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Category: food

Mission Blocks

When up riding at the Vasa Winter Sports Singletrack with Kristen we met up with a group which included Patrick Mier, and he gave us samples of his new product: Mission Blocks. These are a new, and very tasty, chewable food intended for eating on the go; a better version of Clif Shot Bloks and whatnot.

These are around 100 calories/pack, which seems pretty good. Wanting to take in ~300 calories/hour when doing extended rides I’ve never been fond of using blocks like this as a primary food source, but they are a great way to get a little extra sugar as needed, or if you just want something tasty to give a few calories on a shorter ride. Much nicer than the traditional gel packet.

The most immediate difference I noticed between these and other blocks that I’ve tried is the texture. Even when out on a cold day these are much softer than other types of gummy blocks that I’ve tried. This leaves them much more palatable and less likely to stick to your teeth.

The only downside I currently see  — and this may be key to the softness — is the use of gelatin. Based on a Facebook picture this appears to be beef-based, but the origin wasn’t disclosed on the package. This could be off putting to anyone who doesn’t eat beef, so hopefully there’ll be a switch to a non-animal gelatin source as the product matures.

With the product just getting off the ground it’s going to be neat to see where it goes. Patrick’s definitely on to something good here.

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Aluminum Polishing Disappointment

A while back I stupidly put my Bialetti Moka in the dishwasher. Due to the alkaline detergent it discolored and pitted, no longer looking bright and shiny. In an effort to restore its look I researched restoring aluminum cookware that’d been washed in a similar manner and found that polishing with potassium bitartate (cream of tartar) should work well.

In the image above the left panel was the post-dishwasher state, and the right is after a few minutes of polishing with a mixture of equal parts water and potassium bitartate. While a bit of yellowing was removed the aluminum was not returned to its previous shiny state. The appearance change was actually minimal enough that I didn’t bother polishing the rest of the Moka.

I imagine I could remove more of the discoloration and pitting by using some proper metal polish and maybe a buffing wheel, but I’m not going to bother. While the Moka still works fine I was hoping for an easy return to the original shiny appearance. It looks like the recommendation of using cream of tartar didn’t do this.

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Marquette Food Recommendations

After traveling to Marquette a handful of times I began putting together a short list of restaurants and such which I think are worth eating at. This started as a list that my friend Marty sent, but I’ve built it out and added my own descriptions. This was sent to a few friends who are heading to this part of the UP for the first time and now I’m wanting to share it as a blog post.

Just because something isn’t here doesn’t mean that it’s bad; I simply haven’t tried it thus don’t have anything to say about it. Every place listed here I’d gladly eat at again:

Donckers: Candy shop, has a restaurant upstairs that’s great for breakfast. I haven’t had any other meal here.
Sweet Water Café: I like this place more than Donckers for breakfast, but it’s different. Donckers is more like a high quality greasy spoon; Sweet Water Cafe is more like an Ann Arbor restaurant with high quality ingredients. Both are good.
Lagniappe: Cajun place. The food seemed good, but prices struck me as a bit high. Tasty, though.
Vango’s: Pizza place which is outstanding, the cudighi (local style sausage) sandwich is great.
The Vierling: Little more upscale restaurant and brewery, but t-shirt/jeans is still fine. Good food, more sit down-y.
Border Grill: Tex-Mex short order stuff, really good. The fish tacos were some of the best I’ve had.
ToGo’s: Good sandwich / sub shop; great for carryout.
Jean Kay’s Pasties: Classic UP pasties, really really tasty. You can also buy them par-baked / frozen to take home.
Ore Dock Brewing Company: Good brewery, snacky food (not much). You can bring food in.
Blackrocks Brewery: Great brewery, no food at all. I think you can bring food in.
Third Street Bagel: Giant bagel sandwiches, decent coffee. Open early.
Dead River Coffee: Outstanding small coffee shop. Very, very good.
Marquette Food Co-Op: Great little grocery store, prepared food, real high quality stuff.
Tadych’s Econo Foods: Regular grocery store, great beer selection. Essentially across the street from the north end of the black trail (Harlow Farms Connector) or whatever; the easy way into the trails from town.
Jasper Ridge Brewery: This place is in Ishpeming and where a group ride meets at 6pm on Wednesdays to ride the RAMBA trails. Beer is nothing special, food is basic. The deep fried mushrooms are great.
Muldoons Pasties: This pasty shop is located in Munising, about an hour from Marquette. Pasties are tasty, but different from Jean Kay’s. I think I like Jean Kay’s more, but a pasty from Muldoons is definitely good and hits the spot.
Steinhaus / Steinhaus Market: Two locations, same people. Really good German-style food. Outstanding for breakfast or dinner. Just simply outstanding. Do not miss.

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Butter in Coffee‽

Initially upon hearing about the bulletproof coffee idea, where butter (or another medium-chain triglycerides oil) is used in coffee as a sort-of healthy breakfast I found the idea revolting. I’d pictured a cup of coffee with globs of oil floating on the top, sticking to one’s upper lip while drinking. Still, it had me curious… Since I’ll regularly have coffee with half & half (half cream) or heavy cream, and butter isn’t much different from heavy cream (just less water and whey), I figured I’d give it a try.

This morning I brewed coffee like normal, added a tablespoon of unsalted butter, then processed it with a stick blender. The result? Decent. It’s very much like coffee with half and half, but with a less sweet taste to it. It’s still rich and soft tasting, but not as dessert-like. A very fine, almost-creamy foam was left on the top, but tilting the glass to drink agitated it, caused the bubbles to burst, resulting in a soda-like fizzing feeling on my upper lip. Nothing bad, but I could tell little droplets were coming off the top of the beverage.

I strongly suspect that, besides the whey and a bit of lactose (I’m not sure how much of this goes with the buttermilk vs. stays with the fat) the only difference between this and simply using heavy cream is who does the homogenization. Combined with a banana eaten a bit later while walking into work I feel plenty satisfied breakfast-wise, but no different than after having regular coffee + cream.

Next I think I’ll try this along with one of the other popular coffee blend-ins: coconut oil. I’m not particularly fond of the smell of coconut oil itself (it reminds me of sunscreen), but coffee and coconut can work well together, so I’ll give it a go. I can’t see myself doing this very often, though, as it makes for more dishes and takes more time than simply adding liquid dairy from a container.  It was nice to try, and the taste / texture is much better than I thought I would be.

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Fat Head’s Trail Head Pale Ale


This past Tuesday I headed down to Ray’s in Cleveland for some mountain biking. As per usual this was a fun time, and afterward we went out to one of the local breweries for food. Having to drive back home I only had one beer (a nice IPA), and brought back this growler of Trail Head Pale Ale from Fat Head’s Brewery and Saloon (Beeradvocate).

I have a strong, visceral dislike for this company’s logo and branding, but they make some tasty beer and food. The served portions on the food are a bit ridiculous (one appetizer is easily enough for five people and the sandwiches — Headwiches — are good for two), but it’s very worth stopping at. It also happens to be just off of a highway on the way back to Michigan which is a nice plus.

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Hopeful Pale Ale

After a fun day of bike riding and working on a friend’s computer I brewed a pale ale using some leftover hops and dried malt extract. My hope for this was a low-ish alcohol (< 5%) very slightly smokey but otherwise American Pale Ale-ish beer.

The recipe for is as follows, and I intend to update this page indicating whether or not I like how this came out. I intend to ferment this beer in primary until it’s pretty much done, then immediately keg and force carbonate it. I have three other beers aging in secondary, and my hope is that this’ll be a nice-when-fresh beer that’ll will play a part in allowing me to fill all four empty kegs at the same time.

Here’s the ingredient list:

  • 6.6 pounds Golden Light LME
  • 11 ounces Extra Pale DME
  • 1 pound 10°L
  • 2 ounces Weyermann Smoked Malt
  • 0.5 ounce Simcoe hops at 60 Minutes
  • 0.5 ounce Simcoe hops at 15 Minutes
  • 1x Whirlfloc tablet at 15 Minutes
  • 1 ounce Citra hops at Flameout

This was a typical full volume boil, with the crushed malts steeped for 30 minutes in 2 gallons of water then sparged with 1 gallon.

OG: 1.053

Here’s to hoping it comes out nicely…

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Well Seasoned Cast Iron Pans: Flaxseed Oil

Our house has a couple pieces of cast iron cookware, but it wasn’t seasoned very well and Danielle and I both wanted to change that. After some separate but overlapping research we both found that using flaxseed oil is best for seasoning cast iron cookware due to the high quantities of α-Linolenic acid (ALA) that it contains, as this will polymerize nicely during the seasoning process.

Sheryl Canter’s post Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning : A Science-Based How-To was the basis of much of the information used, but I disagree with some of her techniques (eg: applying very thin layers of oil then wiping them off until no longer visible, starting with a cool oven) as being overwrought. Starting with a clean, dry pan (scrubbing to get food residue off and putting in the oven at 200°F to facilitate drying) I instead did the following, using some food-grade refrigerated flaxseed oil purchased at Whole Foods:

  1. Using a piece of a synthetic fabric sock (a square about 2″ x 3″), spread a layer of oil on all surfaces of the pan. It should look oily, but not have any drips, sags, or pools. Be sure it is an even coat. Paper towel (which I tried at first) left lint residue that’d burn into the oil and get stuck in the coating.
  2. Put the pan in your oven and set to 550°F or so. The temperature needs to be above the smoke point of the oil, because during this smoking the ALA will polymerize and thus the cast iron becomes seasoned.
  3. Once the oven indicates it’s at temperature, set a timer for an hour. During this hour the cast iron should reach the oil’s smoke point, which’ll release a bunch of somewhat unpleasant smoke. Vent the house if you can.
  4. After an hour has elapsed, or once the oil is done smoking (you’ll get a better feel for this as you repeat the process) turn off the oven, open it up, and slide out the racks so the cast iron can cool.
  5. When the cast iron has reached a temperature that it can be handled with bare hands, repeat these steps as many times as desired.

To season our cast iron cookware I used seven repetitions of this process. Each took a couple of hours, but most of that time was waiting for the oil to smoke or the cast iron to cool down. The result on one of the pans, a Lodge Wedge Pan that Danielle received for Christmas from my parents, can be seen above. Prior to the flaxseed oil seasoning it had a factory season on it, which was a dull, thin-looking surface that only seemed sufficient to prevent corrosion during shipping. After receiving a proper season the pan was not unlike a used PTFE non-stick surface and quite pleasant to use.

Post-seasoning the cast iron can be easily cleaned with water, a plastic bristled scrub brush, and a gentle plastic scrub pad / sponge that’s safe for non-stick pans. This has easily removed everything we’ve had stuck to the pans and left the season intact.

† While flaxseed oil and linseed oil are the same thing, products labeled as linseed oil are commonly for wood finishing and usually contain drying agents and other things that you probably don’t want in contact with your food. Thus, it’s best to just suck up the seemly-high price of buying food-grade flaxseed oil at a local store knowing that it’ll be safe. Don’t worry, one bottle will last you for a long time; this process does not go through it very quickly.

Other oils could be used, but flaxseed oil will be the most efficient readily available oil due to it’s high ALA content. This portion of the Wikipedia article on α-Linolenic acid listing the ALA content for a number of different oils, showing that flaxseed is around 55%, while canola and soybean (both frequently branded as vegetable oil) are 8% and 10%. If a lower ALA content oil is used, it’ll take longer to build up a thick coating of seasoning (polymerized ALA).

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Cheese Is Good

I really, really like good cheese. This here is the last four pieces of top-quality cheese in the house, each about 1cm x 2cm. On the left is some (incredibly good) Wensleydale, and on the right is a cloth-aged Cabot cheddar. Both were purchased at Zingerman’s Deli a little while back en route to help Alison and Michael move into their new place in Ann Arbor.

It’s very hard to describe how incredibly tasty good cheese is, and the amazing feelings it brings about when eating it.


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Bad Maple Syrup

I’d never had maple syrup go bad before. It’s kinda disappointing, since I wasn’t able to have any on the tasty pumpkin waffles that Danielle made for breakfast the other day.

I’ll have to grab another bottle of Grade A or B at ALDI next time I pass by one.



Home-Made Chili Powder

This past week I removed all the furnatire from the porch, cut down the past year’s dying flowers, and brought the perennials in the house. One of the plants to trim was a chili (of which type both Danielle and I forget), which grew very mild, nice fruits. Since there were some chilis left on the plant I cut them off, tossed them in the food dehydrator, and this evening after they were sufficiently dry ground them into chili powder.

The photo above shows the tops and seeds that I cut off them poured out before putting them in the spice grinder, something I did because I didn’t want seed-heavy spicy powder. The result is a very gentle, almost buttery tasting paprika-like powder that’ll go wonderfully on eggs and other light-tasting food. I think it also might do nice things on popcorn.

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