Overview of 2018 & What’s Happening in 2019!

Welcome to the annual overview post. I didn’t get a chance to get to it yesterday so I’m doing a quick one with the look forward to 2019. We could do two posts but I’m honestly not really in the mood to overload anyone with these posts. Its more of a reminder of what I’ve achieved in 2018 and new or adjusted plans to work with for 2019!

OVERVIEW OF 2018

2018 was a rough year in general. I had some PC issues in the beginning of the year which caused a whole lot of crazy as I had to get another PC built which put a lot of stuff behind. We had some other personal issues that caused a lot of worries and issues. However, 2018 is over now and as I look back, there were some really nice achievements and that is what matters. I started Tranquil Dreams to focus on the positives in the first place so that is what we’re going to do right now.

How about some stats to start? I haven’t done those in a while, it feels like at least.

Total Posts in 2018: 374 posts
Total Views: 69,450
Top 5 Countries: USA, India, Canada, UK & Hong Kong SAR
Top 5 posts published in 2018

And then for some achievements:

  • Goodreads Challenge – 30 Books
  • Fantasia Festival coverage of 20 films
  • Festival du Nouveau Cinema coverage of 9 films
  • Blood in the Snow Festival – remote coverage of 8 films
  • Montreal Comiccon coverage for Game Warp Podcast
  • Ultimate Decades Blogathon co-hosted with Drew’s Movie Reviews
  • Started up and co-host Movies and Tea Podcast with Elwood
  • Set Up the Facebook page for Tranquil Dreams
  • What’s Up segment on Youtube
  • Set Up a Weibo social media account

What to Expect in 2019!

2019 is here! A lot was done last year when I look back so I’m hoping to keep up and polish some social media skills and hopefully promote the blog a little better. Its all about working on the content right now. A lot of my issues this past year when I look back is procrastination and that sprouted from lack of organization or following through with tentative schedules and just not having the motivation from all the garbage that life threw at me. Then I added on a few segments as well (probably should of mentioned in the above section).

Resolutions: Less Procrastination (because none would be impossible) & Better Organization

BOOKS

  • Goodreads Challenge: 40 Books (might increase to 50 depending on what happens)
  • More focus on Graphic Novels and Comics
  • Getting back to reading Classics
  • Other TBR books that I own, outstanding book requests and blog tours

MOVIES & TV

  • What stays the same: Most movies and TV from Netflix and rentals and Web series on Youtube as well as film festival coverages
  • Adding in focus on Chinese language Asian movies and TV series (could be China, Hong Kong SAR, Taiwan, Singapore)

FOOD & DINING

  • Battle of Ingredients, Goodfood recap, Food Festivals and Restaurants
  • Baking Through Disney revival (whether its Disney reviews and conceptualizing baking projects)

WEEKLY/MONTHLY SEGMENTS

  • Music Obsessions (first weekend of each month)
  • Wine Recap (10th of each month)
  • Weekly Adventures (15th and 30/31 of each month)
  • What’s Up (everyday Wednesday – possibly back to video format)
  • Sunday Lists (biweekly to monthly frequency)

The main shift this year is the focus on Chinese language Movies, TV and possibly books since I’ve been meaning to get back to some Chinese reading. I’ve felt like a part of what started off a lot of my interests in the first place so when I moved into blogging and gave up a lot of it, its been always something that I’ve been trying to get back to. Its a risky move because no one really reads those posts but this space is about my interests and I do want to share those interests with you especially since a lot of it is now moved to more modern platforms like Netflix and Youtube having access.

Other than that, after some thought, I’m also heading back to more food-oriented content. It might be a slow start but I have changed my approach on the Baking Through Disney project and will start on reviewing Disney films while figuring out how to approach the design for baking. That way the project doesn’t get held up and ends up falling apart again.

As for What’s Up, as I’ve mentioned before, will end up going back to a video and written format. Both formats are fun to do so depending on time, I will work on trying to have both of them  paired up.

Its kind of long but quite a bit of the same going on!
A lot of the repeat for those new to the blog to see where you can navigate.

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My Weekly Adventures: Holiday Celebrations

weekly adventures

The last Weekly Adventures of this year everyone!

It is going to be a really happy one full of holiday celebrations and food and family. Its hard to imagine that its New Year’s Eve and I’m sure not a ton of you are sitting around looking at blogs but still, I’m keeping to my normal routine to share this. I have something to get done hopefully today as well if New Year’s Eve cleaning and dinner party prep doesn’t take up too much of my time.

Winter Solstice Festival

Dinner

Winter Solstice Festival was celebrated a day later so it was just the day before our Christmas Eve gathering meaning that we had a few days of lots of eating. This festival is more of a Chinese celebration between family. My mom made some turkey and as usual made more food than the amount of people since she also invited one of her friends as well. It was delicious and fun. My husband was occupied with watching NFL football match while I chatted with my mom and her friend. It was really nice.

Christmas Eve Family Gathering

Our annual Christmas Eve gathering was at my in-laws this year. The whole taking turns to celebrate is a pretty nice. Everyone showed up as well as some close family friends and their loved ones. Its always a fun time to see everyone and just have a good laugh, eat lots of food and do some gift exchange. The adults are usually just simple little things so we actually brought a bunch of stuff that I had bought from the haul in the previous weekly adventures and did a little pick your prize style so everyone got to just close their eyes and put their hands in the big christmas bag and see what they got. It saves me the trouble from figuring who wants what and they have a little surprise element. I just hope that everyone liked their little sweets.

Friends Holiday Gathering

I forgot to take a picture of the food at this gathering. However, this is part of what I brought. I also brought dessert, pumpkin cookies. (recipe HERE). My meal though was finally putting the many goodfood boxes to use and added my own little twist from something I had learned from those recipes in their one pan recipe. This had squash, brussel sprouts, nantes carrots and chicken thighs and some garlic. Lots of fun with my girl friends and their other halves. This year did make our gatherings less frequent than previous years so we have agreed to try and make things happen more frequently in 2019.

Game Warp Podcast – Year in Review 2018 (plus new audio format)

Gatherings and family is a big deal but in between all that, I did manage to get our big year end episode for Game Warp edited. These episodes are usually mammoth tasks so I did procrastinate a little and pulled two evenings of working hard and got this one done. Hopefully you have time to check it out and enjoy. On better news, Year in Review 2018 is also available audio on Himalaya FM now. I can’t figure out how to embed the player but you can find it HERE. I’m still exploring this Himalaya thing so hopefully things will get better.

Cute Kitty Pic

Kitty Cat

This wraps up the last 2018 Weekly Adventures!
Hopefully I’ll be back with an overview of 2018, if not, I’ll talk about 2019 plans tomorrow.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVE CELEBRATIONS!
(and Happy New Year if you already have past midnight)

TV Binge: The Final Table (Season 1, 2018)

The Final Table (Season 1, 2018)

The Final Table

Host: Andrew Knowlton

Global competitions should be the hook for Netflix in all kinds of competition simply because they have the opportunity and the resource to make them. It is why I was so excited to stary watching The Final Table. Well, and because I’m a foodie and love watching food related shows (which reminds me that I need to get back to Chef’s Table). The Final Table is just the debut season so there are some imperfections in execution overall but the concept itself is a good one. If there is enough popularity, it would be interesting to see how they can make certain changes to make it more polished to watch. Since I probably won’t find another place to write this, I think the host Andrew Knowlton does a great job and is a good fit for the show because he has the knowledge for it and the charisma to carry the show.

Just for a little basics, The Final Table starts off with teams of two cooks paired up by the chefs own choosing. They are all professional chefs in their own specialities and their different origins and backgrounds. Each episode is themed around one country. The first round consists of a national dish from said country set by the three ambassador judges, which usually includes two celebrities/public figures and one known critic from the specific country. The bottom three teams (until they reach the ending episodes) go into a final dish round where a legendary chef from the specified country will choose an ingredient known in that country to be the star of their next dish and the team considered the less refined for whatever reason will depart the competition. In the last finale, the Top 2 teams break up into individual competition again and the 4 competitors go head to head for the two rounds for the big finale.

The Final Table

Right away, the pros of this one is the country by country theme per episode. It helps people learn about other countries and their dishes and cultures as well as shows off some of their known celebrities. It seems like a pretty win win situation. At the same time, a few (if not more) of the chefs were on Chef’s Table so already associated with the show or known before so makes it more fun to watch in that regard. Some of the national dish choices are pretty surprising so its always nice for the unexpected and mystery element. That part of the structure works well and is well put together. Themed like that gives it a chance to hit a lot of other countries even after they get through all the countries associated with Netflix.

If we look at teams of two, that works pretty well also. It gives them a chance to learn from each other and encourages team work and adds the drama element. At the same time, it gives the chefs a chance to make a more elaborate dish and be strong in certain segments because of each of their different knowledge lending a hand to creating their version of the traditional dish or their knowledge of the ingredient and how to use it in their interpretation as well. If we look at the ambassadors and critics, I don’t have a lot of knowledge of a lot of foreign movies and such so obviously, I knew the USA celebrities the most and then some of them looked familiar and I knew some of the chefs because of Chef’s Table. I think that is part of the fun also as long as the judges themselves have knowledge in food and give constructive criticism.

So far, I’ve said a lot of pros of the show and it is a pretty good structure in its heart. However, I have this issue with how it changes from the teams to the individuals. Personally, if the final challenge was just the last team standing, that might be a little more reasonable. Or commit to it completely and do a half point of top 5 where we get to see the abilities of the individual chef for a few rounds to make it more engaging. At this point, its like a sudden drop to finish the show in a set amount of episodes where they drop a few teams in one shot to force a top 2 which gets siphoned into the finale which just automatically has three chefs removed. That part of the structure needs some work to see what sort of transition works better. If its too little episodes for the amount of teams, then cut 2 teams or something to make it work out. Whatever it is, that needs some work to not feel like the change comes and leaves too abruptly.

Overall, its a good idea and things work for the most part. There probably will be more polish to this if it gains its popularity. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing another season of The Final Table.

Goodfood Recap #31

Goodfood

As we catch up with the last box from 2 weeks ago, this is the recap with the rather interesting recipes and one familiar one that had a slight twist added to it.

Let’s check it out!

Roasted Nantes Carrots & Broccoli
with Lentils & Spiced Tahini Vinaigrette

Roasted Nantes Carrots & Broccoli

Usually we aren’t fans of lentils or such and this is a filler meal for this box that we thought that we would take a chance on since it had nantes carrots and broccoli and we like those veggies a lot, however, this one did turn out better than we expected. I have roasted carrots in the oven before but never broccoli and it turned out really good. These boxes may be convenient but I think what I love even more is how it teaches me new things that I haven’t tried before.

Sichuan Chicken Salad
with Chilled Soba Noodles, Cucumbers & Edamame

sichuan chicken salad

I can’t remember the last time I had soba before this meal. That is how long that was and it might even have been on a plane flying through Japan to go to China or Hong Kong or something like that. Sichuan chicken automatically means this dish packs in some heat. If I remember well, the spice pack for this was peppers and chili and so on. But the balance of the noodles and the chicken and the veggies balanced everything out quite well. It was pretty enjoyable to eat.

Vegetarian Spring Rolls Bowls
with Jade Rice & Crunchy Peanut Sauce

vegetarian spring roll bowl

The one thing I learned when choosing meals is that when you some kind of bowl option, its usually easy and delicious. Vegetarian spring roll bowl was the kind of thing that had me curious plus I had no idea what jade rice was and was slightly curious. As I was making this, the 20 minutes time was increased solely because there was a lot of prep work like cutting a ton of veggies and mangoes and such, so I took much longer than that, but then everything other than the rice and roasted peanuts is eaten raw, so it makes up for other menus and their cooking times. However, consider this one a surprise. Jade rice was good. The balance in the bowl with the peanut sauce was really delicious and the freshness of all the veggies and mangoes balanced each other out. It gobbled it up in one sitting (which is rare as some of these meals, I split them in two.)

Chicken Breasts
with Delicata Squash & Carrots, Chermoula Spiced Yogurt

chicken breasts with delicata squash

The reason I wanted this box was for the return of the chicken and delicata squash dish. Much to my surprise and slight disappointment, it felt that the menu did change. Now they have this yogurt dressing which we had to put on the side and then improvise so we just used the honey to drizzle over the dish. The chicken spice and a seemingly recent obsession of Goodfood is Berbere spices which is a really spicy blend. Luckily we drizzled honey on top or else it would have been worse in the spicy department. I get that the blend asks for the yogourt to probably soothe the heat but us lactose-intolerance folks can’t. Oh well… don’t get me wrong though. The meal itself other than the mouth on fire part is still really good. Delicata squash and nantes carrotd in the oven are awesome as always and the chicken is made so juicy and tender with the partially covered cooking method and such.

This wraps up this recap! Goodfood has added to its food with a smoothie menu and being a current client, they had a deal offer for the first one so we are going to give that a shot. However, my order was processed late so it missed the cutoff of this box, bumping it to the next one in December.

Goodfood Recap #30

goodfood recap

And we’re back to business with the recap image sorted out!

In general, we’re doing the monthly boxes so I actually forgot to post up the last one. Its been a bit crazy on my end. So I actually have another post coming up soon. First, lets get this overdue Goodfood recap up from 2 weeks ago!

Soy-Steamed Cod
with Sesame-Ginger Kuri Squash and Baby Bok Choy

soy-steamed cod

My husband was the one who cooked this meal. I always say that we try to pick up some fish meals. This one is really good. I’ve never had kuri squash before and it tastes delicious, especially with the spices used here. It had a little kick but still was really lovely.

Citrus-Miso Udon
with Sesame-Ginger Tofu Orange Segments & Bell Peppers

citrus-miso udon

One of the two vegetarian dishes in this box. I’m a big fan of udon noodles. My husband is not so while I love to get them, its always a struggle to see whether he will like it. This one is mostly uncooked except for the tofu. I can’t say this is my favorite dish both in terms of how the tofu is done or how the whole dish comes together but I like the tofu with ginger and sesame bit, I guess and udon in general is a noodle texture that I personally enjoy so it worked in that sense.

Malabar Curry
with Chickpeas & Sugar Snap Peas, Basmati Rice & Roasted Cashews

malabar curry

The surprise of our box is this second vegetarian dish. After our experience with the Miss Fresh boxes and their love for curries and such, we took a huge break from it once we started Goodfood boxes because the variety here is fantastic in comparison. After 29 boxes, we finally decided to go for a curry meal in the Goodfood boxes and let me tell you, this dish was a highlight. My husband loved it. I thought it was immensely delicious. We’re putting some serious reconsideration on getting some more curry meals now.

Portuguese Chicken
with Crispy Potato Rounds, Romaine-Carrot Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette

portuguese chicken

The last meal of the box goes to this portuguese chicken. We do use piri piri spice when we make our own chicken here. This one is not bad. Its actually quite tasty. My only issue all the time with these recipes is how long it asks us to make the potatoes in the oven. I don’t know if I cut it too thin or the time is not correct but that is the only thing that didn’t quite work out. The start of the show, the chicken itself didn’t disappoint and that has to go to my husband for making it.

That’s it for this overdue Goodfood recap!
Another recap coming next week for last week’s menu and then we’ll be back on track!

What did you think of this Goodfood box?

Restaurant: L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Montreal

If you want to see last year’s L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon recap HERE.

Located in the Casino de Montreal, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is tucked in a little downstairs corner accessible by elevators at one end of the casino. Different from last year is how it was bustling and full of action this time with tons of customers there. After last year’s experience, I was a little more knowledgeable about how to approach this year’s dinner so was a little less ambitious. If you had seen last year’s dinner, it took well over 3 hours, this wasn’t really that much more different.

In terms of decor, there wasn’t much change. I’m back at the same time after all so I do wonder if the decor changes especially in the display case with the seasons. Maybe one day, I’ll go not in autumn.

Green Tea

Due to the rainy weather outside and a rather under the weather feeling like a cold was creeping in, I ended up vouching to get a green tea. This is a Japanese green tea recommended by the waitress for us. It tasted great. I don’t usually drink Japanese green tea but this one definitely was a treat.

Bread

The breads here are also quite good. This time, we had the baguette one the left and the bacon and mustard braid on the right. Not shown here but my friend got two other ones which had dairy products in it. One was a flaky cheese one I believe and I can’t remember the other one right now.

Amuse Bouche

A refreshing starter amuse-bouche to kick things off. Tonight’s starter, the dairy free option, I assume since my friend got something different but he also had the 7 or 9 course seasonal discovery tasting menu. This amuse-bouche is a eggplant topped on one side with a red pepper and the other one is topped with a zucchini (or maybe eggplant) chip? I can’t remember anymore. But I can tell you that it tasted really good. I’m not much of an eggplant fan. I really just eat it for its health benefits on a daily basis but this was really lovely.

Tasting Portion Dishes

Like I said in the beginning, last year’s tasting menu traumatized me to my core. Not that the food wasn’t good but the duration and the sheer amount was just way over what I could handle. So this year, I went a different route. I asked the suggestion of the waitress to tell me what would be a good approach and she gave me a very accurate one of taking 3 tasting portion which should be enough and went along with her knowledge and suggested the ones that she knew could be modified to be dairy-free or already was dairy-free. With that I chose three (with her help):

L'atelier de joel robuchon montreal

Le Homard

Le Homard – Lobster over mashed avocado tart  and pomegranate arils

My first choice when I first saw my choices was this one. Avocado tart and pomegranate and lobster all sounds so fresh and delicious. From the presentation to the delicious balance of flavors to just the crispy different texture of the pomegranate seeds and little bits and the crunchy fresh vegetables and the lobster was such a delight. Not to mention of course the creamy avocado tart base.

l'atelier de joel robuchon montreal

La Morue Noire

La Morue Noire – Stewed Black Cod with “Malabar” peppercorn, baby spinach

The star of the show, my friends. I picked this one because the waitress highly recommended it. Normally, this one would have a frothy creamy coconut foam. Mine is just coconut sans the cream for the obvious lactose intolerance issue. With that said, this dish is absolutely heavenly. I kid you not, the cod is done so perfectly.

l'atelier de joel robuchon montreal

L’Agneau

L’Agneau – Quebec lamb ribs with eggplant and lemon pulp confit caviar

Talking about the final dish in my selection is the lamb. I’m starting to realize that I have a tendency to get lamb whenever I go out, mostly because I wouldn’t eat it at home. This was done the perfect doneness. The eggplant caviar as they call it is really delicious along with the eggplant chips which are both very good. Paired up with the lemon pulp, it worked so well together. The only thing I wasn’t a big fan of based on personal preference is the date puree thing. I’m personally not a fan of dates so it didn’t quite appeal to me. Overall, the whole dish worked together really well.

Dessert

La Bulle – Blown sugar ball with coconut cream, fresh coriander sorbet

The original La Bulle is made with yuzu lemon in the menu. However, this version is dairy-free version so its made with coconut cream. I have to say that the coriander sorbet is somewhat of an acquired taste that took a moment to get used to but it cuts through the sweetness from the coconut so it works out well.

Overall, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Montreal is a great dining experience. It offers fantastic cuisine, comfortable ambiance, flexible with their dishes to accommodate allergens as well as great service. Its honestly one of the restaurants that I love going to. It is quite pricey but worth every penny.

MTL a Table 2018: Nom Nom Cantine

As usual, our November Battle of Ingredients is put aside as we head out for MTL a Table. This year’s MTL a Table included a good many more selections as more restaurants joined into the fun. A lot of new restaurants also participated which makes it all the more exciting. This time, we return to a familiar location where we went to previously when it was owned by another restaurant called E.A.T (Etre Avec Toi), the restaurant is closed so meaningless to check the post now (although you can if you want HERE).

The current restaurant in this location is Nom Nom Cantine which serves Asian fusion food. Just one look at the menu and it shows off those qualities right away.

Nom Nom Cantine

Decor

Nom Nom

Nice and soothing to say the least. We had a pretty early reservation so we were the first group to arrive which gives me the chance to take these pictures with no one else in there. However, rest assured that the restaurant did fill up as the evening went along. However, one nice thing is that it stayed fairly casual and relaxing.

Cocktails

Nom Nom

This time, our group went for the interesting selection of cocktails that it offered. Trust me when I say its unique when one of the cocktails (I think the Bloody Caesar had fish sauce as one of the ingredients). However, these are two popular choices among us. On the left is The Noble One (the guys took this one) and on the left is the one I chose called Deadly Sin which had a bunch of stuff I liked including the so underused Apricot Brandy. Both tasted fantastic (well, to us). Deadly Sin has a lot of citrus flavors including yuzu so it was more sour and floral. The Noble One is a stronger one but still very smooth.

Bread & Amuse-Bouche

Nom Nom

Ten out of ten for presentation alone here. I didn’t taste the bread but our little bread expert (aka Phoebe’s toddler) approved it and ate a bunch. Props to the restaurant for making this happen although normally the MTL a Table menu doesn’t come with it.

Nom Nom

They also offered up an amuse-bouche. This is a slightly modified one for my husband and I, the lactose-intolerant option. The original was peppercorn salmon with sour cream and coriander (I think) and ours is replaced with a mango and something sauce. I should seriously write these things down. Regardless, it still tasted really good.

First Course

There are two options for first course.

Nom Nom

Dumpllings Basket (4)

Dumplings basket was one of these choices and the one that I chose (along with a few others from our group). Four different dumplings here: chicken, pork and shrimp, beef, vegetables. I could swear that mine came with two beef ones but I didn’t quite mind because it tasted like the beef that we have at dim sum and its a flavor that I’ve missed eating. Regardless, my husband did have all four and he liked it. I thought the dumplings are also really good. Actually, I’d love to go back just to have dumplings.

White Tuna Tartare

Second option was the white fish tartare, matcha, citrus, coriander, coconut cream. These were really clever as instead of having bread or something as the accompaniment, they went with shrimp chips to eat with the tartare. Its a very  nice twist that matched with the restaurant concept.

Second Course

Another two choices for second choice below.

Nom Nom

Pork Roulade, Quebec Butternut Squash Puree, Roasted Mushrooms, Chestnut

While the portions were fairly little, there was quite a lot to like about this dish. For one, the Pork Roulade is pretty good. The barbecue sauce is made in the restaurant so it has a nice spicy kick to it. I really liked particularly the butternut squash puree along with the roasted mushrooms and the chestnut. Although they weren’t plentiful, they felt like it was done perfectly. I’m not a big fan of arugula but it wasn’t a huge amount so it was okay. That is really just a personal preference. The dish here is done very good and has a nice balance of textures and flavors.

Nom Nom

Fish Tempura, Papaya Salad, Coconut and Chili Sauce

My husband took this meal. I tried a little piece and the fish tempura was done really tender. I didn’t try the sauce since I’m not really into spicy sauces much however the little taste I had was pretty decent.

Dessert

For dessert, there are two choices as well however due to the lactose intolerance issue for us, we got our own little thing.

Nom Nom

Rocher Brulé, 70% Chocolate Mousse, Milk Chocolate and Puffed Rice Crisp, Coffee-Caramel Fondant, Vanilla Creme Brulée, Quebec Honey And Coffee Ice Cream

Judging from my friends, this one was a sweetness explosion. For those with a sweet tooth though, they enjoyed it quite a bit. The chocolate mousse looked delicious to be honest however, I have no first hand experience to talk about.

Nom Nom

Cocolada (Pineapple Carpaccio, Rum-Coconut Sorbet, Tapioca, Poppy Seed Meringue, Lime Gel)

If this one didn’t have the tapioca, we could had it but unfortunately it also had that one.

Nom Nom

Fruit Bowl with Poppy Seed Meringue

As for our fruit bowls…lets say that my one comment is that if restaurants could do substitutes for lactose intolerant people and not give fruit bowls, that would be really thoughtful. The bowl itself and the fruits were pretty good, except the extremely sour blackberries. They did add in the poppy seed meringue which tasted really good.

Overall, Nom Nom Cantine was a pretty nice experience. The food tasted really good. There were some delicious and creative cocktails. The service especially is what I’d like to compliment on. Our waitress was fantastic in both being attentive to all our allergies and dislikes as well as accommodating the best that she could. The food presentation was nice as well and all the little details were matching to the concept. At the same time, the decor was also really nice and lots of ambiance.

That’s it for the recap of Nom Nom!