Oh. Hey. Hi. PHOTODUMP. :)

Delicious, delicious photodump.

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1. Hello. Bacon, onion, and spinach quiche. I know, so fancy. I made these because my eggs were going to expire and these quiches were supposed to last me a few days. However, after they came out of the oven, they smelled too good. So I ate one. And then another.

And then I ate all of them.

No regrets.

2. My vegetarian friend made too much spaghetti sauce so she gave me a bag of frozen sauce and I finally got a chance to use it. It was so hearty with some things that I’ve never put in pasta sauce before, like zucchini. Hahah. I had gotten home from one of my ridiculous days and was just starving. All I needed to do was boil pasta, brown some ground beef, and then dump in some sauce. Thanks Zizi!

3. I had some leftover pulled pork that I had made from the day before and a nice organic brie loaf and some cheese. What else to make but an inside out grilled cheese filled with pulled pork? I made one sandwich and left the ingredients on the counter because I knew I was going to make another one. And then I did.

And then every once in a while my mom comes over and cooks me food. Which is amazing. I mean, some of this Vietnamese fare, you just can’t get at a restaurant.

4. Bun thit nuong. She made me all the things and I just assembled it. The grilled beef though, I think I used this recipe off the internet. It turned out really nice, especially with a bit of lemon tang. Other than that, we’ve got nem nuong, carrots (no daikon -sadface-), cucumbers, and green stuff and vermicelli noodles.

5. Bun reu cua. She taught me how to make this and this pleases me. :D It’s an egg, tomato, and shrimp-based soup with vermicelli noodles and served with mixed greens with chili pepper and salt on the side.

Not going to lie, it’s been rough. Working too much, not sleeping enough, and not enough time to eat! That being said, it’s rare that I’ll fully get to go out and eat at delicious restaurants, and I can barely afford to either. The first three photos are from Utopia Cafe on College, west of Bathurst.

6. Utopia Nachos With tons of awesome melted cheese, chicken, beef and other nacho staples. They also serve with a side of salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. But, as always, there’s never enough salsa or guacamole, and they do charge if you ask for more (which we found out on the bill). Though the middle of the nachos are great, the edges were sadly neglected crispy chips. The nachos are piled on top of this crispy baked pita which was really nice as well. $15

7. Steak & Cheddar Burrito The burrito was a bit on the smaller size (this coming from eating Burrito Boyz burritos, those things are MASSIVE), and was served with a side of spinach salad (even though I’m pretty sure I ordered coleslaw.. but didn’t realize this till right now), and black bean rice. The burrito, though, was really good. The mayo was excellent and tangy, the meat juicy. The burrito just seemed a bit sparse and empty, like there wasn’t a lot of filling inside. The salad was great and featured a nice balsamic dressing on top. I was sharing the plate and did not try the rice. Overall, this was an okay dish, I probably wouldn’t order it again, but I hear the burgers are amazing. ย $12.50

8. Flourless Chocolate Cake The waitress had told us that they were newly just trying out desserts at Utopia but they got this cake bang-on. Definitely couldn’t have eaten this by myself (oh who am I kidding, yes I could have.) Flourless means gluten-free, which is great for the new gluten-free diet trend* and for those who are sensitive to gluten or have gluten allergies. However, being flourless means they replace the flour with… more sugar. So diabetics, hyperglycemics, and people with generally high blood sugar should beware. Other than that, it was really good, it was a flourless batter thing on the bottom (I’m guessing made out of butter and sugar primarily), nice and crumbly, topped with thick chocolate fudge. Served with a side of whipped cream and berries. Very delicious. $5

9. This is the Riverside burger from BQM Burgershoppe. They have 3 different locations in Toronto, and the one I’ve been to several times is the one on Queen, east of Spadina, right near my school. The burgers are great, nice and juicy patties that aren’t too small. I was craving burgers and onion rings so decided to kill two birds with one stone. It was great, with lettuce, tomato, bacon, cheese, and garlic aioli, but while being great at the time, it did create some painful carnage on the roof of my mouth. BQM onion rings are really really crispy, which are great if you’re biting into them individually. Overall though, always a great experience here. Tiny seating areas though! Riverside Chuck Burger $9

*

Deliciously G-Free by Elisabeth Hasselback. ISBN 9780345529381

I’ve been seeing a lot of gluten-free diet books coming out at the bookstore lately, the most popular one being Deliciously G-Free by Elisabeth Hasselback, who everyone has been telling me was on that Survivor show that I never watched.

Okay, so what is gluten? It’s a protein found in a lot of wheat, rye, barley and other things. So, obviously, people with Celiac’s disease can’t actually eat gluten products because it causes their intestines to go all kinds of painful crazy. But what people don’t know, is that there’s a lot of people who are also gluten-sensitive. Humans ourselves can’t actually process gluten and wheat that well. It has less nutritional value and is a pro-inflammatory. So basically, giving up gluten is a really healthy choice and great for people who don’t have Celiac’s disease or a gluten allergy. It’s just one of those trends that I’ve been seeing popping up lately.

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In other news, I saw this new beautiful book on display yesterday:

Meat Free Monday Cookbook ISBN: 978-1906868697

It’s this huge campaign going on in the UK started by Paul McCartney and his family, showing us that just by eliminating meat from our diet once a week has great environmental and personal benefits and effects. I’m a meat person, I really am, but this cookbook is actually amazing. And really beautiful.

What they do is they create a whole meal-plan for you, for each Monday in a year. If I recall correctly, they provide Breakfast, 2 snacks, a lunch, and dinner recipe for each day, which makes it incredibly easy to switch over to a meatless day. I mean, I know one of the major excuses for not participating is, “I wouldn’t know how to cook meatless” and now you do.

They also sort the recipes by season much like one of my other favourite cookbooks, Martha Stewart’s everyday Food Light, which makes it great when you’re shopping for your ingredients because all of them are in season, which means they’re cheaper and they taste better too!

Everyday Food: Light ISBN: 978-0307718099

Other than that, my favourite food blogger is coming out with a new cookbook on March 13, called Food From My Frontier, which is chock full of simple recipes, and knowing Ree (not personally), everything is going to be delicious!!!! :)

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Simple, Scrumptious, Satisfying ISBN: 9780061997181

Cheerio and happy eating! :)

Pho Nam

So, as quickly as my trip to Montreal began, it had to end and I began packing my car full of more junk to bring to Ontario. I first made sure that my dog was to stay in the house and not run outside as he often likes to do. He doesn’t run away, but enjoys exploring the area unsupervised. He always (save one time) makes his way back home though. I began piling boxes into my car along with some a bookshelf and a bunch of books to pile into that bookshelf, mostly design manuals etc. Brought my printer with no ink, and some fish for the uncle. My family has this thing with fish. They go fishing, catch too many, and then give them away. As I was packing my trunk, I come back to the front of my car only to find this:

My damn puppy sitting in my front seat just to make me sad. I could have sworn he wasn’t there when I passed before, but there he was, just sitting there, waiting to take a 6 hour drive with me to a new home. BAWWWWW. Goddamnit. So I had to pick him up and bring him inside and leave him standing at the window of the front porch to watch me leave.

Anyway, before I leave, my parents take me to this pho place that just opened up, Pho Nam. They had begun advertising in the Vietnamese newspaper before the restaurant even opened so along with that method getting their name out their, they also had people talking about it, and most people heard about the place through word of mouth. I guess it’s not that hard because Vietnamese people love to talk. So much. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the store front so I can’t show you what it looks like. It’s not even on Google Maps.

The restaurant is located on the corner of Shelley and Cremazie, which is right beside the 40 (on the south side) and Saint Michel, next to Bogey’s Billiards. Now, I’ve eaten at many a Vietnamese restaurants in my day just because that’s what my family eats when we go out, pho or dim sum, my entire life. Though I’m not a picky eater, I know the difference between good pho and bad. I judge a Vietnamese restaurant on two menu items, because that’s what I eat:

“Pho” (Beef noodle soup, soupe tonkinoise), and “bun thit nuong” (vermicelli, grilled beef, vegetables).

I usually get “pho chin”, which is pho with cooked beef, but this time had “pho tai sach bo vien.” Don’t let the long name fool you, it’s just listing what’s inside the pho. “Tai” is thinly sliced raw beef that gets put into the noodles before the boiling broth is poured in so that the hot broth cooks it as it’s going out to your table. “Sach” is beef tripe, which I believe is either stomach lining or intestinal lining; sounds gross but is actually very delicious. “Bo vien” means quite simply, beef balls.

I don’t usually expect presentation to be very important at a Vietnamese restaurant, but they seem to have done well with it on this bowl, not that there’s much you can do to it, exactly. But, I received this bowl, put in the lime, mixed it up a bit, and then added some sriracha hot sauce and hoisin sauce. Many pho puritans (ahem, my mother.. and basically the Vietnamese from my parents’ generation) insist that hoisin sauce just makes your pho taste like dessert because it’s too sweet, but no, I like it. It’s a dark sauce that’s very similar to oyster sauce.

Anyway, to put it simply, Pho Nam’s pho is damn delicious. Easily one of the best I’ve eaten at a restaurant that I can remember. (Home cooked will always remain the best though.) The broth was balanced, not too salty, nor was their too much MSG or oil. The pho noodles were the perfect size, small. I always loved smaller noodles compared to their larger counterparts with both pho noodles and vermicelli noodles.

Not bad for photos from my phone, eh?

Mothafuckin’ bun thit nuong. I love this shit so much. “Bun” = Vermicelli or rice noodles, “thit” = meat, “nuong” = grilled. It’s always served with vegetables and “nuoc mam,” fish sauce that’s mixed with some garlic, sugar, and sometimes hot peppers.It’s hard to mess up this dish, but when it goes bad, it goes really bad. There were some things missing in this dish, but I’ll get to that later.

The meat was the right thickness, so that it wasn’t so thin that there’s no flavour, but not so thick that it’s hard to eat with all the other ingredients. It was a little sweet but it was evened out with the slightly smokey flavour of the grill. This dish is super simple and super refreshing to eat. My only gripe about this particular one is that they put too many mint leaves, which I don’t particularly like, and they opted out of putting in pickled daikon radish with the pickled carrots. Pickled daikon radish adds another level to the slightly sour pickled carrots and most of the time, they are served together.

Aside from that, it was delicious, and as always, despite it looking like barely a meal, it fills you up pretty quickly. Oh, and a quick note with this, if you’re allergic to peanuts, make sure you specify that they do not add peanuts in because they will if you don’t, and then you will die. Or get very sick, as you well know. Actually, it’s not like the peanuts are hidden, you’ll just end up sending it back, and then no one will be happy.

Another thing that’s lacking is their selection of smoothies that all viet restaurants seem to have. The avocado shakes, mango shakes, etc are pretty much staple, but I assume that it’s because they’re new, they haven’t implemented these menu items yet, and after they do, the bubble tea will surely come soon after. For drinks, they have other simple drinks like soda, iced coffee, tea, and the traditional “Che Ba Mau,” 3 colour rainbow drink, or however you call it in English.

tl;dr: I would recommend Pho Nam to my friends and family.