Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Byways Café - Bountiful Brekkie in Portland

Byways Cafe Portland
We visited Portland this summer to test the road with the new baby and to visit all the Yummo places we'd seen on FoodTv. One thing we hadn't anticipated was how spread out Portland is. We came down by train and didnt rent a car. We assumed we could get around on the extensive and FREE public transit system. Alas, some of the places on our list, like a famouse biscuit place and BBQ joint were well away from downtown. Thankfully, the Byways Café was right downtown and close enough to roll out of bed for breakfast.

They're well known for their scratch made food and generous portions. D and I like to call it 'American sized' portions because you will not find a plate of housemade Biscuits and Sausage Gravy as bountiful as theirs north of the Peace Arch.

Keeping the baby travel in consideration, it should be noted that accessibility into the Café and inside is not the greatest. We thought about sitting outside but it was too chilly and the view too industrial. Plus we would have missed out on their famous retro decor! It is packed to the rafters with vintage toys and memorabilia. It isn't very big so if you could wait. It is very tricky to manoeuver a stroller in, that's for sure.

Byways Cafe Portland Plate Wall
I ordered. The Blue Corn Pancakes that I has seen on TV but they'd sold out. I'm always surprised when a place runs out of their star dish early in service. Boo. So I ordered their Amaretto French Toast with Maple Pecan Butter made with Brioche!! D ordered their famous Biscuits and Gravy.

Byways Cafe Portland - Amaretto Brioche French Toast
Lil T decided to wake up, just as we were served, asking for his breakfast so D had to cut up my food for me. I had to eat my scrumptious French Toast while balancing T on my lap and wearing my 'hooter hider' cape. Normal day now. The Brioche was wonderful and nicely soaked. The Toast was nice and crispy on the outside and just creamy in the centre. The Maple Butter was crazy good. And even though I tried, D had wrestle my fork from me, I could not finish it. The portion was very generous. They offered to wrap it up but we were on foot as tourists and had more eating to do, sowe declined.

Byways Cafe Portland - Biscuits and Gravy
D's Biscuits and Gravy was something else. I'd only seen such plates in movies and TV. It was a heaping mound. Then on the side of that they give you two Eggs your way! The Biscuits were flavourful and flaky. D thought the Sausage was tasty as well but he just about got through half his plate. I tried to stab some Biscuit to help but he wrestled my fork away again. Food was great though. Service was friendly and didn't get mad at us for not finishing. :-P

We were going to change T before we left but it was a tiny little facility in the back. Don't get me wrong. I give a wide berth of understanding here. We have changed T in some tight places but there was no way. We changed him quickly on a park bench up the block. Poor Lil T, it was still quite chilly.

Service: welcoming and friendly
Cost: $$
Ambience: diner/grandmas 60s living room
Baby friendly: not so much

Byways Cafe
(503) 221-0011
Pearl District
1212 NW Glisan St
Portland, OR 97209
Byways Cafe on Urbanspoon

for a diner

Ask D, that's a high rating for me.  The way I see it, you have to leave room for the rare 7s :-D


Monday, November 28, 2011

Kabocha, Black Bean and Corn Chili - Hearty Harvest

Kabocha Black Bean and Corn Chili
We love to cook with seasonal veg. It feels right and tastes better. Kabochas are yummo. Their flavour is lot more consistent than Pumpkins in sweetness. They have a nice firm yet 'dry' texture that isnt grainy. It holds well in long cooking stews and doesnt go mushy. Of course a nice thick hearty Chili that you forget is very healthy and Vegetarian is perfect for a chilly, rainy West Coast evening. D loves that I calls for Stout too!  As a substitute for Kabocha you can use Acorn Squash, Butternut Squash or Pie Pumkin, in that order of preference.

We served with a nice Skillet Corn Bread with a whole head of Roasted Garlic that D made!!! Don't freak out. When you roast garlic doused in Olive Oil and wrapped in foil until soft, you get a sweet, caramelly Garlic that you could spread and eat straight. Yummo!

Kabocha, Black Bean and Corn Chili

4-6 c cubed Kabocha, (1/2 of a 10" Kabocha Squash)
1 Onion (slightly smaller than tennis ball), diced
4 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 large tin Italian Plum Tomatoes (28 oz), squashed
2 tins Black Beans, drained
1 bottle Guinness (or your favourite Stout Beer, avoid flavoured)
1/2 of the empty beer bottle of Water
2 T Maple Syrup, real (use Honey if you don't have real)
1 T Chili Powder
1 T ground Cumin
1 t Cinnamon
1 t dry Oregano
2 Chipotle Peppers, julienned
1 T Adobo Sauce (the liquid in the tin/jar with the Chipotles)
1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
1 small tin Corn, drained (1 c)
Olive Oil
Cilantro or Parsley
Salt and Pepper

We used a larger Kabocha than we needed because I find them easier to peel and handle and the yield vs effort is better. :-) Cut the Kabocha in half and clean out. I like to use a Grapefruit spoon because of the serrated edges. Cut into wedges along the natural ridges or into 1" thick slices. Peel each piece then dice into 1/2" cubes.

Heat 1-2 T Olive Oil in a dutch oven on Meduim-high heat. Sauté the Onion until soft but not brown, ~ 5 minutes. Add the Kabocha and cook, stirring occasionally for another 5 minutes. Add the Garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the Tomatoes, Guinness, Maple Syrup, Herbes, Spices and Chipotle Peppers. Bring the qto a boil, then reduce heat to Low and simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes until the Kabocha is tender.

Add the Red Pepper, Black Beans and Corn, simmer for another 15 minutes at least. Let the flavours marry longer if you have the time. Season with Salt and Pepper to taste.

Top with a nice dollop of Plain Yogurt (or Sour Cream) and Cilantro/Parsley. serve with a nice hunk of Roasted Garlic Skillet Corn Bread!


Friday, November 25, 2011

Birthday Kaluha and Raspberry Sourdough French Toast - Best Way to Start a Day!

Kaluha and Sourdough French Toast
D warned me the night before not to eat in the morning.  He has to because lil T gets me up at the crack of dawn and I eat before D wakes up.  He prepped for my birthday breakfast the night before but I still didn't suspect.  He made me an awesome dinner as well but I'll post the Seared Scallops on Cauliflower Puree and Homemade Lobster Ravioli in Heavenly White Wine Cream Sauce later.  For now,  I'll brag about my awesome birthday brekkie treat!

D knows I have a Bread addiction but I'm also a Bread snob.  No airy tasteless bread for me!  That's why I love the idea and flavour of Sourdough, mmmm. It adds a nice tangy, hominess to French Toast.  It's like the way it was meant to be, a use for leftover bread.  D bought the round the day before and sliced it 1inch thick and left it in a slightly open paper bag over night. I ate the butts for dinner.  I didn't even asked where the middle went. Odd.

Birthday Kaluha and Raspberry Sourdough French Toast 

3 Eggs
1/4 Milk
1 T Kaluha (optional, Vanilla Extract is cool too but only 1 t)
Rind of half an Orange
1 T Sugar
1 Vanilla Pod, scraped (optional, we just have a bucket load from a holiday in Bali)
4 thick slices Sourdough Bread
1/2 c fresh Raspberries
Icing Sugar
Warm Maple Syrup (real stuff, not brown, maple flavoured sugar syrup in a plastic, lady shaped bottle)

Slice and leave the bread out overnight.  Letting the Bread go stale a bit will prevent it from sopping up the Custard like a sponge and dissolving.

Whisk all the Eggs, Milk, Sugar, Vanilla, and Kaluha together in a shallow baking dish that is not too big but can fit two slices of bread at least.

Heat a nonstick pan on Medium with a pat of Butter.

Let the bread soak for 20 seconds on each side.  Lift carefully and let the excess fall away and place in the pan.  Let cook for a couple minutes on each side.  It should be golden brown before flipping.  It should puff slightly.

The texture you're looking for is a crispy exterior and a light, fluffy, custardy interior like moister Bread Pudding.  Dust with Icing Sugar and serve with Raspberries and Maple Syrup....MMMMMM
Happy Birthday to me!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Provence Marinaside - Awesome View and Salty Lunch

Provence Marinaside - Wild Mushroom Ravioli in White Wine Buttersauce - Extra Garlic
Few restaurants in Vancouver can boast this location.  Metres away from the Yaletown offices, nestled in the glassy condo towers and facing the constant stream of passersby on the well loved Seawall.  I found that to be one of the most redeeming features of Provence, that and the kind service.  I cannot say I equally enjoyed the food.  I wanted to.  My friend with whom we were eating, is a regular.  He eats there at least 2-3 times a week and is one of the few people welcomed with his two boys.  Thankfully, lil T was asleep in his stroller for most of our lunch and we were with the regular so his presence wasn't entirely rejected.  That said, our friend R, the regular, said that it did take a few months of regular visits for his kids to be accepted.  It does have that air and fair enough.  Though it is woefully a misconception that a family friendly restaurant needs to be a TGIF's.  In Europe, particularly the family centric Spain, you will find babies in most restaurants of all styles at all hours.  Anyhoo, that all said to say that Provence is not entirely family friendly.

R and D ordered the Wild Mushroom Ravioli, oddly enough for R, with extra Garlic.  It's his go to dish there.  I ordered the Vegetarian Platter.  I tasted a bit of D's Ravioli.  It was well cooked.  The filling was a bit wanting but the White Wine and Butter sauce was lovely, particularly since I lurve Garlic.  

Vegetarian Antipasti Platter - Study in Salt
Unfortunately my dish was terrible.  It was a selection of the their Anitipasti, the Quinoa Salad, Green Beans, Stuffed Piquillo Peppers and Garlic Mash.  It was just an astounding study in Salt.  Each one was Saltier than the next.  I had to have a bit of the mildly Salty Green Beans just to be able to eat the rest and I love Quinoa!  Alas, it was not edible and I had to leave it.  Odd, really because the Antipasti is already prepared in their deli counter, someone could have tasted it before putting it out.  Quite disappointing.  I have had dinner there in the past for a Wine Makers Dinner.  It was much better though I'd still have to say someone in the kitchen does have a Salty palate.  Though D and R did validate that the salad was TOO TOO salty.  We let the staff know, they grinned, tolerantly apologised (mainly because we were with R) and bid us a good day.  So in future, IF I return, I'll stick to the warm menu.  Too bad, I love good Antipasti.

Ambiance:  Bright, airy
Service: Very hospitable though no concession was made for oversalted food
Cost: $$$-$$$$ (Mains ~30$)
Family Friendly: not so much, unless baby is sound asleep

Provence Marinaside Restaurant
1177 Marinaside Cres Map
Vancouver, BC V6Z
Provence Marinaside Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wholewheat Herbes de Provence Pull Apart Rolls - Toasty Savoury Goodness

Wholewheat Herbes de Provence Pull Apart Rolls
I get cravings for making bread like pregnant women might crave a boiled potato.... What? Just me? There is a dearth of GOOD bakeries in the Fairview area apart from Wholefoods and that includes the bland batons of air from Baguettes et Echalottes on Granville island. But if you don't want to pay the price of a large bag of flour for one (albeit tasty) loaf at WF, then you have to bake.

The dangerous thing about these scrumptious Pull Apart Rolls is that, as you slather butter on each steamy little ball of baked joy, you don't realise you've eaten nearly an entire loaf of bread. The Herbes de Provence give the otherwise run of the mill rolls a savouriness and subtle sophistication, particularly because of the Lavender. Mmmmmmm

Wholewheat Herbes de Provence Pull Apart Rolls

1 1/2 c Water, luke warm, it so hot you cannot comfortably dunk your finger
1 T Honey
2 t Yeast (or 1 envelope)
1 t Salt
2 t dry Herbes de Provence
1 c Bread Flour
3 c Wholewheat Flour (+/- 1/2 c depending on humidity)
1-2 T Olive Oil

In your stand mixer bowl, add the Water and Honey. Stir to dissolve. Sprinkle over the yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes until frothy.

Add the Salt, 1T Olive Oil and the Herbes de Provence. Mix on low/stir for a minute.

Leave on low/stir and add the first 2c of Flour a 1/2c at a time. Then turn it up to medium until all the flour is incorporated. Scrape down the sides and add another 1/2c of Flour. Turn on low until Flour is I corporated and youre safe from a face full of Flour. Continue to do this adding 1/4 cups of Flour until the dough pulls away cleanly from the sides and is slightly tacky to the touch. I like it stickier than normal. Or at least I do in Vancouver. For some reason, out east, I could bring the dough to a easy to handle consistency and it would turn out great. When I moved here and made dough to that consistency, it came out too dense and dry. Test test test...for your area.

Knead on medium for 10 minutes.

Grease a large bowl lightly. Lift the dough out and pull and roll it in your hands to form a ball. Place in greased bowl then turn over for oily side up. Set aside covered in plastic wrap or moist towel to rise for 1 hour.

Brush a bundt pan lightly with Olive Oil. Have a small bowl Oil at hand. Oil your hands. Pull bits of dough about 3/4 the size of tennis balls. Roll and drop into bundt pan. Continue and tightly pack the Rolls. Cover and let rise for 1 hour. Check though because the Rolls may rise over the lip of the pan and you don't want the dough to touch it. Uncover then.

Preheat oven to 375F

Brush with oil and bake for 25-30 minutes. It should be golden brown and risen.

Serve with a generous pat of Butta.....mmmmmm


Monday, November 14, 2011

Saag and Tamatar Paneer - a 'Meaty' Vegetarian Comfort Food

Saag and Tamatar Paneer
The thing about being a Vegetarian is that depending on where in the world you live, you find yourself making concessions.  Or at least I do with my low blood pressure and low iron.  I mean yeah, if you find yourself in Eastern Europe or Spain, you could choose to be one of those stalwart vegetarians living on mixed greens and bread.  Not me.  I don't believe that vegetarianism means sacrificing the enjoyment of food.  Particularly, for lack of a better word, I like dishes that are 'meaty' or hearty, rather.  You don't feel left wanting or full of water.  Indian cuisine do this marvelously.  It is a celebration of history, flavour and substance.  Yummo!
Above all dishes, I adore Saag Paneer.  That at the Eggplant dish of Baigan Bartha are my absolute favourites.  I decided last year to make my own Paneer because often in restaurants, the amount of Paneer to Spinach or Peas is a bit disappointing.  It is not hard at all but requires patience.  The first time I made it, it came out a tad crumbly but it still made a delicious Saag Paneer.  You need to cook the curds for a while after they start to separate.  There is a great video on YouTube by a lady called Manjula, seriously, like the Simpsons.  She's great!  When I was younger, I used to watch Madhur Jaffrey on PBS.  I loved how she always started by frying her spices.  Alot of Saag recipes don't call for the Black Mustard seeds but this is a bit of a tribute to my days of watching Madhur Jaffrey.  She always popped her Mustard seeds in various dishes.  I don't know for sure if she used it in this dish.  I really don't know how she managed to keep them in the pan though.  Mine scattered all over so I used a splatter guard.  As well, I didn't fry them.  I dry roasted.
I cook Spinach in a number of ways in Indian, West Indian, Korean, Salads, Spanish ..... In spite of it's leafy form, it is VERY 'meaty'.  It is loaded with iron is fantastic raw or cooked.  In this dish, the Spinach is married with alot of spices but it is still the star.

Saag Tamatar Paneer

600 g (2 pkg) frozen Spinach, chopped (1.5 lbs fresh Spinach)
12-15 oz Paneer (or Extra Firm Tofu, use ~300g if you want less, use 500g if you love Paneer like I do!)
2 T Canola oil
2 T Butter/Gee (Gee is clarified Butter. Use all Butter or Oil but all Butter is better)
2-3 T (6 - 7 medium cloves)Garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups Tomatoes, chopped
1 t Turmeric
1 – 2 t Salt
1 T Cumin Seeds (Jeera)
1/2 T Coriander Seeds
1 t Black Mustard Seeds
5 Whole Cloves
1.5 t ground Red Cayenne
1/2 t Fenugreek (optional)
1 Cardamom Pod (optional)
1 inch Ginger, minced
1 Green Chile, minced
In a dry cast iron pan (or other dry stainless steel pan), toast the Cloves, Fenugreek and Seeds. Move the seeds around until you start to smell them and the Mustard Seeds start to pop. Let the. Cool slightly then grind them fine in a CLEAN grinder used for food or a coffee grinder that is dedicated to spices.

In a large skillet, heat the Butter/Oil on medium high heat. Sautée the Onion until soft and not brown, 3-5 minutes. Add the Chile, Ginger, Garlic for a couple minutes. Add the Spices and the Cardammom Pods and fry for a couple minutes.

**Okay so BE AWARE this is very aromatic! It is heavy and will linger for days so you can do a few things to mitigate 1. Fan on high the whole time. 2. Simmer a saucepan with vinegar water the whole cooking time. 3. Or Mom 'cowboy coffee' after cooking. That means boil water with a few T of ground coffee thrown right in. OR, since all of these things don't work perfectly, do not toast your own seeds, use pre-ground. Then do not fry the spices in the oil until AFTER the Tomatoes. Still do suggestions 1. and; 2. though.

Add the Tomatoes and heat through and mix so Spices and Aromatics are evenly distributed.  Sautee for a few minutes.  Add the Spinach and toss gently.  You don't want to break up the veg too much.  I like a chunky dish.  I really hate the Saag dishes in some joints that look like baby food.
When the all the Spinach as at least started to wilt, or after the Frozen Spinach is heated through, add the Paneer in dice sized cubes.  Fold gently with a wide wooden spoon.  I like to use a Korean Rice scooper.  I don't want to break down the Paneer.
Serve hot over Basmati.  Use Cilantro as a garnish but I know it's not entirely Indian but it's GOOOD.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Jack's Fishspot - Seattle - Blandest Fish on the Wet Coast

World's most fabulous is not the adjective I would use for Jack's Bland Fishspot.
We decided to pop down to Seattle for a few days to break up the baby monotony and visit some friends.  There are a few things we do without fail in Seattle, provided it isn't raining, and Pike's Place is one of them.  We go often enough that we aren't 'those' tourists who are taking pictures of the Romanescu and Artichokes in the vegetable stalls and not buying anything.  We go for the great fresh food and baked goods.  That's what we thought anyway when I suggested Jack's Fishspot for lunch.  I love the idea of a diner like fish diner attached to a Fish Monger.  Wonderful!  Too bad the guys don't do the fish justice.

We ordered the Regular Fish and Chips and a couple of Fish Taco's.  First thing to note was that did not do a traditional Beer Batter or Batter at all for that matter.  They did a Breadcrumb coating.  I find that a bit of a cheat/lazy/safe cop-out.  They don't want to risk having a bad batter or making the batter so they go for the 'fool-proof' crispy coating.  Now, you might expect that at Long John Silver's but not at at Fish Monger's fish joint.  To add insult to injury, they over cooked it.  The crumb was far too dark and tasted a tad burnt, which is all we tasted.  It was BLAND BLAND BLAND.  There wasn't a microscopic speck of seasoning anywhere on that plate, not even on the fries.  As well, when they tell you 3 pieces, you think, score! but alas, no, they are the size of chicken nuggets.  Boo!  Why? Because they don't have enough fish??

Then there were the Fish Taco's.  Again, covered in the over cooked Breadcrumb coating and equally BLAND and TASTELESS.  The Tortillas were tasteless, the Salsa was tasteless, the Fish was tasteless. It was layers upon layers of BLANDNESS.  Just awful.
Found a hair in my BLAND fish and chips - Jacks Fishspot
Did you think I was done?  Nope.  So at first, I was also quite excited about the fries which were skin-on, fresh cut and fried to order.  Apart from the lack of Salt, THERE WAS THE HAIR!  There was a wavy red hair on top of my fries.  I saw it as I splashed some Tobasco onto my fish.  Much like the hair of the dude with the crazy, unnetted hair behind the till!!!!  So I pointed it out to the dude cooking and he apologized and offered to make an entirely new plate.  Well, I thought that was very nice except when he came to our table with lightning speed with what I AM SURE was our original plate with the hair extracted.  The Fries where not piping hot as they were (because he just stalled for a few minutes instead of making new ones) and the Fish that I had already splashed with Tobasco were still there.  BOOOOOOOO!!!!!  Served along side this very disappointing lunch? was pre-made, store bought, packaged Tartar sauce.  Shameful.

Layers of BLANDNESS Fish Tacos #Jacksfishspot
Please do yourself a favour and give this place a miss if you find yourself needing a nosh.  Head a few doors down and get a nice bowl of Chowder instead at the Deli near the Seattle's Best Coffee shop or a nice Peroshky near the original Starbucks...

Jack's Fish Spot
(206) 467-0514

1514 Pike Place
Seattle, WA 98101

Jack's Fish Spot on Urbanspoon


Saturday, November 05, 2011

Saturday, November 5th - Nearly Out of Milk - Wholewheat Crêpes

Nearly Out of Milk Wholewheat Crêpes
Woke up today with a crêpes craving.  I slogged upstairs to D and lil T who were playing on the swing.  Having a reverse floor plan townhouse seemed like a great idea, no neighbours on our bedroom ceiling....until lil T.  Now when D takes the morning shift, T is banging his toys on our bedroom ceiling from 6am.  Wooo!  So on this sunny Saturday morning, rattled awake by plastic red roof being battered on the floor, I wanted a some nostalgic comfort.  Alas! Oh no! we're almost out of milk.  D warned that there wouldn't be enough for crêpes.  I shook the carton and estimated 3/4 c....seriously, I guessed exactly correctly.  Haha!  That was, well, less the amount of Milk D had already siphoned off for his morning Capp.  I don't dare touch that. 

I remembered back when I was in University and an ex boyfriend and I made his grand-mere's recipe for Crêpes and she used to use Water instead of Milk.  It made them alot lighter and lacier.  But I wasn't going to go all Water.  I like the richer texture that Milk gives them.  I decided just to augment what little 'free' Milk we had with Water. 

D wasn't thrilled with my use of Wholewheat Flour though but I really wasn't in the mood for White Flour.  I have to really be in the mood lately for White Flour and that's mostly in Pasta form.  The resulting Crêpes were light, nutty and crispy.  Yummo! 

Serve warm as you go with Maple Syrup (the real stuff!!), fresh Fruit, Preserves, Chocolate Spread and/or Cinnamon.

Nearly Out of Milk Whole Wheat Crêpes

1 1/4 c Wholewheat Flour
3/4 c Milk
1/2 c Water
1/8 t Salt (pinch)
1/4 t Vanilla
1 T Sugar (optional)
1/4 t Frangelico (Hazelnut Liqueur, optional)
Butter/Canola Oil for the pan

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the Flour, Salt and Sugar (optional).  Add the Milk and Water.  Whisk briefly.  Break the Eggs into the measuring cup you used for the Milk/Water and whisk to break up the Yolks a bit.  Add to the Batter.  Whisk to combine but do not over whisk. 

Let stand for at least 10-15 minutes.  Or in the fridge for half an hour and room temperature for half an hour  if you have the time or the patience.  I have never had the patience for that. 

I like to have a small bowl of melted Butter at the side of the pan with a Silicon Brush.  Heat a Non Stick Pan to Medium - Medium High heat.  Brush with a scant layer of Butter or Oil.  Ladel in 1/4 - 1/3 c of Batter.  I use a measuring cup but you can just use a ladel you're familiar with.  As you pour in the batter, lift the pan and begin to let it spread in a circular motion like on one of those bosu balancing boards. 

Let it sit for at least 1-2 minutes until the top is completely MATTE and the edges start to pull away from the pan.  Start to shimmy it with the pan alone then lift it with a wide thin Spatula.  Or if you're used to it, your fingers.  Flip.  It should be browned with spots and lacy bits. MMMMM  Cook the other side for another 2 minutes.  You want a decent amount of browned area so reflip and continue to cook as needed.