Monday, October 26, 2009

Perhaps it puts the "Fun" in "Fun Treat"?

It's that time of year again - Halloween tricks and treats. I've been craving sugar for the past week or so, and this weekend, I took advantage of some sales and scooped up some treats for kiddies that I know and that will be trick or treating. Of course, I have my little stash too.

Above - not so big now are ya, Mr. Big??!

I canNOT believe how small these candy packets have gotten! I mean, I am all about variety, but doesn't the amount of waste somehow factor in there? I figure that, for the 50-pack "fun sized" treats that I bought, it is almost definitely, by weight, packaging (cardboard box + packaging film). And that is what the consumer gets, too - imagine the master cartons they come in (to protect the pretty box the the consumer sees and ultimately buys), the pallet film (for further protection and transporation) and the pallets and any additional "padding" around the corners of the pallets?!?

It made me feel guilty as I nibbled on a one-bite Wunderbar. :(

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Long Table Series at Irish Heather Pub (Gastown, Vancouver, BC)

It was a cold, stark, wet Tuesday night as Yum-O-Rama and other food bloggers descended upon Irish Heather Pub in Gastown for the Cornish Game Hen meal in the Long Table Series. The event was organized by Kim, of I'm Only Here For the Food!, and in attendance were the bloggers behind Sherman's Food Adventures, 604Foodtography, Secret Eden, Food and Tell, and Five Loaves.

At the extended Long Table Series (it started and was only supposed to run in the summer), guests are seated at one looooong communal table and served one meal - the night we visited, it was roast Cornish Game Hen with long-laboured gravy, house cut chips, and a simple slaw.

The night was sponsored by Steam Whistle beer - how else would you get a meal and a beer for only $12? The beer supplied was a pilsner - nice, light, and while M would call it "sweet", I would simply say that it didn't have the typical "hoppy" flavour of other light beers. We think the Steam Whistle Beer paired nicely with the meal of the night, although it would also taste great alongside a creamy pot pie, white fish, or a spicy Thai or Malaysian meal.

It was a very professional affair - we were greeted at the door and asked to wait in the back holding area, then ushered from there in one big group to the long table. After the chef gave a beautiful description of the making of the meal, our plates were brought to us banquet style.

I never noticed how I enjoyed hearing about how the food was made. A *long* time ago, when I attended one of Fairmonts' apprentice appreciation dinners, the slight wait while the chef described the making of each course and the reasoning behind the dish components was well worth it as the narrative made each dish more enjoyable. I *still* remember the sablefish liver pate, cured sablefish, and anise pudding course from one Fairmont team that just blew me away. So - chef at Irish Heather, you increased my Cornish Game Hen enjoyment by +5 points! (Sorry, too much Mafia Wars as of late.)

Needless to say, I enjoyed my meal. The previous time I had Cornish Game Hen, it was stuffed with truffle and other ingredients, and was done too dry. That was not the case at Irish Heather, where the meat was juicy and tender. The house cut chips were a nice accompaniment - crispy, not too starchy, and perfect for dunking into their gorgeous gravy. May I add - several diners around us (and us included!) asked for more gravy, just for dunking. The coleslaw was not creamy, but not acidic either. The slaw was slightly marinated in a light dressing and made for the perfect side. This was the perfect comfort-food meal!

Irish Heather

208 Carrall St [map]
Vancouver BC
P: (604) 688-9779
To make reservations for the Long Table Series, please visit the Long Table Series Blog
Irish Heather on Urbanspoon

Other bloggers take:

Kim - I'm Only Here For the Food!
Sherman - Sherman's Food Adventures
Kevin - 604Foodtography
Jenny - Secret Eden
Jonathan - Food and Tell
Joyce & Frank - Foodie Adventures
Danny - Five Loaves

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Empanada Hut (Richmond, BC)

My first experience with empanadas would have to in elementary school, when I had to witness a classmate chomp down on his mothers homemade empanada. It was kind of a treat to be eating lunch at school - being that my mother was a stay-at-home mother, and that we lived so close to school.

On the rare occasion that I *did* have lunch at school, P, with his little chubby fingers, would nimbly remove what looked like pastry pocket stuffed with raisins, meat, onions, garlic and sometimes vegetables.

Perhaps it was evident even at that age that I was enamoured with food. "What is that?" I'd ask him, then proceed to watch him finish the whole thing. All the while, a lingering sweet-meaty-buttery odour emanated from the pastry shell.

Later on in elementary school, I'd do a project on Chile and the empanadas also came up in my research. I'd attempt to make empanadas in high school, but they didn't come close to what I remember my childhood friend P eating.

While we were waiting for dinner at Gingeri a couple weeks ago, Sherman had joked about going out to go get an empanada at Empanada Hut, which was also in Lansdowne Mall.

"Noooo!" I had said, knowing that we'd probably be splitting at the seams after dinner. But part of me wanted to go too - just to enjoy that piece of childhood.

I got my chance last week...after all, I work in Richmond, why don't I eat in Richmond?! I opted for a combo with my choice of two baked empanadas and a drink.

Naturally, I chose two different empanadas - chicken and beef. Empanada hut also offers a baked seafood empanada, and a number of cheese empanadas which are deep fried. In addition, I saw a sign for churros - for someone that made churros as my operations management (was it? someone correct me here.) project in BCIT, it was a tempting. BUT. My tummy can only hold so much food! And empanadas would fit the bill.

The beef empanada had a more "caramel" like flavour than the chicken - there were plumped raisins in the mix, along with a whole olive, hard-boiled egg, onions and garlic. The flavour was mild but definitely pleasing and satisfying.

The chicken empanada was similar to the beef, except with a cleaner flavour. Both empanadas were accentuated with a salsa that was supplied. I'd go back for more salsa. There was a nice hit of cilantro and lime that accompanied the empanadas beautifully.

And yes, the empanadas from Empanada Hut did emanate the same sweet meaty odour that I remember from my childhood. Perhaps I should ask if it was Mrs. G herself manning Empanada Hut? :)

Empanada Hut

#1065 - 5300 No. 3 Road [map]

Richmond, BC

P: (604) 273-9130

Empanada Hut on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Gingeri Restaurant (Richmond BC)

Recently, my cousins have been getting married, and *gulp* having kids. Of course, for M and I all this leads to is winks from older relatives and questions about when we'll be getting married and when we'll be having our own "baby showers" and such. Oh. And when they can buy my parents some baby bibs. haha!

One such cousin who got married and had a cute baby boy is cousin Vandeley and cousin-in-law Donna Chang, as you may know from Sherman's Food Adventures. Yes, I am Vandeleys' cousin, although I wasn't even sure at times myself!

For Vandeleys' baby (have any names for him yet, Sherman? :), the moon yuet / one-month baby shower was held at Gingeri Restaurant in Richmonds' Landsdowne Mall. I've written about Gingeri before, but I'd never gotten an entire meals' worth of dishes in a post, thanks to overzealous diners in my family. It was nice to have another food blogger madly snapping photos throughout the course of the meal. :) There was wedding that took up the main dining area of Gingeri, but the restaurant accomodated both parties very well.

We started off the moon yuet dinner with some dyed eggs and pickled ginger. I'm not sure what the ginger symbolizes, but traditionally the red dyed eggs were to announce the moon yuet (one month anniversary) of the babys' birth. I barely had a chance to crack open my hard boiled egg when the appetizers platter showed up - everything was fresh tasting, except for the spareribs which could have been hotter, were more sour than usual, and had a gummy glaze on them.

Next up was the crab claw. Now, I am no superhero like our friend Sherman, (I am simply Vandeleys' cousin.) so I was not able to get a shot of the entire dish in its untouched state. I can tell you that Gingeri does a great crab claw - they offer it at dim sum occasionally and it is crispy, has a slightly springy shrimp portion encasing the crab claw.

A sea cucumber and prawn dish was next, served with steamed broccoli and lychees. This is one reason why I like Gingeri. Not only do they offer seasonal dishes like every other restaurant, they also offer new, non traditional dishes that no one else has done. Sometimes they don't work, in which case they get the axe from the menu, other times they are hits. Last season they had an orange roughy dish; another time it was a stuffed chicken wing with a mushroom-soy sauce. Yet another time, it was a whole deep fried fish with a tangy peanut sauce and konyaku bundles. I love how Gingeri offers something different!

Along with the set menu for the dinner, shark fin soup. Best enjoyed with a touch of pink vinegar.

As with every special occasion Chinese banquet, abalone made an appearance, this time with stewed mushrooms, vegetables, and sea cucumber. We're not fans of sea cucumber done this way, so we passed on that. I *do* love mushrooms, however, and had about three that night, along with vegetables and abalone.

By the time the crab and lobster combo came, I was pretty full. I did manage to make some room for lobster though, while M picked up a couple pieces of crab. It was all good. The good thing about the crab and lobster is that everyone gets their favourite piece. For me, it'd be the crab claw and a piece of lobster tail or knuckle.

Unlike the crab and lobster, chicken usually has people in my family fighting over certain pieces. I'm a wing girl myself. Unfortunately, so are about five other people in my family. I gave up my piece that night for a nice moist thigh. (that's what she said. :)

From what I understand, Vandelay is a bit of a wine connoisseur. The bottle of wine we had at our table, a 2004 Visan Cote de Rhone from France was no exception. Slightly cherry / blackberry in like flavour, it complemented a lot of the rich food well.

The fish dish was a bit of a mystery. It was just called "cod" on the menu, however I suspected that the breaded and fried pieces on the perimeter of the plate were orange roughy. The sauteed fish, we were told, was "Ching Yee". My uncle tried telling me that it was "ching" as in "clear" (three drops of water in the character) and "yi" as in clothing. I'll have to do some searching around T&T for the English name! The fish was quite firm in texture and had a slightly meaty flavour to it.

Yang Chow rice was also on the menu. There had been a lull in the dinner service (presumably so that the wedding party could do a speech or something!), so M and I had gotten up to chat with Sherman. When I found that the rice had arrived at the tables, I looked over at my table and expected to see it half demolished and consumed. It was. So the above shot is of the rice at Shermans' table! Saucy and packed with veggies, mushrooms, dried scallop, and prawns. It was a nice close to the meal.

Dessert was yummy red-bean paste filled butter cookie, and sesame cookies (smiley face cookies! - named for the way they look.)

Did I tell you that the above food was served to tables of ten? And that a lot of the tables had many children below the age of ten at them? Needless to say, there were a lot of leftovers!

Gingeri Chinese Cuisine

323 - 5300 No. 3 Road [map]

Richmond, BC

P: 604-278-6006

Gingeri Chinese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Jambo Grill (Collingwood, Vancouver, BC)

We've been biking a bit to enjoy the last bits of sun, and have been exploring our corner of the world. While biking the 7-11 trail that runs along Vancouver Translinks' original skytrain line, we found ourselves a bit hungry.

Where to eat? We didn't make the wise choice of taking along a bike lock (that we had keys to, anyways. duh!), so we avoided dining in the busy area around Joyce station. Actually, we were planning on riding onwards to a Commercial Drive patio, but once I saw the hill on Slocan and heard the loud rumblings from my tummy, I decided to stay close.

After an unsuccessful attempt to eat at Chili Pepper House up the street, we peddled onwards to Jambo Grill & Good Morning Paan in the Collingwood area.

Apparently it has been at this location before as "Original Good Morning Paan", but had been renamed Jambo Grill & Good Morning Paan five years ago.

Even though it was the middle of the afternoon - two to three o' clock, the place was packed and at times, there were small line ups at the door. We were lucky to get a seat, although we got to experience what Caucasian people must feel like in a Chinese restaurant! It didn't help that we were sweaty and underdressed for a meal, but we were hungry!

The restaurant has free underground parking in the back, and a take-out counter and take-out waiting area in the back. They a selection of Indian and African dishes, as well as a collection of African art.

After asking some nice patrons and waitresses for their suggestions, we opted for the butter chicken and a lamb biryani. It felt like it took forever to come! Then we noticed that there was a sign near the door proclaiming, "you can't rush good food."

...I wished I had seen that when we came in! To be fair, it wasn't because we were the "odd ones out". I noticed that several tables that had come in around the same time we had were also staring around listlessly, not only for their food, but also trying to catch the attention of waitresses.

When the food came though, it was hot and delicious. The portions were great - we had leftovers! The lamb biryani had huge chunks of tender meat and the long grain rice was cooked with saffron, much like a Persian-style dish that we'd had before. Unfortunately, I found the lamb a bit too gamey for my tastes, but M had no problem consuming a huge quantity of it.

The butter chicken was a little different tasting than what we expected, but there was plenty of garam masala and sauce to be soaked up with the accompanying garlic naan. Out of the two, the butter chicken was my preferred choice, although I'd go back to Jambo Grill strictly for their naan.

We had a choice of butter naan, garlic naan, or spicy naan. Originally, M chose the spicy naan, but the waitress cautioned that it was pretty spicy. I'm glad he chose the garlic naan - I almost gave up trying to take a photograph, it smelt so good - fresh, hot, and fluffy!

When the restaurant became less busy, one of the waitresses stopped by and chatted for a bit. She was really friendly and explained what I had been seeing people order at the take-out / paan window. While we'd been waiting for our food, I'd seen the staff wrapping a collection of sauces, syrups and granular bits in leaves. The packets were wrapped in foil and given to patrons to enjoy at their tables, or to take to go.

According to the waitress, and a menu at Jambo Grill, it was paan - a betel leaf (or two) stuffed with syrup, rosewater, anise, coconut, cardamom, and lime paste. Paan is meant to freshen the breath and aid in digestion.

I was full, but I wanted to try it anyways. I had an idea of what it would taste like - auyurvedic in nature, it probably resembled those candied fennel seeds in other Indian restaurants - or so I thought.

Let me tell you, so that you do not decide to be different and try paan. It was pretty foul. There is no other way to put it. I had an inkling of how much I'd like it, and so had taken it to enjoy on the way home, and save the agony of trying to chew it in the restaurant. The concoction was crunchy, sappy, and slightly crisp. But the overall concensus was that it tasted like getting your mouth washed out with soap.

I was a good kid when I was little, and never had my mouth washed out with soap, but what did I ever do to deserve the lingering soapy flavour in my mouth for the entire evening?! Ahh, the things I do for this blog.

As a side note, the paan did cleanse my mouth of the garlicky curries and lamb that I'd just consumed. But it replaced it with soap! :)

I do want to try other entrees at Jambo Grill - notably the Jungle Ribs that a couple people recommended. There was also a meal including tandoori chicken, kebabs, and ribs, along with salad, fries and raita. Put Jambo Grill down on your list of Indian / African restaurants to visit!

Jambo Grill & Good Morning Paan

3219 Kingsway [map]

Vancouver BC

P: (604) 433-5060

Jambo Grill & Good Morning Paan on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Chada Thai Fine Cuisine (Coquitlam, BC)

Thai food again. What can I say though - when we get a hankering for any type of food, we tend to indulge until we get a little bit of food coma. In the case of Thai food, any time is good for Thai food!

We were near Coquitlam Town Center one weekend and happened upon Chada Thai. The restaurant is in the same shopping plaza as Save on Foods, A&W and Taco Time. The last time we were in the area, the Chada Thai was not open yet, so when we saw the number of people walking briskly into the restaurant, we thought we'd try them out.

It is a small restaurant, and at lunch it always seems quite busy. To make things simple, there is a limited lunch menu where everything is $10, and includes a small salad, soup, and crispy wraps. All lunch items come with rice as well, save for the pad thai.

Service was very attentive and hospitable, and the soup was offered at the beginning of the meal. I settled on the green chicken curry, while M ordered a pad thai.

Chada Thai does not "dumb down" their flavours! We both ordered the meals with "medium" spiciness, and the waitress cautioned that their dishes were a little spicier than other restaurants. We still chose medium spicy. When the food came, it was still palatable and delicious, but next time we'd order a less spicy entree. The pad thai was very flavourful - less tamarind than Lhy Thai, and a generous garnish of sprouts and roasted peanuts. M finished his entire dish!

I *love* green chicken curry. While my entree seemed small, it was actually very rich and had lots of vegetables and chicken in it. I was a little embarassed to ask for a doggy bag, but I *really* wanted to use every drop of the sauce!

We thought the meal was great, and would certainly come back for lunch! I did have a glance at the larger dinner menu online, but since we rarely venture into Coquitlam for dinner, we may not get to try their appetizers and other dishes.

Chada Thai Fine Cuisine

107-2991 Lougheed Highway [map]

Coquitlam BC

P: (604) 464-5300

Chada Thai Fine Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 2, 2009

Vanya (Vancouver, BC)

I thought I had done a post on Vanya / Van-ya, but I guess I was wrong!

Vanya has been in operation on Harold Street in Vancouver for as long as I can remember. Originally, it was owned by an older couple and as far as I know, it is where me and my family began our love affair with sushi!

I remember going when I was in elementary school and working my way from the California rolls, to their special rolls - an ever-changing assortment of fish and seafood packed into a roll. We continued going to Vanya as we grew older - it made for healthy and hearty lunches, a quick eat-in or take-home dinner. Suffice to say, it helped out mom a lot as it was something that she would eat, and that us kids enjoyed as well!

A little over a year ago, Vanya changed hands to a younger couple, and for the first bit, the old owner / chef stayed on to train new staff. The food has held up their quality and standards, and prices have gone up a little, but that is quite understandable in todays' economic climate and inflation!

The restaurant serves a number of bentos / combos and also a slightly different number of bentos for take out. It is all good. :)

One one occasion with M, my mother and sister, (before work got all crazy!) we enjoyed a simple dinner. I didn't get all the photos I wanted, but here are some highlights!

Vanya serves fresh sashimi. Another perk is that they serve wild Sockeye salmon - better eat up before its all gone! Both the salmon and tuna are carefully picked over for bones and sliced beautifully and arranged.

The aforementioned Special roll - filled to the brim with fresh, mouth-watering sashimi, it makes for a healthy, low-fat meal for one, or the perfect dish to share. The dynamite roll is also tasty. My mother always says that Vanyas' tempura is the best; the perk of a small restaurant is that your food arrives quickly, and fresh, crispy tempura is what makes a dynamite roll excellent.

Here is one of my favourite dishes, katsudon, at Vanya. You could say that its one of my favourite comfort foods! Deep-fried pork cutlets with egg cooked onto the top, on a bed of carmelized onions. M is not necessarily great at remembering the names of restaurants, so for the longest time, I referred to Vanya as "the pork chop rice place! You know! How can you not remember?!?" Finally, he is remembering Vanya, so no need to call it the "pork chop rice place". You know. Less confusion. :)

Here's a last shot of the tempura. Crispy, fresh, tasty while still retaining moisture in the shrimp. Vanyas' yam tempura and assorted tempura are also very good.

As an aside, if you order the Nabeyaki Udon, be sure to order the tempura on the side. And in the summertime, be sure to try their cold noodle.

I'm glad Vanya hasn't changed too much with the new management - the place has a lot of nostalgia for me!


5615 Harold Street [map]

Vancouver BC

P: 604-433-1303

Vanya on Urbanspoon
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