Sometimes, on especially awesome days, I eat dessert for lunch and lunch for dessert.  Welcome to my Saturday: Pie-contest, congee, and a Burkeville Block Party.

It all started off in Steveston, where I attended the grand opening of the new Steveston Visitors Centre, tucked inside the charming old postal shop on Moncton Street.  Brilliantly, they’ve decided to keep this heritage building as both a museum and a Canada Post, so not only visitors benefit from the space, but the locals also.

Much appreciated by everyone, the sun shone as reps from Tourism Richmond and dignitaries cut the ribbon and made speeches.  Then, THERE WAS PIE.

Organizers called upon Richmond’s restaurants and bakeries to put their best pies forward to be judged in a contest, and then were all enjoyed by the neighbourhood.  This resulted in a table laden with rounds of baked glory – one of the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen.  Forget sunsets – I marvel at pie tables.

I was one of six judges; we first raised our blood sugar levels to the moon, then debated (for quite awhile) over which would win Best Crust, Most Creative, and Best Overall.

The winners?

Best Crust: Pina Colada Pie, from the River Rock Casino and Resort.

Most Creative: Salted Caramel and Rhubarb Ice Cream Pie, from Sarah’s Original Old Fashioned Ice Cream.

Best Overall: Strawberry Chocolate Pie, from Batch Foods.

Honourable Mentions: Apple Bacon Pie with White Cheddar Ice Cream, and Savoury Christmas Pie, both from the Delta Hotel.

Satisfied with an afternoon of tasting 21 pies, I wandered back into Richmond and went in search of my first bowl of congee.

The first time I heard about congee was only several months ago at my old job, when my co-worker Stanley offered to make me a bowl since I wasn’t feeling well.  I stared at him blankly for a bit, then he explained this staple to me: congee (also known as jook, and many other names amongst various cultures) is a porridge-like soup made of rice and water.  The starch from the rice makes it thick, much like Italian risotto becomes ‘creamy’ without the addition of cream (though it is sometimes added at the end).  Congee is incredibly versatile, can be made sweet or savoury with various additions, and is eaten pretty much any time of day.  I came across this great, informative site, which explains some of its history, variations, and benefits.

Since I was near Brighouse Station, I wandered over to Tai Hing Congee and Noodle House.  Long and narrow, it fits neatly between another restaurant and a dentist’s office in a little stripmall on Park Road.  It’s a bare-bones place, and one that was frequented by a number of groups as I sat for my meal.  It seems like a restaurant to come to for filling, quickly prepared, and inexpensive meals.

The service (as I’m getting used to) was quick and to the point, and it took all of three minutes for my $5 bowl of pork and preserved egg congee (yes, I’m determined to conquer those 1000 year eggs!) to arrive at the table.

It was hot, creamy with starch, soft, and slightly salty, with chopped green onion mixed in.  The bits of sliced pork were very salty, which I liked, and the eggs were cut into large chunks.

With my first bite, I could see why people consider this comfort food, and why Stanley wanted to make it for me when I was sick.  It’s mild, easy on the stomach, and can be personalized to your taste with the addition of condiments, salt, or other cooked foods.  I’m one step further along with the eggs, but it was the aftertaste that got me this time.  But I shall persevere!  There are more 1000 years in my future.

These are the other kinds of congee Tai Hing offers. I’ll try the pig’s blood congee, but perhaps not for awhile.

First congee mission complete, I headed to a friend’s block party in Burkeville, which is a quaint neighbourhood just southeast of the airport.  Tents at first protected us from the merciless rain, but it eventually cleared and we enjoyed homemade burgers on the BBQ, salads, dips, and desserts throughout the cold but clear night.  I LOVE neighbourhood gatherings, both for the food and the convivial spirit.  Thanks residents of Burkeville!

Such a fun Saturday for me, such a hard-working one for my stomach.  I’ll try to take it little easier on you, my poor belly, for the next few days.  Thank goodness there’s always congee.