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Archive for August, 2013|Monthly archive page

Pomegranate Bistro

In Eating Out, Food on August 30, 2013 at 14:58

Doof Out

One of the few good American restaurants on the Eastside.

I have been to Pomegranate Bistro plenty of times since they opened.  Never disappointed.

Food has always been delicious and fresh.  I love that their menus change with seasons.  Although sometimes dishes that I like disappeared.

First thing when I got into the store was to purchase my favorite cherry chocolate scones.

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They were the only other scones I would purchase and consumed aside from Murchie’s (see post on “Eating out in Victoria BC“).

Their scones were not as soft and fluffy as Murchie’s, but the flavors were very good, particularly the deep dark chocolate with the chewy dried cherries.

They often sold out of this particular flavor scones as well.

The three of us shared a firebread (Thai peanut lime flank steak), salad (Dueling Wedges) and calamari appetizer.

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The firebread was tasty with fresh ingredient and tender flank steak on top.

After having Veraci’s pizza though, the firebread was not quite up to par.

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The dueling wedges was a fun presentation on lettuce salad two ways.

One side with buttermilk dressing with bacon and egg, the other side with tomatoes and cucumber with a sweet onion dressing.

Vegetables were crisp and fresh, and the dressing were light and packed with flavors.

Lastly the calamari.  They were fried crisp, tender and very flavorful.  Perfect.

The coating was not thick and had spices on them.  It was served with fried artichoke as well.

I wish the dipping sauce would be something a little more tangy.

All in all, delicious meal with great company!

Pomegranate Bistro on Urbanspoon

Veraci Pizza and Dish Washer Detergent

In Eating Out, Food, Food Product for Home on August 29, 2013 at 16:24

Doof Out

Veraci Pizza was delicious!  My friend had told me about them for a while just did not get a chance.

Veraci pizza is a travelling wood oven pizza mobile that goes around to many neighborhood farmers market.

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I had the special of the day: the New Yorker without cheese.  It was supposed to contain sausages, red peppers, onions, provolone and their three cheese blend.

The lady was very nice and asked if they could substitute other veggies or meats for me since my pizza would be cheese-less.  I opted for mushrooms and tomatoes.

The pizza crust was thin, crisp at the bottom but chewy at the same time.  The whole wheat dough also had a hint of sweetness.

The tomato sauce was a sweet sauce more than tart and very delicious.

Generous amount of toppings with fresh tomatoes and peppers, and very sweet onions.  With the addition of sausage, it had just right amount of saltiness.

Flavors were balanced and I could still appreciate the individual ingredients separately.

Who would know such a simple plate would make my day?

Doof Home

This entry of Doof Home is inedible but closely related to food we eat at home everyday!  This is about automatic dish washer detergent.

Dish washer detergent affects the healthiness of our food because it leaves residue on our bowls, plates and utensils after a wash.

If any of the detergent ingredient is harmful to our bodies, we will consume it the next time food gets on the plate.

There is also the environmental impact of the detergent as it drains downstream affecting marine lives and its ecosystem.

Some common brands such as Cascade has most of their products rated D or F on EWG.

It has ingredient such as alcohol alkoxylates that may have been linked to cancer, or has developmental and reproductive effect; or zinc sulfate that is harmful to marine lives.

For the longest time, I used Trader Joe’s dishwashing Environmentally sound automatic dishwashing detergent powder.  My thought was that it was green and it couldn’t be bad.

Wrong.

EWG had not caught up with testing/analyzing, and no result was available to guide the purchase in the past.  Recent result has been posted and shows that this particular Trader Joe’s product is rated a D.   It contains chemicals that are of high concern in affecting endocrine system or even respiratory system.

The TJ dishwashing powder is cheap (around $3.50 for ) but not worth the risk.

After researching, I landed with Nice!  EWG only has result on their single dose packs (15 single dose, total 9.52 oz. for $3.99).

I did not purchase the single dose due to price.  I went for their box detergent powder.

I check the ingredient this time and It contains sodium carbonate (rated A ingredient), sodium silicate (rated B) and enzymes (rated B).  Clean and simple.

The only ingredient difference between the single use and the box is sodium silicate.

I assume that at worst, the product will receive a B grade, which is still an improvement from TJ’s.  It is $4.39 for 75 oz. (which is half the price from another grade A product, Seventh Generation’s automatic dishwasher powder).

Most importantly, it cleans as well as the TJ dishwashing powder (I used Method’s in the past and it did not clean well.  Perhaps they have changed their formulation since I last used them, but their dish washer products have C grades) .

Little did I know that Nice! is Walgreen’s own brand and only available in Walgreen stores.

Arugula Spaghetti — Molecular Gastronomy Experiment No. 1

In Food, Home Creation on August 28, 2013 at 13:54

Doof Home

First experiment was a success and a failure, but let’s not get ahead of myself.

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It was really fun playing with food.  I followed the recipe on the DVD to make the arugula spaghetti.

INGREDIENT

2 cups arugula, chopped

3/4 cup water

2g of agar agar

black pepper (not on the DVD, but knee jerk reaction on my part; I did stop myself from salting it to stay true to the recipe)

STEPS

Blend the chopped arugula with water until smooth.

Add arugula to a pot and sprinkle agar.  Then, turn up the heat and bring mixture to boil.

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This mixture was then sucked up in the syringe to be injected into the small plastic tubes.

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The tubes were then soaked in ice water for 3 min.

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Empty syringe with air was connected to the end of the tubes to eject the spaghetti.

Some downsides to the making of spaghetti.  It was very difficult to handle; very delicate and basically broke on touch.

I had to eject the spaghetti out exactly how I wanted to plate them.  Very difficult.

The tools provided were not meant to finish the arugula mixture efficiently.  It was a very slow process making 3 spaghetti at a time and waiting 3 mins in between.

Meanwhile, the mixture was getting cold and started gelatinizing and required re-heating.

One syringe also made it difficult to toggle between injecting arugula mixture and ejecting spaghetti.

I would need a lot more tubes for sure in the future and perhaps one more syringe to facilitate the process.

From an experimentation and presentation point of view, this was most definitely a success.

However, I was too excited to play with food that I forgot the most common sense – the food had to taste good!

This spaghetti, not so much.  I forgot about the fact that cooked arugula did not taste good at all.

In fact, the spaghetti tasted awful!  The bitterness came through as a monster attack, it was metallic, somehow astringent and the flavor was not great and tasted bland.

Texture did not bother me at all, just soft and melted away.  I believe the water to agar ratio needed to be revisited to yield sturdier spaghetti.

After plating, lots of balsamic vinegar was doused on top of the dish for consumption.

There was huge potential in the spaghetti application.

It would have to be with a vegetable that tasted good after cooking such as spinach or collard greens.

The mixture would need to be seasoned or use broth instead of water for blending.

I made the most visually stunning plate of my whole life, and also the worst tasting food I had ever prepared in my whole life all at once!!  Nonetheless, loads of fun and more to come!

Molecular Gastronomy Kit

In Food, Home Creation on August 27, 2013 at 10:32

Doof Home

With house remodeling, family and friends visited from afar, I finally opened the Christmas gift I purchased for myself!

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Just the name of the kit and the pictures featured put a spark in me.  I did not look at the content of the kit before purchase, so it was truly a surprise.

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As it went, the kit consisted of a box of tools, packets of agar, calcium lactate, sodium alginate, xanthan gum, soy lecithin ,a DVD of recipes and introductory booklet (the round dots mould came with the box externally),  Not what I expected.

The tool box had a syringe, plastic tube, measuring spoons, slotted spoon and pipettes.

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Read the introductory booklet which contained a few recipes on “emulsification”, “spherification”, “gelification” and “siphon whipping”.

Emulsification was the making of flavored foam.

Spherification was to encapsulate liquid food in a bubble.

Gelification was to gelatinized otherwise liquidy food such as vinegar.

Siphon Whipping required a whipped cream siphon to whip low-fat liquid food such as coffee.

These were absolutely intriguing to me especially with my former food science life.  This kit was mini food science!!!

Proceeded to watch the DVD recipes, and —FUN!

First the food pictures were beautiful and mouth-watering!  Reminded me a little of the movie “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”.  My friend described the movie as food porn.  This DVD recipes’ pictures were comparable!

The best part was seeing what could be done — a balsamic vinegar sheet, frozen chocolate foam, encapsulated goat cheese (they called it “ravioles”), arugula spaghetti, etc.

There were two memorable recipes.  First, the encapsulated mojito.  Yes, a mojito drink in a bubble decorated with a mint leaf!  Second, a fake sunny side up egg made with milk sheet as the egg white and encapsulated mango puree as the yolk!  Endless fun!

I wish that the DVD or introductory book would provide a basic guideline of how much liquid to how much gum/chemical additive powder to use.  It would make exploration of recipes outside of what was provided easier.  Meanwhile, I will be re-watching the DVD to get a sense of liquid to powder ratio.

I am very happy with this purchase and I can see hours of fun coming in the future!  Will definitely attempt a recipe or two in a few days.  The “eat whole food” part of me is disagreeing with the unnecessary addition of gums and chemicals (albeit naturally occurring as well) in food.

Back to my motto, “everything in moderation” then!

Dahlak Eritrean food

In Eating Out, Food on August 26, 2013 at 11:46

Doof Out

Arrived at Dahlak Eritrean restaurant and was a little worried.  We were the only party there at 8:30pm.  However, my concern was thrown out of the window when we received our food!

I had Ethiopian food before and really enjoyed it.  Eritrean food sparked my interest since geographically the two countries are right next door!  Turned out, Eritrean food was very similar to Ethiopian food.  I asked our server what the differences were between Ethiopian and Eritrean food, and he said that they were largely the same, just slight difference in spice combination.

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My favorite was the vegetable combo.  It had okra, yellow split pea, green beans, red lentil, mustard green and cabbage.  I loved the garlicky mustard green the most followed by the cabbage.  All of them were very flavorful.  The spices and herbs used were complex and difficult to discern unless I really focus on the flavors (I was not doing that since we were with friends and chatting over meal!)

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Then, we had the meat combo.  It had chicken, beef and lamb.  The meats were diced in small cubes.  They were tender and sauces were delicious.  The lamb with hot pepper sauce was not very spicy.

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Finally we had this chicken dish with mustard green and butter.  It was tasty!  I kept joking I wanted a bowl of rice to pour the sauce over it!

The injera were very similar to the Ethiopian ones.  I loved the yeasty fermented flavor of the injera and found the spongy texture refreshing.  The only other food I could recall having the spongy texture was the Chinese white sugar cake (a fermented rice sugar dessert) which I love!  I had to watch how much injera I had because they were very filling and I went from hungry to bloating quickly!

Since reading “Yes Chef” by Marcus Samuelsson, I am inspired to make my own berbere, the quintessential Ethiopian spice for cooking.  The recipe that I saw consisted of 16 different herbs and spices.  Making the berbere would be an adventure on its own!  I can just imagine how fragrant my kitchen or house will be!

Dahlak Eritrean Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Forks Over Knives and Teas

In Food, Food Media, Food Product for Home, Movie on August 23, 2013 at 15:16

Doof Media

I enjoyed the movie “Forks over Knives“.  At times the facts were just plain scary.  The movie was a very sound reporting of 2 scientists’ (a surgeon and a nutritional scientist) research on the correlations of food and onset of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  The movie advocated a total plant-based diet, free of animal meats, eggs, milk and other dairy products.

I loved that the movie was fact-based; presented audience with both animal and human trial results.  It showed graphs and numbers from research that was done by the 2 scientists.  The most impressive was a massive China study that was done by the nutritional scientist, Dr. Campbell.  He collaborated with Chinese scientist to study the relationships between the occurrence of different chronic diseases and the specific diets of the regions.

Weaved into the movie was real life stories from patients of Dr. Esselstyn, the surgeon of the movie.  Dr. Esselstyn treated his patients, who had failed multiple by-passes and were critically ill, with plant-based diets.  Many of his patients did remarkably well, survived near death prognosis and were independent of drugs.

The most empowering part of the movie was in their findings.  At least for chronic heart diseases, the damages caused by meat diet in our bodies were reversible.

I have always believe in everything in moderation, eat healthy but still allow myself to indulge at times.  DH and I used to have one night of vegan a week.  With our house remodeling that practice was pushed to the side.  This movie definitely encouraged me to bring the practice back.  The movie ended up with a saying, “eat to live and not live to eat”.  I definitely fall in the later category.  Perhaps one step at a time, and one day will power may win!

Doof Home

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Continuing my quest to try different herbal teas available in grocery stores.  Came across the Good Earth Cool Mint tea.  I first had this during camping.  When I opened my thermos, really strong aromas other than mint oozed out.  A definite mismatch on product expectations!  That was when I realized there was more to the “Cool Mint”.  Sure enough, I capped the thermos again to keep the aroma in the head space and opened to smell surprisingly chocolate, almost bubble gum-like aromas (yes, the original pink bubble gum!), hazelnut with spearmint.

When I drank the tea, the flavor was mostly mint with a hint of bubble gum fruity.  The tea left a strong cooling sensation in the mouth which was very pleasant, with minty bubble gum flavor.  When I got home and read the box, the ingredients were peppermint, spearmint, chicory root (the likely chocolatey aroma), green rooibos, nutmeg, elderberries, peppermint oil (strong cooling sensation) and other natural flavors.

The tea was a surprise and tasted good.  I probably would not buy it again in the future as I would like to avoid added flavoring in my food and drink.

The Honeybush tea from Numi was simple and delicious.  I first had honeybush tea when I was working at the coffee giant.  I remembered it being a delicious tea but had not had any since then.

The aroma was honey, slight vanilla, a hint of pur-eh tea and a hint of rooibos tea.  There was slight sweetness naturally from the tea when I drank it and the flavor reminded me of diluted pur-eh with slight honey note and little smokiness.  This tea would become a member of my herbal tea rotation!

Bison and Shiitake Mushroom Ragu

In Food, Home Creation on August 22, 2013 at 14:42

Doof Home

In the effort to consume less beef for both health and environmental reasons, I have been experimenting with bison and buffalo when the occasion arise to consume red meat.  Bison meat has fewer calories and lower fat than beef.  It delivers the same amount of protein as beef with double the iron content.  This was an experiment that worked surprisingly well!

I substituted beef with bison before for pasta sauce and found that bison was very gamey.  Decided that the deep and strong flavor of shiitake mushrooms would compliment and perhaps reduce the gaminess of bison.  The end result was something between a ragu and a sauce.  It was meant to be chunky and great for rice.  I would have used conchiglie (sea shell shape small pasta) over penne as well to reduce the pasta to chunky sauce ratio each bite.

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Ingredient

1lb. ground bison

5oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms, cut in chunks

1 large onion, diced

1 large tomato, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

4 sticks of marjoram, leaves only and minced

1/2 can of tomato paste

salt and pepper to taste

oil

Bring oil to smoke on high heat.

Reduce heat to medium and add onion and garlic.  Stir until soften.

Bring heat back to high and add ground bison.  Stir around quickly.

When the bison meat is half-cooked, add tomato, mushrooms, marjoram and tomato paste.  Stir to mix.

Once the sauce boil,  cover and turn off heat.

Wait about 15 mins before serving.

Steamed chicken with mushrooms and chinese sausage

In Food, Home Creation on August 21, 2013 at 13:21

Doof Home

Got some fresh shiitake mushrooms from my CSA box and decided to make this simple dish.

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Ingredient

3 chicken thigh meat, boneless, skinless, cut in pieces

2 sticks of Chinese sausage, sliced

2 oz. of fresh shiitake mushrooms*

green onions for garnish

sesame oil for greasing plate

Marinate for chicken

1 tsp of soy sauce

1/2 tsp of Chinese cooking wine or rice wine

1/4 tsp of five spice powder

1 tsp of corn flour

Grease the bottom of a plate with sesame oil.

Add marinate to chicken and mix and let sit for at least 15 mins.

Mix mushrooms and Chinese sausage slices with the chicken pieces.

Add an inch to 2 inches of water in a pot or wok, cover and bring to boil.^

Place chicken dish in the pot or wok.  Cover and steam for 6 mins with high heat.

Remove chicken dish from pot or wok and garnish with green onions.

*dried shiitake mushrooms can be used.  Be sure to soak the dried mushrooms with cold water for no more than 2 hours.  Slice if the mushrooms are big.  Adjust the weight accordingly as dried mushrooms are a lot lighter!

^for detail steaming set up, please refer to “Chinese steamed fish

Iberico Ham and Borscht

In Food, Food Product for Home, Home Creation on August 20, 2013 at 11:30

Doof Home

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Yummiest Iberico Ham from Spain (thanks KC!)  This was possibly the yummiest 100g of meat!

I loved the deep red color of the ham.  The flavors were deep and complex.  There was a hint of smokiness and a hint of blood flavor — in a good way, similar to medium rare steak, and a hint of nut.  It was salty and sweet at the same time.  The texture was the best part!  As I chewed, first the fat dissolved, then the meat melted away and finally the tendon was left and I could probably chew that forever if not that my jaw got tired!  The aftertaste was superb.  The ham flavor lingered a long while after the meat was long gone from my mouth.  I took a long break after every slice just to savor the after flavor and also aftertaste that was sweet.

Originally I bought a cantaloupe to compliment the ham, but decided something so great ought to be lusted over on its own!

Made Borscht last night for dinner.  This is a recipe I love for a very long time from “The Book of Soup” by Lorna Rhodes.  I modified the recipe by deleting brown sugar as I find the soup naturally sweet enough from beets and carrots.  My version was vegan using a veggie stock rather than traditional beef stock.  I also skipped the diced potatoes and sour cream that was for final plating.

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ingredients

1 onion

2 large carrots

2 stalks of celery*, hand slices

1 lb beets, no greens

6 cups of water

2 garlic cloves

2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 bay leaf

1 tsp caraway seeds

1 tsp veggie stock powder^

black pepper

salt if needed

Shred onions, carrots and beets in food processor.  Hand slice the celery.

Flatten the garlic cloves.  Bring water to boil.

Place all vegetables, garlic, vinegar, bay leaf, caraway seeds and veggie powder in boiling water and bring to boil again.  Simmer for 20 mins minimum.

Season with black pepper and salt if needed.

*last night I did not have celery and experimented with fennel.  The soup was still delicious!

^Vegeta was the vegetable stock powder I used.  It is a Croatian product.  My friend’s mom (thanks SP!) had introduced Vegeta to me during our trip to Montenegro.  It can be found easily in Eastern European or Russian stores in the area.  I like using Vegeta over boxed vegetable stock because its flavors are more balance and rounded (probably the MSG in the product, very little bit goes a long way).  I have tried many other boxed vegetable stock and they tend to have some sharp vegetable flavor that was too strong and out of balance (e.g. mushroom in some cases) and the unintentional vegetable flavor would show up in the dish or soup.  I even use this in Chinese cooking when I certainly cannot use the boxed vegetable stock since their flavor would be too “western”.

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Eating out in Victoria BC

In Eating Out, Food, North America, Travel Food on August 19, 2013 at 20:07

Doof Out

Dragon Boat racing brought me to Victoria BC, Canada this last weekend!

We had fish burger and oyster burger at Barb’s.  The fish and oysters were both very fresh, and the sandwiches were flavorful but greasy.  DH and I opted for healthier grill versions of our food rather than fish and chips since we were racing.  We also got a side of steamed clams.  Unfortunately the clams were dry, perhaps because there was no juice.  In fact, it was probably the first time I had steamed clams without juice (I suspected that the juice were saved for making chowder).

Barb's Place on Urbanspoon

Most exciting eating event for me was breakfast at Murchie’s!  Their scones were to die for!  Luckily we were in Victoria, and I was able to indulge myself.  Murchie’s had stopped serving scones in their other BC locations.  I got currant scones every time with clotted cream.  Their scones were light and buttery with plenty of currants.  The currants were moist; sweetness was just right.

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We had ham and cheese croissant there and it was ok.  They had a huge array of desserts as well.  Over the years we had tried different ones and they were all good.  Their coffee and teas were great as well.  This year I was surprise to find something I did not enjoy!  I tried their African Swirl tea latte, which was made with pomegranate rooibos tea and caramel.  It was too sweet and it felt like the flavors did not work well together.  The pomegranate flavor was non-existent.  The second surprise was with the flourless chocolate cake.  The chocolate flavor was fantastic and sweetness was perfect.  However, the texture was springy and seemed gelatinous.  They also had a gigantic macaroon with cream and raspberry.  My friend had it and said it was good!

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Murchie's on Urbanspoon

We had our team dinner at Irish Times Pub.  The highlight was the crab bisque.  It had strong and fantastic crab flavor with crab meat chunks at the bottom of the bowl.  It was served with a nice touch of Guinness cream.  The soup was smooth and creamy.  We also had Shepard’s pie.  The flavor was good but had very little meat.

One day we went to lunch at 10 Acres.  It was lovely to find a place serving local ingredients, and they served their own organic produce.  I had an excellent fresh salad with lettuce, squash, pickled beets and onions.  The onion soup was great as well with a mild broth and great onion flavor.  Most of the times, onion soups were too salty at restaurants, and 10 Acres’ was a rare find for just right saltiness.  DH had fish tacos that were excellent.  The fish was super fresh and the pickled jalapeno was a nice compliment to the tacos.

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10 Acres Bistro, Bar & Farm on Urbanspoon

The second day, lunch was at Ayo Eat.  It was a tiny to-go place at Market Square serving Indonesian Food.  It had a very small menu (about 6 items).  We had the satay with rice, a gado gado wrap and chicken fried rice nasi goreng.  The peanut sauce was thick and smooth, and with great peanut and garlic flavor.  I wish the chicken meat was dark meat for better texture.  Curry sauce was drizzled on top of the rice which was a very nice touch and the curry sauce had great flavors and SPICY!  The nasi goreng was excellent.  The fried rice was dry and well-flavored with spices and shrimp taste.  The gado gado wrap was a new twist to the traditional dish.  The usual gado gado Indonesian salad was wrapped in rice crepe (usually used in Vietnamese spring roll).  The addition of yam noodles was great for both texture and as a vehicle for the peanut sauce!

Ayo Eat on Urbanspoon

The final delight was at Red Fish Blue Fish.  We got the fishtacones: salmon and a special miso pacific fish.  The fish was fresh, prepared very well and portion was generous.  The coleslaw was crispy and the tortilla texture was fantastically chewy and definitely held up well with the saucy content.  The only one downside was the texture of the pacific fish.  It was quite dry and it reminded me of the texture of canned tuna.  The flavors were great together.  We also tried their Pacific Rim chowder which was made with coconut milk.  What a fantastic idea!  The flavor was complex and it had a great balance of sweetness from the corn, spiciness from the chipotle and saltiness from the broth and fish.  The chowder did give me a quick gut bomb which I believe was from the coconut milk.

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Red Fish, Blue Fish on Urbanspoon