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Food Journal, Life Notes

The Cranes Start to Fly

The First Crane Has Landed
This is the first paper crane for the year (and for this artsy project).

Happy New Year everyone! I was supposed to make this post yesterday, but my husband and I attended a fun and food-filled evening of a get-together with family last night. We went home around midnight and just jumped into bed. We were to well-fed (hehe) and conked out from singing karaoke, talking, and well, eating more.

Oh, and for your information, I don’t do karaoke. I just sing along with everybody else. 😀

This entry is a start of a 1000 crane challenge I imposed on myself for the following reasons:

(1) I want to do something artsy. I felt deprived! I was able to do some artsy stuff this year but I felt there weren’t enough. This year, I want to have a bit of art on a regular basis. Thus, the origami crane thing.

(2) I find romance in the legend of folding 1000 paper cranes. According to the legend:

After being diagnosed with leukemia from the radiation, Sadako spent her time in a hospital folding origami paper cranes in hope of making a thousand of them. She was inspired to do so by the Japanese legend that one who created a thousand origami cranes would be granted a wish. Her wish was simply to live. Source: Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes – Wikipedia

There’s no loss in trying to fold 1000 paper cranes right? Plus, it will be a good art project to have all cranes displayed on a large frame once they’re all done. It can be a good living room decorative.

(3) My paper cranes can become a constant companion in my wanderings, work, chores, etc. They can be my partners in crime in photography.

To no further ado, here are my first paper cranes for the year.

0001. The Crane Has Landed

The First Crane Has Landed
This is the first paper crane for the year (and for this artsy project).

Our 7-ft Christmas tree will possibly be taken down in a week, depending if we feel like it. So a crane has taken refuge on its needles and hanging trinkets, becoming a decorative in itself, colorful and fragile, a small beauty preparing for flight.

0002. It Smells Too Good

Freshly Baked Goods is the Best Scent for Any House
Creamy Red Velvet Cupcakes. I need practice with putting frosting though.

The house smelled of freshly baked cupcakes. Yum! I made Red Velvet Cupcakes that had cream cheese with white chocolate filling and cream cheese frosting. Here is the recipe I used for it.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg Duncan Hines® Red Velvet Premium Cake Mix
  • 1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 container Duncan Hines® Creamy Home-Style Cream Cheese Frosting

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease muffin pans or line with paper baking cups.
  2. Prepare batter according to package directions.
  3. Spoon batter into lined muffin cups. In small bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and egg; mix until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips and coconut.
  4. Spoon about 1 Tbsp cream cheese mixture onto batter of each cupcake.
  5. Bake 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes following package directions. Spread cupcakes with frosting.

0003. The First Big Chow of The Year

Chips and salsa
Chips and Salsa before the first Big Chow of the Evening

It’s a fact. Befriend a Filipino family and you discover just how much food they can make (and chow) in every special occasion. We love reunions, get-togethers, fiestas, and the likes. And food is the most important aspect of every occasion. We got an invitation from our Tita for a New Years dinner, and true enough, there was so much food we were invited to take some home. Just check out how much we chowed down.

New Year's Feast
New Year's Feast


New Year's Feast
New Year's Feast
New Year's Feast


And here are family and friends enjoying the food and company.

2017 New Year Dinner

2017 New Year Dinner

And so to my family and friends from other places, I hope you had an awesome 2017!!!

Cheers!

Food Journal

A Taste of Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant

A Taste of Saigon Restaurant, Calgary Alberta

Two pieces of crispy delicious deep-fried spring rolls. Those were my cravings last Thursday after my husband and mine’s Naturopathic In-Office Package Tests. We left the clinic way past our usual early dinner time so by the time we arrived at Royal Oak, we felt our stomachs growling in anticipation of anything to eat.

It was my husband’s suggestion to try A Taste of Saigon to try a different Vietnamese restaurant besides our usual Pho Hoa option. At first, I wanted to order soup-based dish for the cold weather but after looking at the restaurant’s menu, I opted to try something else especially after seeing the shrimp skewer option. It seems to be I’ve been having a lot of seafood cravings lately.

My first impression of A Taste of Saigon is its subdued harmony of Asian and modern feel. Although the name is glaringly Asian, the place doesn’t pose as much Asian atmosphere as what I am used to in similar restaurants. You know, the super-noisy kind you can’t always hear yourself talk. It maybe because we came at dinner time but I like how subdued the noise level is compared to other Asian restaurants.

A Taste of Saigon interiors

Large Asian (diety?) statues greet you at the entrance, pretty Asian lanterns light up the premises, and other Asian decoration completes the ensemble. The counter area displays bright contemporary shelvings where a lot of differently shaped glasses, decanter, bottles, tea steepers are displayed. There are also two large flat screen TVs wherein the sports channel was on.

As I expected from many Asian restaurants, their menu is full of options to browse through. Plus they also offer an impressive list of beverages, inclusive of wines, sakes, juices, fizz drinks, teas, slushies and more. I was highly tempted to get some alcohol but for the sake of improving my health first, I opted for some caffeine-free root beer.

Shrimp Skewers Platter
Charbroiled honey-glazed shrimp skewers with pan-friend egg on Vietnamese scented broken rice. Cucumber, tomato, lettuce, pickled carrots and sweet soy sauce.

It was first for me to consciously notice Vietnamese rice and I like it! Just the right texture and portion for the generous amount of Shrimp Skewers on my plate. I know I’ve been ranting of large restaurant portions here in Calgary compared to my homeland (not that I’m complaining but I easily get full!) but the portions in this restaurant are just right for me.

Charbroiled Lemongrass Pork Bun
Rice vermicelli, lettuce, pickled carrots, basil, bean sprouts, cucumbers, peanuts, and baked onion bits. With 2 deep-friend spring rolls.

I like Taste of Saigon for its ambiance and dishes. I also like the service although my husband and I noticed that our server didn’t seem trained enough for the job. I requested a spoon for my husband because he is not that used to using chopsticks for vermicelli. Our server just laid the spoon on the table. Didn’t plate it on top of a napkin or something. It’s a negligible error is what we thought but well, it’s common sense hygiene.

There you go, another well-discovered Asian restaurant to add to our list of casual Asian dinner dates.

A Taste of Saigon

, 8888 Country Hills Blvd NW
Calgary, AB T3G 5T4

Mon. 11:00 am-10:00 pm
Tues. CLOSED
Wed.-Thurs. 11:00 am-10:00 pm
Fri.-Sat. 11:00 am-11:00 pm
Sun. 11:00 am-9:30 pm

atasteofsaigon.com

Food Journal

Roku, a Japanese Haven of Special Flavors

Roku dinner combo

As I see it, a well-seasoned traveler connotes two things. One, one had adventures in many parts of the world. Second, he or she has tried exotic cuisines akin to Andrew Zimmern’s Bizzare Foods. Travel and food. These two elements go hand-in-one in the world of many travelers. Experiencing both appears to dissipate the notion of diversity and teaches one to appreciate the uniqueness of each culture that exists in the modern world.

When I got married, I didn’t realize I would be a half of this necessary two-part cultural partnership. I don’t travel unless I’m with a group because I’m geographically challenged. Ergo, I easily get lost even with a map. And I get quickly paranoid when I get lost ALONE. I don’t have enough of that street smarts to be confident in getting lost as some travelers do. While some find getting lost and adventure, I find the experience a slow progress to paranoia.

My husband, on the other hand, has the travel bug. He has the adventurous spirit to find his way back when he gets lost. When he was 5 years old, he got separated from his family in a carnival. With possibly the best instinct a toddler could muster and the guidance of a guardian angel, he was able to safely weave his way back to the entrance of the carnival, where his family was panicking. Plus, he can plan a trip better than I ever would.

My contribution to food discovery is something to account for. I had that phase wherein I visited a new restaurant EVERY WEEK. When other girls shop for clothes, bags, and makeup, I splurge on culinary discoveries, ranging from hole-in-the-walls to starred restaurants within the metropolis. I also buy those yearly restaurant publications to plan my next culinary adventure with friends and family. If I had the saved the money I spent on food I might have traveled to many parts of Asia at that time.

I don’t have the skills to be a travel planner and my husband isn’t that much of a culinary seeker as I am. Combine the two of us and we are set to see the world in the future. That I can guarantee. 😀

At the moment, we are comfortable in seeing parts of Canada and enjoying what this Western country has to offer. With Canada dubbed as the land of the immigrants, I didn’t feel too separated from fellow Asians (even Filipinos) since I find them almost everywhere. As what you can expect, restaurants of different origins abound so it never feels that far away from home, especially when the smell of freshly cooked crispy pata, bopis, and sisg are a few minutes drive away. Oh, the joys of cholesterol! If only you weren’t so dangerous to health.

For a number of times I’ve been telling my husband I want to dine again in Roku, a Japanese restaurant in Royal Oak Park Shopping Centre. But my husband lives with this principle that when he has tried something, he wants to check out something else. So my request gets turned down but I don’t get disappointed as much when we dine at a new restaurant and try new food.

To my delight last Monday, my husband suggested we dine at Roku for my birthday! It’s a wish come true!

Roku Japanese Restaurant

Roku prides itself on putting extra care into their daily specials and classic sushi and sashimi menu. With chefs and staff composed mostly of Japanese, the authenticity and devotion in creating the best Japanese cuisine are felt from the memorable textures and flavors of dishes, and the charm of Japanese service.

the interiors of Roku

The atmosphere of the restaurant is distinctively Japanese with a natural minimalist approach of wood colors, subtle accents from zen-like vertical paintings and apt instrumental music flowing out of unseen speakers. Being the first customers of the dinner shift, we were able to sit by the window and got a good view of the whole restaurant.

Similar to what we ordered the first time we sat in this fine establishment, we ordered a dinner combo called ‘Okami no Dinner’, which composed of the following:

Roku's Agedashi Tofu
Agedashi Tofu
Deep Fried Tofu in Bonito-Soy Broth
This perfection of coagulated soy milk, deep fried until golden-brown on both sides with smooth texture within is a must to have.
Chicken Karaage
Chicken Karaage
This is the Japanese version of fried chicken is first marinated in ginger, garlic and soy sauce, and then coated in potato starch before being fried.
Roku's appetizer
I forgot what this was but it did consist of burdock.
Roku's Assorted Tempuras
Assorted Tempura
2 Prawns, 3 Veggies
Roku's Ebi Tempura
Ebi Tempura
Every time we eat at a Japanese resturant, this is a staple of ours.
Roku's Sushi & Sashimi Plate
Sushi & Sashimi Platter
A generous serving of sushi and sashimi.
Ike-Chan Pudding Cream, Caramel
Ike-Chan Pudding
Cream, Caramel
Think of this as the Filipino’s version of Leche flan. Crème caramel, flan, or caramel pudding: a custard dessert with a layer of soft caramel on top, garnished with whipped cream and fruit.
Roku's Yuri-Chan Tiramisu
Yuri-Chan Tiramisu
Now THIS is the reason why I always wanted to come back to Roku. This got to be the tastiest Tiramisu I’ve ever tasted. Roku’s Tiramisu version is very delicate, smooth and velvety in texture. Served in a small cup and a subtle hint of alcohol, this dessert packs a punch from its harmonious blend of bitter and sweet flavors. It’s a MUST to have.

And I’d like to share what our meal looked like the first time we dined at Roku last month.

roku-musume-no-dinner
Musume No Dinner
2 Kinds of Daily Special Appetizer
AGEDASHI TOFU (Small)
ASSORT TEMPURA (5pcs)
SUSHI PLATE (4 Nigiri and 1/2 Rolls)
RICE
MISO SOUP
roku appetizers
Agedashi Tofu, Ingen no Gomae (Green Beans with Sesame Mayo Sauce), and Gyu Tataki (Sliced rare done beef with special ponzu sauce).

Please note that all dinner combos come with the intention of feeding only one person, thus there are only small servings of appetizers and it comes with one rice and miso soup. My hubby and I still haven’t adapted to the serving portions of restaurants here in Canada so we opted to heed our small stomach capacity and share one dinner combo with extra rice and miso soup. We made the right decision. No leftovers to take home!

This birthday dinner really made me very happy. So will I harp my husband again to go back to Roku? Of course, I will! As long as they retain their Japanese charm and their flavorful menu… and continue to make that heavenly Tiramisu, I’m a Roku fan!

Roku Japanese Restaurant

7127, 8650 – 112 Avenue NW Calgary AB, T3R 0R5
MONDAY – SATURDAY (Closed SUN & HOLIDAYS)
LUNCH 11:30AM – 2:00PM . DINNER 4:30PM – 9:00PM
(Final orders accepted 10 minutes before closing)
rokusushi.com

Food Journal

It’s Like Going ‘Back to the Future’ with Delicious Omelette Waiting for You

galaxie diner interior

This is the first of a series of post I promised I will be posting regarding the places my husband and I ate in prior and after moving to our new home. Whereas dining out isn’t a requisite in exploring an area, it is one of our motivating factors to blend into a community.

Prior to moving from Downtown, there was this one diner that catches our attention during our random weekend walks because of the line of people we see outside its doors. Whenever we felt the urge to finally try the place out, we end up perturbed by the line of people outside.

Until one Sunday morning, we decided to go straight to Galaxie Diner after our morning mass. We arrived there before 8:30 am and just our luck, we were one of the first people in! Finally! It was a good decision too because the place filled up a few minutes after we were seated.

Expect nothing fancy in the decor or the layout of the diner, but be transported into the time of jukeboxes, retro posters, and overall iconic casual American dinner. In retrospect, I was also reminded of Luke’s Diner from my favorite show, Gilmore Girls. Shelf-filled walls, open kitchen, and comfortable tables make this a perfect place to go to everyday for personable chit-chat, good food, and a conducive family and community ambiance for anyone wanting to relax in homey comfort.


galaxi diner jukebox
galaxie diner posters

What I like about diners is how flexible their menu can be. My husband and I love eggs. If there aren’t any health issues regarding eating eggs day, noon, and night every single day, we might do just that. Since we want to live long lives, we do try to keep everything we eat into moderation. We hadn’t had any breakfast that day, so our eyes immediately flew to “Omelette of Choice”, where you can order ANY number of fillings for the same price. Check out the options below.

galaxie diner menu

My husband had his omelette consist of a lot of meat. I find it amusing how a lot of guys seem to have this staple for adding a lot of meat on dishes they have control to customize like in this case, omelettes, and notably, pizzas.

omelette with meat filling

Hubby’s omelette had bacon, ham, Montreal smoked meat and beef sausage. Everything was oh-so-good meaty goodness that is unforgettable.

omelette with vegetables

My omelette had cheese, bacon, sauteed mushrooms, onions, green onions, tomatoes, and sour cream.

Both of our omelettes come with hash browns and toast.

And might I say this level of omelette personalization, quantity, and friendly service brought Sunday smiles that day. If you ever drop by Downtown Calgary and seeking for a place to dine in, I recommend Galaxie Diner. You just have to be really early for breakfast, though. That’s how famous they are. They also adhere to this strict rule that if you ever come with a group, everyone must be present before they seat you. Just a heads up.

Galaxie Diner

galaxiediner.ca

1413 11 St SW,
Calgary,
AB T2R 1G7

Food Journal

Simple Magical Breakfasts are Worth the Effort

A coloful weekend breakfast.

A photo posted by Chedie Cruz (@chedie) on

I wake up very early, groggy and disconcerted to prepare breakfast and my husband’s lunchbox every weekday. I don’t mind waking up early but I bet anybody, who prepares the household’s food, wish they could have a cook to do all that cooking in the early morning. It’s something that could pass as a pleasant experience or a chore, depending on how tired you were the day before.

I don’t mind cooking but I do love those weekend moments when you wake up feeling mysteriously refreshed and you feel the urge to prepare breakfast fit for a king. That was how I felt this morning. I wasn’t craving for anything extravagant. In fact, I went out to buy Breakfast Panini from Good Earth, a couple of sweets from Co-op, and well, catch some Pokemon along the way.

Yes, ladies and gents, I’m a Pokemon Go player. I don’t get to play much outside since I don’t have unlimited bandwidth but I do enjoy getting those freebies via Pokestops. So if a Pokemon tends to spawn nearby, I might as well catch them, right?

Going back to the subjects at hand, breakfasts are like a ritual to me. When lunch and dinner can be as simple or extravagant, taken early or late, breakfasts are a MUST to partake. They’re what I deem as day energizers. They must be taken as freshly cooked or prepared as you can because their ‘freshness’ is short-lived, making their gastronomic experience less appreciated that it somehow affects how the rest of your day will pan out. It’s like breakfasts hold a magical concoction to make or break the beginning of a new day.

Thus, when I feel creating some form of presentation for my weekend breakfast, I really love it when my husband or somebody else appreciates my efforts. Otherwise, I just lose the initiative to make an effort for the same person, which happened too many times in the past. My cooking will never be at par with grandiose breakfasts like the Zillion Dollar Lobster Fritatta (costs $1000), or the Krispy Kreme Doughnut (costs $1685), but I think any efforts are worth the merit. It’s the love that counts, right?

The picture on this post consists of Breakfast Panini from Good Earth, a couple of colorful, delicate Macaroons from Ollia, flavored bread sticks from Pocky, and decaf Coffee.

Cheers to more breakfast magic ahead!

Food Journal

Sumo Lounge Review

Sumo Lounge Downtown Calgary

It has become a trend for my husband and I that when we couldn’t decide where to dine outside or if we treat others, our default choice is a Japanese restaurant. It’s not we’re being biased (as Asians). Personally, I love the idea of trying different flavors in small amounts for the variety and novelty of getting an eyeful of beautiful aesthetics as well as orchestrating a play in tantalizing your tastebuds with new taste combinations. So what better way to do that but with sushi. Bite sized delicacies until you find the right flavor just for you.

Last Sunday had been a fulfilling day as I attended earlier that morning Tita Ning’s eldest daughter’s, Kelsey, bridal shower. It was a plentiful morning of gifts, well wishes, with lots of pretty and filling food. Macaroni salad, quiche, cute sandwiches, fruits, smoothies, etc. It was the perfect brunch selection for a bridal shower.

Then later that day, my husband and I treated some of our relatives to dinner in honor of Tita Ana finally fulfilling her wish to visit family in Canada. My husband and I took Tita Ana, her son, Sieg, Tito Luis and Tita Ning to Sumo Lounge found in Eau Clair mall at Downtown Calgary.

Sumo Lounge immediately gives off the Asian flair vibe, starting from the bamboo stalks by their doorway, slightly reddish Asian interior hues and the giant Lucky Cat that stood out amongst Asian decors. The ambiance is simply relaxing, although not at par to a Zen environment we often associate Japanese culture to. It was a first for us to come on Sunday dinner and I concluded it was a slow day because there were only a few staff in sight and they didn’t immediately came to our table when I signaled for their service. But it was nothing to be angry about as they were very friendly and efficient.

Sumo Lounge Shrimp Tempura

After ordering the default Miso soup, we ordered Shrimp Tempura. This is a MUST order in Sumo Lounge. We initially made 2 orders of Shrimp Tempura, each plates consisting of 4 large pieces of perfectly fried, crunchy Tempura. Unlike other tempuras wherein the shape is perfectly molded into an elongated stick of deep-fried golden-brown goodness, Sumo’s Shrimp Tempura had this splattered look of fried batter erupting from all sides. It is a unique tempura look and its crunchiness is something to remember. If there is anything to complain about this dish is its messy attribute, but it’s hardly something to be picky about when you find yourself cleaning your plate of crunchy batter pieces for more of that crispy fried goodness. This dish is so good we ordered another plate for everyone to have seconds.

Sumo Lounge Ozeki Platter

When there are 4 or more people on your table, you can order one of the Sushi or Sashimi platter. We had an Ozeki platter, which consisted of different sushis inclusive of 2 Salmon, 2 White Tuna, 2 Prawns, and Surf Clams with Cucumber, California Roll and half Sumo House Maki. Just seeing that pretty ensemble can whet up any appetite.

Tita Ana ordered Sticky Chicken. Slowly roasted chicken breast in Sweet Chili Sauce served with Rice and Vegetables.

Sumo Lounge Caterpillar roll

A highlight of that night was the Caterpillar roll. Unagi (freshwater eel), cream cheese, avocado, tempura flakes and crispy green onion sushi. My husband initially thought this was an Asian exotic delicacy similar to Philippines’ tamilok (woodworm) or famous balut. Thank goodness it came out this pretty depiction of a green caterpillar with thin avocado slices precariously arranged at the top of each sushi piece. Each piece is so soft and delicate, I swear, each chew felt like the sushi was melting inside my mouth. I never imagined avocado and cream cheese harmonizing so well with Japanese rice while the unagi, tempura flakes and crispy green onions gave the right crunchy texture and salty accent to each piece. It was like a fusion of East meets West minus strong meat flavors, thus, proving that the Asian belief in subtlety can work its wonders anywhere, even in food. My husband and I agreed this is something we will order again in the future.

Sumo Lounge Green Tea Ice Cream
Sumo Lounge Deep Fried Ice Cream

We ordered many desserts to try, namely, Mango Cheesecake, Green Tea Cheesecake, Green Tea Ice Cream, and Deep Fried Ice Cream. I consider Deep Fried Ice Cream as a novelty because it is not something you can easily purchase outside. The crispy, slightly salty deep fried exterior is the perfect cocoon for the creamy goodness within.

Sumo Lounge Family Dinner

All in all, the dinner was a success. Good food, unlimited stories, good company, and efficient service, what more could you as for. Sumo Lounge has become a personal favorite for my sushi urges. There are more sushi I aim to try in this restaurant so expect me to be back soon.

Sumo Lounge

200 Barclay Parade SW, Calgary, AB
T2P 4R4, Canada T2P 4R3

sumoloungecalgary.com