Ratatouille (Confit Byaldi)

Originally a rustic French summer dish of stewed vegetables, ratatouille is perfect for combating the autumn chill.

Soon Dubu Chigae (Korean Soft Tofu Stew)

There's something incredibly homey about a big, earthenware bowl filled with clams, tofu, beef, and broth.

Smoked Cha Shao (Chinese BBQ Pork)

Normally found hanging in the windows of Chinese delicatessens, cha shao is a marinated, slightly sweet, slow roasted pork with a deep crimson color and radiant finish.

Niko Niku Ramen Recipe

A meaty, braised pork ramen in soy broth that puts on smile on everyone's face.

Smoked Salmon Tarragon Pasta

A refreshing pasta of summer herbs and smoked salmon, perfect for staying cool during summer.

10/31/2007

Maverick - San Francisco, CA

(Pictures for this review taken with my Canon PowerShot SD800is. Transit shots taken with my Canon Rebel XTi.

Ton-Ton's Journey: Vancouver 2007 will continue on Monday, November 5, 2007.)


Writing about our misadventures in Vancouver made me recall a review I've been meaning to post for the longest time. For some reason, Cat and I just don't travel well. Something invariably goes wrong.


(Caltrain station in Mountain View.)


Cat and I were visiting Northern California for Semajim's wedding. Since Passionate Eater had given me such a teasing for not visiting her when I'd last been in the area for my Bachelor Party, I emailed her to see if she wanted to meet up. By sheer chance, she was setting up a food blogger brunch that weekend to celebrate her move to New Orleans. Cat and I were generously extended invitations.


(
BART hub in Millbrae.)


The wedding and the brunch were on the same day. I was worried about traffic and parking, so I decided to use Silicon Valley's usually reliable mass transit system. You noticed the emphasis, right? In order to make sure we weren't late, Cat and I had decided to take an early train so we'd arrive at Maverick an hour early. We were planning to poke around the Mission District and maybe pick up a snack. The best laid plans...



Our northbound train was held up because the train in front of it was suffering mechanical difficulties. As the estimated delay time grew, I became increasingly antsy, until I finally accepted the fact that I was going to be late to the brunch. I phoned Maverick and asked the host to let Passionate Eater know that we were being delayed, and to ask the bloggers to start without us. When our train finally arrived an hour and a half later, I was a wreck. Despite all of my precautions, I was going to miss most of the meet up.



The ride up to Millbrae and the transfer onto the subway were mostly uneventful. We eventually arrived forty-five minutes after everyone else. A grinning Passionate Eater waved to us over to a table just inside the restaurant and introduced us to her Beau, Chef Ben of Cooking with the Single Guy, Foodhoe of Foodhoe's Foraging, and the Bunrabs, a husband and wife food blogging team. As Passionate Eater later said, I couldn't believe how attractive everyone was. To my surprise and embarrassment, they'd waited patiently for us. Thanks, guys. Thank you so much.



A neighborhood eatery in San Francisco's colorful (and odiferous) Mission District, Maverick has garnered rave reviews from local food bloggers and publications over the past two years. Imaginative dishes, excellent service, and a pleasant ambience have earned the restaurant its reputation. Seating is cramped, to say the least, with a tiny dining area in the front and a slightly larger side room. Wild gesticulation is not recommended.



I'm always a little anxious when meeting a group of strangers for the first time. I'm never sure if we'll get along. It was a surprise, then, how quickly I was able to relax with the San Francisco food bloggers. In spite of widely disparate backgrounds, our shared love for food gave us solid common ground from which to branch out to other subjects. The conversation wandered across a wide range of topics, including food, photography, cameras, films, travel, programming, advertising, video games, law, cooking, education, and public transit. It was truly enjoyable.



Since some of the others had already ordered drinks, I decided to join them by getting a soothing Arnold Palmer. A concoction of equal amounts lemonade and iced tea, it was undoubtedly the inspiration for the overly sweetened commecial lemon teas Americans enjoy today. However, the drink is quite pleasant when properly mixed. Sadly, Maverick's version was watery and lacking in flavor.



Our food arrived surprisingly quickly, given the size of our party. Cat's Cornmeal Buttermilk Pancakes were a crispy, golden treat. While the cornmeal added flavor, texture, and natural sweetness, the chef had managed to keep it from weighing down the batter, resulting in a very fluffy pancake that was too sweet for some. The grilled chicken and apple sausage side, made in house, was less enjoyable. There was something off-putting about the combination of ingredients when eaten with the pancakes. A more strongly seasoned sausage might have fared better.



My Andouille Sausage "Benedict" was much less conflicted. Two poached eggs pinned bits of grilled Andouille sausage to mats of toasted English muffin. A rich Jalapeno hollandaise blanketed each mound. Although the menu had mentioned there was crawfish in the dish, I couldn't find any. However, the other elements worked together so well that I didn't miss it. The herbed county potatoes generously piled on the plate were handy for scooping up every drop of the delectable golden sauce.



Chef Ben and Bunrab Chubby picked up sinful plates of Duck Confit Hash, which you can read about here.



The ever fearless Foodhoe went one better and ordered the artery-clogging Fried Oyster Po’Boy, which you can read about here.



After our excellent brunch, we continued the conversation while going for a walk. Passionate Eater, eager to show me some of the other culinary goodies in the area, took us past some San Francisco notables, including Delfina, Tartine, Bi-Rite Market, and Bi-Rite Creamery. I'll cover the last two in separate posts. Sadly, no one was up to taking my suggestion of lunch at Delfina.



It was getting late in the afternoon. Cat and I still had Semajim's wedding to get to. We said our goodbyes to our new friends and headed to the BART station escorted by Chef Ben and Foodhoe, who'd generously offered to make sure we didn't get lost. Guess what happened. Yup, our southbound train was also late. We ended up missing the entire ceremony. *sigh*


Maverick - One of the Mission District's not-so-hidden gems. You'll need to brave the unique ambiance of the neighborhood in order to get to the restaurant, but it's worth the trek. Despite my horrible experience with Caltrain, I still recommend it if you're planning to visit from the Bay Area. You'll save a lot of money on gas and parking. For the most part, you'll save time as well, especially during the congested weekdays. In my decades of riding Silicon Valley's public transit system, I've only been delayed like that on one other occasion. I guess I was about due.


Bill:

Arnold Palmer - ?
Cornmeal Buttermilk Pancakes - $11.00
Andouille Sausage "Benedict" - $13.00


Flavor: B
Ambience: A
Service: A
ROI: B

Overall: A-


Maverick
3316 17th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
1-415-863-3061
Restaurant website
The Foodies Digest - The blog of Maverick Chef and Owner, Scott Youkilis.


Maverick reviews by my food blogger friends:

Posts about our brunch:

10/29/2007

The Cannery Seafood House (Ton-Ton's Journey: Vancouver 2007 Part 5) - Vancouver, BC

(Pictures for this review taken with my Canon PowerShot SD800is. My apologies for the graininess. The restaurant was very dark, and out of respect for other diners, I didn't use the flash.

Read the rest of Ton-Ton's Journey: Vancouver 2007.

Happy Halloween!)


-=9:00 pm=-

Chubbypanda: "I think this is Skid Row."

Cat: "Looks like."

Chubbypanda: "Was that a prostitute?"

Cat: "I don't know. She looked too dressed. That's a prostitute."

Chubbypanda: "That's a guy."

GPS Unit: "In 300 feet, turn left."

Chubbypanda: "Erm... There is no left."

GPS Unit: "Recalculating... In 0.1 miles, turn right."

Cat: "I think we're going in a circle."

GPS Unit: "In 200 feet, turn left."

Chubbypanda: "THERE IS NO LEFT!!!"

GPS Unit: "When possible, make a U-turn."

Chubbypanda: "Now I'm scared."


(Doing some research.)


-=Earlier that day=-

Having had my fill of Asian eats, I was in the mood to sample some proper Canadian food. A fusion of British and French cooking techniques that emphasizes fresh, local ingredients, Canadian West Coast cuisine is very similar to California cuisine. The Cannery Seafood House in Vancouver is purportedly the best place in the entire city to sample it. Of course, as seemed to be the theme during this trip, getting there was half the experience.

-=9:10pm=-

Cat, Ton-Ton, and I found ourselves driving up and down Powell and East Hastings in an area of the city so steeped with "character" that I almost didn't bother stopping at intersections. Tell any Vancouver native that you were wandering there late at night and the conversation will instantly be replaced with both silence and an intent gaze, as if he or she is trying to discern the degree of your madness. Add a pimp black Mustang and a GPS unit that repeatedly insists that a left turn through steel pylons is possible, and you've got the ingredients for any number of CSI episodes.


(The Port of Vancouver.)


-=9:25 pm=-

Cat and I finally found the right street after figuring out where the GPS unit actually thought we were. We crossed a high bridge to be greeted by a formidable set of gates, a guard house, several watch towers, an immense security fence strung with barbed wire, and an intimidating intercom box with several buttons. Welcome to the Port of Vancouver.



After fumbling my way through an explanation for an exasperated security guard who had obviously had to deal with too many lost diners that evening, the gates swung open. To my surprise, we were directed to follow the road into the Port itself. With every slasher flick I'd ever seen running through my mind, we made our way deeper into the forbidding complex. Hulking cargo containers lined our path, scattered with no apparent rhyme or reason between warehouses with gaping doors opening to velvet nothing. We passed shipyards, curving forests of scaffolding and half-built vessels with exposed ribs reaching desperately towards the sky. I was beginning to consider turning back when the road turned sharply to reveal the restaurant, a bright beacon in the night.


(Let's eat!)


The gravel-filled lot in front of the Cannery Seafood House was filled with cars with license plates from all over, including provinces as far away as Saskatchewan. A few minutes later, we entered another world, a twisting warren with dim, comfortable lighting, dark wooden beams, and gleaming white linen. Nets, ladders, a rowboat, and other seafaring items had been stylishly incorporated into the décor. A ship's boiler had been converted into a roaring fireplace that warmed the restaurant.


(Too little for wine.)


Executive Chef Frédéric Couton is the genius behind the Cannery Seafood House. A French chef with an impressive pedigree, Chef Couton has helped make the Cannery's menu the very embodiment of the terms seasonal, fresh, and sustainable. The restaurant only serves wild-caught or sustainably farmed seafood, and recently removed all sturgeon caviar from its menu. Instead, Chef Couton offers a selection of kelp caviars, naturally growing vegan substitutes highly praised as being both healthy and delicious. With Chef Couton at the helm, both your tongue and your conscience are in good hands.



The first of our many dining epiphanies that evening began when our waiter brought us the standard basket of warm bread. The bread itself was quite good. However, that wasn't what made our eyes widen in shock.


(Liquid gold.)


The innocuous-looking plate of oil and balsamic vinegar served with the bread was a gustatory call to arms. Chef Couton's Olive & Ciboulette Lobster Oil held in its shimmering depths the concentrated richness of ten burly crustaceans. Each delectable drop coated the tongue, releasing a complex aroma that practically screamed, "LOBSTER!!! OH, YES! LOBSTER!!!", then throatily whispered about herbs and spices. If I'd known then that the restaurant bottles and sells the oil, I'd have come home with a crate.



After such a fulfilling experience, the Lobster Bisque was somewhat anti-climactic. Our waiter brought a wide soup bowl containing a few generous pieces of lobster, set it on the table, and finished the dish by filling the bowl with piping hot bisque. Despite its thickness, the soup was surprisingly light and flavorful, having gotten its velvet texture through pureeing rather than the liberal use of cream and butter. However, it just couldn't compete with the bodice-ripping presence of the Olive & Ciboulette Lobster Oil.



The Roasted Mussels, on the other hand, leapt into the fray with a valve-snapping roar. The impossibly fresh shellfish had been tossed in a Beurre Noir (Black Butter Sauce) with rosemary, bits of chorizo sausage, pine nuts, and capers, then roasted under high heat until their obsidian armor popped open. Served on a sizzling hot, cast iron plate, the mussels were plump and bursting with a heady mix of pork fat and maritime fun. Steaming would have sweated out some of their natural bouquet; roasting had seared the mussels' juices inside to be released once they were in your mouth.



Somewhat more virtuous, Cat's pristinely grilled British Columbia Trout had been dusted with cracked black pepper and served with a lemon butter sauce, sautéed seasonal vegetables, and a small mound of mashed potatoes. The moist, flaky meat had her enraptured as she murmured, "Such a good fish," over and over to herself.



My pepper-crusted, Smoked Alaskan Black Cod was a darkly handsome slab of sablefish that swept my taste buds off my tongue and onto a sinful bed of roasted potatoes, wild mushrooms, and grilled asparagus. Firm, yet with a delicate texture, the meat wasn't flaky at all. Instead, its almost gelatinous sweetness was tempered by the bold aroma the smoking had given it. The chive and lemon butter sauce pooled at the bottom of the plate provided brightness to the vegetables.



Heads reeling from Chef Couton's masterful culinary manipulation, we decided to center ourselves with tea and dessert. Cat opted for the soothing richness of Crème Brulee, served with fresh berries.



I opted for the Chocolate and Green Tea Mousse, which actually turned out to be a stack of two different mousses, one green tea and one dark chocolate, on a foundation of chocolate cake. An artistic squiggle of raspberry coulis terminating in one of the actual fruits drew the eye along the plate. The green tea mousse had grassy tones that complimented the bitter-sweet chocolate, while the raspberry coulis could be used to add a tart note. With the hot tea, it was an excellent end to the evening.



The Cannery Seafood House - A perfect dining adventure. I later learned that the best way to get to the restaurant is to cut over to Clark early, then take it all the way in to the Port of Vancouver. If you use 49th or King Edward, you'll avoid most of the Skid Row area. If you're coming from Downtown or North Van, however, you're out of luck. East Hastings is still the quickest way there.


Flavor: A+
Ambience: A
Service: A
ROI: B+

Overall: A


The Bill (in Canadian dollars):

Lobster Bisque - 13.50
Roasted Mussels - 15.50
British Columbia Trout - 23.00
Smoked Alaskan Black Cod - 36.00
Crème Brulee - 7.75
Chocolate and Green Tea Mousse - 8.50
Tea (for two) - 5.30


The Cannery Seafood House
2205 Commissioner Street
Vancouver, BC, V5L 1A4
1-877-254-9606 (Toll free)
1-604-254-9606 (Local)
Restaurant website

10/26/2007

Steamed Pear Gourd with Savory Egg Custard - [Cooking]

(Pictures for this recipe taken with my Canon Rebel XTi.

Ton-Ton's Journey: Vancouver 2007 will continue on Tuesday, October 29, 2007.)




What the heck is this thing!?! Anyone know? The girl at my favorite Taiwanese produce stall called it a "pear gourd". It's amazing what you can find at your local farmers market.



I had no idea how to cook this thing, but the shape gave me an idea. The helpful produce girl told me to treat it like winter melon. A recent recipe by Teczcape for savory egg custard inspired me to hollow out the round part of the gourd, fill it with egg custard, and steam it. Since I started reading my good friend Rasa Malaysia's blog over a year ago, I've been playing with Malaysian seasonings. I decided to add belacan to my egg custard for an extra pungent kick. The resulting dish was gentle and soothing, with a deliciously mysterious flavor that went very well with rice.

Recipe for Steamed Pear Gourd with Savory Egg Custard


Gear:

1 chef's knife, Santouku knife, or Chinese cleaver
1 cutting board
1 mixing bowl
1 wok with bamboo steamer or stock pot with steamer insert
1 large spoon



Ingredients:

1 medium pear gourd
1 tbsp of dried Chinese shrimp
1 green onion top
2 large eggs (preferably organic, free-range)
3 tsp of belcan fermented shrimp paste
1/4 cup of Chinese rice wine


Prep work:



Slice the pear gourd exactly in half lengthwise. With a metal spoon, carefully hollow out the bulb of both halves. Try to maintain an even thickness on all sides to insure uniform cooking.



Dice the bits of the gourd you hollowed out and set aside.

Thinly slice the green onion top and set aside.

Roughly chop the dried shrimp and add to the rice wine to hydrate.

Dissolve the belacan in the rice wine.


Instructions:



Steam the pear gourd halves over high heat for 5 minutes to help soften. If you like your gourd firm, skip this step.



Beat the two eggs. Add rice wine, dried shrimp, belacan, diced gourd, and half of the green onion slices, and mix until fully incorporated.



Pour off any water in your gourd bowls. Use egg shell halves to stabilize and prop up your gourd bowls. You want them to stay level for steaming and serving.



Carefully ladle the egg mixture into your gourd bowls.



You don't want the liquid portion to come up much beyond the lip of your bowl. Go ahead and pile the solids on a little higher. They'll cook down.



Steam over medium heat until the egg custard has just set. Should take around 15-20 minutes. Let rest for 5 more minutes off of the heat before serving.



Garnish with the remaining green onions.

Serves 2-4.

Good eating!

10/25/2007

Blog URL Updated - [Crazies]

Hey all,

I'm updating my blog base URL to Chubbypanda.com. What I had before was a redirect using frames, which made gathering traffic metrics a pain. Any links currently pointing to the old URL, "http://epicurious-wanderer.blogspot.com", should continue to work. However, I'd recommend updating your blogrolls, bookmarks, and whatnot.

There could be some technical difficulties during the transition. Please bear with me.

- CP

10/24/2007

Northern Delicacy & Aberdeen Centre (Ton-Ton's Journey: Vancouver 2007 Part 4) - Richmond, BC

(Pictures for this review taken with my Canon Rebel XTi.

Read the rest of Ton-Ton's Journey: Vancouver 2007.)


There's a Taiwanese tradition that you should never visit someone's home empty-handed, particularly if they're family or if you haven't seen them in a while. Instead, you should bring them a little something, usually food, to thank them for their hospitality. Once we'd finished breakfast, Cat, Ton-Ton, and I set about hunting for guest gifts and a birthday gift for Cat's relatives.



Aberdeen Centre is the newest, largest, and shiniest Asian mall in the Vancouver area. With stores from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan, it was designed to cater to wealthy Chinese-Canadians. Cat thought it would be a great place to pick up gifts, since the shops would offer goods her Scottish-Canadian relatives weren't likely to already own.



Even with a cupcake in his furry little belly, Ton-Ton immediately noticed an Asian marketplace filled with fruit and lined with stalls of processed food products. Nothing else would do but that we investigate it immediately.



Imagine my excitement when we found Mei Jan Hong, a shop selling Singapore style dried meats. After reading Suanne's Bak Kwa recipe, and Ben's posts on Wing Heong and Kiew Brothers, I couldn't wait to get my hands on some. Since I've had the beef and pork varieties before, I decided to pick up some chicken and a lot of salmon to snack on at the hotel.



We also found a butcher's shop with some pretty cool items. Sadly, not having a kitchenette at the hotel, we weren't able to get anything for later consumption. I was really interested in the rodent-like squares of cured meat with the skeletons still inside of them. Anyone know what those are?



We had a lot of fun poking around the rest of the mall. There was a fountain that gave a colored water display timed to a soundtrack. Cat thought it was cheesy, but Ton-Ton and I enjoyed it. We also noticed some workers setting up what looked like an animatronics dinosaur display. It seemed out of place in an Asian mall.


(Tugs? Is that you?)


The shops were really interesting. We found a number of gifts that I would have had to do a bit of driving to collect in the States.


(Fishing for pottery sharks.)


For the most part, the shopkeepers were very friendly. They didn't seem to mind my camera at all.


(Ready to harvest rice, sir!)


However, the clerk at one Japanese discount store, which shall remain UNNAMED, was unforgivably rude to me when she saw me taking a picture of Ton-Ton. You'd think I'd spat on the floor given how she acted.


(Making friends.)


That didn't stop me from sneaking a few more shots, or Cat from buying a really cute little stegosaurus. It was only $2 Canadian. Everything in the store was $2 Canadian. I can put up with a lot for merchandise that's $2 Canadian. $2 Canadian!


(Enjoying a private tea ceremony.)


We really hit jackpot at a branch of Ten Fu Herb and Ginseng. The saleswomen were really friendly and both of them wanted to pose with Ton-Ton. What better gift for Scottish-Canadians than tea? Last year we gave them tea biscuits.



By the time we'd gathered all the gifts we needed for Cat's numerous relatives, it was lunch time. During our dinner at Tropika the night before, Ben had recommended Northern Delicacy to us. Having read his review on Chow Times, I was raring to give it a go.


(Terra cotta warriors!)


Owned by the same restaurant group that runs Tropika, Northern Delicacy advertises itself as a Shanghai style restaurant. Northern Chinese cuisine is characterized by a preference for noodles, breads, and dumplings, since the cold and arid climate is inhospitable towards rice cultivation.


(Hey, how ya doin'?)


Shanghai, which is a northern seaport, is known for a style of cooking that emphasizes the use of Chinese rice wine and seafood. Steamed dumplings, wine braised fish, and cold, marinated vegetable and meat dishes are hallmarks of this type of food.



The restaurant, which boasts a chic, modern Chinese aesthetic, was surprisingly busy for a Thursday morning. I took that to be a good sign.



All of the serving ware was plain white, emblazoned with Northern Delicacy's logo. I had a hard time deciding if I found that tacky or classy. The tea was nice.



Cat and I were in the mood to order a number of small plates so we could sample more dishes. We started with the Liang Ban Xi Qing Gan Si (Shredded Celery and Dried Tofu), a signature cold appetizer in Shanghai cuisine. Thin noodles of springy bean curd twined with crunchy shreds of celery in lightly salted clumps that thrashed in my mouth like the tentacles of a briny soy monster.



A plate of flakey Cong You Bo Bing (Pan Fried Scallion Pancakes) was next, each wedge a crispy, chewy mouthful. The savory flecks of green onion seared into the surface, like so many aromatic flavor crystals, offered explosions of buttery delight.



The Hong You Chao Shou (Wontons in Spicy Sauce) were juicy bundles of pork and shrimp gleaming red with a lurid chili oil that gently warmed my body instead of searing my tongue. The wispy white wrappers were perfect for holding the tart sauce containing Chinese black vinegar.



Kathy from A Passion for Food has been teasing me with practically pornographic descriptions of the various sesame-flavored noodles she's tried over the past year. When I saw Hei Zhi Ma Dan Dan Mian (Dan-Dan Noodles in Black Sesame Soup) on Northern Delicacy's menu, I just had to scratch that itch. The al dente noodles swimming in a light sea of broth and sesame paste truly delivered. Black sesame seeds, chili flakes, ground pork, and julienne cucumbers added texture to the spicy dish.


(Ton-Ton's lunch.)


Cat and Ton-Ton love steamed dumplings. The Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao (Steamed Pork Dumplings) were good, with resilient skins and meaty fillings. However, they could have done with more broth inside.



I needed something green to cut all that starch and meat. The waitress recommended the Qing Chao Dou Miao (Stir-fried Pea Leaves), simply prepared with garlic and salt. The pea leaves were very fresh and crunchy, like a slightly tougher cross between spinach and arugala. I finished the entire plate with Ton-Ton's help. We pandas like veggies.



Cat has a jonesing for her usual Gong Bao Ji Ding (Kung Pao Style Diced Chicken), which turned out to be the most disappointing part of the meal. There weren't enough nuts and the seasonings were very strange. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't the classic Sichuan version we're used to. Maybe it was Shanghai style? To make matters worse, they charged us for the bowl of rice she had with it. Being charged for rice makes me a sad panda.




Northern Delicacy - For authentic Shanghai style cuisine and excellent atmosphere at a decent price. I wouldn't hesitate to visit again.


Flavor: B+
Ambience: A
Service: B
ROI: B-

Overall: B+


The Bill (in Canadian dollars):

Liang Ban Xi Qing Gan Si (Shredded Celery and Dried Tofu) - 4.95
Cong You Bo Bing (Pan Fried Scallion Pancakes) - 4.00
Hong You Chao Shou (Wontons in Spicy Sauce) - 5.25
Hei Zhi Ma Dan Dan Mian (Dan-Dan Noodles in Black Sesame Soup) - 6.50
Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao (Steamed Pork Dumplings) - 4.50
Qing Chao Dou Miao (Stir-fried Pea Leaves) - 13.95
Gong Bao Ji Ding (Kung Pao Style Diced Chicken) - 8.95
Bai Fan (Rice) - 1.25


Northern Delicacy
Unit 2788, Aberdeen Centre
4151 Hazelbridge Way
Richmond, BC V6X 4J7
1-604-233-7050
Restaurant website


Read Ben's review of Northern Delicacy on Chow Times.