Weekend Musings (April 24th, 2010)

In the past week, our life was dominated by HTML tags. Between Suanne and I, we had been spending at least four hours each day staring at HTML tags. The thing is we are only 25% done. Sad, isn’t it?

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It was to update the tags or we pay $160 per month to the hosting company. We decided to just bite the bullet and go through the tedious process of reviewing and updating all of the posts that are giving the server grief. We are given by the hosting company until May 15th to fix it or they boot us out of our current $15/month plan. So if you see lesser posts, it is simply because we have a deadline to beat.

8GTCC

I’ve got news to bring you. This morning the 8GTCC team met over breakfast at the Green Lemongrass on Kingsway. Oh boy, if you are tired of plain old breakfast and desire something really different, you MUST check it out. There are over a dozen different breakfast items in the Green Lemongrass and they are all $5. If you do not have breakfast plans tomorrow, you should go. I can assure you that you will be pleased with it.

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Anyway, we have identified the next cuisine in the series of the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisine dinners (see info here). The cuisine chosen is one of the more obscure cuisine. With great sleuthing work of some chowhounds, we managed to find a really convincing representation of the cuisine.

The next cuisine will be the … (more…)

Continue ReadingWeekend Musings (April 24th, 2010)

Weekend Musings (April 17th, 2010)

It was one of those weeks that we felt that the blog has taken over our lives. And that is not good. We had our hosting company sending us a warning that our site is taking too much resources that it is affecting the performance of other sites on the server. At least this hosting company did the right thing by giving us one month to make changes to the blog.

We need to make the blog lighter and so expect some changes over the next couple of weeks. Most of it will be subtle but we might remove some features. There is going to be a lot of work for Suanne and I for the next few weeks.

The Diversely Delicious CookbookThe-Diversely-Delicious-1-600x400Finally!

Suanne’s compilation of the Diversely Delicious cookbook is now 99% complete. It just require a final look through and we can order the books from the publisher. The launch of the cookbook is targeted for April 30th and will be unveiled during the Richmond Community Kitchen (RCK) Open House.

The RCK Open House is opened to friends of Community Kitchen members. If you like to attend please let Suanne know (email suanne@chowtimes.com). It is a Pot Luck. Come with a favourite dish and meet new friends. Children are welcome.

The details of the event are as follows:

Friday, April 30th, 2010
6:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Gilmore United Church
8060 No 1 Road, corner Blundell

The proceeds from the sales of the cookbook will go entirely to the Richmond Community Kitchen. So we hope you will support the Richmond Community Kitchen who had contributed countless recipes to chowtimes by buying the cookbook.

HST – Speak Out Before Its Too Late

I want to be one who will speak out against the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) but really I don’t know where to register my opposition. It seems like there are some confusion. Are there several groups who are spearheading this fight against HST?

One thing you need to make sure of. You need to make sure your voice is really counted. Apparently, you don’t sign just any petitions and there are rules around the validity of petitions. For instance, you can’t sign online petitions – that does not count. You have to sign petitions in person and you must be a registered voter with Elections BC. Looks like the most effective group is this one. There are locations listed on the website where you could go and sign the petition. However, there are none that is near where I live at this time.

For me the biggest issue is the additional 7% HST tax that will be levied on top of the 5% GST. This is how this will look like for a $12 meal.

Current With HST
Price on Menu $12.00 $12.00
Taxes .60 1.44
Tips (15%) 1.80 1.80
Total $14.40 $15.24

So currently we already pay something like 20% on top of the price on the menu. With the HST we will be paying around 27% … more than a quarter on top of the price on the menu.

The HST will not only affect restaurant meals.

Extreme Dim Sum (XDS)

It seems like there is a demand for an Extreme Dim Sum out there. LotusRapper helped identify a candidate restaurant with a really interesting menu. While waiting for a proper Chinese translation to English, Google is translating the menu items as follows:

  • Shunfeng Extreme Snow Pack
  • Qingping osmanthus cake cool
  • Moist bird’s nest tarts
  • Braised lips even Ju
  • Discovery ears dried tofu fried scallops
  • Baby shrimp, dried scallop and vegetable dip
  • XO sauce pork neck ridge mussel Osmanthus fragrans
  • Sauce explosion Monochoria
  • Pig’s feet Vinegar
  • Nourishing chicken with rice wine
  • Grilled enoki mushroom rot ball
  • Ginger Fried Kale seedling
  • South crispy chicken breast knee
  • Sugar pea dumplings seagull
  • Bao Zhi surface coil
  • Huizhou chicken package Aberdeen
  • West juice cattle tendons
  • Mushrooms steamed Tofu skin roll
  • Fried shrimp cake nine dishes
  • Top Hung Lai Rong tape
  • Seaweed wasabi spring rolls
  • Shunfeng gold cake
  • Crispy turnip cakes with mustard green
  • Enoki mushroom beef intestines

Sounds interesting? LOL!

I am tentatively looking at doing this on a Saturday morning. That is two Saturdays from now … on May 1st. I’ll let you know the details once … (more…)

Continue ReadingWeekend Musings (April 17th, 2010)

Weekend Musings (03-Apr-2010)

I am glad this is a long weekend. It allows me to catch my breath and catch up on sleep. I am half groggy sitting here right now.

Do you Facebook?

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I had setup the chowtimes fan page on Facebook last night — finally! There was a lot of help I got from Me Plus Food who pointed me in the right direction.

If you are on Facebook, you can do a search for chowtimes and you should land on the chowtimes fan page. Be a fan … please? I was told that I need at least 25 fans before I can get a pretty URL like http://facebook.com/chowtimes.

Chowtimes is also on Twitter too. Our Twitter page is on http://twitter.com/chowtimes.

The 8GTCC Project UpdateAroma-Garden-Hunan-34-150x150The response is pretty good to the Discovery of the Hunan Cuisine dinner. After 24 hours, we have 31 people confirmed and another 21 people who had not confirmed yet. At the rate we are going, there is a chance that we will probably take up the entire restaurant!

I had sent emails to some of you from my ben@chowtimes.com account. Just as a reminder … for some who wonder why you had not received my email even though you had indicated your interest in attending, my email could possibly be in your spam folder. Look in there for me, please and take me off your spam list? For some reason, emails from my chowtimes account often end up in email spam folders.

The project team and I are excited about the dinner.

Thinking of Exotic Coffeekopi_luwak-150x150I have something new brewing, pun intended. We have in our hands some Kopi Luwak courtesy of a reader. We might even have Blue Mountain coffee too, courtesy of another reader.

So am trying to organize a fun event. It will be something along the line of a light lunch and then adjourn to a nice place for the coffee. We had already identified the place which is just perfect for a cuppa after lunch.

I am thinking of doing a blind tasting sort of thing and see if we can contrast the taste between:

I’ll let the Hunan thingy over first before I do this next one. This too will be fun for sure!

Thinking of Suckling PigSuckling-Pig-Botin-Madrid-1-150x150I had been bombarded literally with suggestions and discussions of Suckling Pig the whole week long. Now I can’t shake it out of my head. Now I am determined to hunt for the best suckling pig in Metro Vancouver.

Suanne and I remember very well the excellent Suckling Pig when we were in Madrid last summer. That was in a restaurant called Sobrino Botin which is the oldest restaurant in the world — well, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. That was some awesome meal in such a historical setting. Goya worked there as a waiter and Hemingway dined there often too.

So far I only know of … (more…)

Continue ReadingWeekend Musings (03-Apr-2010)

Weekend Musings (20-Mar-2010)

By the time you read this, Suanne, Arkensen, Nanzaro and I would have been cruising down the I-5 on the way to Oregon. We are going for a short spring break vacation. We have scheduled a few posts to release while we are away but we might not be able to answer emails or approve some of the comments in a timely manner.

When we are back we will bring you reports of the food cart scenes of Portland and also a report from the factory of the newly crowned best cheddar cheese in the world.

The Eight Great Treasures of Chinese Cuisine

The project is very much on execution right now. The Eight Great Treasures of Chinese Cuisine (8GTCC for short) is a series of dinners organized by chowtimes focusing on the eight main Chinese cuisines.

Back in January, Suanne and I wanted to embark on an exploration in learning about the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisine. We are just intrigued by the differences between these distinct regional cuisines — we want to do a series on them over a period of time.

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The Eight Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisine are defined as follows (with the 4 major ones marked with ***):

  • Anhui
  • Cantonese ***
  • Fujian
  • Hunan
  • Jiangsu (Huaiyang) ***
  • Shandong ***
  • Sichuan ***
  • Zhejiang

We would love to engage chowtimes readers in this journey with us. As you know, the traditional way to enjoy Chinese food is to have it banquet style. We are thinking of organizing something along these lines:

  • We meet once a month on a Saturday. Each month, we will focus on one of the eight regional cuisine
  • We will organize a few tables (ten to a table) with a multi-course dinner.
  • A 8GTCC team members will research about the cuisine and share with everyone prior to the dinner
  • We will learn about the region, the ingredients, the cooking techniques, famous dishes, the people, etc.

After all, I am of the opinion that Vancouver is home to the best authentic Chinese restaurants in North America. I think we can even go as far as saying Vancouver is home to the best authentic Chinese restaurants outside of China.

It will be a great time to learn, meet fellow foodies and most important of all, enjoy the best each of the regional cuisines has to offer. When I first brought this idea up, the response were overwhelming beyond my expectations. I received over 40 responses! Hang on first — don’t send me anymore requests. We will be announcing the details very shortly to announce the details.

This is a project that Suanne and I know we cannot do on our own. We have assembled a team of very capable volunteers. I had not discussed how much I can reveal who they are but I can tell you their pseudonyms. They are fmed, LotusRapper, Keev, DylanK, and Joe.

Last week, the team had a meeting and we have completed the plans on how we are moving forwards. And it is a great team too. I was awed by the collective body of knowledge and research capability we have in all these people. Gosh, if we really pushes it, this team could even write an authoritative book on the 8GTCC. I am not kidding. Just look at the comments generated by them over the last few days in chowtimes and you will see. I can’t wait for you all to meet the team. I think you will be amazed with them as I was.

For Suanne and I, we are in for the learning and is willing to let the use of chowtimes as a rallying point for everyone interested in learning the finer points of Chinese Cuisine. The first cuisine had been selected and the team is hammering away in producing a comprehensive write-up of that cuisine. Members of the team will take turns providing the leadership in each cuisine. The first one will be led by fmed who had done more than expected in compiling even the framework on the way forward.

This is going to be so exciting. I hope you all will find it so too and join us in this exploration.

A Couple Of Other Things

I met a most amazing chef last week. There were so much common energy between us that we generated quite a lot of ideas in doing some pretty innovative activities that we know will delight not only foodies out there but also those who enjoys cooking too. We will let the ideas incubate for a little longer but at the rate things are going, I am pretty excited about it that I just gotta say it out loud. Like the 8GTCC, we might need volunteers to help pull this off.

The other thing is my buddy, Rey, had some Kopi Luwak brought in. As you might know, Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world and get this … it is made from the droppings of the civet cat. LOL! The real Kopi Luwak costs up to $500 a pound but the one that Rey has is cheaper, way cheaper. He wants to share this with chowtimes readers but we don’t know … (more…)

Continue ReadingWeekend Musings (20-Mar-2010)

Weekend Musings (27-Feb-2010): Announcing Restaurant Explorer

What a week for Canada!

After two weeks of sports, I am getting a bit fatigued from being glued to the sports event day after day. I am just glad that it is coming to an end — and to a high note too! We all woke up this morning having topped the Gold medal standing for the first time. If all expectations goes according to plan, we will even stretch the Gold medal lead.

Which leads me to think that Canada should abandon the American way of determining the medal leaderboard by taking into account the number of medals won. We should follow the rest of the world is ranking it by medal types.

Games Gold Silver Bronze Total
Summer – 1984 Los Angeles 10 18 16 44
Summer – 1992 Barcelona 7 4 7 18
Winter – 2002 Salt Lake City 7 3 7 17
Winter – 2006 Turin 7 10 7 24

Whatever it is, we are at the verge of attaining the most Gold won in BOTH summer and winter Olympics.

GO CANADA GO

Restaurant Explorer

Ryan made a great suggestion. He asked the chowtimes has a Google Map of all the restaurants we had visited before. This idea was first done by Matt on VancouverSlop which was adopted by CBC’s website (Matt is a genius in these sort of things!).

So here is our implementation of our idea. You can get to the Chowtimes Restaurant Explorer by clicking on the Restaurant Explorer link at the top of the page. I made that link with a RED background for now just to show you guys it’s there.

Restaurant-Explorer-Screenshot

The page is still under construction — and it will be while before we retroactively populate all our old restaurant visits. There is, after all, over 400 Metro Vancouver restaurants to go through. Don’t hold your breath!

This this what we have implemented:

  • A 1-liner description of the restaurant
  • Picture(s) of the food we tried
  • Address and phone number of the restaurant

The other features are standard Google Map functionality which we have little to no control over … like “Get directions”. This interface of this embedded Google Map does not behave exactly like if you got to http://maps.google.com … so this is a bit more clunkier and sadly harder to navigate.

But please have a look at the Restaurant Explorer and let me know what you think. ANY feedback is very much appreciated. We just want to build something that is of use to you readers.

Thanks a lot to Ryan for this suggestion. [Sorry Ryan, we still have not found a way to make this fit a 1024 x 768 screen — which we know represents a sizeable 17% of our visitors].

Hope you like it.

Chowtimes Mentioned on Jennifer 8 Lee’s Blog!

OK. it was just a little mention on Jennifer 8 Lee’s blog … a small mention, no link juice for chowtimes.com but still it is a big deal to Suanne and I.

Jennifer 8 Lee is who we want to be when we grow up — not that we will want to at this time. Fancy being invited to speak on a TED conference one day where Suanne speaks on her Underground Restaurant venture. That would be a day right, Suanne? LOL!

We felt so honored!

Delicious Flags

To close off this week’s musings, here is a series of national food made in the image of its respective national flags. It is from a chain email we received from Minoo which we find very interesting. Look over this and let me know if you agree that the food is a fair representation of the food you normally find in the country.

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From Australia, the Australian Meat Pie which is a favourite and common take away snack.

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Brazil. OK we see lime and maybe banana leaf at the background. What is the diamond shape part made of? Pineapple? This one we stumped us. That shows how little we know about Brazil (or for that matter South American) food.

The only thing I can think of at the mention of Brazilian food is beef …. mmmm … churrasco! I am sure Brazilian Cuisine is way more than that.

Food-Flag-China-600x387

China. This is kind of odd. Firstly the Star Fruit. We did not realize that the star fruit is native to China (not that we know where it is from).

Then the background … it seems like Bak Kwa (Suanne’s recipe here) but we thought it is more South East Asian than it is China. Any one can help?

Food-Flag-France-600x387

Viva la Francai! The French flag is represented by Blue Cheese, Brie (which is also the name of a French province) and grapes.

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Greece, the cradle of Western Civilization … home of the Olives and Feta Cheese.

Food-Flag-India-600x387

India, the land of diverse spices and intense tastes is presented by saffron colored curry, shredded coconut and spinach. The Ashoka Chakra in the middle is represented by … (more…)

Continue ReadingWeekend Musings (27-Feb-2010): Announcing Restaurant Explorer

Weekend Musing (20-Feb-2010)

It was just a struggle juggling between work, the Olympics and chowtimes. I am intense when coming to doing work. I expect nothing short of the best I can give in everything I do.

I came to the realization that I cannot do everything. I need to prioritize what is important and what is urgent … something got to give.

Sorry guys … chowtimes.com got to give way to the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. LOL!  So, you will see lighter chowtimes postings from next week. It is time to play.

Vancouver-2010-1-600x400

I took a day off work this week to go enjoy the Olympics. We went to watch a Men’s Hockey game (Sweden vs Belarus). Sorry no pictures because I left the camera elsewhere because I was not sure if they would allow long lens into the stadium. It is one of minor hockey games and so the stadium was not particularly packed. I can imagine the electricity in the stadium had this been a Canada game.

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After the game, we roamed the area around Robson Square. We had never seen such festivities in Vancouver before. Everyone was so friendly and cheerful.

The lines were horrendous everywhere. With so many things happening at the same time, there is no way one could see everything. Half the fun was just being there. Sigh, I wish I had the luxury of just taking two weeks off work and be at all these venues everyday.

Vancouver-2010-20-400x600

We caught a few shows but generally just people watching. The weather was just wonderful — bad for the ski hills but certainly the best one could hope for a winter Olympics. At the rate the weather is going, this is going to be one heck of an Olympics.

Suanne does not want to wait in line for hours for ANYTHING at all. Even the line to get into the Olympics superstore is unbelievably long and the people are all do cheerfully and patiently waiting in line. We were saying to ourselves that if we were forced to wait so long, we would also be caught up with spending hundreds of dollars for the Olympics merchandise. Boy, The Bay is making a killing during the Olympics.

Vancouver-2010-21-400x600

We only got the Vancouver 2010 mittens from elsewhere. They are a must have item and perhaps the cheapest at $10 only.

These mittens are a brilliant image of Canada broadcasted throughout the world. You just gotta have them. They are easier to get these days. At one point when the stock ran out, people were selling this on eBay at a wildly inflated price.

We had dinner at Denman. We could see now what the news reports mean that business is down.

Everyone is converging to the area around Robson Square and only parts of Robson street. Further down the road at Robson and Denman it was really quiet for a Friday night that it felt weird. You can even get street parking easily here.

We felt bad for the businesses. But if you want to have a dinner around that area, this is the best time to go as it is not packed at all.

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I had no idea how popular the Olympic flames were. Hoards of people … all cheerful despite all the jostling and all. It would have been brilliant if the chainlink fence were not there but we all know why they are there.

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I hope the flames will continue to burn even after the Olympics as a lasting legacy for the city.

If you had not been out to the city for the games, drop all your plans this weekend. Go and enjoy the Olympics while it is still here.

Go Canada Go!!

Changing gears …

RICE FIELDS OF JAPAN.

My friend at work sent me another series of interesting food related picture that I want to share with you.

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Look ordinary enough, but watch as the rice grows…

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Stunning crop art has sprung up across rice fields in Japan, but this is no alien creation…

Farmers creating the huge displays use no ink or dye. Instead, different colour rice plants have been precisely and strategically arranged and grown in the  paddy fields.

The are more …

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(more…)

Continue ReadingWeekend Musing (20-Feb-2010)

Weekend Musings (13-Feb-2010)

It was quite an exciting week for me, to say the least.

It’s just having one excitement after another that is leaving me quite breathless — an totally drained at the end of each day. I have a feeling that this is gonna be this way for the next two weeks or so.

Some of you who follows me on Twitter, would know that I had my own 15 minutes of fame during the week. Firstly, my family and I was interview by the NHK (Japan Broadcasting) as part of their Olympic coverage. Then I had a 1-on-1 interview with the Chef Dan who is Director of Culinary Innovation of McDonalds. It was a very interesting meeting in which I took the opportunity to ask some hard hitting questions. I’ll blog about it soon.

The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

van_2010_logo-251x300It’s finally here! Wohoo!

It felt like just yesterday that the city erupted when we heard the very words “… is awarded to the city of … Vank-koo-var”.

We went to see the Opening Ceremony Dress Rehearsal on Monday. It was one of our most memorable experience and came away feeling great pride of being Canadian. That being a Dress Rehearsal, some elements of the ceremony was still top secret at that time.

We sat glued to the TV last night watching the Opening Ceremony and enjoying delivery from Bo Laksa’s. Vancouver 2010 got off quite badly. Suanne and I was totally shocked to hear of the Georgian luger who was killed just hours before the Opening Ceremony. Our heart goes to the family, team and the entire Olympic community. I think VANOC and IOC responded so appropriately to this tragic event within a few short hours but they must do everything to prevent another tragedy like this.

There was also a couple of miscues during the Opening Ceremony. Firstly,I could not understand how the First Nation chiefs could ever be late in welcoming the world. Then the cauldron glitch had to happen. And it had to rain too. Well, it is all in a day’s work.

Still at the end of the day, I ended up feeling proud being Canadian.

Eight Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisine

Song_Dynasty_Elegant_Party-150x150It is progressing … slowly and steady. We have a team now discussing on how to do this. Some very good ideas had been put on the table but we know there are still some ways to go.

I wanted to let everyone know that the planning team consists of FMED, KEEV and JOE. I am just glad that they had so enthusiastically pitched in with their knowledge and time because I know I can’t do it all by myself.

But we have a problem. None of us reads Chinese! We seriously need a volunteer who does to complement the team. Is there anyone out there who would want to help … and be part of the team of this exciting project? Just send me an email (ben@chowtimes.com).

There Is Such a Thing As a Free Lunch

Pinpin-Filipino-Restaurant-31-150x150Believe it or not. Someone contacted us offering to give Chowtimes readers a free lunch. First question in my mind was “what’s the catch?”

Just in case you think it is coming from a restaurant, no … it is not. This is coming from a regular guy and a truly committed foodie who simply wants to share what he has gotten.

At this time, it will be a … (more…)

Continue ReadingWeekend Musings (13-Feb-2010)