Thursday, April 2, 2015

Blog resurrection!!

I decided to revive this blog for my upcoming trip to Japan. I can't believe I haven't posted since 2011. Life (actually work - ugh) got in the way because I love to cook and eat (ok, mostly eat) as much as before...Actually, even more now - if that's even possible!

In a few hours, I am leaving for Japan - the top gastronomic country in the world and awarded the most Michelin stars and any foodie's dream destination. To say I'm excited is a huge understatement. I still can't wrap my head around it - I AM GOING TO JAPAN! Yeaaaah! It's 4 am and I can't sleep I'm so excited!! (Plane only leaves at 8am)

Of course, I'm leaving with my sous-chef in life Yvan. Can't leave home without my nom nom companion ^^. We will be there for 3 weeks and I will try my best to document my adventure every day. Expect some beautiful pictures of cherry blossoms, temples and of course, delectable food.

It's good to be back! ^^

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread and Muffins


When I worked as a medical secretary, one of my coworkers, T, always brought in yummy sweets and baked goods for everybody to enjoy. She is a grandmother and used to own a chocolate shop before "retiring" to work as a secretary so you can be sure that everything she made was amazing! We would munch on cookies, muffins, candies and chocolate all day. I gained weight but I was oh-so-happy. My favorite thing from her was without doubt her chocolate chip banana bread. It was out-of-this-world good! Just thinking about it puts my salivary glands into overdrive. And the funny thing is that I hate bananas! Yup, it is THAT good!

Of course, I asked her for the recipe but like great culinary minds, she doesn't have one. She says that she uses the bananas she has on hands and then - I quote - "throws everything together" haha. I can't "throw things together". When I do, it ends up in a complete mess. When I stopped working there, I started having banana bread withdrawal symptoms: hallucinations (I saw banana breads everywhere!), uncontrollable salivation, lack of concentration and irritability - it was getting bad and I needed some banana bread! I desperately looked on Allrecipes and found this banana bread recipe which had a very good rating. The bread came out very moist and I enjoyed it. Although it is not as orgasmic as T's banana bread, it satisfied my craving...for now. :)

I also made muffins. These were great for breakfast!

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Makes one 5x9 inch loaf and 12 muffins or two 5x9 inch loaves
Adapted from Allrecipes

1 cup shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
6 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional - I didn't use any...allergies!)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease one 9x5 inch loaf pan.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition. Stir in the mayonnaise, bananas and vanilla extract.
3. Stir together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Blend the flour mixture into the banana mixture; stir just enough to evenly combine. Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 to 75 minutes for the loaf and about 20 minutes for the muffins. Cool loaf in the pan for 20 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Banana bread topped with french vanilla ice cream and fudge for a super sweet and high caloric dessert, but incredibly satisfying! Nom nom!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chip Challenge #2 - Chicken Cordon Bleu


Me: What are cooking this week?
Y: Chicken Cordon Bleu.
Me:...That's not a vietnamese dish...
Y: Vietnamese dishes are so complicated to make!
Me: But that's the whole purpose of Chip Challenges...for you to prepare vietnamese dishes because I don't know how to make them...That's why it's called a Challenge!
Y:.......I'm making Chicken Cordon Bleu.
Me: -_-

So there you go. No more vietnamese dishes for the Chip Challenges. That's fine with me because Y's Chicken Cordon Bleu was a-ma-zing! I saw this recipe on Allrecipes and wanted to make it for quite some time, but I always seemed to be missing one or two ingredients for the dish. To be honest, I don't know if I could've made it as tasty as Y did. He did such a great job! :) I'm drooling just looking at pictures! haha

Chicken Cordon Bleu
Adapted from Allrecipes
Serves 3

3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
3 slices Swiss cheese (Y used mozzarella cheese because we didn't have any Swiss)
3 slices ham
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons dried basil

1. Pound chicken breasts until they are 1/2 inch thick. Place a cheese and ham slice on each breast within 1/2 inch of the edges. Fold the edges of the chicken over the filling, and secure with toothpicks. Mix the flour and paprika in a small bowl, and coat the chicken pieces.
2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the chicken until browned on all sides. Add the wine and bouillon. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.

3. Remove the toothpicks, and transfer the breasts to a warm platter. Blend the cornstarch with the cream in a small bowl, and whisk slowly into the skillet. Cook, stirring until thickened, add basil and pour over the chicken.

The chicken was served with jasmine steamed rice and asparagus sauteed in butter. Yum!

Simply delicious! The chicken was moist and juicy and the wine sauce was to die for! Next time, we'll definitely use Swiss cheese and coat the chicken with bread crumbs instead of flour for some extra crispy-ness! The basil was a nice twist and added extra flavor to the sauce. I really enjoyed this. I love Chip Challenges! :)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Chip Challenge #1: Bo Luc Lac (Shaken Beef)


I am proud to present to you the first of the Chip Challenges! As you know, I generally take on the role of Head Chef at home and my boyfriend, the sous-chef. Well, ladies and gentlemen, as of now, once a week, the roles are reversed! My boyfriend aka Chip (short for Chipmunk, my nickname for him hehe) will be cooking a delicious vietnamese dish every week.

This week, Chef Chip is making Bo Luc Lac (Translation: Shaken Beef). Isn't this the cutest name? It actually describes the "shaking" of the beef back and forth in the wok when making this dish.

Bo luc lac (Shaken Beef)
Serves 4


Beef Marinade
3/4 lbs beef sirloin (or any cut you like) cut into 1″ cubes
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3/4 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch of watercress, long stems trimmed
1 tomato, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons cooking oil for frying

1. Combine the garlic, oyster sauce, sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil with the beef. Let marinate for at least half an hour, but preferably 1-2 hours.


2. Prepare vinaigrette by mixing rice vinegar with salt and sugar.
3. Pour about 3-4 tablespoons of the vinaigrette on the thinly sliced red onions and set aside covered in fridge for about 10 minutes. Prepare bed of watercress and tomatoes in a serving platter and set aside.
4. Heat the cooking oil in a large wok or pan over high heat. When it begins to smoke, add an even layer of beef and allow to sear for about 30 seconds, before “shaking” to sear the opposite sides for another 30 seconds to brown all the sides. Do this in batches to cook all the beef if necessary.
5. Transfer the beef to the bed of watercress and tomatoes. Drizzle another 3 tablespoons of vinaigrette over the beef and greens and top with pickled red onions.


Y was seriously craving bo luc lac this week. He ate it recently at a restaurant and was continuously thinking about it so he decided to make his own. I thought it came out pretty good, although he says it didn't taste quite like the one at the restaurant. He's still on the lookout for the perfect bo luc lac recipe!

I'm ashamed to say that I've been neglecting my Sunday Brunch series (same old lame excuse - too lazy/busy to cook in the morning!) so the Chip Challenges will replace it until I find more time in my schedule (or when I feel less lazy hehe). I find it so overwhelming to cook 7 days a week and I welcome the Chip Challenges with open arms. I hope you enjoyed this recipe!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


After reading many positive reviews online, my boyfriend decided to make reservations at Studzio for our 5 year anniversary. Sadly, this is one of the few times the reviews have disappointed us. The food was, in general, quite bland and overpriced for the tiny portions. The service was just average. The only redeeming factor was the original decor and plate presentation.

This French restaurant is located on St-Denis street, right beside another popular French restaurant, L'Académie (which I don't particularly like). I was really excited to try Studzio after hearing it served French cuisine with a modern twist. If modern means bland, they have indeed accomplished their mission.

The decor is very rustic: brick walls, wooden pillars and small fireplace. I didn't see the washrooms, but my boyfriend told me the walls were covered with graffiti. Apparently, the owner wanted the place to look and feel like an apartment. It's different and I like it.

When we entered, we were greeted by a waitress in her late teens, were seated and given one set of menus. That always rub me the wrong way. We are 2 people for heaven's sake, please give us 2 menus! (I sound like a snob haha).

The menus were handwritten and presented on wood clipboards. It matched the whole "wood" theme that was going on. Great concept!

The owner eventually came to our table and explained the menu to us. (He also gave us a second set of menus! Hurray!) We both decided to take the table d'hote which included a glass of wine, an appetizer, an entree and a dessert. For 30$, it seemed like a pretty good deal.

For the wine, I opted for a glass of Pinot noir and my boyfriend, a Bordeaux. Both were excellent.

We shared a salmon tartar (16$) as an additional appetizer. The presentation was fun and creative. The tartar was served in a coconut and the "plate" is a ceramic tile. However, from a practical point of view, the ceramic tile isn't very convenient because the sauce from the salad dripped from the side as we were eating it. The tartar itself was very bland and the pieces of salmon were cut way too big. I love salmon tartar and never thought I would find a restaurant that served one that I didn't like. Studzio accomplished this.

The appetizer that I chose for the table d'hote was the velouté de tomate basilic et parmesan (Cream of tomato with basil and parmesan). It was just your average tomato soup. Nothing to complain about, but nothing extraordinary neither.

My boyfriend ordered the croustilland de chèvre frais (bread with goat cheese). He enjoyed it. I'm not a fan of goat cheese so I cannot comment.

For the main course, I ordered the saumon frais à la Corse, poelé aux aromates (Baked salmon with herbs). It was served with rice and grilled asparagus. They should have named the dish "Flavorless Salmon with tasteless overcooked rice". Of course, no one would order the dish if they did haha. I was expecting to get fresh salmon baked in a perfect blend of spices. Instead, I got a bland mess. I couldn't discern any spices in the salmon. There was a sweet lemon sauce drizzled over the salmon, but there wasn't enough of it to save this dish. (And it wasn't that great neither!) There was also some grated coconut on the dish - I don't know if it was there just as a decoration or if it was meant to be eaten with the salmon, but I ate it with the salmon and the combination was just very...strange. And don't get me started on the rice! It was mushy and was totally flavorless! One out of 4 of my asparagus has been completely carbonized. Why they didn't just remove it before serving the dish is beyond me. This dish was just a major culinary fail.

My boyfriend was tempted by the filet mignon grillé aux épices (Grilled filet mignon with spices), served with potatoes au gratin and what seems like a tomato stuffed with bread crumbs. He didn't enjoy his dish neither. He requested his filet mignon medium-rare and although it looked like it was cooked right, it was incredibly chewy and flavorless (notice the recurrent theme going on?) The filet mignon wasn't round like it usually is so he had doubt about whether or not this really was filet mignon. Or maybe it really was filet mignon but it wasn't cut properly. What a waste. The only word that we could come up to describe the taste of the tomato was "weird". Why not stuff the tomato with cheese or meat? I think they tried to be innovative, but the textures and flavors were just off. The only tasty thing on the plate were the potatoes au gratin. But who in the world can mess up potatoes topped with melted cheese?

For dessert, I chose the mousse au cacao noir (Black chocolate mousse). As you know, I love chocolate and haven't found a chocolate dessert I didn't like. While it was nothing to write home about, I enjoyed it.

My boyfriend ordered the poire au vin à l'anis étoilée (Red wine poached pear with star anise) without really knowing what it was haha. He got curious by the owner's tantalizing description of the dessert and decided to try it out. Bad idea. Not because the dish tasted bad, but because he hates star anise (I guess he didn't catch that part of the description lol). And guess who ended eating most of his dessert? :) I'm not a fan of star anise neither, but its flavor didn't overpower the dessert, except when you bite into the seeds (?) lodged in the pear.

I was quite disappointed with the food at Studzio (aka Restaurant Bland). The owner was really friendly though. He came to our table at the end of the meal and chatted with us a bit. He told us that he bought Studzio one and half years ago and is still trying to build a good reputation for his restaurant. I feel bad for being so harsh in this review, but the food really was bad. He should really fire his cook and hire someone with, you know, taste buds. My boyfriend concluded the cook must be a student or someone with no culinary training because of the poor execution of the dishes - big pieces of salmon in the tartar, amateur cut of filet mignon.

Overall, Studzio's great decor and concept was ruined by flavorless and badly executed food.

Food: 1/5
Service: 3/5
Setting: 4/5
Value: 1/5
Overall: 2/5

4147 St-Denis
Montréal, QC H2W 2M7
(514) 843-0407

Studzio on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

5 year anniversary: Part II - Bubble tea and Place Des Arts

Part II of my amazing day...

After the spa, we were both starving! We went to Chinatown for some yummy and incredibly-cheap Chinese pastries. BBQ pork buns, egg tarts and other delicious treats! 6$ fed two extremely hungry adults-who-eat-like-teenagers. Not bad, eh? No pictures unfortunately because I gulped down everything before the camera can even be turned on.

Then Y wanted to go to Magic Idea for bubble teas. We actually had our first date there so it brought back a lot of memories. :) However, the place is so run down now, it's almost decomposing under our feet. I ordered a pineapple milk bubble tea, one of my favorites! Actually, I think I ordered the same thing on our first date! Y ordered a green tea milk bubble tea, which wasn't nearly sweet enough for me. Again, no pictures because I just forgot to take out my camera. I'm not the take-pictures-of-everything type after all :) While the bubble teas are still good, the service was just awful. The waitress was so rude and bitchy. It used to be a great place to hang out with friends and chat while drinking bubble tea, now it's just so old and sad looking. :(

With yummy food in our bellies and our appetite finally satisfied, we had time to kill until our 6pm restaurant reservation (yes, more food! haha) so we decided to check out the newly renovated Place Des Arts. It wasn't entirely finished yet, but the areas that were completed were really beautiful. It was very modern and had an "artistry" feel to it...exactly how it is supposed to be!

[Not my picture]
I especially liked this wall displayed at the Georges-Emile-Lapalme Cultural space. It consists of a mosaic of 35 changing video screens and each screen interacts with the adjacent ones. Very cool!

We walked past the ticket booth and remembered that tickets for The Lion King broadway went on sale yesterday! We were so excited when we learned that the show is coming to Montreal and couldn't wait to get our hands on some tickets! We were planning to buy our tickets online, but since we were already here, why not buy them now? We got lucky and were able to snatch good seats: floor level, in the middle at the back. The pair cost 150$ which is pretty decent for an award winning show! :) We later learned that they charged a 20$ fee when tickets are booked online so it was definitely a good thing that we bought them directly at the ticket booth! Yay, I love finding out that I saved money! haha

At 5pm, we made our way to Studzio, the French restaurant where we made dinner reservations. I will post a review on it later, but I found the food to be extremely disappointing. The dishes were bland and not well executed. The only downside to our amazing day. :(

Overall, our day together was incredible. Y did a great job at planning this whole day (I should make let him do the planning more often. ^_^) I feel so lucky to be with someone who is so sweet, thoughtful and just so...amazing! :) For the past 5 years, we have been through so much together. There has been countless moments of joy and laughter, but also many disagreements and difficult times. But we got through these rough patches and while there will be many more ahead, I'm confident we'll be able to overcome them. He is truly my soul mate, my best friend and (to borrow a term from a contestant on Top Chef) my sous-chef in life. He is my #1 supporter and this blog's #1 fan. :)

I'm looking forward to many more anniversaries together. Happy 5 year anniversary baby! I'm so grateful to have you in my life. I love you ♥

Monday, March 21, 2011

5 Year Anniversary Part 1 - Spa Scandinave

There won't be a Sunday Brunch post this week because Y and I went out to celebrate our 5 year anniversary this weekend! I can't believe it has been 5 years! It feels as if it was only yesterday that we shared our first kiss, drank bubble tea on our first date and clumsily held hands hehe. So many memories...^^

After 5 years and especially after moving in together, Y and I have developped a sort of routine. While having a routine isn't necessarily bad (because let's face it, we need a bit of structure in our life), having the same old routine day in day out can kill a relationship. So we try to go on dates as often as possible, try new activities together and go on roadtrips/vacation whenever we can. One thing that we always do is celebrate our anniversary and not only every year, but every month. My friends and family make fun of me when I tell them that, but I find this is the best way to break the routine - to remind each other of our love every month. When we are too busy with school or work, which happens quite often, we just wish each other a "Happy X year Y month" and that makes the day more special and beautiful. I find it sad that some of my friends don't even celebrate their year anniversaries and can't remember how long they have been with their boyfriend. Am just weird?

Anyways, I was complaining to Y that I am always the one who makes plans for our dates and anniversaries and that he never does anything. (I like to complain haha). So he volunteered to plan our 5 year anniversary which made me ecstatic. He was incredibly secretive about it all and didn't want to tell me anything about what he had planned! I found it so cute that he wanted to surprise me and make it as special as possible. Although I knew it was some sort of spa/massage thing (because he is predictable hehe), I was still curious as to where he would bring me. The day of our anniversary (actually, it was the day after our real anniversary - Y had a special rate for Sundays), he told me to bring along my bikini and makeup kit and I knew I guessed right! What did I tell you? My baby is predictable :) In the car, he revealed where we will go/what we will do and let me tell you, he totally spoiled me!

We went to Spa Scandinave, a high end spa located in the Old Port. The place was amazing - so luxurious and clean. They provided us with sandals and a hooded bathrobe when we first arrived. They warned us about their silence rule, which I found nice because it makes for a better and more relaxing experience.

I was able to snap a few pictures before I was warned by the staff. Usually, I'm not the kind to take pictures à la Asian tourist. However, since I started this blog, I always take 147382 pictures of everything because it's like they say - a picture is worth a thousand words. So yeah, I hate feeling like a tourist...especially in my own city. And that was exactly how I felt when the receptionist warned me lol.

scandinave spa
They gave us these waterproof bracelets at the reception to open our lockers. You just touch the surface of the bracelet on the lock and it opens! How cool is that? Am I technologically retarded because I find this so incredibly awesome? lol.

The washrooms were sooo clean! Oh God. I actually took pictures of the washrooms. Gahhh! I AM a tourist!

The most equipped changing area ever. They had everything and I mean everything you might need - hair dryers, hair straighteners, hairspray, body milk, spray deodorant, face moisturizer, bobby pins, hair ties, tampons, cottons pads and the list goes on.

My boyfriend booked a one hour Swedish massage for me. The massage therapist was very professional and the massage was so soothing. I felt completely dazed after the massage - this is what taking drugs must feel like hehe.

After the massage, I joined Y in the bath areas. We followed the suggested cold-hot-relax cycles for the next 2-3 hours. First, you start with the body heating phase: you spend 10-15 minutes either at the eucalyptus steam, Finnish sauna or hot bath. Then, you proceed to cold phase, where you rinse yourself in cool water in the Nordic shower or taking a plunge in a ice cold bath. Yikes! Then comes my favorite part...sleeping! umm...I mean relaxing. You go to the relaxation area and well...relax. :)

I liked the hot bath with the waterfall. The water temperature was just perfect - like taking a hot bath at home. The sound of the waterfall was also incredibly soothing.

Finnish sauna. 90 degrees C according to the sign on the door! Eek! I enjoyed it though.

My favorite place was the zero stress room. Bean bags were scattered all over the floor and they played soothing music. Y and I cuddled on a big bean bag and fell asleep. It was very romantic. :)

Another lounge/relaxation area with more bean bags and plush sofas. There was also a juice bar that served water and tea free of charge. (Smoothies and snacks were available at an additional cost). I'm a big tea drinker and I really liked the tea that they served. It was called Dragon Pearls and came from Camellia Sinensis Tea House, a very nice tea house located in the Quartier Latin. I'll do a review when I return there.

Overall, the experience was amazing! We both left feeling incredibly relaxed, invigorated and clean. If it wasn't for the exorbitant prices (so you can get an idea of the prices: 54$ for access to scandinavian baths, 128$ for one-hour Swedish massage..eek!), I'll return every weekend for sure.
71, de la Commune West
Montreal, QC H2Y 2C6
Reservations recommended for weekends

Part 2 of my 5 year anniversary will be posted soon!