Cannoli Oak Beard*

*Or, how I had an awesome Friday and I love my brother.

Yesterday was a non-stop smorgasbord of fun.

One of my colleagues brought in a box full of Pasticceria Papa‘s famouscannoli. They are seriously, heart-stoppingly wonderful.

After the workday finished there was a workplace financial year kickoff celebration at The Oaks. We were in one of the upstairs rooms, and I didn’t stay too long, but it was a good laugh.

Then it was time to taxi over to Sydney Uni and Manning Bar, where the gig festivities kicked off with a few good mates. There were several acts, most better than the last. I missed the first act, The Stiffys. Here are the ones we did see.

  • Mojo Juju play a swampy New Orleans gutbucket jazz shuffle. Their first couple of songs had me worried as they were slow and similar. But they brought it up in tempo, volume, and attitude as they went on, and got much better. They were fun, and quite stylin’.
  • Manchoir were an amazing surprise. They are exactly what the name implies: a choir of men. About 10 of them, all in singlets, some with bottles of beer in hand, performing a capella renditions of such great man-classics as “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Highway to Hell”.Hilarious!
  • The Crooked Fiddle Band played prog folk metal. I’ve never heard such a heavy polyrhythmic racket from a lute, violin, upright bass, and drums. It was mostly instrumental and mostly pretty intense. The woman playing fiddle had virtuoso level: she was amazing. Very skilled and dynamic, but it missed some of the fun and emotion that the earlier two acts had set us up for. But definitely an amazing band.
  • The Beards. What can I say about this band that I haven’t already done? They love beards, disdain all those who are beardless, and play many rockin’ tunes about beards. Last night they played several from their new album, Having a Beard is the New Not Having a Beard, which I hadn’t heard them play live before. They were, as usual, awesome. If you’ve missed previous posts watch thesevideos.

Afterwards we had a couple of beers at the Marly Bar in Newtown, made all the more entertaining by a power-tripping bouncer and a soft-porn session by some drunkards who forgot they were in public.

Classy Beards

El excelente bogavante de Nueva Escocia

I work for a multinational company. We’ve just had our last weekly staff meeting. These meetings are actually phone conferences, since my boss is in Madrid and the other members of my team are in Amsterdam and Rome.

The boss was asking everyone what their plans were over the holidays. I mentioned that I was going home to Canada on Friday. He asked me if I was flying to Toronto or Ottawa. I said neither, I live on the east coast and will be flying to Halifax.

He said, “Oh, will you get lots of lobster there?”

I left aside the fact that I don’t care for lobster, and remarked that I was surprised that he knew that that part of Canada was known for its lobster. He responded that he didn’t really know, but he guessed because there is a well-known lobster restaurant just outside Madrid named “Halifax”.

I looked it up, and it’s true. Halifax flies in live Canadian lobsters each week. It’s even in a log cabin. Check out the picture gallery.

すばらしい*

*“Excellent”. At least, I hope that’s what it says.

Once again the folks at Qype held a special event for some of the London contributors. You may recall me blogging about the Moët Hennessy wine-tasting event, or the gourmet chocolate event. Last night about six of us were treated to a Japanese food and sake event. It was excellent, top to bottom.

The location and food were provided by Tsuru. It’s a relatively new Japanese restaurant nestled into a business area just behind the Tate Modern in Southwark. It’s a cozy spot, and they made some incredible food. Click that link to see my (and others’) thoughts on the food; in short, it was excellent. I’m definitely planning to go back, probably to try some katsu curry.

The drinks were provided by the lovely Wakana Omija of the Akashi Sake Brewery co., an artisanal sake and shochu producer. Although I’ve always liked sake it was the first time I’d ever been to a proper tasting. It was really fun and informative. For instance, I didn’t know that brown rice is made into white rice by polishing it (basically, scraping away the outer parts of the grain). Did you know that? Huh? Didya?

Although it got increasingly difficult to keep track of everything we tasted as the evening went on, our hosts did a good job of pairing different drinks with different foods. All of it was tasty.

  • As we nibbled on edamame we tried a couple of cocktails: a Kappa Saketini (their Tokiwa rice shochu, Honjozo sake, and cucumber) and a Tokiwa Rhubarb Fizz (Tokiwa again, rhubarb, sugar syrup, soda, and mint). The latter was dangerously tasty.
  • With our seabass carpaccio they let us try both their Daiginjo and Junmai Daiginjo sakes.
  • We were served both warm and room-temperature Honjozo with our nasu dengaku.
  • The most interesting drink of the evening was the Genmai Yamadanishiki aged sake that accompanied the chicken yakitori. Akashi-Tai took the bold move some years ago of trying to make sake from brown, unpolished rice. It turned out to be…well, not good. But they’ve let it age a few years and it’s now starting to develop some complex flavours. It’s challenging, for sure, but when paired with food that’s got similarly strong flavours I can see a market for it.
  • For the sushi platter we got some creamy, undiluted Honjozo Genshusake.
  • I think there was another snort of Tokiwa at the end to finish us off.

All of the drinks were excellent. The Junmai Daiginjo and Honjozo Genshu would be my two favourites from the whole lot, but they all worked well with the food they were paired with.

I’d definitely recommend having lunch at Tsuru. If you’re keen to try some of Akashi-Tai’s sakes or other drinks I’m told that you can get them at London’sJapan Centre , and I can see them for sale online at TheDrinkShop.com.

Big shout to Rob and CaribQueen from Qype for putting on the event. And good to meet/see again the other Qypers!

Here are some photos.

Image from Mex Beady Eyes via Creative Commons license

Ealing turns food waste into energy

Image from arimoore under Creative Commons license

Digestion is, of course, the process whereby your gut breaks down food you ingest into components that it can use. Anaerobic Digestion (AD) is a the name for a similar (but industrial) process where microorganisms break down organic matter (but without requiring oxygen to do so). AD is used in some places to produce energy: when the little bacteria break down organic waste one of the resulting products is a biogas that makes a nifty fuel.

AD isn’t widespread yet. The process is a bit finicky to control, and start-up costs for an AD plant can be big. However, there is such an AD plant in Bedfordshire run by a company called Biogen. I think that’s pretty exciting. They take food waste that would otherwise simply go into a landfill somewhere, break it down, and produce methane-rich gas and concentrated organic fertiliser from the solids.

Ealing, where I live, has been improving its recycling programmes in recent years. It has a good food waste recycling programme: they offer cheap composters if you’ve got a garden (we have one), and provide you with a food waste bin so that they can collect household food waste from the roadside each week for those who don’t compost. That collection service is handy even if you do compost because it accepts things you might not want to add to your garden compost pile (e.g., meat and fish scraps).

I’ve just found out that Ealing has now become the first London borough to send its food waste to Biogen’s AD plant. Yay, Ealing! They give you composters, offer to pick up any food waste, and turn that waste into energy. They really couldn’t make it any simpler, could they?

Feast

I baked yesterday. I don’t bake very often, but we had a dinner party at the Colombians’ and we were bringing dessert so I thought I’d give it a go. I cracked open one of the cookbooks we haven’t used yet (a Gordon Ramsay one), picked a recipe that was simple (ginger chocolate cheesecake), and got stuck in. I’m happy to say that it turned out pretty well. The Colombians made some Thai prawn curry that was also really, really good.

I definitely needed my run this morning.

Too late

We headed down to Shoreditch last night for a birthday celebration for the Colombian. We stopped to eat dinner along the way at Canteen in Spitalfields (which was great) but we were far too late getting to Favela Chic, the Brazilian bar/club where people were gathering. The queue was huge and we made little headway despite waiting over half an hour. Luckily, the Colombians came out to say hi to us. It turns out there were several others who’d arrived too late and, like us, had to give our birthday wishes standing outside the club.