Friday, May 14, 2010

Raw Milk.

I generally side with the scientists, and they say raw milk has no benefits in comparison to pasteurized milk, nor does it cure anything. But, it HAS to taste different. Even though pasteurization doesn't take the milk past its heat tolerance point, it gets it damned close. Changes in chemical structure do occur, as any scientist will admit, and I'd love to find out how raw milk tastes. I'm healthy enough, I think that I can take a shot of ebola, or hanta, or whatever raw milk carries.

If you're drinking Hood, stop, and start drinking Rhody Fresh. If you're drinking Rhody Fresh, stop and start ordering from Munroe Dairy. Munroe's 2% tastes better than Hood's whole. There's a big difference. So I'm left to wonder if there can even be a big difference moving from Munroe to raw. I'm especially intrigued because of my latte making. Steaming milk requires the proteins and fats in milk, both of which are damaged by heat. Could raw be the sweet, creamy, milk-filled, holy grail of latte production?

I'm going to try, and if you want to, this page has the info you need. Be aware of the risks. You can get sick from this! It's of a low probability, but it can happen. As for me, I look forward to my lattes.

Pasteurization Without Representation (The Atlantic)

PRODUCT REVIEW: Cascadian Farms Frozen Vegetables

This is going to be a group review, since it would be silly to review just their corn or broccoli. My girlfriend and I are pretty busy doing things. We don't really have the time that we want to dedicate to making meals on a nightly basis. We're also too lazy to wander too far every day. Thus! Our reliance on frozen foods was born. We can't bring ourselves to buy frozen meals (seriously, yyyyuk!), but we will buy frozen raw materials. As such, our freezer is completely open to frozen vegetables.

If you've ever eaten frozen veggies from the likes of Birdseye and Green Giant, you know that they're totally acceptable, but not really the best of the best. Broccoli is heavy on the stems, corn isn't exactly bursting with flavor, and the peas are small. Broccoli is the worst offender. It's usually so bad that I'll keep everything else frozen, but the broccoli gets bought fresh and steamed in a microwave steamer bag.

If your nightly meal sounds similar to that, do I have the product for you! Cascadian Farms is organic, but don't hold that against it. Its vegetables are in a different league than GreeGi or Birdseye. More expensive, but as worth the extra money as anything in the store.

The corn is exploding with super-sweet flavor. The texture is denser with more snap. I swear, even the color is better. The peas are large and not the slightest bit mushy. The pre-made blends like the Garden Vegetable Medley are absolutely amazing for frozen food. Not just acceptable, but downright friggin' good. It's the broccoli, though, where Cascadian hands the other brands their deportation order. NO stems. Not one. Just big, beautiful, tender florets that steam up and taste as close to fresh as I think anything frozen could ever taste. The only sore spot was the spinach. It was watery and light-to-devoid of flavor. It didn't taste bad, but that's kind of because it didn't taste like much of anything. I wouldn't buy that again, but that might just prove that you shouldn't buy spinach frozen. I mean, would you buy iceberg lettuce from the freezer?

As I mentioned, their products are more expensive. Single-steam, 8oz boxes usually cost about $1 more than comparable products from Green Giant and others, but it's completely, totally, 100% worth it. Cascadian Farms are the best frozen veggies that you can buy. And, honestly, can you really say no to a company that does this?

Cascadian Farms Frozen Vegetables: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Illy Needs to Check Itself Befo' It Wrecks Itself.

Giorgio Milos, a master barista from Illy, and apparently ambassador to the world for Italian-style espresso, has a few choice words for American espresso. Thankfully, I have a few choice words for him.

His article is vaguely elitist, but not too bad. No more elitist than anyone writing about some food about which they know too much. But he makes mention of the "authentic Italian technique," which I found funny. First off, espresso has gone far beyond little Italy. The most renowned, successful, award-winning cafes are all outside of Italy. An Italian Barista has yet to win the Barista World Championship. The Clover was invented in the US. Psychotically complex syphon pots for making coffee are more common in Japan than Italy. Global espresso consumption was fundamentally defined by an American company. Italy... is small potatoes.

Second, he says that if these foundations that "that international associations agree on" aren't met, it's not espresso! What International associations? Ones of Italian origin, perhaps? Truthfully, I have no idea to what organizations he's referring, but I think it's ridiculous no matter what. Food stuffs evolve. It's like saying that just because we added chocolate chips to vanilla ice cream, that it's no longer ice cream.

He then uses the "some people think that" trick for which Fox News is so famous. As in, like Fox News uses the line "some people think" and then simply states its own opinion as though it's supported by others, he critiques beverages from "cafes," as though ALL American cafes have the same problems, then proceeds to talk about roasting like others don't know. Strange, even in little Rhode Island, the quality, taste and style of drinks varies wildly from cafe to cafe.

He talks about cafes using, gasp, 20-25 grams of espresso for a drink. First off, I have no clue where the hell he went. I have never encountered a cafe that does that. Upwards of 20grams? Yeah. More than that? Never.

Finally, he assaults poor grinds. I find this freakin' hilarious, but also telling. I use pre-ground Illy when I'm lazy or my grinder is out of commission, so I'm well-acquainted with it. I now know why it is absolutely impossible to get a perfect double: the grind is aimed at singles, the virtues of which Milos can't seem to extol enough. It's pretty easy to nail 9-bar and 25 seconds with a single, unless you tamp with a metal press, getting the same 9/25 espresso out of a double is impossible. I've gotten close! But not quite.

I can grind the slightest bit finer and nail 9-bar in both a single and a double easily. And even in Italy, doubles are a thing! It's not like no one in Italy drinks a freakin' doppio (Italian for double) now and then. And it's that that makes Milos wrong. He attacks the grind more than anything else, and yet, Illy's grind could use a little help.

And, frankly, any company who produces these:

Has NO room to speak.

A Winning Formula for Traditional Espresso (The Atlantic)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Extinct Cheeses.

I didn't know that cheeses could go extinct. Extinct? Really? I guess it makes sense. Languages can do it. Anything that requires constant participation. Regardless, this gives me a great idea! We need to start a massive, gourmet cheese factory that's sole purpose is the make as many cheeses as possible! If we centralize cheese manufacturing into a giant cheese clearing house, sort of like a stinky Amazon, the global market can support the making of small, artisan cheeses. The global market for cheese is so huge and diverse, even the smallest cheese operation could be supported.

France's Distinctive Cheeses Are Disappearing (Huffington Post)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Creatine is Great.

I've had a light weight-lifting routine for a number of years, now. It's the way I stop from becoming an absolute porker as I pursue my hilariously opposed life as a gourmet. I started taking creatine not as a physical supplement, but for its cognitive benefits. With even a small dose, increases in memory and processing speeds have been noticed. I'm always after ways to give myself an advantage in... in... whatever the hell it is I do that requires an advantage (Got it, Street Fighter IV!), so after hearing that Creatine is actually pretty well-supported experimentally, I was on Amazon with my credit card out.

But holy crap, I noticed quite an increase in my weight-lifting stamina. I've gone off and on Creatine multiple times to make sure that it's not in my head, and I feel highly confident that it is a real effect. It has no effect on how much I can lift, nor does it affect my ability to handle weight and cardio without tuckering out completely, but if I slowly work my muscles, I can do significantly more repetitions per set.

Without creatine, it is difficult to impossible to do three sets of ten reps of a tricep lift with a 30-pound weight in each hand. With creatine, I can do three sets of twelve reps with more in reserve. I'll frequently do fifteen or sixteen reps on my final set. It's very impressive.

Side effects? After not taking any for a few days, then taking a decent dose, I fart... a lot. Combined with my hilarious doses of Fibersure, I fart even more. My urine is also incredibly odoriferous. I can't describe the smell. It's just... a smell. And holy crap is it a smell. It dissipates quickly, but it's strong as hell.

I haven't encountered any other side effects. My dose isn't high enough where I'm bloating. My muscles don't look any bigger, which is a big goal of many body builders. And since I drink a lot of water anyhow, I haven't encountered issues with dehydration.

Considering the cognitive benefits, I recommend creatine to anyone. The studies show no nasty side-effects, and if the only notable result from extended usage is smelly pee, I think it's pure gold.

Continuing Adventures in Latte Art

I was able to grind out some pretty good pieces of latte art with my old Jura Capresso Z5. But it was never meant to do that. It took a LOT of work and fiddling to get it done. Still, I managed this, and also these. Not baaaad, I'd say. But still not barista-level work. Now you can see the difference between a machine that's just playing around, and one that's meant to be used and abused.