Favourite restaurant meals of 2014

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It was a good year for restaurant meals.

Things started off nicely with excellent food on a Vancouver-Toronto train trip on Via Rail’s The Canadian in January. I wrote about that in an earlier post. A huge variety of tasty offerings from a tiny rolling kitchen, enhanced by the snowy scenery and conversations with strangers.

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Back home in Victoria, a friend introduced me to Saaz, an Indian restaurant, where I discovered dosa, a giant lentil crepe with a spicy filling. Learning how to eat it was a big part of the fun. In addition to dosa, I’ve enjoyed the malai kofta, described on the menu as vegetable, cheese and potato balls in creamy tomato curry. Saaz serves a bargain-priced (around $13 last time I looked) lunch-time buffet on weekdays where a favourite is fish pakoras that are surprisingly crisp on the outside and moist inside despite being under heat lamps.
535 Yates St.
http://www.saazrestaurant.com/menu.html

Other fine meals at Victoria restaurants:

The daily specials at Japanese restaurant Uchida. I have had grilled salmon, salmon sashimi, poached octopus, fried tofu, grilled mackerel and grilled herring, all with intriguing side dishes. It’s a compact place with limited seating and limited hours — weekdays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. They sell out of the special sometimes.
In Nootka Court, 633 Courtney St.
https://www.facebook.com/UchidaEatery

Super-tender, almost melt-in-your-mouth beef tongue at Part and Parcel. I’ve had it in a sandwich and in a side dish where it was paired with thinly sliced radish and celeriac purée. The tongue and radish combination seemed a little weird at first glance, but it definitely worked. Their menu changes from day to day, so beef tongue is not always available.
2656 Quadra St.
https://www.facebook.com/partandparcelvictoria

The wild salmon belly dog at Fish Hook. It’s a slightly spicy sandwich (they’ll make it spicier if you want) served hotdog style, with a generous strip of salmon standing in for the wiener. Comes dressed with smoked salmon belly bacon and spicy sauerkraut. The guy who told me to go and eat one enticed with this description: “Love the attention to the cooking of the salmon (never too long), love the strong flavours of the jalapenos and sauerkraut.”
805 Fort St.
http://www.fishhookvic.com

At home, I re-discovered roast chicken, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, banana bread and popcorn.

Roasting a chicken is not that hard. Yet, I hadn’t done it in years. I am embarrassed to admit that when it came to roast chicken, it’s been store-bought. That changed this fall after I watched Jamie Oliver roast a chicken on one of his TV shows. I mostly followed his instructions and the result was terrific — much better than store-bought. Tender, juicy, not dried out, not over-salted. What I did: Boiled potatoes with a lemon. Seasoned a chicken inside and out with rosemary, salt, pepper and olive oil. Punctured the boiled lemon a few times with a knife and stuffed it into the chicken cavity. Put the chicken on top of onion chunks and carrot peel. Roasted at 400°F for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Juices should be clear when the chicken is cooked. But you knew that already, because you’ve roasted chickens way more than me. Also, use the pan juices to make gravy. That involves flour, heat, and water or stock.

Over-ripe bananas prompted a re-discovery of a banana bread recipe. I followed the instructions and ended up burning it on the first try. On a second try, I lowered the temperature to 325°F from 350°F and left it in the oven for 50 minutes and instead of 60. Not sure if our oven is off stride or if the recipe needed adjusting for Victoria. The non-burned banana bread turned out well. That success has me looking at other things to bake, beyond my repertoire of chocolate chip cookies and carrot cake.

I discovered a no-fuss, fast way to cook Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Again, I’m guessing that everyone else has known about this forever. But not me. Trim the Brussels sprouts or broccoli. Put them into a pot with a drizzle of olive oil, season with a little salt and pepper and whatever else is handy, like garlic slivers, and then a splash of water. Cook covered on medium heat for about five minutes, or more if you want mushier vegetables.

Then, there was the popcorn. I ate a lot of popcorn in 2014, nearly all of it popped in a pot on the stove. Better than the microwaved stuff. Detailed instructions here. It’s slightly harder than boiling water.
 

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