DIY Beerwalk: Tasty Treats on Vancouver’s East Side

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Not too long ago a good friend, Mal Harkness, asked me to arrange a beerwalk, or a walking tour of craft breweries, in the Grandview-Woodlands area (East End) of Vancouver. He knew that I frequent these places regularly for growlers (1.89 l refillable bottles) of unique and tasty fresh beer. He also knew that my shaded past involved quite a bit of home brewing so he figured I was the natural choice to lead the expedition. So with a little prompting I created a manageable walking tour of three of the city’s finest craft beer breweries along with one of the city’s new craft distilleries. We dragged along two members of Mal’s soccer team, Billy Rawsen and George Thompson, along with one of our fencing students, Nadine Wagner-Westerbarkey.

The plan was fairly simple: starting from a meeting point at Commercial Drive and Hastings Street in Vancouver we would first visit the three breweries before a stop at the distillery and a late lunch at a local restaurant. Below is the map of the route we took:

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  • We started at Storm Brewing. This is one of the oldest “Craft Beer” breweries in Vancouver and rightly famous for their dark beers and classic styles of European Ales. There’s usually between 6 and 10 beers on tap, four regular beers (including the sweet, thick and delicious Black Plague Stout) along with a rotating selection of so called “Brainstorm” concoctions. We were fortunate to find their classic extremely tart but delicious Imperial Flanders Red Ale on tap, along with some interesting brews such as Creamsicle and Rosemary. Cost is by donation, but you should expect to drop about $5 into the tip jar per person. I’ll be honest, this is my favourite breweries in the world and I’ve been a long time fan of brewmaster James Walton.  (310 Commercial Drive)

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  • Next up was Parallel 49th Brewing and the most commercial of the three breweries. Most of the beers on tap are available at government liquor stores and select cold beer and wine outlets, but they usually have one or two that are not. Although not available on our visit, one of my favourites is their Salty Scot. Recently they have been experimenting with nitrogenated beers with some good results. The tasting room is very spacious and can easily handle larger groups. They sell samples by the 4oz glass for 1.15 plus tax, or you can buy a flight of four samples for $3.50. (1946 Triumph Street)

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  • Next in line was Powell Street Craft Brewery. This is the smallest of the three breweries for the day. It is also the smallest in terms of space and it will be a tight squeeze depending on how many are in your group. This is the only brewery in the walk that only sells its beer on site. They are best known for producing really heavily hopped Northwest style ales. The sell only glasses of beer at $3.50/each so if everyone wants to sample, you might want to buy a few and share. Unfortunately I discovered that they are in the process of moving and will only be at this location until July 5th, 2014. (1830 Powell Street)

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  • The last drinking spot was a bit of an add on. Odd Society Spirits is a relatively young, small batch distillery. They haven’t yet developed a wide range of different alcohol varieties, but at some point in the near future they will be producing a gin and offering a Canadian whiskey. When we dropped in, they had East Van Vodka and a great Crème De Cassis available. They will allow very small samples, but also make great cocktails – Approximately $8-10. (1725 Powell Street)

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  • Kessel&March is a pleasant bistro a few doors down from the distillery where we grabbed a bite post walk. They have some local suds from Howe Sound Brewing on tap and run a brunch menu until 3pm Saturdays. (1701 Powell Street)

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The beerwalk turned out to be a lot of fun for all of us and very manageable in about a three hour window. Here’s a few additional shots from the area and a couple of outtakes from the trip (shots courtesy of Nadine).

Cheers,

Aaron

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Silver Spoon

East Meets West Coast: Baked Thai Lingcod Curry

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It’s been a while since I posted anything new and interesting. Life kind of got in the way, but I came up with this dish a while ago and figured that it needed to be shared.

Some time ago I was given several large fillets of lingcod, a large white fleshed fish of the Greenling family common off the coast of British Columbia. I’ve been preparing these mild fillets in a number of ways, but I came up with this tasty and fairly easy to prepare recipe when I needed a dish to take to a dinner party.

The recipe below involves a homemade curry paste and stock, but to speed things up a store bought paste and stock could easily be substituted.

Menu

  • Baked Thai Lingcod Curry
  • Coconut Rice
  • Sesame Garlic Brocolli
  • Cut Fresh Fruit

Recipe: Baked Thai Lingcod Curry

Curry Paste:

  • 2 Tbs Canola or Peanut oil
  • 1 Sm Spanish or red onion chopped
  • 6 Sm Cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1″ Ginger root minced
  • 2-3 Tbs Sambal Oeleck to taste
  • 1/2 Tbs Shrimp paste or Anchovy paste
  • 2 tsp Dried red chillies ground
  • 2 tsp Cumin ground
  • 3 tsp Coriander seed ground
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric ground
  • 1 tsp Dried lemongrass ground
  • 1 Tbs Spanish paprika
  • 2 Tbs Fish sauce
  • 1-2 Tbs Water
  • 10-15 Cashews
  • 3 Lime leaves centre stalk removed chopped

Curry/Fish

  • 2 Tbs Canola or peanut oil
  • 1 Med Spanish or red onion halved and sliced finely
  • 4 Sm Cloves of garlic sliced
  • 1-2 Tbs Sambal Oeleck
  • 3-4 Tbs Curry paste to taste
  • 1-2 tsp Fish sauce
  • 1-3 tsp Brown sugar to taste
  • 1 c Thai style fish stock, plain fish stock or low sodium Chinese style chicken stock
  • 1 c Coconut milk
  • 4 Lime leaves
  • Water for thinning while cooking
  • 1 Tbs Fresh Lime juice
  • 2-3 Tbs Fresh cilantro finely chopped
  • 1-2 Tbs Thai basil coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 lbs Lingcod or other firm whitefish fillets cut into chunks

Method

    Part 1: Curry paste

  1. Heat oil in wok or heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion and sauté until soft and starting to lightly brown.
  3. Add garlic, ginger, shrimp paste and sambal and cook stirring for one to two minutes until the garlic is fragrant.
  4. Add the dried spices and cook stirring for another minute.
  5. Add fish sauce, water, cashews and chopped lime leaves and continue to cook until well combined (about a minute more).
  6. Remove from heat and transfer to a food processor or blender and process to a paste adding a little oil if necessary to create a thick paste.
  7. ——–
    Part 2: Curry and fish

  8. In the same wok or pan used to make the paste add oil and heat over a medium-high heat.
  9. Add onions and sauté until translucent.
  10. Add garlic and sambal and sauté for two minutes stirring frequently.
  11. Add curry paste reserving a little to smear on fish pieces (about two teaspoons) and cook for another minute or two.
  12. Stir in stock, coconut milk and lime leaves and bring to a low boil.
  13. Reduce heat to low and add fish sauce and brown sugar to taste.
  14. Simmer for 20 minutes to allow for the flavours to combine adding additional water if necessary to keep the consistency medium.
  15. Remove from heat, stir in cilantro and lime juice and let cool.
  16. Cut lingcod into small serving chunks (about 1″x3″) and arrange in a lightly oiled casserole dish.
  17. Smear a little of the reserved paste over the fish and evenly sprinkle the Thai basil over the pieces.
  18. Pour the cooled curry over the fish and bake in a preheated 375 f oven for 20 minutes.
  19. Serve hot or warm.

Notes: I found the finished dish a little on the mild side and if you do you can always add a small handful (4-6) whole fresh red Thai chillies to the simmering curry to kick it up a notch (I usually just slit them with a single cut lengthways down the centre). The chillies also add a nice visual touch to the dish as well–just be sure to warn your guests.

Serves 4-6

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The Relic

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So I paid a visit to my brother up in the Sunshine Coast region of BC, for the Canada Day long weekend. The food and drink has always been great at his place and this time was no exception.

Recently he has become enamored with some of the more classic aperitifs such as Lillet and Campari. The other day he picked up a bottle of the Italian aperitif Aperol.

He said he found it a little on the sweet side and was at a bit of a loss as to what to do with it. I pointed out that I’d seen a few cocktails with Aperol, and that we should look them up.

Unfortunately, most we came across tended to involve very obscure mixes such as white crème de cacao or cucumber infusions. I decided instead to riff on the sours that I like so much and came up with the following recipe.

Recipe: The Relic

  • 1.5 oz Dry Gin
  • .75 oz Aperol
  • .75 oz Lime juice
  • 3-4 Ice cubes
  • Ginger ale to top up
  • Thin slice of lime for garnish

Method

  1. Combine first four ingredients in a tall Collins glass
  2. Stir well to chill
  3. Top up with ginger ale (about 2-3 oz)
  4. Garnish with a thin slice of lime

The name for this drink comes from a surly character featured in the 1970s drama, The Beachcombers, portrayed by the actor Robert Clothier. The show was set in the area where my brother lives–Gibsons, BC–so the name seemed fitting.

Cheers,

Aaron

How to Chop an Onion – An Idiot’s Guide

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I know it sounds a little silly. We all know how to cut an onion right? Peel and chop. Pretty simple. But what if you need to have reasonably consistent pieces? Or you need to work quickly without losing a digit in the process?

I used to watch the old Mexican street vendors preparing salsas. Those women could make short work of an onion and produce perfectly minced pieces without even using a cutting board. I’ve tried to copy their method (which involved cross scoring the onion) in my kitchen, but I was never able to duplicate it with any degree of skill, so I came up with my own way. While it doesn’t have the elegance of those skillful street vendors, it does a passable job in fairly short order.

Method:

  • Cut the top and bottom of the onion and peel.

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  • Half the onion. If there is a core (sometimes found on larger onions) cut a little V-notch in each half to remove.

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  • Turn the onion on the side and make fan shaped cuts to the onion’s centre at the desired width of the finished piece size.

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  • Cross cut the half against the grain, again at the desired width for the finished results. Use your fingers to keep the onion together as much as possible (not shown in the photo)

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  • Continue the cross cuts until complete.

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  • Break the pieces apart with your fingers to produce the finished product.

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The example pictured above is chopped coarsely, but much finer pieces are easily achievable using this method. It takes a little practice to perfect, but it’s worth the effort.

Aaron

Cookbooks – Hunting and gathering

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My wife and I have a classic hunter-gatherer arrangement–she hunts and I gather.

My wife is an addicted second hand store shopper. Every week or two she comes home with a find that plays to my tastes, be it books on fly fishing, new kitchen appliances, interesting serving plates and of course cookbooks.

They’re not all keeprs, but I’m always surprised at some of the treasures she finds. Over the years I’ve received beautiful hardcover books such as Shizu Tsuji’s, Japanese Cooking A simple Art; some fairly obscure ones like Sandra Cook’s, Salt and Pepper: The Cookbook; and some downright retro ones like the Sunset Book’s, Mexican Cook Book: Simplified techniques 155 classic recipes. Whatever the subject, I’m always pleased to discover something new and useful to add to the collection.

It’s great having a partner that revels in the thrift store hunt. I’ll post more of her finds as time goes by–you’ll be surprised.

Aaron

Tamarind Fish Curry (or how to keep your fish from falling apart)

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Have you ever tried adding a softer fish pieces to a curry or thick stew? Usually you end up with finely broken pieces of fish swimming around in the sauce. Annoyed by it? Me too.

Unless you are extremely careful when adding and stirring, fatty cuts of salmon, cod, soles and other whitefish have an unfortunate habit of not staying together when added to sauces–and even with care the chances of the fish pieces staying intact are poor at best.

I encountered this when I first started making fish curries–in particularly an otherwise excellent Salmon Curry by author Das Sreedharan. In it he instructs the reader to add cubed salmon to the finished curry until cooked then to stir in coconut milk to finish. I tried to make this dish several times, only to be met with tiny bits of fish spread evenly through the curry instead of the rich savoury salmon chunks shown in his accompanying illustration.

If nothing else I can be a bit stubborn, so I modified the dish with a simple trick and the result was fantastic–so much so that my family won’t have it any other way. The trick, which I’ve applied to other delicate dishes, is to shallow fry the fish pieces (after marinating and a light dusting of chana flour) before adding them to the finished curry. The fish chunks come out moist and just burst with flavour in the mouth. Along the way I’ve tweaked the curry a bit to create a very memorable if somewhat different dish from what Sreedharan originally created.

Menu

  • Tamarind fish curry
  • Basmati rice
  • Spiced peanuts
  • Garlic green beans
  • Fresh cut strawberries
  • Milk for the kids, Malbec for the adults

Recipe: Tamarind Fish Curry

Marinade and Fish:

  • 1-2 Tbs Light cooking oil (Canola)
  • 1 tsp Cummin seed, ground
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric, ground
  • 1/2 tsp Hot Indian paprika or ground chilies
  • 2 tsp Amchur powder
  • 1/2 tsp Sea salt (optional)
  • 2-3 tsp Palm or white vinegar
  • 3/4-1 lb Salmon, lingcod or other whitefish cut into 1″ cubes (see method/notes)
  • Cooking oil for frying

Flour:

  • 1/4 c Chana (chickpea) flour, or bleached wheat flour (the latter is not GF of course)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Curry:

  • 1-2 Tbs Light cooking oil (Canola)
  • 10 Kari (curry) leaves
  • Pinch Fenugreek seeds, whole
  • 2 tsp Black or brown mustard seeds, whole
  • 1 Med Onion, Finely diced
  • 4-5 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1″ pc Ginger root, minced
  • 1-3 Tbs Sambal oelek or 2-3 small fresh red chilies minced
  • 2 tsp Cumin seed, ground
  • 3 tsp Amchur powder
  • 1/2 tsp Tumeric, ground
  • 1/2 tsp Chilies or Indian paprika, ground
  • 3/4-1 c Tamarind liquid (see method/notes)
  • 1 12oz can Stewed or diced tomatoes, or 2 whole tomatoes diced
  • 1-4 tsp Palm or brown sugar to taste
  • Salt to taste

Method

    Part 1: Fish

  1. Prepare the fish with an optional 15 minute salt cure (see notes)
  2. Cut fish into approximately 1″ cubes and set aside
  3. Whisk together remaining marinade ingredients in a medium bowl
  4. Add the cubed fish to the marinade and stir lightly to coat
  5. Transfer fish and marinade into a plastic bag, remove air and seal
  6. Let fish marinate for at least 20 minutes. While the fish marinates prepare vegetables and other ingredients for the curry
  7. Setting the fish aside, combine the chana flour, salt and pepper in a shallow soup bowl or similar container
  8. Remove fish cubes from bag, wipe off excess marinade, roll in flour mixture to lightly coat
  9. In a wok or medium saucepan add cooking oil for shallow frying–approximately 1/4″ deep, and heat over a medium-high element
  10. When oil is hot, carefully add the fish cubes (about 6 at a time) and fry on all sides until golden brown
  11. Transfer cooked fish pieces on to a plate layered with paper towel to absorb excess oil and place in a warm oven (approximately 175 F)
  12. Repeat process until all the fish pieces are cooked
  13. ——–
    Part 2: Curry

  14. Add 1-2 Tbs oil to a wok or deep bottom saucepan and heat over a medium-high element
  15. When the oil is hot, add kari leaves, mustard seeds and fenugreek and cook for about 30 seconds until the leaves and mustard seeds stop spitting
  16. Lower the heat to medium and add the onions, sauteing until soft or lightly brown (about 10-20 minutes)
  17. Add garlic, ginger and sambal and stir for a minute or two
  18. Add remaining dry spices and stir for another minute
  19. Add tamarind liquid and tomatoes and stir until well combined
  20. Reduce heat and let simmer until the tomatoes are well softened and the flavours have combined (about 20 to 30 minutes) adding water as required to prevent the dish from drying out
  21. Taste and add sugar as required to balance the sourness of the tamarind
  22. After the curry is finished add the fish pieces, stirring gently to combine and heat
  23. Serve the dish in a suitably sized bowl

Notes: It took a while to write this one up because of the steps involved, but it’s really less work than it would seem. Salt curing the fish before cooking is an optional step, but one that changes the texture and firms the fish up. I’ll write more about this in a separate post, but essentially it involves lightly covering the fish pieces with kosher or pickling salt, wrapping them in absorbent paper towel or cloth for about 15 minutes, then rinsing the salt off under cold running water. It adds very little salt to the finished dish, but changes the texture and allows the fish soak up any marinade it’s placed in. The tamarind liquid is made by placing 2-3 Tbs of tamarind pulp in a cup of boiling water. Leave it to soften for 5 to 10 minutes before breaking it up with either fingers or a fork, then strain the water and pulp through a fine sieve pushing as much pulp as possible through the sieve. You’ll end up with slightly less volume than you started with, but the result is a delicious sour-sweet liquid called for in many South and Southeast Asian dishes.

Serves 4-6

Aaron

Basic Lamb Curry

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Lamb is a bit of a staple in our house. When I see a good deal at our local market I like to take advantage of it. This past Saturday I happened upon a couple of inexpensive lamb shoulder chops marked down by an extra dollar each. My plan was to do them “slow braised” and divide them in four for the family, but a surprise guest (a friend of my daughter) showed up for dinner and I had to extend them to feed five. I decided on going with a simple lamb curry. This killed to birds with one stone, as my daughter has been bugging me to make lamb curry since the last time I prepared it.

Menu

  • Lamb Curry (for 5-6)
  • Braised carrots with butter and cardamom
  • Rice
  • Cut watermelon
  • Milk for the kids, wine for us

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Lamb shoulder chops are highly underrated by most North Americans, who when they hear chops almost exclusively think of the tasty, tender and hellishly expensive loin chops. But shoulder chops are an incredible deal, delivering far more flavour at a fraction of the price. The trick with the shoulder chops (which admittedly are a tougher cut) is a long moist-heat cooking time. As a cooking method, curry is a natural for such cuts–drawing out the rich flavour inherent in the meat, fat and bones.

Recipe: Basic Lamb Curry (Tomato based)

  • 2 tsp Cumin seed, ground
  • 2 1/2 tsp Coriander seed, ground
  • 2-3 tsp Amchur powder (dried green mango)
  • 1/2 tsp Tumeric, ground
  • 1/2 tsp Indian paprika, ground
  • 1 tsp Chilies, ground (optional)
  • 1 tsp Cumin seed, whole
  • 1 x 2″ pc Cinnamon bark
  • 2 Black cardamom,  lightly crushed
  • 2-3 Bay leaves
  • 1 Tbs Light cooking oil (canola)
  • 2-3 Lamb shoulder chops
  • 2 med. Onions, diced
  • 4-5 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1″ Ginger root, grated
  • 2 -3 tsp Sambal oelek (optional)
  • 12 oz Can diced tomatoes and juice (or 2 good quality lg fresh tomatoes, chopped)
  • Salt
  • 2-3 c Water

Method

  1. Liberally salt lamb chops on both sides
  2. In a large wok or deep heavy bottomed pot, heat oil over medium-high heat
  3. When hot, add prepared lamb chops and fry until nicely browned on each side (about 3-4 minutes a side depending on temperature)
  4. Remove lamb from pot and set aside to cool
  5. Add chopped onion to pot, lowering the heat slightly, and saute
  6. While the onion is cooking, chop the lamb into very small pieces, trimming off the fat and reserving the meat and bones
  7. Set the meat aside and add the larger bones to the onions, continue cooking until the onions just start to brown
  8. Add garlic and ginger (and sambal if using) to pot and saute for a minute or two, stirring to prevent the ginger from sticking to the pot
  9. Add dry spices (first six ingredients), plus cinnamon, bay leaves, and cardamom to pan and cook for a minute or more stirring to make sure that the spices cook lightly but don’t burn
  10. Add reserved meat, stirring to coat it in the onions and spices
  11. Add a cup and a half of water and stir to deglaze the bottom of the pot
  12. Add  tomatoes and bring to boil
  13. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook until the lamb begins to soften (20-30 minutes or more)
  14. Add water through the cooking process keeping the curry thin enough to simmer the lamb, letting it thickening just prior to serving
  15. Salt to taste
  16. Remove any bones, bay leaves, cardamom, and cinnamon prior to serving
  17. Serve in a large ceramic bowl

Notes: Our dinner guest didn’t strike me as being very heat tolerant so I added very few chilies to the curry. My family members (except for my youngest) suggested that it could use more heat, and were it not for the guest I would have included at least the optional chili based ingredients indicated in the recipe above. Even with these additions it would qualify as a mild heat. As you can see the this curry is tomato based and tends to favour Northern Indian spices–but there are quite probably hundreds of “lamb curry” recipes from across South and Southeast Asia.

Aaron