed to be a bit of a lineup by the Mango Shiva table throughout the night, but it was worth the wait – the succulent, yoghurt-tenderized chicken tikka was well complemented by the balsamic caviar, mango puree and mint-yoghurt chutney. The deconstructed gol gappa/panipuri featured artfully transformed chutneys in the form of yoghurt balls and tamarind spaghetti, and the traditional flavoured water (or in this case, a less-traditional herbs-and-vodka mix) was to be taken as a shot rather than poured into the shell. All of the components are reconstructed in your mouth for a complex mosaic of flavours.

More than meets the eye

Taste offered what was likely the most humble-looking offering, with their “gazpacho-on-a-stick”. But the appearance of the minimalistic beige rectangles simply increases the shock value of the explosive flavours that arise upon putting the jelly into your mouth – it’s a full-spectrum savoury sensation. My one criticism of the gazpacho was the size of the serving – it basically filled my mouth to bursting. Who eats soup by the bulging mouthful? Kent tried to bite his and ended up dropping the rest of it on the floor (though admittedly they were kind of melting due to it being really hot in the restaurant). I think a portion half to one-third of the size would make it the ideal amuse-bouche.

All it needs is a fat straw!Hollow ice spheres for cocktails should become a new thing

Perhaps one of the more delightfully-themed dishes at the event was the Tom Yum Bubble Tea, by Raw Bar – presented in a shot glass, the tom yum soup was jazzed up with “pearls” made up of tomato caviar and currant tomatoes (which Muse also used in their dish). The floating cilantro and flower petal just added to the tropical feel. Raw Bar’s cocktail was also a smashing hit – literally! An aromatic kaffir-lime based drink featuring Vietnamese cinnamon spray and jalapeno bitters (if I’m remembering correctly), the presentation of the cocktail left many impressed – the cocktail was injected into a hollow ice sphere, which is subsequently smashed with a hammer and pin. Too cool!

Foie and brioche - just a touch of sorrel to round out the fresh lightness

Last, but definitely not least, the venerable folks at Charcut put some modernist twists on classic favourites – foie gras and brioche. Both are normally extremely rich foods, but with a little magic foaming action they were transformed into a light, airy, yet flavourful bite. The brioche was apparently foamed before it was cooked, then microwaved – sounds like something even an engineer could cook ;) Served with the light sweetness of cognac-soaked peach and apple jelly, the foie and brioche could almost double as a dessert. Charcut’s “Autumn in Cognac” cocktail was demure but delicious – cognac plus one other fortified wine whose name escapes me, topped with a little vanilla-apple foam. Not as flashy as the other cocktails perhaps, but I think I liked the flavor of this one best.

You can check out all of the above and more from today through Sunday – in addition to the five restaurants at the sneak-peek, downtownfood and Candela are also offering science specials. Be sure to check out the other Beakerhead events as well! Many thanks to Wendy for setting this all up and extending us an invite :)

-Richard

Beer Review: Ommegang’s Iron Throne Blonde Ale (@baudais)

For today’s post, we have Alicia B.’s review of the Iron Throne Blonde Ale. Alicia’s a great home-cook who never seizes to impress me with her culinary skills and her obsession with twerking. Keep an eye out for blog posts featuring her kick-ass recipes.

If you are too lazy to read the full review, here’s my 6-second review of the beer. Keep an ear out for the unintentional, but hilariously timed background dialog!

————

6.5% ABV | Belgian Pale Ale | 750 ml for ~$12

If you couldn’t tell already, most of us at Sh*t’s Delicious are geeks. We like to geek out about food, drinks, video games, books, television, etc. As a food, beer and fantasy genre geek, I pretty much couldn’t leave Co-op Wines Spirits Beer without Ommegang’s Iron Throne Blonde Ale. I can’t remember how much I paid, but it was in the $12 range.

Ommegang is a microbrewery located near Cooperstown, N.Y. that specializes in crafting Belgian-style ales. It was originally founded in 1997 by Don Feinberg and Wendy Littlefield who eventually sold their share in 2003 to the renowned Belgian brewer Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat, brewers of the world-renowned Duvel Golden Ale.

I must admit that I approach collaborations like this with hesitation. I was excited to try this beer with my geeky friends, but I was preparing myself for it to be a mediocre beer that was riding off of the popularity of the Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire series. A limited release that is brewed by Brewery Ommegang in New York, the Iron Throne Blonde Ale is described as being brewed with grains of paradise and lemon peel. It’s a nod to the Lannister family that currently sits on the Iron Throne.

This beer is a lovely golden colour, is slightly cloudy, and is nicely carbonated. It has a nice citrus aroma that was slightly hoppy to my nose. I also detected some spices that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Taste wise, this is an easy drinking beer. It’s slightly tart—you definitely taste the citrus you smell—and pleasantly hoppy, malty, and yeasty. It almost tasted slightly sweet to me, but this was not overwhelming. I enjoyed the flavours best while the beer was nice and cold.

Yes, we tried this beer out of plastic cups. As much as we like to keep things classy, we unfortunately didn’t have access to proper glasses. (Okay, we don’t always keep things classy!)

Ommegang’s next beer in this series will be a Take the Black Stout, a stout that’s a nod to the Night’s Watch. I’ll be excited to try this one as the leaves turn yellow and the temperature drops.

Enjoy!

Links we liked: Canadian microbreweries mapped

Plan your cross-Canada road trip with this map. [link]

Links we like: The shelf life of beer and other liquor

If you are ever wondering if Baileys improves with age: [link]

The Best Veggie Burger Recipe Ever (and no, it doesn’t involve tofu) @songsonglol

Alright, I am back after a long hiatus. The whole A-Cocktail-A-Day didn’t really pan out once I got back from Vancouver. I had several epiphanies during my storm chasing trip, the big one being about blogging more, so I jumped on to the the first thing that popped into my head, which was cocktails.

I really like cocktails. But I like blogging about other things too. There’s so many hole-in-wall restaurants that I would like to review. So many people to interview. A single-minded focus on cocktails would be great, but it isn’t the only thing I want to blog about.

Cocktails are still going to be the focus, but just not everyday. I am going to aim to blog everyday, just not only about cocktails.

With that in mind, here’s the first blog post of the week. I organized a BBQ with some friends on Sunday. The weather was a bit shitty, but the food was really good. Song, one of my long-time friends from Engineering was kind enough to make me (?) some veggie burgers. Song’s one of those gifted home chefs that makes her own recipes from scratch. She would be the one “thing” I would bring to a deserted island so I could have gourmet food everyday while waiting to be rescued.

Veggie Burgers (unedited – makes approx. 8 burgers)

Ingredients:

2 cans lentils, rinsed (green or yellow)
1 can six bean blend, rinsed
1.5 cups fresh herbs (loosely packed; mostly basil, carrot top, and a bit of cilantro, but parsley is good in it too!)
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 egg
2 cups shredded vegetables (I used one carrot and like 4 tiny beets and a small jalapeno, but whatever’s around works. I’ve made them with apples and zucchini before.)

Bread crumbs (I think it was nearly 2 cups I needed)
Oil (as needed)

Instructions:

1. Combine 1 can of lentils and 1/2 can of beans into a food processor with the herbs, garlic, cumin, and egg. Blend until it becomes a smooth paste.

2. Transfer the paste into a large bowl. Add the remaining lentils and beans along with the shredded vegetables and 1/3 cup bread crumbs. Stir until well combined.

3. Form into patties.  Pour additional bread crumbs on a plate or shallow dish. Take patties and press them into the crumbs to coat.

4. Fry them on the stove top over medium heat until golden on both sides.  Use oil in the pan liberally.

5. You can eat them after you fry them or store them in the fridge / freezer for a BBQ later!!

———

That’s it! The best thing about these burgers is the sheer amount of protein you consume. I am not really a big fan of those tofu veggie burgers as they often taste rubbery or quite frankly, are pretty bland and tasteless.

Song also likes the chunky texture you get by combining whole beans along with the pureed stuff, but if that’s not your thing, you could puree everything, I suppose.

A great compliment to the burgers was the sweet, tangy Carolina sauce that Song made from the original recipe. The only difference was she didn’t add any white pepper and switched olive oil for butter.

I ended up mixing the Carolina sauce with a little bit of Mango Fire hot sauce and it was absolutely gorgeous.

Let me know how you like this recipe!

Get a Spade, Plant Some Shit: A Candid & Oft-Hilarious Conversation with @downtownfood Chef Darren MacLean on Modernist Cuisine, Life & Urban Agriculture

There is no king or queen of urban agriculture in Calgary, but if there’s one guy who’s making waves, it’s Chef Darren McLean who recently converted a barren and life-less rooftop above his restaurant downtownfood into a full-blown permaculture ecosystem. The urbanag project, while not the first of it’s kind (Rouge has one), is intended to educate and start a conversation about our food systems.

I finally found some time to sit down with MacLean and dig a bit deeper into his story. Warning: MacLean is a fast-talking, passionate, no-holds barred kind of guy. He’s an interesting blend of humility, charisma, and the “let’s get shit done” attitude that Calgary is famous for.

I have tried to capture his essence as much as I can. So, if you are easily offended, then well, in MacLean’s own words, you can go fuck yourself.

————————————-

Tell me a little bit about yourself

I am just a cook who’s trying get by (laughs).

I have been cooking professionally for about 7 years but started at Ricky’s when I was 13 as a line cook. I grew up in Calgary mainly but have always been around farms and rural cultures around Innisfail and Alberta.

I went to university for Finance, realized didn’t like too much, so switched my focus back to cooking.

What is your inspiration behind downtownfood?

We wanted to bring something new and exciting to the city. We keep our menu small and very interesting. There are no super-safe items. I try to bring out the natural flavours in the ingredients we use.

The vision behind downtownfood is that it is an amalgamation of food that occurs downtown. The heartbeat of any city is the food downtown – we are trying to encapsulate the essence or soul of what downtown food should be.

Our lunch menu is very street food-esque. For instance, our burger comes with a free strawberry milkshake – we don’t tell you it’s coming with one, we just surprise you with one. If you want chocolate or strawberry, then quite frankly, you can go fuck yourself cause it’s only strawberry for me.

What is your definition of “interesting”?

That’s a very interesting question. I want to do things that are new and different, something that you haven’t seen before. I like to challenge conventional notion of what certain foods are and get people talking about food in terms of where it came from, and so on.

Sounds like you are integrating a little bit of molecular gastronomy into your food.

We do. We cure our own bacon; we spherify and foam ingredients when it makes sense. Absolutely.

But technique for technique’s sake is a waste of time. If the technique works and adds to the plate, then I am all for it. But I don’t want to put a bunch of fucking spheres and foams on a plate just cause it’s cool to do.

If it doesn’t taste good, who cares what it looks like. It’s the flavours that preserve memories.

So you prefer the term “modernist cuisine” to “molecular gastronomy”?

imageFood should have soul. You have these chefs who are very technical and their dishes look beautiful. But if it tastes like a fucking paper bag, who cares? Molecular gastronomy has developed into modernist cuisine. Everybody can spherify – it’s not a secret – we can take it now and apply it to modern cuisine as it makes sense.

Modernist cuisine essentially is a portrait of the latest and greatest techniques of the 20th century. It is still rooted in classical cuisine and if you don’t understand the latter, then the modernist cuisine is a waste of time.

It’s cool. It’s really cool. But man, nature did it best. Why mess with it?

Give me a brief description of the urban agriculture project you started at downtownfood.

It’s a 2000 sq. ft. roof top space that we have converted into a permaculture ecosystem. We partnered up with REAP (Respect for Earth & All People), Greengate Garden Center & Alberta Beekeepers Association to create this ecosystem in a barren dead zone.

We have two beehives, solar drip irrigation, a rain catch and 36 pots amongst many other things. There are no artificial pesticides in use – it’s all natural compost.

This isn’t just a bunch of hippies getting together to plant some seeds and grow food. We have meticulously thought about it as a system all they way down to plant spacing and the plant arrangement.

That’s quite a massive undertaking. What inspired this?

You know, growing vegetables has become so foreign to us. Sixty years ago, there were no supermarkets. If you told someone you were growing veggies in your backyard, they would give you this wtf look. In a whole generation, we have managed to entirely disconnect ourselves from the food system. That’s not right.

I am an activist. I want to change the food system from the inside by leading the conversation and getting people to understand where our food comes from.

What kind of reactions have you gotten from people?

The groundswell of support has been amazing. I have random people living in skyscrapers above the garden who love seeing things grown in a barren dead space. Random people tweet me or drop off their plants for the rooftop garden.

Did you envision this as a community project from the start?

I am just an ideas guy who gets shit done. Quite frankly, I don’t understand the fundamentals of growing food. I just called up Greengate and started chatting with them. They got so excited, they donated everything.

People wanna eat real stuff man. Get a strawberry from Broxburn Farms and compare them with the California shit that is artificially ripened. You will know what real strawberries taste like.

How does one get started, especially if you live downtown and don’t have a backyard?

Get a planter, fill a box, and plant some shit.

If you get stuck, go to Greengate Garden Centers, tell them what you want, and they will know what to do. Start small with one thing at a time.

So what’s your long-term vision for this project?

I want to become a node in the community. My vision is to help people understand the culture of food and where food comes from.

In 6-7 years from now, I want to spearhead a food stop in the inner city. It’s essentially like a food bank, but instead of getting canned food, the needy get hot, freshly prepared meals from locally sourced ingredients.

I want to take half an acre out somewhere in the inner city and feed people. I grew up poor. My mother worked two jobs to support us. I ate a lot of canned food growing up.

Food is a fundamental human right.

———————————

MacLean was kind enough to provide me a sample of his watermelon salad. I am not going to into the details of what was in it – you can go to his restaurant and find out yourself – but suffice to say, I *got* his philosophy and passion. The entire dish tasted like watermelon – that was the singular focus of the dish and it was executed well.

Watermelon is so fucking delicious – why would you want to change it and make it taste like anything else?

Brilliant.

A Cocktail-a-Day #15: The Best Fucking Chai (and chai-based cocktail) You Will Ever Have

So, yeah let’s face it, the Chai Tea Latte Mocha Frappuccino Grande bullshit you get in Starbucks is putrid. Most people don’t know what real chai is. Or that “chai” means “tea” and when you say “chai tea latte”, it translates to “tea tea latte”.

Kinda like “Sahara desert” means “desert desert”. Or “Los Angeles Angels” means “The Angels Angels”

So today, I will educate you all on how to make the best chai you have ever had.

The first step to making a good chai is to eliminate or minimize water. Yeah, that’s correct. You heard me right the first time. Water-based chai’s, while they do the trick, are simply too watered down and feel “thin”. To make real chai like they have it back in India, you need to substitute the water for milk. If you make that one change, your chai will taste 10x better.

Keep reading for the rest of the recipe.

Original Recipe (makes 1 serving)

- 2 cardamom pods

- 4 black pepper corns

- 1 tsp. grated or julienned ginger

OR

- 1/8 tsp. of chai masala powder

- 1 cup milk (low fat or otherwise; the fatter the better..haha)

- 1/4 cup water

- 1 tsp. black tea (any black tea, but Darjeeling or Kenyan varieties are best)

- sugar to taste

1. Combine the cardamom, peppercorns, and ginger in a mortar and grind roughly (if you don’t have the chai masala)

2. Combine all ingredients, including milk, water, and sugar into a saucepan. Bring to boil on medium heat.

3. Once the tea boils over (and I mean boils over the edges), simmer on low for another 4 min. until the chai turns a deep brown color.

4. Filter through a sieve and serve piping hot.

Bam! Just like that. The best chai you will ever have.

Modified Recipe

You can easily turn this into a digestive (or an early morning boozy pick-me-up) by cutting back on the milk and making up the difference in alcohol. Recipe as follows:

- 1/2 cup water

- 1/2 cup milk

- 1-1/2 oz. Amarula

- 1/2 oz. Kahlua

Follow the same procedure as above. Filter the tea and stir in the Kahlua, Amarula, and sugar. Let it cool down naturally or in the fridge.

Serve over ice.

Discussion

The delicious combination of ginger and cardamom is by far, the best way to wake up in the morning. There’s simply nothing else that beats it. Except for maybe some equally delicious coffee from Phil & Sebastian.

Making the chai with milk makes it fuller, thicker, and “luxurious.” In Hindi, the phrase “kadak chai” is used, which means “strong tea”. The full meaning of the word “kadak” is lost in translation, but if you want some kadak chai, this is the only way to do it.

I found adding the Amarula and Kahlua changed the taste profile of the chai, but not so much so that I couldn’t taste the cardamom anymore. It definitely tasted better chilled, over ice than when it was served hot, so I would try it that way.

Let me know how you guys make out!

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