Thursday, April 29, 2010

NYC Seafood Restaurant (Alhambra, CA)

203 W Valley Boulevard
Alhambra, California

My family congregated for dinner. After a lengthy debate over what and where to eat, we decided... Chinese food! We (well, I had no opinion) all agreed on NYC Seafood Restaurant. The restaurant was pretty busy but we got to our table after passing through the tanks of fresh seafood.


It's interesting to have Chinese food with different people. I find my immediate family always tends to order the same things so this was my chance to try new things! First, we had the mixed seafood with beancurd soup. It was quite satisfying with large pieces of fish, seafood and tofu. I sat next to my cousin's little man B who was so amusing. Every time a dish came out, he would say "Try!" and wanted to taste absolutely everything!

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B is really digging the seafood soup!

We also ordered the salt & pepper squid (which my family likes to order too) and shrimp walnut. The squid was hot and crispy - we had to dissuade B from digging in right away. The shrimp, coated in a mayo sauce, isn't something I would order but my cousins seemed to really like it. The shrimps were big and sweet.

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Salt & Pepper Squid and Shrimp Walnut.

For the vegetable, we settled on pan fried string beans. I actually really enjoyed the beans because they were perfectly cooked and still had some crunch, and were very well-seasoned. I want to try to recreate this dish though I know I would never be able to use as much oil.

Pan fried string beans.

Like my mother, my aunt V also really likes fried rice with salted fish. Surprisingly, the rice was rather un-seasoned. I didn't feel I got the salty bites of fish I was expecting.

Not so salty salted fish fried rice.

We ordered two other dishes I was not familiar with. The first, the Cantonese style sizzling steak, was really good. I was really worried about eating a large piece of beef but it was amazingly tender. Great for beef lovers! The other dish was crispy deep fried bean curd, that was served with a spicy soy dipping sauce. This seemed to be a favourite among my cousins too!

Cantonese style sizzling steak.

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Deep fried bean curds.

Finally, you can't go to a seafood restaurant without some lobster! We had it two ways: with ginger and scallions, and over noodles. My cousin K had been raving about lobster over noodles all day! She said she'd be happy just eating the noodles. The noodles weren't as expected and were thicker than I expected. By then, I was really full but managed to eat a little and it was good!

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Lobster two ways.

A Chinese meal cannot end without a complimentary dessert. We were served a large plate of oranges that offered a sweet ending to our meal. I was way too spoiled on my trip!

Sweet orange slices.

NYC Jumbo Seafood on Urbanspoon

For my other California posts:
* Bánh Mì Chè Cali & Tea Station
* Nem Nướng Ninh Hòa
* Quang An Duong Herb Store & Kim Ky Noodle House
* Oomasa Restaurant
* Fish tacos at Señor Fish
* Mario Batali's Pizzeria Mozza
* Crawsfish at The Boiling Crab
* All-you-can-eat Korean BBQ at Road to Seoul
* Rehearsal Dinner at La Grande Orange Café
* Wedding Banquet at Capital Seafood Restaurant

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bánh Mì Chè Cali & Tea Station (Alhambra, CA)

Bánh Mì Chè Cali
647 West Valley Boulevard
Alhambra, California

I arrived in California (to attend my friend and food blogger Gastronomer's wedding!!) tired and famished. With the 3 hour time difference, I ate a bit and went to bed. In the morning, I was needing some serious coffee. Luckily, my uncle lives near Bánh Mì Chè Cali, and we went by to pick up a cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese ice coffee sweetened with condensed milk). This place was packed on a Saturday morning!


Waiting in line to order, I spotted all sorts of treats and not just bánh mì (Vietnamese subs). If you've ordered any drinks, you pick up on the other side of the counter, where you can also find the chè (Vietnamese dessert) counter. While you can order for take-out, there are also tables to eat in. I could hear Vietnamese and Cantonese patrons, leading me to believe the owners may be of Chinese Vietnamese descent.

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From top, clockwise: waiting in line to order, different take-out treats, the different chè offering and freshly made bánh cuốn.

Along with my coffee, I grabbed a package of freshly made bánh cuốn (steamed flour sheets with ground pork) and another of nem nướng cuốn (grilled ground pork rolls) The bánh cuốn was pretty good considering it was coming from a "fast food" place, not specializing in one specific dish. The package came with all the necessary toppings including cooked bean sprouts and fresh Thai basil leaves.

My plated bánh cuốn.

The nem nướng cuốn was rather disappointing, with bland vegetables (iceberg!) and bland pork patties. Much better nem nướng cuốn coming up later on my trip.


On another morning, I decided I could really go for bánh giò (Vietnamese steamed dumpling) and grabbed a triangular shaped banana leaf package. Unfortunately, it was not bánh giò. I got it right the next time when I actually read the package and grabbed a still warm and very large bánh giò. The filling had some extra ingredients like a shrimp and a quail egg. It was pretty good and satisfied my craving!

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Bánh giò in three states.

Tea Station
154 West Valley Boulevard
San Gabriel, California

Back to my first day in California, my cousin K, her husband and two year old came by to visit. She thought I should try the popular Boba drink (which I think is referred as bubble tea at home). My drink was passion fruit and green tea; the fruit flavour was just what I was expecting. The "boba" - tapioca balls - themselves, I could go without. I liked the jelly better but would be just happy with the drink on its own.

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My passion fruit and green tea Boba.

This was just the beginning of a very filling trip to California!

Banh Mi Che Cali on Urbanspoon

For my other California posts:
* NYC Seafood Restaurant
* Nem Nướng Ninh Hòa
* Quang An Duong Herb Store & Kim Ky Noodle House
* Oomasa Restaurant
* Fish tacos at Señor Fish
* Mario Batali's Pizzeria Mozza
* Crawsfish at The Boiling Crab
* All-you-can-eat Korean BBQ at Road to Seoul
* Rehearsal Dinner at La Grande Orange Café
* Wedding Banquet at Capital Seafood Restaurant

Sunday, April 25, 2010

La Luna Restaurant (Hamilton)

306 King Street West
Hamilton, Ontario

A & I had plans to Nina's Bistro & Wine Bar. However, as we were stepping in to the restaurant, they were closing down for the night. Something about the chefs having to work a banquet. So I suggested walking over to La Luna.


To start, I ordered the Fattoush salad. I just can't resist crunchy fried pitas. The waitress specified that the price on the menu was for a large and I could get a smaller one ($5.31), which was big enough for me! I really liked my salad, especially the slightly out-of-place cauliflowers. I really like raw cauliflowers. A ordered the Vegetarian Dish, which also came with a salad. He picked the Tahina Salad, which had a tahini dressing.

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Fattoush and Tahina Salad.

The Vegetarian Dish included 2 falafels, hummus, fried cauliflowers, different grilled vegetables and a pita to scoop everything up. It was quite a large plate and looked appetizing.

The Vegetarian Dish.

I decided to have something other than my usual chicken pitas, and ordered the Kafta sandwich ($5.31). Kafta consists of ground meat patties, in this case, skewers of ground beef. The sandwich had a tahini sauce and a pickle (that I forgot to ask to exclude!).

Kafta Sandwich.

Overall, I like La Luna. However, if I had to pick my favourite pita sandwich in these parts, Montfort would win because of their awesome sauces!

La Luna on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 23, 2010

Pecan Maple Pie

While my mom, my sister and I went to church for Easter mass, D (my sister's soon-to-be husband) prepared our dessert for dinner. He made pastry dough from scratch and then made a pecan pie. He even left me a ball of dough in the freezer, so I can make a pie whenever I want. That's the kind of brother-in-law I like! D decided to replace half of the corn syrup with maple syrup in the pecan pie filling. This small change made a big difference. It made for a lighter, and not too sweet filling!


D's Perfect Pie Crust - Make 2 balls of dough
D follows his Aunt Cynthia's recipe. Luckily, I got my hands on a copy, with doodles of pie and flour bags that D drew when he was 13!

* 2 cups flour
* ½ tbsp sugar
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 cup vegetable shortening
* ½ tbsp vinegar
* 1 egg
* ¼ cup water

Combine flour, sugar and salt in large bowl.
Mix well with a fork.
Add shortening and mix with fork until crumbly.
In a small bowl, beat together water, vinegar and the egg with a fork.
Add to flour mixture, mixing until ingredients are moistened.
Divide dough into 2 portions.
Shape each into round balls.
Wrap each in plastic.
at least half an hour.

Pecan Maple Pie
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma dessert.
You can use all corn syrup instead of the maple syrup if you prefer but the maple syrup really made a difference.

* Perfect pie crust recipe above
* ¾ cup - half corn syrup, half maple syrup
* ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* pinch of salt
* 1-⅓ cups pecans

Roll out the chilled dough on a floured surface until thin enough, according to the size of your pie pan.
Place the dough onto the pie pan.
Freeze until the shell is firm, at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Line the frozen shell with aluminium foil and fill with pie weights, uncooked rice, or dried beans.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Remove the weights and foil, and continue to bake until the shell is golden, 4-5 minutes longer.
Let the shell cool completely on a rack.
Reduce the oven to 350F.
In a bowl, combine the eggs, corn syrup, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla and salt.
Whisk until blended.
Pour egg mixture onto the crust.
Place pecans on top of the the egg mixture.
Bake until the filling is set and slightly puffed and the center still jiggles slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 30 minutes.
Let cool on a rack.

Maple Whipped Cream
Because our dessert was not decadent enough, we thought we would continue with the maple syrup theme and make maple whipped cream. D obliged by going to buy some whipped cream.

½ cup heavy cream (35% fat), cold
maple syrup, to taste

Whip the cream until soft peaks form (my sister whipped it by hand).
Add maple syrup and continue whipping.
Serve the pie with some whipped cream on top

Adding maple syrup to make whipped cream.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spinach Pie (Spanakopita)

For a vegetarian option at Easter dinner, I decided to make a spinach pie. I first thought I would follow the recipe on GOOP (Gwyneth Paltrow's newsletter) using matzo for the exterior but wasn't confident it would work. Instead, I used leftover puff pastry in the freezer. To get an authentic Greek recipe, I headed to kalofagas. I was surprised to see dill in the filling but followed along. When I asked A if he remembered dill in spanakopita when he visited Greece last summer, he didn't recall that flavour but enjoyed this version the same.


Spinach Pie (Spanakopita)
Adapted from kalofagas.
I used puff pastry because that's all I had at home but the authentic choice would be phyllo pastry. On kalofagas, he even makes the phyllo on his own! Puff pastry is the lazy choice and allows you to make this dish very quickly.

*1 bunch of green onion, sliced thinly
* 2 package of frozen spinach, thawed
* 2 eggs
* 225 g feta
* 225 g ricotta, set aside a bit for the topping, if you'd like
* handful of dill, chopped (optional)
* 1 package puff pastry, thawed

Cook green onion in oil until softened.
Squeeze the water out of the spinach and slice coarsely.
In a large bowl, add all the cooked green onion, spinach, eggs, feta, ricotta and dill.
Mix with your hands, breaking the pieces of feta.
Roll the puff pastry (if you're using squares that have not been rolled) into a rectangular shape.
Place the spinach mixture in the middle, leaving an edge around it and fold up the pastry around it.
Top with some feta (that was my sister's touch).
You can brush the pastry with egg, oil or butter (optional).

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This was one of the Easter recipes that required the least labour!

Great vegetarian option!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pea Spread (Mock Chopped Liver)

Yes, mock chopped liver. It tastes much better than it sounds! I was worried the title would turn off readers which is why I added pea spread. Mock chopped liver (interestingly, the chopped liver dish is the origin of the Jewish expression "What am I, chopped liver?") is an Ashkenazi Jewish dish, often served during the Sabbath. My sister learned the recipe from her friend J, who is a groomsgirl at her upcoming wedding. J's grandmother often made it. This recipe is a healthy version of chopped liver and tastes surprisingly un-vegetarian. I love the flavour of the caramelized onion, the green colour of the peas and the added creaminess of the egg.


Pea Spread (Mock Chopped Liver)
* oil
* 1 onion, sliced thinly
* 1 cup frozen peas
* 1 hard-boiled egg
* a few walnuts (optional)
* 2-3 tbsp olive oil
* salt and pepper, to taste
* bread, sliced thinly

Cook the onion in the oil at medium/low heat until the slices are cooked and nicely browned.
Add the frozen peas to warm through.
In a food processor, add the onion and peas, one egg, walnuts and olive oil.
Process until it becomes a smooth-ish paste (if it's too thick, add more oil or a bit of water).
Season with salt and pepper (I like a lot!) to taste.
Serve spread on bread slices.

Try it! You'll be hooked on mock chopped liver!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Easter Dinner 2010

My family congregated again for Easter at my place. I invited my new boyfriend A and so we had a few vegetarian options. Posts for the new recipes will follow in the next few days!


The Menu
* Mock Chopped Liver (Pea Spread)
* Parker's Split Pea Soup - no bacon this time!
* Baked Ham - this year I bought a spiral cut ham to ease the carving
* Spinach Pie
* Potato Gratin - we made sure to fully cook the potatoes this year!
* BBQ'd asparagus
* Pecan Maple Pie with Maple Whipped Cream

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Origin India (Edmonton)

10511 82 Avenue Northwest
Edmonton, Alberta

For my last meal in Edmonton, I got to share it with none other than my friend and ex-roommate Trapezista, and her boyfriend S! My trip to Edmonton could not be more timely with her boyfriend having a meeting there too! After walking in downtown Edmonton where their hotel was, we decided to head to popular Whyte Ave (182 Avenue) in search for dinner! I mentioned Indian food (which is referred as East Indian specifically in Edmonton) and we found Origin India.


Origin India offers both a buffet and à la carte items. I am usually a bit weary of Indian buffets but this was definitely better than average. One of my issues with buffets is that the naan bread isn't always the freshest or best. We were provided with a basket full of fresh out-of-the oven naan bread. We weren't even able to eat all the naan, which is pretty sacrilegious I think!

Our basket of naan bread!

The curry choices weren't as bountiful as usual buffets but the quality was good. Unfortunately, the restaurant was very dark so I had a really hard time taking pictures. One thing that made me happy was seeing a pile of pappadom's shaped into cones. Being a chip lover, I love salty and spicy pappadom's! They were also freshly fried! I've never seen them at a buffet which may be a good thing since I indulged in quite a few.


Finally, after having two full plates of food (I always feel pressure to take advantage of buffets!), I got to have some Indian dessert. S thought the gulab jamun amazing so I took one. They usually are too sweet for my taste but it still was very good. I was more excited about having payesh (rice pudding). My sister tells me it's easy to make at home. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or bad...

Can't see the rice pudding but the gulab jamun looks sticky and sweet!

It's always nice to see old friends over good food! Whyte Avenue is a fun street to visit in Edmonton. Trapezista and I came back the next day (Saturday morning) to visit the Old Strathcona Farmer's Market nearby. There are also some nice clothing stores!

Origin India on Urbanspoon

For my other restaurant posts in Alberta:
* Italian at Fiore Cantina (Calgary)
* Burgers at Barpa Bill's (Banff)
* Half-price starters at The Bison Mountain Bistro (Banff)
* Steak at Melissa's Restaurant (Banff)
* Mr. Mike's Steakhouse & Bar (Edmonton)
* Sawmill - Prime Rib & Steak House (Edmonton)
* Asian Fusion at Wild Tangerine (Edmonton)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wild Tangerine (Edmonton)

10383 112 Street Northwest
Edmonton, Alberta

No, I did not only eat steak on my trip to Edmonton! I was lucky enough to meet up my sister's friend E who took me to one of her favourite restaurants: Wild Tangerine. After nicely picking me up in an industrial part of town, we headed straight to the restaurant, both being famished.


Wild Tangerine is located in a little strip mall. It's not very big but it has a great modern setting. It was quiet when we arrived but it was just 5:30 pm. We were hungry!


I had gotten to read the rave review, including the New York Times' review, so I was really intrigued by the shrimp lollipops ($9). The deep fried shrimps with noodles wrapped spun around them were nice and piping hot. I liked the accompanying wasabi mayo. Unfortunately, it was a very messy endeavour to eat, with noodles frying everywhere with each bite.

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E has been to the restaurant a few times and ordered her favourite dish: 5-Peppercorn crusted Yellow-Fin Tuna with Organic Hemp Oil-Tomato Coulis ($19). After humming and hawing, I ordered the same. The waitress was nice to make sure we were aware the tuna would be cooked rare. I really enjoyed the tuna on a bed of bok choi but what I really enjoyed were the ribbons of carrots sitting on top. They had a sweet and gingery taste that I really liked!


Finally, E ordered her favourite dessert, the Warm Gingered Bread Pudding with Banana Ice Cream ($7) while I had the Tiramisu with Barolo Reduction ($7). I can never resist a tiramisu! Both were great desserts! I realized later that while E offered a bite of her pudding, I totally forgot to offer the tiramisu. Taking pictures is no excuse for being inconsiderate... sorry E!

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Gingered Bread Pudding and Tiramisu.

I don't know that I'll get to go to Edmonton again but there are a few other items I would really be interested I trying if I ever do!

Wild Tangerine on Urbanspoon

For my other restaurant posts in Alberta:
* Italian at Fiore Cantina (Calgary)
* Burgers at Barpa Bill's (Banff)
* Half-price starters at The Bison Mountain Bistro (Banff)
* Steak at Melissa's Restaurant (Banff)
* Mr. Mike's Steakhouse & Bar (Edmonton)
* Sawmill - Prime Rib & Steak House
* Buffet dinner at Origin India (Edmonton)