Thursday, July 22, 2010

Molecular Gastronomy - Working with Liquid Nitrogen

We are getting 10 litres of liquid nitrogen in a couple of weeks and experimenting with it for cooking. Ted Allen gives you the basics in this video.   Note the warning of needing to put the sorbet the make into the freezer to warm up so that you can eat it.....

In general we want to try different techniques that are coming from the molecular gastronomy. I have also started experimenting with different thickening agents to see how they work.

This is one thing we will try

Another thing to try is ice cream

We welcome you to contact us and come join for an evening of food experimentation.

250-298-7501 or bernard at

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A couple quick notes

The garden is finally doing something, we should see the first zuchini shortly and cucumber before the long weekend.    Beans and peas?  Still ages away.   Things have been growing very, very slowly.

We managed about 3 pounds of strawberries from our own plants, the bed is expanding, but the soil is not very good.  I need to add a lot of compost to boost that soil.

Meanwhile, my current food obsessions:

Squash Ravioli with a beurre blanc - I get the pasta from Costco and it is good stuff, the sauce is what makes
Basmati rice cooked in a veg/chicken stock then finished by frying with the onions, jalapeƱos and shrimp.

I remind people again, we will be getting some liquid nitrogen in the near future to try some cooking experiments, this will likely be the second weekend in August, let me know if you are interested in joining us.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The New Victoria Wal-Mart

This is hardly a place one could call "Good Food", but I thought I would check it out.   I did shop at the former Wal-Mart at Town and Country, the price for clothes and shoes was very good and they had the occasional deal on something.

I had heard the new Wal-Mart was huge.  I heard there were deals galore.   So time to check it out.

First impression, they have a lot of people in blue vests around.   Also they use the cool escalator for shopping carts I have only seen in Europe or in pictures of stores in New York.  Coming in the front door it reminded of the look and feel of two places I have shopped, the Maxi Mart in Hallein Austria and the Carrefour Hypermarche in Calais.

Second impression, this place is not that large.   I do not the exact floor space, but does not feel much larger than the Tillicum Zellers or the Real Canadian Superstore in Langford.   I suspect it is bigger, but by combing a grocery store with a Zellers store really means neither part looks as large as a I would have expected.

The selection in the shoe area was either the same as before or less, in fact the whole clothes and shoes section seems smaller than it was in the previous Wal-Mart.    I went looking for some new water sandals and did not find what I was looking for, they did not carry my size.

We checked out the second floor.  Sporting goods, paint, furnishings and other home stuff live up there.   The second floor is a mezzanine and is only about 1/3 size of the main floor.   I am not sure what it adds to have only a partial floor.

We did get a decent deal on a new cooler we needed to buy and diapers were cheap, but really there were not a lot deals that I could see on what they had on the shelves.  The Lego selection was one of the best ones I have seen in the city, though only for Lego, not Megablocks.

I was most curious to check out the grocery part of the store.   It was much smaller than I expected.   The prices were also not very good at all.   Certainly they had a lot of US strawberries for a dollar a pound, but these strawberries were on the verge of rotting.  If I wanted to make more jam, they would have been worth buying sorting out the culls, but for fresh eating they were not worth it.

Milk was $3.97 for 4 litres, not as good as the price in the Shoppers Drug Mart in the same complex.  Their ground beef was selling for over $9 a kilo.  The deli meats were not cheap either, most of the salami was in the $2.70 range per 100 grams.   Parmesan was going for $3.30 per 100 grams for a moderate quality type.

There were more aisles of frozen food than I am used to and much more of it dedicated to frozen meals.  As to selection of more interesting ingredients, it does not seem to be there.   They also have a lot of brands that I have never heard of.

The fruit and veg had some deals, but the quality was not great.   Their were peaches for less than a dollar a pound, but they were unripe rocks.    The price for peppers was close to $3 a pound, though looked not bad.   The whole fruit and veg area was not large.  There was nothing obviously local that I could see.

We also bought a 40 pound bag of Iams for Louie for a good price, though not wildly great.  We got 24 cans of Coke for $7.  The bananas for $0.47 a pound, a bit cheaper than normal.

Also odd in the grocery section was that the pillars holding up the roof were often in the middle of the aisles making movement patterns odd and causing needless traffic problems.  In general the traffic layout sucks compared to the past.   The carts are also not nearly as good as the old ones, there is no tray on the bottom for items and the carts are smaller than in the past.  It is hard to fit much into the cart.

The Macdonald's on the site is cramped and badly designed, the traffic at the tills was wildly congested even though there were not that many patrons.  The staff seemed to be out of their depths, the fries we got were stale, I have never had fries from the golden arches that were stale in flavour.  They were no cold, they were stale.  Freaky.

After having been to the new Wal-Mart, I am much less likely to go back as what I used to go to Wal-Mart no longer seems to be represented as well as it used to be.   I am more likely to shop at Zellers for more now.  Certainly I am not going to ever go there for food, they are the worst place in all of Greater Victoria for food.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tour of Farms - Sunday July 25th

The Southern Vancouver Island Direct Farm Marketing Association is holding their annual Tour of Farms on Sunday July 25th from 10 am to 4 pm.   It is a self guided tour so you choose the farms you want to visit.

Here are the farms participating:

Saanich Peninsula

Cowichan Valley


  • Morningstar Farm

It is interesting to see which farms are on the tour and which ones are not.   There are some farms I would have expected to see on the tour, but they are not on it.   I have no idea if they limit the number of farms on the tour or if many farms were not interested in participating.

In any case, the selection of farms on the tour is interesting and varied.   It is important for people to get some sense of what farming is about and where their food comes from.   The more people are diconnected from what food is and where it comes from, the weaker the culture of the society becomes and the less aware people are of themselves and the world around.   Food is the first and fundamental cornerstone of all cultures, no food, no culture.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Heirloom Freaking Tomatoes! I hate that term!

I am so unimpressed with all this use of "heirloom tomatoes" in restaurants and in fancy recipes.    I am annoyed with the use of this term because it describes nothing useful in terms of cooking or understanding what you are ordering.  Last night we ordered dinner at Prima Strada on Bridge Street and I was once again told about heirloom tomatoes in some dish.   Use of the term says to me people do not understand tomatoes and do not understand how the term came about.

The use of the term pushes my buttons and I wish people would stop and tell us something useful about the tomato

The important consideration with tomatoes is the general type they are:

  • Basic slicer - about the size of baseball and tend to be ok with rough handling
  • Beefsteak - your big tomato with a thinner skin
  • Paste - romas and such, the ones you make sauces with
  • Cherry - the small half a bite ones that are very sweet
  • Campari - half between a cherry and a slicer but not mealy and very sweet

These are the distinction in tomatoes that make sense, not using the term heirloom, the one other distinction would be colour as the yellow tomatoes tend to much less acidic than the red.

.All heirloom really means is that the tomato is an open pollinated variety and not a hybrid seed and has been grown for some unspecified length of time in the past.   There is nothing to say that an heirloom tomato will taste good, in fact many of the old varieties are flavourless and mealy.   Heirloom does not mean good, in fact on average a heirloom tomato will be a tomato you do not want use, there is a reason they fell out of fashion and it was not some conspiracy by the big agri-business to kill the tomato.

Heirloom also does not mean organic, there is no reason to expect anything called an heirloom tomato to be organically grown.

Hybrids are developed for a host of reasons, one of them is their ability to manage being handled and shipped, but they are also developed for better flavour and for less mealiness.    Many of the organic tomatoes grown are hybrid seeds.

The tomatoes you buy in a supermarket will always tend to less flavourful than ones bought from a grower because of the different length of time between picking and eating of the two tomatoes.  The same tomato will taste very different when sold in the supermarket versus fresh off of the vine.   When I buy a tomato from Glanford Greenhouses I know it was picked only a couple of hours earlier.

When I lived in Lillooet I used to buy a lot of Fountainview Farm carrots.  They were so sweet as to more like a fruit like a peach or nectarine than what we know as carrots.   In 2004 I saw one of their 50 pound sacks for sale in Victoria at Fairway, I bought them because I wanted that amazing taste, turns out that in transit and such the sugars turned to starches and it was no longer the same blissful piece of heaven.  I can say the same about apricots, my favorite fruit but in my opinion inedible unless picked and eaten off of the tree.

There are literally thousands of different heirloom tomatoes, the majority of which are not great eating. Many of the tomatoes refereed to as heirlooms were deliberately created by someone within the last 70 years, some cultivars people call heirloom are not old at all but very recently developed.

If restaurants want to get fancy, they should tell us the name of the tomato cultivar they are using and not call it heirloom.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Masterchef Australia

One of the contestants, Marion Grasby, has an interesting blog, though she has not updated it since August of last year.

Marion has looked like the favorite for some weeks now and now that I have read her background, I can see why - she is doing a Master of Arts in Gastronomy.

The show goes on and I was unimpressed that they brought back three eliminated contestants, none them strike me as strong enough to beat Claire, Aaron or Adam, let alone Jonathon or Marion.

Metchosin Poultry Swap and Sale Dates - July 11th, Aug 8th, Sept 12th, and Oct 10th

Hello everyone, Happy Canada Day!
A friendly reminder we have the Metchosin Poultry Swap & Sale coming up on Sunday July 11th, 11am to 12:30pm.
Our first three swaps have been such a great success! We are turning this into quite an event, for sellers, buyers and those interested in learning more on the possibility of owning backyard chickens. Thanks goes out to all who take the time to talk to people who have questions and a keen interest in owning chickens themselves.
We are a very diverse group and I think we represent a nice cross section of the lower Vancouver Island small scale raising chickens/poultry industry. From the 'production' hens to rarer heritage breeds that are being represented and sharing our knowledge along with our desire to sell and buy poultry, this is a great thing!
Which brings me to the Festival coming up on July 10th and 11th. Via Facebook I asked them if they had anyone talking to people interested in having backyard chickens. One thing lead to another, and now they do have someone, ME! The organizer Deb Morse said I am an 'ordinary' person who has some chickens in the backyard, hatches out chicks and did start our Metchosin Swap, so figures I am a good person to have at the Festival being somewhat 'successful' in my extremely short time having a backyard flock.

So two requests: would someone 'volunteer' to arrive at the July 11th Metchosin Swap & Sale early, to start the parking. It's not a big 'job', as we all pretty much know the space we have and all I have done is direct the first couple of vehicles to get everyone lined up. We all know the 'drill' pretty well now, but would feel better knowing someone will make sure this happens. I also do a once over at the end, just to make sure there is no litter laying about. So far only a small handful of paper has been dropped, hard to say if it was even us, but I picked it up anyway. The District of Metchosin is letting us use this space for free, so we must make sure we respect that, and pick up after ourselves!

My second request is to ask if anyone is interested in coming to the Organic Islands Festival to answer questions that may come up? Last year there were over 5000 people who attended, when I think about our success, I figure knowing more about poultry will be quite popular, and it would be nice to have others join us for perhaps a few hours. The Festival is open from 10am to 5pm, a super long day talking to people, and if anyone would like to help for a few hours, that would be great. I am still working out the details with the organizers, but so far the 'plan' is to have some heritage breed hens, some egg colour samples, a tractor that will easily break down to fit into a van with the seats out and house 4 hens in an urban backyard. VIHA does not want anyone to hold chickens! So sadly they will remain caged.
If you can help with either of these two requests, please email me back, I greatly appreciate assistance and encouragement!
Metchosin Swap & Sale dates:
July 11th,
Aug 8th,
Sept 12th (is also Metchosin Days, still figuring out logistics)
Oct 10th. The last for 2010.
As a 'group', I would also like us to think of possible ways to help those 'abandoned' roosters! There must be some way to keep people from dumping these unwanted, for what ever reason, roos into the wild. You know about the one I caught and re-homed, a week later I was at Metchosin Golf Course catching two more. These were RIR crosses and I couldn't find a home, so they ended up with the Animal Control people. Sad, but I couldn't keep them. Perhaps there is someone who can take unwanted roos, even if only to raise to be food for those less fortunate? All suggestions welcomed!
Many thanks and will miss you July 11th!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pizza Allnite - Quadra and Hillside

I have driven past this place for years and never stopped in, there was nothing inviting about it. On July 1st I was looking for something for dinner at 9:30 and night and went here because the Taco Time was closed.

I had never paid much attention, but they have some interesting food available beyond the pizzas.   I did not ask, but I suspect they place changed hands not too long ago.   On Google Streetview there is no mention of their shawarma and other middle eastern foods.   A shawarma is similar to a donner or gyros.

They were serving a chicken shawarma and it was good, very good.   The pitas were thin, almost tortilla like.   The yougurt had a nice flavour with cilantro in it.   The hot sauce hit the right note for it.   I am planning on many more these in the future, certainly this will be were I go and not Taco Time.

The place is run by a Dari (aka Persian) couple from Afghanistan, she is from Herat and he is from Kabul.   I had an enjoyable conversation with her as I was I was getting my food.   Turns out the place is a hang out for Saudi Arabian students at UVic because they make kabsa.   I had no idea there were enough Saudis in town to make for a hang out.  I will have to try the kabsa the next time I go in.

The baklava was good, according to Sheila, I did not manage to get a piece of it, but then I did not ask.

The pizza by the slice - it sucked.  In fact I am not sure pizza is a reason to order from here.   I think they should focus on the cuisine they know well and is something different than what other people are doing.  The menus they hand out do not include the new menu items and the website does not highlight them.   I think there is a market in Victoria for a place that does good Middle Eastern food and delivers.

I could not have made that chicken shawarma at home.

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Moziro in Shawnigan Lake

On Canada Day Sheila and I headed out for an afternoon drive, the drive itself ended with a disaster, but before that we passed through Shawingan Lake and stopped for sustenance.   Sheila got some baked goods from Amuse and I got coffee and choclates from Moziro Coffee

The place is a small funky coffee house on the main drag in Shawnigan, the sort of place with uneven old planks for the floor, seating for a few people, walls covered in whatever time as allowed to happen there.  It feels like a place you could hang out in all day and feel like you are part of the ebb and flow of the community.   I love that sort of place and wish there were more of them like that in Victoria.   Only the Spiral Cafe and Discovery Coffee do this for me, I wish I had something like this closer to where I live.

Freshly roasted coffee makes so much of a difference to the coffee experience, I first learned this when I lived in Kitsilano in the early 1990s and was introduced to Yoka's Coffee by my uncle.   Moziro has much of that same experience.   The chains like Starbucks or Serious are decent enough, but they miss that experience of freshly roasted coffee on site.   It makes my coffee several steps better.   I ordered Americanos for both of us.

Not only do they do coffee, they do chocolate, they do really good chocolates.   The price is per pound is quite reasonable for how far it goes.   I was a little confused by the espresso cup chocolates, I was expecting them to have some sort of chocolate-espresso ganache filling but instead it was a single bean in each chocolate.   The but covered clusters were the best I have had.   The nuts all had a nice saltiness to them that worked very well with the chocolate, certainly much better than the Lindt Sea Salt which does not have enough of the salt flavour in them to make them seem any different than the normal bars.   I could pig out on Moziro's cashew clusters.

When next I am headed up island, I will make the time to drive the few km up from Mill Bay to stop at Moziro.

Can I do it better at home?   Nope, not even close.  To do it at home I would have to start to roast my own beans, which is something I want to try but I have not yet done.   I also have a lousy track record with making chocolates.

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