August 2009

Food and Food: Edmonton30 Aug 2009 06:12 pm

urban china, edmonton

Seems that my craving for asian food has helped me discover some new downtown eateries (in development) lately.

Spurred by my desire for sushi, I spotted a Healthfare sign in a window front on Jasper Avenue recently. Then, I saw this (above) Sunday at 106 Avenue and 101 Street while on a Vietnamese submarine run to Van Loc. The restaurant, which was the site of a former Rosie’s restaurant (a small local restaurant chain), seems set to become “Urban China.”

The proprietress, Evelyn “Rosie” Barnett recently passed away, but her restaurants/popular karaoke lounges dot the city, offering diner fare and classic Sunday dinners. Seems this former establishment with its glassed in atrium will be turning into an asian restaurant now. Nice to see some renewal going on in the area, instead of seeing restaurants being boarded up and forgotten as their “For Lease” signs blow in the wind.

Food and Travels28 Aug 2009 11:22 am

If you have ever been to downtown Seattle you know two things about parking: there isn’t very much of it, and it’s expensive when you find it. We hit pay dirt when we found a parking spot centered squarely in front of the world famous Pike Place market, steps from the first Starbucks and the waterfront. We sat in the car for several minutes, dissecting the directions on the signs, determining if it was alright to park where we were.

After finding out we had an entire HOUR of free, prime spot parking, we rushed out to run our various errands. I wanted to visit some spice merchants, and my mom wanted to visit the first Sur La Table store. It focuses on high quality, unusual kitchen items.

The only problem was, we had just an hour. Add to that the insane numbers of tourists, complicated alleys and aisles in a cramped market, very hot weather and unclear directions, and I wasn’t sure I’d make it back to the car alive.

I was looking for a speciality spice store somewhere in or near the market, but I had neglected to look up exactly where. Without an iPhone or any directions to guide me (stupid!) I went up to a lady working at an information booth.

Me: “Excuse me, do you know where World Spice is?”

Her: “You mean Market Spice?”

Me: “Uh,” (consults map) “…sure.”

Five steps away was indeed a spice store called Market Spice. I fought the crowds and pulled up to the counter in the tiny, hot store and started asking for spices. The clerk told me they had some of the items, but not all of them.

Fine, I said. Then I asked “So do you not carry everything on your website in store?”

She gives me a blank look and said “We don’t have a website.”

That’s when I knew I was in the wrong spot.

She had already bagged up several spices, so I took what I had, paid, and left. Market Spice had some of the more common spices on my list, but I was missing a huge component of the very special spices I had come all this way for.

market spice, pike place, seattle

Market Spice had many special sugars and a lot of tea, but was not the place I meant to go!

I knew something wasn’t right, so I headed to the place I knew could help: Sur La Table. In there, two employees helped direct me to World Spice Merchants.

“Oh, it’s on Western!” (he made it sound so easy!) “Go down the stairs by the big steel pig, under the construction, and follow your nose. You won’t miss it.” a guy told me. His coworker said “While you are down there, you should go to Spanish Table. It’s amazing!”

I thanked them both heartily, and rushed off. With about 25 minutes to go before I had to meet my brother and mom back at the car, I whipped into World Spice. A very helpful mustachioed man helped me with my list, and I was out and running. I even had time to spare to visit The Spanish Table, a store specializing in Spanish and Portugese products and wines. They had the most amazing cheese section…

World Spice Merchants. I really could smell it wafting down the street. Those boxes were full of spices. They seemed to have have huge turnover there, so I’m hoping everything is super fresh and flavourful.

No time to stop for dim sum pastries.

Naturally; a photo of the first Starbucks.

I saw these two cafes beside each other and wondered how my boyfriend Mike would ever decide between the two.

Drinking a Fukola Cola right infront of the market at our incredible parking spot. You can read my review of Fukola on my blog in development, Supper With Friends. (more on that a bit later)

Naturally we went to Whole Foods as well, in Bellevue. Look at their freaking beer section.

whole foods bellevue beer section


Here’s my haul from the trip. I used to go crazy over the clothes shopping in the States. I guess you can tell I’m aging because now I spend more money on food and beer.


But what was in the bags?

Two kinds of olive oil, spices from all over the globe including Ethiopian berbere, stinky asafoetida and true cinnamon, more masa harina, Fat Tire and Mirror Pond beer, Virgil’s root beer, two kinds of fresh marshmallows, chocolate, jam, tea, lentils and three kinds of popcorn.

Overkill? Maybe, especially considering when I got back I found out Calgary has a new spice store, Silk Road Spices. I can’t wait to visit it.

It has been a while since I took a road trip to the States, and it makes a huge difference in what you can bring back, weight wise. I’m shocked the CR-V made it over the mountains back home again, actually. Thanks for driving, Mom!

Food and Travels27 Aug 2009 09:45 am

big vodka

In Soviet Russia, vodka drinks YOU!

I saw this at the Edmonton airport. The 1.5L Grey Goose looks positively miniscule next to the 3 and 6L Belvedere bottles. I though the sixer might be good for use at a wedding.

It was really cloudy as my plane descended into Kelowna.  It’s a one hour flight, but a 9 hour drive from Edmonton to Kelowna.

My brother and his partner live a few blocks from one of the greatest things in Kelowna, the B.C. Fruit Packers. This is the plant where a lot of the fruit gets shipped and processed for Sun-Rype. So in addition to fruits of many varieties, there are new kinds of juices you don’t see on supermarket shelves and fruit bars, etc.

We loaded up on inexpensive peaches, apples, nectarines and carrots.

The fruit is packed in these huge bins stamped with the variety of fruit and the packer’s name. We saw them all through BC and Washington state. I was kind of sad to see many packers are switching to plastic, however.

A flat of 35 peaches was under $40.

One of the best things about my brother’s place is his great patio. It’s got lots of seating, plants and a fountain.

It also has Bruce and his amazing Weber BBQ. Kelowna has this great mini-chain of fresh markets called T’Bones. They do fresh by the piece meats, but also pre-prepared, ready for the grill veggies of every variety. It’s like M&M Meats, only fresh, and on steroids (in a good way.)

Tory and my mom made mini apple pies one night. My brother is trying to master the art of pie dough making, so he was learning from a pro. Like me and my tamales, he had also watching videos on YouTube, but it just wasn’t the same as hands-on instruction.

While the pies baked, we drank cider and opened up the new toy we got for the three cats. Jacob really liked it.


Food and Travels26 Aug 2009 08:48 am

I visited my brother last week, where my mom had been visiting him for a week. He lives in Kelowna, in the interior of British Columbia. It’s a really beautiful area, with a lot of water and hot sunny days. It is known for it’s wine and fruit. When we all met up again, we drove down to Seattle, traveling through the interior of northern Washington state instead of the much busier route on the Coquihalla highway.

Northern Washington had an abundance of fruit, wine and antique markets. It was really quaint, but not artificial or overdone. It was a great drive, and although it is about six hours to get to Seattle, we took quite a bit longer with many (cherry) pit stops along the way.

As soon as we crossed the border, I was jonesing for some cherries. We stopped at damn near every fruit stand south of Oroville. Sometimes we didn’t even get out of the car. We’d pull up, scout from the vehicle and then peel off in a cloud of dust and dirt. Serves them for not having cherries.

northern washington

One of the stands we stopped at had no cherries, but a lot of garlic. How could I ever pick? I ended up getting some “Metchi” garlic. It’s considered a sweet but spicy garlic that is purpley in colour. I look forward to doing something interesting with it.

northern washington

Finally, we reached the Wenatchee area, where we were told there would be a high abundance of cherries. PAY DIRT. 99 cents a pound for Rainier cherries at some road side fruit stand/overprice antiques and wine store.

northern washington

I got two pounds. They lasted me about 30 miles, and we had to stop for more. My mom got a much more substantial four pounds at a bit higher a price, $2.99 a pound. They were gone two days later.

northern washington

Oh god, the things I wanted to do in that Rainier cherry orchard…

We went to a few insanely awesome antique markets in northern Washington state, in this town called Cashmere.  My xexperience with small town antique stores is normally terrible. I find them highly repetitive and over priced. Apple Annies and Antique Mall were huge halls full of well organized, clean and orderly antiques.

northern washington

There were a lot of kitchen antiques, including these fabulous old school fridge ads. They would look GREAT as art in a kitchen, I thought.

northern washington

Japanese crab bisque bowls. At $10 a pop I couldn’t rationalize buying the whole set of four, and just buying one seemed lonely.

northern washington

Old recipe card indices.

northern washington

Wooden rolling pins, but no glass ones. I like to collect glass ones.

northern washington

Apple box labels.

northern washington

Another seafood themed ceramic piece.

northern washington

northern washington

I really enjoyed this part of the state. Good photo ops and cherries; what more could a girl want?

Food and Food: Edmonton and General25 Aug 2009 03:03 pm

I walked to work today, partly to save bus fare and partly to enjoy the weather. The saving money idea didn’t get me far though, as Who Cares? was having a sale and I netted a pair of shoes for $50, and then got a hankering for sushi.

I stopped in to get some toro and other selections from Sankyu. I don’t care much for their bowls and popular bento boxes, but their toro is the best in downtown Edmonton. The chef commented that he didn’t normally see people getting six pieces of it, but I love tuna belly.

sankyu sushi

toro from sankyu

14 piece mixed sushi with 4 piece of toro, $20.42.

Additionally, I saw that Healthfare has put up a sign in the window of the old Adecco building at 102 Street and Jasper Avenue. Fun fact; just before I worked at the newspaper, I interviewed for a job in the cash office at the new H&M store. Their temporary office was at Adecco. That seems so long ago!

healthfare downtown edmonton

I look forward to trying Healthfare sometime soon. Their healthy “diet friendly” line up has been piquing the interest of Edmontonians for months. I think the downtown location will be very popular if the lines at the Sunterra salad bar are any indication.

Travels24 Aug 2009 09:05 pm

For dinner one night, my brother and mom and I went to a place called Zoopa! for dinner. If you have ever had the pleasure of eating at Sweet Tomatoes, this place is a low rent, mid-level quality version of it.

Both are buffet style healthy eating. They are driven by salad heavy buffets, many soup selections, with some health(ier) pasta and bread options, as well as dessert. I personally prefer Sweet Tomatoes, but Zoopa! did the trick.

I spotted a guy that may or may not have been Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambor (GOB Sr.) That is, if Tambor lived in Seattle, had an Asian wife and looked like he just came from hiking.

tambor in seattle

Also nearby, a new contender for best (worst?) pho restaurant name:

what the fa?

Travels17 Aug 2009 09:10 am

Kelowna Fires

Fire cloud above Terrace Mountain in Kelowna. Credit: repetry/Flickr

I’ve gone to visit my brother in Kelowna for a few days. Hoping to eat some cherries, drink some wine, do some diving and maybe nip down to Seattle. See you soon.

Food and Food: Home Cookin'16 Aug 2009 06:04 pm

(update, Oct 7 2009: Masa harina is available at Bosch Kitchen Centre in Edmonton.)

Most of my cooking starts with a single ingredient. I see something unusual or new, buy it, and then find a way to learn a new recipe.

Although I have been stockpiling ingredients (masa harina, corn husks, dried peppers) from trips to the U.S. to make tamales for some time, it was actually the purchase of pasilla peppers from Sobeys Urban Fresh that prompted the tamales finally get made. I’ll admit it, I was intimidated. I have learned how to roll cabbage rolls and make perogies from my Gran before she died, but she’s Ukranian, not Mexican. So I did not know how to roll tamales, and it seemed complicated.

Oh, I had books. Rick Bayless has a multi-page section dedicated to the filling and making of tamales. There are diagrams, tips and descriptive paragraphs, but it just wasn’t the same. Luckily, Youtube came to the rescue with a visual guide on what to do.

Zarela runs a restaurant, and has a series of videos up on Youtube on Mexican cooking. She also had an easy going attitude, and was knowledgeable. In four minutes with her help, I was rolling tamales.

I made the masa dough for a filling and stuffed the tamales full of roasted pasilla peppers, adobe tomato salsa and Monterey Jack cheese. I made a few vegan tamales by making the masa dough with vegetable shortening instead of pork and omitting the cheese.

tamales animated gif

And you know what? Just like perogies and cabbage rolls, tamales aren’t that hard to do.

soaking corn husks

First you must acquire corn husks, and soak them so they are pliable. I used the hole filled ones to tear into strips to tie the tamales with. This isn’t a necessary step, but it’s a pretty one.

bob's red mill masa harina

Bob’s Red Mill masa harina from a Whole Foods in Minneapolis. I would have bought a bigger package, but my luggage was already grossly obese.

I cannot find masa harina in Edmonton. I’m hoping the latin markets will have it, I just haven’t had time to look yet. It’s easier to do my grocery shopping while on holiday, apparently. Safeway, Save-On and Planet Organic all carry a wide assortment of Bob’s Red Mill products, just not this.

What gives?

Masa harina is a corn flour, mixed with lime. It’s used to make a variety of things, including tamales and tortillas.

masa dough

The masa dough being stirred. You need strong arms and a wooden spoon if you don’t have a mixer. Luckily I’ve been making cookie dough for years, so I can handle my spoons.


Peeling the roasted pasilla peppers. I broiled them in the oven on all four sides, tossed them in a bag for a bit and then peeled, cored and seeded them.


After making an adobo tomato salsa, and cubing the cheese, I rolled. It’s really easy.

tamales vegan

Tied with strips of corn husk. Not as easy. I had to redo a few, and some popped on me.

vegan vegetarian tamales


The tamales were steamed for about an hour. The dough gets fluffy, and the smell of corn is wonderful.



A bit moist, still, but I think I had a good dough to filling ratio.

If it seems like I’m proud, it is because I am. The key thing is to have the ingredients. The rest is easy.

Vegan Masa filling for tamales

  • 1/2 cup of vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable stock, plus 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Beat the shortening in a bowl with a whisk until fluffy. In another bowl, mix the masa harina and salt. Combine stock and water. Mix the masa and liquid into the shortening, alternating, until the dough stiffens. Mix in the baking powder. This makes enough for about 15 mid sized tamales.

I made mine sort of chile rellenos tamales, with peppers and cheese. You can use any variety of ingredients however, and make them any size.

General15 Aug 2009 04:43 pm

I got a few pro photos from Athabasca University today. When I was there for my convocation in June, the roving photographer saw Mike taking a Polaroid of me in my grad get up, and came over to take a photo of him taking a photo of me.

My mom took this photo:

Here are the some of the pro shots I was emailed yesterday.




It seems so long ago, already!

Food and Food: Las Vegas and Travels13 Aug 2009 12:50 pm

And just to finish things up, a random assortment of Vegas photos. I also blogged about the Pinball Hall of Fame on my colleague Ben Gelinas’ blog, Button Mash. “A Pocketful of Quarters in the Ultimate Vegas Arcade.

Since I was “in the area” while at the Springs Preserve, I swung by one of the homes Michael Jackson and his children lived in while they were in Las Vegas. I felt a bit shy getting out of the car, but the security guards (one of them in the car in the shot below) were nice. I viewed some of the letters and memorial items left on the gate, and left.



UFC 100 was held at Mandalay Bay. It was all anyone was talking about in town for the few days after…it was a big deal. I was really happy to be able to attend. There were thousands of rabid fans, and many Canadians. It was a great night.

Lesnar declared the winner

Lesnar declared the winner

Crowd favourite Georges St. Pierre (left) vs Thiago Alves

Crowd favourite Georges St. Pierre (left) vs Thiago Alves



Mandalay Bay empties out


Fun signage in the men's change room at Barney's

Tuna Tartine at Bouchon's brunch

Tuna Tartine at Bouchon's brunch


At the Pinball Hall of Fame


$5.95 shrimp "pancake" at 2am. The restaurant offers up pho 24 hours a day, dream come true. It also has the best name: Pho Kim Long.


Mirage pool view

Food and Food: Las Vegas and Travels12 Aug 2009 01:18 pm

There are a few places to partake in high tea in Las Vegas, the more well known being at the Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons and the Bellagio. In addition, the legendary Mandarin Oriental will be opening at City Center in December, bringing along their famous high tea served with Mariage Frères tea.

Wanting something light on our last day before traveling back home, we reserved a table at the Petrossian Bar at the Bellagio for high tea. While it would be too perfect if it overlooked the gorgeous gardens there, you still get an interesting view of the busy lobby or casino. Not your typical tea service. It is only served from 2-5, and reservations are mandatory, I believe.

For around $40 you get a pot of tea from the varied selection, as well as a choice of four sandwiches from a long-ish list, as well as fruit tarts and sweets and scones with cream and preserves.

Classy tray, busy casino.

Classy tray, busy casino.

sandwich selection

sandwich selection included salmon caviar, egg salad, ham + guyere, cucumber watercress and a non traditional chick pea red pepper.

cucumber sandwich comes in for a landing

cucumber water cress sandwich comes in for a landing



It was a wonderful snack, and we were well taken care of from start to finish. I can imagine returning with my mom or girlfriends to indulge again.

Food and Food: Las Vegas and Travels11 Aug 2009 12:08 pm

bar charlie july 10

Upon arriving in Las Vegas, we did three things: check into the hotel (this time we stayed at the Mirage, and got a free upgrade!), place some sportsbets and go for dinner at Bar Charlie again. Our first visit was so wonderful, a return visit was almost mandatory.

The last time we visited, we were the only diners for most of the evening. This time, there were two other couples eating. It helped the restaurant feel not as stiff, although it was much, much busier for the kitchen staff. Visiting on a Friday evening probably had something to do with it. Bar Charlie is also garnering more mentions on culinary forums as a “must visit” place, so I hope this helps it succeed. It truly is a fine restaurant.

I don’t have much to say other than that, except that this time the service was above par. Chef Hiroo Nagahara and his team were ultra friendly, despite being insanely busy. We were recognized and our return visit was mentioned by several of the staff. Everyone was very chatty, and it was a great evening. When the chef promised a printed menu for us when we left, I was not confident I would see it. Others had complained that they did not receive theirs, but I got mine, all tied up with colour co-ordinated ribbon and everything.

Again, we got the 14-course chef’s kaiseki. Here are a few of the highlights. As you can see, the descriptions of the dishes are very simple, but the dishes themselves were anything but. Another couple down the bar complained that there were many elements not mentioned on the menu, making it hard to record notes on the meal. Most dishes started with atleast six ingredients. That doesn’t begin to take into account the components of the various sauces and garnishes and powders.

I will maintain my viewpoint that Bar Charlie is one of the most complex meals and best values for high end dining in Las Vegas. But, enough. I’ll let the photos do the talking.

vesper cocktail
vesper cocktail to start. Plymouth Gin, Hangar One Vodka, Splash of Lillet Blonde, Orange Oil, Candied Organic Orange Peel
konoshiro, watermelon and yuzu. konoshiro is a Japanese variety of fish known as a “gizzard shad.” konoshiro sounds much more palatable and romantic, non?
santa barbara spot prawn in raspberry with tarragon
Mediterranean blue fin tuna tartare with hijiki seaweed and daikon
this was a close up of the tasmanian sea trout course. the tiny black dots? those are the eyes of the fry.
loved the “plating” of the big fin squid dish.
black bean tofu, beets in beet sauce with scallions. i am not a big fan of tofu, but this dish made me want to seek out a tofu specialty restaurant in tokyo next visit.
kurabota pork belly (braised) with green curry and braised red cabbage
soooo tender
braised miyazaki-gyu strip loin with asian pear and peach. this is wagyu beef.
let’s zoom in, shall we? this was like eating beef flavoured fat it was so rich.
cantaloupe sorbet with prosciutto chip and feta cheese
green tea sponge cake, carmellized peaches and plum sorbet
flourless chocolate cake with banana and roasted hazelnut
petits fours to finish

After a record four visits to Las Vegas since mid December, I don’t know when we’ll get back there again, but if we do…you know where I’ll be going again.

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