gracecheung604 | write on time

Friday, August 07, 2020

Smoked Salmon - 6 ways...

So in the hopes of eating healthy and to avoid the dreaded Quarantine Fifteen, I went to Costco to buy all things healthy. I came back stocked with loads of veggies and one treat, smoked salmon. Well, I came home with a lot more than that (magazines, pretzels, granola bars, etc.). I used to get out of Costco under $50 but this time, it was $200+. It's true what they say, do not shop on an empty stomach...
So I had 500g of smoked salmon and I was determined to come up with a few ways to have it over the next few days. 

On Day One, I did a very simple breakfast of smoked salmon with quail eggs and a sprinkle of capers. I had some mini-croissants which suited the whole miniature theme. I don't normally eat a lot for breakfast anyways, and this two little bites made me feel like a giant, a Brobdingnagian from Gulliver's Travels. I suppose one could mistake this for a full sized croissant and chicken egg at a glance, right? 

Okay, no more mini-croissants for Day Two so I paired with some Wisecrackers (from Costco) for a light lunch. They are pretty mild, flavoured with olive oil and sea salt. The crunch was really good against the soft salmon and egg. I added some La Vache Qui Rit because I didn't have any cream cheese at home, so that was a handy substitute.

On Day Three, I decided to have the smoked salmon as just a snack. Using the same crackers as yesterday, I added some cucumber and cherry tomatoes but it was a pretty bland. Maybe I should have used more dill and maybe a squirt of lemon juice too. Oh well, next time. 

So by Day Four, I was a little sick of crackers and opted for a healthy pasta salad instead. I used a chickpea, brown rice and quinoa-based fusilli but it was disappointingly crumbly. Maybe I overcooked it? I tossed it with a lemon vinaigrette found it really refreshing. I would do this again but with another type of pasta or maybe quinoa? 

Day Five was my favourite so far. Maybe because I was comparing it to Day Four...but I did finally get cream cheese and more dill. The colours were so bright and fresh, the pop of the quail egg yolk made it even better. Yes, this was definitely my favourite. It was a perfect bite, a bit of crunch from the cracker and the cucumber, and the smooth cream cheese and the buttery salmon. Yum! 

And now we're at Day Six, and the last of the smoked salmon here. There's not quite enough for a meal, so I added two poached shrimp to round it out a bit. Originally, the plan was to make a hot pasta dish, something creamy and decadent with rotini or linguine, but the heatwave we have going on right now here in Vancouver made me catatonic at the thought of turning on the stove. So Thai Noodle Salad it was! It's a huge pile of veggies, romaine, yellow and red peppers, cucumber as well as bean sprouts over a bed of vermicelli. For a bit pf protein, I topped it with loosely shredded smoked salmon and a few prawns. The dressing is made up of fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, a bit of sugar and some bird's eye chilies and cilantro. Refreshing, spicy and more filling than you'd expect! I mixed the dressing with the vermicelli first so it has a chance to soak it up first, then top with the salad and drizzle more dressing.

So now that my Smoked Salmon theme is done, I am going to have to find another ingredient to do five or six ways. Maybe canned tuna? Chickpeas? Quinoa? Or maybe I'll move on to baking...but only small batches because it's too hot out, and oh,  my big oven is broken...

Friday, June 28, 2019

Crispy Chicken Chow Mein

So it's been a few months, er, years, since I've blogged and the industry sure has changed! I remember the days when people used to read blogs for in-depth reviews of various new restaurants but now, it's all about Instagram, isn't it?

I miss the days when people would read a blog post to get the sense of the restaurant, cuisine, service and overall value. However, it's just all about the IG boomerang post. It's hard to put all of that into one image, no?

But despite all that, I'm going to take another crack at blogging again. But instead of restaurant reviews and publicity events, I'm going with a different focus. I am cooking a lot more at home and trying new recipes, instead of the tried and true foods that I usually make. 

The goal is to learn more about nutrition, FODMAPs, and organic ingredients, as well as to remake some restaurant favourites. Here the first of a remake! I found this recipe from RecipeTinEats for Crispy Chicken Chow Mein

It seemed daunting at first, as the boy had quite high expectations for this, hoping against hope that I could replicate what we have at Cindy's Palace for our weekend dim sum brunches. 

And you know what? It was easy peasy! I followed the recipe to the letter and could not have been happier with the result!

See above for the crispy noodles, and no, there's no deep frying going on here. Just oil, noodles and a few tablespoons of water. The key is to let the heat do the work. Once you've toasted one side, pour that onto a plate and flip it back into the wok or frying pan for another few minutes before putting it into the oven to keep warm.

Now, before you do all that noodle frying, you should make all the sauce and marinade the chicken about 30 minutes before because once you start, you can't stop to look for that sesame oil in the deep recesses of your pantry.

The chicken marinade is easy and you can probably do that the night before. Once the noodles are done, wipe the wok down and add the marinated chicken. Then add the veggies (carrots, bok choy stems <--low fodmap! and some shallots or green onions).

Then add the sauce which has corn starch in it to thicken it. Remember to stir it before adding into the wok/frying pan. It might look wet and way too liquidly at first but Give It Time. The corn starch will do its thing and make this the glossiest and creamy sauce. Once everything has incorporated, add the bok choy leaves and bean sprouts and just gently toss until everything is coated.

All that's left to do now is to take the crispy noodles out of the oven and pour this magnificent sauce over it. But take it easy, don't drown it or you'll lose the crispiness that you tried so hard to achieve.

I serve mine with some of the sauce on the side as well as a small dish of chili oil. If you've been looking for a way to make chow mein at home, I sincerely hope that you give this a try.    

Monday, October 09, 2017

Wine Society Dinner at Villa Eyrie

Last month, I was fortunate enough to head up to Villa Eyrie at Malahat for their Wine Society dinner dubbed The Perfect Pairing. It's about two hours from Vancouver, with a 1.5-hour ferry ride from Tsawwassen, and a 30-minute drive from Victoria. 
Upon our arrival at the dinner, we were given bread, served with olive oil and butter. After a long trip from the city, this was devoured gratefully. 
Our first course of the 5-Course menu was a light starter of Albacore Tuna Crudo, served with sliced strawberries, fennel and cucumber ribbons with a light cucumber vinaigrette. The tuna was slightly chilled and very fresh, almost creamy. I loved the simple and elegant presentation. The pairing was a Stag's Hollow 'Syrah/Grenache' Rose, 2016, a 70/30 syrah/grenache blend. 
Our second appetizer was a Grilled Corn Agnolotti. The pasta was made with acorn flour and imparted a nutty and earthy feel to the dish. The brie filling was rich and velvety, and the sprinkling of corn and chives rounded out the dish nicely. (*Note to self, look for acorn flour on my next shopping trip). This was paired with the Tinhorn Creek 'Old Field' Chardonnay, 2014 and had grapefruit and green apple flavours. 
The Pan Seared Duck Breast was served with some colourful beets and braised chanterelle. There is also a sprinkling of mushroom and cabbage powders to offset the sweetness of the cherry jus. I would have liked the skin to be crispier and the fat rendered out more, but the breast itself was juicy and very flavourful. To accompany this dish, a Misconduct 'Suspect Series' Pinot Noir, 2014 was served. Each bottle is marked with GPS coordinates to show you which vineyard the grapes came from!  
The Pemberton Farms Short Rib was processed three different ways. First, it goes through an overnight marinade, then into the smoker, and then finally braised. The glaze is a reduction of Juniper peppercorns, and the meat was just falling off the bone, and fork tender. The other part of the duo was the Grilled Strip Loin, perfectly done to a medium rare. The peppercorn glaze served to flavour this well. The pretty Hasselback potatoes was lightly brushed butter but I thought they were just a touch underdone. However, that was just my opinion, everyone else said theirs were just fine. The last red wine of the night was the Nichol 'Old Vines' Syrah, 2014 from Naramata Bench and had cherry and peppery flavours.
Dessert was a homage to Roasted Peaches and included a peach mousse as well as some lightly roasted peaches. There was also a peach sorbet atop a strawberry coulis and a praline as well. Excellent blend of textures without being cloyingly sweet, exactly how I prefer my desserts! And the dessert was paired with Quail's Gate 'Botrytis Affected' Optima, 2015 and would be delightful with blue cheese and pâté.

If you have a free weekend and enjoy a short vacation in a secluded luxury resort with amazing food, Villa Eyrie is a great option. In addition to a heated saltwater pool, it is also home to the Tuscan Spa, complete with massage treatment rooms, lounges for manicures and pedicures, as well as amazing views of the Saanich Inlet.  

Click here for details about Villa Eyrie.
Click here for details about the Wine Society Dinner.
*Note: All food photos are by me and all photos of wines are courtesy of Villa Eyrie Resort. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tacofino Revisited

I fell in love with Spicy Margaritas when I first went to Tacofino a few years ago and have been craving it in these hot summer days. So naturally, I had to give in to my desires. They have Margarita Mondays, so instead of $10, it's only $8. And how do they make it spicy? They use a habanero tequila! And that salted rim is everything!   
Tacofino is well-known for their fresh Tortilla Chips and Salsa Fresca, so that's what we got to start. Margaritas and Chips. That's happiness right there. The margaritas were spicy enough and those warm tortilla chips will likely come back to haunt me in my dreams tonight. The Guacamole is $3 extra, but SO WORTH IT! The creaminess of the guac added with the homemade salsa sitting atop those fresh tortilla chips are a perfect trifecta. 
We ordered a trio of Tacos, this is the Albacore Tuna: It's a few slices of fresh tuna tossed in soy and sesame oil. Then add the salsa fresca from the chips and some fresh seaweed (aka wakame) and some wasabi mayo. My least favourite part of this is the ginger but that is totally a personal preference. (I don't eat it on a sashimi platter either).
A special that's only available on their dinner menu is their Grilled Wagyu Steak Taco. The beef is laced with some black garlic mayo and some pickled vegetables. The jalapenos are placed to the side along with the lime. If you are feeling brave, add the jalapenos and squeeze some lime juice on top. Trust me, spice and citrus work with meat. 
Their other fish taco is simply called the Fish Taco. Made with slightly breaded and crispy Pacific Cod, this taco is topped with some shredded cabbage and a light chipotle mayo. And again, we see the salsa fresca. I swear, they put that on everything! It's a bit messy but well worth the effort! 
I didn't save room for dessert but they have a lime curd vaso that I would like to get to know next time I'm there. 

Tacofino Commissary Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Boozy Brunch at Black & Blue - The Roof

So in an effort to bring two wine connoisseurs together, I tasked them each to bring a bottle to a lunch where they would meet each other for the first time. I suggested Black and Blue since I've been there numerous times, and steaks are what you need with some bold wines.
And as you can see, the boys did not disappoint! I am in no way an expert, but I can definitely appreciate these wines. The Chablis Grand Cru was an amazing way to start lunch. What surprised me the most was how the red really changed as we drank it. Also, since we were on the roof, we actually had to keep the Côte-Rôtie on ice to keep it at the proper drinking temperature. 

This is the Lamb Salad and as one of my friends said, "Vancouver is the only place that can sell you a skewer of lamb and call it a salad.". And that is exactly how it arrived at the table, a hot skewer of meat that they serve tableside. 
As a side note, we also got their Tuna Poke as an appetizer, which is also prepared tableside, however, I was too busy drinking and neglected to take a pic. But truth be told, it's not their best appetizer and it's shockingly small for a "share plate". 
Go for the Phyllo Prawns (apparently they were out of phyllo that day) or the Mac & Cheese Sticks (and I was avoiding carbs), those are my go-to.   

My other friend got the 16oz Rib Eye, and it was amazing looking. Though I didn't get to try it, I can attest that it was cooked to a perfect medium rare and you just can't beat those grill marks. And since I had the same sides with my steak, down below, I can also say that the asparagus was a bit wilted but the truffle smashed potatoes were decadent. 
And this was my NY Striploin...just a 12oz. and also done to a perfect rare/medium rare. When this baby landed, I had my doubts as to whether or not I could finish it. After giving a taste to both my friends, I started working on this baby, and then next thing you know, I was DONE! It was so moist and juicy, and then add the smokiness from the grill, it easy to do. There wasn't much fat on the edges and what there was, I ate it all. Oh, and did my best with the veggies, but I had to leave some of the potatoes behind. All in all, I say it was a valiant effort! 
And as you know, I'm not one for sweets, but if you have a Cheese Selection on your menu, chances are high that I can have my rubber arm twisted to try, even after a 12 oz. steak. We opted for their selection of three kinds of cheese, (it's available in three or five), but they generously gave us five. This included crumbled blue, brie, an ashen goat cheese and two more that I can't recall! Probably because of that glorious glass of port in the middle of the board. 
If you are a cheese lover like me, I'd recommend sharing an appetizer and a huge steak with your dining partner and cap the meal off with this. It's worth it!
The Roof at Black + Blue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sen Pad Thai at Granville Island

So after visiting Maenam last month, I was in the mood for Thai again and went to Sen Pad Thai in in Granville Island with Sherman. Don't worry, there is more than just Pad Thai here. 
So I'm sorry for the fact that you can't read the menu, but if you zoom in, you can see all the goodness they offer. Or just keep reading and you can see what we decided to order. To get your food, you order at the counter and get a buzzer that alerts you when the food is ready. This gives you a few minutes to wander the shops at Net Loft
And on the counter, they have sauces for you to enhance everything they serve. The Dried Chilli is great to pump up the spice. The Chilli with Lime Juice and Fish Sauce is a perfect combination of spice, citrus and savory. And if you get the Pad Siew, they have a Chilli Vinegar for that!  
Pad Thai Goong
Since it's a pad thai joint, we got one, specifically the Pad Thai Goong ($15), a pad thai with shrimp. Despite the rather bland colour, it had huge flavour! My biggest worry was that a "food court" place couldn't have huge wok flavour (鑊氣) but I was so wrong. The noodles weren't drenched in a gooey sweet and sour sauce (whew!) and the addition of the green onions and bean sprouts gave the dish a fresh kick. Add dried chilli flakes for some extra heat. 
Pad Siew
Our other noodle dish was the Pad Siew with Pork ($12). The rice noodles were perfectly cooked with a slight chew but tender and moist at the same time. Normally, restaurants tend to load you up with carbs (which are cheaper) and skimp on the meats. This was the exact opposite. We both loved the noodles and ended up with a boxful of leftover pork. However, this dish had the same heat as the pad thai, smoky and fragrant. It was my favourite out of our three carb dishes. 
Khao Pad
Our last carb dish was the Khao Pad ($10). Oh my, out of the three dishes, I was most surprised by this one. I've had fried rice before, but this was lighter than any I've had before. The sausage is tangy and the hot chewy rice had a strong flavour of fish sauce, strong but not overpowering. Each grain was coated with flavour, light and fluffy.
Papaya Salad

This fresh Papaya Salad ($8) is a great way to start your meal. But, what we did was to eat the hot stuff first. So when we got to this, we felt it was a bit bland but likely due to the amount of spice we had added to the previous dishes. Don't get me wrong, the elements are all there, crunchy papaya and carrot. However, it seemed a bit simplistic compared to the previous dishes. 

Crispy Wings
And because we had the wings at Longtail Kitchen, we had to reorder and do a comparison. Alas, these were the most disappointing of all the items. The wings were crispy as expected but the pale colour is indicative of their flavour. However, it did come with a sauce which gave these wings a new life. I guess they didn't want to sauce the wings to avoid getting the wings soggy but it could have used a sprinkling and additional sauce served on the side.  
So here are all the dishes we had and the total was $53 + taxes. It's a bit pricey considering it was a "serve yourself" place, but the food was good, I'd definitely have the Pad Siew and Khao Pad again. Truth be told, if this was a standalone restaurant and the food was plated properly, I'd say it was worth it. 

Two items that I will likely go back and give a try are their Oyster Pancake and Roti & Curry. Heck, I could make a lunch just out of that!

Sen Pad Thai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, July 08, 2017

A revisit to Mr. Red much more than just a bowl of pho!

Although I had been to Mr. Red Cafe before, there were only two of us and the items ordered were lacking in variety. However, with my sister in town, we made a return visit to sample more of their offerings. 
This was a dish that I had last time, the Pate Ga. The sticky rice with mung beans and chicken, pate and fried shallots is a mouthful of textures and flavours in every bite. Chewy rice, juicy chicken and crispy shallots. As I mentioned in my previous post, "this is like an open-faced Chinese jong ()". 
This is the Bánh bot loc lá chuói (please forgive me for the missing accents) as it arrives. The banana leaves hold something delicious inside!
And now, the reveal...these pork and shrimp dumplings are wrapped in tapioca. They are super moist and have a luxurious mouth feel. It's not sticky, it's more like chewy but in a comforting way. I did use a bit of the chili oil to give it a bit of a kick.
Since my mom doesn't like beef, we had to get the Phô Gà, a chicken noodle soup. The broth was clear and slightly sweet, but the shredded chicken was a bit dry. The noodles were cooked just right though, and this was a healthy portion, more than enough for one person. 
And this is a dish we had last time too, Chef's Special, Bún chả giò thịt nướng. Essentially, it's an avalanche of pork, deep fried tofu, crab spring roll (which make is special), and the traditional mint, basil, cucumbers and cilantro atop a base of vermicelli. Add the nuoc nam (fish sauce), some of the chili oil and give it all a toss. I prefer to take the crab spring roll out first though, to keep it nice and crispy. The tofu is a nice refreshing respite from the potential spiciness that could happen from that extra sprinkling of the "cock" sauce. "Get your mind out of the gutter, please." 
Ah, yes, here is another serving of the aforementioned Crab Spring Roll (Bún nem cua bé). I think you should be able to see the crunch of the spring roll skin from the pic above.
Here's a close up of the spring roll, and yes, the Thai bird's eye chili is there to provide some heat...actually maybe it was a bit excessive. The cucumber helped to douse the fire in my mouth.
We ended up getting a dessert, the first was the Mung Bean Pudding with Coconut cream. I'm not a dessert fan (that's my sister's domain) so I found it very sweet. In addition, I was quite full, so barely touched more that a spoonful of it. I don't go to Vietnamese restaurants for sweets so I wouldn't count this against them.

The rest of the meal was amazing and I will make another revisit to try their chicken wings, the Bún Bò Hué and their papaya salad. If you've tried, I'd love to know what you thought of them. Please comment below.

Mr. Red Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, July 07, 2017

Brunch worth waking up for - Seasons In the Park

Ah, summer is finally here and it's time for some al fresco dining. On a sunny Sunday, we woke up early and decided to head to Seasons in the Park for brunch. 
Once seated, we were served warm bread with a very generous slab of butter. Yum! I washed it down with a light cocktail, their Aperol Spritz. It's my favourite accompaniment to brunch, since it's just prosecco, aperol topped with soda.
Okay, this was a bit decadent and not at all representative of my normal breakfast (which is just a tea). Smoked Salmon Benedict with red onions, arugula, and fried capers with some creme fraiche layered inside. All this sits on top of a fried potato cake and then drenched in hollandaise sauce. I loved the greens and the bit of fruit as well. 
And this Italian Sausage & Eggs is exactly as advertised. A slightly spicy sauce with some scrambled eggs. There is a rustic charred pepper puree, slightly tangy and perfect for the corn bread. 
When mornings start like this, the day can only get better!

Seasons in the Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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