An afternoon in Vancouver

This is a continuation of my Canadian travels (obviously)…

So after Toronto, I flew down to Vancouver to meet several cousins and to visit my aunt and uncle who lives in Victoria Island. Some facebooking meant that I was able to coordinate one of my friend whom I met in Oxford, who works in Vancouver. MW invited me to lunch and offered to show me around Vancouver for an afternoon. I was so grateful, for her to make some time to meet me and be a guide for one Friday afternoon.

I was in Vancouver some 15 years ago, and so I have few memories of the place. MW met me near the harbour and we had a quick look around the harbour front before walking down to sandwich shop.

I know, like wtf a sandwich shop? Ah, but MW promised that it would be a pretty good place for lunch. So we walked to the old part of the city. We even came across an old steam clock.

The shop was aptly called Meat and Bread. Talk about selling what it says. It was already very busy when we arrived for lunch. Most people were there for a quick bite so the wait was not long.

I love the interior design of the place. It’s something of a fifties store/boxing gym. Even the toilet was interesting, it has a large printout of text on the wall describing arsenic…

Anyway, I had the recommeded porchetta sandwich and some chickpea salad. I have bad reaction to things with chickpeas usually, but this salad was good and didn’t give me any rumbly-tummy. Mmm, wash it all down with a cold Canadian beer.

MW had a spicy meatball sandwich which she thought was too spicy for her.

All in all, definitely a nice place for a sandwich. I love that they serve it on a wooden board, with a big dollop of mustard. The porchetta could do with more seasoning of herbs in my opinion, but hey is still pretty good. Coupled with the ambience, no wonder this place is popular.

Meat and Bread: 370 Cambie Street at Victory Square, Vancouver, BC, V6B 2N3.

After that, MW showed me around other parts of the town. The day ended with us driving along English Bay and then a cup of tea on the beach on a beautiful cool October day. Ah, bliss.

Here’s a short video of us driving along the bay.

Thanks, MW. Till we meet again one of these days. You made my Canadian trip even more memorable.

-M.

Cupcake fever for Christmas

Since I only have Dinosaur-ovenTM to use in our KL apartment, my friend K, offered to let me use her oven in her apartment. Luckily she only lives up the road.

Thus started our baking December project for Christmas. It was fun having someone to bake together, although half her time was chasing after her little daughter (super cute!).

So here are the cupcakes we baked.

First was the red velvet , using beetroot and also the food colour version. We used Hummingbird bakery’s recipe, and then modified it for the beetroot version. The taste of both cupcakes were good. Honestly, we couldn’t tell the difference in the cupcakes except for the colour. As you can see, the one using beetroot is not brownish-red, as the baking process discolours the pigment of the beetroot.

Whereas the one with lots of red food colour is bright red.

Cutting up beetroot is a bit of a pain though, but not having to use so much artificial red food colouring may be a better choice for some.

Here’s the recipe for the beetroot version of the red velvet cupcake (makes about 12-15 small cupcakes):

60 g unsalted butter

100g caster sugar

1 egg

10g cocoa powder

3 tbsp beetroot puree

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

100ml buttermilk

150g plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar

Method:

1. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, slowly add the egg and mix until well incorporated.

2. In a separate bowl, mix beetroot puree, vanilla extract and cocoa powder together until smooth. Add this into the butter mixture and mix throughly.

3. slowly combine the buttermilk and flour into the mixture alternatively in 3 parts.

4. Add salt, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar and beat until well mixed. Let th mixture stand for 10 minutes before spooning into paper cases.

5. Bake the cupcakes at 170 degrees C for about 20 minutes. Cakes are done when the sponge bounces back when lightly pressed. You can also test by inserting a skewer into the centre of the cake. If the skewer comes out clean it is done. Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the tray then cool completely on a wire rack. Ice it with some cream cheese frosting (see that Hummingbird Bakery’s recipe for the icing).

The second cupcake is from Sweetapolita’s dark chocolate cupcakes. I then used some strawberry swiss meringue buttercream icing to make them poinsettia-like. The little balls are marzipan delicately rolled by K. The green icing is matcha flavoured swiss buttercream icing (see below for recipe).

It was kinda tough piping out the icing because I FORGOT that the strawberry seeds in the icing could block the nozzle of the leaf tip. Bleh.

The final cupcake we made then was the Xmas tree cupcake.

It is basically lemon-vanilla cupcake with matcha icing. The star is made of marzipan which I painstakingly shaped and K painted on some gold lustre dust.

Recipe for Xmas Tree Cupcake (makes about 24 small cupcakes):

For the cake

110 g unsalted butter

100g granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

zest of 1 lemon

1 tbsp of lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

50 ml milk

For the Matcha icing

3 large egg whites

120g granulated sugar

250 g unsalted butter, cubed

pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

10 g matcha powder

green food colour (optional)

1. In a clean steel bowl, whisk egg whites and sugar over simmering water. When all the sugar is dissolved by the warmed egg whites, remove from stove and beat with an electric mixer until you get smooth glossy meringue.

2. When the meringue is cooled and you get stiff meringue peaks, add in butter a cube at a time and beat until icing becomes smooth.

3. add vanilla extract, salt and matcha powder and beat until smooth. Add some green food colouring to get the desired green shade for your trees.

4. to decorate, use a star tip nozzle and ice cake in a spiral motion. Sprinkle some coloured sugar balls and add a gold marzipan star on top. done.

OK, that’s all for today. It is Christmas eve now and there are lots to do for our Christmas party yet. Happy holidays everybody!

-M.

Pinkydoodles’ Birthday Cake

It was the birthday of Pinkydoodles couple days ago and so I made a cake for her. The first try using our Dinosaur-OvenTM in KL was a disaster as I haven’t used this oven for baking this new recipe.

So, second try gave me super-domed cakes to which Sugamama, witnessing the making over Skype, asked if I really was baking a cake or did I use a muffin recipe. No, I think it is all thanks to the oven.

So after some cake hacking craftiness, I’ve managed to have 3 layers of good chocolately moist cake. Iced it with strawberry swiss meringue buttercream and chocolate glaze. It looked all set… until Egg-tart came back from work and commented “where’s the cherry on top? you need a cherry!” I knew something looked amiss, thanks Egg-tart on the cherry consultation.

So here it is, Pinkydoodles’ birthday cake.

Here’s the cake in a box for transportation. The candles were bought from Tesco’s some time ago in the UK but never got around to use them… so I brought them back to Malaysia.

We went to The Bee Cafe in Publika, Solaris Dutamas, KL for the birthday celebrations. Good place for good music and drinks. I can’t say that their fuss-free food was really fuss-free. Review of this place in another post, someday.

Pinkydoodles opened the cake box and tadah. She said it was like those cake you see in storybooks when you were little…

Here’s a short video of how it looked with all the candles.

Or here after the candles were blown out.

Thank goodness I managed to hack the cake into 3 almost equal layers.

So here’s the link to the cake recipe by Sweetapolita (but she made it look so much prettier). The only thing I changed in the recipe is the amount of sugar… I reduced the sugar in the icing by half and about 50 g less in the cake.

Hope you enjoyed looking at this cake. It’s the best tasting cake I’ve ever made to be honest. So thanks Sweetapolita for this recipe.

-M.

Niagara winery: Inniskillin

Can you believe this view???

When in Canada, you should visit this wonderful place at least once. The scenery is breathtaking!

Since this is a food blog, I’m obviously ain’t gonna stop at showing you this natural wonder. Nearby, in a place called Niagara-on-the-lake, you will find lots of winery dotted around. We went to one of the most famous Canadian winery, called Inniskillin.

Inniskillin is most famous for its icewine. Apparently, they beat many of the European winery when competing in this category.

The tour of the winery costs only $5. Cheap if you compare that with wine tours in Europe. Here’s our guide showing us the grapes for icewine.

Apart from icewine, they also grow other grapes such as Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I was surprised that Pinot Noir was able to survive Canadian climate.

They let us try the Pinot Noir grape. Yums.

After the tour of the winery (this included the usual tour of cellar, where you see all the vats and barrels of wine being stored.) it was time for the wine tasting. Unfortunately, we found that with the exception of the icewine, the wine given were a real let down. So what was all the fuss about Inniskillin? (apart from the icewine).

Well of course we went on to try their other wines on offer inside their shop, for a small fee.

Here’s the pretty cosy interior of the shop.

The wine list on offer.

My, what a difference they were from the wine that was served.  I’m sorry, but old world wine still trumps new world when it comes to blending good reds in general. We all agreed that their whites were pretty good though. Here are the ones we think were worth buying:

1. Pinot Noir Rose. They may not have made the best red Pinot Noir, but their Rose was pretty smooth and fruity. Perfect for those who   are just starting on wines or those who like the sweeter, fruitier wines.

2. Three Vineyards Chardonnay. Crisp white that is blended just fine. A little oaky yet subtle sweetness. I’m not the biggest fan of chardonnay but this one is very drinkable.

3. The best of the whites I think is this 2010 Legacy Riesling. Dry yet mineral wine but easy on the acidity. I love this one. Of course, this had to be more expensive than the other two! LOL.

By the end of the day, a crate of rose and half a dozen of the Riesling were bought (Sugamama’s bf is the major buyer here, since we can’t be bringing so much wine with us.) A very good and tipsy day out. I have to say that the tour was only so-so, very basic talk on wine so is good for beginner wine buffs. Well, for a fiver I don’t think you get much better deal than this, though. If you are a big wine fan like Papa Salvatore, then go there, skip the tour, and give the wines a taste at their bar. Five bucks can get you several tasters!

-M.

 

UPDATE: I meant to put this up but I forgot. Here is a short and dizzy video of me on the boat going into the Horseshoe Fall in Niagara.

Oktoberfest, Kitchener-Waterloo

I know I know, it is December already. I would like to mention about the Oktoberfest I experienced while I was in Waterloo/Kitchener since it was my first ever going to an Oktoberfest. Man, why didn’t I go to Germany when I was in the UK? I could have gone to the Oktoberfest there.

Anyway, in the former town of Berlin (that’s the old name for Kitchener-Waterloo I was told), the first wave of immigrants were from Germany, hence the name of the town. The name of the place was changed, but some of the culture was retained, hence the Oktoberfest.

I was told the Oktoberfest here is the second biggest in the world, and so we could not miss the opportunity to go. Unfortunately, the night that we went was a STUDENT’S NIGHT.

The festhallen were full of young people (many drunks came in later). The music was so loud I wondered if this makeshift tent hall was a night club. There was one or two “traditional” Oktoberfest songs played, but after that the clubbing music started.

Here’s Sugamama pouring beer into our complimentary plastic mug for a more Oktoberfest feel. Looks like an advert for Bingeman’s. For the record, Canadian ale is more like an IPA than the typical British ale. The lager type beer is ok, but I prefer German beer still. Too bad didn’t have any here.

After witnessing police arresting a few drunks, girls waving mugs of beer around (and then drenching themselves with it) and had one of the worst sauerkraut in history, we quit the festival early. So glad too as we left the tent, Back Street Boys was being played inside. Oh dear.

Maybe if we had gone on another night (like for seniors…?) we would have enjoyed this festival season. But I think we out grew the teenage/early 20’s drunk party mayhem of our time. So next time, Kitchener-Waterloo. I’ll be back again to experience the real Oktoberfest…

…or maybe I should just go to Munich.

-M.