Monday, August 30, 2010

The Italian Kitchen featuring Michael Buble and The Swell Season

Last Sunday James and I headed to Vancouver for less then 24 hours of adventure.
We started our trip by stopping at Ikea as we usually do... can't resist cheap Swedish home decor! Unfortunately the main reason we came was to get more pasta bowls and of course they were sold out. I guess everyones been reading my blog and saw how awesome they were... I'd better stop being so awesome. We ended up getting a new shelf to hold our ever growing collection of DVD's so that was great. Now finally mine and James' dvd collections can come together as one... I think he's embarrassed that mine are way better then his and that's why it took so long... yeah that's why I'm sure...

From there we checked into our room at the Coast Coal Harbour. This hotel was way too fancy for us in our jeans and sneakers. They gave us a room with an ocean view snuck in between two skyscrapers .. I guess in big cities that's as good as it gets. The room was gorgeous, but we barely spent anytime there which was a shame.

Before going to dinner we had to stop at Cupcakes and fill our addiction. We've tried a few options in Victoria but I still think these ones are the best even though they are a chain. At least they are local. I was only going to get one... then it was four... then somehow it was cheaper to get six. So much for that!

From there we headed over to The Italian Kitchen - 1037 Alberni Street, Vancouver, BC

James had heard good things and the menu online looked like it had reasonable prices and a tasty selection! I find Victoria is lacking good Italian restaurants so I was excited to check this one out. We arrived early, before 5pm as we had to get to the concert, but found there were still about 5 other tables seated so we didn't feel like we were having the early bird special. I decided the try the Hand-Rolled Gnocchi with roasted tomato and basil cream sauce. James had the Spaghetti with Spicy Kobe Meatballs which had been recommended to him. I also had a glass of the house white which was the cheapest wine on the menu at $7 a glass. I'm not a big wine drinker but this place was classy so I thought it was fitting. The wine was very good though so I was pleased, plus I couldn't tell you what any of the others even were.
I've had gnocchi before but it's always been the kind that comes pre made and is like eating hard chewy balls of tasteless dough. So I was hoping I hadn't made the wrong choice, but as soon as the plate arrived at my table I knew I hadn't. The bowl was filled with light pillows of dough surrounded by a flavourful tomato cream sauce. I am so glad I gave it a try because now I know how gnocchi should be, and it's nothing close to what I have had before. Though I am also spoiled because now I am a gnocchi snob and nothing but light pillows of deliciousness will be acceptable!
James was equally happy with his dish, loving the meatballs and not overwhelmed but the truffle oil in the sauce.
For dessert we ordered an orange and thyme infused creme brule and Tiramisu. The Tiramisu was amazing the perfect mix of sweet marscapone cheese, coffee and lady fingers. The creme brule was ok, it was smooth and had a great crunch on top but I couldn't taste the thyme at all, the orange over powered and it tasted more like an orangiscle. Which isn't all bad, just not what we were hoping for.

But even more exciting then all this delicious food is when I look over a few tables down on the patio and go... isn't that Michael Buble? No I thought it couldn't be, why would he sit on the patio beside the street where everyone can see him? Then I realize it IS him... but I also realize that I'm the only one staring and everyone else is either playing it cool or doesn't notice or care. I don't listen to his music but it's still really cool to see a celebrity out and be eating at the same restaurant as them! Luckily I only noticed him near the end of our meal so I didn't embarrass James too much. And the fact that I didn't have a camera, though I did try to steal James' phone to take a discreet picture. Oh well you'll just have to believe me!

After that we headed to Stanley Park and sat under the stars watching The Swell Season perform with Black Francis opening. I am a huge Pixies fan so I was super excited for Black Francis, his new stuff was pretty cool but I have to admit the whole time I was just hoping he'd play some Pixies. Swell Season was amazing as usual and this venue was the perfect place to listen to their music under the stars. My dreams did finally come true when for their encore they played "Where Is My Mind" and Frank Black came out... my mind was blown, I was one happy girl! Such a perfect ending to an amazing night!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pink Bicycle - 1008 Blanshard Street

I ate here for the second time this weekend. We had to wait over 45 minutes to get in after being told it would be 15 - 20 minutes which sucked. But the sun was shining and there were seats outside to enjoy it on. The hostess was friendly and checked in on us so we felt we weren't forgotten. Once seated I decided to order the Black Bean Veggie burger again as it was so amazing last time I didn't want to risk being let down if I tried something new. Last time I ordered it with the Blue Buck beer onion rings which was a mistake. The batter had a weird light crispness to it that I've never had on an onion ring before, they tasted more like Funyions then what I was hoping for. James had the fries and the first time they were a little cold and soggy so that was disappointing as well.
This time though we both were smart to order the fries as they came out perfectly crispy the way I like them! They did lack seasoning though we found, luckily I ordered a side of roasted garlic mayo which made up for that. James had the rosemary gravy which was good but I couldn't have had too much of it as I found the rosemary to be a bit overpowering myself.
The burger was just as good as I remember it, a mix of spicy black bean patty, fruit salsa, smoked cheddar and jalapeno mayo made for a perfect combination of flavours! And the bun... on man the buns are amazing! From Bond Bonds Bakery next door they are the perfect consistently, tough but soft and holds up well to the burger without falling apart. We tried to buy some but I guess we were too late in the day and they were all snatched up.
The only thing I think that could be improved is the patty is way too big, it always falls out and I end up not eating a quarter of it as it's already fallen out of the bun but I still have enough left to enjoy it without being overpowered by black beans.
James had the Local Swine burger and enjoyed it so much he'd finished it before I had a chance to ask him what he thought! That's always a good sign!
I will definitely be returning again to try something new next time!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gray day blues...

(I wrote this on Thursday but just got around to finishing it and adding the pictures today)

Thursday, Aug 19th
What is it about the weather that can affect my mood so much? I woke up today feeling groggy, and got to work still feeling the same. I slept like the dead last night though, aquafit must have helped! It was my first time and I enjoyed it. It was nice just to be in the water again, I never go swimming anymore.... I can still smell the chlorine on my skin today and that makes me happy.

The bathing suit part usually is the biggest deterrent but I felt comfortable once I was in the water splashing away. Except for those bitches in bikinis, it wasn't an intimidating group either. Thanks Kristin, I will definitely come again!!

I made a delish dinner before I left that I found on "Audrey Needs More Wooden Spoons" blog Black bean tacos with feta and cabbage slaw. At first when I read this I thought what a weird combination, but then I checked out the recipe and thought it would be something new and fun to try. Plus it's more exciting then my usual can of veggie chili tacos. I wimped out on making my own shells, though I also couldn't find any corn tortillas. But I still think they turned out great and James was just happy that I cooked something for once! I also doubled the amount of spice in the bean mixture because it was a bit too bland for my taste but I saw a lot of reviews that said that as well. You just need to taste as you go and see what works for you.
I will make them again for sure, they were quick, easy and very tasty!

We had with it a bagged Southwest salad from Thriftys. It comes with pre washed and torn lettuce mix, grated cheese, tortilla strips and dressing so it was easy to throw together. You could make a better salad yourself but they work well in a pinch... plus it was on sale! :)

We also had some really tasty meals a few nights before, here's the bbq we had when Perry came down. A bbq salmon burger with mayo and broccoli slaw, a fennel, orange, apple, cherry tomato and assorted seeds salad with homemade balsamic dressing and bbq potatoes.

And lastly this is a dish we saw on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations Rome episode and had to try. It's called Caccio e Pepe. James even made the Parmesan bowl to eat it out of! It turned out to be too rich to eat the whole thing but it was a tasty indulgence! With it I made a spinach salad with strawberries, red onion, mushrooms and seeds with the same homemade balsamic dressing. I also had a glass of Riesling from a bottle opened about a month ago... that wasn't as good, but makes the picture look much more classy!

BTW I am in love with our pasta bowls from Ikea!! Is that sad? We are silly and always buy just two when we go, then get home and wonder why we only bought two? We want to use them all the time! Plus what if we have guests? Though really.. when do we have guests? Oh well, now it's an excuse to go to Ikea again and buy two more!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

It's jalapeño jelly time, jalapeño jelly time!

I must first say I really love how my spell checker adds the accent on jalapeño! It's way more fun that way!
So we made a batch of the jelly the other night and thought it seemed runny, but never having made jelly before we didn't know if it needed time to set. The next day it was still runny so James emptied out all the jars, re heated it and added more pectin and sealed them in the jars again. It's really James' jelly since my only contribution was getting the air bubbles out of the first batch. He fixed it and re did it all without my help. I was a little bitter as this was supposed to be our project and it turned into his. Though I figure now if it doesn't turn out he can also take the blame :P Lot's of people are looking forward to it so I hope it tastes ok and isn't too thick now from the added pectin! The samples I tried while we were making it had a nice mix of sweet and spicy so I'm excited to get some crackers and cream cheese and try it!

It's so hot out today all I want to do is hide inside while others are out bathing in it. Yesterday I did nothing I felt so guilty wasting a day off... I did clean the bathroom and have a nap so I guess that's something. Luckily that night I had plans to go out to dinner and see a movie with the girls, it had a/c and it forced me to get out.

Today James and I got going late but when we did I finally got my car washed (so it's going to rain tomorrow) and bought some groceries so we can start to have some healthier meals. I hate trying to meal plan for the week and figuring out what to buy... then having time to make it. I know though this is what needs to be done so we're not always eating out or reaching for the same pre made shit we always do. I'm hoping when James is off he'll have time to make us lots of delicious fresh food!!

Tonight Perry is coming down and the boys are having pulled pork sandwiches, I'm having a bbq salmon burger, then with it we're having a fennel and orange salad and bbq'ed potatoes... I'm so hungry for it already! We had a really good bbq feast on Friday too when my cousin came over to hang out, so I just want to keep enjoying it while it's nice out! Ok I guess summer is good for some things.... maybe we'll even hang out outside with James while he bbq's since we have chairs out there now. I wish we had our own patio area, the grass by the carport just doesn't really cut it. Our landlords have a beautiful backyard with tons of flowers but I feel weird going around the house to hang out in it because it seems like it's theres. Plus they are always out gardening or watering it, and then it's more awkward... and I have to make small talk.... ugh... I'll just hide away instead! My parents have an awesome backyard, it's nice and shady but gets some sun in the early morning/afternoon, and their deck is private with grape vines growing all around it, comfy chairs the rock back and forth, side tables, flowers, carpet... it's like an outdoor living room really. Whenever they are away I am tempted to go over and just hang out, turn up the Jammin' digital channel and chill out...

Well that's enough rambling about nothing for now... since Perry is coming over here's a tribute to him, the awesome female zombie finger puppet he got me. Horatio and the zombie are getting along pretty good... Horatio just knows to keep his distance...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gettin' Dilly Wit It

We started our adventure in canning the other day with dill pickles. It was actually pretty easy, but if you don't want to can there's lots of recipes to make refrigerator style pickles as well. I figured they'd taste better if they had more time to brine and this way we can make a bunch and give them out to people. I was thinking about posting the recipe, but until we've tried them maybe I'd better wait and make sure it worked!!
The first batch made 7 jars and apparently we think everyone we know will want some so I picked up some more cucumbers the other day along with 30 jalapeños to make jelly. I felt like people were going to start staring at me with my huge bag of cucumbers and jalapeños. I'm excited for the jelly, I always say to James I want to buy some, and then whenever we see it at the market I'm like... I dunno... it's too expensive... so now we'll have enough to last us... well however long it lasts I guess. Good thing we bought a book on canning at Costco last night. Everywhere we go we find things we need for canning on display or sale and I think it's like this great coincidence and then I remember it's summer and that's when people do canning... we're just late on the trend.

So I'll have to read my book and learn all about the world of canning... maybe I'll take up knitting again, get some cats... actually we have thought about getting a cat. But really it's just a solution to replace how bad we want a dog which isn't going to happen anytime soon. Even the fish idea went nowhere...
Anyways back to canning... which is my world now. So we also bought bags of frozen berries from Costco because we were a little late on getting the big flats of fresh berries cheap. Plus frozen berries are picked at their best so I figure it should work just as well.
I also was looking through our new book and saw recipes for salsa which would be awesome. I always am let down by the grocery stores salsa options so this will be a great way to have fresh salsa ready at any time.
Then I started to have crazy ideas about making ketchup, mustard and chutney... but I'm assuming I'll get distracted or bored by the time I get finished our other projects.

So I hope my friends and family are ready for some canning gifts!! Even if you don't enjoy it just pretend you do to humour us! :)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Falling down the rabbit hole

That's what my head has felt like for the past few days. I was sick with a sinus cold, then started to feel better and then I woke up and felt so dizzy I fell back onto my bed. I was so scared I didn't know what was going on. I probably freaked out more then I needed to but I knew it was a sign something was wrong and I didn't know what. I went to the clinic the next day and I have fluid in my ears that is making me feel off balance. My head feels foggy too, like I'm buzzed or something, it's not a fun feeling. I am going out tonight with some friends though, I feel like I've been in confinement the past few days so it'll be nice to get out and be around other people. See if I can be normal.
It gave me an excuse to neti pot again. I always mean to and forget. Then I was watching the Real World and they were doing it too and I knew it was a sign. I blew my nose after and my left ear got the crackly feeling which was exciting. I hope it means the fluid is disappearing! I will try and do it on a more regular basis and see if I start to see results.

James and I bought everything we need to make pickles, except the jars. Hopefully the pickling cucumbers will still be good when we finally get around to it. We need to buy more anyways, one little bag and we have like 5 gallons of pickling vinegar. Maybe we'll start it tomorrow... I'm excited to eat them when they're done but I'm afraid they won't be as good as I hope they will be.

It's finally raining which is great, though it's still muggy out which isn't. I think I'm done with summer, I never really embraced it this year. Sorry it didn't work out between us summer, maybe next year. I am ready for fall, and cooler weather, colourful leaves on trees and wearing pants and sweaters again. Every year I get excited for summer but sometimes I think it's just because I think I am supposed to but really I'd rather just stay in spring or fall. I don't really like winter though, icy roads and snow are not fun once you're grown up. You have responsibility and need to drive places and they get in the way. Snow was great when it meant a day off from school and playing in it all day. Now all I see is an annoying, scary, dirty, mushy mess. I hope we have another mild winter but who knows.
Ok talking about weather is boring... I thought there was something else I wanted to share... Well here are some pictures of meals I made months ago:

The salmon was baked with fresh dill and lemon. The green beans and asparagus was sautéed with some sliced garlic and olive oil, salt and pepper and finished with some parmesan. It was so simple but came out tasting amazing! The potato salad was stolen from Ina Garten:
I don't think I used buttermilk because I decided to make this after going grocery shopping so I just modified it with what I had. James doesn't like grainy mustard and even he liked it! Not enough to have leftovers, but that's my job I guess!

We also had some over priced buffalo mozzerella so I made a delicious salad with heirloom tomatoes, basil, s&p, olive oil and reduced balsamic glaze (Blaze).

This post is random, but so is my head these past few days! At least I got a few pictures up!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lost in my own City/Pho Vy

I have lived in Victoria my whole life... 28 years this December... but I still get lost in this damn city! I forget which streets are one ways, how to get to Oak Bay, how to get out of Oak Bay... if it's not a place I've been to often chances are I'm iffy on how to get there. I lived in the same house for 20 years so for most of my life I only knew how to get to places from my parents house. Stick me anywhere else in town and ask me to go somewhere and chances are I'll make my way back to the route I know from my parents. Usually this made for the longest most confusing way to get to a place, but that's just what I knew. Since I've moved out and gotten to know different areas of town I'm getting a lot better but there are definitly some areas of town that I just haven't really been too a lot that I am hopless in. Like Oak Bay, James Bay, any Bay really... I'll drive until I find the water and take it until I recognize something.
The other day I was meeting James at the Jubilee Hospital after work. I work at UVIC so I thought no problem it'll be easy to get there. I have figured out taking Bay is the easiest way, but I remembered it's actually off of Richmond St and I knew that was close to UVIC. So I decided to be brave and find a new route... ya that didn't work out well. I didn't end up finding Richmond but I kept thinking well maybe it's just a little bit further until I got lost in who knows where. I finally got fed up and pulled out the gps, but it still thought it was in the USA so I got frustrated and started driving again. Then I found the road I was looking for but I guess I went the wrong direction because I ended up in a residential neigbourhood and then all of the sudden I was at the ocean. So I looped back around Dallas Rd until I found Cook, a familiar street and took it back to Bay. So basically I ended up going all the way around where I wanted to go to get there. By the time I got there James was ready to go...
Maybe I just need to explore more of this city. It's a small city but sometimes it feels too big. Sometimes I think this city thinks it's bigger then it is, or tries to be. All the people are starting to irritate me and the driving makes my road rage worsen everyday. When I get like this I wonder how I ever thought I'd survive living in London!

Anyways onto Part 2 - Pho Vy

So after that fun adventure we decided we needed some food in our guts otherwise the cranky factor was going to go off the charts! We wanted to try Saigon Night but it's closed for a month so we went back to our old standard Pho Vy. They actually have a veggie Pho there but you have to use a chicken or beef broth. I usually try and avoid these but I know most food is made with one of these so usually my love for food overtakes. It's so full of veggies, tofu and noodles plus everything I add into it even though I get the regular size I've never been able to finish a bowl. It was just what I need though when not feeling well, a bowl of delicious soup always helps! I also had vegetarian spring rolls to start and those were great as always, just what I've been craving! If you go you have to get the Vietnamese coffee with milk. It's strong and sweet and the best thing ever! It's always busy though so make sure you arrive early and are prepared to wait a little, don't worry they will get to you!
If you want a place with no frills were you can get some great food this is one of my favourite places!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Moxies Classic Grill - 1010 Yates Street

We decided to check out Moxies since we were kinda close by and still too lazy to make even one meal at home this week. Moxies is downtown, but it has free parking so that makes me happy. I don't like this location as much as I used to like the one that was by Walmart, it's all way too skinny girls in way too short skirts and arrogant waiters. Fortunately for them they have the White Chocolate Brownie... otherwise I don't know if I'd ever go here.
We had had a snack at the mall earlier that day (well me a snack, James a whole meal) so we decided to have salads. They actually had a pretty nice selection of exciting looking salads so it was hard to decide! I usually find that even though a salad seems like a vegetarian option there is usually only one that doesn't automatically come with meat so I was excited to see a lot of options for me.
I decided on the Roasted Beet and Arugula Salad with roasted red and gold beets, goat cheese, toasted pine nuts with a sherry vinaigrette and baguette crisps and I added a grilled wild salmon. I've seen this salad on a lot of cooking shows lately, it seems to be the new in thing so I was curious to try it. I was very happy with my selection, I liked that there were the two types of beets and not too many to make it overwhelming. The arugula was a perfect choice to pair with it, and the goat cheese added a nice creamyness. I thought there could have been more goat cheese, but I do love it so. The baguette crisps were kind of weird but I still liked them, and the salad was dressed perfectly. It was a light dressing which allowed the flavours in the salad to stand out on their own which was nice. The salmon was good too, nothing that exciting but it added some protein to my meal which I probably needed.
Besides the lady across from me that stared while I ate it I really enjoyed it and would have it again!
James had the Sesame Thai Chicken Salad. It looked pretty much like it sounded, and came with banana bread which James enjoyed, and I would have not. He ate it pretty fast so I assume it was a hit. :)

Then it was time for dessert. When the waiter asked if we wanted to see the dessert menu I just grinned like a fool and nodded my head eagerly. I'm sure he's seen that look before though... Why do they ask if you want to see the dessert menu? They should just automatically bring it over. I'm sure more people would change their mind and have dessert it they were just given it to look at even if they thought they weren't going to have any. Especially here... once you read about the White Chocolate Brownie there really is no other choice. I didn't really have to look... but James was trying to decide. I told him not to be swayed but anything else, don't bother looking. In the end he took my advice and we both got ourselves the full version. I mean we'd had salads so we deserve this right?
It came with two scoops of french vanilla ice cream and whip cream on top. The waiter said they had just been baked fresh too, oh man I dived into that! It was everything I remembered it being and more. Thank you for not letting me down! I don't even really like white chocolate, but that part is more the brownie batter, it was large chunks of milky milk chocolate throughout it and that is my favourite part!
We were wrong to think we could each handle a full one, but you can't let goodness like that be wasted so we ate until we thought we'd be sick and it was so worth it!
Moxies I do like you, I just wish you weren't so pretentious looking and so far downtown. Ok it's only like 15 minutes but I really miss the old one!