Saturday, September 26, 2009

Vancouver: Wasabi Ice Cream

When I like something I cannot get enough of it. So after finding out that there was a shop serving wasabi gelato I was all over it. La Casa Gelato serves over 200 flavors of gelato, and has been for 20 years. They actually have over 500 flavors, but keep 218 in rotation at all times. They started out in 1982 serving pizza and ice cream, but soon focused solely on gelato. Owner Vince Misceo insists on real eggs, cream, and "no air".

They are ready with ample sample spoons. As the owner acknowledges, they bring customers in with the wasabi and sell them the chocolate. The unusual flavors tend to go wayyyy out there. Corn, vinegar, radicchio, blue cheese, and dandelion just to name a few. The curry ice cream was hot enough to leave a burning sensation on my tongue. Way more than the wasabi did. But strawberry-jalapeno is the only one that tore my face right off.

In addition to spicy and savory flavors, La Casa Gelato has a huge selection of Asian flavors, including many fruits you have never seen in this form before. Lychee, starfruit, red bean, taro, jackfruit, black bean, Oh, and I LOVE durian, which my nephew thinks is insane. It tastes a little like skunk, and a little like the scent they add to natural gas. But lurking under all of that weirdness is the most delicious, dark, satisfying flavor. There is a reason people eat it.

I ended up getting a double cone of lavendar and Hedgehog.

Oh, and you can get ice cream cakes! I can't wait for my wasabi birthday cake!

PS I just had to include this shot

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vancouver: Obey Jonathan Gold at any Cost

Whenever I visit an aquarium they always have a gigantic King Crab. Part of me is standing there thinking about the wonders of nature, and part of me is thinking, "If not for these guards, buddy, it would be you, me, and a pound of melted butter.

When I sent out a general Facebook request for Vancouver restaurant suggestions, none other than Jonathan Gold recommended Sun Sui Wah. Now, that is a recommendation to heed. If Jonathan Gold picked something up off the sidewalk and told me to eat it I probably would - no matter what Lux Interior said.

Sun Sui Wah started out in Hong Kong and became famous there for their squab. During the 80s they opened up two locations in Canada - one in Vancouver, and one in Richmond. The restaurant is set up for banquet facilities with a bride's changing room, and as the website says, "A party of twenty! No problem!"

When we arrived at the restaurant, they were indeed hosting a wedding reception. We had to park a few blocks away since the ample parking was taken up by wedding guests.

The bride in red

At this point my mom was ready to bail. But they offered us a corner crammed up against the seafood tanks, and Justin was down for the adventure. I was tempted to ask them to just bring us the same food as the wedding guests.

But the thing to have here is the Alaska King Crab.

Alaska King Crab
Indigenous to the deep clear waters of Alaska and free from pollutants, the Alaska King Crab is truly King of the sea with tender juicy sweet meat.

Following my family's Chinese restaurant tradition, everyone at the table gets to order one dish. My mom ordered chicken/lettuce wraps (Ants Climbing Tree), which was a familiar and comforting dish. But I was saving my appetite.

and my nephew ordered the squab.

The Famous Roasted Squab
The famous roasted squab, a signature dish marinated with a secret blend of seasoning and spices to bring out the best flavors, roasted till crispy with tender juiced meat. One taste and it becomes habit forming. Although the squab is a delicacy more familiar to the Asian culture, now everyone is discovering its' delicious taste and health values.

I split the squab with him. The skin was crispy and laquered, the meat was juicy and tender without the gaminess I had expected.

Really, we should have only ordered one thing. It was an insane amount of food. But damn it, I was there to have crab and God help me I was gonna have crab. I asked for the smallest crab. They brought a live one out for our inspection, and in spite of it frightening nearby diners, I nodded my approval.

My nephew warned, "Ummmm....auntie...." because he knew how much meat was in that monster. I had no idea. I had eaten 8 crab legs in one sitting before at the local crab shack, so this would be easy. And dammit, a Pulitzer Prize winner wanted me to eat this crab! If Gabriel Garcia-Marquez wanted me to eat this crab, who would I be to question him?

They offered me the crab two ways, so I chose steamed with garlic and cooked with curry. By now my mom was practically rolling her eyes at the insanity. But I was on a mission - a crab mission.

Try to imagine the most delicious seafood you have ever tasted - fresh, intense and clean. Now multiply it by a thousand. The first course was not as buttery as I expected, and the garlic was intense, but the meat was so sweet, so succulent...the perfect crab. I must admit, the crab legs seemed endless - each leg was split into four, and it became a test of fortitude.

When the second course of curried crab arrived, my nephew just shook his head. I was on my own. The creamy, rich sauce was a nice follow-up to the intense garlic. It was smooth and flavorful. My mom stared at me with a mixture of disapproval and horror.

When the bill arrived, I snatched it up as fast as I could. As we left, my mom muttered, "That crab probably cost you 200 dollars." When I got the credit card bill in USD, it came out to 80 dollars. And it was worth every cent.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Vancouver Friday and Sat: Family

I have always loved visiting Granville Island ever since my Auntie Heather used to haul Starbucks coffee beans across the border to sell in her little coffee store. It also helped that she sold Smarties by weight and had a barrel of Smarties in the shop. I was excited to show Justin the cool warehouse market, which was similar to Pike Place.

Unfortunately, Granville Island has expanded ridiculously. I heard that inside the warehouse, it is still a cool mix of bakeries and fish markets, but we never made it that far. Parking was impossible, and the whole area was a mass of cheap gift shops and chain restaurants ala TG McFunsters. We gave up - so much for butter tarts.

We had a nice dinner at Aunt Heather's. She cooked enough for 3 meals. I was polite and did not photograph at the dinner table.

Saturday we had a small family reunion. My mom had 14 brothers and sisters, so I have 72 first cousins on her side. This was definitely a small get-together. My mom's sister came down from north Vancouver Island and her brother came from Kelowna. We had a nice lunch in the hotel restaurant by the harbour.

It was your typical American/Canadian fare - salads, sliders, burgers.

Most of the family ordered the taco salad

I did get into the ahi sliders, mostly because of the wasabi mayonnaise. I am seriously obsessed with wasabi.

Really, people go to unbelievable lengths to humor me and my food photography

Sticky Toffee Pudding, one of the wonders of British colonies

This is a gooseberry

As I was changing out lenses, a cousin impulsively hugged me, and my lens went flying. What is up with Canada and my camera lenses? Canada hates my camera! I was so traumatized I didn't go out partying with my cousin's women's hockey team that night. And that's not a drinking party to miss.

My Uncle Pat was a prison guard, and scared the hell out of us growing up. I don't think I saw him smile until I was in my 20s. He does have a nice smile.

The three closest siblings, Auntie Loretta, Uncle John and Mom

My Auntie Loretta is an amazing cook. I have been making her recipes for years.


2 cups macaroni
1/2 cup diced ham
1/2 cup diced cheddar cheese
1 stalk celery, diced
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1.2 teaspoon black pepper

(she adds 1/2 green pepper, diced and 1 teaspoon salt, which I leave out. The ham makes it salty enough for me)

Cook macaroni in saled water for 7 minutes. Drain. Run cold water over macaroni until it is cold.

Mix remaining ingredients into macaroni. Add more mayonnaise as desired.

Allow flavors to blend several hours before serving.