Soup and Sandwiches

This past weekend had me in the kitchen a few times, and not just for trying to perfect my soup. On Sunday, Denise came over for dinner and we actually made something instead of eating out. Smile On the menu: BBQ pulled pork with coleslaw and yam fries.

2013-04-16 15.29.26I got up early and took a lot of the fat off of a cheap pork roast before popping it into the slow cooker. I sprinkled it with dried chopped onions and some dried sliced garlic. I put enough water in the crock pot to go about half way up the roast, then mixed in half a bottle of Bullseye Old West Hickory BBQ sauce. Low for 8 hours, drain, shred with a fork, add the other half bottle of bbq sauce, stir and low for another 2 hours. The next time I do this, I won’t let it go for the full two hours at the end. I might cut it back to just an hour. The flavor was nice and it was still moist, but the blackened bbq sauce was a bear to clean off the crock pot. Smile with tongue out 

Denise threw together a coleslaw from a recipe we found online. We cut back on the sugar suggested because we’re already sweet enough. Winking smile It paired nicely with the pulled pork on the cheese buns. That’s something else I’ll switch up for next time. No cheese buns. Yes, they’re nice and tasty, but when you added the hot pulled pork to them the oils from the cheese started flowing and things got a bit greasy. Maybe a nice kaiser roll or an onion bun.

There was a little bit of a debate over whether or not we should break out the deep fryer for the yam fries or just do them in the oven. Considering the rest of the meal, we just popped them in the oven (regular store bought McCain’s). I wanted to try recreating the dip that usually comes with the yam fries in the restaurant, but didn’t want anything too spicy so that Denise could still eat it. In the end, I came up with three quick mayo-based dips and bought some roasted garlic mayo for a fourth. The three that I did: Garlic Lime, Sweet Chilli, and Hickory BBQ. They all came together really quickly and all tasted pretty darn good.

2013-04-15 00.57.35The crazy thing is that we didn’t take any pictures of our meal. Very strange. We’re always taking pictures of that stuff… don’t know what happened there. I decided to have a half sandwich about 6 hours later and took a picture of that. I didn’t have any of the original coleslaw left, so I whipped up some bbq hickory mayo and used that. For something that I threw together at the last minute, it sure worked. Even though this looks like a full sandwich, it’s not. It’s just the back half of a cut bun. Smile 

Soup for Break-pho-est

I was originally going to make us some of my faux pho for lunch on Sunday, but we ended up going out to a new place to try theirs instead (new to us anyway). I had taken out a bunch of meat from the freezer in preparation for this though, so I had to use it up. I woke up Monday morning with a hankering for a big bowl of soup so, after I let the dog out, I put on my apron and got to work in the kitchen.

2013-04-15 10.36.38I bought some Knorr beef stock packets awhile ago and wanted to give them a try. They’re like little beef jello shots. Smile I measured out a bowl full of water for the pot and tossed one in. For the distinctive pho spice flavor, I decided to add a rounded teaspoon of the instant pho soup base. The resulting broth was awesome. Easily one of the best I’ve made yet. I want to try it again without the instant pho base though because it added a reddish oil to the mix. I think I’ll either make up a bouquet garni of star anise, cinnamon sticks and ginger or use one of those pho flavoring “tea bags” I used last time.

2013-04-15 11.00.59For meat, I had 8 beef balls that I cut in half and some steak strips. I added those to the broth as it was simmering on the stove to try to impart a little more beefiness. I reserved some of the steak to add later to keep it rare. I was worried that the steak would get too chewy by boiling away in the broth, but it worked out nicely. A little chew, but still quite tender. A nice addition to the overall texture.

2013-04-15 11.01.08I pre-soaked the noodles again, letting them sit in a pot of hot water while I prepped all the veggies. I drained and rinsed them a couple of times during this process, trying to release some of the starch. I won’t ever cook the noodles directly in the broth again. This is definitely a required step. I’m making soup, not stew. I didn’t end up using all of the noodles this time. I tried to put in the amount that usually comes in a large bowl of pho instead of EAT ALL THE NOODLES!!!! Smile These were also the last of my slightly wider cut noodles. I’ll be going back to the slimmer ones from now on. They’re closer to what the restaurants use and that’s the whole point of this.

2013-04-15 11.12.31The finished product was awesome. The broth was a nice clear brown with plenty of beefy flavor and a nice hint of something else special. It had the right amount of noodles, lots of extra meat (Yay!), and kept me interested right down to the end when my spoon was scraping the bottom of the bowl. Instead of the two green onions I normally put in there, I only used one. I also doubled the amount of cilantro I usually put in (about 6 sprigs). I really need to get some real lime to add to my soup instead of the squirt of lime juice from the RealLime ™ bottle. If I stop experimenting at this point, I’m ok with that. This soup was on par with several restaurants and better than about half of the places I’ve eaten at. I’m not going to stop though. Smile I won’t be happy until I can knock out a quick pho that can compete with any of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants.

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Don’t you pho-get about me…

As I start this post, it’s currently 3:30am on Sunday morning. I haven’t slept since Friday, but I’m not terribly tired right now. I’m sure that I’ll crash as soon as I finish typing all this though. Smile

2013-04-06 13.45.26My friend Humphrey and I went out to Pho Long for our Saturday Soup Ritual (there has to be an S-word instead of Ritual – I want alliteration dammit!). It had been a very, very long time since we’ve been there. We finally got around to asking them for that daikon radish in the soup like the first time we went there. Very tasty. Our server, with English as a second (possibly third) language, took awhile before she figured out what we were asking for. Apparently there it’s called “white carrot”. Good to know for next time.

2013-04-06 13.48.36No matter how many times I make my soup at home, and how close I get to the taste of a restaurant bowl, my presentation still needs a little work I think. Take a look at this bowl… that looks frigging delicious. Just chock full of meat too: Huge chunks of tendon, big beef balls, slice after paper thin slice of rare beef… Awesome. I don’t know if I’m just getting used to them or if they just aren’t as hot, but I didn’t find that the Thai chilli all that spicy today. You should have seen how much chilli oil I added too. Oh well. Still tasted great. The big chunk of daikon (sorry: white carrot) was soft enough that I could cut through it just by squeezing it with my chopsticks, but firm enough to pick up. Perfect.

Humphrey found that his was missing something, but mine seemed to taste alright. Maybe his taste buds are all buggered from whatever gel or energy packet he was sucking back on his marathon training run just before this. He’s training to do a full marathon here in Vancouver in a month – that’s 42km. His training run today was 34km. Gah! Fairly certain that he might not be right in the head. Smile If you’d like to record an audio message for him, to help motivate him during his run, you can find out how by watching his little youtube video.

Besides being a big lazy lump, I got a little creative in the kitchen (and at my workbench – more on that later in the post). My furry friend, Reznor, was running low on treats (because Uncle Mark keeps on eating them), so I whipped up another batch and put them on the dehydrator. Kinda made the house smell like a smokehouse for awhile. Nice. Smile A short 10 hours later and they were ready to break into snack-sized pieces. Y’know, I probably wouldn’t eat so many of them if they weren’t made out of meat. If I ever get around to making those peanut butter dog biscuits for him, I’m sure I won’t eat those.

While the doggie treats were dehydrating, I decided to make a people treat for my roomie. He sent me the recipe a week or two ago (he knows how much I like my food porn) and I’ve slowly collected all of the ingredients over the last few days. The recipe in question? Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars. This is a spin on a Paula Deen recipe that looked too delicious not to try. I read through it a few times and it seemed easy enough. Yeah. Might have been if I had all the right tools or my tools actually worked.

I followed the recipe to the letter with one exception: I added 4 apples instead of 3. Just didn’t seem like enough apples for a 13×9 pan. Glad I did. Mixing the crust up presented a challenge without a pastry blender to cut in the butter. I tried a couple of forks as suggested, but ended up just using my hands to break up the butter and get things looking how they should. The three packs of cream cheese and some sugar were supposed to be beaten together using a hand mixer. We don’t have one of those anymore. Brainstorm! I’ll use the food processor! I’m getting the big cup/bowl thing locked into place on the base when the little plastic pole that sticks out of the bottom and activates the switch snaps off. Awesome. I decided to tape a piece of bamboo skewer into it so that it’ll work, but that fails miserably (and I end up cutting my awesome bbq apron). I bring it into my office and bust out my tools. I take it apart and used a zip-tie to permanently hold down the safety switch, effectively turning the food processor into a whirling dervish of finger mutilation. In other words, I made it operate like a food processor from the 80s and older. We just need to make sure that no one uses it inebriated or high. Smile

2013-04-07 03.04.10Back to the kitchen and the food processor processes the food splendidly. The apples and the streusel topping all come off without a hitch. I toss it in the oven for 40 minutes and pull out a beautiful thing. It looked even better when I dumped a whole can of Eagle Brand Dulce de Leche on top. As I type, it still sits cooling in the kitchen, tempting my roomie. Smile with tongue out

close up of that caramel goodness soaking in :-P~~~

2013-04-07 12.57.57Edit: I left the pan in the fridge overnight and the caramel sauce really soaked into the streusel. I cut it up into 8 big pieces and Allen tried it out. He liked it, but the pieces are too big. Smile I guess it really does serve 16. Heh. When I cut them again, I put a piece on a plate to take a picture of it. It didn’t live on the plate very long though… it hopped into my mouth. –Sigh- Back on the diet tomorrow I guess. After conferring with Allen, I think the next time I make this, I’ll use a graham crumb crust instead. I liked the firm, shortbread-like taste and texture of the current crust, but the graham one might just push it over the edge from greatness to legendary.

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Why, I’m soup-er! Thanks for asking!

2013-03-19 02.44.22I tried something a bit different today when I was making my soup. I didn’t want to use one of the instant pho soup bases, I wanted to try basing it on a chicken s2013-03-19 00.08.07oup base instead. To start out, I did what I tried yesterday: I filled my bowl with water, then dumped it in the pot. I went a bit over on it because I was expecting some of it to boil away. To the water, I added: 2 Tbs of Knorr Chicken Broth mix (from the Chinese section of the asian food aisle – less yellow food coloring and no parsley compared to “regular” chicken broth mix), 1 tsp of Bovril beef bouillon concentrate, 1 tsp fish sauce, and 1/4 tsp of Chinese Five Spice. I actually measured everything this time (except for the actual amount of water I used) and wrote it down. I never do that. I used the Five Spice for the cinnamon and star anise that are in it. Both of those are used in a real pho broth. I have to say that I’m halfway pleased with the results. In the triangle of broth perfection: color, clarity and taste, the color and clarity are pretty close to what I’m looking for, but it’s still a tiny bit too cloudy. Not sure what that came from, but I could probably fix that by straining it through a cheesecloth before serving. Gee, sounds like it’s getting to be a bit more work. Smile with tongue out The taste, while flavorful, wasn’t quite what I was aiming at. Next time, I think I’ll double the Bovril and cut back on the chicken soup base. Go for more beefy flavor.

2013-03-19 00.27.24

While I chopped up the herbs and veggies, I put my noodles on to soak in a separate pot. Halfway through all the cutting, I drained and rinsed them, then put them on the stove to cook. This, as I expected, turned out to be a really important step, extra dishes be damned. My noodles only took a few minutes to cook to the right firmness. I immediately shocked them with cold water, drained, rinsed, drained again and put them in my bowl waiting for my broth to come back to a boil after I added the meat balls and thin-sliced roast beef. With not cooking the noodles in the broth, it didn’t thicken with the added starch and remained nice and soupy (as soup should be). Smile

2013-03-19 00.33.13

As you can see from the picture, the color isn’t bad. It’s still moderately clear, so I doubt that I’ll use the cheesecloth. I don’t mind a broth with a bit of body. I only used 3 meatballs, but I cut them up in thirds. I cut off all the fat on the roast beef slices (that’s Schneider’s Mainstreet Deli – Cooked Seasoned Roast Beef for anyone keeping track) which the dog really liked. Even though it’s already cooked (obviously), I like to cut it up and add it to the broth with the meatballs and let it boil away for a bit. I like to think that it helps add to the flavor. It changes the texture if nothing else.

2013-03-19 00.35.02

The finished product looked and tasted pretty good. I wish that sandwich steak was cut a bit thinner, but for something quick, which this bowl of soup quest is supposed to be leading, they’re alright. Sure, I could get the meat person at the grocery store to slice up a nice lean eye of round roast for me, or do it myself here at home with the meat slicer, but that seems like a pain in the ass. Smile Some people might be put off by me adding raw steak to my soup, but by the time I get to them, they’re very gently cooked by the hot broth and almost creamy in texture. Very nice. OK, I retract that wish that they were thinner. Smile with tongue out 

I misjudged something tonight. I think it was that I ate more for lunch that I took into account, but I couldn’t finish my bowl of soup… Too full. A very rare occurrence that I couldn’t finish my bowl. I also got some spicy broth directly in my right eye. First bite/spoonful too. Smile Something fell off my spoon and splashed broth right up into my eye as I was leaning over the bowl. Ouch. To make matters worse, I didn’t wash my hands after slicing up the serrano pepper. As I type this, my left eye is burning from where I stuck my finger in it. I rock.

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Pho-get it!

On my way to my neighbourhood T&T Supermarket to pick up a couple of things in order to continue my pho quest, I decided to hit up a restaurant that had been recommended to me months ago by another Yelp user. Before I talk about Pho Phu Thinh, I’ve got to mention something about the Chinese market right beside the restaurant.

I’m a fan of Asian markets and all the goodies you can find there that usually can’t be found anywhere else. Sun Tung Fat Supermarket looks like many of the other small markets I’ve been in: closely grouped aisles, a bit dusty, no discernable strategy for organization, tons of intriguingly strange things in jars and bags, and English not being the Pho soup basefirst language (or second) spoken by 99% of the people in store. After drifting through the veggie aisle (with prices comparable to Superstore), I turned up the next aisle and found myself in a land of jars and cans of the kinds of things I like to see… chilli pastes and soup mixes. I found a jar of one of the pho soup bases that I picked up at 88 Super Market with Denise. I was happy because Sun Tung Fat is waaaay closer than 88 Market. My joy was short-lived though. The picture to the right is the jar I bought at 88, not from STF. Why wouldn’t I buy it from STF? Besides not needing it right now, the Best Before date was some time in 2011. I quickly scanned some of the other jar lids and they were all the same. Poop. On the shelf directly below, there was this other jar that caught my eye. It was a chilli paste with sweet basil leaves. That sounded delicious. Still recovering from being burned by the pho broth mix, I check the lid for the best before date. Sure enough, it was expired too. This one expired some time in the middle of 2010! I put the jar back on the shelf and left the store. I wouldn’t risk buying anything at this place.

2013-03-17 17.23.05As scary as Sun Tung Fat was, Pho Phu Thinh was a big bag of awesome. I walked in to this clean restaurant with a nice, warm color scheme and was immediately greeted and sat at a table. Within minutes, I had ordered the House Special (noodle soup with sliced rare beef, well done flank, fatty flank, soft tendon, tripe and beef balls) and was warming up with a nice tea. The broth was awesome. Easily one of the best I’ve had. Rich, flavorful and mostly clear. I would have that instead of tea if I could. Smile A nice selection of meats, but only half of a beef ball. I’ll have to order extra next time I go in.

T&T Supermarket always makes me buy more than what I go in for. All I wanted was Thai basil and some beef balls. While I was wandering the clean, well-organized aisles, I ended up getting another half dozen things, including some new soup spoons. I have some of the ceramic Chinese soup spoons, but they’re rather fragile. I’ve broken two of them in the last few months. These new ones are melamine with longer handles that end with a bit of a hook, to keep the spoon from sinking down into the bowl. Just realized that I forgot to look in the chilli paste aisle to see if I could find an un-expired chilli and basil paste. :/ I should add that to my grocery list.

2013-03-17 23.21.22I gathered all my ingredients for my faux pho around 11pm. As I start unloading the fridge and cupboard, I realize that a lot of stuff goes into each bowl. Let’s see if I can name everything in the picture starting in the bottom left and spiralling in clock-wise. Yeah, that’s not going to be confusing or anything. Smile OK… bowl with spoon and chopsticks, sriracha, hoisin sauce, thinly sliced steak, thin-sliced roast beef, fresh cilantro, serrano peppers, Thai basil, green onions, bean sprouts, vermicelli noodles, sweet onion (in a cool onion keeper), beef balls, pho broth mix, crushed chillies in oil and finally, lime juice. What is that? Fifteen ingredients? Nice. After making a bit too much broth the last time, I decided to get smart and measure out the water in my bowl first. Worked like a charm. Ish. I should have accounted for a little boiling down. Trying to cut back on the starchiness of the final product of the last few times I’ve made soup, I pre-soaked my noodles. This didn’t work as well as I would have liked. I’m going to have to bite the bullet and just dirty two pots: one for the broth and one for the noodles. After all was said and 2013-03-17 23.47.46done, my soup wasn’t as soupy as I would have liked it. More of a stew/gravy thickness and not that rich, clear broth like earlier today in the restaurant. That’s not saying that it wasn’t tasty. It was. I’m sure I’d get a slightly different flavor profile by using a fresh squeezed lime, but the little plastic bottle is good enough for now. The steak cooked in the broth right after this picture was taken, both adding to the flavor of the soup and cooling it down enough to eat. As nice as those chopsticks are, the noodles don’t like them very much. Hard to hold anything with those slippery bastards. I have a few sets of wooden chopsticks around here somewhere. Need to give those a go.

Every time I make this soup, I learn a little more. One of these days I’m going to turn out a quick* bowl of soup that’s on par or better than my regular soup joint. It’s not far away. I just need to perfect the noodle cooking (read: stop being lazy and cooking them in my broth) and tweak the broth flavor. I’m thinking about adding a little chicken stock (Blasphemy!) for some depth. It’s hard being the only one tasting these creations, but I’m my own harshest critic. Once I get something I want to share, Denise will be my first guinea pig. Smile

*By no means are these bowls of soup “quick” right now. They usually take 30-45 minutes to prep and make. I just mean quick in relation to how long it takes to actually boil down the beef knuckles and ox tail. I’m sure if I did the veggie prep work beforehand, I could get my bowl to the table in 10 minutes or so.

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ECCC13–Emerald City Comic Con (or… let there be nerds!)

At the beginning of March, Denise and I drove down to Seattle for the Emerald City Comic Con. Due to leaving the ticket buying to later than we should have, we were only able to get passes for Friday (opening day) and Sunday. Seeing as the first thing we were going to see, a Lego display, wasn’t until 3pm or so, we leisurely drove into town and got checked into our hotel by about 2:30 or so. We were just a block away from the Convention Center, so plenty of time to get over there. Or not. First things first… the hotel.


We stayed at the Paramount Hotel right in the downtown core. Easy walking distance to just about everything we wanted to do. This was one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept on in a hotel room. Could have easily slept a family of four on that pillow-topped mattress of awesomeness. Plenty of plug-ins for all your electronic goodies and fairly decent free wifi. It wasn’t until the second day that Denise found the mini fridge, the coffee maker, etc. in what I thought was just a dresser. The washroom was set up a bit strange for me. There was a separate WC for the toilet and tub/shower, with the sink and mirror being open to the room. Not used to that. It takes a lot of work to make myself look as pretty as I do, and I like to do that right out of the shower before getting dressed. Smile Awww… who am I kidding? I look pretty regardless. Winking smile

After stowing our gear in the room, we leave for the Convention Center with my courier bag filled with various comics and books that we were looking to get signed. We still have a good 20 minutes to get to the Lego show and only a block or so to walk. The line up to pick up your badge was insane. Yes, you’ve already bought it online and yes, you have to stand IMGP0141in a line to pick it up. Just how bad? Ninety minutes of slowly inching our way along the sidewalk outside the building, turning back around (with the line), getting into the building and finally getting to go up the escalator to what we thought was the ticket area. No. No it wasn’t. Back outside, through a park, over a bridge, back around to the building, eventually getting into a big rat maze queue that led to a bank of people exchanging printed ticket receipts for badges. Crazy. It was fun to people watch though. Saw a lot of people dressed up as various characters. No idea who some of them were though. One question crossed my mind while looking at some of them: cosplayer or just a hipster? It was hard to tell at times. I got the feeling some of them always dressed like that. What was kind of neat was seeing someone I actually knew there. While we were standing in line in the park, I hear someone calling my name and it’s Trev D. He was much further ahead of us in line. :/

Seeing as we missed the Lego dealie and the Chris Claremont panel, we just hit the floor to see what there was to see. Massive describes the scope of things. Multi levels, tons of booths and thousands of people. Got a bit hard to move at times, but we were in our nerdy glory. A lot more Doctor Who fans than I would have thought.

IMGP0056I was pretty useless at taking pictures that first day. We were standing beside this one girl dressed like Rogue from the X-Men for about 20 minutes trying to get Chris Claremont to sign some stuff. Even though there were only about 20 people in that line, Claremont was obviously telling each and every person his life story when they got to him. In the 20 minutes we were there, we moved maybe 10 feet forward. The best picture I could do when I finally remembered I had the camera with me was of her back, just as she turned. We decided to abandon the line shortly after I took the picture in order to get to the Fables panel.

IMGP0060IMGP00590-cropAs with Rogue, the same thing happened when I tried to get a picture of one of the guys dressed up like Darth Vader. He turned just as I was taking the picture. For a bit I thought that this was going to be my “thing”. I’ll take pictures of everyone in costume and only get them from the side or back. Perfect. Heh. I eventually got him when he was posing with one of the other attendees. I know the cape looks like it’s a different color, but it’s the same guy. The flash went off for one picture and not the other.

IMGP0065The Fables panel with Bill Willingham was kind of fun. If you watch it online, you can see the backs of mine and Denise’s heads. We’re famous!

He spilled a lot of beans about what’s coming up in the comic and lots of pushing about the convention happening in Minneapolis with Fables and other fantasy-based comics. Denise got several of her comics signed at the end of it. Forgot one of them though and found him Sunday at his table and got that one signed too.

2013-03-06 20.00.04 I only brought two comics with me to get signed. After the Chris Claremont line fiasco, I was a bit gun shy about trying to get signed, but I went for it anyway. We found Kurt Busiek at his table on the floor and there wasn’t a line up at all. When I weeded my comic collection down to just a handful of ones that meant the most to me, his series Marvels (with art by the incomparable Alex Ross) was one that made the cut. I’ve been babying it for 20 years and now it’s signed. I just need to find a convention that Alex Ross is a guest at and get him to sign it too. Smile

2013-03-06 19.58.19Right across from the Chris Claremont line, Mike Mignola (creator of Hellboy) had his table. While Denise stayed in line, I crossed the aisle and stood in Mignola’s line. In seconds, I was in front of him babbling about how much I liked his stories and how long I’ve been following his work. He thanked me for making him feel old. Smile with tongue out

I really wish that I had some of his stuff to bring, but I pretty much only have digital comics now. I ended up picking up a comic from the convention for him to sign. Totally forgot about the poster Denise had folded up in the courier bag.

2013-03-06 20.02.06We stopped at a booth that had these little folded paper figures of heroes, villains and monsters. Picked up a few of them. Such a cool idea, but I’m a bit reluctant to cut into it in order to fold him up. I got the Superman (naturally) and Denise picked up a Mummy and another one that escapes me right now.

I guess I could just scan it and print it out again on photo paper, just in case I eff it up. Yeah. That sounds like a good idea. I’m sure he’ll look great standing beside my collection of little superheroes on top of my computer. Smile

2013-03-06 19.59.342013-03-06 19.58.54The second comic that I brought with me to get signed was Preacher #1 by Garth Ennis. Ennis is one of my current top 3 writers in comics today (the others being Mark Millar and Mark Waid). I had no idea who he was before I picked up Preacher back in the 90s at my buddy Andy’s comic shop, but I took notice of him after that. I’ve read pretty much everything that he’s put out since then. I ended up buying one of the exclusive comics at the con for him to sign too. Not sure why he signed directly over the preacher’s face on the great Fabry cover, or why he chose to sign over the guns instead of all that green space at the top, but he’s the famous dude. His prerogative I guess. Smile

I gave the camera to Denise on Sunday so that more pictures would actually be taken. She didn’t care for how rugged and manly my camera was, but eventually got the hang of it. Heh. We decided to leave the hotel early in order to pick up Denise’s Sunday badge (I had mine already). We pretty much were able to walk right up to the bank of badge giving people (a bank of badgers?), then got into the queue to get onto the floor.

We had planned to see at least two panels on Sunday; the Geek and Sundry panel with Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day and the Spotlight on Eric Powell, creator of Goon. We wouldn’t have minded going to the Charlie Adlard panel (artist for The Walking Dead), but it conflicted with the Geek and Sundry one. As it was, according to the schedule, we would only have a 30 minute wait between the two panels/talks. Nicely done. Or not.

2013-03-03 13.44.32We head into the main hall and catch the last 15 minutes of the Chris Sarandon panel. With how engaging he was in jIMGP0175ust that short time, I kind of wish we had been there for the whole thing. As you can see from the picture, we were kinda far away. I zoomed in a bit to actually catch him on the screen. He was in the middle of a question and answer session when we got in. Lots of fun stories about Fright Night and The Princess Bride.

We didn’t get a chance to move up when the Geek & Sundry panel started. We tried, but those front seats that looked like they were emptying, didn’t. We ended up just sitting backIMGP0176IMGP0177

IMGP0179down and relying on the screens again.  Some fun stories about Eureka and farting in a small room, Big Bang Theory, and table top games. The hour went by rather quickly. About 40 minutes in though, all the empty seats were being filled in for the next panel, an hour with Dirk Benedict.

After it was over, we slowly made our way through the crush of people and located the room for the Eric Powell spotlight. We were going to sneak in to watch the last 30 minutes of the Charlie Adlard spotlight, like our schedule said *and* the sign outside the room. We finally get in and it’s Eric Powell. He’s literally just answering up the last of the questions from the dozen or so people that are in the room. When it’s over, one of the volunteers says that there was a mistake in the guide book (and the website, and the sign out front of the room, and the app on Denise’s phone) about the times. Well, that’s just awesome. Fortunately, it’s available to be seen on that website that were live streaming it the day of and archiving it for later viewing. Unfortunately, the sound is very, very shitty.

2013-03-06 20.03.23We wandered around the main floor for awhile, making sure that we had seen everyone and everything we wanted to see and to pick up a few more autographs. There was a table with a couple of my favorite webcomics sitting side by side, Channelate and Invisible Bread. I bought a book from the one guy and he drew a little cartoon in it for me. Smile Denise ended up buying a print from the Channelate guy.

2013-03-06 19.57.15This past summer I found a comic called Atomic Robo. I put off reading it because it just didn’t sound all that interesting at first. I finally read it when I ran out of everything else and was I ever wrong. Great art, fun story… made me get the rest of them. The writer/artist was at the convention too, but by the time I finally found his table, he was sold out of any of the smaller stuff and only had original comic pages for sale. Not having $200-$400 to spend on a page of artwork, I decided on the next best thing: my badge.

The next little bit will just be pictures of people in costume.


There were tons more, but these are the ones that we got. For the most part, I was rather impressed with the costumes, especially the Star Wars ones. There were a few that were less-than-impressive, but I can’t really put them down because I didn’t even try. Next time. We just need to come up with some good ideas. I’d prefer to tailor it to a character with my body type instead of being like the sad Spider-woman we saw. Great costume, wrong, wrong, wrong body type.

This was the first comicon that I’ve ever been to. It was a real eye opener to have to enter with the herd and only have limited access instead of those all access guest passes I used to get at the Stargate conventions (thanks Alex!). Despite the lines, the crush of people and the screw ups in the schedule, I’m totally willing to go to another comicon. It was great meeting some of my favorite artists and writers and seeing all those people in costume.

Comic book nerd forever. Smile

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Hmmm… We didn’t have any fish.

Denise and I had a long weekend down in Seattle, spending 4 days and 3 nights in the downtown core. The reason for the trip: Emerald City Comic Con. I’ll have to get into that with another blog post; so much to say and so many pictures. This posting will be about the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to the foods we ate. Yes. This is another food blog posting. Learn to love it. Smile

After a long afternoon and evening at our first day of ECCC, we were a bit peckish and were originally going to go to the restaurant that was attached to our hotel called Dragonfish Asian Café. It serves over-priced (mainly) Japanese dishes. There was a wait to get in though, so we decided to try for something else local. I had mapped out a few pho places within walking distance of the hotel before we left and we decided on one that wasn’t even on the original list, La Lot. The prices were a bit higher than we were used to for a bowl of soup, but it was open and got some good reviews on Yelp. As it turns out, fully justified.

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We started off with some Crispy Calamari with a sweet chili dipping sauce. Perfectly done, crispy, golden-fried calamari. Num! Not as spicy as I’ve had it in other places, but that works better for Denise, so I didn’t have a problem with that. I was kind of sorry to see the plate empty. Could have easily had another full serving of that deliciousness. Good thing I didn’t though. I would have been too full for the bowl of soup.

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I could smell this soup before the server even put it in front of me. It had a healthy aroma of star anise that got my mouth salivating. It had a rich brown broth with a wonderful taste. Denise ordered her usual rare beef and flank, while I had them throw all the parts of the cow into mine. Holy smokes! Besides bowls of soup I have made myself, I have never had this much meat in a bowl of pho. Right down to the last few spoons of broth, I was still picking up pieces of tendon and tripe. At $10 for the bowl, it was a great, tasty value. The only negative thing I can say about this restaurant is that there’s a small bar in it. They pump the music out so loud that the bar tender has to yell at his customers in order for them to hear him. Makes for a distracting dining experience.

We got an early start Saturday morning and decided to hit up Dragonfish for some Pan Asian breakfast cuisine. Sat down right away and took a look at the breakfast menu. Nothing even remotely looking like dim sum. Your regular restaurant/diner breakfast fare was available: bacon and eggs, omelettes, pancakes, etc. A bit disappointing, but I like eggs and bacon and could have eaten boot leather at that point.

2013-03-02 09.41.152013-03-02 09.41.28 I got the standard 2 eggs with 3 strips of bacon and a mess of home fries. Denise got the smoked ham and cheddar omelette with the home fries.

I asked for my eggs the way I like them: over hard. As you can see from the picture, they’ve been flipped over, but not terribly hard. The yolks were still runny. :/ My wheat toast wasn’t buttered either. By the time it got to the table, it wasn’t warm enough to melt the butter. Still, the home fries were a tasty (forbidden potato!) treat. Glad we got the hotel discount for something I could have made at home.

After a day walking around the EMP (more about this on another blog) and a dollhouse show (read about that on Denise’s blog when it gets posted), we decided on a late lunch/early supper at Famous Dave’s BBQ. We ate at a different location the last time we were in Seattle together, and I was hankering for some tender brisket. It did not disappoint.

Just like every time we go get bbq, regardless of where it is, we started with the rib tips. IMGP0137The sauce that comes with them is one they designed for these rib tips, called “Southside BBQ sauce”. Both Denise and I didn’t care for the sauce so much (like last time), much preferring one of the sauces they bring to your table in a basket. The Hellfire pickles on the side were actually quite tasty this time. I didn’t really like them all that much the last time we were at Famous Dave’s.

2013-03-02 15.31.232013-03-02 15.31.04We ordered the same sandwiches to split as the last time: the Georgia Chopped Pork and the Texas Beef Brisket. This time we smartened up on the sides and stayed away from the corn. We got a side of creamy coleslaw and a side of jalapeno mac and cheese instead.

I can’t tell you how much I love good bbq. As it is, this is a bit too food-porn-y. Smile The Georgia Chopped Pork sandwich was juicy and tender and better than the last time we had it. The bun was sweet and that worked well with the savoury pork and the tang of the bbq sauce. The slaw that came with it is the only coleslaw that I’ve ever had at a bbq joint that actually tasted good to me. Kind of a milder, sweeter version of KFC’s slaw (without all that food coloring).

The Texas Beef Brisket… My words will not do justice to how good this sandwich is. The beef is everything you want in a brisket… beefy, juicy, tasty, and tender. The brisket was firm, yet would pull apart with just your lips with each bite. The next time I go in, I wouldn’t mind getting just a plate of brisket and calling it a meal. The jalapeno mac and cheese was kind of tasty for me (I added a bit of bbq sauce, naturally), but Denise found it a bit too spicy.

IMGP0139Despite bellies that were ready to throw the towel in, we went for the KO with Dave’s Famous Bread Pudding with pecan praline sauce and vanilla bean ice cream.

This is the dessert equivalent of the Texas Beef Brisket sandwich. Pure Perfection on your plate. Each silky bite a perfect marriage of taste and texture. I’m sooooo glad that Famous Dave’s is so far away. I’d be eating here all the time and in short order would gain back all the weight I’ve lost. Smile 

Sunday was a bit disappointing food-wise. We skipped breakfast in order to get to ECCC early enough to pick up Denise’s Sunday pass. After walking around there for awhile, we picked up what I’m assuming were gourmet day-old sandwiches (from the price and the feel of the bread) at one of the food places in the convention. After the convention, I had my heart set on some decent Chinese food. Sadly, that didn’t happen according to plan.

After stowing all of our gear back at the hotel, we walked a few blocks to P.F. Chang’s to have their famous lettuce wrap. I’m a fan of lettuce wrap and I wanted to try the one that supposedly brought it to foodies everywhere.

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At $7.95, it sounds like a great deal when you compare it to the $12-$15 we usually pay at the places Denise and I go to. You really do get what you pay for. Instead of having the hoisin sauce on the side, they mix it in to their tiny portion of filling. The largest component in the lettuce wrap filling was water chestnut. Oh, sorry, the largest component were those crispy fried rice noodles that the filling sits on, followed by water chestnut. There was so little chicken that it could have not even been there and we probably wouldn’t have noticed. That half head of lettuce in the picture? Yeah, four leaves. Something positive to say about it… hmmm… it tasted ok if you could get past the distracting crunch of the water chestnuts. Don’t get me wrong, I like water chestnuts as an accompaniment to a dish. Their crunch can be quite satisfying in some dishes. Not as the main ingredient.

The other two dishes we got were Crispy Honey Chicken and the Beef Lo Mein. I didn’t bother taking pictures of them. They were presented nicely, but that’s where it ended for me. The Crispy Honey Chicken? Not crispy. Again, there were more fried rice noodles than you could shake a stick at. Were they supposed to be the “crispy” part of the dish? The chicken itself was soft and tasted like something you would buy in the supermarket in one of those crappy pre-made things in the deli. The Beef Lo Mein had some of the starchiest noodles I’ve had in awhile, with barely any bite to them. the flavor was reminiscent of cheap food court Chinese food at the mall. Actually, I’ve had better at the mall than this. So disappointing.

To rescue our poor food day, we hit up The Cheesecake Factory for a couple of pieces of cheesecake to bring back to our room to split. Thanks to some confusing labeling in the display cooler, I ordered the Dulce de Leche Caramel Cheesecake instead of the Adam’s Peanut Butter Fudge Ripple Cheesecake. Denise got the Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake. Now, I haven’t had cheesecake for a pretty long time. Have they always been this rich and overpoweringly sweet? They were tasty, but thanks to all the sugar, I was buzzing. Thanks to the heavy richness, it was sitting like a rock in my stomach. Weird being lethargic and energetic at the same time. If we ever go again, I’ll get that peanut butter one and maybe limit myself to half a piece (or less). Yikes!

We skipped breakfast again on Monday, opting to sleep in a bit before packing up all of our goodies and checking out of the hotel. We decided to stop at Red Lobster on our way through Lynnwood. Lobsterfest is in full swing right now. Yay! Smile

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We started off with the Calamari and veggie plate (topped with shaved parmesan). Wow. Tasty as all get out. Very lightly battered and the ranch dipping sauce was a nice kick. Not usually a big fan of ranch, but it really worked here, especially with the broccoli. The calamari was tender and tasty. Perfectly done.


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Denise had the Maine Lobster and Shrimp Trio. It came with a Maine lobster tail, a skewer of garlic-grilled shrimp and some lobster and shrimp mac and cheese. There was literally more shrimp than macaroni in that mac and cheese, but the parmesan crumble on top of it was a bit much. If they were to ease back on that, it would have been a nice dish. The lobster looked nice and the shrimp were rather tasty (she let me have a couple. Not as good as my sister’s grilled garlic shrimp, but still pretty darn yummy.

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I had the Lobster Lover’s Dream. That consisted of a Maine lobster tail, a rock lobster tail, some shrimp and lobster linguini alfredo and some roasted veggies. Wow. Everything on this plate was yummy. I had shrimp in every bite of my linguini (the lobster pieces tended to get eaten by themselves). The lobster was perfectly done. Firm, yet not chewy/rubbery. Very tasty – especially when dipped in the melted butter. Smile with tongue out

2013-03-04 12.58.42We finished off our weekend of inappropriate eating with a Warm Chocolate Chip Lava Cookie. Yes, it tasted as good as it sounds. There was just enough ice cream to go with each warm, chocolaty bite of cookie. There wasn’t a lot of chocolate lava action, but that’s ok. It was a dormant volcano. All the chocolate kind of pooled under the ice cream, waiting for our spoons to set it free.

Now that we’re back home, it’s back to salads for supper. Going away and eating all this tasty food is nice, but it’s kinda expensive and not very good when you’re trying to lose weight.  Smile

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Rare beef? Why, that’s just soup-er!

I decided to try one of the other jars of pho soup base today. I feel bad though… I forgot to taste the broth before I added all the goodies that I like in my soup (sriracha, hoisin, lime juice, & chili oil). Sad smile I can’t really comment on the broth beyond the looks of it. At least, not for the time being. I’ll try making it again tomorrow and remember to try the darn broth.

2013-02-25 02.47.57Luckily, I still had some cilantro left over from last weekend. We have a pretty chilly fridge, so things stay fairly fresh in the vegetable crisper. All except my mushrooms… they seem to be party poopers (and here I thought they were fun guys). That extra layer of flavor worked nicely with the green onions, sweet onions, Thai basil, and 3 red Thai chili peppers. I bought some thinly-sliced beef to add to the meat medley (sliced roast beef and beef balls) in the soup. It’s a bit thicker than the paper thin slices I get at the restaurant, but it worked out nice enough. Cooked just enough in the hot broth (you can see it already starting to brown in the picture) to remain tender and easy to chew. I just have to buy some tripe and beef tendon and my soup will have it all. Oh… forgot about the brisket. Need that instead of the roast beef. Smile

The broth was a nice rich brown color with a orange/red hue. There seemed to be significantly more grease in this one compared to the previous two broth tests. Not enough to have to skim it or anything. Just enough to add some extra flavor. Winking smile I’m pretty sure that it didn’t come from the beef balls and roast beef which I had in the broth as I brought it to a boil. I did that with the other two trials, so they cancel out.

In this bowl, I also used a slightly thicker noodle. The brand that I buy has two different thicknesses in the absolute exact same packaging. I have to say that I much prefer these ones. I soften them up in the broth while I’m getting the veggies prepped. I left them until later this time (read: I forgot about them) and I’m so glad I did. They didn’t get too soft and still had a slight al dente texture.

2013-02-07 19.33.212013-02-25 05.11.18The picture to the left is of the thinner noodles. The one on the right, the thicker ones. This looks like one of those “spot the differences” games.

As you can see, no difference in packaging. Going to have to keep my eyes open when I’m buying them in the future. For a buck and change, I get enough noodles for three big bowls of soup. Really big bowls. Probably too many noodles for a proper serving now that I think about it. The sacrifices I make, I make for you, dear readers. Smile

In closing, I’d have to say that this was a rather enjoyable bowl of soup. The rare beef was a welcome addition to the thicker noodles. Speaking of the noodles, I think I’m going to have to actually follow the directions in the future and pre-soak them first. I think they might be adding a bit too much starch to the broth when they’re cooking in there and thickening it up a bit. The last few spoons were almost gravy-like. Tasty, tasty gravy. I might want to try it with either jalapeno or serrano peppers in the future. While they don’t have the bite of the Thai peppers, they have a more pronounced flavor. I wonder if using a real chunk of lemon or lime would be an improvement over the squeeze bottle of lime juice I’m using currently…

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