Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cafe Medina (Vancouver, BC)

This post was actually a long time coming - seeing as it is now February and I went to Cafe Medina when I was noshing for waffles around the time that I visited Patisserie Lebeau and Damien's Belgium Waffles.

Upon seeing Frank at Vanfoodies at the East is East dinner, he questioned whether I was done writing Cafe Medina. I remembered that I had, in fact, bumped into him there. (Rather - we were milling about in the "waiting crowd" outside on a weekend morning for brunch.) I was reminded again as he posted about it a couple days later.

I visited Cafe Medina with two of my favourite ladies in the world, MYY and F-to-the-Izzo (my favourite Izzo of them all, that is. :) (Fine, lets make that FMace, as in favourite Mace of them all, while we're at it.) Cousin Nate was also along for the ride and be still your hearts, his six-year-old-full-of-frenetic-energy body actually lasted the long 20-30 minute wait he had to endure!

We started off with an assortment of hot beverages (clockwise from top left): a matcha tea latte, a mocha, hot chocolate, and a London Fog. Pretty and delicious at the same time!

Cousin Nate ordered a duo of waffles with milk chocolate lavendar. We were a little afraid his pint-sized tastebuds wouldn't appreciate the lavendar, but he liked it just fine! It kept him busy for...about ten minutes.

What'd the ladies have? We ordered the Les Boulettes, the Tagine, and the Fricasse. As per the menu, the Les Boulettes includes "2 poached eggs, spicy Moroccan meatballs, cilantro, hummus cucumber tomato salad. Grilled Foccacia.", while the Tagine had "2 poached eggs on spicy tomato stew and red pepper, merguez sausage, sundried black olives, and cilantro. Grilled Foccaccia.". Meanwhile, the Fricasse had "2 fried eggs on braised short ribs, roasted potatoes, caramelized onions, arugula and smoked applewood cheddar. Grilled Foccacia."

It was a lot of egg, and a lot of meat. That being said, it was flavourful. The Les Boulettes (F'maces' choice), shown above, had perfectly poached eggs that were perfect for dunking the foccacia into. The meatballs, although billed as being spicy, were lightly spiced and were a touch dry. The sauce was spicy, though, and made up for the lack of spice in the meatball. The sauce was also enjoyed on the focaccia.

The Tagine (above, left) was ordered by yours truely. the sausage was a little on the dry / lean side again, but the dish was executed nicely with spicy sauce and the occasional olive. Poached eggs again on this one.

The Fricasse had to be the heaviest meal of them all. Roasted potatoes, onions, cheddar, and braised short ribs. The meat was the best by far in this dish, and although Fizzo tried her hardest...she couldn't finish it.

What? Did I forget something? Yes, I went there for waffles, right? The waffles were, as rumoured and enjoyed by many, were delicious. The accompanying dipping sauces were yummy as well. 

While Nate had ordered the milk chocolate lavender early on, we finished with a single white chocolate pistachio rosewater dip - to share. *That* is how full we were from our meals. While the milk chocolate sauce was light on the milk chocolate, the latter had nice white chocolate, hints of pistachio, and just a whisper of rosewater. I'd order the latter again.

In light of the Olympics, Cafe Medina will be open late every night during the Olympics, and will also have a take-out window for all your yummy street-eating needs!

Cafe Medina
556 Beatty Street
Vancouver BC
P: 604-879-3114

Cafe Medina on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 8, 2010

Revisit: Italia Bakery (Hastings, Vancouver, BC)

"Another post on Italia Bakery?" Some of you may remember that I posted about Italia Bakery when I was on my quest to find a superb canoli bakery in Vancouver. While that quest was never fulfilled, I have to say, still that Italia Bakery ranks high on my list for mouth-watering canolis.

What led me to Italia Bakery was a post done by Phyllis of Me Hungry!. Phyllis is a Vancouverite who currently lives in New York. The pastries that she featured in her Cake Boss Carlos post made me wish for a bakery like that in Vancouver!

I'd heard about NYCs famous "lobster tail" pastries (named so for their appearance, and not their flavour!) when I saw a segment on the Cake Boss on foodtv. The lobster tails, similar to a pastry known as sfogliatella, are flakey and crunchy like the sfogliatella, but unlike the latter, is filled with creamy French custard, whereas the sfogliatella is filled with a ricotta-based filling.

Watching that segment already made me wish I could eat some NYC pastries, but Phyllis' post made me want it even more! I found out that Italia bakery made some amazing lobster tails, so I dropped by one day to pick some up. Unfortunately, I arrived to late and all that were left were two mini versions.

"I'll take them both!" I said to the lady behind the counter. "And a copenhagen, please."

And then I left, to be shunned by all the Hastings traffic since Olympic-dedicated lane forced regular traffic to be limited to two lanes.

The verdict? While the mini lobster tails were cute and compact (about two square inches), and very crisp and yummy - M says that after taking the photos I hovered over the pastries, coveting them like Gollum coveted his ring. I didn't notice that he had crept up beside me, I was so focused on the pastry! The mini lobster tails, while representative of what I imagine Cake Boss to make, was only common in the pastry. The filling of the pastry purchased from Italia Bakery was a more solid almond paste-based filling, similar to the layer on the copenhagen pastry that I purchased. It was not the creamy filling I was expecting.

While both were good (and I would purchase either of them again!), I'm going to either arrive earlier or reserve some regular-sized lobster tails for next time. Perhaps the larger version has the creamy filling I'm looking for?

Amen to Italia Bakery though! Lord knows they excel at what they do, and parking is easy to find! With the copenhagens and the canolis, I know where to get pastries for future dinner parties!

Italia Bakery
2828 East Hastings Street
Vancouver BC
Phone: 604-251-6800
Italia Bakery on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 6, 2010

February is for Saps, anyways, so here we go.

In light of the fact that it is February and February is for saps, and I have sap instead of blood running through my veins, and also the fact that the first anniversary / birthday of this blog was blogged about half-heartedly earlier this year, and given that the "launch" of this blog was soft anyways, here is an obligatory birthday / first anniversay post for the blog that is Yum-O-Rama.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to you, the reader, for following along, and commenting on our food exploits. It motivates us to hear the feedback, positive comments, and constructive criticism. Thank you to everyone who knows us in RL and has told us they like seeing where we are eating and posting about! Thank you to the family and friends - it feels good to know that you are reading. I love it when you say that you had sudden cravings for Japanese / baked goods / fruit / [insert food here] after reading the blog (Iz!)! Thank you to everyone for dining suggestions and tips! Thank you anyone who has cooked for us, who has ever had us in their home for dinner / lunch / a snack.

Thank you for anyone who has ever gotten us a kitchen gadget or cookbook or passed on a recipe - you inspire us! Thank you to all the food bloggers, worldwide - your restaurant reviews, recipes, photos and content give us something to aspire to. :)

Thank you to the forum posters and fellow bloggers for showing the linky love! Thank you tweeters for following us, thank you to the fans on facebook! It is always nice to know that you are listening.

I'd like to Thank my momma who cooked me dinner the other night. She made some delicious local rock cod, and my favourite cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower sauteed with garlic, squid, and momma-magic.

The fish was *fresh*, even though I had to do the recommended scraping of the bones with a teaspoon as to "not break the fish" (as in, the fish, the fish! Don't break the fish!!! Use a spoon!). On that note, I'd also like to thank Daddy-ah for stopping eating (in his own home, even!) while I produced my camera and snapped a couple photos. Perhaps I have finally trained my family to stop eating long enough for me to take photos! (Or they know that if I have a hand, chopstick, fork or spoon in the photo, I'll have to take a second, third, fourth or fifth photo to make up for it. And that takes longer than just stopping for a couple seconds.)

Thank you to little yee yee for making me learn to love my (now favourite!) vegetables, broccoli and cauliflower! Who knew that little games like "planting" broccoli and cauliflower florets in a bowl of rice would do the trick? Thank you to g'ma for introducing me to spam! And ensuring that I had to like eating five to six meals a day when I was in elementary school! :p

Thank you, thank you, thank you everyone! This second year of Yum-O-Rama will be full of more consistently-posted content that is delicious, fresh, and insightful!

Now feel free to drink some shots of espresso, or 40proof vodka to water down all this sappiness! Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sushi Garden (Lougheed, Burnaby, BC)

The large sign for Sushi Garden has been up at the vacant commercial space at the corner of Lougheed at Douglas for months. For the longest time, it seemed that even with the installation of the new shiny signage, Sushi Garden wasn't going to open at the storefront next to Churchs chicken - the "For Lease" signs were still up in the paper-lined windows, and the unit itself showed no life.

View Larger Map

Just last week, however, Sushi Garden finally opened up shop at 4269 Lougheed Highway. We dropped in for a quick weekday meal and were surprised to see it already packed, with a small lineup for take out, and a small lineup in the waiting area as well.

Being tired from a workday, we pondered the menu for a while before succuming to weariness and deciding on the basics: california roll, chopped scallop roll, dynamite roll, a tuna & salmon sashimi, and mentaiko udon.

The food arrived nearly all at once; it made photography a little tricky as I couldn't move it around as much, and, combined with the flimsy / light tables, we nearly shocked a neighbouring table with a shower of hot tea.

The rolls were all good, although even M was careful to note that he wished the sushi chef who had made the dynamite roll had made the california roll and the scallop roll as well. But, it was Sushi Garden! At the prices they were charging, it was reasonable and went down well.

The sashimi was just ok. We were tempted by the large assorted sashimi platter that the couple next to us were having - on a side note, the guy looked a little like Edlau. Was it? I didn't want to stare, so I didn't get a good look. Anyways, we would not order the tuna & salmon sashimi again.

The mentaiko udon was good, with briny cod roe notes and hints of dairy / butter as well. I'm thinking that they soaked the salted cod roe in milk to rid of some of the salt? It was good, and the noodles were not overdone. Service was harried as the four waitresses could barely handle the volume and turnover of tables while we were there. M witnessed one waitress attempt to wipe down a table; instead she flung rice and sushi particles onto the floor and a piece hit a diner in the back - I wished I had seen that!

The dining area is quite large, and although the space looks narrow from the outside, there was ample space for waitresses and take out customers to dart about without bothering diners. That being said, the waiting area could stand to be larger as I foresee lineups going out the door. The decor is a little nicer than their Kingsway location, with dark wood and slightly more comfortable chairs. It is still all very utilitarian and the operation is efficient. (...As a matter of fact, it looks a little like something I could replicate in Cafe World or Restaurant City on Facebook! haha!)

Sushi Garden was very wise to open up a location on this strip of Lougheed: far enough from the Korean restaurants of North Road and the older eateries on Hastings, yet close enough to all the new apartments in the Brentwood area. There are four other Japanese restaurants within walking distance to Sushi Garden, so in a pinch, you could fulfill your sushi cravings if there was a long wait at Sushi Garden. However, Sushi Garden is strong where the neighbouring restaurants are weak; Sushi Garden has larger capacity, higher product turnover, and more efficient (not necessarily experienced though!) service. Parking is free out front and on the rooftop and the location is relatively close to Gilmore skytrain station.

Judging by the packed restaurant last night, the neighbourhood was waiting for Sushi Garden to open! Hopefully they can maintain the newness / cleanliness - just like their Kingsway location, it's a good place for a quick meal or takeout.

Sushi Garden (Lougheed)
4269 Lougheed Highway
Burnaby BC
P: 604-294-0104

Sushi Garden (Lougheed) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Food Bloggers Dinner: East is East (Kitsilano, Vancouver, BC)

What do you get when ~20-odd Vancouver Food Bloggers converge on a Kitsilano eatery? A whole lot of (light)flashes, a load of DSLRs, a handful of P&S cameras, and a busy dishwasher!

The first large food bloggers dinner of 2010, organized graciously by Sherman of Sherman's Food Adventures took place about a week ago at East is East on Broadway. There is another location on Main Street, but during the planning stages of the dinner, the Main Street location was deemed to be too cozy for the large group.

East is East features lives entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays and serves Middle-Eastern inspired cuisine that traces the silk road.

We arrived a couple minutes early and introduced ourselves to Victoria of Victoria's Food Secrets. I recognized her from her picture on her site, so it was very nice to meet her in person! We also bumped into Kevin (604foodtography), Wilson (La Petite Vancouver), Jenny (My Secret Eden) and Ricky. We had met Wilson, Kevin and Jenny previously at Brave Bull's, Alvin Garden, or the Long Table Series at the Irish Heather. While we were waiting to be seated, we were served some complimentary chai.

A couple minutes later, we were ushered out the door and to the adjoining dining area where Sherman was already waiting. Yes, in addition to the upstairs seating area where the weekend buffet is served, there is another dining area next door. Now that I look at the website, East is East seems to have divided their Kitsilano location into three separate entities: Silk n' Spice, Chai Gallery, and East is East. This would explain the three dining areas!

About the Chai... You know how you can only make one first impression? East is East does it right by serving you piping-hot, spicy chai full of ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon notes that makes a lasting impression. Being that it is complimentary is a bonus, and the potent brew is served in a justly-sized espresso cup. The shots of flavour and spice introduce you to the euphoria that is East is East.

We sat down at a wooden table and were joined shortly by Jonathan and his brother, blogger (and guest blogger!) of Let's just say that the seating at East is East is low and intimate. On one hand, that may be preferable for a romantic dinner date. On the other hand, it makes it a little awkward if you are sitting and dining at a coffee table in a larger party.

While we chatted about the Olympics (can you believe it is less than two weeks away??!) and Jonathan looked half scared, half amused when I mentioned that sleeping cots were on sale, Kim (I'm Only Here for the Food!) and Anita (Petite Foodie) arrived. Since space was at a premium, Kim snagged a spot at an adjoining table, While Anita (and her brand new Canon T1i!) joined our table.

An order was placed and food appeared at a quick pace - as we wanted to sample a little bit of everything, our entire table (save for Anita) ordered the Eastern Plate, which came with your choice of two items, as well as salad, Dhal / pea soup, roti (one stuffed with sauteed onions, one plain), Afghan and coconut rice, and a onion pickle.

The great part (for M, anyways), was that the portions of the two choice "mains" were unlimited - thus we sampled portions of the lamb kebab, chicken masala, beef kebab, afghan eggplant, alu gobi, and the mango butter squash.

Overall result? We loved it! M was particularly fond of the chicken masala and the lamb kebab. The chicken was tender and flavourful, and the lamb was flavoured with mediterranean / Moroccan herbs. As for me, I was impressed with everything, but *really* loved the Afghan eggplant, alu gobi (cauliflower & potato dish) and the beef kebab.

I was predominantly taken with the vegetable dishes that East is East prepared. The alu gobi blew me away. I think my tablemates can attest to this - I got quite quiet as I slowly savoured my portion of alu gobi! I love cauliflower and potatoes in all shapes and forms, but this stewed cauliflower potato dish not only had a smooth, buttery flavour, but also texture. In a cuisine that offers overcooked, soggy vegetables, you could tell the vegetables from each other at East is East!

The eggplant, braised with a bit of chili for heat and sundried tomatoes was enjoyed by three of us at our table, and the mushrooms stewed with the beef kebabs took center stage for that dish. As an aside, the dhal / lentil soup which accompanies each Eastern plate is delicious and rich as well. It's been a long time since I've had a tasty fiber-rich food.

The miss of the evening would have to be the mango butter squash. I'd been forewarned about the texture of this dish to be similar to baby food, but I wasn't prepared for the puree that appeared from the kitchen, nor was I prepared for the sweet / tangy / savoury flavour of it either. I don't know, maybe I just didn't get it? I thought there would be *some butternut squash chunks in there, or that the flavour would be more "rich butternut squash" instead of tangy mango. The good thing is that if you go to East is East with your grandpa or your friends with a baby, there'd be something for them on the menu. ;)

The price of this feast? A mere $20. M and I agreed that we were relieved that East is East wasn't closer - we would be quite round thanks to their $20 Eastern plate. We would return to East is East, and have already recommended the restaurant to Ms' brother has his son is a pint-sized veggie monster. Yes, you put some vegetables or fruit in front of him, it will disappear...

I'd also recommend East is East to vegans or vegetarians, or someone looking to get out of the typical Chinese / Japanese / Indian that Vancouver has to offer. East is East is decidedly Kitsilano, if anything, and their menu has lots of options for carnivores, omnivores, or herbivores alike!

After dinner some folks left, but mostly everyone stuck around for a while to chat and mingle. It was nice to see some old faces, but a lot of new faces as well! I was really excited to see Angie (Sea Salt with Food) there - her site is *full* of gorgeous photography and recipes. Surprised, as well to see B, Joyces' boyfriend there. It goes to show how small Vancouver really is, as he used to live behind my parents, and graduated with my cousin dearest. Of course, recognizing him was one of those classic Jessica "foot in mouth" moments!

It was a great meal as we'd been meaning to try East is East for a long time. Thank you to Sherman for organizing the dinner and notifying us about it. Another aside, it was sure interesting to see how small Vancouver is, even through the food blog scene. I'm sure there's a lot more connections that we'll only begin to unravel as time goes on!

East is East
3243 W Broadway
Vancouver, BC V6K
P: 604-734-5881
East Is East on Urbanspoon

Bloggers in attendance:
Sherman : Sherman's Food Adventures : Post is up!
Joyce & Frank : Van Foodies
Tiffanie : [eating club] Vancouver
Victoria : Victoria's Food Secrets : Post is up!
Darina : Gratinee
Kim : I'm Only Here for the Food! : Post is up!
Kevin : 604Foodtography
Anita : Petite Foodie
Jenny & Ricky : My Secret Eden
Jonathan : Food & Tell
Angie : Sea Salt with Food : Post is up! (With a fantastic pineapple tart recipe and video!)
Wilson : La Petite Vancouver
Mijune : Follow Me Foodie: Post is up!
Melody : Gourmet Fury

Monday, February 1, 2010

Bella Cakes (Sapperton, New Westminster, BC)

Bella Cakes recently hit my radar as I was going to my little aunts (sai yee yee!) house for dinner and wanted to bring something. Dessert, maybe?

It ends up that there are two great bakeries in the Sapperton area of New Westminster, separated by just half a block or so. Since I was driving towards Coquitlam, I wound up picking up a cheesecake from Farm Cottage Bakery just up the street, which was great, albeit a little sweet (little yee yee asked me for the location and wanted to pick something up that weekend. :)

This time I got out of work a little early and took the long way home through New Westminster.

Surprisingly, it was actually faster than I thought! Next time there's an accident or traffic jam on the Knight Street, I'm cutting through New West and picking up some baked goods to console myself!

While I picked up a small box to sample Bella Cakes creations, I'm told that their real mastery lies in their specialty cakes. Browsing their website, it deems true. Unfortunately, it may be out of the way oftentimes, so I will have to see if I can work Bella Cakes into a special occasion or something. (Or I could be like my mother and buy birthday cakes [with bogus birthday names!] just because she wanted to have some cake! haha! Oh boy. Thunder gods are going to have my neck.)

Anyways, I ordered up a pistachio cream tart, a hazelnut cream tart, a peanut butter nanaimo bar, a pair of cookies, a cheesecake, as well as a nameless chocolate slab which I *really* wished I had taken note of.

Note well: I had high hopes for the pistachio and hazelnut cream tarts. But they were devoid of little (if any!) fragrant nut flavour. The pre-made tart shells were filled with a light buttercream, coated with a shell of chocolate, and sprinkled with some crushed respective nuts. They were, as far as I could tell, exactly the same except for the hazelnut or pistachio garnish. The cookies, while cheap, were quite average and forgettable.

On the other hand, the peanut butter nanaimo bar was delicious. Even M, who does not crave sweets, wished I had brought home another one! The peanut butter flavour was pronounced, and the smooth flavour was echoed in the texture of the PB layer. The "nanaimo" layer / crust of the bar was a nice complement, and was not too sweet - there was ample coconut and chocolate, but it did not overpower the peanut butter.

The "nameless" chocolate bar (all I can remember now is that was definitely *not* either of the brownies) pictured above was rich, decadant, and exactly what a chocolate treat should be. Should only be consumed with a tall glass of milk. :)

The cheesecake, although small in stature, was slightly denser that what I had experienced nearby at Farm Cottage Bakery. However, it was not overly sweet, so it was an appropriately portioned treat with some dark coffee.

Glad that I found the two "hidden gem" bakeries in Sapperton! I will be back for more sweet treats, and to discover more in the coming months.

Bella Cakes
459 East Columbia Street
New Westminster BC
P: 604-777-2524
Bella Cakes & Pastries Ltd on Urbanspoon
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