The other night, Akemi and I went out for burgers with a couple of our very favorite Vancouver friends: Steve, Jodi, and their daughter, Gemma.  Per Akemi’s request, we ended up going to Romer’s Burger Bar for their varied menu offerings and those silly iceberg lettuce buns the ladies seem to enjoy.

Steve and Jodi.  Future Vegas travel companions?
Gemma says: “I’m eating! And watching Madagascar 3.”
The Chorizodor.  A pork and chorizo sausage patty topped with cheddar, pepper jack, creamy boursin, avocado, and Diablo sauce.  Tasty – but very messy.

Steve and Jodi ended up surprising both Akemi and I with belated birthday gifts.  A travel kit for me (which saves me the trouble of having to go out and buy one for my Tokyo trip!  How’s that for timing?) and a pug-themed accessory for Akemi:

So cute!

As the dishes were being cleared away, our waitress asked who was the birthday boy because, apparently, they were preparing some sort of dessert in my honor.  I assumed that she had spotted the gift and informed the kitchen who had decided to whip up something for the occasion.  I would have honestly preferred to simply order my own dessert.  BUT it turned out the dessert wasn’t coming from the kitchen. Not exactly.  It was coming from the kitchen via a sneaky Steve and Jodi via Ganache Patisserie: an assortment of delectable pastries including:

My birthday mini-cake
And my favorite: the hazelnut cocoa meringue.

The desserts were totally unexpected but greatly appreciated.  And delicious.  If we do end up doing Vegas with Steve and Jodi in, I’ll have to find a way to surprise them as well.  I’m thinking garden snake in their luggage.

Then, last night, Akemi and I headed over to Fat Dragon for their famed Hog Times dinner.  We were joined by Emma and Robert (who we met at the last family-style dinner at Campagnolo Roma) and our buddy Simon…

Emma and Robert = expert eaters.
Simon = diner, chef, photographer.

I’m usually not a fan of family-style dining which requires you to share a table with complete strangers.  Sometimes, dishes introduced at one end of the table take forever to get to you – and, when they do, it can be slim pickings.  Conversely, if you’re starting with a dish, you may limit your initial serving to ensure everyone at the other end of the table receives a share and, as a result, end up leaving the table feeling hungry.  On the other hand, the family-style setting allows you to make new friends (like Emma and Robert) – which wasn’t the case on this night as the group seated beside us was immersed in their own private conversation throughout.

Still, it was a great meal.  The following photos were snapped by Simon and his far superior camera:

Barbecued Sloping Hill Farm Pig.  They trotted the pork out and posed for the requisite pics.  
Papaya and cabbage salad with lime, green chilies, and crispy shallots.  Akemi loved it.
Jalan Alor chicken wings.  Simon went to town on these!
Stri-fried noodles with smokey drippings.  Smokey drippings? Aka pork fat.  And, yes, they were delicious.
The cheek!  The tastiest, most tender part of the pig.  

Other menu items included bean sprout kimchi, stir-fried Japanese eggplant, BBQ pit beans, butter lettuce and bean sprout salad, Korean BBQ sauce, scallion sauce, and steamed jasmine rice.  The eggplant was a favorite of the table.

For dessert, I ordered a round of Fat Dragon’s famed soft serve ice cream.  That night’s flavor: pandan.

The happy couple
Akemi says: “Oishiiii!”.

In addition, Simon gifted me a box of belated birthday chocolate and macarons.  They were incredible, especially the pumpkin macarons!

Like my birthday dinner at Campagnolo, Chef Ted Anderson was the man behind the meal.  A big thanks to him and the rest of the gang at Fat Dragon/Campagnolo/Campagnolo Roma.

Well, after two big meals, Akemi has decided to eat soup for the foreseeable future.

36 thoughts on “October 25, 2012: Double Birthday(ish) Dinner!

  1. All of the food looks amazing. I think I remember you saying that one of your last visits to Romer’s a while back wasn’t that impressive, but my visit there in April 2011 was pretty good. That burger looks pretty impressive, too!

    Okay, hazelnut cocoa meringue? That sounds like Heaven in dessert form.

    I’m actually kind of a fan of family style service, but it does depend on the situation and, as you say, the quantity of food. When I’m staying at on of the Appalachian Mountain Club facilities in Maine or NH, the service is always FS, but because everyone there has similar interests it works out great and you get to meet a lot of new people.

    You and the soft serve cone look like you were made for each other!!

  2. ┊┊┊🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟┊┊┊
    ┊┊┃🍀 Ⓗⓐⓟⓟⓨ 🍀┃┊┊
    ┊┃🎉Ⓑⓘⓡⓣⓗⓓⓐⓨ🎉 ┊

  3. Hey Tech Support,

    Why is my printer suddenly printing only in red instead of black?

  4. Joe for your birthday, get you a camera like Simon’s. The pictures he took are beautiful.

    Hey, could you be out of black ink?

  5. Hi Joe:

    Simple answer re: your printer…is it out of black ink?

    Note to self: Do not read Joe’s blog when you are hungry.

  6. Hi Joe

    Maybe someone filled the “black” cartridge with red ink?


  7. Nope nope. It actually prints in black on the test page – but when I try to print something, it prints in red.

  8. @Joe’s printer:

    Try re-seating your black, cyan, and yellow cartridges and the realign the print heads (it should be an option on the printer menu or on the front panel of the printer). If that doesn’t work, your printer’s print head driver may be bad.

    What model printer is it? A google search with the model number and “only printing red” may turn up another root cause.

    And it looks like a great set of birthday meals…that BBQ pig had me salivating! Care to elaborate on how it tasted?

    For my oldest daughter’s birthday tomorrow we’ll be having pulled pork, country ribs, and sauteed garlic spinach. I think I’ll go with cherry wood for the smoker this time.

    @Tam Dixon:

    Congratulations on the cheesecake! My daughter requested a strawberry cheesecake (which is baking in the oven right now). I’ve increased the sour cream to 1 cup (from 1/2 cup)…makes the ‘cake a little lighter. Although I like the heavy cakes, the lighter one is a little less filling and thus more appropriate for a big BBQ meal. I’ll post pictures, but it may take me a while…there were a lot of “honey-do” tasks piling up during my recent spate of traveling that I need to get cracking on.

  9. Sometimes the nozzles get clogged up on my printer. You could try a cleaning cycle.

    The food look great! I’m glad you both had fun.

  10. “The following photos were snapped by Simon and his far superior camera”

    Time for Joe to go camera shopping. Perfect excuse is showing up Simon’s picture quality. Maybe even get an electron microscope so we can see down to the molecules of the various foods you eat, especially the chocolate. 🙂

  11. those are some good eats. And I see the clock is ticking, so glad you have one less thing to worry about on the Tokyo trip. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Now, I know a lot of you, including Joe, are fair cooks and bakers. I’m a big experimenter when it comes to baking and the pictures of the cakes above (which sound as if they taste as delicious as they looked – I’m going to be searching Melbourne down under for pumpkin flavoured macarons now) have reminded me of something I need some help figuring out. Actually, Jeff W’s congrats to Tam Dixon was the main reminder, I just had to mention how yummy the food Joe put in his blog looks.

    You see, I don’t like cutting my cakes and putting cream on them. I’d rather eat the cake once it’s cooked, see (oh, and I don’t like cream or icing). Nor do I like using recipes – I make them things up as I go (you should have seen my many sorry attempts at pastry making for an apple pie!) So I came up with this idea and tried it out on a cake I made for my sister’s birthday:

    I made an orange and poppy seed layered cheesecake (all baked together), but haven’t figured a way to ensure that the cheesecake layers don’t soggify the cake layers. I had to cook it at a lower temperature than usual to ensure it cooked through in the middle and the outer areas got a bit overcooked – 160deg Celsius for 1hr15mins and 140deg for a further15-30mins (cos the middle just wouldn’t cook). It tasted and looked awesome (except for the soggy bits and the overcooked bits – also, sorry no pics. Didn’t think of it at the time).

    The cake mix was Victorian sandwich style with orange zest and poppy seeds. The cheesecake mix was Philadelphia cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, orange zest and orange juice.
    Layers went cake mix, cheesecake mix, cake mix, cheesecake mix – and no, it it didn’t get very messy. It layered fairly well, if I say so myself.

    Like I said the problems were as follows:
    1) soggy cake due to cheesecake
    2) figuring out the right temperature for the whole cake to cook through

    Anyone have any suggestions?

  13. Garden snake in my luggage?


    Now I know why you were never offered a job writing for Scare Tactics.

  14. @Jovanna: G’day! You’re in Melbourne? That’s my old home! Alas, I left there long before I knew about macarons so I can’t help you with your search.

    As for your cooking experiments. You’re brave doing baking without a recipe! I don’t think I’d be that brave! Anyway, my suggestion would be to cook the layers separately and assemble once everything is cooked. It means you need several tins the same size (although with the cake you can cook it all as one and slice it into layers with a bread knife) and safely removing and layering the cheesecake parts might be tricky unless it’s really firm and well set but I think it’s the best way to ensure the cakey bits don’t get soggy.

  15. @Line Noise: Thanks for the advice. That suggestion has been made before (by my logical family), and the cheese cake tends to fall apart, no matter the type. That’s why I chose to bake it all together. Maybe I need a different ratio of ingredients. Perhaps a different type of cheese cake will be required for the middle layer. I’ll have to do a bit of research on the types of cheeses used for cheese cakes – meaning, I’m going to experiment on all the types of cheeses I think might be suitable to see if I can make a less watery middle (any ideas?). I think the cream cheese and sour cream will be fine on the top layer if it is a thin layer – it shouldn’t soggify the upper cake layers. Need to think…

    On macarons, most people here call them macaroons and have never heard of the coconut variety (which I dislike, btw – I don’t like anything with dessicated coconut). I’d make my own, but the process sounds too complicated, especially considering I’ve never successfully made merigues (this is without a recipe, since I’m of the opinion that recipes for cooking is cheating – not that it’s wrong to cheat in cooking, since it’s not a contest/exam). I just think it’s more fun.

    And for the peeps that will tell me to just use a recipe and save myself time and trouble… think of all the excitement I’d miss with a recipe. I don’t want to know that in an equation where y=3x-4 what x equals. I want the journey and process. It’s about the adventure and all the stories you can tell afterwards. I don’t want spoilers, see?

  16. @das & @jimfromjersey Time to “batten down the hatches”. Hurricane Sandy is coming to visit you!


  17. No time to play on the interwebs. Looks like we might get hit by Frankenstorm (a.k.a. Hurricane Sandy Meets Arctic Cold Front and New England Blocking High Pressure Over New Jersey). This will probably be MUCH worse than Hurricane Irene. Still no word on evacuations, so we will probably stay, but not in our house (too many trees!). We can move into our neighbor’s two-story house for Monday and Tuesday, or we can go to my cousin’s place in Philly, with cats in tow. Gotta kiss all my crap good-bye again. Gotta pack emergency bags, gotta anchor stuff down. Best case scenario – nothing major, just like with Irene. Best BEST case scenario – the storm sucks all the crap out of my garage but leaves everything else intact. Worse case scenario – the trees take out my house. Worse, WORSE case scenario – we’re in the house when it happens. I think I’m gonna throw up. 😛


  18. Oh, you solved the problem already. That ruins my joke about not calling Tech Support, but an exorcist.

  19. @Jovanna:

    Sounds like you’re having fun!

    I haven’t tried layering white cake like you’re doing but I do have a couple of observations on the cheesecake side of things:

    – The brand of cream cheese matters. Philadelphia brand is the most runny (pours rather than being spooned into the pan), so if your starting with that brand it may be difficult to keep them from mixing. When I’m doing layered cakes, I use a local brand called Dutch Farms which produces a thicker batter and also has less tendency to crack while cooling. A little experimentation with other brands may help (if the cheesecake batter is seeping into the white cake batter for instance).

    – Have you considered adding eggs to the cheesecake batter? Eggs will help it firm up in the early stages of baking and should keep the batter from running.

    – On the overcooked part, you may want to shorten your high temperature time and lengthen your low temperature time. For my ‘cakes I use 15 minutes at 350F (~175C) and then 1 hour and 15 minutes at 250F (~125C). The initial high temperature time helps it set faster and keeps the layers from mixing as it heats up.

    Even after doing the above, I think there is still a good chance that the white cake layers will be soggy. Cheesecake batter is heavy and it’s weight may be keeping the white cake from expanding (resulting in a gooey white cake layer). In that case Line Noise’s layering suggestion may be the best way to go.

    Good luck and let us know how the experiment goes!



  20. I do separate layers when baking different style laters, the trick is to have springform pans.

    Cute tiny pug!

    I’m drooling on my keyboard again. At least I never need to buy wet wipes for my screen, I lick it often enough.

    Cancun tomorrow… Day of the Dead and Chichen Itza and beaches and unlimited food and beverages for a few days and wandering around on our own for a few more. We had snow yesterday, it didn’t stick around and neither will I.

  21. I’ve never heard of Pandan. Had to look it up. Now I want to try it.

    JeffW: Thank you for the sour cream/cheesecake tip. I may try experimenting next time. Do you always use a graham cracker crust? I had a slice of Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake at the Cheesecake factory a couple of weeks ago, they used lady fingers as a crust. Yum. I used chocolate cookie crumbs on the triple chocolate cheesecake. Also, yum!

    Jovanna: I’m not crazy about icing either. When I order cake, my hubby eats the icing and I get the cake. It’s understood without speaking and it seems to amuse other people at a dinner. 🙂
    No suggestions on your cheesecake problem. I’ve never made a layered one. Sounds yumilicious! The cheesecakes I usually make start the oven at 400F (204C) for ten minutes and then the oven temp is lowered to 300F (148C) for about 50-60 minutes or until the middle is set. I’ve read placing a pan of water on the oven’s bottom shelf will help the cheesecake from cracking. Good luck with your “experiments”!
    I’ve had poppy seed bread but I’m curious: does poppy seed have a flavor or is it just for looks?

  22. Happy belated birthday 😀

    Today, I finally hit the big 3-0 😉 I too got an exciting treat – a friend of mine made me Nutella and almond ice cream. I wasn’t sure about the chopped up almonds, but it was super rich and creamy and oh so good. I had it for breakfast (because I’m officially an adult…adult? I dunno and because hello, Nutella ice cream!).

    And that mini-pug is too cute.

  23. I need new ways to use nutella. I’ll have to look up the ice cream. My main ways are saltines, waffle cone, oat flour crepes, spoon. Half of those are out now that I’m gluten-free.

  24. @gforce:

    Happy Birthday! The “Big 3-0”? You’re still a young pup! I have almost two decades on ya. From the travel that you’ve talked about it looks like you’re enjoying yourself though, so you’re spending your years wisely. 😉

    Seems like there’s a lot of birthdays in October…we’re celebrating my daughter’s birthday tonight (Oct. 24th). I’ve got my smoker warming up; getting ready for the picnic-butt (pulled pork) and country ribs she requested. I still have to make the BBQ sauce (she like Memphis rather than Carolina style), and the topping for the cheesecake (she wanted a strawberry topping).

    @Tam Dixon:

    Do you always use a graham cracker crust?

    I am a big fan of the graham cracker crust, although I notice that it is hard to find when I buy cheesecake as a dessert at restaurants. I think the reason for that is that it can be difficult to cut because the graham cracker crust turns a little “cookie-like” when baked. Most of the restaurant variety cheesecakes go with a softer crust (non graham cracker) or just do a sprinkling of graham cracker crumbs in the pan so they can wire cut the cakes…makes their production process faster.

    I have tried an almond-crumb crust, which was good (and easier to cut), but not as good, I thought, as the graham cracker variety. I may have to try your “lady finger’s crust” concept. I’ll be sure to give you credit if I do!

    On the subject of cutting the cheesecake, I use the “long knife in hot-water bath” method:

    The fishing-line/dental-floss method doesn’t really work on the crusts I make, so the hot knife is the only way to go for me.

  25. Shannon / gforce:

    Sorry for the mixup! Maybe it’s my travel schedule. For some reason, I thought you were gforce (similar color avatars?) and my brain turned off. Still, Happy birthday and I hope you have a good weekend.

    I’m heading off to finish the b’day prep-work for my daughter and hopefully I can stay out of trouble moving forward 😉

  26. @ JeffW – If I remember his recent birthday count, gforce only wishes he was turning 30! @ gforce – 😉

    Happy birthday Shannon!

  27. Joe is this travel day? You weren’t going to say anything? Not even, “You’all go get in the car, it’s time to go”? If it is time to go, have a safe flight.

  28. And forgot to say, the food and company look amazing, thanks for sharing Joe! The little puggy stuff is so cute

  29. Trader Joe’s now has pumpkin macarons in their freezer section.
    Initial reaction is – wow…tastes just like pumpkin pie or sweet potato pie with all the goodness of macarons. However, there is an aftertaste – possibly of one of the “pie” spices or??? that I did not care for.

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