Foo Ramen Bar

Foo Ramen Bar

I like watching Food Network Canada’s “You Gotta Eat Here!” show, which recently showed the casual dining spot Foo Asian Street Food in Victoria, BC. A sister restaurant, Foo Ramen Bar, recently opened up, claiming to be the first ramen eatery in Victoria, and I had a chance to visit last week.

Warning: this place is tiny; it’s a boîte, really, but that’s probably part of the concept, similar to Tokyo ramen joints. The idea is fast food, and the space is tight, so getting a seat, or getting to your seat, can be challenging.

I ordered the chicken ramen, which was only $12 CAD for a more-than-filling bowl. I wasn’t blown away by the broth, but I mixed in some chili peppers, which enhanced the flavor with heat. The noodles were nice and toothsome, and there were plenty of them. I was pleasantly surprised by the large chunks of chicken that came with my ramen; about four pieces, each the size of a small deskinned, deboned thigh. Toppings included green onion and mushrooms. I was hoping for a whole soft-boiled egg infused with broth flavoring, but I only got half a plain soft-boiled egg in my serving; a small disappointment that was offset by the generous portions of chicken and noodles.

The takeaway: a satisfying, good-value meal in a hip, new foodie joint.

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Blueberry Shake

Blueberry shake

We’ve got a blender, which has rarely been used, but lately I’ve gotten into making shakes with fruit, yogurt and non-dairy milk for post-workout nutrition. It’s also a fitting way to celebrate the freshness of spring.

You can enjoy this as a meal or a snack. It’s tasty, not too sweet, and packed with nutrients such as potassium from the bananas, Vitamins B and C from the blueberries, and probiotic culture from the yogurt to aid digestion.

Ingredients:

1/2-1 cup chocolate coconut milk (depends on how much liquid you want to add)
3 dollops of vanilla yogurt (I use Greek yogurt for thickness; regular yogurt works, too)
1-2 bananas
a handful of fresh or frozen blueberries

Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until all the fruit gets grinded thoroughly into the shake. Pour into a tall glass and serve with a straw.

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Pesto Pizza

Pesto pizza

This pizza is unbelievably delicious; an umami bomb, primarily because of the homemade pesto made with fresh basil, parmesan and olive oil. I use prepackaged, precooked, multigrain crust here. Eggplant, bacon, onion and goat cheese are the toppings. I mimicked the look of fresh, melted mozzarella by cutting older blocks of mozzarella into chunks so that they melt in circular shapes, giving the pizza a wood-fired look even though it was cooked in the oven.

Ingredients:

1 large prepackaged pizza crust
1 pack of fresh basil
fresh parmesan (a block about half the size of your palm)
olive oil
1/2 large eggplant, sliced into small cubes
2-4 slices of bacon, cut into small slices
1/3 large onion, sliced
3 tbsp goat cheese
3 1-inch-wide sticks cut from prepackaged large mozzarella block

Preheat oven 450 degrees F. Rub olive oil onto a pizza tray and place the crust onto the tray.

Prepare the pesto by placing the basil and parmesan into a food processor and pouring in enough olive oil to moisten the ingredients. Grind into a paste, then slather the pesto onto the crust.

Saute the eggplant and onion on the stove top until they soften, then stir in the bacon to cook. When that mixture is ready, distribute the topping evenly on the pie.

Place goat cheese chunks throughout the pie. Cut the 3 sticks of mozzarella further into 1-inch cubes and distribute throughout the pie.

Cook the pizza until the crust is a bit crisp on the edge and the mozzarella is fully melted (about 15-20 min.).

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Asian Short Ribs

Asian short ribs

We grill year-round. Now that it’s spring, we’re grilling with more frequency as the northern days get longer and we’re slowly coaxed into making more use of our balcony again. Our latest grilling venture involved short ribs marinated in an Asian-style mix overnight.

There are two main elements to an Asian marinade: soy sauce and brown sugar. To round out and enhance the flavor profile, you’ll want to add some heat and tartness.

Ingredients:

1 pack of short ribs
soy sauce
brown sugar
sesame oil
red pepper flakes or hot sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
Chinese black vinegar

Place the ribs in a bowl or large Tupperware. Drizzle soy sauce over the ribs bit by bit, taking the time to rub it into the meat. Do the same with the sesame oil. Start with 3 tablespoons of brown sugar and rub it into the ribs; add more if you wish. Finish off the marinade by rubbing in pepper/hot sauce, vinegar and garlic. Each rib should be coated thoroughly with the marinade.

Cover the bowl/Tupperware and refrigerate. Leave overnight and turn over the ribs or shake the covered bowl/Tupperware halfway through the refrigeration time to redistribute the marinade.

When ready to grill, cook for about 5 min. a side or until it reaches desired texture.

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Bulgur Wheat Toss

Bulgur wheat toss

Brown rice and whole grain pastas have been our pantry staple starches, but we’ve recently expanded our carbohydrate palette to other whole grains, bulgur wheat among them. Bulgur wheat comes in several grain sizes; the smaller the size, the less cooking time necessary, which makes it perfect for a weeknight meal, when you don’t want to spend a lot of time at the stove but still want to create something delicious and pretty. This dish is my first attempt at using bulgur wheat, and I’m pleased to say it was a success.

Ingredients:

1/2 package of ground beef
sweet chili sauce (optional)
salt
1 cup fine-grain bulgur wheat
1 Roma tomato, sliced
1/3 large onion, sliced
3 large mushrooms, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
feta cheese (optional)
arugula (optional)

Place the ground beef in a mixing bowl, add 3-5 dollops of sweet chili sauce and a few pinches of salt and mix thoroughly throughout the beef. If you don’t have sweet chili sauce, try using ketchup and salt. Set aside.

Place the bulgur in a pot, add 1 cup of water to start, and turn on the heat. The water will quickly absorb into the bulgur, so keep adding water 1/2 cup at a time until the bulgur is slightly submerged. The bulgur will continue absorbing the water, and you can keep adding water until the bulgur is soft after absorbing the water. Check often and stir occasionally. The bulgur should cook in 10-15 min. It’s ready when you’re able to fluff it with a fork.

In a skillet, saute the tomato, onion and green pepper for 5 min., then stir in the ground beef mix. Cook until the onion and pepper soften, then stir in the mushrooms and the bulgur. Stir in feta cheese if you like for some tartness, and plate with a garnish of arugula.

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Roasted Acorn Squash

Roasted acorn squashThis dish is very easy to make, and it’s delicious and nutritious. You can serve it as a side with any protein, for instance, porkchops or meatloaf. The roasting process caramelizes the squash, bringing out an intense sweetness.

Ingredients:

1 acorn squash
tomatoes
salt

Preheat oven 400-450 degrees F. Cut the squash into cubes, with or without the skin. Place in a baking dish and rub olive oil into the squash. Cut the tomatoes into wedges and distribute throughout the dish. Sprinkle with 3 pinches of salt. Cook for about 1 hr., stirring on occasion. The squash is ready when fully softened.

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Victoria, BC, Canada

Victoria, BCFor Easter weekend we traveled to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia in Canada. The city is located on Vancouver Island, and you can travel to and from there via ferry or seaplane. We took the ferry, which was a novel and fun experience, akin to being on a cruise ship. Not that I’ve ever been on a cruise, but I imagine that’s what it’s like–room to roam with great views of the coast.

Victoria’s downtown hosts a lot of tourist traffic, especially true this past weekend when the weather was gorgeous and the scenery was popping. The legislative building (pictured above) is a  beautiful, stately work of architecture facing the Inner Harbour. It’s impressive at night as well, outlined with lights that make it stand out in the cityscape.

Highlights of the trip include winery hopping at Muse, De Vine and Sea Cider, a hipster hangout that’s technically a ciderhouse, and a visit to Butchart Gardens, just a short drive from Victoria, toward the ferry terminal. It was raining when we started our tour of the gardens, partly built on a former quarry, but the sun came out eventually, giving the blooming flowers a chance to show the fullness of their colors.

North 48For restaurants, North 48 and OLO were memorable. At North 48, a new high-end modern diner, the “Big  Mac” beef tartare and chicken and waffles stood out, the former for its take on tartare evoking the flavors of a Mickey D’s classic, and the latter for its tasty waffle batter made with corn, green onion, and what tasted like flecks of stewed apple. Kudos to the chef for creativity and our waitress that evening for her enthusiasm and knowledge of the menu.

At OLO, a farm-to-table restaurant, the homey, sophisticated decor made for a cozy, living room-type experience. While the dishes didn’t all wow, they were presented with balance and artful plating. I recommend the smoked salmon if it’s on the menu, perfectly delicate with subtle flavor, instead of the typical smoked salmon saturated with salt–the best I’ve ever tasted.

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