Miss Ginsu: About/Bio


Miss Ginsu, Meet... Ginsu

Any longtime readers may remember I had a spot of trouble last year with a fellow who wasn't keen on my use of the name Miss Ginsu.

As it turned out, one of the execs at Quikut, the company who owns the Ginsu name saved the day, and this little food blog lived on. Yay!

And now, suprise, surprise... that very same executive just sent over an actual set of Ginsu knives for me to check out. I'm a field tester. Woo!

Ginsu Knives

It's a set of 12 (the ones you see above, plus a bunch more steak knives) and it looks like this in the box.

Ginsu Chikara Knives

My standard set of knives are heavy German-style Wustof ones (they were the standard-issue knife at school), and I have one Kai Shun Japanese pairing knife.

That said, as long as it's sharp, I'm not opposed to using any knife out there.

I'm most interested in function, and after using the chef's knife and pairing knife fairly heavily over the weekend, I can attest to the fact that they do seem sharp and durable.

So here were the initial comments from friends and coworkers on the Chikara set.
"Wow... they kind of look like Japanese knives, but they're heavy and sharpened on both sides like the German knives. It's like the axis powers joined in cutlery."

"They're better than I expected."

"These are Ginsu? Have you tried them out on a tin can yet?"

"Huh. They're actually pretty nice. Nicer than I thought they'd be. I like the wood block. It's fancy."

So there you have it. Sharp knives, nice heft, German-style blades with Japanese styling and about a third of the price of what you'd pay for the Wustof ones.

Anyway, I'll keep using them for a bit and check in again after a while to let you know how it goes.

Happy chopping,
Miss Ginsu

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Battle of the Busy Waters

My friend's daughter calls sparkling mineral water "busy water" (a take on fizzy water, I believe).

It seems quite appropriate to me: bubbly water is liquid on the move. It's the busiest water you're going to find.

As much as I adore New York Tap, I also happen to be a big fan of the sparkling stuff. It replaces soda pop as a recreational beverage for me (no calories, no sugar, lotsa fizz!) and I like the way it settles my upset tummies.

Busy Water

Though busy water also causes me a bit of consternation. It comes in large, heavy glass bottles, and the stuff I've been drinking happens to be from the south of France. Quite a carbon load on that glass of fizz, if you see what I mean.

So J and I recently tested out a group of sparkling candidates from near and far in the hope of tracking down the best of the busy. There's a New York State candidate in here, one from Arkansas, a couple of locally bottled, the French stuff I've been drinking and the most famous Italian contender (just for good measure).

Meet the candidates:

Busy Water Battle

I wanted this tasting to run the gamut from the supremely thrifty and widely available (Canada Dry Seltzer Water) to the very elusive and expensive (Mountain Valley). From the local (Saratoga, NY) to the distant import (San Pellegrino Terme, Italy).

#6: I hadn't expected much from the Canada Dry Seltzer Water. After all, a sodium-free seltzer really couldn't be any match for a good mineral blend, but I threw it into the ring for its wide availability and populist appeal. Vigorously fizzy, but lacking in a pleasant personality, it rated last, thanks to a strange lingering aftertaste. I'll probably still drink it if I can find a slice of lime to throw in the glass.

#5: Initially excited to discover Saratoga, a local sparkling spring water bottled in gorgeous cobalt blue, I was taken aback by the large, vicious bubbles. Sharp and violent, this water actually irritated the tongue and throat with sharp high notes and a bitterness at the back of the mouth. A shame, too. It's local and it's lovely to look at... I just can't drink it.

#4: The Poland Spring Sparkling Water had a medium-low fizz and a flavor that was inoffensive, but nothing to write home about. It paled in comparison to the top three candidates.

#3: Perrier is the fizzy water I've been sipping for years, so I was surprised to put it in third place. It had large, vigorous bubbles and it flowed nicely across the tongue, but it had a flavor that struck me as a little citric, while J found it to be "almost acidic."

#2: Mountain Valley Sparkling Water is drawn up from Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas and artificially carbonated.

It has a very mellow fizz, tiny bubbles and a very soft, round mouthfeel. Sipping Mountain Valley, I was reminded of the way Mountain Dew differs from other, more highly carbonated sodas like 7UP.

It should also be noted that ounce for ounce, this was the most expensive water in the tasting. Even if it was the first-place winner, I wouldn't be able to justify the pricetag.

#1: Our overall winner turned out to be San Pellegrino.

With dainty bubbles, a very nice effervescence, a gentle, satisfying mouthfeel and flavor that tasted sprightly, but not too lively, this seemed to be the best-balanced of the bunch. The company claims that even the great Leonardo da Vinci was a fan.

Unfortunately, San Pellegrino is also the contender that comes from farthest away, so it doesn't help my carbon footprint issue in the least. Bummer.

Maybe I should just pick up one of those CO2 systems and start carbonating the New York tap water to suit my sparkling needs.

Yours in food and drink,
Miss Ginsu

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On Bread (and Butter) Alone

Butter is butter is butter, right? Sweet cream butters are all made with cream (from cows) that's been whipped into a frenzied state in which the fats glob together and the water falls away. So it should all pretty much taste like butter, yes? Well... yes and no, actually.

After reading a piece on Endless Simmer, in which Brendan goes crazy for Kerrygold, I really wanted to know whether I'd be able to detect appreciable differences between butter brands... particularly the "higher end" brands (read: imported).

So, before the wimpy dollar dropped any further against the powerful Euro, I biked to my local Key Food (Greenpoint, Brooklyn). I knew they carried lots of crazy European brands.

Bread and Butter

Are there differences? You betcha. I can say (or type, rather) this with conviction now, because I just tested nine different butters in rapid succession.

Taking one in the gut (ow!) and another one in the wallet (oh!) for scientific research, I'm publishing my results for you, dear reader.

The Method

Just so you know a little bit about the process here... I made every attempt to purchase the sweet cream/unsalted butter varieties for maximum flavor range. (I'd hoped to use Plugra, a "European-style" US brand as the tenth contestant, but the only type on hand was salted, unfortunately.)

I'm listing the lineup in the random order in which they were sampled. Super-thin slices of a "French" loaf were used as sample-carriers and sparkling mineral water was the palate-cleanser. (And just in case you were wondering, "Yes... I do feel ill now. Thanks for asking.")

The Lineup

9 Butters

1. Lurpak
Weight/Price: (8oz/277g) $3.99
Origin: Denmark
Color: Pale white-yellow
Sweet and creamy with long-lasting pleasant flavor that lingers in the mouth.
Score: B

2. Spomlek
Weight/Price: (7.05oz/200g) $2.99
Origin: Poland
Color: Pale yellow
Creamy. Buttery. Nothing distinguished.
Score: C

3. Delitia (Parmigiano-Reggiano Butter)
Weight/Price: (8oz) $4.99
Origin: Italy
Color: Pale white-yellow
This is a funkier butter flavor. Is it possible it's not as creamy?
Score: B-

4. Mantuanella Farmstead Butter
Weight/Price: (200g) $5.99
Origin: Italy
Color: Pale white-yellow
Again, this one has a funky-farmy flavor. For some reason, I like it slightly better than the Delitia. Maybe a little sweeter?
Score: B

5. Krowka Maslo Wiejskie from Lieberman Dairy
Weight/Price: (200g) $2.99
Origin: Pennsylvania, USA
Color: Pale white-yellow
With a flavor that's fresh, sweet and creamy, I have sudden visions of buttercups for no apparent reason. Not sure if I like this one more than others because it's whipped, so there's a little extra air in it? Maybe it's actually fresher because it's from PA? Whatever the case, I like it.
Score: A-

6. Celles Sur Belle
Weight/Price: (8.82oz/250g) $4.99
Origin: Poitou-Charentes, France
Color: Pale white-yellow
It's... buttery. But it tastes kind of flat. Nothing to write home about. Maybe it's old?
Score: C

7. Elle & Vire
Weight/Price: (200g) $3.99
Origin: France
Color: Pale white-yellow
Wow! Yum! This butter tastes sweet and fresh with crazy high notes that make it taste... lively. I was just wondering if I was experiencing butter fatigue, but WOW! I want to eat the whole packet. I'm a little shocked.
Score: A

8. Land O' Lakes
Weight/Price: (16oz, 453g) $4.29
Origin: USA
Color: Pale white-yellow
Ah, the butter of my youth. It's fine. It tastes pretty flat, actually.
Score: C

9. Kerrygold
Weight/Price: (8oz/227g) $2.50
Origin: Ireland
Color: Yellow
This tastes like it could be a good, creamy butter, but they put salt in it (is that just for the ones they stamp "Imported"?) so most of what I'm tasting is salt. I'm actually pretty disappointed.
Score: C+

The Summary

I know people go crazy for European butters, but some of those brands just don't seem like they're worth the money or the hype, particularly with the dollar in the doldrums these days.

Land O' Lakes is the best dollar value among these samples and it's probably fine for baking. The Pennsylvania brand, Krowka, made a surprisingly strong showing. And I don't know what kind of crack they're putting in the Elle & Vire brand (maybe I just got a very fresh batch?) but I like it. A lot.

I suspect that freshness has a lot to do with quality, so I'd bet that any butter tasted at the source is going to be simply delightful.

Yours in food exploration,

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