Thursday, May 28, 2009

Review: Charlie Don't Surf (White Rock, BC)

The sun has been glorious as of late.

We've been having cocktails on the patio, the plants have been happy, and last weekend, we did some driving and relaxed out in White Rock.

It was a good outing - we did some antiquing along the way, found some bargain bin deals (printer cable for under $2!) and strolled along the pier and boardwalk.

The first stop we wanted to make was The Boathouse, but since they were pretty lukewarm about wanting our money, we took off down the street to Charlie Don't Surf for some grub.

We were promptly seated on the patio after the hostess served another patron (she greeted us and asked us kindly to wait 30 seconds on the red couch / kings throne while she did so).

We started with a pair of cocktails - M ordered his standard caesar (it came with two pickled green beans), while I ordered the Charlie Martini. The caesar was tasty, but small. The Charlie Martini was nothing too special, but it was a nice clean drink to go with the deep-fried seafood that we were about to order!

Charlie Don't Surf Restaurant in White Rock BC: Tasty Caesar for M, a Charlie Martini for me. The drinks were strong, my friends. Perfect for the patio!

A sidenote - my martini was served unstrained. I'm no martini expert, but something tells me that the strainer on the martini shaker is supposed to remove thise ice. I didn't mind it as it was a full-strengthed Grey Goose concoction...but I'm just saying...

We ordered calamari to share. Initially, we were thinking of *only* ordering fish and chips, but added on the calamari as we were sitting near a sign that boasted calamari as a "must order" dish at Charlie Don't Surf.

Calamari appetizer at Charlie Don't Surf, White Rock, BC.

As we later noted, the calamari was at the bottom of the list - it was crispy and not too greasy, and there was a good tzatziki with it, but there was simply too much batter. The batter fell off every time you tried to spear a piece of calamari, and also fell off inside the small container of tzatziki provided. I wouldn't say it was disappointing as it was a good size, but I'd change up the batter a bit so that it didn't crumble everywhere.

Finally, our fish and chips came - the kitchen had the foresight to separate them onto two different plates since we were sharing, which was nice. M whispered that because they separated them, we had twice the tartar sauce! lol - he makes me laugh.

Half portion of fish & chips at Charlie Don't Surf in White Rock, BC.

The chips were nothing too special. The fish was nicely done though - flakey, tender, crisp and not greasey. Service was great as well - our server was available when we needed her, and came by to check on us a couple times.

I was telling M how "Charlie" reminds me of: a) my brother, or b) Charlie Sheen, in his current role as "Uncle Charlie" on the sitcom "Two and a Half Men". With that in mind, this was nice patio / pub grub with an emphasis on alcohol and sun!

I'd come back to Charlie Don't Surf for more of their food, especially with good company and to enjoy some sun.

Note: the brother is *not* an alcoholic womanizing bachelor like Uncle Charlie, but he *does* appreciate a good fish & chips!

Charlie Don't Surf

15782 Marine Drive [map]

White Rock BC

Phone: (604) 538-1988

Charlie Don't Surf on Urbanspoon

Boathouse on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Recipe: Simple Mushroom Tart!

If you remember, I bought some mushrooms at the Richmond Specialty Mushroom Farms stall at the Trout Lake Farmers Market one weekend.

Crimini and portobello mushroms purchased from Richmond Specialty Mushrom Farms stall at Trout Lake Farmers Market

I bought a combination of crimini and portobellos, and rounded out the mix with some dried lobster mushrooms that I'd bought the same afternoon at Whole Foods.

Rustic mushroom tart with crimini and portobellow mushrooms from the Trout Lake Farmers Market and homemade, one-day puff pastry. Classic French flavours at its best!

I have to admit, as I was strolling about the farmers market that day, this recipe materialized in my head. An assortment of mushrooms sauteed with shallots in a light wine & cream base, and baked atop puff pastry. A variation on this would be a cream of mushroom soup with the puff pastry tops baked on to individual ramekins - yum!

Gigantuan shallots purchased from the Langley Farmers Co-op at the Trout Lake Farmers Market. These lovelies were almost 3 inches in diameter!

...forgot to mention that I bought a pair of gigantuan shallots at the Langley Farmers Co-Op stall at Trout Lake as well: check them out! they were about three inches in diameter!

About 8 to 10 large mushrooms - I used crimini and portobello, sliced
1/3 cup dried lobster mushrooms
1 huge shallot, or 2-3 smaller ones, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t thyme
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/4 c Dry white wine
1/4 c cream
1 recipe rough puff pastry, chilled, or thawed overnight in refrigerator if previously frozen
2 T chopped parsley, divided

Soak the lobster mushrooms in about 1 cup of cool water for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Meanwhile, prepare the fresh mushrooms by heating a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Saute the shallots, stirring to coat with oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring. Add sliced fresh mushrooms and stir to coat with oil. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme, and cook 2-4 minutes, stirring. Add drained lobster mushrooms.

Deglaise the pan with white wine; allow to cook off and add cream. Cook until mixture has thickened slightly. Taste and reseason if necessary. Stir in 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley.

Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Roll out puff pastry on a floured surface to a rectangle approximately 14" x 12". Using a long, sharp knife, trim the dough. Cut approximately 1/2 off each side of the rectangle for the border. Press these strips onto the rectangular base. Chill dough at this point if necessary.

Transfer crust onto parchment-lined baking sheet.

Spoon mushroom mixture onto puff pastry dough. Arrange any mushroom tops attractively on top. Sprinkle with remaining chopped parsley. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until pastry is crisp through. Enjoy warm.

Rustic mushroom tart with crimini and portobellow mushrooms from the Trout Lake Farmers Market and homemade, one-day puff pastry. Classic French flavours at its best!

I do have to say that this is very classically French. I don't know what drew me to make something like this - I guess clean, rich food and flavours?

Looking forward to cooking with more Farmers Markets finds this year!

Edible Garden is Growing!

Hope you all got started on your gardens and herbs indoors this year - it's been a cold long spring but summer is just around the corner! I'm trying to persuade M to do an overnight in Hope this weekend - it's going to be 25 - 30ºC weekend and SUNNY!

...I am in dire need of some sun, can you tell?

the potted oregano herb is growing like crazy! I love using the oregano as a garnish to flatbreads, salads, and vegetables! The baby basil have finally grown a little - hopefully I get at least some leaves out of it. You can't see it here, but this bell pepper plant has a small flower budding. That means one bell pepper for me, none for you! :p

Meanwhile, the plants have been taking advantage of the sudden sun - the oregano is growing (going) crazy, the basil has *finally* showed some signs of growth, and the pepper plants, although severely stunted in growth has a small flower bud appearing on it!

It makes me happy. :)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Recipe: Quick (Rough) Puff Pastry

I made a "quick" puff pastry for a mushroom tart with mushrooms that I picked up from the local farmers market.

While I love puff pastry, I don't want to spend three days preparing it, or spend money on expensive store-bought doughs!

After some quick research, I found a recipe for a rough puff pastry that required a food processor. Since I am really ghetto, I don't have a food processor either, so I prepared the puff pastry by hand in a day.

There's a term that my chef instructor (Chef Patrice!) taught us for preparing a tender short crust pastry. Sablé, a method of gently kneading cold butter and flour together to form a thin layers of butter and flour. While I still "turned" the puff pastry a number of times, I believe the sabléing lended some tenderness to the pastry.

Here's a short video on the method (sorry for the graininess - I know *nothing* about video shooting / editing):

1 c unsalted butter
1 2/3 c all purpose flour
3/4 t salt
1/4 c ice-cold water, more if needed

Dice butter and place in freezer for 15 minutes.

Sift together flour and salt into a large bowl. Add about half of the butter cubes to the flour mixture and sable until all butter has been kneaded. Chill if necessary (if it is a hot day, or you feel that the butter has softened too much!). Add remaining cold butter cubes and sable again. Do not work the butter in too much - you want a shaggy appearance.

Mix in ice water with a spoon or spatula. Gather the rough dough together and place onto parchment paper. Place another layer of parchment paper on to and flatten with your hands. Chill the dough for fifteen to thirty minutes at this point if you are working on a warm day.

Fold the dough into thirds and roll out. Turn the dough 90 degrees and fold into thirds again. Repeat the turning process two more times, then chill until firm, fifteen to thirty minutes.

The dough may be used in your recipes, or stored, wrapped, in the freezer for up to two months.

I'll post the recipe for the mushroom tart later - here's a side view of the puff pastry. Not too bad for handmade!

I'm like puff pastry - I have layers! One-day quick / rough puff pastry, beats store-bought!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Review: The Reef (Main Street, Vancouver, BC)

It was an unbelievably sunny weekend here in Vancouver, and we decided last minute to go out to eat. After all, who wants to cook in patio weather? Not me. I slipped on a pair of flip flops and we headed out to Main street for some cocktails and eats.

The Reef Carribean Restaurants, with locations on Commercial Drive and Main Street in Vancouver, and Victoria.

It's been a while since I've been to The Reef - I think the last time was to the Commercial Drive location with the other M, and the time before that was with S before she moved to Montreal. That was a long time ago.

Food was still great. As I was explaining to M, it's a niche market. No other place in Vancouver offers island-inspired food with tasty cocktails with patio seating and live DJ.

Complimentary Johnny Cakes with sweet herbed butter at the Main Street location of The Reef Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin at the Main Street location of The Reef

We shared a plate of Jerk Chicken Wings and a pitcher of Juiced Rum Punch. For entrees, I had the Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin; M had the ribs. The food wasn't as great as previous times - the tenderloin was slightly overdone, and I had to ask for our (complimentary) johnny cakes. I'd still come back for drinks alone - the ipanema caprinha is their "house cocktail", and the johnny cakes with sweet butter are a perfect lazy summer day snack!

The bill for two people with drinks came to just $60. Definitely reasonable as a starting point to a night out.

The Reef Carribean Restaurants, with locations on Commercial Drive and Main Street in Vancouver, and Victoria.

The Reef (Main Street)

4172 Main Street [map]

Vancouver BC

Phone: (604) 874-5375

The Reef on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tenku Bakudanyaki (Richmond, BC)

I spend a lot of time on the road. My current commute is probably one of the shortest ones ever at thirty to fifty minutes, but when I worked my *longest* commute, I picked up some (cool and no-so-cool) habits.

When I worked in Maple Ridge, there was a great deal of morning activities that took place in the car. I learnt to utilize time at stoplights to put on make up. I started making phone calls (that you could only make during 8am-5pm) during the commutes. Since some of the commute to Pitt Meadows / Maple Ridge included waiting at bridges and/or traintracks, I even packed a book, and later, knitting projects that whittled away the time. And finally, I ate a lot in the car.

Sometimes they'd be snacks on the way home - granola bars, fast food, fruit. But mostly it would be breakfast on the way to work. Sure, breakfast bars and toast were easy, but where's the challenge in that?? No, I was a cold cereal with milk person. There's nothing that wakes you up in the morning other than the game of you against the law of physics.

I was reminded of my bad habits when I visited Tenku Bakudanyaki for a giant molten ball of *everything* from their location at Elmbridge & Gilbert in Richmond.

I'd been meaning to visit them ever since I read about them on Eat, Snap, Repeat, then later on Sherman's Food Adventures. Later reviews of Tenku have been popping up everywhere.

There were probably really big expectations for the product, which is why I have to clarify that the bakudanyaki at Tenku are not *exactly* like takoyaki, but rather, as Eat, Snap, Repeat puts it, "giant bombs".

Tenku has six bakudanyaki offerings, and each consist of a batter with cabbage, mochi, egg, shrimp, squid, octopus, and sausage cooked over a cast-iron mold. I ordered the special, which happened to be balsamic black sesame. It came in a cute stickered takeout box with a folded napkin tucked into one side, and a pair of chopsticks tucked into another. The special was an interesting combination, with the tart-sweet balsamic complementing the savoury of the fritter. The bakudanyaki, with a green tea drink cost me $7.

Here is where it should be noted that eating bakudanyaki in rush hour traffic is *much* harder than eating cereal in milk. Or rather, the gooey innards of a bakudanyaki! Eating it in traffic offered that much more "je ne sais quoi". You never really know what you're eating until you put it in your mouth - and sometimes, you still don't know!

I have to admit, the (small) food inspector part of me had some issues about the size of the fritters posing a problem with the items cooking properly. However, seeing as how the product was *still* super-hot after I took a number of photos, AND that I could almost hear the roof of my mouth sear off after blindly putting a chunk of bakudanyaki in my mouth, those fears have qualmed.

I do hope that Tenku makes it through this economy. I think they have a niche novelty product, and although it isn't for everyone, I'm sure a lot of people in Richmond (or visiting Richmond!) should give it a try.

Tenku Bakudanyaki

12831 Clarke Pl
Richmond, BC

Tenku Bakudanyaki on Urbanspoon

Farmers Markets In the Lower Mainland

Forgot to blog about Farmers Markets in the Lower Mainland - the farmers' market season has begun in Vancouver and the lower mainland!

For more news and information about Farmers Markets around your area, be sure to visit EatLocal for ones in Vancouver, or to sign up for an email reminder service at MyMarketsNews.

Ivan at Kalley Kandy let me know of the latter - My Market News will actually send you an email each week (depending on which reminders you sign up for) with a list of vendors and/or the products that will be available at your preferred venue. When you sign up, be sure to let them know that Yum-O-Rama sent you!

In particular, the folks in Port Moody seem to have it good; they have pocket markets with loads of fresh fruits and vegetables, and natural prepared foods available. Yum!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Seattle Snacks: Top Pot Doughnuts (Wedgewood, Seattle, WA)

After my work seminar on the last leg of my business trip, I was really wishing to go home and relax. It'd be a long(-ish) drive home, and judging by traffic the last two days, we popped into Top Pot Doughnuts (as recommended by a certain cousin, who is also a doughnut connoisieur, go figure!).

The place looked homey - warm, dark wooden tones and lots of staff. Great place to curl up and read a book, or just to drop by and enjoy a doughnut or baked good (or three!). Too bad though, I just grabbed a half dozen goodies to go - two each of plain, cinnamon sugar, and vanilla sugar. These were cakey doughnuts, and plenty sweet. We nibbled on them on our drive back and I also had one for breakfast the next day.

Thanks for the recommendation JAY!

Top Pot Doughnuts

6855 35th Avenue NE [map]

Seattle WA

Phone: (206) 525-1966

Top Pot Doughnuts (Wedgewood) on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Apparently, KRT = KBP + KBF

Remember my "Healthy KFC = KRT" post? I attempted to make healthier versions of Kentucky Fried Chicken and it resulted in Kentucky Roasted Turkey wings!

Well lucky me - M took some of the leftover seasoning, mixed it with water and egg to make a light batter, and panfried a number of proteins in it. Pictured are Kentucky Breaded Prawns, Kentucky Breaded Pork, and Kentucky Breaded fish.

While the fish was not as tasty (only because it's been a resident of our freezer for much too long!), the prawns and pork were delicious! I really chowed down on the prawns because M doesn't like them as much, and also had some for lunch the next day. Yum!

M also mixed some of the prepared pork with pineapple and applesauce and it was a nice sweet & sour version.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Seattle Review: Thai Ginger (Pacific Place, Seattle, WA)

Back to Seattle! Not really. I realized I still had some Seattle food photos on my memory card, so before we parade forward, lets go back in time.

Night three of the Seattle business trip showed on me. I was tired, a little cranky, and just agreeing with mom for sake of brevity. Sorry for the blurriness of the photos, please see above.

After walking around in the northwest drizzle for about twenty minutes and *not* finding the restaurants that I wanted to visit (although, I *should* have tried harder to persuade Miss MAY about the Dahlia Lounge or Serious Pie. Oh well. Pie for dinner (for her) would have been a big stretch.

Thai Ginger it would be. Afterall, it was *somewhat* similar to Vancouver food, right?

We ordered the chicken satays, angel wings (stuffed chicken wings), and beef curry. We should have just ordered two dishes instead of three because we wound up packing some to go!

What we hadn't expected was the American-sized portions. No, it wasn't overwhelmingly large, but compared to the Thai food portions in Vancouver, it was probably two to three times in size.

Admitedly, the chicken satays were a complete let down. The meat was not marinated enough and as a double whammy, more is *not* better. The thickly cut chicken breast didn't cook properly on the grill; while there were grill marks on the chicken, there was no grill flavour.

The chicken wings were quite good though! Mom kept on calling them "chicken legs" instead, because they were just stuffed with so much...stuff, and flat out huge. We actually shared a chicken wing the night we were there, and packed one to go. The curry was nicely spicey yet sweet. It came with some rice which were happy to devour...we also packed some of the curry and rice to go.

Thai Ginger is a chain restaurant - there are many of them around Seattle. I didn't expect a chain restaurant to have traditional carved Thai gates, room dividers, and other items, but it was a nice touch for ambience.

Glad to discover Thai Ginger.

Thai Ginger

600 Pine Street [map]

Seattle WA

Phone: (206) 749-9100

Thai Ginger (Pacific Place) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Recipe: Tomato & Mozzarella with Sel de Guerande

Remember how I visited Whole Foods on Cambie this weekend?

Well of *course* I couldn't leave empty handed!

I actually circle the store a couple times, oohing and aahing at their beautiful frosted mini cupcakes, their assortment of dried mushrooms, variety of salts, and selection of cheeses. I wanted a lot of products but didn't want to spend that much money, knowing that there was a huge mark up and I already had a fair amount of leftovers and food to work through at home.

I wound up buying some Fleur de Sel (de Guerande) and some dried lobster mushrooms.

For dinner one night, we had a simple salad. What follows is not a traditional recipe, but a sort of arrangement and garnishing of alternating mozzarella and ripe hot house tomatoes with drops of fig-scented balsamic vinegar, a couple pickled capers, a twist or two of black peppercorn, a pinch of chopped parsley, and of course, some fleur de sel.

The fleur de sel is about twenty to thirty times more expensive than regular table salt. This is owed to the fact that it is hand-harvested in a town in France (Guerande). There are different grades of salt coming from Guerande, but Fleur de Sel remains the top quality salt. Fleur de sel has a less harsh taste than table or sea salts and dissolves quickly on the tongue.

I actually debated about getting grey salt de Guerande at Whole Foods, and reasoned that it was half the price of the small tub of salt that I eventually walked out with, for about five times more...but the fancypants in me went with Fleur de Sel. :) Aaaah. Gotta love eating.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Event: Trout Lake Farmers Market! (Trout Lake, Vancouver, BC)

This weekend marked the start of the Trout Lake Farmers Market season. Hosting a number of BC-based businesses and a lot of inspiration, artistic prowess, and entrepreneurship; it made me love BC a whole lot more.

I was expecting to see more fresh produce, but I must have gotten there a bit late (11am?). A lot of the produce stalls were nearly empty when I got there!

It was pretty packed and I had to circle around a couple times to find a good spot. Next time (when I am not so pressed for time!) I'll make an effort to walk or skytrain down.

Blue Comet stocked some smoked salmon products, while Geldermanfarms offered farm-fresh pork and pork products.

To round out the meat spectrum, Jay Springs Lamb had different cuts of lamb available for purchase, as well as something extra - yarn! There were lots and *lots* of beautiful shades of yarn at their stall, I only wished that I had brought more money so that I could stock up on some hand-dyed yarn! What was also nice was that it was quite reasonably priced - hand-dyed, variety of weights, variety of colours. I love it!

In the middle of the aisle a band was playing. I guess there were of the funky folk genre? They called themselves Blackberry Wood. I *love* that they had a trumpet player (who also was the lead singer) as well as an accordian player. :)

I wound up buying a whole bag of mushrooms from the Richmond Specialty Mushroom Farms stall and was quite enamoured with the bright beautiful packaging at Kalley Kandy. They sell one product - fresh nougat that is made in Vancouver and let me tell you, they are quite delicious! I shared some with my mother, hairdresser, and hairdressers' assistant, and they all asked me where I got them. It goes to show that fresh is better. :)

There were six pieces in a bag and each bag was $5 for one, or $9 for two. Kalley took the care to toast the almonds, so they were a nice crunchy contrast to the soft and tender nougat.

As I wasn't going home after the farmers market, I didn't pick up any leafy vegetables (as they'd probably wilt away to nothing by the end of the day). I'll have to make an effort to get to the Celyddon stall next time as the line up was enormous - I think it stretched to four stalls long at one point!

The most unique stalls went to Don Aspirin, for his beautiful presentation, cutting, and cheese boards, and the lady at the south end of the market with her antique, one-of-a-kind repurposed windchimes. The only problem if I ever bought one of the cutting boards would be that I wouldn't have the heart to really use them - they are that beautiful!

Afterwards I wound up at Whole Foods on Cambie. They had a vendors market, featuring some local entrepreneurs and their products. What impressed me though, was that Whole Foods had engineered some "green" aspects to their building design. The outside of the building had plants "tiled" along the exterior. Love it.

Here's to a local, green, long weekend. Have a good one!

The Trout Lake Farmers Market runs on Saturdays from 10am - 2pm at the Trout Lake parking lot at Victoria Drive & 15 Avenue. Every Saturday until October 10th!

More photos at my flickr photoset.
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