Monday, May 18, 2015

Radlers Everywhere!

Two summers ago, a radler was brought into this great land and saw that it was good. It became fruitful and multiplied. Now, like the mustard seed, it is growing into a weed.

Radler: fruit juice and brew. Named after cyclists. Drank after workout to quench thirst and make beer stretch if legend is to be believed. Okay, we'll stop there and start to stray from the general narrative of beerosophy and get into my own personal rhetoric.

My feelings on radlers are all over the place. I have very little reason to buy one especially since so many of them taste more like lemonade than beer. There is very little of the beery and hoppy goodness of the products on the shelf.

Putting a link to search LCBO - Radler Search at LCBO. As of writing, there were 5 there.
Putting a link to BeerStore (Yeah, I know but I'm making a point here) - Beer Store Radlers, 8 as of writing. 

Homemade is usually reserved for an overly aggressive IPA or a poor lager. The juice hides the hops or kills skunks and sweetness. It is something to do with a drainpour except... sigh, there is some interesting things that can be done with beer and juice. I rely on this trick when coming up for beer cocktails for people who don't like beer by itself. I also like it when you can use the flavours to balance each other or to complement.

Hey, I have made blog posts on these things that I like when it works. With Christmas flavours! or Mother's Day flavours! I had written and then junked a post on cottage beer that made the same statements. Sometimes, you want something juicy and alcoholic but not too alcoholic. Chagrined, I admit that sometimes I like my beer to taste like something other than beer.

The thing is... after reading a lot about pairing flavours, I wonder if most porters and stouts that are high in the ABV could use some Ribena and its currant flavour to enhance the malts and lower the fall down quotient? It could also entice some people to try stout as a summer drink and shed that dark beer is heavy bit of malarkey and bologna. (Malarkey and boloney sandwich with a side of stout - sounds delicious, btw). Maybe even pave the way for the return of the mild as a decent workman's summer drink.

I guess I feel about radlers the way I feel about any premix canned booze; it's lazy, convenient and never to my taste. Sure, I'll drink it but I'll never love it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mother's Day 2015 - Food Memories

So, Mother's Day has come and gone. I rushed on Friday night to get a post out for Saturday so that it would be ready for Mother's Day. It is here at

On Sunday, it would be the first time in over a decade that I wouldn't be 'helping' small hands make breakfast for my ex wife. I'm not very good at the sap, pap and flower crap but I am a good cook and put my love there. I must admit I felt a little sorry for myself and not making the fried bread in bacon drippings along with various meats and eggs served on a tray. I missed it.

Then something happened before I began to write this post. My kids' great grandmother (my ex-wife's grandmother) passed. She had battle Alzheimer's disease and had died on Friday night. Battled isn't a word to use with this disease as it is more of a war of attrition where you know you will lose.

When I met Grandma Leitch, it was at a family affair and there was tourtiere. She was French. The type that is from rural Ontario or rural Quebec, all bluster and good times. The pie was delicious. Every region makes it slightly different. Hers was a drier version with veggies and lots of cloves and cinnamon. We got one to take home that I had with ketchup.

I also got to try a mock apple pie made with saltines that was spot on. It had the right texture and flavour showing the resourcefulness and playfulness that the baker exhibited. It was the last good pie. The next Christmas, the tourtiere was off so slightly and the bright, cheerful jabs turned into something a little more mean. Alzheimer's affects the personality. It was that year or shortly after that the diagnosis came in. Since I normally saw her only at family functions, it was both less obvious and more impactful.

When she went into a care facility, every year the family would gather and bring treats and celebrate Christmas. Her memories were regressing. The newest memories often fade first and the partners of her grandkids were amongst the first forgotten. There was joy at seeing the kids even if they weren't recognized.

Today is her funeral. I am looking up French Canadian recipes to create dishes that my kids never had a chance to eat so that there are joyful memories for them.

I would love to tie this all together in a sweet bough and be witty and light but sometimes food memories are important and somber. I mourn both the loss of my relationship and the relations it had and naturally, it is days like this and Mother's Day that are the markers of those memories.

Monday, April 20, 2015

No Name Cooking #1

My son came up with a recipe a few days ago and I posted it here, as a note from my son.

So, how did that work out for ya?

There are all the ingredients prepared ahead of time. We talked about size of cuts and how you want them to be uniform. Also, what cooks before what else? (Onions, peppers, cukes - add the spices, then chickpeas and lime to serve). Also, that frying normally uses fat. 

Some stuff happens while you cook and if you are paying attention, there is room for riffing or improving a dish. There was a bit of brown bits on the bottom of the frypan as we went along, so we were going to add lime juice, anyways... Added the juice to get the brown bits off the bottom. Added benefit was the juice was both tart and sweet. 

With two small cucumber, two half peppers and a can of chickpeas, this came to the table. Surprisingly, the 1/2 tsp dill, 1/2 tsp hot paprika and salt, were the only seasonings needed. For my interest, I liked the spicing a lot with the cucumber and chickpeas. My son's quibble was that the peppers could have had more crunch. I wonder about the balance of sweetness if we were to do that but I think we will try that next time as the dish could have used more texture. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Leftovers #2: Beet Soup

Last month, we had a Maker Fair type event at the school and I made a Curried Beet and Coconut Soup. While it was popular there was about 3-4 cups leftover and so that left some room for experimenting.

One approach for leftovers that works is to take the base leftover and use it as a sauce or background to build other dishes on top.

In this case, a pasta with snow peas and cheese was served over top on the soup. For my kids, we left out the soup. It was a good pairing.

Another approach is to take two dishes that should complement each other and find a way of combining them. I had some leftover cream of mushroom soup that used white wine. So, it went on top of the beet soup when serving it. The earthiness of the soups worked well together. Had it with a beer and there was a trio of something going on there. Worth the experiment.

There were so many other possibilities in my fridge that I look forward to having roasted beets as a leftover ingredient at some time. Taking leftover oatmeal and frying it into crisp rounds would serve as a bed for either a sauce or simple salad. The crunch and the flavours would complement each other.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Notes from an Eleven Year Old

This is how my eleven year old son views the idea of a recipe. There are several attempts at moving away from standard way of presenting recipes with title, headnotes, ingredients and techniques. Several cookbooks and blogs have experimented with styles and we are getting some interesting results. But look at this start.

Let me translate the writing for you. 



Slice of lime/lime juice

As you move left to right, these are the actions you do to these ingredients. The part that is not written down was the inspiration and the discussion we had around creating this recipe. It comes from an episode of Mind of A Chef where they are working on a succotash recipe. Originally, this was to be a fried salad but when we started breaking down the idea, he wasn't as interested in cooked lettuce as he was at the beginning. 

We talked about what would happen to each ingredient and what he was trying to do. It turns out he wants to learn how to fry and wanted to make a recipe that works that way. This was an interesting experience and collaboration where I give what I know and honestly remove my biases by talking through what happens with ingredients. If I don't know, I let him know and he can make that decision. I've had fried lettuce in a dish and deep fried greens and boiled lettuce soup. Cooked cucumbers exist in Asian cuisine. Chickpeas are one of his favourites. And so on.

This is how I hope that our relationship outside of the kitchen works too. He explains what he is doing and why he wants to do it. I give my experiences and he takes it away and decides. We will be making this recipe this weekend and I will be the sous chef. At some point and time, you need to walk away from the stove and give your kids the opportunity, both in life and cooking. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dregs for March 2015

I am behind on my posting and have a bunch of things that I hope to get posted this month. This is a quick bit on what is going on with my food life right now.

I went to Halifax and hope to do a round up of things. It was a trip punctuated by storms and a worry that I wouldn't get home to see my kids. It all works out in the end and I enjoyed my trip a lot.

Read three loosely related books and trying to find a way to write about them in a way that adds something. Vegetarian Flavor BibleThe Flavour Thesaurus and Note by Note Cooking. I might just publish my mash notes because they are entertaining in themselves to me.

I eat a lot of my lunches out and use them to try new food and restaurants. A lot of places aren't notable or I have nothing interesting to say about them. Sometimes it is my interest or my ability to assess. Around work I have tried a new fish and chips shop, Carl Jr's, and retried Holy Chuck. I linked to David Ort's notes on Carl's because I am not sure I will write about them. My review on Holy Chuck's still stands.

Published two reviews on Eat.Drink.Travel; one on a Whisky event and another on a burger joint. I will hopefully be doing another review shortly from a burger joint.

In the beer world, had some of those East Coast brews on my holiday and Uncle Leo's, Big Spruce and Rare Bird deserve a revisit at some time. Also, a big surprise for me was a Sarnia brewery, Refined Fool. And been doing some thinking about the announced beer reforms in Ontario. I had some earlier thoughts last year but was left with some hanging chads and now they are beginning to crystallize.

Hopefully, like the groundhog, I will lift myself out of this busy hole called life and begin to see the spring.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Bowmore Make It Fair Curried Beet and Coconut Soup

Went to the Bowmore Make It Fair and brought along this soup. Had a few requests for the recipe, so decided to do up a post for posterity.

The thing is, there is no real recipe...and I hate purple beets but I like this recipe. I first tried doing this for Valentine's potluck at work. I decided to leave out the blue cheese whipped bits but if you are interested, it is described in the link above. Anyways, I will try to break it down for you and just let me know if you have any problems.

Curried Beet and Coconut Soup (Vegan version)
makes a 6 quart (5.5 L) crockpot full

8 Large beets (2-3 lbs)
3 tbsp miso paste
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp garam masala
1 can (~400ml) coconut milk
750 ml apple juice
15 ml lemon or lime juice

Okay, here is what I've done with all the riffs included.  I may include an unannotated version afterwards but this reflects how I actually cook.

Cut up the beets in reasonable chunks for roasting in a 350 oven for an hour. If you don't cut them up, it will take longer. A neat trick is just to put them in any time you are cooking something else. I added a few carrots to roast as well. Cool slightly and peel. In a dry pan, add spices to toast lightly on a medium heat. Or if you don't want to bother, just skip this step. Basically keep the proportions so that no one spice mix dominates. You can skip the garam and just keep cumin and curry in equal proportions. Once it starts to smell, add a little water and the miso paste. Cook until dissolved. Add beets and carrots, coconut milk and apple juice. The liquid should just come up to the beets, you need enough to cook them in. If it doesn't, add some water until it does. Don't worry about adding too much water because you will have to thin the soup later when blending. Cook until beets are soft enough to blend with a stick blender or whatever blendy thing you are using. (about 45 minutes). Make sure not to boil the soup too hard. If it starts rapidly bubbling turn it down. I guess that is a simmer, as in simmer down. Blend the soup and add water to desired consistency. Add lemon or lime juice before serving.

All said, I know the time looks long but I often add beets or other roots vegetables to the oven when I am cooking something so I tend to have them on hand in the winter. In the summer, forget about it. That is the time for things that need less heat. And they can cook unattended. Go watch an episode of Game of Thrones when they are in the oven. Same with the on the stove thing. I finished cooking the soup while I was having my morning coffee and getting ready for the Fair, looking for cords and tweeting and FBing and other nerdish stuff.

Anyways, enjoy. Let me know your riffs, if you do any.