Thursday, June 27, 2013

Victoria's Newest Farmer's Market at the Hudson

The Downtown Farmer's Market has moved its permanent home at the Hudson.  The market is organized by the Victoria Downtown Public Market and had been at Market Square over the winter.  It is going to be held at the Hudson every Wednesday from 11 am to 3 pm.

We visited it this week just around noon.   It was mildly busy but not busy enough to really make it worth being at.   People wanted farmers's markets but for a host of reasons the ones in the Victoria area are less than successful in my opinion.

In my work life I have worked with growers who sold at markets in the lower mainland.  I personally did an experiment to see what it takes to make a buck selling at a farmer's market by taking a stall there and selling a friend's produce.   I have a good idea of what a good busy market looks like and what the sort of scale of sales I would should be able to achieve.

Here is what I do not see at Victoria markets:

  • Crowds of people - a busy market has line ups at peak times at every produce vendor, not just at the ones selling food to eat
  • Large volumes of produce - I know what I took to Whistler every week and I have not seen anyone is this region come to a market with the volume I sold.   I was a very small vendor in Whistler.   The area behind my table and under it was loaded with produce at the start of the day.  I see very limited amounts in local markets here.
  • Buyers - people go to the markets as attractions and not as their place to shop.   People that show up just wander up and down the market but are loaded down with goods they have purchased.   During the peak time of 10 am to 2 pm at the Whistler market I would do about 200 to 250 transactions, close to one a minute.
  • Reasonable prices - in Whistler there was a premium people were willing to pay for good local produce, but not as wildly expensive as what produce costs in Victoria markets.   A head of lettuce should be $1.50 or so, not $3.00 as seems to be the Victoria market prices.

I would like to shop at a local farmer's market, but I need to know I can buy what I need when I go there and the prices would be reasonable.  At the moment this is simply not the case with this market.

 Here is a news report on the opening.

El Guapo at the Farmer's Market at the Hudson

We stopped by the new Farmer's Market at the Hudson yesterday and got our lunch there at El Guapo Chorizo Grill.   This food cart is only out at this farmers's market and only have a limited supply each week - 86 in total this week.

El Guapo only does grilled chorizo sandwiches - I like that, they focus on one thing and they do it well.   The sandwich is simple but the quality of the ingredients count.  I am not sure what their source for the sausage is but they do say it is happily raised island pork.  They also sell one pound of frozen sausages for $12.

The sandwich itself costs $7 and is just a bun grilled on the flattop, some grilled roasted red pepper, a chorizo sausage and finally a bit salad.   Simple but very good because of the great flavour of the sausage.   The bread captures all the juices and fat from the sausage which is the only dressing or condiment on the bread.

I highly recommend checking them out though come early enough to get some.  They are only there on Wednesdays for the market.   They sold out by 2:35 pm this week.  

The name El Guapo means "the handsome one".

Here is my short video of them making our sandwiches.

El Guapo Chorizo Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

First Veneto and now Catalano

Veneto is a region north eastern Italy and the name for a bar/restaurant in Victoria in the Rialto.   Veneto calls it self a tapa lounge.  Tapas says Spain to me and I have idea of what I expect from a good tapas place.  Veneto does good food but it is not what I consider tapas.  I would call their food a tasting menu

Now in Magnolia we have Catalano, which calls it self a restaurant and cicchetti bar.  Catalano is a way to refer to things from Catalonia specifically in Italian.  Cicchetti is Venetian bar finger food.

So we have one named for a part of Italian claiming to do Spanish style bar food and another that is name for part of Spain that is doing Italian style bar food.  

My first attempt at making Arancini

website for photo
I had four cups of left over rice and needed something to make with it and after a short search on the internet I decided on arancini.   Arancini is a rice ball filled with something like mozzarella cheese, rolled on bread crumbs and then shallow or deep fried.

website for photo
The problem with my choice is that I had some idea what arancini is but I have not only never made it, I have never actually eaten one.  I had no idea what the finished product should be like for flavour, texture or dryness.

The recipe I used came from the Food Network USA, a Giada De Laurentiis recipe.  It is pretty basic, the cooked rice is mixed with beaten eggs, Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.  You then make a ball of the rice-egg-cheese mixture and stick a small piece of mozzarella in the middle.  This ball is then rolled in bread crumbs and finally fired in oil for about four minutes.  I had a few issues with the recipe beyond not knowing what the consistency of the mix should be like or what the final ball should taste like.

1) I had long grain basmati rice, not arborio rice - I suspect as different as one could get with rice.
2) I had panko bread crumbs, not Italian bread crumbs.

website for photo
Using the basmati and panko made me think the mixture was a bit dry, I added an extra egg and it seemed to have a good consistency to form the balls.  I used a disher to make balls about the size of a small prune plum.   Getting in the mozzarella was easy enough and I could see how if I made slightly larger ones I could add a more liquid filling such as a thick bolognese

I suspect my use of the basmati also changed the texture of the finished rice ball but since I have never eaten an arancini I have no way to know how it was different.

The first set of arancini I put into the frying pan almost fell apart because I tried to roll them too soon,   The egg and cheese in the ball need sometime to cook to make the ball solid enough to roll around.  The panko bread crumbs are not nearly as fine as what I think Italian bread crumbs are like, they also do not have Italian seasonings.   It meant my arancini had a much rougher exterior than the ones pictured above.

In the end I had something that did look like an arancini.   The basmati and extra egg will obviously made for a different texture, the interior was almost eggy,   The whole thing was drier than I would have liked, but not at all horrible and they held up well being eaten with the marinara sauce I made.   I did make one error that I could have avoided, I under seasoned them.

I will try doing them again though I will try with a short grain rice.   I may make my own Italian bread crumbs though I think panko works well enough and I just need to add some Italian herbs to the mix.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My attempt to make Fırın Sütlaç (Turkish rice pudding)

I had Fırın Sütlaç for the first time a couple of months ago at Efes on Yates Street and it was amazing.  I have had English rice puddings and have hated them, the Turks know what they are doing and it is amazing.   The good people at Efes also do not charge enough for the dish, their price for it is insanely low, only $2.45.  If I were closer to downtown I would be buying it to take home on regular basis but since I am not, I thought I would try to make it at home.

At heart the dish is just rice, milk, sugar and vanilla - pretty damn basic and should be easy to be replicated.   I assume it came in existence as a way to deal with leftover cooked rice.

My first attempt was not really a success.   In part I think it is the recipe I used.   The details may have been all been there but since I have never made it had no idea what each step should work out.   As one example, it did not say cook the rice as one normally would, but called for the rice to covered by a 1/2 inch of water and then cooked.

I really have no idea what is expected to happen to the rice along the way so I ended with a lot of rice that had not fully disintegrated and in the end had settled to the bottom of the ramekins.   My pudding was also thicker than it should have been.   This recipe also had an egg wash, sort of, for the top of the pudding.   Most recipes do not have this but I think it is crucial to get the crust on top.  My only modification of the ingredients was that I used 1% milk and added a pinch of salt.

A different recipe I looked at but did not use called for a very different way to make.   There was no corn starch and the sugar was stirred in at the very end.

I have looked for some more recipes:

So in considering all of these recipes, here is what I would do:

  • Cook short grain rice in a bit more water than needed and cook it until it is overcooked.  1/2 cup of rice in 1 1/3 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • I would then add 3 cups of milk to the rice and cook it over low heat till the rice disintegrates.   I would add the seeds from one vanilla pod to the mixture at this time.
  • I would then whisk 2 tablespoons of corn starch into 1 cup of milk, when done with that I would add it to the milk rice mixture on the heat.   I would cook this until it was the consistency of heavy cream, it should coat the back of spoon and leave a clear spot when you run your finger through the mixture.
  • I would now pour this into ramekins.
  • I would let this cool and set up a bit.  When it has I would make an egg yolk/milk egg wash.   I would put about a teaspoon of this on top of each ramekin.
  • Now I would put it all under the broiler but do so with the ramekins sitting in a water bath.  Once it was the top was browned it would come out and be allowed to cool in the fridge.
I might add nutmeg or cinnamon to the dish

Here is a video of how to make the dish

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

June 25th The Gluten-Free Affair at O Bistro

I have really been impressed with the food at O Bistro, on June 25th they are hosting The Gluten-Free Affair, which is sold out....  I need to get on top of these events.   I am very interested to know what gluten free can be like.

Time: From: 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM 
Location: O Bistro 
Address: 500 Oswego Street Victoria, BC V8V 5C1 
Admission: Free 

It's no surprise that the O Bistro is amongst some of the Celiac Scene's favourite gluten-free eateries.

Chef Muzzin prides himself on his healthy menu options, whilst refusing to compromise the decadence and luxury of higher-end dining. Our cooks and servers participate in a rigorous gluten-free training program once hired; and, we have safeguards in place to eliminate cross contamination.

To celebrate our gluten free status, we're hosting a complimentary Gluten-Free Affair on our O Bistro Patio! Enjoy complimentary gluten-free canapes, Organic Gluten Free Mongozo Beer, and tips from the Celiac Scene.