Duncan Hunter's Purpose In Life

Stopping Giuliani from coming in dead last time after time!

FOODSCIENCE!

This is tapioca maltodextrin.

Tapioca Maltodextrin

It’s a starch that bonds really well to fatty foods. In the fancy-free world of molecular gastronomy, it has been used for weird and wonderful things like making peanut butter powder; I just had to have a go.

Making Nutella Powder

On the left we have 40g of nutella, whereas on the right there’s 26g of maltodextrin. You put them in a food processor, blend until mixed, and then sift them out into a contain. BEHOLD, LOOK WHAT I HAVE CREATED!

Nutella Powder!

It’s a rather odd sensation; the powder recombines in your mouth and tastes exactly like nutella, albeit somewhat less strong than if you just have it straight. For those of you wondering just what use this is, erm…I’ll come up with something eventually.

Olive Oil Powder

That is olive oil powder. I’m still struggling to think of any use for this, but think! You can carry olive oil on a plane now! (okay, so maybe security might wonder what the mysterious unmarked powder is, but I’ll sure they’ll be understanding…)

Chocolate Popping Candy

For my next trick, I mixed chocolate with space dust (or pop rocks, as they’re known in the US). My theory was that the dust reacts with water, but as there’s no water in chocolate, it would set until it was eaten. I was partially right; some of the rocks starting popping as I poured the bag into the melted chocolate, but enough of them stayed dormant to make the finished sweets rather interesting (the flavour of the rocks seems to get washed away in the process, but the popping still works wonderfully!). Just wait until I conquer tempering.

My repeat of the aero experiment from North Carolina failed miserably. I’m not quite sure why. At the moment, I’m thinking that I didn’t shake the whipper enough (one recipe says to do it for a minute, whereas the iSI instructions say only 3-4 times). That and maybe plain chocolate works better, so I’ll try it again next weekend!

The final experiment for this weekend was Salmiakki Koskenkorva. It’s the drink that I had on New Year’s Eve at Christa’s (remember?), a mixture of Finnish liquorice and vodka. You can see why it appeals to me.

The Evil Brew

The most difficult part was obtaining the sweets (I eventually tracked them down via eBay). After that, it was simply a matter of pouring the broken liquorice into a bottle of vodka, giving it a vigourous shake, and leaving it all to dissolve. Hurrah!

Next week: the next attempt at aero chocolate, and SPHERES!

currently playing: Sons and Daughters – Gilt Complex

Huh.

Okay. Does anybody want a ticket for Stars at the Koko on the 29th of this month? I appear to be seeing the Black Kids at the same time. And I’m torn. I thought the Stars concert was in February…I’ve seen them once before, but haven’t seen Black Kids yet, so I think I should go for the younger band, despite how much I love Stars. Grrr.

(on the bright side, I’ve also book Long Blondes and Yelle tickets tonight!)

currently playing: Neko Case – Wayfaring Stranger

Everybody Loves Huckabee!

“I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that’s what we need to do — is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.”

“I’m interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She’s a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleaned the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be?”

“My chief of staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police?”

“Here’s one that’s really important cause we’ve got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7 If they promise to wear gloves can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point?

“Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother, John, for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads?

currently playing: bis – Action And Drama

The Apple Paradox

They will give you almost exactly what you want, except through in two or three things that hobble it. The Macbook Air looks beautiful, but it’s too wide, almost as expensive as a Macbook Pro, and slower than my current machine. But look at it. MmmmmmmMMMMMmmmm.

(Actually, of all the current Mac line, I think the Macbook is a wonderful little machine; it’s fast, has a decent display, and is probably the first Apple laptop where you can change the memory and hard drive without having to disassemble the entire case first)

Time Capsule also looks like it might bug me. I hold out hope that wireless Time Machine will be something that they switch on for all NAS systems, and not just the Apple-branded box…

currently playing: Cat Power – I Believe In You

New Bingo!

Make your guesses! Guy Hands has debt to repay!

currently playing: LCD Soundsystem – All My Friends

Macworld Bingo!

BE A MAN!

Between Christa and Mandy, I think I spent most of my final night in America being a deep shade of crimson. In particular, Christa made me blush so hard that I could feel my cheeks straining. Mandy couldn’t do that, but did manage to create an image that will be impossible to scrub out of my mind without many years of therapy. It’s what Eternal Sunshine is made for…

A good night then, although I wish I could have spent more talking to my friends instead of our stranger who took a shine to my accent and tried to talk to me about Formula 1 all night (I even got told off by a German couple for being to polite with him). Still, most of the gang was there: Heather, Emily, Christa, Eric, Mandy, Collin, Kaelin, Stacie, and Laura, and we had a good time, even if I got told off for buying my own drinks! I’m going to miss them all terribly once again…

(Incidentally, it was also the first time I’ve heard the word ‘retcon’ being used in a public area. Which only occurred to me afterwards)

FOOD SCIENCE PART 2: SHAKE IT BABY!

Flush with our success with the agar tequila sunrises and the cornstarch rum pills —

Did I tell you about the candy cane vodka? I don’t think I did. To sum up: 49¢ spent in Target on candy canes reduced to clear, left to dissolve into a potato vodka for a day. Filter to remove any excess fat and prepare yourself for the kick.

Testimonial from Emily: “It’s actually kinda awesome!”

— Stacie and I had more plans. In particular, rum-flavoured lollipops and handmade aero chocolate. Simple.

It all went horribly wrong. Our first attempt at the aero bars seemed to go well; we melted the dark chocolate, warmed the iSi whipper with a hair dryer, filled it and shot the contents of a NO2 canister into the chocolate, but as we watched the molds being filled, we couldn’t see any evidence of bubbles.

I’m fully prepared to admit that the lollipop disaster was my fault. I assumed from what I had read that lemon juice could completely replace corn syrup, but I was wrong. So wrong. I also forgot just how much sugar syrup bubbles as it goes past 100ËšC. Laura’s stove got covered in napalm-like sugar goop, cracking and flaming before turning into a hard black sugar ash. Pleasant!

To make matters even worse, the thermometer wasn’t properly in the solution, so when we thought it was reaching the hard crack stage, it was happily turning into caramel and bonding to the pan.

“You know, I think that’s my housemate’s pan.”

Thank goodness for the way the sugar dissolves if you pour enough boiling water on top of it…

We then re-read the instructions for the aerated chocolate and realised that we’d forgotten to shake the whipper before firing the gas. Wanting to have something out of almost ruining Laura’s kitchen, we melted the chocolate down and tried again.

Homemade Aero

Aero. On demand. We can do milk, we can do dark, we can do white. We can make orange flavour, mint flavoured, whatever else you want. We have the technology.

currently playing: Saturday Looks Good To Me – Hands In The Snow

Are We Nearly There Yet?

I’m not quite sure if I fully understood what I was agreeing to when Collin asked if I wanted to go to Atlanta to visit Esther and Ryan. It was only when I came back that I realised that the trip to Chapel Hill to Atlanta was actually longer than my flight home.

However, it was a fun journey, with time passing much quicker than you would think, passing the time discussing politics, switchgrass, and all sorts of things while listening to NPR. We soo crossed into South Carolina, where we were confronted by a hge array of McCain, Romney and Paul signs everywhere. You know, there might be a primary here soon.

While we were heading to Atlanta, we made a stop on the way to have dinner with Collin’s grandmother. We went to a local Italian restaurant where it seemed that the only way to eat spegehetti and not induce heart failure was to order a half-order, and even then the mound of pasta reached three inches clear of the plate it was occupying. The lasagne was nice, though! And not quite so scary!

For those of you who have never travelled on an interstate before, there are often huge billboards on both sides of the road, promoting a) eateries / shopping at the next set of exits, b)radio stations, c) acts of pride and unity under God (We did pass Bob Jones University on the way down, after all). But then there’s d) The Plain Crazy. Our favourites on the journey included this as we arrivied into Atlanta:

Real Daddies Financial Advice: Dominate in 2008!

And on the way back, a dating website:

Find The Woman To Obey Your Command! EquallyYoked.com

Christians Be Scary.

We got to Atlanta itself at around 11pm, the skyscrapers gleaming into clear black sky, looking like the great American city of cliché. You don’t get this in Chapel Hill, you know (although it must be said that at the foot of the gleaming spires there seemed to lay a never-ending orgy of construction, making things a little less pretty).

Esther and Ryan live in the top floor of a fabulous house in the city of the city. The landlords, Seth and Westin, are a couple who live in the ground floor, and seem as nice and friendly as you could hope for in such an arrangement. Unfortunately, I arrived just as they were taking the Christmas decorations down - they must have been quite impressive, as it took two days for Seth to pack everything away and for Westing to bring it all up to the attic.

I’ve been to Atlanta before, of course; somewhere in my bedroom is a yellow legal pad that includes three or four pages of notes I made for blog entries while I was on the way to Portland in 2005, but I don’t think I ever typed them up. Yes, a familiar story. That time, I stuck to the downtown area of the city, but Esther and Ryan wanted to show us some of the hipper parts of Atlanta, so we went to an area known as The Little Five Points, home to many a vintage clothing shop, a good record store, and yes, a co-operative local suprmarket! Hippies be thriving.

The next day started with breakfast at The Flying Biscuit, an Atlanta institution and also where Esther works.

Again, for those of you that are unfamiliar, the Americans at some point decided to go a completely different rout with ‘biscuit’ Whereas to us it conjures visions of garabaldi, digestive, jammy dodgers, ginger, bourbon, hob-nobs, and a nice cup of tea, to those across the Atlantic, it describes a bun of scone-like density, often made with something savoury like cheese. I know. I’m sorry for them too. But they won’t listen to reason on this front.

After a turkey and chicken omelette that was good but not as good as Christa’s lovely apple and cheese combination a few days earlier, Ryan, Collin and I went off to the High Museum of Art. I will pause to allow Mum to laugh.

The building itself is quite impressive; a blocked white monolith that looks as if it could double as the headquarters to an evil megacorporation in a 1980s film. The evil extends into the building itself; the higher floors are reached by a series of ramps which look over into the central atrium. How I made it to the top skyway level, I do not know (I’m just glad that the schoolchildren that seemed dressed as if they had just come from Chilton were nowhere in sight as I inched my way up the final ramp)

All too soon, we were back on the road home, seven hours straight back to North Carolina with the sounds of the BBC World Service to keep us sane. It was a little bizarre to be hearing about Newcastle firing Sam Allardyce as were were crossing the border from Georgia to South Carolina…

currently playing: Kylie Minogue – 2 Hearts (Studio Version)