Category: General

New Year’s Greetings to All

Happy New Year

Hey Folks … I hope everybody survived the New Year’s Eve’s festivities relatively painlessly. This month commences Sybaritica’s seventh year of publication and I thought I might usher in 2019 by introducing a few changes I will be making for the future …

By the way, before I begin, the picture I chose for today’s post shows the view from my front door. The picture was actually taken on Christmas Eve two years ago, but I rather think it captures the season. As you can see, there were ‘sun dogs’ when I snapped the shot, although you can only see one of them… I’d have to be out in the middle of the road to see both…

Anyway, I have decided to revamp some stuff around here … My graphics library at WordPress finally became absolutely jam-packed with images, and I had hundreds of posts that were basically read once and never looked again. Accordingly, I started a major clean-out and have already got rid of a lot of stuff. I will be continuing with that process and have also begun making changes to my ‘Menu’s … already, they reflect the new simplicity I will going for as I continue blogging …

After these many years, it has become clear to me that the posts that people keep coming back to are the ones I have done on various foodstuffs. My posts on things like Chinese dried Squid, or Dried Scallop, get visited again and again, week in and week out. My recipe posts, in contrast, tend to get looked at once by my regular readership, and then never again. With that in mind, along with a few other things, I am going to change my blogging focus just a little:

I began Sybaritica mostly to post restaurant reviews, and only started with recipes and foodstuff posts later. The reviews are still my favorite blogging activity (both of restaurants, or single dishes I have been served), and I will continue doing that for as long as I can still type. I am still going to do the odd recipe post, but I think, after over 6 years, that I will slow that down quite a bit. I know other food bloggers will be familiar with the work that that entails … I must say that, of all the difficulties, delaying eating because you have to take picture after picture gets a bit tiresome.

I will continue doing foodstuff articles, but I am also going to redo some of my earlier posts. Some are to be rewritten so that they can be expanded but others, especially the older ones, because they could really be improved. Similarly, I started a series of posts that I called ‘Dim Sum Identification’ that I added to only sporadically and half-heartedly. I am going to restart that project again and make it a bigger ‘thing’.

Finally, for a while, I was doing reviews of wines… I stopped though, mostly because it was quite time consuming due to the way I was doing the graphics. I also got a bit tired of rating and writing about the wines I didn’t very much like. I am going to start that again very shortly, but I am going to limit myself to writing only about the wines I really enjoy and worry less about ‘rating’ them rather than discussing their respective backgrounds and technical information.

Anyway … it will be interesting to see how things develop and I look forward to having my readers stay with me

Dim Sum with Lung

Tripe and Lung 1

I love Dim Sum meals but, in all honesty, I am not crazy about the traditional cart service that is still popular in the more old-school Dim Sum houses. I will probably do a blog rant about this sometime but, for now suffice it to say, that I find the procedure rushes the diner and often causes one to make selections of less interesting things just because you have no idea when, or if, what you really want is going to come rolling by…

Anyway, at my last Dim Sum brunch, a young cart lady sang out ‘Beef Tendon’ as she was passing. Now, the place was very busy and the time lag between cart-visits was pretty lengthy, so I signalled that I would take a dish even though I was really waiting for some other favorites that hadn’t yet appeared. Dutifully, my server handed across a bowl appearing just as you see it on the picture on the left…

Well, although there was definitely Beef Tendon in the bowl (down at the ‘bottom’ in the foreground), it was also clear that the dish contained honeycomb tripe as well. This is something I don’t dislike, exactly, but I have had it plenty of times before and I just don’t care for it enough to order it again. Still, I had already asked for a portion and, at this point, it seemed a bit rude to reject it. So, with something of an inward sigh, I accepted the bowl.

The beef tendon was fine, if unremarkable, and the tripe was predictably unexciting, with both being served in a broth that had been seasoned (thankfully lightly) with five spice powder. What caught me off guard, however, was that after removing the top-most pieces I uncovered a bit of an unexpected ‘bonus’ as you can see in the rightmost picture. It took me a minute or so, but then I was able to identify the dark pieces as lung…

I have only once tried lung before in a dish called Husband and Wife Lung Slices, which frequently does not actually contain lung at all. The version I tried apparently did, as far as I could tell (you will have to go back and follow the blog post link to see what I mean), but, in any event, the pieces there were very small and covered in chili oil, which didn’t allow me to get much of a sense of what I was eating. This, then, was going to be a first…

To make a long story short, I can cheerfully tell you that, having finally experienced this delicacy, I am not inclined to seek it out again. The texture was soft, with very little in the way of al dente resistance, and the best I can come up with as a comparison is the texture of the edging of fat on a steak. The taste, however, did not suit me at all; It was something like very dark poached poultry meat but with a very strong taste of blood. Honestly, I am surprised that this would be a popular dish in China as many cuisines there take great pains to rid meats of any sort of ‘bloody’ taste. I like a good rare and bloody steak, but this was a bit beyond my enjoyment level. I shan’t bother again, I don’t think…

 

 

 

Sushi Village Revisited

JR Egg Sushi and Sashimi 1

I don’t generally give restaurants a second review…  I visited, and reviewed Sushi Village almost two years ago and all I will say about this most recent visit is that the ambience, food and service are about the same as they were for my first experience. That being said, I dropped in to the place once again quite recently (as the place is very close to the hotel where I most commonly stay in Ottawa), and I thought my readers might like to see the dishes I selected.

The first, which you see pictured above, was listed on the Sushi/Sashimi menu as just ‘Egg’, which I took to be a sushi/sashimi version of the multi-layered Japanese omelet known as ‘Tamagoyaki’. It was an egg dish, no doubt, but the connection between that basic fact and the complex Japanese egg specialty ended there. What I received was sort of an omelet, I suppose, but it was little more than plain egg that was cooked (in some way) to produce a thin, faintly rubber-like, sheet of yellow plastic. It didn’t taste bad, by any means, but it could easily have been powdered egg, and the texture was nothing like I a proper Tamagoyaki omelet. In fairness, the menu never made that specific claim but I will note, in passing, that I went and had what was definitely touted as ‘Tamago’ in a much higher end sushi restaurant only a few days later and got the same thing … Shame! Continue reading “Sushi Village Revisited”

The Sake Bomb

Sake Bomb

I was at the Wasabi restaurant down in Ottawa and I saw this thing called a ‘Sake Bomb’ on the menu. It turns out that this is actually a ‘thing’ these days (and not just unique to this restaurant) but, in any event, I had to try it…

My waitress brought me a small glass of beer (Sapporo, I think), and then she balanced a small cup of hot sake on swizzle sticks above it as you see in the left-hand picture above. Now, since I insisted on taking a photograph, she then did what the drinker is supposed to do. She yelled…

Ichi, ni, san, sake bomb!!!

And then she bashed her fist on the table causing the cup to drop into the beer…

Well… I am sorry I couldn’t snap a picture quick enough, but the result was like a little mini-volcano. You can see the resultant mess in the right-hand picture, and all I can say is that I am glad she got me to move my menus, Ipad, and camera case out of the way first.

Kind of a one-time novelty experience, of course, but the result actually tasted pretty good 😊

A $200 Shot of Scotch…

Laphroig 30 1

Well, I am just kidding of course. I would never pay $200 for just a single drink of Scotch …

I did pay $190 though!

Now, I can imagine a few people are shaking their heads and wondering how I could do such a thing, so a bit of backstory is in order …

First, Last month I ended up flying to Ottawa for a bit of a serious medical issue. I won’t bore you to tears with all the tedious details except to say that, in the end it worked out pretty well. The process was unpleasant, but I managed to get away with having two cardiac stents inserted (via an artery in my arm) and I  was then released on my merry way.

On arrival in Ottawa, though, I faced the very real prospect of having a quadruple bypass. I didn’t know if I would be released from hospital within a day or two, or a few weeks, or… given the risk of either route, possibly not at all. Accordingly, I rather felt like treating myself to something outrageous … something that I will never do again and, for that matter, will never do again.

Anyway, the libation in question was, to be more specific, a 30 year old, limited edition, Single Malt Scotch from the Laphroig distillery. Now I have explained why I decided to sample this very rare (and expensive drink) … for those interested in what I actually thought of it… read on Continue reading “A $200 Shot of Scotch…”

Foodstuff: Fish Maw – 魚肚 (or 魚漂 or 花膠)

Fish Maw 1

The picture above shows what appear to be three very different things but, in fact, they are just different forms of a product used in Chinese and South-East Asian cookery, and commonly referred to as ‘Fish Maw’. The word maw actually means stomach, or gullet, and, as such, the term for this product is a bit of a misnomer as it is really the ‘Swim bladder’ of certain bony (non-cartilaginous) species of fish. The swim bladder, is a gas filled sac that lies in the belly and allows the fish that possess them to maintain and control buoyancy at different depths.

As with a number of products in Chinese cookery, this item is used primarily for its texture. Some sources state bluntly that it has no taste of its own but, like tofu, takes on the flavors of other ingredients in a dish. In fact, it does have a certain, mild, ‘fishiness’, but it is still the texture that is important. It is rich in collagen, which not only gives a pleasant texture itself, but the collagen will dissolve into soups and braising liquids to lend added richness.

Several species are harvested for their bladders (Yellow Croaker is a favored type), but I do not know what from what fish any of the ones you see picture were taken… the packages I have, all written exclusively in Chinese characters, are silent on that point… In any event, the two basic forms are the plain dried article (the yellowish things at the bottom right of the picture), and the sort that consists of the same thing that has been deep-fried before being packaged for sale… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Fish Maw – 魚肚 (or 魚漂 or 花膠)”

Notable Nosh: Calamari Manko

Calamari Manko

On the last evening of a recent trip to Ottawa, I went on an ‘appetizer tour’ and stopped for drinks and one or two appetizers at a series of restaurants. One such stop was at the ‘Curry Kebab House’ which sits in the space in Byward Market once occupied by another Indian restaurant called ‘Haveli’. I will have to go back there sometime and do a proper review of the place after sampling a few more of their dishes, but the one I tried there on this occasion was terrific …

The dish was called Calamari ‘Manko’ …. I have no idea of the origin of the name ‘Manko’ and a search only yielded the fact that it is a very rude Japanese slang term (I’ll let you Google it yourselves). The menu described the dish as being squid ‘tossed with curry leaves and toasted coconut [and] served with a tomato chutney’. In fact, the ingredients were actually served ‘in’, rather than ‘with’ the chutney, which, in addition to the tomato, included mustard seed and coriander leaf. Toasted dried chilies were almost added to the mix, lending an almost ‘Sichuanesque’ effect to the overall taste, which was unusual, but really nicely done. The squid was cooked just perfectly, being tender, but still a bit chewy, and there was a sweetness that came in part from the toasted coconut, but, probably, also from the addition of a bit of sugar.

The curry leaves really made a difference here. I have cooked with these at home, but this was the first time I have had them served to me in a restaurant dish. The woody, slightly herby taste, really added a nice note. I want to try making this at home, sometime… Unfortunately, curry leaves are very hard to come by for me, but I think that a peppery Thai-Basil might make a very decent substitute…