Rack of…pork anyone?

People often tell me that I am lucky because D. can cook. My usual response is, “You’re right,” and I add, “Not only can D. cook, but she can cook really well.” Which is why I can’t resist sharing pics of some of her creations.

Tonight’s dinner featured a rack of pork. D. roasted a whole rack of pork chops for about two-and-a-half hours. After cooking, she let the meat rest before cutting into these double-cut portions. End result? Perfectly cooked chops and still juicy. Given that she was also taking care of our ever-energetic little guy at the same time is a feat in itself, but in addition, she made roast potatoes and an accompanying gravy from scratch. As a reverse presentation style, she had a gravy “river” with the chops and potatoes arranged on top. Roasting also created a great outer bark that I savoured. Lucky, lucky me, indeed!


Tried Thai New West

After more than a week of this viral thing I was trying to kick, I was craving something that would awaken my taste buds and appease my new found appetite so I decided to bring my family to Thai New West. We had gone before, a while back I guess, but I never blogged about it.

Unfortunately upon entry we were informed that they do not have high chairs or boosters for our toddler, which in itself almost turned us away. We knew this would mean a definite dining challenge for us even armed with a tablet and snacks. This was strike one for this resto, but we decided to try anyway.

My cravings had my order already in mind. Chicken satay and rice for the little guy, shrimp Pad Thai, lettuce wrap with beef and p20160401_172112apaya salad for D. and I.

The chicken was supposed to be the “safe” dish to feed the little guy, but unfortunately it wasn’t to his taste. The shrimp crackers were also supposed to be a saving grace but it was too spicy for him. It also ended up that the shrimp crackers were the spiciest thing on the table that night.

Which leads me to the papaya salad which was the next dish to arrive. I took the pic after taking out a portion of salad for my plate, that was how eager I was to bite into 20160401_172106it. It was refreshing and the papaya and the peanuts provided different textures of firmness to the dish, but…no zing. It wasn’t spicy at all. That is when I recalled that while we ordered we were never asked what spice range we were going for even though they mention it in their menu, and while we were there they asked folks on the phone who were ordering for pick up. Perhaps they did this on the assumption that the little guy would be eating from all of the dishes, but they never actually asked. You know what they say about how you shouldn’t assume. Strike two.

20160401_172054I chose the beef lettuce wrap for a different protein (there was only a beef or chicken option). Average in taste, no zip once again, but this ended up being a blessing in disguise because the little guy would eat this with the jasmine rice. Unfortunately it meant D. picking out some of the chopped up veggies before feeding, which meant a prolonged eating experience.

Finally, the dish I had been waiting for was the Pad Thai with tiger 20160401_172548prawns. When it arrived at the table I admit I was underwhelmed at the serving size. I was glad D. and I had ordered another dish and a salad because the Pad Thai could have easily been eaten by one person. Also, they served it with the smallest wedge of lime I’ve seen in a long time. The picture here does not do it justice, but the dish was desperately needing some citrus. A positive is that the tiger prawns were cooked perfectly, very plump and delectable.

After what seemed like an eternity, the little guy was finally full from the beef and rice and I went to settle the bill. After giving a reasonable tip the dinner totaled out to more than $60. I can’t justify that cost with the experience that we had so it is strike three and we’re out. I continue to be on the look out for a Thai restaurant that I can return to time and again.


Searching for sushi in my neighbourhood

I am still discovering local restaurants in my neighbourhood as I near the two-year mark of living in South-East Burnaby.

Osaka Island has been our go-to for sushi. Unfortunately, nothing really stands out. The food is average, as is the speed and service. It is spacious, which is important when you have to add a high chair at the end of a booth. We eat dinner early so we never have to wait for a seat. Parking is free and generally available. Primary reason that we return? It’s nearby.

Last night we decided to try something else and came upon Kojima Sushi. Probably the same distance-wise but a few other features to highlight. We were seated promptly and easily re-seated elsewhere when we requested. They provided child-friendly dishes and cutlery, which is always appreciated to help reduce noise (think silverware drumming on the table). They have a wide array of combinations that could pretty much satisfy any mixture desired. Service was quick and efficient.

We had ordered Combo B which included 1/2 California Roll, 1/2 Spicy Tuna Roll, Chicken Teriyaki & Udon, a Rainbow Roll, and an assorted tempura (10 pcs). After a few minutes, I was worried it wasn’t enough food, as the chicken teriyaki was solely for the little guy, so I added a miso soup and Tako Yaki (fried octopus ball-6 pcs). As the food began to arrive, we quickly realized it was probably unnecessary to have added more items on. The udon was larger than expected in a combo. Another surprise was the assorted tempura included salmon, although I didn’t like how the prawn tempura came out. The Rainbow Roll hits my mmmmura scale. It is a California Roll topped with assorted sashimi, which is a two-for-one with me given that I normally order sashimi in addition to sushi. Having it on one roll saves money and fills me up just the same!

It was a challenge finishing all of the food, even with the little guy doing his part. However, I am happy to report that D. and I were up to the challenge and nothing went to waste! I think we’ve found a new go-to.


Supper surprises at Craft

One of the perks of my job is meeting with members and getting to break bread with them. The other night we did just that at Craft in Vancouver. Given the size of the group there was a set menu with two options for appetizers and desserts, and about five options for the entree. I can’t comment on the price as I was a guest, but I can comment on the food.

Luckily I had salad for lunch so the choice between a soup or salad as a starter was easy. I had the Craft House Soup, and it was amazing. It is made up of cheddar, jalapeno, and Village House Ale. I enjoyed it immensely and could’ve had a second helping. It had a touch of heat, just enough to announce that the jalapeno was there. It was smooth and creamy, but not being a beer drinker, I could not detect the ale notes to the dish.

The entree choices from memory included a Yucatan salad, fish tacos, a flatbread pizza, a burger, and the Craft mac & cheese. I chose the Craft mac cheese, definitely not to be conf20151208_191416used with the Kraft version (no offense). The menu describes it as a “blend of cheddar, gouda, mozarella, and swiss cheese, tossed with bacon and poblano peppers, topped with parsley and garlic breadcrumbs.” What you don’t get from the description is that it is served on a smoking hot cast iron pan, and is a larger-than-average portion. My pic doesn’t do the size justice. I have a pretty good appetite and still could only finish half the pan. The dish had a great sauce base, a cheese-pull factor, and was very generous with the gouda. I’m not an expert on pasta but I think they used Pipe Rigate or Cellentani, providing more ridges to pick up on the cheese sauce and bread crumbs. I didn’t eat the diced poblanos mixed into the dish but the heat was present. The bacon was found here and there, not crispy, nor salty, just enough to add something to the dish when you were looking for some meat.

To top off the meal came the dessert. We had a choice between the Butterscotch Budino and the House Made Ice Cream Sandwich. I chose the sandwich, note the singular. Again, I was not the only one surprised by the serving. When the platter arrived it held not one, but three sandwiches! The ice cream was Ernest Salted Caramel and it was divine! The cookies were chocolate chip and house made, and there were six of them. I finished all of the ice cream but I only ate two of the cookies. The three sandwiches were also laid on top of a generous smear of butterscotch that added another layer of flavour.

I was more than satisfied with the end results, of both the meeting and the meal!

Florida food flavours and (just a few) frustrations

I was lucky enough to be able to take my family to Florida, primarily to visit Universal Studios and Disney World. I realize this is something not everyone gets to do, so I wanted to share the experience that we had. And for those who do get to go one day, hopefully some of this feedback will help you on your trip.

The parameters of this food experience is what was walking distance of our hotel, the Coco Key Water Resort, or near or on-site of either of the theme parks. Our room only had a fridge and a microwave so we ended up eating out quite a bit.

Some fave flavours I wish to highlight:

  • I couldn’t resist trying the food at the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley. Staff are dressed in charact20151016_074413er, and even the greeter makes the experience memorable. I thoroughly enjoyed the beef and lamb stew platter, which came in a bread bowl with a side salad. The meats were cut in large pieces, perhaps for a rustic touch, and there was quite a bit of it. The bread would’ve been better had it been sourdough, but I was still satisfied at meal’s end. D shared the fish and chips with our little one and there were still left overs. I sampled the fish and found the batter crispy and the fish tender. You don’t have to eat there to go in for a picture but I’m glad we made it part of our food experience. I also had the butterbeer at a separate stop in Hogsmeade and still don’t know quite how to describe it other than to say it was sweeeeet. I didn’t try the hot or cold options, just the frozen one, which was just fine given the Florida heat.
  • For my birthday D treated me to the restaurant of my choice, again within walking distance. I decided on Fishbones, named for its fresh fish and aged steaks (hence the bone reference). Funny enough, I had neither. I wanted to try some Florida fare so I combined two appetizers as my meal. I had the Key West shrimp cocktail served with crisp plantain chips. I soon found out they 20151016_074330create the meal table-side and found it delightful. You definitely need the 20151016_074300chips to help cut the richness of the avocado, though. Their cocktail sauce is house made. My second part of my meal was the Florida alligator. It was bite-sized and lightly battered. While the menu even states, “It tastes like chicken.” I wouldn’t describe it that way. It is a very dense meat, so even the bite-sized portion was something to get through. It was tasty and had just a bit of fishy-taste to it at the end. I would’ve loved to try more dishes on a return visit but it is a pricey restaurant. They were very kid friendly given that our wee one was a bit active that night. We had my birthday “cake”, a slice of key lime pie, to go as a result. It was good but very tart.
  • Due to location and demands to eat from our son we ended up at the Comic Strip Cafe for lunch one day, but this turned out to be a happy accident! We were so surprised that they offered a platter that included rice. I enjoyed an “Asian BBQ half-chicken” which came with white rice and vegetables. There was plenty of chicken to share among the three of us. By this point in the trip I t20151014_152440hink we were all getting tired of fried fare.
  • The “islander” dish at Taverna Yamas was a highlight. The restaurant was practically our hotel’s neighbour so we knew we’d being going at least once. This seafood pasta dish was bursting with the fruit of the sea and all perfectly cooked. It included mussels, claims, large squid rings, juicy jumbo shrimp, and succulent scallops. It also had so much pasta I couldn’t finish it all. Downsides to the meal was that the dish was expensive ($27 USD) and the service wasn’t speedy despite us being in for an early dinner without any dinner rush as company.
  • Stumbling upon an all-you-can-eat (AYCE) Brazilian Steakhouse was great. We came upon Cafe Mineiro on our way to Ponderosa’s, which was the original plan for that evening’s meal. Cafe Mineiro staff encouraged us to look at the buffet first to help make up our minds, and for $16.95/person USD, with JD being free, we did20151016_135352n’t hesitate and passed up on our previous plan. With this price you can access four types of meats: steak, pork ribs, chicken and sausage. If you paid about ten bucks more, they would bring several more meats on long skewers right up to your table, still AYCE. The rest of the buffet was okay, but to be honest it was the white rice and the meats that I was after. While some of the meat was salty, the best way to get the most of the experience was to remember that you could ask for meat at the doneness that you desire and to pace yourself.
  • We made the mistake of waiting too long to eat dinner while at Disney World. My research had suggested the best time for dinner was 4pm and we were already past 6pm. We were in Epcot being crushed by the crowd and were inevitably being pushed towards the feature country areas. It didn’t help that there was a food & wine festival going on at the time. We stopped where the line wasn’t too bad and ended up in “Mexico”, at La Cantina. D snagged a seat with the little guy while I ordered on the fly. Turned out great! I had pollo cascabel which was a decent sized portion of mexican rice, spicy chicken and sauce, with pickled onions. I had to dig around the dish for rice and chicken without the sauce that I could share with J and avoid the spice all together for him. D had cheese empanadas, and a refreshing coleslaw, which were tasty. One empanada was pretty thin, but the other three were filled nicely. Surprisingly enough food for dinner. One caution is the large pop that comes as part of the combo looks impressive until you realize the drink container is half-filled with ice.

mmmmura tip I can share: we were lucky to have a Panda Express (self-described as Chinese gourmet food) within walking distance of our hotel, especially because our son expects rice for breakfast. For those who are trying to find ways to save on food what we did was order the family feast. This provides three entrees and two large sides at a cost averaging about $30 USD depending on type of entree you choose. By asking for extra plates and cutlery and using the fridge and microwave in our room we were able to stretch this out for three different meals for all three of us. (We didn’t mind eating Chinese food for breakfast as we often have rice for breakfast normally.)

Some stomach grumbles that I need to share:

  • After a hectic and long travel day we decided to make our first day a rest day, so we took part in the buffet breakfast at our hotel. We chose this primarily for its water park and free shuttle rides to Universal Studios. Overall I enjoyed the experience there except for the breakfast. It wasn’t that it was bad or anything, it’s just that it was average. Basically the same food you would get at a Quality Inn or La Quinta, the only difference is those hotels include the breakfast for free, not charge $9.95/person. Needless to say we found other alternatives for breakfast for the rest of the trip.
  • While we were under the assumption that food in the U.S. is cheaper than in Canada, when you are on-site at the theme parks that goes right out the window. We had brought snacks with us, which helped, but be prepared to fork out a lot of dough if you get the munchies while in the theme parks. Also, I found that Disney World’s park maps were much better at helping pinpoint food options compared to Universal Studios maps.

Fulfilled longing for Longtail Kitchen

On my continued search for great Thai food near home, I think I have finally found my spot in Longtail Kitchen in New West.

I admit that I have been longing to go since I saw some of the dishes featured in “You Gotta Eat Here,” but was only able to try it last night, months after I saw the episode.

Found at the Quay, Longtail patrons benefit from some water views, although not much right now with some of the boarding up in  the boardwalk. You may be underwhelmed by the place’s appearance, which is very simple and basic, almost dive-like, but perhaps I am being too harsh. I was expecting more of a restaurant experience, but now remind myself that it is off of the Quay’s food court after all. We had to borrow a high chair from the food court as Longtail didn’t appear to have its own. The menu was short and on chalkboard. I was expecting more variety. Tables weren’t the cleanest as patrons are encouraged to bus their own, and food, even eating in, was not served on real plates. However, for those with environmental concerns, they were using what appeared to be bio-degradable cutlery and cute cardboard serving containers.

Look past all that, though, and let’s talk about the food. For the three of us we ordered their chicken wings with tamarind sauce on the side, the green papaya salad, the pad thai with shrimp, and the gailan with pork belly with rice. Again, because of the serving containers the appearance wasn’t the best but I think the food’s taste made up for it on the whole. The main disservice the containers do for the place is that it makes the food portion appear small, when that is not the reality! Even when we ate our fill, we had leftovers to bring home.

I didn’t get a great shot of the papaya salad, but I can tell you that I almost couldn’t stop eating it. It was spicy, so I knew I was only sharing with D., but still I had to restrain myself and leave at least half for her to enjoy as well. Very fresh, with a great kick!

chicken wingsJ. enjoyed the wings the most. That and the rice was pretty much all he could eat as the other dishes were spicy, even the gailan/pork belly one which was unexpected. It was a good portion for $8. It was four full-on wings (drummette, wingette, and tip/nub) so a lot of meat on the bone. The seasoning/light batter was a little sweet for my taste, but AFs know I don’t like sweet meat. The tamarind sauce was pleasing as a dipping sauce. I wouldn’t pour it on, but it’s a great accent. Our guesses are, other than tamarind, it probably includes some fish sauce, and perhaps a bit of shrimp paste as well.

shrimp pad thaiWhat I was really zoning in on was the pad thai. My other Thai restaurant excursions in this respect have not satisfied me. This one did. It tasted just as a pad thai should. The bean sprouts were fresh and crunchy and they love deep fried scallions as a garnish in almost all their dishes. The colour and taste of the pad thai was right on. Again a bit on the spicy side but exactly what my mouth was looking for! One critique may be that I am not sure if the $2 price difference from a tofu pad thai and a shrimp pad thai is worth it with only three shrimp provided. I’m not up on the latest food costs, so maybe that price is to be expected?

The real surprise was the gailan and pork belly. Its accompanying rice saved us when the sgailan pork bellypice from the salad and the pad thai were becoming too much. But, on its own, I really enjoyed it. The gailan was well cooked, and the pork belly was immersed in the dish’s sauce. The pork belly wasn’t crispy, but I think that would have taken away from the two main ingredients coming together in that dish. It was a welcome palette break from the intense spice of the salad and pad thai, however, it did have its own zing.

When ordering, I wasn’t asked about spice level, so I don’t know if there are options. If you plan on checking it out, ask, and let me know if they are able to adjust the spice to order.