This Sh*t's Delicious

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

Category Archives: Cool Sh*t

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.

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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

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]

Sushi for breakfast: Eating the world’s freshest fish from Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market

If you are seeking the freshest seafood on the planet, look no further than Sushi Dai, located at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. Tsukiji is the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world, and pretty much everything caught in the area will be sold through here. This is the same fish that is eventually sold to restaurants across Tokyo, so the seafood is that fresh. sushi daisushi dai

Having it for breakfast is almost not an option, since it is usually a 2-3 hour wait in line to get into the 12-seat restaurant. We woke up at 3AM on a Friday to make sure that we would get into the fish auction, which is held every morning here at Tsukiji. They only let about two groups of 50 people each in to view the auction, so its better safe than sorry. Rows of frozen tuna will be first inspected for quality and size, and then for 20-30 minutes, each slab is auctioned off for thousands of dollars, before it gets portioned off and sent to the winning restaurants. My friends and I didn’t even hit the lineup for Sushi Dai until about 6AM, and I don’t think we got inside until 8:30-9AM.

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The four of us all got the Chef’s choice. At 3900 yen (about $40 CAD at the time of this writing), you get 10 pieces of nigiri chosen by the chef, one roll, and one nigiri of your choice. It sounds like a lot of money for 12 pieces of sushi, but the entire meal is really filling, and the quality of the fish is completely worth it.

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Everyone is seated right in front of the three chefs working. Not only are you entertained by the work of art that is created in front of you, but the chefs are humorous and engaging, chatting with every customer. They are definitely used to tourists. Each sushi is made one at a time: the chef makes it, places the single piece on your plate, and waits for you to finish before the next one is made. There is the standard fare, like fatty tuna and shrimp. And there is stuff that is just uncommon here in landlocked Alberta, like mackerel and sea urchin. If you’re wondering exactly how fresh some of this sushi is, well the clam is still moving when the chef places it on your plate. Back home in Alberta, squid at a sushi restaurant is usually tough and hard to chew. Here, your teeth slices right through like butter.

sushi daisushi daisushi dai

Was the 3 hour wait worth it? Definitely. But if I ever return to Tokyo, I don’t think I will do it again since there are plenty of restaurants at Tsukiji of almost equal quality. Maybe I am too impatient. If you already plan on visiting the fish auction, you might as well swing by Sushi Dai right after.

[infographic] Cuts of Beef

Pretty neat graphic of all the different types of beef, how it can be cooked, and its cost.

Cuts of Beef[/caption]

Japanese Knives & The Art of Cutting Like a Chef

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I love knives. They are so…sexy. There’s a quite beauty in these sleek and sexy knives that just makes them just dangerous enough that you want to play with, but not something you want to sleep with. These knives definitely aren’t the $20 Ikea blades that you pick up cause a “knife is a knife”. Knife-making in Japan is a centuries old (samurai swords, anyone?) family tradition where the knowledge and skills are passed on through generations and apprentices dedicate entire lifetimes to hone the art of making the perfect blade.

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The premiere location to get knives in Western Canada (and maybe the whole of Canada) is Knifewear down in good ol’ Inglewood, Calgary. Going into that store is like going to MEC – you know you are going to come out with something cause you “really need it”. I don’t think I have ever walked out of Knifewear (or MEC for that matter) without purchasing something. It simply cannot be be done.

The last time I went into this store, I was looking for something in the $150 range, but ended up walking out with a Suisin INOX Honyaki that cost double that. Traditionally, Japanese knives are forged from carbon-steel which provides the hardness necessary to hold a razor-sharp edge. However, carbon-steel is prone to rusting, so these knives require more care and proper-handling. Often, the carbon-steel inner core is “sheathed” by sandwiching it between outer layers of software stainless steel. These knives have the advantage keeping their sharpness but are protected from rusting, so don’t require as much maintenance.

Honyakis are hand-forged from one single material such as high-carbon steel (carbon steel is the traditional material of choice) which is very hard. Because of this, they are difficult to forge and sharpen, which translates into a a higher price. Also because of high hardness honyakis are more prone to breaking, chipping and cracking. It took about 20 years for Junro Aoki (the designer of the Suisin line) to perfect the technique to sharpen these knives. On the positive side, they can be sharpened to incredibly thin and sharp edges that will hold for a very long time. The advantage of using stainless steel is knives that are super-light and just as sharp as carbon-steel knives. They are also corrosion resistant, and thus, easier to maintain.

The knife pictured in the photos in this post is the Konosuke Sakura and is hands down the most beautiful knife I have ever seen. These knives are similar to Honyakis in that they are also forged from steel but are capable of holding an edge similar to carbon steel knives, keep their edges, are easy to sharpen, and of course, don’t rust. This particular cherry blossom pattern is unique to Konosuke knives.

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So, the point of the lengthy digression is that when Knifewear had a 2-for-1 deal on knife cutting skills, I jumped at the opportunity. There’s no point owning a Ferrari if you drive it like a mini-van.

Some of the more basic tips for keeping your knife sharp are:

  • Don’t ever throw them in the dishwasher
  • Wash and dry the blade by hand after every use
  • Do not cut through bone
  • Use only plastic or wooden cutting boards; never cut on glass, marble, or granite as they are harder than the steel
  • Use the top of the knife to clean things of the cutting board, not the cutting edge
  • Hone your knife after every use using a ceramic honing rod, not a stainless. If it’s a Japanese knife, hone it at a 15 deg angle; European ones at 22 deg.

We also had hands-on lessons on how to baton and julienne veggies, how to dice onions without breaking out into tears like a 12-yr. old, and how to cut herbs to ensure the retain their flavour (the trick is to NOT chop like a madman).

My favourite tip was that for cutting veggies, a nakiri is the way to go as it has a straight edge which prevents the “vegetable accordion” effect that you get from using the traditional curved edge blades that don`t cut all the way through to the bottom.

So, the next time you are in Inglewood, make sure you check out Knifewear. If nothing, you will gain a deeper appreciation for knives as works of art.

The Titanium Kung Foon Spork Combines Every Dining Utensil into One Portable Eating Tool

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I need this in my life so badly! A spork that comes with chopsticks. ‘Nuff said!

http://lifehacker.com/5900802/the-titanium-kung-foon-spork-combines-every-dining-utensil-into-one-portable-eating-tool

YYC Food Bloggers Bake Sale!

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The poster says it all! Come on down to Casel Marche today or tomorrow to fatten up on delicious treats courtesy of YYC’s food bloggers, and help out Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids while you’re at it!

More information is available on the Facebook event page.

[Cool Sh*t] Japanese Plum Wine (Umeshu)

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I am a big fan of dessert wines, so I am constantly trying to find new variations on the traditional notion of using grapes to make dessert wines. I got my first taste Japanese plum wine when I was at Ippudo, NYC – I was an instant fan. So, a couple of months ago, when I ran across a bottle in my local liquor store, I immediately bought one to relive my culinary adventures in The Big Apple. IMG_0010

Ume can be had neat, on the rocks, or as part of a tasty cocktail. I tried it neat to get a undiluted taste of the liquor itself.

Appearance: very clean, light straw-coloured golden hue

Aroma: sweet apricot, plum, peach flavours (I can’t distinguish between them anyways)

Taste: very sweet, light, and clean tasting liquor. No harsh or lingering after-taste. Doesn’t burn your throat (it’s only 10% ABV). Mouth feel was very crisp.

Palate: my palate isn’t very well-developed, so I have nothing really to add. I can’t taste things like grass, honey-dew, cilantro or other kinds of crazy shit the real pros taste. I think they make that shit up anyway…IMG_0001-1

So all in all, a pretty delicious way to end your dinner if you have the craving for something sweet. Ume, unlike dessert wines, is also actually pretty dead simple to make. In fact, in Japan, it is common to make it at home, according to this blogger. There’s no real fermentation process involved, although patience is a must as it takes up to a year for the plum to infuse the liquor. If you are interested in making some, check out this youtube video as well.

A Side Note…

I would consider plum wine to be a dessert wine, although in the strictest sense, it really isn’t. Also, plum wine isn’t really a wine, it’s more a liquor as the plums are literally steeped in a white liquor for a year before the “wine” is ready. Dessert wines, on the other hand, are fortified wines where brandy (distilled wine) or other neutral spirits are added to the fermenting must (freshly pressed fruit juice that contains the skins, seeds, and stems of the fruit). The spirit kills the yeast before the fermentation process is complete, thereby leaving some sugars behind and making the resultant beverage sweeter and stronger in terms of ABV (usually in the 20% range).

The Niagara region is famous for its wines, but a lot of people don’t know that Canada is, in fact, the world’s biggest producer of ice wines. The consistent winters allow the grapes to be frozen while still on the vine, hence concentrating the sugars and other dissolved solids in the must. Unlike dessert wines, ice wines are fermented from the must of ripe grapes that were frozen at −8 °C or colder on the vine, i.e., no distilled spirits are added. These grapes are then crushed mechanically and the resultant must fermented for months using special yeast strains that are able to process the larger quantities of sugars present.

Fortunately, Japanese plum wine or umeshu (ume for short), is a much simpler and easier wine to make. It also quite easy on the palette and can be appreciated universally. So, if you come across a bottle in your neighbourhood liquor store, don’t be afraid to pick one up and give it a taste.

-Kiran