Thursday, April 28, 2005

happy news

Everyone in Victoria who was savvy as to "where to eat" was sad when Saigon Night closed. I am happy to report (probably the last to figure this out, but whatever) that Kim's Vietnamese Cuisine on Johnson St. (basically one block over from where Saigon Night was) has the two items I actually care about on its menu (the Goi Du - papaya salad - and the Banh Tam - pork, pork, udon and coconut milk). AND they do both very well. I would even say that the papaya salad is (gasp) even better than Saigon Night's.

Anyway, that's all good. Sorry I haven't posted in a while, the sisters and I were off quaffing wines in the Okanagan. I will let Rachel do a thorough post of that little adventure, since she is the wine goddess, not I.

Friday, April 22, 2005

evil bad Starbucks

This morning on my way to work I ventured into Starbucks to see if their advertised "Anna Olson's Brown Sugar Pound Cake" was really what they said it was. So I asked if it contained any margarine or hydrogenated vegetable oil, and I was told that yes, it contained margarine. Both women behind the counter looked baffled when I told them that I wasn't allergic to it (they asked), it was just horrible stuff and I wouldn't eat it. (And yes Anna and Rachel I know that sounds totally like a mum thing to say.)

But uninformed staff people aside, this is really bad of Starbuck's. If there's margarine in it, then it's NOT Anna Olson's recipe. I wonder if she's at all pissed off about it, or if she's totally sold out.

It's not like they need the damn things to have a long shelf life, it's purely a matter of cost, I'm sure. And Starbucks is obviously not enlightened enough to just use the butter, stick a "trans-fat-free" label on the goodies, and charge an extra $.25 per piece. It's not like people go to Starbucks for food bargains or anything.

Grrr. I want to send pissed-off-customer e-mail to Starbucks but they don't have a Canadian website.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

no cooking, here's restaurant reviews instead

My mom was visiting over the weekend so instead of me cooking, we ate out a lot. Here are a few brief restaurant reviews:

Paprika Bistro (Estevan Village, Oak Bay): amazingly wonderfully super-good. Excellent food, excellent service, great atmosphere. I had a sheep's cheese & carmelized onion tart for a starter and Mum had mussel and crab bisque, then she had lamb for her main course and I had duck with a rhubarb-merlot sauce. Everything was done perfectly, side dishes were great (they used beet greens extensively, something one rarely sees in restaurants but which I highly approve of), portion sizes exactly right. We both had dessert - my cake & fruit salad was good but the fruit salad part of it was better than the cake part, while Mum's strawberry & pink peppercorn sorbet was just outstanding. A bit spendy, but thoroughly worth it.

Vinoteca (Duncan): I am a bit biased on this because I used to work there, but even now she's no longer my boss Fatima is still, in my view, one of the best chefs on the island. The menu has been updated this year but there's still some old favourites around (like the roasted veg & gorgonzola sandwich). The spaghettini carbonara is new and fabulous - a lighter-tasting but still-rich interpretation with a bit of zing to it. You can't beat the scenery or the ambience in the restaurant, and the prices are good.

Messob Ethiopian Take-Out (McKenzie St. Food Court, Cook St. Village): If you haven't tried this, you are craaaaazy. The is the best tasting, most nutritious fast food on the planet. $7.99 gets you either a vegetarian, beef or chicken combo with ingera (sourdough flatbread). The vegetarian combo is my favourite - it has 2 kinds of lentils (one spicy, one mild), cabbage, potatoes, carrots and spinach. All have different seasonings and they're all absolutely delicious.

Yokohama Japanese Restaurant (Blanshard St.): I wasn't feeling that great and probably ate too much. Generally, ok but not outstanding Japanese food, although Stirling had a very good "Arigato Roll" and Mum had some extremely tasty panko-coated deep-fried scallops. Still, Kaz is better. My steak had too much pepper on it and wasn't very good quality, and the veggies that came with it were kind of yucky and bland. The sunomono salad was too sweet, too.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Spring in the North

It was raining here a few days ago, then it started slushing and this morning I woke up to 3 inches of very wet snow. I sang White Christmas to the cat and put the car back in 4WD. But on the topic of food, I have been getting in to summer mode with some lovely sandwiches made of sliced bocconcini, tomato and red onion, drizzled with balsamic reduction and shredded basil, and I added a shake of salt and pepper and a couple of chopped up kalamata olives because I like them. Pile it all on a crusty white bun and think of a sunny place. Although the tomatoes and basil may be store bought and not the most flavourful, it gives me hope and reminds me that warmer weather is just around the corner, and all the exciting herbs I ordered from Richters should be arriving soon.

See our pathetic weather on the WHTV web cam at the given link.

Monday, April 11, 2005

a wee snippet about pasta

I have been sick with a bad cold and so I have not been cooking a lot lately. I did manage to scare up some spaghetti with meat sauce on Saturday night and realized it's time for a "how not to make bad pasta" post.

I made the sauce in the traditional way of browning ground beef, opening a jar of Classico pasta sauce, and combining the two, with a bit of red wine since it was a tad dry. That's not the important bit. The important bit is how to cook the pasta.

1) use lots of boiling water that has just slightly more salt than you're comfortable with in it. If you do not do this, your pasta will taste gross and I won't want to eat it. Do not even contemplate putting oil in the water.
2) Cook until it's just underdone. Then put the pasta IN the sauce and cook it until it's al dente. This serves a couple purposes: the pasta soaks up more sauce flavour, and the sauce is thickened by both the removal of liquid into the pasta, and by the release of starch into the sauce.

Serve. And you probably don't need to eat as much of it as you think you do, either.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


I quit my job! My last day is April 22, when I will head down to BC for a little wine touring with the seesters. Then I will enter the world of self employment. Scary, but exciting!

Monday, April 04, 2005

a word that has been missing from the english language

This post has nothing to do with food.

You know how it's really annoying when people use the apostrophe wrong in it's and its, and you want a snappy way of saying it's wrong, but using the term "misspelled" just doesn't sit right with you? Well, this afternoon I caught one of those in our technical documentation and instantly my brain made up a new word:


I googled it and came up with nothing, so I feel safe in claiming its invention.

Typical use: "I refuse to eat at that café because they repeatedly misapostrophenate their menu items."

food memory

A long time ago, when I was maybe 10 or 12, my mom used to buy these crunchy pasta snacks that were coated in some sort of garlicky parmesan powder. She bought them at the health food store in Whitehorse, but I'm pretty sure they were in no way actually good for you. Does anyone know what these were called, and where one can buy them or how one can make them? I have no idea if they were baked or fried (I suspect the latter) nor exactly what the tasty coating was.

Anyway, I kind of want some. Usually the desire for these unnamed snacks hits once a year about this time, because the cottonwoods are just coming into leaf, and the smell reminds me of trips to Haines, which reminds me of those snacks. And Anzac bars, which are also good, but which I don't actually want right now and for which recipes are readily available.

versatile roasted vegetables

Sorry for not posting much last week. The blogger interface was a bit hosed all week so it was a bit too frustrating to try to put stuff up.

Today's topic is a brief discussion about the wonders of roasted vegetables. First, how to make them:

1) Find an assortment of vegetables that are good roasted. These can include bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms (yeah, technically not a veg), carrots, sweet potato, cauliflower, asparagus, etc. Broccoli is not so good, nor are leafy greens like kale or bok choy.
2) Chop your selected veggies up into bite-sized chunks or slightly larger (they shrink when roasted).
3) Mix together equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar (cheap stuff, not good stuff)with some salt and pepper. Be liberal with the salt.
4) Dump this dressing all over veggies in a large bowl, toss to coat thoroughly and let marinade for up to an hour.
5) Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet, one layer thick (do NOT pile or veggies will steam instead of roast and be mushy and yucky). Roast for 1/2 hour or so at 400F. Toss with fresh minced garlic and lots of basil while warm.

Now you have a delightful mélange of tasty, sweet vegetables that can be used in about a billion different dishes. Here are some ideas:

- In a lasagne, with a béchamel sauce and lots of parmesan
- On a pizza
- As part of sandwiches
- Stirred into a risotto
- Tossed with bow-tie noodles
- Combined with chicken stock and blended into a smooth creamy soup (for a tasty change, omit the basil and add cumin and yogurt to the soup)
- serve as a simple side dish

If you make a big batch, you can store them in the fridge for up to a week. You also don't have to necessarily do bite-sized pieces - do slices for sandwiches, or a finer dice if you're going to be making sauce or soup.