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Maeda – Hakuba, Japan

Every year we go back to Hakuba my husband and I make this restaurant a must for lunch.  It usually happens on our first day in town because we’ve been thinking about it for a year and just can’t wait any longer.

The tonkatsu is to die for.  The breaded pork cutlet is so tender and with the egg on top and the perfect rice underneath, this dish disappears fast!  Another favorite is the tempura udon and most recently for me the tempura soba…same dish just with buckwheat soba noodles instead of the udon noodles.

I’m not sure what this was but it was so tasty.  Some sort of pickled or fermented vegetable.  That’s a vague description but I really have no inkling as to what it was.  Most likely a veggie we don’t have in the states.

This was some of the BEST Kimchi I’ve ever had!  I could have eaten this whole plate by myself.  Next time:)

My tempura soba…DE-lish!  I couldn’t eat even half the noodles but I loved everything about this.  You could tell the noodles were made fresh…they were incredible!  I’m probably going to be dreaming about this until the next time we get back here.

My husband’s tempura udon…you can’t go wrong with this one!

Mmmm…the tonkatsu…this is unbelievable – that is assuming you eat pork.  I’m afraid to try this dish in the states assuming it might not live up to my expectations.  I don’t want to ruin it.

Beef Stroganoff

I have to admit I’ve only made this recipe a couple of times but every time I love it and can’t wait to eat it again.  It’s meaty and comforting all the while slightly refreshing from the the lemon and créme fraiche.  I always serve it over buttered noodles but rice would be just as great.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lb. top sirloin, cut into thin strips about 1
    inch wide and 2 inches long
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 3 leeks, white and light green portions only,
    cleaned and finely chopped
  • 1 lb. cremini mushrooms, brushed clean and
    sliced
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cups beef stock
  • 1/3 cup crème fraîche
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish
In a large fry pan over high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Pat the beef dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Add half of the beef strips (do not overcrowd the pan) and sauté until nicely browned but still a little pinkish on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with 1 Tbs. of the oil and the remaining meat.

In the same pan over medium heat, melt the butter with the remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Add the leeks and sauté until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté until nicely browned, about 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.Stir in the tomato paste and cook until blended in, about 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to incorporate. Increase the heat to high, add the stock and bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Boil for 1 minute, then reduce the heat to medium. Add the crème fraîche, mustard and lemon juice and cook for 1 minute more to allow the flavors to blend. Taste and adjust the seasonings.Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pan and cook just until the beef is heated through, about 2 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

Serving Tip: Stroganoff, though not technically a braise, has a similar consistency when finished. It is traditionally served over wide egg noodles.

Kintaro – Vancouver, BC

Back in July my husband and I went on a eating tour of Vancouver with the chefs from Revel.  Talk about my perfect weekend:)  We started off with some of the most satisfying ramen I’ve had outside of Tokyo at Kintaro in West Vancouver.  Open for lunch and dinner (closed on Mondays), this place is known to be one of the best ramen houses in Vancouver however don’t expect much for decor.  People come here for the food, not the ambiance.  And know that once you order there’s no going back…everything is already set in motion.

The first time we ate there we were seated at the bar overlooking the whole production line of what was to become our bowls of ramen.  I’m not a big “fat” person so I opted for the vegetable ramen (safe I know) rather than the fatty pork ramen which everyone else in the group ordered.  You have the choice of how fatty you’d like your meat and how fatty you want your broth to be.  At least there are options:)  *On our second trip there we ordered the gyoza which are delicious…I definitely recommend those!

Don’t expect to finish the whole bowl…it’s endless but you can take the rest with you to go.

All the broth working awayAll of our bowls being assembledTah-dah…my ramen!

Mongolie Grill – Whistler, BC

Oh wow…how do I put into words how much I love this place?!  Mongolie Grill is THE perfect place to stop for lunch after a great day of skiing.  Never before had I been to a restaurant set up in such a way.  You grab a bowl, go through a buffet of fresh veggies, noodles, meats, sauces and then you hand it to the person working the grill where they weight it and grill it to perfection.  It’s my kind of place.  I can make my own creation without feeling like an annoying restaurant patron who “wants this, but would like to substitute this with that and if it’s okay I’d like to add that as well”…you see!

My words of advice for this place are BE CAREFUL of how much you put in your bowl.  It adds up quickly and is expensive considering the price is based on weight!  So with that in mind, be conscious and smart about which foods weight more.  You can be smart about it if you try.  And in most instances…your eyes are usually bigger than your stomach.  Another thing to keep in mind…brown or white rice is complimentary so if you’re looking for a starch just use the rice rather than noodles.  I never do that because I like the noodles but just FYI!

*A little bit of advice…lunch is 20% off in comparison to dinner so go early in the day and save!

Before it goes on the grill…

The grill guy at work on our concoctions

TAH-DAH!!!

Amanpuri – Phuket, Thailand

On the first leg of our honeymoon we had the pleasure of spending 3 full days in Phuket, Thailand at the beautiful Amanpuri Resort.  Unfortunately for us the one thing you can’t control in life is the weather and we got rain…three days of it…torrential downpour to be exact.  So what do you do when it’s raining and you can’t be outside?  You eat:)  And that we did!

Being that we were in Thailand it only seemed most appropriate to stick to the native cuisine which we did.  Every morning we started the day with a gorgeous platter of fresh fruit followed by either eggs or yogurt and granola.  My favorite was by far the passionfruit.  Holy cow it has a lot of flavor!

Lunch and dinner mostly consisted of curried noodle dishes, seafood and some sort of rice dish.  All very flavorful and delicious!

If you’re ever planning a trip to Phuket, Thailand I highly recommend the resort for your accommodation and/or food.  Everything at Amanpuri is quite impressive!  The attention to detail is unbelievable and will have you oooh-ing and ahhh-ing at it all.

My husband’s breakfast bruschetta which was layered with arugula, avocado, roasted tomatoes, crispy pancetta, poached eggs and finished with a balsamic reduction…lots of punch for a morning meal but very good!

Poq Pia Sot – Shrimp, chicken and vegetables, rolling in a Thai crepe with a spicy dipping sauce

Pow Pia Thod – Tradition deep fried spring rolls.  Always a tasty choice even though they’re not healthy.

The Thai take on the classic Balinese dish Mie Goreng – Chicken and crab meat, fried noodles with chili sambal, shrimp crackers & satay, topped with a fried egg

Kao Soi Gai – Chiang Mai style red curry of chicken with crispy noodles and traditional accompaniments

Who knew chocolate ice cream could be so beautiful?!

Revel – Seattle, WA

For those of you who don’t know the background behind Revel…here it is in a nutshell…

Iron Chef America husband and wife team, Seif Chirhi and Rachel Yang, are the chefs behind this 7 month old restaurant in Fremont which has gotten an unprecedented amount of press since opening in mid-December 2010.  First it was the New York Times mention, then the taping of The Best Thing I Ever Ate for the Food Network due to Frank Bruni’s visit and now love for the asparagus rice bowl, next it was the Wall Street Journal and most recently Revel was named the Best New Restaurant in Seattle for 2011 by Seattle Weekly.

The concept is Korean street food.  Salads, dumplings, pancakes, rice bowls and noodles.  The menu changes appropriately according to the season so don’t get too attached to one thing.  It’s refreshing to know that even if you go often you’ll always find something new.  During the summer you’ll find the BBQ smoking on the deck and a whole animal being served up a number of different ways.  One week it might be a goat, next a whole pig!

Next door (attached to the restaurant) is Quoin (the architectural term for cornerstone), Yang and Chirchi’s bar.  There’s a spacious deck off the back with a great fire pit and plenty of seating around.  For those that can’t get in or don’t have the patience to wait for a seat at Revel, the full menu is served inside and out at Quoin.

If you haven’t been, what are you waiting for?  The wait can be long but I promise the food is worth it!

Corned lamb salad with mizuna and spicy nuoc cham

Pork belly pancake with kimchi and bean sprouts

Lamb dumpling with goat yogurt and cucumber

BBQ of the week – whole cow

White gulf shrimp, cilantro pistou and coriander noodles

Spice cake ice cream sandwiches with salted caramel dipping sauce

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