Mairuru - Hand sewn

Mairuru is one of my favourite blogs to read on a regular basis. She’s a Japanese blogger who sews everything from little bags, to scarves, to little dolls by HAND. It seems that she sews incredibly fast, because she produces an awful lot (she even makes clothes by hand). Everything is cute, neat, and well-made. Japanese fabrics are so beautiful. Since I’ve put away my sewing machine, I haven’t done any sewing, but reading her blog is very inspiring. I have a hand-sewn project in mind already....

The blog is mostly a chronicle of her hand-sewn projects, but there are picture stories of her travels and pictures of her neighbourhood as well (there is a nice collection of pictures of cats on the streets of Japan). I also really like seeing everyday life from Japan—things seem very different there. I especially like to look at the food pictures. It’s fascinating!

She also has an etsy shop where you can buy some of her creations (photos in this entry are from there).

Miniature Nature

I was browsing through Apartment Therapy and stumbled upon this entry, which more or less opened the door to a fantasy from childhood: dollhouses! I wouldn't consider myself to be a girly-girly as a child, but I did have a particular fondness for Barbies (my favorites were the non-blond ones, heh heh). I fashioned Barbies' house out of stacks of plastic milk crates; I sewed clothing for them and made them furniture from my dad's Gitane cigarette packages. I also for some reason loved going to the cheesy and touristy Miniature World in Victoria, which remains a happy memory for me.

When I saw some of these images I was amazed and awed. These rooms and houses are incredible works of art.

This, of course, is a whole other world....

These are a couple sites I admire....

The above pictures are from the beautiful Mini Modern. Mini Modern's houses and rooms are contemporary, clean and amazingly well put together. I would love to live in a full-sized version of any of these houses!

The Call of the Small has a wonderful retro aesthetic. Call's rooms are colourful and fun. You can imagine having a party there and listening to records while you're lying on the floor.

It's down the rabbit hole from there, folks. Enjoy.

Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is one of the restaurants you always hear good stuff about; it is very well loved by critics, chefs (like Anthony Bourdain), foodies, and locals. Yet for all its success and fame, the restaurant still maintains that very basic, no-frills quality that is ubiquitous in ordinary Chinese restaurants. It's located at the edge of Chinatown, next to a few Chinese grocery stores, and the exterior is very plain and non-descript. You could easily walk on by and miss it entirely. Inside is no better, with a large room with light coloured walls and plain grey tables. Very basic.

For this visit, we decide on the fried squid with lemon pepper sauce ($7.50 for a half portion). This is basically the squid version of their famous chicken wings. The squid was pretty tender and the lemon dipping sauce gave a great tang and cut the greasy element quite a bit. However, I confess I'm one of the rare ones that finds this dish (and indeed the chicken wings) not too likable. I mean, it's okay, but to me there seems to be something sprinkled on the batter that I just don't like. There's this strong tasting crystal that's on there --- so I think I have a good idea about what that is, but that would just be speculation. Anyway, many people seem to love this batter on the wings and squid. To each his own.

Shane got the beef Luc Lac ($8.85). This was thinly sliced beef fried in a sort of peppery, slightly sweet gravy. This was really good and savoury, especially with rice. It reminded me a lot of the kind of food you could get on every street corner in Thailand.

I was hankering for something soupy, so I decided to get the Phnom Penh Beef Noodle in Soup ($6.95). This looked really good--there was a nice clear brown colour to the broth, and there was plenty of cilantro and fried onion oil. However, the broth was really bland, and there was barely any beef taste. I had to add a ton of soy sauce to this to make it taste like something. On the other hand, the beef balls were fantastic (just like in Thailand!), and so was the rare beef in the soup. Overall, a huge disappointment.

We've eaten here a couple of times, and despite some disappointments, we would come here again, if only to explore more of their voluminous menu.

Phnom Penh on Urbanspoon

Cafe Medina

Cafe Medina has been on my to-do list for a while, because it's from the same creators of Chambar (one of our favorite places to eat) next door. On Sunday, we decided visit the Art Gallery and to see a movie (A Serious Man) at Tinseltown, so we headed to downtown pretty early in the morning. We arrived at around 9:45am, which turned out to be a good time, because we snagged the last table. Very auspicious.

The place was packed, but had a really nice, casual, yet sophisticated atmosphere. The restaurant is small, with banquette style seating at one end of the room, and the bar on the other side, with stools for about 5 people.

I ordered Earl Grey tea ($2.75), and the loose tea arrived in a little French press, along with a tiny cup of milk. I loved the very cute cup and saucer--it matched the colours of the restaurant, and had a nice weight to it. I was impressed. Shane got the apple juice ($3.75), which was pretty standard.

We'd tried the waffles at Chambar a year or two ago, so I knew they made good ones. We decided to get one each ($3.15), and also got a couple of accompaniments, the mixed berry compote and the fig orange marmalade ($1 per topping). The waffles were astounding: warm, golden brown, with a slight doughy chewiness and sweetness. Delicious! The toppings were good too, with the compote having a slight edge. But honestly, I just preferred these little heavenly rounds just as they were, because they were so utterly perfect.

For the mains, Shane got the Fricasse ($15), which is braised short rib mixed with potatoes, apples, greens, applewood cheddar, all topped with a couple of eggs, sunny side up. It arrived in its own little cast iron pan, with a warm chunk of foccaccia bread. This was wonderful--the short ribs (shredded) were tender, savoury, and had a slight sweetness, and the eggs were cooked well. I only had a taste of this, but Shane mentioned that every bite was different because of the different components that you could arrange on your fork. He really loved this, and I was a little jealous!

I ordered the Tagine ($13), which was two merguez sausages, a chickpea and tomato stew, olives, and topped with two poached eggs. It came with foccaccia bread and a scoop of sour cream. This was also very, very tasty. The sausages were wonderful, with a deep spiciness, and the stew had a fresh tomato flavour, which was mellowed by the soft poached egg. I really enjoyed this--normally I eat pretty fast, but this dish made me slow down, and savour every little bite.

We love Cafe Medina. This was probably one of the best breakfast experiences we've ever had, because the dishes weren't the usual fare you'd get at any other place; the dishes were so unique and flavourful and well executed. Sure, it's a little pricy for breakfast, but what originality! What quality! What waffles!

Bravo, and encore.

Cafe Medina on Urbanspoon

Cumpari's Gelato & Caffe

One night after dinner, we decided to pay a visit to Cumpari's, a gelato and dessert place. The building used to be the old Burger King, but this place opened a few years ago. Somehow it still feels like a Burger King place to me (ah, the memories), even though the interior has been transformed.

Cumpari's did have a great many flavours to choose from. We got a couple of small gelato cups ($3.75): pistachio, and hazelnut. Normally pistachio flavour is our test of a good gelato, and it's also one of our favorite flavours. Unfortunately, this version has very little nutty taste--it could have been any flavour, for all we knew. The hazelnut was a lot better, however, although I had a few old congealed milk bits on my tongue.

We also tried the cannoli. It was okay. The pastry was more chewy than crisp, and the ricotta filling was a tad heavy and dense. One good thing about it was that it wasn't too sweet.

We probably wouldn't come here again, but I guess for the area, Cumpari is an okay place if you're in the mood for gelato. It is definitely not in the same league as the ones in Vancouver, however.

Cumpari's Gelato & Caffe on Urbanspoon

Golden Boot Cafe

When I was growing up in Coquitlam, I used to pass by The Golden Boot Cafe every once in a while, but I never actually tried the food there. We always flocked to Vancouver to eat out, 'cause it was...Coquitlam, you know?

Anyway, we finally paid the Golden Boot a visit. I'd heard that the place was family-run, that the food was good, but that it was really small. Apparently it's deemed to be pretty authentic, with everything handmade.

The restaurant is located right in the middle of the nowhere, on a side street parallel to Austin Avenue, right across from the Safeway parking lot. The atmosphere is friendly, with the baseball game on the large screen TV and wooden tables and chairs. According to the website, the restaurant expanded earlier in March to make the space a lot bigger.

Arriving at 6pm, we were seated right away. It became a lot busier later on that night, especially on a weekday. We also saw a handful of people get take out. There seems to be quite a few regulars there as well.

After we sat down, we were given a basket of warm, toasted foccacia bread. There were bottles of balsamic and olive oil on the table, so we were able to make a little dip. After we were done, we were even asked if we wanted some more bread. Even though we declined, I thought that was really nice of them to offer.

We decided to share the Antipasto Salad ($18), which was a huge platter filled with Genoa salami, proscuitto, mortadella, prawns, olives, roasted peppers, marinated artichokes, goat cheese, bocconcini, and Parmigiano cheese. Under all this was a bed of lettuce. This was large and tasty. The meats and goat cheese were the highlight. We were sort of full after this platter.

We shared the mains. This is the large Pizza Modenese ($14), with proscuitto, Parmigiano, and arugula. The pizza really reminded me of the pizzas I had when I was in Italy--thin crust, and really straightforward toppings. The pizza tasted really good--the proscuitto gave the pizza a nice saltiness, and the tomato sauce was fresh tasting. The arugula gave the pizza a nice fresh bite. The only minor thing was that the crust could have been a little bit more crispy.

We also shared the large size Spaghetti alla Carbonara ($13). I swear, this was the most delicious Spaghetti Carbonara I've ever had. It was really rich, cheesy and creamy, with a prominent proscuitto flavour. Every bite was sinful and luxurious. And the pasta! The handmade spaghetti had a beautiful texture: cooked but still a little chewy. It felt good in your mouth, if that makes any sense. It truly emphasized the differences between fresh pasta and store bought ones. It was a revelation. We both loved this.

We were quite full after all this, and even had half a pizza to take home. I was so happy when we left, because it was one of those moment where you're full of the most delicious food, and you feel like you've made such a discovery. It makes you wonder what other treasures lie in your own backyard.

We will definitely come here again and again. It is a heartbeat of a restaurant.

The Golden Boot Cafe on Urbanspoon

Happy Thanksgiving!

Our family is scattered all around Canada and overseas, so Thanksgiving dinner ended up just being Shane, my mom and me.

The turkey was missing a wing, so the turkey was a little out of balance during cooking. It was a small bird (this is post removal of one leg). But it was juicy and succulent!

Turkey Platter

For the sides, there was mashed potato, stuffing (from a box!), gravy, brussel sprouts with bacon and pecan, baked yam and sweet potato with butter and honey. Shane made the cranberry sauce, which is so easy and tastes so much better than the canned.

The plate

For dessert, I made "Super Apple Cake" It was really easy and filled with apples. Crunchy crust and soft apple layers. We had this with ice cream.

Hope everyone else has had a delicous weekend!


Insadong is one of our favorite places to go for Korean food. Out of the numerous Korean restaurants around the Lougheed area, it is probably the most popular, acclaimed, and well known (it is the winner of 'Best Korean Restaurant' in the weekly paper). We always come here for Korean BBQ. Prices are a little high, but the portions are usually enormous.

It is located in a little strip mall on the corner of North Road and Lougheed Highway, and although the sign is clearly lit in neon, the entrance is modest and off to the side. Inside, the seating consists of many wooden booths, ensuring a bit of privacy. It is a very large restaurant, with a few private rooms as well.

It was dinner time on a Saturday holiday weekend, so the place was packed. There was a line up when we arrived and we had to wait for about 15 minutes.

Shane and I took my two cousins from out of town there and it was quite an experience, because neither of them had been before, and S had never tried Korean BBQ.

Instead of the usual tea in Chinese or Japanese restaurants, we get served barley tea here. It has a light, nutty taste. In many Korean restaurants there is the the 'call bell', to call your server. I like this system--you get left alone when you want to be and get help when you want help.

We also get served some side dishes (Banchan): stewed potatoes, cabbage kimchi, cucumber kimchi, sprouts, and julienne of pickled turnip.

We decided to share an assorted tempura appetizer ($13.99). This was good--light and crunchy.

We also choose to share the 2-3 person BBQ combo ($59.99), which comes with so many items.

This is the beef salad - slices of blanched beef with tomatoes, pineapple, lettuce, sprouts, broccoli with a delicious tangy dressing.

The vegetable roll: turnip and other vegetables wrapped in turnip. This is not one of my favorites. It tasted bland, but was refreshing.

Seafood pancake. Insadong's version is thick and a little oily, but delicious. It was filled with octopus and other seafood.

The seafood soup arrived in a big bowl, and we spooned it out for everyone to share. There was clam, a prawn, and other seafood. The tofu and broth had a very delicate flavour.

Now on to the meat! The server brought out a ginormous platter of raw meat and seafood (it barely fit on to the table, actually), and put the grill right in the middle of the table. There was short rib, marinated beef rib, chicken bulgogi, spicy pork bulgogi, and beef bulgogi, along with shrimp, mussels, and oysters.

Cooking at the table is always pretty fun, though the smell of the meat transfers to your clothes. There was a lot of food, and all of us were pretty stuffed.

Insadong is a great experience especially for Korean cuisine newbies. It's fun, delicious, and interactive. What more can you ask for?

Insadong Korean BBQ and Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

A One of a Kind Souvenir

On Thursday some of us from the office went down to visit the One of a Kind show at the Convention Centre (on from Oct . 8 - 11). There were a lot of cool clothes, jewelry, crafts and art. I picked up a couple of packages of Coach House Shortbread, which are artisanal shortbread, made entirely by hand in small batches. There were a great number of flavours like lemon and chocolate, but what interested me most was their savory shortbread, which seemed really unusual. I got the Spicy Asiago and Garlic, and the Stilton and Rosemary. These rich, buttery discs are delicate, crumbly and very delicious.

Plus, the packaging is so beautiful. I so like artfully wrapped objects.

Paros Taverna

To celebrate my good friend L’s belated birthday, we went for dinner at Paros Taverna at Burquitlam Plaza in Coquitlam (it is, incidentally, right next door to Fuji’s). I'd been to the restaurant many times before, ever since my aunt brought the family here years and years ago (it’s her favourite Greek restaurant). My general thoughts about the place is that the food is quite good, but the restaurant is a little too expensive; you can get the same food for much less in Vancouver. Anyway, the restaurant is big, with a large patio that’s open in the summer, but as soon as you walk in you get hit with darkness (that's why these photos are so crappy!). The restaurant is dark: dark walls, floors, dark wood tables & chairs, and they never seem to turn any lights on. It’s really best to sit near the windows.

When we arrived, there were a few people finishing up their meals, but it was a Tuesday evening and by the end of the night we were one of two tables dining in the restaurant. The server was, of course, dressed entirely in black, but was very nice. We decided on a couple of appetizers ($4 - $12.50) and we all shared a platter for two.

We got the homous ($5) to share. It came with a stack of hot, fluffy, golden pitas. Great pitas. However, the homous wasn’t the best. I’m not an expert in Greek cuisine, but this homous was a lot more chunky than we’ve had at other places. It tasted plain, and it definitely needed more tahini, garlic and lemon. It also wasn’t the greatest deal for such a small serving.

The other appetizer we ordered was the Htipiti ($10), which is baked goat cheese with sides of olives and roasted peppers. The baked goat cheese was delicious, but again, it was a tiny amount. The olives and peppers were just ok. For the price, it wasn’t the most generous. However, we did enjoy the taste of the warm goat cheese with the pita.

The Paros Platter ($28) is what we usually get when we come here, because you get a wide sampling of dishes and the servings are quite large. On the platter are chicken souvlaki, prawn souvlaki, karamaria, dolmades, and spanakopita. Aside from the main components, it also comes with Greek Salad, Pita, Potatoes and Rice. Both the souvlakis were good, but the chicken was a tad dry. Possibly the highlight were the fried calamari—the pieces were tender, slightly crunchy, and well seasoned. The tzatziki was also excellent: thick, rich, and with good flavour. The dolmades were not bad—I would have liked a more pronounced lemon flavour, and the spanakopita was merely middling—it was a little soggy and the filling lacked a pronounced feta taste. The Greek Salad and rice were the usual things you would get at any Greek place, and the potatoes were good (though it used to be a lot more lemony). We all were full after this.

The great thing about this place is they bring you something complementary after your meal (sometimes it’s dessert, sometimes it’s shots of ouzo). It’s always a really nice surprise. This time we got a square of baklava with whipped cream to share, and Shane got a bonus shot of ouzo (mysteriously, with a few coffee beans floating in it). There’s nothing like a free dessert to get you in a good mood!

Oh yes, one item of note: the restaurant actually has belly dancers on Friday evenings and weekends. It’s pretty fun and crowded, though it can get a little loud.

The food at Paros is pretty good, though not exceptional. The servers are usually friendly and attentive. However, with entrees ranging from $17-28, it is a little expensive for a casual Greek place. It’s probably wiser to go for lunch, where prices range from $11.50 - $13.50.

Paros Taverna on Urbanspoon