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· Happy Valentines! A day that celebrates love comes, in my mind, second only to the one that celebrates giving thanks. I didn’t do roses or chocolate, but I made dinner for a couple of people I love; one of the dishes was improvised and came out well, so this recipe is my valentine to the world ...
· I apologize in advance for bragging, something I do here only rarely. But my Mom taught me to make pie and now I make pies. It’s a beautiful thing, and there are lessons to be had ... [6 comments]
· My Super Bowl Stew has become a tradition, so I should share it. With some tech magic too. [Updated again for 2017.] ... [1 comment]
· This morning we went to the Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market, which is small and good, if kind of pricey. It’s soup-to-nuts where by “soup-to-nuts”, I mean meat, vegetables, and booze. I approve of all three, but it was the vegetables in the sun that wanted to be photographed ...
· Sometime in 2004 I started making traditional Sunday breakfasts, featuring pancakes and bacon; and never stopped, so there’s a tenth anniversary coming up. I’ve learned enough about them now to offer tips both on them, and on what you put on them. Which matters, because pancakes, un-topped, are kind of boring ... [13 comments]
CL XXIX: Biryani
· What happened was, my family signed me up for an Indian-cooking class. On Thursday Nasreen taught us Chicken Biryani and so I thought I might try to enrich early-2014 Cottage Life with it ... [1 comment]
· I mean at the Richmond Night Market. Richmond is a suburb of Vancouver noted for flatness, Chinese-ness, and the airport. I gather night markets are a big deal in the great Asian cities, so why not Richmond? ... [1 comment]
Midwinter Veg Sauté
· I invented this dish this evening and everyone liked it; a hearty and fairly-healthy comfort-food vegetable dish ...
· If you’re on the Pacific Rim and you cook much, you need a wok. The right kind is the cheap kind; makes it pretty hard to go wrong stir-frying ... [7 comments]
· It has come to my attention that much of the world is Doing It Wrong. This is the obvious conclusion from the many supermarket shelf-feet of misguided “Instant”, “Quick”, and “Flavored” products. Oatmeal porridge done right is a fine start to any day; but like many of the best things in life, you can’t hurry it up ... [15 comments]
CL XXII: Blackberries
· Let’a be honest: Cottage Life is pretty soft. That’s the point, I believe, but... There Are Enemies. Chief among them are blackberries, not mobile devices I mean but vicious resourceful adaptive bloodthirsty vegetables. This story has a happy ending: we beat ’em and we eat ’em. In this lifetime, anyhow ... [3 comments]
· No, that’s not a typo. I’ve always seen Poutine as the Great Québec Mistake, a culinary misadventure which for some reason has become sort of hip in our nation’s downtowns. Basically it’s fries and gravy and cheese. Except when it’s in a Thai restaurant ... [6 comments]
· Thanksgiving has passed in Canada and has yet to arrive in the States. However, even in a dark time there are thanks to give ... [1 comment]
· We often use the Internet as a vehicle for bitching and complaining, and I suppose that’s OK. But sometimes things go well, and we should talk about that too. With a hairdresser anecdote and pasta-sauce recipe ... [5 comments]
· What happened was, we’d done a Google DevFest all day, dealing with crowd overflows and balky Internet connectivity and covering too many sessions with too few speakers in a hot room with not much ventilation. After, Fumi and David and I climbed out of the taxi by our hotel in the financial-as-in-boring part of town (although the name of the street is pretty wonderful: Avenida Isidora Goyenechea). I spotted some sort of patio with awnings and trees and said “Let’s have a drink”, so we found ourselves settled at Tiramisú which is called a pizzeria on some maps, but has higher aspirations ...
· Not only is it popular around the globe, it has for some reason special cultural weight among geeks. I cook some for my family most Sunday mornings. Have done for years, and only recently have I started getting consistently good results; so maybe sharing my experience will be useful ... [13 comments]
· I speak of Yakisoba and Yakiudon, Japanese stir-fry dishes differentiated by whether the noodles are thin buckwheat (Soba) or thick wheat (Udon). The way I make them, people like them; but the names are a little misleading because the noodles are pretty well backgrounded. Herewith some illustrated recommendations; including exotic hand-imported ingredients ... [9 comments]
On Baked Potatoes
· I recently remarked “There are very few foods indeed that compare with a high-quality Russet potato, properly baked.” A voice in the comments wondered “And what do you call ‘properly baked’?” A harmless enough question, but then aluminium foil was mentioned; shudder. Please don’t do that. Here’s how to bake potatoes correctly ... [27 comments]
· A domestic wintry day (high of 3°C with gusts of very unpleasant wind) recalled and illustrated ... [2 comments]
Oddball Beet Salad
· Last weekend, friends were about and we went to the market and I made lurid bicoloured salad for the ballgame and it was all good. With pictures and a recipe ... [1 comment]
21mm Fight Dance
· I had two ten-year-old boys with me; they said “Fight dancing!” Really it was Capoeira, somewhere between a martial art and dance form, invented by African slaves in Brazil. There are a couple of stories but let’s start with the picture ... [2 comments]
· I suspect that most readers here, and in particular anyone near the Pacific Rim, will know about edamame, green soybeans in salty pods, a nice Asian hors-d’oeuvre which I normally associate with cold beer and friendly talk. You can have them at home too, and this evening I discovered they have a surprising effect on children ... [7 comments]
· It’s important. If I had to list things that differentiate us from Neolithic club-wielders or fundamentalist Scripture-wielders or videospud remote-wielders, good hot morning toast would be right up there. It seems simple and it is, but not easy ... [48 comments]
· I’ve been too overloaded to write much or even post pix, but never (it seems) to take pictures, so they’ve been building up. I look at the buildup and discern a theme; herewith the first Summer Picture of the Day; more to come. And what could be more summery than lemonade? ... [2 comments]
· We had a few people over Saturday on an impromptu basis to watch the first game of the Stanley Cup (poor Pittsburgh). Because we’re effete West Coast New Age types, we had barbecued salmon and pita and dips and excellent white wine, and something new, a Grey Monk VQA rosé, which was not superb but perfectly OK. All this goes just fine with hockey, but because there were four toddlers and the adults barely outnumbered them, we didn’t get to see that much of the game. But the highlight was the cheese ... [6 comments]
Island Food and Drink
· Herewith some words on real ale, fake wine, and Fran’s Island Grill, with pictures for atmosphere and a recipe even ... [6 comments]
Baby Hand Wine
· I was carrying the girl, now near eighteen months, upstairs for stories and bedtime, juggling her, her milk, and the last glass of dinner wine, a very decent Penfolds Shiraz-Cab. She saw her chance when I had to free up one arm for a door; feinted left, squirmed right, plunged her hand all the way into the ruby red, and beamed triumphantly. I’d just finished wiping dinner off it so with no hesitation I stuffed the wiggly pink dripping fingers into my mouth. The wine tasted good off her warm skin, oddly different but good. I recommend this. [1 comment]
· The flight down here, on a brand-new little Embraer, was horrid. Minneapolis was having weather issues and held us on the ground in Vancouver, then we circled our destination for a half-hour. The pilot came on and said “Well, ladies and gentleman — uh, hold on” (a minute’s silence) “I was about to tell you that we’d been diverted to Duluth, but we just got clearance for Minnie”. He said it was a thousand-foot ceiling, but I think that was optimistic. Anyhow, I thought I’d stick my head out of the hotel and see about dinner and the ball game. Right across the street was the Town Hall Brewery, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. Lots of beers, but the first one tried, a seasonal Scottish Pale Ale (Scottish Pale Ale? Huh?) was so good that I stuck with it. The burger was competent and the fries outstanding, I mean really great. Plus, they had comfy chairs and sofas set up in front of a big HDTV screen to watch the ball game. Friendly strangers to argue with about Joe Borowski and Mike Timlin (who was pitching for the Blue Jays when I was watching them win the Series in ’92, he’s still throwing 93mph, yow). Town Hall is ten years old and I’d bet on ’em for the long haul. [3 comments]
· OK, here’s the problem. It’s a warm day, and kind of stuffy, and what you’re working on isn’t that interesting, and you’re really having trouble keeping a grip. Here’s the solution: double iced latte! ... [4 comments]
· One of those great summer days. Baseball, happy boys, good food, and sunlit flowers, all among friends ... [1 comment]
The London Illustrated News
· I spent the week in London. Fun was had, pictures were taken, I learned things. Herewith illustrated notes on transportation, energy, finance technology, businesslike drinking, women’s clothing, Groovy, excellent lamb-chop curry, and a round red anomaly ... [8 comments]
No Cucumbers, Please
· Is it just me, or is cucumber tempura a completely lame food? Your typical assorted-tempura for lunch will have prawns (delicious), yams (mm, the contrast between the crunchy outside and the firm inside), maybe a green pepper (not that exciting, but OK), and then the cukes, which are limp, damp, and flavorless under the batter. Why bother? [6 comments]
· Wow, was that music hot, or what? I get the feeling that Prince decided some heavy rain would help his visuals and he had so much mojo going into this particular Sunday that God took his call and set it up. I wonder how much rehearsing it takes to pull together something that choreographed and have it come off on the first-and-only-chance performance, weather be damned? We had a bunch of people over, so I was hosting and missed quite a bit of the game, but I grabbed a seat at halftime, and turned it up and told ’em to shut up when the music started. By the way, I made Paul Humphreys’s Beef Stifado for the after-game dinner, and it came out great; heartily recommended for a good solid feed on a cold winter day. Looked just like Paul’s picture. I doubled the recipe and quadrupled the garlic. [3 comments]
· Another Christmas in the bosom of the family; we got all of Jean Bray’s children, their spouses, and her grandchildren together, which we don’t manage often enough, in Calgary. Like many others, I find with every year that passes that the people seem more important, the eating and drinking and so on less; but I got an outstanding present ... [5 comments]
· You buy it shrink-wrapped in the supermarket, right? And it’s not bad; perhaps a slightly guilty pleasure and certainly best enjoyed in moderation. But you know, that’s not real bacon; somehow, despite having grown up partly on a farm, until a few weeks ago I’d never tasted the real thing. On Main Street in Vancouver (which is not and has never been the main street) at the corner of 20th Ave you’ll find Continental Sausage Co., which I guess supplies restaurants and has an unpretentious little deli that we’ve started patronizing. The meats are in the German style and the ambiance and pace are definitely of another era. Anyhow, on impulse one Friday I ordered six slices of bacon for Sunday breakfast, and she pulled out a big brown slab and sliced them on the spot. Oh my goodness gracious, it’s nothing at all like what the supermarket has. Now what I do remember from the farm is fresh eggs, laid in the last day or so. I wonder where I can find those in Vancouver? [5 comments]
· Today was Thanksgiving in Canada. It’s hard to imagine anyone not liking this New-World-only holiday; we all have lots to give thanks for and dedicating a day to acknowledging it has to be a good thing. Along with the big things, a couple of small thanks-worthy events. First, at the outstandingly-beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park Pitch & Putt, I hit a hole-in-one at the tenth. All of 70 yards, mind you, and completely level, but still. And later on, I undertook management of the turkey and the dressing and the veggies on my own for the first time ever, and they came out not too bad at all. I also got a successful gravy-making lesson from Peter Sharpe. Then there’s the family and the weather and the job and all that other stuff too. Dear Universe: thanks! [3 comments]
· On Thursday, my Mother made the best pie I’ve ever eaten. I suspect that there are many people who’ve never actually eaten a good fruit pie made that day with fresh ingredients, traditional methods, and love. This was an apple pie, the apples extremely tart; the filling electric with fruit and cinnamon and the pastry divinely crumbly on the tongue; words can’t begin to describe it. I’ve included the recipe ...
· Lauren and I were rushed for time but someone had to make dinner. I’d pulled a frozen steak out to thaw that morning (not that big, not that great-looking), and had noticed the veggie bin was pretty full. “If you’ll marinate this, I’ll stir-fry” I said, and it came out great; so here’s the recipe ...
· You know, it’s really awfully nice to have Mark Pilgrim back. A small but good debate has broken out in the comments over the merits of Red Delicious, Fuji, Braeburn, and other varietals. While the commenters are right that Mark is wrong to select Red delicious, it is foolish to dismiss the Macintosh for being too tart; a fresh well-grown Mac is about the best apple there is. But then Mark just gave up on Macintoshes.
· This is the name of the southernmost bridge across San Francisco Bay. At the west end is our Menlo Park campus, where I usually work while I’m here, and at the east end is Newark, a salt-mining town, where I usually stay. So I’ve driven across that bridge a lot, usually in a hurry, often noting that there’s a walking trail at one end and a wildlife refuge at the other. Yesterday I stopped at both. Herewith the pictures, with remarks on tequila and hell ...
Just A Kid
· Last weekend, Lauren felt like cooking up home-made Easter eggs, so the shopping list included “chocolate chips (large bag)”. I was heading down the bulk-foods aisle and realized one of the vertical acrylic bins was full of them. Someone had been sloppy, and there was a little heap of chocolate chips on the shelf underneath it. For a second, I flashed into pure eight-year-old mode, thinking “Holy cow, there’s a whole bin full of chocolate chips, and more just lying there!” I popped a few in my mouth and they were excellent; semi-sweet, dark, strong, and firm. I was still in the state that Buddhists don’t mean when they say “Child’s Mind”, thinking “I can get as many as I want!” The list did say “large bag” after all, so I put a bag under the spout and gleefully jammed the lever all the way over. At home, Lauren said “You went overboard, a bit, didn’t you?” and now we have a plastic canister-full in the pantry which should last us into 2007. It’s a good feeling.
The Big Island
· I’m good at vacationing; sleep a couple hours extra every night, lose all ambition, disconnect from work. Here are some photos from the Big Island, which is a good vacation spot, and remarks on: palm trees, resort maintenance and economics, bad clothing, lava, the size of things, where to buy fish, beer, flying with the kid, weather forecasts, Kailua-Kona and sea turtles ...
· I’m trying to stay on top of one or two too many things and feeling kind of stressed out, so I thought I’d post a picture of a tea service ...
· We were driving home talking about what to have for dinner, when Lauren said “How about Penne Carbonara?” I knew that this was some kind of pasta sauce, but somehow I’d never actually had any. Well, there are cookbooks. My goodness gracious: I thought that America had seized world leadership in the art and science of coating the insides of your arteries with fatty, greasy, substances; but I see that the Italians are still the masters. First, you cut up a third of a package of bacon and cook it in olive oil. Then you’ve got four eggs, considerable butter, some cream, and a bunch of grated Parmesan. Cook ’em up in just the right order, toss the pasta in it, and apply great lashings of fresh-ground black pepper. I had lots of red wine in the faint hope that it would mitigate the arterial damage. With apologies to all the observant vegan Jews and Muslims among my readership, I have to say it tasted damn good. [Update: I really have to write that commenting system. Now up to
four seven eight smart carbonariferous replies. Also, check out the Wikipedia on Carbonara, also the Wiki Cookbook, and especially the Cookbook’s discussion page]. ... Social
· Our third annual “Lauren and Tim’s New Year’s Day Social” is history. Forty or so people, plus as many as nine simultaneous kids, went through some pretty good champagne, juices, gazpacho, lentil soup, dips, and so on, and did a whole lot of talking. Marlowe, who’s now six months old, astounded us by sticking around and chilling with the crowd, apparently enjoying the buzz. Thanks all for coming, and for those who brought bottles of wine and other bonuses, that’s really totally unnecessary but thanks anyhow. I enclose a photo of the aftermath ...
· Saturday soccer practice was at 10AM, 5°C with the wind pushing the rain sideways. Only six of the nine Dragons turned up, but they were in good spirits, played through the pain; but by the end of the hour were looking kind of blue. So I said “Everyone come to the café for hot chocolate” and did they ever brighten up. It’s only a couple of blocks from the dismal gravel field we have to use when it’s too wet for the grass; soon we swarmed noisily into the welcoming warmth. There was a couple in our corner that maybe wanted some quiet Saturday-morning coffee talk, we chased ’em away. One of the parents said “Oh, you shouldn’t pay for them all” but six kid-sized hot chocolates doesn’t cost much and that was more smiles per dollar than just about anything else I can think of.
· It’s funny, that’s all. Everywhere you go in Kapor-Capodistria, the beer is Zlatorog. We were sitting around and I did a little survey around the table and, sure enough, Anglophones, to a one, think that name is funny. The rest of the Eurotypes looked puzzled. I put on a melodrama-narrator’s voice and said “The Vogon generalissimo Zlatorog extruded a slimy appendage and curled it around our heroine’s shuddering curves...” but that didn’t seem to help. I have a picture of Zlatorog and Danese Cooper, itinerant Open Source Diva ...
· I’ve got this horrible cold, congestion with muscle pains, and was going to claim that I’m suffering from flu but that’s unsupported by the evidence. Anyhow, after lunch at Phở Thăng Long, the Phở joint across the street, I felt quite a bit better. I suppose this is kinda like your Jewish Auntie’s chicken soup, only Vietnamese not Jewish and beef not chicken.
· We took our friend Sally on a mini-vacation this long weekend, up to the Okanagan Valley, B.C.’s wine country, distinguished also by beaches, outdoor fun, beautiful mountainside views, and generally nature. Here are some tourist tips and a first photographic fruit ...
· A friend had an opening in a gallery out in Deep Cove and it was my birthday, so we drove out and went looking for dinner after. At the gallery, the jazz trio (combined age well over 200) played old-fashioned clarinet tunes, so weirdly slow that the flavor was more Twin Peaks than Benny Goodman. Down at the end of the road the Arms Reach Bistro overlooks the cove, and I’d recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind the trip. With two high-pressure jobs in the family we eat out once or twice most weeks: Japanese, Malaysian, Indonesian, Thai, Indian, uh, can you spot a pattern? Very Vancouver, but we realized that it had been a long time since we’d dined out à la round-eye. The carpaccio appetizer was very good and my chicken penne with aioli was maybe the best dish I’ve eaten this year. The room was nice, the view beautiful, they had a very fine local Pale Ale on tap, and the bill was reasonable. The jazz trio (combined age maybe 75) covered Freddy Freeloader with real grace, stretching it out and even playing gently outside; what a nice evening.
· One week late last year, on a lark I made a traditional Sunday breakfast: pancakes, bacon, and maple syrup. The kid has on every subsequent Sunday put in a non-negotiable demand for more of the same. The good news is that the pancakes are getting better. The bad news is that learning sucks, and my JXTA pancakes are still kind of burnt and misshapen ...
· Anyone living in a city with any Chinese flavor at all will have noticed the arrival in recent years of Bubble Tea sellers, which are often also Internet cafés and latte joints. If you follow that link you’ll discover that Bubble Tea is a new thing in the world, barely twenty years old. Today we went on a family bike ride; at the random café where we stopped we were the only round-eyes and bubble tea was on the menu. I ordered one in green-apple flavor, and let me tell you, this is some seriously weird stuff. You drink it with an extra-wide straw for a reason, and the sensation is unique. I enjoyed giving Lauren and the kid a taste and watching their faces when they took that first pull. I don’t think I’m going to become a bubble-tea regular. But everyone really ought to try it once.
· In a week distinguished by good food and bad travel planning, I flew to Europe on Monday to attend Javapolis in Antwerp, Belgium, and returned Thursday. Herewith an illustrated travelogue and remarks on the conference, the Cathedral and the Pink Panther, and the flesh of Jesus ...
· This is a word used by foodies to describe a “fifth taste,” accompanying sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. It’s also the name of a restaurant here in Vancouver on the south side of Davie just east of Seymour; there’s a rather over-wrought write-up online from Vancouver Magazine. Anyhow, this evening Umami gave us the best dish I’ve had anywhere this year; I’m not a serious foodie but we eat out a bit and Vancouver is definitely a foodie city, so the claim is significant. It was grilled asparagus wrapped in prosciutto with some little bocconcinis and tomato sections on the side. Divine.
· No, I’m not kidding. I was barbecueing a couple of lamb cutlets and there was this great big head of broccoli near the front of the fridge. So I tried an experiment and it came out great. Don’t break up the broccoli, slice right across the head; a few clumps will come off but you’ll get some flattish pieces with lots of stem too. Thinner is better, I think. Brush the whole thing with toasted-sesame oil—a little hard to come by, but very useful—and put it on the grill, high heat, for, well, about as long as it takes to barbecue a couple of lamb cutlets. The surfaces of the leafy bits will be slightly charred. Yummy; I’ll be doing this again.
Salt Spring Coffee Morning
· A good morning to you; I’m having one. Genx is (finally) passing almost the whole XML test suite, a nice Bach cantata fills the air (Leonhardt’s take on BWV12, Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen), and I’m drinking a damn fine cup of coffee. The coffee’s from Salt Spring Coffee, which is substantially better than the beans from the local Starbucks. Salt Spring gets a tip o’ the hat because I was going to write about them sometime last year but their Web site was totally IE-centric and I couldn’t use it, so I sent them a note pointing this out, and just checked it out and now it’s fixed; quite decent in fact. We lean to the French Roast, but some might find this blend a little too exuberantly dark. If you like good coffee, there’s no substitute for buying beans, keeping them in the fridge, getting a good grinder and doing it right. I remain convinced that the classic Melitta pour-through system can’t be beat, and also convinced that a well-done Norteamericano filter coffee is the equal of any fancy espresso-based drink, and also has twice the caffeine, which is good. Not that you’d want to give up all those nice espresso drinks, there’s a time and place for everything. When I finish the coffee and knock down a couple more test cases, we’ll go do some gardening. Life is good.
· Since the friends down here knew we’d be visiting in February, Sally left her tree up and cooked everyone fabulous Aussie-style Christmas dinner (on the barbecue, of course) ...
AOCs and URIs
· To accompany the barbecued chicken at dinner we had a bottle of hastily-purchased 2002 Côtes du Luberon rosé. Initially disappointing because too cold, it became rather nice as the chill wore off. On the label was a URI, not that common in A.O.C. wines (yet), and a quick after-dinner visit to the Val Joanis web site was most rewarding, check it out. It’s well-set-up, good-looking, works in more than one browser, and makes you want to visit the place; why do so many commercial sites fall short on these obvious goals? Also it’s comprehensively bilingual—each page’s Union Jack glyph taking you to the corresponding English page, very good. And an interesting piece of translation-ware; on the page labeled (en Français) Le vignoble and in English The estate (?), Un travail de titan est lancé... becomes The Herculean task of rehabilitation was begun... (boldface theirs). A sloppy translator would have made the task “titanic” but this feels way closer in spirit; language is slippery, slippery, slippery.
The Tiger and the Skateboard Punk
· So I said to the oriental guy, the one with the cruel mustache and spiked hair, “Get me a tiger.” His eyes widened: “A Tiger?” But then “OK.” Outside, the skateboard careened downhill, death and the law waiting ...
G & T
· Sitting in the 757 I order a gin and tonic and it's free because they've been having all sorts of trouble and had to switch planes on it. Kind of thirsty and I have a whole can of tonic, so I drink a couple of glassfulls before I put the gin in. I'll have to try this again, the perfume and deep flavour of the gin explodes on the tongue to remarkable effect. Mmmmmm good.
By Tim Bray
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