Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Tribute To A Young Food Lover

Over the Spring Break, something that I never thought would ever happen, did. One of my students was killed in a car accident. He was seventeen years old and (I announce this with pride) a true budding foodie.

I taught Mark when he was in Grades 10 and 11, and basically saw him everyday for two years. I imagine the day he would walk across the stage during convocation and I would beam with pride. That's the thing about being a teacher, its not just a job. These kids get underneath your skin, and they become a part of your life. The students may never know this and their parents may never realize, but you think of them as your kids, your responsibilities, every minute they are in school.

I remember one time when I organized a potluck lunch for the class, and Mark volunteered to roast a turkey that had been sitting in his freezer. That was typical of Mark. Whereas other kids were bringing simple junk that young people love: chips, brownies, pizza etc., Mark would top them by bringing a gigantic bird that required hours to prepare. Oh, and another thing, Mark was not exactly the most organized child, and would forget to bring school supplies, school forms etc.. So it was not exactly a lack of faith when I made backup plans in case the turkey didn't show up.

Sure enough, on the morning of the potluck, Mark walked in.....with a wingless turkey on a platter wrapped in foil. And of course there was a story to go with it. The day before, Mark went to fetch the turkey from the freezer to defrost, and.... couldn't find the turkey!! He didn't realize that the turkey had already been cooked for a previous family dinner.

So it was seven o'clock at night when his mother got home from work, and Mark presented her with his dilemma. Mrs. H. is a real sport, and drove him to different stores looking for a turkey in June! They couldn't find any at various supermarkets, and ended up finding a utility turkey from Whole Foods. I don't want to know what ridiculous price they must have paid for the damaged bird.

By this time, it was probably ten o'clock at night and Mark stayed up until 1 a.m. roasting it. I must say, it was worth the effort as it made the meal totally memorable for all of us. Every time we have a party after that, someone would remember the time when Mark brought in a turkey!

I miss you, Mark H. I miss your laugh, your zaniness and most of all, our time together. I wanted to tell you during your graduation that I am going to age that wine you gave me until you turn 25, and we will get together and have a drink and catch up on each other's lives.

And I was going to share the most important lesson I have ever learned: you cannot wait for happiness to happen, you must actively seek it everyday. It's true, life is too short to drink bad wine, so live it up and Bon Appetit!!

Friday, March 30, 2007

La Regalade

I like food, and my friend Michelle likes good causes. So we combined forces and went for Dining out for Life on March 29, 2007. This worthy cause happens one day a year when participating restaurants donate 25% of their food revenue to charities supporting local people living with AIDS.

We went to La Regalade, which is a very popular French Bistro in West Vancouver. Upon arrival, we were met with waiters and waitresses with French accents and a daily specials board with many tempting items. Michelle and I took a while to decide, and finally settled on sharing a couple of items: La Frisee Salade with hard boiled eggs and Bacon, Home made Pate, and Beef Bourguignon.

The Frisee Salade was delicious and totally brought me back to the days when I travelled to France and enjoyed lunch on the sunny patios of sidewalk Bistros. However, I prefer a poached egg in the salad instead because the runny yoke brings out the flavor of the salad dressing.

I was not crazy about the pate, even though Michelle tried to convince me that the dry texture is a deliberate part of the "rustic" French peasant cuisine that the restaurant is known for. However, I think there is a difference between yummy rustic and yucky rustic. Besides, there were dark grey spots in the pate that did not look particularly appetizing.

The Beef Bourguignon is DELICIOUS. I have to admit that it may even taste better than the one I make from Julia Child's cookbook. It is served with a dish of bubbling scalloped potatoes. And when you mix in some of the sauce from the Beef Bourguignon into the potatoes, you get an explosion of heavenly flavor that comes from ingesting pure fat.

*I would have added a picture of the Beef Bourguignon, but by the time it came, I already had a glass of wine ..or two, and forgot to document it.

For Dessert, I took the suggestion from one of my students who frequents the restaurant with her French parents and ordered the Floating Island. This consists of a light fluffy merigue on top of Creme Anglaise and topped with hardened caramel. It was the perfect finish to the hearty meal we just had.

Taste: 3.5 out of 5
Creativity: 3.5 out of 5
Appearance: 4 out of 5. Main dishes were mostly presented in cute little pots and the pate was served tableside from the terraine dish.

The Verdict:

Although there were some hits and misses with this restaurant, I would definitely go back again. That is a good sign because I am notoriously fickle with restaurants and would only go back to the ones I think has the potential to impress me with other dishes they have. I would go back to try the Kidney Special, which smelled wonderful from a neighboring table, or the prime rib with marrow that my student recommends I ask to have served with their heavenly mash potatoes.

La Regalade: #103-2232 Marine Drive, 604-921-2228

I love Strudels!!

My new favorite ingredient is.....Puff pastry!!
Why? Because it is super easy to work with and gives an impressive presentation to anything you are going to make.

I use Tenderflake because it is easily available, but heard great things about using Butter Puff Pastry, and found one by PC brand from Superstore.

Here's an orginal Janet's Scallop Strudel which has become a family favorite.

You Need:
(serves 4)

-1-2 tablespoon olive oil
-2 cloves garlic
-1 cup bay scallops
-1 cup dry (traditional) ricotta cheese
-salt and pepper
-1/2 package of Tenderflake puff pastry
-beaten egg a.k.a eggwash (optional)

Ridiculously easy directions:

1.) Crush or finely chop garlic and fry it in olive oil for 30 seconds. Add scallop and stir fry until the scallops turn white on the outside (around 3 mins.). Transfer to a dish and let cool.
2.) Roll out puff pastry into a rectangle that is about 2-3 mm thick then cut lengthwise into two equal rectangles. Transfer to a Baking sheet and keep in fridge until ready to use.
3.) Once the scallops are at room temperature, chop it up finely and mix in the ricotta cheese to it. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4.) Divide the scallop filling in half and spread each half into a strip lengthwise in the middle of each puff pastry rectangle.
5.) Fold the puff pastry over and press a fork throughout the ends to seal it. Poke the top of the pastry a couple times on top lengthwise from one end of the strudel to the other. Brush a thin layer of eggwash on the strudels if you wish (it helps the pastry brown more evenly).
6.) Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until the pastry turns light golden brown.

I cut each strudel in half and serve it with salad. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Raincity Grill

After a grueling day of dealing with hormonal teenagers, my coworker Brandy and I decided to treat ourselves with a nice meal and glass of wine. Food and wine have long been comforts in life, but when you have them at the Raincity Grill, they truly become an experience.

There are many places in the world that have bigger and better restaurants, but Vancouver is second to none when it comes to scenery. It is even harder to beat having dinner facing the sunset at English Bay inside Raincity Grill, especially when the food is made with the best and freshest local produce.

We arrived too late to have their super deal of a 3-course Early Bird Special ($25) and not hungry enough for their scrumptuous Hundred Mile Tasting Menu ($60). Instead, Brandy had the Seared Pacific Sablefish with Bacon and Cabbage Saute and Squash Gnocchi ($28), and I had the Seared Scallops with a Brioche Bread Pudding and Fennel Salad ($29). Yum!!

The charming waiter started us with a perfectly chilled Sauvignon Blanc and some tasty grilled flatbread lightly brushed with butter and sprinkled with sea salt. The Sablefish pratically melts in your mouth, and the Scallops were seared to perfection. Although the accompaniments are delicious, they pale in comparison to the clean fresh taste of excellently cooked seafood.

Taste: 4 out of 5
Creativity: 4 out of 5 (The pairing of Scallops with hazelnut puree was beautiful)
Appearance: 3.5 out of 5

The Verdict:

As you can tell, I am quite fond of this restaurant and would highly recommend it for a night of R&R. The atmosphere is soft enough for romance, yet sophisticated enough not to make non lovers awkward. The food is lovely and compliments the setting wonderfully.

The Raincity Grill: 1193 Denman St., 604-685-7337