Monday, February 28, 2011

Puerto Vallarta Amigos - go eat there!

I finally got a chance to get some food here and I was impressed. This is honestly the best Mexican food I have ever eaten.  They have a food truck that they park at Yates and Wharf street.  Since I am driving by during non meal times, I have not had a reason stop.   But today I had a noon time thing with Shaw and was passing by at 12:30 so I pulled in and order some of their tacos.

For $6 you get six small corn tacos filled with your choice of six different fillings.    The beef barbacao was stunning.   The milder green hot sauce has some punch but is not overly hot and not overly vinegary.  The chicken and pulled pork were also very good.   All the fillings were full of flavour, well seasoned but not heavy at all.

The amount of food you get served is enough to fill me for a lunch and the price is a great deal for what you get.

This is a case where I can not do something this good at home.  I wish I could but it is not about to happen anytime soon.

Puerto Vallarta Amigos on Urbanspoon

the love of dough

For the first time in my life I screwed up bread. How sad. Warning – when it is cold and your tap is running frigid water and warming up slowly – wait...then fill the container you are blooming your yeast in. Dead bread for want of a few seconds.

I have been making a fair amount of bread lately. Both for general use and to make pizza crusts. I have many very fond memories of warm bread after school with my Mom and I believe those early memories are responsible for my love of both eating and making bread. Now that I have a large audience it is nice to be able to experiment.

Leaving aside the sad debacle of last night I have had lots of triumphs. I have successfully altered shapes, crust textures and rising times. And have been steadily improved my pizza crusts.

The most recent crusts have been crisper, had more of the irregular structure that we like and more flavour too. The picture to the right was my best effort.

Last week I twice prepped dough the night before and baked it first thing allowing for fresh bread for breakfast. I take the bread through to shaping and then put it in the fridge. I generally do this fairly late in the evening (9:30-10:00) to ward off over-proofing (though I do not know what that looks/tastes like so I am simply assuming I have been successful). The bread in both cases though has been tasty and tender. I even found that I preferred my multi-grain recipe done this way because it tends to be very slow rising and dense. By allowing to rise overnight I found that the bread seemed less heavy while retaining the moistness that I love so much.

Bernard loves crispy crusts and I have tried a couple of things to accomplish that outcome. I have been using my pizza stone and increasing the humidity of the oven during baking (a bit of web surfing yielded that tip). The pizza stone was the first alteration and worked for the bottom crust but did nothing for the rest of the loaf. An added bonus is that the baking time is reduced with this option – an couple of extra brown loaves let me in on that fact. The humidity factor I first accomplished by spraying the stones and the sides (not the elements) of the oven just as I put the bread in. I had okay success and feeling clever I also sprayed the loaf as I was putting it in. This made a huge difference, and when, on more web-found advice, I sprayed the loaf again part way through It up the crunchy even more.

As to the shapes, that is pretty basic, and not a new thing. Loaves to buns, tins loaves to free form, pull-aparts to free-form, the possibilities are endless. As long as you keep an eye on the bread and, rarely, tinker with the temperature you will be fine.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Good Food at a Mall?

On the weekend in Seattle we wanted to eat at Serious Pie, a suggestion I got on Twitter from Bubby Roses Bakery.  We got there and it was packed out so we wandered around looking for somewhere to eat and stumbled on Mexico Cantina y Veracruz in the Pacific Place mall.  Pacific Place is not a normal mall, but a high end shopping place and this means no Arbys or Orange Julius, but decent restaurants.

Mexico Cantina y Veracruz is well styled and seems to serve authentic Mexican cuisine.   The tortilla chips were still hot when they made it to the table.

I had a slow roasted pork dish.  The pork was covered in a green chili mole and served on a bed of rice.   It had the fixings to make a couple of small tacos.    The pork was melt in my mouth good.   All in all it was a unique Mexican dish that I had never had before.

Sheila ordered a tamale, she had never eaten a tamale before and did not know what it would be like, it ultimately was not the sort of thing she liked.   The tamale was well done with a nice mole, but I am not a fan of them either.

Max had non Mexican food and Stephen had a basic beef enchilada.  The boys also got churros which were still hot when they arrived at the table.  

Speaking of dessert, on the way out I saw a tray of desserts and they looked like they belonged in a serious up scale restaurant.  It made be regret not ordering dessert.

I would go back, but since I am in Seattle only rarely I am unlikely to try the same restaurant twice.

Mexico Cantina Y Veracruz on Urbanspoon

Pizza Factory in Blaine

On the weekend we did a daytrip to Seattle and on the way back we needed to eat somewhere for dinner.  Timing meant that this was going to be in Blaine.   I was keen to eat at Paso del Norte , but since we had Mexican at lunch and Stephen clearly is not a Mexican fan, we needed to find somewhere else.   We ended up at the Pizza Factory in downtown Blaine.

Pizza Factory is a chain with an odd distribution in Washington State, they are in small towns around Puget Sound or over near the border with Idaho.  Their slogan is "We Toss'em, They're Awesome".

The Blaine location looks more like a coffee - pool hall/arcade place then a decent restaurant.   The whole interior looked a bit run down and a bit dingy.   It was not very busy for a Saturday night,  We had a ferry to catch and it was time for all of us to eat, we sort of had to stick with our decision.

We ordered a large pepperoni pizza with one half having green peppers and onions as well.   When the pizza arrived I could see it was greasy, there were pools of grease on the top of it.   To eat the pizza I needed to blot the grease from the top.

On the positive side, the dough was good, very good.  The sauce was also decent.   Unfortunately the dough and sauce could not over come the puddles of fat on the top of the pizza.  We had a 12" pizza between two adults, a ten year old and a two and half year old and we did not finish it.   My last bites were of crust only as I ripped the it off of the last couple of pieces on the tray.

I am unlikely to ever go back to this location of the Pizza Factory and I suspect I am going to give the whole chain a miss because of the experience at this one location.

Pizza Factory on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

BC Legislative Dining Room

Hidden on the ground floor in the south west corner is the BC Legislative Dining Room.   It is open to the public, but you have to have reason for being in that back corner of the building.  Very convienent for the NDP as it is right below all their offices.   The Liberal back bench MLAs are a lot further away in the East Annex.

BC Legislature Burger

Beef Alexander 

Ben was in the Legislature getting a chance to meet NDP leadership candidate MLA John Horgan.   We had a tour before lunch and then had lunch in the Dining Room.   The Dining Room is open to the public.

The food is decent if not brilliant.   The price is good, a burger and fries for under $10.40.  I had one of the specials, the Beef Alexander which was only $8.80.

Ben ate the BC Legislature Burger which as one would guess was bacon, cheese and mushrooms.   He ate it all, but than as a teenager he may have eaten the menu if he was hungry.  He said it was a good burger.

I have never had a beef Alexander before.   It was shaved beef between two pieces of marbled rye bread with a horseradish mayonnaise and Dijon mustard.   Quite decent for lunch but nothing to make we go WOW!  Both of us had the fries, they were thick cut, crispy but under seasoned.

If you have never eaten here, it is an interesting experience to do so when the Legislature is in session.  You can with your local MLA, the political media, cabinet ministers and even the leaders of the parties.   It is one nice aspect of BC that we can still have very close personal connection to our politicians.   It would actually be good for more people to see MLAs as regular people.
Ben with John Horgan and myself

BC Legislative Dining Room on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 14, 2011

Baan Do's Stirfry in Duncan

The other day we were up in Duncan and were looking for a place to eat. Using the Urbanspoon app on my phone I came up with Baan Do's Stirfry.   The place got many good reviews so we felt comfortable choosing it, we have rarely had a problem with highly rated restaurants on Urbanspoon.   This makes what I have to say even harder than normal.

Our meal there was less than acceptable.   I had a Mexican stir fry which was actually very spicy, on the limits of what I like.   This was not the problem for me, my issue was the flavours were not at all Mexican. I know it was my own fault for ordering a cross cultural dish.     The prawns in my dish were also rubbery, clearly overcooked.  The rice was also overcooked, we were having a late lunch and it could have been due to it sitting around ready for too long a period.

Sheila was not any more impressed with her meal.    I will leave it to her to talk about it.

I do not know if this was an off day or if standards are really low in Duncan.  I hope it was an off day.

Baan Do's Stirfry in Duncan on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jack's Chinese Food

I have to apologize to my husband for scepticism. I love good Chinese food (western style, in this case) and hate bad stuff, so generally if I find a good place I keep going until it stops being good. Not a lot of risk. I let Bernard talk me into trying a place near us one time and it was so bad (think chafing dishes of dehydrated rice that looked several days old) it re-enforced my doubts. When Bernard suggested we try a new place last night I was rather rough on him. But urbanspoon's 92% like out of 68 reviews swayed me - and I am sure glad it did.

Jack's Chinese Food was great. It is located at the intersection of Interurban and Wilkinson roads in behind the co-op gas in the little strip mall that has the Max's. You can access it off of Interurban a bit up the road from the intersection at Wilkinson; or you can cut through the gas bar to get there. It is a small place with only 15-20 tables, almost all of which were full last night, and several big brown bags of take-out left while we were there too.

We had a 2 year old, a 10 year old and a 13 year old with us. The 10 year old chose to get a "dinner for one" plate that he very much enjoyed - though he could only get through about half of it. It arrived super fast and helped to keep the two year old happy with some toodles (that is 'noodles' for those of you not literate in toddler-ese). The rest of us chose to order together off of the menu.

We started with garlic dry ribs and lettuce wraps. The wraps were great and we didn't run out of lettuce or sauce before the meat and noodles. The dry ribs, not something I am a huge fan of, were crispy, not greasy and very garlicy - Bernard thought they were great and he is the one who likes them. We then moved onto Singapore noodles, sesame chicken and fried ginger beef. All the portions were typical to Chinese food and very tasty. The two high points were the fact that the ginger beef came sizzling on a cast iron dish and was delightfully crisp in it's sauce. The other was the sesame chicken, not so much for the chicken itself which was good but not extraordinary, but because of the broccoli that surrounded it. Nicely steamed, not overcooked broccoli which even the 2 year old likes and introduced some vegetables to our rather meat and noodle heavy meal.

The service was good. The one not so great issue for us were the limited drink choices for the younger set, no juice or milk, just water or pop. Though certainly this wasn't a problem for the youth with us!

Overall I would eat there again any time and I suspect that the next time we think Chinese there will be a debate of where to go as we will have more than one great choice.

Jacks Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Discovery Coffee is Five Years Old

I saw this on the Discovery Coffee blog, they will be celebrating five years of being in business this Saturday.   They are promosing free macchiatos and espressos.   You will find me there first time on Saturday morning, especially now that they are open earlier on weekends.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Courtenay saying no to chickens?

Given that the City of Victoria allows chickens, it is truly surprising Courtenay did not allow chickens already.