Everybody wants to save the earth, nobody wants to help mom do the dishes.  --P.J. O'Rourke

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Real Secret Sauce

Why do so many dishes cooked in high end restaurants taste so much better than those prepared at home? Steakhouse steak almost always tastes better for example. There are a few reasons for this actually, some you can do something about, some you can't. Firstly they use a LOT more salt than you do, way more actually. Secondly, they probably use better butter than you do, and more of it. Third, I often hear it said that restaurants get much better cuts of meat than a home cook can. While this is undoubtedly true if you get your meat at a run of the mill grocery store, you can pretty easily find excellent cuts of meat at a butcher shop (yes, they still exist, you just need to look). I find both Whole Foods and Costco have excellent meat, try to find "Dry Aged" meat rather than cuts straight from the Cry-o-Vac. The Fourth item on the list is heat, commercial stoves, broilers and grills can get exceedingly hot and easily produce a nice sear on the meat without over cooking, not much you can do about that. Lastly, they probably used a touch of Demi-Glace on it, or more if there is an actual sauce accompanying the steak. Demi-Glace is a French concoction that is basically Veal/Beef and Veggie stock which has been reduced down to a super concentrated, turbo stock. The trouble with Demi-Glace is that it takes forever and a day to make. The concentrate pictured above is a high quality, shelf stable Demi-Glace paste. You'll choke when you see the price given the quantity, but in reality it is much cheaper than going it on your own. Give it a go on your next steak, whip up a little Demi-Glace mushroom sauce, you won't regret it, like a good Catcher in baseball, Demi-Glace is a value multiplier. More Than Gourmet also makes a number of other sauces and stocks that are quite good, and their site has a number of good recipes incorporating their products.

More Than Gourmet

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Blundstone Boots

While we are on the subject of oddball footwear, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Blundstones, or Blunnies as they are known colloquially. If you have spent any time in the Pacific Northwest, you probably familiar with the conceptually similar "Deck Slipper". Since you can't really get deck slippers on the East Coast, I picked up a pair of Blundstones on closeout from L.L. Bean. That was 15 years or so ago, and they are still going strong and are probably the best knock around boots I have ever had. Comfortable and indestructible, Blundstones make superb work shoes and I heartily recommend them, although not without a few caveats, as follows; Blunstones originated in Australia, and while it may not snow in Oz, it certainly does in New England, and Blunnies are slicker than goose shit on snow - dangerously so in fact. The most comfortable traditional Blundstone Boots (the one pictured) have no steel toe or any reinforcement of the toe box. If you drop something (like a hammer for example) it will hurt. Keep in mind, despite the premium price, these are not high performance hiking boots and are neither insulated, or waterproof. All that can be said of other shoes and none of it is a show stopper for me, but you should know the deal going in.

Vibram Five Fingers Shoes?

This new trend in footwear has been brewing for a while now, primarily in the running community, though I have yet to see anyone wearing these in the wild. Advocates claim that they are better for your feet than the now ubiquitous running shoe. Personally, I don't run unless there is something is chasing me, and I haven't tried a pair yet, but my guess is that we will be seeing a lot of these in the future. They may be weird looking, but certainly no more so than Crocs, and I would be willing to bet they are a lot more comfortable. A pair of these would be perfect for the beach and most likely for driving and generally bumming around.