Ack! Ackee Fruit

I recently read an article in the New York Times about the ackee fruit, and learned something very important that I felt everyone else should know about too.

If Ackee is consumed before it is fully ripe, it will make your blood sugar level drop to such extreme low levels that you can possibly die from it. Because ackee is potentially harmful to those who are unfamiliar with the fruit, it is illegal to bring it in to the US. So remember, if you ever do get the chance to try ackee, make sure it is fully ripe or have someone who is familiar with the fruit check the ripeness for you.

When an ackee is fully ripe, it opens up and reveals its yellow fruit and black seed. You only eat the yellow flesh, and apparently, the flavour and texture is just like scrambled egg. I've heard good things about the national dish of Jamaica, ackee and saltfish. It is now officially on my 'need to try' list.

Eggplant Stew and Spinach Noodle Soup

Anytime I get an invitation for dinner at my in-laws, I get excited. You are so well fed there that you are guaranteed to leave satisfied.

Lately, I have not been going over there for dinner empty handed. I almost always bring my camera along with me, and the funny thing is is that my in-laws expect it now.

Dinner tonight was khoresh bademjan (eggplant stew), and ash-e-reshteh (spinach noodle soup). They are both delicious, and extremely good for you too. I have always loved the word badamjan (pronounced bod-um-joon). It was one of the first Persian words I ever learned, and it just rolls off my tongue.

To start, we had the spinach noodle soup. This is a hearty soup that is pretty much a meal in itself. Although it is very labor intensive, I do try to make this as much as possible in the winter time. I will be sure to post the recipe for this soon.

After that came the saffron rice that was served alongside the eggplant stew.

Persian rice always comes with tah-deeg. If I didn't stress it enough in my previous post, I'm going to stress it now. Tah-deeg is amazing. It is encrusted rice at the bottom of the pot. The picture below is potato tah-deeg: rice encrusted with potatoes. It tastes just like potato chips with a hint of saffron. It is a real treat!

This is the eggplant stew. Despite it looking very dark and heavy, this stew is actually extremely light and fresh in taste. I made this once for a dinner party, and everyone was surprised at how it tasted. They said it didn't look it, but it had a very refreshing tomato taste. This dish is usually garnished with fresh grape tomatoes and tiny, little pickled sour grapes.

For dessert, we had fruit salad and Persian raisin cookies with tea.

The fruit salad consisted of mangoes, blueberries, and pomegranate.
These Persian raisin cookies are very light, and low in fat. It is on my "must learn how to make" list.

With food being such a big part of their culture, my in-laws kept trying to feed me more food after all of this. They also had apple spice muffins and almond chocolate crisps, but I just didn't have the room.

Chicago Style Hot Dog

While passing through Chicago O'Hare airport on my way home to Ottawa, I wanted to have a taste of Chicago...literally! There was only one way that it could have been done, and that was at the Chicago Style Hot Dog stand at gate C8. The fun part of travelling is that you get to indulge in fast food without feeling guilty.

I don't care for ketchup on my hot dogs and I love everything that goes into a Chicago style hot dog, so it almost seems as though it was created especially for me.

Here is my must-have list of ingredients for a Chicago style hot dog:

If you want more info on the Chicago style hot dog, check out this site: Hot Dog Chicago Style. It has everything you ever wanted to know about this dog: history, fun facts, ratings, and more!

Hot Dog on Foodista

Whole Foods Market, San Diego

Travelling is not all glamourous for me. I do eat out quite a bit, but whenever possible, I try to eat healthy to keep me from being worn down from the fast pace of my travels.

I discovered a Whole Foods Market while driving around the streets of San Diego one evening. The Whole Foods market is a company that focuses on natural and organic foods, and has everything your average grocerey store would have. It is not unique to San Diego (they have stores all over North America and the UK), but it was a great place to find quick, healthy food for a tired traveller.

A few of my meals on this trip consisted of soup, sandwiches, fresh fruit, and fresh veggies at the Whole Foods Market.

Here is just a sample of what one of my dinners would look like. This is a mexican tortilla soup with half a veggie sandwich. I also had a container of pre-cut grapefruit, and a pint of blackberries to go with it.

My veggie sandwich consisted of multi-grain bread with an olive spread, swiss cheese, shredded carrots, fresh avocado, red onions, lettuce, tomato, and grilled zucchini.

I also discovered G.T.'s Organic Raw Kombucha tea while shopping here. I had never tried it before, and bought it to get an introductory taste.

Kombucha is a hand made chinese tea that is delicately cultured for 30 days. It is said to be good for digestion, liver function, and healthy skin and hair.

This particular kombucha tea was mixed with lemon juice and tasted almost like a carbonated salty lemon drink. The kombucha had a very strong smell to it, and also had a very distinct taste.
G.T.'s began bottling kombucha tea in 1995 after his mother's success from drinking it during her battle with breast cancer.

What you see at the top of the bottle are strands of the culture. They are normal and only occur in raw kombucha. I wasn't sure if you could drink it or not, so I decided to play it safe, and drank only the liquid.

711 University Ave
San Diego, California, United States
Telephone: 619 294-2800

Old Town Mexican Cafe, San Diego

I got a call telling me that two friends were landing in San Diego tonight, and that they were all meeting up for dinner near their hotel at Old Town Mexican Cafe. Being from Canada, real Mexican food is hard to find, so naturally, I accepted the offer.

Old Town Mexican Cafe was a packed restaurant. I've read that that the line ups get pretty long here, but we were lucky, and didn't have to wait very long. The look and feel of the place was like a family style restaurant with a mexican flare. The decor was very festive and the walls were covered with colourful mexican paintings.

As soon as we sat down, our waitress brought us a basket of hot corn tortilla chips with salsa. The salsa didn't look like anything much but it was was fresh, and had a real spicy kick to it. Their salsa definitely doesn't cater to the average tourist because a few of us were coughing from the hotness of the peppers. I'm not usually a chip person, but I couldn't stop eating them because the salsa was so good. While we were enjoying our chips and salsa, a mariachi band approached our table, so we requested 'La Cucaracha'.

My main meal was the trio enchilada: shrimp, chicken, and beef served with a side of beans. The shrimp enchilada was my favourite.
S also ordered the trio enchilada, but I honestly don't know how his ended up looking so different from mine. He said that he asked for his Sonora style but from what I've read, the only difference is that one is baked and the other is pan fried. I sent him a few emails afterwards asking about how he got his enchiladas to look the way it did, but his answers were vague, and he jokingly called me a silly gringo for all my questions. Gringo is a Spanish term used in some Latin American countries for 'foreigner'.

T ordered the Old Town famous carnitas, a Mexican braised pork dish. This was served with warm tortillas and a plate of onions, avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, and lime wedges.

D ordered the chicken and beef fajitas that also came with warm corn tortillas.

Overall, the food was pretty good. It definitely was better than the Mexican food you would find in Canada.

2489 San Diego Ave
San Diego, California, United States
Telephone: 619 297-4330

Old Town Mexican Cafe on Urbanspoon

Roy's, San Diego

Roy's Hawaiian fusion restaurant recently opened its 8th California restaurant in San Diego. Although I was told it was a good restaurant, I was reluctant to dine here because it is technically a "restaurant chain", which I am not fond of. However, Chef Roy Yamaguchi, who owns the chain, has been operating successfully for 20 years, and ensures that he trains and mentors each of his local restaurant chef partners. Chef Roy Yamaguchi is best known for his unique combination of European techniques with ingredients from Asia Pacific.

We sat at a patio table that was right beside a fire pit to keep us warm from the night time breeze. Hawaiian music was playing all night which made you feel like you were on the islands, far away.

Instead of dinner rolls to start, our waiter brought us a plate of edamame sprinkled with salt and a mild chili powder.

For an appetizer, we ordered the carving board. This consisted of cured meats, smoked sausage, goat and brie cheese, and a type of fruit spread. Just as we finished placing our order, we spotted another friend sitting all by his lonesome at the bar. We called for him and invited him to join us for dinner. We ordered a second carving board just in case there wasn't enough food to go around.

For mains, two of us ordered Roy's classic trio. This dish was marked as an original favourite on the menu which meant that it has been a favourite menu item since the opening of the first Roy’s in Honolulu in 1988. The classic trio is a sampling of three traditionally prepared fish: hibachi grilled salmon, blackened island ahi, and Hawaiian style misoyaki butterfish. This was served with white rice sprinkled with black sesame seeds. The misoyaki was divine, and I could have eaten a whole plate of it.

J ordered the Hawaiian Ono that was served with a sizzling bell pepper vinaigrette and tempura vegetables. He was raving about it all night, and said that if we wanted to try some, we should come back the next night and order it ourselves. I think he enjoyed it too much!

My friend S ordered the roasted macadamia nut crusted mahi mahi with lobster butter sauce.

For dessert, I ordered an upside-down pineapple cake served with pineapple ice cream. It takes at least 20 minutes to make, so if you plan on ordering this, they reccomend that you let the waiter know in advance so you don't have to wait for it.

Roy's prides themselves in their committment to sourcing the finest and freshest quality seafood available. They focus on delicacies from the oceans surrounding Hawaii, and mentioned that most of their fish comes from the island. We all had a great much that no one offered to share anything with anyone.

333 West Harbor Drive
San Diego, California, United States
Telephone: 619 239-7697

Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine on Urbanspoon

A Snack at Harbor House Restaurant, San Diego

While strolling through Seaport Village in San Diego, a friend and I popped into Harbor House Restaurant for a mid afternoon snack. Seaport Village is a nice little area filled with shops and restaurants. It is an arm's length from San Diego bay, and aside from the shops and food, Seaport Village also offers entertainment for both the young and old.

We ordered the fried calamari and shrimp cocktail to share between the two of us.

It's always great to have calamari in a city where seafood is readily available. The calamari was fresh, crisp, and lightly breaded. It was served with a marinara sauce.

With the hot and sunny weather, we wanted our second choice to be chilled. The shrimp cocktail was refreshing, and it was served with a housemade remoulade and cocktail sauce.

Although it wasn't much of a meal, it was great just to be nibbling on some food while enjoying the beautiful view, and good conversation.

Mariscos German, San Diego

San Diego was a great change in weather and scenery, and I left at the perfect time. Just when it was about to start to snow in Ottawa, I was on a plane to warm and sunny San Diego. It was about 85 °F on most days, and I couldn't have asked for better weather.

Prior to visiting San Diego, I attempted to do research on where to go to find good fish tacos. I was seeking for a place that would not only provide good food but a unique experience as well.

I nailed it down to Mariscos German. With a few good reviews and no website, I decided to take my chance and venture there.

Mariscos German is a festive little restaurant that is shaped like a boat, and easy to spot. When I pulled up, their juke box was playing loud mariachi music, and locals driving in for take-out had Spanish music blaring from their cars. I was a little intimidated to walk in because it seemed like I was crashing this huge Spanish fiesta, but as soon as I stepped into the brightly painted restaurant, I was greeted warmly.

When the time came to order, I didn't know what to get because the entire menu was in Spanish. Luckily, a restaurant I had been to in Cabo, Mexico last year had some similar items, so there were some words I recognized such as "pescado". I was in the mood for fish tacos that night, so I put two and two together and ordered the pescado taco. The waitress recommended the mariscada taco, so I ordered that as well. To help quench my thirst, I ordered a tamarind drink.

Before my dinner, I was served a camarón y pescado caldo, a shrimp and fish soup, in a styrofoam cup. The broth was a flavorful blend of seafood. I squirted some lime in it, and downed it quickly. I really enjoyed it!

When my tacos came out, I was excited. This baja street snack looked just like I imagined. On the left is the mariscada taco, and on the right is the pescado taco. Both tacos were served on fresh griddle cooked corn tortillas.

Right before I was about to dig into my tacos, the waitress brought over two bottles of hot sauces (separate from the ones displayed on the table) and warned me that they were really really hot. I poured the hot sauce over my tacos, and understood clearly what she meant.

The pescado taco were strips of deep fried battered fish with cabbage and tomatoes with white sauce drizzled over top. It was made really well, and did not feel heavy and greasy at all.

The mariscada taco was a combination of sautéed fish, shrimp, scallops, octopus, and veggies. The portions didn't look big, but the fish taco filled me up really quickly, and I was barely able to finish the mariscada taco.

I definitely recommend this place for their tacos. It's a nice casual place to sit back and enjoy your food the messy way.

I noticed that most of the locals ordered the caldos. The little bit that I tasted definitely seemed like it was worth buying.

Mariscos German on Urbanspoon

A Nice Little Surprise in My Mailbox

My mailbox is a community mailbox where I have to walk a block down the road to retrieve my mail. Unless it is time to pay the bills, I am very slow to retrieve my mail.

I got a call from CK this morning telling me to go get my mail. I said I would, but completely forgot about it because I got side tracked (googling food related topics). I got another call from him hours later to remind me to get my mail, so I finally got up, and ran like the wind to my mailbox. I was excited because I knew would be getting a gift package of some sort. CK would not have been so eager otherwise.

When I got home, I tore open the large box I brought home with me, and to my surprise, I found two giant cook books: Alineaby Grant Achatz and My China: A Feast for All the Sensesby Kylie Kwong.

Both these books are truly beasts in size. With Alinea being almost 400 pages and My China being almost 500 pages, it was an effort just carrying these books to my book shelf. Both of them contain an abundant amount of photos, allowing you to be carried away into another world.

Alinea is a book with over 100 recipes, and is divided into 4 sections: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Don't expect to just open up the book and start replicating these dishes. Most of the recipes require equipment and ingredients that you will not have handy in your kitchen such as a volcano vaporizer, immersion blender, methylcellulose, transglutaminase, and xanthan gum. The purchase of this book will also include free access to Alinea Mosaic, a website that hosts demo videos, bonus recipes, and interactive recipe annotations. Here are a few photos of the creations from Alinea restaurant (taken from their website):
And here are a some photos of dishes from My China (taken from the Kylie Kwong website):

In this book, the Australian born chef accounts her tour of modern-day China and Tibet. She provides many stories about her encounters with the people that made an impression on her, and she also provides snippets of chinese culture and traditions.
The most authentic regional foods are showcased, and this book containes over 80 carefully picked recipes. Most are very easy to make, and she has adapted many of the dishes so that they can be easily prepared in your kitchen.
Back in 2000, Kylie opened Billy Kwong restaurant in Sydney's trendy Surry Hills with Australia's beloved chef, Bill Granger. Kylie once headed the kitchen of Sydney's famous Bills and Bills2, which is where the two probably met. As you may have guessed, Bill Granger is the owner of Bills and Bills2.
This is completely off topic, but Bills serves the most delicious scrambled eggs you will ever taste. Upon ordering, you'll wonder to yourself why you would ever pay $12.80 for scrambled eggs alone, but you must taste it to understand. The recipe is on their website, but I'd rather be in denial as to what actually goes into those eggs. They are definitely not for the faint heart.
In 2005, Billy Kwong committed to serving only organic and biodynamic foods. I've walked by this place many times, and just couldn't bare to pay so much for chinese food. To me, chinese food equates to cheap food. However, I must credit them because Billy Kwong does pay very careful attention to quality in their food and cooking. I may just ditch all my pre-conceived notions of what chinese food should and shouldn't be, and try this place out the next time I am in the neighborhood.

Both these books will take a while to get through, but in the meantime, if I ever attempt to follow any of the recipes, I will be sure to share.

I'm off to San Diego this weekend...home of fish tacos! Hopefully, I'll be able to take some good pics to share.