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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

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.

***

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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Guess what we had for lunch today?  Why, yes!  How’d you know?

Let's rock some dumplings!

Let’s rock some dumplings!

Today, Akemi and I headed down to Chinatown for Vancouver’s Golden Dumpling Cook Off, featuring signature dumplings from a variety of local chefs, all in support of The Chinese Elders Community Kitchen.  The purchase of a “golden dumpling passport” got you a dumpling at each of the 20 event participants.  Unfortunately, advance passports sold out weeks ago – BUT 1oo passports were to be made available on a “first come first buy” basis on the day so Akemi and I got there early, well ahead of the noon kick-off.

We joined about two dozen people in line at 11:00 a.m.  By the time the passports went on sale an hour later, there were well over a hundred people waiting.

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As we inched along, I kept doing the math in my head.  We were 20th and 21st in line.  If the people ahead of us each got a ticket, there’d be plenty left for us.  Hell, they could buy an average of five tickets each and we’d still be okay.  But more than five…

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Fortunately, there were still plenty of passports available by the time we reached the ticket table.  I, of course, purchased two because: a) I wasn’t sharing and, b) I was counting on Akemi being a light eater and passing on the foie gras and truffle dumplings which would mean more for me.

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Once we had our passport and chopsticks (which we were instructed not to lose as they were apparently in short supply), we waded into the crowd…

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Each stand had its own mini line-up.  After making your way to the front, someone would stamp your passport after which you’d be handed a dumpling.  After a while, to save time, we would simply eat our dumplings while waiting in line for more dumplings.

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There were quite a variety of dumplings on display, from obvious Asian influenced entries to Italian, Indian, and Mexican-inspired offerings.

The full line-up:

Ask For Luigi: Chicken Liver Capelletti in Brodo with Pancetta and Sage (Chef Letitia Wan)

Bearfoot Bistro: Duck and Shrimp Dumplings with Lemongrass and Fried Garlic (Chef Jimmy Stewart)

Bambudda: Fried Nest Dumpling, Spot Prawn Mayo, Seaweed Powder (Chef Scott Korzack)

Bestie: Smokey Bison Wonton with Chili Jam and Kohlrabi Slaw (Chef Colin Johnson)

Campagnolo: Ricotta and Kale Gnudi, Local Tomatoes, Ricotta Salata (Chefs Nathan Lowey and Joachim Hayward)

Cibo Trattoria: Braised Pork and Fig Agnoli with Taleggio and Crispy Sage (Chef Faizal Kassam)

Cinara: Pork and Swiss Chard Agnolotti (Chefs Lucas Syme and Gill Book)

Danso: Kimchee Mandoo Dumpling

Gyuu: Pork & Shrimp Dumpling wrapped with Dumpling Wrapper and Tofu Bag (Chef Yuki Ota)

Harvest Community Foods: Pork Ramen in a Dumpling (Chef Hokuto Yamanka)

Homer Street Cafe & Bar: Chicken and Leek Dumpling (Chef Tret Jordan)

La Mezcaleria: Braised Beef Chicharron and Guajillo Chili Sauce Dumpling (Chef Alejandro Cruz)

Maenam: Thai Seafood Dumpling in Southern Style Tumeric Curry (Chef Angus An)

Merchant’s Oyster Bar: Braised Duck and Smoked Plum, House Buttermilk and Shiso Sauce (Chef David Jackman)

Pidgin: Sweet Potato and Chocolate Dumplings (Chef Makoto Ono)

Railtown Cafe: No idea.  Went by twice and they were having trouble getting food out both times so I skipped it.

The Union: Red Curry Duck Lychee Potsticker (Chef Lisa Henderson)

Vij’s: Chicken Samos (Chef Vikram Vij)

Wildebeest: Foie Gras and Duck Dumpling (Chef Wesley Young)

Winner Winner: Coastal Dumplings – Local Crab and Shellfish Parcels with Preserved Duck Egg Yolks and Seasoned Vinegar (Chefs Alain Chow, Chen-Wei Lee, Stanley Yung)

Stuffing wrappers at the Homer St. Cafe stand

Stuffing wrappers at the Homer St. Cafe stand

Gyuu's tofu-wrapped dumpling.  Tied off with watermelon!

Gyuu’s tofu-wrapped dumpling. Tied off with watermelon!

I helped subdue this wild panda until animal control arrived on the scene.

I helped subdue this wild panda until animal control arrived on the scene.

The Union's red curry duck potsticker.

The Union’s red curry duck potsticker.

Wildebeest's foie gras and duck dumplings.

Wildebeest’s foie gras and duck dumplings.

The culinary team at the Vij's stand.

The culinary team at the Vij’s stand.

Campagnolo's gnudi

Campagnolo’s ricotta and kale gnudi

Bearfoot Bistro's duck and shrimp dumpling with lemongrass and fried garlic

Bearfoot Bistro’s duck and shrimp dumpling with lemongrass and fried garlic

A crazy amount of dumplings and I managed to sample them all – with the exception of Railtown Cafe that seemed to be having trouble with their steamer. The first time I went by, they had no dumplings on the table and, half an hour later when I went by again – same problem.  Some hits, some misses as well, but my favorite was the entry from Maenam’s Angus An – that ended up winning the event as the crowd favorite.  Second place went to Winner Winner.  La Mezcaleria took third.

A great time was had by all – but especially me since, as expected, I ended up polishing off most of Akemi’s dumplings as well.

May skip dinner tonight.

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Today, Akemi and I checked out the Japanese-Canadian Powell Street Festival with our friends Nicole and Lan.  The highlights (most of it food-related, natch)…

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The onstage entertainment.

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Guy mans the barbecued salmon grill.

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Akemi discovers how HOT the udon is.

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Nicole and Lan: Let the Eating Games Begin!

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The spam sushi – an Okinawan culinary tradition.

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Mogu – Akemi’s favorite food truck.

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Akemi and Nicole knock back some chicken karaage.

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My miso katsu (pork cutlet) sandwich.

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Akemi cools down with a strawberry shaved ice.

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I snap a photo for my blog of Nicole snapping a photo for her tumblr account.

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Cosplayers drum up interest in the forthcoming AnimeRevolution con (http://www.animerevolution.ca)

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I, of course, have my outfit all planned out.

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Assorted stands.

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I sample the matcha (green tea) ice-cream macaron sandwich.

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I think it glows in the dark!  Not a huge fan of the macaron portion, but the ice cream was great.

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My chocolate-covered matcha (green tea) ice cream pop.  “Looks like poopy,”remarked Akemi.

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A nice thin chocolate shell covers a surprisingly good green tea ice cream.  Poopylicious!

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After the festival, we swung by Nicole and Lan’s place to check out their thriving bee colony.  Sadly, no honey until next summer. :(

 Okay.  Back to that script!

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Last night, we capped off our Canada Day festivities at one of Akemi’s favorite pizza places in Vancouver…Chez Rob!

Chef Rob works the dough.

Chef Rob works the dough.

Sous chef Ivon prepares his own gluten-free dough (equal parts wallpaper paste and sawdust).

Sous chef Ivon prepares his own gluten-free dough (equal parts wallpaper paste and sawdust).

The topping ingredients: everything from Peking duck and sausages to apple slices and walnuts.

The topping ingredients: everything from Peking duck and sausages to apple slices and walnuts.

Oscar (aka The Cleaner) on hand to take care of errant scraps.

Oscar (aka The Cleaner) on hand to take care of errant scraps.

The cook!

The cook!

Apparently, some nice leoparding underneath (it's  a pizza term).

Apparently, some nice leoparding underneath (it’s a pizza term).

Apple, bacon, walnut, cheese and arugula (aka The Coopergula!)

Apple, bacon, walnut, cheese and arugula (aka The Coopergula!)

The gluten-free sausage and cheese pizza.  The verdict?  "I didn't mind it!"raved Hillary.

The gluten-free sausage and cheese pizza. The verdict? “I didn’t mind it!”raved Hillary.

Peking Duck with green onions, hoisin sauce, and cheese.

Peking Duck with green onions, hoisin sauce, and cheese.

Barbecue chicken with red onions - Akemi's favorite.

Barbecue chicken with red onions – Akemi’s favorite.

Mushrooms, basil, cherry tomatoes, and cheese.

Mushrooms, basil, cherry tomatoes, and cheese.

And blueberry pie (a la mode, of course) for dessert!

And blueberry pie (a la mode, of course) for dessert!

The top-notch ingredients and genuine pizza oven yielded some superior pizzas.  The ambiance was great as was the service.  Terrific value too (considering all it cost me was the gas for the drive over)!  I highly recommend you check out this place the next time you’re in Vancouver.  Book early to avoid disappointment!

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Resident beeologist Akem Aota

Resident beeologist Akem Aota

Last night, we got together with our foodie friends, Nicole and Lan, for an evening of Bees and Burgers.  Campagnolo supplied the burgers while Nicole and Lan supplied the bees…

1Apparently, they picked them up in Portland (or had them shipped from Portland. I’m not sure how it works).  They keep them in the above-pictured box in their backyard (as opposed to their bedroom which would have showed TRUE devotion).

1The bees gain access through a small hole.  I stepped up to snap a close-up but was warned the bees were irritable and didn’t like people getting too close.  Like Kanye.  So I had to snap this one from a couple of feet away.  Akemi, on the other hand, was taking no chances.  Despite being outfitted in full beekeeping regalia, she steered well clear of any possible encounter.

1A window in at the back of the box allows you to peep on the bees while they’re changing.  And making honey.

I, for one, was looking forward to sampling the sweet stuff – but was informed I would have to wait until next year.  Next year?!  I thought bees were supposed  to be industrious!

Anyway, in addition to checking out the bees, we also got to visit Nicole and Lan’s house which is a mere five minute walk from our house!  Coincidentally (?), they will be moving at the end of the month, deterring any future we-were-strolling-by-and-thought-we’d=drop-in visits.

Having worked up an appetite checking out the bees, we headed over to Campagnolo on Main Street for their famed burger.  They are served upstairs in the casual bar area (sssshhhhh.  It’s a secret!).

The best burgers in town!

The best burgers in town!

Chicken-fried beef ribs

Chicken-fried beef ribs

Spot prawn

Spot prawn

Chocolate-peanut butter parfait

Chocolate-peanut butter parfait

Peter, the bartender, was our affable host and was kind enough to introduce me to a 12 year old Pappy Van Winkle – the smoothest bourbon I’ve ever had.  I’d love to get my hands on a bottle but they always sell out the second they’re shelved. Anybody have friends/family in Kentucky who happen to be close personal friends of the Van Winkles?

My attempt to approximate Akemi's official beekeeper stance.

My attempt to approximate Akemi’s official beekeeper stance.

Yes?  No?  Buzz off?

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