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February, 2013:

Second Draught: Terrible, a dark Belgian ale that is definitely not terrible

La Terrible is the subject for the second of three First Draught posts that I’m catching up on re-posting this week. This ale, brewed in Quebec, in the Belgian style is another to add to the list of beers worth sipping in contemplation. That we’re now well into the fourth month for these “winter warmers” has me contemplating the arrival of Spring.

I’ll offer a note on serving this beer that I didn’t get to in my original post on Post City. Like with sparkling wine the two goals to consider when opening a cork-and-cage bottle are: that as many of the bubbles as possible stay in the liquid; and that no one takes a cork to the eye. The in-bottle fermentation has created gas that wants to expand and push the cork out (though not as much pressure as you would find in a typical bottle of champagne.) While opening the bottle keeping it pointed towards the ceiling and away from other people. After the cage is removed, grip the cork tightly in one hand and turn the bottle with the other—not the other way around. The beer should be served in a chalice (a large wine glass can stand in nicely) and will be best at a relatively warm 10 – 12°C. (more…)

Second Draught: a barley wine from Shipyard Brewing

Over the next few days I’ll be catching up on re-posting the First Draught columns from January and February that I haven’t gotten to yet. Looking at all three, a common thread that stands out is how much variety there is between various winter beers. I think there is an impression that stouts and porters with their black colour and heavily roasted malts are the most appropriate choices for cold weather. The contrary idea that has been confirmed in my mind as I’ve gone through my choices is that the more accurate thing to say is that winter beers are about warmth.

Alcohol gives a perceived sense of warmth and actually stouts (except the imperial versions) tend to be weaker and weigh in below the somewhat standard 5% abv. It’s more of a stretch, I guess, but it’s also fair to say that winter beers tend to come in bigger bottles—this one, Shipyard’s barley wine, is packaged in a 625 ml bottle. I imagine there are solid production-side considerations here like cost, marketing, and ageability, but from the consumer perspective a bomber calls out to be shared. Shared beers for when we’re inside with friends and family; smaller individual bottles for the outside months on the dock or patio. (more…)

Almost Famous Chef Competition Cookbook

I was particularly pleased two years ago when I won the competition to be the blogger judge for the San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition Canadian regional competition. It meant sitting on a judging panel with James Chatto and Claire Tansey, but also getting to meet and talk to some of Canada’s best aspiring culinary talent.

As part of this year’s programme a collection of the recipes from the 2011 and 2012 entrants has been published as a free e-cookbook. I had a chance to spend some time reading and cooking from the book and want to share my thoughts about it.

Culinary school students–especially when they enter competitions–seem to choose recipes that lean towards the fancy and French. For better or worse, that means no tacos. And it also (generally) means a central protein, supporting starch, and vegetable only as garnish. A minority of the recipes break this mold, but for the most part this is a lineup of classics that we don’t often see recipes for.

The 13 main recipes cover uncommon meat options like bison, duck, foie, and cod. We’re also introduced to cool and unusual techniques like tea-smoking for scallops and flavoured rice. (more…)