Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Review: Fets Pasta Bar & Grill (The Drive, Vancouver, BC)

We love The Drive. Not only is it a couple skytrain stops away, but it is its ecclectic, cultural, and primitive vibe that makes it a go-to place on weekends and sunny days.

We first came by Fets one year when we went to the Drives' annual "Parade of Lost Souls". The event usually takes place a weekend or two before Halloween, and the extravagant costumes (or lack thereof) and makeup that people assemble and celebrate in is phenomenal.

Fets is right across from Grandview Park, and so it was a great spot for people watching.

On this occasion, however, it was sunny and we were looking for a nice place to brunch. With its patio and muraled walls, Fets fit the bill.

We started off with the Creole Clam Chowder. It isn't on the menu - but the last time we were here, we spotted a regular chowing down on it and ordered it. It was as tasty and warming as it was that cold night in October...

This is what the boy ordered. Yes. I say, "Let's go out for brunch!" And he orders fish and chips. They were great though - flakey fish, crisp fries, yummy tartar sauce. The coleslaw wasn't too rich and was fresh.

I ordered the apple-cinnamon French toast, with bacon and over-easy eggs. I always order over-easy eggs, not once have I ever had them slathered / bathed with clarified butter. It was pretty rich and I had an upset stomache the entire afternoon! That aside though, the French toast really hit the spot. Light and fluffy, nicely seasoned with cinnamon.

I'm kind of divided on Fets here. While I love the atmosphere the Fets has, how do you screw up so badly on eggs??

Next time I'll just stick with pub grub.

Fets Pasta Bar & Grill

1230 Commercial Drive [map]

Vancouver BC

Phone: (604) 255-7771

Fets Pasta Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Recipe: Say 'Hello' to my Little Friend, aka "Hot" Chocolate Pudding

Fulfilling promises of a recipe from some time ago...

I had a craving for something rich. Brulee? Maybe. Pot de creme? Meh. Chocolate? I ended up with a concoction of what I call "Hot" Chocolate Pudding. I used egg yolks for the pudding, and the egg whites in a pavlova. It was the perfect marriage of dark and rich, and light and sweet.

I even had the perfect ingredient - a lonesome milk chocolate bunny from Purdy's chocolates that I bought on sale on the Tuesday after easter. Yum! Make sure you chop some extra chocolate for nibbling on! :)

Alas, I did make a mistake when preparing the pudding. I forgot to draw off all the foam / floaty proteins and so the top of the pudding wasn't as smooth as I'd liked. I'll be sure to post another recipe later on where I'll detail that.

1 c half & half
150 grams milk chocolate, chopped (or about half of a good-quality easter bunny! :)
3 large egg yolks
3 T white sugar
3/4 t ground cinnamon (or better, a cinnamon stick!)
1/2 t chili powder (gives a nice "warm" spicy note, as opposed to cayenne, which would kick you in the 'buds. . .nice flavour, but not for everyone.)

Heat the half and half with the cinnamon and chili over medium heat just until small bubbles start to form around the edges.

Meanwhile, beat together the white sugar and egg yolks.

When the half and half has just heated to just bubbling, remove from heat and remove cinnamon stick, if using. Cool slightly.

Temper the chocolate by adding the slightly cooled cream to the chocolate and mixing vigorously until the chocolate is melted. Add to the egg yolk mixture and stir well.

Allow to settle overnight in the fridge, or skim off the foam / curdled protein on the top of the mixture before pouring into ramekins.

Bake in a bain marie for 30-40 minutes at 325ºF or just until set. Cool, or enjoy warm. :)

The above recipe made about six individual puddings - I'm sure that if I had remembered to skim off the foam, it would have made about four or five custards instead.

The 'Hello' To my Little Friend reference in the blog title? No, I wasn't talking about the chocolate bunny (although I could have been). I was talking about the brulee torch that I forgot about since I've moved in!

It was a present from my brother and cousin from way back when when I was still in culinary school. Hard to believe that that was almost ten (10!) years ago. Holy cow time flies!

I have to say that my brulee-ing skills have gone downhill. That, and trying to brulee in a rectangular ramekin when you have vivid memories of being burnt by an industrial torch when you were working in a open restaurant kitchen makes it a little difficult. (There were times when I had to go to the back to swear. haha! ha.)

I think this pudding was better without the bruleeing, personally. It was a touch on the sweet side, so leaving it plain was better instead.

It was all enjoyed by M and my dad, surprisingly. :)

Additional photos available at my flickr set.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Photo Teaser: Dessert For Dinner!

Dessert for Dinner? Why not?!

At Yum-O-Rama, anything is possible! :)

The boy was out and I happened have some dessert prepared - "hot" chocolate pudding / custard in the pretty ramekins from Gourmet Warehouse, and fresh fruit pavlovas made from the egg whites leftover from the pudding. What else are you doing to do with egg whites!!

I'll have the recipes up in a bit. Meanwhile, enjoy the photos!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Review: Cactus Club (Bentall 5, Downtown Vancouver, BC)

Met up with some old high school friends for cocktails and catching up last weekend.

There was too much booze!

westcoast pocket trio: inari tofu pockets stuffed with seasoned sushi rice, smoked salmon, black sesame seeds and sprouts. Delicious but expensive!

That being said, I also apologize for the quality of the photos. I *swear* they looked focused and beautiful that night!

The first time I tried to go to the "new" Cactus Club on Burrard and Pender, we got there too late after a comedy show at Yuk Yuk's and we ended up going somewhere else. What a pity, we thought - it had such a good location, with a nice large patio!

So on the night in question, we decided on either Joey's or Cactus - neither takes reservations on Saturday nights, so it was first come, first served.

The location was great - near skytrain and in the heart of downtown, with a mindset for attracting customers from the business area during the weekdays, and the party crowd on weekends. The plus was the large patio - it was set off from the street, so it wasn't dusty or noisy at all!

We ordered a round of appetizers, some entrees to share, and a couple rounds of drinks.

I started out with the tuna tataki - sadly, Cactus discontinued their tuna poke half a year ago - that was my favourite dish!!! While the tuna tataki was pretty to look at and delicious (after you drained / squeezed it of soy), it was no substitute for the tuna poke. Bring back the tuna poke!!

I took the next photo to demonstrate just how much soy was left over after finishing the dish. There was too much of it for my liking. bleeh.

The photo at the beginning of the post is the trio of westcoast pockets. I've always wanted to try these, M ordered them - he said they were delicious and I have to agree! A touch on the expensive side though - the three pockets were about $12. For that price, I think they were a little stingey.

Above: We also shared a plate of calamari. 'Twas good. You can't go wrong with calamari! I downed my appys with some margaritas, as they were on special on Saturday night.

...K also enjoyed some margaritas with me. I'm sure the lime margarita went well with his beef carpaccio?

Meanwhile, the other K had the spicy chicken with sweet chili sauce. After a couple rounds of drinks, M had a burger, K & S shared a quesadilla, and the other K had the sablefish. Chef Feenie always adds his magical touch to everything - everyone finished their food!

We even shared two desserts - the cheesecake, and a chocolate peanut butter bar. I *loved* the choco pb bar. I'm going to have to try making it at home. *stay tuned*

In all, it was a nice night - the weather was cooperative and it was a great night to sit and lounge on the patio. Even if we did drink too much and not remember much. ;) Here's to summertime...

Cactus Club Cafe (Bentall 5)

588 Burrard Street [map]

Vancouver BC

Phone: 604-682-0933

Cactus Club Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lunchtime Bentos: Hainanese Chicken Rice with Tomatoes & Cucumber

I made some Hainanese Chicken (with chicken rice of course!) this weekend and have been chowing down on some every night with M. Chicken quesadillas, grilled chicken sandwiches, chicken soup with noodles . . .

I finally went back to the chicken and rice today today and had it in its original form, Hainanese Chicken with yummy (oily) chicken rice, with slices of tomato and cucumber, with some sweet chili sauce.

I'll post a recipe later!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Foodie Finds: Gourmet Warehouse (Hastings, Vancouver, BC)

OK, so Gourmet Warehouse isn't so much a "discovery" as it is a destination.

As the name depicts, Gourmet Warehouse is a large store with warehouse-type ceiling - they recently expanded to 12 000 square feet, and still offer kitchen gadgets, food and kitchen products galore.

I haven't been in a long while, and it was a nice treat. I went in for a spaetzle maker (but deemed it too expensive and not practical) but walked out with a set of cute ramekins and kitchen tools.

I loved (as always) the kitchen gadgets - the cake stands, the cookie cutters, the chocolate molds, the japanese graters. I figure I will go back some time to peruse their "salt section" once more (my visit got cut short as M called me to meet for dinner. hmmm.)

I also loved their variety of quality chocolate and vanilla extracts - they had every variety available, as well as a vanilla bean paste.

Another thing I loved about Gourmet Warehouse is their support of local businesses as well. They stocked marshmallows from Butter Bakery, sauces from Vij's, sausage from Cioffi's Meat Market & Deli in Burnaby, and Vancouver Croissant's organic croissants.

Love it love it love it. Definately a go-to place for all your kitchen needs, if not some inspiration!

Gourmet Warehouse does offer some classes and events - however when I inquired at the cashier desk, she directed me to the newsletter on the website. At the time of writing, there is only an older newsletter (Fall / Winter 2008) available - hopefully they'll have some classes out by summer?

Gourmet Warehouse

1340 East Hastings Street [map]

Vancouver BC

Phone: 604-253-3022

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Recipe: Solo Breakfast - Eggs Florentine, Hold the Sauce!

M had to go to work on Easter Monday, so I was left to my own devices. (Not that I couldn't handle it! :)

In the essence of the holiday, I made a simple "fancy" breakfast - poached eggs with spinach, on toast. Eggs Florentine, my way!

I'm not one to drown my breakfast in oil, lard or grease - my Eggs Florentine is minus the heavy mornay (cheese bechamel) sauce, or the hollandaise sauce that usually accompanies poached eggs. I wanted to go for a jog after my breakfast!

1 egg
1 slice bread
salt, pepper to taste

1 T minced onion
2 handfuls spinach, washed thoroughly, drained, and trimmed of stems
pinch of thyme
pinch of nutmeg
salt, pepper to taste

Tomate concasse to garnish

Bring to a boil a 3" deep pot of water. Put a couple drops of vinegar into the pot to help poach the egg (vinegar helps the egg white coagulate).

In a small pan, heat a small amount of oil on medium heat. Saute minced onion, stirring until onion is opaque.

Add spinach to pan (don't worry if it looks like a lot of spinach, it will wilt down to a beautiful glistening green!) and season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat in oil; season with nutmeg and thyme. Continue to cook for 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the bread and poach the egg. Crack the egg into a small dish or ramekin first. (This prevents me from steam burns, and also from getting shells into the egg or breaking the yolk. Murphys law.) Slowly pour the egg into the boiling pot of water and turn the heat down to a simmer. Allow to poach 1-2 minutes, until the white has cooked but the yolk is still runny. Remove from the water and season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Butter the toast. Place cooked spinach onto the toast. Top with the poached egg and garnish with tomate concasse (tomato that has been peeled, seeded, and diced).


More photos available at my flickr photoset.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Review: South Ocean Seafood Restaurant (Garden City Road, Richmond, BC)

I visited South Ocean Seafood Restaurant the first week of March, but didn't feel like blogging about it until I pulled their business card out of my coat pocket for the millionth time. We went for one of my cousins birthdays, since they were having a special on their King Crab (mid to late winter is when King Crab is in season, and thus, "on special" at many places).

Being the devouring mob that we were, we arrived at South Ocean (at Garden City & Alderbridge way in Richmond) promptly and waited for our feast. And wait we did... I believe our meal took more than three hours!

We ordered an assortment of food aside from the Alaskan King Crab. There were hot pots of chicken and mushroom, and fish and tofu. There was the Peking Duck done two ways - lettuce wrap and crepes. There was sauteed vegetable. We also ordered sweet and sour pork.

It was all very...bland. The crab itself, we thought, was overcooked and seemed to be lacking salt, as you could *see* the amount of minced garlic garnishing all the crab legs, but you couldn't taste it! The crab rice, although impressive in size and dramatic in presentation, was average at best. My sister lamented that she had been getting her wisedom teeth done when our family had gone to Excelsior and she wasn't able to join us. (She is in love with Excelsiors' crab rice).

The Peking Duck crepes were tasty enough, but when its counterpart, the lettuce wrap, we sized it up, looked around the two tables of eight, and said, "who shrunk the lettuce wrap?!" It was literally only enough for two to three people.

Nothing was really notable about South Ocean except that they seem to have cheap (toonie) dim sum on certain days of the week before noon.

Blah. South Ocean Seafood Restaurant did not live up to our expectations.

South Ocean Seafood Restaurant

#140 - 4751 Garden City Road (@ Alderbridge Way) [map]

Richmond, BC

Phone: 604-278-1233

South Ocean Seafood on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter Everyone!

Happy Easter Everyone!

Don't eat too much chocolate, but have an extra truffle for me! :)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Foodie Finds: Recession Sales? (Homesense, Lee Valley)

Had a great find this long weekend. Me and the boy found ourselves at the Homesense / Winners store in the Big Bend (Marine Way) area of Burnaby.

Originally, we had gone to Big Bend (Price Smart, actually!) to buy some delectable, luscious Haagen Daz Strawberry Cheese Cake Ice Cream that I had bought on sale ($3.49 / tub!) one time. We haven't been able to find it anywhere else, and thought that we'd be able to find it again...alas, it must have been one of those "mindlessly forgetful" days. We didn't even go into Price Smart...instead, we found ourselves furniture and kitchen shopping at Homesense / Winners.

My score? A fine grater with protective cover, from Mario Batali's line.

I have coveted these graters, usually from the Microplane labels, since forever. I just could not fathom spending anywhere from $17 to $25 for what was a glorified rasp though! So when I saw this for $10, I snatched it up. There were several more items from the Mario Batali line at this location, but I only wanted the fine grater. Perfect for citrus peels, chocolate, hard cheese and even ginger or lemongrass, I *know* it will be a nice little companion in my kitchen!

When I left Winners / Homesense, there was one more of these fine graters available, as well as several of their coarse graters, garlic graters (with holder), and some other items from the Mario Batali line. There was also a Le Crueset cast iron French Oven, at about $125 (?), and a whole range of cute / classy serving and dishware. I'm thinking that the merchandisers at Homesense snatched up a lot of product from Linens N' Things when LNT went out of business - hence the great finds?


5771 Marine Way [map]

Burnaby BC

Phone: 604-433-4685

I should also note that Lee Valley (Marine Drive) carries some zesters / rasps, but without the cushiony handle or a protective cover. In addition to that, serious jam, jelly and chutney makers would probably be glad to know that Lee Valley carries refractometers for calculating optimal sugar content for jelly / jam stability and preservation.

Lee Valley

1180 South East Marine Drive [map]

Vancouver BC

Phone: 604-261-2262

Ahhhh. Kitchen gadgets. :)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Recipe: Dukkah-Crusted Mahi Mahi with Oven Steamed Veggies and Fruit Salsa

This was a great mahi mahi recipe! We'd been putting of cooking the rest of the mahi mahi in the freezer since the last time I'd marinated and panfried it, it had gotten (sadly) dry and bland.

This time, I crusted it in dukkah, and served it atop banana-leaf steamed veggies and a great tasting mango, pineapple, bell pepper and kiwi salsa. We couldn't decide what was better - the herbed mahi mahi, or the fruity yet spicy salsa!

Ingredients - Mahi Mahi

2 mahi mahi portions (about 1 lb / 454 g all together)
1 c flour
1 egg, beaten
1 c dukkah

Ingredients - Fruit Salsa

1/3 c canned mango, finely diced
1 small kiwi, finely diced
1/4 cup fresh pineapple, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, trimmed, seeded, minced
1/3 c green bell pepper, finely diced
1/3 c red bell pepper, finely diced
Juice of one lime
Salt and Pepper to taste

Ingredients - Vegetables

1 small zucchini, halved and sliced
1 kale leaves, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 T olive oil
1/4 t ground thyme
1/4 t oregano
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 T butter


Combine all salsa ingredients in a non-reactive bowl. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning. Reseason if necessary; cover and chill until ready to use.

For the vegetables, combine veggies in a bowl and toss in olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper. Place on banana leaves or parchment paper and dot with small pieces of butter. Wrap and secure with a skewer or kitchen twine. Bake at 400 degrees fahrenheit for about 20 minutes.

For the mahi mahi, rinse and pat dry the portions. Prepare a breading station: in three shallow dishes, pour 1 c flour into one, beat 1 egg in another, and place dukkah into the third dish. Dredge the mahi mahi into the flour, coating all sides. Remove any excess, and dip into egg bath. Finally, dredge into dukkah, pressing mixture into all sides. Repeat with other piece of fish.

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side until nut mixture is toasted and fish is cooked all the way through. Serve on a bed of steamed veggies, garnished with fruit salsa.

I was surprised at how good the salsa was - the mango and pineapple really worked well here. The next day, M took some leftover salsa and mixed it with a bit of mayo and we enjoyed it with chicken strips!

As for other leftovers, I had a piece of leftover fish on a bed of baby spinach for lunch the next day, along with fresh pineapple and a pistachio square from Fratelli Bakery. The fruit salsa served as a dressing of sorts for the salad, and still went well with the mahi mahi.
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