Author Archive for The Uncanny Canadian

Grapenut Ice Cream

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This morning, a particular errand took me to a sketchy part of Boston. The good news was that I was walking distance to Ron’s Gourmet Ice Cream & 20th Century Bowling.  Ron’s ice cream is easily one of the five best in New England and apparently competes nationwide for the title of best ice cream.  It is insanely rich and dense, and is homemade in pretty small batches on site.  It isn’t over-commercialized like JP Licks, and they don’t cheat on their taxes like Toscanini’s.

Since it was still relatively early in the morning, and I hadn’t eaten breakfast, I decided to choose an ice cream flavour that reminded me of breakfast.  While I never eat grapenut cereal, my grandfather did, and I had fond memories of visiting my grandparents and sometimes I would sleepover and the only cereal available to me in the morning was grapenut.  It’s an acquired taste, but I didn’t hate it.  It’s more like oddly crunchy and flavourless.  I decided that out of all the insanely delicious sounding flavours, I would try grapenut ice cream.  I have only seen this in New England, although perhaps it is found elsewhere.  It ended up being the perfect morning ice cream.  The grapenuts do get a little less crunchy, immersed in the milieu of sweet (but not very sweet and certainly not vanilla) cream , but they maintain a firmness and form.  I can’t say whether they imparted much flavour on the rest of the ice cream, but when it is perfect ice cream, it doesn’t really matter.  It was subtle, but distinct.  I think anybody that enjoys granola in their youghurt would enjoy this flavour of ice cream.

Burger King Ketchup And Fries Potato Snack

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Although I have to confess that Ketchup-flavoured snacks have been discussed elsewhere on this site, like here, these appeared to be a distinct snack entity. I understand that those of you who throw up a little in your mouths whilst contemplating a ketchup and potato combination will not be won over, but I hope that those of you on the fence, and who can’t travel to Canada to get proper Ketchup Lays, may be intrigued by this new snack.

Burger King is trying to sell it to the millions that enjoy ketchup on their french fries, especially the subset who like their fries crispy on the outside. What they’ve done here is cut potato strips in a roughly french fry rectangular shape. The potato strips are thicker than regular chips, but crunchy throughout. I like thick chips, so these work for me. The seasoning is very very similar to Lays ketchup seasoning in that it is tangy and robust. More salty than sweet, which is something I appreciate in ketchup flavour. Overall, an excellent product, and a great way to sate my thirst for ketchup chips. Personally, I could do with a bit more seasoning, but this is probably the right ratio.

Verdict: Delicious

Pancake Surprise

Hmm, what do we have here?

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Oh, no he won’t. Why, those lovely buttermilk pancakes already have delicious pure Canadian maple syrup on them. And tropical punch flavour? Really?

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Oh noes! He did do it! What will those Canadians think of next? But what happened then?

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It’s like there’s a party in my mouth, and Batman and Robin are invited!

There is no possible overestimation of the awesomeness of Pop Rocks. Or Nutella.

Verdict: Delicious and effervescent!!!!!

Pretzel Crisps

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I just had these at a recent party, and the only comment I can make is that they are ridiculous.  Nothing should be so flavourful, crunchy, salty, and addictive.  They have to be evil.  My suspicion is that the slightly sweet malty aftertaste is probably from a banned substance.  Anyway, these may be one of the best snack foods I have ever tried.  They have all the good and essence of pretzel, without the inbetween stuff, which frankly, is a bit of a letdown anyway.  They are a tad too salty, but it is easy to wipe off the excess salt.  They are also very solid, which makes them ideal for dipping.  It’s totally unreasonable.  Health wise, they have no fat, a little fibre and protein, and the serving size is actually a pretty decent handful.  More dangerous, are recent developments in the company, including this version:

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Don’t let Pinko think about putting those near his ice cream.

I should also mention that the company that makes these also makes New York Style Bagel Chips, which I also find dangerously addictive and obesifying.

Caramel Waffle Crisp Blizzard

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Despite the limited time offer for this Dairy Queen offering, I consider this an important entry in the category of waffle cone/caramel/chocolate-based ice cream combinations.  Is it better than Haagen Daaz Caramel Cone?  Probably not.  Is anything (excluding home-made offerings)?  Probably not.  What the Blizzard offers that you can’t get in a pre-packaged ice cream is an incredibly fresh and crispy waffle cone.  They use big pieces, and they don’t get too smushed up in the blizzardizer.  The chocolate chunks are tasty, although not sublime.  Where this flavour loses points for me (and so too does Americone Dream) is the actual caramel taste.  Caramel cone is based on Dulche de Leche, meaning it is caramel ice cream with caramel swirls.  Superr Yummmy.  When they make the blizzard, they start with plain vanilla ice cream, and blend it with caramel syrup.  This means that it still tastes like vanilla ice cream, just sweeter.  You don’t get the hydrocarbon flavour.  But the blizzard still delivers big time, as do all blizzards.  And yes, I licked the cup clean when I was finished.

XO Sauce

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Analysis of XO Sauce and its syngergistic properties

The Uncanny Canadian

Abstract: XO Sauce is an intriguing and complex condiment, whose efficacy in deliciousness is uncharacterized at Delicious or Disgusting. We assayed XO sauce on Trader Joe’s shrimp gyoza, and found that whereas the sauce on its own was too fishy and tentacly, in combination with gingery soy marinade, it enhanced the pre-existing flavours of both the marinade and gyoza and made the meal spectacularly delicious. Further analysis should reveal the optimal utility of XO sauce.

Introduction: XO Sauce was first brought to the attention of Three Bulls! in a comment written by Res Publica about Asian sauces. We were intrigued. Given that: a) condiments are delicious, b) Asian food is delicious, and c) we write about delicious foods, we attempted to define the deliciousness of XO factor through systematic empirical observation. XO sauce can be obtained from a variety of manufacturers and rather than a single concoction, is actually a collection of high-end seafood-based hot sauces. The Lee Jum Kee variety contains the following seafood: dried shrimp, dried scallop, shrimp roe, oyster extractives, and other uncharacterized crustacean products in combination with soybean oil, ,chili, pepper, water, shallot, chili pepper powder, dried garlic, sugar, salt, and other flavourings. As such, it is both complex and poorly defined.
Materials and Methods: Trader Joe’s Thai shrimp gyoza, Trader Joe’s ginger soy marinade, and Trader Joe’s 100% Canola oil were purchased from Trader Joe’s. Lee Kum Kee XO Sauce, Extra Hot, was purchased at Super 88. Preparation of shrimp gyoza was performed according to the manufacturer’s directions for pan frying on a GE stove using a standard teflon-coated skillet. All tastings were performed in duplicate using matched gyoza.
Results: In order to test the deliciousness of XO sauce and other condiments of interest, we first set up an assay based on the consumption of shrimp gyoza. Gyoza were pan fried and sampled using a base sauce, find to be an excellent dipping sauce for gyoza, Trader Joe’s Ginger Soy Marinade (see Materials and Methods). We used the marinade as a control both to normalize the palette and to look for possible interactions. Importantly, the ginger goy marinade was not spicy and therefore did not attenuate possible spice response. Shrimp gyoza eaten with the marinade were given a normalized score of 8/10 (Table 1).

Next, we ate gyoza with XO sauce directly applied. Since the XO sauce contains both supernatant (oil) and precipitate (seafood) compartments, we were careful to ensure that both compartments were assayed separately and then combined in different bites of the gyoza.  Overall, we were disappointed with net effect of XO sauce on the gyoza.  In the absence of a suitable carrier, the seafood component of the precipitate had a noticable and crustacean texture and overall too strong a seafood taste, most notably that of dried shrimp.  Even though the supernatant contained chili and garlic, these flavours did not give a satisfactory counterpoint to the seafood.  The average score of XO sauce alone was 6/10 (Table 1).

Finally, we assayed for synergistic effects by mixing XO sauce with the ginger soy marinade in an approximate 1:5 ratio.  Consumption of the marinade/XO mixture had a delightful and delicious result.  We found the XO sauce, when appropriately diluted in ginger soy marinade imparted a layer of complexity to the gyoza that made each bite an adventure in flavour.  The strong seafood presence was gone, and instead, the filling of the gyoza appeared more interesting and exotic than with either sauce on its own.  Furthermore, the slight spiciness of the XO sauce increased the boldness of the marinade and brought a very slight tingle to the tongue.  The overall score of ginger soy marinade/XO was 9.25/10 (Table 1).

Table 1:  Gyoza scores

Trade Joe’s Ginger Soy Marinade alone:  8/10

XO Sauce alone:  6/10

Ginger Soy Marinade:XO Sauce (5:1):  9.25/10

Discussion:  XO sauce, though incredibly interesting and diverse on its own, may not be suitable as a condiment on its own.  Although widely used in such dishes as chili fried rice and a number of dim sum preparations, XO sauce deserves further investigational analysis in a variety of condiment combinations.  In particular, blander foods such as tofu or noodles might serve to gain even more from inclusion of XO sauce than gyoza, which are very delicious, even in the absence of any dipping sauce.  It is important that XO sauce be combined with something containing sufficient viscosity to effectively combine the supernatant and precipitate.

References:  Wikipedia

Acknowledgements:  UC would like to thank Pinko Punko for the generous gift of XO Sauce and for the idea of testing condiments on gyoza.  This work was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Condimental Research (to UC).

The authors declare no competing financial interests

2nd tier Philly Cheesesteak

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First let’s be clear about the tiers of Philly Cheesesteak. According to the materials I’ve read, there are really only two in the elite class, Pat’s (the originator) and Geno’s. There is endless rivalry and debate about who is better, but I can’t comment, since in my quick trip to Philly recently, I didn’t make it to South Philly.

However, many real Philadelphians usually prefer their own places and finds, mostly non-touristy locations. Of these, the most intriguing to me was Steve Prince of Steak. I really wanted to try it, but it is a million miles away from where I had access. Instead I had my cheesesteak experience at a place called Abner’s, which is fairly well-thought-of among locals (see here and here and here). I don’t know if I’m getting the best, but I am getting authentic and representative of the indigenous version.

Here’s what goes on. First, fresh and very thinly sliced roast beef is thrown on a greased grill. As it’s cooking, it is chopped into small very very juicy pieces. Along on the grill, in my case, were peppers and onion. Finally, the cheese. While most tourist believe it has to be Cheese Whiz to be authentic, my research indicated that provolone or american are favoured by locals. I asked Abner (or whoever was grilling my cheesesteak) for his suggestion and he said definitely go provolone. So I did. I wasn’t disappointed. No matter how good Cheese Whiz might be on a cheesesteak, I don’t think it would have been optimal for me. A hoagie bun is then placed on the grill and the contents expertly transferred inside the bun.

So how was the sandwich? All in all, a bit of a letdown, given my astronomical expectation. The grilled beef is delicious and goes wonderfully with the toppings. The sauce is usually pretty minimal or in this case absent, so you are really getting the flavour from the grilling and the ingredients. No horseradish, hot sauce, BBQ sauce, or MSG juice to add flavouring. I think I need some with my beef. I’m used to say a Kelly’s Roast Beef sandwich. Beef is great, but beef is better when sauced. The sandwich is very very hot and greasy. The grease needs to spend a little time saturating the bun, meaning that the sandwich kept getting progressively better with time. I think to truly evaluate this cheesesteak, I need to try at least two others, just in case one is the most amazing thing ever and all the others are just pretty good. But I suspect that I will be disappointed.

Absolute verdict: Delicious

Relative verdict: Push

Egg Nog

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Keep crawling away my friend.  I think you have the right idea.  I mean seriously people.  Take disgustingly rich whole milk, add disgusting additional milk fats, and then lots and lots of raw egg.  Oh yeah, that sounds good.  Sure there are some interesting spices and alcohol to make you try not to puke right away, but there’s nothing good about egg nog.

As an additional note, everyone here should read F Minus on a daily basis.  It is wonderfully inventive, subservise, and wickedly funny.  I can’t think of a comic strip that makes me laugh out loud more any day.  And yes, that includes Get Fuzzy.

Smirnoff Raw Tea

OK, boys and girls. Here’s my advice to you: If you are ever in a dodgy Fenway Park area sports bar and order Mike’s Hard Lemonade or Smirnoff Ice and they tell you that they are out, but wouldn’t you like to try out the new Smirnoff Raw Tea, run. Don’t even look at the bottle. I made the mistake of thinking, sure, why not. I took one tentative sip and I almost gagged. It is the taste of sickeningly sweet iced tea with the most horrible artificial flavouring known to mankind. The bottle informed me that there was about 5% alcohol in the product, but I couldn’t taste any past the sickitude of the sweetness. I understand it comes in other flavours outside of lemon, but I can’t possibly imagine that they wouldn’t be even more disgusting. Just a shame. If, instead, they took the recipe of Nantucket Nectar’s Half and Half, and made a quality malt beverage from that, I think they might have a winner. But this is a clear loser.

Which brings me to the amusing part of all of this. Apparently, I was not among the one million plus people to see the latest marketing shenanigan associated with the new beverage, namely a viral video posted to YouTube, and targetting preppies and WASPs throughout the New England area (AG, this vid’s for you!). The video is kind of funny if it were simply a lame-ass spoof of gangsta rap videos, but it’s not really funny. It’s an ad. And it’s offensive. The video (hopefully successfully embedded below) features the fake group called Prep Unit and they are rapping about throwing a Tea Partay. Prep Unit raps, “We may be vanilla, but our labs are chocolate…”. I would offer them the alternative rap, “We may be making an advertisment, but our product is shite”. Sigh. This is putridly bad, so I guess it’s kind of funny, but I am sad. I honestly don’t think we’re horribly far from all entertainment being a marketing gimmick.

Oh yeah. Verdict: Disgusting. Really really disgusting.

UPDATE: Feminine Mistake has correctly revealed the progenitor of this incredibly successful yet lame ass advertisement to be the superior and more shocking Boyz in the Hood parody by Dynamite Hack

Omakase at Tojo’s Restaurant

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Omakase, as is elaborately described in the menu at Tojo’s in Vancouver, is all about trust. Literally, it means ‘chef I am in your hands’, and nowhere is this truer and more desirable than Tojo’s. AG and I read countless reviews of the restaurant basically stating that one need not bother travelling to Tokyo for the finest sushi in the world; why not go to Tojo’s?

When considering ordering Omakase, there are two key questions that need be answered. First of all, do you trust Mr. Tojo? I did. AG, not so much. The second question is how much debt do you want to assume following the meal. The prices begin at $60 CAD and go up to no limit. Can you imagine ordering food without limits? I couldn’t. I chose the $80 version, trying not to sound too amateurish or too bold at the same time.

The menu describes a process where you then discuss your food likes and dislikes with the waiter, to properly customize the dishes you will receive from Mr. Tojo. Our waitress asked me one question, and one question only: Do you have any allergies? No. Good. That was it. I had to trust Mr. Tojo from here on.

Course 1: Raw appetizer

The first dish was quite exciting. The waitress brought it out with a big smile and told me that I was getting some kind of raw albacore tuna salad in a marinated soy sauce. It had different peppers and herbs mixed in as well. The appearance was not unlike that of raw gefilte fish, a fact I was delighted to share with AG, but the taste was fantastic. Delicate, savory, daring, and oh so raw. It looked a little like this dish from their website, but was a little different

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Course 2: Cooked appetizer

A different waiter brought out the next course, which was also explained to me in sparse detail. I think it consisted of slices of lightly torched salmon perched over a mixture of shiso leaves and a few other wild greens, which topped a shredded salad of mushrooms, avocado, eggplant, and other uncharacterized items mixed in a creamy sauce. It was good. Very good. The shiso leaves have a strong taste that influenced all the other tastes, but once you are used to the flavour, it becomes very addctive.

Course 3: Cooked appetizer

With each subsequent dish, the explanations got shorter while the food grew apparently more elaborate. The next dish was titled as halibut cheek. Which it was. Many people do not consider the craniofacial components of fish as a savoury treat, but I have to say that fish cheek is wonderful. The texture is soft and buttery, kind of like, well, my cheeks. Just lightly cooked, and served with some other delicate greens in a complex and fantastic sauce. I think the sauce was a mixture of teriyaki sauce, fish sauce, and L-DOPA. Very exquisite.

Course 4: Cooked sushi

As usual, I was only offered a short explanation of what I was getting: Suntan tuna. It was basically three pieces of tuna wrapped in seaweed, then dipped in tempura batter and deep fried. The way it comes out, the inside is completely raw, while the outside, interacting with the crispy batter was more cooked. The pieces were cut like maki, and it was served with a sweet and tangy sauce. They were very nice, albeit not particularly substantial. I was a little concerned that this was the main course, and I was not going to be sated, but I was reassured that the main even was coming next …

Course 5: Sushi

When the main course was finally served to me, I gave an inquisitive look to the waiter, hoping to get the rundown on what I was about to eat. The waiter just snickered and walked off. Not quite the gut busting laugh of Mr. Tojo (pictured above), but definitely a chuckle of some kind. Well, I trusted Mr. Tojo. It was time to put that trust in place. Sadly, I have no idea what the four pieces of maki and two pieces of nigiri really were. I presume they were taken from the regular menu, but am not really sure. Mr. Tojo’s maki is quite extraordinary. For example, AG ordered a Great Canadian roll, which included lobster, asparagus, and smoked salmon. Suffice to say that the sushi was vivid, unpredictable, and wonderfully syngergistic. One of the nigiri may have been sablefish, and another may have been a toro that the waitress told us is only availabe a few times a year. Who’s to say. It was phenomenal.

Epilogue: Dessert

Nothing too fancy here. A nice scoop of mango ice cream, which AG got as well on the house, with a few tasty garnishes.

Overall the dining experience was unlike anything I’ve ever had. Between eating outside with a view of downtown Vancouver and the mountains behind it, and eating foods I have never had before, or combinations of foods that were novel to me, it was a most wonderful way to spend a Saturday night in Vancouver. But don’t take my word for it. Just trust Mr. Tojo.

Verdict – Delicious

UPDATE:  Pictures and better descriptions of some items at this here fine blog