Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Here's to another year

Paul and I commemorated our anniversary last week with talk of a day trip and a love letter. The love letter ended with his hopes of spending our lives together for "as long as humanly possible," while the day trip turned out to be a waste of time. The little hamlet by the waterfalls revealed itself to be an overpriced amusement strip devoid of authentic charm. Although store windows were stocked full of mountainous fudge and the smell of sticky pastries wafted through the frigid air, I found the town too commercialized and its dining culture lacking.

That and Paul whined about not visiting any of the local wineries nearby (which, I was later told, had privately-owned restaurants that were of a higher calibre than those in town). Bah!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Work fun

On Friday, the 3rd assistant director organized a chili cook-off that included 15 contestants and 55 tasters. Excuse my ignorance, but it was unfathomable to me that chili could come in so many varieties. Until now, that is. I grew up eating chili from Wendy's and Tim Hortons. The kind of stuff that came in cardboard cups, hinted of raw flour, and gave you a bad case of the farts. ("Sorry, I can't help it!")

The crew was ushered into the studio, which had been hastily transformed into a country fair by the presence of giant umbrellas and tables sprawled across the paint-splattered floor. At the front door was an LCD TV playing the episode of The Simpsons where Homer eats chili that contains an ingredient grown by mental patients and meets a talking coyote during his hallucinatory trip.

So off we all went, sampling from this pot and that and marking down our likes and dislikes on a scale of 1 to 10.

Number 8 had this fantastic kick reminiscent of a simmering vat of Bacardi. The booze lent a surprising depth and bitterness to the chili. Think of a rich French onion base that's been slow cooked on low for hours and you'd only get a fraction of the complexity of that chili. It was terrific. Another one of my favourites was Number 3, which was on the sweeter side. It had this lovely cumin aftertaste that made you want to dip your spoon in for more. Dried bay leaves and potatoes also made an appearance in the saffron-coloured mixture, which highlighted the Indian influences of the dish. Number 12 was all-round Tex Mex. I liked the fresh bits of sweet corn, which countered the heat and gave the chili a great chunky texture.

There were three vegetarian submissions, but in my opinion, they were all failures. One was way too thin, another was under seasoned, and the third was so forgettable I think I mistook it for vegetable soup. I think the problem with all of them had to do with technique rather than the ingredients themselves. Had the vegetables been thoroughly sautéed, seasoned, and combined with a roux before adding the liquid, the final product would've have been much more flavourful and, frankly, less watery. Just my two cents.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun and even tasted two of the finest Caesar salads I've had in ... the past year. (Thumbs up for the mustard powder!) Definitely not looking forward to being unemployed next month once this show wraps. (No more free gas! Wahhhh!)