Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Spicy Garden via Dial and Dine

Somewhere and sometime this past weekend someone kindly passed on their cold to me. By Monday the thing had fully developed, and after my final mid-term and an entire box of tissue, I was not willing to cook, and Zed didn't seem into it either. After much deliberation, we decided to give Dial and Dine a try.

Restaurants are sorted and selected by postal code (I'm not sure if you can order outside your postal code and pay a higher delivery fee or not). Being in Garneau, we had a decent selection, however many of the restaurants are really within walking distance of our apartment (High Level Diner and Fiore, for example). Zed suggested Chinese, which turned out well - Spicy Garden was listed in our range and was also well out of walking distance, justifying the delivery charge.

I was all about soup that evening and the Hot and Sour Wonton soup caught my eye ($10.95). Zed went for the Pork Wonton ($6.95) and we also decided to add in an order of Szechuen Beef Noodles ($11.95) for good measure, as well as a Green Onion Cake ($3.50 for one). The operator took my personal information and requested menu items, read everything back, gave the total, inquiring whether we would be paying via cash or cheque, then let me know everything would arrive in about an hour. All in all, a very smooth and tidy ordering process.

Our food arrived hot (packed in steiro) about an hour after placing the order, as the operator indicated it would. Unfortunately the Hot and Sour soup really didn't hit the spot. I'm pretty sure I ended up getting the Hot and Sour Seafood soup, as I didn't come across any wontons - disappointing as the operator had read back the order to me twice once placed. Zed was glad for the late evening bowl of wonton soup though, and the Szechuen beef ended up providing just the right amount of kick to clear my cold (at least temporarily).

Pork Wonton Soup

Hot and Sour Seafood Soup

Green Onion Cake and Szechuen Beef Noodles

Despite the mix up with my soup, Zed and I both agreed we would use the service again if we found ourselves in similar circumstances. Given the choice though, I would definitely prefer a stroll to a nearby restaurant to pick up my own food, avoid any communication errors and save the $7 delivery charge.

Total (including $7 delivery charge): $40.65 + gratuity

Dial and Dine Hours:
Tuesdays - Saturdays 5-10PM; Sundays, Mondays and Holidays 5-9PM

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Fat Duck Cookbook by Heston Blumenthal

I've been watching In Search of Perfection on Food Network since they began airing it earlier this year (I'm so glad they have picked up the season two episodes), and I think I've been through all the snippets of Heston's Feasts I could find on You Tube, so when I found The Fat Duck Cookbook I couldn't help but buy it.

The "cookbook" definitely has recipes in it, but I doubt many people have the ingredients or equipment available to them to fully execute the dishes at home. I was even aware of this when I purchased the book a couple weeks ago, but I just couldn't help it: beautiful photos and illustrations, a tidy history of The Fat Duck restaurant and Blumenthal's food history and inspiration, awe inspiring recipes, and the back third of the book includes information about "lab equipment" and food science studies. In the end though, the book is really more of an informative read about Blumenthal's attempts to bridge the industrial food science world with the restaurant chef, to give the customer a total eating experience.

All I can really say in my defense is that I didn't purchase The Big Fat Duck Cookbook, the original version of the book, which cost upwards of $200... It must have been those satin ribbons that put it over the top. Price aside, there are definitely some inspiring (however unexpected) flavor pairing ideas, and a few components of certain dishes do contain recipes that do not include crazy ingredients (like gold leaf), or lab gear (like a centrifuge).

I also see that Food Network has picked up Big Chef Takes On Little Chef, where Blumenthal revamps the menu of the UK fast food chain Little Chef. You can see it Thursday evenings at 7PM, and again at 10PM.

**The cover illustration was done by Dave McKean**

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pumkin instead of Potatoes

At ~9:45AM a couple Saturdays ago, our group arrived at the end of the 6km line of cars waiting to get onto the field where the Great Potato Giveaway would be held. When Marie and Morris picked us up at 9AM that morning, we had all agreed that if the line was too long we would turn around and find another destination. And that we did.

Marie and Morris at our alternate location - Brenneis

We ended up at Brenneis, a family owned farm and veggie stand slightly east of Kuhlmann's. There were all sorts of lovely fall items including Swiss chard, beets, various styles of beans and best of all, they had some pumpkins. We picked out a deep orange one, looking forward to some good pumpkin puree for pie and cookies.

Zed with our haul

Luckily the shop was also well stocked with a few different types of potatoes. Although our picking of the vegetable was less difficult than planned, I was glad to not have to hunt around our apartment for an unoccupied, cool, dry spot to store 50 pounds of potatoes.

In addition to Brenneis, we also stopped at Kuhlmann's. They had partnered with the Great Potato Giveaway event that day to raise money for the GEA - Kuhlmann's donated various veggies arranged in bins outside, and shoppers could pay $10 to fill a bag with whatever they liked. Although both the cause and price were right, we had already filled our veggie quota for the week and left Kuhlmann's with the single addition of a medium sized yellow zucchini.

The pumpkin from Brenneis was turned into cookies earlier this week. I used a recipe out of Martha Stewart's Holiday Cookies magazine that was published in November of 2005. I love this magazine... it's full of a little over one hundred cookie recipes for fall/winter and has a fantastic index with pictures of each cookie divided into separate categories (ie. soft and chewy, light and delicate, etc.). There are even instructions included that show fun ways to package your baked goods as gifts... if you are feeling particularly crafty.

I've had great success with every recipe I've made from this magazine, and these were no exception - they are light and airy (more like small cakes), and the brown butter icing gives them a nice, nutty-sweetness that contrasts well with the nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon in the cookies themselves.

Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing from Martha Stewart's "Holiday Cookies" issue, November 2005

Makes approx. 6 dozen
Cookies can be stored in single layers in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

For the cookies:
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups solid-pack pumpkin (14 ounces) - the recipe calls for canned...
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the icing:
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon evaporated milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. For cookies: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a medium bowl; set aside.

2. Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (I used my arm and a spatula). Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low. Add pumpkin, evaporated milk and vanilla; mix until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture; mix until combined.

3. (*I was being lazy and opted to scoop the dough rather than pipe it.) Transfer 1 1/2 cups batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch plain tip (such as Ateco #806). Pipe 1 1/2 inch rounds onto parchment lined baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until tops spring back, about 12 minutes. Cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely.

4. For icing: Put confectioners' sugar in a large bowl; set aside. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Immeidately add butter to confectioners' sugar, scraping any brown bits from sides and bottom of pan. Add evaporated milk and vanilla; stir until smooth. Spread about 1 teaspoon icing onto each cookie. If icing stiffens, stir in more evaporated milk, a little at a time.