Friday, July 30, 2010

Portland Bound!

Big M and I are off to Portland for the long weekend! I love Porland. If it were not in America, where I am not allowed to live, I would live in Portland.

Our last trip was on the Easter long weekend. Big M had not been there before but I had been a couple of times with Derby. Turns out that America still closes on holiday weekends so all the shopping was closed- except for Powell's. We did a lot of book shopping on that trip. It was too early in the season for the Saturday Market. So we are going again!

We did do some excellent eating. Portland is a great food town. We stayed at the Ace Hotel, which we love. It is located downtown and about a block from Powell's. They have 2 restaurants in the building, Kenny and Zukes and Clyde Common

We ended up eating lunch and breakfast the next day at Kenny and Zukes. It was that good.

We both ended up having the pastrami sandwich for lunch. I had potato salad and Big M had the fries.

This pastrami sandwich could beat up every other pastrami sandwich you have ever eaten. Again, it was that good. I loved the pickle.

We went back the next morning for breakfast. I had the 2-2-2 and Big M had a benny of some kind with pastrami.


I wish they would have let me order a 1-1-1 because it was super good, but too much. The latkes were amazing. Big M really enjoyed the benny. They have good coffee and quite a healthy line up for a table in the morning.

Clyde Common was amazing. We have no pictures of that meal because they have a healthy fancy cocktail list with fun names of drinks made from booze I don't recognize. The menu is full of words that are too advanced foodie for me to understand, even with all the Top Chef watching we have done. We ordered by protein and then were surprised by the rest of what was on the plate. I may not have understood it, but it was GOOD. The schtick of this restaurant is that they only have the large communal, or common, tables. You could be rubbing shoulders with the Portland elite!

The other awesome experience was Voodoo donuts. Yes, we lined up for 30 minutes on a cold Sunday morning. It was worth every second. I had the Old Dirty Bastard and the Triple Chocolate Penetration. Big M had the Maple Bacon Bar and the Mexican Chocolate donut.

For this trip we are staying at the Jupiter and I am going to be using another food blogger's site as my guide: Under the Table with Jen. See you on Tuesday!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Downtown Lunch: Zachary's on Robson

Lunch time for the downtown worker. I can't wait for the street food next week!

Today a few of us went to one of our standbys- Zachary's on Robson.They are really close to our office and I like sit down restaurants. They have a great patio that gets alot of afternoon sun. I also really like Zach's because they have a fresh sheet everyday. This usually includes a soup and sandwich special for $8.50 and a pizza, salad or pasta special for $9.95. My only complaint about the specials is that the Chef seems to have a real liking for the Monte Cristo and Shrimp salad sandwiches and regularly features them. Who eats that?

I am not 100% everyday and neither is Zach's. I would say that I am happy with their food about 90% of the time. The service is always friendly and as we work in the area, we get a 10% discount.

Today I had the Beef Kabobs off the regular menu- $9.95

I took the picture after I took the beef off the skewer. They changed from a couple of sticks to a really dramatic steel skewer that made me want to poke pirate-style at passersby.

I like that they shave their carrots into long, thin strings. I don't know why I like that so much but it makes me happy. They also serve the salad dressing on the side which helps keep the amount of dressing used in the JC amounts. The beef was really well seasoned and the tzatziki was good. The asparagus was a nice surprise but a bit too buttery/oily. The only disappointment was the rice. Their rice tends to be really dry and today it was.

A nice lunch spot, I have never been their for dinner, if it is not really busy. I tend to not eat there at lunch if there is more than 4 tables as that obviously slows service down and I might run longer than my hour lunch. And since the bosses lean towards eating here, being on time is important.

Zachary's on Robson on Urbanspoon

Updated October 15, 2010

After an extended absence, Courtney and I went back to Zach's for lunch.  I missed it!  The menu had changed a bit but they still offered the fresh sheet that I like.  Today's lunch special was a chicken,mushroom, mozzerella sandwich and cream of mushroom soup.  $8.50

Zachary's 004

I was quite surprised, and impressed, that the sandwich was a piece of grilled chicken with some grilled veggies and pesto as well. Really good. The soup had large pieces of fresh mushrooms and it was thick and flavourful. Such a good value for $8.50!

Courtney had the grilled cheese sandwich with a side salad.

Zachary's 002

I love the shaved carrots. I don't know why I am so facinated with them but they make me happy. She said it was good, nothing super amazing but tasty.

I won't stay away as long next time.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

El Barrio

Last night I went for dinner with the lovely AliAss. I haven't seen her for a super long time so I was really excited.

For me, the worst part of meeting up with people for dinner is always choosing what restaurant to go to. Always the game of "what do you feel like", "I don't care, you pick", "wherever is fine". To avoid this, and because I know how Ali feels about Excel, I created a spreadsheet. Math! On the X axis the type of venue: Casual, Hipster or Hole in the Wall. On the Y axis the cuisine: Exotic or North American. Then I divided it up to New restaurants that I haven't been to but want to try, and tried and true restaurants. The third chart was our standby of Pho, her place or mine (the Green Bamboo in Burnaby. Seriously awesome Pho). For example: Tried/Exotic/Hole in the Wall: Sha Lin Noodles. Great way to pick the restaurant. I am going to keep the chart in the car. That is where we have the worst time trying to remember restaurants to eat in.

She chose: New/Exotic/Hole in the Wall: El Barrio. Turns out it was new for me but she had been there in the past. Mexican is always a good choice for me. I have driven by El Barrio on Hastings for some time and it looked cool. The reviews for it are fairly positive. I love a Hole in the Wall.

It was: Okay. They have a small stage in the back because they seem to have entertainment nights with bands, open mics etc. We came on Spanish Movie night which consisted of playing a Spanish movie on TV that was set up right behind our table. Fun, but loud. The restaurant is really set up well for large groups with communal tables that could sit around 8-10. It was a bit more expensive than I had expected with the mains being between $13-17. Very nice selection on the menu. Most items had the option of meats (chicken, beef, pork, shrimp) or a veggie option. Our waiter was either new or really timid.

I had the (from the menu description) Torta Ahogada. Choice of Beef, chicken, por or vegetarian, topped with your choice of salsas roja, verde or mole, topped with our cheese blend drizzled with crema fresca served with salad curtido and potatoes. $13.95
After many changes, I chose the combo Chicken Mole. I appreciate the options, but sometimes I think it better to just offer one.

The good: the mole and chicken tasted fantastic. I love a good mole, and this was good. The sauce in the spoon was spicy and had quite a heat.
The bad: mine was obviously done way before AliAss' and was sitting under the heat lamp too long. The sauce had cooked onto the plate and the cheese and crema fresca were hardened. The salad was just the box mix topped with pickled cabbage. Not even any dressing. The potatoes were deep fried hash browns.

Aliass had: Pollo on Chipotle- A grilled chicken breast topped with our home made chipotle sauce, served with tortilla crisps. $15.95

She said it tasted great and the black beans and veggies on the bottom were really good. I was a bit jealous.

Would I go back? Maybe if La Taqueria or Las Banditas were full.
El Barrio Restaurante Latino on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cookbooking: Steak au Poivre

"The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook."
Julia Child

Steak au Poivre avec Potato Dauphinoise is not a JC approved dinner, but it was super fun and tasty!

The steak recipe came from another cookbook from the library, Cooking for Two. I liked this book because it had alot of the recipes that we learned in French Cooking Class, but in smaller portions.

So off I went to the local meat house, Cioffi's Meat Market & Deli to buy some steaks. I also had to buy some Vermouth as this book really likes the booze. They call for vermouth and sherry alot. I had to ask the liquor store guy where to find Vermouth. You can find it in the random section below the Pina Colada mixes and the Sake. I generally use red wine instead of sherry. That could be a giant cooking no-no, but I am cheap and do not want to buy sherry as well. I just go with the theory that they are both red so they must be interchangeable...

Another exciting purchase of the weekend was a cast iron skillet. I did not have one. So I bought it at Walmart. What- it was cheap! And it was "pre seasoned". There goes any foodie cred that I might have built up.

This was the first time that I had cooked a steak in the oven. I browned the steak in the skillet and then put it directly in the oven! It then cooked there for 6 minutes for quite a nice medium. I did turn the steak once but the recipe did not tell me to. The freakiest part of the recipe was when it called for adding Brandy (red wine) to the pan for the sauce. There was a small aside that mentioned the brandy could CATCH FIRE when you put it in the pan. If that happens, cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and remove from heat. Um. That didn't happen, thank goodness.

I also made a substitution with the potatoes. The recipe is pretty basic, just slicing potatoes on the mandolin and cooking them with butter and cream. I halved the amount of butter and used Evaporated Skim Milk instead of cream! I trick that I picked up from my good friend, Rocco in his cookbook, Now Eat This. The milk is evaporated already so you don't have the curdling problem that you have when trying to heat non-fat milk.

I am leaning towards buying this book as well. I like that it has some "special occasion" menus in the back for days like Easter and Valentines day- complete with desserts!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Wendy and Gabs had a baby. I am the first to admit that I don't have much practical knowledge in this area. I don't have alot of close friends with babies. So I went to my tried and true, WWMSD? What would Martha Stewart do? And the answer came to me- make them a casserole.

Casserole seems to be the thing to do in the novels I read. Well, the non-vampire ones anyway. Someone is born, someone dies, some important life thing happens- casserole. Now what type of casserole? To the internet!

Most casseroles seem to involve noodles, cheese or soup. I thought I remembered a post of Wendy's saying that she was making a lasagna to freeze for the baby time so I didn't want to make anything noodley. So I chose Double Mushroom Bread Pudding. I am quite facinated by savory bread puddings. This one sounded good and then I added bacon. Then it sounded great!

I have made one previous savory bread pudding, a turkey cranberry bread pudding, and the recipie called for alot more liquid than I thought it needed. So I cut all the liquid called for- milk and eggs by half. That seemed to work really well. I also used the rest of the jalapeno havarti that we had in the fridge.

It smelled delicious! I will have to ask them how it tasted. Here is a close up. I love how goldeny the bread got:

And thanks to the fine people at Vancouver Slop, I found out that the bakery by my house, the Monte Cristo, is the bakery that makes some of the Starbucks treats. If they don't make the cut looks-wise to give to Starbucks, they sell them in their store front. So the kids also received a banged up looking Raspberry Lemon Loaf. FOR $6.00!

I had avoided going into that bakery partly because they are halfway up the Gilmore hill and on my bike I just want to keep going, and partly because I didn't want to know if there were awesome baked goods inside. I could just make due with the yummy smell as I rode past it. Now I know. Sigh.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cookbooking: Small Batch Baking

One of the things that I really like about cake decorating is that you can't eat the cake. You have to decorate and give away the whole cake- if the cake is missing a slice that is pretty obvious. Other than some batter licking and cake top, I don't eat any of it. The JC in me really likes that. The cakeater does not.

Then, cue the heavenly music, I found Small-Batch Baking at the Library. I have tried, unsuccessfully, reducing my basic cake recipe before. I could never get the formula right. Baking= Math= Fractions. Hooray for Debby Maugans Nakos for doing the math for me!

After reading it cover to cover, I decided on the corn meal cobbler since we had recently gone to Costco and I had the mother lode of strawberries and blueberries in the fridge. The recipe called for 2 small containers but I made it in a single Pyrex and at it in 2 portions.

I really liked the addition of the cornmeal in the top crust rather than all flour. Gave a fun crunchiness.

Other recipies include cheesecakes, cakes, cookies (3!) all in batches for one or two. I am buying the book.

This book was also a good excuse to go to Gourmet Warehouse to buy small cake pans.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Top 5 Meals- The Pear Tree- July 8, 2010

Big M and I decided to have a romantic fancy dinner for my first birthday as his wife. So he we decided on the Pear Tree on Hastings in Burnaby. We have walked by the restaurant a million times and I had heard great reviews. Turns out that the Chef, Scott Jaeger, was a Canadian competitor in the Bocuse D’Or! As a Top Chef fan, this was super exciting. Big M calls up the restaurant to make a reservation for July 7, but they are closed. Not even saying, "but that is my wife's birthday" would make them open that day. So July 8 it was! A good addition to spreading out birthday week"

So glad we decided to wait. The food was so amazing. The service staff was friendly and the presentation fantastic. I loved the piece of fresh brioche served with a fancy oval pat of butter. We decided to get an appy, dinner and dessert since it was a special occasion.


OMG. Bacon Risotto is the best idea ever.

Big M's dinner:
They don't have a description on their website so my approximation is:
Beef tenderloin on top of short ribs topped with bacon with a jus of bone marrow. Served with a croquette and some awesome sauce:

He thought about getting the lamb but in the end LOVED this dish.

My dinner:
Pork belly on top of mushroom, bean and spot prawns with yummy sauce. They talk about belly on Top Chef all the time, but I had never had it.

And now I know why they all want to cook it. So amazing! I loved the little perfect mushrooms. It was a really fancy pork and beans.


It wasn't as crispy on the top as I thought it would be, and it was cold. I thought it would be warmer, but it tasted amazing. I am now a huge fan of the brandy snap.

Go to the Pear Tree. The restaurant is beautiful, the service is perfect and the chef deserves all the accolades that he has received!

Pear Tree on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


The Gourment Warehouse is a dangerous and wonderful place. On a recent trip there I bought a tortilla press. Why? Just seemed like a good idea. I take my new contraption (plus about a billion different caking supplies) home. I need corn flour. The booklet and the internet say that it is available at "most supermarkets". That, it turns out, does not include Save on More, Price Smart (a division of Save On) and the ghetto Safeway in Burquitlam do not sell it. Finally found the flour.

I don't know why I assuemed tortillas were more like bread in the lenght of time it takes to make them. With the "resting time" of 20 minutes, I think the prep took 22 minutes. A few attempts at the size of ball to put in the press and I did it! Tortillas!

The filling I made from a pork chop that I sliced up and then cooked with some chili powder, cumin and some water like the package taco sauce. The salsa was homemade from peach, avocado, scallion, tomato, cilantro and lime.

I was super excited!

Monday, July 19, 2010

cookbooking: Pork Steak and Apples

I am a cookbook fiend. I have about 30 cookbooks and many more magazines and random pages I have printed out from the internet. Sometimes I even cook from them! I got this one from the Library: How to Cook Everything. website The book is giant and really does tell you how to cook everything. I had some pork steaks from Costco in the fridge so I chose Pork Steak and Apples. Apparently a Tuscan recipe.

It tasted fantastic and it was super easy! I found that the flour dredge coating came off in the wine sauce as it cooked. I am not sure if that was because I turned it too often? The apples were so simple and I loved the addition of the garlic. It all took about 10 minutes longer to cook than what was stated in the recipe but so worth it. Simple and good.