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Chef’s Tasting Notes Episode 3: Value Wines? WhyN ot?

Since introducing Chef’s tasting notes, I’ve made a point in trying something new every week. The idea is to expose my palate to new flavors and to inspire creations. This week it is all about wines.

I live in Quebec, Canada. What sets this province apart from the other Canadian provinces is beer and wine for sale at the grocery store. (Gas stations as well.)

No, you won’t find a forty-five dollar bottle there, but many can be had for fewer than twenty dollars. That’s why we are tasting value wines. Why you ask? I say, “WhyN ot?” (Get it? Why not?)

The best advice from a Sommelier

Patrick Ryan stands at my height, with a girth that I probably match. The wispy, gray haired Sommelier taught our Serving class in culinary school. I remember he patiently explained to me how it was in our guest’s best interest to taste the Chardonnay with the ballotine dish. (I had already sold them a bold, Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon.)

The best part about service class was when we got to taste the alcohol. What better way to upsell the wine than to have an experienced drinker push the selection.

I remember one line he said above all:

There are a lot of wines out there. We don’t have a lot of time in our lifetime, so try them all!

The wines I am going to taste today is on the cheaper side. You may ask why we are going to taste them. A bottle of wine doesn’t have to cost you half of your month’s rent to be tasty. Don’t panic if the bottle has a screw top instead of a cork. You only drink what’s inside.

Wines tasted:

Woodbridge Chardonnay 2011


7.5/10: This wine is a user-friendly wine that will pair well with many main dishes.

I had this at my In-law’s anniversary party. We made a pork loin, and I made a sauce using this wine to deglaze the pan.

Appearance: Clear hue, like sunshine in a bottle.
Smell: Light oak, apples, spices. Perhaps like it was sweetened with honey.
Taste: Fruity, with an apple or pear undertone. It had a hint of spice like pepper in the background.
Mouthfeel: Crisp, light but with an oak undertone that made the wine appear dry.

Overall Score: 7.5/10: This wine is a user-friendly wine that will pair well with many main dishes. The reason it didn’t score higher is because the taste is on the dry side. People who like their wines sweet will want to give this one a pass.

Serve with: This would be delicious with apples and peaches. I used it to make a sauce for roasted pork tenderloin with mangoes. It works with risotto and quiche as well.

Sand Stone Creek 2011


9/10: This wine is a winner, especially if you are planning to have a barbecue featuring grilled meats.

A nice Shiraz from Australia. I had this with a friend that came down to visit.

Appearance: Dark, heart-blood red with deep reflections. Generous legs on the glass. (Legs are the streaks that form on the glass when it is swirled.)
Smell: Dark, musty. A fruity smell that you’d swear had cherry in it.
Taste: Bold, slap-your-face spice with a hefty background of dark fruits.
Mouthfeel: This wine was thicker than most, and left a pleasant, lingering finish.

Overall Score: 9/10: This wine is a winner, especially if you are planning to have a barbecue featuring grilled meats.

Serve with: Vegetarians. (That is, grilled meat.)

Wish For Luck


7/10: Not for everyone. It’s dry, but will hold up well against anything that is fatty. It will compliment those bold flavors.

This was a lovely Cabernet from Chile. Sure, it’s got a screw top. It’s a wine available for a song.

Appearance: Dusty red, little legs.
Smell: Earthy, with a sharp note of spices.
Taste: Imagine you taste a freshly picked tomato and combine that with how you would normally think of red wine.
Mouthfeel: Full bodied, almost a sensation of a thin creamy flavor that sang with sharp notes on your tongue.

Overall Score: 7/10: Not for everyone. It’s dry, but will hold up well against anything that is fatty. It will compliment those bold flavors.

Serve with: Great with rib eye steak, or lamb. Goulash would be dashing. I served it with a cheese course.

Your Turn:

What cheap wines have you tried and liked (or hated?) Let me know in the comments.


Good morning everyone, it’s Ask the Chef! day again. Today I wade through the debate on Microwaves, and answer a question on how to keep herbs fresh.

What do you think of the microwave?

Microwave of Death

Some chefs will fire you for using one. Others microwave proteins in the middle of a busy service.

John Reid asks:

I am studying Product Design and I am writing a report with the question “How has the microwave oven developed, has it had a positive or negative effect on our lifestyle and could we live without it?” I am looking for opinions from the professionals of the kitchen. Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you.

Great question John, and one that sparked debate. The best answer to your question is the microwave is a kitchen tool.

I used a microwave both at home and in high-end kitchens. Let’s put aside the debate and focus on what a microwave does when it heats an item.

You may have heard that microwaves cook food “from the inside out.” That is not the case. What happens is a microwave penetrates the surface of the food and excites the water, fat, or sugar molecule. The atoms of those molecules create heat energy from the friction of those moving molecules. (Have you ever tried making a bowl of popcorn and the center was cold when you take it out?)

A microwave is great for reheating liquids, melting fats, and steaming foods. Microwave ovens use less heat to cook vegetables, so the vegetables hold more nutrients after cooking than if they were steamed or boiled on the stove top.

Since you cook the food from within you can’t get a good caramelization by microwave ovens. When you heat water, it evaporates. You are left with a dry, rubbery texture that is not desirable with proteins.

I think it’s for this reason that most chefs do not tolerate the use of the microwave.

I don’t think there is a right or wrong about the microwave. I think it’s a tool like a knife. You just need to know how to use it.

How to keep herbs fresher for longer?

Neglected basil

Nothing is worse than wilted herbs.

Foodie 13 asks:

There is nothing more that I love than cooking dishes with fresh herbs but imp finding that I only get one use out of a small bag of them and by the time I want to use them again they have wilted :(

My dad had suggested that you can freeze herbs and we have tried that with no success. Can anyone tell me if there is a way for keeping fresh herbs for longer?

I can help you out. I wrote a post on how to save your herbs with some ideas.

Tangent: It frustrated me when my cooks wouldn’t take gentle care of herbs. I would find the herbs—still in their plastic bags—dying on the shelf. Three quarters were black. I was losing over two hundred dollars a week from tossing herbs in the garbage.

I understood that when the daily produce delivery came the cooks didn’t want to fiddle around with herbs. They had to remove the bags from the herbs, clean the bottom stems, and place them into a container with water. Worse, they must change the water daily.

The same cooks would take their time cleaning beef tenderloin to get the best yield. I saw they saved the scraps for mince. Why did they save the mince? Simple – the answer was food cost.

So I called a meeting and assembled around the whiteboard. To this we did the following: (This is what the whiteboard would look like.)


Eye-opening, isn’t it?

Remember to treat your herbs well. They are worth a LOT of money. Again, look here for how to keep your herbs fresh.

If you have a question for me, drop me a line on the Ask the Chef!” page, or you can follow the links on the sidebar to get to my Social Media contacts. I love hearing from you.


How To Calibrate An Instant Read Thermometer

What good is a thermometer that doesn’t give you the correct reading?


This thermometer is off. No way is it almost freezing in my kitchen!

You need to calibrate, son!

When I worked on the grill of a busy restaurant, I had to stop (at least twice a shift) to recalibrate my thermometer. When a thermometer is in constant use, it starts to read off by one or two degrees Celsius (or five to ten Fahrenheit.)

Plus, it was an excuse to down a glass of iced water. Working on a grill is hot work.

Why calibrate?

Failing to re-calibrate is like not using a thermometer. I learned this one time when cooking a pork tenderloin roast. I’d learned my lesson. The temperature on the thermometer says it’s 125°F and the carryover cooking took it to 140°F, a perfect medium for the pork roast.

When I cut into the roast to serve it, it was raw. I felt like a donkey. (A little Gordon Ramsey for you there.)

Sure, the temperature read 125°F, but my thermometer was off by ten degrees. I should have calibrated it first.

How do I calibrate my thermometer?

Today I am going to show you how you can quickly calibrate your thermometer. All you need is a good thermometer, a glass, ice, and water. It will take less than a minute.

Yesterday I wrote about the top 6 thermometers I used in my career. I chose the most common thermometer out there for demonstration:

List Price: $9.99 USD
New From: $3.00 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Here are the steps to take when you are calibrating a thermometer:


Find the wrench that conveniently comes with this thermometer. It is on the side. If you are using a digital thermometer, disregard this step.


Slide the stem through the hole…


Place the hex nut in the wrench of the holder. Make sure it is secure.


Fill a glass half-full with ice.


Fill it with cold water.


Stick your stem into the glass. Your holder makes a convenient handle for you to hold over the water. Wait for six seconds so the needle stops. It should be at 0°C (or 32°F). If not, go on to the next step.


Grab the top and move it like a dial while holding the wrench. You want to move it to 0°C (or 32°F).


I like to move it slightly past where I need to, so I can correct it to be sure it is right where it needs to be.


Here is the finished calibration. 0°C (32°F).

That’s how you calibrate your thermometer. A quick note: Some thermometers out there do not allow you to calibrate them. Throw them away and buy a nice one from the list I posted yesterday. Calibration should be easy to do, and take no time at all.

Your turn

When was the last time you calibrated your thermometer? Let me know in the comments.


Nowhere near done, even if the touch is firm.


Today I am going to let you in on a secret. I think that a thermometer is one of your most valuable tools, right up there with your knives.

Some cocky cooks and chefs avoid the thermometer because they think it reflects on their ability to grill food to the right temperature.

I was that cook. I used to think I could tell a steak’s doneness by touching it.

I had something to prove – every shift.

I was second in command of a busy restaurant, but I wasn’t the strongest line guy around. What I had going for me was the ability to identify a standard, then ensure the cooks were following that standard. The standard included the use of a thermometer to check every protein cooked on the grill.

The other part of my job was to ensure that labor was in line by “cutting” line cooks. The expectation was I would run the line by myself.

I served raw chicken to a guest!

I had cut the staff after a busy Friday lunch. I was juggling cooking sauté dishes (like a pad Thai), a pizza, chicken wings, and a chicken club sandwich. Orders came in at a steady pace, and it seemed like I was never going to catch up.

I saw the General Manager (through the frenzy of pans, fryer baskets, and sauce ladles) arrive on the line holding a plate. You could clearly see-in the debris of the sandwich he held-the chicken for the club was pink.

Six seconds cost the restaurant FIFTY dollars.

Most instant-read thermometers take six seconds to register. You insert your thermometer, set it aside for the few seconds it takes to get your reading, and complete another short task while waiting.

The busy line overwhelmed me. I saved six seconds by failing to test the chicken, but cost the restaurant the entire amount of the table (over 50 dollars.)

Easily avoid this by always taking the temperature of all your proteins.

I would take the temperature of a roast, but not a steak. I was afraid of overcooking the roast. In my experience overcooked steaks (and undercooked chicken) represent a bigger loss in revenue than roasts. The answer is easy. Take six seconds to take the temperature of your meat.

Now I’m sure my proteins are the right temperature.

I thought that thermometers were for people who didn’t know how to cook. Today I’ll openly challenge anyone to an accuracy check with their method verses my calibrated thermometer. I guarantee I will win every time.

If you want a medium steak – I will make sure it’s medium by checking to see if it’s 135°F (allowing 5°F for carryover cooking.)

A few dollars spent on a thermometer will save thousands in revenue and food cost.

The few dollars you spend to buy a thermometer will save your restaurant thousands in revenue. Every protein that you overcook, food cost doubles. (You have to prepare two proteins for the cost of one.) If one of your top overused items in food cost is a protein, then a thermometer will solve that problem.

For example, an overcooked steak not only impacts food cost, but drives up other promotional items given to the guest. (Think desserts, drinks, or-in extreme cases-promoting the entire meal.)

Here are the top 6 Thermometers I have used:

I have used several thermometers in my career. Choose one of my favorites (for the serious culinarian) from this list:

List Price: $14.99 USD
New From: $10.49 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

List Price: $9.99 USD
New From: $3.00 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

List Price: $16.00 USD
New From: $12.59 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

New From: $9.72 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

New From: $6.99 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

New From: $2.00 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Your turn:

Question: Have you ever served underdone (or overdone) meat? Let me know in the comments.

Other Culinary Toolbox Posts:

Eat Smart Precision Pro Digital Scale


About Me Part 2: Growing Up Cooking

You know how kids have certain dishes they hated growing up? For me it was peas and my mother’s liver. I could handle garden-fresh peas, but the sight of the olive-gray-green pearls of palate-gagging doom still trouble me to this day.

Sweet Peas 1

olive-gray-green pearls of palate-gagging doom still trouble me to this day

Mother never learned that liver is a subtle offal, best served medium at most. She did have creativity, I’ll give her that. Liver’s problem is the longer it’s cooked, the more grainy it becomes. Try hiding that (and explaining) to a kid that won’t eat the weird liver sauce.

Bacon-fried chicken & turkey giblets (livers, gizzards & hearts)

Mmmm… where’s the tomato sauce mom?

Discovering Food

I went to live with my grandfather when I was nine. We lived with my great granny and my great-great aunt (an Alzheimer patient) in a small house. I got chased around the house for my great-uncle’s misdeeds. I spent an afternoon dodging a rolling pin for not milking the cows that morning. I still laugh at that moment, but to a nine-year-old kid it was scary.

Granny made everything from scratch. She made delicacies as beef heart, tongue in natural gelatin, and radiator oats. I was the only kid who took tongue sandwiches to school. Of course, no one would trade their lunch with me. I didn’t know any different, because they tasted ethereal to me. Win-win.

Beef Tongue Sandwich

I will never have a problem with a tongue sandwich. Call me weird.

In my grandfather’s garden I learned all about organic foods, and the power of growing your own produce. I learned firsthand what it took to grow food, what it took to bring it to the table. My first memory of granddad’s place was digging a one foot trench for the asparagus we were going to plant.

Interested enough to try cooking

It wasn’t long before I took to trying cooking. Granny didn’t know how to make my favorite broccoli dish, broccoli with cheese sauce. I phoned my mother to quiz her on how to it. I was lucky my grandfather was patient with a nine-year-old that wanted to experiment with the stove.

I had one condition to follow: I had to use organic, whole produce in my recipes. For example, I wanted to bake chocolate chip cookies. My grandfather got me whole wheat flour and carob chips.

I didn’t know that you had to adjust the ratio of flour to butter, and as a result, I made one large cookie. (The cookies melted into each other and filled the sheet pan.)

what started it

This looks like what happened with my first cookies.

That was the first of a long line of mistakes in recipe execution. Guess what–you’re going to make them too. It’s an important part of learning to cook.

Made first turkey-at 10 years old

The monumental challenge of roasting a turkey fell to me around my tenth birthday. I tried to research how to cook one, and finally asked Granny the best way. (This was way before Google’s creators had graduated from high school.) Under her direction, I baked my first turkey, and it was as delicious as a turkey can be to a ten-year-old boy.

Turkey All Done

Follow the steps and you’ll have perfection too.

That experience taught me that a recipe is a set of steps. It’s like mathematics. There are rules that set out, you follow them, and you recreate what the teacher would like. When something goes wrong, it’s usually in the instructions or the execution of them.

Experimenting with Flavors

Mom made cannelloni once with spinach and chicken for her new boyfriend. (She married him) and I learned there are new tastes out there to be discovered, you just had to be open to try them. The other lesson was that food was the key to relationships.

I moved back home, and my mother remarried. We moved to Thunder Bay when I turned twelve, and I tried my hand at cooking for my Mother, Stepfather and sister.

I liked to make spaghetti sauce. (More like souping up the canned version with the spices in the cupboard.) I would grab, mix something in, taste, and adjust.

10 Things: Dave's Gourmet Red Heirloom Organic Pasta Sauce

Making it my own. Adding whatever I could find in the cupboard.

My family always ate what I made, and made me feel like I was awesome at cooking. They said I would grow up to be a chef. I like to think they weren’t just humoring me. (Or I’ve been in this business for all the wrong reasons!)

What’s the lesson in this?

Get cooking, quench your thirst for more knowledge. That way you will begin to form your palate.

Stay Tuned…

I remember walking by Valhalla hotel in Thunder Bay and thinking that one day maybe I could be a chef and work there. Tune in next time when I tell you how it came to be that I took that first step towards that dream–deciding to go to culinary school.



Chefs Tasting Notes: Episode 2

Since introducing Chef’s tasting notes, I’ve made a point in trying something new every week. The idea is to expose my palate to new flavors and to inspire creations.

Why It’s Important

I believe that it’s important to challenge our tastes. If we stick with the same flavors we usually make, we run the risk of becoming bitter, jaded.

I was guilty of being in a rut. It took a long-time friend (Thank you Kelly!) to shake me out of my stupor and get me into trying new tastes. My career is exciting again.

I hope these tasting notes inspire you dear readers. Set aside twenty dollars every pay (or more if you can afford it) and get tasting. I guarantee the ideas will flow. You will hate some, but nothing starts a conversation like a healthy debate.

This week I tasted a couple of beers and a cheese. Here are my notes on them.

AC/DC Beer

I had this beer last Friday. I don’t go for branded products, and this beer is a great reason. My friend saw this beer in the store, so he bought me one with theirs.

We both tried to like it, honestly, we did. My friend’s wife tried it; it seemed a waste to throw it away. Alas, after one sip, it went down the drain.


Too bad we were not Thunderstruck by this beer

Appearance: It looked like any regular beer on tap, like a Coors or a bud light. It was pale yellow, effervescent, with a head that dissipated shortly after the pour.

Smell: Smelled faintly of yeast, fruity, wheat.

Taste: It tasted like someone watered down a beer we would get at the local pizzeria.

Mouthfeel: Thin. Carbonation was okay, but then again so is club soda or dealcoholized beer.

Overall Score: 2.5/5: The branding is all that sets this beer apart from some other cheap canned beer. I guess if you wanted to support the band from beer sales, this would be the way to go. I’d prefer to see them in concert, while imbibing the swill they serve there. Perhaps this is how they came to the flavor of this beer?

I would expect a beer from the baddest rock band out there to pack a hefty punch, not a whimper.

Serve with: If I would serve this beer at a party it would be with finger or pub food like potato skins, wings so hot that you’d need anything to wash them down, or even fried items.

Maudite Beer

I saw the legend of this beer on the Unibroue website, and like anything with a good story, It intrigued me. Watch it here.

I bought a six-pack for our poker game last Friday, and it didn’t disappoint. I made a point to serve it in a beer glass, but I feel that following the instructions for serving on the bottle–in a brandy glass at 8°C–would give the experience the brewers were looking for.


Not for the average beer drinker but nonetheless a great brew

Appearance: When I poured the beer, it gave a great head immediately. The beer was a murky dark orange color, almost yellow. The head disappeared quickly but didn’t leave much lace on the glass. (Lace is what you call the lacy white ring that remains on the glass after the head dissipates)

Smell: It was crisp, sweet with a heady smell of hops and wheat.

Taste: I tasted caramel laced with spices such as cardamom, coriander, ginger. The beer is heavy on the hops which give a spruce flavor.

Mouthfeel: The beer was creamy, yet crisp on the tongue. The flavor of the hops lingered in the background.

Overall Score: 8/10: This beer has a bold hop and spruce flavor that will be a turnoff to the average beer drinker. If it had a bit more lace the beer would hit a nine on the scale.

Serve with: This beer would go great with Cendre de Lune goat cheese, a grilled T-bone steak in the fall, or even paired with a sweet apple pie during apple picking season.

Cendre de Lune (Moon Dust)

I originally bought this cheese because I was looking for a goat cheese to try. I had success serving Le Cendrillon to friends, and was looking for something similar. I caught glimpse of a package of Cendre de Lune from Du Village. A quick look at the package told me the cheese changes taste every day before its best before date. Into my basket it went.

Note that Cendre de Lune is a cow’s milk cheese. It was inspired by the award winning triple cream from the same company. The look of lunar ash was inspired by the poet’s use of the moon to describe beauty and good taste.


I thought this was a goat cheese. My mistake was delicious.

Appearance: The box tells us that as the cheese gets closer to the best before date, the flavor mellows out. My cheese has another thirty days to go, so I am looking at having a middle-aged cheese. The surface is white with specks of gray that dot the pillowy outside and look as though someone dry-brushed them on. The inside shows a ring of firmed cheese, with the center a touch softer and lighter then the outer ring.
Smell: The rind gives a musty smell, not unlike a regular brie cheese. The inside smells like a high fat brie cheese.
Taste: The first feeling is of a strong creamy taste, with an acidity in the background. The cheese tastes earthy, and slightly peppery.
Mouthfeel: Rich and luscious, with a full fat taste you would expect from a goat cheese.

Overall Score: 9/10: This cheese is a gorgeous addition to your repertoire. The cheese delivers on its promise of good taste and beauty.

Serve with: As a cheese course by itself (with crostini or crackers,) or in a melt with strong vegetables such as butternut squash. Great served with the Maudite beer above.

Your Turn:

What new and exciting things have you tried out this week? Let me know in the comments.


Good morning to everyone, it’s Monday again,  I can’t wait for more reader’s questions.

I want to start out by apologizing for no post on Friday. My host provider (Hostmonster) had a blackout and I wasn’t able to access my site for the whole day.

Lemon Coconut Chicken Salad

Use coconut cream to replace mayonnaise in traditional chicken salad recipe for a delicious alternative.

Keith asks:

I’m looking to make a few “mixing sauces”; one for chicken salad and one for a broccoli salad. The catch is that I can’t have any egg or milk in it.

For all you culinary students out there, this is important. You will see more requests like these popping up as people discover intolerances to food. Keep up with the current trends to stay competitive in our career.

I suggest figuring out what they can eat, and move from there. They want to recreate a mayonnaise-based dressing. Ideas include a dressing made with grainy mustard, avocado, and coconut butter.

In Keith’s case, they like the coconut, but mustard and avocado are not interesting.

Use coconut milk to recreate the mayonnaise for the chicken salad mix. (It’s important to use coconut milk that is natural and free of gums and additives.) When you refrigerate coconut milk the fat rises to the top. Scrape it off and use in place of the mayo in the chicken salad recipe. (Thin it out with the coconut juice left in the can.)

For the broccoli, a dressing made with grainy mustard will work, especially by adding in some crisp bacon for good measure.

Get creative with alternative requests for traditional recipes. You may discover a tastier version than the original recipe.

busy cooking

Speed on a line is important.

JCherry writes:

I am a line cook, and I have been for 18 months, 3 of which I have been on the hot line, and I am trying to decide between staying at my current job or moving to a new place that has offered. Both places have excellent reputations, but one gives me the opportunity to explore more advanced cooking techniques and cross-train in pastry while the other keeps me on the line during busier services and will eventually improve my hand speed.

My question is for the more experienced chefs out there: Is it better to develop and emphasize technique or hand speed?

What a great question. Do you want to be a line cook, banquets, or both?

When I hire someone, I look at their speed and technique. I will put them where their strengths lie.

Figure out what kitchen role you want to fill. If you see yourself on the line for most of your career, then it’s important to build up the line speed. If you want to be in a setting where you will be able to carry out your tasks with less immediate pressure, then developing your skill set is the way to go.

If you are looking to move up later in your career, it’s important to know where your strengths are, and improve on them by challenging yourself.

I worked with a Sous-Chef that could pump out a banquet of sixty by himself. Unfortunately he was like a tornado in the kitchen. You always knew when this Sous-Chef was cooking because of the swath of destruction he laid down.

One night he had to jump onto service to help in a rush. He was on the meat station cooking chicken, steaks, pork chops and lobster. After I returned dish after dish for wrong meat temperatures, he grabbed his olive oil container to find that it had but a drop in it.

Before I could react, that container was flying off the walls, sailing past my nose, and connecting with one of my cook’s heads. He could barely find anything because of the clutter on his station.

On the other extreme, I demonstrated to a line cook how to make guacamole. The preparation is straightforward. Cut avocados in half, remove the pit. Scoop them into a food processor, add salt, sugar, and lime juice. Blend.

Two cases of avocados should take a competent Prep cook thirty minutes to complete. The trick with prep (or banquets) is to complete one step of a task at a time, then move on to the next step.

I went back to check on the line cook to see his progress two hours later. (I hadn’t seen him so I was wondering if he succumbed to the avocados, or if he was goofing off.) He was still on his first case.

The problem was he was preparing the guacamole like a line cook would; take the seed out of an avocado, then scrape it into the bowl of the food processor. Take another avocado, seed out, scrape. When the bowl was finally full, then measure out the salt, sugar, lime juice needed.

Both are opposite examples of people unsuited for their tasks. For you, it’s best to find out where you have the most enjoyment cooking, and focus there.

Freezer Burned Steak Frozen IMG_1025

Thawed, refrozen, thawed, refrozen. Not nice at all.

abefroman asks:

Is this meat good? It was frozen meat (ham and turkey), moved to a cooler that was 32 deg for 48 hours. Is it safe to eat this? Any or refreeze it? If it’s safe to eat and shouldn’t be refrozen how long do I have to eat it?

At 32°F the meat is below the danger zone, so it will be okay to cook and serve. The meat is okay to re-freeze if it has ice crystals.

I did monthly inventory in a hotel where the cooks defrosted meat then refroze them to avoid loss. Sometimes several times. I could tell by looking at the meat that it had gone through the freezing cycle because the muscle would separate from the intramuscular fat.

That meat would fall apart when you cooked it, and taste watered down. I believe that you need to have a plan for your meat so you won’t need to freeze your meat to avoid a loss. That means pulling your proteins in advance and thawing them in the refrigerator slowly instead of in water.

How long meat keeps depends on how many days it was out before freezing. Your nose should be the guide here. You’ll smell if the meat is okay to consume after washing it.

California Strawberries

Picked in their prime. You need to act fast or you will lose them all.

Kaneohegirlinaz writes

I’ve been buying Cali berries for the past couple of weeks, just about every other day.

Here’s the thing: The smell A~MAZ~ING, They look fairly descent when I first purchase them at the green grocer, but the next morning, they majority of them have dark/black blotches on them and turn soft pretty fast.

What gives?

It’s great to get the berries at the peak of their season. Berries picked in their prime don’t last long. I’ve had strawberries go bad the same day they were picked. One time I received Quebec strawberries at 8 AM in the morning. By 3 PM they had a white fuzzy blanket covering the top. It’s frustrating, I know.

The answer is to Macerate them. I wrote how to do that here.

If you have a question for me, drop me a line on my Ask the Chef! Page, or you can follow the links on the sidebar to get to my Social Media contacts. I love hearing from you.


Introducing the Culinary Toolbox


The Culinary Toolbox will help you find your good kitchen gadgets.

Let me take a second to let you know that I have set up a page called the Culinary Toolbox.

New Culinary Student And A Fresh Student Loan…

Sixteen years ago I started on my journey to get my Red Seal. I started off pestering my way into a culinary program that had a waiting list of a year. I’m sure I tired the Dean with ten or so calls a week.

Armed with a list of over a hundred items, a fresh student loan, I walked into the Campus Bookstore to get my books and tools. Do you remember what it was like when a store had selections of candies right at the counter when your parents went to pay for their items?

I don’t know how, but in the end, over thirteen hundred dollars melted from my fingertips. I bought a flashy new (complete) set of Henckels 4 Star knives, a Victorinox zester (because my friend’s brother told me it was the best. He was a real chef so I took his word as gospel.) Piping bags, star tips, a wedding cake set – if it was on that list, (even for the third semester), it went into my basket.

I didn’t know that two months later that someone would steal my complete toolkit from my work but it was a blessing

How The Theft of My Toolbox Helped Me Choose the Right Tools for Me

Losing my tools was traumatic. I didn’t have a loan to let me buy another set of tools.

Forced  to buy my tools as I could afford them, I relied on borrowed tools for the rest.

Let me give you an example: my knives. During two months of working with them, I discovered that I hated my 4 star knives. They were heavy, expensive, and they hurt my wrist working with them. No matter what I did, I couldn’t keep them sharp.

I had one knife after the theft of my kit – the headmaster’s knife. I learned what a good knife was by the feel of it while working. How did it feel in my hand? What tasks was I to use it for?

Today when you look into my knife bag, you won’t see a complete set, rather, a mixed bag of knives. I bought what worked the best, regardless of the name on the blade.

I learned there is junk out there, even for a professional cooking student. I wish I had someone to guide me through my purchases.

How will the Culinary Toolbox help me?

I would have benefited from someone wiser than me. I had no clue about the pros and the cons of what I was about to buy. I plan to correct that through reviews here.  I’ll give you the honest, industry insider view of the item you want to buy.

If the it has any value, I’ll put it up in the Culinary Toolbox.


I’ll be honest here. Items I review link to my Amazon store. The hope is that one day I’ll cover the cost of running WDC. In the five years I’ve had an Amazon store, I haven’t received payment, because I don’t (or haven’t) cross(ed) the threshold for payments.

That’s not the point though. I just want you to get the item for the best price possible, and Amazon has that hands down.

Now all that’s left to do is shop.

The Culinary Toolbox.



About Me Part One: Born To Do This

Have you heard the expression that you were born to do something? Twenty years ago I thought it was egotistical to say that. Now I am older, I am not so convinced. Here I sit dreaming about cooking, thinking about what I would like to discover this week.

Job after job, always coming back to the kitchen.

Like I was born to do this.


I remember that we lived in this old converted green farmhouse that had a central heating. I remember that there was huge, scary grate in the middle of the living room that hurt your feet to walk over it. Like any toddler, I wasn’t so keen on getting burned, so I always circled it if I had to cross the room. (Perhaps to pester my sleeping mother for a snack.)

My mother cooked over this faded green stove. (You know the kind that looked like a hospital wall.) I would stare at the flicking blue flames with a keen fascination. All she had to do was turn a knob, then the magic could begin. I wanted to be able to do that.

I bided my time, and once Mom left the kitchen, it was nothing to shuffle my high chair to the edge of the stove. It was the perfect height, allowing me easy access to the knob. I’d turn it on, puzzled about came next.

I’m sure you understand that after five minutes of adoration, a five-year-old will find something new to do. I was no exception; my mother would discover the front (or the back) burner on full blaze while I was up to some other mischief.

It’s no surprise that my mother used my fear of burns to try to teach me not to mess with the gas stove. Like most mothers at the time, she turned on the flames, and then brought her hands close to the flames. OUCH! She shouted, then quickly removed her hands from the flames, pretending to lick them.

My problem? I’m too smart for my own good. I knew she was full of shit. I kept doing it, to my mother’s dismay.

I eventually outgrew my habit of turning on the stove. Television was way cooler.


Mornings included me waking up at insane times – like any 5-year old. My bedtime was 6 PM (My parents liked to party because they were young. My mother had me at sixteen.) Of course, I was up before dawn.

Dad worked the late or graveyard shift driving taxicabs, and Mom worked as a waitress at a bar. Mornings were sleep time for them.

That left me the Television for company. My favorite morning shows were the The Mighty Hercules, The Smurfs, an exercise show (Charlene Prickett It Figures!), and then Wok With Yan.

What I loved about Steven Yan was his style, the flash that he cooked with. He had a funny accent, and presented cooking in a way that made it out to be easy.

“Never use plastic chopstick!”

To this day, my weakness is Asian cuisine and I credit that to Steven Yan.


We moved a lot when I was younger. I went to thirteen different elementary schools, so I cycled through many friends. My best friend growing up was my sister. Together we managed to put more gray hairs on my mother’s head than most children do.

We explored the storm sewers below Calgary for hours on end. We taught each other how to smoke cigarettes. We fought. We would create some amazing stuff in the kitchen.

We had this sandwich making contest. Whoever made the grossest sandwich would win… with one limit… if your opponent couldn’t eat the sandwich, you had to.

The combinations we used to dream up don’t sound so different from what you would find in a fancy restaurant. Jam with pepper and Cheez Wiz. Mashed potatoes and licorice. Much like you would find in an episode of Chopped.

Tune in next time where I’ll tell you about my teen years and how they formed my palate.


Chefs Tasting Notes: Episode 1

Last week I introduced you to Chef’s tasting notes. Each week I will make a point to taste and review new products from here in Quebec. (Maybe Canada as well.)

Well, here we go!

Éphémère Apple Beer


I know, this picture is bad. I just wanted to protect the… innocent. Yes, that’s what we will go with.

I had this beer on our usual Friday Poker night.

This brew comes from a microbrewer Unibroue in Chambly (Quebec).

The fairy on the label represents the fruit picked at the peak of their ripeness of the season. There are several different flavors showcasing the seasonal produce of Quebec, and this brew is by far the most popular.

There is a legend with this beer that is worth the time to check out here. I can get behind a beer with a story like that!

Now onto the beer.

  • Appearance - Slight yellow, cloudy.
  • Smell - tart apple and wheat, but a touch of skunk after opening for the first couple of minutes.
  • Taste - Tart apple and wheat with a hint of hops.
  • Mouth feel – A little thin with nice carbonation.
  • Overall6.5/10 The beer was different. For those that don’t like fruit, it would be a turn off. For me it is just okay. A quick look on the site for the beer shows that I didn’t taste it in it’s proper setting. I had the beer straight out of a cold fridge, and drank it out of the bottle. I will need to try this one again, and perhaps the rating will improve.
  • Serve with: Pair this with something light. Perhaps an apple pie would be a good or a pork dish. I wonder if a basting sauce for ham would do the trick?

Château Pesquié Quintessence 2011


Delicious, perfect for grilled foods

I received this bottle as a gift for my Renewal of Vows. I opened it up with an old-school cork remover because we forgot our corkscrew at home. Oops! I must have done something wrong because there were bits of cork floating in the first glass I had. I didn’t let that stop me of course!

  • Appearance – Dark red, great big leg.
  • Smell – Musty, fruity, dark
  • Taste – It was as if someone mixed grapes, plums, and blackberries with a heavy dash of freshly ground black peppercorns.
  • Mouthfeel – Full of body, with a meaty punch in the craw.
  • Overall9/10 The first glass was okay, but after I let it air out for an hour the taste improved. I am unskilled in wine it would seem.
  • Serve with: A selection of strong cheeses, or grilled meats – especially duck or lamb. A dish with rosemary would complement this wine.

Iberico Adarga de Oro

A Spanish cheese made with three milks (cow, sheep and goat). Its soft and particular flavor is the result of this mix. “Adarga de Oro”, the Golden Shield in Spanish, refers to the region where the cheese is made and to the famous Don Quichotte.


Maybe I should have taken a picture before I opened it. Right. Like that would happen.

I picked this cheese up in the store with two others. (I’ll review them in weeks to come.) I was looking for something firm, that would go well with the wine that I had. (See above.)

  • Appearance – Hard, opaque creamy white. There is a dark rind around the cheese. The cheese is humid.
  • Smell - Sharp, olive oil, not unlike a Parmesan
  • Taste - Sharp flavor, much like a Parmesan, but with a mellowing. A hint of olive oil.
  • Mouthfeel -  Rich, and leaves bits of graininess on your tongue after. The flavor lingers.
  • Overall Score - 8/10. It’s an easy choice. It goes well with anything, and is good all by itself.
  • Serve with: I would pair this with potatoes, strong, tart grapes, and with a bold red wine. I think it would go well in a soup recipe, or perhaps as a sharp note in a canapé.

Your Turn:

What new and exciting things have you tried out this week? Let me know in the comments.