Monday, March 28, 2016

70% discount at Shoppers Drug Mart!

2016-Mar-28 Shoppers Drug Mart discount on yogurt with expiration date Apr-1 Check out my receipt tonight for yogurt!

I typically go to Superstore under the misconception that Shoppers Drug Mart and everywhere else near Metrotown is generally pricier.
Daunted by the lineups at Superstore, I nipped in just to check yogurt prices, then swung by the nearby 24-hour Shoppers.

Prices were comparable except a few items on sale, and some items on extreme sale! Various yogurts had a special sticker for $1, $2, or $3 off at the till. Apparently, the "catch" is that the yogurt has a best-by date of April 1st. But if you're going to eat it tonight or soon, that's really no problem.

Plus, Shoppers always gives you points whereas Superstore only sometimes gives you points -- depending on whether it is an item marked as giving bonus points for the week, or if you are using their MasterCard.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Chef Tony Dim Sum with truffles

Chef Tony Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Following a friend's recommendation, we went this morning to Chef Tony Seafood Restaurant to try, among other things, their intriguing siu mai with truffle!

Interesting to note: NO SAUCE for anything! Even though you are charged $2 per person for "tea and condiment".

TIP: Dim sum order checklist is only in Chinese, but thankfully the numbers correspond to the menu, which has pictures of most (key) items.

Shrimp and Matsutake Dumplings ($5.98 for one steamer of five)
  • Winner! Something about simply putting some truffle on it elevates this juicy siu mai. And also urges you to forgive how rather ugly it is.
  • It is of course highly unlikely that you are seeing large chunks of real black truffle here. Probably Chinese fake truffles but using enough potent truffle oil--otherwise you couldn't get it at $5.98 per tray.
2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - Black truffle, pork and shrimp dumplings

2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - Black truffle, pork and shrimp dumpling

Shrimp and Matsutake Dumplings ($5.98 for one steamer of five)
  • Simple, tasty. Firm with prawns, very little filler just to hold it together.
  • Could've used a bit of sauce to jazz it up a bit, honestly. Maybe something chili.
2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - Shrimp and Matsutake Dumplings

Ox Stomach and Beef Tendon ($5.98 for one steamer)
  • Despite what appear to be chili flakes, there was no spicy heat to this that I could detect.
2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - Ox Stomach and Beef Tendon (steaming hot)

Chicken Feet in Soy Sauce ($5.18 per steamer)
  • There are some peanuts hidden underneath, sitting in the sauce long enough to no longer be crunchy. I had some. They were nearly tasteless. But waste not want not, right?
2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - Chicken Feet in Soy Sauce

2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - soaked and softened peanuts under the chicken feet

2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony

Bitter Gourd and Chicken Shreds Rice Noodle ($5.98 per order)
  • Intensely green rice noodle wrapping the chicken, but no special flavour to it.
  • I detected no bitterness here, though possibly any mild traces of it were smothered by the soy sauce.
  • Initially came without soy sauce and the server asked if we wanted it poured on. I guess you can pass on it if you wanted to.
  • Overall, not a very tasty dish as there weren't any strong flavours here. Just another way to eat noodles I guess. Go easy on the soy sauce unless you just want to taste soy sauce. Just pass on this one.
2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - Bitter Gourd and Chicken Rice Noodle

Baked Mushroom Pastry ($7.28 for one order of four)

  • Pastry was so delicate that it pretty much crumbles under even light pressure. Yet, neither buttery nor oily.
  • My personal bias, but I felt the taste was ruined by the mushroom flavour being diluted with something else mixed in, maybe bamboo shoots?
2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - baked Mushroom Pastry

2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - baked Mushroom Pastry

Barbeque Pork Bun ($5.18 per steamer of three)
  • Felt like the outer dough was thick and therefore the bun was skimpy on pork.
  • The pork was okay. Maybe not quite flavourful/sweet enough. Pass on this.
2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - Barbeque Pork Bun

2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - Barbeque Pork Bun (inside)

Fried Rice Noodle with Beef and Vegetable ($18.80 per plate)
  • Wow was this expensive!
  • This tasted like cheap oily noodles you can get at a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant.
  • If you really need the carbs, just go to a cheap Chinese restaurant later.
2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - Rice Noodles with Beef and Vegetables

Meat and Shrimp Sticky Rice ($5.18 per order of four)
  • Very thick sticky rice shell, so if you dissect it, there's very little filling.
  • The shell is actually quite nice all on its own because of the sweetness, so you may not actually mind that there isn't much filling. Close your eyes and eat this one. Don't dissect it like I did.
2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - Meat and Mushroom Sticky Roll

2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - Meat and Mushroom Sticky Roll

Sweet and Salty Egg Yolk Bun ($5.98 per steamer of three)
  • Do NOT order this till after you're finished your hot and savoury items -- they bring out stuff as it's ready, so you might not get to it till it's cold, which we did. It's probably even better hot.
  • TIP: They can't cut it for you to share since the filling will eventually pour out, but you can just slowly tear it apart and keep each half angled up to cup the filling.
  • Tasty! Sweet but not super sweet, and just enough saltiness to enhance flavour. Slight powderiness sometimes which marred the texture but much better than what I remembered of this same dish from Dynasty. Use of saltiness is brilliant here.
  • Really YUM and you need to get this!
2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - steamed Sweet and Salty Egg Yolk Bun

2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - steamed Sweet and Salty Egg Yolk Bun (inside)

Steamed Ginger Juice Layered Cake ($5.98 per steamer)
  • Had really no idea what to expect here since none of us had ever seen it on a menu.
  • Good but not too strong ginger aroma. Present but sort-of-weak ginger flavour, competing with sweetness. No ginger burn, if you're worried about that.
  • Very firm and quite rubbery. Get a proper knife if you're cutting this. Comes pre-cut into four pieces.
  • Interesting to try, but ultimately not so tasty I'd want to order it again.
  • Couldn't seem to peel off the layers (unlike a kue lapis layered cake). Might be alternating sweet and gingery layers (?)
2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - steamed Ginger Juice Layered Cake

2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - steamed Ginger Juice Layered Cake, 1/8th of a single order

"Tea and Condiments" ($2 per person)
  • Automatically added to your bill. Double check as our table was just 8 but they initially charged us for 10.
  • Where were my condiments?
  • Brilliant idea to borrow from afternoon tea places and have a candle under the tea pot to keep it as hot as possible.
2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony - tea is $2/person

10 AM on a Saturday morning and they open right at 10 AM so if that's your reservation, be prepared to wait out in the cold. If you have no reservation, be prepared to wait in the small lobby until a table appears--This is a popular place!

Service OK, hot water regularly replenished.

If you don't mind eating more slowly, you can try ordering in stages so that you don't have a pile of steamers getting cold while you are working on others. They don't freak out if you add to your order later.

The room is bright and beautiful, but this effect is severely diminished by the busyness and tight table spacing. There are, however several private "VIP rooms" if you really need privacy. One huge TV quietly re-runs food porn in case you need ideas for what to order.

2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony

2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony

2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony

2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony

2016-Mar-26 Chef Tony

Caffe Brixton

Caffe Brixton Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Whoa, Caffe Brixton is vegetarian! This pub-like place isn't in-your-face advertised as vegetarian, but if you look closely at the menu, it is.

We dropped in tonight when it wasn't super-busy, but they also didn't have a lot of staff on the floor either, so getting water topped up only when we asked might have been a short-staffing issue more than an oversight. Still, for a place that is "seat yourself", I think staff need to be more alert.

TIP: The very-discreetly-tucked-away washrooms are definitely worth a look. If you go into the bigger (handicap stall) one, look closely at the Star Wars wallpaper and you'll notice a misspelling of "Leia".

The music is played pretty loud here!

Tandoori Tofu Naan ($10) caramelized onions, goat's cheese, tandoori tofu, mango chutney, arugula
  • Totally not what I was expecting as they tofu-topped and toasted the naan into a crunchy-at-the-edges flatbread pizza. There's no point calling this a naan anymore.
  • Very light dressing on the arugula. Just enough for you to notice something, without covering up the taste of the arugula itself.
  • Large chunks of mango in the "chutney" means even distribution is sort of tricky. This combined with tofu that tasted bland despite the clear amount of red spicing means many bites of this pizza turned out to be bland bites of tofu.
    • If you like tofu to start with, that probably won't bug you at all. I need helpers for my tofu intake, and I had been hoping the tandoori part and the mango chutney part were going to really help. But nope.
2016-Mar-25 Caffe Brixton - tandoori tofu naan

White Sangria ($4.50) sake, white wine, stone's green ginger wine, coconut juice, lychee, mandarin, aloe, lemongrass
  • I'm not a drinker, so I didn't sample this. But price for portion is really hard to beat! No skimping by giving tons of ice, either!
2016-Mar-25 Caffe Brixton - white sangria

Porcini Bianco ($13) porcini mushroom cream, thinly sliced potato, parmesan, mozzarella, truffle oil, cracked pepper
  • Truffle oil very uneven. Most of it was around the middle right slices. The left side had only unexpected whiffs of that whenever I detected any. In any case, not too strongly truffled, so you don't have to worry about a too-rich aroma if you're not so much into truffles.
  • I didn't read the menu too clearly initially so most of the time I was disappointed by the distinct lack of mushrooms. But the menu does read "porcini mushroom CREAM".
  • Most of the flavour comes from the white cream and cheese, and it is actually tasty.
  • If you can get over the fact that this isn't exactly a loaded pizza (the potato does give it a bit of "meat" / substance) price for portion is on par with something like a Neapolitan from Famoso, for example.
2016-Mar-25 Caffe Brixton - porcini bianco

Eggplant Parmigiana ($13) breaded eggplant baked with mushrooms, on top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese
  • Menu says nothing about garlic bread, but you do get two slices of garlic bread with some sort of garlicky paste. I also liked the toasted-till-burnt-but-not-everything-charred garlic on the toast, rather than a more typical buttery garlic toast style. But that's personal preference.
  • The tomato sauce on the spaghetti is not watery or thin, but it tasted that way for some reason.
  • Crusty-crunchy breading on the eggplant stayed crunch for a long time. Just that itself has a comfort-food tasty charm; just don't expect to taste the eggplant so much.
  • Price for portion is pretty good!
2016-Mar-25 Caffe Brixton - eggplant parmigiana

2016-Mar-25 Caffe Brixton - menu 1/2

2016-Mar-25 Caffe Brixton - menu 2/2

2016-Mar-25 Caffe Brixton - thirsty thursday hot dog and beer special

2016-Mar-25 Caffe Brixton - washroom

2016-Mar-25 Caffe Brixton - washroom

Friday, March 25, 2016

Back to Bodega

Bodega on Main Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Back to Bodega on Main! Already? I know, right? But I'd been telling my friends about the paella, and someone had a birthday, and it just sort of came together.
Online menu looks like it's been updated, with paellas showing at $28.

Forgot to bring my usual Yelp pen, so look for clues in the pictures for scale -- sometimes close-up pictures make things look bigger than they are. Sorry everyone.
Also, they turned down the lights and suddenly we're practically eating by candlelight only. I used the flash on my smartphone, but that sometimes makes things glisten more than they should, like these beef short ribs that look dusted with gold.

Pet Peeve: The room was already loud with conversation, and shortly after 6pm they turned the music up even louder. Like I wasn't already having trouble hearing my dinner companions. Duh. I'm really tempted to dock points for this...

Costillas de Res ($18) braised (beef) short ribs
  • At $18 you get a pretty big slab of meat (about a 12 oz steak?). Despite it being rib, there's not that much bone.
  • Meat really tender and came apart easily by just separating them with a fork and spoon.
2016-Mar-25 Bodega on Main - beef short ribs

2016-Mar-25 Bodega on Main - beef short rib meat closeup

Champinones ($8) sauteed mixed mushrooms, garlic, sherry, finely grated aged manchego; gluten-free
  • Mushrooms swimming in oil. Which sounds awful, but it's actually not that bad.
  • Cheese really only on the top mushrooms. By the time the plate got passed to me, none of mine had any cheese.
  • The oil slides off the mushroom. Heck, pretty much everything slides off the mushrooms, so you have to get at the garlic in the oil to condiment your 'shrooms unless you just want to eat what tastes like boring sauteed mushrooms.
  • The oil is quite fragrant (really helped by the generous amount of garlic in it), so you could save it to use elsewhere, such as on bread or even added to rice from a paella order to jazz things up a bit.
  • Fat mushrooms, and pretty good price for portion at $8.
2016-Mar-25 Bodega on Main - mushrooms

Mejillones Picantes ($7) mussels in a piquant sauce with diced hard boiled egg; gluten-free
  • Sardine can with mussels hidden under what sort of tastes like Thousand Island Dressing.
  • Kind of a waste of time because all I could really taste was the sauce. Don't pay $7 for sauce.
2016-Mar-25 Bodega on Main - mejillones picantes

Paella Negra ($28) squid ink rice, prawns, calamari, baby squid, mussels, clams and langostinos; gluten-free
  • Much less salty tasting that the Paella Mixta I had last time at Bodega on Main. On top it is bordering on a bland not-salty, but it gets more savory toward the bottom where the juices settle. Even so, the rice at the very bottom is still less salty than the Paella Mixta.
  • Composition is mostly the same as the Mixta, including the two giant prawns. We were three at the table, and I would have liked that they trimmed the smaller prawns off, and maybe some mussels, and instead gave us three big prawns.
  • We used the lemon but it didn't seem to really make a dent in the flavour. Maybe try using the lemon right on the rice you transfer to your plate.
  • Careful how you handle the prawns because the squid ink is not just soaked into the rice but coats just about everything. Watch your clothes!
2016-Mar-25 Bodega on Main - paella negra

Pollo Frito ($7, or $5 during happy hour) brined and deep fried free range chicken drummettes, garlic and sherry
  • Nice garlicky dip.
  • Very crispy on the outside and stayed that way for quite a while (half an hour or so?). Sort of dry on the inside, sadly.
Pot of tea ($2.50)
  • Smaller pot, which is not a bad idea since if you drink it too slowly there won't be too much cold water inside to mix with a refill of hot water.
2016-Mar-25 Bodega on Main - pollo frito and pot of tea

Jamon Iberico de Bellota ($18) "the finest ham in the world"; gluten-free
  • Looks gorgeous. And check out that fat!
  • Thinly sliced yet very flavourful.
  • Tasty as cured meats go, but so painful at $18.
2016-Mar-25 Bodega on Main - jamon iberico de bellota

We were three persons and happily sated at a bill that came in just under $90 for the food portion (before tax and tip). A couple of duds in there, but mostly quality dishes for $30 per head is pretty fair value here. As before, if you are on a budget, go just for the paella for the superb price-to-portion ratio.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Aji Pasta Sauce

I was introduced to Aji Gourmet Products at a YVR Foodies event at Trattoria Burnaby where they spoke briefly about their sauces. Yesterday I tried their Aji BURN. Today I whipped up some pasta to try their not-yet-in-stores but available online Aji Pasta.

It tasted similar to some of that tomato pasta sauce with assorted spices (insert random brand name here), BUT a lot less salty tasting, despite having 770 mg of sodium per half-cup (125 mL) -- which is quite a bit more than some sauces, like the Classico line of Tomato Sauces. In fact the predominant flavour was more sweet, though also not overly sweet. As with all pasta sauces, you really don't need a lot to flavour your pasta (if you wanted soup or stew, then you're not really having a pasta dish anymore).

Random Ingredient comparison:

Aji Pasta
Sauce
Classico Di Napoli
Tomato & Basil
Basil Basil
Black Pepper
Chili
Cilantro
Garlic Garlic
Dehydrated Garlic
Lemon Juice
Olive Oil Olive Oil
Onions Onions
Dehydrated Onion
Parsley
Peppers
Sea Salt Salt
Sugar
Tomatoes Tomatoes
Tomato Juice
Tomato Puree
Vinegar
Water Water
Citric Acid
Calcium Chloride

Then I put some Aji BURN on it, and tossed it again. Initially I put a bit too much and the sour-salty Aji BURN just about covered up the other flavours. Toned it down and it worked quite well, though obviously the heat wasn't so quick to build up on the tongue.

Since flavour is close to any of the cheaper with-preservatives pasta sauces you can buy, I think Aji Pasta is really for people who don't want preservatives and want all-natural, amd/or who are looking for certain attributes, such as gluten-free or vegan.

2013-Mar-25 Aji Pasta Sauce

2013-Mar-25 Aji Pasta Sauce

2013-Mar-25 Aji Pasta Sauce

2013-Mar-25 Aji Pasta Sauce

Aji BURN

I was introduced to Aji Gourmet Products at a YVR Foodies event at Trattoria Burnaby where they spoke briefly about their sauces. Their products are:
  • gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free
  • low in calories
  • fat free
  • free of preservatives and MSG
  • made with fresh and natural ingredients
By using natural ingredients, when you use Aji you are "putting real food on your food".
Each bottle is around $8-$10, a price that would have basically doubled if they had committed to going certified organic.

I got two bottles, including "BURN", rated at 10,000-15,000 Scovilles in spicy heat. It was my choice to go for something on the spicier side since I'm good with spicy foods and sriracha chili sauce is pretty tame for me.
BURN smells like salsa and when consumed straight has a sharp sour-salty taste that whets the appetite and is so powerful I really couldn't make out the tomatoes (maybe a little bit), onions, or cilantro. The ingredients are listed as:
  • tomatoes, onions, cilantro
  • vinegar, water, sea salt, lemon juice
  • hot red peppers
  • native cornstarch
  • capsicum extract, which is what gives the spicy heat in chilies and added here to increase the heat level
The heat is quite strong and lingers for a long time with a bitter-tasting burn. I asked to try one of their sauces that was higher up in the spicy heat scale, and this definitely qualified. If you don't care for long-lingering heat on your mouth, go for something tamer.
The spicy heat doesn't kill other flavours, though. It's mostly a sensation in the mouth rather than, say, a bitter flavour that competes with the dish you used it on.

If you are looking for a no-preservative condiment, this is worth a try (and at around $8 either online or in stores (most easily found at Save-on-Foods), it's certainly an affordable experiment). Just a little (even a fraction of a teaspoon) goes a very long way, so you can expect your dollar to stretch with one bottle. Despite the lack of preservatives, it keeps for a long time.

I've only sampled it straight, and also used it on a bit of plain roti (I was anxious to just try it). I'll update this post when I try it on various other foods.

UPDATE (Mar-24): Tried it with their Pasta sauce. I thought I was going easy by adding just a bit, but apparently it's really powerful (the sour flavour, not the spicy heat) and if you're not careful you can all but obliterate the flavours. Go really easy on the portion with Aji BURN.

UPDATE (Mar-30): Totally brilliant move by my mom to add it to sweet chili sauce -- the type sold for spring rolls and that is typically just sweet with no heat. Aji BURN adds a bit of chili bite while still preserving the sweetness in the sauce and not changing the taste.

2016-Mar-23 - Aji Burn

2016-Mar-23 - Aji Burn

2016-Mar-23 - Aji Burn

2016-Mar-23 - Aji Burn

2016-Mar-23 - Aji Gourmet Products