This Sh*t's Delicious

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

Category Archives: Misc

Fortney: Calgary eateries keep proving to Food Network, You Gotta Eat Here

Every couple of days, I stumble upon an article that warms my heart and reaffirms my belief in Calgary as a city where great things are happening behind the scenes. There’s this great momentum developing in Calgary where we are slowly shedding the “cowtown” image and propelling down the path of arts & culture and “foodie” mecca.

This particular article chronicles the experiences of John Catucci of the You Gotta Eat Here! fame at  Boxwood. The latter is the brainchild Sal Howell, the owner of another popular and award-winning restaurant, River Cafe (not to mention, one of my favourites).

My favourite part in the article was how Calgary is not only on the forefront of the foodie scene, but is also leading the country. From food trucks to pop-up restaurant experiences, there’s almost some sort of an “underground” foodie movement taking place in Calgary. There’s this sense of newfound curiosity and amazement at all the cool shit happening in town…it’s almost becoming too hard to keep up with the food scene in this town!

via Fortney: Calgary eateries keep proving to Food Network, You Gotta Eat Here.

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Cruise ship food: the good, the bad, and the salty

This week, we have the pleasure of inviting our good friend and fellow semi-nerdist @baudais to blog about her not-so-recent adventures at sea. Alicia had the opportunity to spend some quality time on board a cruise ship for a friend’s wedding for about a week. These are her stories….

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I recently had the pleasure of going on a cruise in order to celebrate my partner’s best friend’s wedding (if that isn’t a mouthful, I don’t know what is). Our 7-day Carnival cruise took us through the western Caribbean, stopping in Cozumel, Belize City, Rotan, and Grand Cayman. Two days were spent at sea.

Now, you’re probably heard the jokes that they stuff you silly on cruise ships, and you should expect to gain a few pounds. These statements are true, though I vehemently denied this at first. I like to work out and eat healthy! I eat small portions! All of that went out the window the second I stepped on board our ship, the Carnival Legend. We feasted like kings every single meal, and most meals are included in the cost of your cruise (a meal at their steak house was an extra $35/head, and you had to pay for premium, Starbucks-style coffees). In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some people went on a cruise simply for the food. You can sail for less than $600/person if you share a cabin and are deal savvy—that’s $85 a day before taxes/etc. It’s a pretty good deal when you consider that it really is all you can eat.

Instead of going through every single meal I ate, I’ll discuss the hits and misses of cruise ship food.

HITS

If you go on a cruise, take advantage of the dining room as opposed to the buffet for dinner. Each night, we were served a three course meal: an appetizer, entrée, and dessert. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of options available each night. There was a standing menu which consisted of standard American comfort food: fried chicken, hamburgers, pasta, etc. What stood out to me was the nightly menu which always had an “exotic” choice. I tried frog legs and alligator, and though neither of these appetizers were exceptionally delicious, it was fun to check these items off my “to try” list.

Although the dinners are assembly line meals, the food was good quality and prepared well. The chicken was always moist, and the beef and fish well-cooked. My favourite main was a savoury, spiced pumpkin tart. Though the crust was a bit tough, the flavourful filling was excellent—well seasoned, the cinnamon and nutmeg apparent, but not overpowering. The fried chicken (my second favourite) was surprisingly tasty, though salty (which I’ll get into later). The coating was crisp, and not greasy; the chicken tender and moist. The accompanying mashed potatoes were real (as in not powdered!) and well seasoned. The gravy that came along with the potatoes was amazing; it was very savoury and I loved that it had a caramel/burnt sugar taste to it.

The glutton inside of me also appreciated the fact that food truly was available to us 24 hours a day. You’d wake up to a gigantic breakfast buffet. There were themed late night buffets to satisfy your drunken munchies—my personal favourite was Mexican night, during which I indulged in a burrito (tasty and filling, with surprisingly fresh ingredients) and nachos (a miss: oddly textured chips—I don’t think they were fried properly—made out of flour tortillas and slightly sweet neon cheese sauce. This being said, I’ve been spoiled by years of eating Saddledome nachos with their amazingly tasty neon cheese sauce).

Oh, and the chocolate buffet. The chocolate buffet. In which the entire dining hall became a receptacle for all things chocolate. There was a chocolate fountain. Multiple cakes. Chocolate profiteroles. Rice pudding. Chocolate covered orange peel. Brownies. Madeleines. And, my personal favourite, an amazingly rich and flavourful chocolate pudding. Some of the items for the chocolate fountain was a miss (jello rolled in granulated sugar, aka “jujubes” and this weird citrus rock sugar), but the chocolate buffet was pretty good in general. Of course, recognizing that it was close to being the epitome of gluttony.

Did I mention that, on top of all of this, there was a daily hamburger/hotdog bar with all of the fixings, as well as a 24/7 pizza stall? My partner decided that he just had to get himself a hotdog after our chocolate buffet indulgence. See what I mean about eating? You just can’t stop. I’m glad I brought my Jenny Craig pants with me.

MISSES

Salty, salty, salty. I felt like most of the food was salted with a heavy hand. I realise this is ironic as Canada is home to some of the highest levels of sodium in packaged foods, but I felt like the salt masked many of the other flavours in the food.

Waste. I am one of those eat local, waste not kinda yuppies, and I found it extremely hard to finish everything on my plate. The portions are gigantic, and the standard buffet plate (seen above with the hotdog) is just shy of being a serving platter. People on cruises are not shy about taking piles of food and throwing out what they don’t eat.

Local cuisine. There also aren’t many opportunities to sample local cuisine in the Caribbean unless you plan ahead. If you partake in excursions, expect to have no time to explore on your own. Pre-planning is essential, as the areas in which cruise ships dock/tender are very touristy and cater to the unadventurous. The most exotic things I saw for sale were cashew wine (a speciality to Belize that, the locals say, is the best bang for your buck because you’ll be drunk for two days), conch, plantains, and local fish.

Out of all of the food available to us on board, the buffet was the most disappointing. There is certainly variety, but don’t expect the food to be über fresh (unless you have good timing). I can’t tell you how many pre-toasted, heat lamp warmed bagels I had for breakfast, and overcooked chicken breasts atop somewhat limp salads for lunch. Opt for the dining room as much as possible—while the food is prepared in an assembly line, at least it’s prepared to order.

SUMMARY

All in all, the cruise was a very good time. I was pleasantly surprised. Being a bit of a food snob, I was apprehensive about the quality/preparation of cruise ship food. Don’t expect chef’s table, amazing, quality meals—but don’t expect fast food quality food either. You’ll get fed, and get fed well. Try to lose 10 pounds before you set sail so that you won’t feel too guilty about the unavoidable overindulgence you will experience.

Would I go on a cruise again? You bet. It certainly isn’t for everyone, but it’s good value for your money if you want a sun-soaked vacation. Think of it as a moving all-inclusive resort. Another myth I’d like to debunk is the fact that you have to be a retired couple to enjoy what a cruise ship has to offer. Even the most refined yuppies will eventually come to appreciate the garish charm that the decor offers…and marvel in the sheer amount of things to do on the ship.

Just skip the variety shows if you’re used to… erm… higher quality entertainment.

~Alicia

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Until next time, good eats!

-Kiran

 

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

 

 

[Cool Sh*t] The Mother of All Hot Sauces–aka How to Get an Anal Ring of Fire & Love it

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IMG_0006In my ever expanding quest to find the best and greatest hot sauces, I have sampled many a generic department store hot sauce – everything ranging from Frank’s Hot Sauce to Colon Cleanser – only to face constant disappointment. Most hot sauces found at Co-op, Safeway, or Superstore are usually either a) not hot enough, or b) are just too bland – they simply don’t pack the emotional punch. The only hot sauce to date that I can respect (and that can own my ass) is that Sri Racha hot sauce that gets commonly served at the pizza-by-the-slice places. But even then, my body’s gotten so used to it that I no longer experience the coveted anal ring of fire.

On my way back from ‘boarding at Lake Louise last week, I had the sudden brain flash to stop off at the Grizzly Paw to stock up on some delicious local, hand-crafted sodas and beers. As I walked into the store, I got momentarily distracted with all the cool Grizzly Paw merchandise. Turns out it was a serendipitous distraction as my eyes immediately gravitated to the “hot sauce” corner. “What’s this?” you say. Since when did The Paw start selling hot sauces? I don’t know, but did I really care? With awesome titles like “Acid Rain” and “Grumpy Bear”, I couldn’t resist taking a look…

To be honest, I was pretty sceptical: after years of disappointment, I roll my eyes at warnings like “This hot sauce is extremely hot. Use at your own risk.” Really? I bathe in this shit, biaaatch, I am pretty sure it’s not that fucking hot. Nevertheless, I turned over the hilariously titled hot sauce called “Alberta Crude” to examine the ingredients: tomato paste, jalapeno peppers, habanero peppers, peri-peri peppers…wait what? Habanero peppers? Surely, you jest? My eyes deceive me…

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But, no, it turns out my eyes hadn’t deceived me. The ingredient list indeed contained habanero peppers, one of THE highest ranked chilli peppers on the Scoville Heat Index. The HI on these babies range anywhere from 325-570,000…and I finally found a hot sauce made out of them.

I was pretty excited at this point, to say the least. I took a look at the other offerings and settled on “Mother of all Hot Sauces” as my second choice. This one had even more AWESOME warnings like “Not for people with heart or respiratory problems” and “Give yourself a natural high…without working out or pumping iron!!”

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YES.

I sped home and eagerly opened up the bottles. My initial instinct was to dump a whole bunch of Mother of All Hot Sauces (MoAHS) on my samosas, but common sense prevailed. You respect the habanero, no matter how much heat you think you can handle. So, I dropped a dash of MoAHS on a spoon and gave it a taste…

SH*T! THIS FUCKING SH*T IS HOT! My mouth and throat started burning instantly. I could feel sweat pangs forming on my forehead. My eyes started watering slightly and I felt the onset of a small headache. And this wasn’t the kind of heat that goes away after an instance. It stays with you, burning a hole in your throat and stomach. You don’t drink water to quench heat like this – you have to go straight for milk or yogurt!

Unfortunately, MoAHS is so hot that your taste buds can’t really process any other flavours – your brain just gets overwhelmed by the sheer intensity of the heat. This isn’t necessarily a pleasant sensation (as you might have figured out by now), but it is worth the $5 I spent on the bottle. I suspect that as my taste buds eventually get used to the heat, I will start tasting the other inherent flavours present in this potent creation.

Next up was Alberta Crude. The warning signs on the label were slightly less frightening: instead of being “extremely hot”, this one was only “very hot”. Haha. I tried this one by itself as well and was actually rather pleased by its mellow (er) heat index. My taste buds could detect hints of other flavours – the overall effect was that of a smoky, sweet BBQ sauce with more kick to it than a regular BBQ sauce. It went really well with the samosas I had at home, especially as the tangy notes in AC were reminiscent of tamarind chutney that samosas get traditionally served with.

Overwhelmed by how awesome these hot sauces were, I sat down at the computer to do some research on the interwebs. I knew that The Paw didn’t make the Hatari brand of hot sauces; their selection was limited to the beer-infused Grumpy Bear brand that they made in-house. Turns out there is an entire website dedicated to these hot sauces. This isn’t some mom & pop operation, it’s actually an entire line of hot sauces, bbq sauces, and dried spices that you can buy online or at retailers. BUT best of all….

IT’S ACTUALLY MADE IN CALGARY! What the what…?!IMG_0030

Turns out “Sam”, the owner of the Hatari Bros. brand, was born in Africa, but eventually settled in good ol’ Calgary, Canada for some reason and has been pumping out his potent creations throughout Canada and US. Even the name “hatari” is a Swahili reference to a chilli pepper discovered in South Central Africa…though I wasn’t able to find any references to this particular hot pepper in my quick 1 min. Google search. Also, Acid Rain, which is one of the milder hot sauces, was actually an award winner at the Fiery Food Challenge, 2000. Damn, Hatari Bros. hot sauces have been around since then? #fail.

The next morning, as I was peeing, I felt a tinge of burning sensation at the tip of my penis. All was good in the world again. Order and balance had been restored. Although slightly peeved that I didn’t know about such an epic creation right in my own city, I am nonetheless proud that some of the hottest hot sauces known to man are made in Calgary!

Good eatin’!

-Kiran

Understanding the Flavor Network

Maybe a bit technical, but Nature has a scientific report on how ingredients are paired and understanding the differences of one cuisine from another. I didn’t read the entire thing, but the pictures are neat. The internet is only good for pictures anyway (mostly lolcats and other photoshopped pics).

Click the link!

[COCKTAILS] Corpse Reviver #2: My new favourite cocktail

Corpse Reviver #2

I am a big cocktail fan, so I am always on the lookout for my next favourite cocktail. I recently stumbled upon gojee.com, which is essentially a food blog aggregator. However, unlike simply focusing on food, the site also aggregates drinks, which is pretty unique (not to mention much needed). What’s even better is the ability to customize your search by inputting all the ingredients you have in your home bar. The site then brings up a list of drinks that pertain to your specific list of ingredients. Just what I need!

It was through gojee that I stumbled upon cocktailhacker.com, who seems to specialize in “hacking” cocktails. In this case, the recipe is originally from Harry Cradock’s “Savoy Cocktail Book” and listed here in the form shown in “The Joy of Mixology” by Gary Regan.

Corpse Reviver #2
3/4 oz. Gin
3/4 oz. Triple Sec
3/4 oz. Lillet Blonde
3/4 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
Absinthe (substitute) to taste (Go Easy)
1) Combine over ice.
2) Shake until chilled.
3) Strain into a cocktail glass.

The only advice I have is to go easy on the Absinthe like the recipe recommends. Absinthe has the tendency to overpower any drink even in minute amounts, so you don’t really need more than 1/4 oz. to taste and smell the liqueur.

Cocktail Hacker seems to have experimented with this recipe as well and recommends adding about 3 dashes of Angostura Orange Bitters. I didn’t have the latter, so I just tried out the original recipe, which is obviously delicious in its own right.

Happy drinking!

 

Review of Sesame Sourdough Bread – Sidewalk Citizen Bakery

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If you haven’t heard of the Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, then you must ask yourself, “Why not?” You clearly aren’t in touch with the local food scene if you didn’t know that Calgary has a baker who delivers freshly-baked bread every Tuesday…as long as you are downtown.

Aviv got his start in Nov 2008 baking ten loaves of bread every Monday, and then donating the proceeds from his sales to CODE. He eventually became so successful that he decided to become a full-time baker. According to his website, he only makes:

“A variety of naturally fermented sourdough and Levain breads baked with local, organic flours with no additives. The dough is shaped by hand and undergoes a long fermentation and retardation to ensure full-flavoured loaves that delight the eye.”

This week, Aviv baked a sesame seed sourdough bread, which immediately caught my attention as sesame is new “it” thing for me. I had so much sesame-infused Asian cuisine in NYC, I was shitting out sesame seeds.

Anyway, moving along, I picked up the bread at around 10 am and immediately opened up the packaging to find this gorgeous looking loaf inside.

IMG_0008I was too excited to wait until I got home, so I immediately ripped out a chunk to use as a side with my soup. You could definitely smell the sesame and pick out some of the seeds inside the bread. It tasted delicious.

For the more curious, the ingredients used to bake the bread were: organic, local unbleached flour (from Highwood Crossing Farm), organic whole-wheat flour (from Heritage Harvest Farm), organic sesame seeds, Brittany sea salt and water.

After getting home, I immediately raided my fridge to find a packet of sliced gruyere. My mouth started watering. For some reason, I felt the immense need to pair the two together to create a simple snack as shown below:

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I don’t know what others would say about the pairing, but I thought it was delicious – the “earthy” flavours of sesame and gruyere complemented each other well. I also washed down this snack with additional liquid calories in the form of Sorachi Ace beer. Delicious.

So, this is how it works: say you are a busy professional (me) who doesn’t really have the time to go to artisanal bakeries and buy bread made from local, organic sources. This is clearly a #firstworldproblem, but it is indeed a problem nonetheless. What is one to do?

Fear not, all you have to do is go to sidewalkcitizen.com and sign up for the Tuesday bread delivery mailing list. When you get the email advertising that week’s creation, reply back saying you want a loaf and leave your phone #. Tuesday arrives, and you receive a call from a number you don’t recognize. Pick it up; don’t ignore it even if you are in a meeting as it will likely be Sidewalk Citizen delivery. Go down to your main lobby and pick up the bread for $6.

BAM! Just like that.

 

 

 

 

Random Finds – KeepRecipes.com

Save recipes from your favorite websites, family recipes, and other sources all on one website. It is like evernote.com, but more catered towards food creators. An iPhone/Touch app is currently not available, but is in the works. Which should make recipe viewing a lot easier than hauling the computer around.

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