Saturday Nov 21, 2009

Tasting Coffee Better

I love drinking coffee. Recently I was told to drink more coffee by my dental hygienist. Ok, so she actually told me that coffee was a better choice the the diet pop I had been habitually drinking in the afternoons and evenings. So I have been drinking lots more coffee, about 7-10 cups per day up from 3-4.

By accident I found a new way to enhance my appreciation of coffee. Some of the Halloween candy we bought this year was salty butter caramels and we have lots left over. I happened to be eating one of these caramels when I took a sip of some fresh brewed coffee. Wow! I was amazed at how eating a caramel at the same time brought out flavours from the coffee that I hadn't been able to distinguish drinking the coffee by itself. I could taste the roast much better and the specific bean flavours were much more discrete than they had been. I am not sure if it's just the salt in the caramel or something else. I tried adding cream and a bit of salt to black coffee as an experiment to see if that had the same effect but it just tasted salty and disgusting.

I'm now having fun trying all of my favourite roasts again with a caramel to see what I learn about them. I'm also finding that once my palate has been "trained" by tasting with a caramel I can pick out the same flavours without the caramel. Using a caramel seems to be an excellent training tool for coffee tasting. I am really glad I made this discovery!

Sunday Jun 14, 2009

Raw Oysters don't need sauce

Cocktail sauce, lemon, Tabasco, Tapatio, mignonette... all are commonly offered as accompaniments to raw oysters. I say phooey to them all. A good raw oyster is perfect just by itself. Well almost... a fine Sazerac cocktail and oysters are a great combination.

Monday Feb 23, 2009

Feeling Shmenge

Yup, it's homemade cabbage rolls and coffee. Both were made by me, not Mrs. Yachke. I'm not listening to polka music while I enjoy them.

Three small cabbage rolls with tomato sauce on a small plate with a large cup of steaming black coffee

For those not familiar with the Shmenge brothers, I refer you to a documentary made about their final concert The Last Polka.

Tuesday Dec 02, 2008

Advice for the holidays

Many people are still ruining the holiday season by serving their family and friends the dreaded cranberry cylinder:

loathsome canned cranberry sauce

This holiday disaster can be averted by preparing your own much tastier cranberry sauce from scratch.

Simple Cranberry Sauce Recipe
1lb/500g bag of fresh or frozen cranberries
1.5 cups of orange juice (approx).
1.5 cups of red port wine (approx).
dash of salt
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup of sugar (approx./to taste)
zest of one orange or lemon (optional)

Ingredient notes

If cranberries are fresh then put them in the freezer overnight. Freezing
breaks the cell walls and they cook more quickly. I used to buy fresh 
berries but now just buy frozen if they are available. Unless the berries
are really old and have "freezer funk" you won't be able to tell the

I use frozen or "from concentrate" orange juice. Fresh orange juice is 
wasted on this recipe. 

You must use a very cheap port for this recipe. If it doesn't have a screw 
cap, you're doing it wrong! Cheap port has the right mix of acidity, sugar
and grapeiness to balance it's otherwise awful taste. The subtle, refined 
good taste of fine port can't stand up to the rest of the flavours in this
recipe. You must use wino port.

The cranberries, juice and port all have varying amounts of sugar so you 
have to adjust the sugar to your taste. As the sauce cools it will taste 
less sweet. 


Put frozen berries into a bowl of water big enough so that they float. Pick
out anything you wouldn't want to eat. This includes green berries, moldy 
berries, dry shrivelled berries, leaves, sticks, dirt, etc. 

Transfer cleaned berries to a small pot. The pot should be about half full 
with the berries in it. Add orange juice and port in equal measure until
some of the berries just begin to float. Add the cinnamon stick, salt and 
optional citrus zest.

Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 2 
hours stirring every half hour. When most of the berries have lost their 
shape the sauce is done cooking. Turn off the heat and allow sauce to cool 
for 15 minutes. The sauce will thicken and gel as it cools.

Stir in the sugar a couple of tablespoons at a time tasting after each 
addition to see if the sauce is sweet enough. Sauce can be served warm or
can be chilled before serving in the refrigerator. 

Wednesday Oct 22, 2008

"The Apprentice" Followup

About four years ago I wrote an entry about Jacques Pepin's memoir as a chef, The Apprentice. This morning Jacques was a guest on KQED Forum and I got to ask one of the questions I had about his memoir.

Reading the memoir, his transition between working in France and his move to the US had seemed abrupt and unexplained. So I asked, "Why did you move to America?" (at about 43:45 into the podcast). His answer, which is also in the podcast, was essentially that he came to America to learn English and see the place for a year or two. He didn't really plan to stay, but found he loved New York and chose to make America his home.

It was really great to speak to Jacques and get my question answered!

Less than 5 minutes later a friend called with the obligatory, "Holy crap! You were on Forum!" call. It was nice to know someone noticed!




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