Friday, June 29, 2012

Spinach beet salad recipe

My obsession with food comes in phases.  Last year, it was mentaiko, followed by obsessive use of truffle oil.  This summer, I'm aiming towards something a lot more healthy, beets! I love eating beets in restaurants and never tried it at home.  The sweet taste resembles corn and I just can't seem to get enough of it! Finally, I brought home 5 beets and cooked them all at once.  After eating too much junk food in the past while, it's probably a good idea to be eating a tub of beet salad tonight.  Here is a simple beet salad recipe I concocted.  It's really refreshing, low in calories yet filling and also high in nutrients as well.  

3 medium beets 
1/2 cup of grated daikon 
2 cups spinach
optional sunflower seeds or chopped nuts whichever kind you preferred 

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. raspberry vinaigrette
a pinch of hibiscus sea salt (or just regular salt)
1/2 tsp. of honey
a pinch of mixed Italian seasoning herbs

Wrap beets in foil and bake at 350 c for 1.5-2 hours until tender and cooked thoroughly.  Raw beets taste like raw potatoes blahhh..! Let cool and peel off the skin.  Julienne beets and combine with spinach and grated daikon in a salad bowl.

In a smaller bowl combine olive oil, raspberry vinegar, sea salt, honey and mixed seasoning herbs together and mix well.  Drizzle as you need and toss! Serve in a nice bowl.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

à la minute liquid nitrogen ice cream

While I was suffering from the local heat wave in SoCal, the idea of ice cream just hit me. And not just for regular DQ around the block either, I was looking for something adventurous to try out, curry or garlic ice cream maybe. So, when my cousin mentioned an ice cream parlour making their ice cream with liquid nitrogen, I was all for it.

On a Monday night, I rounded up the gang and we headed to Redlands for the special treat. We pulled up to a quiet, dim-lit street, the town virtually emptied. Yet, there was one particular shop that had a large crowd spilling out and lining up down the street. This was the place we were looking for, the famous à la minute. While I couldn't believe how busy they were, judging by how in demand it was, it definitely should be worth the wait.

As the name says it, " à la minute " in French means 'made to order' which would explain why the wait seemed almost eternal. We waited in line for about 15 minutes to order, then another 20 to wait for the ice cream. The place had a dairy farm and country vibe and looked cozy, fairly small and looked even smaller crammed with bodies impatiently waiting for their ice cream. I was among the other children with their faces pressed against the glass window, peaking in the kitchen waiting for my turn. There was one cashier at the till and 2 other people hurriedly spinning the ice cream with all their might. Each small batch of ice cream is flash frozen with liquid nitrogen in a metal bowl while being churned.  Liquid nitrogen reduces the size of the ice crystals in ice cream, making it a lot smoother and creamier.  We watched in awe as mystical white steam flew everywhere, magic was happening before us. Since only small amounts of ice cream is made at a time, the waiting process seemed like forever.

It was too bad that we didn't have the options of doing 2 flavours per tub because I would've loved to try their salted caramel and strawberry with balsamic reduction. Instead, I opted for the main local ingredient, oranges. I was glad I did because the cookies and cream just wasn't as unique or special. This particular orange honey ice cream was not like any other traditional orange ice cream. It was not flavoured. Instead, it had small bits of tangy orange mixed in the vanilla ice cream. Generous amount of honey is drizzled on top so I got a real chew of both orange and honey rather than being pre-mixed. Everything was really fresh; the ice cream, the orange bits and honey. You would have to be a fan of dairy though. The ice cream was really sweet and rich. I let my dad try it and he expressed his liking for the ice cream by devouring the left of what I had. should've let me know so I'd get you your own tub :(

It also melted at accelerated speed, probably because it wasn't pre-frozen. So, for a big tub, you'd have to work on your speed rather than taking the time to indulge the flavour. For $5 for a medium tub, and half and hour wait, I'd say I'd come back only when it's not as busy and chaotic in there.

A la Minute on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Turkish fare at Sofra

If you are looking for something new and exotic to try in Edmonton, you gotta check out Turkish restaurant, Sofra located right by McEwan College.  I went in one night with zero expectation and I was pretty unfamiliar with the cuisine.  The result was more than pleasant.  I was truly blown away by their unpretentious and delicious hearty dishes.

I definitely would recommend ordering the Turkish pizza, lahmacun, which, to me is better than the Italian ones.  There are ones which contain eggs, but I chose something with meat instead.  Flavourful ground beef with Mediterranean seasoning and herbs topped with gooey cheese on crispy flat bread style crust.  

As if that was enough to be a main course on its own, the pizza was followed by grilled duck breast which came with a side of grilled vegetables, rice and salad.  The medium rare, juicy duck breast with crispy skin is close to what I'd call perfection.  It looked seemingly small, but it was more than enough to fill me up.  The smoky chipotle-like topping was brightened up the duck tremendously.  The rice pilaf was only okay and I didn't eat much of it.  The salad was pretty simple with greens and balsamic vinegar dressing.

If that isn't enough meat for you, try their grilled rack of lamb which was a hearty portion for the price tag.  I normally see about 3-4 pieces of lamb for around the same price.

The ambience is cozy and sectioned off into separate 'den' for smaller and more intimate setting.  It's fairly casual there and each table has a glass eye peering out on top of the table.  The chef maintained close contact with his diners as he walked around, greeted customers and asked whether they enjoyed the food.   While I loved the flavours, and the plates come in fair-size portion, I wish they were more refined and better presented (ie. better plates, more interesting sides).

Food: 4/5
Price: $$$$
Ambience: 2.5/5
Service: 3/5

Sofra on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wildflower Grill

I was cordially invited to a birthday dinner of a good friend of mine in Edmonton.  It was a really nice occasion and see the good friends I haven't been able to spend much time with after all the moving around this year.  Her dinner was held at Wildflower Grill, a popular fine dining restaurant I haven't yet visited in town.

The awkward moment happened when several friends including myself walked up to a table and mistakenly thought it was our party.  See, the stereotype that asian people look the same doesn't just fly with other race, but even asians get themselves mixed up too.  Rather, it was more like, "ooh a group of asian girls our age, MUST be our table!".   If you think that was presumptuous, I have walked in at another fine dining restaurant in Edmonton.  After a hostess greeted us and I let her know we were with a party but didn't say who, she immidiately jumped the gun, "Oh! you must be with this table! Follow me!"  While I appreciated her enthusiasm, once I walked up to the table, it was a bunch of asian strangers I've never met. In fact, I wasn't even meeting up with my asian crew that night.  "No...that is not my table", said I with a look of disdain.  Her face turned, another moment of awkward silence ensued before she led me to the correct table.

At Wildflower Grill, nobody had made that same assumption about us coming in.  In fact, the staff were extremely professional and offered a great service while we there.  The only point I would take away from the ambience is that it was really loud, mostly from diners getting too excited and shouting rather talking.  We weren't at the club yet and I wondered why we were shouting this early already.

Serving redefined Canadian cuisine, the menu at Wildflower Grill is divided into several sections; small bites, light fare, and mains.  I wasn't too hungry but wanted variety, so I ordered 2 light fare and that was a filling meal for me.  Once the meal arrived, to my surprise, my peers were understanding enough to allow me to take photos of their food before anyone can touch it.  I know taking pictures when dining can get annoying, so I really appreciate my friends showing their support without me having to even ask (T^T)

The brioche was served in a sauce pan, a really cute idea and it made the bread look like a mushroom when you cut it.  Arrived warm and fluffy, no doubt the bread was a big hit amongst us who were starving.
Amuse bouche of the night was a smoked salmon canape with a tropical twist.  It was tasty enough that we were tempted in ordering a couple more.  There was also a gluten-free option available for one of our friends.
Christina raved about their potato gnocchi, which looked like they were sauteed 'til slightly charred, served with sweet pea puree, shredded basil and diced bacon.  The Serrano pepper was just there and didn't really give off any heat at all.
I looked over to Corey's appetizer and I was jealous of his jumbo scallops over butter leaf lettuce, golden beets, peas, and drizzled with white grape emulsion and bacon mustard vinaigrette.  The scallop was cooked perfectly.

I also got to sample Lan's appetizer, a sashimi-grade tuna tower with mango, pineapple, bruschetta jam, sweet hunan vinaigrette.  It was served along with mesquite grilled prawn.  This was a perfect summer dish.  It was really tasty, and refreshing.  I will definitely order it next time.
Another enticing entree, mesquite grilled sockeye salmon medallions stuffed with lobster and king crab with seared prawns and scallops, asparagus, and ice wine emulsion.  Again, I wish I would've ordered this too seeing both Corey and Lan who each ordered it finished it all.
Here is the first of my 2 light fare, Polynesian surf and turf, from the specials, 2 pieces of crispy pork belly over beet gallette, and seared scallops.  The pork belly had crispy edges with a sweet glaze which was really good especially with the fatty part.  It's definitely one of those guilty pleasure dishes.  This obviously can't be healthy if you eat more than 2, but it was so worth it! 
The second light fare was a three mushroom ravioli with smoked gouda fonduta, asparagus, piave vecchio (super aged cheese).  Right away, my olfactory sensory was greeted with a my favourite aroma, truffle.  The ravioli pasta was a thin delicate pouch filled with earthy mushrooms and cheese.  The sauce was thick, yet delicate with a tangy ending note from the "super aged" cheese.  It was nice, but I was still envious of people eating the salmon medallions.

Christina's birthday entree was a medium-rare, extremely juicy looking, peppercorn-crusted bison tenderloin with butternut squash puree, and blackberry sage reduction.
Nav ordered B.C. sable fish with grilled mesquite prawn, parmesan risotto, green beans (did I forget to mention mesquite grill is their specialty?).  The fish was really tender and flakey, and she enjoyed it very much.

Christina was presented with a wonderful complimentary birthday truffles at the end of the meal.  We all shared a splendid and very loud evening together.  It was revealed that Lan's friend, sweet little Meghan, had the true iron stomach while the rest of us were waving white flags.  Not only did she finish her main with an extra side of potato, she was also the only one who ordered dessert at the table and finished it all by herself.  As a result, someone at our table was "really impressed" with her that night. Aww, I love it when food brings people together (tear).

Food: 4/5
Price: $$$$
Ambience: 3/5
Service: 3.5/5
Value: 3.5/5

Wildflower Grill on Urbanspoon