November 04, 2003

Restaurant Review: Golden Bell Thai

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I frequent the Golden Bell Thai restaurant in Newmarket often for both lunch and dinner - it's one of my favorite restaurants. Pictured is my one of my best loved restaurant meals: Chicken Satay Noodles.

The Thai rice noodles are nicely firm, coated with a just-spicy-enough curry sauce and mixed with bean sprouts and chunks of juicy marinated breast meat. The thin, translucent noodles are very different from the heavy thick Chinese rice noodles.

Included in the lunch special ($6.95) is a crunchy carrot spring roll with a small tub of sweet chili spiced syrup that is immensely better than the ubiquitous plum sauce served elsewhere. You can also get soup - but I haven't tried it... I love my deep-fried spring rolls!

For dinner, complimentary shrimp chips (yum!) are served while you wait for your meal and are accompanied by a tasty peanut sauce.

Though the chicken satay noodles are my definite favorite, I've also enjoyed the coconut-creamy red curries. Heaped bowls of white rice are available for just $1.25 and the sweet coconut rice ($2) is great to share either with your meal or as an informal dessert (it's a bit much for one person).

I found the Pad Thai to be a bit sweet for a main course, but that's probably just a personal prejudice against sweet foods - I've tried it elsewhere and it was just as sweet or sweeter. It does have a nice peanut flavor.

As a healthier, better-tasting alternative to a fast food lunch, this restaurant is awesome. If you're going there, be sure to try the Chicken Satay Noodles!

Heh, and you can tell them Jason sent you!

Golden Bell Thai
16925 Yonge St
Unit 17, Quaker Hill Plaza
Delivery/Pick-up: 905 954-0954

Posted by JAY at 01:39 PM

November 05, 2003

Apparently, I Live to Eat


Y'know that saying, "Eat to Live, Don't Live to Eat"?

Looking back at my blog entries, it's pretty evident that I do the latter half of the proverb (or is it some diet-guru's tag-line?).

Which makes me wonder exactly how much money I've been spending eating out. Heh, I refuse to check, though I'm going to start packing my lunches.

There really is more to my life than eating - just not a lot more. I've been swimming in the mornings so as not to get fat(ter) with all the eating. I've been working to support my eating habit. And of course I play around with technology - so that I can post about what I eat.


Anyway, as you might've noticed, I've been posting more stuff in the past that I've saved pictures from. Once I catch up to the present, I'll post a compilation of stuff in the past that I've posted. Posts pending are about my recent technology purchases, a pretty picture or two, some events attended over the summer and some more restaurants.

Posted by JAY at 08:16 PM

November 08, 2003

Toshiba Magnia SG20

Click image for a larger view.

The Toshiba Magnia is a cute little Linux server (Redhat) with an easy-to-use web administration tool. It's reasonably quiet and based on a Celeron processor. It also includes a parallel port print server, modem, 8 port switch and router capabilities along with the ability to be a wireless access point. Right now, it's in my office, but I hope to take it home to replace my current Windows 2000 server. It was also very cheap: I got it for about $250. (The only difference between the SG20/25 is the 40GB HDD... mine only has a 20GB.)

Update: a more complete review of the Magnia SG20.

Posted by JAY at 04:47 PM

Restaurant Review: Dhaba (Update)

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Update follows original review... We went back for the lunch buffet.

Dhaba is an Indian restaurant that I went to while waiting for a Second City comedy show (Arma-get-it-on -- very enjoyable, by the way, and they have improv after it if you go to the last show of the night).

We had (clockwise from top right) paratha and naan, Saffron Rice, Aloo Gobhi, Lamb Vindaloo and Chicken Tikka Achari.

The atmosphere and service are the best thing about this restaurant. Dhaba's new loft location on King Street is richly decorated with canopied booths. Check out their website for pictures and a menu listing. The service is exquisite - the staff is friendly and courteous without being oppressively in your face all the time. Regulars are enthusiastically greeted with a hug from the hostess and the servers are graceful and unhurried - though you may wait for food for a while on a busy Saturday night.

Dinner started with the Chicken Tikka which tasted awesome. We had actually ordered tandoori chicken, but the Tikka was what appeared on our bill and our table -- a fortuitious mistake. It was tender, juicy and wonderfully spiced.

The paratha was the best I've ever tasted - flaky and tender, with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. If you come here, don't miss this! The naan was also really good.

The saffron rice wasn't all that memorable - any subtleties were lost in the spices of the other dishes, so I'll probably order the less expensive basmati the next time I'm there -- or even better, more paratha! Likewise, the Aloo Gobhi was simply potato and steamed cauliflower stir fried in some curry. For $9, I'll just make it at home. It was tasty, but nothing special.

I didn't really enjoy the Lamb Vindaloo. Though it was nicely spicy, the chunks of lamb were on the tough and stringy side.

Portions were on the small side (the vindaloo pot is about 3 inches in diameter), but they were inexpensive. The meal above served two people comfortably and came to $45.70 before tax and tip. I was a bit disappointed by potato and lamb dishes, considering they made up slightly less than 1/2 of the cost. The rest was great value, though.

I look forward to sampling more things by trying their buffet lunch at my next earliest opportunity!

Update: The lunch buffet!
The buffet lunch was much better than the dinner. Getting to sample a greater variety of the dishes was awesome. I particularly liked the goat and chicken curry and the red battered fish and eggplant. The butter chicken was also very nice. Strangely, the tandoori chicken was heavily spiced with a flavor that I didn't enjoy - I prefer the tandoori chicken elsewhere. Unfortunately, there wasn't any paratha around. But everything else was superb. And only $9.99! Definitely the best lunch deal around!

309 King St. W. at John Street
Toronto, ON M5V 1J5

Posted by JAY at 11:29 PM

Review: Arma-Get-It-On

After going to Dhaba for food, we went to see Second City comedy show called Arma-get-it-on -- which was a lot of fun. Actually, going to this performance was the real reason we went downtown.... finding Dhaba was just fortuitious circumstance.

The theatre was small and very compact - from our last minute, back row, corner seats we still had a pretty good view, though it would've been nice to be closer. The seating is arranged in groups of 4 around a tiny table, something to keep in mind if you're going in a group. You can order reasonably priced food and drink during the performances, though I didn't.

The skits were well presented and very funny for the most part, mostly having to do with current events and pop culture. I really enjoyed the songs - particularly a tongue-in-cheek apology song to America that was similar to South Park's "Blame Canada", though from a different point of view.

For those of you with no money, the players do improv at the end of the day's last show. It's free and you can just walk in off the street. The improv was a lot of fun to watch. It wasn't based on very much audience participation, but it was fun to see what the players came up with off the cuff. It's too bad I don't live around there, it would be interesting to just walk in for the improv late at night.

Bottom line: it was a fun evening, and definitely worth a try. I'll probably be back to see the next production.

Definitely park across from Dhaba and go there for dinner, first! Or even better, go for the lunch buffet (a better deal) and you can eat a light dinner at the theatre.

Second City Toronto

Posted by JAY at 11:59 PM

November 14, 2003

Restaurant Review: Mei Ling

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Mei Ling Chinese Food is a small Chinese-Canadian restaurant in Aurora. We went there for a Friday night dinner which included spring rolls, General Tao's Pork, Chicken Satay, Szechuan Chicken Beef and Shrimp, and Chinese Sausage Fried Rice.

The food wasn't exceptional, but it wasn't bad, either ($15 each before tip).

We started with a ginormous spring roll (not pictured). Though huge and fresh, they had rather a lot of cabbage in them and not enough bean sprouts. Likewise, the Chicken Satay and Szechuan Meat was somewhat indistinct tasting with that generic clear cornstarch based sauce.

On the good side, the Tao's Pork was succulent, not too sweet, mildly spicy and boneless. Mmm! The Chinese Sausage Fried Rice was also very good - the grease from the sausage lightly coated the rice with flavor. The sausage was stir-fried to a perfect crispness. At less than $6, it's a steal (it fed 3 people with the other dishes).

Update: The chicken balls are excellent too - big juicy chunks of chicken breast in just enough batter. Sure, it's not authentic chinese food, but who cares?

Not much ambience (who cares...), but service was friendly and prompt.

So yeah: uneven, but inexpensive. Once you find your favorites, you'll be quite happy returning.

Mei Ling Chinese Food
15005 Yonge Street
Aurora, ON
905 727-3101

Posted by JAY at 10:05 PM

November 15, 2003

Wok This Way: Quick Meal

When I was younger, Wok With Yan was one of my favorite shows - hence the corny entry titles. Again, I didn't take pictures of the dishes that I made today. I left my camera at a friend's place.

5-minute Chicken Roast
Fried Wild Rice
Lemon Meringue Pie

Recipes follow...

5-minute Chicken Roast

This is a great recipe for bachelors - it's quick to make and very good to eat. The secret is the high heat - it makes the chicken skin flavorful and crispy! Cooks well in a toaster oven or a regular oven, depending on how much you're making.

Chicken (dark meat preferred, so it doesn't dry out)
Salt and Pepper

Toss the chicken in a bowl, sprinkle liberally with all the spices, salt and pepper and drizzle with some oil. Mix, dump in an oven tray and cook at 380 degrees F for about 40 minutes. Line the tray with foil/parchment paper for a quick cleanup. Don't bother pre-heating the oven, it doesn't matter.

If you have absolutely nothing, omit everything but the chicken and just coat it with some soy sauce.

Fried Wild Rice
Cooked wild rice
Salt and pepper

Coat the bottom of a large heavy bottomed pan with oil and heat.

Chop/slice the onions and garlic and fry them up in the pan.

Chop the mushrooms and fry them in the pan.

Microwave the rest of the veggies for about 4-5 minutes until tender-crisp, chop them, add them to the pan.

Salt and pepper to taste.
Feel free to add oil if things begin to stick.
Use lotsa mushrooms, they shrink a lot when you fry them up.

Lemon Merengue Pie

There are dozens of standard recipies for this, so I'm not going to bother writing it down. Just make sure not to over-whip the egg whites - they should be stiff, but if they get lumpy, you've overdone it.

Posted by JAY at 07:11 PM

November 21, 2003

Mom's Birthday Menu

Roast Duck
Roast Sirloin
Roasted Potatoes
Yorkshire Pudding
Brocolli and Cauliflower with Portabellos

Roast Duck

The roast duck turned out a bit dry for my taste, though my family seemed to enjoy it. I stuffed it with sliced onions and rubbed it with garlic and black pepper. My mother doesn't eat salt, so I left it out, but you shouldn't! (Make sure to remove the bag of giblets and neck in the cavity and boil them for duck gravy with some red wine!)

With your fingers, separate the skin from the breast meat, and poke holes in the skin with a knife to ensure that the fat drains and the skin crisps.

I roasted it for 2 1/2 hours (upside down, except for the last 1/2 hour) in a 340 degree oven. I think next time I'll just use 2 hours and have the meat slighly pink.

Roasted Potatoes

Yukon Gold Potatoes
Olive oil
Thyme and Oregano
Black Pepper (freshly ground)

Wash and/or peel the potatoes, cut them into 1 inch cubes

Coat with oil.

Season liberally with the rest of the ingredients.

Cook in a 375 degree oven until tender/crisp (about 1 1/2 hours).
Or, use whatever temperature you're cooking other stuff at and adjust the time accordingly (eat a piece of potato regularly to test doneness).

Brocolli and Cauliflower with Portabellos
Some brocolli
Some Cauliflower
3 large portabello mushrooms

Remove the mushroom stems (slice and boil them in the duck stock for flavor!) and scrape the underside dark brown gills out with a spoon. Slice them.

Peel and slice the onion.

Chop the brocolli and cauliflower and microwave them (covered and damp with the wash water) until very hot, but not soft (probably about 3-5 minutes on high.

Heat a fry pan with some oil (I used duck grease... but veg oil would be healthier) until very hot and fry up the onions and mushrooms. When browned, toss in the vegs.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Rum Trifle
Sigh, I never make birthday cake anymore, because everyone prefers this. It's a lot of work if you make it all from scratch (I do). Bake the pound cake and make the custard the day before. After that it's mostly assembly, but bake it early in the day to leave time for the flavors to mix.

1 loaf of pound cake, sliced 1 cm thick
(I like the one in The Joy of Cooking, but any will do - or buy it!)

See the previous recipe, but instead use
3 cups milk, 1/2 cup cornstarch, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tsp of vanilla
It'll be much thicker. You should DEFINITELY use a french whisk to make it easy. Or, you can buy custard powder (but don't use the jello stuff, that'll suck).

2 cans of soft (cheap brand) sliced peaches
2 cans of sliced mangoes
1 can of mandarin orange segments
Mix of whatever berries you like

500 ml (2 cups) whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar

Reserve 2 cups of light syrup/juice from the above and mix with:
1/3 cup of good golden rum (Mount Gay is the nicest)
or make it as boozey as you like.

You can reduce the rum, but don't omit it - trust me... I'm not a drinker.

Whip the cream until almost stiff, add the sugar gradually and then whip until stiff (be careful not to over whip it or it will separate into water and butter!)

Stir in a couple of tablespoons of rum :)

In a huge bowl, layer like so:

whipped cream
fruit syrup/rum
cake slices

And repeat until full.
Really soak the cake with the syrup.
Cover with plastic wrap and refridgerate for at least 2 hours.
Decorate the top with berries, if you like.

I need to buy a pretty cylindrical flat bowl to make it look nicer.

Posted by JAY at 03:19 PM

November 23, 2003

Cookbook: Joy of Cooking

In my last post, I referenced the Pound Cake in the cookbook The Joy of Cooking.

This book is almost essential to a semi-proficient cook. It has a comprehensive selection of recipes for almost anything and good articles regarding the science behind the cooking make it fun to read even without cooking. Don't let the lack of picutres put you off.

Buy the spiral/plastic bound edition, so that you don't have to worry about keeping the pages open. The hardcover is a waste of money, the softcover is fine if you don't have much money.

Posted by JAY at 04:24 PM

November 24, 2003

Comments welcome, I think...

I wasn't originally going to allow comments, because I've heard stories of spamming comments. But seeing as I'm probably too small to bother with, and I've had a few requests, comments are now available.

We'll see how it goes, I guess.

Posted by JAY at 04:35 PM | Comments (3)

November 26, 2003

For Dinner: Quick Curry

I don't often remember to take pictures of the food that I cook, but I like curry- though it's not very pretty. Anyway, this particular curry is made with pork, enhanced with mushrooms, chick peas and cauliflower. It's not very authentic, as I don't blend my own curry powder.

Pictured is my lunch for tomorrow. I've been doing pretty well with packing my lunches - I usually only buy my lunch once or twice a week now.

Recipe follows:

Quick Curry

Mild curry powder
A few handfuls of meat
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
Dried chili flakes
Potatoes (2 large)
1 can of chick peas

Brocolli/Spinach/Green beans/Cauliflower
Coconut milk/yogurt

Wash and cube the potatoes and microwave them until not quite soft.
(about 5 minutes on high)

Toss the meat in the curry powder until well coated. Note that the curry powder here is mild (very yellow, rather than brown or red) - if your curry powder is very hot, use less. To test, fry up a piece of coated meat, salt it and taste. If it is slightly too hot, it should be fine - because there are other things going into the curry that will dilute it

Chop/slice/quarter the onions. (whatever you have time for)

Fry the meat and onions in a oiled large heavy pot over high heat for about 7 minutes. If the curry starts to stick to the bottom, add more oil.

Mix in the potatoes and chick peas. Canned chick peas are actually better than dried/fresh here... though I use dried, because I can't cook with salt.

Add chili flakes to taste. I usually put about a teaspoon.
If you're unsure, you can always add more at the end and cook for about 5 more minutes.

Add in the chicken/beef broth.
Adjust the amount of broth depending on how thick you want the curry.
Substitute up to 1/2 of the broth with coconut milk, if you like. (Unhealthy, but yummy!)

Add the mushrooms.

Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the optional veggies (microwave cauliflower first to soften) and simmer for another 5-10 minutes, until you test the meat and it's cooked.

Add salt and 1 tsp of sugar.

Adjust thickness to whatever you like by adding broth (thinner) or coconut milk (thicker). You can also use corn starch to thicken, though this isn't really traditional and should be avoided. Just make sure to dissolve the corn starch (about 1 tbs) in cold water before adding it, and then bring the curry to a boil to ensure that the starch is cooked.

Serve over rice.

Posted by JAY at 09:34 AM