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Zen Tea Traders “Cupping Party”

Deb and I had the pleasure of attending a tea cupping event at Chazzano Coffee, one of our local indie coffee houses. The event was presented by Anthony Capobianco of Zen Tea Traders, another in a growing line of people I've met who are truly living the dream of turning their passions into their careers. In much the same manner as Frank presents his coffee cupping parties (similar how one explores and experiences wine tastings), Anthony led us through the steeping, huffing and slurping of various single-origin, whole-leaf teas he sources directly from small farms throughout Asia. Our evening began with the subtle, mellow tones of a light bodied white tea, followed by a Japanese green tea, a darker, heavier still Oolong tea, a black tea and finally a special treat from Frank, a coffee-tea made from the dried fruits of the coffee bean which are left over once the beans are removed. blacktea For my tastes, the savory green tea, the powerful black tea and the really unexpected flavor of the coffee tea provided most of the mind blowing. Without transcribing the entire presentation, some highlights of knowledge Deb and I learned this evening which may inspire you to conduct further "research" aka pouring more tea into your face: All Tea is from the same plant: the Tea Plant or Camellia sinensis. White, Black, Oolong, Green, etc are all tea leaves harvested at different stages of development and dried at different amounts of time post harvest. The activities as a whole are called "Processing". The "lighter" the Tea, such as white or green, the less processing involved. Like the grapes of wine, the beans of coffee, the tobacco of cigars - Terroir matters for tea as well. Tea grown in Japan will carry the subtle influences of the climate that make it distinct from Tea grown in China or Taiwan. Many of us grew up knowing only of little paper sacks of bitter Tea leave chaff from Lipton - use it once, throw it away. Turns out most whole leaf teas can not only be steeped multiple times, but some are often even better tasting, albeit much lower in caffeine on the second and third steep. coffeeteaberries Like coffee, water temperature and steeping time vary from Tea to Tea and cold steep vs hot steep produce a wide range of flavor profiles. Similar to coffee (and for the same reasons). Unlike coffee, where farmers and farm workers in the countries of origin often never drink from the fruits of their labors, exporting every last bean of a crop to make every penny they can, many tea growing regions keep the best crops for themselves, and only share the harvests they feel are of lower quality. All told we spent about three hours exploring Tea with Anthony and Frank. If you're in the Metro Detroit area, definitely seek out a Tea or Coffee cupping event from Zen Tea Traders and Chazzano Coffee - and be prepared to stay up late afterward. I'm so frikkin wired right now I may not sleep until next week. If you're in the mood for additional tea photos, I stuck a bunch into a gallery on the RE Facebook page. -/// tea2
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

Attitude Adjustment

My back story: I used to cook only to feed myself. Then as I learned more about the science end of the kitchen, cooking became a hobby. After a while, The Rogue Estate came into being and cooking became a hobby to share with others. A few years later, cooking was a part time job to earn extra money and these days: cooking is all of those things and my full time career. "Do what you love!", said the gurus. "ON IT!", said I. With that brief history of my personal relationship with cooking in mind, I have noticed my attitudes towards cooking and sharing have changed as my skills and reasons for cooking have changed. When I started out, I did a lot of random stuff and had little understanding of the processes and vocabulary - so any time I figured something out, or someone was kind enough to hit me over the head with it I mean teach me something, I'd treat it as a state secret. Keep it close. Everything was like the Colonel's Secret Recipe. I was privy to some special trinket like leveling up in a video game. Which is complete bullshit. Only I didn't know it at the time. As my friends and I undertook writing this blog and figuring out what our "Chef's Night" concept should be all about, sharing ideas, successes and failures became easier. It was less about state secrets and more about "this is cool, check this out".  But it was still done from a rather snobby mind set. "I know more than you do, newb!" - an angle which is readily apparent from a lot of the early posts here. And even with hearts going in the right direction, still bullshit. As I transitioned from hobbyist to professional, I had the great fortune of encountering some very patient "teach by example" mentors in the industry - in person and via books, videos, etc. A lot of folks out there who had the epiphany that I eventually had: Sharing knowledge hurts no one and helps everyone. The lifting of the veil, as it were: there are no secrets, no hacks, no spooky knowledge that can only be shared with the anointed few. There is nothing going on behind the scenes that can only be done by way of magic mere mortals couldn't possibly understand. Schooling and traveling abroad are not the only way to learn and become accomplished in the kitchen. To hold those attitudes is total bullshit. We all got where we are today because someone, somewhere was kind and gracious enough to share knowledge with us, be it in person in a kitchen, classroom or indirectly via books, videos or other media. Although we may all be special snowflakes, it is extremely unlikely that the dishes we are cooking haven't been done in many forms and fashions by thousands of other people over the course of human history - even if we're not conscious of exactly whom, when and where. A good recipe is one you can reproduce, time and time again and get consistent results, time and time again. A GREAT recipe is one you can share with others, who in turn can also get consistent results, time and time again. I offer this post as a re-dedication of  The Rogue Estate blog - wherein we, the residents and guests of the estate will share our love of cooking, eating and living with you all - sans the requirements of any secret handshakes. Also worth mentioning that while we're all lovey dovey and here to share - we'll still do so in our usual irreverent, expletive laden, sarcastic rhetoric. Cooking is FUN. Writing and reading about cooking should be fun, too. So enough of the sentimental introspection: let's get into it up to our arm pits. -/// Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 12.45.21 PM
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

RE-born…. IT’S ALIVE!

A bit of technical housekeeping: It's certainly been a long time since we've had the luxury of a decent looking AND functional blog around these kitchens. But after a lot of inertia and hosting issues, here we are, at last! A new home and a new look. We've been keeping busy on Facebook, but while FB excels at the "quick and dirty" photo gallery type activity, it is rather ill suited for publishing recipes, reviews and meandering missives on contemporary culinary trends. In addition to revamping this old blog, the RE Twitter account has also been resurrected. So if twitter is your jam, we've got your covered there as well. Jack, Ian and I have all kept quite busy over the last couple years, even though you wouldn't know it from the blog posting habits. We've all got plenty of pent up energy, so you can expect to see more from all of us and perhaps a few others going forward. -///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

Rogue Estate BBQ

Get updates on where and when to wrap your mouth around those succulent smoked meats, get in touch to schedule a party or simply gaze upon the food and fire porn - all this and more can be yours on the RE BBQ Facebook Page Like it today!   Ribs
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

Caramel Fish Sauce

I was recently referred to this recipe supposedly penned by Andrew "Bug Breath" Zimmern, which is published on the website of the world's worst culinary magazine, Food & Wine. Fish Sauce Caramel - sounds edgy! Further reading reveals that the recipe is pompous, intimidating, unbalanced and worst of all, BORING. the goodsOooooo but it's got "Asian Fish Sauce" in it. F&W Bitches, please - I drink "Asian Fish Sauce" or as we call it, fish sauce, from a FLASK. The concept is sound, it's a loose interpretation of a vietnamese nuoc cham, but it's too lose and really leaves a lot to be desired. So I'm here to rescue this poor concept from the obscurity of what the mentally handicapped authors of F&W consider "unusual". Caramel Nuoc Cham, Rogue Estate style:
  • 2 C Sugar
  • 1 Tbl Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 C Water
Combine the Sugar, water and lemon juice in a 6 qt saucepan over medium high until it caramelizes. 15-20 minutes depending on your cooktop. stir occasionally not obsessively. When it gets to a pleasing caramel color, reduce the heat to the warm/simmer and stir in the following:
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Star Anise Powderimage
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Ginger Powder
  • 1 tsp Sambal Chili Paste (or Sriracha pepper sauce.)
  • 1 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 Tbl Rice Vinegar
  • 1/4 C Fish Sauce (the brand is really unimportant here.)
  • 1/4 C Water
  • 2 C finely diced Red or White Onion (whichever you prefer.)
Keep the whole mess simmering for 5 minutes while stirring to get everything cozy and warmed up, then turn the heat off and move the pan someplace to cool. Once it's below napalm levels, transfer to an appropriately sized bowl or jar with a sealable lid. Use it on damn near anything, keep it in the fridge for 2 weeks, as if it would actually last that long. "Using a wet pastry brush, wash down any sugar crystals on the side of the pan" my ass. If you F&W tools are going to ghost write recipes for Zimmern, you could at least pretend to write in his voice and, heaven forbid, make the crap you're peddling accessible to your dwindling audience. -///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.