gracecheung604 | write on time: April 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

New Menu at Poor Italian

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Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be invited to the new menu launch tasting party for Poor Italian. We got to sample lots of dishes, and had a great time chatting with fellow foodies.Caprese Dishes came out in random order, because the event was three hours long, and people were constantly coming and going. For clarity, I'll present the dishes in a more orderly timeline. The first one is their Caprese Salad - skewers of baby mozzarella and grape tomatoes, in a pesto sauce with basil sprinkled on top. I love foods on a stick, so much easier to pop into your mouth, don't you think. The juicy tomatoes were a nice contrast to the smooth and dense mozzarella.Crab Cake & Scallop
I know, doesn't this look like an advancing army of deliciousness? Many thanks to the servers who patiently posed for lots of pictures from all of us food bloggers.Crab Cake & Scallop 3 These are their Crab Cake with a Giant Scallop on top. Not quite sure of the best way to eat this, so I did both. First one I tried, I took a bite of scallop and crab cake all at once. The next one (yes, I had two, oink) I ate the crab cake first and then the scallop. I think the second way was better because you really got the best taste of each of the ingredients. The crab cake was loaded with crab, not filler, and the scallop was sweet and juicy too. 
Beef Short Rib & Gorgonzola Risotto
The next dish I tried was their Short Rib and Mushroom Risotto. Oh my...fork tender short rib nestled against a scoop of risotto, heavily scented with gorgonzola. This was really good and I doubt you'd get this meat to pasta ratio in the regular serving, but it works well here! 
Quinoa pasta with shrimp & scallop 3

Another army platter of food...this is their Shrimp and Scallop Pasta, made with Seattle-sourced quinoa pasta. Great to see old classics reinvented for today's dietary needs. 
Quinoa pasta with shrimp & scallop 2
The first thing that hits you about this dish is the strong curry scent, with additional spices from North Africa. The curry is hot, not blow your mind hot, but definitely packs a punch. And the texture of the shell pasta is perfect, not mealy or mushy as I had expected, due to it being made with quinoa. 
Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli 3
Another pasta dish followed, and it was their Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli. A classic combination paired with a nice tomato sauce. 
Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli 2
Can you see the grooves in the pasta itself? All the better to hold onto the sauce. And in traditional Italian style, there is a drizzle of olive oil on top. Plump and pretty, this dish is a lovely to look at as it is to devour. 
Tagliatelle with Lamb Sausage
This is a Paccheri Pasta with Lamb Sausage - this little noodle has quite the history. Read about its scandalous history here. Sitting on top of this tubular pasta was a tasty lamb sausage. If you got a regular serving of this, it's definitely a knife and fork dish. The noodle was really smooth and the freshness was undeniable.   Beef Carpaccio First of a few dishes to arrive on a crostini...here we have the carpaccio, with a few greens and a mild creamy sauce that seemed to be there more for texture than for taste. Bruschetta (Funghi, Tuna,  Tomato)
Next up were more Bruschetta, a Mushroom one on the left, a tuna one in the middle and the classic pomodoro on the right, with a sliver of grano pandano on top. I think the mushroom was the more flavourful with the pomodoro one next. The tuna seems a little out of place for some reason.  Spin on Canneloni And now, onto desserts! This is their version of a canelloni, I know, it doesn't look like one, right? Essentially, it's a sweet taco, with a ricotta cheese topping.  It's a fun bite, but not overly dessert-y. 
Lemon Meringue
The last bite I tried was their Lemon Millefoglie...but instead of serving us sliced up portions, they decided to offer up the lemon meringue cream in a little cone. This was good and the tartness of the lemon did counteract the sweetness of the cone quite well.
So if you haven't been to Poor Italian Restaurant before, or in a while, give their new menu a try. And of all the dishes here, I think I'd have to say my favourite was the 
Paccheri Pasta with Lamb Sausage.

Poor Italian Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chocolate and Coffee Tasting at Edible Canada - A Decadent Affair

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Last week, I was invited to an amazing event at Edible Canada hosted by Wendy Boys of Cocolico, a local chocolatier and pastry chef, along with the Canadian Master Coffee Roaster representative, Marie-Claude Dessurealt of Van Houtte coffee. We would get to find out to our own Coffee Profile as well as getting to savour a delectable assortment of great desserts. 
Plated
I was a little late in arriving, but when I sat down, in front of me were 6 different kinds of chocolate, to pair with 6 different types of coffee profiles. I learnt that I am a Velvety and Woodsy. You arrive at this after a short 6-question survey
Marie Claudette
Here is Marie-Claude of Van Houtte, teaching us about our palate and tastes in order to discover which of the six coffee profiles we were.
Heating things up
After the quick sampling, our group moved over to the kitchen where we got a first hand look at how Wendy Boys makes her scrumptious Classic Eclairs! First she shows us how to make the Choux Paste, a blend of water, milk, butter, eggs and flour.  
Stir Away
Heat up the mixture of water, milk butter and sugar. Then dump in all the flour in all at once, and stir...aggressively!
At the Mixer
Off to make the dough in the mixer, slowly add the eggs in and mix until everything comes together.
Piping
Once  the eggs have been incorporated, Wendy put the dough into a piping bag and off we go to the next step. The dough has great gluten texture. Want to know an easy way to check? Put some between your index and thumb...if it sticks when you try to separate...then it's good!
Lovely piping action
Pipe the dough onto a parchment lined pastry sheet, into 2 inch pieces. Then off to the oven they go for about 12-16 minutes. 
While we are waiting for the pastries to cook, off we go to make the vanilla cream. This is a tricky process, you have a mixture of sugar, yolks with flour and cornstarch, but you have to ensure that when you add the liquid (hot milk with vanilla bean), you are tempering it so you don't end up with scrambled eggs. After it is incorporated, you put the whole thing back onto the stove and add gelatin. Let it cool to room temperature and then add in whipping cream. 
Filling with caramel cream
Once the pastries are out of the oven, poke two holes in each and pipe in the vanilla cream. Gosh, seeing this again is making me want more eclairs! 
Dipping the eclairs
To finish the dessert, Wendy also made a chocolate glaze. Every eclair got to take a dip in the heavenly sauce. But it's not over yet, they also get a dusting of chocolate.
Eclairs dusting See below for the delicious result.
All Done
All in all, the process didn't take more than an hour, but it is a lot of effort. To be honest, a freshly made eclair is a decadent treat, and I could have eaten a dozen of them! 
Lemon White Chocolate Macaron To match other coffee profiles, Wendy also prepared a whole host of other desserts. One of my favourites, these lemon and white chocolate macaroons. I don't mind telling you, I scored 4 of these "to-go"! This was meant for the Mellow and Fruity profile, with Costa Rica Light Roast.
Pot De CremeWendy also made us some yummy Pot de Creme with milk chocolate. I do love how the pinch of Maldon Salt adds a new level of flavours to a dessert dish. This one was designed for the Mellow and Woodsy flavour profile and was served with a Mocha Java Light Roast.
Raspberry BrownieAh...anything tastes better on a stick, right? And this was no exception...a Raspberry Chocolate Lollipop...so rich and dense that a pop is all you need. For this very rich dessert, the best coffee to pair it with is the Sumatra Dark Roast, which matches a Bold and Woodsy profile.
BanoffeeOne new thing for me was the Banofffee Pie. It's a tasty concoction of Caramel cream with banana slices, and toffee bits. This was amazing and a treat that might just make me a banana lover again! And if you are have a Bold and Fruity profile, enjoy this with a nice Kenya Dark Roast. 
Cocoa Nib PannacottaThe other dessert that Wendy created in front of us was the Cocoa Nib Pannacotta. She made the pannacotta ahead of time, but showed us how to make the topping. It's a simple salad of clementines, mint and lime. She infused the mint into the simple syrup and used it to dress the clementines. Then she grated 99% cocoa on top of it all. Yes, 99%...that's not a typo! This refereshing dessert pairs well with the Africana Fair Trade Organic Medium Roast, a match made in heaven for the Velvety and Fruity profile.

Be sure to check out Van Houtte's website to Discover Your Coffee Profile. We all have wines varietals that we like better than others, it's time you find out your coffee preference too!  

It was a great event and one that gives me a whole new respect for the delicateness of these dessert we so often take for granted. Thanks for the very detailed tutorial, and now, armed with the recipes, I just might take a stab at making one this weekend!
Note: Photos courtesy of Hill + Knowlton Strategies.

Edible Canada at the Market on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Black and Blue - Passport Quest

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Glowbal Passport Quest. As part of the promotion that Glowbal Group ran in February - March 2012, I visited all seven of the restaurants. Here is my post of Black and Blue.
I also have posts for:
Glowbal Grill
Society
Coast
Italian Kitchen
Trattoria
Sanafir
To start off the night, we decided to get a bit of carbs into us...so we ordered their B+B Cheese Bread. Nothing amazing here but it does the job.
Another amazing appetizer? Their Yorkshire Pudding stuff with shaved prime rib. It's a perfect little bite, well, perhaps a three-biter...
We also received an Amuse Bouche, essentially a little salad on a Toast Pointe. This was actually quite good, and I did like the drizzle of olive oil. But all neither of the two dished are why you would go to Black and Blue. You're here for meat, so let's get to that! 
If you like poutine and you like meat...then you must try this Short Rbi Poutine. And yes, it's as delicious as it sounds. Crunchy fries smothered with gravy, cheese curds and short rib...doesn't get much better than this. 
We also went for one of their other appetizers, the Stuffed Mushrooms. If you've been to The Keg before and tried their version of the same, you'd be in for a surprise here. This is one gigantic portobello mushroom stuffed with crab meat and bernaise sauce. Disregard the pluralization in the menu...you are getting one BIG mushroom. Served piping hot in its own skillet, this is decadent, riche and meant to be shared.
Because we had a visitor from HK with us, and because we didn't know how to order, we asked the chef to come and help us. We wanted to try at least two types of meat, but didn't know how to make it so everyone could try a bit. What he came up with was pure genius! He arranged for us to try the Angus (pictured above) three ways, and then also recommended that we try the PEI Blue Ribbon (pictured below). For the Angus, we got to try the Tenderloin and the New York Strip. All done to a perfect medium rare, just the way I like it. 
Now, onto the PEI Blue Ribbon. We went whole hog on this one and had the Tenderloin, New York Strip as well as the Bone In Rib Eye. Carnivores unite This is as good as it gets. It was done just a touch rarer than the Angus, but it was great. Nice juicy meat and super tender. 
Now man cannot live on meat alone...so we decided to order a few sides...first to arrive was the Creamed Spinach. Never something I would order, but if someone else does, I'm duty-bound to take a scoop. 
To satisfy our carb cravings, we got their Mac and Cheese Sticks. It's a brilliant invention, a three cheese mac and cheese made into 2 inch long rectangles and then breaded and deep fried. Um, it's fries on a whole new level. 
Their signature dessert is the B+B Butter cake with a chantilly cream and a rich caramel sauce. I don't have a sweet tooth and delightfully, this wasn't too sweet. It's lighter than it looks and is a good way to finish your meal. 
On their dessert feature that night was their 10-layer chocolate cake, apologies for the blurry picture, but there really were 10 layers of cake and frosting here. It's a thin slice, but it's big enough for two! 
Ano no meal at Glowbal Group is complete without my Cocoa Nibs...fresh honeycombs dipped in a rich milk chocolate. Get this to go and enjoy! 
Black + Blue on Urbanspoon

Trattoria - Passport Quest

Reactions: 
Glowbal Passport Quest. As part of the promotion that Glowbal Group ran in February - March 2012, I visited all seven of the restaurants. Here is my post of Trattoria.
For reviews of the other restaurants, click the restaurants below:
Black and Blue 
Coast
Glowbal Grill
Italian Kitchen
Sanafir
Society

We started of meal off with an Amuse bouche of Burrata with house made lardon and garlic chips on a crostini. Seriously good and very fresh. I love burrata and they do it right here. Thanks so much to Chef Chuy!
For our appetizer, to further satisfy my craving for burrata, we got their Prosciutto Burrata with grilled bread. This was good on so many levels. Thinly shaved parmesan, a nice scoop of burrata and an abundance of grilled pizza dough. This would be a dream lunch dish all on its own. 
We had a child with us tonight, so we started him off with a simple Pomodoro pasta, but instead of spaghetti or penne, we opted for the Garganelli. He loved it and probably polished off 2/3rd of this dish. I found the sauce a touch too sour, but evidently, he didn't. 
I really do love Garganelli...on the menu, there is a Spaghetti Bolognese with braised beef, but I asked them to switch up the pasta and give it to me with garganelli instead. They were happy to accommodate and this is the happy result. Fresh, al dente garganelli with a richly infused sauce. This made me happy!
We also tried their Linguine alla Vongole, and I was delighted to see that this was served in a tomato based sauce, instead of the usual garlic & olive oil based sauce. I like that the shells were included and the portion was big. Hard for one person to finish!
And although I am not a dessert person, I really enjoyed this Tiramisu. It sits atop a bed of coffee bean infused creme anglaise and is served with a biscotti and a fresh strawberry on the side. Thick rich layers of lady fingers soaked in coffee and liquor, and then layered with mascarpone and egg yolks. A fine dusting of cocoa powder completes the whole thing. Rich, light but delicious!
And you've heard me talk about the Zeppole before...loaded with chocolate ganache, these little doughnuts are totally addictive. Try it with the creme anglaise for full effect.
Trattoria Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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