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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

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The other day, Akemi and I happened across a small dessert shop in Vancouver’s Strathcona district.  It’s called Crackle Creme and it specializes in creme brûlée – oh, and waffles.  Real Belgian waffles with pearl sugar, not those other ones!

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The place is a one-man show run by Daniel Wong and, what he lacks in restaurant experience he more than makes up for in passion and sheer enthusiasm.  On the afternoon we checked out his place, there were 12 different varieties of creme brûlée available.  Since it was our first visit, I decided to go simple – straight vanilla bean creme brûlée.

Daniel Wong = proprietor, creme brûlée master.

Daniel Wong = proprietor, creme brûlée master.

Layering on a fine crackle.

Layering on a fine crackle.

The brûlée was perfect – neither eggy nor overly sweet with a nice thin caramelized sugar covering.

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Check out the vanilla beans.

Check out the vanilla beans.

As if often the case when I can’t decide between two desserts, I get both.  And so, in addition to the brûlée, I also ordered a Liege waffle with “adult nutella” (Pssst. The secret ingredient is booze!).

Studded with pearl sugar that he imports for his waffles.

Studded with pearl sugar that he imports for his waffles.

Golden crisp with a nice chewy center.

Golden crisp with a nice chewy center.

Topped with the adult nutella.

Topped with the adult nutella.

A terrific waffle – which I thought could have been even slightly more so with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  But I’m no waffle purist.

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Check it out the next time you’re in town.

Crackle Creme

Opens Wednesdays to Sundays, 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

245 Union Street (Vancouver, BC)

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This time, it was Taiwan Fest where Akemi and I enjoyed grilled spicy squid, even spicier lamb skewers, and more inclement weather!

This time, we came prepared.

This time, we came prepared.

More or less.

More or less.

We arrived early to beat the line-ups.

We arrived early to beat the line-ups.

There were about a half dozen different stands offering about a half dozen different food items.

There were about a half dozen different stands offering about a half dozen different food items.

The giant steamed barbecued pork buns weren't bad...but you had to go through A LOT of dough to get to that pork.

The giant steamed barbecued pork buns weren’t bad…but you had to go through A LOT of dough to get to that pork.

Want a bite?

Want a bite?

Hot dogs and chicken nuggets - just like your Taiwanese mother used to make 'em!

Hot dogs and chicken nuggets – just like your Taiwanese mother used to make ‘em!

Akemi can't wait to get her hands on those chicken nuggets.

Akemi can’t wait to get her hands on those chicken nuggets.

Festival revellers!

Festival revellers!

The game plan: 1. Order 2. Retreat across the street to seek shelter under the store awnings and await our orders. 3. Pick up orders. 4. Retreats back across the street to eat.

The game plan: 1. Order 2. Retreat across the street to seek shelter under the store awnings and await our orders. 3. Pick up orders. 4. Retreats back across the street to eat.

Manning the squid grill.

Manning the squid grill.

Akemi keeping her spirits up…

What's in the mystery box?

What’s in the mystery box?

Right on the first guess!  Goopy oyster omelet!

Right on the first guess! Goopy oyster omelet!

Delicious Taiwanese sausages: sweet, savory, and fatty.

Delicious Taiwanese sausages: sweet, savory, and fatty.

Master Chef!

Master Chef!

The lamb skewers were practically dipped in the cumin and chill.  Not for the weak of heart.  Or stomach.

The lamb skewers were practically dipped in the cumin and chill. Not for the weak of heart. Or stomach.

No food festivals tomorrow.  It’s Draft Day!  Time to set aside my script and start some intensive fantasy football research!

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Akemi and I were in Vancouver’s Gastown area today and happened to come across a BBQ Festival featuring pit and grill offerings from about a dozen local eateries.  Also coleslaw.  And rain.  Lots of rain…

Hey, what this?  BBQ!  The damp calm before the storm.

Hey, what this? BBQ! The damp calm before the storm.

An alright rib with some too creamy coleslaw.  Not pictured (because the photo came out fuzzy) is the accompanying pork jowl chill.  Tasty!

An alright rib with some too creamy coleslaw. Not pictured (because the photo came out fuzzy) is the accompanying pork jowl chill. Tasty!

Deacon's Corner serves up damn fine wings.  But some underdone potato salad.

Deacon’s Corner serves up damn fine wings. But some underdone potato salad.

Railtown Cafe's melt-in-your-mouth brisket, delicious jalapeño corn bread and cole slaw were my highlight of the day.

Railtown Cafe’s melt-in-your-mouth brisket, delicious jalapeño corn bread and cole slaw were my highlight of the day.

Have to check this place out.

Have to check this place out.

Akemi's favorite - by far the most tender ribs of the day = The Blarneystone's maple glazed ribs.

Akemi’s favorite – by far the most tender ribs of the day = The Blarneystone’s maple glazed ribs.

Wings from the Hastings Warehouse.

Souther Comfort Jerk Wings from the Hastings Warehouse.

Bubba awaits his cut.

Bubba awaits his cut.

Served with a cool cucumber yogurt!

Served with a cool cucumber yogurt!

Bubba and Six Eyes try to stay out of the rain.

Bubba and Six Eyes try to stay out of the rain.

But not doing a very good job of it.

But not doing a very good job of it.

BTW – Vancouver does a TERRIBLE job of getting the word out about these types of events.  I can only assume their thinking is: “More for us!”

P.S. Head on over here (https://www.facebook.com/groups/332854913534175/) to participate in an online auction in support of a service dog for blog regular Bethany Draves.  Among the items up for grabs is a copy of Ripple Effect, signed and lovingly annotated by yours truly.

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Every state in the U.S. has an iconic dish to call its own.  Georgia has its peach pie, Louisiana its gumbo, and Pennsylvania its scrapple.  But not all plates are created equal.  I imagine that some came late to the party and, after finding out that ribs and brisket were taken, just threw up their hands and simply went with vinegar fries.  Anyway, here is my list of the Top 5 Best and Top 5 Worst State Dishes.

THE BEST…

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5. The Lobster Roll (Maine)

I discovered a newfound appreciation for the lobster roll two years ago when my buddy, Martin Gero, hired a lobster food truck to cater his birthday party.  Akemi was so enamored that she has taken to perfecting her own version.

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4. Mud Pie (Mississippi)

I love my desserts decadent and chocolatey, and this one offers the very best of both worlds.

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3. Philly Cheesesteak (Pennsylvania)

In terms of sandwiches, it doesn’t get any better than this: beef, green peppers, and cheese!

Pork Rib

2. Ribs (Kansas)

Tender, juicy ribs smothered in the state’s classic sweet and tangy tomato and molasses-based sauce.

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1. Ribs (Tennessee)

But as much as I love sauced rubs, there’s nothing quite like the delicious dry rub variety.

AND THE WORST…

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5. The Buffet (Vegas)

Mediocre jack of all culinary trades, master of run.

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4. Funeral Potatoes (Utah)

Where the following ingredients go to die: hash browns, onions, cheese, potato chips, corn flakes, and cream soup.

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3. Hot Dish (Minnesota)

“Hoddish” is a hot mess of ground beef, pasta, tomato, and cheese.  Variations include versions with green beans, cream of mushroom soup and sauerkraut.

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2. Vinegar Fries (Delaware)

Why would you do that to a french fry?

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1. Deep Dish Pizza (Illinois)

The picture alone triggers my gag reflex.

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Vegetarian Week was a resounding success – insofar as I went seven full days (plus one for good luck!) without eating either meat or seafood.  And, surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard.  I didn’t miss it my old eating habits nor was I tempted to fall off the wagon at any point.  So, after a week+ of vegetarianism, what’s the upshot? Do I feel any better?  Did I lose any weight?

Nope.  I feel exactly the same.  Absolutely no different.

While I’m pleased with my herculean achievement, I’m not so sure I could have lasted much longer.  As I said, I was never jonesing for a hit of ribeye or looking score a kilo of pork, but I attribute much of that to the fact that I kept my meals varied and interesting.    But there’s not doubt that, sooner or later, I would have exhausted my bag of culinary tricks.

Still, it was a nice run.  Some of the highlights…

1Akemi’s cream of mushroom soup topped with roasted oyster mushrooms and truffle oil.

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Garlic-roasted oyster mushrooms.

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Crispy oven-roasted artichokes.

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Akemi’s button mushroom risotto.

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And Akemi’s curry cauliflower risotto.

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Carrots tossed in olive oil and thyme, roasted and honey-glazed.

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Roasted (notice a theme here?) blow-your-lungs-out hot peppers tossed in olive oil and minced garlic.

1Fried garlic scapes.

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Crispy ceci (chickpeas).  I served them with conchiglie (shell pasta).

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Akemi’s vegetarian Thai-inspired soup with tofu.

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Mom’s savory navy bean and garlic recipe.  I served this with piccolini (mini wheel pasta).

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Eggplant parm sandwich.

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Garlic-fried eggplant.

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Lentils with carrots, onions, garlic, and bay leaf.

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And then, today for lunch, I ate about a half pound of deli beef tongue.

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This list requires some explanation…

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#10. Candied Fruit

Okay, not really a fruit per se, but I include it at number 10 to round out the list – and because my grandmother would always serve us these when we were kids and I always hated them.  Tooth-achingly cloying with a weirdly textured “rind” possessed of an almost inorganic quality.

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#9 Cantaloupe

I actually like the taste, but I it makes the list because I always experience a weird reaction whenever I eat one.  It always feels as tough a thousand tiny scalpels have been taken to the roof of my mouth.  Guess I’m mildly allergic.  Not that big a deal as it’s not a flavor I crave.  At least it’s better than being (in the words of many of today’s youth) “lack toast intolerant”.

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#8. Honey Dew Melon

Elicits the same physical reaction as cantaloupe, but minus the deliciousness.  A mainstay of every fruit platter ever served, it’s always just-not-quite-ripe.

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#7. Currants

They’re always adorning otherwise tasty desserts, like needy wingmen accompanying handsome friends.

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#6. Blackberries

Blackberries will find their way off this list and onto my Top 10 Favorites the day someone finds a way to produce a blackberry free of those annoying little seeds that get stuck between your teeth that you keep spitting out for hours after.

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#5. Passion Fruit

The inedible seed to edible fruit ratio is way off.

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#4. Pomegranate

It too suffers from a terrible inedible see to edible fruit ratio, with the added bonus of being difficult to eat.  It also stains your hands.

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#3. Durian

Sure, it could’ve been lower but for the fact that the initial flavor is actually quite nice: custardy sweet.  The aftertaste, on the other hand, is like a gas leak in your chest.

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#2. Cranberries

Apparently, they’re good for urinary tract infections.  And not much else.

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#1. Kiwi

People insist they’re sweet but every single one I’ve tasted has been tart.  Also, this one is like The Guardians of the Galaxy of fruit.  It’s okay, but nowhere near as fantastic as fanatics make it out to be.  And, for that reason, it gets the #1 slot.

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