I don’t plan or writing much, believe me you don’t want to read my stuff very often, but we’ll file it away here!
OK. So the title of this entry may be slightly confusing. J It’s not about waiters in Europe and their post-modern interpretation of the influence that flan has had on the economic collapse of the west. It is far more sophisticated than that. To dive a bit deeper we ask the questions: “Where is the best flan in the world?”, and “Who exactly do older European male waiters think I am!!??”
On our first article I need to perform a deep dive, and study at length my feelings about flan. It’s my favorite desert……. Now that we’ve gotten through the detailed analysis we can get into defining a great flan. Let’s start with the basics from Wikipedia:
Crème caramel (French: [kʁɛm kaʁaˈmɛl]), flan
[flɑ̃], or caramel custard is a custard
dessert with a layer of soft caramel on top, as opposed to crème brûlée, which is custard with a hard caramel top. The dish is eaten throughout the world.
So, that is the simplest definition of flan. As a Flan aficionado, a title not self-proclaimed but rather bestowed upon me by an esteemed member of the food and beverage industry (a waitress), I have a far stricter criteria for flan. The significant variables within the flan tend to be in three areas: creaminess, caramel flavor and gelatinous quality (does it jiggle and wiggle). It is through these primary qualities that I have developed my own system known as “FLAPaMS”, or the Flan Performance and Measurement System.
I’ve been eating flan for a very long time and am sad to say that only now have I decided this is my true legacy; TO FIND THE PERFECT FLAN! Had I chronicled all the flan I had eaten to date I would have a much more robust remembrance of my flan trail blazing. There have been some memorable flan however so here are some examples:
- Fernando’s Hideaway – Portland Oregon – United States
- Eclipse Di Luna – Atlanta, Georgia – United states (I once went in, and ordered an entire pan of flan by itself)
- Boulevar 64 – Salamanca neighborhood, Madrid – Spain
From now on I will catalog my adventures in flan and look into building our my FLAPaMS model in order to begin the arduous but enjoyable task of eating flan everywhere it is available. J Not saying I will abstain from any other desserts mind you! In the mean time, let us not forget:
Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. Coincidence? I think not!
If you read my previous post on Operation Eskimo Roll then you know that myself and some unwitting colleagues of mine decided to take on a white water kayaking marathon in Ireland. The dangers of “living Social” should be my next story. In order to explain my thought process I figured I would give you some consulting:
So there we are. Five brave, or misguided, souls signed up for a perilous 28 kilometre kayaking race down the Liffey River in Ireland. In the weeks running up to the event the team began to get a bit nervous. I warned them against watching videos on You Tube since that would surely be of the worst moments in Liffey Descent history, but they did it anyhow.
You need to have a certain level of experience in order to get into the event which we convinced our instructor vouch for. I heard through the grape vine that he took a bit of slagging for signing us off when we had only had five 2 hour sessions of training. But don’t fear! We had a full 3 more weeks to get into shape! I heard Caleb once did 10 pushups during that time. I went on holiday to the Amalfi Coast where I got plenty of arm exercise lifting bottles of red wine and getting massages. So now that we were all SUPER fit it was nearly time to go.
In order to make it down in one piece we hired an experienced guide to bring us through. He also happened to work at an outfitter…. So we went out to the shop, iCanoe, to get gear fitted. We were fully expecting the same crap gear we had for the classes; torn wetsuits, scratchy cags, worn out helmets, flimsy spray decks, and buoyancy aids that were short on buoyancy. MUCH to our surprise when we showed up at the shop they fitted us out in all brand new gear! Everything except the actual kayaks was brand new. Needless to say this invigorated the team and suddenly all second thoughts evaporated like rain off a hot southern road. Suddenly everyone was confident and ready for the challenge.
Race day arrives, and shockingly, we’ve had 4 days of heavy rain but completely sunny on the day of the race. I should have mentioned before that during the training, every Tuesday evening, we had absolutely stunning weather and loads of water on the river. I don’t know why, but it was meant to be. WE would literally have Monday and Wednesday lashing rain, but Tuesday…..gorgeous. Same on race day. The heavy rain meant the river was even higher than normal for the event. The flow is controlled by the local utility from the damn. They typically release the water for the event to near flood stage. This year it was even higher, making for a very anxious fab 5.
We gather at the finish line at the Garda Boat house on the Liffey. The water is REALLY high, but the team is in good form. We jump in with the guides and the gear and head up about an hour up the highway to the entry point at Straffan. The gathering area is much like you would expect, a parking lot. Unfortunately there wasn’t any tailgating going on. Everyone was very serious. As we get close to the hour everyone begins moving towards the river entry point anxious to get in the water. We had been told that we would have to paddle UP RIVER for a distance which was very vague and varied depending on who we talked to. It started at 100 meters and by the time we were getting in it was closer to reality at about 700 meters. L With the river running at full flood, this was no simple task. Thank God we had all been training soooo hard for this and were in excellent shape. NOT. By the time we got to the starting point we were all questioning whether we could do it.
Now, like all good stories this one has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
The beginning was already proving a challenge having just paddled up river for ½ hour. Since there were various classes in the race, the really fast kayaks, K1s and K2s, went first, followed by the largest group, the GPs, which was our group. Our group consisted mostly of one man whitewater kayaks. The last group were the open canoes, or as they are called here, the Canadian Canoes. Did Canadians invent the open canoe? I thought it was the American Indians. Oh well. Now…. to say I know a few Canadians would be an understatement of great magnitude. So I will tell you; this bunch of rowdy, angry, mischievous, no good, run over you in a minute, flip each other over, with complete disregard for the rules type of people could not be farther from Canadian! They are the last group to leave the start because they are well known marauders and trouble makers. As we push past the starting line, we can hear them in the background getting chastised by the official for trying to start too soon. “928 your disqualified!”, “back paddle 946!”, “”Stop at the line CANADIANS!”, “This is being videotaped and you WILL be disqualified!”. With every yell over the bullhorn you could hear the barbarian hoard boo and hiss. It was quite unsettling to know they were going to come over the drops and pretty much run you over if you were in the way. The first weir, or drop is called Straffan Weir. It’s a long straight weir that runs the whole distance across the river with a trough along the left side for the more advanced. The drop itself is probably 10 feet on about an 80 degree angle. Because this is the first drop the racers tend to bunch up and there is complete carnage. Today was no different. As we were all novices, we decided to basically stick to the back of our group. By the time we got there the Canadians were overtaking us. The first weir was great! I got through safely, barely. I nearly flipped. I may also have forgotten to mention that none of us actually learned the Eskimo roll in our training…. Luckily there is plenty of river rescue at each drop along the race, there are 12. Two members of the 5 man team flipped on the first weir. Tjalf and Bob. The carnage on the other side of the weir was something to behold. Every form of kayak, and canoe strung along the shoreline in different stages of disaster. We waited for our team members there to get back in their kayaks so we could move down river and I heard Bob say he “actually felt refreshed and cooler after the swim”. Nice spin on that, swimmer! J Back on our way, we head into the long road to the middle.
The first part of the middle is called the “jungle”. Not that Ireland has anything that would vaguely resemble a jungle, but the river does go through a winding slow 6 miles. The trees and brush are overgrown and encroach on the river at some points leaving only room for one kayak at a time. While the river is running at very high levels, the meandering nature of this section makes this a gruelling 6 miles. No rapids, no weirs, just paddle paddle paddle. Once again I am really thankful at all the preparations and the strict training program. You do pass through some very scenic farmlands and rolling hills which would have been wonderful if my forearms and hands weren’t cramped. The only saving grace was that they were cramped into a fist so I could hold onto my paddle and keep going. Not ideal, but hey, I was still moving forward! As we finally came through the jungle we had another weir, can’t remember the name, but it was fairly mild with about a 6 foot drop at a 60 degree angle. It was still fun and a nice change. A bit further down river and we hit THE LAKE! As the Irish say “Jazis!”. No current, no wind, wide kayaks, and a lake that seemed to go on forever. In honesty, I think it was only just over a mile, but it felt like an eternity. At the other end of the lake we had to get out of our kayaks in order to carry them around the lexslip dam. I hadn’t flipped at this point yet, until I got right to the shore and tried to get out of my kayak. My legs were asleep. I rolled into the water, filled my kayak with muddy water and flopped about for a few seconds before regaining my exposure and pulling my kayak up the hill. Time for a quick energy bar and a banana and then haul the kayak about 100 meters down the lower side of the dam. The entry point was…. interesting. The flow is quite strong so you have to paddle as hard as possible to the opposite side of the river in order not to get pinned on one of the bridge columns. Makes for an interesting start to the next leg. From here we nearly got into areas that we had seen before in our “training”. There’s one that is a very steep drop at Lucan Weir that must be 12 feet high. At least it felt that way. You hit the bottom and it feels like you’re through just when it starts to pull you back. Time to cruise on down the road! We get a bit further down to Wren’s Next Weir which is tricky. There are 3 different paths down; the left which is a straight drop, the “V” which is the hardest section which is where the weir has a 90 degree angle in the middle of the river. The “V” is the center of the 90 degree angle. If you don’t end up dead center….. it gets ugly. So naturally, I took the easy route along the left side. The far right side I had attempted in training, but flipped every time so I decided against that one!
Nearing the end. There was a set of rapids and then another couple of small weirs before we get to the best one; drumroll, Palmerstown Weir. Another “V” but this one has a big standing wave at the bottom so when you push over the “V” you shoot face first into an overhead wave. It’s BRILLIANT! There’s a clip of this one on youtube since we had the guides film it. We all committed to taking the hardest path through the weir since it was near the end and we needed a bit of glory. Caleb went first and had a very exciting trip down with lots of thrashing and plashing and paddling. It all looked very professional. I believe Eoin went next. He always looked completely knackered because he was leaning back so far in his kayak. Rule of thumb is lean forward, but he made it without incident. I was third and punched through the wave with a loud yell. In the video it looks like I’m drinking a couple pints from the Liffey. Not the case! It was brilliant, and went off without a hitch. Bob was the next victim, and he made it look easy until right before hitting the wave where he really grimaces. Finally, Tjalf…… Tjalf had swam already once today, but we were expecting great things here. As he comes up to the edge of the drop, he almost stops completely and gets sucked over! If momentum is the key to survival then surely a lack of momentum would be the death of you. Luckily, he didn’t die. He did get dragged along the trough at the bottom of the weir until he got to the end where he dislocated his shoulder and was flipped out of his kayak. Not joking. Poor Tjalf had to be pulled out of the water and put in an ambulance to the nearest hospital in Blanchardstown. There was one more small weir and then the push to the end. We got to the finish line to find most of the people had already arrived and were drinking merrily. We had the unfortunate duty to tell Tjalf’s girlfriend, who had flown in for the event from the Netherlands, that she needed to get in a taxi to the hospital. L The good news is we all, well almost all, finished in enough time to be recorded! At just about 4 hours. Now, to be fair to ourselves, we did have some guys who flipped and waited for. That’s the kind of friends we are! No man left behind! Except Tjalf. But he went with the ambulance. So…. almost no man left behind! The party at the Garda boat house was on until 4 am, but as for us, we did the right things and went to the hospital to check on Tjalf. Maybe it was to get the gear back so we didn’t have to pay for it. Whatever the reason, we went to the hospital. After that we all headed back to my place for a great celebratory dinner put together by Claire! We had some other fans of the team show up and we had a great time revelling in all our glorious accomplishments, lamenting Tjalf, and getting pissed (that’s drunk in Irish). As you’ll find with most good stories in Ireland they either start out getting pissed or end up that way. A great time was had by all, and a great achievement to log in my file cabinet.
Operation Eskimo Roll
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything which should in no way be interpreted that nothing is happening. A whole lot has happened since last summer; holidays, work, trips, birthdays, and lots of Lincoln quotes. I need to convince Claire to start a book called “The Lincoln Logs” in order to chronicle the evolution of what is sure to be one of the greatest events, or scandals, of all time at some point in the future. Anyhow, that has nothing to do with “Operation Eskimo Roll”.
In Ireland there is a deal website similar to Groupon in the US. It’s called “living Social”. A deal popped up last week for a full day of white-water kayaking lessons which I immediately signed both Claire and I up for. I did this without consulting with her of course. After breaking the news to her though she was game for it. Don’t worry; I’ll make sure some pictures make their way up here after we pull the trigger. The more interesting thing, as I began investigating the specifics, was that there was a link to a river race called the “Liffey Descent”. The Liffey is the main river that flows from the mountains through Dublin and down to Dublin Bay.
The Liffey Descent ……. Sounds ominous. So I obviously saw this as a natural follow-on to taking white-water kayaking lessons. The event is actually a 28k race from a point up river down to Trinity boat house. The race has 11 weirs, or drops. They event itself has been going on for nearly 50 years. It looks to be a great craic (pronounced crack – meaning good time). There are over a thousand entries and by all accounts is absolute mêlée. Don’t ask why my keyboard just made all those strange accent type symbols over my word, that is some weird foreign computer BS. Back to the event. Since Claire doesn’t have any interest in a 5 week course or putting her life in danger, I’ve convinced several of my colleagues to sign-up. Did I mention it’s sponsored by Jameson? That might have some additional benefits. The lads are up for it, so one night a week we will head over to the river with the objective of convincing some instructor that we can all make it down the river alive. I may have to bribe them in the end, but hey, it’s only my life and the life of several of my colleagues I’m endangering. I’m sure their “fungible”, great consulting word which means; you can be easily replaced so stop feeling important.
No, this is not some kind of mid-life crisis just because the same day I looked to sign up for rock climbing, sky diving, and I am going surfing in 3 weeks. I’m tired just thinking about it all FUN! Claire’s first reaction is “who’s watching the kids” while you do all this. Well….you are honey. [slap to the face]. Don’t worry, I can’t do all of it. Let’s start with plunging to my death at a flood stage river run. If I survive that, well….I guess I’ll have to try something else.
A kayak roll (often referred to as an Eskimo roll) is the act of righting a capsized kayak by use of body motion and/or a paddle.
One of my Friends, who will remain nameless, makes an excellent home brewed hard cider. He will remain nameless as I wouldn’t want him to get into any trouble since that would cause my cider supply to dry up. In order to contribute to the production and flow of cider I volunteered the services of my minions to pick apples, and my truck to haul them back to Dublin. Their family has a beautiful house out in the Wicklow mountains where you can see the sea in between two of the valleys and the hillsides are out of a magazine. All together, it was a brilliant Irish day, a “soft day”, as they call it here. It really just means a day where it constantly pisses rain/mist. Needless to say, my kids loved it! Everyone got wet, and John was barefoot within about 10 minutes. Lincoln and my friend’s son Michael got on great. Michael is ~16 and didn’t start talking until he was 3. According to his dad he hasn’t shut up since. A perfect match for the Lincolnator. They competed for air time for about an hour, but I think Linc won in the end. I’m not sure how many of Lincoln’s apples made it into the baskets as he was more interested in throwing them all over the place. Every apple he picked up was a “bad apple” which needed to be tossed. I think the only bad apple was the one tossing all the GOOD apples into the bushes. John and Sophie meanwhile were hard at work picking and throwing apples and dodging wasps. All in all, it was a great day to be out in the rain. I think we picked enough apples for about 200 liters of cider. Here’s to hoping I see some of that and finish the internal processing portion of the hard cider lifecycle!
Some Upcoming Posts – Bog Snorkeling, Off-roading, and other Irish Diversions!