Being somewhat obsessive about food and eating, I’m always keen to dine out, but after our four day sojourn to Vancouver last week I’m actually glad to be back to cooking my own food again. Prior to our departure from the Okanagan I was looking forward to trying out the two new vegetarian restaurants that recently opened in Vancouver (how these places had the audacity to open after I moved away continues to baffle me!). But after one essentially sleepless night (Hunter had a cold and woke me up every hour on the hour wanting to nurse… so satanic), a visit with my mum that turned into a protracted shopping expedition, bad weather (pummelling rain – no surprise there), and a couple of doctor’s appointments thrown in for good measure, at the end of the day it was a lot easier to grab dinner on the go rather than making the extra effort to go somewhere specific.
I never thought I’d be that person who voluntarily eats at a chain restaurant when better options exist, even if they’re slightly out of the way – but there I was, repeatedly darkening the doors of Tim Hortons, White Spot and Moxie’s. Actually, despite the predictable blandness of their fare I do have a bit of a soft spot for the former two establishments as they’re iconically Canadian, but Moxie’s – where the food is as insipid as the ambiance – is utterly defenceless. And we ate there twice!
We did, however, manage one decent meal out with friends, at a place on Commercial Drive that features an ever-changing menu of 40 craft beers. The food was good – I had a roasted beet and goat cheese salad followed by a margarita pizza – but was definitely overshadowed by the impressive beer selection. I started with an IPA from the North Shore Brew Co., which was fantastic, then switched to whatever Mike was drinking, which was also delicious but had a significantly higher alcohol content (7.5% if memory serves me correctly). From there things are a little blurry. I recall my friend dancing around with Hunter, and then Hunter grasping the rim of full pint glass using his surprisingly strong pincher grip, and subsequently throwing the glass on the floor, where it smashed into many pieces and left a massive puddle of beer under the table. Everyone around us was wildly entertained by this mishap (someone even yelled ‘Opa!’ from across the restaurant) with the obvious exception of our server who was left having to mop up the mess.
While I’m glad to be cooking for myself again after four days of eating mostly fast food, this saintly salad is a somewhat distorted representation of my dietary choices of late! I’ve been making entire meals out of the gargantuan Christmas cake (someone get this thing away from me) gifted to me by my mum, and today is Mike’s birthday so I spent the afternoon whipping up a batch of these bad boys and risking salmonella poisoning by eating scoops of raw cookie dough. Oh well, ’tis the season, right?
I’d like to think this salad cancels out the damage wrought by all that sugar and butter, but that’s probably wishful thinking. This is my first attempt using citrus fruit in a salad and I’m pleased with the results! The mandarins compliment both the avocado and the liquorice-y flavour of the fennel, and I like their juicy texture combined with the crunchiness of the other ingredients. I suspect I’ll be making this salad again soon as I have a 7 lb. box of mandarins to plough through!
How are your eating habits faring so far this season? Are you eating healthily overall or have you succumbed to the lure of festive treats?
Recipe: Festive Mandarin, Avocado and Fennel Salad | With Citrusy Cilantro Dressing
Makes 2 salads
Festive Mandarin, Avocado and Fennel Salad
- 2 cups organic mixed greens
- 1 ripe avocado, sliced
- 4 radish bulbs, finely sliced
- 1/4 bulb of fennel, shaved (using a vegetable peeler or mandolin)
- 2 mandarin oranges, sectioned into pieces
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Citrusy Cilantro Dressing
- Juice of 1 large lemon
- 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup honey (or agave syrup)
- 1 large clove of garlic
- 1/4 cup firmly packed cilantro
- Dash of salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Prepare Citrusy Cilantro Dressing: Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust with salt if necessary. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and blend for another few seconds. Set aside until needed.
Finish salad: Arrange mixed greens on two plates and top with mandarin sections, avocado, fennel, radishes and walnuts. Drizzle each salad with dressing and top with freshly ground black pepper. Eat!