British snacks (and booze too!)

One thing I like to do when I go to a foreign country is snoop around and test out some snacks that you might not find out at home. Here are a few from my stopover in London.

The 99 Flake – a soft ice cream cone with a Cadbury Flake chocolate bar stuck in it. I actually didn’t have any this trip (was too cold at the time), but I still remember the first time I had one. It was while on a day tour of the Scottish Highlands and I spotted a little stand selling them in a little Scottish town we stopped in for a quick potty break. The cold of the ice cream makes the thin layers of the Flake a little brittle, and you can use the Flake to scoop up your quickly melting ice cream. This photo was of a stand that was just outside of Hampton Court Palace. The poor guy inside must have been freezing!

99 Flake

99 Flake

I don’t drink a lot of alcohol, but I’ve really become attached to hard ciders. While it’s harder to find a quality cider here are home, over in England they are everywhere. I was told that I should try Bulmers because they were better than Strongbow, so I picked up a bottle of apple cider and another one of pear cider. They were crisp without being overly sweet and I enjoyed them, but I was a little let down by the pear cider because it didn’t taste of pears at all and was almost indistinguishable from the apple cider.

Bulmers ciders

Bulmers ciders

When you go to another country, you gotta learn the snack lingo. Over there, chips = French fries and crisps = potato chips. I think my favourite so far is still the Walkers Worcester Sauce crisps, but I tried a few other ones this time. Also in the photo is an orange Fanta. I love drinking Fanta over there because it tastes more like Orangina than orange soda. And I was intrigued by finding a Fanta Zero, so I bought it to see if the flavour changed a lot due to the artificial sweeteners (wasn’t bad but the real thing is still better). The crisps pictured here are Quavers (cheese flavoured potato chips in a corn chip shape), Walkers Max Paprika (ripple chips) and Wotsits (cheese puffs). The Quavers were kind of salty and bland. The Wotsits weren’t as cheesy-tasting as my favourite Hawkin’s Cheezies and they weren’t as crunchy either. The paprika crisps were good and did taste exactly like paprika.

Fanta Zero and crisps

Fanta Zero and crisps

As a treat one evening, our hosts made us some apple crumble topped with THE best non-dairy ice cream that I have ever had. Lactose, cholesterol and gluten-free, Swedish Glace tasted no different from a regular ice cream and had a creamy texture. I really, really wish you could buy it here!

Swedish Glace

Swedish Glace

While I was in London they launched these new Marmite cereal bars. I managed to snag a sample (and coupon) as I passed by on my way to the Tube. Interesting marketing campaign, huh?

Marmite cereal bar

Marmite cereal bar

Marmite, in case you don’t know what it is, is a yeast extract that is often spread on toast.

Marmite coupon

Marmite coupon

If you’ve ever tried Marmite (or the Australian version Vegemite), then you will know exactly how this thing tastes like. NASTY. I took a bite of the bar and then spit it back out. One of our local hosts insisted that “real” Marmite on toast was much, much better, and I didn’t like that either. It’s definitely an acquired taste.

bar close up

bar close up

I’m almost done the London posts! There are a few more to come, and then I’m moving on to Morocco.

Gluten-free pizza party

I’ve been wanting to give GF Patissiere‘s baking a try for a while now. Luckily, I managed to have a small order tagged onto a regular delivery to Edmonton and, after meeting Peter (delivery man, husband to GF Patissiere’s owner and baker Victoria, and the guy behind The Celiac Husband blog) and his lovely daughter, I had the goodies in my hands.

And then I had to promptly stick them all in the freezer for two weeks because I was saving them all for a get-together with friends. It was pure torture, let me tell you. But I was a good girl, and didn’t even open the box to peek inside. Who knew I had so much willpower?

The box that called out "open me!"

The box that called out "open me!"

In addition to dessert, I also ordered some gluten-free pizza shells so that we could assemble our own Celiac friendly pizzas. I took everything out of the freezer the day before, and I am happy to say that freezing didn’t affect the quality of the food at all.

GF Patisserie pizza shells

GF Patisserie pizza shells

We added a little cheese, a little tomato sauce, some yellow, orange and green bell peppers, some Mastro extra lean hot capocollo, and some Harvest Meats bison sausage before popping the shells into the oven. A couple of different side salads rounded off the meal.

my beautiful pizza

my beautiful pizza

The crust browned perfectly in the oven and took no time at all to make. If you like thin crust pizza, I would highly recommend these. And all of us agreed that you couldn’t tell they were made from special gluten-free dough, which is high praise because most gluten-free products do taste at least slightly different from the originals due to the mix of alternative flours.

one of the other pizzas

one of the other pizzas

And some sangria to go with the meal didn’t hurt either.

Yes we were lazy and didn't make it from scratch.

Yes we were lazy and didn't make it from scratch.

To end the meal we cracked open the box and devoured brownies made from Barry Callebaut chocolate and cream cheese. (To be perfectly honest some of us couldn’t hold out anymore and we had some of these before eating our pizza!) They were like biting into a piece of rich, thick cheese cake and were heavenly to eat. One friend said — and keep in mind that I quote her exactly — that they were “fucking glorious.”

Callebaut and cream cheese brownies

Callebaut and cream cheese brownies

If you want to learn more about GF Patisserie, make sure you check out their website, Peter’s blog, and also this profile on Victoria that Chris did a little while ago.

GF Patisserie
122 – 3rd Ave West
Cochrane, Alberta
www.gfpatisserie.com

What to do on a hot day? Bueno Gelato, Edmonton

Why, go get some ice cream, of course. Or more specifically, some delicious gelato. Smooth and creamy but containing less fat than other ice cream, gelato makes a lovely treat.

Bueno Gelato

Bueno Gelato

Earlier this summer, I popped into Bueno Gelato for a scoop to enjoy in the sunshine. According to this Chowhound comment, they are the suppliers to many restaurants around town including Famoso.

Unfortunately I forget which flavour I ordered (cherry? raspberry? strawberry? blackberry?), but I remember that it was dense and creamy like any good quality ice cream. They have quite a few flavours available and also have take out containers if you want some to take home for later for say, a dinner party. Or your own consumption by yourself in your pj’s in front of the TV.

one small scoop of gelato

one small scoop of gelato

My only criticism would be the price. Has anyone actually found a cheap but still delicious scoop of gelato anywhere in Edmonton? Please share!

Bueno Gelato
12325 102 Avenue
Edmonton, AB

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Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery, Las Vegas

When we decided to take a trip to Las Vegas, I knew immediately that I wanted to put a stop at Bouchon, Thomas Keller’s French bistro, at the top of my to-do list. I’ve been dreaming of The French Laundry for years — way before I started this blog, and before Ratatouille (which used his kitchen and food as inspiration) — and this would be my first chance to try any food by Thomas Keller.

Both Bouchon and the Bouchon Bakery are located in the Venetian hotel, but are in two totally different locations.

Just getting to the restaurant is an adventure in itself. Instead of being located in the main part of the hotel itself, the restaurant is actually in the middle of the Venezia Tower and I had to get permission from a security guard to take the hotel guest tower up to the correct floor.

The decor inside the restaurant is amazing; as soon as you step inside you forget you are in a hotel tower and are transported to a French bistro. Tall windows let in plenty of light, the patterned floor draws your eye, and the wood warms the room. Menus are printed on brown paper and wrapped around your napkin.

Bouchon - table settings

Bouchon - table settings

Daily specials are written on a couple of chalkboards – one posted near the entrance and one near the windows.

Bouchon - daily specials

Bouchon - daily specials

Service was warm and efficient, and along with our server we had water service from someone else who I think was the sommelier (but I never asked). Continue reading

Kek Seng Kopitiam, Malaysia

Laksa, popiah and ais kacang with durian ice cream oh my! Just a warning, this is going to be a long post. Kek Seng Kopitiam (coffee shop) is an institution in Penang. It’s been around for years and years, and frankly the atmosphere is a little dingy (although all the tables, plates, bowls, etc. were clean). The food is a little more old fashioned too; unlike at someplace like New World, the food is pretty much how it was served 30+ years ago (found something online that says Kek Seng opened in 1906). When we were there it was quite busy but we managed to snag a table.

One thing I miss dearly about Malaysia was the easy access to laksa. And by laksa, I mean Penang assam laksa. I talked about curry mee (curry laksa) a little while ago. That one is a coconut-based curry broth. Penang-style assam laksa is a sour, mackerel-based soup that is flavoured with tamarind, lemongrass, galangal, chilli, ginger flower buds, mint, pineapple and onion. You also usually get a soup spoon filled with a thick, sweet prawn paste called Hae Ko, and the whole thing is served with rice noodles (either thick or vermicelli).

The assam laksa at Kek Seng was one of my favourites that I had throughout the trip. A strong fish broth with all those spices and a slight sourness; my mouth is watering as I type this. This first photo is of the hawker stall; those pink things are the ginger flowers. When I’ve shown that photo to other people, the reaction I’ve gotten has been “you mean they actually use flowers and not ginger root?!”

Penang assam laksa hawker stall

Penang assam laksa hawker stall

Continue reading

Ernest’s (NAIT School of Hospitality), Edmonton

If you want a high class meal at discount prices, one sure way is to try out the local chef school. In my case, that would be Ernest’s, NAIT’s School of Hospitality restaurant where second year culinary arts students get to test out their skills.

The evening I was there, you could choose from their regular menu or from a special set menu designed by a group of students. The special menu was tempting, but the entree was a Peking-style duck with noodles. I’d rather go eat that in Chinatown. So instead my table chose their items from the menu.

First off, apologies for the dark photos. We were in a dark section of the restaurant and I really didn’t want to use my flash. I did a tiny bit of adjustment in Photoshop, but I didn’t want to change the photos too much.

To start, we shared a plate of crab cakes (creole mustard, arugula & lemon, red pepper oil). The flavours were great; the crab cake was creamy inside and the dipping sauces complimented the crab very well, although I think I prefered the mustard to the red pepper oil. My one complaint was that, although it looked perfectly cooked, as soon as you picked up a crab cake it fell apart into soft pieces. Maybe thicker, but not necessarily crispier, crust would have made this dish more complete.

Crab cakes

Crab cakes

For entrées, we ordered a chili-maple glazed filet of salmon (cilantro lime yogurt),

Chili-maple glazed filet of salmon

Chili-maple glazed filet of salmon

and a Lamb shank osso buco (wheatberry mash and aged balsamic gastrique).

Lamb shank osso buco

Lamb shank osso buco

The salmon was one of the most flavourful salmons that I’ve had in a long time. The glaze seemed to have penetrated through the flesh completely, and the fish was perfectly cooked. Usually you only get some flavouring on top of the fish, not throughout it, so we were fairly impressed.

The lamb had a hearty flavour, perfect for a cold day. The cooking of the meat was a bit uneven as some pieces were cooked perfectly and practically melted in your mouth, while others seemed a bit tough to chew. The wheatberry mash (underneath the lamb and not visible in the photo) was a nice change from the regular mashed potatoes that you usually end up with. My big peeve was that this dish was served in a rather deep bowl, and without a spoon it was quite hard to eat all the last bits of the mash.

We were horribly full but I really wanted to test out one of their desserts, so we finally settled on a gingerbread ice cream. It arrived in a molasses-flavoured edible bowl that was interesting to look at but hard to eat as ripping off bits of the bowl was like pulling taffy instead of it breaking off like a cracker. The ice cream had a very deep ginger and spice taste, but the dish only really tasted like gingerbread once you ate a bit of the bowl together with a bite of the ice cream.

Gingerbread ice cream

Gingerbread ice cream

The service at the restaurant was relatively quick and efficient, a rarity that has been missing from many places thanks to the Alberta economy. All in all, I have to say that I’m quite impressed by the student chefs and servers.  I’ll definitely be back at some point in the future.

Ernest’s (NAIT School of Hospitality)
11762-106 Street
Edmonton, Alberta
N.B. The restaurant is only open during the school year. Additional photos and menus with pricing can be viewed at www.nait.ca/schoolofhospitality/ernests.htm.

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