gracecheung604 | write on time: March 2014

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Vegan tasting at Be Love in Victoria

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For those of you who know me, I'm definitely a carnivore, with mad love for steaks, wings and BBQ duck. However, I'm always open to new ideas. I recently received an invitation to give Be Love in Victoria a try. It's the new restaurant opened by siblings, Joe and Heather Cunliffe of Cafe Bliss. 
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However, living in Vancouver, it seemed unlikely that I would be able to take advantage of this offer. As fate would have it, I was able to visit Victoria last week and had a chance to give this place a try! I really loved the high ceilings in the space. It's spacious but not intimidating at all, it was really cozy and had a nice cafe-style feel.
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Just because they are vegan, it doesn't mean that Be Love doesn't serve up a mean cocktail. On the right is the Red Cedar Swizzle. The gin is infused with red cedar, then mixed with lemon, honey, angostura bitters. The flavours were quite woodsy and the garnish really accentuated that.
On the left is their Black Star Liner. It's a warm cocktail with Kraken black spiced rum, quetzal cola syrup blended into steamed almond mylk (no real dairy here), then topped with nutmeg. IMG_5539 
Our first two courses are from the Soup and Salad section. Here is their Sesame Miso. It's a miso broth loaded up with seaweed, kale, sprouts, and various veggies. The nori in the chickpea miso sesame broth gave it a rich texture. The flavours are reminiscent of meaty Chinese sausage, as well as sesame oil. The miso and shitaake really stand out, and I loved the warmth of this dish.    
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Our next item is the Warm Quinoa Salad. It's loaded with lots of roasted beets, more kale, crunchy toasted hazelnuts,and lots of shredded carrot (which I'm mildly allergic to). The sauce had a cumin base with a sweet and nutty balsamic vinegar, sweetened slightly by some fig juices. Although I'm normally allergic to raw carrots, I didn't have any reaction with this locally grown variety. It is definitely hearty and fills you up without being heavy. As you can see, there is an amazing cracker served with this, loaded with seeds and nuts, this is crunchy goodness at its best.  
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We also tried their Masala Dosa. A fermented lentil crepe. The fermentation makes crepe a bit sour, which I wasn't a fan of. It's filled with a potato curry & served with tamarind-date chutney (more sour). The side is a cucumber-mint salad with a dairy-free cashew raita. The sourness of the crepe ruined this dish for me, but upon removing the cover, I really enjoyed the curry inside. 
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Another main we tried was the Numi Noodle Bowl because it seems most "traditional" with a vegan twist. The buckwheat soba noodles & kelp noodles are tossed in a adzuki bean miso garlic sauce. There is also stir fried sesame baked tempeh, as well as some shitaake. There are random greens as well as marinated burdock root. The tempeh was weird to me, I didn't like the texture at all. However, I loved the taste of the broth, with hints of hoisin. I found the texture of the dish inconsistent, some were al dente, yet other bits of noodles were very clumpy. Overall, it was good, but it could have been a bit more uniform.  
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For dessert, we got treated to their Karma Bar, a nanaimo bar like sweet with Salty caramel, pecans and chocolate! Oh my goodness, this was heavenly. Salty, sweet and just the right amount of gooeyness.

I can't say that I would convert to veganism because of Be Love, but I would join a vegan friend here. It's got what I like (bold flavours and textures) and it serves up food that vegans would love. 


Take Note:

  • Servers are great and very entrenched into the vegan lifestyle
  • Amazing desserts
  • Try their Cheezecake!
Looking for more Victoria ideas? Here you go!

Be Love on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Homecooking with Akakurobuta

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After the Akakurobuta tasting a few weeks ago, they sent us home with a few packs of Akakurobuta. Because I was heading out of town for a few days, I decided to freeze the package and play with them upon my return. IMG_5571 We were given two packages, the top one is the pork loin, the bottom one is the collar butt. The fat cap on the loin is pretty huge and the marbling in the collar butt is designed for amazing tenderness and juiciness. Of the four recipes we were also given, I decided on trying the Tonteki from Kingyo Izakaya, as created by Chef Kittaka. If you want to give this a try, here is the recipe from the Wingtat site.IMG_5575 First step is to cover the pork with grated onions and garlic. I used more garlic than the recipe called for, but used half an onion as recommended. It's the first time I've tried grating an onion, and it was surprisingly easy. I might do this for future recipes that calls for diced onions. I keep my onions in the fridge to reduce the tears, and it certainly came in handy here.  IMG_5581 For Step 4 of this recipe, you have to fry the pork loin in pork fat, so I decided to take this opportunity to take out some of the fat from the edges off the loin. At first glance, doesn't this look a bit like tuna sashimi?  IMG_5585 After the marinating process, brush off all the onions and garlic and coat the loins with flour. The little bits of lard in the upper edge has rendered the fat needed to fry these babies up.  IMG_5592 I fried them on each side for about 5 minutes, giving them a slight turn at the 2.5 minute mark.  IMG_5597 And here is the final product, in all it's glory. We did the sauce in a small pot on the side, instead of in the pan, because I thought my pan was too large. The sauce is really easy, with just five common ingredients (worcestershire , oyster sauce, soy, mirin and stock). You put all the onions and garlic from the marinade and simmer until tender.  IMG_5602 This is the final product with the sauce. It was really tender and moist. The sauce was a quite savory and complemented the pork very well. I would definitely make this again. We had it with some takeout roti, but it would be great with some rice.
Akakurobuta is a premium  Japanese style pork that is 100% Canadian, produced in Alberta. The pork is well-marbled and served a strict diet of barley. This creates a whiter fat compared to corn-fed pork. The hogs are raised in small family farms and are free run, resulting in a stress-free hogs. The pork has previously been exported solely to Japan, but now, it's available to Canadian consumers, exclusively at all T&T Supermarkets.
Various restaurants in Vancouver are also featuring their take on Akakurobuta, see my review of the tasting at Kingyo, Damso and Secret Location.

Akakuro-Buta | Premium Pork Tasting

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A few weeks ago, I was invited to a media tasting for Akakurobuta, a pork product that until now, has been raised solely for export to Japan, until now. Kurobuta from Koshima is a world-renown pork product,due to its tenderness, juiciness and marbling. It's aiming to be a twin to the Kurobuta, the berkshire black hog found in Japan. Akakurobuta, from Alberta farms, comes very close to the way the Kurobuta is raised, but enhanced by the Alberta's gorgeous grasslands, glacier water and unpolluted air. The hogs receive individual attention with their farmers, resulting in stress-free and happy hogs. They are fed on a diet of barley (resulting in a firm and white fat) versus other North American hogs that are corn fed (giving it a yellow and greasier fat). We were set to visit three restaurants where each chef was tasked to created new dishes with Akakurobuta. IMG_5440 Our first stop was at Kingo Izakaya, where Chef Chikayoshi Kittaka served up Tonteki. It's rare for me to get a personalized menu so I appreciated this!
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Before the pork landed on the table, we were treated to a Tomato Kimchi, which was amazing meaty. The flavours were very clean and the seaweed sauce was something I had never tried before. Given the darkness and thick texture, the seaweed flavour was actually quite light. 
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Another appetizer was the Tuna Tataki, which was served with a light Ponzu Jelly. This was just lightly seared and the Albacore had a really fresh taste. IMG_5446 Finally, the start of the show, the Tonteki, a Japanese Style Pork Steak. The pork was definitely the star here, simply marinated with garlic and onions. The sauce had hits of Worcestershire sauce, mirin, oyster sauce and a bit of soy. Then it was simply pan fried and sliced. 

IMG_5453 Our next stop took us to Damso where Chef Eric Lee. Before the Akakurobuta hit the table, we were served their Beef Taco, which was really tasty. Simply served with sliced onions and greens, this is a great starter.  IMG_5460 For our first course, Chef Lee served up the Kimchi Jim with Akakuro-buta Loin. The pork is pan seared and then baked in the oven. The kimchi base gives the pork some flavor but the pork is definitely the highlight. It's super tender with a nice ring of fat around it. I loved the pork skin too! 

IMG_5462 The second course was the Akakuro-buta Gamja-tang. The pork is brined for 12 hours and then cooked sous vide. The broth is made with a blend of chicken stock and pork stock, giving it a very meaty flavour, which was enhanced by the addition of Dwenjang (fermented soybean paste), Gochujang (chili pepper paste) and Gochugaru (chili pepper powder). A few potatoes and cabbage rounded out the broth, which was served tableside. I liked the thickness of the broth but found the fermented soybean paste a bit overpowering. I'd probably cut back on this if I were to replicate it at home. 

IMG_5470 Our final stop was Secret Location, where Chef Jefferson Alvarez who made us a Burnt Apple Crusted Akakuro-Buta Collar Butt. First of all, I have to say that the serving size was enormous, especially since we already had three other pork courses! But I also have to say, it was probably my favourite of the evening. The pork was brined/marinated and seared. Simple but super amazing. The sweetness from the burnt apple was enhanced but a bit of the brown sugar and cinnamon in the original brine. This had an amazing crust and the marbling of the collar butt really shone through. 

Akakuro-Buta is available exclusively at T&T Supermarkets. There are two cuts available, the loin and the collar butt. The loin has a thick fat cap and the collar butt has intense marbling. If you want to give these recipes a try at home, you can find them here. I tried to make the Tonteki with the loin that was given to me at the end of the media tasting. See my attempt here!
Kingyo Izakaya 金魚居酒屋 on Urbanspoon Damso Modern Korean Cuisine on Urbanspoon Secret Location on Urbanspoon

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