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Sunday, June 9, 2019

Good Food is Food You Cook Yourself - BBQ and Grilling is as Basic and Easy as it Comes in Alberta, Canada

What You Are Eating


"Fast food" is everywhere. It means, unfortunately, that bad food is too. 

Because it is easy to get cooked food fast, many people are forgetting how to prepare it themselves and are probably unaware of what they are really eating. I know this is a gross generalization. It may upset some people. These may be the very people that never paid attention to how grandma boiled potatoes or pulled a roast chicken from the oven. I bet they can't even fry an egg.

There is a whole generation of Millenials that think milk comes from a factory and burgers should be made in laboratories. Most of what they regularly consume comes from an oil fryer, and they have their local restaurants, and food establishments on speed-dial through technology like "Skip the Dishes" and "Uber-Eats". No wonder they gravitate towards veganism! They are unlikely to be eating enough good food.

Here is the revelation. Whatever you order from a restaurant is probably sub-standard. You can buy better at the supermarket, cook it yourself, and it will ultimately taste better, and perhaps be even cheaper. By cooking for yourself, you may learn something. You will definitely also make a few friends along the way when you also share your work with those around you. 

If you don't cook your own food, you are probably not eating well. Let's take a closer look at the economics of a food establishment in today's world.

This is part of the TWO COWBOYS' EPIC GLOBAL TRAVEL & CULINARY EXPERIENCE - 2019! 


Heritage Heat Ep1

Alberta BBQ Ep2


DO YOU WANT YOUR BUSINESS OR COMMUNITY FEATURED?


Buy vs. Cook


This is the scenario. It is a case that will probably be out of reach for most people. However, it will put in context what good restaurant food may look like. What will be a fair price at an upmarket downtown establishment, when we order a 450g rib steak, scalloped potatoes, another green vegetable and a salad?

Without the trimmings, side dishes and drinks, and excluding tip and tax, the steak alone will probably set you back around CAD$45 - CAD$50. How did they get to this price? Consider that you have the cost of the slab of beef, the skill of the chef/cook, some seasoning, the overhead of the facility and the margin built in as cost to the price of the meal?

According to "Forbes" magazine, the average gross profit margin for a fine-dining restaurant is around 60% with a food cost percentage between 38% to 42%. Because we are looking a premium piece of produce, there is a good chance that the portion of meat that is served in this scenario set the restaurant back around $21.

Remember that the meat is the star of the meal, and clearly, it is the most expensive part of what is served, so everything else should contribute to pay the rent and wages. The potatoes, vegetables, salad, wine, etc. must deliver substantially better margin than the 60% (charged over and above in this case).

Here is the surprise. The price the consumer is willing to pay ultimately determines the profit a restaurant can squeeze out of a meal. If you and I are eager to slap down $50 for a steak, then a good restaurant will creatively engineer their food and overhead costs to maximize the return from that $50 of wallet spend, without diminishing their brand or upsetting customers with a sub-par experience.

The question is, what can they get away with?

This is where creativity starts in the restaurant business. Either they have a heck of a deal to get prime produce really affordable (because they buy vast quantities, know the farmer, grow their own beef, blah, blah, blah, or let's just say it is where the cook/chef's talent come to shine. They likely take an average (or below-average) cut and dress it up to be served as a prime cut for a top dollar.

Now, think what you get served at a fast food restaurant. Where is the margin coming from in a $10 Happy Meal? Not so happy anymore, are we? No wonder, they try their best to obscure what you are really eating from the fryer.

You can cook for yourself. Visit the grocer or butcher and buy a prime piece of meat. Drop it on a hot grill for 4 minutes a side. Slap it with some garlic butter and a little S&P and another couple of minutes in the oven. See how that compares to your $50 barely adequate rip-off restaurant steak.

I cannot fathom why I would choose the restaurant's steak over my own unless I have money to burn or masochistically feel like tendering for a round of prime indigestion. The point is, you may ultimately spend the same money if you want to (if you pick the 90-day, dry-aged, prime cut that is actually the 90-day, dry-aged, prime cut). However, you will be eating better, because you know what you're cooking, and you have no incentive to cheat yourself out of a perfect meal.

Which brings us to barbeque and grilling.

Observations


We cannot wait for the BBQ season to start. Granted, we BBQ, grill and cook year-round. We are die-hard braai boere from South Africa. Before we came to Canada, we didn't know there was another way to prepare food!

The good thing about BBQ season is that there is a season for it. As with most things in Northern America, there is no half-measure. It is done with complete commitment, enthusiasm and dedication. Rain, snow or shine, the cookers will be running with brisket, pork, sausage, chicken and for the really adventurous they even do baked cheesecake, bread, and desserts, in what is really just a big woodfired oven.

The best part of the BBQ season is that you get to do something primal with good friends. You gather around a fire and prepare food as it was done for thousands of years. It is where every cooking adventure should start and where it ultimately provides one with better eating and a better quality of life.

If you cook your own food and do so with friends, you will be a better person. You will enjoy life more and likely to be happier and healthier. This is the Two Cowboys guarantee.

Come along. We'll show you how we do it.


Hendrik
Cooking Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.

Photos


Pork Chop

Steaks

Original

Beast

Salad!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Brewing Craft Beer in a Lucky Camper Van While on the Road with our Partners Black Rock Brewing and iKegger, New Zealand

It Should be Simple


We've set ourselves a challenge. Can the Two Cowboys brew craft quality beer while on the road in a campervan? We tried it out this summer in New Zealand with mixed results. We've learned a lot and saved ourselves quite a bit of money not having to buy beer in New Zealand.

We enlisted a group of beer friends to take the beer-show on the road. Brewers Coop provided us with our favourite Black Rock Concentrated Wort, Hops and the right Yeast for a juicy Riwaka IPA. iKegger New Zealand provided the gear to show how simple it is to pressure ferment and serve beer in simple kegs and we travelled with Lucky Camper Vans

We have three installments documenting our journey below.

This is part of the TWO COWBOYS' EPIC GLOBAL TRAVEL & CULINARY EXPERIENCE - 2019! 


Ep1


Ep2


Ep3

DO YOU WANT YOUR BUSINESS OR COMMUNITY FEATURED?


Some Background


Riwaka Hops (Riwaka™) is a real standout. It has powerful grapefruit “citrussy” characters that are literally breathtaking. If you want to say “New Zealand Hops” in your beer, then this variety says it all. The pure weight of the oil character experienced during selection carries right through to the glass. It is a punchy addition to the new world styles of Pales Ale and  New Zealand Pilseners.

We combined additional Riwaka Hops with Black Rock's specialty crafted Riwaka Pale Ale kit as if it didn't have enough of a hop kick already. Black Rock Crafted Riwaka Pale Ale is already dry-hopped with Riwaka hops. This kit is quite scarce to get because the hop is so in demand all over the world and it means if Black Rock can get their hands on it, then they brew a batch. Usually, all the kits are sold long before it comes out of the brewhouse.

We brewed the recipe with a specialty US ale yeast, Safale US-05. To get closer to the hazy ale style and a creamy finish with more volts, we also added a kit of unhopped concentrated Wheat Wort.

Our strategy was to use two Cornelius kegs with a spundling valve similar to our Beer Cowboys Brewing Kit bundle. Obviously, these are in Canada, so Andrew from iKegger stepped up with the gear, taps, connectors and whatever we needed to get on with the job. He runs a neat business that brings people closer to kegging and transporting their beer, which is in our opinion a much better strategy than bottle maturation. It also means you can drink your beer as soon as it is done fermenting. It stays carbonated.

We knew at the outset that temperature control was going to be a challenge. Lucky for us, it is summer in New Zealand with mild sunny days, and it turned out not to be too hard to get the beer fermented and carbonated under pressure. The fact that it was an Ale that wasn't too sensitive to hotter temperatures also helped to speed up the process. To do the cold-crash we had to borrow a fridge for a few days, which meant we could pay a visit to some good friends in Onemana with a promise of fresh cold beer at the end.

Observations


New Zealand is not just the land of milk, honey and sheep. It is also a hotbed for craft beer. We are amazed every time we visit just how passionate kiwis are about their beer and about making their own beer. We would be too if we were charged up to $25/litre for beer. Thanks to astronomical excise and overbearing duties Kiwis stepped up to liberate their beer by finding all kinds of ways of making it themselves.

We see the taxation burden grow in our country (Canada) too and we cannot be happier than to introduce our friends all over the world to making one's own beer. As we've discovered, making your own beer actually also means creating a better beer. We've had misfires. It doesn't always go to plan. Most of the time though it is pure deliciousness.

Thanks to our partners we can continue to push the boundaries of excellent beer brewing and our travel experiences along with it. We thank them for it.

Hendrik
Beer Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.

Photos


Hop Shopping

Beer Machines 
Cowboy Growlers



Blankies!

Best Place to Bew!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Hacking All Grain Brewing with Kiwi Ingenuity and Simple Affordable Tools at Bevie in Auckland, New Zealand

Hacking Our Beer


How do you take the beer brewing process, and make it accessible to the average Joe? Simple, you hack it!

The processes for brewing quality beer have been refined over centuries and continues to evolve even today. From an outsider's perspective, it appears to be safeguarded by an eclectic club of weird scientists set on excluding ordinary folk from the inner circle. They mumble of gravity, sparging, yield, steeping and other incomprehensible nomenclature. They keep their brewing secrets close, their recipes even closer, and their influence as wide as it can go within their brewing circle of friends. 

While brewing good quality beer used to be a regular kitchen affair, a couple of hundred years ago, it slowly evolved into dark science, out of reach for ordinary people, like the Two Cowboys. Now, with the help of some simple equipment like a kettle, a pump, some tubes, and good ingredients like grains, yeast, hops and water, a company called Bevie, in New Zealand, managed to apply modern-day control-flow systems, and a mobile app, to unlock the highly complex all-grain brewing processes for ordinary people.

This is part of the TWO COWBOYS' EPIC GLOBAL TRAVEL & CULINARY EXPERIENCE - 2019! 



DO YOU WANT YOUR BUSINESS OR COMMUNITY FEATURED?


They call it the Grainfather. It takes the best brewing practices from craft breweries and puts them into a simple to use, all in one system, to ensure anyone can brew a professionally produced craft beer, no matter their brewing experience.

You can also turn the Grainfather into a microdistillery by changing the top parts and adding the Still Spirits Alembic Pot Still Attachments. It is highly illegal to distill liqueur without a license in Canada, while pot smoking is now allowed (...go figure!). We are just saying that you can make fuel for your car or truck from your Grainfather brewing activities if you should ever need it. If you store the fuel in an oak barrel lying around, to keep it safe, it is between you and the RCMP to work out who gets what share when they come knocking.

There are many all-grain brewing equipment manufacturers and lots of equipment for brewing beer on the market. If you buy quality, it is expensive. People are spoiled for choice if they know what they are doing. Herein lies the problem - you need to know what you are doing! Short of learning from an expert or enrolling in beer school, it takes time, trial and error, and lots of learning to work out the best way for brewing beer from grains.

The innovation of the Grainfather is that it is a highly affordable, all-in-one system, for producing an excellent quality wort that you can ferment in the ways you prefer. It also drastically reduces your learning time and eliminates many costly brewing mistakes.

The one-pot brew system may not even be the most innovative around because there's been many that copied the approach and tried to improve on it. Some may also claim that not even Grainfather can be credited for coming up with the approach, although Kiwi's have been known for their innovation in all kinds of industries.

What struck us about the Grainfather is the innovation that Bevie put into the control of the brewing process. The smarts are in the software, not the pot! It offers the ability to a brewer to dial in an exact recipe and then execute it flawlessly, with a built-in controller, and the help of a mobile app on their phone or iPad.

Good brewing's foundation is precision and repeatability. Couple this with good ingredients, great water, and perfect fermentation, and you are on your way to consistently delicious craft-style beer and the envy of the neighbourhood. Not only do you get to execute the brewing tasks flawlessly, but you can also collaborate with other users, all over the world, on recipes and outcomes so that you have a massive database of brewing information on hand for your perfect beer. It gives new meaning to brewing with your mates!

Apparently, Bevie also has an answer for fermenting and serving your beer and provides you with another shortcut by having portion perfect fresh ingredient packs ready for a variety of standard brews. That is a story for another time.  

Observations


The brewing process is getting hacked. People are now liberated to brew their own craft quality beer consistently from grains with simple equipment and software that not only dramatically reduces the learning curve but assist in controlling the quality of the execution.

I don't want my beer to be made for me. If I did, I will just go and buy it from the next brewery or liquor store. I want to make my own beer, simply, affordably, consistently, and deliciously from available ingredients. That is what true beer liberation is about.

There are no gimmicks with the Grainfather offering a "one-push button dark magic beer brewing box". It is old-fashion grain brewing done right. They should have called it the "BigBrother" of beer. The whole solution comes in under $1,000 with free support and an ever growing database of brewing/distilling knowledge and beer recipes. It allows you to make a batch of 23 litres of beer with the ingredients of your choice.

Herein lies the problem. We want to brew more during the few weekly hours we can dedicate to this delicious hobby. Apparently, Bevie is working on a system that can do three times the volume of the existing Grainfather, and it will likely still be an electric system you can use in your shed. Yeehaaa!

The Two Cowboys has been on a journey for the last three years to liberate our beer. Bevie is giving us another option with the Grainfather to get closer to drinking what we make ourselves. We cannot wait to tell you what more they have installed for average people like us, on our beer and do-it-yourself journey.

Hendrik
Brewing Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.

Photos


Smart Pot! 

One Pot

Learning Fast!