Sunday, July 06, 2014

Street Food Ottawa Adventures: Streat Gourmet and Bap by Raon Kitchen

Ottawa's food truck/stand scene is still young and blossoming. There were 17 food trucks and cart permits that were given out by the city last year. Unfortunately, I've personally only tried a few of them. I've checked out the Street Food App before and seen the options out there, I just need to start planning some outings. I'm hoping to give more of them a try and thought that it would be great if I create a new label for the series. We'll call it the Street Food Adventures in Ottawa (or SFAO for short). There will also be a new "street food" label too.


Where do I begin? Andrew, our youngest brother, and I planned to go downtown to meet up with Lucy for lunch. Richard was invited by declined to complete our sibling quartet. We arrived early to ensure that we'd have a choice of everything available at the food trucks and stands. We got their a little too early and got hungry, so we tucked into the Olly Fresco's Market inside L'Esplanade for a little appetizer.

Holy! It took every ounce of self discipline not to splurge and buy and eat everything in sight. There were pierogies with sautéed onions and bacon in their buffet pans, a few kinds of soups, lots of sandwiches, and sweets. Everything looked so good. I walked around and took it all in -- the sights I mean. I'll be returning for lunch in the future. Walking around that beautiful place while hungry was a bad mistake. In the end, Andrew and I shared a pastrami sandwich on a toasted sesame seed bagel.




There were a few spots that were burned, but other than that, it was a great snack. It made us feel less antsy. I picked up a few desserts for later too. There's a date square, a red berries square (I say it's raspberry, someone else said it was strawberry rhubarb, so we'll just generalize and call it red berries), and a piece of carrot cake.


After our snack, I went to get some cash on Sparks Street, while Andrew went to pick up some dolla drinks at McD. I had planned to grab some lobster mac and cheese from the Ad Mare food truck, but by the time I returned from the bank, they were sold out. My fault. Andrew and I met back up at the Streat Gourmet food truck on O'Connor and Albert.

Based on what I've read and seen first hand, Streat Gourmet's menu changes daily. The chef, Ben Baird, is constantly tweaking and experimenting to cater to more people. I admire him for that. It takes guts but he clearly knows what he's doing. Despite not having a regular dish on the menu, he's always keeping it interesting. Some of the main offerings in the past have included things like peameal bacon sandwiches, tacos, tandoori salmon burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and soups. Dessert options he's offered has been things like butterscotch pudding with bananas, graham crumbs, Streat cinnamon buns, cookies, donuts, and rhubarb upside down cake with whipped cream. Lots of variety.


When we arrived, they had the roast beef with potato roesti, horseradish gravy, with a salad of spinach and carrot ribbons. Andrew wanted to grab something else, so we continued to walk.


We met up with Lucy at the Bap by Raon Kitchen stand on Bank Street (between Albert and Slater). As their name suggests, they serve a Korean mixed rice (could be a mix with other grains too) dish called bibimbap.


For the protein choices, they offer tofu, beef bulgogi, spicy pork or spicy chicken. You choose to have all the toppings like egg, veggies and kimchi, or you can adjust it to your taste by telling them to leave stuff out.


Once they finish making your bibimbap, you can personalize your bowl furthermore by adding some toasted sesame seeds, sesame oil, soy sauce, and gochujang (aka Korean red pepper paste or Korean spicy sauce, as it says on the label). I'm not sure if other people like having to dress their meals themselves, but we love it because then we can adjust it to our taste.

If you aren't familiar with seasoning your bibimbap, I recommend using only a few drops of sesame oil, a few swirls of the gochujang, and a few shakes of sesame seeds. Soy sauce isn't necessary, in my opinion.


There was a bit of a line but it was moving steadily. Lucy went with the tofu bibimbap, while Andrew took the beef bulgogi route. We took our lunches and retreated indoors to a nearby food court to enjoy.

My lunch from the Streat Gourmet food truck was still warm when we began to eat. The tender slices of roast beef sat on top of the potato roesti, which was a potato pancake, was quite enjoyable. As a gravy snob who loves gravy made with pan drippings and fond (the sticky caramelized stuff left on a tray after baking), I was disappointed with the gravy. I couldn't taste the horseradish at all. The gravy, which was packed in a small cup, also had a slight sweetness. I kept going back to it throughout the lunch because I tried to like it. In the end, I left the rest of the gravy alone. The final element of the lunch was the spinach and carrot ribbon salad. The salad was crunchy and the simple vinaigrette cut through the heavy flavours really well. Despite the gravy letdown, lunch was great. Other than the gravy, I finished everything -- before Lucy and Andrew even finished eating -- which is unheard of! (I'm the slowest eater of the family.)

Andrew dressed his bibimbap with all the toppings. Once he mixed everything and tucked into his lunch, he mentioned that he would've loved to add less soy sauce and more gochujang if he could redo it. Lucy used everything but the soy sauce and happily devoured her bowl of bibimbap, with the help of the Streat salad.

It's only the second season for a lot of the food trucks/stands, so they're still working out the kinks. Even if there are bumps along the way, I'll try to support them. You should too. Go Ottawa!

~*~
Addresses:

Olly Fresco's (Located inside L'Esplanade Laurier Building)
181 Bank Street
613-596-3860

Ottawa Streat Gourmet on Urbanspoon

Bap By Raon Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pho Tien Thanh: The Soup

There are some great perks to living downtown and being able to walk to some lovely dining options is certainly one of them. VN and KN both live just outside of Toronto's core around the Ossington neighbourhood. Yup -- that's the same place as Libretto (aka the best Neapolitan pizza I've had), but that's not what I want to talk about now. I want to talk about this small shop, Pho Tien Thanh, which is just down the street from Libretto.

VN and I walked to the pho restaurant and smelled their lovely broth about five feet away from their door. Once we took a step inside, the fragrant smell of BBQ'd pork (thit nuong) filled our nostrils. At that point, I knew we were in for a tasty dinner. The smell just invoked all the good memories of having Mom's BBQ pork. Our winter this year was very long, to say the least, and it seems like it was years ago since I had her marinated pork. We luckily got there just as the dinner rush was finishing up and so we were seated immediately in the restaurant.

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I couldn't decide if I wanted to deviate from ordering pho or actually change it up and try the bún with the thit nuong. Either way, I knew it was going to be tasty. In the end, I stuck to my guns and went with the small rare beef, beef balls and well-done beef pho. Once my bowl arrived, I took a sip of the soup. The aromatics were there without being overpowering. It had none of that strong cinnamon taste like most of the pho in Ottawa's Chinatown. The soup wasn't overly sweet either. Most of the beef was actually still uncooked, which is a huge bonus! You could order some rare beef on a plate and then add it into your soup yourself for $2. I think it's unnecessary in this case though. Only the thin slices that was touching the hot soup had cooked. When I separated the slices, they cooked gently in the soup. I was thrilled that the beef was actually rare by the time it arrived.

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This was the bun thit nuong cha gio that VN had ordered. We both liked how their cha gio was made with rice paper. It's the legit stuff. (For those who don't know, VN is Vietnamese. Like I said. Legit stuff.)

We washed it down with some cooling beverages. A refreshing coconut water with young coconut meat for VN and an iced Vietnamese coffee for myself. In our excitement to order, we accidently ordered the coconut water instead of the coconut slush had originally wanted.

The Asian Pear told me that if I wanted to have the best pho, I'd have to choose between two different pho establishments in Toronto: one with the slippery fresh noodles or one with an outstanding broth. Pho Tien Thanh is the latter. I wonder how their other dishes taste. The cash-only restaurant is open for business from 11am to 10pm everyday, so you have no excuses not to try out this place. I know I'll be returning in the future.

~*~
Pho Tien Thanh on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 23, 2014

Edamame Bruschetta

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While going back through my Instagram wall, I noticed that I had forgotten to write about this beauty. Back before Christmas, Vanna found a recipe for edamame bruschetta that she wanted to try out for her Xmas party. The recipe that we skimmed through was Honest Vanilla's rendition. Since we didn't closely follow the recipe, I recommend that you head over there to see the accurate measurements.

Here's the gist of the ingredients we used: frozen shelled edamame (that happened to be on sale -- bonus!), a whole whack of mint leaves, some garlic cloves, olive oil, chili flakes, salt, and black pepper. To make it fancy, we added so me oven-roasted cherry tomatoes and some charred green onions.

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We started off by getting the edamame boiled. While that was doing it's thing, chopped mint was added to some chili flakes, olive oil, and minced garlic.

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We also popped in some cherry tomatoes that were tossed in olive oil, and a bit of salt and black pepper. I also threw in a few cloves of garlic to make things interesting. Once the edamame was soft enough, we blended it until it had some texture and then seasoned it lightly with S&P. The final touch was charring some green onions in a bit of olive oil.

I'll be the first admit: me and vegetables don't get along very well. Despite our relationship, I loved these bruschetta! First off, you get the charred green onion character and then the sweetness of the tomatoes jumps in. Then the not-entirely-smooth edamame mix joins the party with the mint, followed by a hint of garlic and then the french bread. It was harmonious. This edamame bruschetta will definitely be making more appearances in the future. And whether you blend the edamame into a smoother mix or leave it with a bit of texture, I'm sure you'll enjoy this appetizer for lunch or even dinner. Hell, you could even turn this into a breakfast sandwich with some eggs!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sunday Picnic Lunch at Trinity Bellwoods Park

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Today was a much-needed sunny and warm day. Although I was in Toronto for the past week, I had to get out and do something earlier today. I needed to keep busy.

Lunch was found at Clafouti Patisserie et Café. We: DG, VN, and myself, picked up some things at Clafouti and crossed the street to the busy Trinity Bellwoods Park. I really enjoyed the atmosphere there. The sakura trees still had some flowers, birds were singing away, dogs were having a blast, and people were just relaxing at the park -- it was a great atmosphere.

We found a spot in the park and ate lunch. I went with the Lana Del Rey panini. It was really exciting. There were so many flavours that complimented one another with every bite; the creaminess of the garlic lemon aioli, the burst of fried onion flavour, thinly sliced pork, and sweet bun. It was so good that I wanted another one after I devoured it. VN had a nice pulled pork panini (sans the cheese). DG had a surprisingly tasty grilled veg croissantwhich. The only complaint was that we didn't want the sandwiches to finish.

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We also picked up a butter croissant and almond croissant from Clafouti. We liked that the croissants were sturdier and flakier than Le Moulin de Provence's rendition.

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DG said that we had to get macarons from Nadège Patisserie since we were in the area. That was perfectly fine with me.

Side notes: We heard so many comments like, "these macaroons look amazing,"and "they have the best macaroons here!" Please. They're called macarons. Macaroons are the coconut things.

Also, why is it that everyone seems to know how to make macarons? The trend bugs me. Partially cause I can't make them.

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These are my trio: mint chocolate chip (in the red), pistachio, and matcha macaron. I enjoyed the latter two. DG and VN both went with the salted caramel. Wise choices. I'll be getting the salted caramel next time. We happily soaked in the warm sun before I had to catch the train back home. Thanks for the lunch date ladies! It really meant a lot to me.

~*~
Clafouti on Urbanspoon

Nadege Patisserie on Urbanspoon

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