plonq: (Entertain Me)
One of the things I plan to do after I retire is explore local restaurants. My goal is to venture out at least a couple of times a week to sample a wide variety of breakfast and lunch places, hopefully hitting a different one each time. A good friend of mine is retiring later this year, and when I mentioned this plan to him, he immediately said, "Sign me up!"

Ultimately I want to walk or cycle to as many of them as I can, or walk there and take the bus home again; the idea is to get exercise as well as a meal. My plan for my retirement years does not consist of sitting on my butt as I slowly fade away.

I know it's not a unique or new idea, but I am also planning to BLOG about the places as I visit them. I am torn between creating a public BLOG for it (maybe see if I can coax my dear wife to give me some space on one that she has already created), or just post it here.

I may experiment with a few formats before I settle on something consistent, so please bear with me. Also, don't expect a lot of entries on this until I'm actually retired in a year.

Relli's Breakfast & More
Home Style Cooking

Attached to the Green Brier Inn, North Main St, Winnipeg

August 11, 2017

[personal profile] atara and I spotted this new place when we were walking down Main Street a couple of weeks ago to hit up a local butcher shop. There have been a couple of other restaurants that have set up shop in the front of the Green Brier over the years, but each has looked sketchier than the one before.

At this point I should probably give some background on the Green Brier itself. This is a pub located in the north part of Winnipeg, with an attached liquor vendor, and (as I mentioned above) a succession of restaurants occupying the other street-front portion of the building. In fairness to the pub, I have only been in there once, and it was long before its renovations a few years ago. At the time when I visited, it radiated an unwelcoming, stabby kind of vibe that caused my friend and I to exchange an uneasy glance before we wheeled and walked out again by unspoken, mutual agreement.

The fact that there was drunken, off-key karaoke taking place at the time did not hurt our decision process.

When we passed this new restaurant (New as of June this year, as I later learned from the owner), I told [personal profile] atara of my plan to walk down there for breakfast at some point during my week of vacation. Yesterday I followed through on that.

Between the gaily painted window - which features a smiling portrait of (who I presume to be) the self-same Relli taking an order, and a grinning cup of coffee holding a breakfast sandwich - and the Venetian blinds inside, I could not see into the restaurant from the street. I dithered outside for a minute, trying to find a write-up about the restaurant on my phone before I finally admitted to myself that I was just procrastinating.

I opened the door and ventured into a rather pleasant, homey little diner. It had five tables in total, one of which was occupied by a family of four, and another by a young woman who was drinking coffee and reading the paper. It did not take me long to figure out that she is the owner's daughter, first when she offered me a menu and told me to help myself to coffee, and again later when I heard her complain, "Mom, I'm not even supposed to be working today."

Mother and daughter were both very friendly, and quickly defused any hesitation I may have felt about trying the new restaurant.

The menu selection was fairly limited - if memory serves me, they offered a maximum of five or six breakfast selections. I glanced over the options quickly before choosing the pork chop and eggs, as pictured below.


The coffee was fine, but not extraordinary. It tended toward the lighter and thinner end of the spectrum for my liking, but it was fresh thanks to the high throughput. If one was looking solely for coffee, I would steer them toward other outlooks first, but I would not actively discourage them from coming here.

I ordered the eggs with my meal sunny-side-up, and they were cooked to near perfection. Most place are pretty good when it comes to eggs, but it is nevertheless a nice treat when they nail it. The potatoes were also handled well. The breakfast potatoes are usually the things I dread most when I try a new place, but these had just a nice amount of crunch where they were browned, and just enough onion mixed in to give them a good flavour. It's possible that they were cooked from frozen, but I'd still rate them around the same level as what you will usually get from one of those family-style chain restaurants.

The rye toast could have been left in the toaster for another minute in my opinion, but I will take slightly light toast over burnt any day. The toast was buttered, but not saturated as some places are wont to do. When I say buttered, I think it is more likely that it was margarined - at least, that's the impression I was left with from the taste and texture of the spread. They offered no sides (jam, jelly, peanut butter), and I did not see any readily available for patrons. They probably would have brought some if I had asked, but I was satisfied to dip the toast ends into the egg yolks and enjoyed it that way. Still, next time I will ask for peanut butter.

The only real disappointment with the breakfast was the pork chop. I have seen some thin cuts of meat in my time, but it takes real skill to shave off a chop this thin. It's not like I think the breakfast needed a thick chop - it was quite filling, and the chop was more for flavour than anything else, and I understand that a thin chop cuts the cooking time during the busy breakfast hours. It was well-seasoned and flavourful. My issue with the pork chop was that it was overcooked. It was not quite reduced to jerky, but it was tough and chewy. One does not want to serve raw pork, but this one would have benefited from a minute or two less on the griddle.

The slice of strawberry and summer melon were a nice finish, but in a small enough portion that I would almost classify them as garnish rather than as part of a meal.

Overall, I would rate the meal as good, but not great. The diner was clean, and the atmosphere was friendly. The food was about on par with what you would expect from a little family-run diner.

I won't actually give a review-style rating for the place since I have only been there once, and I like to return and try other dishes before I actually do a review, so I'll finish with a tentative rating of will return.
plonq: (WOW Worgen Mood)
It was hot and muggy in the house this evening, so we both agreed that dining out seemed the thing to do. We tossed out ideas before deciding on a burger place up in the west end of town that we have been meaning to try. It has been around for years, and it has garnered pretty good ratings, and decent word-of-mouth.

The best thing about the place was its 50s diner atmosphere. Sadly the food was greasy and forgettable. We need to remind ourselves that when Winnipeggers wax poetic about how good a restaurant is, what they usually mean is that it has large portions for the price. This was not the worst burger place at which I have ever dined, but it was far from the best. Neither of us are in a hurry to return.

I have been grinding out the demon invasion events in the lead up to the next expansion to try and catch up the gear on a couple of my alts. I am probably going to trim the number of active alts I have going forward - my current batch were mostly levelled up to sit in their garrisons and generate money. Now that they have cut that revenue stream, I will likely just leave them parked where they are and dip into their savings now and then when I run short on my main characters.

I think I will likely funnel most of my effort into my priest, my two rogues, and my druid (in that order - unless they have made druids more fun in the next expansion). Three of them are Horde, and one is my token Alliance character. I have played almost exclusively Horde since the game came out, in part because most of my friends are Horde, and in part because I find the Alliance to be a bit too prissy and self-righteous for my liking. Still, I like to sneak over there once in awhile to stir things up.

I finally got around to transmogrifying my Worgen's gear. All but the helmet are from the same set which I meticulously farmed. Initially I farmed the gear because I thought it would make a fugly set, but once it was complete, it wasn't bad at all. The helmet from this set is not terrible, but I wanted to show off her features, so I gave her an eye patch to make her look more roguish. I'm not entirely sold on the shoulders either, but I'm torn between keeping the integrity of the set, or replacing them with something a bit more low-key.
Sexy Beast
plonq: (Bork Bork Bork)
The chicken guy at the farmers' market yesterday changed up his pattern for the final market of the year, and offered breasts and thighs for sale instead of whole chickens. As with all of this fare, they were free range and enormous. The breasts came two to a pack, so [ profile] atara put one in the freezer, and I cut up the other to make Thai curry.

Red Thai chicken has become a cold-weather staple in our house, and over time I have honed the recipe to be consistently good.

Last night should have been no exception, but something went horribly wrong. One of the tricks I use when making the curry is to reserve some of the coconut milk and mix it with the curry paste so that we don't get little surprise lumps of the past hiding in the final dish. I was feeling a bit impish last night and decided to mix in an extra amount of the sauce to see if I could bring a sweat to [ profile] atara's brow at dinner.

I could tell that something was wrong with my first bite. My usual method for estimating the flavour and heat of this dish is based on its colour. The colour of the curry suggested that it should have been full-flavoured, with a mild burn, but the dish was flavourless and bland. At first I thought maybe it was just me, but after we had been eating in relative silence for a minute or so, [ profile] atara finally asked, "How much curry paste did you put in this?"

In the end, I went back and added the rest of the jar to the curry, but all it seemed to do was darken the colour without adding any flavour or zing. We have bought this brand of paste before, and it was pretty good, so I wondered if we had just got a bad jar. I looked up online comments about the sauce after dinner, and I found that others were complaining about the same thing.

"This paste used to be really good, but now it is bland and flavourless."

Note to future self: do not buy this brand again.

In other news, I am stuck doing on-call support though work this weekend. To that end I got to spend 3+ hours on a conference call that started just around midnight my time and run until about 3:00 (well, 2:00 after the time change). On the plus side, everything ran perfectly and we got kudos from the managing director. On the downside, I was on a conference call until 3:00 this morning.

I got a call from work later in the morning (closer to 10) asking about a report that has apparently not run in a couple of days. I dug around until I got stumped, then called one of our server administrators and picked his brain. We finally managed to track down the reports, but we could not find anything wrong at our end. Eventually I called back the operations centre and asked them if they could contact the business and coax more details out of them.

When he got back to me he said, "Oh, apparently they figured out it's not at your end, but with HP. They've opened a ticket with the vendor."

Gee, thanks for telling us that earlier. There's another hour out of my weekend that I will never get back.

Finally, on another front...

I am rediscovering what a pain in the hindquarters it can be to configure a new phone from scratch; it made me appreciate anew just how many services I am subscribed to. I finally got my my email servers configured today, so my phone should be fully functional now. I am going to power down the old one and see if the new one is catching everything now.
plonq: (Bork Bork Bork)
When I think of Swedish fare, one of the first foods that I do not think of is poutine.

When we stopped to grab dinner before shopping at IKEA this evening, I noticed that they were offering it as a "Winnipeg IKEA exclusive" on their menu, so I decided to give it a try.

Overall, it was actually much better than I was expecting when I ordered it. I don't order poutine very often - usually just to try it when I see a new place offering it. More often than not, I regret ordering it because most places do not know how to prepare it right, and you end up with a gloppy, salty, greasy flavourless concoction.

I would rate this one about the middle of the pack for poutines that I have tried. It was less salty or greasy than some that I have eaten in other venues, but the meatballs made it a bit heavier than I'd have liked - though that is partly my own fault for spending the extra $1.99 to double up on them.
IKEA Poutine
I think if I was going to order this again (and I might), I would ask for a side of lingonberry to bring a bit of brightness to the dish. Also, I would not double up on the meatballs.
plonq: (Friendly Applejack Mood)
I did virtually nothing yesterday. I had a few half considered plans for the day, but I decided that my brain needed one solid day of inactivity.

I did some very minor cleaning, and changed a light bulb in the bathroom.


The bathroom light fixture has three globes, each with a different style of bulb. One has a 60W incandescent bulb, one has a 13W white florescent bulb, and the last has a 60W-equivalent LED bulb. The bulb makers have been pushing the florescent and LED bulbs as low-power, long-lasting replacements for the incandescent bulbs. The last four bulbs I have changed out in there have either been florescent, or (today) LED. The remaining incandescent bulb has outlasted three florescent ones and an LED bulb.

I am more than a little miffed about the LED bulb though. These things are expensive, and they are supposed to have a lifespan that lasts well into the heat death of the universe. That said, this bulb was the one I had changed out the most recently in there. I put this bulb in there last fall with the intention of eventually replacing all of the bulbs in there with LED ones. I would be surprised if we got more than 400 hours of use out of it before it died.

Not happy.

Cheap Eats

May. 3rd, 2015 11:09 pm
plonq: (Ninja Mood)
I read an interesting discussion today about the cost of eating healthy, versus eating fast food. The initial focus of the discussion was on how healthy food, cooked at home could actually be as cheap as, or cheaper than fast food. It was obvious to some that the biggest problem facing the working poor was one of communication. If we could just convince these people to cook at home rather than eat a McMeal, they would lead happier, healthier lives.

I can see flaws in this logic, just looking back to my younger days of being part of the working poor. Even then, I knew that home cooking was cheaper and healthier than fast food. The reason I did not cook that much at home came down to a few things. First, I lacked many of the basic utensils one needs for cooking. I had a few hand-me-down things my folks had given me when I moved out, but that did not include good knives or sauce pans. Another problem was that food does not keep forever, and when I went shopping for home-cooking ingredients, it often went bad before I could use it, and I could ill afford to spend money on food that went to waste. At least with fast food, there was no waste. Finally, I didn't know how to cook.

In my case, at least I had the luxury of having the time to cook. I couldn't do it well (I still cringe at the meal I once made of, what I charitably call, unleavened bread topped with ketchup), but at least I had the luxury. In fact my problem was that I was underemployed back then. I think in that respect I was better off than people trying to survive by holding down multiple jobs.

Today, many of the working poor are working two or even three - often physically demanding - jobs to make ends meet. While there may be time to grab a burger between jobs, there is hardly to come home and cook a proper meal. This is assuming that the person even as the energy left for that at the end of the week.

That still does not stop well-meaning, but slightly arrogant and clueless folks going on at length about how cheap things like rice and bulk meats can be. One lad went on about how there was always time to cook a healthy meal at home. You just needed to go out and buy a 10-pound bag of rice, some super cheap bulk meat, and frozen veggies. You just throw the rice in your rice cooker, toss the meat in a pot and stir it a few times over the heat, and then throw the veggies in the microwave. He priced it out to $150 a month to eat this way.

We'll skip over the part about this desperately poor person investing in a rice cooker and a microwave - though the latter makes a bit more sense - and skip to the meal itself. For $150 a month, this person could eat a meal every single day of plain rice, plain meat stirred up in a pot, and reheated vegetables. Every day. It's wonderful how the privileged can find such simple solutions for these stupid poor people. For a mere $5 a day, they can have the same bland meal day after day after day.

Or, for about the same amount, and with virtually no time investment they could have a much tastier burger and fries, or a taco, or any of the other variety of fairly inexpensive fast foods. Even better, they can grab it between jobs so that when they get home they have time to sleep and not worry about cooking and clean-up.
plonq: (Enlightened Mood)
I like to think that I am a reasonably credulous person by nature. Barring compelling evidence to the contrary, or when somebody says something that just doesn't pass the smell test for truth, I am usually willing to give people the benefit of doubt.

I have trouble extending that credulity to some of the on-line restaurant reviews I read, though.

[ profile] atara and I are going out for a moderately-fancy sushi feed this evening for our anniversary (we decided to postpone our fancy dinner until today because neither of us have to work tomorrow). While I was checking out the restaurant this morning to see if they take reservations, I got distracted by some of the sites where people can post reviews. I glanced briefly at Yelp, but turned most of my attention to Urban Spoon (which has a much larger presence up here). The majority of the reviews were very positive, and matched my own impressions of the place. Interspersed with those were occasional bad reviews. Not just bad, but so negative that I had trouble resolving them with everything else on the site.

I have a bit of trouble actually believing some of the negative reviews. Mixed sparingly among the positive ones, they just don't pass the smell test of honesty. They read like somebody who was mad about something, and posted a negative critique with as many hot buttons as they could add. That is not to say that I discount all negative reviews - there are credible ones that start with, "I have been coming here a lot, and while I used to like the place a lot, my last couple of visits have been less-than stellar..." Usually reviews of that type tend to be thoughtful and reasoned, describing things that the restaurant needs to improve.

The ones I am sceptical about are the ones where, after two positive reviews by other people, somebody posts a diatribe about how horrible the place is. These reviewers almost invariable went there with their family or their girl/boy friend who they were hoping to impress.

"I heard good things about this place, so I decided to treat my family out for sushi. We made reservations and arrived well in advance but the hostess refused to acknowledge us. When they finally spoke to us after almost forty minutes, they accused us of coming late for our reservation and told us we would have to wait another thirty minutes. An hour later we were finally seated, and then they ignored us for twenty minutes until I chased after one of them for a menu. They got rude when we only ordered water to drink, and we had to chase after them for every refill. I ordered the fugu and my wife ordered the deep fried wagyu beef skewers well-done. The fugu just tasted like puffer fish to me, and my wife's beef skewers were dry. Then they had the gall to charge us a premium for it. When I complained loudly about it, they finally agreed to comp us a desert, but by then we were done with this place. It was the worst food and slowest, rudest service I have ever received in my life. Our lives were DESTROYED. Our children cried all the way home and now they are in therapy. I give this place zero starts out of five for ruining our family outing with the worst, WORST food and service I have ever experienced. This place is TERRIBLE. We are TRAUMATIZED. From now on we will be going to [rival restaurant]."

One review that I took with a large grain of salt was where the reviewer waxed poetic about the poor quality of the chicken in the Indian buffet. Apparently it was dry and chewy, and tasted like it had been left out for hours.

It is, and always has been a vegetarian restaurant.
plonq: (Omgwtf)
There is a classic scene in the original Star Trek (to which they paid tribute in TNG) where Scotty is plying an alien (who has taken on human form) with alcohol.

Scott: [Trying to drink Tomar under the table, Scotty enters, a bit tipsy, with a bottle of green liquid] I found this in the ganner room... ganner...

Tomar: What is it?

Scott: It's ...

[looks for a label]

Scott: uh ...

[looks under the bottle; sniffs it]

Scott: ... It's green.

I don't know if it is the long winter wearing on me, but lately I have found myself craving fruit and vegetable juice. Not orange juice or the like, but fresh-extracted juice. It started on a whim, when we were doing our regular weekly Safeway run, and I noticed they had a sale on carrot juice. I grabbed a bottle, operating under the principle that if it was disgusting, at least it was on sale.

It turned out to be pretty good, though. It took me two weeks to go through it because I kept forgetting that I had it, but by the time I got to the bottom of the bottle, I had decided that I was going to buy another. I finished that one in a week, but by the time I had finished it, I was convinced that I could improve on it.

The next weekend, I bought another bottle, as well as a small bag of apples, and 3 large beets. I ran the latter through the blender, and strained all three juices into a pitcher. The resulting blend was delicious, but so rich that I found myself diluting it with water when I drank it, and it was almost dangerously high in fibre. By the end of the week, I had decided to make some subtle changes to the mix (if only to not be peeing pink for another week).

I bought the carrot juice again, but this time I bought a couple smaller bottles of unfiltered apple juice, and only two beets. It was good, but not up to the previous blend. I regretted messing with my earlier success. This past weekend, I decided to mix things up, and I grabbed one of their other products.

I tried some tonight. It's green. It is so thick it almost pours like a smoothie. And it tastes... green. Think of a banana purée with a kale surprise. It's not bad, but it definitely tastes healthy, or green, or something. I will try some more tomorrow, but for now I am not entirely sold. I've poured far worse things down my gullet, so I don't think I will have any trouble finishing this. I may try it over ice tomorrow.

In the back of my mind, I can't help wondering how it would be mixed with carrot juice.
plonq: (Dashing  mood)
[ profile] atara and I have never really discussed the distribution of chores, but we each seem to have fallen into complementary routines. One of the splits that has happened is the cooking and clean-up after. She does most of the cooking, and I do most of the dish washing. It's not that I am a bad cook, rather she is a slightly better one and (more importantly) she hates washing dishes. I don't love washing dishes either, but I have come to not hate it like I once did. It is a very Zen activity if you approach it right, and I treat it as a bit of quiet time.

A couple of cooking exceptions involve stir-fries and grilling. I don't lay any territorial, macho claims to the grill (ME MAN; COOK WITH FIRE!) but [ profile] atara seems quite content to put me in charge of outdoor cooking. Likewise she has little interest in using the wok - though in that case, I can understand her reluctance to get spattered with hot oil. Eh. A few grease burns here and there on the arms builds character. It seldom spatters unless I am sloppy about ensuring everything is dry before it goes in.

I took a picture of the wok after I used it yesterday. I can remember when this thing was clean and bright, but I suppose this black circle of despair in the centre is a sign that it is becoming well-seasoned.
I should probably switch to a wooden utensil when I am using it. It came with a metal spoonula that I have never bothered to replace. I guess it is a little late in the game to try and avoid scoring the surface of the wok at this point.

I regard the dark centre as being similar to the darker coloured belts one earns when training in Judo. The blacker this wok turns, the more experience I have gained, and (in theory) I am a better cook for it. By the time the wok has turned completely black, I will be a master of stir-fry. I will be able to tell the difference between a carrot and a finger, and julienne appropriately. I will be able to produce perfect zucchini sticks without risking any digits or other extremities, and will be able to deconstruct onions without shedding a tear (other than tears of manly pride in my accomplishments).

Some day I will hold up this wok and gaze into its stygian depth, seeing no reflection of me, but only of my mastery of the wok. And I shall think, " How much more black could this be?" And the answer is none. None more black.

One of the reasons I like doing stir-fry is that I don't have to follow a recipe. Having made enough bad ones over the years, I have learned important lessons in what not to do. Once you have eliminated the nots, the world is your oyster.

Meat ✓
Carrots ✓
Marshmallow ✗✗
Soy Sauce ✓
Thin Mints ✓

When I noticed that Safeway had marked down their pork tenderloins this weekend past, I grabbed one of those and a napa cabbage, and worked from there. Usually I will also add bell peppers, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and whatever we need to use up in the fridge. I was going to make my own stir-fry sauce for it this time around, but we had a vegetarian mushroom sauce that has been gathering dust in the pantry for months.

The sauce was quite delicious, and now we are both wishing we could remember where we bought it.
plonq: (Derpy Mood)
It is supposed to return to seasonal norms later in the week, but for now we are enjoying the sunshine and high teens. We went for a nice walk through the neighbourhood this afternoon, and as the winds died to a mere breath, we decided that it might be a good opportunity to take last year's Christmas presents out for their inaugural outdoor flights.

Indian Summer

At my boss's insistence, I have stated taking days off work for the time owed me. As I was going through the vacation calendar to fill in the days, I noticed that I had not yet booked my last 8 days of vacation time. Oops. It is a little late in the year to be noticing something like that, so it looks like I will be taking some more long weekends in the next few weeks as I burn through them.

I am using today's time off work as an excuse to make a big pot of chilli. It seemed like a good idea when I plotted out it out my head because chilli is a very good cold-weather food. Naturally the weather refused to cooperate, and it is pushing 20 degrees here today. Ah well, chilli is a good warm-weather food too IMO. My original plan was to make a beef, bison and elk chilli, but by the time I went to buy some elk, they were sold out, so I had to settle on beef, bison and beans instead.

I considered adding some ground lamb to it to add some flavour, but in retrospect it is just as well that I changed my mind because the slow cooker is full to the brim. I emailed [ profile] atara at work a few minutes ago and said, "I hope you like chilli..." Fortunately, our crock pot is only a 2-litre model, so this is not as insane an amount of food as it sounds. Still, this should be good for at least three meals.
plonq: (Comparatively Miffed Mood)
A couple of things that [ profile] atara and I bought on our recent trip to Fargo were a knife block, and a pasta-drying rack. I cleaned out the knife drawer and loaded up the block last weekend, and this weekend I unpacked the drying rack and put it to use.

I mixed up the usual batch of pasta dough (2 cups of durum semolina, 3 eggs, a dash of salt, and a splash of olive oil), brutalized it into a bouncy wad of dough and let it rest in the fridge. I unpacked the new rack, set everything up, then put the dough on the table and immediately thought, "I'm gonna need a bigger rack..."
Let's Roll

That ball of dough made enough fettuccine for two full meals. I think the next time I make pasta, I will either freeze half of it, or reduce it to 1 1/3 cups of flour and 2 eggs. I have also concluded that I need to portion the dough into smaller pieces (currently, I quarter it) and learn to roll shorter noodles. Mind you, as you can see in the next shot, if I had rolled them shorter then they would never have fit on the rack - which is why I am thinking of cutting the volumes in the next batch as well.

Drying Fettuccine

Even though the semolina and egg already make the noodles very yellow, I added a couple of teaspoons of turmeric to bring out the colour even more. It also adds an appealing hint of added flavour to the pasta.

One of the biggest benefits I got from the rack was that it sped up the process considerably. I could roll out the noodles over my hand and then transfer them directly to the rack without worrying about them glomming together into a doughy ball. This batch of pasta took about 90 minutes from start to finish, including clean-up, and giving the dough about 30 minutes to rest in the refrigerator. Rack aside, I was also much more efficient in the rolling process.

When you run pasta through the roller, each time you turn it down a notch to flatten the dough more, it brings out more of the irregularities in the shape of the flattened dough. I discovered that once I get down to the third pass through the rollers, I can usually tell which parts need to be trimmed away to get a nice even finish. I ran the knife down both sides, and trimmed the ends, then lay those trimmed pieces down the centre of the dough and rolled them through again. I found that by the time I got to the seventh pass, the layers had been rolled smooth again into a homogeneous sheet of dough.

Wall of Pasta

I could not resist taking at least one more, slightly artsy picture of the pasta once I was done. I boosted the saturation in this one just a touch to bring out the lovely contrasts that were otherwise being killed by the fluorescent lighting in our kitchen, but this shot is pretty true to life. The great wall of fettuccine had a delightful yellow hue that virtually cried out, "These are egg noodles!"

[ profile] atara cooked up the pasta and then tossed it with some halved, heritage tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and bocconcini. It probably would have paired well with one of our wines, but I opted for a red ale.
plonq: (Somewhat Pleased Mood)
Oh, hey, here's another post about food - though that should come as a surprise to nobody. My physique makes it fairly clear that I like to eat.

There was a short-lived restaurant in our town that specialized in a slightly healthier fare, usually locally-sourced. One of their breakfast dishes was a simple concoction of a fried egg served over quinoa and brown rice (or some combination like that). I liked it. We dined out for breakfast yesterday, and as we tossed around ideas for where we would go, I found myself lamenting the loss of this elegant, but simple dish as a breakfast option.

I mulled over it when we were shopping, and I decided to try making my own variant on it for breakfast this morning. I grabbed a couple of things that I would need and tossed around ideas for a recipe. Rather than quinoa, I decided that I would just go with brown rice. That was the plan, but when we scoured our supplies this morning we discovered that we were down to our last few grains of brown rice. Half the fun of cooking is improvising, so I made do.

I wanted to make a full cup of rice, but we had less than 1/2 cup of brown, so I supplemented that with some basmati rice, and added a half cup of wild rice to the mix. While that cooked down in some vegetable bouillon, I diced half of a Walla Walla onion and slowly sauteed it in olive oil. When the onions were nearly done, I wilted a couple handfuls of spinach with them and set the mixture aside.

I wiped down the pan, drizzled in a bit more olive oil and cracked in four eggs, which I cooked covered over low heat. When the eggs were nearly done, I garnished them with a pinch of sweet paprika. I tossed the rice and spinach together and split it between two bowls, topped them with a pair of eggs, and finished it with some fresh-chopped chives from my herb garden.

The yolks were slightly more solid than I'd have liked, but we were both quite pleased with the results.
Eggs over Rice


Aug. 31st, 2014 05:19 pm
plonq: (Cheesy Grin Mood)
Between the mediocre weather, vacations, and having the siding people working on our house for a couple of weeks, we did not get a lot of grilling or smoking done so far this summer.

We have started to catch up on grilling again, but this weekend was our first time digging out the smoker since last fall. We picked up some baby back ribs from one of the local farmers at the market last weekend, and we decided to do them up with a dry rub and a few hours of maple wood smoke. I decided to snap a picture of them as I was finishing them on the grill with a light brushing of roasted garlic barbecue sauce.
Smoked Baby Back Ribs

I also grilled up a small batch of patty pan squash to go with them. I had never heard of these before I was married, but now they are one of my favourite things to toss into the wok on the grill. We just toss them with a bit of oil and put them straight into the wok. They bring enough of their own flavour that we have never needed to add anything else, other than a little dash of salt at serving time.

I also threw a couple of sugar pumpkins in with the ribs toward the end of the smoking. I had only meant to leave them in for about 30 minutes, but I got side-tracked with installing the new light over our front porch, and they ended up spending closer to an hour in the smoker. They smell fine, but pumpkins are like sponges for smoke, so I fear the result might be a bit too bitter to use. I cut them up and threw them in the steamer to finish the cooking, hoping that the reintroduction of some moisture might help to offset the smoke a bit.

I guess the proof will be in the pie.

Sushi fail

Jul. 1st, 2014 11:52 pm
plonq: (Raging Pinkie Mood)
I guess it speaks for how well things are going for us in general when my biggest complaint right now is about the fact that the sushi restaurant where we had dinner was a little misleading with their advertising.

We went there because they had been offering a reasonably-priced Canada Day platter. They had it plastered up on the door when we arrived (inside and out), with a picture and a repeat of the price. When we were seated, we ordered our drinks, soup, an appetizer, and the platter for the two of us. As soon as we asked for it, the waitress said, "Oh, that is for takeout only!"

We probably should have put up more of a fight, but we are too polite for that, and we both wanted sushi. We ordered many of the things that had been in the special, but the final price was at least a third again what it had been advertised for the platter. As we were leaving, I noticed a singe copy of the flyer for the special next to the till, and somebody had written "takeout only!!!" in yellow highlighter next to the price. I did the passive-aggressive thing and stiffed them on the tip as I was paying.

We found a fledgling crow in our yard on our way out shopping this morning. Its parents were not around (though they finally showed up later in the day), so it was hopping around the yard, testing its wings and flying for almost a meter at a time.
Baby Crow
I snapped this shot of it while it was perched on the edge of our birdbath, assessing its situation (and perhaps catching a breather or a bath). You might notice a variety of leaves floating in the water - part of the aftermath of the recent winds we have been experiencing here (not seen in this shot are branches and entire trees snapped off). I think there is a decent chance this guy was blown from his nest before he was ready to leave.
plonq: (Bork Bork Bork)
We had dinner at a local tapas restaurant called Deer & Almond last night. We do not eat this fancy that often, but we had not done anything upscale since our anniversary, and we have liked this place since they opened.

Among the dishes we ordered was the wild boar with potato and sun choke hash.
Wild Boar

We ended up going here after tossing about other ideas of where to dine out.
I was all like .. CHEXICAN! )
I had also tossed out the idea of wandering over to one of the nicer places downtown since we were both still dressed up in our work clothes, and [ profile] atara suggested D&A as an option since we had not been there in months.

What we did not know at the time was that a travel site had just released a new list of Canada's top-50 restaurants, and that D&A was one of the two Winnipeg restaurants on that list. If we had not learned about it before we went in, we'd have discovered it pretty quickly after we got there because the owner/chef was up at the bar, drinking in celebration.

When I went up to pay, he began grilling me on what we'd ordered, and which of the dishes was my favourite. I did not recognize him at first, and he caught me flat-footed. I stammered a bit, and my brain went blank when I tried to think of what brussels sprouts are called. I finally told him that we both loved the boar, but the charred brussels had been my favourite, and the seared scallops had been [ profile] atara's.

I think I probably left a bad impression on him as I struggled to name the dish I liked. "You know, those little things that look like cabbages, but are tiny, and we never have them at home..."

Ah well, the food was good, and the owner was drunk on good news (and more than a few of the beers from his own bar), so he may not even remember the encounter.
plonq: (Wolfish Mood)
There was another option I had not considered in my earlier poll.

plonq: (Masturbatory Mood)
This has been a day for experimentation in the kitchen for me. Two of the items stem from reading or hearing something in passing that put a bug in my ear, and the other is something that has become a semi-regular thing for me, but I tend to mix things up every time I do it, so it falls under the heading of experiment as well.

The semi-regular thing is fettuccine. We bought a pasta roller shortly after we were married. I seem to recall that it was on sale at the time, and we both naively jumped to the conclusion that we were responsible adults who would make good use of such a device. We did use it once, or maybe twice. After our second use, it sat on the lower shelf of our cupboard like a silent, heavy indictment every time we had to dig back there to get food processor or industrial plastic wrap. Over the years I have made tentative plans to pull it out and roll out some nice spaghetti, or maybe a linguine, but that was like ... work.

I finally snapped a few weeks ago and decided that, come hell or high water, I was going to dust off the pasta machine and make some fresh noodles for dinner. I looked up a recipe online for basic egg noodles and then spent the next couple of hours struggling with the proportions of water, egg and all-purpose flour until I had what I thought was probably the proper texture. The resulting noodles were a little on the tough side, but worth the effort. I have since found recipes that skip water in favour of just eggs and oil and, as I discovered with the one today, have the proportions entirely wrong. I followed the instructions and ended up with a sticky slurry.

I know it would have firmed up a bit if I had worked it more, but I added a couple more handfuls of durum until it felt more like dough and then worked it for the next twenty minutes. The last couple of times I made pasta I used durum flour instead of all-purpose, and the results are very good. Normally I mix up the dough using the hook in our standing mixer, but I felt the need to burn off some energy today, so I mixed it by hand. If you have never made your own pasta, I heartily recommend it. Kneading and pounding the dough is very cathartic, and the resulting pasta is a step up from the stuff you get from the store. If you don't have a pasta machine, you can always flatten it with a rolling pin, roll it up and then cut it into noodles with a sharp knife.

Pardon me while I pause to scream about the fresh dump of snow we got this weekend.


The two other experimental items were peppered coffee, and black bean brownies.

The brownies come from a comment I read on Reddit, in a thread about things that people really should try, even if they do not sound appealing on the surface. One poster mentioned brownies make with black beans instead of flour. At first I was not sure if he was trolling, but after a bit of research I found a few recipes that listed them as a vegan/gluten free alternative to regular brownies. My curiosity was officially piqued. It is not that either of us are vegan, or have a gluten-free requirement in our diets, but it was something different, and I am not one to shy away from trying something new.

The brownies are done, and are currently cooling on the stove, and we will probably be getting into them after dinner this evening, so I will report later on how they turned out. Either I will be singing the praises of this new discover, or post my tale of them here as a warning for future generations. "BROWNIES OF WOE. DO NOT ATTEMPT AT HOME."

Well, we shall see. They smell good, but read you will from the picture thereof.
Black Bean Brownies

The third thing I tried today stemmed from something that a guest minister at church said today. Stefan was talking about the early Universalism movement in our province, and mentioned a particular minister who ran into some trouble with the Lutherans when he started adopting the concept of universal salvation. He mentioned that this minister had a penchant for peppering his coffee, and that many of his followers adopted the same practise, which led their detractors to paint the lot of them with a demeaning label relating to it.

I missed the next bit of what he said, because my brain latched onto that and went, "Pepper in your coffee? Really? That sounds interesting. I wonder if it's any good?"

After we got home this afternoon, I ground enough coffee for a cup and added about 1/4 tsp of ground black pepper into the coffee before I brewed it. If I had not known that somebody had added pepper to the coffee, I would have noticed something slightly different about it, but would have been unable to place what it was. Knowing that it was black pepper, I could identify it immediately in the flavour of the coffee.

I like it.

I may not do this with every cup I brew, but I rate it up there with cardamom as a nice addition to add some zip to a cup of joe.
plonq: (SchemingTwilight Sparkle Mood)
I did not pay close attention to the can when I grabbed it, so I was expecting sardines in my lunch today. It is not that I am displeased by my accidental selection, but I would have psyched myself up for squid if I had known.

Wish me luck.
Roast Squid

If I have any say in the matter, my return here has some traction and staying power this time. There are more of you active here then I had even been hoping to find, though it does feel like I am posting to a void of zombie accounts for the most part. Still, I am posting here for selfishly cathartic reasons anyway. There are things that I cannot say on Facebook, and cannot cram into Twitter.
plonq: (Please Sir May I have Some More)
[ profile] atara wasn't hungry this evening, so she fixed herself a light salad and left me to my own devices for dinner. I had two goals in mind; make the pasta that she had been promising earlier this week, and use up some ingredients.

Her plan had been to make a spinach and feta spaghetti dish, but I decided to dig into some of our supplies of novelty pastas that we've had for some time. I settled on the last of the black fettuccine and ghost pepper penne as my two base ingredients. I cooked it to al dente, then splashed in a bit of extra virgin olive oil, added a teaspoon of minced garlic, wilted in the last of our spinach, and finished it with the last of our feta cheese.

I went over my calorie allowance for the day, especially when I washed it down with a white beer, but I have been badly under-reporting my exercise, so this shouldn't put me back too badly in my weight loss program.

Die et

Sep. 9th, 2013 12:10 pm
plonq: (Dramatic Mood)
I do not know why this happens, but it seems that any time we decide to start watching our caloric intake, our diet suddenly begins to look much more Mediterranean. Our refrigerator begins to fill with things like tomatoes, hummus, feta cheese, and various olives. We typically use a lot of olive oil in our diet anyway, but balsamic vinegar starts making a prominent appearance.

As usual, I slightly overestimated the quantities that I am taking in. Even if I drank the leftover liquid, I doubt I took in a whole tablespoon of olive oil. I tend to overstate the quantities a bit to keep myself honest. With the targets I set, i have a pretty good calorie allowance for the day, so there is no benefit to me by downplaying what I eat. My reasoning is that if I overstate and come in under the maximum end of the range, it means I have likely come in over the minimum recommendation, so it works out.

Speaking of overstating things, this mug looked smaller on the web site when I ordered it. Ah well - if my coworkers hadn't figured out that MLP thing yet, they may start to suspect something now.

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