Really Short and Sweet: Banana Bread

Banana bread is one of those favourite and easy recipes that I keep going back to time and time again. I think there's something about the scent of bananas that boosts the butteriness of this quick bread and makes it so irresistible. It's completely delicious on its own, but this "deluxe" one is packed with chocolate chunks and walnuts too, just for extra oomph.

(Recipe after the jump)


Season's Eatings: The Christmas Feast

Well hello!! I've neglected this poor blog for long enough so it's nice to have time to post again. I hope everyone had an excellent food-filled holiday. I certainly did and had a great time cooking up a family feast on Christmas Day. It was actually the first time I made a whole turkey and to my relief, it worked out and we weren't stuck having pizza delivered for dinner.

Want to see it?

Ok. Don't laugh.

Errr, I know. This bird isn't particularly sexy, and it isn't going to be gracing the glossy pages of Food and Wine magazine anytime soon. But what it lacked in looks it made up for in taste. It's inner beauty that counts, isn't it? The turkey was filled with cinnamon steeped apples, onions and herbs before it was roasted. The aromatics steamed and flavored the meat so perfectly I don't think I will ever stuff a turkey with normal stuffing. Herb butter was also rubbed under the skin, which seeped into the meat and made it extra juicy. Delish.

Of course, the turkey was served with the works (cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing, roast vegetables and mashed potatoes). Unfortunately we got too excited to eat and the meal was quickly devoured before I got any photographic documentation. But the recipes are included below for reference.

The meal was topped off with a Buche de Noel. The cake is a traditional Christmas dessert made to look like a log used in winter solstice rituals. This rendition was made with a delicate flourless chocolate cake roll, inspired by roulade leontine. The inside was filled with hazelnut buttercream. The outside is usually covered with chocolate buttercream and textured by dragging a fork through so that the surface imitates tree bark. I wanted to pull out all the stops though, so I covered the top with flakes of dark chocolate bark. (To make the bark, temper about 1/2 lb chocolate and spread it thinly over a parchment lined baking sheet. Allow to set and break into pieces). To add to the disguise, the "log" was garnished with little meringue mushrooms. When it was finally all assembled, it looked like this:

Missing a little something though, right? Like, SNOW!

That's better. All in all, the Christmas feast went quite well. And good company only makes good food better.

(Recipes after the jump)


More from the "Are you kidding?" Hall o' Fame

Miz Paula Deen has most definitely gone off her rocker. How else could one explain her recipe for "Fried Butter Balls," which consists of breaded butter and cream cheese balls?

(I didn't make these, though I should. Perhaps I'll save it for April Fools' Day. I just thought this was too great not to share. That is all.)


Note: Sorry the recipe posts have been a little on the sparse side lately. They'll be back soon! The holiday season IS fast approaching after all... I can smell the turkey and gingerbread cookies already.

Paula's Fried Butter Balls


  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • Peanut oil, for frying


Cream the butter, cream cheese, salt and pepper together with an electric mixer until smooth. Using a very small ice cream scoop, or melon baller, form 1-inch balls of butter mixture and arrange them on a parchment or waxed paper lined sheet pan. Freeze until solid. Coat the frozen balls in flour, egg, and then bread crumbs and freeze again until solid.

When ready to fry, preheat oil in a deep-fryer to 350 degrees F.

Fry balls for 10 to 15 seconds until just light golden. Drain on paper towels before serving.

Image and recipe from Paula's Party at foodnetwork.com


Where to Eat: Amsterdam (Sweet Edition)

As the days get shorter and my to-do lists get longer (and longer), I find myself reminiscing on those perfect warm, sunny, "do-nothing" summer days. Well, maybe this past summer abroad was a little less "do-nothing" than usual, but I wish I could be back in Amsterdam, sitting by a canal eating a warm stroopwafel. Which brings me to the point of this post: I realize that I had forgotten to chronicle the sweeter half of my Amsterdam food adventure! But better late than never...

Dutch Pancakes-Pannenkoeken

These were at the top of my list of foods to try when in Amsterdam. I grew up eating dutch pancakes all the time at one of my favourite local spots but I had been dying to try the authentic version. These huge pancakes (big dinner plate sized beauties) are almost like crepes, but thicker and eggier. These are not to be confused with Dutch Baby pancakes (a.k.a. German pancakes) which are puffy and similar to popovers or Yorkshire pudding.

Speck and apple pannenkoen

Mine was a little sweet and a little savoury, courtesy of the speck (Dutch bacon) and apple. One of my travel companions ordered a "special" which was essentially a sugar overload. One of these can probably fill you up for the entire day, but save room for dessert because there are many more treats to be savoured...
(I bought a rather hefty box of pannenkoek mix as an edible souvenir. The results didn't taste as good, but at least it was a great way to share my travels with family back home.)

The "Special" (3 scoops of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, strawberries, chocolate on a huge pannenkoeken...hope you brought your appetite!)


These are like the pannenkoeken from above, but in baby sizes. I bought these at the Albert Cuypmarkt as part of my "walking lunch." They were a little on the dense and doughy side, but when hot, fresh and covered in chocolate syrup, butter, and powdered sugar these little gems are the perfect bad-for-you-but-delicious street food. They're also quite effective at speeding up post-herring recovery.

Dutch Apple Pie

I had not known that the Dutch were famous for their apple pies, but now I know why. Just look at it! Winkel is probably the best spot in town to see what I mean. The huge slices are deep dish, packed full of juicy tender apples and cinnamon. The crust is the true star though; more of a cookie texture than the typical flaky pastry. It is thick and buttery rich, with a nice sandy texture that stands up to the apples. If you ever visit Amsterdam, go to Winkel!! It is really nice to sit at one of their tables outside and people watch while you enjoy the best pie in town.


Thanks to their availability in many well-stocked supermarkets and even Starbucks locations in North America, stroopwafels are no longer completely foreign to, well, foreigners. In their packaged form, they are two thin, waffle-striped cookies sandwiching a sticky caramel in between; completely delicious and addictive. In my continued quest to search for original and authentic Dutch eats, I tracked down a few locations that still produced fresh stroopwafels.
Unfortunately, my first choice, which was a vendor at Albert Cuypmarkt, was not open when I got there. But, ever prepared, my backup bakery Lanskroon was ready and beckoning with its trays of thin, bronzed biscuits oozing with caramel. Because they were fresh, the contrast in texture was more noticeable than in the packaged versions. The cookie remained crisp while the caramel was molten and soft in between. I think I prefer the blending of textures and flavours of the packaged version, which is nice since they're easily accessible even when an entire ocean away.

And on that sweet note, the Amsterdam Where to Eat duo is finally complete!! Not only is Amsterdam an absolutely beautiful city, it has an equally attractive food culture.
(Whatever you do, please just remember to go get yourself some pie!)

Eat Here:

The Pancake Bakery
Prinsengracht 191-A

Albert Cuypmarkt
Albert Cuypstraat 67 HS

Noordermarkt 43

Singel 385

Images property of beetsandbites


Brown Swan: Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

Oh my.

Just look at it.

A thing of beauty, isn't it? Granted, it probably would have been a little prettier if the meringue was still snowy white like a traditional pavlova, but I like the chocolate in it. It gives the pavlova some character. A dark little twist.

The jury's still out on whether the "pav" was originally created in New Zealand or Australia. Wherever its origin, the dessert was created in the 1920s to honor the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, after one of her tours. It was said that the she "does not dance; she soars as though on wings," thus inspiring this delicate, airy creation.

This meringue-based dessert has a light, crisp crust and a meltingly marshmallow-y inside. The balsamic vinegar helps to keep the center soft; you cannot taste it once it is baked. The chocolate pieces remain gooey and molten even after the base cools. The meringue is then crowned with softly whipped cream and scattered with fruit.

Pavlovas are traditionally topped with passion fruit, probably because they are indigenous to Australia and New Zealand. In this version, raspberries are used since their pleasant tartness balances nicely with the sugary meringue. These bright red gems are also a classic pairing with chocolate.


Balancing Act: Thai Steak and Glass Noodle Salad

Thai cooking is all about balance, which is true for many Asian cuisines (and cultures, I suppose. Something about that whole yin and yang concept...) Like good music, a dish works when all its elements blend harmoniously. On the other hand, contrast is also important to keep it from being too bland and one-note.

Take this salad for example. The sweet honey, sour lime, and salty fish sauce in the dressing mingles with the mellow warmth of the chili flakes. It coats and blends the flavours of the noodles and fresh vegetables. But the coolness of the noodles, heat of the steak, and crunch of the cashews ensure that your diners are anything but bored after a few bites.

This delicious salad is perfect for a refreshing dinner during the last fleeting moments of summer. Satisfaction (although not Enlightenment) guaranteed.


Pig Tales: Pulled Pork and Cornbread Waffles

While there are plenty of fanatics out there that treat barbecue like a religion, I am no expert. I do know, however, that I like pulled pork and the cornbread that it is often served with. I have also found a tasty way to serve the two together with a twist.

Pulled pork is great for using up tough and relatively inexpensive cuts of pork shoulder (or Boston butt). Long, slow cooking breaks down the meat so that it becomes meltingly tender. After, it is shredded ("pulled") and sometime served mixed with barbecue sauce.

Oftentimes, "real" pulled pork is slowly smoked for several hours. Since I did not have a personal smoker at my disposal, I used a non-traditional method instead, which used a slow cooker and root beer! I think the root beer added just the right spiciness to the meat when it finished cooking and somehow tenderized it as well. It adds some sweetness to the pork so make sure the barbecue sauce you use is not too sweet as well, or you may end up with a porky dessert.

Actually, the concept of a porky dessert may not be too far off, because the pulled pork will be served on top of waffles. And trust me, there is an excellent reason for this.

Personally, I think the crust of cornbread is the best part. Whenever I make a pan of it, I could very easily just cut off the golden brown top and eat it all. But that wouldn't be fair, would it, since most people I know want that same part.

Luckily, I discovered that baking the cornbread batter into a waffle iron solves this problem. The result? Practically all crunchy brown crust (more than on a cornmeal pancake), and everybody may indulge selfishly. No sharing required.


Tiramisu Redux

Tiramisu is one of my go-to desserts. It is definitely a crowd pleaser with its luscious layers of chocolate, espresso, and mascarpone cheese. In fact, it was the very first food post on this blog.

This time, I made it as a charlotte. The cake mold was lined with ladyfinger biscuits and then filled with the custard. This recipe made a filling that was firm enough to be free-standing when unmolded. This version of tiramisu makes a delicious and unexpected birthday cake.


Not Your Average Tuna Casserole: Spaghetti al Tonno

For me, canned tuna is one of those love-hate foods. All too often it brings back memories of smelly lunch box sandwiches and congealed noodle casseroles. While it is convenient and nutritious (in moderation, due to reportedly high mercury levels), it can also be very dry and rubbery.

At least, this was the case until I discovered oil packed tuna. High quality canned tuna is unlike the fishy, tough cat food that you find in many water packed cans. The meat comes in large, moist flakes and are completely pleasant straight from the can. A few recommended brands are Genova and Progresso, but I find oil packed tuna will taste better than their watery counterparts of any brand.

This is one of the most delicious and simple pastas you can make with pantry ingredients. The lemon and capers cut any residual fishiness from the tuna, as well as adding a salty, zesty freshness to the pasta. The flavours actually come from a classic Sicilian combination as fresh fish, citrus, and capers are native to the region.

The pangrattato on top is a crunchy play on the crisp top of a baked tuna noodle casserole.

If you are still haunted by fishy sandwiches of your childhood, give canned tuna another chance in this delicious pasta. You won't be disappointed.


Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer: Black Forest Cake

Black Forest Cake (or Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte) is a South German dessert, usually prepared with sour cherries and kirsch (cherry brandy). Not all Black Forest Cakes are created equal, although they all contain some combination of cherries, chocolate and cream. The cake base in this version is an ethereally light chocolate chiffon sponge. Since it is prepared with oil rather than butter, it stays beautifully spongy and soft, even after a thorough chilling in the fridge. The cake is filled with canned dark cherries. (Yes, canned. I find them sweeter, juicier, and... cherry-er than fresh cherries. You also don't need to pit them!) I think it's the juicy tartness that cuts the mellow, rich flavour of cocoa, which can get boring in a plain chocolate cake. If time allows, let the assembled cake sit in the fridge for a few hours before you serve it; the flavours mingle and improve over time.

Unfortunately, I decided to make this at the height of a summer heat wave. Whipped cream gets unstable in the heat, and attempting to cover a cake with a mixture of milk and air gets tricky when the kitchen is over 25C. Things got a little precarious as the cream started sliding around, but here are a few quick tips for frosting with whipped cream:

-Keep things COLD. Whip the cream in a bowl and beaters that have been chilled in the freezer. Keep the bowl in a sink of ice water while you're working with it. Chill the cake as well before you ice it. Pop everything in the freezer for a few minutes if things start melting. I also cooled my hands in the ice water before handling the piping bag.

-Stabilize the cream. Many recipes call for whipping melted gelatin into the cream (1 teaspoon, bloomed and melted, to 1 cup of whipping cream), but this can be tricky. If the gelatin is too cold, it will form lumpy globs before it becomes uniformly mixed into the cream. If it's too hot, it will melt the cream, making it difficult to get peaks. Use the gelatin when it's on the warm side of room temperature.

-An alternative to gelatin is a starch stabilizer. The cream won't be as firm as if you used gelatin but the starch is much easier to use. Dr. Oetker's "Whip It" is a stabilizer that can be found in most well-stocked grocery stores. It doesn't change the flavour of the cream at all, but stops it from separating over time.

-Use a whipping cream with a high milk fat (% M.F.) content. Cream with a fat content higher than 30% qualifies as whipping cream. It can get as high as 40%, although this tends to be difficult to find. I used a 36% cream.

-Last but not least, avoid working with whipped cream on the hottest day of the year, if you can help it...


Pasta Carbonara, Deconstructed

While the ingredients that make up this pasta are deceptively simple, the flavours are anything but. It's not surprising that it all works together so harmoniously; the egg+cheese+bacon combination is classic, after all.

Here, the salty porkiness of the pancetta is brightened by aromatic garlic and gentle heat of chili flakes. Echoing another classic, asparagus spears served with a soft boiled egg for dipping, the pasta is dressed with a fried egg with a runny yolk. The silkiness of the egg yolk brings everything together so well that you don't even need to make a sauce!

Pancetta is salt cured and spiced pork belly. It's like an Italian bacon. I prefer its flavour over the smokier streaky bacon for this use, but whatever you have on hand is fine.

This is perfect as a lunch you can whip up from ingredients you keep in the pantry. Ten minutes is all that's needed for deliciously satisfying "fast food."


Where to Eat: Amsterdam (Savoury Edition)

If you have been a regular reader of this blog, you would know that one of my absolute favourite restaurants in Vancouver is the Dutch Wooden Shoe Café. It would come as no surprise, then, that one of the top reasons for my recent visit to Amsterdam was to sample Dutch specialties. And oh my, was I more than satisfied.

Indonesian Cuisine

Historically, Indonesia was a Dutch colony. And wonderfully, the spices and the cuisine itself were incorporated from the Far East into the Dutch diet. Today, Amsterdam remains as one of the best places to get Indonesian cuisine outside of Indonesia itself.

The rijsttafel, or rice table, is one of the most famous dining experiences in a Dutch Indonesian restaurant. A Dutch invention, the grand meal consists of rice, along with dozens of small dishes. Many restaurants in Amsterdam offer the rijsttafel, and although it usually is the most expensive option on the menu, it is a great way of sampling many different traditional dishes.
There is a large range of great restaurants to choose from, from casual takeout hole-in-the-wall type joints, to white table cloth-ed fine dining establishments. I chose Tujuh Maret which was somewhere in the middle of the scale. The food was delicious and affordable.

Since I was on a tight budget, I forwent the rijsttafel and ordered some simpler dishes instead. I had had other versions of these dishes before, and it was interesting to compare. I ordered a nasi goreng (fried rice), bami goreng (fried noodles), and chicken satay (skewers). While I was used to the rice and noodle dishes having meat and vegetables in them, here they were purely side dishes. They had the perfect level of spiciness to accompany the chicken. The chicken was covered in an unbelievably richly flavoured peanut sauce, and topped with fragrant, crispy fried garlic.

If I had had more time in the city, I would have happily returned for another meal and some more unique dishes, but my dinner at Tujuh Maret was satisfying nonetheless.

Patates frites

French fries, chips, frites, patates, whatever you call them, crispy fried potato strips are quintessential street food common to many cities in Europe. Of course, every city puts its own twist on its version as well. Vleminckx has long been known for the best patates in Amsterdam. Conveniently located in the city centre, it dishes out fresh Flemish style (twice-fried) potatoes in traditional paper cones to tourists and locals every day. Unlike the frites I had in Brussels, patates in Amsterdam tend to be salted. I love curry, and decided to try the curry ketchup this time around. The sauce was nicely spicy and tangy, and went well with the potatoes. (It is also much more figure-friendly than the usual generous glob of mayonnaise.) While I think the frites from Maison Antoine had a better crispy, crunchy, fluffy texture, Vleminckx came in at a close second.
Another Dutch twist on patates and its Indonesian food heritage is patat oorlog or “war fries.” Crispy hot frites are topped with mayonnaise, peanut satay sauce, and sometimes ketchup or, in my case, onions. I knew I had to hunt it down after Lonely Planet named it one of the most delicious street foods in the world. I happily ran across a stand selling patat oorlog at the Waterlooplein market, just around the corner from the Rembrandthuis. While it sounds a little strange, I highly recommend giving it a try. It is now one of my favourite frites versions.

Haring-Raw HerringI sampled this traditional Amsterdam snack at the famous Albert Cuypmarkt in the name of foodie research. And in all honesty, it was not the most delicious item I had on my trip. The texture is smooth and a little chewy, much like sashimi, only fishier. You could get them in a sandwich form (a broodje), or alone with pickles and raw onion (thank goodness for chewing gum...) The bread may make it a little more palatable, and it really is not as unpleasant as it sounds. I just thought there were plenty of other wonderfully delicious things to eat. If you're feeling adventurous though, do give it a try!
Stay tuned for the sweet edition, including Dutch pancakes, apple pie, and more!

Where to Eat:

Tujuh Maret
Utrechtsestraat 73
1017 VJ Amsterdam, Nederland

Tempo Doeloe (also great Indonesian, fine dining setting, next door to Tujuh Maret)
Utrechtsestraat 75
1017 VJ Amsterdam, Nederland

Voetboogsteeg 33, 1012 XN Amsterdam

Albert Cuypmarkt
Albert Cuypstraat 67 HS
1072 CN Amsterdam, Nederland

Waterlooplein square

Images property of beets andbites


Where to Eat: Brussels

Any city with a "Butter Street" gets instant respect

If you are looking for a beautiful city with great food for your next vacation, put Brussels on your list. I didn't have much time to venture far for my meals, so these are all located in accessible areas close to the main attractions.

Rue au Beurre living up to its name at La Cure Gourmande

Confections at Elisabeth Chocolates

Traditional Belgian Fare:

Chez Leon

This popular restaurant is located on the touristic, restaurant lined Rue des Bouchers. However, don't let the location dissuade you from enjoying a meal here; the food is well-prepared and reasonably priced. I tried Lapin à la Kriek (rabbit with cherry beer) and Moules Frites (mussels with fries). The rabbit was mild and lean (a little like, well, chicken). While I couldn't taste the beer in the sauce, the flavour was given a boost with fresh cherries. Moules Frites is another classic Belgian dish. As soon as the lid of the cast iron pot was removed, a cloud of steam carried the oceany scent of mussels, perfumed with white wine and shallots. The fries were nothing to write home about (better ones to come) but it was a delicious meal overall.

Lapin à la Kriek

Moules Frites
Le Roy d'Espagne
The greatest attraction of this restaurant is the atmosphere. It is located right on the Grand Place square. It is both cavernous yet cozy, and if you're lucky enough to get one of the window seats upstairs, you get great views of the square. The food is decent, traditional Belgian fare. In general, dishes are simple and casual. Sausage stoemp is a sausage served with mashed potatoes and vegetables. The Liege meatballs were also served with mashed potatoes. They are prepared with Belgian apple syrup, which made them a bit sweet for my taste. My one complaint is the tell-tale dryness on the top of the mashed potatoes; evidence of hasty reheating.
P.S. The Kriek beer is highly recommended. The cherry beer is red, lightly sweet and completely delicious.

Frites (Fries)

Maison Antoine
This famous frites stand has been churning out the BEST frites in Brussles for 58 years. I think their secret may have something to do with the beef fat they twice-fry their frites in. What's so special about plain ol' fries, you ask? The best ones have perfect, coppery edges with golden yellow sides. The outside must be crunchy, but also light and crisp, with a fluffy interior. They are so flavorful they don't need salt. Just a dab of mayonnaise (or any other sauce you choose from their extensive menu). The stand is located in a square a little ways away from the main tourist attractions, but their incredible frites were well worth my trek through the pouring rain.

Would you like fries with that?

Gaufres (Waffles)

Maison J. Dandoy

It is virtually impossible to travel in Brussels without running into a waffle stand. They are literally everywhere (just like the Belgian chocolate stores). I tried several waffles, but J. Dandoy's were the tastiest, in my opinion.Their Liege waffle is chewy and dense with a bread-like texture. The special pearl sugar used to make the waffles create a lovely crunchy texture when it melts and caramelizes against the hot iron.

Grab and go: Gaufre de Liege

The Brussels waffle is a complete contrast. It is light and crispy, with a moist, eggy interior. I would advise against overwhelming your waffle with fruit and cream and sauce; a light dusting of powdered sugar is all that is necessary.

Eat Here!

Chez Leon
Rue des Bouchers 18, 1000 Bruxelles, België

Roy d'Espagne
Grand-Place 1/A, 1000 Bruxelles, België

Maison Antoine
Jourdanplein, 1040 Etterbeek, België

Maison J. Dandoy
Rue au Beurre 31, 1000 Bruxelles, België


Where to Eat: Germany

While Germany is not exactly synonymous with world famous cuisine, there definitely are a few outstanding traditional dishes. If you're a meat n' potatoes and/or beer fan, you will be extremely content dining in Germany. Since I was only there for three days, I stuck to the most well-known dishes at a few brauereis (or brewhouses) that came highly recommended. Each has its own house beer, often brewed on the premises.

In Dusseldorf:
Brauerei im Fuchschen

If you visit Dusseldorf, you will probably end up in Altstadt or the "old town." Rather than dining at one of the tourist-packed restaurants in the centre of the area, walk a little further north to Brauerei im Fuchschen.Tucked away on a quiet street, this brauerei has been serving up impeccably prepared traditional German dishes since 1848. The clientele is a pleasant mix of locals and food-savvy visitors. The service is friendly and brisk. The Farmer's Sausage with Potato Salad was nothing extraordinary. But the Leg of Pork with Red Cabbage and Apple and Boiled Potato (Schweinehaxe mit Apfelbotkohl und Salzkartoffeln) was delicious. Come hungry-- I attracted a lot of attention at our long communal table as the server set down the plate with a massive piece of pork as large as my head. Cracking through the crisp, roasted skin released the mouthwatering pork-y steam. The meat was tender and perfectly seasoned. While I'm not usually a fan of cabbage, this side dish was stewed with apples and bay so it was lovely and sweet, almost jam-like. Needless to say, the meal left me incredibly full and satisfied.

In Cologne:
Bei Oma Kleinmann
This small brauerei is famous for schnitzel. Schnitzel is traditionally Austrian and made by pounding thin a piece of pork, beef, or (traditionally) veal, dredging it in breadcrumbs, and frying it until golden brown and delicious. Our friendly waiter recommended the Jager Art, which is schnitzel with creamy mushroom gravy. The meat was slightly tough in the center, but the crust was perfectly crunchy and not at all greasy. The gravy was packed with fresh mushrooms and intensely perfumed with wine.We were lucky to encounter asparagus season in Germany, which runs around mid-April to June. Germans prefer white asparagus over the green variety common to North American markets. Our plate of spargel were simply steamed and served with a delicious parsley packed sauce. Although they were fairly thick stalks, they were not at all stringy, and delicately sweet.When I first heard about this restaurant, happy patrons reported that there was a real live grandmother (Oma Kleinmann!) working in the kitchen. I do not have a German grandmother to cook for me, so I was instantly drawn to this restaurant. Sadly, our waiter informed us that she is not longer able to work at the restaurant. However, I can report that the food is still comforting and delicious, just like grandma made.

Merzenich is not a brauerei but a bakery chain. There are branches dotted around Cologne. After a long day of sightseeing, I was starved and bought two sugar-coated jelly doughnuts called berliners from their sidewalk stand. While it just tastes like a yeast doughnut, I remember hearing an urban legend about berliners in a history class years ago.President John F. Kennedy allegedly said, "Ich bin ein Berliner" in a 1963 speech made in West Berlin. He had intended to say, "I am a Berliner," as in a person from Berlin. But instead of saying, "Ich bin Berliner," he added the "ein," thereby claiming, "I am a jelly doughnut."

Eat Here:

Brauerei im Fuchschen
Ratinger Straße 32
40213 Düsseldorf, Deutschland

Bei Oma Kleinmann
Zülpicher Straße 9
50674 Köln, Deutschland


(multiple locations in Cologne)

Images property of beetsandbites


Profiteroles with Chantilly Cream and Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache

As far as I'm concerned, Pâte à Choux is magic. How else would you explain the miraculous transformation of an uninspired, sticky blob of dough into a hollow, golden and light-as-air pastry? All in the absence of chemical leavening like baking powder or baking soda?

Sure, chefs will tell you that it's the water in the dough that turns into steam in the oven, blowing a large bubble in the center of the pastry, not unlike blowing a bubble gum bubble. But I say it's magic, and I'm sticking to my story.

Profiteroles, croquembouche, eclairs, beignets, French crullers and gougères are all born of the same egg, butter, water, flour mixture called Pâte à Choux. The dough can be baked or fried and stuffed with various fillings.

These are filled with Chantilly whipped cream (sweetened vanilla cream in fancy-speak) and smothered in bittersweet chocolate ganache. While chocolate and vanilla seem like rather "standard" flavours, they are irresistible in this combination. I blame factory produced desserts for the association of vanilla with bland, one-note flavour. Whipped cream with good quality vanilla extract has an incredibly comforting and complex aroma that will make you want to stick your face in the bowl. Don't believe me? I dare you to make these. There is nothing quite like freshly baked choux pastry, richly scented vanilla cream and velvety smooth ganache.

Sweet or Savory Pâte à Choux
Yield: 4 dozen bite sized profiteroles


  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 stick butter (6 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar plus 1/8 teaspoon salt (for sweet)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (for savory)
  • 5 3/4 ounces flour
  • 1 cup eggs, about 4 large eggs and 2 whites
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped with 1/4 cup sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Boil water, butter, and salt or sugar. Add flour and remove from heat. Work mixture together and return to heat. Continue working the mixture until all flour is incorporated and dough forms a ball. Transfer mixture into bowl of a standing mixer and let cool for 3 or 4 minutes. With mixer on stir or lowest speed add eggs, 1 at a time, making sure the first egg is completely incorporated before continuing. Once all eggs have been added and the mixture is smooth put dough into piping bag fitted with a round tip. Pipe immediately into golfball-size shapes, 2 inches apart onto parchment lined sheet pans. Cook for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees F and bake for 10 more minutes or until golden brown. Once they are removed from the oven pierce with a paring knife immediately to release steam.

Use a piping bag to fill puffs with cream. Fill puffs soon before serving to prevent pastry from becoming soggy.

Chocolate Sauce (Ganache)
Makes about 1 cup

5 oz bittersweet chocolate (or chocolate chips)
1/2 cup heavy cream

Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat heavy cream in a saucepan until it steams and bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for 3 minutes. Gently stir until chocolate and cream are uniformly combined. Cool until thickened, pourable consistency.

To reheat, set the bowl over a pan of simmering water (in double boiler arrangement).

Recipe adapted from Alton Brown and Food Network
Image property of beetsandbites


EAT! Vancouver 2010

Every year in May, a little event called Eat!Vancouver unites foodies from all over the Lower Mainland. For three delicious days, attendees can shop for unique ingredients and tools, sample new products, and watch cooking demonstrations. Iron Chef winner Rob Feenie was in attendance, as was Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi," Larry Thomas. This year the expo was held in the new Vancouver Convention Center instead of its usual spot at BC place, which is under renovation; I think it was a combination of the new venue and drizzly weather (no surprise there) that brought food fanatics out in droves.
As a regular attendant, I found the variety of exhibitors to be smaller than in past years. If you happened to be in the market for oil and vinegar, you had a lot to pick from (herb infused? fruit infused? reduced? italian? local? aged?) There were a few products that stood out for me. One was a dandelion and burdock soda from Fentiman's "Botanically Brewed" Beverages. With its earthy liquorice and herbal quality, it probably will not be my primary beverage of choice this summer, but it was one of the most interesting sodas I have tasted. (Unforunately, I never got to try Jones' Turkey and Gravy Soda).
Cheesy flowers

Another popular stand showcased Tete de Moine cheese. The Swiss raw cow's milk cheese had a strong, nutty flavour, and was served using the traditional cheese curler or girolle. This produced beautiful curls that looked more like flowers than cheese (note: great entertaining idea).

Having left with a bag chock-full of goodies to try (acai tea, rice bran cooking oil and maple jelly!), I'd call this a successful afternoon spent.


Salmon Variation #1,000: Panko Crusted Salmon with Lemon and Parsley Cappellini

We eat a lot of salmon at home. A lot. And why not? The beautifully coral-hued fish is delicious and meaty in texture, not to mention packed with nutritional benefits. While it is considered an "oily" fish because of its high omega-3 fatty acid content (important to cardiovascular health!) it does not actually taste oily at all.

Salmon are not all created equal. Firstly, there are the different varieties, with sockeye, chinook, pink, chum, and coho being the common ones. The sockeye and chinook varities are fattier with higher omega-3 contents. Then there is the farmed vs. wild debate. In general, the wild varities are more nutritious and contain less toxins than the farmed counterparts. While farmed salmon tend to be much "fattier" than wild, they also tend to be exposed to more artificial substances (and may even be tinted to a specific pink). We usually buy wild sockeye salmon.

Before this turns into a salmon encyclopedia entry, let's move onto the important part: cooking and eating. I keep feeling like I'm running out of fresh ways to prepare salmon. This time, I decided to use panko breadcrumbs as a crust. Panko is a Japanese breadcrumb that is coarser and lighter than regular breadcrumbs. It gives the food it coats a light, flaky crunchiness and is often used as a coating for Japanese tempura.
I flavoured the panko crust with gremolata-inspired ingredients. Gremolata is an Italian condiment made from parsely, lemon, and garlic that is traditionally served with ossobuco (braised veal shanks). The combination is incredibly fragrant and gives any dish a citrus freshness and warm depth from the garlic. I also added the mixture to some cooked cappellini to tie the side dish with the salmon. Freshly grated parmigiano reggiano and toasted pine nuts finish this quick and light pasta dish.


Parisian Perfection: Macarons

At first encounter, the macaron seems quite simple. It is a meringue-based cookie made from 3 main ingredients: egg whites, ground almonds, and sugar. Various fillings such as ganache or buttercream are sandwiched in the middle (kind of like an Oreo, but infinitely more sophisticated).

But look a little closer, and the macaron reveals a much more complicated character. The texture of the macaron is an enigma: buttery-smooth center, moist, chewy and airy interior covered by a perfectly smooth, crisp top that is as thin as an eggshell.

It is also clear that the macaron is not your typical "milk and cookies" kind of confection. Culturally speaking, it seems that macarons have exploded in popularity in recent years, surpassing the cupcake as the darling of the foodosphere. It is a generally accepted fact that Paris is home to the finest specimens in the world (macarons are French, after all). Pierre Desfontaines of Ladurée is credited for creating the macaron as we know it (the sandwich cookie variety). Today, Ladurée still bakes up thousands of them daily in an impressive array of flavours and colours from liquorice and orange blossom to rose and bergamot. Of course, Ladurée is not the only purveyor of these petite sweets; Lenôtre, Gérard Mulot, Dalloyau, and Pierre Hermé are just a few other fine French patisseries that offer excellent macarons. Luckily. the recent popularity of macarons means that you do not have to live in France to be seduced by these beautiful and elegant treats. It's likely that you could find them at a local bakery. You can even try your hand at making them at home!

This is my second attempt at these. My first was about 3 years ago and I was not aware of the little details that are required to make these work. Needless to say, the resulting pans of sad looking little egg white blobs weren't exactly a hit. This time around, I was armed with new tricks and things worked out much better. I kept things simple by making the shell one colour, and using two flavours of fillings (chocolate and raspberry buttercreams). I accidentally toasted the ground almonds while trying to dry them out, which led to a nuttier flavoured cookie, and a darker, cream colour rather than snowy white (or whatever colour you'd choose to tint them). While the ingredient list is deceptively simple, there is a degree of technique involved in making these! I have included many tips below, and with practice, there is nothing to stress over. Make sure you can set aside 5-6 hours to make these (don't worry, there's a lot of "resting" time).

The method is rather unusual, yet clever. By letting the piped batter sit for two hours before baking, the confectioner's sugar dries to form the characteristic thin shell. When the batter is baked, the shell rises and the liquid center pools out underneath to form the ruffled "feet." (I danced around the kitchen when I saw the "feet" through the oven door. Is that weird? No?) Clearly, the sky's the limit when it comes to variations, and I cannot wait to try different flavours in the future! Curious to give it a try? Well, without further ado, here's the recipe!


'Tis the Season: Cappellini with Roasted Tomatoes and Spot Prawns

One of the best things about British Columbia in the summertime is spot prawn season, which runs for about 80 days each year starting in late May. Not only do dishes showcasing spot prawns spring up on restaurant menus all over the city, there are even spot prawn festivals at both Fisherman's Wharf and Granville Island. Visit the moored fishing boats for the freshest selection of seafood.
When I purchased mine, they were extremely fresh (read: alive and kicking), which made prep a little challenging, though I'll spare you the gory details. But it was entirely worth the mildly traumatic experience because the fresh flavour was amazing; they were sweet and delicately "ocean-y". The meat is firm, and a little like lobster meat. Spot prawns are also rated "Best Choice" according to SeaChoice, which is a Canadian sustainable seafood program. So there you have it: sustainability and deliciousness. What's not to love?

One not so great thing about British Columbia is the lack of fantastic tomatoes. You know, the ones that actually taste like tomatoes? Sure, there may be some gorgeous heirloom varities in specialty markets, but I'm referring to the common pale-skinned, blah-flavoured supermarket tomato. Luckily, I've learned that roasting will amplify the flavour significantly. By lightly caramelizing them and removing much of their excess liquid, the tomato-iness is concentrated and makes a great pasta sauce. This way you can pretend you were cooking with fresh-from-the-fields, still-warm-from-the-sun produce. Nice.

The fantastic prawns and made over tomatoes came together in a dish inspired by a delicious pasta I had at Provence restaurant in Vancouver last year during spot prawn season:

Cappellini with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic Spot Prawns

3 large roma tomatoes, quartered
1/2 onion, cut in 4 wedges
3 cloves garlic, whole
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

9 fresh spot prawns, cleaned
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter

1/2 lb dried cappellini (angel hair) pasta

Arrange tomatoes (cut side up), onions, garlic, and thyme on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with oregano, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and black pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Bake at 300F for 2 hours or until tomatoes are slightly dried and wrinkled, and onions are soft and caramelized.

Cool roasted vegetables for 20 minutes. Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Strain the puree through a sieve. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Boil cappellini until al dente (about 3 minutes!) and toss in roasted tomato sauce.

Saute prawns in butter and garlic (2 minutes per side). Serve over pasta with shaved parmesan cheese, if desired.

Serves 3

Images property of beetsandbites and bcprawns.com


No, I haven't forgotten...

I'm sorry I haven't been posting lately! I've been so busy, although I'm never too busy to cook (or eat)... Will update soon(ish)!


Where to Eat: Butter Restaurant

Among the many wonderful things about New York City, Restaurant Week has to be one of them. For one week in the winter, many of the top restaurants in the city offer prix-fixe lunch menus for $25 and dinner for $35. It's a great chance to hit all those places on your "list" without going broke.

I have been wanting to try out Butter restaurant for a while now. I love the "New American" style of cuisine and chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli's focus on seasonal ingredients. It takes some planning to get a table though; the Restaurant Week dates were booked solid a little over a week before event actually started.

Occasionally, restaurants will offer less-than-stellar menus for Restaurant Week. (Read: house salad appetizer, roast chicken main, creme brulee dessert. A bit blah, non?) Butter is not one of those restaurants. I was excited to eat there before even stepping into the restaurant because their menu was so enticing, I honestly wanted to try every item on it.

Butter serves its guests in possibly the most beautiful dining room I have ever been in. The ceiling is composed of high wooden arches and panels of glowing golden light. The back wall of the restaurant is lit with a forest motif. It's all very chic and elegant. The space is rather long and narrow. The walls are lined with semi-circular banquettes, and there are about 5 rows of 3 tables for 2 in the center of the dining room. My one gripe is that the tables were so crammed together (maybe one foot between tables!) that it was a little too easy to listen to the conversations of the adjacent diners.

After a lengthy and taxing debate, I settled on Batter-Dipped Florida Shrimp with Celery Root and Fresh Chilies as a starter, Braised Beef Short Ribs with Crispy Purple Majesty Potatoes, Chopped Leeks and Fresh Pomegranate. Dessert was Dark Chocolate Cake with Toasted Almond Jam.

The meal started with cornbread and brown bread served with quenelles of unctuous herb butter and vanilla butter (I assume, as I saw the little flecks in the butter but couldn't really taste the vanilla). The shrimp was wonderful; there were three large, juicy, battered prawns. The chili dressing was very hot, but the heat stays in your mouth, not in your throat, which worked for me. The beef was also well done. It was very tender, although the flavor went a little flat after I had finished half the dish. It started to taste just plain "braised beef in gravy"-ish. The pomegranate was the best part because the crunchy bursts of sweet juice was just what the dish needed to refresh the flavors; I just wish there was more of it. I was most looking forward to dessert, but maybe my anticipation was what led to me being underwhelmed. The round chocolate cake was on the dry side, and it was served with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. I was really, really looking forward to the toasted almond jam (a nut jam? How does that even work??) but it was nowhere to be found on the plate!

Overall, the food was really excellent, especially for Restaurant Week. The one area that left much to be desired was the service. On occasion, servers will treat diners who choose to eat from the prix-fixe menu differently from those ordering a la carte (Megu Midtown, I'm looking at you.) The server was inattentive and condescending to us, but was perfectly capable of pleasant banter with the diners of the adjacent table. The bill was automatically sent to the table before we had even finished dessert. If a restaurant is not prepared to serve customers dining on a budget, then perhaps they should not participate in Restaurant Week.

Fortunately, the service was only a slight wrinkle in an otherwise wonderful meal. (I am also pretty sure that the behavior of one server is not representative of the entire waitstaff.) The ambiance and quality of food more than convinced me that I will be a repeat customer in the future.

Eat Here:
Butter Restaurant
415 Lafayette Street

Image courtesy of nycgo.com


Tea, A Drink With Jam and Bread

Like fish n' chips or Marmite, afternoon tea is primarily of British origin. Technically speaking, there are actually several varieties of "tea":

Afternoon tea: Usually taken between 3 and 5 pm, afternoon tea is considered one of the fancier, more "proper" versions. Offerings usually include sandwiches (small, crusts off, and with fillings such as cucumber or smoked salmon), scones, and pastries. These are presented on tiered serving dishes and accompanied (of course) by brewed loose leaf tea, milk and sugar.

Cream tea: A little simpler; tea is served with scones, Devonshire cream, and jam.

High tea: Served between 5 and 6 pm, tea (the meal) is considered an informal combination of afternoon tea and dinner. Tea (the drink) is accompanied by meat, cakes, and sandwiches.

I would also like to add to the list, "Strawberry Tea." In elementary school, we used to have Strawberry Teas on Mother's Day. The menu included chocolate dipped strawberries and fizzy pink raspberry ginger ale. It was all very girly and, well, pink.

These recipes were not prepared for a Strawberry Tea, rather a typical afternoon tea. I whipped up some biscotti and scones to go with the tea and sandwiches. Yes, biscotti is supposed to be dunked in coffee, or dessert wine, but these are so delicious I didn't see why we couldn't have them with tea. This recipe makes deep, dark, cocoa-laden cookies that aren't so hard that if you nibbled on one without coffee you'd chip a tooth.

The dough stays together well and is very nice to work with. Just remember to let it cool for 10 minutes before slicing it; I used a large chef's knife and cut straight down. I did not use any whole nuts because I didn't want the cookies to crumble when I cut them.

These orange-scented scones are dressed for the occasion in a sparkly coarse sugar crust. I cut the butter into the dry ingredients and then tossed it, bowl and all, into the freezer for 10 minutes. Cold butter melts slower in the oven, and this assures a very flaky scone.

Afternoon tea is a simple, brilliant idea. The beauty of it all is that everything just goes together so incredibly well. The warm, fragrant silkiness of the tea marries with the various buttery, soft and sweet treats. I also think that sandwiches or other savory items are a must so that guests aren't overwhelmed by a sugar rush.

Take some time one day for a treat and a cup of tea (extended pinkie placement, optional). You'll be glad you did.

Chocolate Biscotti

Yield: 30


  • 1/3 cup (75 g) butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup (130 g) white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups (230 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (30 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon water


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease baking sheets, or line with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa and baking powder; stir into the creamed mixture until well blended. Dough will be stiff, so mix in the last bit by hand. Mix in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
  3. Divide dough into two equal parts. Shape into 9x2x1 inch loaves. Place onto baking sheet 4 inches apart. Brush with mixture of water and yolk.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm. Cool on baking sheet for 30 minutes.
  5. Using a serrated knife, slice the loaves diagonally into 1 inch slices. Return the slices to the baking sheet, placing them on their sides. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes on each side, or until dry. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
Cranberry Orange Scones
Yield: 14-16


  • 4 cups plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water or milk, for egg wash
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 4 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix 4 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, the baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add the cold butter and mix at the lowest speed until the butter is the size of peas. Combine the eggs and heavy cream and, with the mixer on low speed, slowly pour into the flour and butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough will look lumpy! Combine the dried cranberries and 1/4 cup of flour, add to the dough, and mix on low speed until blended.
Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it into a ball. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. You should see small bits of butter in the dough. Keep moving the dough on the floured board so it doesn't stick. Flour a 3-inch round plain or fluted cutter and cut circles of dough. Place the scones on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Collect the scraps neatly, roll them out, and cut more circles.
Brush the tops of the scones with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked. The scones will be firm to the touch. Allow the scones to cool for 15 minutes and then whisk together the confectioners' sugar and orange juice, and drizzle over the scones.

Biscotti recipe courtesy of PA Granny
Scone recipe courtesy of Ina Garten and foodtv.com
Image property of beetsandbites


Where to Eat: Clinton Street Baking Co.

I love brunch food, pancakes especially. What other meal virtually demands that you eat cake and syrup as a main course?

Luckily, New York is a city that takes its brunches seriously. And among the numerous cozy restaurants sprinkled around Manhattan, the Clinton Street Baking Co. shines from its spot on the Lower East Side.

It has long been praised for its famous blueberry pancakes. A quick look on yelp.com pulls up around 500 rave reviews about these allegedly magical pancakes. The bakery has also gathered extra hype recently due to a feature on Bobby Flay's Throwdown on the Food Network. Well, what's good enough for Bobby, and thousands of other happy diners, is good enough for me.
So off I trekked on a blustery Saturday morning. (And blustery is not an exaggeration. It was probably -10C that day). I was hoping to beat the rush by arriving a bit before prime brunch time, so I put my name on the list at 10am. After waiting a little over an hour (outside, in the cold... I was determined to get my table), my brunch companion and I were seated a tiny bar by the window. It's not surprising that the waits are so long; the space is not large at all (maybe accommodates 40 at a time?) But it is every bit cozy and quaint as a brunch place ought to be.

I had the famous blueberry pancakes, biscuits with jam, and sugar cured bacon. I was initially skeptical about these pancakes, but oh my were they worth getting frostbitten during the wait. They are thick and fluffy, with the perfect sweet and salty balance. They're also loaded with fat, sweet, fresh blueberries. They keep their shape during cooking so when you cut into them they release their steamy, jammy goodness. And if that weren't enough, they're served with maple butter. Let me just say that again: maple. butter.
Beautiful, eh?

Our sides were also lovely. The biscuits were a bit bready (I prefer flakier ones) but the crust is quite unusual, in a good way. It's thick and very crunchy, strangely reminiscent of a nice rustic yeast bread. The bacon was also delish, and the sweet, salty, smoky balance was perfect.

As our meal went on, the tiny restaurant filled up with diners trying to avoid the cold while waiting for tables. There was a considerable lineup outside as well. Call me evil, but I suppose we indulged in a little schadenfreude as we sat by the window savoring that steaming stack of pancakes, in full view of those waiting in the cold. Ah, they'll get their turn.

Since I couldn't get enough of their delicious goodies, I got a mixed berry scone and a cranberry walnut muffin to-go. Honestly, the muffin was good, but not mind-blowing. And as my brunch companion had noted, they are sadly lacking that crucial, crunchy domed top created when the batter spills over the sides of the tin as the muffin bakes. The scone was a different story. It was chock full of fresh berries, and had the perfect not-too-sweet but buttery flavor. The crust is thick and crunchy (almost like a shortbread cookie) and sprinkled with coarse sugar.

I don't think I need to write much more to encourage you to eat here should you every visit NYC. Just go. It would be preferable if the temperature were above freezing, but if it isn't, then just suck it up. You will be rewarded.

P.S. They don't take reservations.

Eat here!
Clinton Street Baking Co. and Restaurant
4 Clinton Street (btw. East Houston & Stanton)
New York, NY 10002

Images property of beetsandbites