Happy Halloween!

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I have this cute little mini pumpkin sitting in the house. I didn’t have time to carve it, or make any Halloween treats for that matter. Well, actually to tell you the truth I don’t really make Halloween treats. But I wonder what I should make with this pumpkin: Pie, bread, muffins? Ideas are brewing in my head. Although, I must also admit that I am probably too lazy that I’d rather just go out and buy the canned stuff.

 

Happy Halloween everyone – enjoy all that sugary stuff!

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Whole Wheat Boule | Sponge method.

Whole wheat boule

Somewhat inspired by Yakitate!! Japan, I decided it was time to make some bread. Well, it was long overdue anyway, and I had wanted to get my hands in some dough badly. So I made a simple lean bread – a whole wheat boule. I started a sponge the night before with just yeast and whole wheat flour, but the sponge was not too spongey after 12 hours… I’m not sure if this is the flour because last time I made a sponge with white flour it seemed to have grown larger. Maybe I should have waited a little while longer. Anyway, I let this thing rise 3 times (plus being rather busy that day, each time it rose longer than I planned…). Turned out OK – wheaty, kinda chewy. The crust was actually very crispy and the crumb was much softer compared to breads I’ve made that didn’t have as wet a dough and didn’t rise as many times or as long. It also stayed soft the day after, unlike some whole grain breads that tend to get harder. I’m getting the hang of slashing, though there is room for improvement in every department. Anyway, makes good sandwich bread, would go nicely with spreads.

Whole wheat boule sliced

Sliced

 

Protocol follows…

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Felicos – Redux and Greekier.

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Felicos Restaurant closed for months this summer and went through a major renovation. They re-opened earlier this month. They’ve looked busy ever since their reopening, but waited a little while so they can get everything going before coming. Very posh and more Greek-looking than before. Pillars seem to be a theme. They now have a hip, bluish lounge/cocktail area to the left of the (grander) entrance, with a nice bar and couches. Off to the right are two dining rooms separated by a wall. The first room is small (I thought looked rather cramped); the second is larger, quite cozy, with a big fireplace.

Felicos

Main dining room

 

We came for mom’s birthday. Luckily we made a reservation and were seated straight away, because it was a super busy Saturday night, and there was a consistent big line up (and no parking). I noticed a couple who did not have a reservation waited probably an hour before getting seated.

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Although the decor has changed, the menu hasn’t. But I’ve always found their menu to have a pretty large selection anyway: lamb, steaks, fish and shellfish, souvlaki, Greek appy’s, combo’s and platters… your typical Greek fare. They had a dinner special of lamb shank and stuffing but I chose the lamb chops. They were delish, four good size chops, but not as gamey as I like for lamb. Mom likes it better like this. I like that gamey smell more. Nonetheless, they were well cooked, medium rare, tender, juicy.

Lamb Chops

The Trio: Steak, stuffed prawns, and a lobster tail for mom:

Trio

Stuffed prawns for dad:

Stuffed Prawns

House bread was whole wheat pita. (Used to be just plain bread before, nice that they noticed they might require something more Greek at a Greek restaurant.)

Whole Wheat Pita

No complaints about the food, it was satisfying and authentically Greek the way Felicos has always been, but not super food-gasmic. The service is neither terrible nor super attentive, although there are enough servers running around for everyone. I did find it a bit rude that they were moving tables around right behind me and I had to move, but it seemed like I was expected to, as nobody ever said an ‘excuse me’ or a ‘thank you’. It was a busy night, and unfortunately their eagerness to kick you out showed through a little too well. Overall, it’s the same Felicos food, the same Felicos people, but with the renos it’s a whole new dining experience. Whereas before I found the old Felicos atmosphere to be more family-style, now it’s more elegant and cool but still comfortable. If it was definitely worth a try before, it’s now even more so.

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Felico’s Restaurant

8140 Leslie Rd, Richmond 

(Make reservations. Go early. Parking is quite limited and traffic around there is hectic.)

Thai Sweet Chili Salmon

Thai sauce on salmon

Thai Sweet Chili Salmon

Like I said, I eat a lot of salmon. I like the flavor of the fish, I like it simple but I also love experimenting with different flavors in general. It felt like a sweet and savoury, saucy type of salmon night. So I made a sweet chili marinade: I started with some Thai sweet chili sauce, then added the rest of the ingredients as I tasted and went along with it. Add, mix, taste as I go – the way of cooking I like best. I think this one worked out well, and was well recieved. The sauce complimented the sweetness of the fish nicely – it was sweet with a slight hint of spiciness.

Sweet Thai Salmon

Thai sweet chili salmon: After 

Recipe follows…

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Yakitate!! Japan

Yakitate Japan

Yakitate!! Japan

I’m hooked on Yakitate!! Japan right now. This is a 69-episode anime about a young and talented bread-maker named Azuma Kazuma who wants to create the ultimate Japanese national bread, or “Ja-pan” (pan = Japanese for bread). Azuma leaves the country side for Tokyo to train at Pantasia, the biggest bakery chain in Japan. The story is about him, his coworkers, the breads they create, and baking competitions. It’s like Iron Chef but as an animated soap opera, and all about bread making. Crap that just gets me all salivating and giddy.

Yakitate! Japan

There is some extreme comic fictitiousness to it all, like Azuma’s legendary “Solar Hands” (hands capable of forming awesome bread dough because they are warmer than body temperature), or a croissant with something like 500 layers. But the thing I find impressive about Yakitate (Yakitate = “freshly baked”) is that the science of bread-making is both preserved and not overlooked. For all the breads they would explain how a certain taste, texture, or some other aspect of the bread is achieved, or why an ingredient works the way it does. But that never takes away from the plot or becomes a bore. An example is the goat’s milk substitution in Episode 5: Azuma made bread using milk from a goat instead of a cow. This prevents allergic reactions to milk, because the most common allergen found in cow’s milk (Alpha S1-Casein) is not present in goat’s milk. It was also explained that goat’s milk make bread taste better because it has smaller fat particles, so more of the particles fit into the dough compared to cow’s milk, making the bread more flavorful. Here’s a screen cap of that explanation, so cute:

Bread dough

 

And this scene brought back memories of my recent visit to Kei’s Bakery (but it is reminiscent of many Asian French-inspired bakeries too):

Yakitate

Anyway, highly recommend for anybody remotely interested in breads and pastries – whether you like making them, or just devouring them. It’s an entertaining and hilarious anime, beautifully directed, but one thing that sets it apart is that it is also surprisingly informative. And makes you salivate and want to make bread afterwards. The manga is also available in English now on Amazon.

Needed a new mug

New MugI have been coping with my old Thermos mug since forever. Coping – as it leaks and I would often end up with a pool of liquid on my lap, or on my books, after taking a sip. Unfortunately I am too loyal when it comes to tools and utensils in general, especially when I have developed some kind of bond with them.

I got my Thermos mug when I first started university (the time when caffeine starts becoming your real buddy), and it accompanied me every morning on that long commute to school. We had a great relationship for maybe two years until it started leaking. Then came a series of cheap stainless steel affairs which also ended up in leakage. Mug after mug, I chucked. Then I had to quit caffeine for a while due to a medical issue; and went back on it about a year ago. The vicious serial-mug-nogamy ensued. Many a mug-break later, and feeling rather cheap, I dug out my old Thermos again. I took it to work and left it there, and I have been using it for months. Every – single – time it leaks on me I swear I will get a new one. And every – single – time I am at any store that sells mugs I look through them intently trying to find a new one, but I don’t end up buying one. Why? I don’t know. I am devoted to that Thermos. And it’s still a pretty good mug. I thought it kept my beverages decently warm, I like the size and the feel of it in my hands. And there are some great dry days. It’s inconsistent, but the dry days are good. (You see this is not one of those relationships I can easily get out of.) 

A few days ago, I had to sneak into a Starbucks during a torrential downpour. Rain made me feel like spending money, but I didn’t get anything to drink. I had my eye on a Starbucks mug. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because they are overpriced and say Starbucks on them. (Although I am not a Starbucks fan: I dislike their coffee and never drink it. I only ever drink their Americano.) Maybe it is to declare: I want to date other mugs.

So I bought this one. And it is nice. It has a better “lip” than my old Thermos one. And is much better at keeping things hot (I don’t feel the heat coming out of the mug. Plus I put hot coffee in it, then put it in the fridge for an hour. Afterwards the mug was cold to the touch, but the coffee was still hot. Not warm, much warmer than warm.) So now I am in a new mug relationship, feeling all puppy-love like. *sigh* 

But I’m not going to chuck my Thermos. Yet.

Solly’s Bagelry

Cinnamon Bun

Solly’s Cinnamon Bun – Best in the City

Solly’s Bagelry – a Jewish bakery/deli with 3 stores in Vancouver – supposedly make the best cinnamon buns in town. They also make awesome bagels. I like cinnamon buns, but I am not a big fan of bagels. I have to admit, though, Solly’s bagels could quite possibly turn me into a bagel lover.  

Solly’s on 7th and Yukon

Solly’s on 7th and Yukon

Had lunch at the one on 7th and Yukon. It was around noon and packed – none of the tables were free and there was a lineup. They take your name when they take your order, then shout your name out when they’re done. There was a bit of a wait for the food, but it wasn’t ridiculously long and they didn’t confuse orders and obeyed all the special requests. (They also have an express lunch/pick up service for those in a hurry.)

Solly’s Bagelry

Many types of bagel flavors are offered here: onion, poppy seed, garlic, sundried tomato, plain, multigrain, whole wheat, sesame, cinnamon-raisin, cheese… and probably more. They have several types of sandwiches you can order, as well as these eggels, knoshes and schmears. There is a good choice of deli items – lox slices, turkey breast, humus, Taboulleh salad, fresh fruit salad, etc. (Very vegetarian-friendly.) Also on display for your feasting eyes are pastries and sweets like Rugoleh, cakes, muffins, meringue cookies, and a giant stack of bread loaves, including some very beautiful looking challah. Hmmmm….challah.

Their lunch combos are bagel sandwiches with tuna/egg salad or vegetarian toppings, plus either soup or greens. You can pick from all their bagel flavors, and get the Full Deal or the Light Lunch – which is half a sandwich less. The lunches also come with Solly’s bagel chips – which I really like. Crunchy and chewy, and you never know which of the two flavors you’ll get. The chicken matzo ball soup was hearty and tasted quite home-made:

Sandwich and soup

Full lunch: Tuna salad sandwiches with chicken matzo ball soup

Their egg salad was sandwich nice. Spinach salad comes with mushrooms, sliced almonds, and a fat pickle. Veggies are fresh. The stuff on the sandwiches are fine, but it’s really the bagel that makes it. I’d be happy with just the bagel sans filling. (And I don’t even like bagels all that much!) Even the plain bagel was delicious: Solly’s bagels are dense, with good, substantial weight, crispy on the outside, very, very chewy inside. I’m not a bagel aficionado and I have never had bagels from the East, but these are really good (I’ve heard they are among the best on the West coast). Great flavor, with a slight hint of sweetness, they are nothing like other bagels I’ve tried. Solly’s also claim to not add any fat or eggs to these bagels.

Egg Salad Sandwich

Light lunch: Egg salad sandwich with spinach salad

Their cinnamon buns are pretty large. And sweet, with strong but just the right amount of cinnamon. It’s not sweet in that commercial, artificially sugary way that gives you a headache. What’s great about them is that there is this magical crunchy crisp to them on the outisde, and then a very soft moistness inside. These are good as they are without Solly’s real cream cheese icing (which costs a buck!), but I suppose that kind of sweet decadence would just be heavenly.

Solly’s Cinnamon Bun

Their coffee was also quite good. Brought some bagels home; they were great toasted the next morning.

Whole Grain Bagel

Multigrain bagel

If there happens to be a spot, it’s a nice, super casual place to sit down for lunch, or coffee and a snack. The atmosphere is great whether you are with friends, family, on a date, or by yourself. If there isn’t room, buy some bagels and enjoy them straight from the bag. Either way, be sure to stock up with lots of their baked goods, a cinnamon bun, and a loaf of their challah before you go, and you’ll be happy. And very soon you’ll be a regular.

Solly’s Bagelry

368 W. 7th and Yukon (featured)

2873 W. Broadway and MacKenzie

189 E. 28th and Main

Open Mon-Sun, about 7am-7pm (hours vary by store, the one 7th now open late)