Sunday, March 25, 2007

1st Annual Spring Break Potluck: Blueberry Muffins (cw)

[entry by cw]

The recipe is more or less the following... I made adjustments along the process... using less butter, sugar, and I skipped the sour cream though!

Blueberry Muffins

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 ounces (about 1 cup) sour cream
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups of fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place paper liners in muffin pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, sour cream, and milk.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed add the flour mixture to the batter and beat until just mixed. Fold in the blueberries with a spatula and be sure the batter is completely mixed.

Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling each cup just over the top, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the muffins are lightly browned on top and a cake tester comes out clean.

1st Annual Spring Break Potluck Summary

Lechon Kawali ("Lechon ni Betchon") by bsc
Lettuce Wrap by msc
Shrimp Fried Rice by mega
Ginataan by lsc
Almost-Traditional Caesar Salad by ts
Blueberry Muffins by cw
Roast Chicken by js

1st Annual Spring Break Potluck: Ginataan (lsc)

[March 1, 2008:
The step-by-step pictures are now here!]

[added Feb 2008:
It's too bad, but lsc's STEP-BY-STEP pictures of how to make this are gone! It was in Yahoo Photos before, but that site's not around anymore. =( Those pictures were really good, too! Step-by-step! \ts]

[entry by lsc]

1 pack tapioca
1 pack panutcha (pa-noot-cha).... i think this is how you call this... it's solid sugar

left: tapioca pearls; right: panutcha (golden slab sugar)

4 cans coconut milk

2 cans jackfruit .....

what the hell with the "Cock in the Mountaintop" brand... hahahha.... this has "kaong" inside (hard coconut jelly) - cut them in smaller pieces (you can opt this out if you don't like kaong and just buy ones that has only jackfruit in).

1/2 pack of brown sugar

6-8 purple yam (or you can use taro)

4 packs mini rice balls

A: Tapioca
1. Boil water in pot, add a tsp. of salt

2. add some oil

3. add tapioca

4. stir and let it boil

5. once the water thickens - see pic

6. drain in colander

* do steps #3 - #6 three times or until the tapioca is cooked.

7. shows how the tapioca look like after the second boiling - notice there are still some big white dots

8. once the tapioca is done, leave them in cold water - it's ok to have some tiny white dots, they will be cooked thoroughly once we add the tapioca in the coconut milk.

B: Purple yam in panutcha
1. Peel purple yams

2. put the peeled purple yams in cool water

3. cut purple yams in cubes

4. set aside the cubed purple yams

5. put some water in a big pot - about 2 cups

6. add the panutcha

7. arrange them so they melt evenly

8. once the panutcha has melted and boiling

9. add 1/2 pack of sugar

10. let the sugar melt

11. let it boil for 10 mins - to thicken a bit - put in lower heat so it won't burn

12. add cubed purple yams

13. stir purple yams in panutcha

14. increase the heat and let it boil

15. once it's boiling, lower down the heat so you don't burn the sugar

16. once you can squeeze the yams with your finger (not too mushy) - about 20 mins.

17. drain and set aside

C: Ginataan : The Finale
1. pour coconut milk in pot

2. add equal parts of water - 1:1

3. add 2 bowls of water

4. add sugar - we use a paler brown sugar. Nanay asked for white sugar, but I have none. Apparently, she didn't want to use the darker brown sugar. You can use any type of sugar you want. :)

5. using ladle as my measurement - i think i put 2 ladles in at the start

6. when the coconut milk is boiling, add the mini rice balls

7. once the rice balls are cooked (they will float)

8. add the cooked tapioca

9. add more sugar if you want

10. add the jackfruit

11. add the purple yams, stir carefully

12. let it cook for another 5 more mins. and it's done

* Always taste the ginataan for the right sweetness.

** Dilemma: After some time, i checked the ginataan and noticed that the sauce had thickened so much. The sauce had the consistency of glue... more like a thick goo. I think this was caused by cooking the rice balls in the coconut milk (it's made of flour afterall). Next time I'll cook the rice balls in a separate pot.

*** Solution: I didn't buy extra coconut milk but i had 2 cans of coconut CREAM in my cupboard. I use one can first and added 1.5 cans of water and a ladel of sugar. I heated it up and I let the sugar melt before i added it in the ginataan. It wasn't enough to thin the ginataan sauce so i use the other can and added more water this time. I still heated it up as the coconut cream/milk needed to be cooked first. I didn't add sugar this time as the ginataan was still sweet enough.

**** Preparation and cooking time; 1.5 hrs. Cook them all simultaneously or you'll spend twice the amount of time.

Happy cooking!

1st Annual Spring Break Potluck Summary

Lechon Kawali ("Lechon ni Betchon") by bsc
Lettuce Wrap by msc
Shrimp Fried Rice by mega
Ginataan by lsc
Almost-Traditional Caesar Salad by ts
Blueberry Muffins by cw
Roast Chicken by js

1st Annual Spring Break Potluck: Almost Traditional Caesar Salad (ts)

[entry by ts]

Start with cold olive oil. Add olive oil to cold pan. Add in a few whole cloves of garlic. Salt & pepper to taste, chili flakes if desired. Turn on the heat; the lowest possible.

This should slowly infuse the oil with garlic flavor. Wait until the garlic starts to brown a little. Turn off heat. Remove garlic cloves. (You can use them for some other thing. They're *almost* roasted garlic, but not that soft & roasted.)

The oil is ready!

Cut bread (any type) into cubes. Toss bread & oil together.

Place cubes onto a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden.
(350 degrees; but doesn't really matter, re temperature. Just make sure to look at them and don't let them burn.)

Proportions: I made A LOT of croutons. I used about 1/4 cup of olive oil for about 8-10 slices of bread (normal sandwich bread type bread).

Wash & dry.

This is *almost* traditional because I used mayonnaise instead of raw egg yolks (with there being kiddies and all at the potluck), and I added capers.

I made A LOT of dressing. Yield was about 2 cups or so. Proportions of the ingredients are approximate (I can't remember exactly anymore) and all are subject to your taste/personal preference.

Dump everything into a food processor.

1 head garlic
1 tin anchovies
juice of 5-7 lemons
2 Tbsp capers
2 tspn Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup mayo
black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Toss romaine & croutons with dressing. Add parmiggiano-reggiano shavings (or grated). Enjoy!

1st Annual Spring Break Potluck Summary

Lechon Kawali ("Lechon ni Betchon") by bsc
Lettuce Wrap by msc
Shrimp Fried Rice by mega
Ginataan by lsc
Almost-Traditional Caesar Salad by ts
Blueberry Muffins by cw
Roast Chicken by js

1st Annual Spring Break Potluck: Roast Chicken (js)

[entry by js]

It's too bad nobody took pictures!

Anyways, here's the roast chicken recipe. It's fairly straight-forward.

Brining the chicken first makes for plump, juicy chicken that don't dry out in the oven.

(a) To brine the chicken

(1) Dissolve 1/2 a cup of sugar
(2) Dissolve 1/2 a cup of salt
(3) . . .in 2 L of water

(b) Put the chicken in this brining solution for at least 2 hours or overnight, in the fridge.

(c) When ready to roast, rinse the chicken to get the brining solution off and pat dry with paper towels. Now the chicken is ready to be roasted.

(d) You can roast the chicken just like that and it's pretty good already. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

(e) This is a Michael Smith recipe. Put some celery, carrots, onions in a roasting pan, season with olive oil, salt and pepper, and place the chicken on top of the vegetables. Roast at 350 degrees F until chicken is done (usually 45 minutes to an hour).

(f) For the potluck, I chose to just dress the bird a little with some lemon, herbs, garlic and butter.

(g) Herbs: you can choose which herb you like. Rosemary works well with chicken. Thyme does. Actually, anything will go with chicken -- so it's a free-for-all here.

(h) Lemon, butter, and garlic -- this combination is just magic. Anything will taste good with lemon, butter and garlic. You can omit the garlic as well if you don't like garlic.

(i) Rub the chicken in and out with the butter. Place a couple of pieces of butter in between the skin and the flesh (especially the breast, since that dries out quickly).

(j) Place lemon, garlic (you can chop/mince finely if you like), butter (or rub inside the cavity as well) inside the cavity of the chicken. If you have herbs, just put them inside as well and rub it all over the chicken. You can do whatever with the chicken! LOL

(k) Season with salt and pepper, inside and out. The heavier you salt the skin, the crisper skin you'll get because salt draws out the moisture.

1st Annual Spring Break Potluck Summary

Lechon Kawali ("Lechon ni Betchon") by bsc
Lettuce Wrap by msc
Shrimp Fried Rice by mega
Ginataan by lsc
Almost-Traditional Caesar Salad by ts
Blueberry Muffins by cw
Roast Chicken by js

1st Annual Spring Break Potluck: "Lechon ni Betchon" (bsc)

[entry by bsc]

Pork Belly
whole black pepper
dried Laurel leaves

1. Boil Pork Belly with all the ingredients
2. When Pork is tender, take it out of the pan to let it cool and dry
3. Freeze the pork for 4 hours or overnight
4. You can deep fry, oven or turbo broil... your choice. What I did for our potluck was turbo broil.
5. heat broiler 350 to 400F.
6. Do not thaw the Pork belly. Just put it in the broiler as soon as you take it out of the freezer.
7. spread water using a brush once in a while to keep the skin moist
8. let it cook for 45 mins or until skin looks crispy (It looks crispy when I took it out :) )

* Maybe deep frying is better, but too oily....

1st Annual Spring Break Potluck Summary

Lechon Kawali ("Lechon ni Betchon") by bsc
Lettuce Wrap by msc
Shrimp Fried Rice by mega
Ginataan by lsc
Almost-Traditional Caesar Salad by ts
Blueberry Muffins by cw
Roast Chicken by js

1st Annual Spring Break Potluck: Lettuce Wrap (msc)

[entry by msc]

3 lbs Ground Pork
a can of Waterchestnuts
1.5 lbs Shrimp
15 pcs. Shitake Mushroom
3 pcs Shallots

1. Saute shallots until brown
2. Add pork, cook until pork is brown
3. Add waterchestnuts, mushroom and shrimp
4. Add salt and Hoisin sause to taste
5. Wrap in lettuce and enjoy. :)

1st Annual Spring Break Potluck Summary

Lechon Kawali ("Lechon ni Betchon") by bsc
Lettuce Wrap by msc
Shrimp Fried Rice by mega
Ginataan by lsc
Almost-Traditional Caesar Salad by ts
Blueberry Muffins by cw
Roast Chicken by js

1st Annual Spring Break Potluck: Shrimp Fried Rice (mega)

[entry by mega]

Freshly cooked rice
Green Peas
Green Onions
Salt and Pepper

Heat oil and butter in pan. Saute garlic, shrimps, green peas, green onions. Add cooked rice and seasoning salt to taste. Mix well. Create a small hole in the middle of the pan. Put in one egg at a time and whip after a few seconds. Mix with rice. Repeat procedure until the desired color is achieved. Serve.

1st Annual Spring Break Potluck Summary

Lechon Kawali ("Lechon ni Betchon") by bsc
Lettuce Wrap by msc
Shrimp Fried Rice by mega
Ginataan by lsc
Almost-Traditional Caesar Salad by ts
Blueberry Muffins by cw
Roast Chicken by js

Saturday, March 24, 2007

1st Annual Spring Break Potluck (March 24, 2007)

[entry by js]

Thank you all for making our 1st Annual Spring Break Potluck a raving success.

Thank you to Betson, for organizing the event. Thank you to all who brought such yummy, yummy food to share. And thank you to all who partook of the yummy, yummy food.

To summarize, here was the spread, with my comments.

Betson: Lechon Kawali RECIPE
This was delicious, pork transformed.

Betson complained about the skin not being crispy enough, but really, it was all good for me, because I chose not to eat the skin anyways. The meat was very tender and has that pork-buttery effect on the tongue.

You ALL are making me fat: I'm going to sue you!

Maryann: Lettuce Wrap RECIPE
Again, this was delicious! Ground pork, with shrimp and mushrooms and other stuff -- I'm sure Maryann would share the recipe -- wrapped in lettuce, with hoisin sauce. Excellent.

I think my mother will not like me, but I must say this version I like more than hers. This tastes lighter on the tongue, as opposed to my mother's "richer/browner" pork filling. My mother sautes the filling with hoisin sauce, leading to the richer/browner taste.

Mega: Shrimp Fried Rice and Almond Jelly RECIPE
Again, delicious. Big, plump shrimp with egg and rice! What's not to like? And I liked this very much. It's not greasy at all, which is a big, big plus.

Sorry, Mega -- didn't try the almond jelly. =( I'm not a big fan of almond jelly, so it was nothing against this almond jelly. I know, I know, it's an oversight on my part, and I'll do better next time. I'll still sue all of you for trying to make me fat! LOL

Lorelei: Ginataan, a type of Filipino specialty dessert RECIPE
So yummy, and the primary defendant in my lawsuit, because it's GINATAAN.

Coconut milk, all that starch (tapioca, rice balls, purple yam), all that sugar. How could I have eaten 3 bowl-fuls of something that I have to work off so hard? So I'm going to sue Lorelei! LOL

Marc and Mao: Turon
(Plantains/Bananas wrapped in Spring Roll Wrappers, then Pan-fried or Deep-fried)

I'm impressed, because this turon is well-done. I've never had a chance to try Marc and Mao's cooking, but if this is an indication, then it's something that I will look forward to in future potlucks. This turon is not greasy at all, which is excellent. And I don't particularly like jackfruit in turon previously, but this one might have made me a convert.

TS: Caesar Salad RECIPE
Excellent. I like my Caesar salad dressings garlicky and strong. The homemade croutons are so yummy! I can eat these croutons all day. And I do mean ALL DAY. I have to stop myself.

Again, the only thing I can complain about is the over-dressing of the greens -- are you trying to make me fat? I'll sue you!

Christiana: Muffin Trio (blueberry, banana, carrot) RECIPE
This came warm from the oven -- bakery fresh! I haven't tried it personally yet (will do in the morning, for breakfast tomorrow), but judging from how the kids swarmed about the muffins and how they scarfed them down, it must be good!

Danica cried when my mother took away her muffin! And she was still trying to pack in as much of the muffin before she had to go upstairs to bed. I trust Danica's taste: she is very sophisticated. =)

My own Lemon-Garlic Herb Roast Chicken RECIPE
Well, could have been more garlicky and probably needed to be seasoned more aggressively, but it was home-cooking, and home cooks tend to be more tentative about seasoning than restaurant cooks. =)

When the birds came out, it kind of looked good, all plump and juicy like that, if I may say so myself. LOL I liked these birds and I guess I'll just leave it at that. Special thanks to Maryann for carving the chicken.

Again, thank you all very much and hope to see you in the next Potluck!

I think, as per Betson, we would have to be posting the recipes? Yes, please do share your recipes!

Lechon Kawali ("Lechon ni Betchon") by bsc
Lettuce Wrap by msc
Shrimp Fried Rice by mega
Ginataan by lsc
Almost-Traditional Caesar Salad by ts
Blueberry Muffins by cw
Roast Chicken by js

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Rare (March 10, 2007)

Two reviewers: ts and js

It's a good idea to read these reviews for Rare and La Buca (review here) side by side or to go to both restaurants within the week. Just because you really couldn't go to two restaurants with diametrically-opposed philosophies when it comes to food.

I forgot if I already mentioned: In December, the Rare website stated that they were open for lunch that whole month. So I made a reservation, but when I arrived, they were closed!

Anyway, yada-yada-yada, I got a $50 Rare gift card out of it. So, thought we'd use it.

My father & I had the Seasonal Tasting Menu.
My mother & js had a la carte items.

AMUSE: liquid caesar salad

When we sat down, our amuse was a "liquid" version of a caesar salad.

Basically it was romaine/lettuce juice with a crouton and bacon in a shot glass. The lettuce juice is definitely something one must get used to. It tasted just like how it sounds. Perhaps if they added more acid or something, it would be more palatable.

I drank 3 of the 4, though, coz i felt bad having them untouched on the table. Besides, I considered getting to the crouton & bacon my "reward" for downing the juice.

Lettuce juice amuse-bouche: this was kind of yucky.

The thing with these "innovative"/"cutting edge" restaurants is sometimes they hyper-intellectualize the food. Yeah, I get it that a liquid caesar salad is interesting as a concept but in practice it is kind of yucky. To top it off they added the crouton and the bacon in the shot glass -- I would drink the liquified lettuce juice but I couldn't down it with the crouton and the bacon. It was just plain yucky to me.

a la carte items:
Unilateral Mahi Mahi — rice paper- $25
enoki mushroom ~ winter fruit ~ pomegranate

Ravioli – forest mushrooms — $12
red wine foam ~ shallot purée

Whole Quail – Okanagan valley – $17†
savoy ~ honey glaze ~ lardon ~ quail egg

Berkshire Pork – seared – $28
wilted romaine ~ apple ~ espelette broth

The mahi-mahi. I have no idea what "unilateral" means. ts kind of explained it to me but I still don't get it. First of all, why would a unilateral mahi-mahi be better than a -- what? I suppose a bilateral? -- bilateral mahi-mahi? I just don't get it.

Anyways, the mahi-mahi was just okay, not that good but not that bad either. It really was nothing special. I didn't like the fish being wrapped in the rice paper either. The rice paper was kind of slimy, as in sticky and stretchy. I must have totally missed the point of this dish at all.

I also had the cauliflower soup with a little bit of truffle oil. This was probably the best of my dishes. The small piece of lobster was okay, as is the salmon or steelhead roe. But I didn't really taste the truffle oil and I couldn't really taste the cauliflower either. The soup was just salty for me and there was no hint of sweetness or creaminess from the cauliflower.

Dare I say it? The cauliflower was "rare" in this soup. LOL

[added Feb 2008: I'm not sure where this cauliflower soup menu item fits in within the menu. Maybe another a la carte item?]

Tasted the ravioli: the flavors were good. A tad overseasoned, though.

As for the quail dish, I didn't actually get to taste the quail. There was roasted apples in the dish, I believe, and some sort of slaw-like item. That (slaw) was very good.

The Berkshire pork. It says "seared" on the menu but I don't recall it being seared at all. It was just very evenly cooked, just slightly pink at the center. It was too smooth for me. That is, a lot of flavour comes from caramelization of sugars in the meat etc etc etc and this didn't have any of those. It was just a very smooth pork and not that interesting to me. The broth and the vegetables were also just okay. I don't like the idea of the pork being in some kind of broth actually: it just didn't enhance the experience of the pork for me. It was very tender though.

March 2007 Seasonal Tasting Menu, $45 per person

Cured Winter Beets — Evergreen Farm
iced ~ clotted 55% b.f. cream ~ tarragon ~ pinenut oil

Pickled Winter Mussels — Salt Spring Island
sherry vinegar ~ smoked apple ~ spring garlic spatzle

Corvina Black Bass — Catalina Island
green tomato broth ~ smoked chayote ~ polenta

Honey & Arugula Seltzer

Seared Angus Striploin — Rare
truffled fingerling potatoes ~ melted leeks ~ carrot
Wild Side Stripe Prawns — Birch Syrup
lingot bean ragout ~ saskatoon berry ~ pork hock

Balsamic Ice & Candied Almonds

Deconstructed Key Lime Pie
lemon curd ~ butter crust ~ lemon ice

\end of tasting menu

The beets were not bad. They were pickled, basically. The cream was nice.

The mussels were also pickled! Of this dish, I liked the spatzle.

The bass dish was nice enough.

Honey & arugula seltzer: I was fearing that this may be like the liquid caesar salad, but this was actually pretty pleasant. I guess the honey saves it. It tasted like honeydew, actually.

The honey and arugula seltzer -- kind of yucky as well but less yucky than the liquid caesar salad. Again, I don't get the point of liquifying vegetables. What is the point?

[ts] I chose the striploin. The steak was nicely cooked. Leeks are always good.

The balsamic ice was actually balsamic ice cream. It was floating on fizzy water (a float!). It was all right. That is, I don't know if I like it or not. It definitely tasted like balsamic. The candied almonds were actually in the form of a brittle.

js and Mama received a pre-dessert amuse, but I forgot what it was. Some sort of cookie-type item with a sauce?

Dessert: I guess it "was" lemon curd, not key lime curd. Just seems weird to call it key lime pie.

The crust was a tad too thick and hard to cut through. Oh, it was "deconstructed" in that the curd was at the bottom of the bowl, then a cut-out circle of crust was on top. On top was a buttermilk ice cream (not lemon flavor). This was nice enough, again. I liked the buttermilk ice cream.

Probably the best thing about this meal was the dessert.

I had the chocolate many ways: hot chocolate, chocolate ganache, chocolate torte, and a brownie. This was very good chocolate. The chocolate was the best part of the meal.

General notes: I ordered tea. They just had "regular" tea, not fancy-schmancy ones. No biggie, except they do say that they adhere to the philosophy of attaining "rare" things. There was a variety of brands of teas, but they also had Stash Organic -- available in regular supermarkets.

They kept re-folding the napkins when someone leaves the table (to go the bathroom or something). Teehee.

The menus they gave us actually were personalized menus! It said "Welcome to Rare" and our name on them!

The servings were not that big. Even having the 6-course menu, I wasn't that full. (Well, I wasn't hungry, either.) I guess it's a good amount for "normal" people, haha. I don't know about just ordering the a la carte items, though. I think JS was still hungry. The mahi mahi was categorized as "half" and the pork, a "full." I guess JS can add to this.

I was still hungry after the meal. I think I had potato chips after this meal, because it wasn't really very filling at all.

I probably would rate this as a 4 out of 10. It just wasn't that good. Granted, they are new so maybe it'll take them a couple more months to settle in with a menu that would be spectacular.

Rating: maybe 6-ish out of 10. It wasn't bad or anything, but just "OK". Nothing spectacular. Won't be in too big a rush to return.

As the name implies, and as ts has already pointed out, Rare seeks to be unique, to be that one-of-a-kind experience. . .but for me it just doesn't live up to its name. It's trying too hard to be _rare_ that sometimes it has forgotten how to be good.

Monday, March 12, 2007

La Buca (March 2007)

Two reviewers: ts and js; no review by csc

A couple of notes:

First, we need MORE of these places in Vancouver. Fantastic -- and it really is fantastic! -- food,
reasonable prices, casual service, convenient location (ie 10-15 minutes away from home).

Second, the food they serve at La Buca is the food that I want to eat all the time. In my head, this is what food at home should be: nothing too fancy, that is, basic but good ingredients simply prepared. The Italian aesthetic of "simple perfection" is closest to my heart and my stomach.

On to the review.

In usual fashion, [js],[csc] & I ordered "a lot." We each had a starter, a full-serving pasta course, an entree and dessert.

The server informed us that we could actually get a half-size portion of pasta. I was considering this, but while CSC & the server were in discussion, CSC concluded that she would order the full size. JS and I followed suit.

The server (and soon, Chris Stewart as well) was a little concerned about the full-size serving, but were mollified when we mentioned we could always take the leftover pasta home.

Cuori di lattuga
Hearts of romaine lettuce, lemon, anchovy and parmesan dressing 8.5

Cozze con salsiccia del finocchio
Steamed mussels with fennel sausage, white wine and fresh bay leaves 11

Daily Special
Grilled squid stuffed with crab meat, tomato-saucy-thing, arugula salad, salsa verde

I had the squid. First bite: sooo good!

The grill aroma & taste were good; the squid was perfectly done, the crab stuffing was excellent. Everything on the plate was soooo good.

Tasted the others as well:

Salad: Crunchy romaine! Nice dressing. There was fried anchovy on the plate (woohoo!), as well as parmesan frico. Again, good.

I don't normally like mussels that much, but this was good. The sauce and all the stuff in it were good. I liked how the fennel sausage was sliced thinly (a departure from the usual thick slices or cubes of sausage).

I'll leave JS & CSC to fully review their starters.

The salad was PERFECT. Hits the spot. Crisp, crunchy romaine hearts in a fabulous dressing with just the right amount of parmesan cheese. Again, nothing complicated about this dish. We can all do this! LOL

I'm glad I ordered this salad instead of the other salad that TS kept pushing on me. Which would have been good as well (buffalo mozzarella, grilled radicchio, pine nuts, olives) but I was
really jonesing for just a very basic, very well-executed salad.

I tried TS's squid and I also tried CSC's mussels. CSC's mussels came with GRILLED BREAD (YES!) that was oh-so-good. It might have been a tad too long on the grill and could have used some garlic but IT'S GRILLED BREAD! So huge bonus points from me. The mussels were big and well-done and by itself it could have been a meal. It was certainly substantial enough.

The real star of the APPETIZERS though -- the superstar among the other stars -- was TS's squid. I had a piece of the squid and was I glad I was sitting down! Because, really, it was THAT good. It was a morsel of perfect happiness: I felt that that squid just fired all the right neurons, because it was bliss.

- Puttanesca: Olive, caper, anchovy, red onion, garlic, chili 14.50
- Gamberi: Rock shrimp, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, fennel and herbs 17

- Bolognese: Rich meat ragu 16

Gnocchi con pollo alla cacciatore
Potato gnocchi with hunters-style chicken ragu 17

I actually wanted the puttanesca. But I thought I'd go for the gnocchi since not a lot of places have that on their menus regularly.

JS actually ordered the puttanesca, but the server made a mistake and gave her the tagliatelle bolognese.

I thought my gnocchi dish would be more like the usual pasta dish: pasta + sauce. But it turns out, the gnocchi was more or less an accompaniment to the "sauce". The "sauce" was chicken cacciatore! So it was actually the stew/ragu that was the main component. The gnocchi itself was very good! So pillowy and soft, and good flavor. The ragu was a but too much for me, flavor-wise. That is, it was very "strong" and meaty. Otherwise, it was good; just a bit too husky/burly.

Tasted the tagliatelle: the pasta seemed hand-made. It had a very nice consistency. The sauce itself was good, too, but again, HUSKY! I guess am still tired of that "braised meat" flavor.

No ragus for me then! And since JS was denied, I think the next time we go there, Puttanesca it must be!

Anyway, since I was not in the mood for too-meaty flavors, CSC's Gamberi spaghetti was spot on. I will leave her to describe it.

Pasta: I had the tagliatelle Bolognese, which I didn't order. I had ordered the puttanesca, but our server made a mistake. I felt she was too concerned about our stomach room. I could have told her, "Don't worry; we know what we're doing; we do this all the time!"

The pasta was very good as well, given that this is a dish I would *NEVER* order in a restaurant. Points for having FRESH pasta. The meat sauce was very meaty, very hearty, and indeed, this pasta dish was very filling, a substantial meal in itself. The meat sauce could have used a couple of brighteners (too much meat) and I felt it was not seasoned enough (could have used more salt).

I had a taste of CSC's spaghetti gamberi and TS's cacciatore. Both were good. The cacciatore was too meaty and earthy for me as well, but Claire's spaghetti was light and perfect.

I WANT MY PUTTANESCA! Anyways, I can't really regret the tagliatelle because of THE FRESH PASTA. CSC's spaghetti is the dried kind and there is a difference.

At this point, we had our unfinished pasta set aside (still on the table) when we requested our mains to arrive. We were saving room, see.

Also, there was this older couple beside us who kept looking over at our table. As in, they looked like they were watching a show, almost. Teehee. We were speculating that, perhaps, they were aghast and felt compelled to watch and see if we could actually finish what we ordered.

Pesce del giorno
fresh fish every day: chef's preparation or simply grilled with lemon, olive oil and herbs AQ

Pollo arrosto
Crispy chicken roasted with lemon, rosemary, garlic, black pepper; olive oil mashed potato 19.5

Scallopine di vitello
- Marsala
milk-fed veal scallopine with Marsala wine sauce 22.50

JS got the fish. It was ling cod, with seafood (mussels, prawns, etc), bouillabaise-style. It also had vegetables in there, some pasta (more pasta!), etc.

I had the fresh fish, as mentioned above, chef's preparation (as opposed to grilled). I wish I had the grilled version though 'cause I was really hoping for something lighter and fresher on the palate. Not that the ling cod in the bouillaibaise (sp? too lazy to spell-check) wasn't delicious -- because it was and the sauce/broth was just spot-on, with notes of fennel and parsley, and would have went great with some grilled bread. What I probably found too "heavy" about the dish was the fried/pan-fried ling cod. If it were steamed in the broth, I think I would have liked it even more.

My veal: so very tender. Like a little behby (baby). Haha. (Which it is... a baby, ie.)

I've had scallopine before but I don't remember them being tender. Usually they were sort of tough. The Marsala sauce was "sweet" (not sugar-type sweet) and fragrant. The dish smelled like french toast! (From the butter.) It had green beans and asparagus, and a baby carrot. It also had polenta. The polenta was so good! It was crisp on the outside and really soft and creamy inside. Very good flavor by itself too.

Mineral water, still

Since we didn't order any alcohol and Chris knew who I was, we had to at least give them some sort of beverage money. Hehe. So mineral water it was! Still (ie, flat), though. Sparkling water is just yucky.

(Oh, JS ordered coffee too.)

Panna cotta with blueberry sauce
Dark chocolate tart with sundried cherries & whipped cream

Tiramisu -- EXCELLENT. This is what I want in a tiramisu.

Tasted the tiramisu. Good! Although, I was already swimming in Marsala, so I only took 2 bites out of this. Besides, I was concentrating on the panna cotta, since both JS and CSC didn't seem to want to try/have it.

Panna cotta: good! The blueberry sauce I could've done without, but then, that's because I really just like the panna cotta's inherent nature. So milky and such. =)

Tasted the dark chocolate tart. It really was a dark chocolate! Good too, but it was a "dry" dessert -- I guess because I didn't want to eat it with the cherries (they were stewed in some liquid, probably some sort of liquor). But as I mentioned, I was concentrating on finishing the panna cotta.

I found my dark chocolate torte a little too hard for my taste. I think if they microwaved it a little bit then it would have been better. But hey, it's DARK CHOCOLATE -- so points for them. The sun-dried cherries, which I thought I wouldn't like, were actually quite perfect with the dark chocolate.

All in all, once again, as per usual, this was GOOD!

To quote Frahnk from _Father of the Bride_, they are "gehnyuses and we need their MAHHHnd!" I mean, really!

Usually my comments for anything is just "OK", "not bad"... but this, one really must say GOOD (in caps lock, no less.)

Rating: umm... I guess this meal is about 8 or 8.5/10... (The HUSKY stuff brought the score down. But that's just my personal preference; or actually, just my mood.)

So THIS IS THE PLACE -- my home kitchen HAHAHA. Or what I think my home kitchen should be like. LOL Go to it. It's excellent food.

My score is 9 out of 10.

Oh, there was nothing leftover from the meal. We finished it all!


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Ganache Patisserie (March 3, 2007)

We (g-ongs, csc, ls & I) had a tasting of six items.
Grace took pictures. Expect them soon!

[added Feb 2008: pictures no longer available]

(in the order of tasting)

Thé Earl Grey et Cardamome
milk chocolate earl grey mousse, cardamom crème brûlée, lemon macaron

I don't know why, but apparently no one likes cardamom! How is that possible? Only I like cardamom.

Noisettes Canneberges et Poire
hazelnut parfait, pear gelée, vanilla cranberry risotto, hazelnut sablé Breton

I didn't notice that the vanilla-cranberry concoction had rice. This was nice. The hazelnut was pretty subtle.

green tea mousse, mango-passionfruit gelée, lychees, black sesame biscuit joconde

Macha-y (with all that that entails). The mango-passionfruit gelee was a nice complement to the macha. I don't remember the lychee.

Opéra à la noisette
dark chocolate ganache, coffee buttercream, hazelnut biscuit, praline crunch

The more standard/mainstream fare. Very good.

Concorde Framboise
dark chocolate raspberry mousse, raspberry balsamic gelée, cocoa meringue

This was good, too, flavor-wise, but I don't personally like raspberries all that much. Also, this had a softer texture than all the rest.

Poire et Sichuan Chocolat
szechuan pepper dark chocolate mousse, maple pear gelée, praline crunch, chocolate cake

Haha, am I just asking for trouble having something with Szechuan peppercorn? This was OK. I think I would've liked it more if it were just black peppercorn.

It was actually kind of filling, the tasting of these. We didn't even finish all of it! And there were 6 (or 7) of us! Anyway, all in all, they were good! A repeat is in the cards, eventually.

(I'm not a dessert person myself, but if going for dessert, I would tend to venture more towards patisserie-type items than than bakery-type items.)

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