Pork belly + fried egg + soup + rice = tasty $8 lunch at Little Ongpin

Value Meal #3 at this delightful Filipino-Chinese eatery has ingrained itself into my lunchtime cravings so deeply that it’s hard to order anything else when I visit. $7.95 gets you the day’s soup, deep-fried pork belly, garlic rice, and a fried egg (mix into the rice–trust me).

For a true Pinoy experience, eat the pork with a heap of the bagoong salad that accompanies the combo, but beware: shrimp paste is pungent and not to be had in copious quantities on your first try.

Other value meals are available if you prefer fried fish or BBQ & spring rolls to pork–all under $8, and all worth trying at least once.

Little Ongpin on Urbanspoon

Oru ceviche bar tower of awesomeness

We unexpectedly got to sample Oru’s new tower of ceviches, escabeche, lomi lomi, and poisson cru when I hosted my last birthday dinner there. My guests and I were impressed by the presentation, selection, and deliciousness. In fact, the tower was nearly enough to feed us on its own (we still made a valiant effort to digest the 3-course set menu and dessert), I recently heard that they got an unu elektroroller to start doing deliveries which is a big plus.

As of this posting, the ceviche bar tower includes:

  • Humpback Shrimp Escabeche
  • Sing Lobster Poisson Cru
  • Humboldt Squid Ceviche
  • Grilled Albacore Escabeche
  • Lois Lake Steelhead Lomi Lomi
  • Grilled Kyuquot Sablefish Ceviche
  • Sawmill Bay Oyster Caesar
  • Qualicum Scallop Ceviche
  • Dungeness Crab & Cilantro Salad

Try the tower experience for $59 per person or opt for single tastings at $6 a pop.

Oru at Fairmont Pacific Rim on Urbanspoon

And if you want to know what else a custom menu at Oru could get you on your birthday, browse through my photos of our night:

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Tiny Bites is back

I tried to stay away, but I couldn’t. Stepping away from this food blog for the past year or so has allowed me to focus on our daughter as she transitioned from infant to toddler to preschooler. Now that we had found balance in our family life, the siren song of Vancouver’s food and drink scene called to me again. It proved too sweet to resist.

My return to the blogosphere includes a refresh of this site (with further tweaks to come). I hope you will find the content from this point onward to be concise, focussed on the must-trys, and easy to ingest while you’re mobile. The most popular content from yesteryear is still here, filed away in the Vault, should you need access to afternoon tea hotspots or Hamilton family recipes. If you’ve bookmarked something that’s no longer here, get in touch and I’ll retrieve it for you.

So, now that I’m back: where shall we dine next?

 

 

Burnt ends are just the beginning at Hog Shack

Off the menu requests.
Off the menu requests.

When I first fell in love with Hog Shack, it wasn’t because of its craft beer taps, its porcine decor, or even anything on the menu. What did me in were the Burnt Ends–the blackened, fatty bits of the brisket’s point end–which are available for gleeful ingestion should you come in when they’ve got ’em.

I don’t know why they don’t list this glorious item on the regular menu. Until they do: grab your seat, ask if they have it tonight, decide if you want the $12 appetizer or the $16 plate with all the fixings, feast, and then thank me later. Continue reading “Burnt ends are just the beginning at Hog Shack”

East Richmond soup fiends, get your fix at Farmhouse Bakery

I’ve been coming here 3-4 times a week since they opened in the summer of 2013. Every soup is swoon-worthy (my favourite thus far being the Coconut Thai Vegetable) and even the buttered slice seems to have been thoughtfully architected as the perfect soup companion.

A great $5 treat for those seeking a hot bowl near Cambie and No. 5 Road. Continue reading “East Richmond soup fiends, get your fix at Farmhouse Bakery”

Gallery: Mandarova olive oil tasting menu at Giovane Cafe

Last month, I was invited to a tasting dinner featuring the Mandarova olive oils that are on sale exclusively at the G market at Fairmont Pacific Rim. Wish you were there? Corral a few friends and ask Giovane Cafe to replicate the menu–they will be glad to do so.

Recipe cards and special ingredients can be gotten at G market should you wish to try some of this at home.

 

 

 

Video: a preview of Brassneck Brewery

At the end of September, Chefs’ Table Society members were treated to a tour of the then-unopened Brassneck Brewery. Wish I had been able to capture the photos they placed inside the knots of the walls’ wooden panels.

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A recipe for strawberry pie, with song

Ever since a friend introduced me to the movie Waitress, I’ve been longing for the day that I could bake together with my children, humming the ditty Keri Russell sings about pie. Under the tutelage of Eagranie Yuh, my daughter and I learned her path to a magic pastry crust and made our very first pie together.

I dub this creation Mommy Loves Kaitlin Straw-berry Much Pie. Sing along with me, won’t you?

Sorry, Kate...you can't eat it yet...

Baby don’t you cry

Pastry overhang

Gonna make a pie

Berry bucket

Gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle

Pie rejection

Baby don’t be blue

Kate follows along with Eagranie's pie dough demo

Gonna make for you

Learning to pick strawberries

Gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle

Ready for the oven

Gonna be a pie from heaven above

Filling prep

Gonna be filled with strawberry love

Kate sugars the lattice

Baby don’t you cry

Fresh out of the oven

Gonna make a pie

Mother and daughter baked a pie

And hold you forever in the middle of my heart.

And now, on to the recipe.

Ingredients

You could skip making the pastry dough and use a store-bought shell, but where’s the fun in that? We used a 50/50 combo of butter and leaf lard that Eagranie had rendered herself. I’m now a firm believer in the magic that melted pork works into pastries.

Pastry dough

I usually double this recipe each time I make it. Half goes into the pie I’m baking that day; the other half gets shelved in the freezer for emergency pastry needs.

  • 2.5 cups all-purpose flour, refrigerator cold
  • 1/3 cup sugar, refrigerator cold
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter, refrigerator cold
  • 1/2 lb (leaf) lard, refrigerator cold
  • Up to 3/4 cup ice-cold water

Filling

  • 3-4 cups of (fresh) strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 – 1 1/2 cups sugar, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • A few shavings of lemon zest
  • 1 tsp minute tapioca (optional)

Specialty equipment

  • Rolling pin
  • (Pyrex) pie plate
  • cooling rack

Directions

Pastry dough

In a large bowl, thoroughly blend flour, salt, and sugar.

Working as quickly as possible so as to not warm the butter, use a knife to section off large chunks of butter into the large bowl. Throw flour blend over the butter chunks until well coated. Cut butter into your flour blend with your hands or with a pastry cutter. Repeat this process with the (leaf) lard.

A melange of fat

Eagranie taught me that a pastry crust gets a superior flake when the clusters of fat are not the same size — a state difficult to achieve with a pastry cutter. Says she:

When you’re incorporating the fat into flour, do it gently. Whether you’re using a pastry cutter or your hands (my preferred tools), you’re aiming for a sandy looking texture. There should be some pea-sized chunks, some smaller chunks, and some even smaller bits. The mixture should still be loose. Trust me, it’ll all come together in the end.

Have your ice-cold water at hand in a liquid measuring cup. Pour a trickle of water in to the mixing bowl and incorporate into the flour with your hand in a circular motion, taking some loose flour from the bottom and centre of the bowl with each pass. Clench some of the mix in your hand. At this point, the mix should fall back into the bowl like powder. Repeat until the mix changes texture, from gritty to on the verge of sticking together. Near the end, stick your hand in the cup and sprinkle a few drops of water in at a time. You don’t want to add too much water…just enough for everything to suddenly hold together.

Once it does hold, take out of the mixing bowl and form the dough into 1 or more balls the size of a hamburger or kaiser bun, which should be enough to roll out into a circle for your pie plate. Wrap in cling film and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes (60 minutes is ideal). This cools the fats back down, relaxes the gluten you’ve developed, and makes the rolling process much easier.

Filling

Our Krause Berry Farm strawberry haul

Fit the strawberries in the pie plate before slicing. You can fill it flat or mound it up 1-2″. The typical pie plate has room for 3-4 cups of whole fruit.

Slice then taste the strawberry batch you have. How sweet is it? If it’s quite sweet, measure off 1/4 cup of sugar and mix it in. Taste it again. Sweet enough? You can stop there. If it needs more, keep adding 1/4 cup of sugar and mixing it in until the sweetness is to your taste. Try to cap it at 1 1/2 cups.

Mix in the salt, nutmeg, flour, and lemon zest.

Strawberries hold a lot of water, so a filling made with strawberries would water-log the bottom pie crust long before the pie is cooked. Adding flour to the filling mix helps, but adding too much will make it taste too starchy. Eagranie’s trick was to add a teaspoon of minute tapioca. The tapioca absorbs any excess liquid after the flour absorbs all it can. It also adds a subtle chew to the overall filling.

Time your steps so that the filling sits together for about 20 minutes before assembly.

Assembly

Gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle

Once your dough has rested, roll out two circles approximately 1/8″-1/4″ thick, sized 1-2″ larger than the circumference of your pie plate.  Position the first circle into the pie plate, using gravity to drape the outer edges into the inside rim such that there is little to no space for air bubbles to form between your plate and the crust. The dough should hang over the upper edge of the pie plate by about an inch.

Add the pie filling to the plate. Roll out the second dough crust on top. Seal the crusts together using your favourite method. Brush top crust with milk (matte finish) or egg white (shinier finish) and sprinkle with sugar.

If you want to get snazzy about it, do a pie lattice or add dough ornaments instead of a solid top crust. For me, the choice largely depends on my strawberry content. If I mounded the filling 1-2″ above the top edge of the pie plate, I use a solid crust to keep it together. If the berries will make a relatively flat pie, I lattice the top.

Bake 20-25 minutes at 450F. Reduce to 375F and continue baking until the pie has been in the oven for about 60 minutes. You’ll know it’s time to eat when the top crust is flaky and golden and your home smells like an episode of Strawberry Shortcake.

Serve with ice cream, whipped cream, whole fresh berries, or all of the above. I know you want all of the above.

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Ohanami, bicycles, and a West Coast sakura tea service

My favourite time to be outdoors in Vancouver is when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Our new neighbourhood is lined with aged blossoming trees, shaped with an artist’s precision by city stewards. The avenue that we frequent the most, from a distance, looks as if a guard of bonsais had been trained to rain pink and white petals on Marpole denizens.

The sakura zensen, or cherry blossom front, is an official weather pattern in Japan, where citizens emerge from their homes in droves during the fleeting Ohanami season. Ways to reflect upon and admire the sakura are numerous, but for many, it begins with a picnic under the blooms, often enjoyed with treats and tea. Celebrations can also linger beyond dusk, getting tipsy as the night goes on.

You can approximate this Japanese tradition in Vancouver if you know where to go. My top picks, in no particular order:

Nitobe Memorial Garden (UBC)

My shutter finger goes wild at this beautiful Japanese garden retreat in UBC. This year, one of the trees is laden with tags that people write on with messages to loved ones. It’s said that the well wishes will spread as the petals scatter in the wind.

Bike the Blossoms – April 28, 2012

Got bike? Follow the flowers with your cyclist brethren on the 28th. Your route will be lined with petalled trees, and vendors that you pass will sometimes have goodies for you to enjoy when you pause.

If you’re bereft of bicycle or not free that day, find your own viewing spot using these resources from the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival:

The Urban Tea Merchant

The Urban Tea Merchant's courtyard of sakura

The Urban Tea Merchant remains unrivalled as my afternoon tea service of choice, much of it due to its rotating collection of top-tier teas and the seasonality of its tea services. Their courtyard on Alberni is canopied by cherry blossom trees each spring.

The courtyard blossoms have already come and gone this year, but their Ohanami tea service, featuring several items infused with cherry blossoms, is still being served until April 30th. This menu ranks as my favourite high tea food pairing to date–it is not to be missed.

Sakura West Coast Tea Service

$30 per person (minimum 2 persons; 90 minute seating)

to begin
Tea Sommelier’s choice of chilled white tea

sweets
tea-infused macaron, chevron strawberry, chocolate truffle
edible spring flowers, Sakura! Sakura! tea-infused jelly, sous vide vanilla watermelon, green tea-infused melon ** LOVED THIS! **

savouries
open-faced smoked salmon & wasabi aioli with in-house ponzu jelly
miso-maple glazed sable fish wrapped in butter lettuce ** LOVED THIS! **
spring rice roll with honey & balsamic, shiitake mushroom and crisp vegetables
Japanese fish crackers, crisp soba noodles with tangy seaweed salad and sesame crumble ** LOVED THIS! **

My seasonal tea pairing picks for the Sakura service

Both of The Urban Tea Merchant’s Ohanami tea features pair beautifully with the Japanese-fusion menu.

Urban Tea Merchant: Enchanted Beauty green tea

Enchanted Beauty Tea: “Sophisticated oolong tea leaves are handcrafted into a bouquet with amaranth and orange lily. This TWG Tea composition will bloom in the teacup.”

Urban Tea Merchant: Sakura! Sakura! green tea

Sakura! Sakura! Tea: “An ode to spring, this fragrant TWG blend evokes Kyoto’s most celebrated season. A scattering of cherry blossoms and green tea yields a most aromatic and elegant fragrance.”

Where will you go for your cherry blossom celebration?

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