What's all this stuff?

Recently, we've been getting questions about our fermented foods that we feature on the menu. I wanted to explain a little of the process that goes towards making these foods, so that everyone has an idea of what it is you're eating, and how to make some of your own!

Kimchi. We used to order sauerkraut from the same people who supplied our pickles. They make excellent food, but it bothered me that we weren't making our own fermented cabbage when it's so easy and delicious when it's made in house. I can add a lot more flavour, and control exactly what goes into the dish, and I can control the quality of the ingredients to ensure that only the best of the best ends up in the final dish.

Kimchi is made from napa cabbage, daikon radish, scallions, ginger, garlic (a lot of garlic, actually), a bit of sugar (to get the cultures started), and salt. It's left to ferment for three days to get the initial juices going for the cabbage and daikon, and then it's aged for two weeks or so to mellow out some of the harsher flavours. By the time it's ready to use, the kimchi has become sour, and has all the flavour of the ginger and garlic infused through it.

We don't add any soy sauce or anything that's got an oceany taste (like nori, or kombu), or any hot pepper flakes, because we want the cabbage taste to come through. It tastes like a sauerkraut with a more rounded flavour. I'm glad that we switched to making our own kimchi, because it ensures that I know exactly what's going into it, and can make sure that it works well with the other ingredients in the dish it's served in (the Tempeh Rueben, to be specific).

Cashew Kefir (kee-fur). Kefir is yoghurt product. It's used in Eastern Europe and Russia. We make our kefir with rejuvelac, which is a fermented grain beverage. Rice or quinoa (or both) are soaked overnight. The water is discarded, and fresh water is added to the grains. They are left to ferment for three days to get the wild yeasts and bacteria going. That liquid is poured off, and used to soak the raw cashews. The cashews soak overnight in the rejuvelac, and are pureed the next morning in the blender. That is then left to ferment for another three days to really get properly sour.

The cashew kefir is the base for the cashew sour cream. More cashews are added to the liquidy cashew kefir, and blended together. That is then allowed to ferment for three more days, so that it gets thickened and tangy.

The instructions for making rejuvelac and a host of vegan dairy products (cheese, yoghurt, sour cream, cream cheese) can be found in Miyoko Schinner's book Artisan Vegan Cheese. It's filled with interesting and different cheeses, using techniques that dairy cheese makers use, but adapted to vegan ingredients and needs.


What is your favourite lunch menu option.

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Customer Service: How to do it right.

Boss-man bought some crocs. He went onto their website, and picked out a pair for himself, and for his son. His fit perfectly, and he had no problem with them. His son's were too tight. We wanted to exchange them for a slightly larger size. The options are as follows:

- Go into a physical store, and return them, with your Internet receipt. They'll sell you a new pair. Now, seeing as how we bought the shoes online, there is a reason that we didn't go into a physical store: we lack time, or the inclination to schlep across town in a busy section of the city, which is perpetually crowded with crazy people looking to spend their money. We want the experience of shopping from home, getting our stuff, and moving on with life.

- Contact a customer service rep, who will create a return shipping label for you. This part was very easy, because they have an online chat function, meaning that I don't have to sit on the phone on hold, and listen to musak. Good deal. There is no option to just exchange the shoes for a bigger size. Whatever. We chose this option.

The issue with the second option, is that Crocs won't pay for return shipping. So now, we need to package the shoes into a bag, slap on the mailing label, go to the post office, and pay for shipping. Then, crocs issues you a coupon to use on your next order, so that you can get free shipping on your next pair. Essentially, this took entirely too much time and effort to fix a problem. It also means that we won't be buying from /their/ website, when so many others have much better policies.

Enter Zappos. I've shopped with them before, and trust them. When I had to buy a new pair of sneakers, I went through Zappos. Why? They offer free shipping to you AND back to them. When a pair of shoes doesn't fit right, you return them with a pre-paid mailing label. Then, you get an email saying, "We're so sorry that the shoes didn't fit right. To make up for your trouble, here have a free overnight shipping on your next order." Not only did they pay for me to get the shoes in the first place, they also paid for me to return them when they didn't fit right. Then, they rushed to make it even faster to get my next pair of shoes. At the time that I bought those shoes, I didn't have a lot of money to spend, so I could only afford to buy one pair of shoes at a time. This meant that I had to order a pair, try them on, and then send it back if it didn't fit well.

It took three tries, but Zappos was very good every single time I ordered.

Mind you, it's not a huge thing. Shipping a pair of crocs that you shove into a bag is not that expensive. However, I now have a bad feeling towards the crocs website, because they're making me go through more work than was necessary. Zappos, even though it did take a few tries, will have my business, because they made every step of the process very easy on me. So now, I asked Bossman to return the shoes, and just buy the next pair from Zappos, and move on with life. Congratulations, Zappos: you've got a new customer on board.