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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Las Vegas Style Food Recipes

We interrupt our regular blog posts with a word from our sponsor... LOL

Seriously tough, times are tough in Las Vegas so instead of resorting to standard marketing techniques they've been trying to convince food bloggers (including me) to do their work for them... Just look at the condition of the place! Why would I ever want to go there?


Anyhow, recently someone from Vegas.com (a company that specialises in promoting hotels, restaurants, locations, and other events in Las Vegas) contacted me and asked me to do a take on some of the dishes available in Las Vegas (A copy of the menu is included, https://sites.google.com/site/dtbnguyen/Vegas_EatDrink_v03.pdf)...

More precisely, dishes from the Aria, Caesars Palace, Bellagio, and The Pallazo. I'm going to take a stab at on a take of a few of these dishes in a way that is inexpensive, quick, and hopefully tasty.


The point of these is to also make them more accessible by substituting ingredients as well (A lot of these ingredients quite simply aren't easily available in other parts of the world and to be honest it's hard to be impressed by something you know little about.).

The following three desserts are designed to be eaten like sundaes.

- ice-cream (vanilla, coffee, or rum-raisan will work best for this)
- crushed peanuts or crushed roasted almonds
- chopped up chocolate bar (Snickers, Picnic, or anything which contains nougat/nuts in it's core. Tip - chop it up in a way that the temperature of the ice cream is unlikely to cause it to freeze hard. Texture/perception of the dish can be changed quite a lot by this)(optional)
- strawberries (or another berry) which have been sliced and left in the fridge in a ice/sugar syrup mix (half an hour is enough. We're just trying to get rid of the extreme tartness of many fresh berries)
- a drizzle of caramel/chocolate/coffee sauce
- cocoa/coffee powder (optional)
Scoop ice cream into bowl or cup. Drizzle other ingredients on top.

- ice-cream (vanilla, coffee, or rum-raisan will work best for this)
- raisins which have been drenched in rum overnight
- crushed peanuts or crushed roasted almonds
- drizzle of caramel/chocolate/coffee sauce
- cocoa/coffee powder (optional)
Scoop ice cream into bowl or cup. Drizzle other ingredients on top.


- ice-cream (vanilla will work best for this)
- some form of cake (can be made or purchased. My preference is towards something darker such as chocolate or coffee flavour. If cooking please cook it so that it is slightly overcooked as it will be mixed with the ice cream. This will stop it from going soggy too quickly and add a bit of texture to the dish).
- some form of alcohol/liquor (we're targetting aroma here. Use whatever you have here but I think rum, cognac, or something else suitably sweet would do well)
Scoop ice cream into bowl or cup. Break up the cake and drop it around in chunks around the ice cream. Drizzle alcohol/liquor around and over the top.

The following is a dessert which is meant to be eaten/drunk like an 'affogato'.
- ice-cream (vanilla will work best for this)
- crushed macaroon biscuits (can be made or purchased. My preference is towards chocolate or coffee flavours. Texture is to be slightly crusty with a chewy interior. Don't bother making the cream if you don't want to)
- a side drunk of coffee, cappucino, late, Milo (chocolate malt) (I'd probably go for a powdered cappucino/late drink which only requires boiling water to be added to get this done quick and tasty)
- cocoa/coffee powder (optional)
Scoop ice cream into bowl or cup. Drizzle other ingredients on top.

The following is obviously is my take on a deluxe steak sandwich.
- sandwich bread slices
- steak
- onions
- lettuce
- tomatoes
- bacon
- cheese
- egg
- tomato sauce
- balsamic vinegar (optional)
- mayonnaise (optional)
- mustard (optional) 
Toast or grill sandwich slices. Add cheese as first layer. Fry an egg and add this as the next layer. Fry some bacon and add this as the next layer. Fry off steak slices with some onion, garlic, salt, sugar, pepper, and maybe a tiny drop of balsamic vinegar (I would probably caramelise this slightly in a pan to remove some of the tartness before adding it to the sandwich or not add it at all) and add this as the next layer. Slice vegetables and add this as the next layer. Use tomato sauce (mayonnaise and/or mustard are optional depending on your taste) on the top layer as it will stop it from drenching the sandwich prior to your having completing preparing it. Season to taste.

The following is more savoury and is obviously meant to be a main meal.
- roasted chicken (can be made or purchased)
- pasta in a white sauce (the 'Bacon and Mushroom Carbonara with Pasta' recipe from, http://dtbnguyen.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/simple-pasta-recipes.html would work well here)
- asparagus
- cheese
- potatoes (use the recipes at, http://dtbnguyen.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/fried-fish-with-butter-fried-potatoes.html or http://dtbnguyen.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/butter-fried-potatoes-with-bacon-bits.html and remove relevant ingredients (bacon, cream, and cheese for me) to suit the dish)
Cook pasta. Fry asparagus with garlic, butter, oil or else blanch it. Put it in a microwave for a few seconds with a slice of cheese on top to give it a bit of extra flavour (optional). Serve with roasted chicken and fried potatoes. Season dish to taste. You may need to serve this dish with a salad as it can be very rich or fatty depending on your interpretation.




Monday, May 18, 2015

Learning to Cook

I recently noticed a significant spike in traffic to this blog and it's become pretty obvious why. The food recipes... If you're curious why they've been going up online I'm a firm believer in the following philosophy.
Only wimps use tape backup: real men just upload their important stuff on ftp, and let the rest of the world mirror it ;)

Seriously though, I have a tendency to lose things sometimes and thought that posting it here would be my best chance of never losing my them. Since it needed to be presented in public it would also mean that it would force me into writing more complete recipes rather than simply scrawling down whatever seemed pertinent at the time. (I never thought that I would be presented with opportunities through this. More on this later.)

In spite of all this, you're probably wondering why the recipes lack a bit of detail still and how I ended up with this particular style of cooking.

As you can guess from my name, I have an asian (Vietnamese to be more precise) background. Growing up I learnt that our cooking was often extremely tedious, required a lot of preparation, tasted great but often didn't fill me. Ultimately, this meant that my family wanted me to spend less time helping in the kitchen and more time tending to me studies. To a certain extent, this family policy has served us well. Many of the kids are well educated and have done well professionally.

The problem is that if you've ever worked worked a standard week over any period of time then you ultimately realise that a lot of the time you don't want to spend heaps of time cooking whether for yourself or for others (this style doesn't work long term). 

This is where I radically differ from my family. Many of them see cooking as a necessary chore (who wants to die, right? :-)) and they labour over it or else they love it with such a passion that they lose sight of the fact that there's only 24 hours in a day (there are/have been some professional chefs in the family). Ultimately, they end up wearing themselves out day after day but I've learnt to strip back recipes to their core flavours so that I can cook decent tasting food in reasonable amounts of time.

Like others, I went through multiple phases from a culinary perspective. As a child I loved to eat most things thrown at me (but my family didn't want me in the kitchen). In my teenage years, I used to enjoy and revel in fast and fatty foods but basically grew out of it as I discovered that it wasn't all that filling and could result in poor health. Just like the protaganist of 'Supersize Me' I found out that some of my bodily functions didn't work quite as well on this particular diet.


Eating out was much the same because they often added unhealthy elements to meals (high levels of MSG, sugar, salt, etc... to boost the taste). Not to mention the fact, that serving sizes could sometimes be low and prices relatively high. I basically had no choice but to learn to cook for myself. In the beginning, I began trying to reproduce restaurant meals badly. I didn't have the reportoire to be able to reproduce and balance flavours well enough to do a half decent job. Over time, I spent more time exploring cheap restaurants, diners, etc... around where I studied and/or worked. I also watched, read, and in general spent more time in the grocer just trying random sauces, spices, and so on... I developed a sense of flavour and how to achieve them from base ingredients.

This is why none of the recipes contain exact amounts of ingredients (at the moment). It's also because that was the way I learnt to cook (I was taught a bit by some of my aunts), some of the lesser talented members of the family had a tendency to fiddle constantly so listing amounts was basically useless, some people (family or not) aren't willing to share ingredients so you just have to figure it out when and if you have to, and finally I figured out that it was the easiest way for me to learn to cook. When you look at a recipe, you're often doing mental arithmetic in order to make it 'taste right'. By developing a better sense of taste I could mostly forgo this and not have to suffer the consequences of a mathematical screw up (it happened enough times in the family for me to learn to not become so reliant on it).

In general my perspective with regards to food are the following:
  • kids will eventually learn what fills them and fast food will make them feel like horrible. They will grow out of it and eat properly eventually if they are exposed to the right foods
  • rely on machinery when you can. Why waste you're time cutting food perfectly if you can get it done in a fraction of the time using the right equipment?
  • why bother with perfection if you can achieve 95% of the taste and 50% apparent effort
  • I'd much rather spend time enjoying food than cooking it
  • prior to marinating any piece of meat I create the core sauce/marinade seperately first and then add the meat. There's no chance of food posioning and I get to have an idea what it will taste like
  • balance of flavours is more important than exact amounts over and over again. You may have a different preference from time to time also. Obviously, the converse is also true. Exact amounts give you a basis from which to work from
  • don't think that more resources will make you a better chef. It's possible that the exact opposite is true at times. Think about the food of the wealthy versus that of the poor. The poor have to make the most of everything that is thrown at them, extracting every last single ounce of flavour from something small/cheap while the wealthy have the basically mix and match the very best each and every time. From a chef's perspective this means that they don't have the chance to understand flavours at a more elemental/core level
  • shop from specialist butchers, fishmongers, etc... they will often be able to get you unusual cuts/meats, have better knowledge, do extra things like cutting down large bones for soup stocks and they are also often quite a bit cheaper
  • don't freeze if you can avoid it (or at least avoid freezing some foods). Some people I know use it as a technique to save time. For some dishes this is true but for others it can alter the actual structure (and sometimes faste. Think about soups versus meats when they are dethawed correctly and incorrectly.) of the food involved leaving it a mess when you finally prepare and eat it
  • fresh means fresh. Leave fish (and some meats) in the fridge for even a day after leaving the better/stable environment at a supermarket or fishmonger and it will begin to smell and taste slightly rank. This effect increases exponentially over time
  • try everything whether that be sauces, spices, restaurants, cultures, etc... You will find cheap opportunties if you go to the right places and ultimately you will end up healther (you learn that better tasting food is often healther as well), happier (variety is the spice of life), and possibly wealthier because of it (you can save a lot by learning to cook well). The wider you're vocabulary, the better your cooking will become...
  • balance of flavours as key. Even if you stuff up a recipe you can rescue it if you know enough about this. Added too much sugar? Use sourness to balance it out, etc...
  • don't learn from a single source. If you learn purely through celebrity chefs and books you'll realise that a lot of what they do is quite gimmicky. A lot of the ingredients that they use aren't very accessible, expensive, in spite of what they say. Use your head to strip the recipes back to core flavours to save you time and money (in procuring them)
  • learning to cook well will take time. Have patience. It took me a long while before I could build a sufficient 'vocabulary' before I could build dishes that were worth staying at home for. It took me more time to learn how to reverse engineer dishes at restaurants. Use every resource at your disposal (the Internet has heaps of free information, remember?).
On a side note, based on the contents of my blog (and other places) people have semi-regularly requested to write here and for me to write for them. I'm more than happy to do this providing I have the time and the task is interesting enough... on any topic.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Keeping Songs Fresh

If you've been keeping an eye on this blog then you would have noticed that I've been dabbling in music production of late. This is part of something that I've been working on, on and off now while I've been learning more about the craft.

This is a playlist that I've created to upload such things.

Clearly, the track sample outlined above is fairly early in it's inception but it gives you an idea of some of the stuff that I am likely to produce in future.

As to the purpose of this particular post, it's basically about how to keep a song fresh by altering various aspects of it. For instance, think about the following:
  • alter tempo (don't restrict yourself to a single tempo throughout. Listen to grid music specialists (such as 'Jeremy Ellis', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdFlFxJFnfY) and finger drummers (such as 'Mad Zach', http://www.madzach.com/, https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=mad+zach) and you'll see that the sound is a lot more natural re is a lot to be gained by not adhering to stringently to tr
  • change key/scales (if you're aware of enough music theory you'll be aware that by altering 'modes/scales' you can change the entire feel of songs through that alone. Also remember that in the world of artificial sounds such as that produced by synthesisers scales can sometimes mean very little. Just go by ear in such cases...)
  • alter instruments for the same section (it's astonishing how much variety in software and ourboard gear you can get. Even if you just work with free stuff you'll have more than enough to build quality songs). While we're at it, give each and every instrument a chance. An example of this 'Doctor Rockit' in 'Cafe De Flore', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFDyalRZbfY
  • the human voice (even when re-modulated/synthesised) can completely alter the feel of a song. The timbre itself can sort of be reproduced by artificial means but not quite yet which means you lose out on a lot by rejecting it. Listen to 'Kayne West's' version of 'Harder, Better, Faster Stronger', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CgkWmKJLuE as opposed to the original version and you'll understand what I mean, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDpmVUEjagg
  • if you have difficulty in finding an vocalist try specific social networks for this such as, http://vocalizr.com/ and https://blend.io/
  • else just become really good with instruments such as 'Chicane' in 'Offshore', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltpCS5P0zCw
  • alter phase/time between tracks (slight changes in phase can have quite a different effect)
  • alter notes and their sequence (sounds obvious but doesn't seem to be sound obvious at times particularly when listening to heaps of club/dance music).
  • which leads us to the following point, learn to improvise and harmonise. I grew up on a lot of RnB and Hip Hop but ended up brancing out. Without this basis you'll find it very difficult to make something that doesn't sound overly repetitive. Examples of great harmony include, 'Boyz II Men' in 'End of The Road', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDKO6XYXioc, 'Four Seasons of Loneliness', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUSOZAgl95A, and 'I'll Make Love to You', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fV8vB1BB2qc
  • play around with the usual effects mid sound such as envelopes, modulation, LFO's, phasing, flanging, etc... A good example of this is with 'Flume', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpyDJWxCep8&list=PLfk_Bv3x7xZLaDTrnJwvsJwQD_qJ2PmZ-
  • use of polyrhythms. Can be a little bit confusing to work with but can also achieve good results, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyrhythm
  • use of effects such as panning, reverb, delay, EQ, etc... (be careful though. If you plan on deploying to clubs remember that their systems are often monophonic so some of your work may be for nothing. Also, a lot of people's standard stereo systems just don't have the range/ability to be able to do what you may want.)
  • use of automation in order to change relative volume of tracks/instruments in relation to one another
  • production and mixing techniques such as side-chain ducking, parallel processing, etc... Note, that sometimes you can go overboard and it can lose a lot of it's body though
  • split, explode, change sequence, ghost, reverse MIDI sections and/or audio samples
  • 'layering' sounds by having instruments play the same MIDI notes/sequences
  • think about push/pull aspects when dealing with 'fills'. Hear this in parts of Groove Aramda's, 'Lovebox', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izMBLSEt16o
  • add random file samples/sounds into the mixture every once in a while. A good example and common user of this technique is 'Daft Punk' in 'Around the World', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nApiS9UTvc
  • gradually build into sections. Keeps it sounding like a song rather than a bunch of clips that have been assembled together. Also, creates a sense of fluidity. An example of this is 'Bob Sinclair' in 'World, Hold On', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzlE7w9wRQk
  • this takes me to my next point, take your time when it comes to building a song. I've been dealing with this problem constantly. It's not just a bunch of clips put together. It's like a story. It's composed of words, phrases, pages, and ultimately a book. Tell the story completely. An example of this is 'Tom Novy's' song ' Take It', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8ddq2NsjjU
  • that said when pushing/pulling/building into different sections one technique you can use to add a bit of 'freshness' is just giving them a hint here and there before hitting them with the complete section
  • think about utilising the entire frequency range. I've heard heaps of songs just cramp their frequency range into too small a range and it ends up losing some expressiveness
  • think about extending notes in breakdowns. A good example of this is 'When the Light's Go Out' by 'Five, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpdcKmaHk_s
  • good songs start with a solid base. Even if they aren't electronic they start with a solid base/beat and build there way up into something great. Listen to 'Kaskade's' song 'This Rhythm' for an example of this, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGRiFhIeWHM as well 'Mousse T' in 'Horny', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGkHc11kSKs
  • use silence to your advantage. If you're just starting out you think you need to just fill every single moment in time with sound. Silence in the right places can change the entire feel of that particular section
  • don't think that pure digital or analogue is best. Fusing the two can produce wonderful results even if they are emulated via software. An example of this is using 'saturation', 'distortion', whitenoise effects to cut through the artificial/pure nature of the sounds that would otherwise be on show
  • use different sounds as well as effects during section transition. A good example of this by 'Doctor Rockit' in 'Cafe De Flore', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFDyalRZbfY
  • listen to heaps of different artists and read a lot. A lot of what I've learnt has actually been from 'Computer Music Magazine' (a lot of content is actually duplicated by other music magazine publishers and articles are often superficially updated by the magazine and re-published. You can save a bit of money by being watchful for these things, http://www.musicradar.com/computermusic). Don't limit yourself to keep yourself interested as well as your listeners interested

Friday, May 8, 2015

Installing Logic 9 Under Mac OS X Under VMWare Under Windows

If you're like many others on the planet you probably can't be bothered purchasing a new piece of software in order to test an application. In this case, I've been trying to get Logic 9 (music DAW software running under VMWare under Windows).

One of the first steps is getting is getting Mac OS X installed under VMWare.

I had some issues with regards to stalling on boot until I tried the following fix inside of the relevant vmx file.

smc.present = "TRUE" -->> smc.present = "FALSE"

Then it's a case of installing the application itself. Sounds simple, but there are a few things we need to do in order to get this to work. First, is circumventing requirements checking so that it will install in spite of not being able to fulfil certain hardware requirements.

1) Mount "Logic Studio.dmg"
2) Copy "Install Logic Studio" package from mounted drive to another folder
3) Right click -> Show original
4) Right click on "Logic Studio.mpkg" -> Show Package Contents
5) Delete "\Contents\Resources\Requirements Checker.app"
6) Install Logic =)

You'll also need to be able to circumvent the version checking to allow the application to run. The steps are as follows.

1. Open Terminal.
2. Type sudo nano -w /System/Library/CoreServices/SystemVersion.plist
Does the file path look familiar from my last tutorial?
3. Press Enter. You will be prompted for your password. Type it in. You won't see it on your screen. Press Enter again.
4. Use the arrow keys to navigate to the end of the 10.6.2 under ProductUserVisibleVersion and erase the version number. Enter in a version number of your choice.
5. Repeat for the version number displayed under ProductVersion.
6. Press Control key iconX (Control-X) to exit. It will ask you if you wish to "save modified buffer." Press y. It will then ask for a file name to write. Press Enter to accept the default.
7. Exit Terminal.

If you're curious I looked at trying to get Logic X running under Mac OS X but there are substantial intermiate requirements that need to be fulfilled. Moreover, I only have an old version of Mac OS X available so I only tried with Logic 9.

Capitalist Liberalist Democracy Thoughts 3, Random Stuff, and More

On liberal capitalist democracy:  - before we go through this we need to preface this was the reasoning for this. Capitalism is literally...