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The Most Memorable Dishes That I’ve Eaten

14 Jun

Food is a (mostly) glorious thing. Every truly awful dish that I’ve eaten has certainly been over-whelming outnumbered by the number of delectable dishes that I have savoured. Some dishes are more memorable than others and I’d like to share with you the dishes that resonate with me as being the most memorable that I’ve eaten.

I’m not trying to discriminate when selecting these dishes but I did notice that almost all of them are from outside of Vancouver. Perhaps it is a coincidence, or perhaps it is because when travelling you eat out more often and your senses are heightened. Regardless of the answer, the following dishes are my response to the question “What would your last meal be?” Well, this is it for me. Add a bottle of bubbles to this and I would die happy. Oh, so happy!

Moulard Duck Foie Gras En TerrineThe French Laundry, Napa Valley

Arguably the whole evening that we spent at The French Laundry was full of memorable dishes but the one dish that I still daydream about and would travel back to Napa for is the Foie Gras Terrine. I can still remember the glossiness of the terrine as I layered it onto the warm brioche and sprinkled it with salt. I have a difficult time trying to find the words to describe how delectable it was but my taste buds remember.

House Curry with Fresh Prawns – L. Maladee, Ko Lanta, Thailand

Easily the best meal that I ate whilst in Thailand. We returned to this casual, little restaurant many times whilst on the island of Ko Lanta and every meal was delicious, but this curry was the one I remember most vividly. Before we ordered, the server presented the HUGE freshly caught prawns to us and recommended that they be served as the House Curry. I was hesitant because I was already completely in love with their Panang Curry but trust I did, and wow. The curry was creamy, perfectly spicy, and full of fat, juicy prawns.

Aburi Salmon Oshi SushiMinami, Vancouver

The Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi, which is pressed local BC salmon, jalapeño, and miku sauce, is the signature dish at Yaletown’s Minami. With slices of delicate salmon, a slightly smoky flavor, and a hint of spice from the jalapeño, it is heavenly. This dish has changed sushi (for the better) for me.

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Sticky Toffee PuddingRim Rock Café, Whistler

Prior to my first visit to Rim Rock, I was told that I couldn’t leave without ordering the Sticky Toffee Pudding. I did what I was told. Now, whenever I return to Whistler, I try to eat at Rim Rock and will usually – only once have I not – finish my meal with a serving of this deliciousness. I find it rare to find a dish that manages to live up to its much-hyped reputation but the Sticky Toffee Pudding did. B & I even served this dish at our wedding. Who can pass up a warm tower of date pudding, swimming in gooey, sweet toffee? Not me!

Sticky Toffee Pudding (2)

Erik Kayser Baguette and ButterParis, France

I would never have believed that I would add a baguette and butter to my “most memorable dishes” list but here it is. When I was in Paris last November, I joined the long snaking queue at Erik Kayser (a well-known artisan bakery) and chose a warm, crispy baguette and bought a slab of salty French butter to accompany it. My brain and taste buds were tingling as I ate it and, whilst drunk on (carb and fat induced) endorphins, I couldn’t help but marvel at its simplicity. It was truly memorable.

Lobster Brioche Sandwich – Burger & Lobster, London

Again words will fail me but let me attempt to explain how good this dish was. Think of warm, buttery brioche that has been toasted until golden and then filled with plump pieces of sweet lobster, creamy Japanese mayo, and chives. It is rich and decadent and the buttery brioche leaves a glistening butter trail around your mouth as you bite into it…I think you get the picture.

Sturgeon Sabayon – Eleven Madison Park, New York

This dish was memorable for two reasons; 1/ The presentation was unexpected, yet interesting and 2/ I would never expect sturgeon (even the name is ugly) to be this tasty. The sabayon was creamy, foamy, dense, all at once. The size of the dish was also perfect – I was left wanting more.

Unknown Pizza Bar, Florence, Italy

As a child, I wasn’t exposed to authentic Italian food. To put it in context, before I travelled to Italy at the age of 19, the only pizza I had eaten was chain-restaurant pizza (Pizza Hut, for example). Imagine my innocent and naive taste bud’s surprise when they tasted a thick, foccacia-like pizza base, covered in slightly cooked fresh summer vegetables and herbs. The taste was memorable. I can vividly remember tasting every herb, every zucchini, every pepper. I had never tasted pizza that had actual individual flavours like that before. Knowing that food could be that different from what I was used to, pushed me to continue to seek out new tastes and foods.

Beef Masaman CurryHanuman Restaurant, Darwin, Australia

This will always be the Masaman curry that I measure all other Masaman’s against. The beef falls apart at touch, the sauce is thick and creamy and full of spices. And it reminds me of home.

The Hanuman's Massuman Curry

What are the most memorable dishes that you’ve ever eaten? Do you find food more memorable when you sample it in a different country?

A few of my favourite things…halloumi

18 May

Hello, foodie friend. Have you met halloumi yet? If not, then it is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to this salty, crispy cheese.

Halloumi originated in Cyprus and is traditionally made with sheep and goat’s milk (yet it isn’t as tangy as goat’s cheese). It is salty with a texture similar to mozzarella, that is, until it is fried. Once fried, it becomes a crispy, golden slab of “squeaky” cheese. The world is a better place because of halloumi.

Halloumi is great for BBQ’s because it retains its firmness, even once grilled. I classify halloumi as a vegetarian steak because it is savoury, grill-friendly, and tasty. But vegetarians aren’t the only ones who should enjoy halloumi. Halloumi can be eaten on its own or you could add it to salads to beef them up a bit. Personally, I am quite happy eating stacks of golden, warm halloumi on their own.

In Vancouver it can be difficult to find halloumi but I have found it for sale at Whole Foods, les amis du FROMAGE, and Benton Brothers. Over the next few weeks, I will endeavour to find some recipes that use halloumi so that I can show you how versatile this delightful cheese can be.

Food Events in May – Vancouver and BC

3 May

Foodies…gather around. May is going to be an exciting month for food in BC and I’m here to tell you all about it. These are just a few things that are going on in May around our beautiful city:

Spring Farmer’s Markets – Saturday, May 11 & Sunday, May 12
Farms, orchards, and gardens are all brimming with seasonal fruits and vegetables and that marvelous time of year, where local producers expand their weekly farmer’s markets, is upon us. Pop into the Farmer’s Markets at Trout Lake and Kitsilano for a taste of what BC has to offer. On until the end of summer.

Annual Spot Prawn Boil – Saturday, May 11
What screams “Spring has arrived!!” more than the arrival of those sweet, tasty spot prawns that BC is so well known for? The short-lived season (only about 6 to 8 weeks) is celebrated with the annual spot prawn boil. It is a chance to sample a plate of fresh-off-the-boat BC spot prawns, watch some cooking demonstrations, and buy prawns direct from the fishermen. Get your $12 tickets here but do it quickly as tickets are selling fast!

Edible Canada’s Market Dinners
I attended my first Market Dinner this year and would love to go to another. This month showcases some pretty amazing local talent including, Chef Ted Anderson from Campagnolo Roma (sold out), Chef Ned Bell from YEW at the Four Seasons (Tuesday, May 14), and Chef Brian Skinner from The Acorn (Monday, May 27). This informal cooking demonstration/meet-the-chef/dinner event is great value for money ($80 per ticket) and includes wine.

Food from Chef Brian Skinner of The Acorn

Spring Long Table at The Irish Heather
For only $18 you can grab a seat at the Long Table, meet some friendly folk, and fill up on a home-cooked meal and a beer. The menu is dependent on what night of the week you visit but you could be feasting on roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, Cortez Island mussels, or porchetta with salsa verde. Vegetarians are also catered for but you need to request this when you make your reservation. Menu and details: http://ltsmenu.blogspot.ca/

Eat Vancouver – May 24/25/26
Vancouver’s largest food expo is back! The crowds are insane so get there early to experience food, drinks, cooking demonstrations, and new products. There will also be some Food Network cooks present that you can schmooze with.

Vancouver Craft Beer Week – May 31 to June 8
The VCBW squeaks in just on the last day of May. For 8 days craft beer lovers will be in heaven. The week includes many beer-focused events including a gala, a beer and BBQ event, food and beer pairings, and a beer festival.

Spring in BC

If you want to venture further afield, Whistler has some incredible value-for-money spring menus. My favourites are the 5 course $31 Araxi menu, Rim Rock’s 3 course $45 menu, and Bearfoot Bistro’s 5 course $48 menu.

Feast Tofino is also taking place in (duh) Tofino during the month of May. If the 21 different events aren’t enough to entice you, perhaps the beach will?

As you can see we are certainly not short of events throughout May. There is plenty to do, regardless of taste or budget. Hope to see you out there!

Books That Feed The Soul

17 Feb

I have many hobbies. Food, and everything related to food, take up a lot of my time but when I’m not eating, photographing, or cooking, I can typically be found reading. I devour books as feverishly as I devour food. Thankfully, books are better for my waistline.

“Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About” – Kevin Trudeau

In spite of the cult-like tone and the author’s obvious paranoia, this book changed the way I look at food forever. Before I read this book, I was already curious about food and its power over our bodies, but this book opened my eyes to nasty ingredients in our food and our lifestyles, such as high fructose corn syrup, MSG, processed white flours and sugars, hydrogenated oils, and parabens. The author delves into why the food and pharmaceutical companies want to keep the public in the dark about issues that may cause them diseases, such as ingredients in foods that we eat. The book is frustrating in that it gives you some information but directs you to the author’s website for more details – where you have to pay for advice. Not cool, but besides that, I gained a lot of knowledge reading this book and as a result am much more careful about what I eat now.

“Fast Food Nation” – Eric Schlosser

A non-fiction piece by investigative journalist Eric Schlosser that exposes fast food companies and their practices. The book discusses, not only the food and what goes in it (some of which will terrify you), but also how mass-production for the fast food industry has changed the US farming and meat industries forever. This book was powerful enough that I never ate from certain fast food restaurants again.

“My Life in France” – Julia Child

This book is a must read for those who love food. “My Life in France” is an autobiography of Julia’s life, with a focus on the time she spent living in France. Whilst reading this book, I discovered that I like Julia Child, not just because she was so passionate about French cooking and food, but she was also an independent, ballsy, motivated woman. I found her to be an inspiration as she travelled the world, began cooking as a hobby quite late in life, graduated from Cordon Bleu, co-write the famous cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, and became a TV icon in America. Wow. Not bad!!

Paris, My Sweet – Amy Thomas

An easy read that allows you to get lost in a world of sweets and Parisian life. The book follows the author’s move to Paris and her explorations of the city’s patisseries, chocolatiers, and boulangeries. She also gives valuable advice on New York’s sweet scene as well. I used this book as a guide for my trip to Paris and I was absolutely thrilled with the recommendations.

“Kitchen Confidential”and “Medium Raw” – Anthony Bourdain

Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Anthony Bourdain has a way with words. Personally, I find him quite arrogant but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying his perspective as a restaurant insider, with 25 years of experience in the business. It certainly makes you sympathize with those brave folks who are courageous enough to start their own restaurant but also has you thinking about what has gone on behind the scenes before your plate arrives at your table. Both “Kitchen Confidential”, his first restaurant exposé, and “Medium Raw”, the follow-up book, are engaging.

The Sweet Life in Paris – David Lebovitz

This is a laugh-out-loud recount of pastry chef, David Lebovitz’s, life in Paris. It follows David through his move to Paris and adjusting to the French way of life. David is extremely witty and I found I couldn’t put this one down. The book also contains recipes from his cooking repertoire. You can get an introduction to his writing at his fabulous food blog, www.davidlebovitz.com.

Comfort Me With Apples – Ruth Reichl

I honestly did not know much about Ruth Reichl, a well-known American food writer and critic, before I picked up this book. Ruth’s writing is very honest and candid so you feel as though she is sharing a lot of her life, not just the food side, with you. She shares details of her first job as a restaurant critic, travelling, trying new cuisines, and meeting famous chefs, like Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck. She also shows a more personal side by detailing the break down of her first marriage, the start of her second marriage, and the difficulties she faced whilst trying to have a child.

Blood, Bones and Butter – Gabrielle Hamilton

Gabrielle Hamilton writes like a female Anthony Bourdain; brutally honest. The book follows her life from a young girl learning to cook from her mother, through to her extremely interesting life (to me) as a cook in New York. Like Bourdain, some of the stories seem so outrageous that it is hard to believe that they are true but they are certainly entertaining. After years of struggling to find her feet as a chef, we follow Hamilton’s foray into starting her own restaurant (Prune in New York) and the break-down of her marriage.

So, that’s what I like to do when I’m not stuffing my face. What about you? Do you like reading food-focused books? If so, I’d love to hear what books you recommend!

Croissant Crusade!

13 Feb

Let me unbutton my jeans whilst I write this post…

Over the past week I’ve been spending my mornings researching a post that I’ve been intending to write for some time – a croissant crusade. I’ve undertaken the incredibly hideous task (ahem) of visiting local patisseries and bakeries in search of Vancouver’s “best” croissants. I have sacrificed myself (mostly my thighs and ass) so that you, dear reader, may enjoy some of the wonderful croissants that Vancouver has to offer. For consistency, I sampled the croissants around the same time every day (about 11am) and only on weekdays. Whilst most of the places also offered other types of croissants, such as almond croissants, I was only interested in researching the traditional butter croissants.

I sampled five different croissants from five different places; Beaucoup Bakery, Ganache Patisserie, Cadeaux Bakery, Thomas Haas, and Faubourg.

Beaucoup Bakery:
Where: Fairview
Cost: $3
Alternative orders: Anything!

Beaucoup’s offering is probably my favourite croissant (tied with Ganache) that I tried over the week. The reasons for this are:

  • It is smaller than the others that I sampled so it didn’t get the doughy insides that some of the others fell victim to.
  • It was slightly crunchy and shattered into flakes when I ate it. This is how I prefer my croissants.
  • The crunch gave way to a tapestry of pastry layers inside.
  • It was buttery and at times you could smell the butter on each bite.
  • There were very obvious thin layers of flaking pastry, as evident by the photograph.

Ganache Patisserie:
Where: Yaletown
Cost: $2.25
Alternative orders: Their beautiful individual-sized cakes.

Ganache was the dark horse of the race and I wasn’t expecting that from a place that I don’t hear much about. Ganache, and the croissant from Beaucoup, would be tied as the “best” for me. It was different to Beaucoup’s in a few ways:

  • It was much darker than the rest that I sampled but this didn’t take away from the taste.
  • It had a good amount of crunch, particularly on the bottom, but not necessarily flaky.
  • The pastry seemed almost sweet once you reached the inside.
  • The inside of the croissant had many layers and had a light and airy honeycomb-like structure (check it out in the pic below)

Cadeaux Bakery:
Where: Gastown
Cost: $2.75
Alternative orders: The bacon twist croissants!

  • This one was bigger in size than those from Beaucoup and Ganache but it wasn’t unreasonably large.
  • There was a good amount of crunch from the base and the ends.
  • A little buttery on the outside but not too much.
  • Spongy on the inside but then gave away to too much dough towards the middle, which I don’t like.
  • The flakey layers were satisfactory on the outside but I would have like to have seen more fluffiness and chew on the inside.

Thomas Haas:
Where: Kitsilano
Cost: $2.50
Alternative orders: I’ve been told that the almond croissants from Thomas Haas are da bomb!

Thomas Haas is well-known for his croissants so I was a little disappointed with the one that I ordered as I know that I’ve had better from Thomas Haas in the past. Unfortunately I have to review it on the one that I ordered so it was:

  • Medium sized.
  • Quite flaky on the outside, golden, and shattered slightly (evidence on the plate).
  • The inside was quite moist and slightly dense.
  • I found the inside was similar to Cadeaux’s in that it was too chewy and there was a lot of damp pastry as you moved towards the middle of the croissant, rather than fluffiness.

Faubourg:
Where: Kerrisdale
Cost: $2.75
Alternative orders: Their baguettes are some of the most authentic that I’ve had in the city. The tri-chocolate decadent pastry was also memorable.

This was the furthest that I travelled for a croissant and it was good but that isn’t what I would travel back there for (see “alternative orders”).

  • A little too big for my liking
  • A little dry and it didn’t taste overly fresh, although I’m sure it was baked that day.
  • Minimal flakiness and it lacked obvious pastry layering.
  • The bottom was buttery and toasted, which was a plus in my books.
  • Quite underwhelming.

Boy, am I glad this post is over – no more pastries for me for awhile! I need to get back onto my “avoid wheat” goal but this was fun whilst it lasted. I’m confident that there are other places in the city offering good butter croissants but I went with my instincts and from recommendations. The places that I have listed above are a good place to start to help you find your own favourite croissants. As with anything that I eat, my preferences might not be what you find the “best” so happy hunting!

My Year in Review – 2012

26 Dec

What a year 2012 has been and I, for one, am sad to see it end. This year has been absolutely incredible and it has surpassed all of my expectations – I honestly don’t know that I could have crammed much more in! This year has brought with it a lot of firsts, such as visits to world-famous restaurants, as well as the return of familiar experiences, such as Araxi’s Long Table Dinner. So here is my 2012 in food…

Doing a cooking class in Thailand

This had been on my bucket-list for many years and I was so happy when I finally got the chance to tick this one off. Sure, health and safety wise, it was a little dodgy but the food was great and I learned some tips for making some of my favourite food (Thai curries).

Eating incredibly well in Thailand

I absolutely adore Thai food and was adamant that I would only eat Thai food the whole time that I was away. I did, and boy, was it good. One particularly strong meal that stands out was a memorable house prawn curry and Panang curry from a little outdoor restaurant in Ko Lanta. I would travel back there just for those curries!

Eating in San Francisco

It was with much excitement that B and I embarked on our trip to San Francisco. Reservations were made and plenty of good food was eaten. Highlights were Flour + Water, Blue Bottle Cafe, Miette, and Delfina. I would love to return with some more time to try more local favourites in the area.

The French Laundry, Napa Valley

Wow! This is now on my list of the best (and most expensive) meals that I’ve ever eaten. The French Laundry was excellent, from the food to the incredibly attentive service. The whole meal was memorable, but the Foie Gras En Terrine and the Oysters and Pearls dishes stood out as favourites. It was also my first foray into the world of high-end, fine dining.

Araxi Long Table Dinner in Whistler

The Long Table Dinner that Araxi puts on every summer has become mine and B’s traditional way of celebrating our wedding anniversary. This is a fun summer event that has plenty of free-flowing booze, warm days, and delicious local food. This year’s location was a little disappointing after last year’s stunning event, yet we still had a great day.

Wine Tasting in the Okanagan

I really enjoy travelling to the Okanagan in the summer. The heat reminds me of Australia and getting to spend time with family whilst wine-tasting is a great way to spend an afternoon or two. We picked up a few bottles of wine, which we will be keeping for upcoming celebrations.

Dinner at Eleven Madison Park, New York

This was the best meal that I’ve ever eaten in my life! Eleven Madison was a complete experience (see my post for the whole review) and one that I highly recommend. I’m not sure that this experience could be topped.

Dinner at Per Se, New York

After such an oustanding dinner at Thomas Keller’s, The French Laundry, we had to visit his New York restaurant whilst we were in town. It didn’t live up to the hype for us, although we might have been a bit harsh with our comparisons to The French Laundry. It was still an absolutely amazing experience, but we had been spoiled by The French Laundry.

Eating in New York

For two foodies, New York is a pilgrimage. We had so many places to visit in such a short space of time and we had some incredible meals along the way. Besides Eleven Madison Park and Per Se, we were also impressed with Mario Battali’s Del Posto and Eataly, and The Spotted Pig.

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Big Guns Dinner at Araxi in Whistler

As with the Long Table Dinner, we have started making Big Guns part of our annual events. The dinner isn’t cheap but it is amazing. Big Guns is impressive with its paired wines and excellent food dishes.

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Eating out in London

Although I didn’t manage to hit any high-end restaurants whilst in London, I did get to visit a Jamie Oliver restaurant and a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, so I was pretty excited by that. The meal that stood out as the most memorable was easily the Lobster Sandwich from Burger and Lobster. It was absolutely sinful.

Stuffing my face in Paris

With only 30 hours to spend in Paris, I made sure that I was eating almost the whole time. I jammed my trip with visits to food markets, bakeries, chocolatiers, and a visit to one of the “Best Restaurants in the World”.

Las Vegas (post pending)

A few weeks ago myself and 9 others travelled to Las Vegas to help my sister celebrate her 30th birthday. It was a crazy, fun time (Oh Vegas!) but we also managed to squeeze in some good eats. A few of us visited Gordon Ramsay Steak restaurant in the Paris hotel and indulged in his well-known Beef Wellington. I can see now why he is so famous for it. We also made a visit to Bouchon Bakery and Bouchon, as well as having a great Spanish tapas dinner at Jaleo, which is a restaurant by José Andrés.

After an epic year in 2012, I really don’t know what 2013 will bring – I have no firm plans going into the new year but I do know that it will be a year of change. Travel and food will always be on the cards but so far, I’m just going with the flow, happy to have had such a fabulous year with the best companion that I could have ever asked for, my partner-in-crime, B.

Mars Bar Battle – US vs. UK

19 Dec

When I was visiting London last month, the hotel that I was staying in offered complimentary chocolate bars. I know, right? Talk about temptation.

Here in Canada, I really don’t enjoy mass-produced chocolate bars but after reading the list of ingredients in the UK chocolate (no corn syrup), I let temptation win and I indulged in a Mars Bar. And because it tasted so good, I did this night after night whilst I was there. There was something so creamy and satisfying about the UK Mars Bar. Confused as to why I liked the UK bar so much more, I decided to bring one back to Canada with me to do a taste comparison with the US Mars Bar.

With three other willing participants, I sampled the two bars in an anonymous taste test. None of the four people sampling the chocolate knew which chocolate bar was which. After sampling the pieces side-by-side, these were the differences that we noticed:

US Mars Bar:

  • Darker in colour than the UK chocolate.
  • A lot sweeter than the UK chocolate. More of a sharper sweetness than a subtle sweetness.
  • Less noticeable layers – flavours of caramel, chocolate, and nougat all blended into one flavour.

UK Mars Bar:

  • Lighter in colour.
  • Slightly denser than the US version.
  • A more rounded flavour, as opposed to just sweet.
  • A creamier tasting chocolate flavour.
  • Noticeable layers of caramel, nougat, and chocolate.P1060664

After we had discussed the differences in the bars, we all voted. Surprisingly, it was unanimous. All four participants in my taste-test, preferred the UK chocolate bar! Everyone agreed that the flavour was more rounded and, although it was sweet, it wasn’t as sweet as the US chocolate. Everyone also preferred that each layer (chocolate, nougat, and caramel) in the UK bar could be tasted.

Have you noticed that you prefer chocolate from certain countries better than your home chocolate? If so, which ones?

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