A different view of things

20 01 2013

So – just got back from a business trip to Salt Lake City. Interesting place.

I’d never been in ski season before, so it was a bit chilly and a lot busier than I was used to. Very dry cold though – my poor delicate skin was all flaked off by the time I got home. (Poor baby, eh?! ūüôā ).

Now THAT's an icicle!

Now THAT’s an icicle!

I had a very interesting conversation with a Mormon colleague down there about what was and was not “allowed”. I knew alcohol and coffee was off limits in their faith, but was interested to learn how extensive the list was and what the rationale was. Caffeine (there’s my favourite i-before-e rule breaker) was my assumed reason for coffee which was confirmed, but then why did so many people drink Coke? A matter of long debate, it seems!

It was noticeable that software developers in the office there drank lots of pop, and although a few did indeed drink the more typical (for the profession) coffee, by far the most were sugared, rather than caffeinated as they hammered their keyboards. So – after much discussion, I learnt that the rationale is around stimulants and things generally that may affect one’s ability to make reasoned decisions about right and wrong. So – alcohol, “recreational” drugs, caffeinated drinks (+/- Coke). these I could get. Even chocolate seemed half-reasonable (I’ve seen the effect good European chocolate can have on a woman’s knicker elastic!). It didn’t explain all the Red Bull I saw being consumed though. Plainly a city of contradictions just like any other.

Another observation I made was that the local beers were VERY strong. Like 8%+ strong. Forgive the bad BlackBerry photo, but here’s a picture of a limited edition bottled beer I was given in a welcome package. (The trophy in the background was my “prize” for somehow coming last in the go-karting event).)

Imperial Red Ale

Imperial Red Ale

So the EPIC brewing company of Salt Lake City (there’s a different one in Aukland, New Zealand) produce these limited edition ales. This one was of 1,800 bottles only, and you can learn more here. Not selling beer to under-age people I can understand (after all, there’s more for the rest of us – makes total sense! ūüôā ), but this web site won’t even let you LOOK unless you’re of age! It seems that the non-Mormons take it upon themselves to tempt their neighbours by offering well beyond the usual strength beers in SLC. This one was 8.3%! My all-time favourite beer, Tetleys (of Leeds) is a mere 3.8%, by¬†comparison. These beers were up in the Belgian “triple-brew” category.

Anyway, work done, I had one last breakfast in the hotel and got ready to leave. Being Saturday, the skiers had arrived in force, and there was little left on offer to eat. As I sat enjoying a cup of tea, the kitchens delivered a new tray of bacon, and I decided to have a good old bacon butty for breakfast. As I rose, I was beaten to the tray by a lady. No problem, and I waited patiently behind her with my expectant plate. After a few moments though, I realised she was meticulously picking up each and every rasher in turn, examining it and replacing it to the tray. As this continued, I was getting impatient, and attempted humour by asking whether she “was looking for the prize”? I was rewarded with a very hard stare and informed that she and her family only ate very crispy bacon. Bearing in mind this is a chain hotel offering free breakfast, this seemed like a bit too picky of a position to be holding, but I guess my face spoke for me, and I was left to fill my plate with whatever random rashers happened to be caught in the tongs.

So, the flight North was over some spectacular scenery. No idea where these photos were taken. Except to say “from 38,000ft”. Again, on a poxy BlackBerry, so apologies for the quality.

By the time I got home I was peckish again, and was excited to see my little mushroom project had been busy in my absence. I harvested a large plate of succulent Oyster mushrooms, and set to work. I began by slicing them coarsely, more to make them quicker to cook than for any other reason, and set them to sauté in some olive oil infused with truffles Рa souvenir from my Brazil trip. A twist or two of coarse black pepper and sea salt for no other reason than Jamie Oliver always does it and the women seem to approve!

The warming scent was amazing. Once they were reducing nicely, I was struck with inspiration (or madness – you pick) and remembered a recent photo I saw of a salmon steak with a slice of blue cheese. Such an interesting pairing of flavours. I usually enjoy my Oyster mushrooms with just the oil they’re cooked in, but decided this time I’d add just a couple of thin slices of blue cheese (which fortuitously happened to be in the fridge). Of course it melted immediately, and being a soft cheese anyway mixed beautifully into the slight oil base the mushrooms were cooking in. Not at all stringy, the cheese simply coated the mushrooms as they touched, and became part of the light sauce that was forming by pure experiment. On a bit of a roll now, I discovered a solitary egg in the fridge too, and cracked that with gusto into the pan. I was quick to spread it out, so that it didn’t form a fried egg in the middle, but more filaments of light egginess interspersed through the mushrooms. Somehow, this seemed just right, and after a couple more minutes in the pan, I tipped the results out onto a couple of slices of crispy toast and devoured lunch with absolute delight.

Here’s a before and after shot. Unless you’ve downloaded Google’s latest smell-o-vision app, I’m afraid you’re only getting a faint version of the experience. The scent of truffles and blue cheese were definitely part of the¬†experience, yet I’d somehow managed not to use too much to over-power the whole.

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Too much of a good thing?

26 12 2012

So we did the whole turkey thing yesterday.

I made dinner tonight with the remnants. ¬†Basically a melange of all the left-over vegetables (Brussels’ sprouts, yam, parsnips, carrots, russet potatoes), shredded turkey, an onion and a whole jalapeno… with all the seeds. Gently fried in some Pinot Grigio, just to stop it sticking (there was still a little olive oil from yesterday’s serving on the vegetables).

Tasty, and fixed any lingering sinus problems around the table. ūüôā Son had already eaten the remaining sausages wrapped in bacon out of the fridge, so they didn’t need dealing with.

Dessert was Christmas pudding of course – a taste of the old country, made to a family recipe passed down from St Michael. Basically just loads of dried fruit with enough other bits to hold it together, steamed for hours and then set alight with brandy. (Or rum in our case because we never do anything quite the normal way…)

This evening though (10:30-ish), the nibbles set in. First-born has always been the more adventurous offspring in the taste department and had helped me lay in some more interesting vittles for just such an occasion. We laid on a reasonably diverse platter:

Cambozola (Camembert with Gorgonzola mold Рsame as in Stilton on Roquefort)

Emmental – but not very good¬†according¬†to First-born. Apparently “proper” Swiss Emental has few to no bubbles and can even be cracked instead

Brie

Chevre – just going nicely soft. The goaty smell drove the dog mad.

Asiago Рstill smooth, not old enough to be crumbly yet

Castello Danish blue

Herb-covered salami

Red-pepper hummus

Tapenade

Wow – just typing it out has made me peckish all over again…

Wikipedia: Cambozola

Wikipedia: Castello Danish Blue

Wikipedia: Tapenade

 





Of Feta and Pennies

25 12 2012

I really struggle with Christmas.

I used to be able to “go with the flow” when the kids were smaller, yet, ironically, longer in name. Back then they were kiddies, kidlings, sprogletts or other things longer and more intricate than mere kids. Now they’re proto-adults though, the¬†mystique¬†has evaporated. They’re just as¬†materialistic¬†now as their peers – lost to the tidal wave of marketing and consumerism we wallow in, in the West.

But every now and then, I see little peeks of the great human beings they really are (despite my hand in their parenting!). The things they unexpectedly do that bucks the accepted trend of “me, me, me”. Like First-born the devout vegetarian being more than happy to take on turkey-cooking duties to give her mum a break. (I have a sneaky suspicion that her 4-month stint in Switzerland has brought her back from the Dark Side… she ate bacon yesterday!) Like second-born giving me a hug. Rare, unexpected, but so very obviously heartfelt. And third-born. Well… at least he’s not making more mess just now while he plays his festive gave of Shoot-em-up.

Second-born shared an interesting little dish with us in that never-never time between “normal lunchtime” and “Christmas lunchtime” which can be any time¬†up to¬†and including 6pm, on past experience. This is created by taking ¬†slabs of Feta cheese and baking them in olive oil in the oven for 8-10minutes, then pouring a little honey on the top and grilling them for a little while to brown slightly. Eat when hot (It’s perfect for removing the roof of your mouth before the real meal begins…) with some crackers. Tr√®s yummy.

So you may recall I mentioned a local wag leaving pennies around on the park benches yesterday. I was out in the Christmas Day snow this morning, walking the dog again. I have no idea of their motivation for placing them, but today I felt a little saddened that about half of the pennies were no longer there. Then I remembered that one potential motivation was to place them there for some poor soul to whom a mere penny or two might make a difference. If that really was the motivation, then it was totally fine for the pennies to be gone. That indeed was potentially the point. Ignoring my more base instinct that some thieving sod had simply run off with them, I chose to add the few pennies in my own pocket to the missing slots as I negotiated the pathways of our little park, occasionally engaging other people in brief exchanges of potentially sincere goodwill as I did so.

It just seemed appropriate.

Us weirdos need to support each other. Even if we don’t know why. Just because it’s different. A stand against¬†homogeneity. And especially because ultimately, it’s Quite Irrelevant.

The clatter of serving spoons on pans and dishes is beckoning me to the annual festival of gluttony. I wish you all a healthy New Year, and commend “The Random Act of Kindness” to you. Smile at a stranger. Put a tin of food in the food bank. Whatever you feel like. Something that makes a positive difference to someone else. Unexpected. And ideally anonymous.

Bugger Christmas – we should do it every day.