I’m back. Thanksgiving.

10 Oct

I don’t know why I felt compelled to blog tonight despite my long absence.  Maybe it’s because I am sadly attached to a pager and have run out of things I can do with a pager (no inebriation or long, fruitless subway rides for me……)

But Happy Thanksgiving!!!!  This year, 2/3 of the Ying clan was MIA, so it was up to big sis and me to uphold the Thanksgiving tradition.  We are both not what you would call domestic, but over the last year or so, I have been cooking a lot more than I use to.

As there were only 3 adults and 1 child to cook for, making a big turkey seemed too effort-laden to be worth it so this was the menu:

1. Thomas Keller’s Simple Roast Chicken (so simple, so good)

2. Momofuku style brussel sprouts (more on this later)

3. Latkes – a classic

4. Sweet potato + normal potato fries

5. Apple crumble with vanilla ice cream

First up, Thomas Keller’s roast chicken.  This is one of those internet food memes (along with that no knead bread recipe I’ve been meaning to make…….someone buy me a dutch oven! Wait! Someone buy me an apartment with a kitchen large enough to hold a dutch oven and I’ll buy the pot myself…..and make you bread as often as you’d like) that you hear about over and over and when you try it you are still blown away.  The simplicity is mind boggling.

The ingredients list includes:

1 chicken

salt and pepper

….that’s it. The thyme, butter, and mustard are optional.  I opted only for the thyme.  In fact, I picked up some lovely very lemony lemon thyme from St. Lawrence North Market yesterday morning.  I made my sister buy the chicken, and of course she wanted antibiotic free which Loblaws sold out of, and so she picked up the 3 lb fowl from Cumbrae’s. Fancy.  I S&P’d the chicken and one hour later I took the little clucker out of the oven and sprinkled some thyme on…..divine.

Next up, Momofuku brussel sprouts.  Now I haven’t actually eaten at any of Thomas Keller’s restaurants (but I did have a bite of my brother’s brioche from Bouchon Bakery and stalked Per Se, made googly eyes at the menu and took pictures with the blue doors) but I have eaten the original Momofuku brussel sprouts on a visit to New York earlier this year.  I still remember my reaction of incredulity when the pretentious waiter from Momofuku Ssam suggested the brussel sprouts as a classic fav.  He was right.

Now, not to get all stream-of-consciousness on all 5 of my readers, but I think this was how things unfolded:

Waiter puts brussel sprouts dish on the table. WTF? This dish does not look un-maggoty……..I am highly skeptical. First bite of sprout taken.  Proceed to stare at the dish as if my eyes will shoot out lasers and set alight a brussel sprouty inferno. What is going oooooooon?  This is amazing. Transcendent. No. Really. What is going on?  Is this some kind of trick?  Another bite taken. No, that last bite wasn’t a dream, these sprouts are real…..

This kind of went on for the next 10 minutes or so.  Since that time, I have made the dish a few times at home (with a few adjustments obviously) and it is a tweenietoes staple.  So easy to make and relatively healthy as I don’t deep fry the veggies like they do at Ssam, but rather bake the sprouts until their natural caramel-y sweetness surface.

Here is a pic of the original dish and the dish I made for Thanksgiving tonight:

Next, I asked that my sister and her hubby make a couple side dishes, and in the true autumnal spirit, they made latkes and sweet potato/normal potato fries.  The fries were seasoned with a pinch of cinnamon and cumin to give it some warmth and latkes…..what can I say? True comfort food.

We finished off with some apple crumble (I have made a ridiculous number of these this season) and vanilla ice cream.  And my 21 month old niece made some birthday cupcakes for me (my birthday is in January).

Happy Thanksgiving!

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duggan’s brewery

30 Jan

I’m writing this entry half-exhausted but too buzzed on coffee to sleep.  It’s like the medical trainee’s favourite form of self-torture.  Attended a conference all day on cardiovascular health and gorged on chocolates, scones, cream, and other pastries.  I followed that up with a visit to a new microbrewery that opened about 5 minutes from where I live.  It’s called Duggan’s Brewery and it was created, I believe, by one of the previous co-owners of Mill Street Brewery.

I definitely didn’t always like beer.  But in the past 2 or 3 years, I’ve really learned to enjoy it, especially in the context of drinking it while eating (of course!).  In undergrad, I took a course that required participants to brew their own beer.  My group…..didn’t exactly make our system airtight.  Needless to say, we made some pretty lame flat beer.  That was enough to turn me off from beer for awhile.  I’m a pretty mainstream enjoyer of beer.  That is to say, I generally like the safe taste of mild lagers as compared to darker types like stouts.

So, Duggan’s. First of all, the space is pretty nice.  High, high, loft ceiling with 2 rooms separated by an open doorway and the brewing set up in between.  I settled for a full glass of the Asian Lager (light and lovely) and had a sip of the #9 IPA (their signature brew, too bitter for me).  Most of the full glasses come cost about $5, so that was nice.

Food-wise, we ordered the pork hock which was huuuuuuuge and came with a side of beans and sauerkraut.  A bit too salty, but impressive serving size.

We also got a baby beet salad which was nice and unoffensive and exactly what you would expect (this was to make up for my weekend of gluttony).

Finally, we debated between what poutine to get and settled on the duck confit poutine.  Tasty, but nothing special.

Really, I’m just happy there’s another half-decent hangout spot so close to me! And open until 2 am I believe!  There were quite a number of other promising looking things on the menu like cornish hen, a yummy sounding tuna sandwich, etc.

Okay, I’m going to try to take a little nap now for a little bit.

yay for birthday dinners

19 Jan

Let me try to explain my woeful abandonment of this blog:

1) my sister stole my camera and took it on a whirlwind tour of Guyana and Brazil

2) I began to feel increasingly self-conscious about whipping out my giant dSLR in restos

3) I am lazy

But it’s a new year, and though in recent years celebrating my birthday has become less and less relevant, it always brings with it yummy food. go birthday dinners! this year, my sister wanted to re-experience the amazingness that is Sushi Kaji’s omakase which we had for my birthday a few years back.  Unfortunately, poor planning on our part (Kaji isn’t open on Tuesdays) caused some last minute scrambling.  The result wasn’t bad at all: Cava.

Cava was never really on my list of go-to restaurants until a paediatrician I worked with recently raved about the charcuterie at this mid-town tapas joint. Here is the rundown:

The menu adorably wraps around a bread stick, adorning my dinner plate.  I was quite charmed, until I realized that the menus are probably reused, and the thought of a reused menu touching my bread stick was a little alarming. meh.

Pinchos of avocado with wild salmon manchaca: Classic combo of avocado and smoked salmon.  The wild salmon manchaca was a dry cured salmon that seemed like it was then shredded.  It had the taste of smoked salmon but the texture of pork floss.  Really, I’ll eat (and love) anything with avocado.  That tart pickled pepper on top was the perfect foil for the rest of the dish.

Ah, the charcuterie.  I may have OD-ed on charcuterie in 2009.  This particular plate contained (all house made, and all the pork-based meats are made from organic berkshire pork) mortadella, chorizo, testa, and duck bresaola. yummy? yes. But I can’t say it blew me out of the water compared to other platters.

Huitlacoche with poblano chille sauce in a crepe with bechamel sauce.  I loved this dish.  I thought the huitlachoche was so earthy and complex.  And the word “huitlachoche” sounds so exotic.  Apparently it means “raven’s excrement”  and in North America it’s called “corn smut”. That’s right. It’s actually a pathologic fungus that feeds off corn.

According to wikipedia:

Although it can infect any part of the plant it usually enters the ovaries and replaces the normal kernels of the cobs with large distorted tumors analogous to mushrooms. These tumors, or “galls”, are made up of much-enlarged cells of the infected plant, fungal threads, and blue-black spores. The spores give the cob a burned, scorched appearance. The name Ustilago comes from the Latin word ustilare (to burn).

And it looks like mold. Amazing.  I don’t care, I still love it.

This dish was called eggplant with queso fresco, tomatillo sauce, and honey. What it failed to mention was the fact that Asian eggplants were used and topped with bonito flakes.  Loved, loved, loved this dish.  The eggplants were fried crispy and were lovely with the mild queso fresco layered underneath. Definitely a meal favourite.

Sardine 2 ways.  Nice and simple.  The first was grilled with an olive tapenade.  The second was accompanied with some garlic chips.

Veal sweetbreads with radicchio-poblano chile salad and walnut vinaigrette.  This was my first foray into sweetbreads.  Gotta say, I enjoyed it.  Mildly sweet, kind of rich but not to foie gras proportions, and fried here so the crust had a lovely crunch.

Braised oxtail tamal with pasilla chile sauce.  This was also yum but nothing too out of the ordinary.  The oxtail was nice and tender.

I actually missed a couple photos including the grilled octopus with green lentils and hazelnut romesco (a little too charred for my liking, but the hazelnut romesco was gorgeous) and the venison anticucho with warm red cabbage salad (amazing).  All this was washed down with some sangria.

For dessert, we ran to xococava where  I ordered a hot chocolate and a couple churros.

And tried an incredible salty earl grey chocolate. Something about salt+chocolate+tea was mindblowing for me.

Happy Birthday to me. And my twin.

Whale I did try, Rotting Shark? Not so much.

22 Sep

I’ve been suffering from some seriously debilitating insomnia in recent weeks and I finally thought I’d make the most of it and update my lonely blog!  Although, using the computer is not kosher when it come to developing good sleep hygiene. For those of you suffering from insomnia, general sleep hygiene rules include:

1. No caffeine after noon

2. No exercising past the afternoon (I’d say 4-ish). But exercise regularly.

3. No televisions in the bedroom

4. If you can’t sleep after lying in bed for 20-30 minutes, get up, read a book (I usually read something academic, it works like a charm) or listen to soothing classical music (televisions and computers are not allowed) UNTIL you feel tired. Then go back to bed. If not asleep in 30 minutes, repeat.

5. Quit smoking

6. Alcohol may make you drowsy, but it gives you poor quality, non-restorative sleep.

7.You can also try to sleep deprived yourself and gradually build up from there, but that’s a whole other blog entry.

8. No naps lasting longer than 20 minutes.

I know I’m missing a few key points here, but you get the gist of it.  I think I break about….4-5 rules up there.

Anyway, that’s not the point of this entry.  What I came here to do was to talk about the food I ate during my recent expedition to Iceland!  This trip was years in the making, but finally all the stars aligned, including Iceland’s unfortunate economic situation (which made it at least somewhat affordable to visit).

Without further ado, the good:

1. Icelandic hot dogs. Yummy bundles of lamb meat topped with deep fried onions, raw onions, some kind of remoulade thing, mayonnaise.  We had these dogs in Akuyeri (2nd largest city in Iceland), but they really didn’t compare to the famous stand in Reykjavik seen below.

2009-08-14 18 day 7 and 8 reykjavik 2009-08-14 20 day 7 and 8 reykjavik

2. Tapas is this little (surprise, surprise) Spanish style restaurant in Reykjavik. Truthfully, this was not one of my top “to visit” places, but we ended up there on more than one occasion due to our late eating habits (no one else would serve us food at 10:30 pm). I was so pleasantly surprised! The tapas setup made it possible to try lots of different Icelandic fare. There Icelandic gourmet feast was also very affordable for such an expensive country.  The “feast” included: some kind of nasty alcoholic shot (I think it’s called “brennin”?) – but I’ve never been a fan of a shot of any alcohol, smoked puffin with a blueberry sauce (awesome, and much better than this puffin sandwich I had a few nights earlier in a small town. No, I am not a monster), Icelandic seat trout (yum), langoustine tails in butter and garlic (double yum), pan-fried monkfish with lobster sauce (also a winner), grilled icelandic lamb (good stuff), minke whale with cranberry sauce (surprisingly delish. tastes like tender beef). The chocolate cake dessert was meh.  Here is a pic of the minke whale dish:

2009-08-13 36 day 6 return to reykjavik - blue lagoon3. Geysir bread with smoked raw lamb in Myvatn.  Myvatn is an area in northern Iceland know for its hauntingly beautiful lava landscapes.  One of the specialties of the area is a bread that is cooked underground by geothermal energy.  We decided to visit this trendy little cafe/cowshed (yes, there were cows in the adjacent room) called Vogafjos, that served this geysir bread with homemade smoked raw lamb. Pricey, but yummy. Here is a picture of my fellow traveller B.H.’s meal, which included (on top of the bread & lamb) homemade mozzarella,  smoked and cured trout, a mixed salad, and a blueberry jam with some cottage cheese like concoction.

2009-08-11 57 day 4 dettifoss - husavik - lake myvatn

4. Locally sourced non-meat! So, as you may have noticed, my top selections thus far have been a little meat heavy.  That is because vegetables and legumes were sooooo expensive! I was therefore THRILLED when we made the trek to Seydisfyordur, a small fjord town in Eastern Iceland.  It was there we chanced upon the Skaftfell cultural centre an art gallery/non-pretentious cafe.  All the food there was reasonably priced, but I think I was most impressed with my friend C.C’s lentil patties with a barley mushroom risotto. All locally sourced.  The owner lady also had one of the most contagious laughs I have ever heard. Loved it.

2009-08-10 42 day 3 eastfjords5. Skyr. Skyr is this soft cheese (although more like a yoghurt) that is sold everywhere in Iceland.  To me, it was tasty, low in fat, filling, and cheap. Thus, it became a daily staple in our quest to not go ridiculously broke on this trip.  It comes in all sorts of yummy flavours (cappucino, blueberry, vanilla were a few of my favs).  My only gripe is that I thing the main brands sold in the supermarkets are all sweetened with aspartame, which left a funny aftertaste in my mouth.  I do wish they had it in Canada, but apparently it’s not allowed to be imported here (I think because it’s not pasteurized?).

2009-08-11 12 day 4 dettifoss - husavik - lake myvatnThere were some other tasty adventure on the trip, but the above were probably the main memories that will stay with me.  Some of the ugly? Hotel Dyrholaey near Vik. Vik was a little too far from where we were staying, so we settled on this hotel restaurant that apparently hired all its waitstaff from the nearby high school.  The dishes (I had a horse dish) were uninspired and the side veggies looked and tasted like they were sourced from the local freezer:

2009-08-08 47 day 1 golden circle - geysir

Also, Lonely Planet mentions this ice cream store called Brynja in Akuyeri which apparently has the best ice cream in Iceland. It does not. For starters, it was soft serve ice cream. I mean, I loved soft serve ice cream as much as the next 12 year old kid, but I don’t think soft serve ice cream can ever be called the best ice cream of anywhere, except in a land without other types of frozen dairy treats.  We ran into a couple Harvard grad students in the parking lot and they told use about this farm that made delish ice cream about 30 minutes east of Akuyeri so we set off to find it.  We did find some considerably more acceptable ice cream there, including S.Y’s beer ice cream.  The mint ice cream was a shocking shade of green though:

2009-08-12 11 day 5 akureyiMy only gastronomical regret was that I did not try the Harkarl (rotting shark).  I did find it in the fish section of the weekly market, but I was feeling unwell and coming down with a virus.  I think the taste of rotting shark would have put me over the edge. Sigh.  But thanks for the good times, Iceland.

Montreal, Je t’aime

24 Jul

The last time I was in Montreal, I was a 17 year old just about to enter university, trying (along with the rest of the gang) to get my 18 year old friend to buy some booze.  Instead, we got lazy and found a $0.50 Dance Dance Revolution machine at a local arcade and fancy-footed the night away.  Yes, I was oh-so-cool in high school and have the awesomest friends.

But suffice it to say, my recent return to Montreal was long overdue.  Unfortunately, this visit was a quick one-night affair, but I did manage to fit a dinner at Au Pied De Cochon…a bit of the jazz fest.. and of course I shopped till I dropped!

Duck in a Can.  I don’t even remember where I first heard about this, but just the idea of it is brilliant: breast of a duck cooked in a can with a generous piece of foie gras (have I already previously already declared my love for this cruel, cruel piece of gastronomical heaven on this blog?), some thyme, garlic, and what I’m assuming is cabbage cooked in butter (“d’embeuree de chou”).  They bring the can to you, open it up, and slide it out on top of a plate of perfectly creamy mashed potatoes.  Good stuff, but really, something I only need to eat once in my life.

2009-07-03 7 ottawa and montrealMy sis had the steak frites which was acceptable.  The fries (cooked in duck fat), were on the uncrunchy side, which is not how I like my fries.  The next morning, we hit up Reservoir for the best meal of the day: brunch.

2009-07-04 6 ottawa and montrealMy steak was well cooked, but the highlight was this little cheese tartlet sitting under those greens – buttery and light, sharp from the ……I think it was parmesan…but my memory is failing me (should really blog a little more efficiently).  My sis got a stack of pancakes with strawberries and yoghurt…pretty good as well.  Though acceptable, the food didn’t blow me away.  I’ll likely look to try somewhere new the next time I’m in town.

Other highlights included creamy dark hot chocolate kicked up with chili powder at this local chocolate place (?Studio 8), Schwartz’s smoked meat sandwiches…..Montreal, I will be back soon.

a tale of 2 cities/burgers

22 Jul

okay, really fast entry….

there’s nothing like eating a freshly grilled burger (simon, still impressed by your panko crumb burgers. yum!) and recently i had to opportunity to try a couple places…

1) kraft burger in toronto. hit up this joint a couple months ago. heard okay reviews, but nothing stellar. i would have to agree with the general consensus. don’t get me wrong, it’s a good burger, but $10 for a just above average burger, onion rings, and a coke, i won’t be making any special trips to this place. my friend’s organic burger was also pricier and dry. boo. this is a pic of my other friend’s cheeseburger. apparently their poutine is good. still have to try that.

2009-06-11 kraft burger

2) the works. somewhat of an ottawa institution. i think they have a few locations in our great nation’s capital. their whole specialty is a menu with a crazy long list of burgers with various toppings. they also make a decent burger. next time i would choose the sweet potato fries over the spicy die cut chips which i got in the pic below. around the same price as kraft burger, except this burger came with bacon, avocado, cheese, and tomatoes. maybe the quality of the ingredients aren’t as top notch as kraft, but honestly, i can’t tell the difference.

2009-07-02 1 ottawa and montreal

this entry isn’t so much a comparison of the two as they are in completely different cities and you’ll never have to choose between the two. both worth a visit if you are in the area and need a casual bite.

“kopi luwak, tastes like s—-“

6 Jul

that was the entertaining facebook status my friend posted that piqued my curiosity (and yes….I have already shamefully neglected you poor blog.  I’m sorry.)

what is kopi luwak, you ask? well, according to wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kopi_Luwak, “kopi” is the Indonesian word for coffee and “luwak” is the name of the Asian Palm Civet (the furry dude you see in the picture below):

2009-05-26 kopi luwak

apparently, the civet eats the berries of the coffee berry plant and then excretes the inner beans. those beans are then cleaned, roasted, and then ground to make the world’s most expensive coffee (up to $99/cup).  the amazingness of this coffee supposedly comes from the civet’s preference for eating only the sweetest berries….or something like that.  so after discovering this, i asked (or some would say, harassed) my super duper amazing friend for a sample of this coffee which she had brought back from Bali.

the verdict? well, there are alot of caveats to this critique:

1) I made my cup of java using my Vietnamese coffee drip because I currently have nothing else to make coffee with

2) The coffee came pre-roasted and pre-ground in a pretty touristy looking packet, so suffice it to say, it wasn’t going to be the most optimal representation of Kopi Luwak.

Verdict: It tasted like Timmy’s.  I was confuzzled enough when I took a whiff of the coffee and images of hockey sticks and toques danced in my head.  I was even more amazed when it tasted like how it smelled.  Granted, I like Tim Horton’s, but I pay $1.50 for a cup of that it.  There was none of the famed “sweetness” I was expecting, but I think the coffee beans were a little overly roasted.

anyway, thanks C.Y.  on your next trip, I’m coming with you!