What’s good for one omnivore might do just as well for another. Go veg for a night and see if it doesn’t just tickle your tastebuds in all the right places.
Full review at the Spectator Tribune.
What’s good for one omnivore might do just as well for another. Go veg for a night and see if it doesn’t just tickle your tastebuds in all the right places.
Full review at the Spectator Tribune.
. . .I love these weird, out of the way places. It’s kind of like ecology. Every crack in the sidewalk, life takes root, plants find their tiny patch of soil and sunshine. Small business does that, too, finding economic niches in the oddest spots. Perhaps no species is more versatile than the pizza delivery place.
Fresh, oven-baked copy over at the Spectator Tribune. Get it while it’s hot.
As part of a new series, I’m reviewing Winnipeg restaurants at the Spectator Tribune. My second one has just gone up and I’ll point a link to it next week. The series is entitled, “All I have is a twenty”, and is themed on affordable (but not cheap) eats.
Today let’s look at Lao Thai.
It happens, sometimes. Not intentionally. I try to be fair, perform some honest research, leave polemicism out of it. But sometimes there are people out there with an interest in my writing something very different than what I have, in fact, chosen to write.
Some time ago I wrote on Care2 about a fossil fuel shill who managed to get an instructor gig in one of those massive, science-for-humanities-majors intro courses, in Canada’s own Carleton University. I was alerted to the story by one of the science policy/education watchdog groups I keep in touch with (and have done since before I wrote about this sort of stuff — science teachers need to know about attacks on reality as much as science/environment writers do).
The story was easily verified by checking out the actual course information on Carleton’s own website, and the sort of falsehoods being propagated by this climate denier in the classroom are neither subtle nor relative. Just the other day, Tom Harris left a comment both on that months-old article, and here on the site (on my About page). He wants me to take down the article. I won’t be doing that.
There’s no need to respond to his message point-by-point because he complains my article is inaccurate, when it simply isn’t. You either understand and buy into the scientific method, or you think you can just make anything up you want. I’m not going to attempt a rational conversation with someone who falls into the latter group.
Also recently, I received a message about a restaurant I reviewed here on the site, my local Zesto’s. I had a bad experience there, but didn’t pile on (I think) too much. It’s not the first response I’ve received to that review: not long after the posting went up, somebody commented on Urban Spoon (to which I linked in the review) that I was full of it. It was a bit suspicious (the user made an account apparently just to comment on my review and has never made another posting since I last checked), and in any case, there was little to it other than name-calling.
But the message I received this week was from the actual restaurant owner apologizing for the issues I experienced,and inviting us back for another meal. I give her credit for that. I appreciate the difficulty in finding good people in the service industry, and I’m happy to know that that particular employee’s behaviour is at least not official Zesto’s policy.
I won’t be taking up that meal offer, but I acknowledge it here. She’s trying to make up for a bad first impression, which is difficult to do. At the very least, a polite, honest communication is more likely to get a response from me than ad hominems.
I used to eat at Zesto’s all the time before their Portage location closed. It was a popular lunch spot for University of Winnipeg students, but maybe they didn’t get enough business during the summer.
What’s unique about this sub and wrap place is that they can make their wraps with lettuce, rice, or a combination of the two. Rice isn’t an uncommon ingredient in authentic burritos or similar dishes, but most North Americans tend to think of wraps as basically sandwiches with a tortilla. You wouldn’t put rice in a sandwich, therefore. . . .
When I discovered they had a new location on Henderson, I was excited to have a Zesto’s rice-filled wrap for the first time in five years, and share the experience with my fiancee. When we unwrapped our food at home, however, we were disappointed to discover both the wrap and salad had red onions, although we had asked for there to be none.
My fiancee decided to eat her half of the wrap anyway. I tried to do the same but they bother me more than her and as soon as I had the first bite I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat it. I picked at the salad, where the onion taste wasn’t as overpowering, but my stomach was growling, so it ended up being cornflakes for dinner.
The next day at lunch I swung by to give it another shot. I told the person at the counter there had been a mistake with my order the previous night. I had already decided in advance I wouldn’t complain about the salad, even if I wasn’t really satisfied, since I had still decided to eat some of it.
I’m the kind of person who doesn’t complain about food orders unless the mistake actually prevents me from eating it. I thought even if the staff asked me if there were any other problems, I wouldn’t mention it. Well, I didn’t have to worry about that. They didn’t even want to hear about the first problem.
“So, what, you came back here for another half wrap because there were onions?”
If the words didn’t already sound hostile, her body language and tone made it more than clear. I told her simply, somewhat apologetically (why was I apologetic?), that I just don’t like onions (which, of course, is why we ordered it that way).
“I’ll have to call my boss.”
When she got off the phone she was still glaring daggers at me and she gave me a little interrogation. She asked what the order had been, what exactly was wrong with it, why I hadn’t returned the wrap last night, instead of today. She started making a new wrap, without onions this time, midway through, almost as an afterthought she asked if I had my receipt, although I was clearly holding an uneaten Zesto’s wrap in my hand.
She was so obviously pissed as she was making the wrap (she looked like she was strangling someone to death rather than stuffing a tortilla) that she didn’t ask any of the requisite questions, like whether I wanted rice or lettuce, or if I wanted anything else taken out.
She roughly tossed the wrap on the counter and said “sorry for the inconvenience” in a blatantly insincere way. At this point I was so amazed at how mistreated I was feeling, without having at any point been rude, accusatory, or failing to say “please” or “thank you”, I did something I’ve never done before, and actually attempted to engage with her further.
“Excuse me,” I said, in my calm and polite voice, “I’m sorry, but I get the strong impression that I’ve irritated or offended you coming in here, and I’m not sure exactly why.”
She said something about being sorry if it came across that way, but she’s “never known a guy to come in here with an uneaten wrap the next day”. I told her I’d come when it was convenient for me, rather than making a special trip.
Privately I was wondering why I was being berated for not acting more quickly in response to their mistake. What I said was that I had no intention of causing a scene (which I didn’t) or giving anyone a hard time. I just wanted to get the wrap I had paid for, but not received, the previous night. I’ve worked in a restaurant myself, for years and years, I told her. I know it’s annoying when an order comes back, but I wouldn’t have brought it just to nitpick.
She said, “Well, I would never bring back a half a wrap like that. But I apologize”, — again, her tone conveyed pretty much anything but a sense of apology — “if it seemed like I was being rude.”
Right. That ordeal done with, I took my wrap home, opened it up, and, of course, she had made it with lettuce instead of rice. I still hadn’t gotten what I wanted. But I wasn’t going back there again. I ate the wrap, and I’ll be fair, it was reasonably good. Maybe even worth the seven dollars I paid for it.
Not worth seven dollars, plus a second trip, topped off with being treated like crap by the staff. Not even close.
But I’ve got a new slogan to suggest for Zesto’s, “Great food when we don’t screw it up or verbally abuse you”.
Not a whole heck of a lot this week. I’ve been busy.
Foosh Energy Mints are made by Vroom Foods, the same company that has been making Buzz Bites for years. The basic idea of both products is the same: take the caffeine of a full cup of coffee (100 mg, to be precise), wrap it up in a small candy that you can pop right into your mouth.
I happen to not be a coffee drinker. I drink both black and green teas, neither on a daily basis, and even the former has significantly less caffeine than a cup of coffee. I used to drink soda on occasion, but have essentially been off the fizzy sugar water for years. In other words, I was completely decaffeinated when I decided to test these “seriously caffeinated” peppermints out.
Somewhere around mid-morning on a Friday, I decided to try my first one. Vroom didn’t invent caffeine, and I’m not going to hold them responsible for the effects of the stimulant, which can vary from person to person. I will note that the body adjusts to caffeine, so if you want your cup of coffee, Foosh, or whatever to be truly effective, you should make sure you are not ingesting caffeine either frequently or regularly, but only as needed.
Having done just that, the result in my caes was a certain nervous energy that, unfortunately, I had no real way to dissipate. I wondered if I might be experiencing a placebo effect, so I took another mint to make sure, and soon the physical signs were unmistakable. I was jittery, my hands were shaking, my heart was running a little faster, and I wanted nothing more than to start running laps until the feeling went away. If I were on my way to a work-out, this would have been ideal. For the bad timing of being over-caffeinated in an office environment, I can only blame myself.
Don’t be so surprised at my poor decision. I wasn’t really expecting such a pronounced effect, since I didn’t realize how high this dose was compared to anything I’ve ever experienced before. It turns out that 100 mg of caffeine is the equivalent of three cans of soda (which put me at six cans’ worth of caffeine, with my two mints). Also, besides the caffeine, the mints include a cocktail of other, somewhat less potent stimulants, like ginseng and taurine, plus a handful of vitamins. I’ll be sure not to underestimate their effect on me the next time.
Taste is almost beside the point, so long as the candies aren’t inedible. I’ll note that caffeine is actually quite bitter. Most people don’t realize this because it’s rarely found in such a concentrated dose; in a soda or cappuccino, for example, the caffeine taste is basically drowned out by sugar and other flavours. Given such a large amount in a candy of this size, it’s impossible to completely mask the taste of the bitter alkaloid. The strength of the peppermint flavour, however, similar to what you’ll find in an Altoid, at least relegates the bitterness to an odd aftertaste. Certainly the caffeine peppermint pairing works much better than the “chocolate” Buzz Bites chews.
Foosh Energy Mints do pretty much exactly what they promise: they’re edible enough, serve as potent breath fresheners, and deliver a powerful dose of caffeine (along with a handful of secondary active ingredients). How you use them and to what effect will depend on how much of a caffeine hound you already are, and probably on many parametres of your baseline physiology. But I have no qualms at endorsing these as, indeed, seriously caffeinated.
Article first published as Tastes Review: Foosh Energy Mints on Blogcritics.
I think it’s fair to promote myself from novice to apprentice home chef. I’ve absorbed enough of the basic principles of cooking to be able to play around in the kitchen and put something together without relying on a step-by-step recipe. One recipe I’ve recently come up with is this Latin-fusion breakfast.
Huevos rancheros, or ranch-style eggs, is really a Mexican dish. Essentially, eggs with some salsa and other toppings (refried beans and guacamole, melted cheese possibly). The particular version that inspired my own dish is here. However, I knew even as I was skimming it that I would be doing a very different spin on things.
The one local dish I really like in Costa Rica is the bean and rice dish, pinto de gallo. I’ve been eating a lot of it and have not gotten sick of it. I prefer black beans, V prefers red, but it’s also completely fine to mix them together in absolutely any proportion if you don’t have enough of either kind.
I knew I wanted to use pinto de gallo as my base for the huevos rancheros, and that’s why I call this dish Huevos Rancheros de Costa Rica.
Ingredients (see the end of the post for approximate amounts):
1) Here’s a good rule of thumb: unless you’re baking, 99% of recipes start with frying some onions (and probably garlic). And so it is here. Throw some chopped onions in a saucepan with a little oil (your choice what kind) on high heat. Include some minced garlic at the same time (crush the garlic before mincing it to release more of its flavour). After a minute or so, add the peppers.
2) Once they’re decently seared (a couple more minutes) add some beans with their water/juice and turn the heat down to medium.
[A note on the beans: you can take them from a can and they're good to go -- those are cooked black/red beans. However, if you buy them raw in a package they're cheaper. All you have to do to get them like the ones in the can is boil them on medium-high for two or three hours until soft (check every 20 minutes or so to replace the water that has evaporated away). Do this the previous day and keep in a container in your fridge to use for all your Latin cooking. If you're in a rush or don't want that many beans, buy a can.]
3) Around this same time, you can get the rice started, since it has to be cooked before you add it to the pan.
4) You can also pre-heat the oven to around 400 F, and throw in some corn tortillas (as many as the number of people being served) to bake when it’s hot enough. They’ll only need about five minutes, depending on how crispy you want them.
5) Add spices to taste as the beans start to reduce/become less watery. There are many variations on pinto de gallo depending on what you’re using it for. The one I’ve described here is a nicely savoury, not overly spicy take on it that is good for making burritos. When pinto de gallo is the main dish (rather than a component in something else), I’ve been making a Cuban-inspired version with vinegar and chipotle peppers. I’ll give the recipe for that another time.
6) Before the rice is done, start making preparation for your eggs. I think soft-boiled works really well, but you can prepare your eggs literally any way you want. When soft-boiling, I found half an egg per tortilla (per person) was plenty.
7) Cook, tasting regular and adjusting spices, until much of the water from the beans is gone ( you don’t want it overly dry, however, just no loose liquid). Add the rice when it’s ready and mix it in well. You probably want a little less rice than you have beans, but there’s quite a bit of margin for error. Stir it in, keep checking for taste. When you’re satisfied, you can turn off the heat.
8 ) Put it all together. Spoon and spread some pinto de gallo on each baked corn tortilla, then put the egg on top. I shelled my soft-boiled egg, cut it in eighths, and put four pieces each on the two pinto de gallo-covered tortillas. A little yolk ran out over them and provided a nice flavour.
Lastly, top with some salsa, as spicy as you like it. I used chunky medium salsa, but then added some drops of chili sauce for additional heat. Eat and enjoy, no utensils necessary.
Notes: There’s no butter and only a dash of oil in this recipe (for the onions, garlic, and peppers). You could cut even this out by using a spritz of low-fat cooking spray. If you’re watching cholestorol, you could use egg-beaters or just egg whites, and poach or scramble them (again with cooking spray rather than butter or oil).
On the other hand, you could make this (reasonably) healthy and very filling recipe a little more fattening by frying the corn tortillas in oil instead of baking them, frying the egg instead of boiling or poaching it, add some slices of avocado or worse, guacamole. You could also melt some cheese on top.
I think you’ll find that this is very hearty and filling as is, however.
I didn’t give any specific numbers in the ingredients list because I measure everything out by eye. But here are some approximate quantities:
For eight servings, use one good-sized pepper, one whole onion (medium to large), maybe three or four cloves of garlic, four to eight eggs (if you want to give everyone their own fried egg, for example, but half an egg each should be plenty), maybe a cup or a little less of cooked beans, less still of the cooked rice (maybe half a cup to three quarters, depending on how ricey you like it), at least one tablepoon each of cumin and allspice, and half a tablespoon black pepper (to start, add more of everything as necessary based on tasting). Eight corn tortillas, about half a jar (about 250 mL) of salsa.
We’ve only eaten out a few times, and one of those times was for (disappointing) Chinese while two other times were (mediocre to okay) pizza. But we have had actual Costa Rican food three other times and while it has its good points, I think there’s a reason it’s not as popular worldwide as other Latin fare, like Cuban, Mexican, or even Salvadorean.
The big turn-off for us is the mayo. Actually not just mayo but ketchup also seems to be a major ingredient. An enchilada, with meat, black beans, tomatoe, and yes, mayo and ketchup drizzled on top. French fries (everything seems to come with fries, which, to be honest, feels like an awkward fit — what happened to beans and rice on the side?) also come with both mayo and ketchup drizzled on top. A burrito with, instead of salsa inside, some kind of mayo-based special sauce.
It’s been a little frustrating, as we’ve constantly found ourselves disappointed by menus which feature burgers, fried chicken (oh, there’s so much fried chicken), and then a small selection of Latin fare. Then, even after we order Latin dishes, it comes with a burger-type “special sauce”.
The result is a sickly sweetness and creaminess to things that are supposed to be savoury and spicy. Of course I recognize there is a degree of cultural bias here. I can’t dictate what food is supposed to taste like. It’s all about what you’re used to. Obviously Costa Ricans like their food this way, and other countries, like Chile, have similar cultural traditions.
But it does make me suspect there has been a major US cultural invasion on the food. I wish we could go back in time to Costa Rica 25 years ago to figure out how much of what we’ve been eating is traditional and how much of it is part of a more recent trend to fast food.
Whatever the answer, we know what we like, so we’ll have to request no mayo next time we order.