An Instant Noodles 101 With Mandom Hui AKA “You’ve Been Doing It All Wrong”

There's a dizzying array of instant noodles available out there, as a trip to any Chinatown supermarket noodle section will prove. It's all a matter of finding out which brand and flavour works best for you.

There’s a dizzying array of instant noodles available out there, as a trip to any Chinatown supermarket noodle section will prove. It’s all a matter of finding out which brand and flavour works best for you.

After heartily recommending some inexpensive instant noodles (Ibumie Penang White Curry Mee -Peris Kari Putih) a few weeks back, I was contacted by my Facebook friend Mandom Hui who suggested that we cook some noodles together.

Never one to turn down a new culinary adventure, we arranged a date for him to swing by my place and give me a 101 in instant noodle preparation, and oh my goodness, I was to discover that I had been doing it seriously wrong for all these years.

I find these kind of eye-opening experiences most enjoyable, and don’t in any way mind showing my ignorance about any subject matter when under the tutelage of someone who obviously knows their stuff. My afternoon with Mandom cooking instant noodles was one of those wonderful moments.

Up until this moment I had been making instant noodles in the laziest way possible. You know, the way that most people do it: Boil water, add noodles and sachet(s) of stuff and then serve. I’ve only once taken a foray into tarting my instant noodles up, but for the most part that’s exactly how I do it.

So here’s what I learned after an afternoon preparing instant noodles with Mandom:

1: There are so many different brands and varieties of instant noodles on the market. As they are so inexpensive it is easy to experiment and find the ones that you enjoy the most.

2: Although in Canada we tend to think of instant noodles as junk food, in Hong Kong they are seen as more like Kraft Dinner, and when augmented make up an entire meal.

3: Not all noodle bowls are born alike, and the better ones have a raised bottom allowing one to pick up and hold even when full of hot soup.

4: It’s a good idea to purchase some flank steak, cut into thin slices against the grain (they need to be thin enough to cook in the hot broth just before you pour over the cold noodles), and then put in a zip-loc bag with some light and dark soy sauce, a pinch of sugar, and finally some sesame oil. These strips will keep refrigerated for a week or so, and can also be quickly fried up for a quick and tasty snack. The same can be done with pork tenderloin.

5: Preserved vegetables are your friends. Cheap and with a long shelf life even after opening, preserved turnip and cabbage are really quite delightful. Just be sure to give them a good rinse first as they can be seriously salty.

6: Another cheap addition to your instant noodles can be dried seaweed. Just remember that a little goes a long way, so be careful unless you want your entire dish to taste of seaweed.

7: THE GOLDEN RULE – Always cook your noodles in a separate pot from your broth. It’s one extra step and you dirty one extra pot, but it makes a world of difference to the eventual outcome. If you actually go to the trouble of reading the instructions on the side of the packets most of them ask you to do this, and to rinse the cooked noodles in cold water once they are done. If you use the same water you cooked the noodles in you’ll find yourself with a murky, sullen, dull broth. If you cook the noodles and rinse them you’ll find your broth to be brighter, more flavoursome and aromatic, and your noodles with have quite a bit of a spring to them after their cold water bath.

8: Use your bowl to calculate the amount of water required for your pot of broth.

9: As you heat up the water for the broth feel free to add some greens, scallions, pickled vegetables, seaweed, and/or enoki mushrooms to add to the flavour of the soup. Chinese broccoli is particularly good for adding a lot of punch to the eventual broth. Add the beef/pork just before you pour the broth over the noodles and paste (see #9).

10: Place the contents of your flavour sachet(s) in the bottom of your serving bowl and add a few tablespoons of your hot broth liquid. Stir to “melt” and turn into a paste.

11: Many of these flavour sachets contain a shedload of salt, so if this really concerns you feel free to use half a sachet.

12: All of the flavour sachets also contain a shedload of MSG. The trick is not to allow the MSG to boil, hence “melting” the sachet contents in this manner is a good thing. Many believe that heating MSG brings about those compounds that cause adverse reactions in some (headaches, difficulty sleeping etc.)

14: Once you have “melted” the sachets’ contents, place the cold cooked noodles on top of the paste. Now pour over the hot broth pot’s contents (greens, vegetables, seaweed, beef, mushrooms and all) to reheat the noodles. Stir and serve.

15: Give yourself a pat on the back for gussying up your instant noodles for the first time.

16: Mr. Noodles are utter rubbish. Don’t be cheap and spend that extra 40 cents on some decent instant noodles. My favourite would be the well-known Nissin brand.

17: Don’t read the ingredients list. Don’t ever read the ingredients. Ever.

18: It’s not unknown for Hong Kong families to have drawers completely stacked with loads of different types of instant noodles. I’ve been stockpiling them myself. And they last forever… probably something to do with those rather questionable ingredients.

19: Pretty much anything that is left in the fridge is fair game.

20: Fried cubed spam is a particular favourite addition. Great Wall brand being the best to track down as it’s quite a bit fattier.

Preserved turnip and cabbage. A tasty, inexpensive, and long lasting addition to your instant noodles. I'd recommend rinsing them for a bit before adding them though as they can be pretty damn salty.

Preserved turnip and cabbage. A tasty, inexpensive, and long lasting addition to your instant noodles. I’d recommend rinsing them for a bit before adding them though as they can be pretty damn salty.

Another nice touch is crumbling up a small piece of this inexpensive dried seaweed, although be aware that even a little goes a long way.

Another nice touch is crumbling up a small piece of this inexpensive dried seaweed, although be aware that even a little goes a long way.

If you are looking for a meat component, there are few meatier additions than some thinly sliced flank steak. On the right you can see some sliced and marinated in light and dark soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil. Add the sesame oil last as otherwise it will coat the meat and prevent the other ingredients from penetrating the meat. Keeps for around a week in the fridge, and is very handy for a quick midnight snack.

If you are looking for a meat component, there are few meatier additions than some thinly sliced flank steak. On the right you can see some sliced and marinated in light and dark soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil. Add the sesame oil last as otherwise it will coat the meat and prevent the other ingredients from penetrating the meat. Keeps for around a week in the fridge, and is very handy for a quick midnight snack.

Slicing the flank steak against the grain into thin slices that will cook quickly in the broth.

Slicing the flank steak against the grain into thin slices that will cook quickly in the broth.

A Tale Of Two Broths : On the left the murky broth that comes from using the same water that the noodles are cooked in. On the right we have taken that extra step with the noodles and used an extra pot of water to make the broth.

A Tale Of Two Broths : On the left the murky broth that comes from using the same water that the noodles are cooked in. On the right we have taken that extra step with the noodles and used an extra pot of water to make the broth.

"Melting" the flavouring sachets and taking the greens and mushrooms from the broth pot.

“Melting” the flavouring sachets and taking the greens and mushrooms from the broth pot.

The end result : certainly a few notches above the usual bland instant noodles I have been known to make previously.

The end result : certainly a few notches above the usual bland instant noodles I have been known to make previously.


Jamie DrummondEdinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he’ll never look at instant noodles in the same way again.

Try This : A Gorgeously Nutty (And Affordable) Sherry

Gonzalez Byass “Nutty Solera” Sherry, Jerez, Spain (Alcohol 20%) LCBO Vintages $16.95

Although it’s oft been uttered that the only people who actually purchase and consume sherry are nerdy Sommelier-types and grannies, I’d like to draw your attention to this terrific value medium-sweet (72 g/l) offering from the historied Jerez house of González Byass. I’d go as far as saying that is possibly the best value wine (albeit fortified) on the LCBO shelves right now, and with its new packaging it’s looking rather slick too.

Coming from the first press of the Palomino grapes, the bulk of the must is fermented to 11% alcohol before being fortified to 20%, then it is aged in an Oloroso solera and allowed to fully oxidise, giving the sherry a very particular aromatic profile. The Pedro Ximenez grape is pressed separately in a fashion very similar to that used for olive oil production. It is fermented to 7%  and then fortified to 15% before being placed into the PX solera. Both parcels are then aged for around four years before blending. After this assemblage, the sherry is added to the “Nutty Solera” where it develops the distinctive nutty aromatics found in this bottling.

I sat down with a chilled bottle of this, a couple of hard cheeses, and a three hour long documentary. And it turned out to be the perfect pairing.

The nose is all about toasted nuts, mocha, caramel, clove and allspice. The palate, while decidedly sweeter than any Fino or Manzanilla, is nicely balanced by the acidity, making it the ideal sipping sherry. It’s not overly complex, but at this price point there’s more than enough going on to keep you occupied. It will also, once opened, keep for a couple of weeks in your fridge. So no need to finish it all in one sitting.
4 apples out of 5
(Four apples out of a possible five)


Jamie DrummondEdinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he can get a little carried away with a bottle like this… as in, I almost finished a bottle in one sitting. It was good documentary.

Young Blood Sommelier : Jen Bolton

Jen Bolton, the charming lady behind the wines at Toronto's Oyster Boy.

Jen Bolton, the charming lady behind the wines at Toronto’s Oyster Boy.

In the fourth of an fourteenth (and wildly popular) series, we interview some of the most talented up-and-coming Sommeliers in Ontario (and occasionally from further afield). A few years back I was flicking through the pages of a locally published periodical and noticed that when it came to Sommeliers it was the same names that seemed to pop up over and over again. I was also becoming gradually cognisant of the fact that we more established wine folks were well and truly “losing our edge” to these young blood Sommeliers. Being well aware of the depth of new talent that was out there I finally decided to get together with a couple of fellow Toronto Sommelier “Old Guard” (Anton Potvin and Peter Boyd) to assemble a line of questioning that would give us an entertaining insight into the minds of these rising stars.

This month we have a chat with Jennifer Bolton, the lady behind the wine selections at Toronto’s top Oyster destination, Oyster Boy.


Good Food Revolution: So Jen, what is it that you are doing these days? (Your position, and what that role entails)

Jen Bolton: Right now I guess I’m considered the Front of House manager at Oyster Boy. I have the distinguished role of scheduling employees, ordering product, and keeping the peace

GFR: And what kind of experience and training did you have before doing what you do today?

JB: I’ve worked in the service industry my entire life, starting with Swiss Chalet when I was 18. I’ve been a hostess, bartender, server, manager, manager trainer, I run food, I bus tables, I’ve subbed in for the dishwasher; everything but cook your food.

GFR: How would you describe your role at Oyster Boy?

JB: Oyster Boy is a balancing act of personalities; Back-of-House, Front-of-House, owners, and guests.  I think of us as a little family. We take good care of each other. I would definitely be considered the mom. For one, I’m the oldest and have been there the longest, but I’m also a nurturer of sorts. 

GFR: You have worked in a number different types of places… how does Oyster Boy  compare?

JB: We are all so tight at OB.  There is no division between Front-of-House and Back-of-House. We all just work together to help each other out. The staff have all been there for years because no one wants to leave because of the relationships we’ve built. Guests comment all that we all work so well together and that they can feel the love. And the guests are beyond amazing! I think 80%-90% must be regulars or return clientele. It really proves that we’re doing something right.

GFR: How open do you find the clientele to trying new things when it comes to wines? Is there a specific style of wine that the demographic crave? And just what is that demographic?

JB: Oysters are obviously the showpiece at OB and people often step outside their comfort zones by experimenting with new varieties or taking our recommendations. I think they use up all their sense of adventure on the oysters and when it comes to wine, they want something they know and trust. We have a very hard time selling anything remotely esoteric. 

GFR: I’m aware that there does seem to be a lot of love for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc at Oyster Boy? What’s the story there?

JB: Oh my goodness, the Astrolabe has been a cult favourite for years. So much so that when we attempted to list another Sauvignon Blanc from a neighbouring region there was an uproar! It wasn’t worth the grief we encountered so we switched it back on the next list. Who knew people would be so passionate about a producer?

GFR: Yes, I have to admit, that Sauvignon Blanc thing is a bit of a mystery to me!

Now, how do I word this? Have you drunk the “Natural Wine Kool Aid”? I’m just kidding, how do you feel about the scene?

JB: I have tried many ‘natural’ wines but I think there must be something about those pesticides that I prefer. 

Jen Bolton, the charming lady behind the wines at Toronto's Oyster Boy.

Jen Bolton, the charming lady behind the wines at Toronto’s Oyster Boy.

GFR: With Oyster Boy obviously being an oyster place, how much of your sales end up being white wines?

JB: White wines comprise the majority of our beverage sales. It’s such an obvious pairing but you still have those die-hard red drinkers.  Red wine sales also jump as soon as the weather cools. 

GFR: And are there many customers who insist on reds? I know that the proprietor enjoys red wine with everything?

JB: Ha!  Yes, we offered Malbec on our list once and it was the best selling red ever. I definitely wouldn’t consider it an ideal pairing with oysters, but who am I to judge. Typically we offer light-bodied reds like pinot noir and Beaujolais but the odd customer requests a big, in-your-face, jammy red and I’m grateful for Adam’s wine on the shelf because I have an option for them!

GFR: What makes for a good agent/supplier in your mind?

JB: My favourite suppliers seem to know what I need. They also don’t harass me! They reach out when they know something I might like surfaces. I appreciate their time because they’re not wasting mine. 

 GFR: And what makes for a bad agent?

JB: I hate when one of our wines is running low and there’s no communication. My agents always seem to have a good substitute in these cases, which I appreciate.

GFR: How do you feel about Canadian wines? Any current favourites?

JB: I love to support Canadian wineries but struggle sometimes with the reds. That’s why I’m happy to say right now I’m loving the Pinot Noir by Pearl Morrissette. It is quite honestly my favourite Canadian Pinot ever.

GFR: And how do the Oyster Boy clientele find Canadian wines?

JB: Our clientele are quite open to Canadian wines. I guess it doesn’t hurt that our décor screams Canadiana and we support mostly Canadian fisheries. There’s a local vibe happening for sure. I find the biggest help is when the wine rep comes in and educates the staff. The servers seem to have a better understanding of the product and a greater appreciation for it, and they’re more comfortable recommending it.

GFR: What do we do well in Ontario, in your mind, and for your palate?

JB: Sparkling wines for sure! There are so many beautiful options from so many wineries I can’t imagine why someone would drink a cheap, import bubbly when they could have a superior local product. 

GFR: And what do you feel we should give up on?

JB: I hate to say it, but Cab Franc. I just find the ones I’ve tried to be too jammy for my taste. 

GFR: I guess I know what you mean… there are quite a few from Ontario that I find to be really over-worked and extracted.

Just as there is from everywhere in the world, there is quite a lot of dreadful wine coming from Ontario also. How do you feel about the issue of people simply promoting something because of it being local, and not because of its quality?

JB: That’s a dangerous slope.  Just promote the best and your integrity will never be called into question. People constantly tell me that last time they were in I took good care of them and they loved my recommendations. I’m also a really crappy liar so I might as well just be honest. 

Jen Bolton, the charming lady behind the wines at Toronto's Oyster Boy.

Jen Bolton, the charming lady behind the wines at Toronto’s Oyster Boy.

GFR: How aware of wine were you whilst growing up? Were you around wine from an early age?

JB: My parents don’t drink very much and supposedly don’t appreciate fine wine. Although my dad always wants to drink what us kids bring at family dinners because he knows it’s likely delicious. My brother in law used to work in fine dining and always joked that I skipped the basic drinking steps and went straight to good red wine. 

GFR: Can you remember your first taste of wine?

JB: Unfortunately, no.  I do remember my first taste of Durango coolers though. 

GFR: I don’t actually know what those are!

When do you feel children should be introduced to the wonderful world of wine?

JB: We have to teach kids to respect alcohol and we want them to appreciate fine things so it shouldn’t be made to be a big deal if they want a taste of something when they’re growing up. I don’t think there’s a right age, but when my teenagers ask for a sip of what I’m drinking, I always let them try. Most times they scrunch up their faces in disgust anyway.

GFR: When did you first decide that you were kind of into wines, and choose wines for the list at Oyster Boy?

JB: I realized I was into wine after my trip to Europe when I was a teenager. I took my wine courses with the International Sommelier Guild and enjoy the wine education and culture. The wine buying job at OB started organically because I was interested, but I also had input into what the guests were asking for and what wasn’t selling. 

GFR: So who or what gave you your first insight into the world of wine?

JB: Honestly, I’d say my brother in law. Although he’s an Amarone drinker and I like a Pinot… it’s good for family dinners though. We bring the wines we like and don’t drink each others. 

GFR: Which wine regions have you had the opportunity to visit?

JB: Ontario and Sonoma are the only ones I’ve explored to great length. It’s top of my bucket list to spend time indulging in every region though!

GFR: Have you ever made your own wine?

JB: No.  I figure I can buy a decent wine for under $20 so I’m satisfied leaving it in the hands of the professionals. I’ve made my own Lemoncella, beer, Baileys, ginger beer, shrubs and syrups, and now I’m into kombucha so I’d never say never though.

GFR: And where would you like to make wine (in a pipe dream)?

JB: In Burgundy, for sure

GFR: So do you prefer to manage people or bottles and why?

JB: Well, bottles don’t have emotions so they’re easy to manage, but the answer is definitely people. I love my crew at OB so much and I know they love me back. You don’t get that from a Cab. 

GFR: What have been your career highs and lows?

JB: It was very cool to win ‘Server of the Year’ in the 2015 Now Magazine Reader’s Poll. 

A low would be when I was bartending in my early 20s. It was a lot of fun but could probably be considered wasted years. When you’re running late for work and it’s 2pm, that’s a problem. And stumbling out of booze cans into the sunshine in your work clothes every weekend. Not a crowning moment.

GFR: In your mind, who does a great job when it comes to Wine Agents?

JB: I love Maya from the Vine and Leslie from Rogers & Co.  Both amazing ladies and excellent at their jobs. 

GFR: Do you have nightmares about working with wines? I do… regularly… and it usually involves being unable to find bottles in a cellar… and the clock is ticking away And I haven’t been in the role for over seven years.!!!

JB: No, never. I sleep like a baby.  I have a clear conscience. Ha!

GFR: Sommelier/Wine Purchasers famously have their Sundays off… What’s your idea of a perfect Sunday?

JB: Oh, I’d love a sleep in; then a coffee and a crossword; then putter around in the garden and kitchen the rest of the day. Make a big meal and sit down to eat with my family

GFR: Where are your favourite places to dine and drink.. perhaps tell us a hidden treasure of our city?

JB:  I have always loved Union on Ossington, even though it’s not a hidden gem. It’s so cozy and has delicious food, great wine and service  Another place I love is Roux, in the Junction. The steak frites jus and the collard greens. OMG, to die for. 

Jen Bolton, the charming lady behind the wines at Toronto's Oyster Boy.

Jen Bolton, the charming lady behind the wines at Toronto’s Oyster Boy.

GFR: Do you cook yourself? What’s your favourite dish to cook these days?

JB: I love to cook but I’m always in charge of veg because my husband takes care of the meat. There are only so many ways to roast vegetables. Right now my favourite recipe is a marinated flank steak. Oh, I also made a deep dish pizza in the cast iron skillet the other day that took pizza to the next level in our house. 

GFR: And have you had any cooking disasters recently?

JB:  If I’m cooking the meat there’s always the chance there’ll be a disaster but I think I have it mostly under control.  I have two active teenage boys that need to consume calories on a massive scale, so even if the meal is not so great they’ll eat it anyway. 

GFR: Do you feel that there is a good Sommelier/Wine Purchaser community in Toronto?

JB: Yes, from my experience I’d say it’s a strong community

GFR: Do you hang about with other wine business folks?

JB: No.  Not that I wouldn’t but most of my close friends aren’t in the industry

GFR: How do you feel about Toronto as a wine and cocktail city? Where do you go if you need to get your wine or cocktail on?

JB: Toronto has an amazing variety of wines and cocktails. We’re so fortunate to have so many cultural influences and inspired mixologists and sommeliers leading the scene. When I want a great wine I head to Bricco. Eric, the owner is a great person and a fantastic sommelier.

GFR: What would you be doing if you were not doing what you are doing today?

JB:  I would be living on a farm, growing my own food and hanging out with my chickens. Not too far from the city though. I couldn’t live without rotis, and pho, and tacos, and ramen, and…

GFR: What are your thoughts on music in restaurants?

JB: I like music as long as it’s not too loud. We always have good music at OB, thanks to Steph who curates our playlists. People are always complimenting her choices. Don’t tell her, but sometimes when she’s not working I put on a really cheesy playlist. One time there was a whole restaurant sing-a-long to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing.  That was the best.

Jen Bolton, the charming lady behind the wines at Toronto's Oyster Boy.

Jen Bolton, the charming lady behind the wines at Toronto’s Oyster Boy.

GFR: Do you have a favourite food/wine related scene in a film/movie or show?

JB: Nope. Don’t get to watch movies unless its an action/adventure. So is the life with teen boys.

GFR: I can imagine!

I know that you have non-industry friends… how do they feel about what you do for a living?

JB: I think they’re in awe a bit.  The industry seems like it’s a constant party and I think they wonder how I can still run around for 12hrs and keep the hours I keep (because I’m old). Mostly a pain in the arse to them because we need to book everything two months in advance so I can book a weekend night off.

GFR: What are your thoughts on blind tasting wine?

JB: Fun! As long as you’re not with one of those pretentious arseholes you were referencing earlier. No one likes a know-it-all.

GFR: Are you a better blind taster with or without a bad hangover? I’m definitely the former…

JB: Oh God, I cannot look at a drink if I’m hung over. Unless it’s a chocolate milkshake, of course

GFR: What’s your current favourite wine region?

JB: Right now I’m favouring Tuscany, Italy. Only because I’m loving a 2014 Rosso di Montalcino that is fresh and delicious.

GFR: In your mind, as an Sommelier/Wine Purchaser, what is “hot” in the world of wine right now? And why?

JB: In my life, apparently it’s still Astrolabe from Awatere Valley NZ.  Ha

GFR: And what’s not so hot? What has fallen out of favour? I why do you feel that is?

JB: I’m going to have to say Pinot Grigio. For years it was the go-to wine because it was easy to drink and consistent. But, I find guests requesting it less and less these days. Maybe people are getting a bit more adventurous.

GFR: When it comes to wine is there anything that you feel is overrated?

JB: I still can’t wrap my head around the fuller styles of Chardonnay. I’ve honestly tried but I can’t do it.  People still love those big buttery Californian Chards. 

GFR: What is your favourite wine pairing right now, something nice and seasonal?

JB: Lamb, grilled veggies and a nice Merlot.  Mmmmm…

GFR: Okay… three pairings with me on the spot?… this time with… Oysters!

What would you suggest to pair for them wine or beverage-wise… and why? 


Colville Bay Malpeques?

JB: Colville Bay oysters (my fave) have a firm flesh, they’re briny with a hint of sweetness on the end. I’d love to drink this with a crisp, acidic Muscadet.  It’s a classic pairing for a reason. It’s works!

West coast Kusshi?

JB: Kusshis are creamy and sweet with a hint of cucumber.  They’re small but there’s a lot to chew. This oyster needs a wine with a bit more heft so it’s not lost on the generous flavours of the Kusshi.  Actually, I might do a Hendricks martini with a fresh cucumber garnish. 

3. Eel Lake specials?

JB: Balanced salt with a hint of earthiness. I might go with a stony, minerally Sancerre.

GFR: Do you often drink beers, ciders or spirits? What do you currently enjoy?

JB: I prefer vodka and gin mostly. I had an amazing grapefruit tonic from East Imperial out of New Zealand which pairs perfectly with both spirits and now I’m hooked. I need to figure out how to get more since they haven’t cracked the Canadian market just yet. 

GFR: What is your least favourite part of your job as a Sommelier/Wine Purchaser?

JB: I feel bad that I can’t support everyone. There are so many good wines out there and only so much room on my list

GFR: What is your weapon of choice when it comes to a corkscrew?

JB: Classic restaurant grade. It’s all I’ve ever used.

GFR: And your thoughts on the Coravin system… has it changed the playing field?

JB: I think it’s a genius advancement in technology and has hopefully improved the lives of all those hard working agents schlepping around the city

GFR: Speaking of which, where do you stand on the screwcap vs. cork debate? And how do your customers feel about that?

JB: I hate to say that I still think that screw caps are a bit cheap. I need to get over it. I honestly don’t think our customers even care because screw caps are so common now. We’re not a fine dining establishment and they just seem excited to be drinking and eating oysters. 

GFR: Due to us being around alcohol, many people in our industry often have quite the increased tolerance for wine/booze, or they develop issues. What is your limit and how do you keep yourself in check?

JB: I try not to drink too much anymore. I had many dumb years but now I’d hate to lose a day because I’m suffering from a hang over. Not that I don’t go nuts every once in awhile but maturing has helped me find a balance

GFR: Have you ever been “cut off”? If so, where and when was the most recent time?

JB: I haven’t been cut off but I should’ve been!  Last year I was in Dallas on Canada Day and all the mixologists had a contest to see who could make me the most Canadian cocktail. Fun that night but I was nursing that chocolate milkshake the next day. 

GFR: Speaking of which, do you have a good hangover cure?

JB: Sleep is the only true thing that works for me.

Jen Bolton, the charming lady behind the wines at Toronto's Oyster Boy.

Jen Bolton, the charming lady behind the wines at Toronto’s Oyster Boy.

GFR: How many wines do you taste in a week?

JB:  Personally or professionally?

GFR: When tasting with agents do you choose to spit or swallow?

JB: I swallow the ones I like and spit the ones I don’t.  No need to waste good wine!

GFR: What’s your “house” wine at home?

JB: I usually drink the Famille Perrin Cotes de Rhone Reserve.  It’s versatile and yummy and only $16.95 a bottle!

GFR: Most remembered glass of wine ever?

JB:  I was in Italy when I was 20 and my friend and l bought a magnum of ‘house red’ and sat down on a bridge with some new friends from the hostel and passed the bottle around and watched the sun go down over Rome.  There were no glasses to drink from but the memory is so sweet.

GFR: What is your perfect glass (or bottle) of wine at the end of a crazy day at work?

JB: I like white at work. I love the Muscadet.  So crisp and delicious. It’s almost refreshing after the marathon we run every night.

GFR: And now the cheesy question Jen… If you were a grape varietal which would you be? and why?

JB:  I’d definitely be a Sauternes; sweet like honey 😉

GFR: Thank you for taking the time Jen.


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Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution.

Peter Boyd has been a part of Toronto’s wine scene for over two decades. He has taught the Diploma level for the International Sommeliers Guild, and has been the sommelier at Scaramouche Restaurant since 1993. He also writes about wine, food and pop culture and raises show molerats for fun and profit. He’s also one of the most solid guys in the business.Trust this man. Seriously… he knows his shit and is slowly taking over this city. He just celebrated his 67th birthday!

A well-known and much respected figure on the Toronto food and wine scene for almost twenty years, Potvin has worked in many of the city’s very best establishments including Biffs, Canoe, and Eau. In 2004 Potvin opened his incarnation of the Niagara Street Café, a restaurant that has gone from strength to strength year after year, with universal critical acclaim. Anton spends much of his time traveling and tasting wine and has been ranked highly in consecutive years of the International Wine Challenge. Anton is now GM at DaiLo with Chef Nick Liu.

The Extraordinary World Of Ultra-Rare Whisky

The Dalmore makes a guest appearance in Kingsman : Secret Service, a jolly good film that understood a good whisky.

The ’62 Dalmore makes a guest appearance in Kingsman : Secret Service, a jolly good film that understood a good whisky. And a good tweed suit for that matter.

Over my 25 or so years in the booze business as both a Sommelier, purchaser, and writer I have had the opportunity to taste a plethora of extremely rare bottlings of the very best of Scottish whiskies. I am no stranger to amber thimblefuls of extravagantly-priced Caledonia-sourced distillate, and yet the current Dalmore offerings from the Constellation Collection did cause me to take a sharp intake of haughty breath.

Priced at $4,999.00 and $8,999.00 respectively, The Dalmore Constellation Casks 1 and 3 are currently on the shelves of the LCBO.

Or rather one 700ml bottle of each is.

It’s an extremely niche market… but this market exists.

It’s a thang.

Welcome to the extraordinary world of ultra-rare malt whisky.

So who on earth buys this stuff?

That is a very good question indeed.

These unusually rare Dalmores are bottles for the seriously well-heeled aficionado, the tipple trophy hunter, the canny booze-savvy investor (with their finite super-limited production, these things appreciate in value at a truly astonishing rate!), and the malt-educated bon vivant looking for a rather novel way to usher in the Chinese New Year.

Amongst the single-malt cognoscenti Dalmore has an enviable reputation for making some of the finest, most sought-after and collectible whiskies in the world. There’s a carefully scripted good reason the Dalmore 62 was name dropped with such amusing reverence in 2015’s über-violent (and immensely enjoyable) spy caper Kingsman : The Secret Service. Someone had certainly been doing their malt whisky research. Good work Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar, the creators of the graphic novel (née comic) that the film is (loosely) based upon.

The 12 point stag that adorns each bottle dates back to the heraldic emblem of Colin Mackenzie (neé Of Kintail) who according to the local rags of the time (1263 AD) saved the ascendant King Alexander The Third Of Scotland from the brutal charge of a Cervus Elaphus (read : enormous red deer) adorned with such impressively huge velvet-clad antlers.

Directly after this rumpus King Alexander granted Colin a fair bit of land up in Eilean Donan, along with the rights for using the 12 point stag as a brand logo.

Whilst this may seem like a bit of overkill, one must understand that a 12 pointer is a bit of beast and, if we are to be quite honest here, in retrospect, taking the bullet horn for good old Alex was a rather solid business decision by Colin, the enthusiastic young Highlander, as Eilean Donan is a pretty sweet spot.

Good Food Revolution's Jamie Drummond discovers that the Dalmore distillery at Eilean Donan is closed for the bank holiday.

Good Food Revolution’s Jamie Drummond discovers that the Dalmore distillery is nowhere near Eilean Donan castle, as he had previously been led to believe.

Speaking of Highlanders, the home of Dalmore sits up in Eilean Donan, and looks as romantically placed as any distillery of lore. My apologies, I was much mistaken here, and apologise for spreading “alternative facts”.

Established in 1839 by Alexander Matheson, the distillery now stands as Whyte and Mackay’s flagship brand, with one of the biggest personalities in the whisky biz, Richard Paterson in the role of Master Blender.

The castle of Eilean Donan you may recall from the original 1986 film Highlander, one of Scottish actor Sean Connery’s most mesmerising performances as the mysterious and flamboyant Egyptian/Spaniard immortal Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez. Despite passing through a number of mortal owners throughout the decades, Dalmore has retained an admirable independent spirit (pun intentional).

Dalmore is undeniably a very special distillery in a very special place overlooking the “Black Isle”, and I am very much looking forward to visiting the next time I am back home in Scotland.

In the meantime, if anyone fancies a pretty special bottle of whisky, I’d be more than happy to taste along with you… perhaps we could watch Highlander together?


Jamie DrummondEdinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he is fascinated by each and every drop of this stuff. And he loves that film.

Review : The Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

The InstaPot : Now a permanent fixture in my kitchen.

The Instant Pot : Now a permanent fixture in my kitchen.

I had been flip-flopping on purchasing a pressure cooker for much of 2016, but had been driven to extreme procrastination through troubling flashbacks to the almost Lovecraftian culinary horrors that my Mother can utilised hers to summon back in the 70s and early 80s. I also have fuzzy memories of an explosion at some point, and our kitchen being completely covered in molten pea and ham soup. It was Mini Kievs for dinner that night.

Indeed, when I mention the words “pressure” and “cooker” together to my Chef friends, 90% of them reply with words along the lines of “terrified”, “intimidated”, and/or “explosion”. It appears that many a usually fearless Chef is frightened by the prospect of a pressure cooker encounter.

It took an extremely hungover Autumnal morning in a friend’s Edinburgh kitchen in order for me to take the next step towards Instant Pot nirvana.

I was nursing the wounds of the previous night with a nice cup of tea in his kitchen when I spied his Instant Pot.

“What’s this thing here? Is that a pressure cooker?” I asked.

“Ah, that’s my Instant Pot. I use it almost every day. You can make almost anything in it. I use it for soups mostly… and stocks… you can do a stock in around 45 minutes”

And that was it.

Perhaps it was the Caledonian 80 Shilling still pounding through my cardiovascular system, but I immediately opened up my Ebay app and hit the BUY IT NOW button.

Two weeks later when I arrived back in Toronto there was a large package sitting on the dining room table. Having completely forgotten about my impulse purchase, when I open the box I was overjoyed.

And that was me right down the Instant Pot rabbit hole.

Getting used to the Instant Pot and its eccentricities takes a little while, as it’s not entirely intuitive, and despite the fact that it bills itself as an (almost) do-it-all wonder, it certainly does some things better than others.

To be honest, I don’t think that the enclosed recipe book (2nd edition) does the unit any favours. My first foray into pressure cooking was with the Beef Roast with Potatoes and Carrots One Pot Meal from this thin pamphlet, and it was an unmitigated disaster. The beef was nasty, tough and dry, the vegetables absolute mush. The family were most disappointed, and I was worried that I had thrown away a couple of hundred dollars on a useless gadget. But I decided to persevere…

I was directed to the website Hip Pressure Cooking (terrible name, but some great recipes and tips) and went to the library to pick up Diane Phillips’ Easy Pressure Cooker Cookbook. With these two resources at my disposal I was primed to join the cult of the Instant Pot.

After having the Instant Pot for three months, I have say that I am pretty impressed. I use it a couple of times every week to make stews, soups, legumes, eggs, chillies, and stocks. I think that it is in these areas that it really excels. For the record, I’ve still to try out the yogurt and rice functions.

Making stock is one of my favourite things to do in the kitchen, and with the Instant Pot, a few chicken carcasses, and some vegetable scraps one can rattle off a beautifully clear chicken stock in 45 minute. Well, it’s never quite 45 minutes as the unit has to come up to pressure first, and then after the cooking time elapses one has to depressurise the thing (natural or forced release). So let’s say an hour for a delicious chicken stock. And the best thing is that once one has added the ingredients and programmed the Instant Pot, one can bugger off and do other things whilst the cooker does everything independently of human interaction, with none of your usual manual bring-to-boil-then-reduce-to-simmer action required. The same goes for soups, that are made in around the same time.

The sauté function comes in really handy for softening vegetables and browning meats before cooking without the need for another pot. One can also use the sauté function to reduce the liquidity of the contents after cooking is completed.

I’ve always promised to include more beans, lentils, and peas in my family’s diet, and it is in cooking these that the Instant Pot really shines. Castelluccio Lentils in around 15 minutes? Yes please. If you don’t have time to pre-soak dried beans or peas then one can simply double the cooking time at pressure and use the natural pressure release method for superb results.

A friend reminded me of the included steaming rack, and explained that one could make perfectly cooked soft or hard “boiled” eggs in six and 12 minutes respectively. It took me around two weeks to actually find said steaming rack as I had squirrelled it away somewhere “safe” when I first opened the packaging, but after using it to place a half dozen eggs in the Instant Pot the results were tremendous. After a brief cold water bath they peeled like a dream. I’d recommend the steam function over the pressure cooking here though, as with the latter one again has to wait for it to come to pressure before the cooking time begins.

It’s also bloody amazing for tenderising chicken gizzards, but that’s a story for another post.

Where I find the Instant Pot falls a little flat is pressure cooking vegetables. Every time I have cooked vegetables at pressure (outside of soups and stews) the results have been overcooked and mushy. I still enjoy a bit of bite to my vegetables, and so I’ll probably stick to steaming or sautéing on the stovetop.

I did attempt a whole chicken in my Instant Pot but found the results quite disappointing. I happen to have a thing for crispy skin and so in the future I’ll be using the oven for that. In fact don’t ever expect anything crispy to come from your Instant Pot. It’s a texture that it simply doesn’t do.

Now, the question remains… is it safe? And do my tough Chef pals have a right to be scared?

Well, as soon as the unit comes to pressure the lid locks firmly in place, and so theoretically one couldn’t open the thing whilst it was full of superheated molten pea and ham soup. With the internal electronic thermostat monitoring the temperature at all times during operation, unlike the old stovetop versions there appears to be no chance of any explosions happening, and scouring the interwebs I can find no stories pertaining to such an experience with the Instant Pot anywhere.

My only words of advice regarding safety would be:

  1. Don’t fill even a millimetre above the maximum fill line on the internal pot.
  2. Be careful when you choose a forced pressure release, perhaps wearing a heat-proof glove of some sorts, as that is some superheated steam channeling out of that valve there. It usually smells damn good though.

The Instant Pot is an extremely versatile little gadget that would be particularly useful for someone in a smaller kitchen who could use this small countertop unit to replace their sauté pan, stock pot, slow cooker, microwave, rice maker, steamer, and yogurt maker. Contrary to what I mischievously told Pay Chen, it does not also make cotton candy and “the best espresso I have ever tasted”, but it is mightily impressive nonetheless.

I’m hooked, and I understand the love many are feeling for this Ottawa-based success story.

(Four and half apples out of a possible five)


Jamie DrummondEdinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he sure does love that hungover purchase.

On The Hunt For Good Food In Prince Edward County

You intrepid GFR reporter tries his hand at a spot of ice fishing on the Bay of Quinte, apparently one of the very best places in Canada for Walleye. I have to admit that it was a little nerve-wracking. Who knew that one could ice fish on only three inches of ice? Thank goodness for the tumblers of whisky.

Your intrepid GFR reporter tries his hand at a spot of ice fishing on the Bay of Quinte, apparently one of the very best places in Canada for Walleye/Pickerel. I have to admit that it was a little nerve-wracking. Who knew that one could ice fish on only three inches of ice? Thank goodness for the tumblers of whisky as I was pretty damn anxious… especially with the CC-177 Globemaster III transport planes from nearby Trenton airbase flying right over our little fishing spot.

Just last weekend I had the extreme pleasure of spending a weekend with Vicki Samaras and Jonas Newman of Prince Edward County’s Hinterland winery and County Road Beer Company. Ostensibly I was there to learn some hunting basics (see my New Years Resolutions) as Jonas is a seasoned compound bow and recurve crossbow hunter. Little did I know that the very same weekend Jonas and Vicki had partnered with both Norman Hardie Winery and Angéline’s Inn to present a game dinner cooked by Hinterland Chef Neil Dowson and a fishy lunch prepared by Scout Canning’s Charlotte Langley, as well as accommodations at the aforementioned Angélines. Oh, and especially for me Jonas decided to throw in a little ice fishing too.

Their next dinner is on the 25th of February featuring Chef Daniel Usher preparing a southern European dinner at Norm Hardie’s with Chef Dowson assembling a Danish Smorrebord Sunday lunch at Hinterland. Check out the Hinterland website for further details as they are made available. The cost for last week’s dinner/accommodation/lunch package was $500 per head.

As sun retreated we experienced the magical hour. And it got even colder. Much colder. The ice started freezing up even more, and I heard and felt my first ever ice quake. Utterly terrifying. Did we catch anything in our two hours on the ice? Nope. But it was a truly amazing and exhilarating experience, and I think that's the point. I'd love to do this again soon.

As the sun retreated we experienced the magical hour. And it got even colder. Much colder. The ice started freezing up even more, and I heard and felt my first ever ice quake. Utterly terrifying. Did we catch anything in our two hours on the ice? Nope. But it was a truly amazing and exhilarating experience, and I think that’s the point. I’d love to do this again soon.

Hinterland Chef Dowson hails from England, with his last job in the UK being Scotland's luxury Torridon Hotel (located next to the Balmoral estate, where he learned a thing or two about preparing game. All of the meat and fish served had been hunted/caught by Hinterland's Winemaker Jonas Newman.

Hinterland Chef Dowson hails from England, with his last job in the UK being Scotland’s luxury Torridon Hotel (located next to the Balmoral estate, where he learned a thing or two about preparing game. All of the meat and fish served that evening had been hunted/caught by Hinterland’s Winemaker Jonas Newman. Note the Venison heart and liver from one of Jonas’ hunts ready for prep on the table at the County Road Beer Company brewery.

Upstairs above the Hinterland tasting bar, hidden behind their sparkling library, is this wonderful little gastronomic sanctuary, available for private parties and special events.

Upstairs above the Hinterland tasting bar, hidden behind their sparkling library, is this wonderful little gastronomic sanctuary, available for private parties and special events. Seats 16 comfortably.

The mild-mannered Jonas Newman turns out to be a seasoned hunter. Here he is pictured with one of his compound bows and his recurve crossbow. Behind is a sturgeon skin courtesy of Cornel at Acadian Sturgeon.

The mild-mannered Jonas Newman turns out to be a seasoned hunter. Here he is pictured with one of his compound bows and his recurve crossbow. Behind is a sturgeon skin courtesy of Cornel at Acadian Sturgeon.

Chef Neil Dowson serves up a piping hot pot of Bullshot, and delicious mix of game consommé, spices, and gin. Just the thing to warm you up on a chilly Canadian Winter evening.

Chef Neil Dowson serves up a piping hot pot of Bullshot, and delicious mix of game consommé, spices, and gin. Just the thing to warm you up on a chilly Canadian Winter evening.

Smoked Trout Rillette, something that worked incredibly well with a glassful of bubbles from Hinterland's range.

Smoked Trout Rillette, something that worked incredibly well with a glassful of bubbles from Hinterland’s range.

Venison Heart Tartare, from the heart pictured above. Exquisite.

Venison Heart Tartare, from the heart pictured above. Exquisite.

Seared Venison Liver on Crostini with Apple. A favourite of mine.

Seared Venison Liver on Crostini with Apple. A favourite of mine. From the liver pictured previously.

Game Paté-En-Croute, stuffed with pheasant, duck, goose, rabbit, and venison. Served with cressy mustard and cornichon. Mind-blowing, and served with some vintage Hinterland Rosé.

Game Paté-En-Croute, stuffed with pheasant, duck, goose, rabbit, and venison. Served with cressy mustard and cornichon. Mind-blowing, and served with some 2013 vintage Hinterland Rosé.

Lake Pickerel (Walleye) Paupiette with a Salmon Roe Beurre Blanc and Fleuron, served alongside the gorgeous 2013 Les Etoiles from HInterland.

Lake Pickerel (Walleye) Paupiette with a Salmon Roe Beurre Blanc and Fleuron, served alongside the gorgeous 2013 Les Etoiles from Hinterland.

Haunch of Venison with Gratin Potato, Maple Roasted Carrots, Pickled Red Cabbage, and Celeriac Purée. Served with two vintages of Ontario Syrah, the first from the Lake Erie North Shore Project (made with Will Predhomme) and the second the Red Herring Wismer-Parke Vineyard from Niagara. Both were distinctly different, but a superb match for the venison.

Haunch of Venison with Gratin Potato, Maple Roasted Carrots, Pickled Red Cabbage, and Celeriac Purée. Served with two vintages of Ontario Syrah, the first from the 2012 Lake Erie North Shore Project (made with Will Predhomme) and the second the 2015 Red Herring Wismer-Foxcroft Vineyard from Niagara. Both were distinctly different, but a superb match for the venison. I haven’t had wild venison for nigh on 21 years since I left Scotland. This was really special.

And of course some cheese (served at a perfect temperature) : The perfect end to a delightful evening... paired with even more Hinterland bubbles.

And of course some cheese (served at a perfect temperature) : The perfect end to a delightful evening… paired with even more Hinterland bubbles.

Just a touch more of that 2012 Syrah please?

Just a touch more of that 2012 Syrah please?

The next morning at Norman Hardie's for some sparkling and oysters around the brazier.

The next morning at Norman Hardie’s for some sparkling and oysters around the brazier.

A fascinating barrel and tank tasting with Winemaker Norman Hardie in the cellar of his winery. It was pretty chilly down there...

A fascinating barrel and tank tasting with Winemaker Norman Hardie in the cellar of his winery. It was pretty chilly down there…

Scout Canning's Charlotte Langley was in charge of our fish-focused luncheon, and after a night of game meats it went down a treat.

Scout Canning’s Charlotte Langley was in charge of our fish-focused luncheon, and after a night of game meats it went down a treat.

B.C. Albacore Tuna with Whipped Bacon Fat and Celery Foliage.

B.C. Albacore Tuna with Whipped Bacon Fat and Celery Foliage, served with Le Portage Laurentian, a wine made by Norman Hardie specially for Montreal’s Joe Beef.

Lightly-Smoked Lake Trout with Carrots and Fennel.

Lightly-Smoked Lake Trout with Carrots, Fennel and Roe.

Lightly-Smoked Lake Trout with Carrots, Fennel and Roe.

Lightly-Smoked Lake Trout with Carrots, Fennel and Roe.

Whitefish Pie (from a can) with a Pickled Egg.

Whitefish Pie (from a can) with a Pickled Egg, served with the 2014 Norman Hardie Cuvée Des Amis… an excellent pairing.

Charlotte created this amazing canned dessert too. It was really quite special... and I never usually eat dessert!

Charlotte created this amazing canned dessert too. It was really quite special… and I never usually eat dessert! Honey Yogurt Pancotta, Raw Blueberry Flour Crust, Pistachios and Citrus.

It really was an astonishing weekend, with some stellar food and wine coupled with the very best in company.


Jamie DrummondEdinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And that was a truly unique experience.

Jamie’s GFR Resolutions For 2017

Entertaining Horsemeat Disco's Severino at Toronto's Bar Raval. See #19

Entertaining Horsemeat Disco’s Severino at Toronto’s Bar Raval (see #19).

  1. I will attempt to bake my own bread at least once a week.
  2. I will learn how to icefish, documenting the process for Good Food Revolution.
  3. I will spend more time in Niagara visiting vineyards thanks to the daily flights there.
  4. I will go through the proper training to ethically hunt, field-dress, butcher, preserve and prepare my own game meat, documenting the process for Good Food Revolution
  5. I will endeavour to have more of an open mind when it comes to “natural wines” and their inherent qualities… *cough*.
  6. I will never eat another KFC Big Crunch Sandwich again.
  7. I will attempt to eat outside of my cliquey little downtown Toronto bubble, venturing to the Greater Toronto Area and beyond for restaurant sustenance.
  8. I will spend less time reading recipes and more time attempting them.
  9. I will spend more time in Prince Edward County (as I am now able to drive myself there).
  10. I will shed some of my superfluous cookbooks once again (see #8).
  11. I will visit more Toronto restaurants now that our son is nearly three (we have hardly been out to eat at all in the past three years!).
  12. I will attempt to make my own sausages, documenting the process for Good Food Revolution (probably linked to #2).
  13. I will purchase a small chest freezer and somehow work out a place to put it (linked to #2, 4, 8, and 12).
  14. I will organise at least one event to raise money for The Stop again.
  15. I will spend less time winding up wine agents, coffee bar owners, and fellow sommeliers with obtuse messages from fake email addresses.
  16. I will go through our cupboards and make up a box of kitchen stuff/gadgets we really don’t need and give it to Goodwill.
  17. I will attempt to prepare fish once a week.
  18. I will finally finish this piece on gout that I have been working on for three years.
  19. I will enthusiastically host as many out-of-towners seeking Toronto’s gastronomic delights as possible (see pic above), and attempt to be the very best culinary ambassador for our city possible.
  20. I won’t leave my GFR resolutions until the very last moment in 2018. Promise.

Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And here’s to a fantastic 2017 for all our GFR readers.

Sharpening & Honing Knives Using Wüsthof’s Whetstone And Steel With Chef Brad Long

In association with Wüsthof Canada we present the seventh of an educational video series featuring a selection of Toronto Chefs showing us their knife skills using specific knives from the Wüsthof range in the home kitchen environment.

In episode five we have Chef Brad Long of Cafe Belong showing us how to take care of our knives using both the Wüsthof Classic Ikon Sharpening Steel and the Wüsthof Whetstone.

If you are having trouble viewing this video please click here.

Knife skills videos are something that we have been looking to produce for quite some time at Good Food Revolution, and so we are delighted to partner with Wüsthof for this ongoing series.

Wüsthof are a Good Food Fighter. Please support the businesses and organizations that support Good Food Revolution.


Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And now he is kind of addicted to honing his knives.

Scottish Food Culture With Finitribe’s Davie Miller

Finitribe's Davie Miller shares a laugh with the Convenanza festival's Bernie Fabre in Carcassonne.

Finitribe’s Davie Miller shares a laugh with the Convenanza festival’s Bernie Fabre in Carcassonne late last year.

Last year, it was with great pleasure I had the opportunity to spend a few days in the southwest of France with a Scottish gentleman named Davie Miller at the Convenanza festival in Carcassone.

Davie Miller was one of the founder members of seminal Edinburgh band Finitribe, a production collective probably most well known for De Testimony, a impressively striking, shuddering track that found itself become a perennial anthem on dance-floors of all stripes, from Industrial and EBM clubs to the fog-filled dens of Acid House enthusiasts.

Deciding to put Finitribe on hold in 2000, Davie has in the interim been pursuing other interests outside of the music world, returning to re-release De Testimony in 2014, as well as the classic 101 the following year. He is currently working with his long-time accomplice John Vick on some new material that should see the light of day sometime in 2017.

As Davie and I were enjoying the gastronomic and vinous pleasures of the Languedoc, conversation turned to the food that we had grown up on in Scotland in the 1970s, and a few drinks later we decided it would be a superb idea to create a video around said subject matter.

Apologies for the wind interrupting us a couple of times.

If you are having trouble viewing this video please click here.


Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And that was a lovely week in Carcassonne.

Review : Sansaire Sous Vide Immersion Circulator

Starting off simply, getting to know the Sansaire Sous Vide with a couple of New York steaks.

Starting off simply : getting to know the Sansaire Sous Vide with a couple of New York steaks.

Sansaire Sous Vide Immersion Circulator – Approx. $260 through Amazon (at time of writing)

It was whilst reviewing Chef Chris McDonald‘s excellent Complete Sous Vide Cookbook that I was given the opportunity to try our the Sansaire Sous Vide Immersion Circulator, with MacDonald having told me that it was one of his favourite units throughout his extensive recipe testing.

Having never cooked anything sous vide previously, it was with some trepidation I launched myself into an exploration of the method, and I can think of no better unit for the novice than the Sansaire.

Looking not unlike a 48cm high pen cap, the Sansaire clips onto the side of your water-filled pot (as pictured above), switches on simply, and your target temperature (Centigrade or Fahrenheit are chosen by a button to the right of the power button) is set through the turning of a grey-coloured collar at the top of the unit. A blue LED display let’s you know where the temperature is currently at, and your target temperature can be viewed for a few seconds by pressing the target button to the left of the power switch. And that’s pretty much it.

A shot to show the layout of controls on the top of the Sansaire unit.

A shot to show the layout of controls on the top of the Sansaire unit. Here you can see that I am using a standard Ziploc freezer bag rather that splashing out on a vacuum sealer.

I decided to forgo the additional expense of a vacuum sealing unit (approximately another $200), instead opting for the water displacement method using freezer bags as outlined in MacDonald’s book. While this workaround does the job adequately enough, I cannot stress enough the need to use decent brand name freezer bags, as the cheaper ones just don’t cut it. Even using the hardiest of Ziploc bags, displacing the water from them can be a little tricky, and you always run the risk of having water get into the bag as you are sealing it, or the seal to break during the cooking process. Still, in a pinch, this method does a decent job.

Another thing I learned pretty rapidly is to ensure that your sealed bag or bags all fit into the pot alongside the immersion circulator BEFORE the water gets hot. I tell you, the air was absolutely blue as I made this amateur’s mistake with my second adventure with the unit, attempting to submerge three bags of two lamb shanks each into some pretty damn hot water. I won’t be doing that again any time soon.

If you are sous viding before browning, the post sous vide steaks are not the most attractive of things.

If you are sous viding before you brown, the post-sous vide/pre-browing New York steaks are not the most attractive of things.

I played about with pre-browning and after-browning and seemed to achieve the best results with the latter. As you can see in the picture above, meat coming from the sous vide pre-browning does not look the most appetising. But slap them into a really hot grill pan (preheated) for a few seconds each side and BANG!

They looked perfect, tasted delicious, and the texture and the juiciness was simply extraordinary. My first jaunt with the Sansaire had been a real success, with my wife telling me she thought them the best steaks I had ever cooked.

If anything, I had left them just a little too long in the grill pan ; witness the touch of grey around the outsides of the slices. I’m guessing that using a blow-torch one would be able to achieve even better results… maybe I should add that to my Xmas list for 2017?

We were both really pleased with our very first foray into sous vide with the Sansaire unit.

We were both really pleased with our very first foray into sous vide with the Sansaire unit, although, in hindsight, I probably left them a little too long in the grill pan. Looks as if I am going to have to add a Sansaire blow-torch to my kitchen wishlist.

Next up were some (pre-browned) lamb shanks. They were in with the circulator for 24 hours at 158 degrees Fahrenheit. This was an interesting one, as with the sous vide method the fat that is usually rendered out of the meat during braising remains within, meaning that the resultant shanks have a particular succulence that is almost otherworldly, and a little disarming at first.

The lamb shanks were undoubtedly a success with our dinner guests, as they finished off each and every morsel from the bones. Another terrific performance from the Sansaire unit.

This is where I hurt myself quite a bit... attempting to fit three bags of two shanks each into water which was already hot. That's right folks... you should see if they all fit and adjust the water level when the water is still cool.

This is where I hurt myself quite a bit… attempting to fit three bags of two shanks each into water which was already hot. That’s right folks… you should see if they all fit and adjust the water level when the water is still cool.

These were served with sauce that also involved a little sous vide preparation : Coq au Vin with balsamic pearl onions, that left as a byproduct some amazingly powerfully-flavoured vinegar that worked a real treat with some bitter salad leaves and pressure-cooked chicken gizzards a few days later.

Another observation (for the longer cooking times) is that the user should be especially mindful of the water level in the vessel. You’ll lose some water through evaporation unless you cover the pot with plastic wrap, and even then it pays to keep a close eye on it, topping up with hot water when necessary. The Sansaire unit does have low water level protection built-in, but I was pretty vigilant in keeping the level up high enough to cover all of the shanks.

The six lamb shanks post-sous vide.

The six lamb shanks post-sous vide (these ones had been pre-browned). Even with the meat being sealed within the bags, the smell of lamb was just tremendous, filling the entire ground floor.

My next experiment with the Sansaire unit was for the traditional family get-together upon Xmas day. I was cooking for five of us (plus two tots) and so I decided to attempt a three bird “roast” consisting of a capon, a heritage chicken, and a guinea hen, all done sous vide individually and then finished off on the day, at the location, in a really hot oven together.

This allowed me to take my time with the preparation in the days leading up to the 25th, then transport them to the family member’s home still under vacuum, and finish them all off at the same time. And boy, it worked out well!

The guinea hen spent six hours getting ready for Xmas day. If you are going to do whole birds just be sure to fill the cavity with a lemon or something to displace the air that would keep it buoyant.

The guinea hen spent six hours getting ready for Xmas day. If you are going to do whole birds just be sure to fill the cavity with a lemon or something to displace the air that would keep it buoyant.

In the case of these three birds I had the butchers kindly stuff them with a single lemon and then vacuum seal them for me on-site. If you had a vacuum sealer at home it would be possible to fill the cavity with something more complex, but the aim of this butcher-assisted stuffing was simply to make the birds less buoyant in the pot so they would cook more evenly.

Sous vide makes you reassess how you gauge a meats doneness, as often we do all of this by colour. Because of the nature of the method you have to rethink all of this, as can be witnessed with the “raw blood” in the picture below. Remember, these three birds are already fully cooked when they emerge from the sous vide.

Post sous vide and pre browning I thought that all three birds looked quite tasty. Interesting to note is the gelatinous juice that formed with the capon on the left. In the oven this melted and created a fabulous pan juice.

Post-sous vide and pre-browning I thought that all three birds looked quite tasty. Interesting to note is the gelatinous juice that formed with the capon on the left. In the oven this melted and created a fabulous pan juice.

For the record, all three were cooked (read : pasteurised) with the Sansaire at 156 degrees Fahrenheit for six hours each, and then finished off in a 450 degree oven for 25 minutes after being brought to room temperature and then smothered in a liberal application butter, salt, pepper, garlic salt, and paprika, then laid on a bed of peeled garlic, rosemary, and thyme.

The resultant three bird "roast" was an real hit with the family, the skin being so crispy, and the flesh of each being so amazingly moist and flavourful.

The resultant three bird “roast” was an real hit with the family, the skin being so crispy, and the flesh of each being so amazingly moist and flavourful. If I have the time I’ll probably be cooking all my poultry like this.

All in all, I don’t think I could recommend the Sansaire immersion circulator enough. I’ve had tremendous fun messing around with it, and if you have the time and the patience (and a copy of MacDonald’s cookbook) you’ll be able to produce some simply stunning dishes at home without learning any tricky techniques. The Sansaire is easy to use, easy to clean, and feels pretty sturdy compared to other models I have seen recently.

While it’s not the cheapest immersion circulator out there, I take Chef Chris McDonald at his word when he tells me of his preference for this unit, seeing as the man spent two years immersing himself (bad pun intended) in the exploration of sous vide.

I’ve only had mine for a few weeks, and yet I’m wondering how I ever did without it.

Incredibly highly recommended.

(Five apples out of a possible five)


Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he’s grown to love his Sansaire Sous Vide.