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April, 2011:

Maple Monday

Everyone has their favourite first sign of spring but the end of maple syrup season deserves a place on every Canadian’s list. For the second installment on the Food With Legs Youtube channel I have this video that I shot on our tour of McCully’s Hill Farm (I used their bacon in this recipe) near Stratford, Ontario. We were there at the end of March at the beginning of the season and the problem was that daytime temperatures weren’t warm enough to encourage the sap to run. By this time of year we are at the point where nighttime temperatures no longer fall low enough for the sap to retract back to spile height in the tree and with the warmer daytime temperatures enzymatic action slows, less sugar is produced in the sap, and the tree’s buds break into leaf.

After a delicious, if slightly controversy-filled lunch (I was forced to admit that despite my pedantic objections to the nomenclature they make an excellent lobster slider) at Simple Fish and Chips and an unscheduled visit to my favourite pig farm we were given the chance to taste the certified organic maple syrup from Hoover’s Maple Syrup. Having done shots of olive oil I was an old pro at this sort of routine of sipping delicious liquids which are almost always poured. The Hoovers make some excellent syrup and I learned from the tasting that I prefer the more robust, less-floral, darker medium or amber syrup. I also learned that the syrup’s colour has nothing to do with how long it is cooked for (all syrup is cooked until it is 66% sugar) but rather when in the season the sap was drawn from the tree. The later sap makes darker syrup. (more…)

Food iPhone Apps

I’m late to the i-game but I think I may have an interesting perspective on the world of apps available for iPads, iPhones, and the iPod Touch like mine. There seem to be three categories of apps that are useful to cooks: recipe apps; utilities (like timers); and what I call guilty conscience apps.

In the recipe category the best should be able to stand in for cookbooks, I think. When apps offer the same collection of recipes as an entire cookbook they can seem inexpensive (maybe $5 versus $30) but compare the 125-year-old cookbooks that are almost as useful today as they were when bought to the probably useful lifetime of app technology.

Caution when taking your expensive device  into a hot, wet, and greasy kitchen is a good idea and apparently cryo-vacing iPhones (like this guy does) has become quite popular. So, as always, operate at your own risk. I’ve found four recipe apps that I really quite like and I think would be very useful for most intermediate cooks: (more…)

Wine Matching Menu at Signatures

Toronto’s Hotel Intercontinental has launched a programme that encourages restaurant guests to bring their own wine by offering a menu that they’ll draw from to create a match for your meal. The deal is sweetened by the offer of no corkage fees from Monday to Thursday and $15 corkage on weekends.

I accepted an invitation to join a media preview of this meal in early April. As an interesting twist we were invited to bring a wine from our collection to share with the group and have paired with one of dinner’s courses.

Sauternes and foie

Sauternes and foie

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The Butchers Visit

Yesterday my post addressed the controversy that has sprung up around the deal being offering by The Butchers through buytopia.ca. I visited the store, met Marlon Pather,  and along with some of the buytopia team tasted samples that Marlon provided and we cooked.

I have some additions to make to my analysis of the Trueler post that played a significant role in starting the controversy. There is a lot wrong with that post but I tried to concentrate on the four potentially informative tests run on sausages that they purport to have bought from The Butchers: water leakage in a bag of frozen sausages; an iodine test for starch fillers; cooking the sausages and observing their appearance; and leaving a piece of sausage at room temperature for two days and observing whether it spoiled.

Mild and hot Italian from The Butchers. The sausages did not split.

Mild and hot Italian from The Butchers. The sausages did not split.

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The Butchers Deal

Buytopia.ca is offering a group-buying deal, $99 for $400 worth of meat from The Butchers in Toronto, that has attracted a lot of attention on Twitter. Here’s a rough timeline of my involvement with this story:

  • Around 10 AM @coreymintz tweeted about a deal, $99 for $400 of meat from The Butchers, by buytopia.ca.
  • I took a look and just before noon tweeted that I thought that this looked like a deal worth considering. I wrote an email to The Butchers asking for more information but haven’t heard back as of this posting.
  • By 3 PM word was spreading from some of the people I follow and trust on Twitter that there might be something amiss.
  • By 4:30 I had read this Trueler story that takes aim at the deal, and previous ones offered by The Butchers on other sites, and I had tweeted that “Looks like that buytopia deal at The Butchers is too good to be true. http://bit.ly/fYMWjG
  • That tweet has been retweeted several times and I’ve received some feedback. From those I’ve heard from the strong trend has been that those who bought previous deals were generally (very) satisfied but if they tried the sausages they didn’t like them.

The feedback in The Butchers’ favour and my lingering doubts have inspired me to take a closer look at the Trueler condemnation.

I’m going to try and put aside the subjective or soft conclusions. On one hand there are some seemingly strong points against The Butchers (like the number of deals they have participated in and the comments on the Trueler post which are generally (though not entirely) negative) but also the vigorous use of bolding and an inflammatory post title make me wonder about the poster’s objectivity. If you’re interested in including these in your evaluation follow the link and do so for yourself. (more…)