New Thing #331: Eat a Granadilla

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I found a bunch of Granadillas at our local grocery store last week and grabbed one. It’s definitely something I’ve never tried, or heard of before.

Turns out it’s sort of like a Passion Fruit, where you basically have a bunch of slimy tadpole like seeds surrounded by a gooey membrane. It sort of reminds me of how the seeds in grapes will often have that outer layer of guck on them. But here it’s a selling feature.

They taste pretty sweet, with just a lingering sourness to them. Of course all of this comes at a price, they’re a damn sight hard eat. Well, not so much hard as tedious. There’s got to be a couple hundred seeds to individually suck the fruit from and although I really started getting the hang of it after a half I was really done at that point.

In any case this is a pretty neat little fruit to try for novelty’s sake, but I can’t see a real reason to eat them on a regular basis.

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New Thing #330: Red Rocket Coffee Danforth

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Red Rocket Coffee used to be my stop whenever I was down near Queen and Greenwood while Shauna would be out picking up plants across the street. Then they had their rent upped and they were forced to move. Lucky for us, it’s near our hood.

The funny thing is that they took up residence in the same place that housed another coffee shop a few years ago: Niche Coffee. It’s on the Danforth near Greenwood, and the I couldn’t help but get a huge sense deja vu walking in. Pretty much nothing has changed from the old Niche days.

The counter, backsplash, fireplace and furnishings are to be the same, with maybe a few more tables crammed together. Even the slelection of designer teas on the shelves look familiar.

But that’s not a bad thing, because Niche was a great, warm and inviting place to grab a latte and park yourself down on a cold day. But this isn’t a post about Niche, we’re talking Red Rocket. So how do they fare?

Well, just about as well as they did when they were on Queen. They’re ok. 

The coffee’s not bad, but it’s not great either. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to drop in if I’m around there and need a coffee fix. I might even take a nice leisurly stroll with them in mind in the summertime, but it won’t be replacing Grinder as my go-to spot for espresso. 

So check it out if you’re an east ender and help support another good business in the neighbourhood.

New Thing #328: Ribena

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I used to work with a British guy who always kept a bottle of Ribena black current concentrate at work. I’d often find him concocting a glass in the kitchen while I went about my own business there. Actually, that’s pretty much all I ever saw of him since he was perpetually glued to his computer screen. I can only imagine that the Ribena is what allowed him to so steadfastly work day-in and day-out, toiling away at his desk. Although I suppose that his being a super talented Art Director might have had something to do with it as well.

After all these years though, I realized that I had never actually tasted this magical elixir for myself. Maybe it’s because it’s hidden away high on the shelf here in North America, or maybe it’s because I never fancied myself a black-current type of a guy. In any case, I think I understand now. This stuff is great.

It’s sweet, but with a bit of sourness to it and a bottle goes a long way. Just two tablespoons of the stuff goes into a glass of water to transform it into something delicious. I think it would make a nice treat for my daughter at dinner as well. Or a nice pick me up in the morning to get those taste buds working.

Matthew May, you’ve made me a believer.

 

New Thing #327: Drink Decaf

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So we cracked and got a Nespresso machine of yesterday. Of course the first thing I did was break into the supplied sample pack and drink three different blends. At 9:30pm. I think you can figure out where it went from there.

You see my conundrum after dinner tonight then. I really wanted to play with our new toy, but I didn’t want to have to roll into bed at 1am wide awake.

That’s when I realized that said sampler pack came with a dark, decaf blend. It was a few moments later that I realized I’ve never had a reason to try any decaffeinated brew before.

Since I’ve never liked drip coffee and I normally grab a cappuccino for a morning or afternoon pick me up, it’s just never come up.

Was it good? God, yes. Am I wired from it? Hell no. I honestly don’t think I even noticed a difference in taste.

This was a welcome surprise after all the negative press decaf has gotten over the years. I think I’m going to have to stock some of this for those late night espresso cravings I’m bound to have from now on.

New Thing #314: Eat Camel

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I don’t profess to know a lot about camels other than what you learn in grade school about them. That and beings able to tauntaun one if you have a sharp knife, little sense of a smell and in are in need of a makeshift shelter in a sand storm. 

While trying to keep that horrible image out of my mind, I picked up a camel strip loin steak while I was at St. Lawrence Market yesterday. There’s a particular butcher there that has a speciality counter for game and wild birds, and although I wouldn’t exactly call a camel a wild animal, it definitely is out of the ordinary for a Toronto menu. 

I opted to cook it with the barest of seasonings, just some simple salt and pepper, before grilling it. I really wanted the natural flavours to come out of the meat. And they did. 

At first bite it really does taste like a beef strip loin, but I think it’s the fatty bits that have a much more distinctive taste to them. When eaten in small bits with the meat, the fat brings a real earthiness to the taste. But, unlike beef steaks, I had a hard time just chomping down on a piece of it on its own. It was just too overpowering, and pungent, in large quantities.

It’s also pretty chewy, much chewier than I expected really. but it wasn’t like it was filled with gristle, there wasn’t a piece of gristle on it as a matter of fact. It’s just more fibrous texture than I’m used to when eating meat. Not that it was a bad thing, a few extra chews it went down fine.

There’s also the price to consider when buying this, it’s much more expensive than your average grilled piece of cow. It was nearly $15 for a pretty small portion, but it turned out to be just the right size for lunch. 

But then again, I’m pretty sure you won’t find one of these at The Keg any time soon.

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New Thing #313: Nespresso

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I’ve been pretty skeptical of the whole pod-based espresso craze, but more and more of my discerning friends have been telling me that I had to try Nespresso. Italians even.

So, I did. And damn if I didn’t almost walk out of there with one under my arm. Thankfully Shauna talked me off the ledge…or more told me off the ledge…so I came home empty handed. For now.

The coffee was good, very good. Sure, it’s not as exceptional as what you’re going to get out of a Sam James or Mercury shot, but it was better than anything I’ve had from a home machine that cost less $1000. The crema alone was richer than most restaurants will give you.

The other point my friends have all made to me is this: their manual machines continue to just sit and gather dust. Not because they’re particularly hard to use, but because they’re just too much fiddling to get a couple of cappuccinos going in the morning. And with a kid who never makes things easy before daycare it’s basically an impossiblity.

I’ve also been hesitant to even consider pods since they seem to amount to whole lot of waste ending up in a landfill. But they have that covered too. Just bring in your old pods to the store and they’ll recycle them for you. No fuss

And that store is a very nice piece of retail experience. They have a full blown free espresso bar for anybody to sidle up to at The Bay at the Eaton Centre. 

One of those anybodies was a rather pleasant retiree who spent 15 minutes giving me the most heart felt sales pitch I’ve ever gotten for any product in my life. The actual sales clerks had nothing on this guy. It was as if someone were looking at an iPhone for the first time and they happened to be standing next to to me. 

When you have customers that are that passionate about a product, you know they’re doing something right.

New Thing #310: Bake Bread From Scratch

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For a short while I owned a bread maker and life was good.

I loved that whole process of throwing shit into a machine and something hot and delicious coming out the other side. But like most uni-taskers, it soon found itself gathering dust under the sink. So I found a home for it where it would get the proper attention it deserved and was done with bread making on the whole. 

I live in Toronto and there are so many fantastic places to get fresh baked bread on a moment’s notice. And more importantly, fresh baked bread made by people who know what they hell they’re doing.

But, much like my pie making experiment, I figured everyone should bake a loaf from scratch for themselves at least once. So I gathered up some bread mix, read, re-read and re-re-read the instructions on the side of the bag…and still managed to miss an important instruction. So my bread turned out pretty dense because I used all the flour, instead of stopping when it started coming off the side of the mixing bowl. It was supposed to rise to double it’s size, but only marginally grew before I threw it in the oven. 

Bread making is whole lot of work for not a lot of return, in my opinion. I’ll leave it to the professionals from now on.

At yeast I made it through this entire post without making a bread pun. Oh, damn.

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New Thing #302: Automatic Milk Frother

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Well this sure was a nice surprise under the tree this year.

I saw this automatic milk warmer and frother on the Internet a while ago and mentioned it in passing to my wife. Then, like most things I see on the internet, I promptly forgot it existed. Thankfully she didn’t.

I’ve been neglecting my espresso machine when it comes to cappuccino making because my machine sucks at steaming milk. And actually so do I. This really takes all the guess work out of it; a few minutes after clicking the button you’re in business.

What a yummy Christmas this has been.

New Thing #298: Eat a Payday Bar

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This will probably seem weird to all my American friends, but we don’t really have Payday bars up here in Canada. But you don’t have Coffee Crisps and that really is strange.

However, while I was in a candy shop on the Danforth tonight I came across one and snatched it up. And it is nothing like what I expected. It’s not even a chocolate bar. Chocolate never even enters into the equation.

It’s like someone just extruded some caramel onto a floor covered in peanuts and called it a day. It’s the most boring and hard to digest candy bar I’ve ever had.

Do people really eat these things?

New Thing #295: Make Homemade French Fries

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When it comes to deep frying food I’m a bit of a noob. OK, I’ve pretty much never done it.

Much like the meat slicer when I was a kid, the thought of hot oil bursting into flames or popping upwards toward my open eyeball mostly scares the shit out of me. Plus I’ve watched too many deep fried turkey incidents on Youtube over the years to be entirely comfortable with the method.

But then I found myself with about $4 worth of excess potato slices after I cubed some up for roasting tonight and really didn’t want to see them go to waste. So I guess my fears can be conquered for little to no monetary value.

So I hand cut about a pound of potatoes, poured all the oil I had into a pot, stuck a candy thermometer in there and made me some french fries.

With an eye on the temperature and a handy knowledge of my oil’s smoke point as reference I calmly fried up two batches, and then shared them with my family.

They were a hit.

If not for the excess amount of oil needed and reams of paper towels that I went through, I could see making these on a semi-regular basis. At the very least, we’re in for some damn good steak frites this winter.

 

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