Saturday, March 31, 2012

Baby Mangos! Awwwww!

I just bought some of these super adorable baby mangos from a produce store in Kitsilano. I tried eating one with the skin, and it was delicious. I loved the chewy texture of the skin, which really added to the mango experience. I usually don't eat the skin of the big mangos. And as a bonus, when you're eating a tiny mango, skin and all, it is extremely tidy, making them a great addition to a lunch bag. I find that if I am eating a regular-sized, juicy mango, I want to do it in the privacy of my own home, close to a sink and a towel. I hope these stick around. I didn't see the whole kiwi berry thing take off here. If you see them, buy them up!

Monday, March 12, 2012

In Memory of My Foodie Cat

[Please note that the following is a departure from my regular food ramblings to express some thoughts about my recently deceased cat, whom I was attached to like he was my own child. He is survived by long time companion, Mango. I adopted both of them on Dec 25, 2010.]

Dear Cole,

Thank you for the fourteen and a half months that we had together. It really seemed like we've known each other for so much longer. I loved you and cared for you with everything I had and I genuinely felt that you appreciated it - I often sensed that I gave you and Mango a much better home than you came from. You gave me so much love, so freely. Your generous, proud and affectionate spirit charmed everyone who met you. Your openness and forthrightness and trusting nature was unusual and beautiful. That openness extended to your desire to try new foods, and we had that in common. From spicy dishes to that good baguette from a French bakery, you always wanted to try everything I was eating, or at least the quality stuff. Never saw you going after the regular supermarket bread. I love that you and Mango have such different personalities and preferences. With you, it was food, and with Mango, I have a love of music and a critical ear in common, for example. She and I will comfort each other while we miss you and grieve for you.

I will miss your classic flop and roll maneuver to elicit a belly rub (a remarkably open gesture that characterized how you lived in general). I will miss watching you walk into every room with your tail held high. I will miss the tender way you look up into my eyes when you are feeling particularly content in a cuddle, and want to connect. You never held a grudge, and you looked to me with trust right to the last moment when you lay your head down gently in the emergency clinic. Know that I truly believe it to be the right time to let you go for your sake, and that it would have only been selfish of me to try to extend your suffering.

Life seems so fragile right now. I spent a week dreading your loss last year when I was waiting for the results from the tumour removal. This time, there was no time to contemplate the possibility. There's just time now to mourn. Endless time, really. It's hard to describe how attached I was to you. You were up with me every morning when I was getting ready for work, and you met me at the door whenever I came home. Sometimes I would catch you staring at me so intently. You were so adorable when you burrowed in to the comforter and just barely poked your head out. Or when you and Mango were cuddled up and grooming each other. You looked out for me, and always came over when I called.

I'm reminded that any of us could die at any time, in any number of ways. It seems so unfair that such a good and kind being as you should have your life cut short but horrible hateful beings live out their lives to the very end. A friend has told me to think about the things that I brought to your life in this time of grief. I think having you in my home was a very good thing for both of us. Death, well, this is part of adopting cats. You take on the likelihood of dealing with the death of the cat in the future automatically upon adoption. Even more likely when you decide to adopt older cats. It is worth it. I wouldn't give up knowing you, Cole, for anything. I hope you understood my gratitude every day, as I expressed it in taking care of you. In turn, you took care of me.

So this letter is a final thank you from my heart.


Friday, March 09, 2012

Ohhhh, That's The Big Deal...Macarons by Kitchening With Carla

Just a quick note about one product. I honestly didn't really get what the big deal was about macarons. I had some nice ones, but didn't think it was my thing.

At a party, someone introduced me to a macaron from Kitchening With Carly. You can order them online and see who carries them at her website:

I get it now. This little meringue-y treat was really delicious. I love the texture of the crispness of the outside and the soft inside, and combination of flavours with the jam in the middle. It made me reconsider macarons as not just something for fashionistas with disturbingly high sweetness tolerances. It's something for me too.

Monday, March 05, 2012

My New "Secret" Spot - Adesso Bistro

I realize I've been a bit out of touch - just a natural combination of dieting, slipping deeper into aging homebody mode, and being occupied by other things, but this restaurant is good enough that I would have expected someone to have clued me in, even if they had to knock on my door and drag me over there. And yes, this restaurant is so good, it warrants resurrecting a sleepy blog just to fuss over it too.

Adesso Bistro is in the cosy west-of-Denman hideaway that used to house Parkside and later, L'Altro Buca, at 1906 Haro St. at Gilford St. (604.568.9975). It certainly has already captured the attention of several restaurant reviewers, but this little gem somehow managed to slip past the radar of myself and perhaps many other folk; it was pretty quiet the night that I went, and a small poll at a party didn't get any signs of recognition). Though as I write, there is an active Groupon that will no doubt draw the ravaging bargain-hunting hoards to descend upon it (no disrespect intended, as I am speaking as one of you).

One night this week, I was just driving around looking for free parking, intending to grab a quick bite to eat on Denman. The spot I found was right across from Adesso, and decided to check it out since I was in the mood for pasta anyway. I wound up having the best meal I can remember in the last few years. Every detail seemed absolutely perfect. I imagine that this is what it's like to be a piano teacher for beginners in a small town and getting used to listening to pieces mangled day in and day out, and then every year or two making it in to the city to hear a masterpiece by a visiting maestro tackling a difficult piece with seemingly effortless grace. There were no trade-offs in this meal - quite rare in my recent dining. Mind you, this sort of dining isn't cheap, but honestly I found the regular pricing very fair, and they even had a lovely three course prix fixe for $32, and I've seen not only the Groupon offer, but also a website discount, so there's not even a complaint there.

So I'll list the notes that they hit so well.

Location - it feels so tucked away and off the beaten path, but it is right downtown, so it should be easy to get there. It's in my neighbourhood, which I love. I managed to even find free street parking across from the restaurant for those of you who live farther away and like that.

Greeting - friendly and welcoming, and he gave me a choice of spots available. This is significant, as I came in alone, female, Asian, and without a reservation and although you might imagine that most of these things should not result in a less than welcoming reception at restaurants, it far too often does in this town.

Decor - as I mentioned, I've been a fan of this cosy location in the past, and whatever they've changed or not changed in the decor makes for a beautiful, relaxing room in classic style with paintings referencing Italy and a patio to look forward to when the weather warms. It's nicely lit so that it's worthy of any special occasion or full-on romancing dinner while not being too dark to see what you're eating. The tables are spaced apart enough for those intimate dinners too. You would feel at home dressing up here, but it doesn't have an overly formal feel, and the "bistro" name feels appropriate. I was completely comfortable.

Menu - there were many enticing things on the menus to choose from. There were plenty of wines by the glass to choose from. Prosecco cocktails and other cocktails were all there too. There was also a great prix fixe $32 that night that featured salmon or veal for the main course which seemed like a great deal, and I was just in the mood to try other things. I wound up choosing a pizza with roasted mushrooms, truffle fonduta, and fontina cheese to start. Braised duck and gnocchi dish with mushrooms, tomato and parsley for a main. And a steamed lemon cake with yoghurt sorbe. Shouldn't all the food sound like it will be delicious when you're reading the menu? That's what I liked about their menus.

Olives - I was given a little dish of tiny olives right away that were remarkably delicious.

Bread - there seems to be a bit of a trend for places that are expensive enough to have a bread basket to skip the complimentary bread offering. Here, you get a wonderful warm focaccia with that yummy crunch of salt on top, served with very tasty olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Service - this is a big one. The service was flawless throughout. And charming. And helpful. My server even suggested that I might take home some of the pizza when I ordered, foreseeing that there would be too much food for me, and that it would be a shame to be too full for the duck and gnocchi dish. He was always available, checked on me often, but not in any sort of overbearing way, and generally anticipated every possible need. Dishes were whisked away at exactly the moment I would want them to be. It's the type of place where they offer to arrange a cab for you afterwards too.

My savoury food - the restaurant focuses on the Ligurian region of Italy, home of pesto and full of seafood. I started with the mushroom pizza ($13) that was so fragrant and delicious. The edges were very crispy, the crust was very thin, and yet it was hugely satisfying. I could only eat half. Then I had the beautiful stewed duck, tomato, mushrooms with gnocchi ($20). Gnocchi were soft and lovely and mixed in with the luxurious, rich "pulled duck" braise. Mmm, mmm, MMM, pulled duck and potato dumplings (I'm so excited, a bit of my hillbilly is showing through).

(edited to add: My wine - I chose a glass of Santa Christina Chianti, $10, which was delicious alone and went very well with my duck and gnocchi dish, but not as well with the mushroom pizza, I thought. I am sure that I would have had extremely skilled pairing suggestions from my server had I asked. There were also pairings laid out right on the prix fixe menu, and I think the menu with the pairings was only about $45).

My Dessert - now I don't know what's actually happening in the back and who's doing what, but because restaurants often have separate chefs and pastry chefs, sometimes one outshines the other. In this case, I can't even decide whether the savoury or sweet shows more talent, because the dessert was just as delicious as the rest of my meal. I was surprised by how good it was. The steamed lemon cake ($8) was beautifully delicate, warm, and tasty. The frozen yoghurt and berry sauce complimented it very well. I might have been anticipating a clumsier cake, because I was so delighted by the unexpected airiness that is uncommon with a cake that is served warm. Great texture. I could have that dessert over and over again (yah yah, I mean on different days, of course).

Branding/Concept/Restaurant Name - Adesso means "now" in Italian, and knowing that, the name of the restaurant feel perfect too. As their website says, "now", as in today...modern...fresh. With fresh, organic, and local ingredients.

Okay, now to qualify some of this gushing. I want to make it clear that I have only visited the restaurant once. I have no idea if I just happened to luck out and get a fleeting perfect storm of events (maybe I got the very best server who doesn't work other days, maybe I chose the absolute best on the menu, maybe the unexpectedness of the meal heightened the effect of everything, etc.) to produce this wonderful meal. Having read some of the reviews after my meal, I suspect not, and am hopeful that they are consistently great. I am visiting again soon (having gushed to other people and demanding to drag them there myself just before the Groupon magically appeared hours later). I wasn't able to take any decent photos as the camera that I usually have on me (you know, the one I'm always lugging around just in case I run into circumstances like this) was not on me that night. I'll update with my second impressions, and hopefully photos. Buon appetito!