Saturday, December 31, 2016

A magnificent meal at Miku!

Last evening, a group of us dined at an amazing restaurant to cap off the year. Miku, is an elegant Japanese restaurant near Toronto’s waterfront. I was a bit hesitant initially, as I just wanted to wind down after a stressful couple of weeks. However, after reading the reviews, and seeing what was available for dessert – my reason for this post – I decided to go for it. Hey, it’s the end of the year!

To start off, I had the Salmon Oshi Sushi which consisted of pressed wild sockeye salmon with jalapeño and Miku made sauces. It was divine! The fish was so delicate it melt as soon as it hit my mouth. I wanted more. Next time!

Salmon Oshi Sushi


Salmon Oshi Sushi

For my entrée, I enjoyed the Kyoto Saikyo Miso Baked Sablefish. It had so many elements and textures which really elevated the plate to a whole new level. The plate consisted of a charred eggplant purée, cauliflower fritter, daikon covered in squid ink, edamame, pattypan squash, welsh onion, and heirloom tomato relish. Each bite was different every time.

Kyoto Saikyo Miso Baked Sablefish


Kyoto Saikyo Miso Baked Sablefish

Now for dessert. This was the reason why I wanted to go: to enjoy the Green Tea Opera. Wow! What a song! It was a trio of Matcha infused delights that screamed amazing notes in my mouth. The Matcha was a perfect balance of sweetness and earthiness. Miku’s signature dessert was a combination of green tea génoise, Matcha buttercream, dark chocolate ganache, azuki bean cream, hazelnut wafer, and Matcha ice-cream. Stunning and delicious. Definitely make room for this dessert!

Green Tea Opera


Green Tea Opera

With the fantastic service, amazing eats, and wonderful dinner companions, it was an evening I really needed. I had a pretty good year. I’ve had a very busy schedule with my new career, but I feel like I’m on the right track for once. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m enjoying the journey. I love what I do and I’ve got some big ideas for 2017. I’m looking forward to how the New Year unfolds for me. I wish everyone else a prosperous New Year. Cheers!




Saturday, December 24, 2016

Tea Readings: Raise your cups up high!

I came across this beautiful poem by Linda Hewitt I thought was worthy of sharing. When it’s all said and done, there’s always time for tea! It makes me want to go out for Afternoon Tea. Enjoy!

For money comes and money flies
Nations fall and nations rise,
And most things mortal changeth in the lee;
But there's one thing you can count on,
In Windsor, Scarborough or Clapham --
At four o'clock they still bring out the tea.
Plates of cakes and ladyfingers,
Sandwiches whose flavour lingers,
Mounds of mints enough to last a week;
And scones dripping with butter?
No, with cream, the greedy mutter --
A point not to be argued by the meek.
What care we if time and fate
Make our fortune seem too late
Give us wars to fight that are not meant to be?
We will lift our cups on high,
Survey the tea tray with a sigh,
Thank the cozy, rosy world that gave us tea.


~ Linda Hewitt
Copyright 1981



Monday, December 19, 2016

Steeped In History: I'm a Little Teapot!

It’s a nursery rhyme many of us sang and danced to as children. Heck, even some grown-ups performed the routine. It’s right up there with the Chicken Dance at weddings, no? I’m a Little Teapot has some pretty cute lyrics, and I was curious to know more about its origins. Who came up with such a song and the silly dance steps that go along with it?

The story goes that the song was created to help children pick-up difficult dance routines by singing and dancing. Clarence Z. Kelley and his wife ran a dance school for children. They noticed that the participants were having difficulty learning the steps to a tap dance called “Waltz Clog”. George Harold Sanders stepped in and wrote up I’m a Little Teapot which describes the simple features of teapots and the basic steps in making a pot of tea. This song allowed the children to learn their dance routine by adding playful gestures expressing meaning accompanied by music. Here are the lyrics:

[Chorus]

I’m a little teapot
Short and stout
Here is my handle
Here is my spout
When I get all steamed up
I just shout
Tip me over and pour me out

I’m a very special pot
It is true
Here is an example of what I can do
I can turn my handle into a spout
Tip me over and pour me out


The dance steps called “The Teapot Tip”, enabled the children to become “teapots” whilst singing the song. Arms were used to mimic the spout and handle of teapots. Then you would bend to the side from the waist to indicate water pouring out.

Published in 1939, I’m A Little Teapot proved to be popular among children and adults all around the world. It’s even been used in many advertisements with different variations and offshoots of the song. Not bad for a simple little tune! Check out some videos on YouTube of people dancing “The Teapot Tip”. Some of them are hilarious. Here’s the song for you to do the “The Teapot Tip” if you’re so tired of the Macarena.







Monday, December 12, 2016

Teaology 101: Today’s post is brought to you by the letter 'H'!

Time for some ‘H’ words as we progress through our tea dictionary project. See all the previous definitions by clicking on their letters:

A      B      C      D      E      F      G


Hard: This is a desired quality that refers to the pungency in certain teas, most notably, Assam.

Harsh: These are teas that are bitter tasting possibly caused by the early plucking of immature tea leaves.

Heavy: Though they are strong tasting, these teas are not very good in that they lack brisk and astringency.

Herbal Infusion: Also referred to as "herbal tea", these are called tisanes which are beverages made using various herbs that infused like tea, but do not contain "tea".

Her Majesty's Blend: This is a blend of teas created for Queen Victoria.

High-fired: Teas that have been dried at high temperatures, but are not considered burnt or "bakey". Darjeeling tea is such an example.

High Grown: Tea grown at an elevation above 1200m.

High Tea: Originally a substantial meal that was eaten around 6 pm and consisted of various hearty dishes. The term has more to do with the height of the table rather than the class one belonged to. High Tea was served at the dinner table with dining chairs.  See Afternoon Tea for additional information. 


Houjicha:  A Japanese green tea, usually made from Bancha leaves that have been roasted in a pot over charcoal. Also spelled Hojicha.

Hungry: Describes the tea liquor which is lacking in the characteristics associated with that tea type.

Hyson: Meaning "flourishing spring" or "blooming spring", these are Chinese green teas. The new leaves are usually called young hyson while the older ones are called hyson skin.




Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Yes Chef: Slurpin’ some smokin’ soup!

A couple of years back, I had attended a meeting held by the Tea Guild of Canada. At this meeting, members got the chance to sample a soup made using tea. In this case, the tea used was Lapsang Souchong. It was superb! We were all provided with the recipe for this soup, which I decided to make just recently with the cooler weather coming in.

I did make some modifications to the recipe to make it more to my liking. Not only did I change the quantities of some of the items, but I also wanted to kick it up with some spices and add a garnish. It worked out just right!

Ingredients:



  • 2 cups of steeped Lapsang Souchong tea
  • 4 cups of chicken stock
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 8 small to medium sized parsnips
  • 475 ml of 18% cream
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • Chopped almonds

Preparation:

1.   Chop up the onions, celery stalks, and garlic cloves, and sauté. Add in the peeled and chopped parsnips and continue to sauté.


Takes these veggies...


...and chop 'em!


2.   Meanwhile, steep Lapsang Souchong tea, and set aside.

Lapsang Souchong dry.


Lapsang Souchong wet.


3.   Pour the chicken stock and tea into the pot of vegetables. Add the bay leaves, spices, and a couple of teaspoons of salt. 

It's coming together!

4.   Cover and simmer for about 2 hours until the vegetables become tender.

5.   Remove the bay leaves, then puree the vegetables with an immersion blender until smooth.

Blend away!


6.   Add the cream to the mixture and stir to combine.

Add cream.


Mix it good!


7.   Taste to see if more salt is required. I added a little more.

8.   Pour into a bowl and sprinkle with some chopped almonds.


Ahhh!


Enjoy this bowl of goodness with some crostini, breadsticks, a side salad, or all on its own. You will detect the smoky aroma and even a light taste of the Lapsang Souchong. I also sensed the fragrance of the celery and parsnips. It’s creamy, but not thick, and the almonds added a great crunchy texture which I love.


Cooking Tips:

Chop all your veggies a day before and keep them in your fridge until ready to use.

Options:

Try some different nuts instead of almonds. Pistachios, walnuts, maybe even some sunflower seeds.




Saturday, November 26, 2016

My Cuppa: Is there a fire? I smell smoke!

Originating from the Wuyi region in the Fujian Province in China, is a black tea called Lapsang Souchong that is becoming quite popular. What makes this tea distinctive is its smoky aroma and taste which some may find a bit off-putting at first taste.

"Souchong" refers to fourth and fifth leaves of the tea plant. These leaves are not as desirable as the leaves closer to the top or the buds themselves. They are much larger, tougher, older, less aromatic, and not as flavourful as the newer more delicate leaves at the top. Smoking these leaves gives it new life and a means of purpose, thus, creating a tea that stands on its own. "Lapsang" is a combination of two words: l
ap means pine, sang means smoke. So you get pine-smoked tea.

To make Lapsang Souchong, the leaves are harvested, withered, rolled, and oxidized. Afterwards, the leaves are roasted in bamboo baskets which are heated over pinewood fires. This key step in the manufacturing process, contributes to the unique flavours of Lapsang Souchong which some describe as dried longan, a tropical fruit similar to lychee, and pine smoke. The roasted leaves are then pan-fired, sorted, and packaged. Of course, these are just the basic steps. Some steps may be repeated several times and even re-done in a different order all to achieve the best finished product. 

A smokin' tea!

Legend has it that this processing method originated during the Qing Dynasty, when armies passed through a village to take their rest on a tea plantation. Their stay slowed down the tea production and had the leaves sitting around exposed to the elements. After the troops finally took their leave, the tea producers decided to speed up their process by heating the leaves over pinewood fires. This resulted in a very interesting smoky brew.

To prepare a cup of tea, you make Lapsang Souchong just like other black teas you normally drink. I used 1 teaspoon of tea leaves for each cup of water. After bringing water to a full boil in a kettle, I allowed it to cool down for about 5 minutes before pouring it over the leaves sitting in a sieve. I gave it 5 minutes to infuse before removing the leaves from the bright reddish coloured liquor. You actually can add milk and sugar, but I prefer Lapsang Souchong on its own. The aroma and taste are perfectly smoky without any bitterness or aftertaste. I find the tea quite soothing. 

A smokin' brew!

Much like Matcha or 
Pu’erh, Lapsang Souchong is an acquired taste that may need some time getting used to, but it so worth a try. It pairs very well with barbecued foods, spicy foods, perhaps a pulled pork. It’s also great to cook with. You can used it in a sauce or even as a dry rub. In my next post, I’ll show you what I used it for.




Monday, November 14, 2016

Chai Wares: Cozy hugs for your mugs!

A few posts back, I shared some really amazing teapot cozies made by some very talented artists out there. Now how about some tiny sweaters made especially for mugs? Who wants boring, cardboard, cup sleeves, anyway? These cute cozies are far more fun to help keep your hands from getting burned!


Bow wow!


Oh so cozy!


Flower power!


For the gals!


For the lads!


Foxy!


Go Pokemon!


I love tea!


I Robot.


I'm Batman.


It's a bust!


Wool wonders!


Rudolph guides.


The nose knows.


Witchy.


Hoot.


Hoot hoot.





Monday, November 7, 2016

Teaology 101: Today’s post is brought to you by the letter 'G'!

Time for another round of definitions in my tea dictionary project. Here we are with some ‘G’ words. See all the previous definitions by clicking on their letters:

A    B    C    D    E    F


Gaiwan: A set of traditional Chinese dishes specifically made to prepare teas in small quantities. A basic set comes in 3 pieces which includes a Gai (Lid), a Wan (Bowl), and a Die (Saucer).

Garden: Also referred as a plantation or estate, this is a specific area where tea is grown.

Genmaicha: This is a green tea combined with toasted rice.

Golden: Attractive, bright coloured liquors.

Golden Tip: A desirable appearance where the tips of leaves take on an orange colour in high quality black teas. This is achieved from good processing methods.

Gone off: Tea that has lost its quality from aging, or has become spoiled from mould.

Gongfu: Translated to ‘the art of tea brewing’, this is a carefully skilled style of tea making that requires much patience where brewing involves multiple infusions in a small pot called a Yixing, and then served in tiny cups.

Grade: This refers to the actual size of the tea particles and leaves. It has nothing to do with quality or taste.

Grainy: These are high quality, well-made CTC teas that appear as granules.

Green: Refers to poorly processed, under-fermented leaves, which results in an unflattering astringency of the black teas.

Green Tea: A type of tea where minimally processed leaves are withered immediately, then steamed or fired to stop the process of oxidation.

Grey: Poor colour of tea leaves as a result of becoming scratched and worn from aggressive sorting and handling during manufacturing.

Gunpowder: A type of Chinese green tea where the leaves are rolled into tight pellets and slowly unfurl when placed in hot water.

Gyokuro: A fine Japanese green tea produced from shaded plants. The word translates to 'Jade Dew', 'Pearl Dew', or 'Precious Dew'.





Saturday, October 29, 2016

Tea Readings: Straight from the book!

A notable contributor to the world of tea is Okakura Kakuzō (February 14, 1862 – September 2, 1913). He was a Japanese scholar recognized for his involvement in the development of the arts and culture scene in Japan. Okakura Kakuzō is well known as the author of The Book of Tea, which teaches the central role tea plays in everyday Japanese life.


Okakura Kakuzō


Here are just some of the beautiful, and some very deep, words by Okakura Kakuzō from The Book of Tea:


“Tea is more than an idealization of the form of drinking; it is a religion of the art of life.”

“Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage.”

“A man without tea in him is incapable of understanding truth and beauty.”

“Tea is a work of art and needs a master hand to bring out its noblest qualities. We have good and bad teas, as we have good and bad paintings -
- generally the latter.”

“Like Art, Tea has its periods and its schools. Its evolution may be roughly divided into three main stages: the Boiled Tea, the Whipped Tea, and the Steeped Tea.”

“In the liquid amber within the ivory porcelain, the initiated may touch the sweet reticence of Confucius, the piquancy of Laotse, and the ethereal aroma of Sakyamuni himself.”

“In Japan, I took part in a tea ceremony. You go into a small room, tea is served, and that's it really, except that everything is done with so much ritual and ceremony that a banal daily event is transformed into a moment of communion with the universe.”

“Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.”

“There is no single recipe for making the perfect tea, as there are no rules for producing a Titian or a Sesson. Each preparation of the leaves has its individuality, its special affinity with water and heat, its own method of telling a story. The truly beautiful must always be in it.”

“Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.”



~ Okakura Kakuzō




Saturday, October 22, 2016

Chai Wares: Neat knits for your teapots!

I’ve come across some really interesting decorative items for teapots I just had to share with everyone. You may have seen them. They are teapot cozies. What are they exactly? Well, think of them as little sweaters to cover teapots. Now why would a piping hot teapot need a sweater? For a couple of reasons I’ve been told: They help to keep your hands from getting burned by the heat penetrating from the teapot, and, they look pretty darned cute! I’m leaning more to the cuteness factor on this one. 

Here are just some of the ones I think are really neat, and I gotta say, there are some super talented people out there!


A purple something.


Woof!


A snail's pace.


Bunny.


Crowning glory!


A flower pot!


Home sweet home!


Hoot!


In the jungle!


Just dessert!


Lovely lady!


Little lad!


Mouse.


Hello Officer!


Paddington Bear.


Pineapple.


Sly fox!


What a buzz!