It's been a long short week - the exemplary oxymoron. ̶P̶r̶i̶m̶a̶r̶i̶l̶y̶ Wholly owed to the unexpected undertakings of the four-day pre-Easter weekend, I suffered a tremendous amount of fatigue, perhaps even greater than I thought possible. With the passing of every call, every email, and every meeting, and every assignment, my contact with sanity grew frailer, till it withered down to but a fine hair-like strand.
My sole release was an escape to obtain lunch takeout. Weather conditions welcoming and clouds minimally present, I switched my status to "Away" and bolted out the door for sustenance acquisition. But virtual barriers are flexible - movable, so to speak - and failed in obstructing incoming messages amidst the period of personal commitment.
The journey to Square One was relatively calm (read: accompanied by minimal traffic volumes). Meal components had been pre-ordered via Ritual to improve efficiency, should an urgent email prompt a reluctant immediate return. To my dismay, however, preparatory work hadn't commenced until my arrival. In addition to the specified wait time, the ordeal involved some ten minutes more of idling about the empty food court, absorbing the cooking fumes of stalls in operation.
It wasn't as if I had received a promotion either; the entire assortment was the equivalent of a Summit Garden supper set for three. Both the Chicken and Shrimp Pad Thais were obnoxiously spicy, albeit the mild rating that had been declared. Neither the Pineapple Rose Soda nor Passion Fruit Lychee Soda bore even the slightest resemblance to the Oakville location, and could easily be described as flat water - something along the lines of a two-day-old SodaStream creation. The Bangkok Meatballs served to redeem the meal, but not drastically. A microscopic portion for $5.95 plus tax, the meaty morsels sported identical toppings to the Pad Thai boxes and offered fire-exempt flavour. The Classic Peanut sauce was, thankfully, completely mild and tolerable.
To soothe our quivering tongues, I suggested popping back into the mall for ice cream. Differing preferences led me to make two stops: Super Kid at Laura Secord, then Maple Walnut and Brownie at Purdys.
I reached out to orangecane well in advance of the Easter long weekend. What ensued was the mention of Issho Bakery's Easter Box and, more importantly, an adventure proposal for fresh air.
Exhaustion from the previous day of errands had delayed our schedule, traffic calming speed bump-style. It was around lunchtime when we finally met, so it seemed only reasonable to acquire sustenance prior to the journey east. At this time, I was gifted a delectable hexad of Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies, encased within her signature brown bags; instead of "Jinyoung's Wife" though, I had earned an additional title, founded on the basis of my newfound affection for VICTON's adorable maniac.
Takeout was secured at Roywoods, a name formerly seen only in passing within Union Station's York Concourse. Orangecane had opted for the Jerk Pork Sandwich, a saucy compilation of tomato, shredded lettuce, and not-so-mild meat that I was invited to sample.
My own Oxtail Plate was quite the substantial portion, more so than McKoy's and even more generous than Rainbow. The rice and peas was delicious, topped with just enough of the braising liquid to render it supple, while the segments of oxtail were mild yet absolutely flavourful. I, in particular, appreciated the variety of fleshy finds and collagen-containing crevices. Included in the set was a small container of steamed veggies: a good mix of string beans, cauliflower, and broccoli that was unfortunately coated heavily in pepper. Suffice to say that any leftovers were taken home and doused in hot water afterwards.
As I raised up my napkin in defeat and sluggishly slid my fork to the side, orangecane jumped up and excitedly announced our next course: the Strawberry and Cream Chiffon Sando. In spite of my repetitive declinations, it was deemed an item to be shared. Moka pot Americanos now stationed by our sides, the sandwich was bisected and forks plunged.
Striking was the sturdiness of the chiffon cake, which I had presumed to be structurally frail. It wasn't as airy as I imagined, nor as moist. Encased within was a whipped cream filling with diced fresh strawberries, far sweeter than my taste buds could sustain yet a suitable counterpart to the otherwise bland carrier of a cake. Quite possibly the highlight were the toppings: fresh strawberry slices and a quenelle of (could it be?) Chantilly cream dusted with (again, could it be?) freeze-dried strawberry powder.
The skies persisted a drab grey, emanating a "stay-at-home-and-slaze*" aura. By mid-afternoon, we finally mustered up determination to propel ourselves back into the outdoors.
* slaze = to sleep or laze about
My suggestion of Altona Forest proved closer than Google Maps' prediction. Within thirty-or-so minutes, I was instructed off the highway and into a predominantly residential neighbourhood. The distinctly suburban qualities of the area strayed from my initial impressions. Suspicions were only further raised upon parking in the tiny dirt lot, a bit more upon entering the area, reaching maximum anxiety at the sight of decayed shrubbery along a narrowing path.
"But you'll never know unless you walk in my shoes.
You'll never know 엉카버린 내 끈
Cause everybody sees what they wanna see.
It's easier to judge me than to believe."
I stand by the declaration that subjective reality is non-inclusive, and only by venturing out can one begin to populate the gaps of comprehension. The girls of BLACKPINK discuss the unseen struggles behind their glamourous rise to fame - at a very vague level, if you will. But the path to a longstanding idol is paved no differently than that of you and I, striving to achieve success in our respective careers.
The world demands evolution and consideration. Failure to follow through renders one incompetent in the perspective of a dynamic society, and rightfully so.
And perhaps, while identifying the needs of others, one ought to return to square one for personal evaluation. I say "perhaps", as providing a statement in the absence of its execution is hypocritical, therefore warranting little to no respect. To be selfless is to be just selfish enough for the surrounding community to thrive as a result of one's impact.
Creations of the week included:
1) Black Sesame Taiwanese Castella
Having seen tremendous success in the previous week's Castella by Sunday Baking, I took to a second cake with the inclusion of unsweetened black sesame paste. Incorporating this homemade mixture thankfully did not weigh down the batter, albeit yielded a noticeable difference in texture in the top fifth of the finished product. It was a risky move that incorporated a greater amount of fat, and consequentially more moisture in the batter. In order to compensate this, approximately 10 g more of sugar was added to the egg whites for stability.
With a plethora of restrictions in place, the vast majority of businesses, as well as all three tiers of government, have shifted towards digital resources for communication with the general public. And given the rate at which region-specific policies evolve, these updates demand timeliness along with a greater degree of clarity. The initiatives were undoubtedly expedited due to the coronavirus pandemic, but their benefits extend beyond battling social distancing measures: efficiency, regularity, and accessibility have emerged from the birth of online queues, electronic check-in processes, and flexible retail experiences.
Searching for a COVID-safe pastime is made simpler in the realm of research, yet also more challenging in the face of layered restrictions. Conservation areas that were open amidst the stay-at-home order were extremely few, with those offering washroom amenities even fewer. The centres weren't staffed, thus calls seeking confirmation weren't answered.
Through process of elimination, I was left with none other than Albion Hills to return to. Venturing further from home, beyond the TRCA jurisdictions, was another option, yet with greater distance comes greater fear - a fear of no available washrooms.
My previous encounter with the conservation area had left me bug-bitten, drained, and disgusted; naturally, I was reluctant to return to Albion Hills for my first winter hike. Cross-country skiing and tobogganing were seemingly two other family favourite park activities, yet with rental areas closed and unstaffed, we resorted to hiking the Black Loop - the only trail open during the winter months.
Similar to the 40-degree-plus undertaking, we commenced the day at McDonald's, where bathrooms graciously remained open. A lunch of Egg Salad-Kale Whole Wheat Sandwich was had before we drove off.
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Out & About #691 | Week #47 Quarantine Update Feat. Matcha Swirl Mochi Brownies + Black Sesame Kek Lapis
Songwriters have commonly cited personal experiences as their major source of inspiration. Or, if you're a "people watcher", then impersonal experiences count too.
I've never been one to excel in creative production, nor do I possess the dexterity for fine arts. Seldom do I empathize, but often do I make grand attempts to alleviate the worries of those within my circle of concern.
Greater attempts were made to connect with others in a meaningful manner, with items of discussion proving more thought-provoking than initially perceived.
"How do I know if a source is reliable?"
To be honest, there isn't one that is. However we may try, a bias will remain, whether it be the news reports circling our local and regional COVID statistics or articles based upon scientific research. One can opt to increase the sample size for improved accuracy, yet the fact is that there is no way to survey a society in its entirety. And, in that regard, we fail to see all of reality, no matter how real it may feel.
Creations of the week included:
1) Matcha Swirl Mochi Brownies
Adapted from Sunday Baking's mindblowing Mochi Brownie - which earned me overwhelming praise even during the first attempt - half of the batter was transformed grassy with the substitution of matcha powder in place of cocoa.
The results were equally fabulous, though I did regret rolling my mochi too thin, as it was barely detectable in the cross-section. Opting for a square pan instead of the loaf tin used in the last run, the layers were thinner, emerging slightly chewy rather than dense and fudgy. The baking time hadn't been reduced despite the reduction in thickness, thus yielding a drier finish. The top remained crackly nonetheless, and the moisture wasn't a factor unsalvagable via a closed system container.
Given the stunning appearance of the dessert, along with positive feedback received, I'll likely be revisiting the formula at some point in the future, with some QC tweaks.
2) Mochi Truffles
An undeniable improvement from the previous week's attempt at Condensed Milk Truffles, swapping out Cooking Tree's recipe for more reliable alternatives enabled the realization of silky, scrumptious bites encased within a thin, chewy casing. In light of poor scaling, there was insufficient mochi to cover the bulk of the truffles, though this can easily be remediated with proper planning.
3) Soy Braised Eggs / 滷水蛋
I found myself browsing dinner ideas during a weekday breather, as there is little else that constitutes constructive breathers in the work-from-home reality. I landed upon a tedious, two-hour (at the very minimum!) procedure for Taiwanese Braised Pork Rice. Delicious as it appeared, I was not about to surrender several hours of my time for a dish that would likely be devoured in under twenty-four hours.
The new year starts with more food. More chocolate, more leftovers, and more cooking.
Weight gain is inevitable over the holiday season, and especially this one with majority of the population's relatively sedentary work-from-home lives. I started with leftover roll cake from NYE, which paired wonderfully with cold brew and cold frothed milk. It was no Irish Coffee, but a decent drink nonetheless.
Creations of the week (and a half) included:
1) Sablé Cookies w/ Chocolate Ganache
Cookie cravings rang loud and clear the moment the household was devoid of the dainty, buttery biscuits. Relishing in the orangecane's trademark Santa sugar cookie didn't help either. I consequently set out in the name of creation; running low on my preferred pick and with Président cultured butter on hand, the opportunity to attempt sablé was naturally declared.
Inspired by the admirable Sunday Baking, I followed the formula closely...until I forgot the vanilla. Its taste was subpar to the Lactania edition, but undeniably more buttery in terms of fragrance. While this may be owed to a horribly sticky dough (even after chilling!) and a perceptibly high amount of flour for dusting, the experience did not warrant the extra effort nor the steep premium. Conclusive findings aligned with Sunday in that cultured butter ought be used where possible, independent of brand and origin.
The original intention had been to populate the pieces with pandan and ube fillings, yet the plan had been scrapped when the mixtures failed to coagulate overnight. Melding chocolate couvertures and heavy cream to form a classic, tried-and-true chocolate ganache, I antsily began sandwiching the cookies as the mixture came to room temperature.
This impatience earned me relatively flat squares, leaving much flavour to be desired. Half of the cookies were assembled some few hours later, resulting in noticeably greater height and overall improved profile.
2) Nama Choco / 生チョコ
Influenced by the gradually descending Valentine's spirit filling the d̶e̶p̶a̶r̶t̶m̶e̶n̶t̶ ̶s̶t̶o̶r̶e̶ air (and with immense hatred towards overbearing soft centre truffles), the search began for a Nama Chocolate recipe - a cult favourite in Japan. The foundation was no more than a 2:1 ratio of chocolate and heavy cream, with the only downsides being mandatory refrigeration and inescapable breakouts.
3) Lemon-Rose Braised Chicken Drumsticks
It was an odd combination, even if I do say so myself. Seeing success in a soy-star anise braise, I opted to experiment with lemon and rose this time around. The juice of a shriveling lemon, rose cooking wine, dried rose buds, and even cinnamon sticks lent a lightly savoury tone with prominent citrusy kick. In the absence of dark soy sauce, light soy sauce was supplemented with an extra dash of sea salt; light brown sugar was supplemented with molasses.
4) Coconut Chili Basa Stew
Pictured while being consumed in conjunction with the above, the stewed basa dish materialized out of need to relieve the freezer of bulky packaging. Pan-fried scallions and a knobby nugget of ginger established a fiery framework, into which a pinch of chili powder, fennel seeds, and and heaping tablespoon of paprika were added. Coconut milk assisted in moderating the flames, though the broth was ultimately too gingery yet very anti-inflammatory.
5) Black Sesame Coconut Milk Jelly that oddly turned into a three-layer concoction
Happy New Year!
Another 365 (+1) days have passed us by, and we've arrived at yet another period of sappy recaps. (But is there even anything to recap?) The last nine months have likely been as vague for me as any other human requiring to interact with the outside world, with the COVID virus and its prominent, indefinite presence.
A time of reflection comes with each year's end, but rather than recounting those that rouse regret and resentment, the approach ought be constructive. Too soon have I noticed those on the interweb bidding riddance to the year of 2020; optimism should be carried forward, but not without comprehensive review of the year's happenings.
Over the course of the pandemic, the global community has been stretched with no expected end in sight. Majority of occupations were shifted to that of a virtual working environment, with the exception of the essential services that support our lives silently in the background. And the non-essentials, some of which I shall not deny contempt of, dissolved - either out of lack of need or lack of financial support. The shift towards electronic processes for municipal and provincial services were well overdue, yet materialized only in the wake of a crisis.
But, as a civilization, we are dynamic creatures, adaptable and resilient in the face of change. The show must go on.
I'll admit it:
I missed experiencing work life in the flesh, whether it entailed office-bound overtime or not.
I missed the opportunities to engage with members of my social circle, whether we were on tight terms or not.
I missed outings that didn't involve running back to the house because I had forgotten a mask.
I missed the potential trip to see GOT7's domestic anniversary concert.
Most importantly, I missed the daily activities we took for granted. Every instance was a privilege, from every step to every living breath. Mere survival is already an opportunity. COVID couldn't depict more clearly that having health is having wealth.
Throughout these "trying times", I blamed not once the incarnation of such a lethal bug. In a society employing the survival of the fittest, our fate alters only with the actions we choose to execute, irrelevant of third-party stimulants. We, as a species, are given two options: live to learn, or learn to live.
From here, the only way is up, up the knowledge chain on a quest to conquer coronavirus and re-instate the activities we loved and will love again.
One of my fondest childhood memories involves Pokémon - the original 150(+1) to be exact. I owned not a single handheld gaming console, though was an avid enthusiast of the N64 system renowned amongst 90s youngsters. Further positive flashbacks can be derived from the Mario Kart mini-games, where shell-throwing and ramp-racing constituted perfectly normal acts in the quest for balloon accumulation.
This affection for games later led to fascination with RPG games in my tween years and frequent arcade visits post days of license acquisition. Impromptu Playdium visits were not uncommon practice in my regular hangouts, but at-home gaming was no longer a pastime I found myself investing in. It seems the opposite effect has affected the masses amidst the coronavirus pandemic; yet, in-person face-offs remain the most appealing for me. Human interaction is scarce these days, and I shall eagerly latch onto the opportunities that chance me by.
In response to Peel Region'sreversal into a modified Stage 2 and Halton's maintenance of Stage 3, my extremely belated birthday plans were shifted towards the west end of the GTA, where Dave & Buster's replaced The Rec Room for our dose of friendly arcade competition.
The Oakville location appeared larger than the Vaughan outpost, or appeared in such a manner given the spacious arrangement of the games floor. Much like The Rec Room, attendees were required to complete a sign-in sheet with name and phone number details, though were not subject to symptom screening. Labelled glasses were used to distinguish between "used" and "clean" pens for peace of mind; disposable gloves and sanitizer were also situated at various stations throughout.
We strode past relatively densely-populated dining booths before finding ourselves amongst the flashing displays of simulation and redemption games. Noteworthy was the sheer variety of available attractions: beyond the inclusion of both DDR (malfunctioning at our time of visit) and Pump It Up platforms, D&B was also home to several games I had yet to witness in other establishments. Among these was a single-player module employing a VR headset, which we opted against trying for obvious health reasons.
Bathrooms were pristine and wait times were essentially nonexistent. Admittedly, the price per ticket is atrociously steep. This, presumably, bears a direct correlation to the quality of goods within the prize cabinet. Two visits' worth of points would have been adequate in earning oneself an avocado-shaped wireless charger at D&B, yet the equivalent of a dusty pack of Nerds at Playdium.
As it neared the 8:30 PM mark, we declared that dinner could wait no longer.
Prior to the incarnation of the space, I had visited Song Cook's on a handful of occasions. The most prominent in my memory are the dim ambience and partitioned dining floor. Returning to the tiny storefront nearly six years later, it dawned upon me that the restaurant had undergone extremely few modifications. The interior was precisely have I had remembered, as was the layout. Perhaps the only departure from the original Song Cook's was dual title of "Chi-Mac", which consequently broadened the menu with several saucy Korean fried chicken options. Naturally, the change summoned an advantage over nearby eateries such as The Fry and Sikgaek, which also offers indulgent, modern Korean cuisine.
In Ontario, fall is the shortest season of the year - COVID times or not.
Hiking is the ideal activity to make the most of the forgiving temperatures, though road trips to cottage country are a swell alternative for the less mobile members of society. Not to mention: both of these engagements comply completely with public health guidelines.
orangecane and I started the day at McDonald's. What was to follow constituted our ̶f̶i̶r̶s̶t̶ third meeting of the year (excluding the brief exchanges of In the Kitchen happenings), as well as our second hike in orangeaesthetics history - a now-hijacked hashtag.
A Signature Wrap and Junior Chicken later, we were on our way to Elora Gorge, a destination I became acquainted with while compiling a Kitchener itinerary in the summer.
Several other spots had been shortlisted in the week leading up to Thanksgiving long weekend, but Guelph seemed most reasonable for a day trip in terms of travel time and fall foliage potential.
Our collective first impression was utter disdain towards the provided trail map. The single-sided sheet lacked clarity. Besides the relative positioning of on-site campgrounds, parking lots, trail entrances, and routes were vaguely presented.
Admission fees relinquished and parking spot secured, we were about to embark on the journey as orangecane gestured to the printout on the dashboard.
"Did you want to take the map?"
"I'm not going to look at it." I shrugged. "It's also essentially useless."
She nodded in agreement, side-eyeing the folded rectangle before summoning her trusty hiking gear.
With full confidence, I declare that majority of us have become homebodies as a result of this ongoing pandemic. Involuntarily in the case of eager adventurers, the transition from daily downtown discoveries to dormant, deskbound drudgery was far from facile.
The inevitable "quarantine fifteen" prevails even in the face of countless up-and-coming online workout channels. And while homemade meals tend to prove more flexible and budget-friendly, the act of composition isn't entirely easy, especially when slotted between periods of tremendous anxiety and impromptu teleconferences.
I'm looking to start the roundup with several of the week's creations, as time in the kitchen has constituted for the vast percentage of my waking hours, whether it be a frantic fury of dinner assemblage or the undertaking of sweet treats for the sake of stress relief.
Creations of the week include:
1) Chocolate Chip Cookies - the last of the Epicurious batch, to be precise.
Baked in the oven at 350 F for roughly 15 mins, the yield was softer than toaster oven with, oddly, sweeter results. My preference lies with the toaster oven, for it maintains height, limits spread, and leads to an overall crisper cookie. Furthermore, it nixes the need for preheating (and its associated energy wastage).
After adhering to a 12-hour chill - as directed by Sunday Baking - the batter was spooned into madeleine and mini muffin molds. Despite a small mishap along the way (ahem misreading the baking temperature), the results remained stellar.
In an attempt to recreate my fave specimen from Third Wave, I proceeded to coat a handful of the pastries with melted chocolate and chopped, toasted walnuts; it was a regrettable decision that contributed an excess of moisture, dissimilar to the King East coffee shop's heavenly incarnation. That said, the mighty morsels managed to disappear quite rapidly.
3) Penne with Chicken Breast using last week's fresh tomato pasta sauce
I won't even lie: work happenings resulted in complete obliteration of the starchy pantry staple from the grocery list, prompting me to run back for its sole acquisition. The pasta was enjoyed alongside defrosted kale and a shredded Edam & mozzarella blend.
Who Am I?
Formerly an avid owner of several interest-based portals, Random Thoughts of a Quirky Blogger presents precisely the elements expected. From experiments in the kitchen to miscellaneous musings, from IGOT7 reflections to developments in transportation infrastructure, it's all consolidated here. Welcome to the raw, unfiltered side of Quirky Aesthetics.