Sunday, October 31, 2010

Carving Pumpkin 101

Most of you have learned to carve pumpkin in school at a very young age, but I had never seen a pumpkin until I immigrated to Canada.  Until yesterday, I was saying pumpkin like a little kid: "pumkin".  This post is for my friends and family back home who has never carved a pumpkin.

Step 1: With a long knife cut off the top of the pumpkin to make a lid.  The knife is inserted into the pumpkin at an angle before making its way around the top.  How big should this lid be is up to the individual and your design.

Step 2: Use a spoon or your bare hands, scrape out all the seeds and stringy stuff in the middle. Do not use water to clean the inside of the pumpkin.  It will cause it to rot and mold.  Use a paper towel to dry the inside.

Step 3: With a pen or sharpy, draw on your design and plan your carving path.  You can draw your patter on a piece of paper and use a pen to hollow out small dots on the pattern.  Then, trace the dots onto the pumpkin.  In North America,  carving kits are very popular and they come with these drawings.

Step 4: Using a small carving tool to carve out the outlines. Then with your fingers to push out the carved out pieces

Step 5: Light your candle(s) and then place it in!  Then put it outside during the night to scare your neighbor!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cous Cous Fruit Salad

Couscous salad inside a little fishbowl shot glass
This is my October entry for Royal Food Joust by the Leftover Queen: Cous Cous Fruit Salad.  This is my favourite immune booster dish for the cold-autumn and approaching winter.  For this dish, I used ingredients in its purest and freshest form.  Raw minced garlic, zested lemon, juice of orange, and poached sweet potato.  The flavours are intensified by the its citrus, red wine vinegar dressing with a kick of spice and a hint of agave.  The mix of fruits: papaya, mango, strawberry added not only the much needed Vitamin C for the winter, but also a layer of texture and flavours to contrast the citrus in the dressing. Fish, too, was marinated in cayenne pepper and orange juice.

I love acidic food.  It is great for your digestive system, and makes great appetizer, or cleanses your palate after a meal.  If you don't like acidic food, add a couple tablespoons of cashew cream or real cream into the salad dressing.  This is a dish inspired by the second set of Boot Camp by Walter Messiah.  I started making this dish during my black box cook-off.  Afterwards, I refined it with each dinner I hosted at home. My parents loved it, even my cream-loving-citrus-hating mother.  This salad (ie. without the fish) is completely vegan, cane sugar, and soy free. If you take out the couscous too, it would also be gluten free! Yet, it is still full of flavour and nutrients.

(serves 4)

4 Pieces of Halibut
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 Orange
1 cup Israelis Couscous
½ Papaya (cubed)
½ Mango (cubed)
2 cloves Garlic (minced)
1 Large Tomato (cubed only the skin)
½ Red Onion (minced)
½ Bunch cilantro (chopped)
1 Lime or lemon (zested)
¼ cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 tbs Agave Syrup
1 large Sweet Potato (cubed)
1 tbs cashew cream (or cream) (optional)

1. Pre heat oven 400F
2. Sprinkle cayenne pepper on the meat side of the halibut. Juice half of the orange and marinate the halibut it in.
3. Bring water to boil.  Add in sweet potato. Once it is cooked, blench, drizzle on the cashew cream cream, and set aside
3. Boil water to boil.  Add in the couscous.  Cover, lower the heat to low.  Once it is cooked, about 30-40 minutes, blench, set aside
4. Mix in Papaya, mango, garlic, tomato, onion, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, lime zest, cayenne pepper, olive oil, cilantro, juice from the other half of the orange in a bowl, set aside. When it is ready to be served, combined it with sweet potato and couscous.
5. Over high heat, put olive oil in a pan. When the olive is slightly smoking, sear the halibuts meat side down for a minute. Put the pan in the oven for 5 minutes.

Cous Cous Fruit Salad on Foodista

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Goldfish Pacific Kitchen

A Posh and Seductive Restaurant
Goldfish Pacific Kitchen is the third restaurant in our Taste of Yaletown adventure.  We have chosen this restaurant for its Asian fusion food.  The table setting even comes with chopsticks!  I brought my parents and Andy for this excursion.  For $35, we were pretty pleased with our food, but it did not impressed my father's refined palette.  He felt that Trattoria was the best Western restaurant in Vancouver (before they change chef).  The poor guy missed their Beef Capriccio.  Anyway, I believe my family will never go back to Goldfish ever again, and the search for a better restaurant to bring my parents continues.

Crab Tempura
Food: 3/5
We ordered everything on the tasting menu and a couple more.  The appetizers were all above average, satisfying, delicious, but left you wanting more.  Dennis quite enjoyed his beautifully plated King Crab Tempura.  High quality seafood and tempura better taste so differently from the cheap common version, but there was only one piece.  The Tuna Poke was a plate of fresh premium seafood with subtle flavours. My father polish the entire plate before I had a chance to snap a photo.  He nodded his head and say "not bad": (which means pretty good).  Green Papaya Salad was also okay but came with undercooked rice noodles, yuck!

Braised Short Rib
On the regular menu, the braised short rib was moist, soft, and full of flavours.  It was possibly the best short rib I have had in Vancouver.  My father explained that this style of short rib is distinctively Taiwanese 台塑牛排.  Of course, they had better in Taiwan, but for Vancouver standard, it was damn good.

Bison Flat Steak
Now the main courses, all the fish was perfectly cooked.  Salmon came with a delicious cream sauce.  The Bison Flat Iron was well cooked but the dressing and the sauce were pretty ordinary.  Dennis was unimpressed with his prawn pasta.  The prawn was rubbery and the pasta was plain.  The worst part was Andy's Lemon Grass Chicken. The chicken was fine, but the rice underneath was dry and tough.  Never serve bad rice to a Chinese...  More on this later.

The desserts were super disappointing.  The creme brulé lacked flavour, and the cheesecake tasted like toothpaste.  The best was the lava cake, but it wasn't anything special.

Lemon Grass Chicken
Service: 3.5/5
Service was good and consistent throughout the dinner. Food was served quickly and arrived all at the same time.  Glass was filled up consistently. It was everything you would expect out of a dinner service.

Ambience: 4/5
It was posh, sexy, with seductive music.  A place I would like to come back with my girlfriends in cocktail dresses and high heels.  This place is meant for gorgeously posh people come to meet other equally gorgeous posh people.  Although my family was underdressed, in sweat pants and T-shirts, it's private booth hid us comfortably while we people watch.

Overall Experience: 2.5/5
They had Tantalus in glasses!  The wine list was not extensive, but it was well chosen with something for each dish and more.  So why the low mark?  When Dennis mentioned the tough dried rice on Andy's plate, the server acknowledged it and showed her concerns.  However, that was it though.  No replacement rice or further follow up.  Pretty fail right there.

Total: 13/20.  It's always a shame when a restuarant looks better than it tasted.  We enjoyed the food at $35 dollar, but we definitely won't be going back to pay the full price.

Goldfish Pacific Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Simply Thai

Chicken Satay, Cho Muag, and Tod Mun
For Taste of Yaletown, my friends and I went to Simply Thai Restaurant.  It was highly recommended by Jayna, my hair and makeup stylist for my wedding. She used to work at Simply Thai.  Although she strongly disliked the management, she couldn't help but to continue to go back for its food even after she quit.

Bird Nests
Good Thai food is hard to come by in Vancouver.  Strangely, the good Thai foods I ever had were all in Ontario.  I was eager to try this place out; maybe Vancouver had finally broken its curse of bad Thai food. Craig lived in Thailand for an extended period of time, and he was the Thai food specialist at our table.  We all agreed that this is probably one of the best Thai restaurants in Vancouver, but it still pales in comparison to ones in Ontario and, not surprisingly, disappointing comparing to food in Thailand.

Pad Thai
Food: 3/5
Between the $25 and $35 set menu, pretty much everything on the regular menu were on the list.  Everything was tasty, but nothing special, except for Cho Muag, the pink flower looking thing.  It is pink sweet dumpling dough with exotic flavours I couldn't identify.   For $25, the food is standard; well, substandard for Criag who added more spicy sauce onto every bite.

For $35, the food was above average, but we weren't as impressed as we were with Brix the day before.  Thai risotto was a pleasant surprise though.  By using coconut cream, this vegan dish was packed with delicious flavour and health benefit. It was not actual arborio rice used in traditional risotto, I believe it was regular Thai rice soaked in delicious sauce.  I gotta try making this at home too!

Thai Risotto
The dessert was another disappointment.  The mango berry cheese cake was good, but nothing special and I had better fried banana at Banana Leaf.

Service: (2.5/5)
I believe the lady manager/boss served us.  The restaurant was slightly understaffed (maybe this was where the poor management came in). Food was quite slow, and there were some mix-ups.  Water glass were often empty. Wine was slow, and Criag had to ask for his spicy sauce 3 times.  It didn't really ruin our time there, but there is a lot of room for improvement.

Massaman Curry
Ambience: (3.25/5)
The place was causal, bright, clean, and well spaced.  It exuded warmth and comfort in its simple decor.  I felt comfortable in the restaurant; in fact, we stayed quite long after the meal to relax and chat. No music though.

Overall (2.25/5)
Whoever designed the wine list really loves red wine.  The wine list was expansive and expensive; it was a book!  Lot of 3 or 4 digit priced red wines that didn't necessarily go with their food, but the collection was definitely impressive.  The boss lady didn't know much about her wine.  She was trying to describe a Sauvignon Blanc as sweet and dry...  I didn't appreciate the BSing.  Instead, I ordered a glass of chardonnay, which was still off-dry. Slightly sweet wine helps with the spicy food, but it wasn't very pleasant on its own.  In short, the by-the-glass list may need some adjustment.

Total: 11/20
I don't think we were too hard to please.  Would I go back? Probably... to give it a second chance. Yaletown is pretty far though (and expensive).

 Simply Thai on Urbanspoon

The Brix

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the courtyard
The Brix & Wine Bar located in Yaletown heritage building with this gorgeous, romantic, warm covered courtyard.   Dennis and I were really impressed with huge menu and delicious food the first time we went; the restaurant was on our short list for wedding venues.  For Taste of the Yaletown, we dragged Peter to The Brix take some photos. The Brix was worthy of Peter's amazing photography.

Remember Dine Out Vancouver?  The entire event was a rip-off; the top tier restaurants were offering substandard reheated food, yuck.  For $35 dollar, the Brix offered delicious 3 course meal at a great value.  I definitely will be going back especially for their 5-mushroom risotto and recommend the restaurant to everyone.

Food: (4/5)
Butternut Squash Risotto
We were able to order everything on the Taste of Yaletown Menu and a little more. The appetizer breads with the conventional butter, basamic vinegar and olive oil were a little strange and salty. (3) The butternut risotto was delicious and satisfying, but not special (3.5).  The blue cheese in the Duck Confit Salad added a nice kick and complex flavours the salad. (3.5) Dennis loved the scollop risotto - salty and smoky. (4) So far so good.  Appetizers were well portioned and the quality of the ingredients were fresh and freshly cooked!
Flat Iron Steak
The star of the main course was the Five Mushroom Risotto - this is what I have come back to the restaurant for.  Rich mushroom aroma with hint of truffle was mind melting; the texture was perfect (4.5).  Ling Cod was impressive as well: a large portion of perfectly cooked fish candied pecan and delicious creamy pasta. (4).  The steak was perfectly cooked - which should be standard for restaurant of this caliber. Its carbernet wine demi was delicious - what I would do to get that sauce recipe. (4.5)  My lamb dish from the normal menu was a little ordinary.  I enjoyed the big fatty pieces of candied lamb, but I had better for cheaper (3.5).
The Brix had Vanilla bean Panna Cotta.  I have been waiting to try another panna cotta since A Kettle Fish's 5/5 Calvado Penna Cotta.  However, Brix's was not as good as that one.  It was pretty decent and subtle in flavour, but inferior (3.5).  The table wasn't very impressed with Sticky Toffee Pudding either, which tasted like maple syrup.

A meal like this would have usually cost around $40-50 per person.  Overall, we were very pleased with our meal for $35.

Scallops with Duck Fried Risotto
Service (3.5/5)
The service was good and consistent throughout our meal there. Food were served quickly and together.  Water glass was always filled up, and we never ran out of alcohol at any given time.  It was everything you would expect out of a dinner service.

Ambience: (4/5)
The place is gorgeous. Not in the expensive designer-jewel-box sense, but a simple elegance, drawing out the rustic beauty of the heritage building.  I find the courtyard irresistibly romantic and secluded.  It would be a great place for that third date or even the big proposal.   The music selection was modern, cool, and not annoying.

Overall Experience (4/5):
The wine list was diverse and well put together.  There are plenty of quality selections at all range of prices  We were able to get a bottle of Camenere at a very decent price.  There is a decent beer list, which is still rare in restaurants.  Dennis has introduce Godfather to Peter and I, which I will talk about later in a separate post.

Total: (15.5/20)
Five mushroom risotto is a must try. It's $35 menu is the best of the four restaurants I have tired so far.  Their regular menu items are just as delicious and huge portions.

  Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Granville Island – Extra Special Bitter (ESB)

Christine suggests that I be more straightforward in my reviews for drinks, and wants me to speak from the heart and the taste buds.

 This is the best bitter beer I have ever had. I went out and spent $130 on two cases as soon as I was able to get my hands on more. The ESB is similar to IPAs and other hoppy beers in that it really gives you that smooth finish, but it doesn’t sacrifice any of the punch doing so. It’s frankly, the most badass beer I’ve ever had, and it’s a terrible shame that it’s only out for ONE MONTH a year. Ugh, talk about torture!

The guys (and gals) over at the Granville Island Brewery say that Bitters are like the Cabernet Sauvignon of beer. They’re not easy to like, and it may takes years of beer drinking before your palette evolves to the point where you crave that hoppy flavour in beer. Heck, it took me 11 years of (legal) drinking to get to this point. Christine compared it to appreciating the hoppiness in bitters to liking really tannin heavy wines, and that’s probably a pretty fair comparison. But like Christine and her Cabernets.. . I’ve made the step, and I can never look back. I constantly need hops in my beers, and I haven’t stocked anything else in my fridge since this monumental discovery. Don’t get me wrong there will always be room for a light crisp lager on a hot summer day, or a white beer if I’m looking for something citrusy, but over all ... ESB all the way baby.

Poultry Nesting Bird in the News

After a quick search on the internet, I found this great article on Mail Online about a New York Chef trying the 12-bird mammoth.  It can feed 125 people and has 50,000 calories.  3,500 calories makes one pound of weight in a human being.  If you eat the entire thing, you would gain 14 pounds overnight.

The chef commented that the roast had powerful and gamey flavours and it was difficult to distinguish flavours from each bird. He suggested that the best result can be achieved by simply taking the four most distinctive tasting birds - goose, Aylesbury duck, turkey, and pheasant or partridge.

Man, even typing up this post makes me hungry.

Click here to follow or participate in my Poultry Nesting Bird Project.

New Season New Layout

I bet you notice the layout change for this blog.  It's the end of autumn going into winter. I thought this layout is more Winter-in-Vancouver-like (actually, I think Vancouver looks like this all the time). Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Poultry Nesting Dolls Project

My friends and I were chatting about roasting turkey at Simply Thai for the Taste of the Yaletown event. Not sure how the conversation came about, but decided to make a goose-turkey-duck-cornish hen-squab-quail-etc roast, using bacon fat for lubrication for squeezing one bird into another.  None of us have ever roast something of this magnitude, so it will take bit of research and prep to find right size birds and all the necessary equipment (and oven).

Birds of this size can probably feed 30-40 (or more) people, so we have decided to make an event out of it, giving us about three weeks to plan aiming for November 21st.  Whoever wants to witness and eat this bird must help us cover the cost of the event.  Depend on the venue, I would like to open the event to my reader, so i will keep you posted!

I will periodically update everyone on the progress of making this 'bird'.  If you have any experience baking similar monster, please let me know about your experience and any tips that we can use.

Here is the facebook page for the event.  Please click attending or like if you are interested. Knowing an estimate on the number of guests would help us decide just how many birds to stuff.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Les Princess Abbés Riesling 2005, Alsace

Variety: Riesling
Producer: Domaines Schlumberger
Vintage: 2005
Region: Alsace, France
Alcohol: 12%
Price: $28

Appearance: Clear, pale lemon, legs
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity, developing, citrus, stone fruit, lemon, petrol
Palette: dry to off dry, medium- acidity, no tannin, medium alcohol, medium body, medium+ intensity, citrus, lime, mineral, lemon, honey, petrol, stone fruit, medium+ finish

How do you identify a Alsacian riesling when you get one in a blind tasting? First, identify the petrol => riesling.  It is medium to medium+ body with pretty high alcohol, so this is not German.  No burnt toast notes, so this is not Australian.  I tasted mineral and stone fruit with a nice array of citrus aromas, ahha! Riesling from Alsace!

Quality: Very good.  Good price and can keep for a long time.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Japas Bistro

Rustic ambiance with lots of natural lights
Japas Bistro is not one of those generic california-roll-economy-bento-box sushi place.  Well, they do have california rolls and economy bento box stuff, but they specialize in unique rice burger (gluten free) and a few specialty authentic items.

I initially heard of this restaurant in Georgia Straight which claims that they serve mochie burger.  The dude who wrote the article obviously did not know what mochie was, because these rice patty were simple pressed rice. Dennis and I were pretty disappointed with the food.

Beef Yakiniku
Check out the massive amount of mayo (albet it was good mayo).  The protein inside was fried.  The dish came with fries? Fries? In a Japanese Bistro?  I suppose it was $6.00, but I can go across the street and have a massive bowl of ramen for $8.

Zuke Tuna
More fried food.  I believe whatever gluten free benefit got thrown out of the window and in with the fish batter.

Pumpkin Croquette
The last time I had these, I was in Kyoto.  These were more than disappointing.

Overall, it was a mediocre experience, and I probably won't go back again.  The place may look fancy, but the food is not.

Japas Bistro on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Trainer's Tip from Christina

Protein, your best friend at 3pm.

You know the feeling, the droopy eyes, the sudden sweet cravings that hit around 3 or 4 pm in the afternoon. These feelings usually send you running for that third cup of coffee and perhaps something sweet; donut, muffin or granola bar.

This burnout, a feeling of mental and physical lull a few hours after lunch is brought on by a drop in blood sugar levels. It spurs that craving for a quick high from a sugar or “white” carbohydrate. This is huge diet pitfall for many as it sets you up for another dip and subsequent binge right at dinner time (or right into the evening), leading us to overeat.

However, two simple steps can side-step this reaction and keep you on track.
1. Increase your protein and reduce simple carbohydrates at lunch, with adequate hydration!
Example: 3-5 oz grilled chicken breast with mashed yams and squash, salad with balsamic vinaigrette, berries, goat cheese and walnuts
Pita Pit chicken salad with hummus instead of cheese, loads of vegetables and vinaigrette
2. Protein snack and water ready to rock at 3 pm
Example: hard-boiled egg with sliced tomato, S&P or 1/3 cup natural almonds or 1 oz beef jerky
More protein will increase satiety and blood sugar stable, minimizing the 3 pm slump. The protein snack boost will keep your energy levels on an even keel and ensure you come home with enough energy to make dinner another healthy choice.
So embrace healthy, natural and whole sources of protein as your best friend and they will keep you energy stable throughout your day.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Taste of Yaletown 2010

Taste of Yaletown is happening. Follow the link to all the participating venues and menus. Don't miss it!

FBC: Chocolate Mole & Irish Cream Ale

This is the most delicious and the most laborious chicken so far

Frat-boy Chicken Series:
FBC: BBQ and Honey Larger
FBC: Lemon Pepper and Hefeweizen
FBC: Lemon Grass Chili and Asian Beer

This one doesn't look very appetizing, but it was... my god... it was really good.  20 ingredients went into making this chicken, and it took me all afternoon.  When I bit into the chicken, it was juicy with pockets of flavour explosion, a good balance of salt, tang, sweetness, and spiciness. nom nom nom If you have a free afternoon, this is well worth your time.

1 whole chicken
5 dried ancho dried chiles (more if you want extra spiciness)
1 small onion (chopped)
1-2 large tomato (peeled, seeded, and chopped)
so many ingredients
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
⅓ cup sliced almonds
⅓ cup Raisin
1 Tbsp Sesame seeds (toasted)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Ground cloves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp powdered cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground anise seeds
2 oz unsweetened chocolate melted (I used 100% to skip the cane sugar in the chocolate)
1 Tbsp agave syrup
1 Tbsp rock or sea salt (roughly grounded)
3 Tbsp grounded pepper
Olive oil
1 cup water
1 can Irish Cream Ale

The mole sauce:
1 Soak chiles in very hot water until soft, about 30 minutes. (Make sure they are fully submerged, as they tend to float)
2. In a pan on medium to low heat, sauté onion in olive oil until soft and translucent about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté another minute. Add spices, herbs, and cook, stirring constantly about 30 seconds. Don't let anything burn.
3. In a blender, grind together the almond, cooked onion mixture, tomatoes, spices, raisin, sesame seeds, salt, peer, and water. Puree until smooth.
4. Remove seeds, stems from the chile, but do not discard the seeds. Puree very finely by passing the chiles through a food mill or mesh strainer to remove any skin.  Blend the paste with rest of the stuff.
5. At this point, taste the sauce and add additional seasoning, agave syrup, or water as necessary until it is exactly how you want it and the consistency is smooth and brushable.

1. Preset the oven to convection 425F.
2. Clean the chicken, pat dry with paper towel.
3. Mix salt, black pepper, and olive oil in a bowl. Brush the mixture onto the chicken.
4. Pour 1 cup of Irelish cream ale into the can.  Put the remaining seeds from the chile into the can. Prop the chicken onto the can and arrange the legs so the chicken is well-balanced and sits straight up.
5. Bake it for 10 minutes.
6. Lower the oven temperature to 300F
7. Take the chicken out. Brush the mole mixture onto the chicken.
8. Put the chicken back in the oven and bake for 40 minutes or until the chicken's internal temperature reaches 160F. Glaze it with more beer and mole occasionally.
9. Enjoy the rest of the beer while you wait for your roast!
10. Once it is ready, leave it to cool for 20 minutes before carving. This will help the moisture in the chicken to settle.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Taiwan 2010: Part 3

Unfortunately, I was not in Taiwan for pleasure.  It was business - sort of - foodie business!  The Taiwanese government sponsored a 3 week program for Taiwanese people with foreign passport within the food industry - everything is free.  Somehow (they probably made a clerical error) I got into this program.  The average age of my classmates are twice my age, and most had several restaurants.  One woman even had 17 chains. They were there to have a good time and learn to expand their business internationally.  Then there was me, a random blogger who aren't even making any income from blogging.  (48 faces raised their eyebrow and stared at me when I introduced myself).  Guh intimidating!

That was my lunch on Day 2. This is a very standard lunch for office folks in Taiwan.  Let's see... we had stewed pork in a soy spice reduction, tofu, steamed greens (cabbage, peas with garlic), shredded chicken on rice for $2.80 CND.  The portion was well portioned. No fries, no cheese, no refined carbs, cream, or coke.  Yet delicious! No wonder people stay thin in Taiwan.

The container is recycled paper with environmentally friendly ink. The university issued non-disposable personal utensil that I carried with me everyday. Garbages were completely recycled: paper, plastic, and compost.  Just like Japan!

These were pastries made by students are the university. It was served during meeting breaks.  These were all traditional Taiwanese pastries. The sun cakes, moon cakes, and egg cake, phenix cake, etc.  All containing eggs unfortunately.  Btw, Taiwan is not an allergy friendly place.  People here don't really have allergies.  I used to not have any allergies when I was living in Taiwan either.  Only after 10 years in Canada, I acquired some allergies (maybe we are too clean?).

Anyway, we also met a celebrity chef... He didn't do much talking though.  People were more interested in taking his photo and have him sign stuff.  I am sure he is a great cook, but I would have rather hear him talk and ask him questions....

Chateau D'Armajan des Ormes Sauternes

Variety: Sauvignon Blanc
Producer: Cheateau D'Armajan Des Ormes
Vintage: 2003
Region: Bordeaux, France
Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: $30

Appearance: Clear, medium brown, long thick legs
Nose: Clean, pronounced, developing, nuts, caramel, creamy, vanilla, jam, apple
Palette: Medium-sweet, low acidity, no tannin, high alcohol, full body, smooth, soft, creamy, caramel, sugar, jam, fruits, long finish

I had this when I was down in Seattle. Sauterne is this super super sweet ice wine from France. It's hard to take more than a few sip before you get overwhelm by the sweetness. However, if you chill the wine in a freezer for awhile, then you get to experience all its complex and amazing flavours without the coyness. Yum! Good value too.

Quality: Outstanding! Ready to drink but can keep.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Would you Eat: Sharkfin Soup

Eating Shark seems to be an international cuisine.  Shark fin is a highly sought after delicacy in Asian and subsequently in Cantonese restaurants in Vancouver.  When I tried to youtube "shark fin", most of the videos concern animal cruelty and endanger specie.  Then I tried to youtube it in Chinese, then I got bunch of fake shark fin, improper food safety handling regarding shark fin, police busts in China.  It took me a while to find this video.

However, that's definitely not the psychology in Taiwan, even my mother find it unacceptable that I decided to not serve shark fin soup at my engagement.  Not that she really wants to eat it, she is a borderline vegetarian, but she believes it is socially unacceptable if I don't serve it.

I have eaten plenty of shark fin soup growing up.  In fact, my grandfather makes the best; he made a huge batch to celebrate the birth of his first great grandson. I gotta say... it's pretty delicious. In Asia, there is a lot of social pressure to consume certain type of food, such as shark fin soup, similar to drinking alcohol in America culture. It would be considered cheap to not serve it at an important gathering and an insult to refuse to eat such expensive dish.  I believe it will take a lot of awareness campaign before people would change.

I do respect the fact that shark fin is cultural ingrained. However, I do believe everything should be in moderation.  The current level of consumption of shark fin might be too high.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


In restaurants, dozens of ingredients go into making one dish, making it impossible for people with multiple food sensitivity to eat out.  It can also be embarrassing and uncomfortable to list of your allergy, which is your own personal and private medical information to a stranger while the rest of the restaurant eavesdrop. How awkward would that be on your first date?  On top of that, can you REALLY be sure that the server won't make a mistake?

Irish Stew
Thanks to Jean, she has discovered that Burgoo offers a book of ingredients for each dish for people with allergy to browse and check. They have something for you even if you are allergic to eggs, dairy, soy, cane sugar, mushroom, and more, and it's still delicious.

 I used to hate Burgoo, and, yes, hate is a strong word.  They used to put celery (which I find repulsive) in every single dish, large chucks of it.   That was three years ago.  They have undergone big menu changes and the food are delicious.  I love their lunch specials which are really good deals.  Is it the best food I have ever had? No. The best deal? No.  It's pretty good and, most importantly, it's allergy friendly.

If you have food sensitivities, I definitely recommend this place out.  It may save your social life.

Burgoo (Point Grey) on Urbanspoon
Burgoo (Main Street) on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Batasiolo 2004, Piedmont Italy

Variety: Nebbiolo
Producer: Batsiolo
Specification: DOCG
Vintage: 2006
Region: Piedmont, Italy
Alcohol: 14%
Price: $88

Appearance: Clear, medium Garnet, long legs
Nose: Clean, medium intensity, developing, dried fruit, earth, leather, meaty, tobacco, tar, plum, rose
Palette: dry, medium+ acidity, medium+ tannin, medium+ alcohol, medium+ body, medium+ intensity, red fruit, dried fruit, earth, clove, leather, meaty, medium length

This is a wine for the pros. It's actually not enjoyable otherwise (especially for its price).  It has bracingly high acidity and chewy tanning that makes you feel as if your teeth are going to erode or turn into sand paper.  Barolo is produced at Barolo, a tiny region in Piedmont.  The wine is barrel aged for... I believe 4-5 years before it's bottled, but even after all that time, this is still a very astringent wine that requires to be aged further.

Quality: Very good, ready to drink but can develop further.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Stuffing Portabella Mushroom

This one almost fell through the crack of my iPhoto.
Here is a fancy version of that from bootcamp

This post will talk about how to stuff your own portabella mushroom.  Portabella mushroom contains selenium which reduces the risk of prostate cancer. Its meaty texture and the amazing ability to absorb flavour makes it great for low carb, vegetarian or vegan diet.  However, the mushroom is black and once you cook it, it can look wrinkled and burned: not very appetizing. If you want to impress your vegetarian date or guests, working with this mushroom is a must.

Stuffed is one way to 'pretty' up this mushroom, and I don't know about you, but I love stuff things in more things. The 'filling' or topping can be anything you want.

First you start with your mushroom....
The stem is chewy and not very tasty.  Removing the stem requires some extra care because it can easily tear the mushroom cap ruining your stuffing base.  One trick Chef Walter taught me was: with your palm, hold the mushroom against the edge of a table with the stem side lying on the table. The table and your hand will stabilize the cap, while you gently slice off the stem with the other hand.

With a spoon, gently scrape off the black stuff on the underside of the mushroom. Don't throw it out though.  Soak these with the stem in warm water, which can be used to as stock when making your topping.

Rub olive oil, salt, and pepper on both side of the mushroom.  Put it into the oven at 375F for 10-15 minutes, or until the mushroom is cooked.  How do you tell it's cooked? I have no idea.  I think it looks wrinkled and really dark.  Then you can set it aside while you prepare your topping.

Filling... let's see... The fancy one from boot camp was stuff with prawn béchamel (flour, butter, cream, prawn), topped with a slice of gouda and then another prawn.  Prawn béchamel was cooked when stuff it on the mushroom.  The top prawn was raw and sliced.  The entire stack was placed into the oven for a good 5-10 minutes to cook the top prawn right onto the cheese.

The ugly one is my first trial fun.  It is completely vegan: caramelized onion, chopped white mushroom sautéed with tons of garlic, oregano, and sherry vinegar, and topped with soy cheese.  It looks like the cheese just burn instead of melt or cook, so I will probably just go with real cheese next time.

Or you can go with something super easy like this: chicken with proprietary Hibachi sauce (Japanese steak and BBQ sauce with sake).  I bought this lovely sauce from Market Meat, and I totally recommend.