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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Molecular cocktailnomy - A Pomegranate Mojito with Pomegranate caviar

So as some of my readers may know, I'm an avid eater and let's be honest, drinker as well. Not only have I ate and drank myself through some of the worlds best night markets, street cars, and both trendy and legendary restaurants, I've found myself working extensively within the industry.
Tonight I did my first crack at a fairly well known technique called sphereification.
The concept was to create a pomegranate mojito without having the actual seeds. Instead, I encapsulated pomegranate juice into small spheres using some basic molecular gastronomy.

Here's the recipe:
1oz white rum
1/2 oz Chambord
1/2 oz Soho lychee liqueur
Simple sugar

2 tbl spoons pomegranate caviar (pre made)

Muddle mint, lime and sugar together. Double strain into a collins glass. Add other liquor ingredients before adding ice and topping with soda. Place caviar lightly on top.

The results look something like this:

To learn more about making your own caviar, check out look for the bits on sphereification

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Number 37

Again, it came time to revisit my 50 things-to-do-before-I-die list. Number 37 happened to be driving the 1HWY down the California coast. Here's my ride.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Backpackers Stink

Backpackers stink. They are gross transients with no future and spread venereal diseases as they migrate from hostel to hostel. Most only do so to drink more beer, sleep in more hammocks and collect visa stamps. They carry lice, and sleep with bed bugs. The common rooms in hostels are nearly always infested with backpackers snoozing, lounging, beer drinking and are ultimately filthy. Backpackers are the lower class of civilized people who don’t care to work, or contribute to society.

I find it amusing that some outsiders who have never experienced the amazing, and deep sub culture of backpacking can actually believe most of the above statements. For me, backpacking annually leads to a sense of groundedness. It allows me to converse with some of the most diplomatic, caring, and selfless people I have ever met. From political conversations with six different nations, to simply outreaching and sharing goods, feelings or food to those in need, I have experienced some of the best people here, in this ‘dirty’ subculture of humanity.

It is my belief that if every young person had the opportunity to travel the world, and experience it in its entirety, we would be more likely to live in a racist, sexist and possibly even classist-free world. With the experience young people take with them, so comes a greater understanding, a greater knowledge, more compassion, and a greater willingness to act. We take away so much, particularly when you travel with so little. It often allows one to step back, to breathe and to reflect upon what we have, and what we do not have back home. Often what we have is great. Often what we do not have is even greater; we realize most people live without that greater understanding, knowledge, compassion and willingness to act. People live their lives with blinders on. Never stopping to help. To ask questions. To act.

I hope that one day all children will have the opportunity to both travel, and experience those people that do. That through this sharing of bedrooms, kitchens, and living spaces with cultures from all over the world, we can translate it into a broader picture. I believe that backpacking is one small way we can work towards accepting the differences between people and cultures, and even embrace them. We can look forward to sharing our culture, and receiving other cultures from all over the world. Through this sharing, I believe we can break down the fear and bigotry towards different people; we just have to understand each other first.

Both within the backpacking community, and within the poor communities we visit, there is a sense of family and kindness. We understand the connection between people as a whole. That the Asian boy, the Dutch girl, and the native tribes one visits all deserve life and kindness. They deserve that bandana you’ve been carrying, or the extra t-shirt you know you don’t need. They will share their lunch with you when you have no money. They will keep you company when you miss home. They will teach you, and you will teach them. The deep connections one can find are amazing when one leaves a cell phone at home; one can regain the ability to simply talk and connect, even when there is a language barrier.

Backpackers are not dirty. They are teachers, writers, economists, students, plumbers, interior designers, nurses. They are all fed up with the grind. They understand this grounded feeling. They are regaining their humanity and their ability to recognize the bigger, more significant picture. They want to find out what is important for the world, and want to understand their roles in it. Many simply go to see the great natural and manmade wonders of the world, but they come home with much more than just photos. No matter the initial intention when one embarks on a journey that takes them from hostel to hostel, tribe to city, jungle to desert, a deeper connection with the world becomes apparent. We may come home with small trinkets to share with friends, but we come home with much more than that. We come home with a greater knowledge, understanding, compassion and a drive to act. We share stories of the people we meet, of the experiences we’ve had in hopes that one day, you too will share in our amazing experiences abroad. That instead of 5 star hotels, and foreign owned resorts, you will share in our sub-culture of amazing people giving back to the world in many small, and sometimes big ways.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Puerto Madryn - Patagonian Tundra & Coast Line

I feel like I’m in a boat; bumping and heaving across a sea of green shrubbery. My boat sways gently from left to right, as it crosses a vast sea of Patagonian tundra. The views here are unexciting at best. The waters are calm leaving nothing but a barren horizon – one can see the curvature of the earth from this course. There are no trees or mountains to guide you, there is only plain. Orange and grey soil allows only for hearty and rugged plant life to grow leaving little to look at; Just an ocean of flat land.

It is hard for me to fathom that only a few clicks away and a few moons past, I discovered a marine oasis; that within this barren sea of shrubs lies a coast line so rich with wildlife, one cannot travel without spotting the movement of some sort of highly adapted animal. This landscape is extreme. It punishes its inhabitants with extreme temperature ranges, unpredictable weather, and little to eat or drink. I find it astonishing how many animals call this Chubut province home. From sealions, to whales, to foxes and penguins, the coast line just beyond my current horizon is an amazing one. This is where mammals come to breed. This is where killer whales come to feed. And this is where my bumping bus is now leaving. I am now saying good bye to Puerto Madryn and Penninsula Valdes, and saying hello to the Portenos of Buenos Aires.

Puerto Madryn is the main city in the Chubut province. It also is the jumping off point to many of the outlying wildlife reserves and meccas, mainly Punta Tombo and Penninsula Valdes. The city is unassuming, and often times is overlooked by zealous tourists, but without good reason. The beaches here are decent, the town has acceptable shopping, eating and drinking options, and the tours are nothing short of amazing. One is able to swim with sea lions, go on jeep excursions, rent a bike, lie on the beach, or march with penguins here, but for many, the stopover is short. I recommend Hostel Tosca where the people are helpful, the breakfast homemade and the hammocks lie in grape leaf shade.

The tours offered here mainly cater to two wildlife hubs, Penninsula Valdes and Punta Tombo. Punta Tombo, approximately 125km from Puerto Madryn, is home to the largest colony of Magellanic Penguins in all of Argentina. Many companies have tours and private transfers to and from the reserve. The animals in this region tend not to be scared of people and will happily walk right past you on their way to wherever. This carefree attitude continues north to Peninsula Valdes, where sea lions howl at you, foxes dine with you, and armadillos happy sip out of water provided. Valdes is another 100 km north of Madryn, but it’s the drive around the peninsula that can be a killer. Bring food and water.

Besides the otherwise barren landscape, the coast along the Chubut region plays host to an amazing amount of fauna. On the right day, the waters are turquoise and the whales feeding. On an off day, expect wind and rain. The Chubut region definitely is an amazing spot for wildlife, and for those wishing to experience it. I recommend it as a destination within Patagonia. Cheers.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Northern Patagonian Wildlife - Penninsula Valdes

Baby Armadillo

Friendly Armadillo - He came right up to me

Small biting lizard

Another Small Lizard that bites
Northern Patagonian Fox - Pampas Fox

A Magellanic penguin chick moulting

One of Argentina's penguin colonies on Penninsula Valdes

Lots of babies on the penninsula in March. Sealions are abuntant

One colony near Punta Piramides

Southern Elephant Seals - they can reach up to 4000kg! Much bigger than the Northern Elephant Seal

Monday, February 27, 2012

Catchers Mit

Worst. Sunburn. Ever.

Note: wear excessive sunscreen if you decide to bike to Punto Lumbo near Puerto Madryn - a 30km mountain bike trek through wet gravel .... Also, skinny dipping ill advised due to random local interferance

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Tale of the Buenos Wallet Snatcher

All smart travellers know that bus stations, airports, border crossings, and places of general convergence tend to attract all sorts of scum. Beyond the usual beggars, buskers, or loitering laggards, there are a few clever crooks always seeking to steal anything of value. Some schemes go to outrageous measures to ensure a dirty dollar, while others simply prey on ignorance. My encounter in Buenos Aires falls somewhere in the middle, relying mostly on excellent timing combined with a skillful plan.

I’ve handled crack heads in Costa Rica, urchins in Nicaragua, bustling desperates crossing to Cambodia, child clad gypsies in Italy, and even sly thieves in Canadian airport security; all of which tried to steal my belongings. This occurrence only took a bit of ink, some fast hands, and a moment of clouded thinking, and quite literally a single moment.
In retrospect, I really should have followed ALL of my in-transit rules, and should not have left out the’ keeping my debit and credit card separate’. I also should have taken a taxi to the bus station. I also wish I had spat on the woman I knew was trying to rob me. The truth is though, I didn’t know she actually had robbed me until I was nearly at the bus that I eventually boarded. The scheme went like this:

A woman approaches you with a black substance on her fingers, saying you have something on your bag. She offers Kleenex to help clean it up. You politely refuse and keep walking. She persists and even grabs at your backpack buckles. You say no thank you and keep walking …. And that’s it.
Truth is, I actually do have a big black mark on my back of my bag. The mark of shame I’ve been calling it. I almost give the woman credit for doing her job so well. I mean, I kept my purse in front, by my hips the entire time; I kept walking, didn’t stop, and told her to go away. Kind of amazing, but such is my encounter with the Buenos Wallet Snatcher. The sneaky bitch ….

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sweat, Passion & Wine - A night in Buenos Aires

At 10:30, the square you had walked into was fairly deserted. Just a few people setting up fold-up chairs and umbrellas, turning the square into an extended version of their restaurants. Wide leaved trees rimmed the raised cobble stoned square, as did the beautiful and ornate colonial architecture that seemingly never ends in Buenos Aires. It was quiet, hot and nothing adherently special.

The day time walk into the micro center proved to be somewhat similar – besides the long walking boulevard, many shops and even restaurants were barely operational. Men in suits scurried along, while women window shopped the expensive stores that line the business sector and Avenida Florida. Many people were scattered in the occasional squares you came across, simply napping or enjoying a helado. It was hot, sweaty, and kind of unimpressing; The food options seemingly boring.

You consider staying in this night to make your own meal, as to save money. But no, you really want to try this famous Argentine steak. The moment you step out of the iron gated doors into Buenos Aires after dusk, you notice a change; People are out walking their dogs, lining up at popular restaurants, collecting at doorsteps to talk about the day. They even populate that nearly deserted square. Buskers are abundant, and absolutely amazing; you have never heard better, consistent street performances anywhere else in the world.

After dinner, you find yourself back at the square where you had started the day. The fold-out chairs are nearly full, crowded around an amplifier and simplified drum set. As you wait for the music to start, The Spaniard, The Swiss girl and you enjoy a jug of Sangria. The night progresses into a warm, perfectly cliché Buenos Aires experience. Beautifully played guitar notes scream into the night air, as people dance amongst the square. Sexually charged tango performances are to follow while children juggle for money, and friends laugh over vino and beer. It is a good night.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Buenos. I'm Tired

Red eyed with wickedly curly locks, a backpack and slightly stinky attire is how I rolled into my abode for the night. I just spent a not-so-agonizing twenty hours flying from Calgary to Toronto to Santiago and finally landing in Buenos Aires. I wish I had been more cognitive for the bus ride from the airport to the city center. Between head nods however, the city looked amazing. And huge. It’s exactly as everyone told me it would be, a cross between any European city and any Latin one.

The slums next to the highway have more brick and mortar than a lot of the Latin places I’ve been, but they also have more tin roofs than any European one I’ve seen either. What I noticed first was the well maintained green spaces along the highway – park spaces even. No litter. The traffic was what I expected, although the tree lined boulevards weren’t necessarily.
I have been greeted with thunder and torrential rain. And a cheap bottle of wine, like $2 kinda cheap …. And yep, I just tasted it …. It tastes like what I would imagine $2 wine to taste like. Light. Sugary. Acidic…. In need of brandy and juice.

For now.