Tuesday, April 3, 2012

First Ever Free Cone Day! - Ben & Jerry's

April 3, 2012
Ben & Jerry's, Philadelphia PA
Blueberry Vanilla Graham Greek Frozen Yogurt
Sweet Cream & Cookies Ice Cream

Before today, I was aware that Ben & Jerry's is quite a popular ice cream brand. I just never had the chance to try it since I'm not the kind to buy one scoop of ice cream at an ice cream shop. So I got really excited last week as I walked by Ben & Jerry's on campus and saw the poster for Free Cone Day. Finally, I get to try all their exotic flavours!

I decided since it was only one scoop at a time, I could go twice. It was such a nice, sunny day today - the perfect weather for ice cream in April. I was planning on getting their Mango Sorbet but they did not have that in the store on campus. Therefore, during lunch break, I got the new Blueberry Vanilla Graham Greek Frozen Yogurt. I was not disappointed - at all.

I have always been a fan of frozen yogurt but I need the yogurt to have a creaminess to it as well as be sweet enough to taste more like ice cream rather than acidic yogurt. This cup of purple and white blend with that sprinkle of brown was so good! The blueberry gave it a nice, fresh taste. It was light yet creamy and smooth. The sweetness was just right, not at all overwhelming. The graham cracker swirls provided a nice contrast to the yogurt. The texture was lovely. This was definitely one of the best frozen yogurts I have had. One cup was just not enough.

In the evening, I went back for a cone. This time, the line was much longer, which may be why the scoops were so large. The employees were definitely rushing but no one complained about the size, that's for sure! I decided to go with the Sweet Cream & Cookies Ice Cream this time. I chose this over Banana Peanut Butter Greek Frozen Yogurt because the ice cream was a 'scoop shop only' flavour and I was feeling up to something extra creamy with a touch of chocolate.

For a cookies and cream ice cream, it was decent. In general, this is one of my favourite ice cream flavours. However, I do not think Ben & Jerry's ice cream is distinct in any way. The best I have had of this flavour is still Häagen-Dazs' cookies and cream. The cookies were quite good. I prefer the slightly larger chunks so the texture becomes more distinct. I like that soft, slightly moist chocolate sandwich cookie. The sweet cream ice cream was more of a disappointment for me. It is still a good ice cream, just nothing special.

It was great to have a chance to sample some ice cream shop flavours. I think the fact that it was an international event is extremely cool. I wonder if there are any Ben & Jerry's back home? However, I am tempted to go to Cold Stone Creamery and Häagen-Dazs or other ice cream shops back home this summer and try the exotic offerings they may have. Maybe I'll start with Timothy's. I cannot wait for summer and froyos, that's for certain!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Back to Christmas Time - Starbucks

April 1, 2012
Starbucks, Philadelphia PA
Peppermint Brownie Cake Pop
Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte

I was so excited two days ago to find that the second Starbucks on campus was carrying the Peppermint Brownie Cake Pop. I first tried that stick of deliciousness before Christmas break and it was love at first taste. I was never a fan of peppermint candy cane but I have to say, the blend of candy cane, sugar, white chocolate, and decadent chocolate brownie is very scrumptious. I made sure to eat this and take a photo this week because since it is Christmas-y and a seasonal offering, Starbucks might discontinue it anytime.

The second trying this dessert did not disappoint. The shell was sweet with that nice peppermint twist. The white chocolate is somewhat hidden behind the peppermint flavour, not overwhelming at all. I almost wish there is more of a white chocolate creaminess to the flavour. The shell was not hard either so it did not break into pieces too easily, making it easy to eat. The inside was just perfect. The brownie was moist, not overly sweet, and very soft and chewy. The texture is just right, and so is the sweetness level. In no way is this overly sweet. I would say it is one of the less overwhelming Starbucks desserts. Although it is small, I could have eaten a bigger one, or even a second cake pop, no problem.

Having worked (well, volunteered) at Starbucks over a year ago, I know that the handcrafted beverages' quality really depends on the barista. Each drink can be drastically different. It all depends on the amount of syrup and more importantly, the way the milk is steamed. My first ever cup of Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte was good, but then I got a very un-sweet cup the second time. That stopped me from getting it again. Today, however, I was feeling up to giving it another shot. I am glad I did.

I asked for no foam so the whole cup had more milk and creamy richness to it. The amount of syrup in this particular cup was just right. The nice and light sweet flavour was great and a perfect blend with the milk. The cinnamon on top added a nice hint of spice. This cup of coffee has definitely reawakened my taste buds, making me want to go back for more espresso beverages. I will make sure I do that sometime next week. Steamed milk, when done right, is always a nice drink.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Oreo's 100th Anniversary! - McDonald's

March 6, 2012
McDonald's, Richmond BC
Cookies 'N Cream Pie
Baked Apple Pie

Since January, Canadian McDonald's restaurants have been offering the new Cookies 'N Cream Pie made with Oreos in celebration of Oreo's 100th anniversary. Mom waited for me to return home for spring break to try it. We loved the old S'mores Pie and we hoped this would be just as good. I mean, chocolate pies are the best - what's not to love?

I always think it is ridiculous that the price in Canada is $1.19 for one pie or $1.39 for two. Twenty cents for that extra dessert is always very tempting so we always get two. As we walked in though, I realized there was only one red pie box left. We were kind of disappointed but we wanted to try it so badly. Instead, we got one of each flavour. (These photos were taken later when Mom ate it with Dad at home so credits go to her. I was clearly too excited to eat the first time that I forgot about photos.)

The Cookies 'N Cream Pie tasted great to me. Mom is not the biggest fan of vanilla flavours. I loved the semi-sweet black crust though. It tastes as good as it looks. The filling was not overly sweet either. It was more smooth and had a lovely texture, taking away from the focus on taste. I appreciated it for not being too sweet though, definitely not as overwhelming as Oreos. The centre was almost sticky which is just the way I prefer it. However, I do agree with Mom that the S'mores one was better just because the chocolate and marshmallow filling with whole wheat crust had a richer taste to the pie.

Their Baked Apple Pie has always been one of my favourite casual snacks. The mix of cinnamon and apple is just about perfect, as it should since this has been around for as long as I can remember. The flaky pie crust is not necessarily my favourite but apples and cinnamon will always do the trick for me. I love the warm, moist, and chewy apple slices with the perfect amount of spice and sweetness. Who cares if it is junk food? It tastes better than a lot of store sold apple pies and more convenient, too!

I really like it when McDonald's introduce new flavours for their desserts and new, interesting products. I am always especially excited for new flavours of their pies. It would be great if they can bring back their S'mores pies, but I have a feeling that won't happen. In the meantime, let's hope the Cookies 'N Cream will be around long enough so I can have another one when I go home.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Red and Sweet - Red Velvet Whoopie Pie

March 23, 2012
Starbucks, Philadelphia PA
Red Velvet Whoopie Pie

It was a beautiful day today so Casey and I finally got to go for our little coffee chat. Before we got to Starbucks however, we got our own iced coffees and chips and dips at the dining hall. Then at Starbucks, I managed to persuade her to get the Red Velvet Whoopie Pie too. After all, it is no longer on the official Starbucks Petites menu online, although it does say it is still available after Googling it. For some reason, the Starbucks beside our dining hall still had this little red treat that I have wanted to try since forever.

I was not disappointed when I finally finished taking pictures and we dug in into each of our treats. The icing was soft, the cake moist, the icing perfectly sweet with just the right buttercream icing texture. It was a VERY delicious treat. I could have eaten another one no problem. Cake and icing is just the perfect pair for me.

Honestly though, Starbucks almost never disappoints. Perhaps once every now and then there will be that cup of poorly crafted beverage because a barista is not stepping up his or her game. The food though, since it's not made then and there, is always good. I know they make sure it is fresh, only allowing it to be kept for a certain number of days. I should know since I have worked there, even if I did not get paid.

Anyways, the fact that their prices are so high compared to, say, McDonald's, ensures their brand name will retain that quality. Their stores are always so nice and relaxing, feeling like those indie coffee shops. Most stores have that quaint coffee shop feel to it where one can just sit, relax, and enjoy a cup of aromatic coffee and a sweet, delicious treat. Even if it is the largest international coffee chain, it does not have that cheap, commercial feel. That's what I love about Starbucks. A nice chat over coffee and a little bit of ruby deliciousness - a wonderful way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Asian Baked Freshness - 大统华面包坊-T&T Bakery

March 9, 2012
大统华面包坊 - T&T Bakery, Richmond BC
豆沙饱 (Black Bean Bun)
台式菠萝包 (Pineapple Bun (TW))
蛋糕堡 (椰丝) (Cake With Coconut)
三宝包 (Taro Custard & Red Bean Bun)
蛋皮肉松卷 (Dried Pork Omelet Bun)

T&T is definitely not cheap, but Mom and I think that for the quality of their buns, they definitely do not overprice their items. The bread is always freshly baked each morning, which means they are sold at discounted prices every night. That's when we normally go to buy them. They get to around 50% off and it is not like we would buy it and eat it right away anyways. They make great breakfasts for the next two or three days. Only, when they are discounted like this, they come in packs of seven randomly selected buns depending on the availability each night.

Picking out a bag with as many of your own favourites as possible without any labels of what each bun is is a definite art. Mom, my aunt, and I each have our way of figuring out what we have in our bag, whether that is by paying attention to the person packaging them up or to the different things on the outer layer such as sesame seeds or almond slices. After dinner with Chris, I decided to go and get some. Here is some of the ones I returned with (he took some and some were squished and thus the photos turned out horrible but I'll get around to those sometime).

First off is the 豆沙饱. Though this is one of the cheaper ones originally in the bag, I wanted to eat it. I love the simplicity of bread filled with red bean paste (or is it black bean?). The most traditional but still one of the best when the bread is soft, moist, and chewy and the red bean paste sweet but not overwhelming. The flower shape added that sense of quality to it. These buns really ought not to be refrigerated, just so the bread will remain moist and chewy - just the way I like it. Dry bread is flavourless with a bad texture - the light sweetness somehow is not as pronounced once it dries up.

This was my first time trying their 台式菠萝包. I have always had filled pineapple buns and not the plain kind. The last time I had a plain one was probably years ago from Maxim's Bakery. The pineapple topping was nice and sweet and again, the bread is good when it is moist and chewy. This was a little dry when I tried it the next day. That is probably just because I left it too long. However, with no filling, the bun is bland, even with the hint of sweetness in the dough. I find that it is too big of a bun to be without filling as the topping does not provide enough flavour compared to the volume. Ahhh, that lovely surface area to volume ratio!

Next came the 蛋糕堡 (椰丝). It is by far my favourite Chinese sponge cake ever, minus the shredded coconut on top. The red bean cream is better than regular cream, not as overwhelming and with a nice red bean aroma. It can get a bit too much sometimes, though, so I generally leave the filling parts for Mom. Instead, I much prefer just the cake part. It could be a bit sweeter, but the lighter taste is definitely more refreshing. Often, I eat this too fast and start choking on the cake. That is usually uncomfortable, but the cake is clearly just too good to resist.

I brought the 三宝包 to school with me. This is only the second time I have had this bun. I have to say that although the concept is quite simple, if you break up the three little buns, each is just a simple mini bun with filling: taro, red bean, and custard. However, each of these pastes is one of my favourite bun fillings. T&T makes the sweetness level just right and there is a decent amount in each bun. I could definitely do with a lot more filling but it is better than some bakeries. The three stuck together is not the most creative either but there is just something about simplicity. It definitely adds to the cuteness factor for this bun. The bread for this manages to remain moist and chewy, even once I got back to Philly. I squish it a bit before eating the dough to bring out the sweetness and chewy-ness but it is definitely one of my new favourites.

Finally, my absolute favourite Asian bun of all time (at the moment at least and for the past year): 蛋皮肉松卷. I brought this with me to school as well, and ate the last half of it on the morning of my math midterm. I had left it in the fridge but because of the egg and Asian mayo, the bread remained generally moist and chewy. A bit more moist than usual, actually, which made it even better! The mayo (or maybe egg white sauce of some sort?) remains a mystery to me. I know it is used in Asian sandwiches but I have never managed to find it on any shelves available for purchase. Maybe T&T makes it themselves. In that case, I'm out of luck. The pork fluff with the mayo and egg is just so good. I cannot even begin to describe how nice a mix of savoury and sweet it is, together with the different textures and levels of chewy-ness. Absolutely gorgeous and a definite must-try!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mon Premier Macaron - Saint Germain Bakery

March 4, 2012
Saint Germain Bakery, Richmond BC
Coffee French Macaroon
Hazelnut French Macaroon
Pistachio French Macaroon
Chocolate French Macaroon
Strawberry French Macaroon
Lemon French Macaroon

This post only came out today because it is Macaron Day! Too bad I am not home and thus cannot go get some free macarons around town.

When I first saw pictures of French macaroons, or macarons I guess, it was on Facebook and I had no idea what they were. However, what I did know was that I wanted to try some of those incredibly colourful and delicious-looking sandwich things. I am always attracted to rainbow colours so it is not surprising I have a soft spot for at least the visual appeal of these little confection goodies.

I asked Mom (once I found out what they were called) whether she knew about them and whether she had ever tried one. To the first question, she answered yes, which made me wonder why she never told me about them, being a food fanatic herself. To the second however, she said no. That is probably why I have never heard of macaroons before.

Before returning home for spring break, I found out online that Saint Germain Bakery in Aberdeen Centre sold macaroons. Mom said she saw them before, except they were mini ones. That suits me just fine though! So I made it my business to go there and get macaroons - my first ever. They were cheaper by the dozen and since I had no flavour preferences, having never tried any before, we got a dozen with two of each flavour.

My favourites so far are coffee, chocolate, and pistachio. They had full flavours. The different creams on the inside were also great with a rich and dense flavour. The strawberry, lemon, and hazelnut were okay. I did not quite like the strawberry jam as it is nothing new. I could not figure out exactly what the lemon filling was but lemon to me should be light and refreshing. This was just a bit too heavy for me. The hazelnut did not have a very distinct flavour. It is hazelnut after all. It was good but nothing special.

Though these are the only macaroons I have ever tasted, I know from my online searches that they should have a hard shell with a soft, moist centre. I do not know whether it is because these were not freshly made everyday but the inside was definitely not moist, not even the coffee one which was never put in the refrigerator. I do hope to go to some other bakeries around town this summer and try out other macaroons. Mom did not particularly like the texture but perhaps she will like the ones with moist centres.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Cheesylicious Farewell - The Cheesecake Factory

March 11, 2012
The Cheesecake Factory, Seattle WA
[Whole Wheat Bread]
Bang - Bang Chicken and Shrimp
Luau Salad
Pineapple Upside-Down Cheesecake

After a week back home, it was time to leave for college again and again, I flew through Seattle. Mom and I were so excited for dinner at The Cheesecake Factory in downtown Seattle. Last time at Bellevue was a slight disappointment but I managed to convince her the restaurants in bigger cities and downtowns would be better. I was right.

I remembered to ask for only Whole Wheat Bread for their complimentary dinner bread. It is just so soft and chewy on the inside, with a distinctive but not overwhelming sweet aroma. The harder outside was chewy and good. It literally is one of my favourite breads ever. Mom's too, hands down.

Mom did not get enough of the Luau Salad from last time in Vegas. This time, the first plate they brought up had stale won ton wrappers. The oil was definitely bad. Clearly, the ones they gave us were not newly fried. That was annoying. They took it back and gave us another one. The second one had no stale oil taste. We were somewhat annoyed that a big chain like The Cheesecake Factory would serve leftover food to minimize costs. At least they gave us another one though. Mom still thinks they overdress the salad but I think the flavour is good. The mango salsa and the crispy won tons really make the dish brilliant - when made right that is.

I ordered the Fresh Vegetable Salad but did not bother with photos. It is just the same as always. Nothing really changes when it comes to greens and white cheddar. It was refreshing though so I got what I wanted. 

I suggested for Dad to order the Thai-style Bang - Bang Chicken and Shrimp. All of us loved this dish. The curry had a hint of sweetness and spice. It was very flavourful. The (baked?) coconut bits on top were sweet and really good. My favourite coconut yet - and that is saying something because as a general rule, I do not eat shredded coconut. The shrimp was a little over done, I thought. The brown rice was okay but my favourite part is still the sauce mixed with some of the sauteed vegetables. I was surprised to find cucumber in there but it was still good. I like the dish with only a little rice though. The sauce was not salty enough to call for all the rice on that dish. The sauce was just splendid though.

Finally, as decided last time in Vegas, we tried the Pineapple Upside-Down Cheesecake. It was scrumptious. Mom said it was better than the Chocolate Raspberry Truffle one we had in Vegas and I was all "I told you we should have picked the pineapple in Vegas!" It's nice knowing for once, I made a better decision about food than she did. It usually is the other way around but this whole night, I was right about the food. Like dead on. That pleased me a lot.

The cake was so good. The two layers of pineapple upside-down cake was nice and sweet with that hint of brown sugar and lots of pineapple bits which were so refreshing. The pineapple cheesecake in the middle was perfectly creamy and not overly sweet - just about... perfect! Mom ate the cherry on top, even though she did not know why this time they gave us a cherry until I reminded her pineapple upside-down cakes usually had pineapples AND cherries. We devoured the cheesecake like never before. Mostly, I think it was because it was not overwhelmingly cheesy and so lighter than other cheesecakes, allowing us to eat more without getting that 'heavy' feel you sometimes experience with a large slice of chocolate cheesecake.

Overall, the food was great, besides that little mishap. We will definitely be going to Cheesecake Factories every chance we get. There are still so many flavours left to try! Peanut butter next!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Nice Surprise in Vegas - Coronado Café

December 26, 2011
Coronado Café, Las Vegas NV
[Crunchy Noodles]
Garden Salad
Won Ton Soup

This place always had a line up outside, even when we first stayed at South Point Hotel earlier in June. Mom always wanted to try it so we did. She was right, the cafe was great for the price they set. The dishes were very comforting and the environment more casual, more of a family feel than the rest of Vegas, which was a nice change.

The complimentary crunchy noodles were so good and very addicting that we finished it all and asked for a second portion. The dipping sauces were also good. I believe they had honey mustard, sweet chili, and one other sweet and tangy one.

I ordered a Garden Salad which is basically the worst salad I have had in a restaurant setting. However, for under $4, it really was expected. Two cherry tomatoes and one slice of cucumber. I had to order a second salad. It always puzzles me why lettuce and veggies are so expensive in restaurants. It makes no sense.

The Won Ton Soup was mediocre but it was also expected. I mean, it is won ton and soup and all the basic ingredients at a casual cafe. I was not expecting much but at least it was comfort food.

We also had Pad Thai and Pepper Steak, both of which were quite good for the level of the restaurant. Unfortunately, we got caught up in the food that I did not take pictures. Maybe next time! I know Mom wants to go back.

Dim Sum as a Staple - 钓鱼台海鲜酒家-Fisherman's Terrace Seafood Restaurant

March 10, 2012
钓鱼台海鲜酒家 - Fisherman's Terrace Seafood Restaurant, Richmond BC

So here we are, back again, except this time with two other families, both of the women my mom's colleagues. Well, at least this gives us an excuse to order more items and try them all!

Finally, they brought back the 五香鸡粒咸水饺 after it was removed from their menu a long time ago. This was my favourite dish of the day. I used to love this and I clearly still do! The frying is just perfect, crispy on the outside and perfectly sticky on the inside. There was a decent amount of chicken in the inside and very nicely seasoned. You can taste the savoury sauce and the chicken but it does not take away from the sweetness of the sticky rice shell.

The 上素三菇肠 was also wonderful, as good as it looks. The soy sauce was nicely flavoured and the mushrooms were great. They always have great rice noodle wraps. We also ate the old favourite with Chinese donut and pork fluff, which was just as good as last time. Oh, I just cannot get enough of the rice noodle wraps.

The 竹叶珍珠鸡 was again a disappointment. This time even more so because not only was it not flavourful, there was less filling of meats and egg yolk on the inside. I do not think I will order this dish again, even though it has been my favourite for so long. It is really very sad but they might have changed either their chef or their recipe. Now I will just have to go and hunt down another dim sum place with good chicken and sticky rice in bamboo leaves.

We had tried their 香茜牛肉球 before, and it did not change much. It was nicely seasoned and the beef was very tender but there was nothing special. The  鱼子北菇烧卖 was actually quite good. I do not remember eating it before but this time, it was certainly memorable. There was a nice seafood taste but also the richness of the beef and the lightness that comes from steaming the dish.

The eggplant dish, 豉汁煎酿茄子, was actually surprisingly nice. It tasted way better than it looked, although it was not particularly a standout. The eggplant was sweet and lovely but the shrimp was more or less just a regular blob of shrimp. The shape also did not appeal much to me.

Since one of Mom's colleagues is vegetarian, we had to order vegetarian dishes. The 紫菜金菇豆腐卷 was mediocre, nothing special but not bad either. The mushrooms in there were good and the tofu puff was nice and juicy but the dish to me was a bit on the bland side. The seaweed was a miss for me.

I loved the 银杏鲜腐皮浸豆苗. I have always loved snow pea leaves. They are just so lovely and green. While not a fan of the bean curd wraps, I absolutely loved the gingko nuts. I do not recall ever eating them, though that's probably just my memory playing tricks. I only heard the term 'gingko nut' this year though, while watching Chopped at school on the Food Network. They are so chewy and lovely! The dish was also very very light and refreshing.

The final dish was 榄菜四季豆. I was fairly pleased with this dish, one of the best 四季豆 I have had in restaurants in quite a while. I know I have never tried  and I absolutely love the flavour. The beans were nicely fried, just the right way. The flavour was deep and savoury but still had the freshness of the string beans. A very nice end I have to say.

Overall, Fisherman's Terrace is still great. I should note that I particularly love their little plates. They are not just your generic white plates. Each is different. Two of the same dishes will come in different plates. They are all the nice, delicately painted and designed Asian-style plates. I have my favourites clearly, but there are definitely more things on their menu I want to try and dishes I would definitely go back for.

Overdue Christmas Hangout - 红屋-Red House

March 9, 2012
红屋 - Red House, Richmond BC
港式奶茶 (HK Style Milk Tea)
香辣牛肉意粉 (Stewed Beef Spaghetti w/ Spicy Tomato Sauce)

My friend Chris and I were supposed to eat lunch during my winter vacation but due to last minute conflicts, I never met up with him. This time back home, I made sure I made up for that. He suggested we go to Red House, since he knew my standards.

I have to say, this place was pretty decent for a Hong Kong style cafe. It has a nice quiet atmosphere, hard to find on a Friday evening. It was a great place, I think, for Asian-style comfort food. I'm not a big fan of the plastic table covers but it was quiet and service was not bad. The tea that came was my first cup of tradition HK style milk tea. At least it was warm and I can sweeten it to my liking.

I was very pleased with the 香辣牛肉意粉. The beef was very tender, and the sauce was exactly what I was looking for. The nice Asian-style tomato sauce with a nice hint of spiciness was great. The vegetables were not overcooked but had flavour and the spaghetti was decent enough. Perhaps it could have been cooked a little less, but I just like it a bit more chewy. The sauce was definitely the highlight though. A bit more to cover all the noodles completely would have been nice but the flavour was really quite good.

Best Dim Sum in North America - 钓鱼台海鲜酒家-Fisherman's Terrace Seafood Restaurant

December 23, 2011
钓鱼台海鲜酒家 - Fisherman's Terrace Seafood Restaurant, Richmond BC


I was so excited to go for dim sum. This is our favourite place for dim sum ever. The taste is just really appealing to us for some reason. Very nice flavours time and time again. I also just finished renewing my learner's license so I was pumped to go eat.

Cousin Jason was hungry so we started with the 南翔小笼包. That was just like any other restaurant, nothing special. 山根蒸凤爪 is also not one of my favourite dishes in general. I am just not ahuge fan of chicken feet. It's good, but not one of my favourite foods.

What I do love are 竹叶珍珠鸡, 肉松炸两肠, and 蜜汁叉烧酥.
Sticky rice and meat with eggs and mushrooms in bamboo leaves is just such a great combination. This time was a little disappointing as the flavour was not as deep as previous times. Perhaps it is just a one time flaw (hopefully!).

And speaking of 肉松炸两肠, their sauces are delicious. The sweet and savouriness of the dish is just absolutely amazing. One of my all time favourites at dim sum and at Fisherman's Terrace, it is especially tasty!

While I'm not a huge fan of layered pastry dough, the flavour of the filling in 蜜汁叉烧酥 is amazing. Perfectly sweet, not too fatty, with a nice honey aroma. Some of my favourites left me happy.

发财莲藕煎鱼饼 and 鲜虾瑶柱韭菜饺 are two other dishes Mom ordered. I never cared for fish or other meat pastes. They just do not appeal to me.
I'm not a huge fan, but chives are always good. I find steamed dumplings to be hugely overrated for dim sum. Although, when you do get a very chewy outside dough wrap, it is good. I find them, in general, though, on the bland side.

We had to wait so long for 椒盐鸡膝. I swear they forgot about it at least two or three times. After talking and waiting for over 30 minutes, it finally came, nice and hot, fresh out of the pan. My absolute favourite at this place, along with the sticky rice dishes - something we get every time and has yet to be disappointed!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Nostalgic Place and Taste - 美心饼店-Maxim's Bakery

March 9, 2012
美心饼店 - Maxim's Bakery, Richmond BC
栗子包 (Chestnut Bun)
吞拿鱼丹麦酥 (Tuna Fish Danish)

This bakery has been here since we came to Canada I think. At least I do not remember it ever not being there. We used to get curry buns and egg tarts and my old favourite, the pineapple and cherry danish, from there when we lived in our rented townhouse. Ahh, those good ol' times. They closed down a couple of years ago but reopened and every now and then, Mom and I would drop in to take a look as we got tired of shopping and looking at clothing racks.

This time, I especially was not in a shopping mood so off we went inside the bakery. What did we find? Some nostalgic, new bakery items that are absolutely scrumptious. Well, at least these specific ones were not available at T&T, where we get most of our delicious Asian bakery goodies.

First, we spotted the 栗子包. Chestnut paste cake was what we started with (along with Black Forest Cake) in T&T bakery way back when. Chestnut paste is just good. End of story. However, Auntie discovered last year that Maxim's had a better cake than T&T. This time, it was not a cake but a bun. Moist and chewy break rolled up with my favourite chestnut paste in a butterfly shape. It looked delicious and tasted great, too! I can just never get enough chestnut stuff!

Next, Mom wanted to try the 吞拿鱼丹麦酥. I am still not a big fan of tuna, but the way the made the tuna salad with canned tuna and mayonnaise is exactly like what Mom used to make ten years ago. It tastes good now because it reminded me of something so long ago, even though I didn't care for it much back then. The glaze on the top gave it a nice sweetness, though I have never been a fan of layered pastry dough and danishes (I like danish fillings, not the dough). Perhaps this is not close to my favourite bakery goodies but it was nostalgia seeping through and through.

Friday, March 9, 2012

SAT Snack - Double Chocolate Cookie

March 9, 2012
Subway, Richmond BC
Double Chocolate Cookie

Upon returning from a morning run a few days ago, I picked out our newspaper lying on the welcome mat. Inside, I found a coupon for a free cookie from Subway. I figured, why not. I used to like Subway cookies. They were almost a staple once upon a time when I took SAT lessons back in grade 11. There was a Subway right below us so the students frequent it without question. I thought, well, it must be better than dining hall cookies.

I was right about the dining hall part, but although freshly baked as it was still warm (or heated I guess) and smelled wonderful, my Double Chocolate Cookie was very hard on the outside. The only good part is the dead centre where it was slightly softer. The taste is sweet but good. The white chocolate chips tasted like peanut butter chips. Maybe they changed up their recipe but I like these new peanut butter chips. Peanut butter and chocolate will always be one of my favourite combinations. The cookie though, a definite disappointment. At least it was free because it certainly is not worth whatever they charge for it.

A Taste of Ningbo - 宁波海鲜酒家-Ningbo Seafood Restaurant

March 7, 2012
宁波海鲜酒家 - Ningbo Seafood Restaurant, Richmond BC

This is a fairly new restaurant, tucked away in the corner of Parker Place. Even for the three months it had been in business though, there was barely anyone there on a Wednesday night. I guess they opted for a 'soft opening' and did not advertise much, but still, there should not be just four tables in a large restaurant filled.
Anyways, the food was exquisite. I guess there is something to be said about not many people eating so the chef can cook each dish carefully. Mom is also right in saying that in the beginning, a Chinese restaurant in Richmond (where there are just way too many Chinese restaurants) need to present superb quality dishes in order to draw the customers back. They did that alright.

We started out with the 宁式酱鸭. The sauce was a perfect blend of soy sauce and sugary sweetness. The duck was also cooked perfectly, tender and quite lean for a duck. Together, the dish was very delicious - the perfect appetizer. I can still taste that sweet soy sauce - YUM!

For our fill of veggies, we decided to try 宁波一品上素 as we wanted only Ningbo specialties. There is no point eating other cuisine at a Ningbo restaurant. I have to say, although this dish was not as flavourful, it was delightfully refreshing. A nice, mild veggie dish with the light flavouring throughout.

My least favourite dish of the evening was 烤杂鱼. I never liked just salty fish. The flavour did go through the baked fish though so I could tell it was cooked with care and very nicely done. I just never liked salted fish much. I prefer my lighter meat dishes with a sweeter flavour.

Finally, another one of my favourites, was the 风味炒陈村粉. These rice noodles were translucent, way prettier than the normal opaque kind and much more chewy. They had yellow chives and Asian celery in them as well, so a nice blend of Asian veggies with shrimp. The noodles were nicely cooked, the 'al dente' version of rice noodles.

They gave each of us a bowl of 陈皮绿豆沙 in the end. It is the first time I have tried such a common dessert but made with mung beans instead of your usual red beans. A nice change, I think, because the mung beans have a slightly different flavour in that they are more bitter and less likely to blend with the sweetness of the sugar. Overall, though, a great meal. Their lunch menu looked very promising with all the appetizers and specialties so we will definitely be back in the summer to try out those dishes!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Homecoming Dinner - 聚-Dinesty

March 3, 2012
聚 - Dinesty, Richmond BC

Home sweet home! Of course, Mom had to take me here - her new casual Shanghai cuisine restaurant. The price of the food they serve is absolutely amazing. They do not have the most exquisite food but definitely more home-style and definitely more than reasonably priced.

The 小笼汤包 is supposedly the best in Vancouver. It's true. The wrapper is thin and chewy, perfectly steamed. The pork filling is not fat yet the soup inside was very tasty. It is definitely the best 小笼包 around, only I was never a huge fan of it, regardless of where I eat it.

A traditional Beijing dish, the 京酱肉丝+薄饼 was not up to my standards. The sauce was not bold enough. There was not enough fresh scallions, and traditionally, there should not be any cucumbers. At least the pork was tender. The pancakes were good though - perfectly chewy and thin with that nice white flour aroma.

The next course, my favourite dish - as Mommy knew - was 镇江骨. The sauce was extremely well flavoured - perfectly sweet and sour. Mom found it a bit salty but I thought it was just about perfect. The sesame and pine nuts added a nice hint of flavour, and the spareribs were perfectly fried. The outside nice and crispy, soaking up flavour, and the insides nice and tender. It was definitely the best I have had ever, hands down. I would go back any day just for this one dish.

The 栗子鸡煲 was a bit salty for my taste. The dates and chestnuts in the pot were good, except the chestnuts were slightly undercooked for me. I like them a bit mushy, so they can melt in your mouth. The sauce was basically just salty, nothing special there. A bit too much salt led to lots of water once I got home. The chicken was at least nicely cooked and tender.

Finally, the 丝瓜毛豆面筋煲 was a nice end to the meal as it was not salty - nice and refreshing and light. The loofah was not bitter so I consider it good. Well, it always has a nice and moist texture. I've always had a soft spot for good loofah. Edamame is just the same old edamame as always. The gluten was chewy too. It was a bit on the bland side but a nice balance to the salty chicken dish.

Overall, their food is homey but very reasonably priced. I would like to go back once more to try a few more dishes, including their stinky tofu. But one thing's for sure, I will definitely go back for the 镇江骨!