Monday, May 30, 2011
Kasu snacks are the pork scratchings of sake production, industrial by-products that have become beloved foodstuffs in their own right. When sake has fully fermented, it can be filtered to remove the starchy solids. There are a couple of different methods for squeezing the lees or kasu to extract most of the precious alcohol; hand-wrung kasu comes in soft lumps and contains more residual alcohol, while machine-pressed kasu looks like thick sheets of paper and is less alcoholic.
Kasu has a range of uses. It can be added to winter soups or used to pickle vegetables. Sake manju are sweet buns flavored with kasu, and an almost-instant version of the fortifying winter drink amazake can be made by those who want a similar flavor without the 3-day process of making amazake from scratch (simply dissolve kasu in hot water and add grated ginger and sugar or honey to taste).
I had also heard that you could grill sheets of sugared kasu, so when I found raw kasu for sale at Uwajimaya, I decided to try. I don't have a grill and I didn't have any real recipe, so there is probably a method that would be better/or more authentic. I just sprinkled a sheet of kasu with a thick layer of sugar and stuck it under the grill until the caramel bubbled and the edges crisped. The result was sticky, chewy, sweet, and surprisingly boozy--like butterscotch's exotic and intense cousin. One of my odder experiments, but something I'd definitely try again.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Open Space Residency, April-May 2011
Wandering the streets near Victoria's Chinatown, I stumbled across an amazing edible art installation by artist Shelley Miller at one end of the Waddington Alley.
Stained is a trompe l'oeil mural of sugar and icing made to mimic traditional Portuguese tiles. The center originally held a painted scene of ships at sea; still visible in this photo are the columnar cakes at the top, and a silhouette of slaves cutting cane in the bottom center. The progressive disintegrate is a key aspect of the piece:
"Miller’s ephemeral installations are like history itself, eroding and dissolving over time, subject to the distortions of told and retold stories, lore and myth...It is best viewed repeatedly as it changes."
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Dutch Bakery, $2.25
Sometimes stepping through a doorway can be almost like traveling back in time; think of 1950s diners, Gothic churches, Colonial Williamsburg, or Cracker Barrel restaurants.
Particularly evocative are those rare places that owe their anachronistic atmosphere to genuine continuity, rather than to revival, recreation, or re-enactment. Places like Victoria, BC's Dutch Bakery.
Funnily enough, when Dutch migrants Kees and Mable Schaddelee opened Dutch Bakery back in 1956, it was a high tech vision of the future. Unsatisfied with the commercial baking equipment available in Canada, Kees had the latest technology shipped over from Europe: ball-bearing rolling pins, a mechanical dough divider, a dough spreader capable of handling 2,000lbs per hour. His attention to innovation and detail extended to the retail area, which was fitted out with the best booths, stools, and display cases available--as well as Victoria's first air conditioning system.
Little has changed in subsequent years, but the Dutch's innovations have slowly mellowed into quaintness. The decor is the same, the recipes are the same, but what seems most significant is that many of the people are the same. Kees continued to bake until in his 70s and hung around the coffee shop up until his death at age 97. His four sons and several daughters-in-law joined the business, as did many of their children, four of whom now run the show. A few other non-Schaddelee employees have been with the bakery for more than 30 years.
The same holds true for the patrons. Although in its heyday the Dutch's coffee shop served about a thousand customers every weekday, patrons never felt rushed, and many made Dutch Bakery a daily or weekly habit. It's still one of those places where it seems like 90% of the people know--and like--each other.
On the strong recommendation of an elderly couple at the next table, I had a strawberry shortcake (only available in season) and the dollar roll, a signature sweet of rolled-up sponge and buttercream swaddled in housemade marzipan: soft, sweet, and surprisingly light. Other pastry options include Parliaments, Flying Saucers, Deer Legs, and Sacher Torte. Takeaway pastries, cakes, cookies and chocolates are also available, displayed in the Dutch's original wood and glass cases.
718 Fort Street