Crafting Bourbon

I love watching the process of creation, whether it’s pixels or fermentation. While I enjoy a good scotch, bourbon has become my liquor of choice, as it doesn’t carry the blunt hammer of peat. I’ve seen a couple of documentaries on the creation of scotch, so it’s neat to compare the processes and the liquid each produces.

A Different Kind of Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut in China is very different than the American version. The restaurant itself is much nicer, encouraging you to sit-down and enjoy a higher-end experience. While I was in Shanghai, I managed to walk by one, though sadly, not be able to dine there – I’m not tempted by Pizza Hut in the US. For an idea of the difference, check out this video:

That said, I also stumbled across some fun differences in their menu. Some very interesting differences. Here are some menu items that you don’t see here in the States:

  • Seafood Supreme (Thousand Island Sauce) Pizza
  • Portuguese Chicken Rice
  • Bacon Penne with Truffle Parsley Sauce
  • Baked Vegetables in Portuguese Sauce
  • Mashed Potato with Bacon in White Sauce
  • French Style Escargots with Mashed Potato
  • Thousand Island Seafood Con Carne
  • Snack platters that include chicken wings, waffle fries, mini-sausages and baby back ribs

I also love that the delivery people in their advertising can shoot fire from their hands. That’s a great way to keep the pizza warm on its way from the restaurant.

The Chinese Oreo

Any foreign company that comes to China and says, ‘There’s 1 1/2 billion people here, goody goody, and I only need 1 percent of that’ … [is] going to get into trouble. You have to understand how the consumer operates at a really detailed level.

Lorna Davis, Global Biscuits Category Head at Kraft

Planet Money’s piece Rethinking The Oreo For Chinese Consumers provides an interesting view into the experience of one of the best known American brands stumbling, recovering and then dominating it’s market in China. It’s a fun read.

Meat: Good for the Stomach, Good for the Soul

Contrary to expectations, a McGill University researcher has discovered that seeing meat makes people significantly less aggressive. Frank Kachanoff, who studies evolution at the university’s department of psychology, had initially thought the presence of meat would provoke bloodlust, believing the response would have helped our primate ancestors hunt. But in fact, his research showed the reverse is true.

Seeing meat calms you down, study says – The Globe and Mail

Preservation Bacon

If you follow me at all you know that I love bacon and quite recently acquired a pound of Preservation Bacon, which is made from bellies from local (Austin), naturally raised hogs and curing salt. As my taste buds can attest, this is some impressive stuff, and it looks good to boot, as you can see in the photos at the end of this thread. The bacon is cut nice and thick (he’ll cut it to your desired width) and the individual bacon slices maintain their shape beautifully.

If you’re interested in getting a pound or two for yourself, sign up to receive the Preservation Bacon newsletter (the site is a placeholder at the moment). One note – the bacon is only available in Austin at this time.

I can’t wait to try another dish and order a second batch down the road.

Here are some pictures to get your stomach grumbling:

Smoked Chicken Recipe

smoked-chickenHere’s my method for producing flavorful and juicy barbecue chicken in my smoker.


If you don’t have a lot of chicken, you can reduce this to a half or quarter of these amounts, as long as the chicken is fully surrounded by the brine. Typically you want ¼ cup of salt and ¼ cup sugar per quart of water.

  • 1 whole chicken (more if you want and your smoker has room)
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • Fresh rosemary

The Night Before

I like to cut the chicken in half as it ensures more even cooking, and makes it much easier to move around the smoker when/if you need to rotate or move the meat.

  1. Prepare the Brine: In a large container, mix the water, salt and brown sugar. This is much easier with warm water as it wil absorb the salt much more quickly. Just be sure to let it cool before you put the chicken in it.
  2. Cut the chicken in half, along the breastbone. The result should have one wing and one leg on each side.
  3. Place the chicken in a large ziplock bag (my preferred method) or a suitably sized container, add the rosemary (I’ll usually add a few stems) and pour in the brine liquid. If you split the chicken into more than one container, you may need extra brine. Make sure the chicken is fully immersed
  4. After sealing the container, put it in the fridge if you have room. Alternately, I like to put it in a cooler full of ice so the refrigerator isn’t jam-packed and in case the bags give way, the mess would be contained. Luckily I haven’t had any brine leaks.

Smoking Day

The actual smoking process will be about 4 hours.

  1. Remove the chicken from the brine an hour or before it will go into the smoker.
  2. Rinse the chicken thoroughly. Missing this step will result in a slightly too-salty chicken
  3. When the smoker is at 235°, place the chicken halves on the grill. I place the thicker, breast side towards the firebox; you may need to find the best layout for your smoker.
  4. Maintain the 235° temperature.
  5. Rotate the chicken after two hours (half-way through the cooking process) so the meat is evenly cooked.
  6. After the fourth hour, check the internal temperature of the meat in the breast of one of the halves to ensure it is fully cooked. You’re aiming for 165°, though you may want to pull it out a couple of degrees sooner, as the meat will keep cooking after being removed from the smoker.
  7. Wrap the chicken in foil and let it rest for 10 minutes. Don’t skip this step! It’s tempting to dig right in, but this resting period will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.

Carve and Enjoy

Hopefully this will prove tasty and give you a foundation for playing with different flavors. I didn’t cover the woods I use to smoke the meat, but I highly recommend using a bit of apple wood if you have access to it.

The Urban Cup Holder

Urban Cup Holder, image taken from swissmiss.typepad.comThe Urban Cup Holder by Up to You is an amazing idea that transforms your environment on the go. In a large metropolis, it could shift the usual travel patterns, hopefully slowing life down by encouraging people to use the space around them and communicate. Or, as one commenter noted, it could be a nice way to extend the footprint of a cafe, something that could prove important to smokers as more and more cities enact non-smoking ordinances.

I think it will get the most usage (at least here in Austin), as a beer holder. Whether you need a spot for your brew when you’re on a party barge, or on the patio at one of your favorite night spots, the Urban Cup Holder would be pretty damned useful. The built-in hook would be handy for jackets or grocery bags, though I’m not sure how much weight it could hold.

I can’t find a product page, nor any photos beyond the one I snagged from swissmiss, so I have no idea if this is anything more than a concept. I’m going to contact Up to You in order to learn more, as I’d love to see these in use.

Via swissmiss (where I snagged the photo), via Ben Hammersley

Se the comments for an update.