Archive for April, 2010

This post is less about New York than it is about some of the urban “gardens” we found.  All were accessible from the street and there were more than we’re sharing here.

The gardens ranged from large pots to 90-gallon potato drums, decorated tires and complex shelf-like systems (all pictured below).  I love the ingenuity of people and their refusal to let the lack of land inhibit their ability to grow food for themselves.

Here’s a sample of a few that we found:


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At the risk of sounding redundant, I must again state that the U.S. is kicking Canada’s butt when it comes to beer culture.  Part of the reason is their sheer size (with almost 10 times the population there are simply more consumers) and they have many legislative and importing liberties than we do (Ontario, in particular, is very strict) but they have disadvantages as well.  With so many consumers it’s that much more difficult to reach your market and competing with 1,500 craft brewers in the US can pose a difficult challenge even in the niche market.

As a consumer, it’s fantastic.  Beer specific bars and stores which offer choices from around the world and many local and small US options that you might not find anywhere else.

Specialty beer stores, like the one we found in Brooklyn (Bierkraft – well worth a visit) are exciting to me.  There are hundreds (if not, thousands) of options to choose from.  It’s a chance to learn something about beer, see fascinating labels from around the world and see just how different beer can get.

Much of the beer is sold in 750 ml (3 cup) sizes – essentially the same as a wine bottle.  Prices range dramatically based on brewer, region, product and rarity and many options exist between $2 (for the “typical” beer bottle size) through $10.  You can find single bottles that will cost more than $40 (including the “typical” size).

The staff are major beer fans and really helpful in pointing out their personal faves or helping you find your own.  Beer ranges dramatically from bitter to sweet and includes flavours as diverse as coffee, fruit, chocolate and many, many more.

What made Bierkraft further unique was that it had a considerable collection of draft lines in the back.  You could sample beers in the store itself or order full pints to enjoy in a small seated area on the far side of the hops gallery.  You could also buy cheese, chocolate and charcuterie to pair with your chosen cup.  If you’re in Brooklyn, check them out (here) and if you find yourself in a different US city, see what’s available.

In the meantime, here’s a few shots (taken with permission) of this cool find:

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We had an amazing trip to New York City last week.  8 days where we walked 12-18 hours per day and ate and drank our way Brooklyn and Manhattan.

It`s going to take restraint NOT to fill the blog with photos for the next month but we will certainly share some of the amazing food related items we experienced there.

New York City is home to Chelsea Market (which is also the home of Food Network, USA).  It`s a unique market – essentially a block-long hallway that contains restaurants, food and specialty shops.  It was a great place to visit – we started with a morning coffee every day during our visit to Manhattan.  Rather than writing a bunch, here`s a photo essay to get the feel of this heritage place:

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We just got back from New York City – 8 amazing days where we walked, ate and sampled beverages.

Our typical day consisted of 12-18 hours of walking with two meals and a lot of great conversation thrown in.  We spent just over half our trip in Brooklyn, shopped at about 8 stores in total and visited 2 galleries.  It is odd to admit that we spent more time in public parks (Central and Prospect) than we did in all galleries and shops combined.

Our best lunch was admittedly over the budget of Cheap Tuesday Gourmet ($5 per person though most days are well under $2).  However the concept of what we did for one of my favorite lunch memories endures (we were not setting out to create a post or do this for Cheap Tuesday Gourmet – although it was easily our most affordable meal with the best view).  It can easily be scaled up or down and was the best view, lunch and memory I have of all of our lunches and was at a fraction of the price (and certainly cheaper than typical fast food would have cost for the two of us):

Our picnic consisted of a locally made ciabatta (it was stunning and I don’t normally get excited about such things; hard and crusty on the outside and soft and forgiving in the middle), a cheese with a unique story and ham that came from a 4-generation farm that cures their own meats.

The store we bought these from a minimum 1/4 pound serving size when ordering from the counter.  Buying it prepackaged or finding a store without a minimum order (this was the first time I have ever run in to such a policy)or substituting one of the products with something more healthy than simply meat and cheese (an apple would have been a lovely pairing with the cheese and a pear with the meat) would be other ways to influence the budget on this meal.

Beyond cost, consider the phenomenal view of Manhattan that we had:

This will definitely change our plans for the summer – many more picnics are in the plans for the year.  The trip was a great reminder that our best memories often come from the conversation and moments shared with the one we’re with and not by the cost of entry.

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These are not for the faint of heart.  Although they can be used for many things, I tend to use the hottest peppers to make hot sauces with (the Chipotle is a great `bridge`between middle and heavy weight and makes an equally good rub as it does a hot sauce).

Don`t be scared by the rising prices here – the increased heat means that you need smaller quantities of the actual pepper.  Because of the increasing heat, consider mixing with other, milder peppers to round out flavour with your heat.

Now for the scary news. Consider the following:

  • A Jalapeno can range from 3,500 to 5,000 Scoville units.  This means that a hypothetical single drop of liquid jalapeno would be about 6-8 times hotter than a drop of liquid green pepper (not meant as a literal example but to illustrate a point).
  • A drop of Habanero would multiply the bell pepper by 160 to 540 times hotter.

The point I`m trying to make is not about heat – it`s about the wild range of the hottest peppers compared to others.  Jalapenos are of similar heat to one another – Habanero can be drastically different and it`s not safe to assume that you can cook with them by weight.

If you`re going to cook with te hottest peppers, you should ideally taste each pepper before adding it to your recipe.  This means eating the peppers straight while cooking.  All you need is a tiny bit – but that can be enough to scorch the bravest pallet.   If you`re cooking a special meal with the hottest peppers I highly recommend testing and prepping your peppers a day or two early to give your mouth a chance to recover in the event you get a truly hot sample.

($24 per pound)
60,000-100,000 Scoville units
Smoked Jalapeno

I`ve never met one I didn`t like.  These are great in any shape or form and add a real depth to any dish that they are added to.  I adore adding them to chilli to add this smoky flavour or adding to meat dishes in winter when I grill far less.

Piquin hot devils
($30 per pound)
70,000-100,000 Scoville units

Hot sauces, salsas, soups – you`re likely trying to avoid eating a hunk of one of these little firecrackers so infusing them in liquid can add a bite without overwhelming.  Bring stock to a boil and pour over a few of these in a bowl and allow the stock to absorb the flavour of the peppers (you can use less than a cup for this purpose) and then add it a bit at a time to your main dish to control the heat.  It`s kind of like hot pepper tea (similar to how we made our version of liquid smoke earlier this week).  Great for infusions in general – try adding it to vinegar or even vodka for a few days and taste the flavour as it progresses.  If you`ve added it to vodka you can create a wonderfully spiced Bloody Mary (or a Caesar for us Canadians).

100,000-325,000 Scoville units

Hottt.  Rehydrate and create your own hot sauces.  A touch of this is an amazing pairing with an oyster – because you need so little to add heat you don`t lose a lot of the flavours of the oyster and add a great bite.  Most hot sauce that I add to oysters would drown all flavour before I`d get a bite that I`d want.  Grind some into flakes but be careful not to inhale any residual powder as they grind – the heat could easily overwhelm.

That`s the roundup – for now.  We`ll add to this dictionary from time to time and share some more – any favourites that we`ve missed out there?

This series of hot pepper posts will beget new content daily for the next week. If you`re looking for all of the articles published so far, click this link. The entire series covers different types of peppers, different uses and some of the myths around spicy food. Hope you enjoy!

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We`re graduating from entry-level heat to some attention-grabbing contenders here.
There`s still a wide range of flavours here – from fruity to smoky.  My default use for mid-ranged heat tends to be in dry rubs as they pack a lot of flavour without dominating (my) taste buds.
Pulla (Puya)
5,000 – 15,000

Related to the milder Guajilo, the Pulla is moderately hot and less used than it`s cousin.  Rehydrate with water just off a boil and let it come back to life for 10-15 minutes.  The Pulla is a sensitive sort – oversoaking will result in lost flavour and overcooking this (i.e. burning it) will turn it`s flavour awfully bitter and uninviting.  Add to sauces and the like to add a shot of heat – as with any of the middleweights use some caution if you are sensitive to heat; you`re starting to raise the bar with these.

Morita Peppers ($14 per pound)

This is a smoked purplish jalapeno (a red jalapeno is the identical pepper to the green though it is matured longer), thus this is related to Chipotle (to confuse things further, the morita is sometimes called a chipotle as well).  I had never used these before a few weeks ago and these are my absolute new favourites.  They are super smoky with a great bite (though I wouldn`t consider them overly hot).  This has BBQ, dry rubs and anything cooked long and slow written all over it.
aji amarillo ($12 per pound)
Peruvian Yellow Chile Pepper.  I couldn`t find any Tabasco Peppers – these are the same heat as the tabasco peppers (even the famous sauce that uses them as part of their ingredients is much milder at 2,500-5,000 Scoville units).  Aji means `pepper`or `chili pepper`and `amarillo means yellow.`  This is a very traditional South American pepper used in many traditional dishes.  This is the most common pepper in Peru and packs a strong heat that quickly fades once tasted.  It has fruity undertones.

This series of hot pepper posts will beget new content daily for the next week. If you`re looking for all of the articles published so far, click this link. The entire series covers different types of peppers, different uses and some of the myths around spicy food. Hope you enjoy!

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For the next 3 days we are going to feature a total of 9 different `hot`peppers – they will be sorted in order of heat (from lowest to highest).  I have included approximate Scoville units as well as the price I paid per pound if I have it (I paid less than $13 for 12 different bags of hot peppers – while their price per pound is high, their weight is miniscule).

All of these were bought in Kensington Market in Toronto – one of the most amazing things about our city is access to food that is influenced by culture and cuisine from around the world.

Keep in mind that a typical bell pepper is about 600 Scoville units, Tabasco sauce is 2,500- 5,000 and a jalapeno is 3,500-5,000.  All measures are approximate and are accurate to the best of my research and meant as approximate.  Each pepper can vary dramatically.

Aji Dulce
(aji means chile, dulce means sweet)
1-1,000 Scoville units

There are many different peppers that can be called aji dulce – it is essentially a sweet pepper.  It is interesting to know that this is related to the much hotter Habanero and that you can use aji dulce to simulate the flavour of a Habanero without the heat.  It`s a common pepper used in South America, has smoky undertones and actually has it`s flavours enhanced by dehydration (drying).  This is a great starting point for those timid of heat and can be a great confidence builder – just make sure not to confuse it with it`s much hotter cousin.

Cascabel ($18 per pound)
1500-2,500 Scoville units

Great for sauces, these peppers grow wild on the west coast of Mexico and Central America.  It`s also known as a rattle chile because the seeds rattle around the dried pepper much like the sound of a rattle snake.  There`s a nutty undertone here and these are great added to liquid foods (i.e. chilli, soup, sauce, salsa, etc).

Guajillo ($12 per pound)
2,000-4,500 Scoville units

Very common in Mexico (this is one of the most common peppers), its thick leathery walls need to be soaked longer than most other dried chilies to rehydrate.  This is  anatural to turn into paste or powder and fantastic for dry rubs, sauces and adding lots of flavour without overwhelming sensitive taste buds.

This series of hot pepper posts will beget new content daily for the next week. If you`re looking for all of the articles published so far, click this link. The entire series covers different types of peppers, different uses and some of the myths around spicy food. Hope you enjoy!

Read Full Post »

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