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Monday, October 23, 2006

The Boat House Sails Away

The Power of The Five P’s

So it was our 30th wedding anniversary last week, we decided that as we were in Vancouver we would go to a good restaurant to celebrate taking along another couple. We chose the Boat House in New Westminister. A good seafood and steakhouse chain owned by the Spectra Group of Restaurants.

We were sat promptly at our table, the hostess letting us know who our server would be, before long he came and we placed our drink order then within a minute a second server came by for our food order, things were looking good.

Within a reasonable amount of time our food arrived, the plates were hot, the presentation looked good, we were ready to enjoy our meal. That’s when it all fell apart, the food was stone cold, I had a steak and crab claw dish, the crab should have been in a garlic butter sauce, mine was so cold the butter had congealed on the bottom of the dish, the vegetables were ice cold and the potato barely luke warm, the steaks were however cooked to our preference and were hot. We requested our server to remove the food and have the cold items corrected, he ushered them into the kitchen and they were returned to us in a matter of minutes. This time the potatoes were hot the vegetables barley warm but now our steaks were very cold, however this no one would come around to check the re-cook, so we ate what we could and tried to enjoy our conversation. A different server would eventually come round to clear the plates not inquiring as to how the meal was.

It took a manager 45 minutes to show at the table having heard about the first cold meal, she apologized and looked shocked to find out that re-cook was far below standard and that no-one would bother checking how the second meal was. She removed the meals from our check and we departed, disappointed a special occasion was marked with a negative meal.

We’ll get over it, but what cost to the restaurant? For most they would never return and at minimum it influenced this blog.

A restaurant's reputation is everything, the customer is king and when that customer has a poor experience the restaurant pays a dear price. All restaurants must attend to the five P principal, simply they are, Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance .

It would be impossible for a restaurant such as the Boat House to ignore the preparation required to manage a busy establishment like the one we attended. As a chain they have policies and procedures, check lists and management to ensure the evenings service is stress free as possible.

The kitchen mise en palce would be enforced, station chefs (chef de partie) would be instructed by the chef de cuisine as to what would be required for the evenings service. The expectation by the chef de cuisine would be demanding and the stations chefs would meet the demands, a high volume restaurant cannot operate with anything less. The proper preparation would have to be seen to, but somewhere someone let the system down and the result was a poor performance.

The kitchen placed in front of customers cold food on hot plates, this indicates that one station chef did not communicate with the others. Most likely the entremetier (vegetable chef) plated the food before the saucier was ready for it, so it sat under heating lamps, in the mean time the crab claws were placed where they would get very cold and no-one double checked to see if they were hot upon service, which should have been done when the grill cook plated the steaks and the saucier applied the final touches to plate, finally the chef de cuisine should have caught all this when the plate was permitted to leave the kitchen.

The service staff we equally at fault, a server has a responsibility to the customer to serve them what they ordered in manner that is friendly and courteous. A simple visual check of the plate would have prevented a poor performance, the server would had seen the solidified butter on the crab claws indicating they were not hot, so even if they surmised that the rest of the meal was hot they would know that a part of it was not and should have refused it at the kitchen before it arrived at the table. What is more after the meal was re-cooked the server should have been back to the table within a minute to ensure it was now proper, this did not occur and so the overall meal was rated "poor".

The manager did try to make things right but arrived after the fact and really had little options. She did the right thing in not charging for the meals (but a free poor meal is not what most customers are looking for).

The question then is, would I go back, the answer may be surprising, as it is yes, I believe a restaurant of good reputation gets it by very hard work and by applying the five P principal and there is no doubt Boat House restaurants do both. One poor experience should not form the final opinion of the customer (that’s for the food critic), if the customer has also applied the five P principal then they would know this group of restaurants tries very hard to please, sometime everyone falls short. Get up and do it again because that after all is what we do. Give the restaurant of good standing a second opportunity, next time they will do it better. If they do not then never return again.

Coupled with the five P’s is another of my favourite saying "do what’s right, do it because it is right, then do it right" this means some mistakes may happen but if we look at the mistake as a gift to learn we will eventually prefect what we do.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Most Popular Food In The World

What is the world’s most popular food? If you said pizza, pasta or burgers you would be wrong. The facts speak for themselves and the answer is (drum roll please) RICE. There are just over 40,000 varieties of rice many of which are grown on every continent of the globe except Antarctica. In North America the average consumption is about twenty five pounds of rice per person per year this may seem like a lot of rice but compared to a person in Burma (most likely where cultivated rice began) the average consumption balloons to better than 500 pound per person per year. With fairly recent moves into the culinary worlds of Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and China rice based dishes have seen at sharp increase in popularity. Rice is one of the few foods in the world which is entirely non-allergenic and gluten-free. More than 50% of rice that is cultivated is consumed within 8 miles of where it is grown. (Photo by from WiseGeek)

Toyota means 'bountiful rice field', while Honda means 'the main rice field'. Louis Armstrong signed his autograph "Red beans and Ricely yours..."

Mirin is a sweet Japanese rice wine (saké), sometimes just called rice wine. Mirin is used for cooking, only, mainly in sauces and glazes. It gives a nice glaze to grilled foods.

Most rice is consumed in the country where it is produced. Only 5 percent of the world’s total is exported. Thailand ships the most: about 5 million tons a year. The United States is second with nearly 3 million tons, and Vietnam third, with 2 million tons.

Most common varieties are:

LONG: Long slender kernels which produce light, fluffy rice.
MEDIUM: Short, wide kernels which are moist and tender when cooked.
SHORT: Short, round kernels which are soft and cling together when boiled.
ARBORIO: Large tan grains with white dots in the center, similar in side to medium grain white rice. Arborio is most often used in risotto because of its creamy, chewy texture.
AROMATIC: Medium sized slender grains which often have the aroma and flavor of roasted nuts or popcorn.
WAXY: Also known as "sweet" rice, kernels are short and plump, and produce a thick, starchy product when cooked. Waxy rice is most often used as a binder for gravy, sauces or fillings.

Wild rice is a coarse grass (and not really a true rice) considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. North American Indians are attributed with the introduction of wild rice into mainstream society. Grown in shallow waters, like marshes, man-made paddies, and stream beds in North America, the wild rice plant is 3-10 feet tall, holding the traditional rice flower at its peak. American wild rice is medium to long grained and has a nutty flavour.

Cooking Rice:

ALWAYS measure rice and water and cook according to timed instructions for perfect, non-sticky rice.

COOK rice with a lid on to prevent steam from escaping.

RICE always triples in volume, so be sure to take this into account when choosing an appropriate cooking pot.

WHEN rice is done cooking, fluff with a fork to avoid sticky or hard rice kernels.

IF YOU like non-sticky rice, sauté in a small amount of butter before cooking. Add liquid to sauté pan and cook per instructions.

Rice is high in complex carbohydrates, contains almost no fat, is cholesterol free, and is low in sodium, unless you add salt to the cooking water. Generally all rice - both brown and white - is considered a good source of vitamins and minerals. A half cup of cooked white rice provides 82 calories; an equal amount of brown rice provides 89 calories.


Serving Size: 6

1/4 Cup Olive oil
1 Chicken, Whole, cut up
1 Each Green Pepper, chopped
1 Large Onion, chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Whole Bay Leaf
Salt And Pepper, to taste
5 Threads Saffron
2 1/4 Cups Chicken broth
2 Whole Tomatoes -- chopped
1 Cup Rice
1 Cup Peas --
Pimientos -- garnish

Heat oil and brown chicken on both sides. Add green pepper, onion and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes, Add tomato, saffron dissolved in chicken broth, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Add rice, stir well, cover again and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes longer, or until all liquid has been absorbed and chicken is tender. Garnish with peas and pimientos.

NOTES: Really of Spanish origin, Arroz con Pollo (Rice with Chicken) is a specialty in many Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Cuba.


Makes 10 servings.
1 medium sweet potato or 1 (15 oz.) can* sweet potatoes, drained and diced
1/4 cup water
4 cups cooked rice
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup green onions (scallions)
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
1/4 cup pineapple juice
2 tbsp. vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
Dash cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp. chopped peanuts,
optional* Canned sweet potatoes are precooked.

Place sweet potatoes and water in microwave-safe dish, covered, and microwave for about 3 to 4 minutes until done. Drain and dice. In a large bowl, combine cooked rice, sweet potatoes, green onions, red bell pepper, and pineapple. In a small bowl, whisk together pineapple juice, vinegar, olive oil, ginger, cayenne, salt and pepper. Carefully toss with rice mixture; sprinkle with peanuts, if desired. Refrigerate until serving

The national dish of Spain literally means "for her".

1 pound extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound), peeled and deveined
Salt and ground black pepper
Olive oil
8-9 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (2 generous tablespoons)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, each thigh trimmed of excess fat and halved crosswise
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut pole to pole into 1/2-inch-wide strips
8 ounces Spanish chorizo, sliced 1/2 inch thick on the bias
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained, minced, and drained again
2 cups Valencia or Arborio rice
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
1 dried bay leaf
1 dozen mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position; heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Toss the shrimp, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 teaspoon of the garlic in a medium bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper; set aside.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the pepper strips and cook, stirring occasionally, until the skin begins to blister and turn spotty black, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the pepper to a small plate and set aside.

Add 1 teaspoon oil to the now-empty Dutch oven; heat the oil until shimmering but not smoking. Add the chicken pieces in a single layer; cook, without moving the pieces, until browned, about 3 minutes. Turn the pieces and brown on the second side, about 3 minutes longer; transfer the chicken to a medium bowl. Reduce the heat to medium and add the chorizo to the pot; cook, stirring frequently, until deeply browned and the fat begins to render, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the chorizo to a bowl with the chicken and set aside.

Add enough oil to the fat in the Dutch oven to equal 2 tablespoons; heat over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3 minutes; stir in the remaining garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes; cook until the mixture begins to darken and thicken slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until the grains are well coated with the tomato mixture, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, wine, saffron, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Return the chicken and chorizo to the pot, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven; cook until the rice absorbs almost all of the liquid, about 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven (close the oven door to retain heat). Uncover the pot; scatter the shrimp over the rice, insert the mussels hinged-side down into the rice (so they stand upright), arrange the bell pepper strips in a pinwheel pattern, and scatter the peas over the top. Cover and return to the oven; cook until the shrimp are opaque and the mussels have opened, 10 to 12 minutes.

When  soccarat is desired, set the Dutch oven, uncovered, over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, rotating the pot 180 degrees after about 2 minutes for even browning. (Soccarat, a layer of crusty browned rice that forms on the bottom of the pan, is a traditional part of paella.)

Let the paella stand, covered, about 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that have not opened and the bay leaf, if it can be easily removed. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve, passing the lemon wedges separately.

In Louisiana the Monday dinner is always what Louis Armstrong signed his autograph with: 
"Ricely Yours"

Red Beans N Rice

1 pound spicy smoked sausage

1 large onion, diced 
2 celery ribs, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced 
2 teaspoons Chef K Cajun seasoning, divided 
2 cups uncooked long-grain rice 
3 1/2 cups chicken broth 
2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained 
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes 
2 bay leaves object
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley 
Hot sauce (optional) 

Cut smoked sausage into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cook in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat 8 to 10 minutes or until slices are browned. Remove sausage, and drain on paper towels, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings in pan.

Sauté onion and celery in hot drippings in Dutch oven over medium-high heat 4 to 5 minutes; stir in garlic, 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning, and rice; sauté 3 minutes. Stir in broth, next 3 ingredients, and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from heat; stir in sausage and parsley; let stand, covered, 10 more minutes or until rice is tender. Serve with hot sauce, if desired.


1/2 cup long grain rice 
1 1/2 cups water 
1 lemon peel 
1 cinnamon stick 
1 quart milk 
3/4 cup sugar 
1/4 tsp salt 
1 tsp vanilla 
powdered cinnamon 

Using a 3-quart pot, boil rice, cinnamon stick and the lemon peel in cold water at medium high heat. Continue to cook until rice is soft and most of the water has evaporated. Remove the cinnamon stick. Add the milk, sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Continue cooking at medium low heat, stirring often until it reaches your desired thickness. Remove the lemon peel.

Serve in 8 dessert dishes, sprinkle with powdered cinnamon when serving.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Thanksgiving 2006

Every year we mark one special day in Canada (2nd Monday in October and in the US it falls on the 4th Thursday of November). Truly a special it is linked to fall harvest festivals and the fine art of being thankful for what the harvest has brought to us to sustain the winter. Thought to be a day of feasting and giving thanks by the Pilgrims the very first thanksgiving day would have been a day of fasting and praying which was in keeping with the religious requirements of the Pilgrims. And although the actual date is long lost the thanksgiving feast would most likely have taken place during the harvest period of 1626 but was not a yearly celebration and did not become one until 1676 and not on the 4th Thursday of November the event was based on the English holiday which took place around the 29th of September.

Differing states had different dates for the holiday and in 1863 President Lincoln appointed the last day of November as a day of thanksgiving after that each President appointed a similar day until 1939 when President Roosevelt set the date as the 4th Thursday which was approved by Congress 2 years later.

The first “Canadian” thanksgiving could have been the day Martin Forbihser held a formal celebration of thanks after crossing the Atlantic during the fall of 1578. About the same time the French settlers and explorers like Samuel de Champlian came to Canada and they too had a similar celebration eventually forming “The Order of Good Cheer” sharing the bountiful fall harvest with all who came. In 1879 Canadian Parliament declared November 06 as a day of thanksgiving but it wasn’t until January 31 of 1957 that the Canadian government would declare “ A day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed”.

So on thanksgiving be blessed and enjoy some of the great dishes I’ve given you here.

Pumpkin-Apple Streusel Cake
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups diced peeled cored Granny Smith apples (about 4 large)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup (firmly packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup canned pure pumpkin
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
Vanilla ice cream

Method apples: Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples; saute until apples begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add sugar and cinnamon and saute until golden brown, about 3 minutes longer. Cool.
Method cake:
Preheat oven to 350F.

Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan.

Combine flour, brown sugar, butter, and salt in large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until mixture resembles coarse meal. Set aside 2/3 cup of mixture for topping. Beat pumpkin, sour cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, spice, and baking soda into remaining flour mixture, beating just until smooth. Beat in eggs. Transfer batter to pan. Scatter apples evenly over top. Sprinkle reserved topping over apples. Bake cake until topping is golden brown and tester inserted into centre comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 20 minutes. Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Release pan sides from cake. Transfer cake to platter. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream.


3 tbsp butter
2 fine diced onions
3 minced garlic cloves
2 cups peeled, seeded and diced tomatoes
¾ lb lean ground pork
¾ lb fine diced beef
1 cup beef stock
2 bay leaves
¼ tsp each of allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
⅓ cup fine bread crumbs
1 quantity double crust pie dough
3 tbsp milk
1 egg

In a large skillet heat the butter and sweat the onion and garlic. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes covered. Add the pork and cook thoroughly. Add beef, stock, bay leaves and seasonings. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the bread crumbs. Cool mixture to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 400◦F (200◦C).

Roll out the pastry, divide in two and line a 10" (250 cm) pie shell with one part. Fill with the mixture and, cover with the remaining pastry. Crimp edges and cut a 1" (2.5 cm) hole in top. Make a tin foil chimney and fit into hole.
Mix milk with the egg and brush over pastry.
Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 350◦F (180◦C) and continue to bake for 25 minutes. Rest the pie for 20 minutes before cutting, or cool and chill and serve


4½ lbs. Virginia ham
½ cup peach preserves
¼ cup liquid honey
¼ tsp each of ground cinnamon, ground cloves, white pepper
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 325◦F (160◦C).

Score the ham with 2" deep criss cross cuts, place into a roasting pan. Roast the ham for 2 hours.

In small sauce pan combine the preserves, honey and spices, heat slowly to a boiling point. Blend the lemon juice and cornstarch together and add the sauce, simmer until thick. Pour the sauce over the ham and continue to cook for an additional 30 minutes, basting every 7-10 minutes.

Serve the ham on a hot serving platter, with sweet root vegetables and fruit.



½ lb. diced bacon
1 large onion finely diced
3 large carrots finely diced
3 stalks celery finely diced
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
4 cups chicken broth
1½ cups cream
2 cups fresh sweet corn
salt and pepper to taste

In a large kettle fry the bacon, add the onion, carrots and celery and sauté until tender, drain all excess fat. Add the butter and flour and cook over low heat for 3 minutes. Pour the chicken broth over and simmer until thick. Add the cream and corn and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.
Check for seasoning and serve.



1 lb. brussels sprouts
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
½ cup milk
½ cup chicken broth
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp white pepper
pinch nutmeg
½ cup cooked crab meat

Cut off the root stem end of the sprouts and trim the outer leaves. Stem the sprouts for so minutes.

While sprouts steam, melt the butter in a sauce pan. Add flour and stir into a paste (roux) cook for 2 minutes over low heat.

Add the milk and chicken broth, stir; simmer until thickened. Add the seasonings and simmer 2 additional minutes. Brussels in the crab meat.

Place the brussels sprouts in a serving dish, smother with sauce and serve.



1 lb. carrots
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup water
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup apple juice

Pare the carrots and cut into sticks. Steam the carrots for 12-15 minutes, transfer to a serving dish and reserve warm.

While carrots steam, boil the apricots in the water for 5 minutes in a small pan. Transfer apricots to a food processor and puree, reserve the water.

Stir the sugar into the water. Mix the cornstarch with the lemon juice, add to the water and simmer until thick. Pour over the apricots and blend.

Return to sauce pan and stir in the apple juice, heat but do not boil.

Pour sauce over carrots and serve at once.



6-6 oz. boneless turkey breasts
4 tbsp butter
3 minced garlic cloves
1 sliced green bell pepper
1 sliced onion
3 cups peeled, seeded, chopped tomatoes
¼ cup sherry
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

In a skillet, fry the turkey in the butter for 4-6 minutes per side (depending on the thickness of the breast). Remove and reserve hot.

Add the garlic, bell peppers and onions to the skillet, sauté until tender. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. add the sherry and seasonings, continue to simmer until the liquid has evaporated.

Place the turkey breasts on a platter, pour sauce and serve.