Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Falling In Love...

I've been searching for a long time, and I finally found him. He's absolutely perfect! Sweet, good-looking, big, rich, and, of course, even a little bit flakey - just the way I like 'em! He's the ultimate cinnamon bun! I'll call him CB, for short. We met at Bojangles Cafe, on Coal Harbour, over coffee. It's my favourite coffeeshop. At one point, it used to be the only coffeeshop in the area, on the water. Now cafe after cafe keeps popping up around the area. So I try to support Mr. Bojangles whenever I can.

I walked in one sunny afternoon, and I saw him in the display case, glistening with white icing. I was a little apprehensive at first, having had some bad experiences with his kind before. I asked myself, will he disappoint me like the others have?

You may be thinking: can a woman really fall in love with a baked good? Well, I do think about CB a lot when I'm not with him. When I am with him, he brings me to the heights of pleasure, and I feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I'm also thankful that we met. We met by chance, but I can't help but feel a little as though fate brought us together. Maybe our society isn't progressive enough to tolerate a mixed (human-baked good) relationship like ours. Is it true love? I don't know...but I do know a nice set of buns when I see one! There are plenty of places around that claim "World's Best Cinnamon Buns" and let me tell you, they just weren't! I must admit though, I have thoroughly enjoyed the company of other cinnamon buns before. I have very fond memories of the famous UBC cinnamon buns, that I indulged in throughout my undergrad years. Naked (no icing), a bit sticky, huge, wonderfully soft and puffy. Very wicked though, those naughty cinnamon buns - I remember sometimes calculus class and cinnamon bun would fiercely battle it out (in my head), and cinnamon bun would conquer. It would team up with Cheese Stick, who would duke it out in my buddy's head. Last year, I even tried to recreate the UBC Cinnamon Bun with the "official" UBC adapted-for-home-use recipe but it really wasn't the same. (I think the recipe doesn't call for enough of the cinnamon filling, and I might have done something wrong...the raw yeasty taste never cooked out of it, but they did puff up nice and big, so they at least looked like the original).

So, I am very pleased with my find at Bojangles. However, if you think that you know a cinnamon bun that I would get along with, please feel free to set me up. Or send me a recipe. CB and I aren't going steady - we have an open relationship. I'm looking for huge, puffy, very soft, cinnamon buns with a nice generous topping of icing (cream cheese frosting being the best option). I like a flaky texture, and a slight crispness to the outside surface of the pastry. Check out CB at Mr. Bojangles some morning. Sit outside with him, have a cup of coffee, and enjoy the view together. He'll treat you right.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Fondues and Don'ts

Three Cheese Fondue Posted by Hello

Who doesn't love a cheese fondue? Well, the lactose intolerant perhaps. I had a six-person fondue party a while back, as you can see in my glamour photo above, and I love fondue for its social aspects as much as for its warm, gooey yumminess. So, I encourage you to DO a fondue. The recipe I used this last time was a variation on the classic fondue that included a third cheese (in our case, havarti, but the recipe also recommends a cheese called Doux de Montagne or Vacherin Fribourgeois), as well as the addition of apple brandy. But here's a DON'T that I learned this last time: try not to pre-melt your fondue mixture too far ahead. We had ours sitting over very low heat for almost an hour before we were ready to dip in (while we ate our salad starter), and this resulted in extreme stringiness! This was rather entertaining, actually. At one point, it seemed like the whole pot of cheese was just one big never-ending string! Luckily for us, my Cheeseboy (Here he comes to save the day!) was there to rescue us from the Cheese Monster (and you thought the Blob was scary?). With the addition of a little more lemon juice and some vigorous stirring over the stovetop, he gave our fondue a manageable consistency. So DO have extra lemons around. DON'T plan on a heavy dessert after, no matter how tempted you are to do a chocolate fondue as well (unless this is all after a huge snowshoe hike through the mountains, for example. I did the Fondue Tour at Cypress one winter and it was a lot of fun). We went with small scoops of homemade lemon sorbet served on ginger-molasses tuile "cups." DO invite 5 other people - six seems to be an ideal number for a cheese fondue. If you are looking for a more intimate evening, I recommend a chocolate fondue for two. And if you're looking for a chocolate fondue for two at a restaurant, I heartily recommend having it at Bin 942 on West Broadway, where they make their own wonderful mini randomly shaped hot little cinnamon doughnuts (think "Those Little Doughnuts" at PNE, only even better!) to dip in, as well serving a beautiful assortment of fruit and mini marshmallows. The rest of your dinner there should be pretty darn yummy too, but save room for dessert. I'll do a full review of one of the Bins one of these days. They are among my favourite restaurants of the city. Also, I found a great little bubble tea place in Kerrisdale called the Orange Corner (2257 W. 41st. Ave.) that does a nice little chocolate fondue too. The bubble tea there was quite good too.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Café S’il Vous Plait, Downtown - An Ungreasy Spoon

I wish one of my vegetarian friends was in town and discovered Café S’il Vous Plait (Robson St., at Richards) with me. Sometimes you just know when someone would love a particular restaurant. I'm not vegetarian at all, as you may have gathered, and the cafe doesn't present itself as a vegetarian place. It's just that there are plenty of vegetarian choices there. I also had their yummy borscht, which reminds me of my veggie friend's homemade borscht. Also, it could be a terrific place to have pie and coffee together, perhaps. I had their blueberry pie, a la mode, for dessert, but the crust was a little flat and not flaky at all, to the point where I think it might have just been a bad day for the pie, and I'm willing to order another slice some time, just to make sure. I would love it to be my new pie place (since Miriam's at English Bay closed down), especially since the coffee is refillable, and they warmed up the pie for me, and put two scoops of ice cream. It seems odd to me that a place that has been around so long would always do their pie crust like that, so I'll update this post if I go again for pie. They're only open until 9:30 pm or so, which means it can't be my late night dessert place. I'll have to stick to Sweet Revenge on Main St. (previously mentioned in my Valentine's Day ideas post) for that.

I've walked past this joint hundreds of times, and I finally decided to go in one day. It has comfy old booths, 50's diner style counter and stools, and lots of plants in the windows. It feels very homey, particularly since there was some nice, sophisticated instrumental music playing that evening, and the room is bright, and the menu is filled with comfort foods like chili, shepherd's pie and mac and cheese. They have also added a couple of Japanese dishes like seafood udon and vegetable udon. I decided to get the soup, cornbread, and salad combo (about $6.75), which felt wonderfully fresh and healthy. There were plenty of soup options. Their cornbread was quite nice and moist. The small salad was pleasant with lots of grated carrot, dressed very lightly in their house vinagrette. The borscht had wonderful big, semi-circular chunks of beets. Service was great - it appears that the place is owned by the older Japanese couple there, with the husband out front, and the wife in the kitchen. It can be a great "lonely guy" restaurant too, as I felt wonderfully comfortable dining alone there, and saw other singles dining alone there or picking up pie to take home. Dining alone at a restaurant is a treat that I indulge in, but it's really only enjoyable in certain restaurants. It's a delight for me to be able to leisurely read a newspaper, while eating at a restaurant. It also allows me to focus on the food, much like taking a walk alone allows me to focus on the scenery more intensely than when I walk with company. Of course, I still want to share this particular restaurant with other people too. And I'm sure I'll be back to do so.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Beach Picnic Ideas (Raviolino Gourmet Pasta in Kits)

Now that the warm weather is here in our pretty city, and it's actually staying bright outside at dinner time, it's time to start thinking about picnics! I had my first spontaneous beach dinner "picnic" of the season last week, with Bacon Eating Baking Girl (Bac'n Girl), and we found a great little Italian deli while driving about randomly in the west side. Raviolino Gourmet Pasta and Foods (4th at MacDonald) is the great little shop we found, where we picked up some fresh pasta dishes to take to Jericho Beach. I had their daily pasta special which includes a pasta with either meat or pommarolla sauce, garlic bread, and a soup or salad (Caesar or spinach tomato), all for $7.75, or $1 extra for a stuffed pasta. I had their beef agnolotti, a stuffed pasta, with meat sauce, and the salad. Bac'n girl had some meat lasagna. The pasta and sauce were tasty, and the spinach tomato salad was nice and big. You can also buy their fresh pasta and take it home to cook. While we were there, we were offered samples of their other dishes, including their veggie Sicilian scaccia, a tasty rolled bread filled with cheeses, spices, pommarolla sauce, and extra virgin olive oil ($1.50/100 g). We also bought a couple of their cookies called Alfajores, and they were wonderfully tender sandwich cookies filled with a yummy, gooey caramel cream. The woman at the shop (probably Maria, one of the owners) actually filled the little cookies to order, and topped them with powdered sugar. Just spending those few minutes in the store picking up our meal, I could really tell that this family takes great care in preparing their foods. It was a very satisfying meal, made all the more pleasant by enjoying the view of the ocean and mountains sitting on a blanket at the beach.

I also love bringing take-out sushi combos to the beach, because I think it's the quintessential Vancouver summer treat to be able to get relatively cheap yet good sushi, plus beautiful weather, ocean and mountains all at once. It's a nice casual way to show off the city a bit to out of town friends, too. Or bring a little barbecue to the beach, and have a cookout. Raviolino has Sicilian style hamburger patties too, if you don't want to make your own. Just watch out for lame frisbee and football tossers at the beach. My herb dressing was contaminated by the sand spray from an incoming frisbee! Frisbee people who can't actually catch frisbees: next time you're out on the beach, scan around and make sure you're not choosing a spot near me while I'm eating. You can recognize me from my photo on this site. Yah, that's right, if you see a giant cotton candy sitting on the sand, enjoying a gourmet meal, move far, far away.

Monday, May 02, 2005

EAT! Vancouver 2005

Just wanted to report that I had a great time sampling my way through EAT! Vancouver in BC Place on April 22nd. I watched Bob Blumer race an audience member in a Kraft Dinner challenge that he devised, and won single-handedly (literally! He made his meal with one hand because they couldn't get the head mic fixed in time, so he only had a handheld). This year's event was much more interesting than the event last year (and included a lot more sampling), but it would be nice to get the AV kinks at the main cooking stage all sorted out before the event. They went high tech, replacing the standard mirror about the cooking stage with a camera, but only aimed the camera at the range top, resulting in the audience either missing half the action or forcing the chef to do all sorts of things awkwardly over the burners. The bowls of hope portion of the event, where you buy tickets that you can trade in for small bites, was actually quite a good deal this year. Six dollars filled me up with all sorts of goodies, including my first sample of Kiwi Pie Company's beautifully flaky savory pies. Also entertaining was Brock Lee's noodle-making demo where he swung his dough around with great showmanship. I also watched the afternoon demo of Rob Feenie, and his new executive chef for Lumiere, and they had great little tidbits about their Iron Chef experience. Funny thing is that I've forgotten the exec chef's name, and it's a little difficult to find his name on the internet. It's always Feenie, Feenie, Feenie! Anyway, it looks like Eat! Vancouver is building up some momentum. Always fun to have another food event around town. I really hope Taste of the Nation comes back to Vancouver though next year. I'll be making the trek down to Seattle to cover their Taste of the Nation event on May 15th, so look out for my first assignment as a foreign correspondent!