November 05, 2012

Naomi's 7th Birthday

Rounding out the fall birthday parties was Naomi, who turned seven. Her grandfather made the cake that she's noshing on. There was also a pinata (much like Bree's party) but we did it indoors because it was cold out (good thing Jen has a super big entrance hall now!).

Posted by JAY at 09:48 PM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2012

Sienna's Birthday

Riley's birthdays are always super hot, while Sienna's are usually chilly. That didn't stop the kids from enjoying the bouncy castle, though.

Posted by JAY at 10:21 PM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2012

Bree's Birthday

Bree celebrated her birthday in September. The day's highlights included the brutal beating of this innocent turtle pinata.

Posted by JAY at 10:05 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2012

Restaurant: é by Jose Andres Part 5

Ok, entering the home stretch! The desserts! It started with the cheese course, "Orange Pith Puree La Serena" The cheese was served in a parmesan tuille with a spiral of not-bitter pith puree. It was an enjoyable cheese course - very balanced. (I did slightly prefer the Robuchon cheese course, though, with its varied cheeses and lingering... maybe just a style difference.)

This is the best version of flan that many of us at the table have ever had. It's hard to pin down why it was SO good - it had a freshness that flans don't usually have. We asked if we could get it at the more conventional sister restaurant, Jaleo, but the servers told us that the Jaleo flan was more 'traditional'. Rats.

Arroz Con Leche was a cone of perfumed creamy-yet-light rice pudding layered with contrasting sour lemon sorbet. It was disappointingly small, considering how great it tasted. But we were getting full anyway.

Pan Con Chocolate was more interesting than delicious - although it was cool how well the chocolate paired with the olive oil. Apparently this combination is classic in parts of Spain, though not in this form.

I don't know if I was full or what, but this last course didn't do it for me. The fizzy paper was just novelty, and mostly just acidic tasting. "Air Chocolate" was really just aerated chocolate (think Aero but lighter). The Bizcocho was very nice and light tasting - the novelty being that it was cooked for 25 seconds in the microwave.

Overall, this was a fantastic experience. Service and atmosphere was incredible - maybe the best I've experienced. The staff were super knowledgeable and friendly and involved in the preparation - they could answer ANYTHING. The fellow diners contributed to the ambiance - the seating arrangement encourages discussion and the byzantine reservation process ensures that you're surrounded by people who really appreciate food and want to share their delight.

Not all of the dishes were terrific, but none were less than interesting. Having several stunners is enough to make me want to return over and over again: bone marrow, flan, sea urchin (OMG), orange cucumber drink (and the drinks in general!).

Great pix that I didn't take can be found here.

é by José Andrés
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
3708 Las Vegas Boulevard, South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
T 702 698 7959 F 702 442 7069
Cost: Um, I forget... around $300 bucks, including tax, tips and drinks... more if you're having alcohol.

Posted by JAY at 10:31 PM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2012

Restaurant: é by Jose Andres Part 4

This meal was never-ending - a lot of fun to eat, but a real pain to recap! The diners around the table were having fun dissecting each dish though! Lobster with Citrus and Jasmin was tender and juicy and so flavorful. Interestingly, the citrus was orange pith puree and it was great. When asked, we were told that it was blanched many times in cold and hot water to remove the bitterness.

Turbot with bone marrow. The fish was really really good - it was perfectly cooked with crispy skin and the gelatinous flesh near the fin was also served. But the bone marrow was OMG. I asked how it was made... apparently it was soaked in constantly changing salt water to extract all blood, then cut, coated with flour and cooked in super hot shallow oil. Sigh, that does not sound doable at home. Outrageously, one of my seatmates "did not eat marrow" and didn't try it! I wanted it, but she'd already mucked around in her plate before offering it to me.

Rosemary wild mushrooms in Papillote was pretty straightforward - a mushroom soup with rather strong rosemary foam. Not sure that the papillote added anything - it tasted very "cooked" - not very fresh tasting.

Posted by JAY at 10:07 PM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2012

Restaurant: é by Jose Andres Part 3

Secreto of Iberico pork with Squid was delicious - I really enjoyed it. I'm not sure I bought into the whole sotry about how it was a secret cut from the special pig - but it was super savory and the squid was tender with crispy tentacles and full of grilled flavor. While it was definitely some of the best pork I've had, I can't say that it left more than a brief delicious impression. It was served in a reduced jus that was delicious and reminiscent of roast drippings.

Spherified Sangria... spherification again. It was a good palate cleanser but nothing special. I much prefered Robuchon's amuse bouche take on sangria, even though spheres are definitely fun to eat.

Arutichoke puree with vanilla sauce and lemon foam did nothing for me. It was fine. I've noticed that other people got it with shaved truffles, which were absent from my rendition.

Finally a really good example of spherification! It was both inventive and tasty chick pea stew/soup - in reverse. The sauce was pureed chick peas while the peas were spheres of ham broth that burst into saltiness. It was clever, but more importantly, it was delicious.

Posted by JAY at 09:27 PM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2012

Restaurant: é by Jose Andres Part 2

A bite of chicken on crispy chicken skin was not particularly special, but enjoyable nonetheless. I have to say, this meal was my introduction to foams in a few dishes and I don't think I care for them as a flavour delivery vehicle.

The José Taco of Iberico ham and caviar was a bit one-dimensional - flavorful but salty.

This was my first really dedicated experience with spherification (where a liquid is manipulated into a gel sphere)and it was interesting but not spectacular take on an olive. Interesting, because it had the olive flavor caried by water instead of fat.

Bocata de Calamares - with seared uni (sea urchin) instead of calamares (squid) was the the best sandwich and the best uni that I've ever had (I've only ever had it raw on sushi). It was served on a fried brioche bun with a complementing aoli. I could've eaten ten of these things - it was one of the best things I've eaten, ever. This and the cucumber/orange drink really did it for me.

Posted by JAY at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)

August 11, 2012

Restaurant: é by Jose Andres Part 1

A resounding 21 mini-course intimate dinner with only 8 seats (getting reservations is rather involved), the chefs plated each dish in front of us. With so few diners sharing a table and a non-advertised reservation process, everyone was really friendly and eager to share their foodie impressions of each dish. Dishes were nothing less than interesting and many were amazing! Asking the chefs qustions about the preparations was a unique experience..

One of the things that I apprecited the most was that I could choose a non-alcoholic drink pairing instead of the wine pairings. Even though the non-alcoholic pairing was cheaper, I felt the creativity and care put into the drinks were gratifying. Infused cool ginger fruit tea (also a fave!), tomato flavored waters, cider gold dust shots, berry sparkling waters... all were a lot of fun. But the pictured cucumber orange tonic was one of the best drinks i've ever had! The blend of flavors was indescribably refreshing.

I asked them how the tomato water was made, apparently it was just a pinch of salt, a bit of syrup and crushed roma tomatos strained. It was super umami but very light.

The first course was whimsical in presentation but not mindblowing. Beet jewellery tasted like beet chips, caramelized pork rinds were better versions of the usual pork rinds, the "Clavel" was tasty but unmemorable.

Apple Brazo de Gitano was a super-light apple meringue around a creamy strong cheese. Refreshing and tasty, almost like a palate cleanser.

The Nitro Almond Cup was a liquid-at-room-temperature shell with a caviar filling. An intensely interesting bite that was very balanced in richness, salt, citrus.

To be continued in part 2!

Posted by JAY at 12:36 AM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2012

Restaurant: Robuchon Vegas

One of the things that I really wanted to do was try the only restaurant in Vegas to have earned 3 Michelin stars. The atmosphere of Robuchon was compelling. I was tucked away in a smaller, more intimate room with a living wall of greenery and flowers and sky. Through the window I could see the restaurant proper. Given the added privacy, I could take photographs and linger without feeling out of place. I had my doubts about how much I would enjoy it, especially solo. But in the end, I enjoyed it immensely - ESPECIALLY solo... because I lingered for almost 4 hours with me, my food and my Kindle :)

I did the 6 course prix fixe and it almost defeated me... actually, it kinda did defeat me. Do the 4 course if you're not a big eater (I am!)... though the mains seem to vary in how substantial they are. When you add the amuse bouche, bread and dessert cart... well, it's quite the feat. But I needed to do the 6 course to increase my chances of getting some 'best-ever's'

After a fun and dramatic amuse bouche of gelled sangria (yum!) which was covered with a tangerine foam that was tart, sweet, refreshingly cool, I got a bit concerned because the soup and appetizer were very good but not quite to my taste. The foie gras was served cubed and cold (not my preference) in a creamy cool soup. It was savory and well balanced both texturally and taste-wise. The artichoke soup was very similar, though hot, and I wish the server would've mentioned that (but service was otherwise impeccable). At this point, I was starting to wonder if Robuchon wasn't quite living up to the hype.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first main, though - La Langoustine - spiny lobster in a herb sauce. Strangely, there was a tiny stuffed squid component that went unmentioned in the description that I enjoyed all out of proportion with it's size. I asked for some lean crusty bread to mop up the remains of my herb sauce and to eat with my next dish.

My second course, Le Canard, finally gave me a 'best ever' experience. Rich seared foie and slices of duck were perfectly balanced with tart-but-sweet fruit and crispy rings of shallot. It was also served with the famous Robuchon mashed potatoes - a tad rich for my tastes, but delicious nevertheless and an experience... it's about half butter by weight but perfectly emulsified. It made this dish much more substantial than the previous main.

At this point I was, frankly, full. I warned the attentive server that I'd likely linger over the cheese course (which really, I only ordered to get the 2 mains) and let him select a variety of cheeses for me. I ended up reading and nibbling for a good while and LOVED the cheeses. I was unable to finish them, though, and I asked them to wrap my two favorites for me to take with me (I have no pride and I enjoyed them over the next 2 days). The comté, in particular, I'll be looking for.

Ellen Ost, on Chowhound, suggested requesting Le Sucre for dessert instead of the options listed. It was amazing, possibly the best dessert I've ever had - and definitely the most beautiful. I think the filling varies from what I've read - mine contained the mascarpone lemon cream, but it had a smooth mango ice (nitro? there were no crystals, it was perfectly smooth) studded with spherified passion fruit liquid that burst into tart sweetness. Oh, and pop rocks. I was UTTERLY full to the point where probably things weren't tasting as good, but this actually had me laughing like a maniac (and trying to hide it in a napkin). I licked up every last bit. When I look online, there are many rave reviews of this dessert, but with different fillings. Mine was better. I just can't help but think this, because nothing could be better. I'm actually slightly depressed because I won't get to have this as often as I would like to have it.

At this point, I was sad when the sweets cart came around, because there was no way I could do it justice. I selected an almond tuille (sweet nicely balanced with lemon), a ginger jelly (too firm) and a vanilla macaron (too sweet)... but being stuffed probably jaundiced my tastes - I didn't finish the last two.

Upon leaving, I regretted not selecting some of the chocolates and was delighted/grateful to be presented with a chocolate bar in a gift bag. I savored that chocolate (maybe not as good as Chuao or Porcelana but perfectly and beautifully tempered) for days.

Service was flawless - formal yet friendly, attentive but unobtrusive. When I refilled my own water (a bit pricy charge for Evian, but actually the Vegas tap water is not great, so I appreciated it), the server realized that I prefer not to empty my glass before having it refilled. I wouldn't have minded refilling it myself, but appreciated the attention to detail.

Pricey? Oh yeah. The meal came to about $400. Worth it? Definitely. I'd actually recommend consulting with the server extensively to ensure you get the right choices for you... light vs substantial, cool vs hot.

Joel Robuchon, Las Vegas
MGM Grand

PS. shout out to William, the HILARIOUS trust fund brat at the next table, for entertaining me with Obama bashing, knowing "everything" about restaurants and wines, and calling other people arrogant. I'm sorry for laughing. But it's totally your friends' fault for calling you out on every bit of your schtick!

Posted by JAY at 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2011

Asian Day

It was a day full of asian-ness.

I went for dim sum at Rol San with Jen, Trevor, Roe and Steve. It was fun and enjoyable - not quite as good as the Grand but still good (review to follow).

Jen, Trevor and I followed that up with going to see Asiansploitation sketch comedy troupe at the U of T campus. We all enjoyed it. Personally, I found it a bit more amateur than I expected, but funny nonetheless. Trevor had an old classmate in the show, which makes him the non-asian person who took the two quasi-asians to the show. Jen and Trev got interviewed by U of T reporters while I made myself scarce. I never did find out what they said...

After that we got dinner at Swatow. I enjoyed it despite being still full from dim sum, but unfortunately Jen and Trevor didn't agree. Trevor was brave enough to try the "special soup" though, so kudos for that. :)

Posted by JAY at 10:47 PM | Comments (0)

October 29, 2005

I See Dead People

Body Worlds 2 is being displayed at the Ontario Science Centre from until February 2006. I went today with some friends and we had a great time. It was graphic and engrossing. Highlights were longitudinally sliced cadavers and artfully plastinated poses designed to reveal every detail of their internal anatomy.

The venue was very crowded. We attended Saturday at 2pm. A weekday session might have been more restful. However, we weren't rushed through the exhibit at all and had ample time to see everything.

Certainly some pieces were more instructional than others. Some pieces were simply artfully posed (such as a figure skating pair and other sports poses) while others were very impressive and educational - such as a figure that had been exploded and suspended by poly threads, organs displaying various pathologies and a pregnant woman with fetuses in various stages of development.

I'm waiting to see if I get permission for some press photos to post here.

Of course, what else was there to do after seeing corpses but eat? And eat and eat and eat! We went to The Mandarin after for an all you can eat bonanza. I ate myself almost literally sick. It's pretty pathetic, it happens every time.

Posted by JAY at 06:44 PM | Comments (2)

September 02, 2004

Impressionists at the AGO

Went to see the Turner/Monet/Whistler exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario after work today. It was... impressive! (Ba-da-ching! Oh, quit yer groaning, it was funny.) The audio tour was really well done too - I highly recommend it.

It was interesting to see how they represented atmospheric effects with oil and watercolor washes. Although many critics at the time were outraged by the lack of detail of the Impressionist style, the paintings are positively realistic compared to the abstract art of today.

I bought a cheap print of a Turner watercolor and a postcard of a Whistler Nocturne. Monet's flourescent oranges didn't turn out at all well reproduced, so I passed on them.

Posted by JAY at 10:54 PM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2004

Taste of Thailand

Went to a Thai cultural festival in Nathans Phillips Square. It was actually pretty small, so we didn't spend too much time there. One of the really cool things were the impressive fruit and vegetable carvings.

I also got a sample of some spring rolls, odd chicken balls in tapioca and shrimp balls wrapped around sugar cane. The chicken satays were pretty ordinary tasting.

Posted by JAY at 04:25 PM

April 04, 2004

Musical: The Producers

The Producers is a musical at the Canon Theater (the old Pantages) about a down-and-out Broadway producer who collaborates with his accountant in an unethical scheme to make some quick cash.

Hysterically funny and very well executed, the plot is pretty predictable. Set design and costuming was amazingly elaborate, with break-away sets using a lot of forced perspective, lighting and mirror tricks.

All of the cast gave great performances, both vocally and comedically. The lyrics were witty and the themes were very irreverant. Musically, it wasn't so memorable, though the orchestra gave a lively performance.

Definitely worth seeing, even with the slightly expensive ticket seats.
$125, whew! Won't be doing that often!

Posted by JAY at 03:50 PM

March 14, 2004

Eternal Egypt at the ROM

Today I went to see the Eternal Egypt (time sensitive) exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum with a couple of friends.

It was pretty awe inspiring. The Egyptian empires lasted over 3000 years - longer than our modern civilisations. At the same time, though, the drawings were strangely stagnant. While the sculpture showed development and variation, the drawings hardly changed at all for more than 2000 years.

Posted by JAY at 10:49 PM

November 08, 2003

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

August 30, 2003

Renaissance Festival 2003

Click any image for larger view.

The Ontario Renaissance Festival takes place in a constructed "village" west of Toronto that is set in 16th century England. This was the first year that I've been there. Here are a few photos.

There are a few sword shops (above, left) where several of my friends bought blades of varying authenticity.

There was also a lot of live entertainment - musicians, magicians and comedians - on several stages. The Daring Devilinis (link may not work) were funny and entertaining as they juggled and swallowed swords and fire. Zoltan the Adequate ("Brilliant? Amazing? No, just adequate.") had an entertaining magic act that was quite risque.

The Canadian Raptor Conservancy displayed several birds of prey, including a vulture, owl and hawk (pictured left).

Fun food (not the kind I'd review, but good enough for outdoors eating... of course I took pictures, but they're boring...) like ribs and french fries were eaten while taking in the jousting tournament - which seemed more realistic than the ones shown at the Medieval Times restaurant, though less story-based.

Numerous craft demonstrations were on display, including the glass blowing demonstration (pictured left). Dozens of actors in costume wandered around the village, getting into brawls and conversations with each other and the visitors.

All in all, it was a pretty fun day!

Posted by JAY at 11:05 PM