Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dinner Almost Impossible: Mini Coconutmeg Burger


Craig, Peter, and Helen were invited to my place to be the guinea pigs for my new dish: "Mini Coconutmeg Burger" which will be entered in Royal Foodie Joust contest. The contest is hosted by The Leftover Queen. There are three mandatory ingredients: coconut milk, nutmeg, and fish. I believe it is too late to sign up to vote now, but you can sign up anyway to vote for next month's contest.

This dish took a month to put together. I am sure it would have taken a fraction of the time, if I knew how to bake. For a month, poor Dennis had to eat through some of the best and worst food I had ever prepared. After a month of spitting and scotch mouth wash, I struggled through several new styles of food and cooking. I have fallen in love with baking and working with dough. The contest has challenged me and enriched my life. I will definitely do this again.

As a general rule of thumb, my dishes must be egg and dairy free. I also prefer low calorie cooking, because it is more practical and challenging. I also prefer to make my dishes from scratch.

The burger consist of four separate recipes:
The burger is about 3 inches in diameter. The bun and the fish contain coconut milk and nutmeg. I placed it on a slider plate between bourbon nutmeg seared scallops and a spiced up version of cream cheese salmon lox pairing.

With some adjustment to the ingredients, Coconut Nutmeg Bun can also be eaten on its own as dinner buns. Baharat spice is almost an all-purpose spice and can be used for just about any meat dish. You can use the store bought baharat, but grinding your own spice can be very rewarding. Baharat Panko Crusted Albacore Tuna is eligible contest entry all by itself because it contained all the necessary ingredients. It is delicious and pretty, but what's the challenge in that? I find that pea sprout gives a nice peppery sweet taste to the burger and is much more suitable for the burger than lettuce.

The burger should be paired with your favourite beer. Craig brought over a bottle of 1993 Zilliken Riesling Auslese. It was an AMAZING pairing for the entire plate, match made in heaven. 13 year old wine and so-fresh-it's-raw seafood: Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

Big thanks to Peter who took all these amazing pictures. The below are other dishes I prepared last night:

Saint-Honore Triple Cream Cheese, Salmon Locks, and Capers on Golden Cracker

Bourbon Nutmeg Seared Qualicum Scallops

Baharat Panko Crusted Albacore Tuna


This is a variation on my old Panko & Lime Crusted Albacore Tuna. The baharat makes the fish more aromatic and "more mouthful" than just lime. On top of the fish is roasted red pepper wasabi mustard sauce specifically made for this dish and pea sprout, which as a peppery yet sweet flavour. I also made mini burger out of this exact recipe. You can skip the flour in this recipe, but it would be noticeably less mouthful. Don't skip the lemon part; it's important. Add more or less spices as desired.

The tuna can be bought from Seven Seas Fish Market, but these fish don't necessarily comes in the nice triangle shape, so you might have to pre-order and have them reserve the nice pieces. A lady who works at the W. 4th location set some aside for me on Friday knowing I would buy them later. The friday dinner wouldn't have happened without her help.

Ingredients:
  • 1 strip of albacore tuna - sashimi grade
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 wedge of lemon (1/8 of a lemon) juiced
  • 3 cup panko
  • 4 Tbsp Baharat
  • Fleur del Sel
  • Black Pepper
Instruction: Handle the fish very gently as it can easily break apart in your hand.
1. Gently, cut the tuna in half, length wise. (So it can fit in the pan). Don't push the knife into the fish. The trick is to gently secure the fish with your free hand (so it doesn't move with the knife) and slide your knife back and forth slowly.
2. Whisk coconut milk and lemon juice together in a bowl
3. Mix panko, baharat, fleur del sel and pepper in a separate bowl
4. Put flour in a third bowl
5. Season the tuna with fleur del sel and pepper
6. Dredge in the flour
7. Dip into the coconut mixture
8. Finely coast the fish with panko
9. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
10. Sear each side of the tuna until the panko turns golden brown on all sides. Rare tuna sea only needs a minute on each side.
11. Place tuna onto a paper towel and pat away excess oil. Let it set for a few minutes.

Craig brought over a bottle of 1993 Zilliken Riesling Auslese. It was an AMAZING pairing, match made in heaven. 13 year old wine and so-fresh-it's-raw fish: Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

Baharat Panko Crusted Albacore Tuna on Foodista

Roasted Red Pepper Wasabi Mustard Sauce

This is a sauce made specifically for the coconut nutmeg fish burger, but it also tastes great just with the baharat panko albacore tuna. A month of blood, sweat, and tear went into making a sauce for the fish dish. This sauce has a dozen predecessors, such as coconut wasabi mayo, coconut avocado, and coconut tabasco with citrus, and several were spatted out and mouths washed with scotch. This particular recipe were only discovered on the 28th day right before I was about to throw in the towel. Huge thanks to Dennis, Peter, Craig and Helen who bravely tasted through the really bad ones and gave me really good feedbacks.

I cheated a bit here. Instead of making wasabi mustard from scratch, I just bought a jar of it from Market Meat on 4th. It is made by Stonewall Kitchen. If you insist on making it from scratch, I also posted the recipe for it at the very end.

Ingredients:
4 Red bell peppers
4 Cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp dried basil
Salt & Pepper
Wasabi Mustard

Instruction:
1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
2. Cut bell peppers in half, remove all the seeds, and the thin membranes inside.
3. Flatten the pepper and rub olive oil on the skin side.
4. Place skin side up in the oven for 10-20 minutes, until the skin wrinkles.
5. Remove the pepper from oven and stack them. Let it cool for 10 minutes.
6. Remove the skin with your finger or a pepper towel.
7. Blend the red pepper, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper in a blender.
8. Mix in basil.
9. Mix in wasabi mustard. How much? One part the bell pepper mixture, one part wasabi mustard.
Add more salt or pepper for taste.

To make wasabi mustard from scratch:
Ingredient:

6 Tbsp Mustard (whole grain in a jar, not seeds)
1 Tbsp Water
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp Wasabi powder
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
Salt & pepper

Instruction:
1. Put everything except for olive oil in a blender and blend at a low speed
2. With the blender still going, incorporate in the olive oil slowly.
Done, but I think the pre-made stuff is better.

Baharat Seasoning

Baharat means spices and originated from Arabic cuisine. You can buy the pre-mixed packaged version of this at Granville Island, but I decided to blend my own using fresh seeds and spices. I never actually had the packaged stuff, so I can't really tell you the differences, but blending my own allows me to control exactly how I want my spice to turn out. You can change the proportions and use different spices such as cayenne, turmeric. The following recipe is intended for the coconut nutmeg burger I am submitting for contest.

Ingredients:
5 Tbsp sweet paprika (hungarian paprika would work too)
3 Tbsp cumin seed
4 Tbsp black pepper
2 Tbsp cinnamon powder (grinding your own cinnamon is a pain)
1 Tbsp grated nutmeg (about half a nutmeg)
1 Tbsp star anise
1 Tbsp cardamom seed

Instruction:
1. Finely grind the cumin seed, black pepper, star anise, and cardamom.
2. Simply mix all the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake to combine.

This will keep well for a year or two.

Baharat Seasoning on Foodista

Friday, January 29, 2010

Coconut Nutmeg Bun

With small adjustments, coconut nutmeg bun can be eaten on its own as dinner buns. The following recipe is specifically for burger buns; it's fluffier and lighter in flavour. I use low fat coconut milk. Instead of shaking the coconut milk can to blend the cream and juice, I skim the cream off and only use the juice. I use the cream for the glaze.

Ingredients:
3 cup all purpose flour
1 cup water @ around 100˚F
¾ cup coconut milk
½ cup coconut cream*
2 Tbsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp dry active yeast
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp poppy seed

Instruction:
1. Mix the warm water with 1 tsp of sugar and the yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes.
2. Mix 2 cups of the flour with nutmeg in a large bowl
3. Mix the yeast mixture, ½ cup of coconut milk, and the flour together.
4. Add the remaining of the flour slowly.
5. Kneed it for 10 minute or until the dough is ready. Set it aside, covered, for an hour, or until it doubles in size.
6. Punch it down, roll it up, and very gently roll it to make it long
7. With knife, cut it into 16 little pieces. Roll each one into a little ball.
8. Place it on a floured baking pan, cover, set aside for another 20 minutes.
9. Set the oven to 400˚F.
10. Mix the coconut cream, ¼ cup of coconut milk, rest of the sugar, and poppyseed. Brush it onto the buns.
11. Bake it for less than 10 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
12. Set it for 5 minute.

If you want to make it into a dinner roll, add half cup more coconut milk and more flour. Kneed it longer after the first rising.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lemon Pepper Chicken

This recipe is super easy. Put it on a salad and you got yourself a nice lunch or light dinner. Serve it with some BBQ or Tai sauce and it's a nice snack while watching TV. Think of it as homemade chicken strip that is way healthier for you than the frozen ones.

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken breast or 1 pound of chicken tender
  • ¼ lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
Instruction:

1. Preheat oven to 350° F
2. In a bowl, mix lemon juice, oil, lemon pepper, and salt
3. Dredge the chicken in the mixture and place pieces onto a cookie sheet. Poure remaining liquid evenly over the chicken
4. Bake for 30-40 minute or until the chicken is cooked.

Done! Dennis loves it. He sprinkles Granda Padano on it.

Super easy. If you put aluminum foil on the baking pan, you won't even need to wash it.

For wine pairing, this dish needs a delicate and bone dry white wine with citrus aroma and flavour. I recommend Alsace Riesling or Chablis.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

One More Sushi

Dennis and I have been regularly going to One More Sushi for almost 7 years. We know each staff's name and probably put their kids through college just by eating there. One More Sushi is a Japanese restaurant that focuses on mostly on their sushi and nigiri. The restaurant's main customer base is faculties on a short lunch break and students having a nice sit down meal with their parents from out of town. Although there are three other Japanese eateries around where we live, One More Sushi has our loyalty for various reasons. Don, the co-owner, inspired my interests in food and wine. He also has an AMAZING wine cellar on display.

Food: 3/5
Don used to invite us to sit with him after the restaurant closes and share new dishes that he created and wanted to put on the menu. Most sushi joints serves very generic dishes, and veteran sushi eaters in Vancouver can order exactly what they want without looking at the menu at a new restaurant: california roll, udon, box A. One More Sushi has all that and plus handful of creative yet simple dishes. For example, Rock'n Roll is a roll with salmon tempora and some secret spices and seasoning. Ask for Dennis Roll, a salmon and toro roll, put together just for him, and it was so popular they added to the menu. You can also ask to put a roll together for you. Oh! and they serve brown rice. Overall, the quality of their food, especially their raw fish, above average and is right for the price. However, recently there seems to be some cut back on quality. The rolls seem smaller somehow.

Service: 4/5
Their food and services are both good, efficient, and consistent. Their lunch rush is rather crazy but amazingly streamlined. The staffs all speak English and serve you exactly how North Americans expected to be served at a restaurant. The tables and cutlery are always clean and if you are not satisfied with the food, they would actually replace it, unlike other restaurants of this type. Tea and water are regularly checked on and refilled. Consistent but not over the top. They always offer you free ice cream after your meal. If you are a regular, they remember you.

Ambience: 3.5/5
This is a good place to go for first date. It is paper napkin, unassuming and not expensive, and you know the food or the service will be consistent. It's also a good place to introduce someone to sushi for the first time. Did I mention free ice cream? Just have to hope your date doesn't mind repetitive Japanese pop music.

Overall experience: 4/5
Don has a giant wine cellar on display right at the entrance of the restaurant. This is the man who taught me how to drink. It is a personal collection, not for sale, but the collection must has a 6 digit value. More than 6 bottles of petruvs, Margaux, Pauliac, and Chateau Latour, and other Bordeaux superstars. He has half a dozen of the award winning Insignia 2003. He has quite a saki collection too. Definitely worth checking out. Although you can't drink from his collection, they also offer a few good wines on their menu.

Total: 14.5/20
Dennis and I go there a lot.

Don used to play World of Warcraft with us, and we would order sushi for delivery in game. When we meet new friends in the game in RL, we meet would go to his restaurant and he would join us for food and wine. He even joked about putting "Alliance Only" sign by the entrance. He is definitely an inspiring guy and a good host.

One More Sushi on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 25, 2010

Japan: Kyoto Part 2

Let's go back to Kyoto Japan. I would like to talk about this restaurant called Matsusakagyu or What's the Beef and it's second store What's the Kitchen. Like all other restaurants, we just happened to walk by it. The restaurant exterior was classic and unassuming. The waitress led us through down a narrow wood hall way passing the small, no, tiny kitchen and a (small) gorgeous court yard. We arrived at a private room with comfortable sofa seats, lanterns, and jazz music. We started with sparkling rice wine. It was mouthful, creamy, high in acid, but yet slightly sweet, delicious! We ordered another bottle. After that, we ordered every rice wine on the list. The waitress left us along to have a romantic evening and only comes when you buzz them. The night was magical and Dennis and I never felt more comfortable in a restaurant.

The restaurant is famous for its quality beef. Their beef is sourced from Matsusaka, a prefecture between Kobe and Kyoto. Like Kobe beef, Matsusaka cows probably lived a better life than a lot of people, and their meat surpasses the AAA premium we have in Canada. They are rated between A5 to A12. Each parts of the beef is priced differently. Striploin was the cheapest while the tenderloin was the most expensive @ $25 CND per order of 4 small pieces for the grill. Each order was marked with a small piece of wax paper with its name handwritten in calligraphy. The beef sashimi melted in our mouths and left us wanting more. We could taste the differences in quality between different pieces, but the most expensive did not necessarily taste the best. We found some expensive pieces rather fatty. Anyway, the beef did make us question: what is beef? Because the crap we called beef in Canada could not possibly from the same species. The differences are almost criminal. Food is supposed to be nutritious, hygienic, and delicious, and Canada is definitely doing it wrong.

On top of that, it was this restaurant that made me realize that soy sauce, like wine, could be appreciated and had a long history as an artisan craft. We started with two different soy sauces. The one was smooth and slightly citrus (not ponzu sauce) with a hint of lavender; this was to go with the sashimi. The other one was concentrated, smoky, peppery, and slightly grainy for the grill. The most expensive orders of beef came with a separate soy sauce dish, which was very light bodied with fig and chrysanthemum flavour. The wasabi was served fresh, in it's unprocessed form (top right side above the soy sauce). Not sure if there was something special about the salt, but it was really really delicious and slightly smoky.

We also ordered beef ramen, sauté ground beef on rice, homemade sakura icecream, and a third of the menu. At the end of the night, the bill was $64 CND, no tax, no tip, making this the best restaurant I had ever been to in the world. Oh I miss Japan.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pintia Cosecha 2003, Toro Spain

What was the first thing I did when I started feeling better? Drink. Nothing like a sunny Spanish red to make me feel better. Spain, the 4th largest producer of wine in the world, has grape vines planted everywhere. Toro is not as famous as places like Rioja, but it still produces some very stunning wines. Pintia is the most famous wine from this region. It is made from Tinto de Toro, a local grape variety of Temprianillo. The grape's alcohol potential is 16% over the legal limit of 15%. It is very full bodied and usually with a hint of sweetness. Cosecha means that this is a vintage wine, using only grapes from 2003.

This wine has both sweet and smoky flavours, which mirror the smoky bacon and sweet onion. It also has a smooth texture so it doesn’t take over the dish, it is simply in balance. Calzone anyone?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bear's Gall "Whiskey"

I promised to keep the identity of the owner of this not-s0-legal beverage a secret. He received this as a gift from another friend and couldn't bring himself to drink it. This "whiskey" is fermented in bear gall. I am sure its consumers drink it for perceived health benefit and/or to boost their libido. I don't personally know anyone who would actually drink this. It even has a cute label with mother bear and baby cub! Anyway, here it is, bear gall whiskey. It exists.

Theorectical Fish Burger not so good

Today, I felt a little better. I made every part of the fish burger slider thing together. It turned out terribly. The bun is too heavy while the fish is too delicate. The mayo didn't really add or take away from the whole thing. Back to the drawing board. First, I need a lighter and fluffier bun. I will probably need to use a low fat coconut milk and don't knead it too much after the first rising. Second, I need stronger flavour fish, maybe with a kick. I am thinking of increasing the amount of seasoning and adding cajun. Third, I need a spread that has more texture and for that I think I will try avocado...something...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Flu and Contests

I am still sick after a week. The flu made me completely non-functioning. I haven't cooked lately because I don't want to pass my germs onto Dennis. I can't even think about alcohol without nausea Bun making is going well. I have attempted making egg-free coconut mayo with wasabi, but it was a little too oily, so I bought some coconut flour last night hoping to use it to thicken the sauce. I also made both baharat ahi tuna and baharat panko albacore tuna. Both of them are amazingly delicious but the latter one was mind melting. Baharat is...I believe a Middle Eastern spice mix...I mixed my own to ensure the proper portion of nutmeg is present. There you have it:

My contest entry will be: mini-fish burger (slider size)
  • Coconut nutmeg bun with poppy seed on top
  • Coconut wasabi mayo
  • Baharat panko albacore tuna
  • Maybe sauté onions or mushroom with sherry or port
I haven't put it all together yet, but the parts all tasted really good. I will make an actual post with photos and recipes once I get over this flu. Now I need a name for this dish... what should I call it....


Friday, January 15, 2010

The Bumble Buns

I came down with a flu, and my brain is a little fried. I am entering into a cooking competition. I have until February 1st to come up with a dish consists of coconut milk, nutmeg, and fish. This sounds pretty easy. Indian curry, Tai food, and French sauce are a few ideas that came to mind when the ingredients were revealed. I think that's too unoriginal. I like to make things hard on myself, and I want to win the best interpretation category. I am not going to reveal my idea yet, but it will be a 4 part dish requiring 4 different recipes that I have created.
First Part, Coconut Nutmeg Bun Thing. I have never baked before (it's so fun!). I spent the last 4 days learning how to bake using various online resources. I couldn't use egg, milk, and butters due to Dennis' allergies. Day 1 was a complete failure. It took 5 different tries until I figured out how to proof yeast, and then the gluten free flour failed horribly. Day 2, I went and bought real flour and churn on my first every dinner roll: plain with poppy seed on top. (First photo). It was lacking in flavour, but at least it was edible. Day 3, I got a little bit more brave and added coconut milk. It smelled really good but was a little soggy, a little burnt, and still lacking in flavour (Second photo). Day 4 (Today), I adjusted the portions and added both nutmeg and coconut milk. It turned out beautifully (Third and forth photo). The bun was flavourful and aromatic. The bun is doughy and has a light crispy crust with poppyseed. This is definitely what I am trying to get at. I just need to continue to refine it for more flavour, texture, and appearance. I might also try different shape and sizes until it can be paired with the other 3 recipes for this dish.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Montecillo Reserva 2003, Spain

I am entering into another cooking competition, so I wont' have time to blog for awhile. Let me know if anyone want to come over and be my test subject.

I don't know much about Spanish wine yet, but Spain's quality control on wine is very strict and you can get really good stuff for really cheap. Reserva means that this wine has been aged for a minimum of 36 month and 12 months of that is in an oak cask. Rioja is a native grape that ages well. This wine is super fruity and has that ripe jam flavor.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, Napa Valley

I was going through the wines I have blogged and I noticed I haven't blogged much about Cabernet Sauvignon, one of my favorite grape variety. Napa Valley has become very famous in the recent years, and I am starting to notice the reputation is starting to reflect in the price. Finding a good Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at a good price is becoming harder and harder. This one is excellent for its price and can become even better with more aging. On the nose, it was textbook: currant, chocolate, dark plum, cedar (which means nice French Oak Barrel). Same on the palate, firm chewy tannin and high but balanced acid. The wine is distinctive and has big personality. I am curious in trying the 2002 version of this wine, which I bet would be even better.

For pairing, red lean meat, especially beef and most especially beef tenderloin. Because this wine has concentrated fruit note, I would pair it with a bittersweet dark chocolate, not too sweet but not too bitter as to overpower the wine. The cedar ash note in the wine would pair well with grilled or smoked food such as smoke salmon, squash. I am imaging Helen's smoked duck with grilled squash or eggplant with melted parmesan. Oh! Almost forgot, cheddar is another classic pairing for the wine. For a quality and intense wine like this one, go for a 5 year old raw milk cheddar. Appleby's Cheshire, Montgomery, Fiscalini are all excellent.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pinot Noir Part 1

Pinot Noir is nicknamed "the heart break grape", because it is a very difficult variety for grape growers. However, this black grape variety makes wines that are very easy variety to drink, unlike other black grapes. Pinot Noir is soft, light tannin, and do not need long term aging. They are enjoyable to drink even at a few weeks after fermentation.

This grape can only grow well in a moderate climate. If the wether was a little bit too cool or to hot, it's pretty much game over for the grape growers. Red Burgundy is made 100% from Pinot Noir and the best of the best red Burgundy wines can be aged. Otherwise, Pinot Noir are meant to be consumed while they are youthful and fruity. The best Pinot Noirs are oaked, but the oaky flavour can easily overpower this delicate wine. Also, Pinot Noir are often made into champagne and other sparkling wine, but that's entirely different topic all together.

Pinot Noir wines can be identified by it's pale purple or ruby color, red fruit notes (e.g. red cherry, raspberry , strawberry), and light tannin. There are very few other red wines with similar characteristics.

I am going to have to split Pinot Noir into a few posts (if not several), but here is the rough premium list anyway:

Bourgognes AC is the general appellation for red Burgundy, but each different village within Burgundy shows slightly different aspects of this grape. Generally, they are medium bodied, balanced red fruit and savoury aromas, light tannin and medium to high acidity. Names to look out for are Le Chambertin, Gevrey-Chambertin, Pommard, and Beaune, but don't expect them to be cheap.
New Zealand offers better value for quality Pinot Noir. Their wines are generally more full bodied, with lower acidity and more intense fruit, with a little spice. Marinborough and Central Otago makes some phenomenal Pinot Noir.
Germany also offers cheap quality Pinot Noir, if you can properly decipher the label. Look for Spätburgunder. These wines are intensely fruity with very soft tannin.
Casablanca Valley in Chile offers the best value for medium quality Pinot Noir. This is where I would start if I was just starting to learn about Pinot Noir.
Carneros and Russian River Valley in California produces great Pinot Noir, but don't bother with ones from outside these two regions. Oregon to the north is showing a lot of promise as well.
Yarra Valley in Australia is good too, but don't buy Pinot Noir outside this region.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Boeuf a La Bourguignon


My beef stew differs from the traditional one in that it's much lower in calories and hypoallergenic. I replaced the bacon with grapeseed oil, and flour and butter are omitted. I used less meat (very lean stewing meat), more vegetables, and corn pasta. It took a lot of tries to get it just right. The prep and cooking time took 4 hours. In the end, having an egg free, dairy free, gluten free, and low calories yet delicious comfort food was all worth it.

I ask people what dish comes to mind when they think of me. This is the first dish that comes to their mind. Bumble is my nickname. I believe this dish represents me very well too. My fiancé has recently developed a severe allergy to eggs and has sensitivities to dairy, gluten, and various nuts and seeds. The biggest challenges has been finding hypoallergenic ingredients to cook the same dishes he has loved before without sacrificing the tastes. On top of that, I also need to lose some major weight for my wedding next year.

Taking away the traditional ingredients can make the the stew feel a little "thin" and lose that nice bacon aroma. I uses tomato paste as a thickening agent and added small cubs of potato to replace flour. For flavor, I added extra fresh herbs and use a Chilean Syrah or Spanish Grenacha (both of pretty cheap), instead of the traditional French Grenache. This is perfect stew to serve over pasta. I added mushroom sautéed in grapeseed oil which helped thicken the stew and added delightful surprises for the taste buds. When I need to impress my guests, I would add double smoke bacon. The instruction involving the bacon is added in red.

Ingredients (Serves 2):
  • 4 oz. Double Smoked Bacon
  • 1 lb. Lean Strew Beef (You can buy this at Meat Market on W.4th and Vine)
  • 1 Onion (chopped)
  • 1 Carrots (cubed)
  • 1 Potato (peeled and cubed)
  • 1 cup Red Wine (Syrah or Grenache)
  • 1 cup Beef Stock
  • 1 tbsp. Tomato Paste
  • 1 bulb of garlic (minced)
  • 3 springs Fresh Thyme
  • 3 Bay Leaf
  • 8 Small White Pearl Onion
  • 150g Mushroom
  • 1 tbsp Sherry Vinegar
  • Salt, Pepper, Vegetable Oil
Instruction:
1. Preheat oven to 375˚F
2. Dry the beef with paper towl and season wth salt and pepper
3. Heat oil over medium heat. Saute the bacon for 2 minutes until lightly browned. move the bacon onto a side dish. Reuse the bacon fat to sear and brown the beef. If you are skipping the bacon, directly sear and brown the beef in the vegetable oil.
4. Remove the beef and set aside (with the bacon)
5. In the same pan, saute the onion, carrots, garlic, and pearl onions.
6. Once browned, drain the bacon fat, and add the beef and bacon.
7. Stir in the wine and stock until meat is just covered.
8. Add tomato paste and herbs.
9. Bring to a simmer then cover and place into the oven for 2-3 hours.
10. In a separate pan, heat oil to medium-high heat.
11. Saute mushroom for 30 seconds, then add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute
12. Turn off the heat and drizzle on sherry vinegar.
13. When the stew is ready, remove from the oven and add in the mushroom.
14. Remove fat off the surface of the stew and then simmer for another minute skimming off any additional fat that rise. Remove the bay leaves and thyme twigs.
Season to taste and garnish dish with chopped parsley.

You can serve this dish with boiled potatoes, rice, or buttered noodles. I use corn pasta or brown rice to cut calories. I also like to make a huge pot of this stew and enjoy it over the next two days. The stew is perfect with a bottle of Burgundy or Pinot Noir.

Healthy Boeuf A La Bourguignon on Foodista

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Custodian Grenache 2005, McLaren Vale

I have a wine tasting to go to tonight, but I haven't even blog about the 80 somewhat bottles of wine from the November and December wine tastings.

McLaren Vale is great for producing grapes that needed a lot of heat and sun. This Grenache is a little on the rough side with big flavours and characters, but not a lot of elegance, which is pretty stereotypical of Australian wines. It has a lot of tannin and acid for a grenache, making it hard to drink on its own, but I bet it would be lovely with a leg of lamb.

This is a great wine to start someone on wine tasting.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Japan: Kyoto Part 1

Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made of glutinous rice pounded into paste and molded into shape and I was buying and eating them constantly. When I walked pass a mochi shop, I would stop dead in my track and commence drooling. Writing about it now makes me drool. I had encountered countless flavors, style, types of mochi. The mochi in the picture are icecream mochi: blueberry cream flavor on the left and mocha flavour on the right. You can get mochi just about anywhere: in convenient stores, street vendors, or department stores.

Kyoto was pretty much a tourist city, and there were plenty of Starbucks and mochi stores. We spent majority of our trip in Kyoto, spending time with friends, making new friends, and, thanks to them, discovering amazing restaurants away from the tourist traps. First night, our friend, Philip, took us to a small dinning joint near Karassumaoike, where I feel I had truly begun experiencing Japan. The dinner started with Japanese wine (Sake is a miss translation. Servers might end up bringing you salmon. if you ask for Sake. Nihonshu (日本酒) is the actual term). Through my friend, the server explained the differences between Tobingakoi (斗瓶囲い) and regular nihonshu and poured us generous portions from each of the two huge 18-liter bottles. I will do a full post on Nihonshu later, but generally, Nihonshu is ranked through three categories: alcohol level, sweetness, and the degree to which the rice is polished. However, these categorization doesn't begin to describe the purity and complexity of the wine. These two ordinary nihonshu are better than anything I had in Canada, and they are cheap! The white one is high in acid, low bodied, with lemon and grapefruit note, while the red one is bone dry, pungent, and full bodied, with smoky toasted rice notes.

To pair with the wine, we orders various delicious fish dishes, raw and cooked, and chicken sashimi. The chicken tasted like fresh tuna belly sashimi (toro), without any stench or aftertaste Americans usually associate with raw chicken. It was delicious, and we ordered a second plate. It doesn't the nasty raw smell and corn flavor of American chicken. The differences are almost criminal. No, I had never eaten chicken before. In fact, it ruined my ability to enjoy chicken in Canada again.

At this point, none of us were sober to enough to remember the rest. I even stopped taking photos. However, I vaguely remembered the bill was very cheap considering how much we drank and ate. Afterwards, we walked down to the river to enjoy the cool night breeze and the beautiful night scenery... things money can't buy.

We spent quite a bit of time trying out different food places on Sanjo Dori. They were all unique and amazing. To find the street, train down to Karasuma Oike, walk south for three blocks until you reach a giant Starbucks. Sanjo Dori would be the cross street.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Chateau de Beaucrastel Chateaunuf du Pape 2001

Chateauneuf du Pape reminds me of children's kaleidoscopes. Each sniff and sip have something different to offer. The wine is a blend of up to 14 different red grapes, primarily Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, and the success of the blend relies on finding out the right portion of each grape varieties to put in the wine. This is why some Chateauneuf du Pape is $15 while others are $130. It's quite easy to spot a Chateauneuf du Pape in a blend tasting due to its unique taste, which classically consist of earthy, cooked fruit, spice, and herb. The wine is almost savory.

This wine is amazing with my herb studded leg of lamb or orzo. I think it would go great with beef stew as well or mushroom with sherry vinegar.

Mussels Congolaise

This is a dish I have learned from Dirty Apron's seafood class. Before this class, I had a series of bad experiences working with clam and mussels, and I tend to shy away from cooking these. This class has helped me overcome my fear and given me a lot of good tip preparing seafood at home. At home, I replace mussels with clams and zest some ginger into the sauce. I have a coffee grinder which I use to grind my spices. This recipe below came directly from the class. BTW, I am going to their vegetarian cooking class this Saturday. Feel free to join me, I don't think they have filled up yet.

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb Mussels or clams
  • ¼ Red Onion (julienne)
  • 4 Cloves of Garlic (minced)
  • 250ml Coconut Milk
  • 2 Roma Tomatoes (diced)
  • 1 tbsp Chipotle Puree
  • ½ Lemon (juice)
  • ½ Lime (juice)
  • ½ tbsp Fennel Seed (ground)
  • ½ tbsp Coriander Seed (ground)
  • ½ tbsp Black Pepper Corns (ground)
  • ½ tbsp Toasted Cumin Seed
  • 2 tbsp Fresh Cilantro Leaves
  • Vegetable oil & Salt
Instruction:

1. Clean the mussels and remove the "beard".
2. Heat a saucepot on medium-high heat. Add vegetable oil.
3. Sauté the red onion, garlic, and all the ground spices for about a minute
4. Add mussels, coconut milk, roma tomatoes, lemon, and lime juice to the pot. Salt.
5. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer the mussels until they have opened.
6. Decorate with fresh cilantro. Serve!

Easy eh? Serve it with some nice french toast or doughy bread to soak up the juice. For wine paring, I would pair the mussels with an Alsace Pinot Gris which has enough texture full enough to stand up to the creamy buttery texture of mussels. I happened to have tasted a bottle of Pierre Sparr Mambourg Pinot Gris Grand Cru 2002. This wine is available in BC, but I don't remember which cellar has it. For clam, I would choose a more delicate white one and ideally one that is off-dry, such as Alsace Pinot Blanc or if you are adventurous, an Italian Soave Classico.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dinesty

No, I did not spell the name wrong. As general rule of thumb when finding authentic ethnic restaurants, the less effort the restaurant makes to attract non-ethnic customers the better the food will be. Dinesty is an authentic Taiwanese restaurant that makes zero effort to attract non-Chinese customers, as demonstrated in the spelling of "Dinesty" and the poorly translated menu). In my opinion, this is the second best Taiwanese restaurant in the greater Vancouver region, and its dishes are only bested by Kelvin's restaurant near Burnaby, but Kelvins is so authentic that it is not as welcoming and user friendly to non-Chinese speaking customers. Dinesty is a lot more user friendly without sacrificing authenticity and quality.

If you don't speak Chinese, I recommend reading this entire post in detail before going.


Taiwanese Cuisine 101
  1. Any foodie worth their weight knows that MSG is present in all good Chinese food. In fact, MSG should be viewed as culturally appropriate and essential to Chinese cuisine in restaurants. I don't ever bother eating in Chinese restaurants that advertise "No MSG", because 100% of the time the food would not be authentic. You can request that they add less MSG though.
  2. Like teriyaki, sweet and sour pork and crispy chowmen are Western invention. Look for "Hakka" in menus for extra delicious dishes.
  3. The dishes are served á la carte and placed in the middle of the table to be communally shared. Don't be afraid to reach across the table to grab food you want. Ask for sharing utensils if you prefer not to share germs with your friends.
  4. The cuisine is tradition bounded. Same dishes with the same names are eaten for thousands of years, and what you look for in restaurants are the best and the most perfect execution of the traditional flavours.
  5. Don't tip too much. 10% is plenty.

Food: 4.5/5
The restaurant makes all buns and noodle products by hand and on site. I named my favorite dish "Little Dragon Buns" which was given the uninspiring name "Steamed Pork Dumplings" or "S01". There is actually a method with which you eat these:
  • Step 1: With your chopsticks, pick up the bun and dap it in their special blend of soy ginger sauce without breaking the skin.
  • Step 2: Put it in a soup spoon and gently break the skin either with your chopsticks or your mouth. Let the juice inside the bun flow into the spoon and cools down.
  • Step 3: Put the entire content in the spoon in your mouth and savour the flavor

Dennis named these "Little Crack Buns". Other restaurants serve the factory made, previously frozen version of these. The differences are phenomenal. You can't really go wrong with any of their their buns or noodle dishes, and you can also order other entrees with "starch skins" or "pancakes" and make your own wraps. Dennis's favorite is "Stir Fried Shredded Pork with Chili Pepper" wrapped in the dough skin. Like other Chinese restaurants, the really good stuffs are not on the menu. For example, ask for 蒜炒空心菜 light on the oil. If you become good friends with the waitresses, they might tell you the daily specials. They also have an amazing dessert list with both sweet and savory delicacies.

Otherwise, I find their seafood dishes somewhat disappointing, ducks too fat, and noodle soup to oily. I do not like their pot-stickers. If you don't know what to order, look around to see if other tables have any good looking dishes and ask for the same thing.


Service (0.5/5):
At peak hours, they have 5 waitress serving 225 people. Don't expect them to keep your reservation, if you are more than 10 minutes late. Don't expect them to come and take your order, serve your food, refill your tea in timely order. Be aggressive, wave them down, and pay at the cashier. Don't expect them to be friendly either. Would you be if you have to serve 45 people on your own? Check your plates and bowls for dirts and smudges. Bring cash, because they don't take cards. Be patient. I have started to bring my own water bottle. But the food is worth it.


Ambience (2/5):
I definitely appreciate the open kitchen, where you can see chefs working away making dough, buns, and big fires in their woks. Not often do you see how Chinese, made and it is rare to see a Chinese kitchen so clean. The restaurant is surrounded by floor to ceiling windows, giving it a clean, open, and spacious feeling.

Overall Experience: (4/5):
I used to have to go through worse conditions to get food this good before this restaurant opened. The food is worth it. It's also relatively cheap and you only have to tip 10%.

Total: 11/20
Don't go there for your first date or expecting to have a romantic evening. The only reason I go there is to eat their awesome food.

Edit: Dinesty doesn't have a website. The resturant is at 8111 Ackroyd Road. Half a block away from Landstowne skytrain station.
Dinesty Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sauvignon Blanc

Unlike Riesling or Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc has rather specific characteristics: clean, crisp, refreshing, unoaked. Grown in cool climates, its wine usually display strong aromas of green fruit and vegetation such as gooseberry, elderflower, green bell pepper, asparagus. They are usually high in acidity, medium-bodied, and almost always dry. Dennis describes it as "drinking summer" because its refreshing fruitiness makes it a great summer beverage.

Here is the premium list:

Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé: These villages faces each other in the Loire. These wines are usually more retrained than Sauvignon from New Zealand, but still have varietal green fruit and herbaceous notes, with a hint of smokiness.
Bordeaux: Most premium white Bordeaux is a blend of Sémillon (dominate) and Sauvignon Blanc, allowing complexity to develop with aging. It's hard to describe the flavours in a couple sentense, but it definitely show cases the best characters from the two grape varieties beautifully. The best Bordeaux comes from Cur Classé châteaux in the Pessac-Léognan and Graves AC.
New Zealand: In my opinion, New Zealand's Sauvginon Blanc is the best in terms of quality and value. The classic style is dry, high acidity, no oak, medium-bodied with distinctive, intense, pungent, clean, green varietal flavours (asparagus, pea, passion fruit). Look for wines from Marlborough. Cloudy Bay is my favourite.
Chile: I find myself buying more and more Chilean wines lately. You will find good quality Sauvignon Blanc at half the price compared to Sancerre. Casablanca would be the best region.
California: Due to the hot weather, only buy Fumé Blanc, oaked Sauvignon Blanc, from California. Usually, these wines have spicy, oaky flavours. Napa Valley is the best region.



Friday, January 1, 2010

Wine Index

Riesling Part 1Chardonnay Part 1
Chardonnay Part 2: White BurgundySauvignon BlancPinot GrisBeajolaisPinot Noir Part 1

Stonewell Shiraz 2002, Barossa Valley

Aged shiraz is amazing. The wine filled the room with plum and lavender aroma as soon as it was opened. It's creamy, mouthful, and the flavor evolves in your mouth. Oh, and a long delicious finish. I am currently braising a couple lamb shanks to finish the bottle with. Worth every penny. I will definitely invest in a few more bottles of different vintages.

For pairing, definitely big meat dishes, BBQ, and stews. I would wager that it would also pair well with Peking duck.