July 24, 2012

Muffles. Or Maybe Wafflins.

Recently we had some success at making omelettes on the waffle iron. There is a weird pleasure in eating food with grid-patterned holes in it, so we thought we would try something else.

Muffin batter made with molasses, spices, walnuts and tea-soaked raisins.

As the batter rises, the iron opens slightly. The hinge is not articulated, so the muffins turn out slightly wedge-shaped.

Oh yes.

So satisfying to peel it off the iron.

A pile for the freezer.

The ratio of crispy edge bits to moist innards has been vastly improved. And there was much rejoicing.

We have not found a way to use the waffle iron to make coffee, but we aren't very interested in trying. The origami pour-overs that we wrote about are still making reasonable coffee. Soon we'll have a Best Of list ready to post.

While we sipped coffee and munched muffin-waffles, we wondered why so many breakfast foods seem to contain double f.

July 20, 2012

Spot Prawns: The Bisquening

It was not so long ago that we devoured the first spot prawns of the season.

Aya has become very good at re-purposing the left-overs into magical, delicious prawn bisque.

Here is how she does it:

Sauté the basics.

Then fry up the heads, shells, legs and any other good bits left over from the spot prawn feast. Crush the shells as they turn brown and brittle.

Simmer them in a large soup pot with a little water, tomato paste and brandy. This takes a long, long time. Skim off the foam when it gathers. Brush off the building manager when he complains about smell in the hallway.

The liquid will reduce and darken.

Rich, murky and pungent. Bisque is an amazing concentration of the best, deep seafood flavours.

We also use some of the bisque for making risotto, here served with garlic and saffron mayonnaise.

What goes well with bisque and bisque risotto?

If, like us, you don't have a Merusault tucked away somewhere, you need to have a chat with your cellar master. We don't have a cellar master, either.

But we do have access to something almost as good. Seriously.

Here is what we wrote about this Chilean Wild Ferment Chardonnay from Errazuriz back in February of 2012:

And it's such a good Chardonnay. It has a little toasted oak influence but it is gentle and rounded by the malolactic fermentation. There is a classic, lemony backbone all the way through with some lovely, delicate flavours developed by the ambient yeasts. Restrained and complex, this one unfolds leisurely over a long finish.

At only $22 here in BC, it's a great way to experience a risky and rewarding style of wine-making.

July 18, 2012

Dash Camera: Test Video

After installing the dashboard video camera last week, we thought we should try recording some video and see how easy it is to transfer it onto the computer. Today we ran some errands and were thinking about which piece of our boring around-the-town video we would look at.

Then this happened:

Note the stale yellow light at the start. The red truck goes through very late, but the old guy in the white wagon just was not paying attention.

We have replaced the original audio (imagine a lot of honking, if you can) with a track from the Youtube library called "Sound Of Silence" by Orlando Jopling.

Transferring the video from the camera's SD card was as simple as getting files off any digital camera. Nice that Youtube offers the tools to trim the video down to just the exciting bit.

So there's a sample of the dashboard video camera.

July 14, 2012

Foxtrot Pinot Noir, 2009: The Opening

It is no secret that we are big fans of Foxtrot Pinot Noir from the Naramata Bench in BC's Okanagan Valley.

Readers of this blog may remember that we volunteered to help with their 2009 harvest and ended up picking about 3500kg of grapes over two very happy October days.

We stopped in to see the good Foxtrot family again in August 2010 and were offered a taste of how the 2009 was developing in the barrels.

In April of 2012, the day we were waiting for finally arrived, and the 2009 Pinot Noir was released.

Aya made an appropriate feast for our first taste: roast pork with a mushroom cream sauce, polenta with truffle oil, and delicious summer green beans with garlic.

The wine was amazing.

We chilled it for about 20 minute, and straight out of the bottle it showed those New World, cool-climate Pinot Noir characteristics of bright red fruit. But it quickly began to reveal a little black pepper, tea and earthiness that Foxtrot is famous for. The big surprise, however, was how it developed over the hour and a half that it was open; it just got better and better, more and more complex, while staying balanced, nuanced and supple. It still had not peaked by the time our glasses were empty and we found ourselves sniffing our glasses all through dessert and afterwards, hanging on to the last whiffs of this wine's deep character.

We received our bottles just before we left for Japan, so we were able to take one to Aya's father. We didn't open the Foxtrot while we were there, but stored it safely in his cellar. With any luck we will open it with him next time, and, after tasting this first bottle, we are sure he will enjoy it as much as he does his favourite Burgundies.

July 7, 2012

Dash Cam Installation

From personal experience we know how important a good witness can be if you are involved in a traffic accident. Dashboard cameras are growing in popularity as quickly as their prices are coming down. Aya dove into the research and we bought one on our last trip to Japan.

We settled on a Driveman 720s. Interesting that the name "Walkman" still carries so much influence. The "s" means that it goes into "security" mode when the car is parked, keeping a 1-photo-per-second eye on things.

Installing electronics into cars is an area in which we claim complete ignorance. Before we paid someone to do it for us, however, we tried looking to a semi-reliable resource for help: Ye Olde Internette.

Here is a sample answer we got from Matrix Owners' Forum:

If I were you I would just run a line from the battery directly for your battery (+), and for the ACC (+) there is a product called add a fuse, pick one up that will fit your fuse box under the steering wheel and pick a fuse that is only on with ACC such as your cigarette lighter, radio, ect. 

We understand the words, but we don't know how to do that.

Someone on Reddit, however, came through like a champ with clear, useful advice and encouragement to give it at try ourselves. We even found a Youtube video of someone walking through the first half of the job.

A little leverage got the dashboard opened up. No scratches from the tape-covered pry tool.

The first panel came off very simply. The two cables for the hazard light and the security system light detached very easily.

Four bolts held the radio in place. We needed the extensions in our ratchet set to reach the ones on the right, which were set quite far back.

Radio out.

Some rather intimidating bundles of wires behind the radio. Getting them un-clipped was tricky enough. Like most arcane bits of knowledge, someone has made lists and put them on-line for all to see. This forum page has the wiring diagram for the 2009 Corolla (same as the Matrix). Imagine that.

Battery       Light Blue    (+)      Radio Harness
Accessory    Gray           (+)      Radio Harness

Interestingly, there were small taps already attached to the Light Blue and Grey wires (the red blobs in the pic above).

Not sure if those came from the factory or if someone installed a device that was removed later. We pried them off because the camera wires had their own taps included.

The taps and ground clip that came with the camera.

Light Blue has a 12v charge that is always on and the Grey is controlled by the ignition switch.

Orange ACC tap on the Gray Accessory wire.

Red Battery (+) tap on the Light Blue Battery wire.

The Ground wire attached easily to a handy grounding point we found behind the stereo.

The camera came on with the first ignition start.

We tried placing the camera in all kinds of positions on and around the dash, looking for the best spot. It is intended to be suspended from the ceiling, and we found a place behind the rear view mirror that was unobtrusive and had the best view. That meant running the wire across the ceiling and down into the dashboard.

To feed the wire behind the panels, we had to remove the the shift handle and get behind the shifter panel.

The shifter panel lifted off easily. The panel under the steering wheel had two screws holding it in place.

We were amazed at how the panels were clearly designed to snap on and off with very little effort.

Aya's hands dug deep into the dash to catch the camera wire dangling down from behind the stereo. This out-of-focus shot shows the wire running behind the panel under the steering wheel.

We found a good exit point for the wire at the lower left edge of the dash panel and snapped the panels back in place. They fit as tightly as if they had never been disturbed, with no broken or stressed tabs. Thank you, Toyota panel designers.

We were happy to discover that we could just push the wire between the soft molding around the door frame and the dash panel, keeping the wire secure and completely out of sight.

This continued up behind the rubber seal along the door frame and around the window. Sorry about the weird focus on this photo.

We continued hiding the wire, pushing it in between the soft ceiling cover and the hard window frame panel.

Continuing along the window frame, we pushed the wire up under the edge of the ceiling cover, completely hiding it from view.

With just a few centimeters of wire protruding at the end, we cleaned off the glass with rubbing alcohol before peeling back the cover of the sticky pad and affixing the camera to the windshield.

Here's the passenger's point of view with the camera installed and turned on.

And here's what the driver sees. It barely protrudes from behind the mirror and doesn't obstruct the view out the windshield. We had thought we were going to have the wire flopping all over the dash, or were going to have to drill a hole somewhere, so we were very happy to be able to tuck the wire invisibly all around the panels and frame seals.

Now that it is installed and working, we really hope we never need it.

July 5, 2012

Meat And Alcohol: Pairings

Kirin Beer Company has a restaurant in Namba (in the south part of Osaka) and that is where you have to go if you want to try some of their specialty beers, served by specially-trained bartenders.

I mean, look at that foam.
Just look at it.

A plate full of spicy, garlicky sausages are the perfect match for our bitter, hoppy beers. We were hungry and dug in before remembering to take a photo.

The foam was much more bitter than the beer itself. The bartender told us that the trapped air increases the bitter qualities of the hops (I'm guessing through oxidation). The first sip of the liquid under the foam was sweet by comparison.

La Rosa (1997) is a classic Barolo with rose petal, tea and tar aromas. The tannins mellow deliciously with a mouthful of grilled, rare steak.

Chateau Margaux's Pavillion Rouge (2006) could rest in the bottle for another few years, but it opened up beautifully with a little time in the decanter. Grilled steak is the perfect match.

Tune in next week when we eat a vegetable.
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