Thursday, May 31

Eating on a budget: Sat May 26

This day we had two meals: breakfast-n-lunch at the Granville Island Public Market and dinner at Legendary Noodle.
After spending an hour ogling the food at the market (like the stacked strawberries), we decided on a demi-loaf of multigrain from Terra Bread, Raclette cheese and buffalo prosciutto from Oyama Sausage Co, and a few organic tomatos. We sat outside and made open-faced sandwiches while watching pigeons putting on a show for the kids. After lunch, I went back into the market to get a drink and came out with a deliciously creamy macadamia tart. It sounds strange, but it was the nuts that were creamy.

We caught dinner on our way back to the hotel after a stroll through Stanley Park. We popped into a noodle house and were surprised by the show the chefs were putting on - fresh noodles made by alternately twisting and separating the dough into strands. Umm...that description sucks, but thankfully, Mike shot a video and uploaded it here. I took some shots of our appetizers and mains:

Sesame-marinaded tofu. Extremely smooth texture and not too oily taste.
Pea shoots. Very fresh.
Noodles with pork and black bean sauce. Tasty, although a bit too much oil for me.

Noodles with spicy peanut sauce. Too much sauce in a dish where the noodles could have been the feature.
Noodles with chili, garlic and olive oil. I'll let Mike describe his dish in the comments.
P.S. I know I'm not posting other details (like, for instance, what we DID in Vancouver), but you can read some of that here: Mike's detailed and very funny blog.

Road-trip picnics: Friday May 25

We drove from Saskatoon to Vancouver in one day. That's right, we left at 6am and arrived at 2:30am. To help speed along the trip, Mike and I shared the picnic preparation. That way we didn't have to stop and look for places to purchase sub-par fast food. Mike made French bread (delicious!) and "fiery red pesto" from the pizza bible [I have to say, I'm jealous of Mike's baking skills]. I contributed smoked gouda, creamy brie and juicy watermelon. It was nice to sit outside and munch after quite a long time in the car.

For dinner that day, I had made a quinoa and bean salad which kept really well. The quinoa was crunchy and the beans still had some 'tooth' to them. I'm especially proud of this picture as it shows the minute detail of the quinoa next to the beans and pine nuts.

Thursday, May 24

The Police

We're leaving tomorrow for Vancouver. Mon night is the reason we're going - the Police concert! And Sunday night will also be eventful as we are planning to eat at Vij's. Once again, I've planned the bulk of this trip around food (don't laugh at me!), so I'll be back with pictures and reviews. Wish us good food luck!

Wednesday, May 23

Pizza

On Mon night we were at Wendy and Mike's place for dinner. Mike made pizza. It was delicious. We topped it with sliced jalapeño, fresh mozzarella, tomato, sliced garlic and basil from their garden. And, underneath it all, a little tomato sauce and parmesan. Simple and rustic. It reminded me strongly of the pizzas we ate in Trieste, Italy a few years ago.

Pizza before baking:
Pizza after baking:
When I make pizza, I always cop out and make a fast non-yeast crust. I try to be healthy and make it with spelt flour, and add bran flakes, flax seeds, soy milk. It's crunchy and crisp, but I think it's time I learned how to make a proper Italian dough. To that effect, I stole borrowed Mike's pizza bible and will attempt something from it next week.

As sides, we had a fresh-tasting dip with tomato and basil, olives, and my own addition of watermelon/feta skewers with balsamic vinegar.

Mike also made a cheesecake with an interesting oatmeal crust and caramel topping. It was served warm which is how I prefer to eat my cheesecake.

Monday, May 21

Mid-afternoon snack

Mango and cream-filled puff pastry squares. Dessert in lieu of lunch - always a good idea.

Sunday, May 20

Sat night dessert & drums

True story. I swear.

Last night I think to myself: 'We should go to McNally and get some dessert'. Twenty seconds later, Ian says: "Hey - do you want to go to McNally and get some dessert?" Three minutes later, we get a call from Mike, who says: "Hey - we're at McNally and there are some cool drummers here. Wanna come join us and get some dessert?"

So we went. I always get the fudge triple chocolate cake with chocolate icing and chocolate syrup (not real name), so I decided to be different and get carrot cake. Ian had chocolate and peanut butter cake. Both were yummy but I regretted not getting chocolate.

Thursday, May 17

Veggie burgers

About a month ago we were served wicked veggie burgers on interesting flat breads with an assortment of toppings at Wendy and Mike's place. Being the copy-cats that we are, we bought the same brand and I cooked some up for dinner tonight.

We didn't have fancy bread, so I just served it up on whole-grain toast with asiago cheese, tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, and some spicy dijon. On the side we had grilled organic carrots and asparagus. I've never grilled carrots before but I'll definitely do it again. They were super-sweet and not mushy. I hate overcooked vegetables.

2nd Ave Grill on Monday

Hmmm...we were hoping for good food, but sadly, had to settle for ordinary. We started with the calamari which was the best dish of the evening. The accompanying sauce was very spicy - just the way we like it, and the batter was light. Calamari itself wasn't too overcooked and rubbery, although a little less cooking would have been preferable.

Then came salads - caesar for Ian, greens for me with fibrous raspberries. The bunny that lives in our front lawn eats better salads.

I'm not even going to post the pics of our entrees, they were so ordinary and we were disappointed in how we had spent our money that evening. I had baked chicken stuffed with asparagus, served with rice and lukewarm veg, topped with a too-rich white wine sauce. Ian had a sirloin with ordinary roast potatoes and the same lukewarm veg. His meal was too dry and mine was too rich. Gross.

Only things that saved the meal were our charming server and the calamari sauce.

Sunday, May 13

Bison

Dinner tonight was bison burgers with leftover slaw from yesterday. The burgers were made with organic bison from Dad's and sandwiched in a bun with grilled red onion, old cheddar, tomatos and chipotle mayo. I grilled them (on an indoor electric grill) for about 7 minutes and they turned out mouth-watering-ly (?) tender. We couldn't identify if the tenderness was due to

a) short grilling time
b) nature of bison meat
c) nature of organic meat
d) all of the above

Saturday, May 12

Saturday dinner for friends

Wendy, Mike and their two daughters were over for dinner tonight. Half of their family is vegetarian, so dinner was a series of vegetarian salads. The original plan was to spread out blankets in the backyard and have a picnic, but it had rained in the afternoon and the ground was wet. Besides, the mosquitoes were out in full force.

Here's the menu and my reflections.

Daikon salad with ruby grapefruit and orange segments with a hint of maple. Yeah, the maple was more like a 'sniff' then a hint. The citrus juice overpowered the small amount of syrup I added. I also didn't want to overmix this because it had taken me a while to segment the citrus and I didn't want to break it up. Maybe the maple wasn't mixed in enough.

Orzo and broccoli salad with goat's milk feta. I put out a couple of homemade dressings - sundried tomato, oil and vinegar - and each person could help themselves. As one of the kids pointed out, I probably should have dressed the salad ahead of time as the flavour of the orzo would have benefited. The motivation for me was that the salad will keep longer if undressed.

Napa slaw with 8 vegetables and chipotle sauce. Yummy. I don't usually make slaw but for some reason was inspired tonight. The chipotle dressing was spicy - we would have liked spicier but I erred on the conservative side for guests. It turns out that for these friends, the spicier the better :)

Grilled asparagus polenta with parmesan. Good salty flavour without being grainy which is a problem with some polentas. The asparagus didn't have a strong enough presence for me in this dish. Next time I'll try a different vegetable.

Wendy and Mike brought over dessert: strawberry shortcakes with cream. Mmmmm...these were delicious. The shortcakes had the perfect texture, with the right balance of softness and crispness. Wendy informed me the strawberries were marinated in lemon juice, and the cream was a sort-of custard made with eggs and more lemon. Note to self: strawberry and lemon is an unexpected yet delicious pairing.

Friday, May 11

SF Dinners: Mijita

Mijita is a restaurant/cafe opened by Traci Des Jardins who also has super high-end restaurants in the bay area. The goal was to serve authentic down-to-earth simple food inspired by the teachings of her Mexican grandmother. Let me tell you...this place delivered! We shared a series of small plates:
-taco de pescado "Baja": battered and fried mahi-mahi in tortillas with cabbage and avocado-cilantro cream
-taco de carne asada: grilled marinated beef, smoky red salsa, cilantro and onions in tortila
-quesadilla mijita: fresh masa turn-over with mixture of Mexican cheeses, epazote and roasted chiles
-a dinner special: crispy chicken tacos with avocado

It was delicious, and to our tastes, authentic. Sorry about the pics below - I only remembered to take them after we had started gobbling down the food :)


Changing Tags

I don't like the tags I'm using. I can't find anything this way. I'm changing it. So there.

But those of you who subscribe via rss may get multiple copies of these entries. I don't know how that works. Well anyway, please bear with me.

SanFran Dinners: Greens

For the last little while we've been eating fairly ordinary food, lots of composed summer dinners, nothing worth blogging about. So I thought I'd get my act together and start to post about some of the dinners we had in SF.

The first place worth writing about was Greens, a vegetarian restaurant located on a pier overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Our meals were well-presented (but not over-styled) and tasted absolutely delicious. The serving staff was gracious and willing to talk about the "Greens" philosophy without sounding pretentious.

Ian and I shared an appetizer: Mexican Mezcla, for which the description read as follows: Rancho Gordo heirloom beans with chilies, citrus and cumin; guacamole with warm tortilla chips; fire roasted salsa; quesadilla with grilled onions, poblano chilies, cheddar and cilantro; ruby grapefruit, jicama and orange salad.

I forgot to take a picture before we started eating - sorry! Especially delicious were the heirloom beans which still had some bite. They weren't mushy and over-cooked as beans can often be. Other items in the Mezcla were interesting, although the salsa was a little ordinary for me. From the description - fire-roasted - I would have liked more depth in the flavour; it tasted (if I could be so forward as to say), a little bland to me.


Upon the recommendation of our server, Ian had the Mesquite Grilled Brochettes and I chose the Stuffed Portobello. The descriptions for the entrees read as follows:

Brochettes of mushrooms, peppers, German butterball potatoes, red onions, garnet yams, fennel, cherry tomatoes and marinated tofu with charmoula. Served with cherry pistachio pearl couscous.

Stuffed Portobello with king trumpet and crimini mushrooms, leeks, asiago and breadcrumbs. Served with mushroom port sauce, green garlic mashed potatoes and grilled artichokes with pepper flakes. [sorry about the fuzzy photo]

Portabello was generously stuffed, artichokes were perfectly cooked but the potatoes were a bit too creamy for me. The port sauce was the pièce de résistance. Upon further investigation of their menu (I was offered to take a copy home), I wish I would have tried something else. I was happy with the meal, but maybe I should have chosen something that wasn't such a typically vegetarian option as stuffed portabello.

Ian's brochettes were awesome. I don't know what they did to that tofu before grilling the skewers, but I'd peel their potatoes for free for a month to find out. [As an aside, recently I defrosted some tofu to use in a curry. It had the same texture as the one in these brochettes - maybe there's something to that freezing/defrosting procedure?] Ian especially enjoyed the pearl couscous and instructed us to find and make it as soon as we returned home. I have yet to do anything about this request :)

All in all, we were super-impressed with the meal and service. We've come to the conclusion that a fine dining vegetarian restaurant is needed in Saskatoon. As a happy bonus, I have a copy of their menu to use as inspiration for summer cooking.

Monday, May 7

Some Ordinary Dinners

I haven't been keeping up with our meals last week - I think I was just overloaded with food ideas (and too much food) from San Francisco. I did take pictures of some ordinary dinners we had last week and am now ready to update. One dish was a red Thai curry with rice and the other was a whole wheat pasta with chicken sausage. I was especially happy with the pasta. I suppose I was inspired by the simplicity of SF food and just combined sauteed onion, garlic, mushroom, al dente beans and pasta and sliced chicken sausage. A little parmesan and herbs finished it off. Super simple and super yummy.

Whole wheat pasta:

Thai curry:

Brunch Crepes

Friends came over for brunch on Sunday morning. I made two kinds of crepes - savory made with spelt flour and sweet made with soy milk. I made several different fillings: grilled asparagus and mushrooms, fluffy eggs, grilled sausages, herbed cream cheese, cheese platter, smoked salmon. Here's the table set for the savory:

For the sweet crepes I just set up a platter of fruit (kiwi, mango, strawberry, pear) and some sweetened cream. I forgot to take a picture.

Thursday, May 3

Falafel

For dinner last night I tried to recreate the falafel pita I had in San Francisco. Here's the result:

It was pretty a pretty close match. I suspect they had added something to their tahini to make it less sesame-tasting. Next time I'll add lemon juice and garlic maybe. I added more herbs than the street vendor did and the tomatoes/cucumber I used were organic and tasted fresher than I remember. I didn't feel like making tzatziki, so I just used plain yogurt - we had bought a new brand from Dad's Organic and it was delicious!

Tuesday, May 1

San Francisco Lunches

During our trip we tried to sample a variety of cuisines, from street food to gourmet, from vegetarian to carnivorous, from China to California. Yeah, I organized the sights/tours/activities around the location of the various eateries. I'm not embarassed to admit that :) Here are the highlights:

Panini at L'Osteria del Forno

Lunch at a small Italian cafe. I had a panini with fresh mozarella, tomato, basil and lettuce; Ian had pancetta instead of mozarella. The rosemary foccacia was just lightly toasted, the sharper basil and creamy cheese paired superbly well.

Pasta at Wolfgang Puck Express Marketplace

Chicken bolognese in the basement of Macys. Fresh pasta cooked al dente, topped with basil and parmeasan. There was too much sauce - I like pasta that doesn't have to be slathered in sauce. If the pasta is fresh, it should be the focus. I would have liked less sauce, more herbs and better bread. BTW, I didn't buy anything at Macys - they were having a "sale", but the prices were still ridiculous :)

Quintessential San Franciscan Meal at Boudin Bakery

Clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Chowder was good but the clams were overcooked. I HATE OVERCOOKED SEAFOOD! Sourdough was fresh, but I would have liked the bread to have been warmed up. It was a day with cold wind, and eating outside by the water would have been more enjoyable if the bread was warm.

Street Food

Fallafel in a pita. Messy but tasty and, as a bonus, vegetarian! I think I had the equivalent of four servings of vegetables in this one sandwich - they packed it really full! The tahini tasted fresh and so did the tzatziki. I ate this outdoors at the United Nations Plaza, surrounded by columns listing the dates when various countries entered the UN.

Caribbean Tapas at Cha Cha Cha

We didn't try the various tapas; instead, we opted for their lunch specials: BBQ pork with roasted potatoes (Ian) and blackened salmon with salad (me). Good lunch, but when the tables around us were getting small plates, we were jealous and wished we had tried some of those.


Dim Sum at Yank Sing

For our last lunch we went to what is often called the "best dim sum in SF". Well, if it's the best, it's also the most expensive! It was organized in the traditional way where servers would try to entice you with carts or trays full of appetizing plates and baskets. Once a selection was made, they would stamp a code on a card which would be tallied up for your bill at the end of the meal. Ahh, yeah. We got caught with a huge bill. But the food was delicious (I have to keep reminding Ian of that!). The dishes were:
- crab cakes
- chicken/mushroom buns
- spring rolls
- cod wrapped in something
- steamed shrimp dumplings
- duck
- steamed dumplings with a small soup inside them (this was very cool and delicate)






Others

Other lunches included interesting pizzas, sandwich take-out, and Chinese at the airport. I forgot to take pics of those. Stay tuned for dinners...

San Francisco Breakfasts & Snacks

We're back from San Francisco. It was an amazing trip - the city is so green-conscious, the food was delicious, the sights and views spectacular. We came back with sunburnt noses and sore calves from the brutal hills and rare sunny weather in the bay. After eating out for 9 glorious days, I have lots to report. Originally my plan was to post something every couple of days, but $10 internet costs at the hotel prevented that, so I'm going to try to organize this by meal type instead of date. Here are some of the memorable breakfasts/snacks we ate.

Breakfast on the pier

Superb breakfast of fresh sourdough bagette (Acme Bread), creamy cheese (Cowgirl Creamery), and strawberries. Many (I might even say 'most') restaurants, markets, shops, and farms are dedicated to supporting local, sustainable organic foods and farms. These strawberries tasted like they were from my Grandparent's garden, the bread from their oven and the cheese from an actual cow! (can you believe it??!) We had breakfast for a couple of days as a result of this trip to the market and pier.

Brownie from Miette

Awesome nut brownie from a local French bakery. Yes, not the most healthy of breakfasts, but I settled on quality over quantity. This brownie had the perfect balance between chocolaty denseness and cake-like fluffy-ness. So luxurious!

Snack

While waiting for a dinner reservation we had at 8pm, we picked up a couple of almond tea biscuits to eat on the pier with some good tea (for me) and coffee (for Ian). I'm sure that biscuit contained 80% of its weight in butter, but it was so small and we had walked so much we didn't feel guilty. Again, this French bakery knows what it's doing.

Others

The rest of the breakfasts and snacks consisted of cold dinner leftovers, Starbucks muffins (couldn't always travel to an actual bakery), and/or were combined with an earlier lunch. Stay tuned for the lunch posts...