Chorizo week 2

Starting to look like something awesome! Can’t wait for next week. Hope they dry out proper.

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Starter Cultures for Charcuterie – 1 week into ageing.

Checked on the chorizo today, and they are looking good!

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Drying up nicely. Was a little bit worrying when they filled the entire wine cellar with the smell of garlic. Wouldn’t want those 50 yr old bottles getting tainted.  Thankfully, the smell has subsided and so are my worries.

Interesting though, some of the chorizos are developing different colours. I made 4 types. A control (no bacteria, no mulled vinegar), 1 with only bacteria, 1 with only the mulled vinegar, and 1 with both. It seems that the ones with the vinegar look a bit brighter on the red side while the bacteria and control look to be darker. Could it be that they are drying at different rates? It’s possible, but then they are all under the same temperature and humidity conditions.

Here’s a photo to see the varying colours.

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The batches in the middle are the ones with the mulled vinegar, the ones on the sides are the control and bacteria only. Well, another week or so and we’ll see how they look and taste. Cheers!

 


Charcuterie Starter Cultures

Toronto Food Lab and it’s parent company have teamed up with a company from Spain who has isolated certain strains of starter cultures used in charcuterie. This to me is just truly exciting news. I’ve played around with charcuterie before, but this just brings it to a whole different level. I understand that people have already been using starter cultures. This time though, I get to work with a company that PRODUCES the cultures. Imagine the potential…mixing different cultures to cause different flavours from fermentation. 

Currently all their products are listed in Spanish. Once we’ve translated them and understand what strains they are (be it from the salami, for chorizo, or even jamon iberico), we will start selling them through the website. 

I had a go at some of them and decided to make some sausages just to see for myself what would happen. Some are the control (no cultures added), some with our vinegar food seasoning, and one with the culture. 

Let’s see how they look in a few weeks! 

Nothing like having access to a wine cellar for ageing. 

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Alinea, yet again!

So, Alinea once again, and once again blown away. Alinea is quite a different experience for me simply because I’ve been lucky enough to visit several times, 4 to be exact. Whereas other restaurants, incredible as they were, I’ve only been to once. Consistency is one of the biggest challenges of any restaurant, and Alinea has proven to be consistently innovative. More importantly, it is staying relevant. To me at least. There is really something about how they are able to pull off a multisensory experience. Some can call it a gimmick, but if it works, makes sense and doesn’t get in the way of the food, then it rises above being mere smokes and mirrors. To me, Alinea is really THE multisensory experience done right. That being said, I haven’t gone to all the restaurants that do a similar theme.

Just a few of the dishes of the experience.

 

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There is always something special about being able to eat the whole prawn, head, shell and all! The head was my favourite part, delicately crispy and didn’t give me any worries about skewering my gums.

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This perhaps exemplifies multisensory and emotional dining. Who would even imagine having a pile of burning coals in front of diners, and on the damn table itself. This was their center-piece. Knowing Alinea, I knew something was up. I knew this was more than just a pile of coals to burn. And I was right. To not give away too much, it becomes part of a dish later on that night.

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Yet another dish that makes you wonder what else they could come up with. An edible balloon? I mean, that stuff is just crazy cool.

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If you search the Alinea channel in Youtube, you’ll see this dish somewhere there. Though, in that video it was lamb, we had duck 5 ways, with 60 garnishes, yes 60! Still just taken aback at how much prep this dish takes.

As always, I leave Alinea with bittersweet feelings. Glad I dined, sad it had to end. Till next time!


El Celler de can Roca

What better way to start the year in dining than to eat at SP’s #1 restaurant of the year. Yes, El Celler de can Roca. It was also very interesting to see how they have evolved from my first time eating there 4 years ago. At that time, they were #5.

Before you even enter the restaurant, you will fund yourself in awe of their front courtyard. Adding to the ambience is a suspended fire place, filling the air with the scent of campfire. All of this with the backdrop of an old Spanish home. On another side of the courtyard is their glass-walled cigar lounge. I think it’s a great way to sit around while waiting for the other people in your table to arrive. There’s always someone who’s late.

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The courtyard really starts to set the mood for the evening.

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Onwards to the food. As per my usual post, won’t put up every photo I took.

The bonsai olive tree. I remember this from 4 years ago as well. Just as delicious and I think a really clever way to serve an amuse. The hanging ornaments are olives, stuffed with anchovy and coated with a crisp sugary film.

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After the olive tree, a progression of several snack courses follow.

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“Around the world” – 5 snacks, each inspired from a different country – China, Mexico, Morocco, Korea and Peru.

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My favourite of the snack courses. Truffled brioche. Only lightly baked as seen from the lack of carmelization. Inside was a creamy filling of truffles. This this was sublime.

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First of the courses. A medley of lightly cooked vegetables on a thickened vegetable stock. The stock was gelatinous. I suspect a use of some hydrocolloid, or perhaps just reducing the broth and allowing the natural starches and pectins of the vegetables to thicken the stock.

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White asparagus ice cream and truffles. The combination is a tried and true pairing, but this was a very novel preparation that just made me cock my head back and try to pick up my brains after having it blown to pieces. Plating was a whimsical play on cheese and truffles me thinks. Looks like a creamy bleu cheese.

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Whole prawn. Pieces of the head cooked to a crisp, with the “head juices” reduced and is placed beneath the tail meat.

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The dish was called Mandala. Main bits were a beautifully crisped lamb belly, and lamb sweetbreads. The white blossom at the top is an artichoke flower.

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And here we have Jordi Roca’s candy apple.

It’s quite nice to see how they have moved forward. Though admittedly, the first time I was there is a vague memory – I was severely jet-lagged and drank a ton of wine. This time, I paced on the wine, and had plenty of rest on the plane. I wish I had taken a picture of the dining room because it was really beautiful, one that exceeds Michelin standards. The room was very modern with all the glass and contrasted with wooden planks on the ceiling. They’ve also got this really cool atrium filled with trees in the middle of the dining room.

And to continue the awesome start of the year, I’ll be dining at my favourite restaurant tomorrow – Alinea…for the 4th time!

More photos of El Celler de can Roca, during the daytime too! Courtesy of Renée Suen. http://www.flickr.com/photos/sifu_renka/sets/72157629562800789/


Cocktail shaker experiment postponed

Already have the design of the experiment, and need to get the materials needed. Just need to postpone it till the end of November. Got a pop-up bar to do in Germany in 2 weeks and need to focus on production and balancing some of the cocktails. 


Best cocktail shaker experiment – copper vs stainless vs others. Need opinions.

So the question is – What do bartenders consider to be the best material for cocktail shakers. I’ve heard many opinions but one that interests me the most is copper. The apparent reason behind copper being considered the best is because it gets cold faster and therefore there is less dilution. But to me, this is completely contradicting and that is why I want to make an experiment to test things out, and simply find out for myself. If this experiment has already been done, please someone point me to it. Or if this argument is as old as the dead horse you were beating a year ago then tell me. 

I’ve heard several times from various people that they like copper because it gets cold faster and dilutes the drink less. Seems to make sense, right? But does it really? Consider these questions – When all the contents are inside the shaker (ice and liquor etc), what is cooling the shaker? Isn’t it the ice, which is the main source? Then it would follow that the shaker is absorbing the coldness of the cocktail which in turn is absorbing the coldness of the ice. How about if the shaker did not get cold at all? Meaning that it was insulated. Wouldn’t that mean that the only thing absorbing the coldness of ice is the cocktail, and nothing more? Remember, dilution is a side effect of the ice getting less cold (temperature exchange). It’s part of thermodynamics. The coldness of the ice is absorbed by the liquor, which is further absorbed by the shaker. And considering that your hands (heat source) are holding the shaker, it would conduct the heat much faster, therefore adding more heat to the cocktail, which melts the ice even more. I know, there’s enough run-on sentences there to make my grade 12 english teacher piss on my marks. 

To me, it’s the same reason why cooks like copper pots/pans more because of better temperature conduction. The main difference between the two scenarios is that there is a constant/continuous heat source for the pots (the fire) vs a fixed and limited source for the shaker (ice). Though, if you add your hands holding the shaker to the scenario, then you’ve just added a constant (though poor) heat source to the cocktail mixing. 

So chime in! Give me your 2 cents. Tell me what you’ve read/know about cocktail shakers. I’m still designing the experiment. 


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