Not all is lost – Cranberry Filone from Save On Foods

filone

I like bread with dried fruit in it – if not a satisfying breakfast it is always nice as a snack or even dessert on its own. Raisin bread is always good. Aside from the raisin-buns from Asian bakeries (which are essentially little sweet buns made from a dough with considerable sugar and eggs and raisins mixed in), sometimes I get the Apricot Delight from Cobs Breads, or as a last resort, the stuff they bake at supermarkets. I am hesitant to try stuff at supermarket bakeries… Not to mention things like bagels or sourdough, but they don’t even have a decent baguette. They aren’t good and aren’t actually cheaper. Really, a last resort.

I had lost a bit of faith in Save On Food’s bakery ever since my Save Ons bagel incident, but while grocery shopping there and suddenly craving bread with some dried fruit in it, and considering the increased price of their store-baked, presliced raisin bread (which is just OK), I decided I’ll stroll over to the bakery counter and have a look in the drawers.

Near the bottom of the stack (where I assume unpopular breads are kept?), I happened upon this one rather rustic (some might perhaps say not the most appealing looking) loaf of bread that was studded with what I thought looked like raisins. I think officially Save Ons calls this a “Nine Grain Cranberry Filone” (I found it later in their bread index – a giant binder right at the bakery detailing all their breads), but you will just see it labeled as “Filone“. Anyway, it was slightly cheaper than their raisin bread so I thought, what the heck. Might be a better choice.

From what I know, a filone – or “long stick” – is essentially an Italian bread created from a levain, and shaped like a demi-baguette. It is a flavorful and full bread due to a longer fermentation and the incorporation of flours other than plain white flour (eg. whole wheat, rye). Usually, it is a plain bread but this one from Save Ons also has cranberries in it.  I forgot what other ingredients were on the list, but you can clearly see flax seeds, sunflower seeds, golden speckles of what is probably cornmeal, so the bread is very flavorful. It’s not like your plain fruit loaf of raisin bread, which often come with a soft crust, soft sweet (soggy) crumb… This is sweet from the cranberries, but the crumb itself is not sweet nor soggy – it’s nutty and chewy from the seeds, and quite light considering, and with a tough crust that is crisp when toasted.

A well-rounded, tasty loaf of bread. I would (and have) gone back for more.

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Oden 関東煮

Oden @ Sensoji

On a visit to Tokyo’s Sensoji Temple during Hatsumode (first shrine visit of the new year), I once had this oden from one of many many food stands there. They were selling each item for a whopping 500Yen (you get to choose 5 items, making this dish of a daikon slice, 3 fish balls, a bundle of Konnyaku noodles, one wedge of black Konnyaku, an egg, and that smidgen of mustard about $25 bucks CAD.) You would of course know that at the local 24hr Family Mart, you can get the same thing 10 times cheaper, but heck, it’s one of the biggest and oldest temples in Japan during its busiest time of the year, so they have the right to rip off tourists and festival-goers alike.

Truth be told, oden (関東煮) is really a very modest Japanese one-pot hot pot easily made at home. It basically consists of a dashi broth as a base, and then pretty much whatever you want to throw into it. Typically this would be things like daikon, tofu, shitake mushrooms, eggs, konnyaku, and various surimi-based products such as fish balls, fish cakes, surimi rolls, etc. Everything is cooked in the broth for an hour or so, and then served right in the big pot it is cooked in. Oden makes for a very comforting and filling meal, and really warms you up in the winter.

You can make your own dashi, but I just use Ajinomoto’s Hon Dashi powder. I like to throw in napa cabbage because it takes care of the vegetables as well, and napa soaks up the broth nicely. In this particular oden there were also fish balls, hanpen (triangular-shaped fish cake), tofu, chikuwa (surimi tubes), kamaboko, imitation crab sticks, and crimini mushrooms. It was all cooked in a giant wok (one of the biggest in the kitchen), and it didn’t cost me 2500Yen. 😉

Oden

American Grille @ The Marriott Vancouver Airport

The American Grille is located at the Marriott in downtown Richmond. Went for a weekend brunch. Pretty typical hotel dining-fare: Nothing fancy, but not terrible. Their menu has decent choices and also quite a few healthy options (low cholesterol, low fat, low carb, vegetarian), which is nice.

Thai shrimp salad with mangos, good-sized shrimp, not actually spicy:

Spicy Shrimp and Mango Salad

Mediterranean vegetable sandwich on ciabatta. I liked this- the bread was not bad, and the basil pesto was delicious:

Roasted veggie sandwich

Service was attentive, as expected at a hotel. There weren’t too too many people, but it wasn’t empty either. Partially open kitchen style – always interesting to see the chef (and sous chef) cooking it up. I may come back for dinner if I were in the neighbourhood, although I must admit that particular neighbourhood has too many yummy choices!

American Grille
Vancouver Airport Marriott Hotel
7571 Westminster Highway, Richmond
604 276 2112

OY! Bagels from Save On Foods

Baked in Store

It was a lazy, get-all-my-groceries-done-at-one-supermarket kind of day, so I was tricked into buying bagels at Save-On-Foods. Supermarket bagels are essentially baked rolls with holes in the middle that aren’t boiled, and look exactly like it. (See IGA’s, for example.) These ones looked OK from the outside, and were on sale. Probably a bad idea, but the mantra of my Bagel Quest is to try bagels from all walks of life. So what the heck.

What can I say about this thing? It’s not a bagel. It tastes like nothing – worse than Tim Horton’s plain bagel. Weighing at almost 5oz (that’s pretty heavy for a bagel this size), it is just a really, really dense roll with a hole in the center.

plain bagel

At least with Safeway’s bagels, I could finish the bagel as what it was. And if I had no other choice, I wouldn’t mind eating them if I really wanted a bagel fix. But these Save On ones were so bad I just couldn’t … So I took the rest of them, sliced them up, toasted them in the oven and made bagel chips. Less suffering this way. 😉

bagel crisp

2008 Golden Plates Awards

GP2008

The results for the Reader’s Choice 2008 Golden Plates Awards were published in The Straight today, with West Restaurant getting top honours.

There are some pretty bad choices that should never have even ended up on the list (Hons, for example.) But there are a few I agree with: Terra Breads beat out Cobs in the Bread category, as it should. Burgoo also got top Soup place (of course, but really there aren’t other choices for soup). And my favorite place to have fish – The Cannery, also got best Fish.

 There are also several additional categories from the Critic’s choices.

Oral Allergy Syndrome and Honeydew

I used to have a thing against melons, I really did. I hated melons of all sorts – watermelons, cantaloupes and honeydews were my 3 most-hated fruits. I found them to be rather flavorless, and I hated the sandy texture of watermelon aboveall. I went so far as to declare myself deathly allergic to melons so that I didn’t have to eat them. When I decided that my palate had to become less picky in order to become more picky (if you get that), I decided to try all kinds of fruits and vegetables, and discovered that I didn’t hate melons so much, afterall. 

Because my mother gets a serious itch in her throat every time she eats honeydew, I have never really had too much of this fruit, even after my new-found fondness for melons. Strangely (and luckily) this doesn’t happen with watermelons or cantaloupes. This kind of reaction is known as Oral Allergy Syndrome, or pollen-food allergy, where your immune system mistakes a certain food protein as pollen proteins, so that after you eat a certain food- typically raw fruit or vegetable – you get a burning sensation in your mouth and/or throat. OAS thus happens a lot in people who have hay fever, or some kind of pollen allergy. Melons are associated with sensitivity to ragweed or grass. (While some other veggies like carrots and celery are associated with mugwort allergy). Typically, these reactions are worse during pollen season.

Honeydew

 It’s hard to just buy a whole melon because I can’t finish it quickly enough. And I don’t buy pre-chopped fruit. Found this little half honeydew though, the other day, and it looked pretty fresh. Plus I have just been really wanting some honeydew. It was green, sweet, and delicious.

And not itchy. 🙂

Broccoflower

I love cauliflower. And broccoli.  I prefer them raw and crunchy, though I also like them cooked, or pureed into a soup. If I had to choose, though, cauilflower edges out broccoli for me. They are crunchier, sturdier, and doesn’t have as strong a smell. You also don’t get little green flowers stuck in your teeth after. I always have cauliflower in my fridge, it’s my vegetable staple.

I’ve often seen the purple, orange, green varieties of cauliflower, but I have never actually tried them. Not because I am not curious (though it’s not like I expect them to taste all that different), but because they’re usually more expensive, so you seem to be paying more for aesthetics than for a different taste. Eventually I knew I would give into my curiousity. This week the broccoflower was on sale at IGA, so I got a head:

Broccoflower

The broccoflower is a cross between the cauliflower and broccoli. Selective breeding. On the other hand, the orange and purple varieties arose from natural mutations. (An interesting note – the orange cauliflower is actually Canadian in origin – it was born in Ontario’s Bradford Marsh, in 1970!) So, I guess for those wary of even the very slightest genetic modification in your foods – uh, you can chew on that. (I will not go into GMOs here. But let’s just say – I am a geneticist. I KNOW very intimately what genetic modification means.)

Due to the way they flower, the broccoflower is considered to be more closely related to the cauliflower, and is put in the same Botrytis group of Brassica oleracea (whereas the broccoli belongs in the Italica group of B. oleracea.) In fact, the texture is definitely cauliflower, and taste is more cauliflower than broccoli. Although, I would definitely say that there is a slight broccoli “sweetness” (some would say stench perhaps) and aftertaste, especially in the trunk parts.

I’d buy the orange ones, but right now I am suffering from carotemia because I’ve been eating too much squash lately, so I’m staying away from beta-carotene rich foods. Hahaha 😀