The Following is Rated ‘F’

It has been a crazy (crazy) summer, and I can’t believe it has already come to a close.  There have not been enough hours in the day for me to do half the things I planned–working on this blog for one.  We have been blessed with sunshine, even though we are days into fall.  But, as the heat inevitably subsides, so do my stresses.  This relief is met with both sadness and anticipation, as I think of early sunsets and the indulgence of celebrations to come.

Although I have been absent from blogging for much longer than is acceptable, I have still been making efforts to document my culinary exploits for sharing here.  Today, instead of my usual rant trying to describe every detail of my hiatus, I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.

The taco that defied time and space at Taqueria Los Jarritos

Not my idea!

‘The Tyler’ from ‘Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck’ at the Food Cart Fest hosted by The Waldorf
Go big or go home (Din Tai Fung)

Sticky Rice Dumplings from Din Tai Fung

How can you go wrong when fries are made in duck fat? Edible Canada at The Market
Beans I actually liked! – ‘Taqueria Los Jarritos’

Homemade Moroccan style preserved lemons

A so-called ‘topless’ blueberry pie I baked (from scratch!)

I met Canada’s Top Chef, Dale McKay (Special thanks to Ron)

A thought provoking mural in Chinatown
Lunch at Nuba one sunny afternoon
Reminded me of Waikiki…  (Lulu’s Hawaiian Shaved Ice)
A scene from the Richmond Maritime Festival
I feel like Chicken tonight? – Richmond Maritime Festival

Wine and Cheese themed Bridal Shower

Halo Halo from Max’s Fried Chicken


Although I cannot promise that I will be consistently posting my voyages, you can count on it that I am still on my continuing mission to seek out new flavours and new culinary experiences, and to boldly go where no foodie has gone before…

PS. ‘F’ is for food.

Dinner on Memory Lane

A few weeks ago, Stephanie Yuen invited me to a dinner at one of Vancouver’s newest culinary additions, Kaya Malay Bistro.  Kaya has been open for about four months, and despite how the name implies, Kaya serves more than just Malaysian food.

Coincidentally, my parents owned a restaurant on the same block.  I remember the countless times my dad would be assessing the number of patrons dining at the Thai restaurant which previously occupied the space that Kaya is currently established in.  Now that my parents have long sold the restaurant, it is no longer a criminal offence to dine at the used-to-be-competition (Thank gaaawd!).

I sat with a number of popular Vancouver food bloggers and it seemed that they were reasonably well acquainted with each other while I was the new kid on the blog.  After our brief introductions, I was amazed and flattered that some of them had heard about my small corner of the world-wide web.  Once everyone finished mingling, we were shown to the second floor dining area for dinner.

Our ten course meal consisted of the following:

Kaya Salad – A romaine lettuce salad topped with roasted potatoes, tofu, cranberries and a peanut mango dressing.

Roti Canai – Not the best I’ve had, but always a welcome appetizer.

Squash & Apple Curry Bisque – This combination of flavours worked together well, and not to mention very seasonal.

Chicken Satay – Very moist. No doubt they utilized thigh meat as opposed to chicken breast. One of the highlights of the dinner.

Crispy Spicy Calamari and Taro Root – An interesting take on the traditional calamari.

Wok-Fried Eggplant and Okra – Instant favourite. Pungent shrimp paste makes everything taste better. (hmm…. shrimp paste + bacon = ???)

Hainanese Chicken Two ways – Served alongside yellow/oil rice (not pictured)  I prefered the traditional blanched version to the roasted chicken, but nevertheless they were both very tender and flavourful.

Pan-fried Halibut – Unfortunately, my halibut was overcooked and cold by the time it arrived. However, the sauce was dazzling with sweet onion and ginger that complimented the mild halibut like bubbles to a hot bath.

Grilled Rack of Lamb with Mashed Yam – Reminded me of Rendang beef.

Unfortunately, I neglected to snap a photo of the desert trio on my camera, but you can view my instagram picture here.  The dessert trio consisted of a durian pancake, tapioca cup, and a deep fried banana.  My favourite was a the tapioca cup because of its mildly sweet flavour and stretchy texture.  Durian is a taste I have not yet learned to appreciate…

The chef at Kaya is a real master when it comes to seasoning his dishes and preparing sauces.  I think that Kaya has met the standard for the South Asian restaurants which currently occupy Vancouver.  However, I didn’t feel that I tried anything I haven’t before–which isn’t a bad thing.  All things aside, it was a marathon of a meal and by the end of it, I felt as if my dress was about to split at the seams.  But it didn’t!

Kaya Malay Bistro on Urbanspoon

Cambie Double Whammy

A few weeks ago, I was in the Fairview area of Vancouver running some errands with a friend and decided it would be a good opportunity to walk down to Cambie for some lunch.  The weather had been rather tumultuous, but the sun made an appearance that afternoon, so it was a nice walk.  It isn’t often that I stop in that area, so I was lucky enough to be able to visit two restaurants which had been on my list for a while.

La Taqueria has been a front runner in Vancouver’s fast food scene for quite some time, but I had yet to check it out.  I keep saying that Vancouver has such a lack of Latin restaurants, and that may be why La Taqueria is so popular (they recently won a Golden Plate Award for best tacos and placed in several other categories).  Seats were mostly filled at La Taqueria when I placed my order of 4 tacos: asada (flank beef), de lingua (beef tongue), carnitas (pork confit), and that day’s lamb special.

The tacos were served on brightly colored plastic plates, which looked like they came from patio dining set, but gave the mostly brown looking tacos a good color contrast.  Each taco was dripping with meaty goodness, but the asada didn’t taste very different from de lingua because they were both beef.  Since everything seemed to have been stewed for a long time, it was more like a thick, meaty stew that was spooned into each soft tortilla, but very well-flavoured.  I would’ve liked more onions or tomatoes to lend a fresh and crisp texture to the tender meat.

I was also convinced to buy a horchata, which I had not liked in the past, but wanted to get an authentic Mexican experience.  When I’ve had horchata in the past,  it was the heavy cinnamon spice flavour which I didn’t find appealing and this it time was no different.  Horchata does have a delicate creamy texture that I like and I can probably acquire the taste for the spices after a few more times of trying it.

The four tacos from La Taqueria were a great snack, but hardly an adequate lunch.  So, we crossed the street to Marulilu Cafe to continue the gastronomic adventure.  Marulilu Cafe serves a mixture of Japanese and North American style dishes in an intimate cafe setting.  Although I was tempted to order one of the traditional Japanese style breakfasts, it was way past breakfast hour so I opted for the rice “burgers” instead.

The rice burgers were made with two grilled rice patties and each filled with either sukiyaki or butayaki.  My burgers weren’t juicy like the tacos, but were still very moist and flavourful.  The rice “buns” had a delicate crisp on the tops from the grilling, but were still very delicate and crumbled if I pressed down on them too hard.  A simple miso soup came with the burgers, and I was pleasantly surprised when I took my first sip.  Although their miso soup had the same basic ingredients as every other place, it was richer and more flavourful than most restaurants.

Sharing the plate with the burgers was a simple salad of lettuce and tomatoes tossed in a thin dressing.  I usually think of side salads as a garnish because most places don’t put much effort into them.  But, the dressing on the side salad at Marililu made thoughts of summertime barbeques come to mind and I finished every last shred of lettuce on the plate.

Both restaurants, while very different from one another, had great fast food options at reasonable prices.  La Taqueria had a very simple menu with lots of different variations on the one dish that they specialize in.  On the other hand, Marililu had a very large menu, and I’m not even sure if they had a full kitchen to cook in, but they still made a delicious meal for me.  These two restaurants were definitely the highlight of my afternoon.  I am looking forward to summer when there are more days when the sun shines down on me as I eat from place to place.

La Taqueria on UrbanspoonMarulilu Cafe on Urbanspoon

Redeeming Quality

When the Dealfind advertisement popped into my inbox last year I jumped at the chance at buying their two for one high tea offer from The Fairmont.  It turns out that so did eleven thousand other people.  Naturally, when I waited and waited to make a reservation, it was pretty difficult to actually get a one.  It wasn’t until the day before my coupon expired that I actually had the opportunity (and the reservation) to redeem my coupon with a friend.

High tea at The Fairmont is held at The Castle, a restaurant behind 900 West Lounge.  The room was decorated in the same fashion one might expect a room at Buckingham Palace to be–upholstered wooden chairs, patterned carpets, crisp white linens, and delicate china, but without any British accents or nose in the air attitude.  We were seated at our table which had cream and sugar already waiting in silver containers, and left to make our tea selection.  It didn’t take very long to for me to decide on ‘maple maple’ as my tea since the list of tea was short by comparison to other tea parlours in the city.

The silver tea and cream containers met their matching tea pots when they were shortly brought to the table.  Sitting prim and proper, the tea steeped while dainty finger sandwiches, pastries, devonshire cream, and tiny pots of strawberry jam joined the party moments after.  Once the tea finished steeping, I added a teaspoon of the sugar crystals and a splash of cream from the refined silverware and took a sip.

Subtle aromatic flavours punctuated by the woody sweetness of the tea told me the story of its Sri Lankan origin.  I began working my way through the tower of pastries, beginning with the finger sandwiches on the bottom tier.  The most notable savoury pastry was the curry chicken salad on a slice of French baguette because it complimented my tea best.  Next were the sweet pastries consisting of lemon tarts, chocolate cupcakes, eclairs, and raisin scones–each more charming than the next.  There were enough scones for both of us to have two, but we were so numb from the sugar that neither of us were able to finish a second.

After sitting for a while longer, we summoned our server and requested that they do away with the remnants and bring us our cheque (because we were approaching our allowed seating time).  Fully satiated and quenched, we headed towards the car, but stopped to view some Canstruction.  When I got home I realized I was feeling sick from all the caffeine I ingested from the tea and the sugar in the pastries.  Eventually the headache passed and I thought fondly of my afternoon high tea once again.

900 West Lounge (at Fairmont Hotel) on Urbanspoon

World’s Weirdest Waldorf – I ate here!

On Wednesday night I was one of a handful of people to attend a one-night-only pop-up restaurant hosted by Bob Blumer, an event which promoted his upcoming new series, ‘World’s Weirdest Restaurants‘.  In his new series (premiering April 4, 2012 on The Food Network) viewers will be able to watch along as Bob dines in restaurants with rather strange and unique concepts in various countries across the globe.

Table settings at World's Weirdest Pop Up - TP, Blindfolds, and Clown Noses

The pop-up restaurant was set in the Tiki Bar (it was very dark, thus the poor photos) at the Waldorf Hotel in Vancouver’s Eastside, and event-goers were flashing their tickets and gleaming with excitement.  I attended the early seating at six o’clock because the later seating was completely sold out by the time I learned about it.  Once everyone was seated at their tables, Bob appeared and began showing us brief clips of himself on his escapades followed by a dinner course to emulate his experience.

'Monkey see, Monkey Do'

The first of four courses began with Bob recalling his experience at Kayabukiya, an izakaya in Japan where the waiters are monkeys, and his take on their izakaya style chicken karaage.  Before everyone wents paws first into their meal, we heard several loud monkey screeches.  No, there weren’t any monkeys, it was just Bob appearing in a monkey suit serving everyone a glass of beer.  Unfortunately, I have yet to acquire the taste for beer.  However, the karaage was my favourite course of the entire event because it had a crisp shell and came with a dipping sauce, which was delicately flavoured with ginger and mirin.

Here’s a Youtube video about the monkeys at Kayabukiya from three years ago:

Something I wanted to try for a long time was incorporated into our second course: dining in the dark.  Although we weren’t dining in the dark, we were provided with blindfolds to achieve the same effect.  For some reason, being blindfolded in a public place always makes people feel apprehensive, even when they’re perfectly safe.  The quiet murmur in the room suddenly graduated to loud chatter, as if people were talking louder to compensate for the lack of sight (strange that the outcome was opposite to what one might think).  Plates were placed before us, and we were instructed to carefully feel around for a small bowl and two Chinese soup soups containing two different kinds of croquettes and a cold vegan soup.  One of my croquettes actually had a piece of paper in it, which I’m pretty sure was unintentional, but did add another sensory element to my plate.  Not being able to see what I was eating definitely made it very difficult to decipher the flavours.

'Ling Cod a la John'

Our third course, the one I had been expecting, was a tomato based stew topped with ling cod served from a toilet bowl.  Upon tasting the dish, I didn’t detect any fecal aftertaste, so I am quite certain that the toilet bowl was new and fully sanitized before they used it for service.

Would you like a floater or a sinker?

Our last course was a take on the infamously addictive maple bacon doughnuts at Voodoo Doughnut.  In my opinion, this joint doesn’t exactly classify as ‘weird’ as it does ‘creative’.  But, there was a clip of Bob at the restaurant during a wedding ceremony, so I guess that’s a little strange.  This is when we had to put on our clown noses.  Not for any reason than to look silly and stupid–like the people in the video clip acted. The doughnuts were probably my least favourite course that night because the chef’s interpretation of a doughnut was a bit of a stretch.  The texture didn’t resemble any doughnut I’ve ever had and the bacon flavour wasn’t very prominent.  Completely different to the one from Voodoo.

'Glazed and Confused'

Me, Bob Blumer, and My Sister

The dishes that night certainly had its highs and lows, but aside from the food everyone was certainly entertained.  When Bob was up at the plate to entertain, he certainly had a knack for charming the audience.  I felt a little guilty when I asked to take a picture with him and interrupted his dinner (I didn’t realize he was eating when I tapped him on the shoulder).  But, I guess someone of his status has to expect those kinds of annoyances, especially if he’s the one hosting an event.  I’ve set my PVR to record Bob’s new series to find out if my face made it the small screen–and to find out about all those weird restaurants, of course…

Dining Out For Life: Breaking Bread and Breaking the Ice

On Monday night, I had the privilege of attending Dining Out For Life, an event hosted by Fred Lee, and dined with the who’s who from different organizations in Vancouver.  My aunt happens to work with Fred Lee, CBC Radio One and the Vancouver Courier’s ‘Man About Town’, so I attended the event as my aunt’s plus one.  Fred isn’t able to attend Dining Out For Life on Thursday with the rest of Vancouver but still wanted to contribute to the cause, which is why he organized an early edition of the event.  Dining Out For Life is an event when local restaurants contribute 25% of their sales to A Loving Spoonful and Friends For Life, two organizations which provide support to people affected by AIDS/HIV.  This year, over 200 restaurants are participating in this event, including Society Dining Lounge, where Monday’s dinner was held (some photos on Fred’s Facebook Album).

*Sorry for the poor photos–Dim lighting situation.

Cotton Candy Whisically Floated Above the Table Settings

The evening began with cocktails and plenty of mingling, which was a little awkward for me since I didn’t know anybody in the entire restaurant except for my aunt.  But, I met plenty of new people on Monday night, most of whom I vaguely remember the names of (forgive me), and received countless restaurant recommendations and tips for this blog.  One person who I did spot from across the room was Stephanie Yuen, who some of you might be familiar with from her work on the radio, published works, or my book giveaway.  Stephanie and I briefly chatted about her book and she also introduced me to her husband, Henry.

Shortly after we were all in our seats, we ordered from the prix fixe menu which had the option of two or three courses.  I ordered the surprisingly large tomato soup, which was served with miniature grilled cheese, as my appetizer.  I generally do not like prix fix menus because I find that the quality of the food suffers tremendously.  However, the kitchen and wait staff at Society were able to serve the entire restaurant at the same time without any salmon drying out or overcooking any steaks.  To say the least, the diners at my table and I were thoroughly impressed and thoroughly smacking our lips.

Desert: Crumbled Black Forest Cake

Since it was my first time attending such an event, it was a bit intimidating to try to socialize with such an elite crowd.  After getting to know many of them, it was nice to learn that even though we may all be from different walks of life we can make a significant difference in the lives of those in need by sharing in a common enthusiasm for indulgence.

Wiping Out in Whistler

This past weekend I went to Whistler for a double birthday and make my worldwide snowboarding premiere.  It was my cousins’ birthdays and my aunt had planned the entire trip, from accommodations to meals, and all the snacks in between.  We headed up Friday night, and I had mentally prepared myself for the pain that I knew was going to come as a result of my trials and errors after errors of trying to conquer the mountain.  In addition to my mental discipline, I had a secret defense strategy: knee pads.

Saturday morning, we rode the gondola from Whistler Village to the stop at Roundhouse Lodge (oblivious to the food court and restaurants on the slopes), and from there on it was a downhill battle.  As my uncle put it, I tumbled down the mountain for the entire morning.  My cousins, one barely old enough to get a driver’s license and the other who can still order off the kids menu, lapped me twice that morning.  Other kids who looked like they were fresh out of Pull-Ups were flying past me like I was part of the scenery.

When I got to the last slope before reaching the upper village my legs became unresponsive and it was as if my body was an anvil each time I tried to pick myself up after plunging into the snow.  Halfway down that slope I swear, I could smell the aromas of a thick glossy brown gravy stirring up in a pot, but my legs didn’t think that the smell or the thought of concrete were motivating enough to comply.  For the final metres of the slope, I had to walk down, with legs that felt just about as sturdy as Twizzlers, because the path was getting too narrow and I became a magnet for the trees on my right side.  My very first run was finally finished, and the mountain had me wiped like used toilet paper just in time for lunch which my aunt had prepared back at our rental condo.

Lunch was pork congee, three different kinds of fried noodles, and seafood patties.  Very homestyle.  Very comforting.

Pork Congee

After lunch was a hot, hot, shower followed with a power nap before exploring Whistler Village.  The Village had lots of shopping and a fury of restaurants for mountain-goers to dine at, including a booming new gourmet hot dog joint, Dinky Dawgs.  Dinky Dawgs was one of the first places that drew our attention on our walk, so we didn’t immediately place our orders.  But after making our rounds in the village we got back to Dinky Dawgs just in time before they ended their daily promotional happy hour (4pm-5pm), when all dawgs are $5.00 each.

Saw the cutest egg server ever in one of The Village shops.

Duran Bodasing

I found out that international globetrotter, Duran (visit his blog here), opened Dinky Dawgs less than two months ago and is working on opening Vancouver location along with locations in three other cities.  Duran was the type of guy who posesses enough charisma and energy to rival Justin Bieber and dilithum crystals combined.  He has plenty of enthusiasm for his business and the organic hot dogs he serves, which you can top with just about anything under the sun.  We ordered two separate dawgs which included macaroni & cheese, truffle oil, nori, and croutons as the toppings.  We weren`t adventurous enough to top our dawgs with caviar, marshmallows, or the St. Patty`s special: Lucky Charms, but according to Duran one such braveheart named Kirby has ordered several dawgs with everything on it.  Our dinner rezos were less than two hours away, so we only allowed ourselves to have one bite each–just enough to avoid food regret.

It had been years since I visited Whistler, and it was nowhere near as bustling last time as it was this past weekend.  We were all very lucky to have my aunt plan and organize everything for the family.  She doesn`t miss a beat.  Although my first time snowboarding left me stiff and strained, the pain I feel is gives me a sense of gratification knowing that I pushed myself.  Sure, my time was spent tangling myself in my own demise, but it was time spent working up my appetite.  Perhaps I am not ready for the challenge of Whistler, but I hope I can one day go back and triumph it`s slopes with both a board and my stomach.

Dinky Dawgs on Urbanspoon