Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Knives, Knives Everywhere, Nor Any Drop To Drink.

I'm in the market for a knife. Now, a few years ago, this would have been easy. I would have bought a Wusthof knife. Wusthoff and Henckels were the original high-end knives available in the US. My Grammy had Henckels, my Mom had Wusthof, and that was that. You had one or the other. I mean, you could be retarded and buy a Cutco knife, but why the hell would you do that?

Compliments of Food Network, I think, the American consumer has become increasingly gourmet; increasingly discerning. This means the market for cooking equipment has exploded. So along with Wusthof and Henckels, in the world of chef's knives we now have Global, MAC, Shun, Tojiro, Nenox, Hatori, and a bazillion others. Where the hell do I start?!

The two big places from which to buy knives appears to be Germany and Japan. Germany obviously gives us Wusthof and Henckels, but Japan's offerings are seemingly limitless. And I have no freaking clue how to distinguish the knives from one another.

My quest began after I bought a new Wusthof Classic and was somewhat disappointed with its cutting ability. I realized that, because of my mother and grandmother, I had bought something without doing any research. I never do this! Without further ado, I hit the interpipes and found this comparison that put both Wusthof and Henckels (my boys!) BOTH of them near the bottom of the list! Holy shit!

Now, admittedly, this was out-of-the-box sharpness, and my own experiences with my Wusthof don't completely line up with his test, but my knife certainly doesn't compare to his descriptions of the top knives.

So I've made the decision. I'm going to buy new knives. I'm not going to buy German, so I'm left with the Japanese. Holy crap, I have no idea where to go with this. The sheer number of high-end Japanese knife companies is overwhelming. The number of styles is overwhelming. There are different thicknesses, different metals, and even different types of blades. I found Japanese Chefs Knife, which has a comically bad website, but is actually an upstanding company. They have knives for sale that exceed $2000 for ONE KNIFE.

I can't rely on advice from celebrities. Alton Brown uses Shun, but the comparison wasn't kind to them. Thomas Keller endorses MAC. I really have no idea where to go. If you were hoping to get some final resolution to all of this, I'm sorry to disappoint you. I'm using this to express my bewilderment at the number of options. I'll update this with the information that I acquire and hopefully provide some info for other knife shoppers.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Organic Milk Better For You?

I'm not convinced. Generally, I'm skeptical of anything having to do with organic-this, or artisan-that. That's not to say that some studies haven't shown differences, but more studies have shown benefits in the other direction. Generally, no difference is found, but especially regarding produce, those nasty, industrial, chemically grown fruits and veggies are more frequently better for you than their organic counterparts.

I'm often proven right because organic food has little to do with actual health and everything to do with damning the man. Just because a hypothesis seems right in your head doesn't mean that it's going to be borne out in experiments. And when your primary motivation is moral and social, your scientific sense is going to be clouded.

As it is with this study. I can think of one big thing and that is that organic milks are almost always pasteurized by the ultra-high-temperature process. Anyone who's done a taste test between milks knows that UHTP changes the flavor of the milk significantly, and anyone who's ever tried to steam milk for espresso knows that the chemical changes are significant enough to make it annoyingly difficult. That means that major chemical changes are happening in UHTP milks in comparison to standard milks. Was this controlled for? I don't know, but I'd like to know. Did they include control milks? Those that are produced on gigantic scales but are not organic, like Parmalat?

Again, without details, I won't say this is bunk, but I'm suspicious. I find it especially laughable that the lead researcher recommends that everyone switch to organic. For one thing, has she noticed that organic costs TWICE AS MUCH as excellent non-organic, and three times as much as standard Wal-Mart milk. To say that people should just triple their spending on one of the Western life's staples is ridiculous. And what about milk-steaming, espresso fiends like me, huh? What of us?!

Organic milk is better for you, say scientists

Thursday, January 13, 2011

PRODUCT REVIEW: Starbucks Casi Cielo Coffee

I just bought a half-pound of Starbucks to get me through the snowstorm and gave their seasonal roast, Casi Cielo, a shot. I am legitimately impressed. I knew I was in for something different when the usual setting of "4" on my grinder was way too fine. The darker the roast, the finer the grind, and Starbucks ain't called Charbucks for nothing.

After two blown shots, I was amazed to find the coffee requiring a grind in the "8-9" range. Holy crap! So, I knew it was going to be different, but good? I was about to find out.

It's good! Like, really good! This is easily the best Starbucks coffee that I've ever tasted in espresso. Whereas other times, I bought Starbucks because my Black Cat hadn't arrived in time, or I was unable to make it to Updike's Newtowne or Coffee Exchange, with this, I don't feel as though I'm missing out by drinking it. It's very rich and smooth, always good for espresso, but actually has some fruity bite to it. It's an excellent choice for espresso, be it doubles or singles. I haven't tried a triple, but if it works in a double, it usually does well in a triple, too.

Now, I know that I'm late to the game with this. Starbucks introduced Casa Cielo over three years ago. But that knowledge only leaves me more confused. If Starbucks knows enough to make this, why haven't they applied this to their other coffees? Or their in-house espresso? While I still prefer my favorites (UpTowne, CofEx, and B-Cat), this is a legitimately good coffee and everything Starbucks makes should be like this.

Starbucks Casi Cielo Coffee: RECOMMENDED


And just for fun, here's a picture of some latte art that I poured into a cup of Casi Cielo. It was tasty.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Survey is Dead! Long Live Survey!

Wow! Pumpkin Pie trounced the competition in the holiday treat survey. 54% of people preferred pumpkin pie for their holiday junk, and the pie that I figured would at the very least be a contender, apple pie, barely registered. Homemade cookies made the only other sizable contribution to the voting pool, with 25% of the votes.

But now, after all of that indulging, you're fat, you're bloated, and you need to.... MAKE A RESOLUTION!!! This is a food blog, and if surveys are any indication, food-related stuff takes up three or four of the top ten resolutions, so we're perfectly aligned to talk about this.

If your resolution was about food, what form did it take?