Sunday, March 31, 2013

story of a break

Spring break has come and gone, and now's the time to tell its tale.
It's quite a long one, and a great deal of it involves food and eating and some fun dining experiences.
Breakfast was something that happened quite often during the break, and in various forms, too. One morning, when the folk birds had decided to make a trip to Cora's for morning brunch, father bird changed his mind and asked to go for dim sum. Which, if you knew father bird, would come as the most incredible surprise, because it's always been a fairly evident fact that he rather resents this sort of commercial Chinese cuisine laden with MSG.
Between the noise of shameless Asian shouters, misbehaving children, curt service and barely passable hygiene, dim sum has few perks. Among these, however, are the savoury glutinous rice in leaves (pictured above), the char siu bao - steamed BBQ pork buns, and ca de bao - steamed custard buns. Egg tarts are also nice, but only if you order the Portuguese Egg Tarts. These are baked in puff-pastry shells and are slightly burnt at the surfaces, which make for a hot and soft treat. The alternative, Cantonese Egg Tarts, are baked with shortcrust pastry shells and have smooth surfaces. They're nice to eat when cooled, but I still prefer the flaky crusts over the crumbly ones.
Though we skipped Cora's that day, we eventually got our fruit fix when we happened to find a branch located right inside of Sunridge Mall, in North Calgary. I suffered from terrible indecision while purveying their menu, which contained choices that I hadn't ever seen before! Well, I wound up selecting an option that would've been available at any Cora's branch: Peggy's Poached, sub the cottage cheese for plain yoghurt -
I didn't really like the plain yoghurt. It didn't have a flavour! (Well, that's to be expected. I severely underestimated its blandness, though.)
Another popular brunch spot we returned to was Over Easy Breakfast Co.
We were made to wait roughly ten to fifteen minutes in the small cramped space that could pass as a foyer but would more fittingly be called the threshold, and were lucky enough to be seated at a table with chairs rather than at the high-top counter-style table.
I took a chance with a breakfast combo platter, which I rarely choose. Simply and unassumingly named, the 2 Cracked Egg Breakfast included two fresh eggs, prepared any style to the diner's preference, with herb potato wedges, a pair of wild blueberry-chicken bangers (a.k.a. sausages), and a piece of plain toast.
The blueberry-chicken bangers were surprisingly ... spicy? Well, there was certainly a foreign kick in its taste, that was definitely unique but not exactly enjoyable. The poached eggs were wonderful and released a lot of yolk for me to dip half of my toast into; the other poached egg I let loose over my herb potatoes. My other piece of toast was slathered with massive amounts of HERO Black Cherry Preserves, which I discovered might be the most heavenly jam known to man. I sought these preserves, under the exact same brand, out at my local grocer's and now, instead of craving hot buttered bread, I find myself dreaming of crisp toast with this cool, dark spread. Mmm.
OEB is, as everyone probably knows, the home of the Soul-in-a-Bowl breakfast poutine. Father bird is known for ordering house specials whenever dining out, so he asked for the day's special feature: Soul-in-a-Bowl with Scallops.
I'd like to imagine that he enjoyed it. It was certainly a new experience for him and of course it's an original concept for anyone, so I think he appreciated how unique it was. But Soul-in-a-Bowl is hard to dislike to begin with, so I don't believe he hated it or anything.
I visited Joey Chinook twice over the break, the first instance with my cousin and the second with a childhood friend. Both occurrences were dinner-and-a-movie dates, which took place rather late in the evening.
The first dinner saw me order a Lobster Grilled Cheese with a side of yam fries. I've never been a seafood eater, but I correctly predicted that the creamy taste of lobster would be overpowered and lost in the creamier taste of brie and cheddar cheeses, a detail which I can imagine would irk a lot of lobster lovers who order this dish. I've always loved grilled cheese sandwiches, so this was no exception. Crispy, buttery, cheesy, and warm. The bread could have been a lot more soft, but it wasn't a big deal.
The yam fries were even better. I don't believe that I've ever encountered an establishment that has perfected yam fries as well as Joey has.
The movie that followed this meal was an absolute disappointment. Titled Dark Skies and boasting a sinister summary that spoke of a family encountering various disturbing run-ins with strange and unexplained forces, it turned out to be alien-centric and poorly paced. Neither of us were very frightened or interested by it in the least, and the verdict that it was a sorely bad choice was a unanmious one.
The second time I visited Joey, I again took a gamble and sampled another form of seafood: salmon. Salmon is something I have previously avoided because it's usually baked, dry, and a little strong. But the grilled salmon from Joey is medium-moist, extremely soft, and so very light in flavor. It's not a chunky or tough meat to chew, like beef or chicken breast. Again, yam fries - I warn you now that yam fries will be mentioned twice more in this blog post, because as of late I've developed an inexplicable addiction to yam fries. Since I've tried these sweet potato pleasures, I have not batted an eye at regular potato fries. They simply can't compare.
The movie that followed this meal was much more satisfying - Oz the Great and Powerful - though admittedly a little more child-targeted than I would have guessed. I knew it was meant for a younger audience, but with James Franco, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams all starring in the film, I hadn't imagined it would be so juvenile. These are adults, see, and they're spitting out "Believe!" speeches and improvising clever and mischievous last-minute solutions to unite the people and banish evil from the land.
I do like the "circle-story" element within it all, though; Oz obviously stays in the Land of Oz and rules as the one capable of granting wishes, as he will with Dorothy Gale, and Theodora is cast off to the other end to lurk as the Wicked Witch of the West.
That aside, the other time I had yam fries was at a restaurant called Baton Rouge. Famous for ribs that I don't doubt are superior to Tony Roma's, Baton Rouge features Louisiana-inspired cuisine such as calamari and Jambalaya bowls. I had a Prime Rib burger with a side of yam fries, and though I'm not a fan of ribs in general, mother bird absolutely forbade me from ordering the Grilled Vegetable sandwich I was eyeing, for fear I wouldn't be able to finish it.
I'm returning again tomorrow - perhaps I'll get the chance to try it then. Perhaps not.
My most recent indulgence of yam fries was at Fionn Maccool's restaurant and pub in Crossiron Mills. Though the rest of the birds didn't much like their meals, I found my Chorizo and Portobello Grillbread to be absolutely divine. I devoured every last bit of it, because the marriage of mildly spiced sausage, creamy wilted mushrooms and a generous layer of white cheese on warm flatbread was all a match made in heaven. The yam fries that accompanied it weren't worth much, though, unfortunately. 
(I had photographed this meal, though the lighting in the pub didn't allow for very good resolution, so I decided not to post the pictures.)
The day before yesterday I was treated to a day at the zoo by my favourite and youngest aunt. Her sons are the two of the most brilliant and entertaining kids I have the honour of knowing and being related to, and I can't think of any better company to keep. We arrived at noon sharp, and lunched in the Kitamba Cafe, which is the zoo's main cafeteria.
I tried a plaintive grilled cheese, a Costco-esque poutine, and later indulged in a soft-serve vanilla cone.

My older cousin specifically told me that she prefers soft-serve ice cream to hard-packed ice cream. I'm the complete opposite. I don't particularly like how much air is whipped into soft-serve because it makes it seem like I'm not eating anything substantial. Hard cream is much easier to taste and savour, but I do enjoy soft-serve from time to time.  

I think it's safe to say that my favourite activity of all time has to be dining out. Good food and good friends always make for a good time. Tomorrow I hope to luncheon with mother bird and sister bird, both of whom I've been frustrating a great deal lately, but let's cross our fingers for a peaceful meal. (:

Yesterday evening, I organized a barbecue party at my grandfather's house. The entire birdhouse, minus sister bird, was up-and-at-her early in the morning to hit the supermarket for all our materials. We managed to pull everything together for a wonderful buffet that was unexpectedly enlarged with the surprise additions of a homemade proscuitto-and-arugula pizza from our newlywed cousin birds and a simple, but refreshing fruit salad. The lineup included a burger bar, complete with sliced tomatoes, red onions, crispy leaf lettuce, sauteed mushrooms, yellow and honey dijon mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, and baby dill pickles with garlic.We had sides of roasted herbed potatoes, mild Italian sausages, grilled chicken wings, chicken souvlaki skewers, Ruffles chips with ranch dip and salsa, and caesar salad. To finish, our dessert tables featured fresh fruit platters and a trio of plates full of blackberry cheesecake bites, baked by yours truly. (Recipe to come!)

I think it was all an excellent idea and I had loads of fun planning and preparing for it. But as a consequence, I wound up overeating from the excess of great food! P:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

week's muse

There hasn't really been much baking around the birdhouse lately. It's a demonstration of self-restraint in anticipation for tomorrow evening.

Big Taste!

The Big Taste is a ten-day eating festival designed for Calgary foodies which features downtown restaurants and specially coordinated menus for three- or four-course meals at a set price per person. When I heard about it, I became so enthused that I immediately fired a text message to sister bird: a screenshot of the Big Taste mobile homepage.
Almost instantly, arrangements were made, and after poring over the list of participating restaurants and their menus, we chose Blink Restaurant & Bar on Stephen Avenue. I've been following #bigtasteyyc updates on Instagram this entire week.

In other news, I've developed an enormous taste for eggs. I like mine over-easy, so I can break the soft yolk with the tine of my fork and then use plain whole-wheat toast as dipping sticks. It's my new favourite breakfast routine - healthy and light and really satiating. Mother bird keeps me company at the breakfast table and we talk while we eat our egg and toast (and, in her case, coffee).
An alternative to coffee that sister bird introduced to me is diluting two or three teaspoonfuls of sweetened condensed milk with boiling water. It's a hot, sweet drink perfect for mornings or evenings or even just lazy afternoons and I like it a lot more than hot chocolate.

I need to stop eating ice cream!
Wait a minute - this sounds familiar. Didn't I make a similar resolution at the beginning of this blog? Heaven forbid, I'm an absolute failure at resolutions.
(If it makes any difference, I've elevated my taste from the cheap Dairy Queen soft-serve to Purdy's cream.)
Funny how easy it really is to give up a certain food, though, in retrospect. Ice cream aside, I've managed to beat a severe Pepsi addiction, unreasonable cookie infatuation and a not-life-threatening-but-not-very-healthy chocolate problem in the past. I think my new vices are ice cream and muffins, and since muffins are just paper-wrapped miniature cakes, I don't see myself cutting this out of my diet anytime soon. (I love cake.)
I often do wish, if you must know, that I was born without a taste for sweet things.
On some days I like the more subtle flavours, like fresh strawberry ice cream or something minty and light. But other days I indulge to the max and douse pancakes in syrup and pour condensed milk over my desserts and eat lemon bars and cream-cheese danishes, then by the time I crawl under the covers at night, I feel sick to my stomach and so drugged up on sugar that I simply can't think anymore.
I need to find a way to recall this numbness when I next reach for something processed and sugary.

I am a binge eater.
Really not difficult to say at all. It's even simpler to admit it aloud. I'm confessing candidly but not without the ambition to change it.
I've cultivated this tendency to come home from school, saunter in the kitchen, attack everything in sight that tempts me, and then crawl away to my bedroom and inhale a few litres of water in shame and regret.
And it's not really a weight issue; I'm a healthy weight, I might even be underweight, I could care less about my weight. I just don't like how I constantly feel so unbalanced in my diet, never feeling well or right or fine, only too hungry or painfully full and sometimes if I'm not full to the point of being uncomfortable, I'm just not full. There's no meter, not one that I can detect, anyhow, that my satiety travels along as it makes its way to feeling full; the sensation just kind of sits at hungry until one bite too many sends it flying over to the other side in a fraction of a second.

Somehow I find that I'm more excited for Saturday than I am for Friday night. Blink is scheduled for Friday night, but because I know it's there, and I know exactly what I'll be doing and wearing and ordering and eating, I'm just not looking forward to it as much as I am to Saturday and Sunday, which have the potential to be just about anything right now, and that's pretty darn enthralling.
If I had it my way, Saturday would be an adventure with father bird. Last week he expressed interest in taking me to the farmers' market, which I would love to go to! This week I'm hoping that we'll find time to squeeze it in, and maybe grab lunch together there, or around.
I'd also really like to fit in another dining date with mother bird before she undergoes surgery on her right hand, which will foreseeably leave her helpless and in pain and unable to do much in general. Something cheap like Baton Rouge or Swiss Chalet sounds optimal, since father bird will likely come too, and rarely does he appreciate the high prices that come with high class.

This weekend I might get back into baking. I ate all the oranges before I could use any for a Daisy Cake recipe I had bookmarked, but that's okay. I'm sure there are plenty of other things I could make without any fruit.
One of my bucket-list recipes is the crepe cake, but that requires about fifty crepes or so, all arranged with cream between them, then flattened and perfected into a circular shape. Not only am I doubtful that anyone in the world has this much time, I've also never in my life and likely my past life ever made a single crepe, or tried to. Making fifty passable crepes? I think I'll need a little practice first.

In other news, I discovered another pretty beautiful face on Instagram. Her name is Kristina Bazan and she's a young fashionista who runs the blog at Her pictures are so endearing and her image is just so cute and her passion for fashion and the world that she thrives in is simply inspiring. I find it so adorable how she loves to model clothes, take photos, eat out, and jet-set. (Needless to say anyone would love this sort of lifestyle, but she goes about it all with the enthusiasm and attitude of a rookie, or a kid.)

In stark contrast, I am a highly independent, withdrawn, and introverted soul who has been known to kill hours doing nothing but reflecting on the insignificance and boredom of living.
I think I need to start taking some leaves from Kristina Bazan's book.