Mystical Boat

Odilon Redon is one of those artists I've loved for a long time. I used to hang out in the the art section of the library at university, just randomly browsing through books, and it was there that came across Odilon Redon. His paintings, charcoals and pastels are very dreamlike (some are even quite scary, Goya-like), and he addresses the internal mind and emotion in a most beautiful and intimate way.

This pastel image, "La Barque Mystique" (which I found here) seems to incapsulate where I am at the moment. It's a lovely image, quite optimistic in its golden sails and bright blue boat. The boat seems to be sailing sturdily on the sea--or is it resting, nestled by the meadow and green grass? Both seem to be true.

Last week I quit my job with a big company and accepted another job at a non-profit. It's something I've been contemplating for a while, but the opportunity never came up until now. I liked my old job (and loved my co-workers), but I feel I'm moving closer to 'rightness', that elusive feeling where you feel aligned with who you are....

Such a mysterious blue boat.

Sun Soak

Today it's been very rainy and grey, but we have been lucky enough to get some sun in the past few days.

We all enjoy the light and warmth.

Especially this cat.

The Pantry - Coquitlam

The Pantry is one of those chain restaurants that's been around for quite a long time. We don't come here very often, but sometimes it can be interesting to visit and experience quite the throwback to an earlier time.

The restaurant is located at the Best Western on North Road, and it has the feel of a motel restaurant in a small town.

The decor is very 1980's, with plushy, wildly patterned booths, and pictures of happy, smiling people. Very 'family restaurant'.

We arrived in the morning, so Shane ordered the Pantry's Special Breakfast (around $10) with 2 eggs, bacon, sausage, shredded hash brown, and two pancakes. The meal was pretty comparable to what you would get at Denny's or IHOP. It's lots of food that tastes okay, but not necessarily of the best quality.

As I recall, the Pantry used to have a great Clubhouse ($9.95), so I opted for that instead of breakfast. The sandwich was pretty good. My only criticism was the turkey. Although it definitely was real turkey, it wasn't the roasted and carved type of turkey which is best, in my opinion. However, the bread was nicely toasted without being so hard that it cuts your mouth (this characteristic I call 'stabby'), and the bacon was really well cooked and still had a slight chewiness. The fries were pretty standard, but good.

It was an average meal, though the atmosphere is friendly and fun. Plus, the conversations you overhear are pretty fascinating--about people on the road, their plans for the day, and where they're from. Interesting.

The Pantry on Urbanspoon

New Spring Szechuan Restaurant

A while ago, we were in the Burquitlam area and decided to try a nearby Chinese restaurant that was recommended by our friends Ana and Kay. The restaurant is located on Cottonwood avenue, across the street from the Burquitlam Plaza complex.

We arrived for an early dinner, and when we entered, there was no one to greet us. We just stood there for a few minutes, wondering if we should leave or not, but a few moments later, a friendly woman ran into the restaurant, saying she had just popped out at the nearby convenience store to get lottery tickets.

We were the only people in the restaurant, so had our pick of seats. The interior was plain but clean.

To start, we shared a fried roll ($2.50), which arrived golden brown on the outside and soft and slightly sweet on the inside. As was custom, this was served with a small dish of condensed milk to dip the bread in. This was tasty, and not too oily.

We also shared a small bowl of dumplings in spicy and garlic sauce ($5.95). The pork dumplings (wonton style) were pretty good, though not spectacular. However, what made the dish was the spicy, garlicky, and slightly vinegary sauce that topped the dumplings. This was tangy, pungent, and mouth-wateringly delicious.

We also tried their Hot and Sour Soup ($6.50). For a small size, this was quite substantial. The soup was tasty--with a great level of sour and heat. It's not the best hot and sour soup I've had, but it's quite decent.

We also tried the dry version of their Tam Tam (or Dan Dan) noodles ($5.50). Though the noodles weren't handmade, they were nicely cooked, with a slight chewiness remaining. The sauce was delicious--not too much like peanut butter, which is why sometimes I really don't like this kind of noodle, but this one was great. There was a nice amount of saltiness, and the sauce was lipsmackingly good. I really loved this dish, but Shane was disappointed in the noodles, having had a lot of handmade noodles in the past.

We were really happy with this dining experience. New Spring is a great little neighborhood restaurant: the service is friendly, the prices are very affordable, and the food is tasty.

New Szechuan Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Blossoms and Blue Blue Sky

The cherry blossoms started blooming in February here in Vancouver--a month or two early. These trees line many streets in many neighborhoods in the city.

So gorgeous.

North Road Art

Along Lougheed Highway and North Road in my neighborhood, there are these metal electrical boxes which was one of those things in your vision that you never really see, because it becomes just part of the urban landscape. Well, a year or so ago, they covered these green boxes with this rather interesting historical photo collage. It makes me think about the rather young history of BC, and really how much has changed.

For something I see everyday, it definitely brings a smile to my face.

Dough So Dear

This weekend we had some friends over for dinner, and I made bread, using Jim Lahey's No Knead Bread Recipe that was adapted by Mark Bittman in the NY Times here, or his book How to Cook Everything. The recipe is fool proof, with just four basic ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast. What makes this recipe so unique and easy is that after you initially mix the ingredients, you just have to let it rest for 18 hours or longer. This helps the bread develop lots of flavor and texture. After the waiting period, all you have to do is shape it and bake it.

Of course, being loosey -goosey with the recipe (something you should never do with baking, they say), I made a few changes....

This is the dough after mixing up flour, salt, water and yeast, and after I've formed it into a ball to rest. The recipe calls for instant yeast, but I only had traditional so I used that instead. Of course, with traditional yeast, you have to proof it in water and a bit of sugar before adding to the flour.

The dough becomes bubbly and very wet after the 24 hour period. As you can see it has more or less doubled in size. What a wonder! It smells really good too, a little like beer.

The yeasty mixture is then dumped onto a floured board, where you shape it. I added some rosemary, sage and thyme to the dough and this point, and gave it a couple of minutes of good kneading. Even though the recipe is a 'no knead' one, I actually like slapping the dough and feeling it under my palms. [note: see the Claire Denis film Nenette et Boni for some dough action]

The dough is sent to rest for a couple of more hours. I followed a few other bakers' advice and set it on parchment paper for easier handling. Heat the oven to 450 degrees with your baking vessel. Then transfer the dough on to the freakin' hot baking dish. This is when the parchment becomes very useful.

Here's where I deviated the most. The recipe calls for baking in a covered dish (preferably a Dutch oven, which is on my most wanted list), but alas, I don't own any appropriate baking dishes with covers. Instead, I baked it, uncovered, in a cast iron frying pan. To achieve a crunchy, chewy crust, I spritzed some water in the oven every 10 minutes or so.

I must say, the results were wonderful! I'd made this bread many times before, but the bread had never ever risen this much. Was it the traditional yeast? I have no idea. But the bread was a voluminous golden brown creation, with a chewy crust and a fluffy and flavourful interior.

This was quite heavenly all warm and spread with butter.....