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Nicholas Ellan

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Everything posted by Nicholas Ellan

  1. Vancouver Chinatown's night market starts up soon, and has a huge assortment of tasty treats. Definitely the best takoyaki around...
  2. Fowke's site has the menu up... I'm surprised by the prices which are certainly not cheap, which is the opposite direction many West Side restaurants (Refuel, Maenam, etc) have been going, and a definite departure from Mon Bella. Unless I'm mistaken and these are share plates, which was bandied about as a concept earlier. The menu is decidedly vague, so some clarification would be great! Anyway, soft opening starts tomorrow.
  3. I agree it's difficult to make a critically acceptable bowl of ramen in this town, but that review in the Straight was just outright hyperbolic. Ramen to "make a Japanese businessman cry", as I recall. If you can't make noodles, you don't need that kind of hype. And you probably shouldn't charge $15 either. Another interesting Gill column, reflecting on the Anthony Sedlak / Corner Suite Bistro De Luxe saga, and being quite positive on the resulting restaurant (but rather nasty to poor Tony).
  4. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/food-and-wine/restaurant-review-oru/article1510555/ Interesting review of Oru which is particularly harsh on the ramen. I'd imagine they have had a lot of disappointed ramenians visiting thanks to that glowing review in the Straight.
  5. For me, good Mexican is a cantina with dirt-cheap eats, pitchers, and burritos the size of your forearm. You just can't get that here, yet the second you cross the border into Washington it's plentiful and consistently delicious. Pizza and burgers are also consistently depressing. Ah Beetz is great pizza (but all alone, and far away), and there are a couple serviceable burgers in town, but nothing freshly ground, hand-formed and cooked medium, like a burger should be.
  6. The history of food is a pretty tough topic, as restaurants rush to establish authenticity by asserting or fabricating their historical roots, while academics have little to no interest in the subject, preventing it from becoming robust or verified. A really goood collection of essays on the subject is The Language of Food which uses linguistic analysis to determine the history of particular food items.
  7. Hills Foods carries whole fresh and frozen duck foie gras (grades 1, 2, 3) but I'm not sure they have goose. I'm not certain goose is made in Canada, which means you have to get it in a can. Anyway, last time I bought there I got three whole #2 livers for under 100 bucks which struck me as a totally insane price.
  8. Made it down there tonight - thanks Canada Line. I have only good things to say. Quality of their uni and ikura, especially, were top-notch, prices were fair and service is great. If you're just dropping by once, the assorted sashimi (don, roll, or salad form) is where it's at, as the quality of everything is so good and the plate is well-garnished. You can get a share plate for $27.50 which is really, really, big - a table next to us ordered it. Takoyaki was freshly made. We ate 5 entrees and were stuffed and the bill came to $60. All the plates were as beautiful as the restaurant's interior. Only problem is that it's not licensed.
  9. Japadog is opening a restaurant location at Robson & Richards. The sign says it will be open in November, but it appears to be delayed to December. New offerings include fries.
  10. You can simply soak garlic in vinegar to get the basic product (I've seen restaurants serve vinegar with garlic cloves in it, with fries for example). However, the mellowness you are looking for is certainly from the oak aging. (This is the difference between expensive and cheap balsamic, as well... extensive barrel aging.) Unfortunately, if you don't have a barrel to fill and let sit for a few months, that won't work for you. The vinegar you bought was probably also made from homemade cider, which amps up the quality even further. If you're interested in making vinegar from scratch, this site is a good start.
  11. Seconding bean preparations. There's a galaxy of possible variations, and they are universally nutritious and satisfying - it's a great way to ensure people won't eat a metric ton of bread.
  12. Nicholas Ellan

    Dinner! 2009

    A friend of mine scored some seriously amazing produce at the local farmer's market, so I came over to turn it into dinner. I really tried to keep it simple stupid, because of the impeccable quality of the ingredients. We made a "salsa" from red & green zebra tomatoes, a torpedo onion, grilled poblanos and italian parsley, acidulated with a little red wine vinegar. Chicken breasts seasoned with coriander and black pepper were grilled, and then combined on a soft corn tortilla with a 2-year aged cacciocavallo, said salsa, lightly torched and then seasoned with a little fleur de sel. Not exactly authentic mexican, or authentic anything, but sure made for some good eatin.
  13. Most deep-fried convenience products are vacuum-fried. It uses less energy and less oil, (most importantly in that the oil can be re-used much more) as others have noted. The lower temperature means vegetables with higher sugar content turn out much better than a traditional method. Wikipedia. And no, you can't do it at home, it requires some serious industrial equipment: well, at the very least a deep fryer with a vacuum seal and a vacuum pump.
  14. Interestingly, I also have veal tongues from BC in my freezer, and was smoking pork shoulder on Wednesday for Canada Day, and planned to pop those in as an experiment. I originally planned to braise the suckers, but a slow smoke could have a similar or better effect. Very low heat (200-225) for several hours to achieve a tender result will definitely be necessary. I was also planning to initially boil the tongues in the traditional method to remove the membrane, but this is probably not necessary for a veal tongue, right? And then I was going to plate it with fresh herbs in a salad for the more adventurous eaters - pulled pork sandwiches for the rest. The end result will definitely be as tender as pulled pork, but the meat won't pull in the same sense. I would be confident that smoked tongue sandwiches would turn out fantastically, though. Good info in this thread here. Quoting the most relevant post:
  15. I definitely appreciate the need for purity in a hamburger, and this is partly why I now avoid heavy spicing, garlic or onion powder, etc, a staple of most hamburger recipes found in cookbooks. Any additives should enhance the natural beef flavour, rather than obscure it - hence typically salt and pepper, and maybe an umami ingredient (Worchestershire, soy, miso, pure MSG in the 1950s, Marmite is a neat suggestion). I think dougal brings some clarity to this issue. I cook large patties on a grill, and a small amount of binder is absolutely essential for preventing the collapse of some portion of the patties. If I am making sliders in a pan indoors, they can and will be omitted. Typically I aim for as much heat as possible on a grill, with a minimum amount of starch and egg to provide cohesion (eg. 1/6cup breadcrumbs and 1 egg for 4 pounds of meat). I forgot to mention that I also add a splash of neutral oil, as in the linked recipe, when I am grinding the meat in my food processor, largely for the benefit of the food processor. I have indeed; I have also done the same with blue cheese (excellent result!) and foie gras (also good, but perhaps a tad expensive, it's probably better to cook your foie separately and use as a topping). If we are going to go down the road of beef-alternatives, has anyone had good success with lamb burgers? Lamb shoulder is very close to chuck in consistency, fat content, and depth of flavour - and has the benefit of being equally cheap. I am tempted to try grinding it up myself, maybe with the addition of anchovy, and cooking it to medium-rare. I have never encountered a memorable lamb burger in a restaurant, though.
  16. I had a burger breakthrough the other day, quite by accident. I have been making my own burgers for quite some time now, and agree that cheap but quality chuck with high fat marbling (typically a shoulder piece cut for pot roast) is the key. I like to grind it myself, as the inconsistency that my cheap food processor creates improves the final texture of the burger. Grass-fed beef tastes great but is leaner, so ask your butcher for some fat on the side, you can grind it in later. Pure chuck is the way to go, I believe, sirloin has always disassisfied me. It's nearly impossible to get hanger/skirt in Vancouver, I would love to try that sometime though. I add raw egg, panko, salt, pepper, and worchestershire to the ground beef, and then form into patties 2 inches thick at a minimum - it should be burnt on the outside and basically raw in the middle! Favourite toppings: caramelized onions, gorgonzola, homemade BBQ sauce and a little mayo. Anyway, All of this is pretty standard. My breakthrough occurred when I made five (huge) patties for dinner, and ended up only having two guests. The two leftover patties sat in the fridge for two days until I cooked them up, air-drying for one and being moved into tupperware for the second. Maybe two-day-old patties aren't 100% FoodSafe, but the difference in flavour was huge. Allowing the ground beef to mingle with the salt and pepper, I presume, massively improved the flavour of the cooked burger. Next time I whip up some burgers, I will do so two days in advance. I also will probably air-dry the burgers in the fridge for ~6 hours before cooking them, as the reduced moisture on the exterior improves the Maillard-ness significantly - a common step when grilling steaks, but often omitted for burgers, strangely. TBH these little tweaks have done more for my burgers than anything else.
  17. I don't know specifically, but I would check Rice World, and Fujiya. Each carry 40+ varieties of rice.
  18. Unfortunately we don't have enough people to book a private room (most are minimum 40 or 50) so that isn't going to work. Right now I have booked with the Alibi Room, who seem really competent at handling large parties. Plus I know the food and drink there is an outstanding value. Thanks everyone for the suggestions.
  19. I am organizing a friend's birthday dinner, and the crowd will be young and large (20-25). Trying to decide on a venue which can handle and serve this size of a group effectively (and cheaply) without going to some miserable chain restaurant. Priorities are good food, cheap drinks, good service. Style of food is not really relevant. Already thought of: -Guu (and other izakayas) -La Bodega Any cool spots I am missing out on?
  20. Pork cheek braises to incredibly tender with great speed. So generally I recommend braise, because it's foolproof and the end product is pure delicious. 90 minutes will get you firm but tender, and 120 minutes will get you fork-tender. One of my greatest hits was pork cheeks braised with poblano peppers (I believe the liquid was a bit of soy, a teensy bit of miso to emulsify, and a generous helping of mirin), served as an eggs benny. I find you don't need a lot of braising liquid as the cheeks will release a lot of juices. I just start it on the stovetop, put a lid on it, and stick it in the oven at 300 degrees for 90-120 minutes depending on desired consistency. Or longer if you want to be sure it melts in your mouth
  21. I made it to Mon Bella at the tail end of DineOut (last Saturday) and we caught their "best of" menu and it was a hell of a deal. Five courses for $38 had me prepared for a "tasting menu" but we got five serious courses, and every one was excellent. I'll be back this weekend. For the curious, the meal was the Italy menu, with the 3rd course substituted with the French alternative (spot prawns Nicoise). Ribollita Soup This was a bit of an inspiration. I assumed cabbage and cannellini bean soup would be passable at best, which was obviously a bit of prejudice coming through. Tomorrow I'm going to attempt to imitate this soup cause it was that good. Extremely hearty and spice-heavy but well-balanced, and the cannellini beans really made it - they were cooked perfectly, just barely al dente. But is it standard veal broth that made it this good, or perhaps leftover juices from the tongue? Spot Prawn Nicoise I just tore into this, I have to confess. When I saw spot prawns on my plate complete with shell, I decided I had no choice but to eat them whole. If only the heads were there, too. Again perfectly cooked, and the Pemberton potatoes lifted what would have been a pretty standard salad up into the realm of the memorable. Polpo alla Griglia con Limone If you have octopus on your menu you can do no wrong, IMO. This was, in fact, several baby octopi (octopuses?), lightly grilled, served with an extremely rich tomato sauce. Somehow it tasted like porterhouse steak. Lingua Brasata I have become jaded to the tricks of sous vide, and I assume it took days to make the tongue that appeared on my plate fork-tender. I'm buying tongues next time I'm at T&T. What really made this dish, however, was the use of warm cucumber in a tomato sauce, which paired well with the slightly organ-y flavour of the tongue, highlighting rather than suffocating it. Pemberton potatoes made a second appearance here, and nobody complained. At this point, Brad brought us a bottle of sparkling Italian Muscat, which was a real treat. I have to mention that the service all night was outstanding, and this was just a small example. Brad picked up on our interest in actually eating their food and was happy to engage us and answer our questions. Must have been on red alert since we booked through OpenTable, you know you have food nerds on your hand when that happens, eh? And Mr. Fowke was visible at the pass all night, toiling away. We dared not interrupt him. Tiramisu Easily the best tiramisu I've had. There is a galaxy of mediocre tiramisu out there, and this was a welcome departure and a good end to the night. (With an espresso, of course.)
  22. I have recently been visiting Moja Coffee, and figure I should share the secret... y'all are bound to find out soon enough. The company started as a tiny roaster serving Thomas Haas and the local specialty market (a few restaurants, then Whole Foods etcl). They recently moved into a new building in North Vancouver, at 1412 Rupert Street (no, not THAT Rupert Street) near the base of the Second Narrows - it's just off Main close to Canadian Tire. In addition to their beans (which are outstanding, and $13-15 for 400g), they're now serving espresso drinks, drip coffee, and Haas hot chocolate and pastries. It's been pretty dead in there, as the location is brand new, so I have been using them to get my croissant fix without having to fight the horde down at Thomas' place. Well, that and the coffee is awesome, and they don't laugh at my Starbucks travel mug. Right now they are only open 9-5 Mon-Fri, which is understandable since their staff consists of the owners and one part time worker! Needless to say it is a labour of love with them... and you know the coffee is fresh when you can literally see the roaster working in the back room from a window next to the till. http://www.mojacoffee.com/
  23. Everything Wine's markups are extremely low, very close to BCL prices. Significantly less than any other private store. Seconding their tastings - last time I was there, the man pouring the tasting was the owner of the winery! And he was very generous with some excellent reds that were well out of my price range I believe they are 3-6pm.
  24. If you're willing to go to the North Shore, go no further than 3P Natural & Exotic Meats. Not only do they have a great selection of extremely reasonably-priced dry-aged meats, but they carry a bunch of neat home-made products like game burgers & sausage, and get all sorts of exotic stuff in like ostrich and kangaroo (!!). I have a feeling their supplier is Hills Foods (an amazing wholesaler). They also happen to have high-end pet foods, if you're into that. They're on Main St. in the complex with the Wendy's, very close to the base of the 2nd narrows.
  25. For my money, the ramen in Vancouver you must have before you die is the Charcoal version at Motomachi Shokudo. I've never seen anything quite like it - the broth is an intimidating slate grey - but the flavour is like excellent barbeque. Here's a good link: http://www.vancouverslop.com/2008/10/bambo...oisturizer.html They have a brown rice sushi appetizer which is great, but what you really need is extra medium-boiled eggs in your ramen - they're organic and free range, and always perfectly cooked, somehow. The one thing about Motomachi is their servings are significantly smaller than Kintaro & others. For me, this just means it's possible to actually finish my bowl there, so I'm happy.
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