Cultureguru's Weblog

Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy


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Back to Bhima’s

Last weekend we went out for our “late for me, slightly early for him” birthday dinner. After much hemming and hawing, we decided to on Bhima’s Warung, a restaurant we hadn’t been to in a few years.

It was much busier than we remembered! We asked the waitress if that was unusual, but she was said no, it was typical—even on weekdays. It’s not that big a place; the couple seated next to us joked about how we were basically dining together, our tables were so close.

Bhima’s offers the cuisine of Asia prepared using French culinary techniques. Definitely makes for an original menu.

This day they were also offering a surprise six-course menu based on the foods of Sumatra, for $47. Partly just out of laziness, Jean decided to go with that. I was not obliged to join in with him on it, though, so I puttered through the menu, which was made even more complex by the addition of three special appetizers and entrees that day.

Since we don’t get to Bhima’s that often, I wanted a sampling of items. The waitress described my ordered amount as somewhat “challenging” in terms of quantity. But she did point out that most of their dishes taste even better reheated the next day.

We didn’t take notes, so there’s no going through everything we eat (which is probably a relief to you). I will say that everything was very good, marking an improvement over previous visits, where the food could be uneven.

And we do have some photos.

Oysters at Bhima's

Oysters times two

Oyster are ordered by the piece, so we went with two from the regular menu, in warm lemongrass, ginger, chili, and garlic sauces, and two that were specials of the day: an oyster shooter in vodka.

Squid with rujak salad

Squid with ‘rujak’ salad

I also tried the regular menu sotong goreng sama rujak, or tapioca and garlic fried squid in roasted chili, lime, and hoisin glaze with ‘rujak’ salad. Very nice; great texture on the squid.

Shrimp items

Shrimp and ?

One of Jean’s courses featured shrimp and… Stuff we can’t remember.

Monkfish and lobster ball

Another Jean menu item: This one was monkfish and lobster ball

My main involved rabbit done three ways (a special), and it did indeed make a fine leftover. :-) Dessert for me was a tapioca and ice cream concoction, while Jean’s menu concluded with ice cream made of something we’d never heard of and now can’t remember—but tasted very good—along with some sort of pastry or apple or something. (Look, it was a lot of food!)

Bhima's dessert

Mystery ice cream with mystery other things

It’s not a fine dining experience, but the dining was still quite fine. We should notify Where to Eat in Canada that Bhima’s is once more worthy of inclusion.


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Experiencing pop culture in a time of grief

When someone you love dies, blogging about pop culture, news, travel, and food drops off the priority list.

Doesn’t mean that these trivialities drop our of your life, though. Just that your relationship to them changes, at least for a time.

Music

You know, if you break my heart I’ll go
But I’ll be back again
‘Cause I told you once before good-bye
And I came back again

Music is an emotional mindfield, isn’t it? I don’t think The Beatles “I’ll Be Back” would make anyone’s list of saddest songs ever, but on a day of bad news, I couldn’t handle it. I frantically searched through my playlists for safer havens. I finally settled on “High Energy”, a gathering of uptempo rock and dance numbers, generally with pleasingly dumb lyrics. I stayed locked on that for about a week and a half, ‘til it finally seemed just too incongruous. (Then I switched to Classical.)

Adam Lambert’s excellent album Trespassing was just the sort of uptempo music I needed for a time

Food

I was interested to discover that I still got hungry, still wanted to cook, was still able to eat. Because certain forms of stress and worry make that difficult for me. But not this one, this situation with a known but sad outcome. While  I didn’t eat more, or drink more—I didn’t find comfort in that—I still enjoyed the routine of preparing and eating meals.

I certainly became a distracted cook, though. Leaving the milk out on the counter, putting the vinegar in the wrong pantry, forgetting to start the timer. Like the energy of pushing the sadness away enough to follow a recipe was not leaving enough mental space to remember anything that wasn’t written down.

Things are now improving on that front.

Movies and TV

While actually going out to a movie seemed like too much effort, watching stuff on TV was an appealing distraction. Since I don’t watch much medical stuff anyway, there wasn’t much I felt I had to avoid. Howard’s mother died on Big Bang Theory (as the actress had in real life), but it was handled with a light touch and didn’t set me off. In picking HBO movies, I decided to skip Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow for now, given its premise of the lead character dying over and over. I instead watched and quite appreciated the comedic In a World, one of the more overtly feminist movies I’ve seen in a long time. Recommended.

In a World trailer

News

The human interest stories—little boys lost in the snow, Oliver Sack’s terminal cancer diagnosis—were best avoided for a while, but I still found the theatre of politics a surprisingly useful distraction. Especially in Twitter form (about the length of my attention span, at times). I couldn’t truly dig up my own personal outrage at some of what was going on, but I could still appreciate and retweet other people’s. #StopC51 and all that.

Books

Cover of Being MortalSo just a few days before all this my book club had selected Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal as our next book. It’s about getting older and end of life care, and how the medical profession has been dealing with it, and how it should.

Of course, there were days I wasn’t up to reading much of anything at all, but when I did feel up to it, I did read this, I seriously doubt I would have selected this particular book if left to my own druthers, but I feel it was in some ways helpful. It’s an excellent book, anyway, and much of it was more abstract and factual, which appealed to my logical side. Stories did become more personal and touching later in the book, but that was later in this whole saga for me too and—I don’t think it made anything worse. It certainly presented a number of scenarios I’m so glad my loved one never went through.


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Valentine / Family Day weekend

We originally thought of taking a day trip this long weekend—maybe do some snowshoeing—but the record cold temperatures dissuaded us from that plan. Instead we found entertainment closer to home.

Friday night we had dinner with friends at Aqua, the new seafood restaurant in the not-so-new Crowne Plaza Hotel. The service was a little iff-y—bit inattentive—but the food was pretty good. We all went with the Valentine’s special menu. The highlights were the beet soup with smoked trout, the ravioli and beef entree Jean had, and the two desserts: A chocolate mousse cake and a cookie with ice cream concoction. We all concluded we’d eat here again, amidst that special chlorinated pool ambiance. :-)

Afterward we all attended a symphony concert. It started with a modern piece that our friend accurately described as interesting, but not that musical. Then we got Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concert no. 2 in C minor. For me, this would be the number 3 Rachmaninoff piano concerto I have heard live, and he is three for three in my books. I always enjoy them. The second movement of this one sounds so much “All By Myself” that Eric Carmen still pays royalties to Rachmininoff’s estate. (True fact!) The third movement was lively and sensual. The featured pianist was an attractive and obviously talented young woman named Natasha Paremski.

The second half of the concert featured Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, which was also good though, for me, not as good as the piano concerto.

Saturday was actual Valentine’s Day, and we don’t generally go to restaurants then. But it being a holiday, I decided to make a nicer dinner.

I tried a new (to me) Jamie Oliver recipe for slow-cooked duck pasta. We weren’t able to buy the duck until that morning, and it was frozen, so the main challenge was getting it defrosted in time for dinner that day. That required a whole lot of rinsing.

Otherwise, the recipe wasn’t tough: Just required time. The duck cooked at 350 for 2 hours, in its juices, and I had to turn it every half hour. Then in a fry pan I sauteed some pancetta, then I added various vegetables and some can tomatoes and red wine to make a pasta sauce. After the duck cooled, we removed the meat from it, and added that to the sauce. Then it was a matter of cooking rigatoni and mixing it all together, topped with Parmesan.

by Jamie Oliver. Valentine Dinner at home

Quite delish. We served it with a Chateauneuf du pape.

For dessert I made a chocolate mousse cake. No flour, just cocoa, unsweetened, and bittersweet chocolate with eggs and Cool Whip, basically. It was another new recipe (to me), and it turned out well—not too sweet, good texture.

.... or is that chocolate mousse? Too much wine with dinner .. Valentine Dinner with my one and only :)

But we weren’t done eating yet. :-)

Sunday we braved the cold and drove to Wilk’s Bar, which is at Langdon Hall, for lunch. It isn’t a cheap place (though cheaper than the Langdon Hal dining room), but they do a nice job.

Valentine Lunch at Wilke's Bar at Langdon Hall

We had the “From the Land” sharing platter to start, along with four oysters. The oysters were amazing. The land platter was fine, but not outstanding. The highlight of that was probably the almonds!

Valentine Lunch at Wilke's Bar at Langdon Hall

Muskox stew with mushroom risotto in the background

Both of the lunch entrees were very good, though. I had the wild mushroom risotto and Jean had muskox stew. The glasses of wine were quite nice, also.

But no time (or room, really) for dessert, as we had tea dance tickets for 2:00. After a detour to the wrong location, we got to that event around 2:15. It was a fun time, and a chance to work off some of the food—especially dancing to “Jump, Jive, and Wail”! Wow, that’s a fast song. (Which is why the wailing after the jiving, I guess.)

And then, we dashed to a 4:20 showing of The Theory of Everything at the Princess. Pretty interesting movie about the relationship between Stephen Hawking and his first wife, Jane. Definitely shows the challenges of her having to cope with his increasingly serious illness. Though of course, as we know, he continued to do amazing physics work through it all.

Then we were ready to go back home and relax. Family Day was pretty quiet, and that suited us just fine. Especially as we got some news Sunday night that definitely had us thinking about family.


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Toronto in pictures

Our annual “weekend in Toronto in winter because Jean has a conference” wasn’t terribly eventful—we drove back before da big storm really hit—but it did provide some photographic opportunities.

We visited the very crowded, kind of expensive, but still pretty neat Ripley’s Aquarium.

Ripley's Aquarium, Toronto, Ontario

The big draw seemed to be sharks swimming overhead.

Ripley's Aquarium, Toronto, Ontario

But there were other interesting critters, too

Ripley's Aquarium, Toronto, Ontario

Hello moray

We had some trouble getting dinner reservations Saturday due to (I assume) Winterlicious being on. But we managed to get in at Frank, at the AGO. Jean had their Winterlicious items while I ordered from the main menu.

Frank's at the Art Gallery of Ontario

This was the mussel appetizer.

I had a roasted squash salad. For mains, we each had a tuna entree, but prepared different ways—both good.

Frank's at the Art Gallery of Ontario

This was the Winterlicious entree.

For wine, we had a bottle of a Spanish white, an albarino, that was on special. Quite nice, and appeared to be low in alcohol.

For dessert, Jean’s had rum raisin crème brulée. Yum.

Frank's at the Art Gallery of Ontario

I had the Tres Leches Cake—not too shaby, either.

For January, the weather wasn’t too bad. It was partly sunny on Saturday, and not that cold, especially when not in the wind. So we did do some walking around, and Jean took some photos.

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Toronto City Hall

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Skating rink at Nathan Phillips Square

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View from our hotel

Sunday we had some delicious dim sum (no photos), then visited the Douglas Coupland exhibit at the ROM. It was more to my taste than Jean’s. Therefore, you must now prepare for a precipitous decline in photo quality, because the following ones are mine.

If you look at the next image through the camera of your cell phone, they’ll look quite different than they do with the naked eye. It’s really weird. (And if you actually take the cell phone picture, you lose the effect.)

IMG_20150201_121624

I don’t know what you do if you’re looking at this post on your cell phone.

The exhibit was very pop art-like. One set of paintings was of QR codes that bring up phrases like “Sworn to fun, loyal to none” and “I wait and I wait and I wait for God to appear”, that you can then text to your friends to confuse them. Another was a large installation of found objects, arranged to represent the four quadrants of the brain, and the cerebellum.

The following photos might help you judge how interested you might find all this. How many of these coloured squares do you want to read?

IMG_20150201_121651

IMG_20150201_121706

I read them all.


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And a happy new year

With Verses closed, we were at a bit of a loss as to what to do New Year’s Eve. We finally went with just a dinner at Marisol. And that was fine—food and service were good, as always—but it just wasn’t particularly special. Except for a salmon carpaccio starter and roast duck on duck confit main—both very good—it was just the regular menu.

But at least I got to wear a new dress.

Purple dress

Next year we might see if Haisai does anything for New Year’s. We did stop there on the drive up to Timmins, and meals there are always special!

Dessert at Haisai

The intriguing desserts at Haisai. (They tasted good, too.)

Yesterday the weather turned frightful with a winter storm, so it seemed a good day to do our new year’s cooking thing. We decided to return to some past fave items.

The starter was a tuna carpaccio with avocado quenelle, which we’d first made last year. This was the fastest, easiest item we prepared, but quite good, with its dressing of good olive oil and lime juice, And the Stratus 2010 white we had with it was complex and amazing.

Tuna starter with Stratus white

The main course took the main amount of time to prepare: Duck confit and mashed potato ravioli with white truffle sauce (first attempted in 2009). You have to prepare the mashed potatoes, and chop up and heat all the duck meat, then combine all that and stuff it into about 60 sets of wonton noodles… Fortunately, it really does taste amazing in the end.Duck ravioli and squash salad

We served that with a roasted butternut squash salad with pears and stilton, which was a new recipe. We followed the recipe except for cutting the squash a little thinner than we were supposed to (that was an accident, saved by less cooking time), using mixed greens instead of escarole (what is escarole?), and using “speck”—double smoked bacon we’d acquired from Michael Stadtlander’s farm after visiting Haisai—instead of regular bacon. It was very tasty, even when we forgot the dressing!

And the GSM wine we selected stood up well to all the strong flavors.

Dessert was chocolate souffle (from 2010). This year we got smart and only baked the two we planned to eat this night, since souffle really doesn’t hold up well to being a leftover. We served that with a raspberry wine that was less sweet than expected, but still a classic pairing for chocolate.

Chocolate souffle

And, I took the opportunity to wear another new dress. (I may have a dress problem.)

Black dress


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Chocolately, literary, comforting joyful Christmas (with an Eighties tinge)

This might be a record number of Christmas posts in a row, but it is more than a one-day event for me (albeit not 12 days), starting with our Noël à deux in advanced of December 25. I’ve already mentioned the meal we had, but we also do a small gift exchange. Jean’s main gift from me was a new watch of a brand he admired, but he got some other little things, like a Chromecast and “life-changing” Saxx underwear (as the ads I now encounter everywhere I go on the web remind me).

My main gift was a record player, which many people thought was an interestingly retro choice of gifts. What I didn’t mention too loudly was that this is actually my second record player (we won’t even talk about how many DVD players I have). The main feature the new one has that the other didn’t is a USB connection to make it easy to digitize LPs. (Because some songs are rather difficult to find digital versions of.) But it also has a nice Start function, and is hooked into the better stereo system. I’ve already listened to more LPs in the last 2 days than I have in the last 2 years.

I received other little items, including a great deal of chocolate: Not one, not two, but three boxes of Purdy’s chocolates; a raspberry chocolate bar; and mini snowballs! I also happened to win a Godiva chocolate basket at a Christmas dance. So the chocolate stores are shored up for a while.

Then we headed to Timmins, where it was weirdly mild this year, but not so mild as to melt the snow:

Gillies Lake in Timmins

We took advantage of the nice winter weather to go walking and snowshoeing, once on our own, once with toute la gang (almost).

Snow shoers

Five of the fourteen of us who went snowshoeing one day

A day after a fresh snow fall, the kids couldn’t resist doing this:

GIF of tree snow clearing

Christmas Eve my side of the family had dinner and stockings at my brother’s house, then the two of us went out to the Réveillon with Jean’s side of the family. As usual, everyone was fasting:

Réveillon food

A tiny sampler of the available food

There was a very good turnout, with only a few nieces and nephews away this year. The gift exchange from Jean’s side is an anonymous one on a theme, which this year was royal purple. I am now the proud recipient of two purple travel mugs. My lucky giftee now owns Prince’s Purple Rain on CD and BluRay.

With my family it was the first time in quite a few Christmas’s that all the siblings were up. We had a terrible time. :-)

Two siblings and an in-law

Two siblings and an in-law, as I don’t seem to have a photo of all siblings. Perhaps I’ll get one from Dad later.

We also attempted a theme this year, though it was only loosely adhered to: comfort and joy. Cozy scarves were a popular item.

jean with cashmere

Cashmere!

S-S and faux fur

S-S rockin’ the faux fur

As were books! I have, like, six new books now. Most everyone else got a least one, I think. I made my sister’s fit into the theme with the Pleasure in the title—pretty close to joy, right? (Plus, John Taylor—yummy! Joy!)

In the Pleasure Groove

To add to my haul and increase the utility of my earlier gift, I dug through the LPs from our teenage years that had been languishing at my parent’s house, and brought home a bag-ful. Duran Duran, Aha, Prefab Sprout, Adam Ant, Depeche Mode, Talking Heads, The Housemartins, Paul Young, Squeeze, Echo and the Bunnymen, … I have quite the makings for an Eighties party.

80’s Music Medley from YouTube


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Pre – Christmas dinner

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“Our” Christmas dinner à deux featured duck, which is becoming typical. Less typically, I wasn’t too lazy to make a jus for it from the drippings, featuring rhubarb and ginger. That give a nice zip to the rich, juicy meat.

The mashed red potatoes were seasoned with sour cream, butter, chicken broth, and wasabi paste. They were also a little zippy — and quite delicious.

I’m generally not a fan of stuffing, which usually seems too salty and greasy to me. But this version (cooked on the side, not in the bird) had base of quinoa, lentil, wild rice, and cranberry, to which I added some olive oil, and crisped whole-grain bread. It was very tasty, without all the salt and grease.

Not pictured but also cooked and eaten were maple-glazed butternut squash. And dessert was a custard pie (tarte au oeuf), whose lovely filling made up for the center crust being moderately underdone. The crust at the edge was lovely flaky.

Wishing everyone happy Christmas dining.

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