Beware of sharp objects: my visit to Knifewear

Two things on my food bucket list have been to 1. take a class on proper knife techniques and 2. buy myself a good quality, wickedly sharp knife.

I have been eyeing the sharp and pointy goods at Calgary’s Knifewear ever since I heard about them way back when they first opened inside Bite Grocerteria. They have since moved into their own location and – if the crowd of people I saw in the store was any indication – are successfully growing their business.

Knifewear display case

Knifewear display case

Knifewear, founded by Chef Kevin Kent, specializes in high quality Japanese chef knives. They regularly hold classes on knife sharpening with waterstones, as well as a basic knife cutting class.

I happened to be in Calgary over the Family Day long weekend and took advantage of my visit by signing up for Knifewear’s Cut Like a Chef class. For about two and a half hours, we learned how to slice, dice and not cut our fingers off. Kevin and Rob, another talented knife artiste, tag teamed the class. We covered varied techniques such as dice, julienne and brunoise, as well as some more “exotic” cuts like tourne. Other useful things that we learned included the proper way to use a honing rod, cut up an onion, and slice up a pineapple.

Cut Like a Chef class

Cut Like a Chef class

Taking this class also gives you the chance to try out a selection of their knives. I started out using a Shun knife, and eventually ended up with two more knives on my cutting board. At the end of the class, all the attendees are offered a 10% discount on any knives in the store if they were bought that day.

You can test out knives before you buy them.

You can test out knives before you buy them.

I had good intentions of only buying one knife and of sticking to a pre-set budget. But the knives seduced me, and I couldn’t stop myself. A gift card from some friends helped to defray some of the costs (I have the bestest friends ever!!) but I left the shop much poorer and spent way more than I had originally planned.

The shop, filled with partly people from my class but also with many walk-ins.

The shop, filled with partly people from my class but also with many walk-ins.

There were many, many knives to choose from. Hand forged knives, factory forged knives, long knives, short knives – the choices were overwhelming. I was especially drawn to the Fujiwara knives, which have a finger notch in the blade that makes holding these knives especially comfortable, and the Konosuke knives, which have these gorgeous cherry blossoms polished onto each blade and also felt very comfortable in my hand.

A bunch of the knives I was considering.

A bunch of the knives I was considering.

There were some other knives that I liked as well, and in the end my decision was based on either buying one knife out of the two I mentioned, or buying two knives at a lower price point. In the end I felt that it made more sense for me to buy two different knives than to blow all my money on one knife.

Here are the sexy beasts that I came home with:

My new sharp and pointy toys!

My new sharp and pointy toys!

From left to right: one ceramic honing rod (smooth), one Masakage Kumo Gyuto 180 mm knife, and one Masakage Asai Masami VG10 Petty 120 mm. Both knives are hand forged from VG10 stainless steel and laminated with layered nickel Damascus stainless steel.

From the Knifewear website:

“Asai Masami, born in 1948, works in Takefu Village, Echizen in Fukui Prefecture. His blades are known for a refined and long lived edge. In 1980, Echizen was the first production centre for forged blades to be awarded the nationally recognized Traditional Craft Product accolade. Blades have been hand forged here since Muromachi period (1392-1573).”

“[The Kumo knife] series is named Kumo (cloud) because the blades look like clouds on a really cool day. The Damascus steel is manipulated by hand to give this great dreamy look. The rosewood and pakka wood octagon handle give the blades a nice light feel and forward balance. Katsushige Anryu san is a 70 year old blacksmith with 52 years experience who works in Takefu Village.”

My knives will get their first sharpening for free. I haven’t cut myself yet, but I have to admit that I have thought about stocking up on bandages. I’ll let you know if I nick any major arteries.

Knifewear
1316-9 Ave SE, Calgary
www.knifewear.com

 

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Yogen Früz, various locations worldwide

I thought Yogen Früz was just in Canada, but this company, which originally started in Toronto, is worldwide! Who knew?

Yogen Früz specializes in taking vanilla or chocolate yogurt and mixing it with a number of toppings including frozen fruit. Growing up, my standard frozen yogurt mix has usually been some sort of berry, but I recently realized that they have a whole bunch of flavours that may not necessarily be advertised on the menu board. Guess which  flavour appears in the photo below!

frozen yogurt

frozen yogurt

Matcha! Yes, they have Japanese green tea as a flavour choice, using actual matcha. I have fallen in love with it. Combined with nonfat or low fat frozen yogurt, it makes a low calorie, tasty treat. It’s not very sweet though, so if you want to try it and have a bit of a sweet tooth, I suggest also getting an additional mix of lychee.

(Bonus points if you can guess in which mall I took the photo!)

Yogen Früz
Various locations worldwide
www.yogenfruz.com

Chaya, Banff

There is this teeny tiny restaurant in Banff called Chaya. Run by Japanese, they serve a small variety of ramen, rice, udon and soba dishes. The food is rather simple, but it is satisfying. Seating is limited – if the restaurant is full you will have to wait. They are open from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (although don’t quote me on that as my memory is swiss cheese and I didn’t jot it down). Menus are in both Japanese and English.

Chaya

Chaya

Their rice balls come with your choice of salmon, tuna or umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums). I ordered a salmon filled rice ball to try. (I’ve had umeboshi before but I think it’s one of those foods that I’d rather pass on.)

salmon rice ball

salmon rice ball

The rice is unseasoned, but the filling was actual chunks of cooked, seasoned salmon instead of just some canned fish stuffed into the rice. My only complaint was that either the rice could have used some seasoning or that it would have been nice to have more salmon included, as I found the rice to be somewhat bland on it’s own. The salmon tasted very flavourful.

inside of salmon rice ball

inside of salmon rice ball

The chicken teriyaki don came with many pieces of very tender chicken, plenty of sauce, and some pickled ginger on the side. It was a very large bowl and was more than enough for one person. Could probably feed two if you only wanted a small meal.

chicken teriyaki don

chicken teriyaki don

Continue reading

Williams-Sonoma Marketplace, Tea Zone and Café Koraku, Primm

About a 40 minute drive south on the I-15 from the strip, over on Exit 1, is the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas. This place is a shopping mecca of discounted clothes, purses and shoes. It’s large, air-conditioned and relatively crowd-free (unlike another good, but very crowded and outdoor Las Vegas outlet mall that I went to).

And bonus, it has a Williams-Sonoma outlet. Just look at this pretty, pretty photo!

Williams-Sonoma Marketplace - Le Creuset sale

Williams-Sonoma Marketplace - Le Creuset sale

Too bad I made a promise not to try to fit one of those in my luggage. They had quite a few deals in there, and in particular I was looking for a set of round cookie cutters with scalloped edges that I had seen in their Calgary store, but unfortunately they were sold out already.

And then I saw this.

Williams-Sonoma Marketplace - vanilla

Williams-Sonoma Marketplace - vanilla

At half price, each box contained 3 different 2 fl oz bottles of vanilla extract, and the following description:

Like fine wine, premium vanilla springs from a combination of soil, climate and expert processing – an art practiced by Nielsen-Massey since 1907. Our special set combines three of the world’s finest single-origin vanillas: intense Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, a favorite for ice cream and chocolate; floral Tahitian vanilla, which brings out the best in fruit-based desserts; and earthy, sensual Mexican vanilla, the original vanilla sent home to Spain by the explorer Cortez and a perfect complement to cinnamon and spicy, savory dishes like chili.

Even better – the bottles were small enough to fall under the liquid amounts that you could carry on the plane, so they travelled in my purse with my lip balm. I have no idea what I’m going to do with them just yet, so please let me know if you have ideas. Continue reading

Fun Friday

Japanese commercials are odd. And funny. Surprisingly short as well; wish advertising here was that short!

Pocky-loving zombies doing a vaguely Irish/Scottish inspired dance. (Pocky‘s a chocolate covered cookie, in case you didn’t know.)

A series of Fanta commercials, with English sub-titles.

And lastly, a Japanese/Thai tea commercial.