The Feast - Renton

So, I broke two personal rules here (well, I try to cooperate with what everyone wants to do and not just pursue my own agenda) in that  we ate at an Asian place while away from home (we live in Metro Vancouver - we have the best Asian food in the world other than...well, Asia) and it was AYCE ( I no longer have the capacity to make it worth while I am not sorry that we went to The Feast though as this place is impressive!
This is a buffet of epic proportions. It took us a good 10 minutes just to walk around and conceive a strategy!
Sunday lunch is $26 (USD) and is not missing anything. I noticed people who were evidently trying to pay for their meal in quantities of crab consumed. I tried a couple of crab claws that were very good, neither overcooked nor sitting too long on the buffet.
There was also stir fried crab elsewhere but I did not find it to be as good. I enjoyed a couple of  fresh shucked oysters (they were not fully detached from the shell) and a selection of fully decent sushi (chefs were in full view plying their trade).

That was round one! From that point forward, I took singles (so as to taste as many things as possible); a snail, a deep fried scallop, spinach and cheese, a barbecued pork rib, a sweet and sour chicken chunk, a chicken's foot (which tasted like absolutely nothing).  Some of this was pretty good and some was a little meh. It's a buffet for crying out loud so that's what I expected. There were some dim sum items as well and soups and a noodle station and other things that I never even got close to!
Finally there is desert. Curiously, I did not take any pictures but there is ice cream, a chocolate fountain, a candy cotton station that was knee deep in kids, cakes, fruit and... So just not too bad as buffets go. Service was quite good as well as our plates were cleared quickly and our water glasses were regularly topped up. Other than in Vegas, I have not experienced any thing like this. I won't be back anytime soon but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't try this place if you like variety!
Feast Buffet Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Emmett Watson's Oyster Bar - Seattle

Amidst the chaos that is Pike Street Market (and we are smart enough to be there on a sunny Saturday morning on Memorial Day long weekend), away from the street and the 45 minute wait to get into the original Starbucks, is the relative calm of Emmett Watson's. Not that it is exactly a Zen garden, but it seems peaceful by comparison to trying to eat where vendors are launching salmon through the air or hawking every manner of artisan made hot sauce or beef jerky, as clueless tourists clog the traffic by wandering to and fro on the cobblestone avenue!
This is not a fancy seafood place. Seattle has a million of those and  in fact, there are Tom Douglas restaurants within walking distance. But while it is pretty straightforward, with no nonsense servers and emphasis on fried seafood and chips, it is affordable and the food is very enjoyable.
The Oyster Bar Special is a couple of  oysters, 3 shrimp and clam chowder. The oysters were briny and delicious, the shrimp tasty and the chowder was amazing! It was rich and thick with potatoes and lots of tender clams. I could not have been happier with my choice!
Marie and I were here with her kids and between the bunch of us, we sampled almost everything fried on the menu ( missing was the well reviewed gumbo that I hoped someone would try). Each basket came with very good fries and we squabbled like sea gulls over the crisp end fries that are at the height of French fry evolution! Cider vinegar on the tables tells me that these people know something about British style fried fish and chips.
As you might guess, most of the baskets looked about the same so no need to post every picture. Suffice to say there were no complaints and nothing left over! Food arrived hot out of the fryer and came with very good tarter and/or cocktail sauce.
When it is warm, you can sit outside in a quiet little courtyard or you can enjoy the casual comfortable tables and booths inside and there are even some counter seats at the back. So if you don't want to wait at Lowell's or don't feel like paying at Place Pigalle, Emmett Watson's is a great little place for lunch or dinner.
Emmett Watson's Oyster Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sushino Michi - Aldergrove

Since we now have 6 sushi restaurants in the small town of Aldergrove (pop. 15, 500), we will henceforth dispense with the term yokel when referring to local diners! I am actually quite impressed with us! On my first visit, I was warmly welcomed and seated comfortably at the brand new Sushino Michi. This space was a coffee shop/cafe previously and I had never been inside but it currently seems a little awkward, like there is room for more tables. No matter as at least no one will feel claustrophobic. I ordered the Sushi and Sashimi Box and miso soup arrived first.
Not too much one can say about miso soup. It was not too salty and had a nice amount of tofu and wakame.
The box itself was very enjoyable with 4 generous pieces of sashimi and 4 nigiri. The rice was subtly seasoned and had good texture while the fish was firm and generous in proportion to the rice. Four pieces of tempura were crispy and hot (2 prawns, 1 sweet potato and 1 yam). The box included a couple of vege spring rolls and a green salad. I thought it was decently priced at $14.95. 
I like the way they serve Takoyaki here, in a hot cast iron pan. The pieces had definitely picked up some color and depth of flavour.  Very tasty but I honestly did not find much in the way of octopus. Might have been the luck oft he ladle and it didn't  really detract from the experience other than....well, you know. Still I could hardly wait and returned the next day to try a couple more things!
Agedashi Tofu is not too adventurous on my part but I really enjoy it. And this was very good. Just crisp on the outside and hot inside. A generous garnish of bonito and green onion with dipping sauce on the side.
And the Michi Tower was a thing of beauty. Oshi salmon sushi formed the base. There were two layer of salmon with the top  having a nice sear. Again the well seasoned rice. A fat tasty scallop, shrimp, lovely crunchy tobiko, tuna, lime and  some greens. This is a must try for anyone lost in this part of the valley! Finally, a very pleasant surprise, the chef sent over a desert to try! Bingsu!
Now this is the first time I have had bingsu and I am very impressed. What appeared to be a bowl of ice cream was almost snow like in texture. Light and wonderful! Complete with candied walnut pieces, coconut, strawberry and peach, this was a light and enjoyable finish!
I like it here a lot and I hope that Aldergrove can support 6 sushi places. I think Sushino Michi will do just fine!
Sushino Michi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Roasted Root Vegetables

If you have been following this blog, then first of all, thank you. But if so, then you probably know  that I consider myself a "week day vegetarian" (albeit not a very good or religious one). I do this for health reasons, for the planet (you cannot do anything more significant for the environment)  and frankly, because it helps my pocketbook. Being a vegetarian does not just mean cutting out meat. It means finding the nutrition in other places that might have come from meat such as protein and B vitamins. It means paying attention to eating healthy. My partner works evenings so I am and have almost always been, left to feed myself. Since I work full time and have occasionally evening activities also, you may wonder how I can be an alleged vegetarian and find the time to cook in a healthy way (macaroni and cheese may not contain meat but...). So I am going to provide you with my top secret recipes and lay out my food program for you over a few posts over a few weeks. You will doubtless find most of it boring but maybe you can adapt things to your own life. First of all, I cook a few things in quantity on weekends and freeze. I know it may be healthier to eat fresh but what am I superman? First up is my roasted root vegetables:
Its not really a recipe, nor is it secret. Peel and chop up all these vegetables. Chop the beets smaller because they take longer to get soft. You can use whatever vegetables you want but don't be suckered into buying organic. Email me if you want to argue about that. There is no evidence that organically grown vegetables are more nutritious. As for pesticides, organic growers use natural pesticides but are you aware how many natural things will kill your ass? By the way, to me the parsnips are integral part of the final product. Don't be tempted to leave them out (I remove some of the core at the thick part of the parsnips). Mushrooms are good too. Frankly this is hard work. I always get a blister from the chopping. What a wimp!
I chuck them all in a big soup pot so that I can add olive oil and herbs and salt and pepper. In this batch I used rosemary, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. You can use what ever you like.
Oil the bottom of some roasting pans. Divide up you chopped up stuff. Cover the pans with foil. I re use the foil over and over again because I am an environmental warrior...or maybe I am just unbelievably cheap. I roast them for about an hour at 400 degrees and then take the foil off and turn it down to 325. I am not sure why. It sounds like something you might read in a cook book. To figure out when they are done, I taste them! Its not too complicated.
I like to mush them up. Many years ago, I watched an Acadian mom in Caraquet, New Brunswick, prepare the plates for each of her family by taking some boiled vegetables and mashing them up, before adding chicken and gravy. Its funny that the mashed up vegetables stuck in my mind.
Then all the vegetables land in freezer. These containers are good for 4 to 5 servings. I will repeat this process in about a month. I couldn't possibly prepare this every night. The beets and carrots and sweet potato especially are very good for you. There is no such thing as a super food but the more colour in a vegetable, the more it seems to offer to humans. I love these vegetables and could easily eat them every night! Stay tuned for more!

Richmond Night Market

I have mixed feelings about Richmond Night Market. I am not keen on line ups but I'm not a person who looks for ways to cut lines either. There is no shame in waiting in line. Lines can teach us things; patience, empathy, consideration. I feel the same way about crowds but I take a deep breath and as long as I feel my wallet is secure, I try to be aware of people around me, show them regard, take my time and smile. So I guess that the night market can be sort of a Zen thing! As for the idea that the market is some sort of a good deal, that idea ends a the gate which charges a little more every year ($4.25 for adults this year) and the food stalls which sometimes seem cheap but really are not! So why are we here? Well, possibly to develop some of the above mentioned fine qualities but also, it has become sort of an iconic local experience and there are some interesting things to eat, some interesting booths and sites and some fun to be had!
As for food, we plotted a course around the stalls and decided what we wanted to try (ultimately, we were full before we got through the list) and threw ourselves into the fray! There are always new and creative things to try like Mac and Cheese Roti from Mamak La.
Watching the chef spin out the dough paper thin was may favorite part of this experience but the end product was pretty decent. A nice curry sauce topped it off beautifully.
Our favourite of the evening was an old standby and market corner stone, deep fried squid.
This was ridiculously tender under its crispy coating. We chose garlic and pepper of the several toppings available. Big Beard Super BBQ was responsible for this and we highly recommend it!

On my meh list is the Japanese Seafood Cracker. It was different and interesting and I like both seafood and crackers and maybe even seafood on crackers but somehow the combination did not amaze me. Marie liked it well enough so maybe it was just me. Or maybe I am just cranky that I didn't think to take this photo horizontally to begin with....
We always like the fish sticks! If anything, these have improved. My memory of last year is of paper thin fish with batter but these actually have a bit of substance.
Salt and pepper on one and Wasabi mayo on the other, these were hot and tasty. One thing line ups guarantee is that no food is sitting around under heat lamps waiting for you! At 2 for $13, this maybe the best not-so-great deal of the market.
And who could leave without Churros and Ice Cream? Truly, walking around with this thing garnered the most attention of anything we ate all evening!
A not overly special churro with a small cup of vanilla ice cream covered with fruit loops (pretty sure they were the bulk bag kind), this was not so much amazing food as a work of cheesy art! And we paid an extra dollar for the unicorn because how could we not? Marie's grand daughter will love it as a cozy for her milk! So we didn't get to the Hurricane Potatoes (it's just a fried potato for heaven's sake but lines are endless all evening) or Korean fried chicken or barbeque skewers but there is always next time. As much as I grumble about the crowds and the traffic and the prices, it's kind of a fun place to hang out once in a while!
Richmond Night Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vanfoodster's Taco Challenge 2018 - Part 3

Let's dive right in by looking at the missing taco from Part 2! The Gobernador from La Cantina Tacos!
Last Saturday we came by but their Taco Challenge entry was so popular that they had run out. To be honest, I am not surprised as this was a very good taco. A layer of rich, melty Oaxaca cheese forms the base on the corn tortilla and is topped with with lots of shrimp, peppers and onions and a chile de arbol salsa. The shrimp retains excellent texture and is delicious because it is basically ceviche style but warmed in the oven. Wonderful! 
From there (flying solo today), my next stop was Patron Tacos and Cantina on Robson.
This is a noisy, fun restaurant with sports on multiple screens, an impressive bar and a patio. I am guessing that things jump around here in the evenings!
The Caribbean Vibes Taco seems to be Chef Andres Lopez' creation and is only available Monday to Friday from 12 to 5 when he is there to prepare it for you! It starts with a plantain tortilla, which is amazing. No flour or anything other than plantain and it has very good texture and flavour. Little crispy bits of deep fried tilapia and chicharon are the next features with cilantro aioli, mango and habanero chutney. This all works very well and left me with that silly grin that I sometimes get!
I also had a Steak Torta. I know this plate does not look overly Mexican but this is a very good sandwich! I tried to get a picture of the inside of it but sometimes a description is better! A soft inside, slightly crunchy outside bun with a generous amount of cubed meat cooked with Mexican style spices, avocado and a ridiculous layer a melted cheese which I wouldn't be surprised to learn is cooked right n the flat top tuile style. Excellent! I'm not sure how waffle fries fit in at a cantina but they were also quite good. This is certainly not the least expensive Mexican food around but you are paying for a high level of service and comfort and atmosphere as well as good food. 
And last stop on the Taco Challenge trail is Las Tortas. 
This is another small and simple family style place. A menu of tortas and tasty home style Mexican food. Their offering for the challenge is the El Campechano Taco, the most expensive of all the entrants at $9.50.
It did not seem overpriced as this was a loaded taco. Grilled sirloin and chorizo on a chipotle tortilla were a good start. With chicharon, napolitos, black beans, habanero mango crema, queso fresco and pico de gallo. It is a combination of a lot of impressive individual elements that make an impressive whole! Not to be overlooked is a tasty little slaw of jicama served on the side!
I also tried a couple of tacos off of their  regular menu; lamb and pulled pork. Uncomplicated, served on two tortillas with simple toppings, they were very good. This was some of the best and most distinctive tasting lamb that I have had in a while and I loved it. Order at the counter and your food is delivered to you. The folks are quite friendly and were happy to talk to me about their food.
As for my pick for the best taco of the challenge, I am a little torn. Every one of the offerings had its distinct flavour and story and I would declare a 6 way tie if that was an option. I will be picking Maizal's Ebi Chamoi for number one because I loved the fusion approach but as I said, I really enjoyed them all! Thank's again Vanfoodster for getting us out to new places and trying new things!
Las Tortas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vanfoodster's Taco Challenge 2018 - Part Two

In the continuing search for great tacos, we skipped our way from downtown to McArthurGlen Outlet Mall. It is a nice place to walk around on a sunny day but don't ask my opinion of long line ups to get in and look at hand bags at Coach (something we did not do) and elsewhere. I question our sanity when labels have come to  mean so much but clearly, I am getting crankier as the years pass by. I'm just asking, has showing off how much we spend become our source of meaning in life?...Anyway...Hugo's is popping up all over the place with outlets in Chilliwak (seriously?...sorry Chilliwak) and Langley.
It's a fair size place, kind of sparsely decorated (in contrast to Coach) with seating outside where you can watch the kids ducking in and out of the water feature and their parents trying to stop them from getting soaked! 
Hugo's prepared a Meatless Taco for the challenge. Vegetarian Chorizo sauteed with small diced potatoes on a corn tortilla were the centre of this offering. In retrospect, I should have asked where the chorizo came from (in house or otherwise?). On top was a cashew serrano crema (colour me impressed) which was very good. Completed with grilled corn, cilantro and pickled onion, we enjoyed the nice balance of flavours. It should never be the point of a vegetarian dish, but you wouldn't have known it was meatless.
We also ordered a Barbacoa Taco which was a tasty bite too. It reminded me a little of something that might come off a taco truck (to my delight) a couple of days drive to the south. Consider that my form of high praise. 
Marie has developed a love for churros and these were very good all though they might have been a little under cooked in the centre. Also she was disappointed that there was no chocolate but we are pretty sure that was an error on our part when ordering. Still, well done Hugo's Churros!
Next up on our program was La Cantina and Tacos Gobernador (insert your own Arnie joke here). Alas, we arrived on Saturday to learn that they had sold so many on Friday there there was nothing available.  Like Google directions that re-calibrate if you take a wrong turn, I developed an alternative strategy (Hey! We come in from the valley and not all the challenge tacos are available every day all the time!). Still it was lunch time  so we decided to sample this establishments bill of fare! We loved the atmosphere here!
The Mexican wrestling motif always makes me happy for some weird reason (I have never watched any except for the movie, "Nacho Libre").
We tried some tacos at $3.00 each. They were small but really generous with the fillings and therefore delightfully messy.
Mole Verde Chicken, which is more herby than the regular chocolate and pepper mole but very good, was the first. Pacific Rockfish (my partner's favourite), Conchita Pork and Pork and Shrimp Chorizo rounded out the quartet. All imaginative and very good. 
Finally, we shared a bowl of tortilla soup which was more tomatoey than the chicken soup I have had in the past but still hit the spot. I look forward to trying their challenge offering and will tack it on to "Vanfoodster's Taco Challenge 2018 - Part 3". Stay tuned!

Hugo's Churros Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Are you guys eating again? At some point Marie and I became the kind of people who take pictures of everything we eat, whether in a restaura...