Thursday, June 30, 2011

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

I've never eaten real Italian Pasta alla Carbonara, but this video makes it look insanely good with loads of parmigiano and pecorino cheese "amalgamated" with pasta starch water and egg. The closest I've had is a creamy version from a take out place on the island of Santorini that was, while not authentically Italian, still an outstanding dish. After watching this, I've just got to try the real thing! The video was taken from the kitchen of Giancarlone in Rome. It doesn't look like I can embed the video (it was taken down from Youtube), so here's the link to the video from

Buon appetito!

In case the video gets taken down again, here's the text recipe from that I've slightly edited.
Spaghetti Carbonara (Spaghetti alla Carbonara)
Ingredients for 4 persons
  • 360 gr. (12.69 oz.) Spaghetti
  • 60 gr. (2.11 oz.) Guanciale (Pork cheek)
  • 80 gr. (2.82 oz.) Parmesan cheese
  • 80 gr. (2.82 oz.) Pecorino cheese
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  1. Pour the extra virgin olive oil into the frying pan, add a handful of diced guanciale* (per person) and 1 teaspoon of black pepper which seasons the sauce, and put the pan on a low heat [note: it looks from the video that 1 tsp. of black pepper is added per person]
  2. Meanwhile crack the whole egg (1 per person) into a dish, beat it with a fork, and add a pinch of black pepper, 1 tablespoon of fresh grated pecorino (ewe's cheese), and a half tablespoon of parmesan and beat it again amalgamating all ingredients
  3. Now put the spaghetti into a pot of boiling salted water, 90-110 Gr. (3.17-3.88 Oz.) per person
  4. Continue to cook the guanciale on low heat until becomes crispy
  5. Once guanciale is crispy, to make a tender pasta, add a little pasta cooking water into the pan (in this way the starch of the water helps to amalgamate all ingredients), turn off the heat and wait for the end of the pasta cooking time
  6. Once Spaghetti are cooked "al dente", before draining, place the pan on the stove and heat the sauce
  7. At this point drain the pasta and put it into the pan, add a little more pasta cooking water, take the cheese/egg mixture, beat it again and pour into the pan
  8. Stir slowly, sautè, add a little pecorino cheese, a little parmesan cheese, and a little more pasta cooking water
  9. Stir again over low heat, and if the pan is too hot remove it from heat
  10. Transfer the pasta to a serving dish garnished with a little pecorino and a parmesan, add the sauce all over spaghetti and serve
*Guanciale is traditionally used to make the real and classic Carbonara recipe, if you don't find guanciale use a good quality bacon or pancetta.

Please, try it without cream or other ingredients and you'll taste the difference, enjoy your meal!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout Review

Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout is simply an outstanding beer. The beer is pitch black in color, and has a malty aroma. The beer has a long lasting creamy head, is low in carbonation, and has moderate lacing. Due to the oatmeal, the beer is unbelievably smooth for a stout, and is thick and full-bodied. The taste is bittersweet, and is of roasted malt, coffee, and dark chocolate. I not to prefer bitter beers, and this beer only has the slightest bitterness, which is well balanced by the beer's sweetness. The only negative thing I can say about the stout is that there isn't an expiration date printed on the bottle. Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout is truly a great beer and is highly recommended.

Rating: **** ½

Here's an excerpt from Samuel Smith's website.

Brewed with well water (the original well at the Old Brewery, sunk in 1758, is still in use, with the hard well water being drawn from 85 feet underground); fermented in ‘stone Yorkshire squares’ to create an almost opaque, wonderfully silky and smooth textured ale with a complex medium dry palate and bittersweet finish.

Best served at about 55°F (13°C).

Ingredients • Water, malted barley, cane sugar, roasted malt, yeast, hops, oatmeal, seaweed finings, carbon dioxide.

And here's another excerpt from the importer's website (Merchant du Vin).

At one time promoted as a drink for lactating mothers, oatmeal stout was described as nutritional on early labels. Oats are in the same family as barley, and a small addition yields great flavor and adds smooth body. Popular in the late 1800's, the last oatmeal stout was brewed before the First World War until Samuel Smith reintroduced this style in 1980.

Almost opaque, with an unusually silky texture and complex, medium-dry velvet palate. Bittersweet finish.

ABV: 5.0% - OG: 1.050 - IBU: 32

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Twinings Green Tea Review

Twinings Green Tea is a sencha style tea. I was able to try a single tea bag, and I wasn't impressed. The tea had a slightly vegetal, astringent, and bitter flavor. Perhaps I just prefer Chinese green teas to Japanese sencha, but I won't be purchasing this tea in the future.

Rating: **

Here's an excerpt from the Twinings website.

Pure and Natural green tea; smooth in flavor and refreshing taste.

Green tea is known for its smooth flavor and refreshing taste. Green teas are made from leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant, the same leaves as black tea. Green teas go through a process where the leaves are heated to prevent oxidation while black teas are oxidized for additional color and flavor. The result is a delicious tea that brews to a light golden color and unique flavor. Twinings Green Tea is a style called "Sencha", known for its smooth, mild characteristics.

Light Flavour Strength

Monday, June 27, 2011

Twinings China Oolong Tea Review

Twinings China Oolong Tea is a tea that I purchased after enjoying Twinings' black teas. I do love oolong teas, and I thought I'd give Twinings' oolong tea bags a try. Twinings China Oolong Tea is a completely unremarkable tea, with only the faintest hint that it is an oolong tea at all. I was very disappointed, and will be sticking to premium loose leaf oolong teas in the future.

Rating: * ½

Here's an excerpt from the Twinings website.
Oolong teas, hybrid between black and green tea. A slightly sweet and delicate tea with a reddish color.

Oolong teas are principally sourced from China and mainly from the Fujian Province. It is said that Oolong tea first began to be produced at Mount Wu Yi Shan in Fujian Province at the end of the Ming Dynasty about 400 years ago. Oolong teas are partially oxidized or semi fermented which occurs when the leaves are gently shaken. It is this process which gives Oolong teas their reddish appearance and slightly sweet flavor. Great to drink with lunch or in the afternoon, this tea is best served with milk and sweetened to taste.

Light Flavour Strength

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Clipdraw Review

Over the years I've bought a number of IWB holsters, but I've never been satisfied with them and they're all sitting in storage unused. The chief complaint I had with them is that they are just too thick and uncomfortable to wear. I've tried nylon, Kydex, and leather holsters to no avail. I prefer concealed carry over open carry so I tried the Clipdraw, and it's my preferred mode of concealed carry along with the Thunderwear.

I first tried the 1911 Clipdraw (#1911-B) with my Les Baer SRP. Installation was simply a matter of removing the right side grip panel, placing the Clipdraw on the grip, and then screwing the grip panel on top of the Clipdraw. Unfortunately, the 1911 Clipdraw does not work with some ambidextrous safeties, so I had to cut a notch in the Clipdraw with a Dremel tool in order to clear the ambi safety. Not having the width of a holster made carrying very comfortable. I only carry with the Clipdraw with an untucked shirt or sweater, and carry on my strong side hip slightly to the rear. When I'm not wearing a sweater or need to tuck my shirt in, I use the Thunderwear instead. Using the Clipdraw conceals the gun very well, and is comfortable to use.

The Universal Clipdaw model for semi-automatics sticks on the slide with a special tape, and works perfectly as advertised. I have the nickle plated model (#SA-S) on my Kahr TP9. The clip can be removed while leaving the leaving the tape and mounting plate in place if you want to temporarily put the gun in a holster. I like the Universal model because it's small, versatile (you can choose how high or low to mount the gun on your waist), and has a lot of clip tension for better retention. I would even use it for a 1911 instead of the dedicated 1911 Clipdraw due to the Universal model having more clip tension as well as being able to be used with any ambidextrous safety without modification (although you can always increase or decrease clip tension by manually bending the clip).

  • Conceals very well under an untucked shirt or sweater
  • Comfortable to use due to no added thickness from a holster
  • Can be quickly drawn by pulling up untucked shirt first
  • Can switch to using a holster with little effort
    • Remove the clip on the Universal model
    • Undo the right grip panel and remove the Clipdraw for the 1911 model
  • Must wear an untucked shirt or sweater, or a jacket that you do not plan on taking off
  • Retention is a potential problem depending on how a number of factors
    • The Semi-Auto Universal Clipdraw has more tension in the clip than the 1911 model (though you can increase tension on the 1911 model by bending the clip)
    • Clipping over a belt helps by creating more clip tension if too loose, but also works well clipped under a belt
    • Loose pants at the waistband coupled with insufficient clip tension is detrimental to retention
  • I like my guns canted forward a bit and the Clipdraw will allow this, but after a long day the gun sometimes end up vertical as depicted in the pictures above
    • Depends on clip tension and/or tightness of pants waistband
  • Trigger is theoretically not as well protected as having tougher holster material covering trigger
    • I would only use on guns with a manual safety or a with a long or heavy trigger pull just to be on the safe side
    • Saf-T-Blok
    • The manufacturer does not recommend using the Clipdraw with a Glock that has a round in the chamber due to its light short trigger pull with no manual safety, though they do have a safe workaround with their Saf-T-Blok trigger safety for Glocks
  • Because the Clipdraw puts the gun right up against your body, wide protuberance like a wide safety/decocker or slidestop may dig into or abrade your skin
The Clipdraw, particularly the Semi-Auto Universal model, is a great product for concealed carry while wearing a jacket or untucked shirt. I recommend it highly. Although I listed more Cons than Pros, none of the potential downsides significantly affect or bother me except that the Clipdraw doesn't allow for a tucked in shirt without a jacket (I use a Thunderwear when I need a tucked in shirt with no jacket). I haven't tried these, but there's also dedicated Clipdraw models for the Glock and J-frame S&W revolvers, as well as a Universal revolver model. There's many more details to note about this product, and Clipdraw has a great and comprehensive review from Combat Handguns posted on their website. Average Joe also has a good review.

Rating: **** ½

Monday, June 20, 2011

Twinings Lady Grey Tea Review

Twinings Lady Grey Tea is a nice light tea that I bought as part of the Twinings Black Tea Variety Pack. Twinings Lady Grey takes the classic taste of Earl Grey and tweaks it by augmenting the bergamot flavoring with the taste of oranges and a hint of lemon. The tea is smooth, light, and has a refreshingly bright orange citrus flavor.

Rating: *** ½

Here's an excerpt from the Twinings website.
A refreshing, light black tea with the distinctive citrus fruit flavor of bergamot to deliver an uplifting tea with vibrant aroma and zesty flavors of orange and lemon.

Lady Grey Tea is a unique blend from Twinings. This delicious black tea has a light and gentle citrus flavour that is both relaxing and refreshing. Lady Grey is perfect in the morning with breakfast or for afternoon tea. Enjoy it with a little milk, or with sweetener, or to your liking.

Ingredients: Black Tea, Orange Peel, Lemon Peel, Citrus Flavouring

Light Flavour Strength

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Twinings Earl Grey Tea Review

Twinings Earl Grey Tea is a terrific tea that I bought as part of the Twinings Black Tea Variety Pack, and I'd expect no less from the inventors of Earl Grey tea. The flavor can best be described as being balanced, with the perfect mix of quality black tea and bergamot flavoring. Other Earl Greys I've tried were either lacking in bergamot flavor, or were too tart. Twinings' tea seems to have the blend just right. The tea is smooth and mild, and is great any time of day.

Rating: ****

Here's an except from the Twinings website.
Fine black tea expertly blended with the citrus fruit flavor of bergamot, to deliver an uplifting tea with a unique floral aroma and refreshing taste.

Twinings has been blending my family tea for years. Today, I am proud to continue this tradition with the tea celebrated throughout the world known as Twinings Earl Grey. Legend has it, that my ancestor, the second Earl Grey, was presented with this exquisite recipe by an envoy on his return from China.

Light Flavour Strength

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Twinings Irish Breakfast Tea Review

Twinings Irish Breakfast Tea is a nice tea that I bought as part of the Twinings Black Tea Variety Pack. The Irish Breakfast tea is quite smooth, not at all bitter, and has a nice black tea flavor. I've only had it black without milk or sugar, as I prefer my tea unsweetened and without milk. I was expecting the tea to be quite strong, but found it to be smooth and mellow. All in all a good, solid tea.

Rating: *** ½

Here's an except from the Twinings website.
A strong, full-bodied black tea from the regions of Ceylon and Assam expertly blended with a hearty flavor and delightful aroma.

The Irish really love their tea and are amongst the most frequent drinkers of tea around the world. In celebration of this tea drinking tradition, Twinings blended a special Irish Breakfast Blend. This tea is best taken with milk and sweetened to taste to bring out the best flavour.

Robust Flavour Strength

Friday, June 17, 2011

Twinings English Breakfast Tea Review

Twinings English Breakfast Tea is a decent tea that I bought as part of the Twinings Black Tea Variety Pack. The tea is smooth, and has a bit of an astringent characteristic. It's got a prominent black tea flavor and aftertaste, which to me is a bit stronger than Twinings Irish Breakfast Tea, although Twinings lists the English Breakfast Tea as Medium and the Irish Breakfast Tea as Robust in flavor. I also tried the tea sweetened and with half and half, but much prefer the tea black.

Rating: ***

Here's an except from the Twinings website.

A rich & satisfying robust black tea. The robust, malty character of this tea comes from pure Assam and Kenyan tea leaves grown in India.

Twinings English Breakfast Tea was originally blended to complement the traditional, hearty English Breakfast, from which its name derives. The refreshing and invigorating flavour makes English Breakfast one of the of the most popular black teas to drink at any time or occasion - not just for breakfast. English Breakfast can be enjoyed with or without milk, sweetened or unsweetened - the choice is yours.

Medium Flavour Strength

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Twinings Black Tea Variety Pack Review

Twinings Black Tea Variety Pack has a good mix of Twinings' popular black teas.

Here are links to my individual reviews of the teas in the pack.

English Breakfast
Earl Grey
Lady Grey
Irish Breakfast

Rating: *** ½

Here's an excerpt from the Twinings website.
A selection of our finest four black teas: English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Lady Grey, Irish Breakfast