i want to go back here..

Happy Birthday

Balancing more than a few life components is a tough, full time job. The long blogging had to be put to a halt because I’d faced the computer screen for enough hours of every day, and because of the computer screen overload, I needed to spare more time away from the screen. Like going out to see the things pictured below, document them, and share them.

I decided to escape the city for Gili islands off Lombok, for my 24th age turning. 4 days, 4 very starry nights, snorkling, hammock-swinging, too much cycling, SPF top-uppings, sunsets, sunrises, clear-water blue-ocean, lots of pancakes, lots of fruit plates, lots of fruit juices, open showers, bungalow cottages,  traumatised from what could be described as the most horrifyingly, painful shock of my life in the open water: being kissed by a jellyfish, and apart from learning the sad fact that I carry an especially tasty body-full tank of mosquito food, it was very much a wonderful getaway. And that is how I birthday the 2010.

More photos here.

-Dom

Vanilla extracts: Alcohol vs Alcohol-free

There seems to be an ongoing fixation on alcohol-free vanilla extract in the raw food world. To one aspect of it, I can understand the approach to a sense of ‘purism’ of it, though, I find it somewhat over-emphasised and exaggerated, causing people to fanatically searching out of their way for it with very little understanding. So let me share with you what I have learnt from Rully, a lovely vanilla-expert-lady from the company I work for, whom I have been endlessly consulting (or annoying her) with, in choosing superior vanilla bean types for Q’s extracts and whole beans.

The development of alcohol-free vanilla extracts is really for those who cannot or do not wish to tolerate alcohol into their diets (i.e. halal labeling purposes). Alcoholic vanilla extracts do not mean they are inferior to alcohol-free ones; on the contrary, they are far more superior in terms of the extraction process as well as being the best carrier substance for its aroma.

Both versions undergo the same initial process of extraction using alcohol; water based solution in the extraction process is sometimes used for certain ingredients, however, using water solution on vanilla to extract it is almost as good as wasting it (kind of like..  having purchased a new clothing item and get it ruined the first time you wear it out. It’s heartbreaking). Where the processes of the two kinds differ, is in the finishing step. To make the extract alcohol free, a solution of propelyne glycol (or sometimes glycerol) is added. Then, there you have it.

The drawback in alcohol-free vanilla extract is the loss of its aroma. Try smelling the two together if you ever get the chance to, and you’ll notice the big difference.

So unless you really must (or wish), there is no real value in using an alcohol-free extract.

And if you really think about the servings of it..

Standard alcohol content in vanilla extracts: 35%

1 teaspoon = 5 ml = (*0.35) = 1.75ml of alcohol

1 tablespoon = 15ml = (*0.35) = 5.25ml of alcohol

Will you really be affected?

Q got its raw honey. yeah.

Earlier this week I started asking maybe too many questions to my boss about the raw materials our company gets. Luckily (I think) she finds herself nice enough and knowledgeable enough to share what she knows and put me through names who are heads of the departments. I added a list of people on the company internal chat program and presented them a hungry brain.

The next day, the vanilla expert woman whom I had been speaking on chat with, came to the office with 2 sample bags of whole vanilla beans (oh my God), fermented cacao beans, and 2 mini amber bottles of raw honey. I spent a great deal of time inhaling the bag of vanilla beans.

The foreseen release of this line of raw food ingredients was planned for the coming year, but it looks like everything is falling into place much sooner than anticipated. I spent half a day designing the 5 product labels I’m quite happy with, and calling the brand.. *drumroll*..

Q

The photograph of chinese shot glasses was of 4 raw honey contenders from which I were to make a selection that will be the filler of Q’s raw honey. I had them chilled before tasting and testing its consistency, partly because they’re tastier cold (to me); another reason being is because sweetness dissipates on the palate the colder the food is, and my feeling tells me they are going to be used quite plentiful in chilled desserts.

I did pick a winner. It’s not one I would necessarily call a favourite, but it was the most sweet and neutral tasting. As a sweetening ingredient, I find the neutral qualities more appealing to work with and I believe they would yield more successful dishes. The other honeys each had its own distinct taste that originate from the single type of flora the bees had been collecting their nectar from, which still tasted pretty darn interestingly good.

Which label comic is your favourite?

the book tweets

the book decided to board on the tweet train and record the mess in progress.

Tis in season: Rambutan

this is how i roll my lunch in the office. bought the bunch for Rp. 25,000 (US$2.5), and that is why i love Asia.

Vanilla. This is real dedication.

too lazy to sketch and scan.

Yesterday.. Sunday.. My usually favourite day of the week—and usually my favourite day to work, turned bitter-sour right before dinner hours when I encountered a puzzling last drop of vanilla and another entire bottle of the alcohol-free version gone. Gone (which by the way, I hunted half around and across the world to have only found one). Gone off the face of my kitchen.

MOTHER.

The only logical suspect.

My face, hot. My heart, ached. IT ACHED. I pictured the unadulterated expression of a passionate, too excited, inexperienced and not a very good baker, generously pouring stream after stream of my precious pressed vanilla juice—which, had been pre-selected oh, so very carefully by my judgement of quality, and attained not locally, but thousands of miles worth of ardent search through traveled journeys to organic stores, reading labels, and carefully packing them for the air freight home—to be used frugally in recipe testing and occasional special food making; not for absentminded baking that resulted in burnt rimmed cookies unfailingly out of every batch.

What I felt must have been similar to that of a vintage wine collector who came home to find his rebellious teenage child drinking the wine that is of the same age of that teenager’s, and probably drunk to strike a purposeless winning tally in response to their earlier argument.

I fee-fi-fo-fum around the house looking for my target. She was taking her shower and I began my angry symphony from the other side of the door. And then, I fee-fi-fo-fum to my room to finish my panting. And then, I cried.

I don’t remember the last time I felt as much pain. And.. over bottles of vanilla extracts? Not even boy problems can get me this upset. Ever.

It all sounds a little (or much) extreme. But behind the story, I was in the middle of assembling a near-success raw red velvet cake that now tastes like aspartame-vanilla using a $0.40 per bottle costing of vanilla.. CRYSTALS (?!?!?) that lied around the house. Secondly, it’s not easy to commercially find quality extracts as the awareness and demand for such things are very low. And if I were to find one, I will feel so unjustified in making the purchase for its inflated price.

To close my rants, I am half embarrassed to admit that the company I now work for has in abundance, great vanilla extracts.

…………