Thursday, April 10, 2014

Vegan Ice Cream Cake

This week, there was a role reversal in our home. The sous chef had a culinary vision, a mission, an obsession....he stepped up as head chef and I became his sous chef to create a Dairy Queen style ice cream cake for our sister-in-law Ashley's birthday.


Ashley is a vegan with a crazy sweet tooth and before she went vegan, I have vivid memories of her LOVING DQ Ice cream cakes. We chatted about this last year around Ashley's birthday, and the sous chef made it his mission to create an awesome DQ-style birthday cake for Ashley's next b-day.

This was a fun and delicious project to take on and the birthday girl was thrilled with the results.


It wasn't too difficult....but requires planning, preparation, and a spring form pan.


The amount will vary depending on the size of the cake you are making.
2 pints of vanilla non-dairy ice cream/ frozen dessert
1 pint of chocolate non-dairy ice cream/ frozen dessert
1 cup of chocolate cookie crumbles (you might want to add more as a topping)
Approx 1 cup of chocolate fudge/syrup (melted chocolate, coconut oil, vanilla)

Let the pints of frozen dessert soften so they are easy to mold and work with.
Line the springform pan with parchment paper or tinfoil.
In the centre of the pan, create a centre column core of chocolate frozen dessert, leaving some room surrounding outside.
Place in freezer for a few minutes to firm up.
Then top the chocolate centre core with a thick layer of fudge and top that layer with chocolate cookie crumbles.
Place back in freezer to harden.
Then add the vanilla frozen dessert on top and around the edges of the chocolate/fudge/cookie crumble core.
Place into freezer for a longer period of time (we did overnight).
Take out of freezer 15 minutes before serving time, take out of springform pan, smooth out top and sides and decorate as desired. Sing Happy Birthday and chow down!



Thursday, April 3, 2014

Save On Meats



I was in Gastown for an industry mingle-r with some of my favourite ladies. We wanted to grab a bite to eat somewhere. I was in a “pho, sushi, cheap and cheerful something” kind of food mood. As a group, we ran through our nearby options, and when one of us mentioned Save on Meats, there was a collective nod as the group agreed we were all hankering for some comfort grub….and most of our group hadn’t visited Save On Meats before and were curious to check it out.


Save On Meats is an iconic and historical part of Gastown, in downtown Vancouver, and it comes with a lot of history. Save On Meats has been open since 1957. The original owner retired and closed it in 2009 but local restaurateur, Mark Brand, rescued the iconic gem in 2010. Along with revitalizing the diner and butcher shop, Brand has been working in close collaboration with various community programs and initiatives, tackling important societal issues like barrier employment and food security straight from the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. Save On Meats has gotten it’s share of kudos for it’s burger and diner classics done right, including an appearance on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” The restaurant recently closed last August for renovations and recently re-opened in February.

Overall, we loved the décor, the atmosphere, the vibe. The feeling in SOM (both customers) was upbeat, relaxed, comfortable, yet with a hint of “hip and cool”. I was really pleased with the enthusiastic service. The décor is bright, clean, shiny and retro cute with some truly cool touches. SOM has awesome signage- you can’t help but smile when you walk into this place.


I ordered; The BLAT sandwich with bacon, lettuce, avocado, and tomato ($7.95)
I really wanted to love my meal but sadly I was pretty underwhelmed. The extra crispy, salty bacon was a highlight but sadly the toasted white bread (I don’t think I was offered a choice of other bread option) was really crusty, hard and dry, with sharp edges that felt a little unpleasant to eat. The fries weren’t very crispy and didn't have much going on in the flavour department. A great hot sauce might have saved this plate, but sadly, they only had Tabasco which didn’t quite do the trick.



Other grub met the same response from the other ladies. “Meh...”; okay, but not great. The iconic burger got a thumbs up, but my pal who ordered it said she was expecting it to be something a bit more special based on all the hype. It’s now a Build your Burger with a variable price depending on your patty, veggie topping, sauces, and “the goods” with toppings like bacon, blue cheese, fried egg, onion rings and more…and then you add a side for different prices.

Also on the table:


PEROGIES sour cream, caramelized and green onions $7.95
add sausage $2.49


CHILI - VEGETARIAN OR MEAT
Cup $3.95 Bowl $5.95
*I believe this used to be served with their in-house biscuits...but sadly this bowl was accompanied by a pretty sad toasted english muffin


THE AWARD WINNING SAVE ON MEATS CAESAR infused vodka, clamato, tabasco, worcestershire, secret rim salt, on the rocks with bacon and olive $6.95

Despite the lackluster food, we all agreed that we would still come back for drinks, to give some other menu items a chance, and to enjoy the upbeat, feel-good atmosphere.

Save On Meats on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 3, 2014

86th Academy Awards; A chance to celebrate the movies and eat!


I love movies and I LOVE food. And for me, the Oscars is the perfect opportunity to celebrate both.

This year I hosted my third Oscar party (previous posts on parties and the creative film-themed dishes are here and here).




These parties always have an oscar picks score sheet, giving guests a chance to guess who they think will take home an award. This year, we also had Oscar-themed trivia.


But my favourite part of these shin-digs is always the creative and delicious potluck dishes inspired by 
Oscar nominees.


Some previous memorable Oscar party dishes were Zuckerburger sliders (the social network) and Billy Bean's Ballpark snack tray (money ball), Minnie's chocolate pie (the help), Swedish meatballs (the girl with the dragon tattoo)....




Here are some photos of this year's menu! 
(missed one photo of Dallas Buyer's Club Texas Baked Beans)









And an extra special shout out to the Sous Chef for co-hosting and continuing his traditional contribution of delicious and adorable Chocolate Oscar statuettes for prizes!


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Taco Crawl (Part 4) La Mezcaleria



The next stop on our taco crawl adventure took us east, to Commercial Drive to La Mezcaleria for:

TOSTADAS DE PATO; Fraser Valley duck confit, guava, fruit mole sauce (manchamanteles), chayote squash and radish- $10 for 2 ….BUT the key question was heading into this establishment was… could a tostado qualify as a taco?


La Mezcaleria on Urbanspoon


The Food Crawl basics:
Four participants. Each participant picks a taco joint OR a specific taco dish they've been wanting to try. I drive the taco wagon (aka my Honda Fit) and come up with logistics, scheduling, route that makes sense. At each stop, we either have done our research and picked a taco OR ask our server for their most popular taco/ their recommendation. One taco per crawler per venue.
Let the adventure continue!


Lifebitesmm:
Another place in my neighbourhood and this is a spot that I have been to a handful of times and really like. See previous posts here, here, here.
This was the bad jew’s pick and he knew exactly what he wanted to order. There was a real debate over ____ but let’s face it, none of us are really experts enough to weigh in.
The Glib asked our server who immediately told us that she lived in Mexico for 5 years and said ABSOLUTELY NOT. As if that wasn’t enough to end the debate, she then brought over the owner/manager and asked him to weigh in on the matter. I vividly remember laughing hysterically at his over-the-top reaction. He threw down his bar rag in disgust and horror and proceeded to educated us on the long list of reason why a tostada is not a taco. Awesome.
After being shamed by the staff (ha ha), The Bad Jew, pulled an un-anticipate move and asked the server if we could be served the tostada on corn tortillas, transforming the dish into a taco. She agreed on the move but informed TBJ that there would be a slight pricing adjustment. The texture of the duck is excellent, shredded and tender, like a pulled pork and the fruit mole sauce gives this dish a very unique flavour with a hint of citrus and sweetness. The shredded chayote squash and radish added a nice crunch and contrast to the shredded meat and creamy avocado sauce base. Really tasty tostada-turned-taco at one of my favourite neighbourhood spots….and a special shout out to their awesome live mariachi duo that was playing that evening of our crawl (it turns out they have live mariachi every Weds).


The Leggy Redhead:

Duck confit tostada as a taco--The Bad Jew's request to make this as a taco instead of a tostada (to keep with our crawl theme) threw the server & owner for a loop.  A pretty funny debate ensued, but they were glad to accommodate us.  Although we bastardized the tostada, it was well worth it...the duck confit was awesome.  A little small, but great.  This was a very strong 2nd place winner for me.

For the Leggy Redhead...The Tacofino Chicken Karage taco was the surprise winner of the evening!


TBJ:

Final stop of the night – newish place on the drive that The Bad Jew has been jonesing to visit.  Obviously, this joint was my pick of the evening.  Remember that bit about whether a tostada counts as a taco – that was all because I wanted to order the duck confit tostada at La Mezcaleria. 
Of course, my fellow Crawlies couldn’t help themselves on soliciting another, better informed opinion on the taco/tostada controversy.  We asked our non-Mexican server to clarify – she wasn’t sure and asked both the chef and then the manager.  Survey says – a tostada isn’t a taco.  Boooo!  I blame Mexican conservatism.  Eventually the owner arrived who was infuriated at the concept and punctuated his contempt with a dramatic throwing of his serving towel onto the floor.  Loved the theatrics.  So I made a serious substitution and had the tostadas served instead on soft flour tortillas.  The crafty Bad Jew can not be beat at this game!
The post-op tostadas (postadas?) arrived at our table looking pretty despite the kitchen staff’s snickers – surprising for this LGBT friendly neighbourhood.  Embrace diversity, people!  Filled with abundant juiciness the duck confit was a flavour sensation covered in a delicious mole sauce!  What a perfect combo.  Guacamole was outstanding and the side of pickled onion was a stand out.  Make sure to order extra pickled onion.  Either that or visit with dining companions more proficient at sharing. 

We visited when there was a mariachi duo providing live entertainment.  Was a blast to watch the owner join in to sing a number.  Kudos for his entertaining prowess.  We ordered the banderitas to accompany – a three part shot beverage combo consisting of sangrita, mezcal and lime juice.  Sangrita is a non-alcoholic tomato/orange based mixture sometimes referred to as “Little Blood”.  On special for $6 on Wednesdays ($5 for Tequlia).  Thankfully La Mezcaleria served the banderitas on a board clearly marked for drinking order:


The Glib:

The Cloth Has Been Thrown Down

The Bad Jew took us to Commercial Drive for the evenings closer, where we would seek an answer to that existential question: “Is a tostado a taco?”  The simple asking of this question to a proud restauranteur was greeted with dismay, and the exaggeratedly fierce hurling of a napkin to the floor. So, that’d be a no then.

Taking note of the “no substitutions” rule, it was evident the Bad Jew would have to work his charm, and charm he did. Having lost the tostada vs taco battle, he remained determined to have us eat duck confit. Tensions rose with the Mariachi band playing ever louder and louder, in anticipation of the next question. Could we have the the duck confit tostada as a taco? Seconds past, they turned into more seconds, and still more seconds after that, as guitars strummed loudly. Yes. Yes we could, but we were warned. It won’t be very big. By this point, I should note, I had consumed a healthy portion of mescal.

The warned of small size was no impediment to the Bad Jew, or any of us, for that matter - this being our fourth taco of the night. And it was well chosen. Buttery, smoky, rich confit married with a creamy dollop of avocado deliciousness and a side of damn hot pickles. Was this taco Nirvana? Nope, but it was damn good. Would popcorn have made it better? Maybe. Would breading it in panko crumbs and deep-frying have made it better? Definitely.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Things I learned in French Cooking Class

I just finished a 4 part (one night a week) French cooking class, a City of Vancouver community rec program.
Although I wasn't really sure what to expect... I absolutely loved it. I learned so many techniques and tricks, it was really hands on, and my favourite part: at the end of each 2 hour session, we sat down as a class and feasted on the delicious meals that we had just crafted.

Dishes I learned to cook:


Chicken Chasseur *A one-pot dish that combines mushrooms and chicken in a tomato and white-wine sauce. 

Aligot *Aligot is made from mashed potatoes blended with butter, cream, crushed garlic, and the melted cheese. 



Salad Lyonnaise * a traditional French salad,  made with frisée or curly endive, dijon vinaigrette, hot bacon, and a freshly poached egg. We also made delicious croutons for this salad, tearing up crusty baguette, drizzling with bacon fat and toasting in the oven.



Apple Tart





Navarin of Lamb *French lamb stew



Duck L'Orange 
Hollandaise Sauce (on blanched asparagus)


Steak with Tarragon and Shallot Compound Butter


Chicken Fricassee with Tarragon (top left) *a method of cooking meat in which the meat is cut up, sauteed, and braised, and served with its sauce, traditionally a white sauce

Parsley Nugget Potatoes (top right)

Bechamel Sauce (on Cauliflower Gratin- bottom right)




Bouillabaisse *a traditional Provencal fish stew... ours had Arctic Char, Ahi tuna, halibut,  mussels, clams, prawns, crab, scallops
Rouille *a sauce/garnish for bouillabaisse




Cod Provencal * with a provencal ragout (lima beans, tomatoes, capers, olives, shallots and garlic)


Sole Meuniere * a classic dish consisting of sole, whole or fillet, that is dredged in milk and flour, fried in butter and served with the resulting brown butter and lemon. 


Soubise *braised rice and onions, like a French risotto (top right)
 
Key lessons learned:
-timing is everything: plan your meals, be strategic
-prepare, be ready, be organized: avoid last minute recipe chaos with mise en place
*Mise en place is a French phrase which means "putting in place", as in set up. It is used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients (e.g., cuts of meat, relishes, sauces, par-cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components) that a cook will require for the menu items that are expected to be prepared during a shift.
-the importance of UNIFORMITY in chopping, mincing, dicing, slicing... you want things to cook at the same time (eg. noone likes biting down on a larger piece of raw onion in their dish)
-how to poach an egg (I've never been able to do this properly...low pot, rolling boil, 2 tbsp of vinegar, 3.5 minutes, handle with care:))
-butter, cheese, and oil make food taste pretty damn delicious