January 18, 2016 § Leave a comment
I opted out of my daily coffee fix at 49th Parallel Coffee and tried one of their offering for the 6th Annual Hot Chocolate Festival. I got The Bee’s Knees which is dark chocolate infused with lavender syrup, topped with steamed milk and a honey marshmallow. It was served with a honey/lavender biscotti dipped in white chocolate ($6).
The hot chocolate was smooth and felt silky as it went down my throat. I drank it quite quickly and then tried the freshly made and still soft biscotti. The honey flavour was prominent and the white chocolate finished it perfectly. I only ate one of them as I quickly reached my sweet tooth threshold.
My daughter, a queen concoctor of hot chocolate got the Saturday Nut Fever ($6). A hazelnut hot chocolate with hazelnut amaretti and a hazelnut truffle. Every bite tasted of nuts and is perfect for the nut lover.
It was a fun experience to try these creative drinks with delectable sweet pairings. We will most likely try a couple more places during the festival. For more information on the 6th Annual Hot Chocolate Festival, you can visit their website for a list of participating venues and their hot chocolate menus at http://www.hotchocolatefest.com.
October 24, 2013 § Leave a comment
My first trip to Oktoberfest was everything that I had imaged and more. As we walked up to our tent, a stretcher was rolling away a person who had over done it. According to my German friend, that was very common. I was so surprised to see carnival rides behind the tent as I could not image going on one in a drunken state. It seemed like a recipe for disaster. My friend commented that people throw up often and there is a joke about being careful while walking under the rides.
The tone in the tent was very merry as people start drinking early in the day and continue until the evening. Most people were dressed up and cheering or singing loudly. We got to our table and of course ordered beer. It was really loud and a band was playing American covers and traditional German music. It was a party like no other.
One litre pints of beer. They were really heavy and encourage quick consumption. Who likes warm beer?
This is only half the original size of the pretzel. We couldn’t even finish it between five people. My Portuguese friend carried it around in his pocket for the rest of the evening.
I had to break my rule of no eggs, which can happen when I travel. This was the only thing on the menu that was vegetarian friendly. This German pancake just happened to be a dessert option and came with a side of stewed fruit. It was very delicious and seemed like the pancake was cut up during the cooking process to keep the inside fluffy while making the outside crisp and buttery. It was quite heavy and filling so I shared it with my friends.
Oktoberfest is an experience like no other and I am really happy that I had a chance to experience it. If I am in Europe at that time of the year again, I will definitively make it a plan to go back.
September 4, 2013 § 1 Comment
My friends took me to one of their colleagues birthday party on a Japanese house boat or yakatabune. There was about 50 people there who had to remove their shoes and sit in groups of fours on the floor at grill top tables. The party started within 10 minutes of arriving and set sail in Tokyo’s harbour. Spring rolls and dumplings were the first thing to arrive at the table and of course Japanese beer. The Japanese love their beer and even have created a zero calorie one!
Next a bowl was placed at the table with cabbage, sprouts, cheese and eel in it. The man beside me Haru started to cook. He poured oil on the grill and placed the cheese down first. On my first night in Tokyo I ate monjayaki and was attentively watching the waiter cook the dish. Instinctively, I took the utensils from Haru and took over. I added the cabbage and cooked the eel separate. Yes, I cooked meat!
Once the veggies are semi cooked, you make a well and add a broth to the centre which makes the pancake gooey. You eat it bite by bite from the grill and add sauce to it as you like.
The next dish that I made was okonomiyaki which is chewier and drier than the monjayaki. The technique is the same. Add oil to the grill and saute veggies using metal utensils in both hands. I really got into it and everyone was surprised that I knew what I was doing. Once again I made the well and added the broth. I let that cook and took a short beer break.
During the party we played rock paper scissors or as they call it jan ken pon . We played for partying gifts and one of the winners received a lingerie set and the happy Japanese man put it on over his jeans and dress shirt and pranced around for a bit.
I got back to my okonomiyaki and to my surprise it tasted like a pros. Everyone was so impressed that they had me make the last dish, yakisoba. It is actually really simple to make and basically requires the yakisoba and soy sauce for flavouring. All you do is saute the veggies first, add the noodles and add the sauce. It was delicious. My kids love it and I can now make it at home.
The game of jan ken pon continued and more and more party gifts were being handed out. By now I was a bit tipsy from all the beer that I drank, trying to keep up with everyone else. The Japanese drink fast. Near the end of the night, the box of party gifts was being handed out and I got a ribbon that said in Japanese No.1 VIP!
Everyone had a big laugh. People gave me their items as souvenirs of Japan. I got a watch, a beer mug with Japanese writing that says beer party. You put the mug in the freezer and outside layer turns to ice. I also got a beer pump that pumps beer out of beer cans and the weirdest items that I received were key chains with Japanese vegetables and panty hose.
I have to say the Japanese seem quite quiet and reserved but when they party, boy do they let loose. It was a super fun experience and one of the highlights of my trip.
January 23, 2013 § Leave a comment
My good friend Tracy Groshak invited me to her vegan raw cooking class in Vancouver. She has been a yoga teacher for over a decade and vegan raw for 8 years now. I admit that I never really felt the pull to participate in the raw movement and I knew very little about it. Eating a raw food diet is so much more than eating large bowls of salad all day. Tracy opened my eyes to many delicious and healthy recipes that I can use everyday and that my kids will love too.
She made a variety of smoothies with papaya that will give you your morning kick without missing your daily coffee. The vegetarian sushi roll was very flavourful as she added a creamy almond paste that hit the spot. My favourite was the cashew cream sauce that you could use to replace any dressing or cream sauce. She used it as a dip for veggies, to dress a salad and even as a dip for chips. The recipe is so easy to make, all you do is throw the ingredients together in a blender and blend it up. Once you try it, you will never look back. For more information on upcoming vegan raw cooking classes, please visit http://www.tracygroshak.com.
1 cup (250 ml) organic raw cashews soaked overnight
2/3 stalk celery
1 1/2 lemons juiced
1/4 tsp (1 ml) himalaya salt
water if necessary
July 30, 2012 § 2 Comments
On Saturday July 21, 2012, Chef Ned Bell cooked an heirloom tomato soup at the Vancouver Farmers Market, Market Kitchen series. The second installment out of four, I was not only curious to see the Chef in action, but to see how the kitchen was set up during the event. To my surprise, they had transported a full kitchen with a gas range and fridge to the outdoor parking lot at Trout lake. A crowd gathered around to watch the demo and learn insightful cooking techniques.
The heirloom tomato soup is simple and something that everyone can make at home. Chef Bell added layers of ingredients and flavours that made the soup heavenly. After the demo, samples were given out with recipes cards and all the ingredients were available at the market.
I was quite excited to get a sample and try the soup. My first bite had a chunk of sorbet which made the soup feel cool though there was a spicy after note. On my second bite, I scooped up some of the cherry balsamic which was warm and tangy. The cucumbers were refreshing and felt like a palate cleanser. Overall the soup was delicious and I will make it soon.
This is Chef Ned Bell’s recipe for Heirloom Tomato Soup
2 lbs heirloom tomatoes – assorted and seeded
1/2 lb cucumber – peeled and seeded
2 roasted red peppers – char grilled, peeled and seeded
1 clove fresh garlic
2 tbsp sea salt
fresh herbs – your favourite in-season variety
1 jalapeño – seeded and chopped
Puree all ingredients in a bar blender until smooth. Season to taste. Chill for at least an hour until very cold.
1 cup honey
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 of 1 medium English cucumber
Bring honey and vinegar to a boil. Slice cucumber thin and soak in honey vinegar. Chill.
Cherry Balsamic Syrup:
1/2 litre white wine vinegar
2 cups honey
1 cup salt
1 lb cherries – stemmed but not pitted
1 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
Put cherries in a heat-proof bowl or jar. Bring vinegar, honey and salt to a boil. Pour over cherries. All balsamic vinegar. Let cool.
Chef Ned Bell brought this spicy sorbet to add to the soup. It was amazing.
To serve, ladle the soup out into chilled bowls or a large family style bowl. Garnish with the cucumber pickle, cherries balsamic and fresh herbs. Optional, add one scoop of fruit sorbet per serving. Crack some fresh black pepper over top and enjoy.
June 28, 2012 § 1 Comment
Last weekend I went to the annual Greek Days celebration on West Broadway in Vancouver. I mark the yearly event on my calendar and save my appetite for the delicious goodies that are for sale. As the years have gone by, there has been a huge increase in vegetarian options available. Last year, I tried the veggie gyros which was a disappointment so I decided to start my culinary pilgrimage at the Malaysian restaurant, the Banana Leaf. The had two vegetarian options: the roti canai ($2.75) and vegetable spring rolls ($2.75/2 pieces), so I bought both. They were both delicious though a little hard to eat while standing up.
The next item on my agenda was dessert and specifically, the greek donuts loukoumades ($4).
These golf ball sized pastries are made fresh and fried right on the side of the street. When they turn golden brown in colour, they are placed into a colander to allow the excess oil to drain.
Next, they are gently rolled and bobbed in a sweet sugar syrup.
When you order your donuts, they are scooped into a container and sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds. Each bite of the donut was heaven. The donut was not too doughy nor too sweet and the sesame seeds added a nice savoury touch.
After I ate my donuts, I was quite full and continued on my journey. I tried a greek salad, ate some olives and drooled over another person’s greek fries. By the time I left, I was so full and surprised at all the number of veggie options that were available this year. Overall it was a great food adventure and next year I will go with a couple of companions so that I can try all the veggie items.
June 12, 2012 § Leave a comment
This Saturday June 16, 2012, the Vancouver farmers’ market starts up their market kitchen at the Trout Lake market. Join chef Karen Barnaby from the Fish House Restaurant in Stanley Park who will cook up a dish using fresh local ingredients from the market. After the demo, you can pick up the ingredients from the market and recreate the meal at home.
The farmers market kitchen features high-profile Vancouver chefs and the demos are scheduled every month until October. Be sure to write down the dates on your calendar so you don’t miss your favourite chef. The other chefs scheduled are Ned Bell from the Four Seasons on July 21, Andrea Carlson from Burdock & Co on Aug 18, Angus An from Maenam on Sept 22, and Quang Dang from West on Oct 20, 2012.