27 September 2008

poutine central: ashton

one of the best fast food chains in the province of quebec does not have any presence in montreal.

its name: chez ashton.
its specialty: fantastic poutine.

[chez ashton in lower town, québec city]

(for those not in the know, poutine is a popular french-canadian dish consisting of french fries with cheese curds and all doused in delicious gravy.)

[poutine piquante régulière = best $7.95 you'll ever spend.]

ashton uses local potatoes from île-d'orléans for their golden frites, and fresh curd cheese (fromage en grains)... the kicker is the homemade sauce. they also have a few poutine varieties: regular (with or without sausages); spicy; dulton (with ground beef), with or without sausages; and galvaude (with cubed chicken and peas), with or without cheese.

so if i were to rate ashton on their poutine, it would probably break down to something like this:

fries: 4.5
cheese: 5
sauce: 5
presentation: 4.5

: 19 on 20

next poutine stop: louis, in sherbrooke...

note to mr. ashton: m. ashton -- je vous conseille fortement d'ouvrir une succursale à montréal. on attend toujours après une bonne poutine ici...

17 August 2008

lobsters from prince edward island

on holiday in the province of prince edward island in the east coast of canada, a lone provincial island in the gulf of st. lawrence... home of l. m. montgomery's anne of green gables, red dirt, white-sand beaches, etc, etc.

i had the pleasure of experiencing a typical neverending lobster supper in new glasgow, PEI which comprised of all you can eat:

- dinner rolls and bread (surprisingly good rolls)

- mussels

- seafood chowder

- coleslaw and potato salad (and something that claimed to be garden salad)

- dessert (here is blueberry pie with blueberry frozen yogurt)

and your choice of main course between 1 lb, 1.5 lb, or 2 lb delicious atlantic lobster, or some other nonsense like roast beef, roast chicken... standard island fare, but very little compares to fresh boiled lobster dipped in melted butter.

oh and you get a bib if you ask.

and a heart attack if you don't.

10 July 2008

maple boston cream bacon doughnut concoction

to taunt frawley because he has no access to doughnuts except gross ones, my colleagues and i created a maple boston cream bacon doughnut, inspired by the maple bacon bar made famous by anthony bourdain's visit to voodoo doughnut in portland, oregon.

here is it.

mmm... bacon.

27 May 2008

delightful almond and mango soft gelatin cakes

when life gives you mangoes, you make mango gelatin cakes (with almond gelatin on top).

[sorry this picture is blurry and underexposed due to my mango fever. i offer my humble apologies to my exacting photo critics. you know who you are, jerks.]

make it!
(tools required)
1 square 8-inch heat-proof dish
plastic film wrap
saucepan or microwave-safe bowl
spoons for stirring
mixing bowls

(mango gelatin)
2 ripe medium-sized mangoes (preferably of the ataulfo variety), chopped*
125ml (1/2 cup) water
125ml (1/2 cup) sugar
2 envelopes of unflavoured gelatin
80 ml (1/3 cup) water (for the gelatin)

*btw, make sure you take the peel off first.

1. line the heatproof dish with plastic film wrap.

2. pulverize your mango cubes if you haven't already. i used a hand blender which works fine.

3. in a small saucepan, dissolve the 125ml of sugar in the 125ml of water over medium-high heat. if using the microwave, put it in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat it on high until the sugar is dissolved (about a minute), stirring every so often.
4. pop the 2 packets of gelatin in the 80ml of water to soften the gelatin.

5. dump the gelatin mix into the sugar water and stir it up until the lumps are gone. let it cool a bit.
6. dump the liquid into the pulverized mango pulp -- stir it well together then do a little dance.
7. pour the mix into the lined square pan, refrigerate the thing on a level surface for about 45 minutes.

8. make the almond gelatin (see below).

(almond gelatin)
160 ml (2/3 cup) water
180 ml (3/4 cup) sugar
250 ml (1 cup) milk
8ml (1.5 tsp) almond extract
2 envelopes flavourless gelatin
80 ml (1/3 cup) water (for the gelatin)

9. dissolve the 2 envelopes of gelatin in the 80 ml of water.
10. heat the sugar in the water (either in the saucepan or microwave) until the sugar is dissolved.
11. dump the gelatin mix into the sugar water and stir until the lumps are gone.
12. add the milk and the almond extract to the liquid mixture. stir until well mixed and then let it cool to room temperature.

13. pour the almond liquid into the square pan on top of the mango layer. refrigerate for an hour, or until set.
14. remove from the fridge, and unmould it with the help of the plastic film wrap. cut into cubes or diamond-ish shapes. eat them to your heart's content.

19 May 2008

noodles noodles noodles

one of the best foods ever popularized (and likely invented) by the chinese is noodles (from which stems italian pasta, german spätzle, japanese noodles, et cetera). when i say ever, i mean, ever.

[i really don't remember eating this but i believe it is some sort of chow mei-fun (stir-fried rice noodles) in butchered chinese transliteration. i can imagine that it was good and pretend that i remember eating it just to make this posting sound more legit.]

[linguine con vongole -- wasn't very good but it looked ok].

the first purportedly written record of noodles (miàn or mein 麵 in mandarin/cantonese) was before 300 C.E. during the east han dynasty. likely these noodles were likely made of types of millet, unlike today's noodles which are mostly made of wheat or rice.
[some tong mein (soup noodles) that i had and devoured].

today, it is estimated that at least 30% of all wheat production in the world is consumed in the form of noodles (though i would like to find out where that number comes from). in chinese culture, noodles represent longevity (likely the longer you live, the more noodles one can eat). in chinese receptions, noodles are one of the 8 to 11 dishes that are served, each dish representing something i can't remember (something to do with babies, money and/or finding a wife who's not fideous).

anyways, all i wanted to say this post was that lai-mein (pulled noodles) is so farking awesome.

[the best lai-mein i've had in the last 4 months at d & j shanghai restaurant. frawley ate most of it though.]

lai-mein is something else, especially if you can watch it being made... will post more on that in the near future.

[i might have forgotten to mention that i don't actually live in hong kong but if i did, i would be one fatass.]

19 April 2008

grossness burger

"freshness burger" is the mismatched noun agreement of a name for a japanese burger chain that serves... well, burgers. burgers, hot dogs, doughnuts and beer and some other fast food crap. one opened in hong kong on the boardwalk (next to avenue of the stars) this past winter.

the wrapping itself should have given it away: "there's no fun in this package".

frankly, the burger i had (i believe it was a negimiso burger) was like eating a mcdonald's hamburger, and instead of a beef patty, it was a dry, breaded pork patty, and instead of wilted iceberg lettuce, it was wilted cabbage, and instead of special sauce, it was with goopy teriyaki-like sauce.

i mean, look at it:

looks like a horse pooped it out of it rear end and someone slapped yellow wonder bread on either side of it. this picture just made it look nicer cause i had put it on a plate.

needless to say, i should have had street food instead.

rating: 3 out of 10.

06 April 2008

fun with tayaki

these little portable japanese snacks come hot off the tayaki (たやき) presses like no one's business.

tayaki is basically a waffley sandwich that can be stuffed with savoury or sweet surpises. they're usually (and i believe traditionally) shaped like carp.

savoury fillings:
- tuna (from a can... gross)

and sweet fillings:
- custard
- red bean paste
- glutinous rice balls

this one is from a small stand in the koenji district of tokyo and stuffed with red bean paste (azuki paste).

i don't know much more about these things because i can't read very much japanese.

25 March 2008

food reality versus food non-reality

came across this interesting post via metafilter -- what magic touch food stylists have to make your food look "tasty"!

i think this is one of the reasons why i try to avoid processed food like the plague (though as a kid, i used to think the fatty globules in the meat was macaroni for some reason). the cheeseburger a bit further than halfway down the page looks like was poured out of a blender onto bread found in a trash from your neighbour's labour day barbeque.

nonetheless, one day i might grow up and become a food stylist. or a zombie.

24 March 2008

a discussion on egg tarts

those who know me know that i am an egg tart fiend (the likely culprit behind my "extra luggage" from my expeditions in the far east).

["chieu-pei" or "flaky crust" egg tart. actually this one tasted kind of gross and lardy, like eating a spoonful of tenderflake.]

egg tarts ("dan-tat") abound in hong kong and macau, where they were popularized around WWII by "cha-chaan tengs" (tea and food restaurants). in north america, you can find egg tarts in chinese bakeries and also in "cha-laus" where dim sum is served.

story goes either the british brought custard pies to hong kong (from which the chinese eggier version was adapted), and/or they were influenced by the portuguese egg tarts (see below).

the basic ingredients are simple: a buttload of eggs, milk and sugar, and sometimes food colouring. ginger, chocolate, papaya or other stuff (like bird's nest) can be added, but make them weird-flavoured.

[milk tarts, weaklings of the egg tart family.]

there are two main types of tart crusts:
- shortcrust. butter-based, more flavourful, and slightly denser.
- puff-pastry. lard-based, flakier, considered more genuine ("chieu-pei").

portuguese egg tarts ("po-tat" as my chinese kinfolk call them) are by far my favourite. called pastel de nata in their native portugal, the macanese ones delicate eggy cups of heaven, topped with slightly burned deliciousness... best. thing. ever.

(you can even get them right here in montreal, on the plateau.)

[macanese po-tart: flaky, eggy, and slightly burned... just like the way i like my boys.]

[a half dozen of po-tarts (minus one) from macau that quickly disappeared as soon as they were boxed... and no, i did not share.]

in hong kong however, the best one i had was from kfc, i kid you not. and do not judge me lest ye be judged.

23 March 2008

let's begin with macanese almond cookies

i'm a little unsure as to how to start off this food blogging thing, but as i flipped through the 2000+ photos i took while in hong kong, i came across these ones of almond cookies in macau.

these macanese delectables are one of macau's more famous exports, along with eat jerky, and the best egg tarts i've ever had in the world (though i've never been to portugal so i might be mistaken... humour me for now).

the main street leading up to the remains of st. paul's church in macau are lined with shops that sell these cookies. barkers for the stores literally shove them in your hands to lure you into buying more. i think i got slightly ripped off ($100 MOP for 4 boxes) but i didn't really care cause this was the real deal. there are a few major competitors on that strip but the one i went to was pastelaria koi kei.

made of mung bean powder, sugar, almonds, vegetable oil, peanut butter, milk powder and water, they're slightly toasted on that big round toaster plate thing when they hand them to you.

[that's the ominous hand of mr. frawley who likes to ruin pictures i take].

imagine a light, slightly sweet, dry and crumbly biscuit, flavoured with almonds. and sometimes mixed with walnuts, coconuts, or whole almonds... and imagine sipping some hot tea or almond milk with one of these suckers and you're soaking in it!

though some liken these cookies to eating chalk, i say, to each his own... and i like chalk.