Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dinner Almost Impossible: Sweet Heart Purse

This is my February entry for Royal Food Joust by the Leftover Queen: Sweet Heart Purses. Greek styled lean ground beef heart, kohlrabi ribbons, organic fresh plum cubes, and sweet onion jam wrapped in egg-less phyllo pastry. My guests first described the purse as "mysterious and alluring." As they bit into it, it offered layers of textures and flavours, something surprising and different in each bite.

It has been a busy month. Unlike last month, I didn't spent a month experimenting and testing. I made this for the first time yesterday and fed it to a party of 10 people. I was surprised when I bit into this purse for the first time. It was delicious and everything I had wanted it to taste like and more. This dish was a part of the 10 course meal and some dishes were different uses of kohlrabi, but I will get into that later.

Beef: Spencer at Market Meat has been super resourceful. He acquired the fresh beef heart and later trimmed and grounded it for me. Through him, I learned that ground meat twice make it more firm. Beef heart has great structure even after being grounded. I made meat ball out of it without using eggs, and it held its form in the kohlrabi, plum, cajun tomato sauce (but I decided to not use this recipe for the contest).

Kohlrabi: Thanks to Jean, I learned the chinese word for this plant. This is actually a plant that I grew up eating as pickle for breakfast, ground cake for lunch, and as soup broth for dinner. Knowing what it is, it helped me develop the dish that best expressed the texture and flavour, without just serving it raw or making the dish excessively soggy: ribbons. It is crunchy but not chewy and its large surface area allows maximum flavour

Plum: I had difficulty deciding between fresh plum and dried umeboshi plum, but in the end, I decided that fresh plum would compliment the fresh kohlrabi better. Cubed, the fruit offers good texture to the purse.

(Makes a dozen sweet heart purses).

The filling:
½ Beef Heart (fat trimmed and grounded twice)
1 shallot (finely chopped)
½ Cayenne pepper
1 tbsp white pepper
½ Kohlrabi (thinly sliced it into ribbons)
½ Ripe plum (finely chopped into small cubes)
3 Large red onions (thinly sliced)
¾ cup canola or grape seed oil
½ cup fresh thyme (finely chopped)
½ Bulbs of garlic (minced)
⅓ cup Brown sugar or agave syrup
¾ cup Red Wine
¾ cup Balsamic Vinegar
3 Tbsp whole-grain Dijon mustard

The purse:
16 sheets (about half of box) egg free frozen phyllo dough, thawed for 2 hours at room temperature
½ cup butter or Earth Balance melted
⅓ cup fresh thyme (finely chopped)
24 chives

salt and pepper

1. In a mixing bowl, mix beef heart with all the garlic, ¼ cup of thyme, white pepper, cayenne pepper, 1 tsp of salt.
2. Heat ¼ cup of oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the heart until it's fully cooked and on it in a strainer over a bowl or in the kitchen sink. Set aside to cool.
3. Heat the remaining ¼ cup of oil in a clean large flat-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add all the onions and cook for 20-25 minutes or until golden grown, stirring occasionally.
4. Add agave syrup or sugar and let it cook for a minute.
5. Add the vinegar, wine, 2 teaspoon of salt, and continue to cook for 20-25 minute at lower heat, until only ¼ the liquid remains and are the consistency of jam.
6. Remove from heat and add the mustard, thyme, and pepper to taste.
7. Mix it with the beef.

1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Unroll the phyllo dough.
2. Lay one sheet flat on the work surface. Using a pastry brush, brush the entire surface of the sheet with melted Earth Balance or butter. Sprinkle a pinch of pepper and thyme.
3. Lay another sheet on top and repeat step 2 until you have 4 layers of dough. Cut the phyllo into 4½ inches squares.
4. Place a few kohlrabi ribbons in the center of the sheet and then about 1 tbsp of the jam mixture, and a few cubes of fresh plum (make sure plums are not in a clump).
5. Draw up the edges of the phyllo to create a rough purse. Gently twist the packet just about the pocket containing the jam to create fills at the top.
6. Tie each purse with kitchen strings and brush the entire purse lightly with the remaining earth balance or butter. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until well browned.
7. Carefully remove the string and tie chive around each.

An old vine red Zinfandel, tempranillo, or old world merlot would pair well with this dish.

Big thanks to Peter at for all the amazing photos.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

End of Month Dinner + Crazy Food Contest

It has been a tough few days, but I gotta stick to posting at least once every two days. The 10 course dinner is done. Phew! I will post the details tomorrow when I have more energy and when I get the details. Unlike January, I cooked my contest dinner on my first attempt. This is what I wrote on Friday night.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Green Onion Pancake

My brother Phil asked me to teach him to make green onion pancake. Here it is. This is a Chinese savory pastry eaten as snack or used as wraps for other dishes. I will be using this to wrap grilled duck for my Saturday dinner.

Step 1: Use about 1 cup flour and ½ cup water to make dough (use more or less water as necessary), and take your time to kneed it. Finely chop 3 stalks of green onion (finer than show in the picture), pat it dry with a paper towel. Cut or rip some dough, about the size of a lemon or lime (lightly bigger than a golf ball).

Step 2: Sprinkle some flour on your working surface and use a roller to roll out the dough as thinly as you can. Sprinkle some green onion, a pinch of salt, and a dap of olive oil on your dough.

Step 3: This part is very similar to making cinnamon roll. Carefully roll up the dough. Make sure not to include too much air bubble. You should have bulky tube of green onion dough as the result.

Step 4: Pinch to seal shut both end. Roll it in like in the picture. Try without ripping the dough, line the closing fold inwards so green onion don't fall out, but it's okay if you don't bother with it. Press the roll up dough down with the palm of your hand, and roll it out again.

You have a couple choices here. If you want layers and layers of deliciousness, you want to roll this out and repeat Step 3 and 4 two more times. If you are hungry, you can just roll it out gently to your desired thickness. I like my pancake slightly thick.

Heat a non-stick pan to medium-high heat. Put in a small amount of oil, just enough to coat the pan. Put your pancake in and cook it until it's golden brown. You can flip it as little or as frequently as you want.

Done. Eat!

The whole process is not very scientific. In fact, I had bunch of pancake that got stuck together overnight. I decided to cook them all together as one big thick pancake. It was amazingly delicious.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Japan: Kyoto Part 4

Last night in Kyoto, we came to a small izakya. We almost didn't go inside, because they offered English menu. We were afraid that it would be a tourist trap, but it wasn't: there was whale on the menu. Here we met the most amazing bartender/taisho named Seiichiro who served us copious amount of alcohol. That was bishamonten sake, Dennis's favourite sake, in the above picture. You can also see that the menu was handwritten. He then introduced us to another amazing saki, which translated to chimera saki, but I was pretty drunk at this point. I actually don't remember taking this picture.

We proceeded to eat through every item on the menu, and even reordered several skewer items. Lotus root, pumpkin, quail eggs, gizzards, you name it. Hot pot, kimchi, handmade tofu pot broth thing, noodle, panfried fishes. The rest I don't remember. All I remember is good food, good company, good saki, and good time.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sparkling WIne

Sparkling wine refers to wine with some carbon dioxide bubbles. The type, quality, and price of these wines are categorized through the method in which the bubbles are formed.
  • The easiest way is to just pump CO2 into the wine in a pressurized environment, like Coke. This produces the cheapest and the lowest quality sparkling wine, but this is a highly popular way of consuming sparkling.
  • Tank method provides more consistent bubbles than the pumping method. Wine or partially fermented wine is fermented in a pressurized tank and bottled under pressure. Asti, my favourite sparkling, is made this way.
  • Transfer method provides even finer bubbles and consistent wine from bottles to bottles. For this method, sparkling wines are fully fermented in bottles, and then the entire content is emptied into a huge pressurized tanks with other bottles before being filtered and rebottled.
  • The traditional method produces the finest and the most expensive sparkling wine. For this method, partially fermented wine are bottled individually and store away from several years. After aging, a specialized system removes the yeast deposit, before they are sold.
So what is Champaign? Or what do you mean Champaign doesn't equate to sparkling wine?
Champaign only refers to sparkling wine made within the region of Champaign in France. The production method is highly regulated by the government to ensure quality control. Successful marketing ensures consumers think only of Champaign as sparkling wine and ensures Champaign is grossly overpriced. Yes, champaign does provide the best quality, most complex, and best balanced sparkling wine in the world, but most consumers will not be able to tell the differences. The idea of shaking and spraying a vintage Crystal makes my skin scrawl.
  • Crémant and Saumur produce French sparkling wine using the similar traditional method as Champaign. While the wines aren't as complex, but it is significantly cheaper.
  • Cava is the Spanish version of Champaign. It doesn't have the age-ablility of Champaign, but with the current economic climate, you can get it for dirt cheap.
  • A handful of Champaign makers started making exceptional sparkling wine in California. The competition amongst these produces and the locals resulted in dramatically better quality at deeply discounted price. However, brand name is important here, because there is no regulation on quality. Pipper, Mumm, Roederer Estate, Maison Deutz, Domaine Carnero, Scharffenberger, Gloria Ferrer, Codorniu, Schramsberg, Iron Horse, and Jordan.
  • Asti from Italy is my personal favourite. It is slightly expensive compared to the rest of the discounted sparkling.
I am not as familiar with Australian and New Zealand sparkling wine, but I am told that there are a handful of gems there too.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Henkell Trocken

Variety: Sekt
Producer: Henkell Trocker
Specification: Dry-Sec
Vintage: Non-Vintage
Region: Germany
Alcohol: 11.5%
Price: 15.00

Appearance: Clear, pale, lots of bubbles
Nose: Clean, delicate, youthful, citrus, nose burning acid, pear, apple, herbaceous
Palate: Off dry, not biscuit, no toast, not creamy, low alcohol, medium- body, medium+ acid, sour apple. Short finish.

Just looking at the size and amount of bubble, you can tell that this is a sparkling wine that is made from the tank method. Cheaper production method than the champaign. It is also sweeter than champaign. The tastes are quiet distinctive, but I don't think most consumers would care or mind. Rarely do people who drink champaign actually appreciate high quality champaign. This sparkling wine is the one you buy on New Year and you can shake it and not feel bad wasting most of it spraying on people. Plus, usually people are not sober enough at this point to care about the quality of their sparkling wine.

Quality: Acceptable. Simple

This is not a complex drink. I wouldn't bother too much with food pairing. Some strawberry moose? New Year Cake? Someone's face?

Sunday, February 21, 2010


This is Kholrabi. You will not find this at Safeway, Save on Food, or Whole Food. You can find this in T&T, Superstores, and this random grocery store on Commercial and 1st Ave. It smells like cabbage and has texture like turnip. It's completely rock solid, and I can probably severely injure someone by throwing it.

After some internet research, kholrabi can be prepared in many ways. You can eat this raw in salad like fennel, fry like fries, stew, steam, boiled, grilled, and you name it. It apparently tastes like turnip but slightly sweeter.

After staring at it for a day now, I have some idea about what I am going to do with it...
Hint: I am going all over town looking for "carving tools"

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A week before the February Joust Dinner

I came second in Foodieblogroll contest for January. It was a tie for first place in both the photo and best overall, and I lost in the tie-breakers. This month, the contest ingredient is beef heart, plum, and kohlrabi. What is kohlrabi? I have no idea, and I have been looking all over the city for them. For the beef heart, I special ordered it from Market Meat. I dropped by to pick it up when it just arrived. It was still warm, with blood freely flowing in the vein...

It's huge...

Dinner is in exactly 7 days. I have some ideas of what to cook, if I can find Kohlrabi

Friday, February 19, 2010

Braised Lamb Shank with Zalouk and Cous Cous

I am submitting this dish for the second round of Chef It Yourself Contest. This dish is inspired by Chambar, an amazing Moroccan styled restaurant beside Dirty Apron. I believe they are owned by the same people.

This is a dish that is served at dinner parties with ceremony style entrance followed by woos and ahs. When you open the tagine, the delicious aroma explodes from the pot, and the guests eyes widen as if I have opened a treasure chest full of gold. The cous cous is first served separately from the lamb sauce to maximize the presentation, flavour, and aroma, and then the guest pour the entire content of the couscous into the sauce-filled tangerine. The combined flavour will make your knees weak. The perfect comfort food on in a gloomy February evening.

The dish is a little on the sweet side with generous use of honey, dates, apricot, and etc. If you prefer your dish less sweet, you can play with the amount of the ingredients. This is another four part dish requiring four separate recipes. I like my dishes with some complexity in flavour.

For wine pairing, go with a big loud Italian red such as Super Tuscany, Barolo, Barbaresco.

Moroccan Couscous with Zaalouk and Raita

  • 100g couscous
  • 160ml water
  • 1 tbsp sliced almonds (toasted)
  • 2 tbsp dried apricot
  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • 2 tsp sunflower seeds (toasted)
  • ¼tsp tumeric
  • 1 stalk of green onion (sliced)
  • 2 small leaves of mints (chopped)
  • olive oil
  • salt
1. Place the couscous, salt, olive oil, and turmeric into a heat friendly bowl.
2. Bring water to a boil and add the boiling water to couscous and tightly cover the bowl. Allow the mixture to rest for 5-10minute.
3. Stir in the remaining ingredient.


This is one of the only two ways in which I can enjoy eggplants. The other one requires me to travel to Matsuyama Japan. This dish is to go with Braised Lamb Shank with Zalouk and Cous Cous.

  • 1 Eggplant (diced large)
  • Tomato (diced)
  • 2 Garlic Cloves (minced)
  • 2 Springs Italian Parsley (chopped)
  • 2 Stock of green onion (chopped)
  • 1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp cumin seeds (toasted and crushed)
  • 1 Tbsp Paprika
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Olive oil
  • Salt Pepper
1. In a bowl, toss eggplant with olive oil, 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds, salt, and pepper.
2 Roast for 15 minutes or until tender and golden brown. Set aside to cool.
3. In a medium sauté pan, sauté garlic, rest of cumin, paprika.
4. Add diced tomato and sauté for another minute.
5. Add sherry vinegar, roasted eggplant, and continue to cook for another minute.
6. Mixed in parsley and green onion and remove from heat.


This is super easy and adds texture and light flavour. Goes with Braised Lamb Shank with Zalouk and Cous Cous.

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • ¼ Lemon (juiced)
  • 2 tsp cumin seed (crushed)
  • a pinch of crushed chillies

Mix and done! Keep it in the fridge until time to serve.

Moroccan Lamb Shank

Again, Market Meat on 4th is my trusted source of lamb shank. They come air sealed and doesn't have that nasty lamb sweat smell. With a quick glance of the recipe, you will notice that this dish is also great for your health with the generous uses of garlic, ginger, onion and turmeric. You will also need a oven friendly pot (with a lid) that is just wide enough for the lamb shanks to lie in there but not much wider, and it also has to be tall enough for water to comfortably cover the legs. This is to minimize the amount of water used to avoid diluting the flavour.

Ingredients (for 2):
  • 2 lbs Lamb Shank (two legs)
  • 1 Tbsp of fresh ginger (grated)
  • ½ Red Onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 Bulb of Garlic (minced)
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 1 Dried fig (quartered)
  • 1 Dried date (quartered)
  • 1 tsp coriander seed (crushed)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 4 cups of water
  • ½ tsp crushed chillies
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Vegetable oil
1. Preheat oven to 425˚F. (If you are ambitious, 400˚F for extra tenderness)
2. Heat vegetable oil in an oven friendly saucepan or pot over medium-high heat.
3. Season the shanks with salt and pepper, before placing them in the pan until they are evenly browned on both sides.
4. Reduce the heat to medium-low and the rest of the ingredients. (Make sure the lamb shanks are partially covered)
5. Mix well and bring to a simmer, before pacing the saucepan with a lid into the oven for 3 hours.

If you are ambitious, skip the simmering and add another hour in the oven. If you are lazy, have the butcher cut the shanks into pieces and the lamb would only have to spend an hour in the oven.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Orange Balsamic Roasted Salmon

I am clearing photos from my iPod. This is something I cooked at Dirty Apron a long time ago. I tried it again at home with some success. Dennis doesn't really like citrus with fish, but I liked it. This comes with an fennel, asparagus and orange salad, nicely stacked. You can crush the seed with an old pot or a grinder.

This is their recipe. I just simplify it a little.
Ingredients: for two people
2 Salmon filets (no skin, no bones)
2 Large Orange (zested, peeled, and then segmented)
50ml balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp Fennel Seed (crushed)
1 tsp Coriander Seed (crushed)

1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
2. Marinate the salmon in half the orange zest, half the juice, the balsamic vinegar, and all the seeds for about 10-15minute
3. Pat the salmon dry with papper towel. Season both sides of the filet with salt.
4. Heat vegetable oil in a non-stick oven friendly frying pan. Place salmon in the pan and put the pan in oven for 3 minute
5. Take the pan out of the oven, flip the fish over and allow it to rest in the pan for 1 minute before serving.

The salmon would be a little rare inside. Cook it longer if you like your fish well done.

The salad is super easy.
1 very small Fennel bulb (very very thinly sliced, paper thin)
10 Sprigs watercress
The segmented oranges left over from the salmon
A few cooked asparagus
1 tbsp Italian parsley (chopped)
1/2 lemon (juiced)
40ml olive oil
salt and pepper

Just mix it.

Serve this with any French or German white wine.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pol Roger 1999

Variety: Chardonnay
Producer: Pol Roger
Specification: Champaign
Vintage: 1999
Region: Champaign, France
Alcohol: 12.5%
Price: 87.00

Appearance: Clear, lighter gold color, health little bubble
Nose: Clean, nutty, bready, lemon, vanilla, spice, citrus, apple
Palate: Clean, creamy, medium intensity, dry, medium acidity, medium body, long length, good balance.

Vintage champaign is pretty rare (and expensive). Only the best crop under the most ideal weather are used to make vintage champaign. Blanc de Blancs means this champaign is made exclusively from chardonnay. Both the Bollinger and Pol Rogers are amazing and equally good, but they offer rather different flavour profile at around the same price.

Quality: Excellent, complex, elegant

I would pair it with parfait or soft ripe flavour goat chèvres.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Syrah and Shiraz: Part 1

What are the differences between syrah and shiraz? In France, it is called syrah and outside Europe, shiraz. Some people would claim that there are minor flavour differences and shiraz is medium+ tannin, while syrah has higher tannin with a white pepper note. Honestly, it is the same grape grown in different regions. I think the differences are due to different climates and productions.

Generally, syrah/shiraz is deep dark red, medium to high tannin and acidity with black fruit, blackberry, and chocolate notes. In France, you would find mint, eucalyptus, smoke meat, and white pepper notes. In Australia, liquorices, cloves, and black pepper. In south France and Spain, it is usually blended with other red grapes. The wine has animal and vegetal complexity (i.e. leather, wet leaves, earth) when aged. Don't bother with B.C. Shiraz, unless it's really cheap.

Shiraz is almost synonymous with Australia as it's dominant export grape variety. Hunter Valley, McLaren Vale, and the best region Barossa Valley are famous for the full bodied, soft ripe tannin, low acid (sweet), big personally, jammy tastes (with a lot of young American oak). On the other hand, Coonawarra and Central Western Victoria are a lot cooler and the Shiraz here is more peppery and less full bodied... sort of like syrah...

French Syrah is more elegant and subdued. Côte-Rotie and Hermitage in Northern Rhône is the classic region, producing some extraordinary syrah sold at astronomical prices. There are a few other appellations offering slightly inferior quality at better prices. I will write a separate post on this topic.

Then there is Chile, the dark horse, produces rich and dense syrah. You can buy these at $8-$20 range, which is great for cooking beef stew.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Japan: Osaka

While in Kyoto, we took a day trip to Osaka, Japan's second biggest city, to meet Phil's friends. Our first impression of Osaka was pretty poor; it was crowded and lacking the orderliness and cleanliness of other cities we had visited. However, we did have the best cheese cake we ever had. We found it in a small cafe beside Luise Vuitton (very expensive), and it was a strawberry cheese cake with fresh fruit and addictive strawberry sauce.

The real highlight of the day was at night, when we meet up with Phil's friend, Waka and Hitotsugu Takagi. Hitosugu is a hedge fund manager, father of two, high ranking jujitsu member (second in command at Phil's dojo), and disciple of the last surviving ninjatsu. He was also the most layback, down to earth dude who loved to party. He took us to a local sushi restaurant, one we would had never found ourselves, and introduced us to the real sushi cuisine. The restaurant looked like a dive, outside and inside, but the sushi was fresh and delicious. In Canada, Dennis and I found uni, sea urchin, rather repulsive, but in this restaurant changed our impression of uni. It was buttery, soft, and delicious. We had squid, octopus, local fish with strange names, and whale was available. Sushi pieces came with big pieces of fish and the rolls had more fish than rice. We order directly from the sushi chef, and the bill was tallied using these colored blocks at our table.
After sushi, we migrate to another restaurant to have more alcohol. Here we discovered Hakaisan, a saki brewed by the same family for generations. One of Dennis's hero, Uesugi Kenshin (who happened to be an alcoholic) drank this saki 400 years ago. Can you imagine how excited Dennis was when he found out? We started ordering every saki on the list from the top to the bottom. I had vague memory of the rest of the night.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Ongiri

Onigri is definitely one of the top 10 things Dennis would want to eat forever if he was stuck on a dessert island. When I saw a large heart shaped cookie cutter at Cookware two weeks ago, I knew exactly what I was going to do with it. Rice was cooked in my rice cooker the night before Valentine's and four onigri took about 30 minutes to make this morning. It is slightly "grilled" (pan seared) and it is crispy outside and soft inside.

Sushi rice can be found in any large grocery store. I used

  • 2 cup uncooked sushi rice
  • 4 Tbsp Soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Vegetable oil

Instruction: I wish I wish I have a grill.
1. Wet your hands, the cookie cutter, a small wooden spoon or plastic, and a plate.
2. Place the cookie cutter on the plate and fill it with warm cooked rice
3. Using the spoon, apply gentle force to pack the rice into the cutter and flatten the surface.
4. Turn cookie cutter upside down and flatten this side.
5. Use your fingers to slowly and very gently push the rice out of the cutter. Pad the onigri with water to prevent sticking.
6. Heat non-stick pan at medium-high heat and thinly spread vegetable oil on the pan
7. "Grill" each side for a minute each.
8. Brushed the grilled side with soy sauce and grill it again for 30 second each side.

Yummy and made with love~ Now I am going to try putting other food inside the onigri.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Edible Cutlery: Bacon Bowl

My father told me that there has been a popular trend in Taiwan for making edible cutlery as an environmental foodie movement. It got me thinking that maybe I should also started making edible cutlery and blog about it.

I have been craving meat: fatty salty meat. Maybe it has something to do with my blood donation a few days ago. This is something inspired by my old guild in World of Warcraft where everyone has quite an obsession with bacon. Although I haven't played the game for several months now, this is a homage to the friends I made there.

I started with a bacon mat and a bowl wrapped with aluminum foil

And I place the bowl on top of the bacon mat and turn it upside down. Place it in a baking pan.

I preheated the oven to 400˚F and put the pan in for 1.5 hours, but I think that is either too long or too hot, because my bowl was burnt.

I then put some salad in there (with little bacon bits inside). It tasted like an inside-out-salad where the bacon crisp is the bowl.

Not bad for first attempt. I am going out right now to get more bacon, so I can make more shapes with it. Possibly with cups or muffin pan.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bollinger Special Cuvée

Variety: 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier
Producer: Bollinger
Specification: Champagne
Vintage: Non-Vintage
Region: Champaign, France
Alcohol: 12%
Price: 83.00

Appearance: Clear, deeper gold color, healthy small bubbles
Nose: Clean, mature, biscuity, honey, cardamon, melon, barnyard, petrol, citrus
Palette: Clean, dry, intense , medium+ acid, full bodied, creamy, ripe, peach, floral

I have to start tasting sparkling wine for my wedding in a year in order to find a best value one by then. This is a non-vintage Special Cuvée, which is the highest standard blend by this producer.

Quality: Excellent, complex, intense

It would pair well with heavier food, preferably as appetizer, but nothing sweet.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nu Restaurant and Lounge

Eight of us went to Nu for dinner on Sunday night on the recommendation by our wedding planner. We were looking to see if it would be an acceptable place for our reception. The general consensus is that Nu wouldn't not be a good candidate for my reception, but everyone had different opinion about the food they had. I will try to be objective..

Food: 3.5/5
Technically, it would be 3/5 for their seafood and 4/5 for their land meat. At $60.00, the seafood set came with grilled sashimi grade albacore tuna, giant scallops, oysters, grilled chard, and delicious mussels. Dennis said that the mussels where the best he ever had, but wasn't very impressed with the other 4 items. He believed I could cook better. The food came in these awful silver bowls which I thought was supposed to represent the Olympic rings, but seafood set only had 4 rings. Charge $60 for this set? Come on... At $50, the meat set was everyone's favourite: braised bison, pork dumpling, duck confit, chicken drumstick, and grill short ribs. With the table full with Chinese people, we were not impressed with the pork dumpling. At $40, the third set is the "bronze set" and by far the worst: Lentil Croquette, Beets, Potato Gnocchi, Pork Dumplings, Albacore Tuna. Basically, take the two worst items out of the other sets and some veggie and starch. We had more success with individual dishes. Their burgers and steaks came huge portions and a good value deal.I also greatly enjoyed my tuna tartar, which looked good and tasted great. I was attempted to give the food 4/5, but after considering the price of these dishes, I felt 3.5/5 was more appropriate. Most importantly, I think they need to improve their set menu.

Service (3.5/5):
Service is good. Coat check, a dedicated server for our table, everything is topped off and refilled regularly. Basically, it is what people would expect.

Ambiance (3.5/5):
Great place to go to for your second or third date. It has great view of the city and the water. I bet it would be nicer in the summer time. The chairs are super comfortable and cute little stone tables and candle lights makes the restaurant quite romantic. Need music though. Not suitable for a huge crowd.

Overall Experience (3/5):
My overall experience of the restaurant wasn't very good. I felt a little underwhelmed, but Dennis had a great time. The wine list was rather limited and unimpressive but well selected based on value. There was a few local beer but no specialty.

Total: 13.5/20
The restaurant is a little out of the way for me and I probably will not go back again.

Big thanks to Peter for these amazing photos.

Nu on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bourbon Nutmeg Scallop

This is something I pulled together last minute when I had the party over for food tasting. It's easy to put together and looks impressive at your dinner party. The scallops I used was local from Qualicum island just off the coast. It's slightly smaller than a lonnie in width. The Bourbon Maple Syrup is available at Dirty Apron or other specialty grocery store, but I am sure you can just use Bourbon and maple syrup separately to do the job. The nutmeg adds an amazing smoky aroma to the dish.

  • 6 Qualicum Scallops
  • 2 Tbps Bourbon Maple Syrup
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp White Pepper
  • ½ tsp Fleur del Sal
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1. Marinate Scallops in all the ingredients above, except for the oil for 10 minute.
2. Heat a non-stick pan to very hot on high heat and coat the pan with oil
3. Sear the scallops on both sides until they are slightly browned (1 minute)

After you turn off the heat, you can be naughty and add some butter into the pan allowing the scallops to be coated. I would definitely pair it with an aged bottle of German Auslese Riesling, but I am sure Chablis would do the trick too.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

"Grilled" Ribeye Steak

It's easy to just sprinkle some salt and pepper onto a piece of meat and grill it. Or, you can buy some proprietary rub or steak sauce to go with it. I like to make my own rubs from scratch or marinate my steak with basic and fresh ingredients. This is a super easy marinate for steak, and you don't even need a grill. With ribeye steak you can even skip the oven and just pan fry it, but with thicker pieces of steak, I find it better to put it in the oven for a little bit.

1 ribeye steak
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Maple Syrup
1 tbsp soya suace
½ tbsp ground black pepper
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
2 springs of thyme (finely chopped)
2 springs of rosemary (finely chopped)
Fleur del Sel

1. Marinate the steak in all the ingredients for about 2 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 400˚F
3. Remove the steak from the marinate and pat it dry with paper towel.
4. Heat oil in a pan at high heat.
5. Sear the steak on on both side... less than a minute on each side.
6. Put the pan into the oven for 4-5 minute, depending on the oven. The goal here is to raise the internal temperature of the meat to 125˚F.
7. Remove from heat and allow the meat to rest of 5 minute.

Serve it with an aged bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cabernet Sauvignon Part 1

Cabernet Sauvignon is a type of black grapes with thick skins and it produces wine with lots of tannin, high acidity, and intense aromatic black fruits. However, it requires tremendous amount of sun and heat to full ripe, and when it doesn't get what it needs, the wine smells and tastes like pencil shaving, leather, or wet wood. Yuck.

Majority of the students in my wine class picked Cabernet Sauvignon as their favourite wine, and 90% of the wine I drink and collect is also Cabernet Sauvignon. I find that cab is one of the easiest wine to learn about and identify in a blind tasting. It has higher acid and firmer tannin than Merlot, but less "syrupy" than Syrah or Grenache.

The wine has three flavour characteristics:
1. black fruits: black currant, black cherry
2. vegetal: bell pepper, mint, cedar, menthol
3. oaked: smoke, vanilla, coffee, coconut

Classically, Cabernet Sauvignon was blended with with other grapes such as cabernet franc, petit verdot, and merlot. My personal favourite is Bordeaux which is a cabernet and merlot blend. However, the new world such as Chile, California, and Australia all have great success producing 100% cabernet sauvignon. Even Italy has started producing pure cabernet called Super Tuscany marketed at no less than $100 per bottle.

Canadian Cabernet Sauvignon? Not so good and over priced.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Japan: Kyoto Part 3

Every restaurant, fast food, and even convenient stores offers sanitary wipes with your food, even in Starbucks. Kyoto has a lot of Starbucks serving the large population of tourists and local gaijin. In fact, it was dubbed "the gaijin central" by the locals. The drink menu is pretty much the same, but Japan's Starbucks carries more savory food items and the disgusting sandwiches are replaced by delicious buns and sausage rolls. Like anywhere else in Japan, the washroom is immaculate, equipped with high tech toilet, seat warmer, bidet (separate buttons for the back and the front), and speakers (playing the sound of waterfall or running water with adjustable volume). The trash bins have strict instruction as to what you can and cannot put in each one: plastic, pepper, glass, and organic.

We were about a week and half into our trip at this point and getting pretty good at sniffing out tourist traps. We did not try any of the price gaugers in the geisha district and were eating cheap from convenient stores and ramen shops. Occasionally, we would be lured into unmarked alley (like this one in the picture) hoping it would end with a restaurant. This one indeed lead to some sort of food place, but it was closed and there was no sign. Our guess was a private invite-only restaurant similar to geisha houses. Neat eh?

We went back to What Is Beef again with Phil, breaking our don't-repeat-restaurant rule. With the help of Phil's irresistible charm and sleek tongue, the waiters gave us the information on each dish and the story behind the beef. He also introduced us to a hand-crafted dessert. It was warm red bean mochi with agave syrup and peanut powder. It had similar texture as jelly with more doughiness while the agave and peanut worked magic on my tongue. We got incredibly drunk, again. Hard not to when alcohol was this good and this cheap.

Home Cooking and Recipes

I love food, but I love cooking more. If a magic genie gave me three wishes, I would want unlimited wine, dream kitchen(s), and a dishwashing robot.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Crasto 2007, Duoro Portugal

Douro is a port country and isn't really know for premium red wine. However, this region is a huge benefactor of investment from the World Bank in 1980s and, as a result, the region started producing various styles of table wines. Crasto begain to make table wine near the river, Douro do Crasto in the mid-1990s using Touriga Nacional, the port grape, and Roriz. It has become one of four notable Douro table wine. The wine is relatively light and fruity, and you won't usually expect from this region. It also has an excessive amount of new oak and barnyard, which makes it pretty unpleasant. I was told that the later vintage is way better though.

I won't buy it again for $20. This wine is really no more than $15. I would pair this using the same philosophy port with less body and intensity. A fluffy dark chocolate cake or mousse. Stilton cheese might be a little heavy, but I bet cracker with stilton melted on top would work.