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September, 2010:

What Happened Here?

Last year I made lacto-fermented hot sauce and really enjoyed the results.  The Coles Notes on the process is: Vegetables if put in a brine and left there for a time ranging from days to months (depending on the strength of the brine and temperature of the space) will pickle.  This happens because wild lactobacilli eat the sugar in the vegetables (often cucumbers, sometimes cabbage, and in this case hot peppers) and convert it into vinegar.  Between the salt (which gives the right lactobacilli a head start) and the resulting vinegar the concoction will keep at refrigerator temperatures for a long time.

There is a group of people who have strong feelings about the digestion-improving healthiness of the products of this type of pickling.  (It is the bastardisation of these beliefs that has inspired yogurt companies to: a. patent proprietary strains of lactobacilli; and b. make disturbing commercials that feature graphics transposed over the stomachs of their consumers who always seem to be dancing.)  As with all things, I’m skeptical that this is some sort of silver bullet but I do use it because: a. It has a long history of safety and utility; b. it’s even cheaper than pickling with bought vinegar; and c. the results are delicious.

A recent commenter on last year’s post offered the suggestion that instead of fermenting, pureeing, and adding vinegar I alter the process and puree first and skip the vinegar.  Seems reasonable so I gave it a shot.  Five percent brine, a mix of washed hot peppers, went from the blender (after a couple minutes on the “liquefy” setting) into a clean mason jar.  I affixed a clean, dry dishcloth with a rubber band over the jar’s opening. (more…)

Savour Stratford Festival

Perth County Courthouse: One of the many Stratford buildings that is obviously picturesque

Unlike some of my fellow, luckier bloggers I was only able to make it to the Sunday of this year’s Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival.  The event’s last day featured a slew of family-oriented events spread around Ontario’s largest small town but what really drew me in were the York Street Tasting Tent and the nearby farmers’ market.

Delicious bread from Rundles

As a town Stratford seems connected to the surrounding Perth County.  Many of the stations in the tasting tent were manned not just by the chefs who had created the food but also by the farmers who grew or raised the ingredients and that echoed this sense of connection. I can still taste the delicious smoked whitefish from Purdy’s Fish Market by Simple Fish and Chips; the duck confit and sweet onion relish from Wildstone Bar and Grill and Erbcroft Farms;  and the ecstatically delicious butter that Chef Baxter’s team at Rundles makes with milk from Hewitts Dairy.  (more…)

Pork Shoulder and Pinot

I wrote a post here about the first course’s punch and have a couple articles in Spotlight Toronto’s 30 Days of Local Wine Series about the wine matching for my Foodbuzz 24: Terry Fox meal.  I’ve covered the drinks for the first few courses and left the main course until now.  From the moment that I submitted a proposal to do a meal for this round of the Foodbuzz 24 I knew that my main course was going to be roast pork from Perth Pork Products but what wine to pair with it?  Inspired by Charlie Palmer’s Pigs and Pinot event, my desire to showcase what Ontario does best and the fact that I had a couple of very good bottles on hand I decided to pair my main course with Pinot Noir.

We polished off a total of four different Ontario Pinots and found some really interesting differences between them.  The line-up was Coyote’s Run Red Paw Vineyard 2007, Inniskillin Winemaker’s Series Three Vineyards 2007, Flat Rock Cellars 2008 and 2009.  Three wineries (and at least five vineyards) and three vintages with lots of overlap for plenty of comparison. (more…)

Border Food

Some of the best food is created where cultures meet: French and Spanish in Basque country; Italian and Arab in Sicily; or French and German in Alsace.  I submit that the same level of excellence applies to the points where seasons meet.  Most especially right now where summer meets autumn.  Our markets and tables are full of the bounty of summer but the cooler weather helps to reinvigorate dormant appetites that phone it in during the hottest days of August.

I prepared an impromptu lunch for myself that without thinking about it straddled this border.  A sort of open-faced sandwich of pork sausage with sawmill gravy, tomatoes and homemade ketchup on toast.  Here it is from bottom up.

The toast was made with the bread that happened to be at hand.  It claims to have multiple grains, is visibly seedy, but comes pre-sliced in a plastic bag and I don’t care because it’s pretty tasty. (more…)

Review: Guu Izakaya

I have been to Guu, the first Toronto outpost of a Vancouver chain of izakayas, twice and feel like I’ve had two different enough experiences that I can offer some humble guidance.  For my first time in early April we sat inside and had the whole dark and pleasantly-noisy pub experience.  The second visit, in August, was on the much more tranquil outdoor patio.

The no-reservations policy and resulting wait is the most discussed part of the Guu experience.  I understand that not booking tables keeps costs down–because they’re always full–and this is by no means a deal-breaker for me.  What definitely makes a negative impression is a host or hostess’s inability to give an accurate estimate of wait times.  They have a two-hour table policy at Guu and I bet the average minimum time is somewhere between an hour and eighty minutes.  All this is to say that it is borderline unacceptable to be told a table will be available in at most an hour and a half only to wait closer to two and a half.

Luckily for them this wait left us in a state of ravenous hunger.  While I offer my thoughts on the food at Guu let’s keep one thing in mind: Guu is an izakaya and an izakaya is a sort of Japanese pub and like North American and British pubs some izakayas are more about the food than others but in the end they should all be about the drinks.  Drinks they have covered at Guu.  Giant mugs of Sapporo or Sleaman’s, two kinds of the Japanese plum wine (ume-shu), and reasonably-priced sake, whose quality I’m sadly not equipped to judge.