Thursday, August 30, 2012

International Food Bloggers Conference - My Top 6 Highlights

This being my first International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC), I wasn't too sure what to expect. Will I find the guest speakers and info sessions valuable? Will I be inspired? Will I meet lots of new bloggers and gain their respect? Will I eat lots, drink lots and learn lots to hopefully become a better blogger at the end of the weekend?

As it turned out, going to the 2012 IFBC last weekend (Aug 24-26) was the best thing I have done in a long time. It was a 3-day weekend packed with bloggers, sessions, food, wine, swag, tweets and fun!

Me & Auntie Nas
I took the 8-hour Amtrak train from Vancouver, BC to Portland and was warmly greeted by my Uncle Fernando and Aunt Filipinas (Auntie Nas) who, lucky for me, live in Portland and generously housed me during the conference.  My Auntie Nas is also my idol in the kitchen, a self-taught home cook who excels in cooking all types cuisine, especially Filipino food.

Here are my top 6 highlights from the IFBC conference:

1) Portland
This year's IFBC was hosted in one of my favourite cities, Portland, Oregon! This town is known for its tax-free shopping, outdoors recreation, quaint neighbourhoods, food, wine, micro-brews and friendly residents. Plus, it reminds me of my childhood visiting my cousins, Aunts and Uncles during the summer and Christmas holidays always filled with food, shopping and laughter.

2) Live Blogging
A fun and exciting session on our first day, we had the chance to taste, review, blog and tweet a variety of yummy Oregon food and drinks. Sponsored by Travel Oregon, local restaurants, chefs and businesses gave a 5 minute pitches about their products and best of all, we got to sample them all!!

Oregon Albacore Tuna
Pfriem Belgium Beer
Sweet & savoury caramel with local Oregon truffle oil
Yummy mini chocolate cupcakes
Tried & loved this! Straw Propeller's Curry Up Oatmeal
Local salt from Jacobsen Salt Co. Fun fact: It takes 45-50 hours to make salt.

3) Food Wishes
About a year ago I started following Chef John of Food Wishes educational and funny YouTube videos featuring over 600 delicious recipes, cooking tips and how-tos. On the first day, I got to meet Chef John and got a picture to prove it;)

During his presentation on the last day, we learned that instant mashed potatoes can help make onion rings stay crispy longer and the perfect go-to dessert is chocolate affogato (coffee, vanilla ice-cream and chocolate shavings). The trick is to brew your coffee with cold water so your ice-cream will melt slowly.

So excited to meet Chef John of Food Wishes

4) Gift Suite (aka SWAG!!)
The loot offered at IFBC was beyond my wildest dreams! After the food and wine reception hosted by Oregon's Washington County, we headed to the Taste of Oregon & Gourmet Fair, where tables were topped with tonnes of goodies - beer, wooden spoons, cookbooks, rice, spatulas, bags, wooden cutting boards, food samples and much more. Surrounding the gift suite table were gourmet restaurants, local food and liquor manufacturers offering bountiful samples for the tasting. Foodie paradise!!

Swag table where we got to choose our loot
Thank you to all the 2012 IFBC sponsors for all the goodies!

5) New Friends
Best of all, I met and connected with many great food bloggers and friends. A hub of inquisitive, like-minded and varied group of people gave me a sense of community and belonging. Some seasoned pros and many starting out like me but we all share our love for food and the passion to communicate about it.

Dining with beautiful ladies:
Sunny Diaz of @foodeager and Sala Kannan of @veggiebelly

6) 2013 IFBC
Thanks for the great time and already signed up for next year's 2013 IFBC in Seattle, Washington on Sept 13-15. See you there!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Casa Pinoy: House Built on Taste!

Chef Dennis Pineda & I with the Crispy Pata
After reading several food reviews about Casa Pinoy, some even describing their dishes as not only good but casamazing, I was intrigued and excited to try the food myself. 

Casa Pinoy, means Filipino House, but welcomes all with its broad selection of Filipino, Western and Italian dishes. Tucked inside Richmond's industrial neighbourhood, owners Edith and Eugene Colobong opened shop in February 2011.

With a growing clientele, they cater regularly to the surrounding businesses and restaurant patrons with Filipino favourites like *empanada* (sweet & savory meat pie), *lechon* (deep fried pork belly) and *pancit* (noodles sautéed with veggies & seafood) as well as local comfort foods like all-day breakfast, burgers, fish n' chips, pastas. 

Head chef, Dennis Pineda, took my order and proudly claims that he is the mastermind behind all of the restaurant's casamazing recipes! With so many items to choose from, Dennis suggested their in-house Filipino specialities: *chicken inasal* (grilled chicken leg marinated in coconut vinegar), *crispy pata* (deep fried crispy pork hock) and *leche flan* (caramel custard).   

Crispy Pata
All of Dennis' recommendations were done authentically and to perfection. The crispy pata was by far my favourite! The pork hocks were deep-fried so the skin becomes a crispy crackling and the meat, dipped in a soy-vinegar sauce, was tender and tasty. 

Chicken Inasal with Java Rice
The barbecued chicken inasal with the side *java rice* (yellow fried rice) had a good balance of citrus, coconut vinegar and garlic flavours that all harmoniously melded in my mouth. 

Leche Flan
My feast ended with the decadent, rich and creamy leche flan.

Pork & Chicken Adobo with Quail Eggs
Halo Halo
The portions are generous, prices affordable and the service is friendly.

Casa Pinoy's broad menu offering will appeal to many so I'd recommend bringing several friends so you can all share, taste and experience their variety of casamazing dishes. 

Casa Pinoy
101 - 11911 Bridgeport Road
Richmond, BC V6V1J3
Open 7 days, 10am-8pm

Candice’s Recommendations:
Crispy Pata (served with veggies & rice) $9.99, Chicken Inasal (served with veggies & rice) $8.99, Chicken/Pork Adobo $6.99, Leche Flan $2.99 and Halo Halo $5.50   

Casa Pinoy on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pinoy Pride!

Pinoy Fiesta
August 12, 2012
Memorial South Park, 41st Avenue & Windsor Street, Vancouver

Going to a park that welcomes you with jamming live music, hip-hop dancing, friendly vendors and delicious Filipino food is my ideal way of spending a sunny Sunday afternoon.  For the past three years, Pinoy Fiesta - Unang Hirit sa Tag-init (Filipino Cultural Street Parade & Festival) celebrates and showcases the Filipino culture and heritage with a street parade, performances and, of course food.

The line-ups for all the food vendors were miles deep and most of the cooks were barbecuing up a storm! You could smell the sweet perfume of grilling pork & chicken skewers and salivate over trays of steaming pancit, mounds of golden empanadas and pyramids of crispy lumpia shanghai. This was just the Cabalen Sweets food tent. There were at least 8 other food vendors offering many other delicious Filipino delicacies and treats.

Girlfriends enjoying a Pinoy picnic!
I brought three friends, all non-Filipino, for the excursion and hoped they'd like Pinoy Fiesta as much as me.  The verdict - they enjoyed pinoy food! Here's a sampling of what we feasted on:

Banana Turon
Java Rice with Afritada & BBQ Pork Skewer
Chicken BBQ Skewers
Goldilocks barbecuing the Chicken Skewers
Pork Empanadas

The event was a success and so grateful to the Pinoy Fiesta Management for instilling Pinoy Pride in the Vancouver community and looking forward to next year's fiesta!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Serving old classics at New Town Bakery & Restaurant

The family owned and operated New Town Bakery & Restaurant has been serving loyal patrons traditional Chinese and Filipino food and baked goods for 32 years. 

Boasting a Yelp review rating of 4/5 stars, drawing thousands of daily customers and operating in three locations, Chinatown, Surrey and Richmond - there is nothing new about this established culinary institution. 

I had the chance to meet owners Susanna and Ken Ng at their flagship Chinatown location. The mother and son team run the business side of the bakery while father, David, the head pastry chef and cook is busy churning out their specialities: the award winning apple tarts and world famous siopao (steamed buns) - asado (BBQ pork) and bola bola (chicken deluxe). 

Ken & Susanna Ng loving New Town specialty treats 
Did you know: Susanna's fav is the coconut bun and Ken is the sesame ball (deep-fried stuffed with red bean paste).
Coconut buns
Sesame ball

One of my favourites is their specialty steam bun, asado siopao. Generous portions of tender, juicy BBQ pork pieces are tucked inside white pillowy buns and steamed to perfection in large bamboo trays. Then I tried the the award winning apple tart and to my delight, it is now added to my growing favorites list! I can’t get enough of the slightly sweetened baked apples, wrapped in a buttery, flaky crust.

Asado Siopao

Apple Tarts
Chinatown’s New Town Restaurant also has an extensive menu offering an array of Chinese and Filipino comfort foods including congee, dim sum, hot pots, fried rice and even spaghetti! 

Candice & Ken enjoying the delicious apple tarts!
If you're looking for the perfect sweet and savoury bun on-the-go, without breaking the bank, stop by your nearest New Town Bakery & Restaurant.


148 East Pender Street, Vancouver
Open 7 days, 6:30am-8:30pm

#7-10303 135th Street, Surrey
Closed Wednesdays, 

#4-6330 No. 3 Rd, Richmond
Closed Wednesdays, 10am-7pm

Candice’s Recommendations:

BBQ pork steam buns - $1.40, Sesame Ball - $1.10, Coconut Bun - $0.90; Apple Tart - $0.95
Buy any combination of 6 buns or more to avoid paying taxes and get 50% all baked goods after 6pm.

New Town Bakery & Restaurant 新城餅家餐室 on Urbanspoon