Sunday, April 22, 2012

A typical Sunday

With work taking up most of the week usually, weekends can be busy. Much needs doing and this weekend was no exception. Saturday I was at work for most of the afternoon and evening for a live broadcasting event and today, well, today was a busy Sunday.

I started with assembling a piece of Ikea furniture that Connie brought home a few days ago. It is a bathroom cabinet with mirror that had many pieces of hardware, screws, divets and other bits. It tooks some time and careful instruction-interpreting but I managed to put it together and mount it on the wall.

After that it was time to wash my car. After a few drives to Redmond in the last couple of weeks it was rather dirty and every time I looked at it I got the urge to bust out the hose and give it a wash. So that's what I did this morning while Connie and Kai were at Kai's soccer practise. Audi brakes like to produce lots of dust so the first order of business is alway the wheels, followed by a shampoo of the body, then drying with the squeegee and finishing off with terry cloths.

After the car wash Connie and Kai came home and we had an improptu jam session:

It was the time to run errands, Kai and I went out while Connie stayed home to do some laundry and other chores. We headed for Trafiq bakery for a treat and a coffee, got groceries for dinner and cat food for our feline companions. Lego followed, Kai wanted a dragster so I built the frame plus motor for him to further decorate and build up.

Fixed rear axle, next up is a differential!

Once the dragster was self-propelling, I headed into the kitchen to make a big pot of Bolognese sauce for later this week. Throwing together a quick pasta on a weeknight is a lot easier with some pre-made sauce in the fridge. This is an old-school recipe with pancetta, ground pork, ground beef, onions, celery, carrots, oregano, tomatoes, milk and beef stock. Very rich but supremely delicious and comforting.

Kai and I just ate a coupe of panini I put together, Connie passed out on the sofa, she hasn't been feeling all that well today.

Now all that is left is clean up the kitchen, put Kai to bed, revive Connie and pass out very thoroughly!

I need a day off...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Italian food, La Quercia style

A classic formal Italian meal consists of 4 courses, 'antipasti' (starter), 'primi' (usually a pasta course), 'secondi' (meat or fish) and 'postre' (dessert). Found this out the hard way the first time I went for dinner at Connie's house (now a very long time ago!), the all-important 'first contact' with her mother's cooking. After the salad she brought me a large plate of pasta, Connie had prepared me somewhat so I was ready and dug in. It was delicious and I managed, happily accepting a second helping that was pretty much as big as the first. Towards the end of this one I struggled but finished the plate, immensely full but satisfied. Imagine my surprise when a large dish of potatoes, vegetables and sausages appeared. Not eating it wasn't an option so I continued well past the point of comfortably full, managed dessert as well and staggered home afterwards. I didn't eat for a few days after that one, but I did manage to impress suffiently to continue dating :-)
Finding rustic, home-style Italian food has been a challenge in the past. Connie doesn't like 'fancy Italian', it has to be like mum's cooking or it won't fly. Campagnolo was the first Italian restaurant in Vancouver that managed to sway Connie with its casual take on high-quality Italian. We have visited there often and have never been disappointed. Lately, La Quercia has been in the news, it won the 2011 Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards as best restaurant as well as best casual Italian and best informal dining. I have been wanting to try this place for some time now and after a few attempts realized that reservations were very hard to get. When looking for something special for my birthday, I called them at least six weeks ago and managed to get a 5:45 reservation for last night, every other seating was booked already!
I wouldn't classify La Quercia as casual, more as rustic. Prices are high enough to make this a not so casual outing plus the fact that you have to book weeks in advance doesn't make it seem casual either. But let's stop nitpicking, it was very, very good. We followed the classic four course model, enjoying a couple of simple starters of butter lettuce with a whipped egg dressing as well as cured trout with shaved fennel and radishes.

We then moved on to pastas, this is where things started getting great, Connie had linguine with clams, I had gnocchi with crumbled sausage. The gnocchi were pillowy soft with just enough sauce and bits of sausage to satisfy, the linguine perfectly al dente and flecked with green herbs in a light sauce.

Secondis came in the form of a piece of pan fried trout with mussels for Connie and Cornish game hen plus pork belly for me. Kai was present too, he had picked at our dishes until then but we requested some spaghetti Bolognese for him which was also delectable and he inhaled it. He certainly has the Italian pasta-eating gene, usually when eating pasta at home he and Connie will be done well before me and the amount of pasta he manages to pack away is impressive.

We also managed to score a Parmesan soufflé, we saw those being served to the table next to us and the ecstatic reaction of the people eating them was enough for us to order one. It was beautifully light on the inside with a nice caramelized crust on the outside. Perfection really.

The Parmesan soufflé good, it deserves a close-up
Dessert was a Tiramisu with a orange accent plus a pear-almond tart. By that time we were entirely satisfied and vowed to come back only to enjoy some more of this great food.
The room is tiny, it has about 36 seats, there is an equally tiny kitchen in the back and that is it. The overall experience is definitely one I want to repeat in the not too distant future!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Birthday shopping

Today is my birthday. To commemorate 45 years of existence we went out to shop. Little did I know that it turned into a slightly epic experience. First we went to try a bakery that we hadn't tried before called Trafiq. We tried a variety of pastries including a caramel-chocolate croissant, an orange scone, a chocolate eclair and a so called 'killer brownie'. Yep, we overdosed a bit but hey it's my birthday. Connie took plenty of photos that will no doubt make it to her blog on Monday. The pastries were wonderful by the way and the coffee very tasty so we'll be back there in the future.

After that is was off to try a new men's clothing store called 'Staccato'. I had never heard of this place until at work a 'workperks' email popped up with this place listed, spend $150, get $50 off. When I checked out their web site my interest was immediately piqued. My two favorite brands are Ben Sherman and Ted Baker. These are hard to find in Vancouver so when I saw them both listed I got mildly excited. When I walked into their store I got really excited seeing the great selection they had. I was after summer shirts and I certainly scored big time. Two Ted Baker shirts, two Penguin shirts and a Penguin T-shirt. All nice and colorful, great fits and simply too good not to buy. So I ended up with five shirts!

We spent some time on Kits beach enjoying the fresh breeze while Kai ran around the playground. He challenged me to a game of tag and I am happy to say this 45 year old can still more or less keep up with an 8 year old on a playground. Sure, I was winded afterwards but Kai seemed thoroughly satisfied. After that it was off to 49th Parallel for the second coffee of the day. This went down well, I then popped into Ming Wo to look for a nonstick pan since our current one is showing rather serious signs of wear and tear. Lo and behold, they had a sale, a 10" and an 8" pan for half price. So I bought those too, why not? It's my birthday after all.

Kai also profited from this expedition, he scored some shorts, shirts and shoes, also for the summer. The only one that didn't bring anything home was Connie. Poor lass. But as the birthday boy, in this particular case, I am OK with that :-)

It is now time for a blissful little nap before getting ready for a sumptuous meal at La Quercia. I can't wait for that one, never been and it is supposed to be very good!

The haul

Waiting for my Macchiato