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August 2018

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Here’s a really tasty meal. It’s also both easy and quick to make, and very affordable. The sauce can be used for a variety of other dishes besides pork chops; it would be good with chicken, and of course, any meat dish.

Pork Chops With A Shallot Mushroom Sauce

Pork Chops
Butter
Shallots (minced)
Mushrooms (sliced)
Red Wine
Heavy Cream
Sea salt
Cracked pepper
Thyme

Season the pork chops with Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper to taste. Melt some butter in a sauté pan, and add the pork chops. Cook to the chops to the proper degree of wellness, remove and keep warm.

Deglaze the pan with red wine. Add butter and incorporate into the deglazed mixture. Add the minced shallots and sliced mushrooms; whisk to both ensure even cooking as well as to blend. When the shallots and mushrooms are cooked, about 1-2 minutes, add heavy cream. Continue to whisk until fully blended and the proper consistency. Finish with a dash of Thyme to taste. Serve immediately over the pork chops ( shown below with mashed potatoes ).

Remember, any recipe is nothing more than a guide; it’s up to you to experiment, adapt, and change any recipe to your own liking. As with all recipes we discuss and feature, start with FRESH ingredients. Freshness is a key element to great tasting food and great cooking. That’s part of the ART of cooking. The other part is you, the home cook, experimenting, creating, and adding your own “signature” touches.

Travel Destination – Museum of Islamic Art.  Doha Qatar

By far, one of the most beautiful buildings I have seen in a long time – anywhere – is the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha.  The various layers, the stone used, and the sharp clean lines are impeccable.   What’s more is this beauty is surrounded by water making it all the more stunning.  Unfortunately, I would have to wait until a later extended visit to go inside.  In future posts, I will return to what I call the “Jewel of the Middle East,” and give a more in-depth view of this gem…

Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect I.M. Pei, the Museum is comprised of the main building with an adjacent education wing connected by a large central courtyard. The main building rises five-storeys, topped by a high domed atrium within a central tower.

The cream-coloured limestone captures the changes in light and shade during the day.

The interior is no less spectacular. The centrepiece of the atrium is a curved double staircase leading up to the first floor. Above it floats an ornate circular metal chandelier echoing the curve of the staircase.

An oculus, at the top of the atrium, captures and reflects patterned light within the faceted dome. The five-storey 45-metre tall window on the north side gives spectacular panoramic views across the bay.

The geometric patterns of the Islamic world adorn the spaces, including the ceilings of the elevators. A variety of textures and materials from wood and stone has created a unique environment for the museum’s stunning collections.

Doha is an incredible travel destination especially if you are wanting to visit the Middle East. There are numerous experiences in Doha and all are well worth the effort.  Your number one stop should be the Museum of Islamic Art.  The exhibitions and permanent displays are stunningly beautiful and fascinating.  It is safe to say you’ll leave full of the historical knowledge of Islam.

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A ‘Gentleman’.
Forget travelling like one for a moment – what does being a ‘gentleman’ really mean?

The word, ‘gentleman’ once specifically identified a man of distinguished birth.  As time progressed, ‘gentleman’ was broadened to include a man of good standing.  Today, ‘gentleman’ refers to a chivalrous, courteous and honourable man – young or mature.  I like my own category – modern gentleman.  In a future post, I’ll explain my definition of a modern gentleman.  No matter whose definition or criteria is used, there has been a shift in what being a gentleman means:  it has evolved to describe an acceptable code of conduct that has nothing to do with how high or low in society you’re born.

We commonly call gentlemanly behaviour’ manners,’ which simply put is about being aware of others, considerate to everyone and putting the company you keep at ease at any given time.

All that said, have you tried travelling and keeping your composure at the same time?  Can you be considerate and stay well-mannered as a gentleman should?

Today, travelling anywhere begets its own stresses.  If you’re travelling for pleasure and your journey is one to enjoy, smiles, please, thank you, and sometimes even pardon me can go by the wayside as you trundle through the maddening crowds to get to your destination.  Doors slam in your face after you’ve held the very same door for someone else, you don’t receive the same courtesies you offer and you might even be pushed or shoved with no regard by a host of passersby.  It’s true.

Is there still time for you to behave like a gentleman during these challenging times?  Yes.  Absolutely.

We love our personal space.  I love mine and if people get too close to us, we tend to take a step back.  When in a metropolis, you can expect to have somebody’s armpit in your face on a train or subway on a hot summer’s day.  And, as unpleasant as the armpit may be, we must accept the conditions.  We have little choice unless you step off and wait for the next ride.   While using the London Underground during rush hour, for instance, you can expect to be mashable from all sides.  You must accept to be part of the tin sardine pack or do as I do and avoid rush hour.  A brisk walk across the golden city is far more amenable in my opinion, and the exercise is better for you.

Travel by aeroplane is no better.  In fact, courteousness has fallen by the wayside as the airport experience has worsened with heightened security and unnecessary fees.  Sometimes I watch flight attendants and think they’re more like bouncers at a nightclub. Perhaps if everyone had and used proper manners flying would feel all the more civilized.

Of course, if you are seated in first or business class on an aeroplane, your travel experience will be different than in economy.  I was shoved aside by a flight attendant during my last economy experience.  If that wasn’t enough, I was squeezed into an uncomfortable spot in my seat because the person sitting next to me spilt over into my space.   The two occurrences happened on a single flight. This was enough to tell me I’d never see economy again.  My choice is not based on elitism, but instead unacceptable instances in flying economy.

The trials of long-haul travel and others habits or discourteous acts will test your tolerance to the max.  One of the biggest irritations on any flight is the reclining seat.  If a meal has been served, you should always consider the person seated behind before adjusting your position.  It’s only right.  Getting up repeatedly and disturbing those either side at inappropriate times also falls within the territory of ungentlemanly behaviour.  After all, enduring a flight seated next to a constant talker who turns into a fidgeter is enough to unsettle even the most relaxed of frequent fliers.

We all like to mentally go into our own zones when we’re amongst crowds.  In other words, we distance ourselves.  Should you choose to ‘step away’ from the crowd with your headphones, be sure to use the noise cancelling sort and keep the volume down. You don’t want to unknowingly disturb others.  Listen to flight attendant’s instructions and act accordingly.  The rules of flights apply to everyone.

Finally, your home away from home – the hotel.  The interaction between yourself and hotel staff defines the success of any hotel; however, it also reveals much about a man’s manners.  A gentleman shows respect at all times to all staff, not only to the concierge or management who might greet you.  Some of my best friends and even experiences resulted from genuine good manners at hotels.  This is true.   Also, remember to observe local customs no matter where you are when it comes to your behaviour and dress.

Being a gentleman is not difficult.  Being a modern gentleman can mean you’re casual but it always means you project yourself in good light.  Be mindful of others, respect everyone and play nice whether you’re travelling on the Underground or 30,000 feet in the air.  The notion of being a gentleman is straightforward.  Being a gentleman demands courtesy, consideration and compromise.

There is nothing old-fashioned or difficult about being a gentleman.  More times than not being a gentleman will benefit you more in the long run.  If you haven’t already, give being a genuine gentleman a go.

We are now about halfway through learning about composition.  I put special effort into simplifying everything so there is no photography mumbo jumbo big words for you to remember.  Just as your photos should be simple in composition, I’ve composed this course in easy to understand terms.

The secret, if there is a secret is practice, practice, practice, and more practice.  I promise you the more effort and time you put into mastering these simple techniques, the better your photo composition will be.

Now, the next rule of composition – Leading Lines.  One of my favourite techniques.

A poorly composed photograph can leave your viewers unsure where to look.  Their attention might drift aimlessly around the scene in a photo without ever finding a clear focal point.  The viewer doesn’t know where to look.

How can you fix this?  You can use lines to control the way people’s eyes move around a picture.  Yes, lines.

Lines are going to be present in your work no matter what you do, so it’s all about taking control of them so that they serve the purpose of leading a viewer into your photograph.

The next time you are out with your camera, take a look around you first.  Are there any lines or paths that your eye naturally follows to lead you to the main subject?  If so, you should consider backing up from your subject to include them.  A line can be anything your eye will follow.  

Leading lines can be roads, lines of cropped grass, anything repetitive, buildings going up, a row of flowers, a wall,  – anything that guides the eye to the focus of your photos.

Lines can also be implied by the direction a person looks.  We call these eye lines and they are leading lines.  When people look at one another or at something, that can draw interest to the subject or at the very least help the viewer’s eye to move around the frame and to the subject in your photo.

Why are leading lines important?  Well, it is almost impossible for eyes not to follow a line pulling you right into an image.  To be effective as a photographer, you want to engage your audience.  You want them to step right into your photograph and feel as if they are part of your scene.

Next week we’ll have a look at some examples of leading lines used in photographs.  Pay close attention and see if you notice how the lines lead your eye to a particular point in the photograph.

In the meantime, download this free PDF that shows and explains examples of leading lines in photo composition.

Do you want a great tasting mayonnaise? The answer is simple, make your own! Making mayonnaise is really quite simple, using very few ingredients, the primary ones being egg yolks and oil.

Homemade Mayonnaise

1 Large Egg Yolk
1 1/2 Teaspoons Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Teaspoon White Wine Vinegar
1/4 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard ( or Dry Mustard )
Salt To Taste
3/4 Cup Oil ( preferably Canola Oil )

Combine the egg yolk, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Whisk until blended and bright yellow, about 30 seconds

Drizzle 1/4 cup of the oil into the yolk mixture, a few drops at a time, while constantly whisking. This should take about 3-4 minutes. When well blended, gradually add remaining the 1/2 cup oil in a very slow thin stream, again, whisking constantly, until the mayonnaise is thick. This should take you about 6-8 minutes. The mayonnaise will lighten in colour. Cover and chill. Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Keep it refrigerated.

Different oils yield different flavours, so you may want to experiment with the oils to get the exact flavour you want. For example, olive oil has a much stronger flavour than canola oil. Feel free to blend oils for the flavour you like. You can also add spices, like a dash of white pepper or paprika. A great variation is Aioli. To make a superb Aioli Sauce, substitute Extra Virgin Olive Oil for the Canola Oil, and add 1-2 minced garlic cloves. For a crowning touch, add a dash of Tarragon ( pictured below ).

You’ll quickly discover what real mayonnaise should taste like, and how great an Aioli Sauce can be.

Typically you visit Iceland for the glaciers, geysers, waterfalls or northern lights, not penises.  Yes, you read this right.  Penises.  Reykjavik is home to the worlds only penis museum.  Officially, the museum is called  The Icelandic Phallological Museum.

The Icelandic Phallological Museum is probably the only museum in the world to contain a collection of phallic specimens belonging to all the various types of mammal found in a single country.  Thanks to The Icelandic Phallological Museum, it is possible for you to undertake serious study into the field of phallology in an organized, scientific fashion.  There is no pornography on display, I assure you.  From whale penises to hamster penises, you’ll see them all.  In fact, many people take selfies with the penises.  I have to wonder – are these selfies posted on social media. If so, what caption are they writing?

The Icelandic Phallological Museum contains a collection of more than two hundred and fifteen penises and penile parts belonging to almost all the land and sea mammals that can be found in Iceland. Visitors to the museum will encounter fifty six specimens belonging to seventeen different kinds of whale, one specimen taken from a rogue polar bear, thirty-six specimens belonging to seven different kinds of seal and walrus, and one hundred and fifteen specimens originating from twenty different kinds of land mammal: all in all, a total of two hundred and nine specimens belonging to forty six different kinds of mammal, including specimens from Homo Sapiens. It should be noted that the museum has also been fortunate enough to receive legally-certified gift tokens for four specimens belonging to Homo Sapiens.

You’ll see not only specimens but also penis art, penis in pop culture and even vegetables naturally grown in the shape of a penis.  So, just for the novelty of the visit, add Iceland’s Penis Museum to your travel destination list.  It is an unexpected adventure you can not duplicate anywhere else!

Map Showing Location of Icelandic Phallological Museum

 

You might enjoy A Gentleman’s Thoughts On The Icelandic Penis Museum

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The Sound of the Bells of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

When you are near St Paul’s and the bells start chiming with various tones, you can’t help but stop to look up at Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece.  When you are up close the sound of the bells can be deafening.  They are rather loud, but the beautiful sound echoes through the City of London like none you’ll hear anywhere else.

If you want a real treat, visit St Paul’s during Evensong.  The last time I attended, the entrance was free of cost.  The young choir is simply beautiful and sitting inside the cathedral with virtually no tourists in the building makes the moment truly special.  Be sure to check St Paul’s Evensong Schedule before you go.

With alert senses, an open mind and a curiousness to dive into a new city, land or culture, your travel experiences amplify beyond compare. Visuals, sounds, and aromas heighten excitement and most of these things are unplanned.

 

Destination:  London

One of the most important tips I can give anyone is to always taste your dishes as you are creating them. By so doing, you won’t encounter any unwelcome surprises after the fact, nor will your guests, which could be embarrassing. By tasting as you go, you can make any and all adjustments during the cooking process to get your creation perfect. I can tell you for a fact that all the great chefs do this. They continually taste their dishes throughout, adjusting as necessary to get them perfect. Attempting to correct errors after you’ve finished is damn near impossible, particularly if your dish lacks flavour (i.e. spices). Spices, for the most part, need to be incorporated during the cooking process, not added afterwards. There are a few exceptions. One such example, as we previously discussed in this series, is Sea Salt, which can be used as a great condiment to finish off a particular dish. Parsley is another example. But to guarantee you get the flavour you’re seeking, you need to taste as you go. Get in the habit of doing this every time you cook so it becomes second nature. By tasting as you go, I guarantee your dishes will be the most they can be, and you will avoid unpleasant and embarrassing surprises after the fact.

Avoid The Middle.

When you are new at photography – just starting out – it is tempting to put whatever your shooting right in the centre of your frame.
By putting your subject directly in the centre you produce an image that is static, unnatural, pre-arranged and sometimes ho-hum boring. 

While some of those characteristics can be a positive in any particular image, we tend to be more attracted to dynamic images in general.

If the subject should be right in the centre, where should it be?  Many photography teachers will roll out the “rule of thirds” at this point.  I am not one of those teachers and I think the rule of thirds is an overrated approach.  The rule of thirds suggests putting a subject one-third of the way from one edge of an image.  Classical photographers suggest using the golden ratio, which would have you place your subject 38% of the way from one edge to another.  I say that’s far too much math.  Ignore the numbers!  Remember when you were a kid learning to ride a bicycle and your bike had training wheels?  Well, the rule of thirds is your training wheel.

Instead, move your subject away from the centre of the frame and get a feel for how it can be balanced with everything else in the scene, including areas of contrasting colour or light.  As you practice this, you will quickly notice your images will be far more dynamic and the subjects in your photos will be emphasized.

There are no hard and fast rules about achieving this kind of visual balance, but you’ll quickly learn to rely on your instincts.  Simply trust when you know when something looks right.  Look with your eyes through the viewfinder.  Take some time to look and see what feels right.  Your intuition, once you’ve been doing this for a while, will be a much better guide to composition than any rule of thirds equation will be.  I promise you this.

Now it’s time to put your knowledge of avoiding the middle in photo composition to the test.  It’s time for your challenge.

 

 
Harmony and Balance

Find a scene or subject to photograph for this exercise.  Your task is to take three photos of the same scene or subject.
First, photograph your subject directly in the middle of the frame.
Second, photograph the same subject in the left of the frame.
Third and finally, photograph the very same subject in the right of the frame.
As a bonus change your subject – portrait, object or a landscape.  The choice is yours.
When you have completed the exercise, compare your images on your computer screen.
Which composition do you feel is the strongest?

I’d love to see the images you create.  Please share your photo with me via Twitter.  My Twitter home is : @ACuriousGent

One of the keys to good bar-b-qued brisket and/or ribs is to use a savoury rub. You apply this rub after the meat has been marinated, preferably overnight, and about 2-3 hours before cooking.

Two ingredients I’ve found that really add a burst of flavour to a rub are dry mustard and ground sage (pictured at bottom).  Obviously use salt, preferably coarse sea salt, and cracked pepper as your first spices in the rub. These are the core spices in any rub. Then you start tweaking your rub according to your taste.  This is when you add the dry mustard and ground sage. Of course, feel free to add any other spices you particularly like.

You can do a rub two ways.  One is to use each spice individually on your ribs ( or any meat/poultry ), one after the other, starting with the core spices.  The other is to mix all the spices in a small bowl and then spread the mixture over the meats.  Either way, you will still accomplish the same result.

I find that the addition of dry mustard and sage is particularly great on ribs, giving them a bit more depth and character, elevating them if you will.  Give it a  try, experiment with other spices as well.  You will discover a whole new world of flavours by getting creative.