chicken, chorizo, and bean bake.

chicken, chorizo, and bean bake

Our recipe notes:

Our version is an adaptation of a recipe from food blogger ChichaJo (her recipe and rationale behind her adaptations here). She, in turn, had adapted it from the Smoked Paprika Chicken and Lemon Bake recipe seen in Donna Hay magazine (Issue #32, Autumn 2007).

Use a wide enough baking dish so that the chicken broth does not submerge your chicken or your chorizo. Also ensure that it’s wide enough that your lemon slices can be staggered in between your chicken pieces. We had chosen a round baking dish that was far too small, so our meat didn’t get the nice caramelization that ChichaJo’s had, nor did the chicken get much direct contact with the smoked paprika. It was still absolutely delicious, mind you; just not as pretty to photograph (and you know me and visuals!).

My husband is still unconvinced of the briny delight that is olives, so we had tossed in capers as well. Both of us agreed that while olives provided a nice colour contrast, capers complemented the flavours of the dish far better. Next time we make this, we will a) omit the olives, b) bump up our caper love to 2 tablespoons and c) use a variety of beans to make up for the colour and texture that the black olives would otherwise provide. You are welcome to throw in your favourite salty accoutrement: olives, capers, both, or other.

Feel free to diversify your choice of bean. The white kidney beans we went with absorbed the broth well but I was craving a navy bean or two. We are definitely doing the mixed-bean route for next time.

A note about the smoked paprika. This baby has a darker, richer spice, and is a lot more potent than the usual stuff. A little bit goes a super-long way. This may not be an easy ingredient to find in your city. We are fortunate that the ultra-gourmet Urban Fare is a short walk away from our apartment, and that we were able to find the exact brand of smoked paprika that this recipe calls for. Make sure you pick the piquante / hot Pimentón de la Vera as there is also a dulce / sweet variety. If you are unable to find this brand, ask next for Spanish paprika, then Hungarian (or regular?) paprika.

Despite the possible difficulty in finding smoked paprika, this recipe was incredibly easy to throw together and really fits the bill on a chill autumn night.

Bon appétit!

Ingredients:

  • 4 pieces of chicken (whatever floats your boat—we used thighs)
  • 1 400g or 500g can of beans, drained
  • Half a lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon capers or 1/3 cup black olives (we preferred the capers)
  • 1 link of wine chorizo, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, bashed a bit but still in their skins
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera smoked paprika, hot / piquante
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:

  1. Place the beans in a baking dish, then pour the chicken stock over them.
  2. Arrange the chicken pieces and chorizo over the beans.
  3. Layer the garlic, lemon, and olives / capers next, taking care to allow some or most of the chicken to remain exposed.
  4. Drizzle olive oil over the whole lot. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and pimentón to taste.
  5. Roast uncovered in a 400F / 200C oven for 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  6. Serve with thick crusty bread to sop up the broth!

gushing about matanzas creek.

It’s been a great but long day of touring Sonoma with Rob and Jen, so I’m going to focus this post on the highlight of our first wine tasting experience in California: Matanzas Creek Winery.

[For a glimpse into the rest of our day’s adventures, view the California photosets from my Flickr homepage or on this site’s Photos section.]

Unlike the overpriced and commercialized estates of Gloria Ferrer and Chateau St. Jean (which both happen to be right off the main highway, and are fairly well-known names), Matanzas is off the beaten path, nestled in a prettily windy back road in Santa Rosa. It took us a good 15 minutes of driving from the main congregation of vineyards, and we nearly turned back, thinking we had gotten lost somewhere. Luckily, we did manage to find the entrance to this beautifully lush property, full of ivy, towering and twisting trees, and a fragrant garden of lavender.

Our tasting menu (aka “flight”) consisted of seven wines. Normally, they only offer 5 of their selection of blends and varietals, but today, they were showcasing 3 of their more distinctive merlots, so we got a nice little bonus. One of the wines was even a rosé; not the kind of rosé that I’ve been desperately seeking, but it was great to try one from the California region.

Results: the 2005 Sonoma Valley Chardonnay and the 2002 Jackson Park Merlot completely wowed our group. The four of us wound up buying 3 of the Chardonnay, which tasted to me like buttery caramel corn, and one of the merlot. This merlot is one of the best, if not the best, I’ve ever had. Bouquet smells of roasted coffee beans and plum. I could have kept my nose in that wine glass all day. It tasted even better: dark, smoky, chocolately, and oh-so-decadent. Mouthfeel like velvet. Not at all acidic or tannic. Yum yum yum!!

For you Sideways nay-sayers: you will change your mind about this grape if you ever get to try this vintage. It’s really too bad that this winery does not cater to retail stores. I may have to take it up with Lorne about getting Matanzas to ship to a PO Box in Point Roberts for a shady cross-border postal pick-up!

Matanzas’ official tasting notes of our purchased wines below (alas, we misplaced the one for the Chardonnay, so all we have is the one-liner from the tasting room price list…).

Update: Found the Chardonnay’s tasting notes from Matanzas’ website. Added below.

our two purchases from matanzas creek (see notes)

2005 Sonoma Valley Chardonnay, $29

Elegant notes of honey and melon balanced with a touch of cream.

A first glimpse of the wine reveals a pale, straw color, quite typical for a sophisticated Chardonnay. The first nose brings a delicate blend of green apple, white peach, and acacia flower, with a surprising addition of the autumn fruits pear and quince. After a swirl, the second nose reveals the more mineral note of crushed stones, the mark of an exceptional Chardonnay. The palate is round and velvety with a prolonged, flavorful finish of honey and melon. There is also a unique and subtle hint of smoke, derived from basalt, an ancient ocean floor rock found in Bennett Valley’s soil.

Although this Chardonnay was crafted with 95% malolactic fermentation, it is far from a heavy, buttery wine. Francois aims to create an elegant wine which is crafted to complement the finest foods. In addition, he is able to preserve the fullest potential of the Chardonnay by employing a Champagne-style vinification that is gentle on the fruit during crush and prevents any bitter note in the finish. If allowed to age, this wine promises to further increase in minerality and develop a luscious, butterscotch characteristic.

Acclaim:

  • 90 Points – Robert M. Parker Jr., Wine Advocate November 2006
  • Double Gold Medal – 2007 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
  • Silver Medal – 2006 Sonoma County Harvest Fair
  • Silver Medal – 2006 Houston Livestock Show, Rodeo and International Wine Competition

Source:

Continuing a tradition of more than a quarter century of winemaking excellence in Sonoma County’s Bennett Valley, the 2005 Matanzas Creek Chardonnay remains a Sonoma County Classic. Driven by a shared desire to surpass expectations, Vineyard Manager Brandon Axell and Winemaker Francois Cordesse have pooled their collective expertise to produce a Chardonnay that is consistently superior.

According to Francois, fruit sourcing is an art and critical to making an excellent vintage. This outstanding wine has been masterfully blended from the best fruit available in the Carneros and Bennett Valley regions, where cooler climates yield Chardonnay grapes that give the wine refined and complex characteristics. We are particularly proud of the wonderful fruit produced on our Estate-owned vineyards in Sonoma County’s newest American Viticultural Appellation (AVA), Bennett Valley. The result is a Chardonnay that is bold and fruit forward, yet soft and elegant.

  • Blend: 100% Chardonnay
  • Source: 60% Carneros, 40% Bennett Valley
  • Production Statistics: 14.5% Alcohol; 0.5 TA; 3.6 pH; 8 months barrel-aged in 1/3 new, 1/3 one-year old, 1/3 two-year old French oak

Jackson Park, Bennett Valley 2002 Merlot, $49

This is the second vintage of our single vineyard Merlot sourced from our Estate-owned vineyards in Jackson Park. The picturesque mountain vineyard is located over 900 feet above Bennett Valley’s floor and overlooks Matanzas Creek Winery. Bennett Valley provides ideal conditions for Merlot to develop due to its long growing season brought about by the coastal fog that flows into the valley from the Pacific Ocean. In addition, the unique terroir in Jackson Park has an excellent, loamy soil structure and contains Basalt, an ancient ocean floor rock that addes smoky characteristics to the fruit grown there.

The rich, deep, plum colour of this Merlot offers the first hint of its bold and fleshy personality. The initial nose whispers of dried herbs, chocolate, and fresh-cut hay. The mouth-feel is round and voluptuous with a lingering aftertaste of exotic wood. This wine can be aged for up to 10 years, developing some mineral and leather characteristics.

  • Blend: 100% Merlot
  • Vineyard Sourcing: 100% from Jackson Park
  • Production Statistics: 13.7% alcohol; 0.58 TA; 3.45 pH; aged for 15-16 months in French oak barrels, 40% new

hong kong travel diary: day 7.

Lunch was at Superstar Seafood Restaurant with Quiny, a high school friend I hadn’t seen in 10 years and who had been living in Hong Kong for the past few. Superstar is on the 10th floor of the Food Forum in Times Square.

har gow that look like penguins

After a great lunch catching up on the times, I went boutique shopping in Kimberly Mall at Times Square, on Quiny’s recommendation. Bought a pretty black dress and skirt in under 20 minutes, before calling Winnie up for a change of shopping scenery.

Met up with Winnie, who expeditiously got me thinking about my fall business wardrobe at G2000. Even called her sister so that I could get an additional 20% discount on the $1000 HKD worth of clothing I was going to splurge on. The bill was under $800 HKD in the end: well done, personal shopper!

Fell in love with Mango, another store I had a field day in in Ocean Park (TST’s main shopping centre). Have Garland to thank this time for this jewel of a store. I fit nearly everything I tried on, and everything was gorgeous. If only I had discovered this place sooner. Well, I know where my dollars are going to go the next time I make the trip out to Asia.

We started to feel peckish after all the whirlwind shopping. Headed down to Jordan Station for some good ol’ wonton soup at Mak Mun Gay. They make their dumplings, broth, and noodles all from scratch, and you can watch them at work inside their open kitchen. Our feet enjoyed the respite from wandering around Kowloon while we decided where to go next.

market street by jordan station

Turns out that our next stop was the cafe next door! Australia Dairy Co is famous as an all-day breakfast eatery. Winnie is a big fan of the double-cooked custard and eggy toast, so that is what we tried. I’m lactose intolerant to a certain degree (though that normally doesn’t stop me from pigging out on dairy) but typically don’t advertise the fact. As I picked at my custard, Winnie discovered my condition and felt bad for forcing the custard upon me (and I reiterate, Winnie, that it was no problem at all!). The custard tasted a little like dessert tofu but with a denser flavour and a wobblier consistency. Decent, but maybe something to get accustomed to. The egg toast turned out to be the very same dish that the woman and child from the congee house had had for breakfast on Thursday. It tasted exactly how I expected it to taste: wonderbread with butter and scrambled egg. I am a really big fan of many forms of breakfast egg, but unless an egg scramble is toweringly high from being whipped to the max, scrambled eggs just don’t do it for me. Maybe I’m being too much of a food snob. Shrug.

eggy toast

I had been having email tag with my cousin’s roommate, Ian, for the past few days, as he and his family would also be in town on business. Remembered to try him at his hotel and managed to get a hold of him. After some quick planning, Winnie and I met him in the lobby of the Shangri-La and proceeded to walk through Eastern Kowloon and the Avenue of Stars on the way to view the daily 8pm light show by the harbour.

karen and ian by the avenue of stars

There were plenty of tourists already crushed together like sardines by the seawall’s edge, so we found a cafe with a patio on the walk and hunkered down with some alcohol and a pretty shady dish of cold, marinated chicken. Turned out that the light show was accompanied by fireworks too, so that was a bonus. Winnie oohed and aahed at the display and went for a closer look. Us Vancouverites remained seated at the table, unphased by the show, having been quite spoiled by the firework splendour that is the Vancouver Celebration of Light.

winnie by the avenue of stars

As the light show and fireworks ended, nature decided to put on a show of its own. A brilliantly purple bolt of lightning suddenly streaked through the sky as I was taking a shot of the cityline, and right in my lens’ field of view, too. Unfortunately, I hit the shutter a fraction of a second too late. The thunder rolled across the harbour soon after and the rain started pouring down. We quickly switched tables to one protected by a large umbrella and continued to watch the storm as it passed through the city. It was a gorgeous experience and trumped the harbour light show by a gazillion degrees. I will never again complain about summer thunderstorms…just about Winnipeg summer thunderstorms =)

The three of us lingered on the patio, trading stories and hearing about Ian’s fascinatingly sordid university life in Bangkok. As the hours waned, we parted ways with Winnie and Ian and I headed back to Hong Kong Island on the Star Ferry. The ferry was much shorter a trip than I expected. Only a few minutes to cross. It was neat to experience being out on the water at night, if only briefly.

Our next stop was to Wan Chai, where I truly got to see the seedy underbelly of Asian nightlife. Ian picked a go-go bar at random (Hawaii Club), where I wound up buying a $50 CAD drink for a Filipino woman codenamed Christina, that one can only call a sex trade worker. You can’t even pretend that she was just an exotic dancer. The person that targeted Ian was codenamed Karen (perhaps after discovering that my name was Karen?). The two proceeded to test the boundaries of decency on myself (nah-uh) and Ian (who was a little more willing) while the mama-san continued to get us to buy beer and buy them “drinks”.

All in all, a rainbow of experiences on my last night in Hong Kong.

hong kong travel diary: day 6.

Breakfast of vegetarian dim sum along Electric Road. Essentially pointed at each item that looked good and indicated how many of each I wanted. Even with my greedy eyes, the price was well under $20 HKD. Even more bitter about my 2 $75 HKD breakfast buffets at the hotel.

Didn’t realize it was vegetarian until someone at IG told me it was their favourite vegetarian pit stop. If I had known that earlier, perhaps I could have managed to have a Meatless Wednesday in Hong Kong…ah well. That would have interfered with my culinary itinerary, anyhow.


Lunch at Pumpernickel Cafe with Winnie, Johnny, Lisa, Calvin, Matt. Ordered the fettucini with duck a la Oscar Meyer weiner (again). Spinach soup was pretty tasteless and reminded me of canned spinach. Garlic bread was amazing. Had milk tea. Calvin tried to teach the “What” game to the group to the confusion and frustration of many at the table.

smoked salmon linguini


Last day with IG. Meeting rooms were freed up in the afternoon so finally got to take a closer look at the harbour-side views from the 33rd floor. Constantly distracted by the sun setting over the water…much nicer than my view of the government building’s gravel rooftop and the condo construction along False Creek. While waiting for the team to be ready for our dinner plans, I whipped out the camera and snapped shots of the pretty sunset and the bustling rush-hour traffic. Also attempted to photograph Terence’s aquarium, but I may have scared off the fish.

sunset over hong kong island


Dinner with Marcus, James, and Johnny was at a restaurant called Red, which is part of a fitness chain, for some reason. Hong Kong architects seem to be more enthralled with glass than Vancouver ones, which says a lot, as our city is building after building of green glass. Glass elevators, floating escalators, and glass-panelled shopping malls. Not good for a person as prone to vertigo as myself. Unfortunately, I was unable to hide my strange condition from Marcus and James’ attention. Johnny’s sniggering probably didn’t help! =P

The restaurant was jam-packed so we didn’t get the chance to sit outside on the patio with great views of downtown Hong Kong. We plopped down at our table and were informed that we only had till 9:30 before we would be kicked out. We had experienced this at Rice Paper too. It seems that many restaurants work in “meal shifts”: you must eat before the end of your meal shift in order to make room for other diners. I found it quite off-putting but it seems to be standard in the fancier (or at least more popular) dining establishments in town.

Scanned the menu in my usual way, looking for those ingredients that I automatically am drawn to: risotto, eggplant, ahi tuna, mushrooms, and anything remotely french. Settled on a tomato and spinach risotto with a crisped orange roughy fillet (though the menu stated it as orange roughy accompanied by said risotto). The fish was excellent if a little on the salty side. The risotto was horrendous. Perhaps I should give up on ordering risotto altogether. (The concept of a tomato risotto stuck with me, though, so when I got home, we created a tomato and basil risotto one Meatless Wednesday that, I must say, was quite fantabulous.)

orange roughy fillet with tomato and spinach risotto

There’s always room for dessert, so I ordered the “champagne custard”, visualizing a great big dish of succulently wobbly golden flan. Instead, what resembled 2 giant Wheaties were set in front of me, each encasing less than a tablespoon of regular custard. There was no indication that champagne was present in the recipe. Was extremely disappointed with the offering, and coupled with the fact that the server was reminding us every 10 minutes that 9:30 was coming up, I was very glad for our table that tipping is not customary in Hong Kong. If only you can penalize a restaurant for poor service…

Food and service aside, dinner was nevertheless enjoyable. Marcus kept us all entertained and his lovely wife Amy joined us later for dessert. It was so nice of my colleagues to keep me company for nearly every meal. Very much appreciated, and great to get to know the people that are taking care of our project development on a more personal level.


Marcus and Amy said their goodbyes at the restaurant as they headed out for a movie, while the rest of us parted ways at the MTR station. My plan post-dinner was to get in another night of salsa dancing, this time at Jupiter Cafe in North Point. The combination of jet lag, long work hours, and long touristy hours must have gotten to me, however, and I wound up passing out before 11pm on a Friday night in the comfort of my hotel. Oh well. Probably needed the beauty sleep, anyhow!

hong kong travel diary: day 5.

Back in Hong Kong and ready for breakfast! Finally got up the nerve to try the little congee house across the street from my hotel. I was worried about the language barrier but something about me must have screamed tourist (the giant camera in hand, perhaps?). An English menu was plopped promptly down on my table.

my congee house find

My usual congee of choice includes duck or chicken. This time, I risked trying a bowl of “salty meat” (they insist it is just pork) and century egg, which is typically duck egg preserved in soot for 100 days. If you’ve never tried century egg before, the visual is a little off-putting. It looks like a slice of egg that has been gelatinously petrified and stained with black shoe polish. Tasted great: salty egg with a slight Jell-o mouthfeel. Downed the congee with relish as well as the shrimp rice roll that the combo came with. All for only $27 HKD–that hotel buffet was a total rip-off at $75 HKD!

preserved egg and salty meat (pork) congee

As with the Shanghainese cafe from Tuesday, I shared the tiny booth with total strangers. It was a little boy and his mother today, who ordered what practically everyone else at the restaurant ordered for breakfast: macaroni soup with bits of ham plus a butter and egg sandwich on white bread, crusts removed. Would have taken a photo but I don’t think they would have appreciated such an invasion of privacy…

I saw this same meal being enjoyed by other cafe dwellers on the way to work. Even arrived at the desk to find Alan eating it one morning. Was somewhat curious about the ubiquitousness of the meal but was not curious enough to ingest Wonderbread while abroad.


Lunch was at a nearby lahksa house with Johnny and Winnie. Had the roasted duck lahksa, spice level #1 of 4, as Winnie warned us of the exponential increase in heat. Neither of my lunch companions were as into spicy food as I was so I took her warning with a grain of salt. Sure enough, my broth was super mild. Winnie called the server back to give me a side of level 2 broth after boasting that I should have gotten a level 3 soup. When the broth arrived, I took one tiny sip and went beet red from the heat. Johnny was thoroughly entertained. I added a couple of spoonfuls of the new broth into my soup bowl, hid my tail between my legs, and enjoyed the best of both worlds.

duck laksa


Alan played chauffeur the rest of the evening to Lisa, Winnie, Johnny, and I. First stop was to Shatin in the New Territories. It is a 20-minute drive across the harbour and north of Kowloon. Winnie kept a running commentary on the points of interest that we passed (coincidentally, most had shopping centres attached to them!).

inside jun jun

Dinner in Shatin was at Jun Jun, a local favourite that I was privileged enough to be taken to. I am not even sure if Jun Jun has a proper interior: we sat at the end of a long curvy patio with a low tarped ceiling. The place is famous for its Shatin chicken congee and its many incarnations of pigeon. While Winnie decided what to order for the table, I taped Johnny sterilizing our dishes and chopsticks with hot tea (a common ritual at dodgier restaurants, he says).

Tonight’s menu: crispy pigeon with shrimp crackers; oyster pancake; Shatin chicken congee; vegetable and scallop stir-fry; chicken “soft bones” with deep-fried tofu. Downed with copious amounts of tea and a bottle of Hong Kong beer called Blue Girl. The pigeon looked and tasted like a leaner version of peking duck, so I quite enjoyed it (unlike the duck in the lahksa, which looked and tasted like Oscar Meyer weiner. Cringe.). Johnny plopped the pigeon’s head into my bowl at the end of the meal. Er, yum? Unfortunately, I was much too full by then to try eating it (darn).

famous shatin chicken congee

oyster pancake

vegetable and scallop stir-fry

deep-fried pigeon with shrimp crackers

pigeon head

My favourite dish was the chicken soft bones. Alan explained that it was, in fact, the cartilage from chicken feet that has been softened, battered, and deep-fried with a variety of spices. I am a huge fan of tendon as evidenced by our regular pho outings, so I suppose chicken knuckles are not a very far cry from that.

deep-fried chicken knuckles with tofu

Dinner was accompanied by a sudden and vicious summer thunderstorm. We were well protected by the tarp above our heads–no worries there. But it was a real delight for me to sit there, outdoors in the pouring rain as the thunder and lightning played, experiencing exotic food, taking in the colourful restaurant scenery, and enjoying the company of a terrific group of people.

winnie

lisa and alan


On the way back to the parking lot, Winnie and I took a quick pit stop into the KFC and McDonald’s inside the Shatin Galleria. She pointed out the differences between the North American and Asian menu offerings. You can order a side of corn with your McDonald’s combo or eat chicken curry at KFC. The Happy Meal toy selection advertised a Hello Kitty plushy, which I attempted to get for Kookie: unfortunately, Hello Kitty wasn’t available for another week yet. Another souvenir procurement foiled. Curses!

the menu at the shatin KFC


We took a different scenic route back to Kowloon and up the winding path to Victoria Peak. Conversation up the mountain included a small lesson on how to say bubble gum in Cantonese–nothing else was taught, I swear 😉

The best views from the Peak are to be had on the massive two-tiered roof of the newly constructed observation building. One has to scale several sets of floating glass elevators to reach the top. Had to fight the onset of vertigo and my fear of heights throughout the ascent and descent, but it was well worth the panic attack and the jests of my colleagues. Winnie was even nice enough to anchor me on her arm during the worst parts. Such great hosts =)

pretty glass escalators

Hong Kong at night is dazzling. My non-DSLR camera and lack of travel tripod cannot adequately convey the blaze of lights that we observed up there on that windy deck. Victoria Peak is a must-see at night, despite the crowds of tourists and the off-chance of fog / smog. The folks let me wander around to take photo and video until my battery warning started to blink. Below are the highlights of this outing:

hong kong island at night

tst and the avenue of stars

winnie, lisa, karen, johnny, alan


Got back to the hotel with just enough time for a quick change into salsa dancing apparel and a hail to a cab for my one night of dancing in Hong Kong. Tonight’s venue was a bar called Swindlers in the Wan Chai district. It’s one of the seedier neighbourhoods this side of Hong Kong Island but that night, I didn’t notice it. Swindlers itself is a narrow and intimate bar with a 15×15′ dance floor, a hallway of hardwood flooring cleared of its usual tables, and an open entranceway to the street. You could hear the enticing percussions emanating from the place from almost a block away. Getting excited!

The crowd was a mix of locals, ex-pats from Europe and Asia, and a good smattering of visiting dancers from abroad. I was warned that the scene in Hong Kong was rather small, so I didn’t expect a lot of quality dancing, but was I ever mistaken! Even the worst dancer at Swindlers was better than the average dancer you come across in Vancouver. Danced LA- and casino-style salsa with people from Hong Kong, Israel, Italy and even another Vancouverite (what a small world). Had the best salsa dance of my life with a Peruvian instructor by the name of Gino Mayaute, who now lives and teaches out of the US. Everyone should get the chance to watch this guy at work–he really is beautiful to watch, whether he is leading or following. Also happy to see that bachata is alive and well in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, my camera was already kaput from Victoria Peak so had to rely on those of my new salsa connections for a couple of snaps of the evening.

chuen chuen and karen

karen, ilan, judy

Got back to the hotel by 2am, thinking with a happy sigh that this was one of the best days of the trip thus far.

lawrence’s chocolate sushi cake of awesomeness.

Lawrence sent us a great e-mail about the birthday cake that Hayley made him this week, so with much envy and awe, I am re-posting the photos and descriptions with his blessing. Wish someone would bake me a cake like that…it’s only a couple months away (hint hint)!

From: Lawrence Chew
Sent: Friday, August 31, 2007
Subject: Best Birthday Cake Ever

Hey everyone,

Hayley made me a birthday cake this year! I’m so proud and impressed, I just had to share pictures of it (and bragging rights come with the territory for birthday boys).

  • the “sushi rice” was made of rice krispie squares dipped in white chocolate
  • the “seaweed” was dark chocolate mixed with some green food colouring
  • the “tuna” was from dried cantaloupe
  • the “crab” and “egg” were coloured and formed marshmallow
  • the “wasabi” and “ginger” were coloured and formed fondant

And yes. All of it was tasty. =]

L.

lawrence's sushi chocolate cake of awesomeness

rice krispie square sushi rice with dried canteloupe tuna

dark chocolate maki rolls

rice krispie square nigiri with marshmallow and canteloupe fish

sushi-shaped desserts

wasabi and pickled ginger made with fondant

canada day weekend review.

This weekend has been action-packed…generally the way I like my long weekends! It started out with a less-than-stellar salsa night at Diavolo. Not many of the regular crew around. I think we were all saving our energy for Robson Square on Sunday. Got a massive bruise on my right foot from some jerk that managed to step on both my feet at once…not even an apology. It’s now swollen and purple and I think will last all week. God, I hate the lack of dance etiquette sometimes.

Thankfully, Edwin and Elmer dropped by near the end of the night and made up for the dance suckiness with a lot of drinking =) When Diavolo wrapped up, we continued the dancing and gin-and-tonicking at the Red Room and Shine (which has *awesome* music on Fridays–gotta go back again soon!). By 4am I was pretty smashed but happy that the night ended on a fun note.

On Saturday, I paid dearly for Friday night. Kurt and I nursed our various illnesses instead of seeing Rumba Calzada at the Roundhouse as planned. By dinnertime, the nausea passed so made my way over to Coquitlam to spend the evening with the family. As usual, the night was filled of endless food, lots of music jamming and several hours of karaoke with the aunties. Funny how much I enjoy these nights with the fam as an adult…we all used to think it was torture in high school.

Sunday was a first foray into tennis with Jay, a short glimpse of the Jazz Fest and the bike race in Yaletown, and a great day of reconnecting with Jamie while Kurt and Dave watched the U20 soccer matches at Swanguard. Jamie and I took in the first Sunday Afternoon Salsa of the summer at Robson Square, followed by a very satisfying meal at Alpha (restaurant review updated here) with her and Kurt. The sake was flowing so we didn’t make it to Canada Place to see the fireworks up close. We did manage to take in a bit of it from our balcony, so I guess that was our Canada Day celebration!

One minor disruption was the breaking of my cell phone on the way back from tennis–not cool. My number is forwarded to Kurt’s cell for now. If you get the chance, please email, IM, or FB me with your number.

Coming up: Transformers movie, Ratatouille, and Lucas and Karen’s wedding in Oakville. Can’t wait!!!

fondue party?

my valentine dessert

After the excess of April’s Deep Fry Fest, it’s been suggested that the next Hamilton House potluck be a little more civilised and a lot more healthy.

Fondue is the main contender. If we could add 1-2 more pots to the one we have at home, we could have cheese, chocolate, and bouillabaisse stations and wash everything down with wine. We’ve already got a tried-and-true Toblerone fondue recipe.

What say you?

menudo (filipino pork stew)

menudo close-up

  • Dish: Menudo
  • Serving Size: 4
  • Source: Family recipe
  • Photos: see photo album

Review:

Having recently reconnected with my mom, she and I have started to trade foodstuffs. My mother is an incredible cook but it’s difficult to get a recipe out of her. It’s not that she doesn’t want to share–she just doesn’t measure her recipes. It’s mostly done from memory. This recipe was therefore shared with me a week ago as she dropped off a sample and rattled out the ingredients and steps from what she could remember.

When I attempted this dish last night, there was, sure enough, ratios to edit and a few time estimates to adjust. Below is what I think the baseline recipe should be to get your menudo tasting like my favourite filipino stew from my childhood.

Essential Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of pork (preferably boneless sirloin roast), in 1″ cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, cubed
  • 1 red bell pepper, cubed
  • 1 small yellow onion, cubed
  • 1 large russet or idaho (white) potato, cubed
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 – 2/3 cup water
  • salt to taste

Optional Ingredients:

  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup large, light-coloured raisins to taste(the more you put in, the sweeter it gets)
  • 1 “small handful” of chickpeas to taste (adds texture)

Directions:

  1. Boil pork in the soy sauce and water in a medium-sized pot, covered. [Add enough water to cover all the meat. There should be roughly a 1:1 ratio of soy and water, but more water is okay.] Boil for 30 minutes or until meat is fork-tender. Set the pork aside and reserve the sauce.
  2. In a large, deep saucepan, saute the garlic and onion in a little bit of oil.
  3. Add the pork, potato, carrots, and chickpeas (optional) and saute until the meat is browned.
  4. Add the tomato paste and half the reserve broth until you achieve a thick, dark red sauce. It should not be overly dark and have the consistency of thick spaghetti sauce. Adjust with more water or more reserve broth to taste.
  5. Cover saucepan and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 10-20 minutes.
  6. Add the bell pepper and the remaining optional ingredients of your choice and simmer until these are tender, about another 5-10 minutes.
  7. Add salt to taste and serve over steamed white rice.

the foundation

jason and foundation storefront

  • Name: The Foundation
  • Type: Vegetarian
  • Locations: Main Street at 7th Avenue
  • Website: None I could find, but here’s a review site
  • Eating Options: sit-in, take-out
  • Reservations: not accepted, so get here early or prepare to wait
  • Accepts: cash, debit, all major credit cards
  • Photos: see Flickr photoset or click on the links below

Review

Jason’s been raving about this vegetarian place on Main Street for almost a year now, so we finally went together last night. As carnivorous as I usually am, I try to stay open-minded about cuisine, so call this my night of culinary adventure.

First, the ambience: Ironically, the open-kitchen concept inside the Foundation reminded me of Memphis Blues and their open kitchen (of meat). The walls are simply but artfully framed with quotes from Einstein to Rachel Carson to Lord Action. All the quotes referred to power; not sure why. It made for interesting scenery while we were waiting for a table.

The menu items we arranged by ingredient type: bean-laden stuff at the top, followed by the salad selection, followed by miscellany (curries, rice / quinoa dishes, etc.). Jason had his “usual” fare while I tried to find something that would not set my digestive system up for disaster considering our social dancing plans that evening. The only items without beans or curry and with tofu was something called Sesame Society. Also could not resist trying a soup that included papaya, one of my favourite fruits.

I wound up inhaling the soup, which was fantastic, but barely touching the Sesame Society. More on that below. Jason was nice enough to donate a piece of his burger and allow me to pick on his side dish. While I wasn’t thrilled by what I chose, Jason’s food was pretty good–enough to give this place a second chance. I’ll pluck up the courage one more time and hopefully I’ll have a better review of the food for next time.

Tried:

Blue Sky Cola

Tasted like old-fashioned cola, of the sarsparilla and molasses days. I suspect it’s organic or fairly-traded or made by some sort of socially responsible company. It was no Coke, which is my addiction, but nonetheless it was quite enjoyable.

Upper East Side

Black bean dish with fresh mango and salsa, served on a bed of white rice. Jason’s pick. Tasted great and was pretty filling–if only my digestive tract had a better resistance to beans…

Papaya and Veggie Soup

Love-love-loved this soup! Could make out the papaya (of course), plus cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, black beans, and chick peas. It reminded me of minestrone, but it had a darker, less-tomatoey flavour, with a slightly thicker, near-stewy texture. Served with this toasted flatbread that reminded me of nougat.

Foundation Burger

Jason’s pick. Veggie patty containing tofu, flax, and other highly nutritious grains. Jason had smothered it with ketchup and dijon mustard so it was very tasty. Without all the sauce, I might have found it a little dry.

Sesame Society

I was looking for something with tofu that had neither beans nor curry (both of which could be bad when salsa dancing afterwards…). I had also never tried quinoa, so this was the dish that resulted out of the process of elimination. Unfortunately, I could barely take in more than a few bites. The sesame sauce overpowered everything; the vegetables were unbearably bitter, and the sauce tasted a little burnt. On the plus side, I enjoyed discovering quinoa, which I would love to try again or cook with in the near future. It also gave me an excuse to sample Jason’s food, poor guy.