atlanta week 1 digest.

Monday: Delayed flight, no on-board lunch, cab driver fiascos, bank card fiascos, Cheesecake Factory.

Tuesday: Work, philly cheesesteak heaven, supermarket yields St. Francis Merlot under $20, philly cheesesteak repeat heaven.

Wednesday: Work, shopping spree at Perimeter Mall, dining spree at Seasons 52.

Thursday: Work, Stone Mountain excursion for Mexican food.

Friday: Work, talking about the Wolf man, drinks at Ship & Anchor.

Saturday: Morningside Farmer’s Market, getting lost in Virginia Highlands, 3 different eateries at 11am, 12:30pm, 2pm. Thunderstorm kills evening plans; makes me regret not packing umbrella.

Sunday: Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, crappy overpriced food at Hard Rock Cafe, chasing after the #16, Two Urban Licks, muttering obscenities about MARTA.

new food blog: tinybites.ca.

I’m happy to announce the launch of my newest foodie project: tinybites.ca.

tinybites.ca

You might ask: why do you need a food blog when you already have this one?

I had been avoiding the need to maintain a separate blog for food for a long time. It was mostly due to laziness. But a lot of it was committment phobia: I have so many other hobbies that it seemed unfair to place my love of food over my other long-established passions like swing and salsa dancing.

Over the past few months, I noticed that the food-related articles had started to take over this blog. My brother and select friends routinely call me to ask where to eat around town. It also dawned on me that toting my giant SLR to various eateries had become second nature, and that our circle of friends have become so resigned to my frantic food photography that they already expect to starve a little while I set up the shots. When I won a local restaurant reviewing contest, and when Salt Tasting Room linked to my Flickr photo album from their home page, it was made clear that my obsession with food is more than just a passing fancy.

So here we are. The Tiny Bites website is the new home for all musings about food (and I’ll slowly transition some reviews / recipes from here to there). This blog will remain my spot on the net to rail against wallet thieves, shower you with techie tidbits, and display my bitterness at those damn Giants for beating my poor Patriots. Bookmark whichever suits your fancy.

Special thanks must go out to the following people for helping me with the Tiny Bites concept:

  • Matt of Abstract Gourmet, who told me to get off my ass and start a food blog already. He is also the mastermind behind the Tiny Bites domain name.
  • Bruce, for being the first official Tiny Bites lunching companion, and for sketching our brunch at Glowbal when my camera battery died.
  • Dixon, for being kind enough to take a metaphoto of my food photography to be used in the first Tiny Bites post.
  • Dave, for coming up with the idea of a two-toned text logo and providing a wealth of ideas for future posts.
  • Virg, graphic designer extraordinaire, for advising me on the look and feel of the site.
  • Kurt, husband extraordinaire, who has put up with my long hours at the computer while I built the site.

So yeah…hope you like the new food blog! If you are looking to try a spot around town and wouldn’t mind some company (that would sample your food and make you wait while I take a photo of it), drop me a line =)

How to get to tinybites.ca from this site

PS: For your convenience, the Food link on the main menu now opens up to tinybites.ca (new window).

food blog in the works.

You may have noticed a decline in Flickr food photography over the last few weeks. Let me assure you that my gastronomic adventures continue…but I’ll be writing about them and documenting visuals in a new location. For now, let me point you in the direction of the photos.

Kolachy Co.

Kolachy Co: logoKolachy Co: kolachys in the makingKolachy Co: prep kitchenKolachy Co: tray of turnoversKolachy Co: blueberry & lemon turnoverKolachy Co: menu and specialsKolachy Co: tomato, basil and dill soup

Alpha Global Sushi & Bar

Alpha: tako-paccioAlpha: yuzu cocktailAlpha: coming right upAlpha: miso teriyaki beefAlpha: menu with mystiqueAlpha: goma-aeAlpha: alpha rollAlpha: 'the canon'Alpha: pumpkin croquetteAlpha: creamy seafood croquetteAlpha: ebi sunomonoAlpha: matcha ice cream with red beanAlpha: salmon carpaccioAlpha: cheese souffle

Memphis Blues

Memphis Blues: brisket sandwichMemphis Blues: digging into the Memphis feastMemphis Blues: all goneMemphis Blues: beer + meat = yumMemphis Blues: like a kid in a candy storeMemphis Blues: Memphis feastMemphis Blues: yummy sidesMemphis Blues: open kitchenMemphis Blues: peach crumbleMemphis Blues: jazzy ambianceMemphis Blues: the pig watches allMemphis Blues: menuMemphis Blues: daily special

So.Cial at Le Magasin

So.Cial: foiled ceilingsSo.Cial: branding is everywhereSo.Cial: pear and goat cheese omeletteSo.Cial: fish stewSo.Cial: artisian flatbreadsSo.Cial: side of greensSo.Cial: charcuterie platterSo.Cial: Pentage 2007 RoséSo.Cial: interiorSo.Cial: brunch menuSo.Cial: storefrontSo.Cial: apple tart tatin

Saigon Venture Restaurant

Saigon Venture Restaurant: spring rollsSaigon Venture Restaurant: phoSaigon Venture Restaurant: #1 - pho dac bietSaigon Venture Restaurant: #6 - tai nam gan sachSaigon Venture Restaurant: interiorSaigon Venture Restaurant: menu and tea

PHAT Deli

PHAT Deli: Canucks wall artPHAT Deli: avocado, tomato, and cream cheese bennyPHAT Deli: avocado, tomato, and cream cheese bennyPHAT Deli: colourful interiorPHAT Deli: breakfast available all dayPHAT Deli: cranberry lemonadePHAT Deli: mountain of smoked meatPHAT Deli: glass countersPHAT Deli: storefront

Bookmark the tiny bites Flickr account if you are primarily interested in the food photography. The horcubee account will still be around, but will serve this personal blog and will be mostly non-food. I will update you on the status of the food blog very very soon!

mealmax contest results.

chambar: la salade d'hiver

Mealmax.com announced the winners of the Your Vancouver Dine-Out Experience Contest yesterday, and joy of all joys, you helped me win the grand prize! A huge virtual hug and kiss goes out to everyone that voted for my Chambar and Rex reviews. Congratulations to fellow winners Lydia and Jason, whose reviews have convinced me to take a another look at Aurora Bistro and Rare.

Thanks also to MealMax for holding this contest during this year’s Dine Out Vancouver. It was a great way to encourage Vancouverites to dish the dirt about some of the city’s most hyped eateries. Looking forward to adding more places to our to-try list on the recommendation of fellow MealMax contributors.

Check out the winning reviews of Chambar, Aurora Bistro, and Rare Restaurant if you haven’t already.

vancouver wine casual: big reds.

Colin was kind enough to open his home to a merry band of friends and Vancouver Wine Casual folk this past weekend. The theme of this blind wine tasting was “Big Reds” — not my usual style, but as I’ve been warming up to Cabs and Bordeaux blends lately, it seemed a good time as any to broaden my palate. 11 bottles of hidden origin were presented to the group along with a tasting sheet; homemade baguette by Maarten; a bevy of cheese, charcuterie, chocolate, fruit, and crisps; and other yummy homemade treats.

See all photos from this event on Flickr

Below are all the wines we sampled. Following each bottle are Colin’s thoughtful appraisals and my much more uninformed snap judgments =)

A) 2006 MollyDooker – Two Left Feet

Colin: 91 pts. Robert Parker loves this producer. A hard to find wine…very new world fruit forward Australian blend (Merlot, Shiraz, Cab). Lots of ripe plum, cherry, roasted walnut…great to drink alone or with red meat. One of my favourites of the night.

Karen: Drew a sad face under the column called “Score”. It was inky with deep plum notes. Someone said it was reminiscent of cherry vanilla Coke, and I’d have to agree (I hated that drink). What Colin described as roasted walnut came through to me as a quite bitter finish. Not a fan.

B) 2001 Fabiano Amarone Della Valpolicella

Colin: 89 pts. Initially a bit flat on the nose even though we decanted it and worked it hard in the glass…tried it again at the end of the night and its true pedigree came out. Vanilla, dates, caramel with hint of smoke…nice long finish.

Karen: My favourite of the bunch for its soft, supple Old-Worldliness. Impressed enough to rate it near 90 and say that I’d pay more than $40 for it (good, since it is $67 a bottle). When I first put my nose into the glass, I was struck by its unusual bouquet. Couldn’t quite pin it down. Eventually, I realized that it reminded me of the Ash Camembert that I adored at Salt Tasting Room. Savoured every last drop and was sad to only have a smidgeon extra after the bottles were unveiled.

C) 2005 Le Volte Ornelllaia

Colin: 87 pts. A solid drinkable red. An interesting old world/new world flavour composition. Lots of plum/ripe blackberry…a bit weak on the finish.

Karen: Another sad face verdict. It puckered the mouth with its tannins and had less substance in both flavour and nose than the prior tastings. Forgettable.

D) 2005 Quail’s Gate Merlot

Colin: 87 pts. One of my favourite BC producers…this was a solid merlot. Fantastic nose that didn’t quite taste as good as it smelled. Needed a bit more time in the bottle to round itself out.

Karen: Yum! Scored this in the high 80s as well. I’m a Merlot gal so I immediately took to this one. With the closest wine shop being a BC VQA reseller, it was also easy to tell what region this hailed from. Very familiar terroir, with blackberry and cherry notes. Thought it was bold enough to be a cab-merlot blend, like our wedding wine. In fact, try the Cedar Creek Cabernet Merlot if you like this style.

[Side note: Liam, who was involved in the production of this particular vintage when he worked at Quail’s Gate, kept saying during the blind tasting that he’d had this one before…]

E) 2004 Cantina Di Negrar Amarone Della Valpolicella

Colin: 84 pts. Not my cup of tea…although I really do like Amarone. The nose and first hit on the palate was one of “port”. Called this one “Portenteous”. A bit like a watered down port to me…

Karen: The other Amarone of the night got another thumbs up from me. Scored it at 85 (though I really have no idea how one is supposed to rate a wine like Robert Parker or Wine Spectator). Smelled deliciously of molasses and dates. Very port-esque. I was worried about the sweetness of the nose but is was substantially less so in taste. Went fabulously with the blue cheese and dark chocolate that was floating around on the appy table.

F) 2004 Casa Silva Lolol Gran Reserva

Colin: 79 pts. F stood for Funky…and not in a good way. There was a urine smell on the nose, and the flavour profile was musty…imagine sticking your head in bog water…definitely not my cup of tea…

Karen: Oh god. This got two extremely unhappy faces. One was almost in tears. Musky and smoky, in what can only be described as exhaust. The first glass where I was glad to dump the majority of it into the spittoon. I didn’t smell or taste urine, thankfully.

emoticon rating schema

G) 2005 Podere Sapaio Volpolo

Colin: 93 pts. This was my favourite wine of the night. It truly was what I think of when I think “Big Red”. Spicy, bold, explosions of pomagranate and dark chocolate on the palate and a smooth full long finish. This I would love to have with roasted lamb, a prime rib, or rack of lamb that is boldly spiced! Kaboom!! Loved it!

Karen: The first “meh” face makes its rating appearance. While Colin raved about it, I hid myself in the corner along with my feelings of its mediocrity. Lots of berry. Didn’t taste much else. It was much too bold for my palate.

H) 2005 Clos de los Siete Mendoza

Colin: 87 pts. I’m not a big fan of Malbecs…maybe I just haven’t found any great ones yet. This one wasn’t bad…I suspect it may have fallen lower in my mind because of the previous wine. Wonderful dark cherry, violet, sweet grass notes on the first hit…but the finish was underwhelming.

Karen: Meh face number 2. My sheet said “very tart. slightly tannic. blackberry. similar to G. new world”. Keep in mind that by this time, I’m on glass #8 and had hardly made use of the spit jar. Guitar Hero 3 had also been let loose. I think I was too busy trying to rock out to Sabotage than to keep decent notes from this point on.

I) 2005 Rolf Binder “Heinrich”

Colin: 86 pts. An odd sanitized bathroom scent on the nose…in a good way. A bit tight…needed decanting or more time. Like the previous wine, a bit underwhelming all around.

Karen: This was the wine we brought, on the recommendation of a colleague. It got a meh face as well. I may have also been too tipsy to evaluate it properly. Notes say “new world. not memorable. flavours and bouquet are not very complex”. It was here that I got photo happy with Liam and his awesome David Suzuki t-shirt.

he hearts david suzuki too!

J) 2004 Chateau Pesquie “Quintessence”

Colin: 88 pts. My first take on this wine was that it was weak on the nose and lacking complexity…but I was playing Guitar Hero when I first tasted it…a half hour later, it really opened up. This is a solid producer, so I’m not surprised.

Karen: By this point, my resolve to be a proper oenophile vanished into the night. I was completely absorbed in watching the boys play Guitar Hero 3 and yelling out rock anthems when I knew the words. J was gulped down without much note. I did take enough time to draw a meh face for it, so it must not have stuck out much from its neighbours.

K) 2005 Sasyr Sangiovese & Syrah Toscana

Colin: 85 pts. I find Sangiovese can be divine or kind of blah…in this case, it was a bit blah. Very tannin-y, earthy…not in a good way…puckery on the palate. I tried it again in the morning (just a sip…really, I don’t have a drinking problem) when I was cleaning up the carnage from the night before…and even with the extra “air”, it was puckery…

Karen: Surprised to find notes at the bottom of my sheet for this one! K broke the streak of indifferent emoticons: it got a happy face. It smelled sweet and syrupy but made for easy drinking. It wasn’t memorable beyond its bouquet, which was probably only significant because it contrasted so much against the last four bottles.

So there you have it, folks. Thanks to Colin for letting me reprint his excellent analyses. It’ll take a lot more wine education on my part before I am capable of forgoing emoticons in favour of the usual point system!

french toast hamilton.

French toast was one of the first breakfast items I learned to make, along with the very Asian insta-noodle soup with an egg dropped in. In our household, french toast is usually a simple affair: egg, cinnamon, brown sugar, and multigrain bread that is pan-fried and quickly devoured. But I’ve had my eye on two types of overnight marinades from our Best of Bridge cookbooks and felt it was about time to try something a bit more involved.

The first recipe, entitled French Toast Raphael, called for an intriguing marinade of maple and Cointreau, but required such large quantities of egg and baguette that we could have fed our entire floor. The second recipe, Midnight French Toast, enticed me with cream cheese, which is always welcome on my breakfast plate. However, I wasn’t excited about the rest of it. The bread is cut into cubes, crusts removed, slathered with egg batter and dollops of cream cheese, which is then dumped into a casserole dish and pulled out of the oven in a puffy mass of indistinguishable foodstuffs. Not exactly a visual delight.

Hoping that my home cookery skills were up to the challenge, I decided to extract the key elements of each recipe and create an eggy Cointreau-and-maple-syrup concoction doused over cream-cheese stuffed Italian bread. We invited neighbours Jonny and Jane over to be our guinea pigs. There was not a crumb left by the end of the meal, so I venture that this culinary experiment was a success.

See all photos of French Toast Hamilton on Flickr

Try it yourself and tell me what you think.

French Toast Hamilton

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 8 slices of white bread (we used Italian)
  • 6 oz of cream cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon Cointreau, orange liqueur, or orange juice
  • 1 orange and its zest

Directions

  1. The night before serving, prepare the french toast marinade. Stack bread like sandwiches and halve. Stuff each half-sandwich with 1 – 2 slices of cream cheese.
  2. Beat eggs, remaining ingredients, and 3/4 of the orange zest together. Reserve the orange itself for the following morning.
  3. Place sandwiches in a 9×13 baking tray and pour egg batter over them, ensuring that all sides are well coated. Marinate overnight.
  4. In the morning, arrange sandwiches on a greased or silpat-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 375F or until puffed and golden brown.
  5. Top with thin orange slices, remaining orange zest, a douse of maple syrup, and other fruit if desired.

adobong manok (chicken adobo).

Kurt and I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day so much as February 15th (which we have dubbed “Love Day”). You will no doubt see and read about tonight’s dinner at Raincity Grill soon, so for now, here is the recipe for Kurt’s favourite Filipino dish, which I made for him last night.

a filipino valentine's day dinner

Adobong manok [ah-DOH-bohng mah-NOHK] requires a handful of ingredients that should already be in your pantry or always at your grocer’s. It’s fantastic for a weeknight dinner where you don’t want to fuss. We normally grab a bunch of rice and plop the adobo unceremoniously next to it, with one banana on the edge of each plate for easy access. Because it was Valentine’s Day, I got a little fancy and took the time to make heart-shaped banana slices and plated it like it were a hoity-toity dish.

The quantities below should serve 4 or provide 2 people with dinner and baon (BAH-onn, or leftovers) for the next day.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of your favourite chicken limbs (we use 12-15 wingettes and drumettes, which have more surface area to soak up the adobo)
  • 1 jumbo onion, thinly sliced in rings
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable (canola) oil
  • 1/3 cup light soy sauce (less if using Tamari or dark soy)
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 tablespoon of whole peppercorn, or to taste
  • 1 banana per person, sliced into rounds

Directions:

  1. Choose a large, high-sided skillet with a lid. On low-medium heat, sweat half of the onions in the oil for a few minutes or until translucent. Do not brown the onions at this stage.
  2. Increase heat to high and add the chicken. Saute until the chicken is no longer pink. Control the heat to prevent the onions from burning.
  3. Add all the soy sauce and coat chicken evenly. Reduce heat to a simmer.
  4. Add vinegar, water, and peppercorns. Cover and simmer 20-30 minutes or until chicken is fork-tender. Turn the chicken occasionally to ensure that all sides are being simmered in the sauce.
  5. Remove cover and let adobo sauce reduce to your desired consistency (for us, that is normally 1/5 of the original volume).
  6. Add remaining onion and replace cover. Let steam for a few minutes or until onions are translucent. Remove from heat. You’re done!
  7. Serve over steamed rice. Do try each mouthful with a piece of banana. Kurt thought it was really weird at first, but now he gets all pouty if I forget to buy bananas on an adobo night.

[Fellow tech geeks…can you guess how many times I had to backspace over “adobe” in this entry? =P]

restaurant reviews on mealmax.com.

If you’ve been wondering where the foodie posts have gone to lately, don’t despair. We have been diligently eating around town and taking many notes and photographs. I just haven’t been posting them to the blog. For now, the latest reviews are on start-up website www.mealmax.com. The only active community is Metro Vancouver but it would be so nice to see this site flourish in other cities.

My latest restaurant visits:

The Dine Out Vancouver Contest is still on so if you haven’t yet, please do vote for my entries (plus any others you enjoy). Voting closes at the end of the month. You don’t need to have a login for Mealmax to vote.

Bon appétit!

vote for me, please.

Perhaps you’ve sat with me at lunch or dinner and tolerated my incessant food photography. You may at some point have donated a sampling of your meal or evaluated a dish so that it could be included in my blog review. Please do me one more favour, pretty please with a cherry on top…

Go to www.mealmax.com, look at the entries for the Your Vancouver Dine-Out Experience Contest, and vote for all of the restaurant reviews that you like. Hopefully (with batted lashes / shaking fist, whichever eggs you on better) those reviews are mine!

I’ve written one about Chambar so far but there will be more from me in the next few weeks.

Voting is between now and February 29th, with winners announced March 5th. Please stop by and help a girl out! (You can also submit reviews yourself if you want in on the $500 top prize.)

Thanks with many hugs and kisses!!

soup season has arrived.

hearty winter soup, with pumpkin seed demi-loaf

I am a huge soup nut. As such, even 40C weather doesn’t stop me from indulging in soupy delights. But there’s something about the chill and damp of your typical Vancouver autumn that makes soup particularly belly-warming at this time of year.

My husband doesn’t feel quite so passionate about soup as I, so we unfortunately don’t have very many such recipes in our repertoire. But huzzah, my mother-in-law does, and sent one over to us just as I was staring blankly at my inbox, wondering what to make for dinner that evening.

My mother-in-law’s recipe is a lively assortment of pumpkin, chicken, red bell pepper, corn, and spices. It was quick and super easy to make, as long as you have strong husbands / hands to help you dice up a gourd (essential if you have weak little arms like mine). Our grocery didn’t have any pumpkin on hand, so we substituted butternut squash with excellent results. Mom says that sweet potato would also work if neither squash are available.

Our verdict: stewy, hearty, comforting goodness! The squash, corn, and bell pepper lent a pleasant sweetness to the mix. Loved the added depth that the cumin and chili powder delivered. Kurt and I oohed and aahed our way to the bottoms of our bowls. Seconds were a foregone conclusion. And there were still another 4 servings left over, which we have reserved for future cold evenings that call out for chowder and a crusty loaf of bread for dipping.

Mom said it’s okay to share this recipe with all of you, so here it is! Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Pumpkin and Chicken Chowder

Ingredients:

hearty winter soup, up close

  • 1.5 lbs boneless chicken thighs, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 leeks, white & light green parts only, washed thoroughly and thinly sliced
  • 2 lbs pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups chicken stock (or a 900mL tetrapack)
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • Sour cream, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot and sauté the chicken and leeks.
  2. Add the pumpkin or squash and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle the flour and seasonings over the ingredients in the pot and stir and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the broth and corn and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Add the red pepper and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
  6. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with sour cream if desired.