We went shopping yesterday.
We spent about $150 at the grocery store, including buying 7 cartons of pop and two plants.
Then we went to the liquor store, where we spent over $450.
That probably reveals a great deal about our priorities.
We went shopping yesterday.
We spent about $150 at the grocery store, including buying 7 cartons of pop and two plants.
Then we went to the liquor store, where we spent over $450.
That probably reveals a great deal about our priorities.
Yesterday, I decided to forego my usual morning coffee or Coke Zero but have tea instead. It was a pleasant change of pace.
I have two favourite types of tea, Lapsang Souchong and Genmaicha:
Genmaicha is a Japanese green tea with toasted rice in it. The toasted rice adds a sort of nutty/corny taste to the green tea. I first tried something like it when I was having afternoon tea at Claridges in Mayfair a few years ago. The waiter gave it the euphemistic name "Popcorn Tea", and I didn't much care for it when I tried it there.
However, last year, Ms Eclectic and I had lunch at Gozen a few times and I quite enjoyed the Genmaicha there. It is pleasant, and it is the tea I opted for yesterday morning. More often than not, though, I prefer Lapsang Souchong, about which I have raved often in the past, referring to it as "the Laphraoig of teas". For some reason I absolutely love the smokey, mind-bending flavour of the tea.
To prepare the tea, I "bodomize" it [term via the late BenS]. I like bodomizing tea because when I push down on the press, the tea stops steeping (something I consider important for keeping tea from becoming too bitter). After using the bodomizer, I then cover the teapot with a tea cozy made for me over 30 years ago by my mother:
Yes, I am something of a tea snot/snob. Not that I'm really all that particular about tea. In fact, a decade ago I knew from nothing about tea and afternoon tea. But since then I have visited numerous establishments, sampling their afternoon teas. During these explorations/expeditions, I have developed a sense of what I like and what I don't like:
- - -
My previous reviews of afternoon (and other) tea presentations, ranked in order of preference:
These three were superb. Highly recommended:
Those in this large middle group ranged from very good to just okay. I would consider returning to them, but those in the upper portion of the list were significantly better than those in the lower portion of this section:
These next two were unacceptable:
* * * *
The chronology of when I visited each place probably affected my ratings, so here's a chronological list:
- The Four Seasons, London, England
- The Royal Crescent Hotel, Bath, England
- The Pump Room, Bath, England (superb, but not really afternoon tea)
- Claridge's, London, England
- The Boathouse, Guelph, Canada
- The St. Regis Hotel, Houston, Texas
- The Queen's Hotel, Portsmouth, England
- The Dorchester, London, England
- Brown's, London, England
- Langdon Hall, Cambridge, Canada
- The Windsor Arms, Toronto, Canada
- The Ritz, London, England
- Scolfe's Tea Room, Boreham Street, England (again, not really afternoon tea)
- The Lanesborough, London, England
- The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne, England
- The Saskatchewan Hotel, Regina, Saskatchewan
- The Fairmont Pacific Rim, Vancouver, British Columbia
I like to have enough fat in the burgers both for flavour and to hold them together, but interestingly many grocery stores no longer carry medium ground beef ("we can't sell it; nobody buys it any more" is what I was told). We found a few small packs, and given that the lean doesn't seem quite so lean as it did forty years ago, I am hoping this is a pretty decent mix.
Here are the packages of meat and spices, along with my trusty K-Tel patty-stacker, as I prepared to start the project. Note: the coffee is for personal ingestion.
I had to do the mixing in two different batches in the largest pan we have in the place:
Each mixing batch used half the meat and made two full stacks of patties in the patty-stacker:
I bag them in groups of four and freeze them. On average the patties are 5-6oz each.
Generally my view is that "a kitchen's place is in the restaurant", and indeed we do like to eat out quite a bit. But when it comes to burgers, we like our homemade burgers the best.
It has taken me many, many months of my retirement time, but I have just finished building my new Medicine Cabinet.
I don't know about you, but I think it was well worth the time and expense.
One of my favourite scotch whiskies is Caol Ila. I can get it in Alberta, where retail liquor sales have been privatized and there is competition among retailers in the provision of brands and varieties.
But I can't get Caol Ila in Ontario. The gubmnt monopoly stores do not carry it. Maybe they will at some point, but I haven't seen it in the LCBO [gubmnt monopoly stores] for a long time.
Fortunately it is available at most duty-free shops.
Jim Murray writes a whisky bible in which he rates and ranks whiskies from around the world. The big "scandal" (of sorts) this year is that a Japanese scotch-type whisky was ranked number one; furthermore, no whisky from Scotland made the top five of his ranking.*
Clearly Mr. Murray and I have different tastes (and different budgets). Perusing his rankings from the past on this site, I see very few peated whiskies other than just about anything from Ardbeg, which I like but which is not my favourite. Furthermore the Lagavulins and Laphroaigs on the list were not my favourites from those distilleries. I likely have quite plebian tastes, but my two favourite peated whiskies in past taste tests have been Lagavulin 16 and Caol Ila (see this), neither of which makes his top lists or ratings.
One big shock: the Liquor Control Board of Ontario had quarter-cask LaPhroaig on sale for $10 off yesterday. Wow! I think I prefer the 10-year-old LaPhroaig to their quarter-cask, but I still bought some.
*note: Christine Logan, who was my guide when I toured the Island of Islay, at one time worked for Bowmore Distillery and then later did some work for a Japanese distillery. She had very nice things to say about their whiskies 4 years ago when I traveled with her.
Addendum: after seeing this, a friend who knows something about the industry wrote me:
Jim Murray was a great Ardbeg fan in the early days when he went over to Islay gleaning all information for his writings. I do not rate him highly.
Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. It's always on the second Monday of October, giving us a wonderful 3-day weekend to enjoy the autumn colours of the leaves changing.
These days, many people (perhaps most?) celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving with friends and family on Sunday rather than on the actual holiday Monday. Makes sense to me. It gives everyone a day to prepare, a day to celebrate, and a day to recover. Alternatively a day to drive, a day to rest, and a day to drive back home.
For me it will be different this year; Ms. Eclectic is out west, visiting and celebrating with her family. Meanwhile, I'm having a play rehearsal today and visiting with friends tomorrow.
Mostly, though, my Thanksgiving this year is being catered by Pizza Hut: buy one pizza and get the next three for "five bucks, five bucks, five bucks."
Above all, I don't know how else to say this, but I can't believe the wonderful life I have had. Everyday is Thanksgiving for me.
But, as I posted earlier on Facebook, on the plus side...
Whoever said no news is good news was wrong. Turns out drinking red wine is better for you than going to the gym! How’s that for good news? Jason Dyck and other science researchers in the University of Alberta in Canada found that red wine, nuts and grapes have a complex called resveratrol which improves heart, muscle and bone functions; the same way they’re improved when one goes to the gym. Resveratrol proved to be an effective antioxidant when tested on rodents which is why scientists are planning on testing it with diabetics. If results are positive for the benefits of the complex, patient’s heart health could be improved just as much as it does when they work out vigorously.
For some reason I didn't bother to pronounce the name of this wine to myself until I got it home and put it in the fridge. I'm glad I bought it now, even though I haven't opened it yet and have no idea what it tastes like.
I'm sure my Facebook friend, Michael Snell (aka The Wine Commonsewer) will want this for his wine cellar, even though he seems to have a VERY strong preference for reds.
Other wines I like because of the names:
According to the Washington Post, couples who smoke marijuana are more mellow and less likely to engage in domestic violence [via JAB]:
A new study by researchers at the University of Buffalo finds a significantly lower incidence of domestic violence among married couples who smoke pot. "Couples in which both spouses used marijuana frequently reported the least frequent IPV [intimate partner violence] perpetration," the study concludes.
These findings were robust even after controlling for things like demographic variables, behavioral problems, and alcohol use. The authors studied data from 634 couples over nine years of marriage, starting in 1996. Couples were administered regular questionnaires on a variety of issues, including recent drug and alcohol use and instances of physical aggression toward their spouses.
The trouble is, smoking can lead to lung cancer. If you're going use marijuana, it's probably healthier to ingest it. There are loads of healthy (and otherwise) recipes at The Stoner's Cookbook.
For several decades when we lived in single-family private dwellings we had natural gas hook-ups installed so we could barbecue year-round with little difficulty. It was terrific.
Three years ago, though, we moved into a condo unit where the natural gas lines cannot be installed to the balconies; we have had to give up the idea of continuing our use of natural gas to barbecue.
Provincial law forbids carrying propane tanks in elevators, and I'm not about to lug one up the stairs to our unit, so propane bbqs are not a good solution.
After several false starts, we finally came across the Dimplex electric grill. Unfortunately, Dimplex seems to have decided not to produce electric grills any longer, but we quite like this one. I hope it lasts a long time.
Recently, we wondered whether we might enjoy using a Cook-Air grill that uses hockey-puck-shaped pieces of hardwood or composite fuel, and so we bought one from our local Lowe's. It does indeed heat up quickly, get amazingly hot, and cook quickly. Also, it cools off quickly and cleans up pretty easily. It would be great for tailgating, for sure.
But we will probably give ours to a family member. It smokes quite a bit, even if you trim off as much of the fat as possible, and I really don't want to impose that externality on our neighbours. And to be honest, I don't want to trim the fat, and I like the smokey flavour. The Cook-Air is probably better-suited to tailgating or places where smoke is less of a problem.
Also, after inquiring, we learned that having a wood-type fire on our balcony (albeit small and very well-contained) might not be consistent with all our condo rules.
So.... for us it's back to the electric Dimplex grill, which has been fine (aside from not really searing the meat and not cooking very fast).
Meanwhile, if you have suggestions that don't involve huge propane tanks, charcoal, or wood, we would be happy to reconsider.
Several friends have recently posted videos of someone cooking corn on the cob using a microwave. In the videos we see someone cook the corn in its husk in the microwave, cut off the base of the ear, and then grab the ear by the tassle and shake the corn out of the husk. It looks quick, and it looks as if it saves a LOT of hassle with no need to husk the corn nor to clean the silks off the ears.
We tried it last night, and it works like a charm. We did three ears and set the microwave for 8 minutes. Next time I'll probably use only 7.5 minutes on our microwave for three ears. I'd say we had only two silk strands left on the three ears, and clean up was so much easier than it would otherwise have been. Furthermore there's no need to boil up a pot of water, saving electricity or gas from that and keeping the place cooler on a hot day.
The only drawback might be trying to do this for a large number of people.
Hmmm. I see I wrote about microwaving corn on the cob over 2 years ago. Clearly at that time I had no idea about this method (cutting off the base and shaking it out of the husk after it is cooked). That, or my short-term memory is suffering more than I thought.
One of my vegan friends on Facebook posted a link to a piece with a similar title, which listed characteristics of cows that many people might find lovable.
But I'm an omnivore. My list is different.
TEN THINGS TO LOVE ABOUT COWS:
- prime rib
- ground beef
- stewed shanks
Just before the plane taxied to take off from Pearson International Airport, I texted my son* in Houston, "we gotta get some guns and oil beer."
He figured I was making some kind of statement about guns in Texas but he had no idea what I was talking about.
So he googled "oil beer".... and eventually concluded that I was referring to a beer brand, Guns and Oil. Indeed, the person sitting next to me on the plane has a small ownership interest in the brewery, which is what sparked my interest in the beer.
I suspect that Guns and Oil targets (!) the NASCAR, NRA, redneck market niche. My seatmate said it tastes like Dos Equis, but I haven't found any yet to try.
*my younger son, aka Adam Smith Palmer.
If red wine has all these health benefits, then surely if I drink two glasses a day, I'd be saving my drug plan lots of money. It follows they should pay for my wine.
From the Daily Mail [via MA]:
[Dr William McCrae] claims the antioxidant properties of red wine have reduced the risk of a second heart attack in his patients by half - and the risk of a stroke by 20 per cent.
And the sight of the cardiologist pushing a trolley laden with 125ml glasses of cabernet sauvignon has become a familiar sight at Great Western Hospital in Swindon. ...
A small amount of alcohol reduces blood pressure and therefore lowers the risk of heart attacks and strokes, as well as relaxing anxious patients, he added.
The skins of certain red wine grapes, which are used in the fermenting process, are rich in flavonoids which are known to have health-boosting properties.
Red wine also helps keep the inner lining of blood vessels smooth, which also helps prevent blood clots.
Dr McCrea recommends health-conscious drinkers quaff red wines with the highest antioxidant concentrations, which tend to come from high altitudes - such as Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile and Shiraz and Pinot Noir from South Africa.
Younger wines are apparently better because older vintages lose their antioxidants in the barrel and corked wine is not recommended as the cork absorbs antioxidants.
Wine also has to be drunk soon after opening, as it loses its antioxidant properties with exposure to the air.
Over the adult years of my life, my weight has yoyo'd a couple of times between highs over 200 and lows near 150. I once figured I had gained and lost maybe 200 pounds or so as an adult.
But then I realized these weight gains and losses were not smooth; there have been ups and downs along the way, and actually I have probably gained and lost closer to 400 pounds.
"But wait. There's more."
During each day I gain and lose several pounds, depending on my diet and exercise. Those fluctuations alone mean I've probably lost and gained maybe 1000 pounds each year, over 40,000 pounds in my adult life.
It all reminds me of fractals and measurement. When measuring a coastline, the finer the measurement, the longer will be the measured length of the coastline. And similarly, when measuring weight changes the total variation will be much greater if measured every hour than it would be if measured just once a month.
Addendum: my latest weight loss success was motivated by my role in Academia Nuts, opening June 4th in the 2014 London Fringe Festival, in which I appear somewhat scantily clad in a brief scene.
I have never been bothered my lack of ability to discern fine wines from table wines (aka plonk). They're all pretty equally drinkable for me, so most of the time I don't see the point of spending the extra cash on expensive wines. So I was thrilled to be reminded of this by Steve Levitt [ht Jack], describing a taste-test he organized for colleagues at Harvard:
These results are consistent with the long-held views of the Philistine Liberation Organization [PLO], of which I am the self-proclaimed chair. From our manifesto,
We have been subjected to the biases and special pleadings of the artsy culture vultures long enough. They sneer at anything which isn't in their own mold (mould?) of avant-gardishness. They perpetuate stupid jokes by laughing at people who quite seriously say, "I may not know much about..______... but I know what I like."
It is time for the rest of us to revolt against this claptrap of self-indulgent behaviour which passes itself off as "the actualization of one's self potential," and which somehow has, unfortunately, [in Canuckland, at least] bedeviled enough politicians that fully 65.7% of our tax dollars go to supporting these alleged artistes through direct grants and purchases of junk [Voice of Fire - - need I say more?] that any sensible person would pay someone else to haul off to the municipal landfill site. It is time for a new organization to be formed to aid this revolution. To that end, I hereby announce the formation of the PLO....
The purpose of our organization, it must be made clear, is to promote tolerance and open-mindedness -- to lampoon arrogance and self-indulgent pomposity. We don't really care if you like Shostakovich, escargot, and Birkenstocks.
We also don't really care if you like Neil Diamond, pizza, and Kodiak Grebs. We do, however, become disturbed if you try to tell us we should like; and we have apoplexy if you try to get us to pay for what you think we should like.
Long-time readers of EclectEcon will remember that I have been skeptical about the effects of "Fair Trade" designations, wondering to what extent, if at all, they help the downtrodden workers of the world. For example, see this, this or this; also, see this at Marginal Revolution. I remain even more skeptical, having seen the results of this study, reporting that workers on "fair-trade" coffee farms do noticeably worse than workers on the larger coffee plantations [via JR].
There is much more. If you think buying "Fair Trade" products helps the downtrodden workers of the world, read this report. And then think again, especially about whether you are helping the workers or helping bureaucrats of well-meaning organizations.
Yesterday I was talking with a woman who works at our bank. She showed me a receipt from the previous day and said this mistake occurred because she hadn't been wearing her glasses when using the debit card machine.
She said it was because she had forgotten her glasses. And indeed she probably had forgotten to wear her glasses. But also, the mistake occurred at a popular downtown pub. Not something I'd flash around if I were a banker, and certainly not something I'd grant a customer permission to take a picture of.
At any rate, she was delighted the transaction was not approved.
From The Daily Mail,
If you like to unwind with a glass of wine, then this might be the news you’ve been waiting for. Because according to a leading scientist, drinking just over a bottle a day won’t harm your health.
Colour me skeptical. But I'm willing to consider trying! Unfortunately, there are two problems with the advice, at least for me:
I find that when I'm on a plane or train, my noice-cancelling headphones are a wonder. Even if I don't listen to any music or podcasts, the noise canceling dramatically reduces my discomfort and maybe even reduces stress levels.
Here is another reason to wear them [via MA]. They will likely make the food taste better.
[S]eparate research revealed the sort of noise we are subjected to inside aircraft cabin affects taste buds, reducing our sense of saltiness and sweetness - and increasing crunchiness.
To test the theory, 48 diners were blindfolded and fed sweet foods such as biscuits or salty ones such as crisps, while listening to silence or noise through headphones at Unilever's laboratories and the University of Manchester.
Each volunteer rated the foods for flavour and said how much they liked them.
Background noise led to the foods being rated less salty or sweet. They were also perceived as more crunchy.
I'm not at all sure I believe this. And I'll grant that carrying over-the-ear noise-cancelling headphones is just another thing to worry about on an airplane. But often the bother is worth the effort.
I don't understand the chemistry, but there is apparently a product available and that has just been approved in the US called "powdered alcohol", also known as "palcohol". I couldn't imagine that adding water to something would yield a product with alcohol, but apparently what happens is the water releases the alcohol that is captured in the chemical compound.
According to food chemist Udo Pollmer of the European Institute of Food and Nutrition Sciences in Munich, alcohol can be absorbed in cyclodextrines, a sugar derivate. In this way, encapsuled in small capsules, the fluid can be handled as a powder. The cyclodextrines can absorb an estimated 60 percent of their own weight in alcohol. A US patent has been registered for the process as early as 1974.
However, 2M2B is one of few alcohols potent enough for practical use. The potency allows a dosage to be delivered in a small number of capsules, which effectively eliminates the burning taste. ...
In spring of 2014 a company called palcahol announced it will be marketing powered alcohol in the fall.
Imagine the headaches palcohol can cause for many, many events.
We divide the drinking in our house. Ms. Eclectic drinks pairs red wine with anything, I drink pair white wine with anything. I like smokey, peaty scotch, she likes non-smokey single malts.
Soon, though, we'll have to see which, if any, of these low-price wines are available at the LCBO [via MA, who understands my tastes pretty well]. Not many, I expect, partly because this is a UK article, partly because.... LCBO.
Update: MA writes:
Something must have gone wrong. This is the link I meant to send.
Quite frankly I am more likely to enjoy something from the first link along with the cash left over from not having purchased something on the second list.
When I lived in California or Hawaii or Michigan, I could buy wine, beer, and liquor in the grocery store, off the shelf. It is convenient and inexpensive. Now, Ontario [I mean the province in Canada, not the city in California] is taking very small baby steps in that direction.
The Ontario government is pushing ahead with a plan to put liquor kiosks in grocery stores, a bid to shake up the way alcohol is sold in the province and head off the champions of privatization ahead of a possible spring election.
It won't be much of a "shake up", believe me. Many large grocers already have kiosks that sell Canadian wine. Having additional kiosks to sell liquor is a small step. But this is nowhere near the much freer markets in other jurisdictions.
The only benefit I see from the change (and it is not really a small one despite my scorn for the plan) is that people who are happy to buy the types and brands of liquor sold at the kiosks will be saved an extra trip to an LCBO outlet. I imagine, however, that the kiosks will be expected to favour Ontario and Canadian products primarily, if not exclusively, much as the wine kiosks already do.
And those of us like Ms Eclectic and me, who like single-malt scotches, will almost surely be out of luck.
Waaayyyy back in the very early 1960s, I was a windowman at McDonalds; the early McDonalds had no seats (all walk-up service) and sold 15-cent burgers, 10-cent fries, and 20-cent shakes. In those days, McDonalds had a very simple menu, but if someone asked, we could make them a grilled cheese sandwich or double-meat burger.
Things have changed... and they haven't. There are many popular fast-food restaurants, and most of them will sell products that are not specifically shown on their menus. A link to the hidden menus is here: Hack the Menu. An indication of what might be available is in this article in the Daily Mail [via MA].
One of my favourites, which isn't on the list but which I construct myself (less often than once a year, to be sure), is the quad quarter-pounder from McDonalds: order two double quarter pounders and put 'em together (without the extra bun). Now that I've seen it, though, I may soon want to try the Mc10:35.
However, as much as I love these items, there is nothing that tops a Skor Blizzard from DQ, and that's on their regular menu.
I love marshmallows. I especially like them after I've opened the bag to let them sit and get hard and stale for 4-6 months. They are a special treat then.
But I'm really skeptical about this:
Update: However, be sure to see the comment and check out the link there. And see this from Wikipaedia. Thanks to MA for the additional info:
Marshmallow probably came first into being as a medicinal substance, since the mucilaginous extracts come from the root of the marshmallow plant, Althaea officinalis, which were used as a remedy for sore throats. Concoctions of other parts of the marshmallow plant had medical purposes as well. The root has been used since Egyptian antiquity in a honey-sweetened confection useful in the treatment of sore throat. The later French version of the recipe, called pâte de guimauve (or "guimauve" for short), included an egg whitemeringue and was often flavored with rose water.
The use of marshmallow to make a sweet dates back to ancient Egypt, where the recipe called for extracting sap from the plant and mixing it with nuts and honey. Another pre-modern recipe uses the pith of the marshmallow plant, rather than the sap. The stem was peeled back to reveal the soft and spongy pith, which was boiled in sugar syrup and dried to produce a soft, chewy confection. Confectioners in early 19th century France made the innovation of whipping up the marshmallow sap and sweetening it, to make a confection similar to modern marshmallow. The confection was made locally, however, by the owners of small sweet shops. They would extract the sap from the mallow plant's root, and whip it themselves. The candy was very popular, but its manufacture was labour-intensive. In the late 19th century, French manufacturers thought of using egg whites or gelatin, combined with modified corn starch, to create the chewy base. This avoided the labour-intensive extraction process, but it did require industrial methods to combine the gelatin and corn starch in the right way.
And the lesson many people will learn is, "Don't post videos and pictures of yourself doing stupid things to social media," with which I agree, of course; but I hope at least some people will think twice before even doing them.
According to the LA Times, a Russian consumer oversight agency reported that Trade House Cheese, a Siberian dairy plant about 1,600 miles east of Moscow, was temporarily shuttered Friday after it was found some of the employees had bathed in the milk.
The plant was closed by regional authorities for 90 days for an urgent inspection due to complaints after photos and a video of the pasteurized party were uploaded to a Russian social network.
The herd of adult males are seen ringing in the new year, undressed and relaxing in a giant container of milk. There’s also a video of the guys, again in their skivvies, making cheese. Trade House Cheese’s secret ingredient? Russian man-sweat. It gives it a very distinct flavor.
via my favourite drug dealer, JR, this summary:
The investigators looked specifically at the germs E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus to see if the foods picked them up after being left on the floor for between 3 and 30 seconds.
The time the food spent on the floor and the type of flooring both had effects on the likelihood of transfer of germs. More time translated to more germs, while carpet was the least likely to transfer bacteria; laminated and tiled floods boosted the risk that germs would transfer to moist foods after 5 seconds or more.
For some foods, I'm willing to observe the five-minute rule.