Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 had a lot of food-and-drink firsts for me.  It was the first time I had:

Fresh huckleberries, yuzu, Rangpur limes, limequats, Bergamots, jackfruit, and young dates;

durian, at least in unprocessed form (I had had, and much prefer, durian cookies and candies);

soft-shell crawfish;

St Germain elderflower liqueur, St Elizabeth allspice dram, Castries peanut cream liqueur, Zirbenz stone pine liqueur, douglas fir eau de vie, Old Gristmill corn whiskey, Cynar, Aperol, Averna, Old Tom gin, genever, Mozart Dry.

I found two unflavored vodkas I like -- Stolichnaya Gold and Heart of the Hudson.

I rediscovered my love for both lamb and lambic.

I continued to explore my tastes in beer and cheese -- discovering that I like feta now, that I love Pecorino Romano, that I don't particularly like stouts or barleywines or beers that are too sweet.  One of my favorite beers, maybe my favorite beer period, was one I discovered right at the tail end of 2008 -- Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron -- but damn near counts for 2009.

Technique-wise, I didn't break a lot of new ground.  I did use the country ham style of curing for lamb and bacon, which I hadn't done before, and used bourbon in a cure for the first time.  I discovered how excellent smoked grits are, not only because of the smokiness but because of the way the stovetop smoker slow-cooks them.  

I got a juicer, and used it mainly to make peach gelatin, apple cider, and unsweetened cranberry juice for cocktails.  I got a bread machine and mainly use it to knead pizza dough and baguettes.

I more or less stopped making sort-of-Indian curries in favor of sort-of-Thai curries -- when I do order curry powder now, it's for Country Captain chicken, not Indian-style curries, and I have seven or eight different Thai curry pastes in my pantry and refrigerator.  

When my coffeemaker died, I replaced it with a 32-ounce French press, and I've stuck with that -- my only means of making coffee are the French press and the Bialetti Moka for the stove.  I haven't yet talked myself into buying a burr grinder.  After being frustrated between buying "the affordable but barely tolerable coffee" or "the extravagant but excellent coffee," I placed a bulk order of the extravagant coffee, ordering straight from the roaster so that the per-pound price came out to less than the affordable-but-barely-tolerable.  

I don't feel like I did anything radically new this year, but I think that's okay.  I certainly played with some radical new ingredients, and when I was making a yuzu meringue pie, I thought to myself, you know, sometimes this is the way to do it -- the yuzu doesn't KNOW it's much more rare than a lemon.  There is no property of rarity written into it, reflected in how it tastes.  Sometimes you don't want to do something unusual just because you're working with an unusual ingredient -- you want, rather, for its unusualness to stand out because the context you've put it in is so ordinary and familiar.  A little saffron and malted milk powder folded into the meringue of the pie, to give that topping more interest; straight up filling with yuzu juice, sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks; and it's a remarkable dessert, very yuzu-forward, without needing a more dramatic pedestal than that.

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