Anything But Ordinary

From the outside, this unassuming white building may be nothing fancy, in fact, rather dull compared to the Main Street scene nowadays. Walk through the doors however, and you will think otherwise.  The pastries are eye-candy, more artful and seamless than what was previously carried by the old ownership. Brilliant use of colours, quality ingredients (they use vahlrona chocolate!), and a few goodies that I haven’t seen anywhere in Vancouver. For example, the totoro cookie and hummingbird cake… the latter has me drooling. The place is perfect for afternoon tea with a girlfriend or a new lunch spot to venture to; the atmosphere is just so charming.

On my visit, I had their tuna nicoise sandwich, quiche, and the pulla. The quiche was definitely my favourite, mile-high and flavourful with a buttery, flaky crust. It’s very similar to Faubourg’s, just less crust, more filling. The pulla was nothing spectacular, perhaps because I had high expectations from the description and appearance. It’s a good cinnamon bun, not too sweet but not too memorable either. I just so happened to come in when they were featuring their new special sandwich, the tuna nicoise. The bread is freshly-baked, which is wonderful, filled with a generous portion of tuna salad and fresh greens. The filling wasn’t heavy unlike most places that use a heavy dose of mayonnaise to bring flavour. This was well-balanced.

Personally, it’s the perfect addition the ‘hood. I know there are quite a few bakeries already in the area, some off the top of my head include Coco et Olive (which it is adjacent to), The Last Crumb, Batard Bakery, and Float On Bakeshop. Yet, this one has character and flair, and brings something different to the table.

             Liberty Bakery on Urbanspoon

Kinfolk Gathering – Beneath The Surface (Vancouver, BC)

I love an intimate gathering and this Kinfolk event did not fall short. So much thought and attention to detail goes on behind-the-scenes to ensure that from an onlooker’s perspective, it’s a feast for the eyes. From the flower arrangement to the menu design, each component had been carefully selected to cohere to a theme that’s representative of the magazine. It was an afternoon filled with good vibrations, sharing stories among like-minded individuals. We all shared a common interest – to live simply and eating good, honest food. A big thank you to Annabelle Choi and her team for spoiling us with a wonderful selection of hand-crafted treats and Here There for organizing the event. Of course, I could not have asked for a better location than Le Marché St. George itself, who opened their beautiful space for us to use. To the endless list of local suppliers that collectively contributed to making the event as beautiful as it was, the food as delicious as it was, thank you. It was a success and I have a feeling that this is what these gatherings aspire to accomplish about: building community.

          

Recipe: Summer Rolls with Peanut Ginger Sauce

  This is a fool’s recipe, honestly. I can whip this up in under thirty minutes and still have a nutritious, yet flavoursome meal. My favourite aspect about these rolls is how easily I can incorporate my weekly farmer’s market findings into them – local greens, radishes, carrots, you name it, it’s doable. As the weather warms up, l I see them becoming part of my daily routine due to their refreshing effect; it’s thirst-quenching and the varying textures from the crisp and crunchy vegetables make it the perfect summer snack. Not to mention, the vivid colours are breath-taking – edible jewels. The ingredients are also so adaptable, you can throw in whatever is lying in your fridge. Another reason why I’m so fond of this dish is how it makes me able to eat raw vegetables! If you know me well, I love vegetables but I just can not eat them raw. I think the last time I’ve had a salad was over a year ago… This however, makes that problem go away. In fact, I look forward, crave to be frank, to eating them. Plus, it’s such a mess-free recipe because no pots and pans are required. Phew, right?

The wrapping is the trickiest part, but after some practice, it’s not too bad. Just don’t give up! The peanut sauce with this recipe is a must – it’s delicious and the perfect compliment to the fresh vegetables. Please don’t go making these without them. It just won’t be the same, trust me. I added some fresh grated ginger to it and the brightness of its flavour profile really cuts through the sweetness from the soy sauce.

Looking forward to hearing how it goes! Perhaps this will become a staple item in your repertoire just like it is for me now too.

Ingredients (Servings 1-2):

1/2 avocado

2 small carrots

1 bunch of basil

4 baby cucumbers

2-3 radishes

1 package of rice paper

A shallow plate with 1 inch deep of room temperature water

Peanut Sauce:

3-4 tablespoons of peanut butter (I used crunchy)

1 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce

1 teaspoon of grated ginger

a squeeze of half a lime

a pinch of garlic powder

For the rolls…

1. Wash and cut all vegetables. You can julienne them or just cut them with a knife. Place them on a clean plate to be used later.

2. Take a piece of rice paper and dip it into the water. When it becomes pliable (the texture will change and it will look more clear), transfer it onto another clean plate. Place the vegetables in the centre of the paper for an open-ended roll. I usually put the firmer vegetables on the bottom but you can figure out what you like best after making a few of them.

3. Place a few pieces of your fresh herb of choice (I used basil, but you can use mint and cilantro too) on top and take the bottom of the rice paper and pull over the vegetables (away from you). Take one side of the rice paper and roll to the other end to complete the roll.

For the peanut sauce…

1. Whisk peanut butter, soy sauce, and honey in a bowl. Stir in lime juice until desired consistency.

2. Add your pinch of garlic powder (or fresh garlic) and teaspoon of ginger. Mix all together. Transfer to a container to be stored in the fridge for 5-7 day.

  

Ain’t No Better Day Than One in the Kitchen

The past year, I’ve learned quite a bit about myself. I’ve discovered an interest in cooking, something I never envisioned in my future. I love being in the kitchen, blending local produce with ingredients that I’ve picked up from ethnic grocery stores. I’ve seem to become obsessed with them as of late… I especially love visiting the Middle Eastern grocery stores on Main and W. Broadway, their supplies of quality spices and sauces fascinate me and I could peruse the aisles for days, despite the store being not that large.

Here’s a glimpse of what I’ve been busying myself with…

Entertaining a few guests at my place. On the table includes: smoked paprika potatoes with scrambled eggs and corn, roasted brussel sprouts with toasted hazelnuts, Batard Bakery breads, home-made chipotle hummus, and The Farm House brie with sun dried tomatoes and basil. All produce (minus the corn) was from the Vancouver’s Farmer’s Market and spices were purchased from Parthenon Supermarket located on W. Broadway. A close-up of the bread platter… I was quite proud of this! Made some home-made chili with fried egg tofu and rice pilaf. The beginnings of pasta sauce ready to be drenched on pasta… I have officially become hooked on dates, contrary to my past opinions. I’m seriously considering ordering a whole box because I cannot live without them now. Vegan chili and pasta! So simple and quick since you can have a whole batch made in the fridge ready to heat up. Chili in the making… This was massive and so much fun to test out! Lately, I’ve been making tons of curry, throwing in tons of veggies with spices and a can of coconut milk to really bring out the flavours. Ladled on a bed of rice, this is my type of comfort food. I tried making rice pudding one night for my friends and it ended up being a tad drier than I anticipated – even too rich for my liking. Yet, I love the combination of coconut milk and spiced granola, so I’m hoping to re-try this! I love cooking everything in one bowl so I basically mixed a bunch of vegetables, broth, and rice into a pan and added some spices… It ended up almost like a paella! I loved baked sweet potatoes. They make my world go round. If you haven’t tried it, you must!  Threw some potatoes, toasted breadcrumbs, corn, rice and some parmesan for dinner one night and it was splendid! Made my version of pizza using buckwheat flour, hummus, and pea sprouts. It was delicious. Stir-fry veggies! I’m trying to learn some of my mother’s cooking so I can preserve the recipes! Attended a workshop a few days ago and learned how to make home-made butter and yogurt. This was the best butter I’ve ever tasted so I kept going back for more… Fresh butter is highly addicting and must be tried once in your lifetime at least. Butter in the making!

Get Your Toast On – My Top 7

I have a soft spot for old-fashioned bread. The technique, the patience, and the use of quality flour – all the minuscule details required to fabricate a hearty country loaf, just waiting to be sliced thick like the good ol’ days. I’m in awe of its rustic beauty, the firm, crumbly crust matched with the pillowy soft dough… it makes my heart sing. With the toast trend becoming ever so popular, finding a good base for your toppings to nestle on is essential. I’ve listed below some of my favorite places where you can get a good loaf of bread to play with, in whatever way you choose. Though jam and butter may be the dullest of all options nowadays, on breads like these however, it’s pretty damn tasty. (Also to note, the places I’ve mentioned all have toast bars, so it’s the perfect breakfast spot!)

1. Matchstick Coffee Roasters

Address: 639 E 15th Ave, Vancouver, BC V5T 2R6

Phone: (604)-558-0639

2. Batard Boulangerie & Cafe Moderne

Address: 3958 Fraser St, Vancouver, BC V5V 4E4

Phone: (604)-506-3958

3. Beyond Bread Bakery

Address: 3686 West 4th Avenue

Phone: (604)-733-3931

4. Small Victory Bakery

Address: 1088 Homer St, Vancouver, BC V6B

Phone: (604)-899-8892

5. Doughgirls Comfort Kitchen & Bakeshop

Address: 3322 Shrum Ln, Shrum Lane, Vancouver, BC V6S 0B1

Phone: (604)-333-5474

6. Nelson The Seagull

Address: 315 Carrall St, Vancouver, BC V6A 0A7

Phone: (604)-681-5776

7. Fife Bakery*

Address: 188 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5T 3J2

*(They current are only available at Hawker’s Market but be on the look-out for their expansion as their bread is phenomenal!)

Batard Boulangerie and Cafe Moderne on Urbanspoon

Beyond Bread Artisan Bakery on Urbanspoon

Doughgirls on Urbanspoon

Matchstick Coffee on Urbanspoon

Nelson the Seagull on Urbanspoon

Small Victory Bakery on Urbanspoon

My Top 10 Dim Sum Dishes

I often get asked where I like going for dim sum. Truth be told, I don’t have a “favourite” because I’m the type of person that enjoys switching back and forth between a few. I get bored otherwise. All restaurants have a select few signature dishes I always look forward to having, ones they do exceptionally well. I’ve rounded up my top ten dim sum dishes that I always catch myself ordering, hoping they will inspire your choices the next time you find yourself in the location!

In no particular order…

1. Baked B.B.Q. Pork Pies at Dynasty Seafood Restaurant 

2. Pan-fried Turnip Pastries at Top Shanghai Cuisine

3. Salty Egg-Yolk Battered Pumpkin Sticks at Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant  

4. Almond Milk Tea at Neptune Seafood Restaurant   

5. Egg White Tarts at Chef Tony’s Seafood Restaurant

6. B.B.Q. Pork Pastries at Kirin Seafood Restaurant

7. Egg Tarts at Kirin Seafood Restaurant

8. Pan Fried Radish Cakes at Neptune Seafood Restaurant 

9. Pan-fried Oysters at Golden Paramount Seafood Restaurant

10. Mixed Mushroom Dumplings at Empire Seafood Restaurant

Kirin Seafood Restaurant 麒麟海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

Empire Seafood Restaurant 帝苑皇宴海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

Dynasty Seafood Restaurant 皇朝海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

Golden Paramount Seafood Restaurant 金百樂海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant 海港大酒楼 on Urbanspoon

Neptune Seafood Restaurant 龍皇鮑翅酒家 on Urbanspoon

Top Shanghai Cuisine 上海一只鼎 on Urbanspoon

Tojo’s Restaurant

Along with Vij’s and Cioppino’s, Tojo’s is one of Vancouver’s top institutions. With reputable and classically-trained chef, Hidekazu Tojo in charge, it’s hard to go wrong. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to make a visit, but I’m glad I was able to experience dining here. The service is so amicable and knowledgable and the food carefully prepared. Each dish is made to order in their open kitchen situated in the centre of the spacious room. The ingredients were incredibly fresh and sourced of the highest quality… There’s nothing artificial about anything on the menu – the ingredients speak for themselves. Though I wasn’t overly swooning over the food, I admire their philosophy and their continuous drive to source sustainability while still preserving the authenticity of the dish. If you do make a visit, my favourite dish was the sablefish. It was mildly flavoured, but had the most buttery and velvety texture… Oh, I would come back just for that.

Gyu Sushi (beef sashimi)

Organic tenderloin thinly sliced and served with chill and ponzu sauce

Canadian Sablefish

Baked sablefish with Tojo’s secret marinade

Spider Roll

Deep-fried soft shell crab, asparagus and avocado rolled in a cucumber crepe

Unankyu and Magmum P.I. Temaki

Barbecued fresh water eel and cucumber and Crab, sweet shrimp, avocado, geoduck and fish roe

Tojo Roll

West coast dungeness crab, avocado, spinach and egg rolled inside-out with sesame seeds on top

Tojo's on Urbanspoon