May 16, 2009

Homemade Basil Pickles

Filed under: awesome,food — mhoye @ 11:15 am

This has been in my drafts forever. I am a very bad cult leader, not sharing my wisdom; I will endeavor to do better.

So, it turns out that once you’ve got a good recipe to start with it’s pretty trivial to make your own pickles; they come out far better than you’ll get off the shelf, and unless you’ve got some mad Rabbi, crafty Slav or elderly Mennonite brewing them up in a kitchen near you, you’re unlikely to find better.

The vinegar in that recipe is enough; you should skip the boil-the-jars-with-pickles-in step since it softens them up, but that recipe scales right down if you want to make a small batch to try it out. And the eight-week waiting period is unnecessary – they improve, but a week or two is fine. Small batches in Mason jars are easily done, and pretty great.

But this point is key: Dill pickles? Old news, boring. What you want are basil pickles. They’re awesome. Not as awesome on their own, arguably, but when used as, say, a hamburger topping? A huge improvement. Use more garlic than they recommend and a quantity of fresh basil instead of the dill (maybe even throw in a hot pepper, if you’re so inclined) and you will not be disappointed.

May 3, 2009

“Crêpês Arlene”

Filed under: awesome,documentation,food,life — mhoye @ 2:04 pm

Brick Light

A sensible person might refer to these merely as “the crêpes I make for Arlene”, but that guy’s not making these crêpes; I am. So I’m going to make it sound like I’m letting you in on the accepted terminology for some culinary innovation rather than just telling you what I had for breakfast. Hence “Crêpês Arlene”.

I am fully aware that there is normally only one accented “E” in that word, but these are not your pedestrian, workingman’s routine crêpes; the additional accent circonflexe demarks an entirely elevated level of culinary and linguistic pretense; these crêpês are rightly be viewed as doubly foreign, doubly exotic (or should I say “exotique“?). In addition to being an excellent chef, I also hold a second-degree black belt in the fabrication of pretentious foreign-sounding nomenclature. Indeed, I made my second belt wholly from that fabric, and now it suspends my pantalons securely. And they don’t award that belt to people who can only deploy one accent at a time, no sir. That’s thé büllshît dès âmàtëürs, as they say at this lévêl.

And now, having concocted what I believe to be the best justification of a typo of all time, I am now obliged to leave it up there. Mêrde.

Anyway, crêpes; that part of the recipe is mostly cribbed from Bittman’s “How To Cook Everything”, with the addition of a tablespoon of melted butter and a tablespoon of vanilla extract. Keep them warm in the oven as you go.

The key here is the filling, which is two apples of your favorite type, halved, cored and sliced up; throw them into a pot with a tablespoon of butter, a tablespoon of salt, an ounce or so of maple syrup, and two ounces or so of good bourbon; put them on a medium heat and stir periodically, until they let off some water, soften up and reduce it right down until there’s barely any liquid left in the bottom of the pan. Start this before you start cooking the crêpes; if you’re a bit lucky, it will have reduced all the way down as you’re getting close to the last of the crêpes, and you’ll be able to serve them together. Otherwise, you can just put it all in a bowl and throw it in the oven until it’s time to assemble.

Serve with a few slices of some other fruit on the side.

It’s so good. Takes a little while, but it’s very worth it. It might sound sacrilegious to cook with good booze, but I should warn you that what comes out of this will only be as good as what goes in – if you’re trying this with Wild Turkey or Ol’ Kentucka Lead Paint Removah or whatever, you’ll end up with a breakfast that tastes like Wild Turkey or Ol’ Kentucka Lead Paint Removah, but if you use a smooth, quiet bourbon like Woodford Reserve, you’ll really think you’re on to something.

March 1, 2009

Nachos Grandes

Filed under: awesome,food,toys — mhoye @ 9:06 pm

I invited the internets over for nachos a little while ago, and it gave me a tiny sad that nobody bit on that. I realize it was short notice though, so I forgive you all. I am magnanimous that way, though I do not demand any additional respect for it. Which I suppose makes me doubly magnanimous; I’m pretty awesome, all told.

But internets, you missed out on some really, really good nachos, better than any you have had in any bar or restaurant.

Here’s how it’s done:

  • A small variety of mushrooms, sauteed in a little butter, with a minced-up shallot, some salt and some more of my beer,
  • Half an onion, sauteed slowly at about two-thirds the temperature of the mushrooms, with a clove of minced garlic, some butter and salt,
  • Tomatos, again salted, but diced and set aside early so that the salt brings out the flavor, and
  • Lean ground beef, cooked up with chili powder, cumin, a pinch of salt and an ounce or three of the beer I was still drinking.

Build your plate of nachos, in layers and generously with the toppings. Sprinkle some diced green onions over the top for colour and bake in the oven at some warm temperature (400 or so?) until the cheese starts to get all melty. Broil it until it browns a little, serve. I endorse a combination of mozzarella and monterey jack cheeses; the cumin is key, and not putting on salsa before you serve it so everything doesn’t get all soggy and gross is also key. Salting your food properly, during cooking and well before serving, is always, always key.

I bet you feel silly for not taking me up on that now, don’t you?

January 22, 2009

A Failed Idea

Filed under: fail,food — mhoye @ 1:39 pm

I thought that, since I was hungry as I sometimes am, I would supplement my meal today with some street meat from the hot-dog vendor outside. Which worked fine, until I got to the condiments, which were frozen. Not quite solid, they’d been stirred into a kind of slush, and (like a fool) I assumed they’d heat up against the barbecued sausage.

But the condiments won that fight.

It was like eating a hot-dog-flavored snow-cone.

Some of you may have had the thought cross your mind that, say, since you enjoy italian sausage, and you also enjoy frozen treats, you know what would really be good? A hot-dog-flavored snow-cone, you might have said to yourself.

You people may now put your minds at ease. I assure you, in the strongest possible terms, that idea won’t fly.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.

August 18, 2008

And An Ominous Portent For Dessert

Filed under: flickr,food,lunacy,weird — mhoye @ 10:08 pm


My wife and I went out for dinner at the Danforth Dragon who, somewhat silly website aside, make very good and interesting food. They would have my unqualified endorsement if it weren’t for the fact that, to wrap up the meal, they gave my wife a fortune cookie with not one but two fortunes in it, one of which read “You will make many changes before settling down happily” and the other reading “You will take a chance in the near future”.

Mine, for completeness sake, was something entirely pedestrian about friends being important. True! But not relevant to the problem at hand, if you see what I mean.

So, ominous! And no combination of arbitrary in-bed or pants-related subordinate clauses have allayed my suspicions. I was thinking about this in the subway the next day, a conveyance whose windows are 1/4″ thick; not something you’d normally notice, but it does give you a barely discernible and slightly offset reflection. Just enough to make my reflection look like it was wearing two identical wedding rings.

Everything is fine, you know? We’re good! I’m totally happy! But that was weird, seemingly all at once like that, the sort of thing that tips the more precariously off-kilter all the way over. Lucky for me, I’m completely sane. So, listen, it’s completely OK go eat at the Danforth Dragon, the food’s great, but if you catch them conspiring with the TTC to screw up your relationship, just leave a decent tip and get the rest of the meal to go.

July 29, 2008

The Fallout From A Culinary Mishap

Filed under: fail,food — mhoye @ 6:49 pm

I’m not going to go into details here. Mistakes were made. Let’s not dwell on the past.

That said: in devising my excuses, have concocted the phrase “betrayed by an impertinent chardonnay”, which I believe will not only fail completely to absolve me of blame but which, if spoken aloud in a just world, would see me beaten senseless on general principles.

On the off chance that you, dear reader, were considering using the impertinent-chardonnay-betrayal defense as well, know this: I don’t think it will work.

July 4, 2008

Peeps In The ‘Peg.

Filed under: food,travel — mhoye @ 1:03 pm

Anyone in Winnipeg wanna have lunch on Sunday?

June 20, 2008

Properly Handled, Vegetables Can Also Be Food

Filed under: food,life — mhoye @ 11:37 am

So, I’m sure that a billion other people (or whatever the total population of the Indian subcontinent is these days) have already figured this one out, but I just made it up last night, and “discovered independently” sounds so much more dashing and adventurous than “reinvented the wheel”, doesn’t it?

Tally ho!

  1. Cut an eggplant into one inch cubes and put them in a big bowl.
  2. Take about a third of a cup of good curry powder, put a tablespoon of salt into it and top it up to a half-cup with garam masala.
  3. Stir up the dry spices, pour the lot of it over your bowl of eggplant and stir that up until the eggplant is basically breaded in the spices.
  4. Cook in a frying pan over low to medium heat with half a cup of olive oil until soft. Stir gently, periodically, and serve over rice.
  5. Declare victory.

It’s simple and reasonably quick. I discovered unfiltered olive oil recently, which if you like the taste of olives is great. I think it helps this dish a little. Needs something on the side, though, to round it out a little? I tried a thing with portobello mushrooms that turned out a little to dark and heavy to match up well with the curry. Something a little more citrus-y, maybe? I solicit your suggestions.

May 18, 2008

Wandering Around Tokyo

Filed under: flickr,food,travel — mhoye @ 8:38 am

It was pretty grey on our last few days there, but you don’t get to pick the weather. You only get to pick what you wear, and I, frankly, look good.

The Tokyo Subway Map

Getting around Japan is surprisingly easy for a tourist, or an english-speaking tourist at least; there are enough translated-to-english maps around and even the untranslated signage is decipherable enough that with a level head and a pocket full of yens everywhere we tried to go was walking distance away. This struck me about Hong Kong, too: get a modern public transit system, cities! It does great things for every single part of city life I could see, and it makes the TTC look kind of… embarassing? Why does Toronto have this filthy, poorly maintained and vaguely Stalinist toy model of a public transit system when other places get these sprawling, clean, fast systems? It’s pretty depressing.

The Tokyo Light Rail System

We spent some time near Ueno Station, looking around the very Hong-Kong-like and very awesome Ameyoko market, visiting the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and just generally wandering about in the park, and as usual the people-watching was a lot more interesting than the thing-seeing. There was a modern art exhibit in the Metropolitan Art Museum which was, in tourist terms I think, a mistake? It reminded me of my visit to MOMA in New York – “modern art” apparently means “doesn’t connect to anything else, including the audience” – and sadly didn’t particularly speak to me of anything particularly Japanese. I lack the appropriate context of modernity, maybe? Maybe that’s the gag, that not getting it means you’re somehow out of touch, so everyone plays along. Anyway: some of it was neat but we could have spent that time better, I think.

Outside The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art

As always, though, there are intricate little shrines all over the place, intact and well-maintained over centuries, and the constant juxtaposition of the intensely-modern (in the more conventional “built recently” sense) and the durably traditional was one of my favorite parts of the trip.


We spent some time doing a little window shopping around Ginza, too, a sprawling shopping district for the recklessly affluent. Stepping out of the subway puts you within five minute’s walk of four entirely different acre-sized Tiffany’s, just to give you an idea of the grade of affluence we’re talking about here. Not how I roll, exactly, but cool to see, regardless. We even visited the Sony flagship store, was fully of shiny things that you couldn’t use with anything that wasn’t also sold by Sony. Also neat, but also not how I roll, so there you go. Again, it was pretty, but I’ve seen big stores before, you know?

You Are Here Now

But, as I’m starting to realize is typical, it’s the unexpected street-level interactions with a place that really bring you the awesome, not the destinations. Getting there is most of the weird.

Japan Rail

We had lunch at what appeared to be a restaurant-backed vending machine, which was pretty cool. You might have seen these ads before, which look really disheartening, but these places were exactly that sort of job, but done exactly right. The vending machine was basically an automated cashier, and I selected a picture of food and brought the ticket it gave me to the back of the eight-foot-wide restaurant where a woman in an apron looked at it and shouted what might have been my order.

Then, and this seemed like a remarkable thing, two guys behind her splashed some liquids into bowls and clanked some pans in this tiny little kitchen, maybe six by ten feet of floor space. And she turned around, picked up a tray that now had two full bowls and some chopsticks on it, and handed it to me, and that was my order. It’s all about the prep work, of course, but that’s literally how long it took; she took the ticket, yelled the number, clank pour clank pour, here’s your food. Time gets weird when you’re swimming in awesome, I know, but to my estimation this took about nine seconds. I wasn’t sure how to react; this can’t possibly be my order, am I expected to hand this to somebody else? Who? This is mine? What? (And hesitating was bad, because what I clearly was expected to do was get the hell out of the way, so they could do the same trick for the next person in line.)

But for a meal assembled in less than ten seconds, it wasn’t bad at all. Apparently this is a common thing in Japan, too, but I definitely need one of these near my office.

May 1, 2008


Filed under: flickr,food,travel — mhoye @ 1:52 pm

Day Of The Tentacle
Fresh And Somewhat Surprised
The End Result

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