WABI SABI Workshop: Imperfections and the Art of Letting Go at Eikcam Ceramics

Form to Feast: time to eat!

Embrace life as is…

I can see flaws and imperfections

I can see them so clearly..

Not expecting perfections

Not trying to be perfect

Be grateful, courageous and compassionate

Give Love and Kindness

To be the best I can be

And more than what I am (OO – the unknown Golden Apron)

I attended a three weekend”Form to Feast” free hand building pottery workshop, learning from the lovely Grace Lee (Eikcam Ceramics), a local artist whom I’ve long admired and collected a few pieces of her work; it was a dream come true.

I have dabbled into pottery on and off for a few years now;  the series of classes I’ve taken were taught by the fascinating Maggie Boyd at local Vancouver Community Centres (through Parks Board, she now teaches at her studio and very well established in the local art community).

Making my own pottery was a natural progression; the concept of serving my food on my own earthenware is a more complete form of self-expression, and to share them with my family and friends, is my full expression of my love for them.

The theme is Wabi Sabi , a Japanese aesthetic centred on beauty of imperfection. Ha Interesting and foreign concept to someone like me, who at times (many times my sister would say) could be so “fixed” in my ways.

The first Saturday was spent “kneading” the clay and shaping our pieces; due to time constraints the clay was well already prepared ahead of time so we actually dived into the creative process swiftly; the second week when we returned Grace already had all our pieces fired up and ready for glazing; and the final class, we just returned to pick up our pieces and enjoyed a Korean Bossam (Pork Belly) feast prepared by our teacher, and shared with our fellow classmates (from two sessions), served on our own creations.

The class took place in Grace’s tranquil studio (love your space) in East Vancouver (Venables area). The class  consisted of a small group of creative and accomplished individuals (many entrepreneurs), these days instead of exchanging business cards, phones came out swiftly and Instagram handles were exchanged and now we are connected!

The class was very informal and free-flowing: Grace gave us the instructions, then leave us to work freely and provided us with guidance when required.  She was very encouraging and readily answer our questions.

The sessions were filled with lots of carefree exchanges and laughter; the atmosphere was so relaxing and certainly sparked lots of creativity, I truly enjoyed every moment.

On the last Saturday when I got to the studio and saw my finished pieces, I was elated;  the sense of fulfillment and excitement were beyond words can express.  They are so different from what I’ve always liked ….yet I like them so much…

Perhaps somehow over the course of time my perspective has changed, and through this experience I was able to see it more clearly.

Precious memories: centerpiece from 2016 Dinner Party YVR and my Wabi Sabi plate

The little verse I wrote  pretty much sums up what I have learnt and how I feel…

Perfection and Imperfections….as in life, a work in progress.

If you are ever interested in trying out pottery, Grace’s short-term workshops are wonderful options, check the future schedules through her website.

Grace, thank you very much again for your guidance and encouragement; I am so grateful to have the opportunity to attend your workshop, see you again very soon…감사합니다.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 2018: OOOH (Oink Oink Oink..Hibernate)

They are cute and tasty: Dessert Buns at Fortune Terrace Chinese Restaurant, special Lunar New Year Feast

February was filled with family visits and gatherings with friends celebrating the Lunar New Year. There were new discoveries and return visits to old favourites and some long forgotten places, all filled with pleasant little surprises.

OINK OINK OINK:

So Hyang Korean Cuisine: Perfectly grilled mackerel for me and Korean Galbi (beef short ribs) for him; tasty authentic cuisine on Fraser Street at reasonable prices.  

 

Lunar New Year Feasts at Fortune Terrace Chinese Cuisine and Red Star Chinese Restaurant:  Great Food and Fun times:  A huge thank you to my zumba classmates (you know who you are) for arranging these special dinners (OO)

Highlights from Fortune Terrace Chinese Cuisine (Richmond, BC)

Special banquet order: crispy and succulent roast pig, served with chinese pancakes
Scallop Fried Rice
Fried crab claws

And from Red Star 

Sauteed prawns in “mayonnaise” sauce
Birthday baos

And when family is in town..the chow down continues…

I think this is the greatest pork meatball dipping sandwich ever…Au Petit Cafe (4851 Main Street, Vancouver)
Tangram Creamery:  Kombucha and Daifuku mochi with Matcha icecream (2729 Arbutus Street)
Finally a return visit to RAISU  –  Crispy Ebi Fry (2340 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver, BC)
Tetsu Sushi Bar: Do you like Chopped Scallop Temaki?  We Love their unagi rice, udon and sushi (775 Denman Street, Vancouver, BC)
Finally I had the Zen Minami Lunch set – I was “set” for the day – Minami (1118 Mainland Street)

HIBERNATE:

It’s NEVER too cold to have icecream and No I did not finish the jar by myself , I only scraped the bottom of jar and enjoyed what was left  – New favourite “Sweet Cream” from Earnest IceCream: 

On the snowed in days at home…

Perhaps the best time to catch on cooking videos and my reading: Masa’s Top Ten Superfoods

I’ve been following Chef Masa’s Youtube Channel and Facebook for quite a while now..I recently bought his latest cookbook and this will keep me busy for a while :

Also Contemplating and thinking….

Words to Live by: a meaningful posting found on a friend’s FB:

 

January 2018: Hello

 

Relaxation is an Art: we can all learn from Snoopy

Hello and How are you?

Finally have a little time to catch up!

I will be on Ms. Deborah Moore’s show on Fairchild AM1470 Tuesday January 23rd at 1030am sharp, hope you can tune in.

For my latest updates, follow me on Instagram

Celebrated Japanese New Year with my extended family at my in-laws: 

Sansho Pepper Roast boneless Prime Rib with organic black mushroom jus

Clams yuzu butter udon

Mom’s “Not Real Sushi” California Roll

Sockeye salmon sashimi with seaweed, wasabi mayo and ponzu

Japanese stewed carrots, konnyaku, lotus root and taro

Charcuterie and Cheese selection from Oyama Sausage

Lettuce wrap from my sister-in law, and Homemade Lemon fromage (lemon, gelatin, sugar, eggs and whipped cream and there’s no cheese) , it is a Danish citron mousse, prepared by her Mom

Aburi Salmon Battera Sushi: Sushi making class through Chef Taka (check his Facebook Page) 

New wish list: kitchen torch and battera sushi mold

Aburi Salmon Sushi!

Participated in an Adult Nutrition tour at Pricemart Supermarket (Richmond, BC) through Libra Nutrition 

Thanks to Amy for an informative session; check out their schedule

A couple Saturday afternoons enjoying a Hoji-cha Latte at Handworks Coffee Studio (7705 6th Street, Burnaby, BC)

Handworks also carries some quaint household and stationary items from Japan

Two visits to  the new DiBeppe Restaurant in Gastown (8 West Cordova, Vancouver, BC)

Cacio e pepe – Cheese and pepper spaghetti at DiBeppe
Second visit: we shared a salad (radicchio, frisee, pickled peppers, mixed greens, shavings of romano, chickpeas in a bright vinaigrette), also enjoyed the pasta pomodoro

Hot pot with friends at Dolar Shop (720-5300 No. 3 Road, Richmond)

I had the mildly spicy pickled cabbage and fish soup base – I love we can choose our own soup
Signature Prawn Paste – great texture
Trio of signature fish, prawn and beef paste to make into balls for hotpot

Better yet… having Japanese and Chinese hot pot with friends, the best kind of gathering during the cold winter season:

Japanese dashi base with daikon (previously we also added sake kasu); selection of vegetables,meats and main focus on seafood (manila clams, Dungeness crab, razor clams)

The highlight was Razor clams (from New Zealand) purchased at local supermarket (T & T Supermarket), succulent and tender, it was really worthwhile.

Best Hot pot condiment: Betty King Sauce

Razor clams from New Zealand: a splurge for this hot pot gathering; succulent and tender, it took less than 30 seconds to cook!

Betty King Sauce – best with hot pot – you can find her selling on Facebook/Instagram

October 2017: Learn, Nosh and Nourish

Golden Leaves….

 

Fall has always been my favourite season ; I simply love the colours, the weather and the beautiful and delicious local harvests! I was overly excited and overextended myself a little with Thanksgiving family dinner and cooking classes (which I love!), I ended up catching a cold. Yikes!   Changing seasons is a very tricky time period, we should all be extra mindful in taking care of our bodies in order to prepare for the long winter season ahead.

And finally my blog post is up…..

Learn and Nosh at True Nosh

 

Snow Skin Mooncakes! I finished “third” place in the “mooncake beauty pageant”

A couple of months ago I came across True Nosh through Instagram, what I found intriguing about True Nosh is their focus on “no added sugar” cooking!  Coming from a family with history of diabetes (on my maternal side of family), I thought I could learn something new to even further reduce the usage of sugar in foods prepared for my family.

I browsed through their website and signed up for the Chinese Green scallion cake (one of my favourite Chinese snacks) class;  I think most of you by now know “working with dough” and cooking Chinese food is not my strong suit (Ha ha).

The class focused mainly on demonstration by owner and certified dietitian Ms. Renee Chan; only a small part requires hands on participation.

What is no added sugar cooking?   Ms. Chan finds a creative way to use the natural sweetness from fruits and vegetables to replace refined sugars in traditional cooking.  A lot of restraint is exercised by limiting the quantities so sugar content is lower and the dishes are lightly sweetened.

The menu for the evening also includes braised beef shank (which goes very well with the green scallion cakes) and mango mochi (without added sugar) as dessert. The dough was proof ahead of time by Ms. Chan and her team;  the six class participants helped to roll out the dough and shaped the actual pancakes while Renee would cook and teach us Chinese (simple Chinese words in Cantonese and Mandarin) at the same time, she certainly made it fun and relaxing for everyone.

What did she use to replace the refined sugar?  A small quantity of chopped red dates and apricots were used to create to a paste and added into the braised beef shank (picture not shown) as  sweetener. (The usage of this ingredient was featured at another vegetarian/vegan class which I attended later – see below). After a most enjoyable evening, I decided to sign up for her “moon-cake making” class.

The second class was held at her newest location (West 7th avenue and Ontario Street, very close to Main),  Renee and her team prepared all the ingredients and dough ahead of time, and participants only assemble and created the moon cakes with the beautiful tools provided. For the filling she has selected lotus (paste made from seeds) and red date (paired), mung bean and apricot (paired), red bean and purple yam to create the fillings, green tea powder and saffron were used as natural food colouring to change the “skin” colour.    The textures and flavors are definitely different from store-bought “snow-skin” moon cakes,  it is more rustic and not as sweet.

Renee and her team are helpful and friendly, I had the best time chatting with her about cooking and travel!  Her family was also present that afternoon and I was delighted to have met her mother, the atmosphere was very warm and personal.   All recipes were sent to participants via email with nutritional information.

Her company also offers a range of sauces and condiments with funky names and interesting flavor profile for Chinese cooking.  Check out her website for more information.  Thank you Renee and team for the connecting, see you at one of your classes another time!

I like her overall concept and support for a good cause (ending diabetes);  and I am already thinking how I can introduce this “no refined sugar” method to my family and friends.  I do think this a better option however it is still important to exercise personal judgement and stay well-informed on what suits your own dietary needs….As I always say, always cook with lots of care and love.

Learn and Nourish at Workshop Vegetarian Cafe (296 Pemberton Road, North Vancouver, BC)

My favourite dish : Kabocha and Corn Soup with crispy grains…created by Pokeman Vancouver !

In the past couple years more vegetarian and vegan restaurants have opened up in Greater Vancouver, even regular restaurants now offer more vegetarian and vegan options. Most of their flavor profile tend to be either Mediterranean or Middle eastern inspired, there are only just a handful of authentic Asian-flavored ( Chau Veggie Express) centric vegetarian friendly eateries operating in Vancouver.

The Workshop Vegetarian Cafe opened in 2016 and they well-known for their creative veggie bowls and signature ramen creations.  Owner Tak and his wonderful team have created a Japanese menu featuring fresh seasonal and local ingredients.   This delightful gem is very welcoming and cosy; it  offers a complete vegetarian menu, with gluten-free and vegan options available; inside they operate a “corner shop which sells produce,  frozen noodles (their in-house made udon/ramen), vegan and gluten-free condiments.   I first visited this cafe in September 2016 with my friend “Kanekic” and really enjoyed their avocado toast and ramen.

I came across their workshop information through Instagram, apparently they have started to offer special workshops almost on a monthly basis with different themes.

On a beautiful Sunday morning I attended their sake kasu workshop,  the focus is on the explanation and demonstration of key ingredient “sake lees” used in four recipes (which was given to us also), and a special five course lunch was included afterwards.

The demonstration was hosted by one of the chefs Oku-san, who is from Artisan Sake Maker at Granville Island, Canada’s first local sake maker (opened since 2007).   You may ask what is sake kasu?  It is the lees left over from sake production; it is a versatile ingredient which can be use as a marinade or pickling agent, adds lots of flavor to soups and sauces.  If you taste the kasu on its own, the flavor itself is actually quite strong, so very little is needed in all applications.

In the demo class he taught us how to create of amazake (Japanese New Years drink), Vegan Chocolate Banana Smoothie, Miso Marinade and Vegan Mayonnaise; we all get to sample them afterwards and we were all given a small tub of sake kasu to take home for our cooking experiments.

Sake Kasu Vegan Mayo – tasty!

The biggest surprise came when lunch was served; Oku-san and his friends, three other experienced chefs who work at different establishments in BC, they collaborated and created an exquisite five course lunch which exceeded my expectations.  The meal was perhaps could easily ranked as the best vegetarian I’ve had in Vancouver, it is so wonderful to see we have  high calibre chefs collaborating together and showcased not only their individual talent, but their superb team work; as a home cook, I left with not only a full stomach but also a very inspired mind.

I will be returning in November to attend a dashi-making workshop, I simply look forward to see what they have to offer next time.   Meanwhile if you are unable to make it to Vancouver, check out their postings on Instagram; their feed is very positive and inspirational.  Thank you very much Tak and team for the inspiration!

Sharpening 101: Love and Care at “Ai and Om”

I have taken many cooking classes, however this is the first time I came across  a knife sharpening workshop being taught in Vancouver.

I am completely clueless on this subject matter; I usually hone them with a steel (learn through YouTube and not sure exactly what I was doing) and take them out for service when required.

Our kitchen knives are our best friends;  they are the most used tools in the kitchen, come to think of it, we spend a lot of time prepping our ingredients!

You may think these days we can practically learn almost anything on YouTube, so why a workshop?

It is a personal decision based on the way how I learn,  I also happen to enjoy exchanges and connections with people in general (at times flipping between being an introvert and extrovert).

On this particular subject matter,  I have tried to watch videos, I realize I need to see first hand in reality how it is done with instructions and thorough explanations.

So two weekends ago on a Sunday morning I overcame my fear (of the unknown) and spent two hours, together with three other students, learn about the basic principles of knife sharpening through Vancouver Chinatown’s Ai and Om Knives‘ ; the workshop was taught by local chef and shop owner Douglas Chang.

Ai and Om Knives carries a curated selection of Japanese knives and accessories; the first time I came across this specialty shop was actually through Instagram. When they opened last summer in August (official opening in October),  I paid a visit and purchased my treasured nakiri bocho , a Japanese knife specifically used for cutting vegetables.  My first experience at the store was very pleasant and positive so I subsequently subscribed to their newsletter.

I was truly elated when I saw their workshop schedule recently,  I signed up immediately through email without any second thoughts.

My Nakiri bocho, the perfect fit

On the day of we all brought their own knives for sharpening, fees were paid ($75.00 for the session) before the workshop started and  I also purchased the split whetstone (discount given to students who signed up) , I was a bit scared and I was all ready to go,  not knowing what to expect!  The workshop was taught at the back of the shop where our “sensei” (teacher) spent the first half explaining clearly the technical terms and principles; he later proceed with a demonstration and sufficient time was allocated for our own hands on practice.

I admit initially I was overwhelmed and didn’t know where to begin as there were just a lot of information to remember and understand; in the spur of the moment I decided not to overthink and calmly focus on what our “sensei” has explained earlier, breaking it down step by step (the precis writing skills acquired back in secondary school really helped to pick out the “Key” words and points) and slowly got into it.  Although the technicalities are very important, if we put all things aside, the process itself is actually very simple and rustic,  it just comes down to the knife, the stone, your own concentration and focus.

Personally at that moment the lesson transcended into something more enlightening, I was engaged in  a short “self-realization” journey, directing my own focus to be “in the moment” and learn how to appreciate the simplicities in life.  I found the process to be very calming and therapeutic, I enjoyed it tremendously, much to my own surprise.

I was enjoying the process and did not even think of the results until  it was time for the true test to see if I achieved what I was taught: to test and see if the knife will slice through paper effortlessly.  I was absolutely thrilled when my nakiri “swished” through the paper….. I was more excited about the fact that I overcame the fear of another “unknown” .

I am not going to get into the details of knife sharpening as I have only learnt the basics and currently digesting what I have learnt;  I assure you the session was informative and in the end you will be equipped with enough basic information to start sharpening your knives at home, and gained a better understanding of the art of knives and sharpening techniques. Hats off to local chef and owner Douglas Chang; he is very knowledgeable and articulate speaker who shows great patience and exerts a calming presence. Thank you very much for a very meaningful and eye-opening lesson.

My other thoughts on this experience: Never stop learning and practice definitely makes progress! Take good care of our kitchen tools will definitely help us to become more efficient with our meal preparations; improved efficiency will ease our minds, our focus will become clearer, and time will then be saved.

And time, perhaps is the most precious gift,  spending time together with family and friends is the true expression of love and care.

 

Note: Ai and Om Knives is located in the heart of Vancouver Chinatown, 129 East Pender Street.  Besides selling knives, they also carries a range of accessories , provide knife sharpening services and hosting workshops. Check their website for more details.

PS Note to my dear friend James; My knives will always be sharp from now on (OO).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 2017: Mangiamo bene in Settembre (We Eat Well in September)

 

Mangiamo Bene! Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella and figs, homemade salmon pate and bagna cauda, just a few of the dishes we enjoyed on our “Italian Night”

Over the Labour Day long weekend, I spent a wonderful Sunday evening with my pal James, hosting a group of our friends together at my home to our famous “Italian Night”.

For the past three years I always look forward to March and September when my dear friend James returns from Italy to Canada for a short visit; we have a semi-annual standing ” Italian cooking date”, a tradition which has a very special place in my heart.

Sweet and Special Delivery with love from Sabina, Casperia, Italy

Cooking and sharing with family and friends is the most beautiful way to celebrate relationships and bring people together.

That night we talked, we laughed, we cooked, we learnt and we shared; the memories we created together are priceless…

To my friends who joined us this time (you know who you are),  it was great seeing you all and catch up, Grazie!  And to our dear friends who missed the gathering this time (you also know who you are), we missed you.

To my dear friend and teacher James, I look forward to our next “date” in March, hope to continue this wonderful tradition for many years to come and one day we will be able to cook together in Italy…Alla Prossima…xxxooo

Remember the most important ingredients you will need to create a beautiful meal….Patience + Love + Kindness + Gratitude

Bagna Cauda: an aromatic “hot bath” for fresh vegetables and bread 

Have you ever had Bagna Cauda?  It is a dish originally from Piedmont, Italy.

Fresh market vegetables, both cooked and raw, are dipped into a flavourful warm sauce,  made of anchovies, olive oil, garlic and butter, enjoyed with scrumptious chunks of bread; this makes a wonderful sharing and wine-pairing dish for any dinner gathering, particularly during Fall Harvest Season.

I’ve only had this dish in restaurants twice here in Vancouver, once a few years ago enjoyed a Japanese “miso” version at Rajio (Izakaya on West 10th Avenue in beautiful Vancouver), and most recently a beautiful rendition at Osteria Savio Volpe.

Bagna Cauda (right) at Osteria Savio Volpe : my inspiration

It sounds very good already right?   The even better part, it is not difficult to make.

The key to make a beautiful bagna cauda is having the freshest ingredients and you are already halfway there; the rest involves a lot of meticulous cleaning and chopping! Oh one more thing… a fondue pot will be handy to keep the sauce warm.  I actually didn’t have the pot, so I just heated up the sauce right before dinner starts so it was ready to go when we were ready to eat!

I have roughly based the sauce recipe on Epicurious;  for my version I have reduced the quantity of the butter and anchovies (trying to be more health conscious by reducing the fat and salt intake).  Once you type in “Bagna Cauda”, you will be able to find many different versions for this classic Italian recipe (see also Food52  detailed write-up on its background and recipe).

Ingredients for dipping sauce: 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature), 6 – 8 cloves of garlic (chopped), 8 – 10 anchovies fillets.

Preparation: Blend the anchovies, garlic and olive oil in the blender until smooth.

Pour mixture into a medium saucepan and over medium low heat, cook the sauce for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Cook until the garlic becomes fragrant, you must pay lots of attention garlic burns easily, you don’t want to brown it.  Before removing from the heat, stir in the butter until blended nicely.

Taste and season with pepper (if you like) and sea salt (if necessary, remember anchovies are quite salty).

Serve raw or cooked vegetables and bread; I prepared a tray of fresh vegetables (picture below) purchased from the farmer’s market: a selection of beans, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, cauliflower and peppers.

My version of Bagna Cauda: All the goodness in a Huge bowl – Fresh in season vegetables purchased at the Farmers Market

Stringozzi with Peas, Pistachios and mint sauce 

We put all our friends hard at work this time making Stringozzi together!

Stringozzi is an Italian “peasant” pasta,  the shape of the noodles resemble shoelaces; all you need is water and some finest Italian “00” flour (we used “Caputo 00 flour” – see Saveur’s magazine article) 

The noodle making process involves everyone’s participation; our “pasta master” James mixed  the flour and water and we help a little to knead the dough.  The dough is then put in the refrigerator to rest (wrapped in plastic wrap tightly, rest for about 30 minutes to an hour).   We then take turns pulling the dough until it smooth (this is the most physically demanding part) and you can feel the “elasticity”.     When the dough is ready, we cut into small pieces and divided it amongst our group to “roll” out the pasta by hand.   We have to sprinkle a little flour on the noodles when we gather them together to keep them from sticking together.  The noodles are actually quite delicate and a bit chewy, my friends said they resemble a little like ‘handmade’ udon.

Prepare a large pot of salted boiling water to cook the pasta, the noodles actually cook quickly (just a few minutes) and you have to stir a little while cooking.  Do not “crowd” the pot by putting too much noodles all at once.

When the noodles are cooked 3/4s of the way through, transfer to the large pan already filled with the sauce of your choice, toss gently together and let the noodles to finish cooking through.  Please DO NOT toss out the pasta water, you will need to use it to adjust the thickness of the sauce.

Kneading, pulling, rolling and now ready to cook!

My friend James created a “pesto” sauce – a mixture of sweet gorgonzola, peas (we used frozen), basil and pistachios, all blended together smoothly in the food processor.  The sauce was transferred and cooked in a very large pan, use the pasta water to adjust the thickness of the sauce, when pasta was almost ready toss them into the pan and mix well, let the noodles cook through.

In the past we have created Stringozzi all’amatriciana (click to see recipe on Serious Eats – Tomatoes (preferred San Marzano), guanciale, red pepper flakes, wine and pecorino romano cheese ) which is one of my all time favourite.

Peas, mint, sweet gorgonzola and pistachio “Pesto” with Stringozzi – Ricotta cheese can also be used for this pasta sauce.

Notes:

Unfortunately I don’t have a specific quantity for this pasta recipe; I came across a general recipe which is very similar to what we have created on this blog:  Madonnadelpiatto 

If you are ever interested in learning how to make pasta, my dear Italian friend Peter (Pastaboy) is a wonderful teacher, click on his name for more details.

Some of my go-to shopping places for Italian foods/ingredients in Vancouver: Cioffi’s, Bianca Maria (2469 E. Hastings, Vancouver), Les Amis Du Fromage and Oyama Sausage Co. 

 

 

 

 

 

August 2017: “Berry” Merry Summer

Strawberries have a very special place in my heart: remembering when I  was a kid and enjoyed very delicious strawberry french crepes for the first time in Hong Kong

On August 30th I will be on Ms. Deborah Moore’s radio show on Fairchild 1470, 1030 am sharp.

For more recent updates; follow me on Instagram: @mygoldenapron

Crescents – shadows cast through the trees, a bit moon like, a bit bat like…Picture taken at Olympic Village after the peak time for eclipse viewing on August 21st

From Richmond to Langley:  Birak Berry Farm (4200 No. 6 Road, Richmond):

During the BC Day Long weekend, my friend “Kanekic”  brought me along on a short tour at Birak Berry Farm with the owner.

We didn’t go berry picking, however it was fascinating to learn about the berry farming business briefly over a 1 hour short tour.  She was very nice and patient and answered many of my questions related to berry varieties, seasonality, harvesting, equipment and processing; the entire operation is very extensive and more complex than I ever imagined!   We went home with really sweet strawberries and blueberries; thank you very much again for the wonderful time and delicious berries.

The farm is open to public for berry picking, for information please check the BC Strawberry growers Association website.

Visit to Birak Berry Farm in Richmond; Thanks Kanekic for bringing me along! This photo was selected by Tourism Richmond and included in their album on Facebook. Thanks Visit Richmond!

Strawberry and Waffles at Krause Berry Farm (6179 248 Street, Langley, BC)

Two weekends ago I finally made it to Krause Berry Farm! As it is already the tail end of berry picking season, we only went for a short time to enjoy their delicious strawberries (Sweet) and waffles (Picture below, reduced whipped cream (trying to be good)) at their outdoors dining patio. The line up was quite long but the friend worked so efficiently we didn’t really have to wait long!  The waffles were crispy, however I would definitely ask to have the toppings on the side next time.   We quickly walked through their wine tasting room and spent a little time in their shop which is filled with goodies from their farm and a nice selection of kitchen ware (Danger zone for me!).  The ambience is warm and friendly, I will definitely make it back much earlier next year. For their offerings and year-round schedule, visit their website for more information.

Strawberries and waffles…and I asked for less whipped cream…
Fruit Wines and Sparkling at their Tasting Room

Premium Rice Donburi and Affordable Omakase at Tetsu Sushi Bar ( 775 Denman Street, Vancouver, BC)

Unagi Donburi: Love their premium rice!

Tetsu sushi bar is a 14-seat Japanese sushi restaurant located on Denman Street (at Robson); I was first introduced to this small gem by my friends J and VG (A Big Thank you to both of you!).   The experienced owners used to work in a well-known Japanese restaurant in Richmond; opened since April, lately this little gem is slowly building up their reputation and gaining some attention from local food lovers.

This friendly little place offers an extensive menu of cooked foods and very good quality sushi at reasonable pricing; their lunch sets in particular I find are of great value and the food quantity is in line with their pricing.

I have been to Tetsu on a few occasions for lunch and dinner, I am honestly hooked on their premium rice, which is only offered when you order their donburi (my personal fave is the unagi don).  The aroma is enticing (I think I smelled konbu), the texture is not sticky, and you can pick up and taste each grain.  My other favourite item on their menu is the Yamaimo salad with plum dressing, which adds an interesting flavor to the salad (I love Japanese dried plums and use them quite often in my cooking) and tastes so refreshing.

They also offer omakase dinners (basic start at $45.00 per person) which includes 3 kinds of appetizer, 5 piece daily sushi, inaniwa udon (cold or hot) and ice cream. For additional costs you can upgrade to premium 5 piece or 7 piece daily sushi;  follow them on  @tetsusushibar_van.

We shared many dishes including an upgraded premium omakase which includes the bluefin tuna (a very guilty indulgence I admit); the fish were very fresh and clean tasting.

The space has a very humble and neighbourhood feel, as seating is limited, it is more suitable for small gathering (4 at most to sit comfortably) and it is better to call ahead to make reservations.

Cold Inaniwa udon – a separate order! We had the hot udon with the omakase.
Guilty – otoro, hirashi, houbou, aji and uni

Found on Instagram: Temaki Sushi on Arbutus:

I didn’t even know this restaurant existed until recently I saw postings popping up through Instagram.

I saw a very enticing sushi lunch picture on Instagram posted by a renowned Vancouver chef,  so I decided to have lunch at Temaki Sushi one Friday afternoon.

Their in-house chef known as @sushi_hil  has posted a lot of delicious sashimi pictures on Instagram, showcasing his skill and the offerings from the restaurant.

I was skeptical and nervous when I first walked in, the decor is nothing like a typical Japanese eatery.

It was a very busy lunch hour; I was greeted and seated promptly by a friendly staff.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect, I looked over the Specials Board and decided to go with what I have seen on Instagram (gut feeling), so I went with the nigiri sushi special, 8 pieces priced at $28.00. The fish was very fresh, there was offering of fresh wasabi (for a small additional cost) and the sauce for the aburi was light; this is definitely a personal preference as I am not keen on anything which is too heavy-handed.

When I finished my lunch and asked for the bill, I met another server (her name is Ellen) who was very friendly and started to chat with me, asking for feedback and tell me more about the background of the restaurant and its owners.

We often read a lot of reviews and ask for recommendations before we try out a new restaurant; often we would go in with a certain level of preconceived notion; if there is one lesson to be learnt – everyone deserves a chance.

Nigiri sushi lunch special – 8 pieces including aburi sushi

Cake Decorating Supplies in Langley: Scoop-n-Save 

Past weekend I spending time with my friends in Langley and they brought me to Scoop and Save , a cake decorating supplies store.

Although I am not a baker, I am very impressed with their selection of baking supplies, their staff were very friendly and helpful!

 

Thanks Rita for showcasing the cookie cutters

 

July 2017 : Oh My Time Flies

Beautiful evening at Iona Beach Park

Oh my it is almost the end of July and I have been on “hiatus” since late May!  I just cannot believe three months have gone by already since I left my full-time job; particularly the past two months it has been a trying period, adjusting to changes in routines, schedules and lifestyle.  While I am still contemplating and planning exactly what I will be doing next, I am very glad I took a leap of faith and go on this much needed break (OO).

How’s your summer so far? I have been enjoying my “staycation” here in Vancouver, summer time is the best season to stay here!   The past two months were filled with out-of-town friends visits, which is the perfect excuse (as if I need any) to go around town searching for new attractions and good eats!  I believe if you are at least 90% good most of the time with your regular diet, there is a little room for other enjoyment and occasional indulgences.

On Wednesday July 26th I will be back on Ms. Deborah Moore’s program on Fairchild Radio 1470 1030am sharp; thank you in advance for tuning in!  I also want to thank my audience who take their time to send me email (goldenapron@gmail.com) with questions or suggestions, I really love to hear from you!

 Brisk Walking activity at Iona Beach Regional Park  (Richmond) and Pacific Regional Park Trail (Vancouver – UBC) – (Easy Trails)

Brisk walking is our favourite outdoor activity during the summer months; one of our favourite places to visit is Iona Beach regional Park (picture above); the jetty unmarked trail stretches 4 km (one way) along the mouth of Fraser River and it is a very easy walk.  We love to go particularly in the evening to catch the beautiful sunset and evening breeze; during the day there are sightings of herons along the way.  The jetty trail is a open area so it may get a little windy at times, so you must go prepared with proper outdoor gear and lots of sun protection.

Sunset at Iona Beach: planes flying into Vancouver Airport for Landing

Recently we decided to re-discover the UBC area and on one hot Saturday afternoon, we went for an easy hike in the forest at the Pacific Spirit Regional Park, located at the UBC Endowment Lands (5495 Chancellor Road, Vancouver, BC).  The trail gate is located at West 16th next to Camosun Park, the network of trails contained in more than 750 hectares of forest.  Free parking is available along West 16th Avenue, the signs inside the forest are very easy to follow and it is a very popular trail amongst local residents.    It is advisable to check the map to predetermine your route and decide how far you would like to go, and mark the location of the park’s exits.  We lost track of our direction and “exited” so far off , we ended adding a lot more steps to our count, trekking along 16th Avenue (lol).

Cooling down in the forest – Pacific Spirit Regional Park

Asian Cuisines and Small Eateries in Vancouver:

Delicious Pad Thai and Friendly Service: Sen Pad Thai at Granville Island (1666 Johnston Street – inside Loft, across from Public Market)

Sen pad Thai is the newest addition to award-winning Chef Angus An’s roster (Maenam, Freebird, Longtail Kitchen, Fat Mao Noodles) in Greater Vancouver. Located inside the Net Loft across from Public Market, this wonderful fast food stall opened in May 2017, the menu offer different pad thai dishes, variety of Thai small bites and drinks.

The pad thai was meticulously prepared, filled with really fresh ingredients and “Wok Hei” (breath of the wok) – a term which refers to flavors and tastes imparted by a hot wok for stir fry dishes!  It was hot (fresh from the wok), tangy (from the tamarind), bright (juice from the generous slice of lime), crunchy (peanuts and fresh sprouts) and smooth ( noodles and eggs were cooked perfectly); for those who love to add more spiciness, the condiments are ready for your perusal on their counter.  The staff was friendly and helpful; if you are unsure what you would like to try, just ask them for recommendations (which I did for my second visit) and they will happily oblige.   Because the dishes are prepared “a la minute”, there is a little bit of a wait time and it is all worth while.  Tables are located near the stand, or you may just want to bring your tasty noodle box outdoors, enjoy an authentic Thai dish and the fine Vancouver weather at the same time.

http://www.senpadthai.com

Classic pad thai with tamarind: authentic and fresh tasting

A lot of small eateries have been popping up lately in Vancouver, scattered all around our beloved city in different districts; the latest addition at the edge of Gastown is a Korean eatery named Haru Korean Kitchen (324 Cambie Street, next to the ever popular Meat and Bread (Porchetta sandwiches!). 

Namul Vegetable Bibimbap and Their House special Cold noodle (with wasabi sauce) and a side order of pork belly; Special came with “ban chan” (egg, potato salad, kimchi)

Three weeks ago I paid a visit with my little friend JT who loves to eat Korean food; we shared a namul vegetable bibimbap with gochujang and their house special cold vegetarian soba set (bibim guksu) with lots of fresh vegetables in a wasabi sauce, came with a small plate of steamed pork belly  .  Our favourite was definitely the noodle which was so refreshing and the wasabi added a nice little “kick” to the citron soy sauce. Their menu is very home style and simple, marking very clearly the choices (vegetarian/vegetarian option/spicy) and sauce options (gochujang, gang doenjang (miso) and citron soy sauce) are available.  The service was adequate (small restaurant with less help and it’s fairly new), reservations available (which is very rare these days) and I would love to return sometime to try their bingsoo and other korean family classics (japchae).

http://www.harukoreankitchen.com

Lunch BBQ at Dolpan Korean BBQ Restaurant ( 3779 Sexsmith Road, Richmond)

http://www.dolpanbbq.com

With mostly homestyle Korean eateries popping up in the Greater Vancouver area, it is quite a change to see the opening of a small authentic Korean BBQ restaurant in Richmond.  Located inside the Continental Plaza shopping mall which is mostly filled with Chinese eateries, I wouldn’t have known about this little place if it is not because of Instagram; apparently Dolpan has been opened for a while!  If you wish to give this place a try, go for lunch as their lunch BBQ set is great value ($15 or $20 per person),  my favourite part is their servers actually help to cook the meat at your table!  I had the pork set (jowl/belly) with lettuce wrap and it came with very delicious side dishes (potato, kimchi radish).  Other hot plates (pre-cooked meats in kitchen) and Army Based hotpots (budae jjigae) seem to be very popular amongst the lunch diners; service was prompt and attentive, reservations are available.

Volcano egg and BBQ meat (pork set): My first visit for dinner with my friend JT

Sunday brunching at MaknMing (1629 Yew Street, Vancouver) 

http://www.maknming.com

Chefs Makoto Ono and Amanda Cheng’s MaknMing in Kitslano is now open for brunch on Sundays till September 03rd, 2017;  this “small team big heart” eatery which opened at the end of 2016 is quickly becoming my newest favourite brunch spot:  I have tried their special Lobster Hollandaise Eggs Benedict which I wanted to purchase a “bucket” of the flavorful and silky smooth hollandaise to take home; on a separate visit I had their “wickedly” clever indulgence, the Krispee Challah french toast (rice krispies in the batter, served with toasted coconut blueberry compote and honeycomb)….speechless and in awe with their creativity!  Their brunch menu is finely edited with a few items, I do recommend bringing a few friends and order different plates to share. The service is impeccable (Thanks Christina for your recommendations), parking could be a little bit of a challenge however it is so close to Kits beach, so park anywhere, enjoy the fabulous brunch and walk it off afterwards (OO).

Cheers! Special Ice Tea and I love how the “oversized” ice cube
Lobster Hollandaise with spot prawn Eggs Benedict….Special on their menu and I want a bucket of the sauce…
Krispee Challah French Toast with toasted coconut, honey comb and blueberry compote

Desserts Desserts Desserts: “Mochiffle” at Baker and Table (6414 Fraser Street) and “Little Plant” from Bubble Bear Cafe (8051 Granville Street, Vancouver)

If you have been following my blog and instagram, you will know I love savory foods and rarely eat desserts (I did bake a cheesecake with my friends over the weekend, my first!).  I recently found these two desserts which I quite enjoy: Mochiffle from Baker and Table (remember the little bakery cafe which I mentioned a couple months ago?) and “Little Plant” Egg Custard pudding from Bubble Bear Cafe (Bubble Tea place on Granville opened a few months ago); the mochi-waffle combination is addictive and it is gluten free, it has a very nice chewy bite and you must add the ice-cream and the red bean!  As for the egg custard pudding, I really like the texture of the soft silky pudding and oreo bits (looks like “dirt” hence the name “little plant”.  Baker and Table’s owner Hitomi-san and Bubble Bear Cafe’s owners Maureen and Danny are very nice and helpful people, pay them a visit for lunch or snack and ask them for recommendations!  Baker and Table also offers vegetarian curry and sandwiches  (together with her famous melon pans and yuzu cheesecakes) , and Bubble Bear Cafe offers a small selection of delicious savoury bites (spicy wontons, meat floss egg rolls) and a variety of bubble teas and slushes (great for summer!) at very reasonable prices.

http://www.bakerandtablecafe.com

Bubble Bear Cafe – FB page available for menu and photos

Mochiffle with red beans and icecream from Baker and Table

 

“Little Plant” – light custard with Oreo sprinkles from Bubble Bear Cafe

 

 

July 2017 : Home Cooking SnapShots: Okra, Fish, Miso, Tomatoes and Udon

Oven Roasted Okra: sliced each okra lengthwise into halves and toss in sea salt and extra virgin olive oil, preheat oven to 400 degrees and roast for 15 minutes – Thanks Jo!

Here’s a snapshot of what I have been cooking the past two months..For updates follow me on Instagram (@mygoldenapron) and you will know first hand what I have been cooking and where I have been dining!

Roasting OKRA: I never thought of roasting okra until my dear sweet friend Jo showed me, sometimes we are just caught in our usual habits and don’t think about the most obvious options!  Since then I have been adding okras to our salads or enjoyed with our cooked fish, like the kasu-shio marinated halibut in shiitake, edamame, daikon and mustard leaves dashi broth… As for garnish, I have prepared some roasted kale (in place of seaweed) and pancetta bits.

Experiment at home: Shio Kasu Halibut, shiitake dashi with edamame, mustard green leaves, roasted okra and green onion, finished with roasted kale and pancetta bits

Remember sake kasu?   It’s the remaining lees from sake making and they have been available for sale at Japanese grocery stores (Fujiya in Vancouver) or Artisan Sake (at Granville Island, this is the one I use all the time).  For this dish, I added some salt and a little water to approximately 2 Tablespoons of kasu (water for slight thinning of mixture),  pat dry (really dry) the halibut filets and submerge them in the marinade for at least a day.  Before cooking, wipe the fish clean with paper towel to ensure there’s no kasu left (otherwise it will burn).  I baked my fish at 400F and finished with broiling the final two minutes (the cooking time varies pending on thickness of fish fillet).

Dashi broth: prepared with bonito flakes and kelp as base (search my archives for recipe), I added the shiitake mushroom stems, a couple of celery leaves (I kept them frozen and add to broth/stock making), a spoonful of sake kasu and a small chunk of daikon and let it cook for half an hour.  I strain the broth then add shiitake mushrooms, mustard green leaves, edamame beans (parboiled already) and season with sodium reduced soy, mirin and a little maple syrup (sugar for most of you), adjust accordingly to your taste and dietary needs always!  I prepared the pancetta and kale bits while broth is cooking, okra also roasted before and add-on together with green onion as garnish.   The cooked fish is lightly finished with fleur de sel.

The broth can be prepared ahead of time, when fish is about ready, reheat the broth and to serve, plate vegetables and fish in a regular or soup bowl, pour the broth, add the okra and green onions, kale and pancetta garnish last.  Enjoy!

Sakuraya: Last month I mentioned there is a Japanese grocery located on East Broadway (close to Fraser), they carry the organic dried mustard leaves and daikon leaves from a small village in Japan.  I re-hydrated the leaves and add to my dashi broth and they added so much flavor!  It has some glucose so remember to adjust your seasoning.

http://www.seafoodcitygi.com

Soy Dijon Mustard glaze chinook salmon with potato salad, green bean snow peas micro greens sea asparagus in ponzu vinaigrette:

Prepare glaze : sodium reduced soy sauce (2 Tablespoons), Dijon mustard (1 Tablespoon), olive oil (1-2 Tablespoons) and a little maple syrup.  Clean and pat dry the salmon filet and let it marinade for at least 30 minutes.  Remove the fish from marinade, scrape lightly so not much marinade will cling to the fillets (unless you like real browning action), and bake salmon in oven preheated in 350 F until desired doneness.  When you see any white spot appearing on the seams of the salmon filet, that means it should be done and well on its way to being very cooked.  While salmon is cooking, use a sauce pan and sautéed chopped shallots, add the marinade and cook until sauce boils and slightly thicken.

I used a store-bought ponzu and add good quality extra virgin olive oil, a little rice vinegar and ground pepper for the vinaigrette (2:1 ratio oil/soy, most vinaigrettes 3:1 ratio oil/acid, I prefer less oily).

As for the salad, basically anything goes!  I added the most delicious microgreens (West End Blend from Grown here farms purchased at August Market on Main Street in Vancouver), sea asparagus (In season for a short time in Vancouver, soaked overnight to get rid of the salt then blanched and shocked in ice, green beans and snow peas (also blanched and shocked in ice) .  I choose to use mostly organic products, use your imagination and add your favourite in season salad greens and vegetables to load more nutritious greens into your dish.

My potato salad is made of red potatoes, green onions, homemade relish mixed with half mayo (Lemon Ojai mayonnaise) and half greek yogurt, if you want to make it very Japanese, add kewpie mayonnaise.

http://www.thefishcounter.com

http://www.visaltco.com

http://www.eatlocal.org

http://www.augustmarket.ca

Tomato and Egg Udon: simple eats and tomatoes are in season!

One of my favourite all time Chinese family dish is converted into a soup base for udon; apparently tomato and egg noodle soup is a very popular dish in parts of China.  Taiwanese Chef James, well-known for his interpretation of Japanese cuisine, is now featured in cooking show filmed in China, I found on YouTube accidentally.  I modified his recipe and method by changing a couple of ingredients: The ingredient are simple : heirloom tomatoes, shallots, grated ginger (lots), green onion, filtered water, white pepper and a little maple syrup (you can use sugar) I used Japanese udon, omit cornstarch and tomato paste (it was used for thickening, instead I let the soup cook down to thicken).  The beaten egg is added in the end; if you have time, follow Chef James and make the eggs two ways.   Usually the noodles are eaten as “late night snack”, I had it for dinner and I find it perfect as a summer light supper.

 

Tomato Miso Nduja Bolognese with Udon

Remember a few months ago I talked about Nduja, the Italian spreadable spicy sausage? I changed things up a little – I mixed a little nduja and red miso into my own pork/turkey Bolognese sauce and had it with udon, garnish with roasted kale (salted and crushed to mimic seaweed) and it was a winner at my recent dinner gathering with my cooking buddies Jo, Phung and Rita.   The dish is a perfect marriage of Japanese and Italian ingredients; remember nduja and miso are both a little salty, you do not need to use much for seasoning.  The miso makes the sauce very hearty and meaty; if you have a good tomato sauce base, you can add the miso and serve it as a vegetarian dish with grilled eggplant. The nduja sausage spread adds a little spiciness, it is completely optional.  Experiment with your favourite meat sauce recipe and add these flavor profiles to your repertoire.

For both tomato udon dishes, the really thin udon noodles will not work as well.  I found this perfectly wonderful hand-cut dry udon at our local Fujiya Japanese food store.

Love the texture and thickness is perfect! It has a very good “bite”

 

 

 

 

May 2017: Home cooking Snapshots

 

Miso and Sake Kasu Sable fish, mixed vegetables (lotus root, burdock, broccoli and turnip leave) rice

Here are the snapshots of what I have been cooking at home this past month!  Recipes coming very soon.

For the time being you can find my other updates and pictures with description posted on Instagram (@mygoldenapron).

I would also love to hear your feedback so feel free to send me an email (goldenapron@gmail.com) or drop me a line through Instagram (OO).

Picture above: Sake Kasu Miso Sable Fish with Mixed vegetable (burdock, turnip leaves, lotus root and broccoli) rice:  the dried burdock, turnip and lotus root are from Japan, I found them at a local Japanese store).

Nduja spaghetti Bolognese (with basil sausage from Oyama sausage and Co) : Remember Nduja, the spicy sausage spread ? I added to my Bolognese recipe to spice things up a bit !

When Japanese meets Italian: Roast shio koji organic chicken, cauliflower broccoli penne pasta in lemon parsley herb drizzle, garnish with crispy kale bits and lemon zest.  It is very easy to make the herb drizzle: chives, parsley, lemon juice, grated lemon zest, extra virgin olive oil, drizzle of honey and pinch of sea salt.

Pan fried spot prawn with Thai red curry (store-bought paste, added fish sauce, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves)  served with lentil quinoa turmeric rice: since spot prawn season is over, you can substitute with other prawns/shrimp available for this dish).

Faux Unagi Donburi (Rice bowl): Orange roughy turned into unagi;  baked and glazed with homemade unagi sauce, scrambled dashi egg with green onions, on a bed of turmeric (just a touch) fresh peas and carrot rice, garnish with crispy kale bits (my current favourite garnish in place of seaweed)

 

Disclaimer: All ingredients are non-sponsored purchased at some of my preferred vendors in Vancouver, BC.  Pictures are my own and dishes are my creations based on what I have learned through cooking classes, reading cookbooks and research.

http://www.seafoodcitygi.com

http://www.petes-meat.com

http://www.artisansakemaker.com

http://www.visaltco.com

http://www.vankoji.com

http://www.oyamasauage.ca

http://www.cioffisgroup.com

Sakuraya Japanese Market (517 East Broadway, Vancouver, BC)

Bianca Maria Italian Foods (Nduja! – 2469 East Hastings, Vancouver, BC)