Archive | June, 2013

Giving your Loaf a New Slice on Life

28 Jun

I’ve been working at a Bakery / Coffee shop called Euphorium Bakery, for the past month now. It’s been going well, and as always, I’m a perpetual sucker for new opportunity so I decided to contribute to their new corporate newsletter. Fingers crossed, I hope it gets published. Basically, I’ve gone back to my food roots, and wrote something Wholesome, something in inGrained in me, and I hope I’ve Risen to the occasion as I seek to get the most out of every loaf of bread. Enjoy!

***

It has been three days now, your Euphorium loaf of Campaillou is starting to stare back at you, and in dire need. It was only a few days ago when your meals were a blissful treat of warm toast and jam, of pressed hot sandwiches, and of nice chucks of bread, butter, and a bowl of hearty soup. But now your loaf has made its rite of passage, the drying of any quality baked bread, made with no preservatives. There are only two slices left but due to its lack of moisture, you can’t be bothered and it looks like it is destined for the birds. What’s a loaf to do? Well don’t fret, for any true bread lovers this is just a new beginning; a journey towards a more wonderful and crunchier future.

A sidewalk sign drawn by Dominic Durocher himself.

A side-walk sign drawn by Dominic Durocher himself, for 202 Upper Street shop.

First of all, before your loaf is dried, try to prolong your loaf for as long as possible by placing it in a plastic bag after the first day after purchase. The plastic bag doesn’t have to be sealed air tight; in fact it is better if the loaf can breathe a bit. By simply placing it in a plastic bag, though, you can add two or three days to its delicious shelf life, by locking in some of the moisture and keeping your loaf fresh. The reason the bag shouldn’t be air tight, is to allow some breathability. This way, no mold will form over extended periods, and believe it or not, it’s actually a good thing for the bread to eventually dry. At all costs, avoid freezing bread, as forgotten freezer bread brings upon the inevitable and unpalatable freezer burn.

Once a loaf of bread is completely dried it is in a state of suspended animation; it won’t go bad, but you can re-use it at any time. This is nature’s gift to bread; it is a natural preservative allowing us to use a loaf for a multitude of purposes, beyond toast and sandwiches, over many months at a time. Some of the more obvious uses of dried bread are to place dried chunks in a food processor and making bread crumbs for breading fish or chicken. Or there is the act of chopping them up into bite size pieces, adding some olive oil and garden herbs and making croutons, great for a fresh salad or a homemade French onion soup. But the possibilities go well beyond these treats.

When I was a child my Grandmother would hoard any stale bread and make a delicious dessert. For the most part, stale bread and great dessert do not belong in the same sentence, but in this case they do. She would mix dried slices of bread, with a mixture of eggs, sugar, milk and vanilla, then add raisins and other nuts, and bake for over thirty minutes to create her delicious bread pudding. It always tasted best with some fresh cream and sugar poured over top. My grandfather would collect dried bread to make his world famous turkey or chicken stuffing. By simply re-animating the bread with hot chicken stock, he was always able to create the perfect bread consistency for any savoury stuffing. You can also slice it thin before drying, and create wonderful dried bread crisps, perfect for bruschetta or simply served with sharp aged cheddar or pâté. Then there’s a delicious recipe from Austria and Northern Italy, known as Canederli. Rehydrate dried bread with milk, mix with sausage and other savouries, stuff with mozzarella and then boil in stock, and you have one delicious bread and meat dumpling.

Toast and sandwiches are at the heart of so many of my meals, but always remember that the possibilities don’t end with the crusts. Every time you think your loaf is done, I guarantee you that there’s always a different way to give your bread a new slice on life.

Cheers

Dominic Durocher

Here’s their website if you’re interested: http://blog.euphoriumbakery.com/

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Top 9 Reasons Why I Hate Lists!

19 Jun

The other day I realized I had caught a bug, an online virus, and I’m ashamed to admit it. I’m a sucker for top item’s lists! When I was kid I’d only see them every other week on a quality and trusted David Letterman program… but they’ve grown, they’ve multiplied and poisoned the blogosphere. They used to come in the form of top ten lists, but don’t let them fool you, they also go by the names:

‘TheTop 5’ list
‘The Top Reasons Why’ list
‘The 4 Best things to avoid’ list
‘Eight things you can’t live without’ list
Even the corny: ‘6.5 reasons to do this’ list – Really? If you have half a reason, aka not a full reason, should that really have made the list at all????

Well I have noticed that this sickening trend that curdles my online palette at night, is affecting me. And because I suffer from this horrible disease: Double U Tripled Listis-Clickanitus i.e. those that click on top ten links in excitement, and find themselves disgruntled at 90% of the bullets all of the time, well for you I have developed my own antidote. Here’s my own attempt at a cure while using a classic cliché!

Top 9 Reasons Why I hate lists! List

Top 9 Flush

  1. Just because you put numbers next to ideas, does not make your subjective ideas any more valid!

  2. They gloss over subjects, never covering the subtle yet integral details

  3. Lists are way over used; it was cute when Dave Letterman used them but now they’re viral vomit

  4. People use them to sound more scientific and exact, when in fact 98% of list making is public opinion (Fact: this is public opinion)

  5. No one has list conversations in real life… when you ask a friend how they’re doing, does anyone say: “Top 5 things I’ve done today”? NO! So why do we do it online or via blogs…. shameless!

  6. When read fast they have a un fluid, halting, sort of sound as if, we’ve all, turned into, William, Shatner!

  7. They have a tendency to oversimplify things

  8. Being that lists are also overused in every  textbook I’ve ever read, it’s just another sign that we have failed to cut our academic umbilical cords

  9. Everyone knows that the first and last bullets are always the best, the rest is just filler

    9.5 – Finally, The worst thing about…

So if any of this hits a nerve, I say be wary of any titles that have the words: Top, Best, or simply a Number… chances are you might be reading a list!!!!

DD

PS. You can List your concerns below 😉

So this is 26?

13 Jun

I’d like to take a moment to apologize to all young readers, if I pop any bubbles it is not my intention…. but for all intents and purposes I still believe in Santa Clause.

Two days ago it was my birthday. I turned 26. Where does that leave me? For some people I’m getting old, passing a quarter of a century. Some folks would say I was in the prime of my youth, the apples are ripe for the picking. And still others wouldn’t have given it a second thought, you’re 26, right where you should be and that’s all there is to it! But what about me, where do I fall, what do I believe?

One thing I’ve realized is there are some strange universal truths about getting older, at least universal for most. When we are young the world is our bounty of potential, and every birthday means a year closer to new possibilities new potentials. It also means cake, friends, presents, surprises, excitement, and a sense of naive wonder; pure innocent joy. At the back of that list is the reality that with every passing year comes new maturity and new responsibilities. Yes that’s right, more chores, more schooling, more learning, and less carefree beautiful roaming, fun and games. And then it happens. At a certain point you reach a benchmark that you’ve always dreamt of being a kid. Somewhere between 18 and 21 you realize you can now drive, you can now vote, make a decision, move out, smoke, drink, gamble, see an R rated movie, do things your parents always said no to. You can do all those things you witnessed in the movies, and no one can tell you ‘No’. It’s a beautiful thing at least it seems that way. Because at some point that other thing also creeps up, responsibility.

There’s no one to blame for your failures any more, there’s no one holding you back. You are your own self, you are the one responsible for your future, you are the holder of your destiny, so what are you doing about it? Wow, okay maybe I’m an over thinker, maybe this isn’t a universal truth but it’s something that definitely occurs to me every time a birthday rolls around, what are you doing with your life Dominic? I think it’s why at certain point we go from, celebration of birth to if my birthday can come and go without a hiccup in time then that would be ideal.

So if a Birthday is a reflection of time then that means one of two possibilities; if life is good and happy then your birthday should be good and happy, but if you’re not where you wanted to be then a birthday can be a painful reminder of that unfortunate truth. If the truth is the latter, then the question becomes, do I try harder this year at pushing towards goals and objectives, or do I reset my level of expectations?

Resetting your expectations is one of the big painful lessons of life. It does not by any means, mean failure, but rather a truth, that either our expectations were misplaced, unrealistic, over ambitious or maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. I think the biggest reason though we don’t achieve what we want comes down more importantly, the fact that most of us don’t know what we want. Ask a friend if they are doing what they love, most will say, I like it and it’s a job. Ask them then what job do you want, where do they want to be in five years? And we all have two answers the bullshit interview one, and the real life one, honestly, I don’t know!

Well here’s what I’ve come up with! Screw tangible goals, I want to happy, passionate about what I do, challenged on a day to day basis, I want to build meaningful beautiful relationships, the one’s that hurt when you say goodbye. I want to live life, see things and do things, be able to escape from the 9 to 5 daily grudge of things, but also find beauty in it. I don’t think that means the clichés of travelling the world and quitting your job. I think we can all find new possibilities with the beautiful things that are right in front of us and sometimes we just have to open our eyes.

I love food, so I think this is a great metaphor. Sometimes we think great food comes from having a great array of ingredients but sometimes something simple and so great is right in from of you and we don’t even know it. My grandfather, would always say something after thanksgiving to the effect of, now if you don’t pick every piece of meat from that bone and make a great sandwich or a flaky chicken pot pie, or something delicious, and if you don’t then boil those bones and make a great soup or wonderful gravy then that’s a real shame. The turkey wasn’t done after thanksgiving, there was always a new delicious flavour, a new meal to be discovered.

I hope 26 will be a great year, more importantly I hope to make it a great year. I’m thankful for all the great love I have in my life and I hope to be an example of that, everyday that I live.

Cheers

DD

Why Starbuck’s Ruined Coffee

3 Jun

I served a special customer today. It seemed to be going fine, they smiled as they ordered, I handed them the exact change, and I stamped their loyalty card. They then found their way to two immaculately clean seats, and my barista quickly and effectively made them two quality lattés, complete with foamed milk art, in two nice, warm, and clean cups I might add. And as I placed the cups before them, not a single drop having spilt onto the supporting saucer, I did not realize my world was about to be shattered. They had said a premature thanks, because when they took a sip and realized that the excrement that had just sullied their lips was not to their liking and was in fact…… too milky?!?!?!?! Yes I know, latté literally translates to milky, but I guess that’s beside the point… or is it?

Coffee Star Logo

So let’s rewind about four years where I fell in love with true coffee and its potential to warm the soul. After relocating to France for a semester abroad in 2009 I was alone scared and in need of homely comforts. I had tried some croissants with espresso and had liked the experience but some diluted part of me missed that watered down “brown water” I drank back home. I had always liked “Coffee” but to me “Coffee” was a brown liquid, overheated in a glass pot for 30 minutes and thrown into your cup by waitresses everywhere in hopes that you’d stop complaining; the famous endless cup of Joe. Well three weeks into this experience I started dating my beautiful Cinzia, my Italian girlfriend. And one very special day she heats a pot of milk, throws on her mocha (metal espresso stove top peculator for North Americans, and not that weird chocolate coffee), and then she mixes the two. “What’s this?” I innocently ask. “A latté, haven’t you ever had one?” she responds. “No, I don’t believe I’ve had” and with that all those flavours of Brown Canadian Diner Water came back to me, but they were richer, creamier, and oh so delicious. After that point I discovered cappuccino, macchiato, Americano, and the classic corretto. I was falling in love with coffee.

Fast forward to present day, well I have good news to report; I was recently appointed a position as supervisor at a small and growing coffee house / bakery. I was hired with the purpose of becoming an assistant manager in the coming months. It’s called Euphorium Bakery and while I liked my first UK job at Pret a Manger, this is a step in the right direction for me as it entails more responsibility, and greater room for advancement, AKA I feel challenged. More importantly I get to work with some great baristas and some really great coffee product. But what I quickly realized was that the classic Italian seven coffee choice menu is gone, No, now there are thousands of coffees on the menu.

Let me explain, the menu may look simple with only seven or eight choices, but what they don’t tell you is that each option can be broken down into: extra hot or regular, dry or regular, skinny, soya, or whole milk, or semi-skimmed if you want to screw with people. Then there’s the cup; round, tall, large or take away. Then there’s regular strength, strong, one, two, three even four extra shots. Let’s not forget the flavours; caramel, vanilla, butter cream, crème caramel, etc. Chocolate powder on top or none? Cinnamon on top or none? And to top it off regular or decaf. If you don’t understand, well don’t worry, I have trouble myself. This is a common conversation for many baristas… keep in mind this is the English language:

“Two triple shot semi-skinned Americanos, extra hot, three quarter’s full, one double skinny latté take away”
“Americanos take away?
“No americanos to stay, oh and one half shot, dry, soya flat white, decaf in a large cup”
“Got it!”
“Got it?”
“Not really, but I’m ready for any complaints, cheers!”

The point is it’s madness, if you actually crunch the numbers, based on the variables listed above, there are about 40,320 coffee combinations. So much so, that you might never serve the exact same coffee combination twice in a day.

What happened to coffee? In Italy, where the original formula comes from, as all these names are Italian, there seems to be maybe seven types of coffee. Sure they have decaf, but tops, if you crunch the numbers, maybe there are 42 to 160 combinations, if you ask for anything else they’ll simply stare and laugh. What they do is great, but that’s all they do! What happened? Starbucks happened! The founder of Starbucks has been quoted as saying he took his inspiration for his business model from Italy. The term that people think is from Starbucks, you know, barista, that’s actually Italian. The perversion is that Starbucks couldn’t be further from the Italian model save a couple of names. They took the coffee experience and multiplied it, quadrupled it, warped it, and quite literally confused it, complete with its own bizarre language. I’m not trying to say their coffee is bad or anything, but what they have done to the minds of people is unforgivable. They sold the idea, that every individual should have their coffee their way, and no two drinks should be alike. Consequently coffee has become a labyrinth of choices, where most people don’t quite even know what they’re ordering or what they’re drinking but I’m sure they’ll have a damn intense opinion on what’s right and what’s wrong!

The irony is, having talked to some Londoners and locals, English people used to make fun of Italians for having so many variations on the “Brown Water”. To them, there was filter coffee, instant, and all that other un-pronounceable crap. Now it seems through the popularization of coffee choice, they are some of the most confusing and pretentious coffee drinkers I have ever seen. They have chains emerging that think that the only way to beat the competition is to have more possibilities, more choice, more craziness, and worst of all strong opinions on what is the RIGHT, TRUE coffee should be. But what can be the RIGHT TRUE coffee when there are 40,320 nominees? Thus, this latté is too milky!

To finish off this rant, I’d like to add a short story. There is an old school Italian native that lives one block from the shop. He’s a nice kind old man that barely speaks any English, but is still quite a pleasure to serve. Every single day he comes to the till and orders two espressos take away. No foam, no extra hot water, no decafs, no skinny, no chocolate, no nothing. Two espressos to take away. It’s a beautiful and simple act that reminds me that things don’t have to be overly complicated to be beautiful. So what if the only coffee your local diner serves is the classic drip coffee we all know and love, at least they’re proud enough and confident enough to know there’s beauty in simplicity.

Cheers

DD