Friday, November 07, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Baking for me is relaxing and yet very rewarding and productive - a perfect therapeutic activity and cheaper than, say, "retail therapy," a phrase I actually first heard from a straight male acquaintence...a well-groomed one, as you might expect. An added benefit of baking therapy is that it tends to make people around me happy too. I once went through a short cheesecake experimentation period, and it was just the act of making them that I found comforting. I wound up supplying cheesecake to everyone in my immediate vicinity. I've even been known to share my "breakup buns" with the ex-boyfriend I broke up with.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I was watching Daily Planet tonight, and they did a show on Burning Man 2008. There were all sorts of amazing pieces shown on the show, but there's one I really crave: a personal muffin car. There's a group that built about a dozen muffin and cupcake cars, and have been going to Burning Man for years with them. They even let Jay Ingram drive the blueberry muffin for the show segment. I could just imagine riding around town in one of these, complete with little topping hat. I hope the creators don't mind me posting this photo of their amazing vehicles. I want to go to Burning Man one day. Baby steps, I guess - I had a blast at the first Pemberton Festival in June this year, and now have a taste for traveling to festivals.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
- Zin Restaurant on Robson Street between Jervis St. and Bute St. Great Robson St. people watching. Unfortunately, they renovated, and toned down their formerly fabulous deep red cosy room and have made it feel more open, but the cocktails and the patio are still great. The lounge side used to be one of my favourite rooms in the city (for restaurants). I think they took the dividing curtain out between the lounge and the dining side, and toned down the red colour.
- Earl's on Top on Robson Street at Bute St. Great service, and relaxed patio.
- Nu on the seawall, under the downtown side of the Granville St. bridge. Great water view. Desserts have taken a turn for the worse, and food can feel pricey for what you get, but it's a beautiful patio looking over to Granville Island and a marina.
- Fiddlehead Joe's on the seawall at the Concord Pacific side of False Creek. Great water view.
- Hudson's Landing Pub at the Coast Hotel (1041 S.W. Marine Drive at the Vancouver side of the Oak St. bridge). They have a small patio hideout - very casual and relaxed. Typical pub grub offerings, done at a decent quality level. I enjoyed their smooth-style spinach and artichoke dip and dry ribs.
- O'Doul's Restaurant on Robson Street at Jervis Street I haven't gone in ages because both service and food have been slightly hit and miss for me and I have less tolerance for this at this high a price range, but I mention it because I do have great respect for the chef there (formerly of Zin) and I was very pleased to have discovered their little courtyard patio hidden in the middle of the restaurant. The website has been nicely updated and it's probably worth checking out again sometime.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Friday, August 08, 2008
Okay, so I'm walking along Denman, like I've done hundreds of times before, and I notice a little Japanese izakaya. I go in, I am pleased by the fun menu, I order, I am blown away, and I ask, how long has this been here. A year! I could have been eating here for the last year! I come back again another day and everything is tasty again. I come back with friends (some Vancouver ex-"pats" that have moved to Calgary). Everything is tasty again. The name of this little gem is Toratatsu Japanese Tapas Bistro (735 Denman St. at Alberni St., 604-685-9344).
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Monday, June 30, 2008
Like a Roving Colony of Ravenous Foodie Army Ants: new Nancyland Meet at the (Richmond) Summer Night Market!
So that means that I can finally make an outting to the market, and I'm inviting Nancylanders to join me in wandering the food stalls as a pack, devouring all the Asian street food that crosses our path like a ravenous colony of foodie army ants. I will announce a trip for next weekend, either July 4,5,or 6th.
Transit from Vancouver looks pretty easy. Get yourself to Metrotown station and take the 430 Richmond Exchange from Bay 8 and get off on Bridgeport Road, just west of Sweden Way or take the 98 Burrard Station B-Line to Bridgeport Road and then transfer to the 407 Gilbert that travels along Bridgeport, getting off just before Sweden Way. There are pay parking lots as part of the market too, details can be seen at the link to the summer market website.
Post a comment (or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in attending and feel free to leave a preferred date. I am looking at starting early in the evening, at 7 pm when the market opens, so that we have empty bellies to start, and the grazing serves as dinner.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
I must have roti canai ($2.80), a flaky somewhat sweet bread served with a curry sauce, anytime I see it on a menu. So Bac'n girl and I started with sharing an order of that (next time I'll get my own order) and an order of gado-gado ($7.50), a mixed salad of tofu, bean sprouts, green beans, potato and boiled egg, and covered with a tasty peanut sauce. The Roti Canai was one of the nicest ones I've had, and the Gado-Gado was a perfectly crunchy and filling salad. Bac'n Girl had been advised by a Malaysian friend that would serve their KL Hokkien Me noodles ($9.50) with the traditional bits of deep fried pork fat that you might find if you ordered the dish in Malaysia (but omit it if you don't ask for it...I'm thinking they probably found that the typical Yaletowner would not be attracted to "deep-fried pieces of fat" on a menu). The bits of fat were delicious of course, and the thick yellow noodles with mixed seafood and vegetables braised in a special dark sauce were great. I ordered their Nasi Jambori ($13.90) with was a sampler of chicken curry, beef rendang and prawn sambal. It was served with boiled egg, side salad, pappadum and jasmine rice. Everything was very tasty, and I loved having such a variety of dishes. I was impressed with the quality and freshness of the little salad too, and it was all very filling. I remember enjoying their big plump prawns in the spicy sambal sauce. In fact, we both noticed that someone sitting beside us ate everything on their plate, except for two big prawns, and it seemed such a waste that we were tempted to say that we'll eat them. They have some Malaysian drinks too, and Bac'n Girl and I ordered a couple of those too, though I can only remember that mine was cold and sweet, and hers was a hot tea. And for dessert, the Sago Gula Melaka ($3.80), chilled sago (a root starch, like tapioca) pudding served with coconut milk and fragrant palm sugar was perfect.
I'll definitely go back, and it's a great addition to this area; geographically just outside of the hub of snobby trendoids that makes up much of Yaletown, but worlds away in terms of atmosphere and value. If you park in the Urban Fare underground parking lot, Jonker St. will reimburse you for the first hour.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
1. the Kitsilano Farmer's Market at West 10th Avenue and Larch St. runs Sundays 10:00 am - 2:00 pm throughout the summer.
2. Greek Day on Broadway between Blenheim and MacDonald Avenue is just on today, Sunday, June 22nd, from 11:00 am - 9:30 pm.
If you happen to spot me there today, ask for the first ever Nancyland collectable item. I will leave it as a surprise for now, but I can tell you it has Ha Gow, my little dumpling character on it. I'll be wearing one myself, and I'm wearing grey pants and a black top. And then there's the free jazz down in Gastown all day, with the last band going on at 6:30 pm.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
But when we arrived at the beautiful refinished heritage building, we initially felt a bit of trepidation as there appeared to be only one customer - a man at the bar - and no staff in sight. In actuality, there was a table in the back around the corner, and the one server was just away getting something. Another large party did arrive later in the evening, but I do hope that people come to this restaurant and keep it alive.
I started with an "El Che" ($7.75) - one of several tasty sounding cocktails. I liked it so much, I even reproduced a version of it at home later. It's made with pomegranate vodka, apple juice, fresh cucumber, and fresh jalapeno. Spicy hot and refreshing at the same time. The server was sweet, genuine, down-to-earth and personable (which seems to be increasingly rare in the mid to fine dining scene). And she made a great "El Che" too.
The evening involved a bit of indulgence. First, this was simply because I was dining with Bac'n Girl. We seem to naturally enable each other's food splurging on any occassion. Secondly, we were talking about boy trouble, and that always seems to warrant a "what the hell, go for it" attitude with the ordering. I'll start worrying when I start instigating the boy trouble just to get the great post-break-up wallow-meal. Until then, it's merely a happy side effect.
Bac'n Girl has a thing for chicken tostadas apparently, so we had to order it. This one ($10) with its fried corn tortilla and chicken topping and mesclun, was nice and tasty, though I could have taken more spice and heat in the chicken filling personally.
We then had their queso relleno's ($10), which was on top of cheese crisps that tasted just like parmesan crisps (though the menu now says warm manchego) with a tasty chipotle potato filling on top.
We then went with a fairly safe choice by sharing a nice steak. We chose their Alberta ribeye ($22), and the fun thing about their mains is that you get to choose the sauce and two sides. Mix and match can be fun if there are some tasty sounding choices, and you are cocky like the two of us in our food matching skills. We decided easily on the green peppercorn port sauce, grilled veggies and barbecue frites. No regrets at all. The steak was properly cooked to our preference. In other words, we ordered a medium rare and received a medium rare, just the way it should be. It had tasty charred bits of fat on the outside and a rich flavour (ribeye is my preferred cut), and the accompaniments all had good flavour too. I remember the sauce being particularly tasty.
I like the Latin-inspired menu quite a bit, and there seems to be many things on there that I would like to order. There very easily could be some misses on that menu too, but we didn't order any that night.
The dessert menu was similarly tempting. I settled on the Century cheesecake ($7) - a continuation of the Latin themes, this was an avocado lime cheesecake, sour cream mint topping, praline crust, served with fried plantains, sesame candy, lemon sorbet, raspberry coulis, and strawberry garnish. The cheesecake was delicious. It was smooth and creamy and really tasted of avocados and limes. The crust was a perfect accompaniment (a bit of a sticking point for me, as I seem to be a bit particular about pie and cheesecake crusts in general). The fried plantain slice was fantastic with it too, and the contrasting texture and acidity of the lemon sorbet was also a great choice. With dessert, I had a nice satisfying post-meal coffee in one of the most comfortable mugs I've ever held (use it in your right hand).
Bac'n Girl had the Dark Chocolate Fortress ($7), a somewhat phallic mocha glazed, dark chocolate tunnel with a crème anglaise centre spilling out the end, served with French Vanilla ice cream and almond brittle. This was also very good.
I found out later that the old bank vault is actually a private dining room. That is SO cool - definitely worthy of my mental list of possible large dinner party venues. That tickles the same part of my brain that made me as a child vaguely yearn to have a birthday party in a McDonald's caboose whenever walking past one. Their upstairs lounge has a perfect name to reference the old bank building, "Heist." I'd like to check that out sometime too. I think this place might be suffering a bit from an awkward location, but it is not difficult to find. It just seems to have a bit of an "out of the way" feeling. Which makes it even more appealing to me, as I don't always like the hustle and bustle of the latest new thing. I like the idea of a secret little retreat. I think it's worth looking for. On this one visit, I saw reasonable prices, good flavours, an interesting menu, comfortable seating, great service and a great relaxed atmosphere (mid-week). I'll check it out again.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Friday, May 09, 2008
Okay, so onto some photos taken in August 2007 when Bleuet came into town. A Bleuet visit means one thing in particular to me - some good eating is going to happen! This woman can out food/wine-geek me! And that is a lot of fun. So after this great group meal at Gastropod with really fabulous food from Chef Angus An, and great atmosphere, I figured I'd be going back soon, but it has yet to happen, so I'm posting my first visit photos now...and maybe some Nancylanders out there can pipe up about their more recent Gastropod experiences. So here's to eating with your eyes (and not many notes because it was just too long ago)...
A Foie Gras dish (ordered by some of the others) The Scene, with my red wine flight in the middle
How Hip People Eat Black Forest Cake
Molten Centre Cake Before
Molten Centre Cake After
Gelées for Everyone
Saturday, April 12, 2008
So the tortillas have a lot to do with just reminding me of this great trip. And this has affected my restaurant choices lately too. I've gone to an unremarkable Mexican restaurant off Marine Drive (near Granville), that's not really good enough to mention (however there is one on Granville that isn't bad). I continue to enjoy the El Salvadorean fare from Rinconcito Salvadoreno (2062 Commercial Dr., between 4th and 5th Avenue, 604-879-2600).
And Baru (2535 Alma St., just south of Broadway, 604-222-9171) recently got bumped up on my list of restaurants to try. Just one visit so far, but I enjoyed the atmosphere, service, and the food. I went for drinks and appetizers with Wine-o, and the food was fine, but not spectacular (say, like Lolita's, though I don't really like going there because it's so slow). Shown in the photo below are the dishes we chose. We had their Baru Ceviche ($12) which had large, firm chunks of shrimp and halibut, with fresh lemon juice, avocado, tomatoes, onion and cilantro. I really enjoyed this. The Octopus Tiradito ($12), very thinly sliced octopus with fresh lemon juice, had a nice texture. Latin Chips were crispy, thin, fried cassava, yam and plantain chips served with three salsas. I thought the Latin Empanadas, three little corn turnovers filled with beef, were pretty tasty.
I also had an interesting drink from their cocktail list called the Pisco Sour ($9), made of pisco, blended with egg white & fresh lime, producing a white frothy drink. I'm a big fan of tequila, and a snifter of premium tequila served as dessert. Although it was a bit of a splurge, I was tempted because they had a brand I hadn't tried before and probably isn't available in the LCB. Even if it were available, I'm not likely to pay over $100 for a bottle of something I'm not even sure I like. The 4 copas ($18), was pleasantly sweet, full bodied, and fragrant, but a bit on the harsh side for me. I enjoyed the experience, but I'm still on the lookout for the perfect tequila.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
The other easy sure-fire good service option, besides hotel restaurants, is to find a good authentic Japanese restaurant, because you're just not likely to find a snarky server in a Japanese restaurant. It can be a less formal experience (for example, it doesn't involve bringing you all sorts of cutlery throughout the meal), but can be just as detail-oriented.
So who's my service superstar for this post? A gentleman at the downtown Hyatt's Mosaic Bar and Grill (655 Burrard Street at Georgia St., 604-639-4770). I didn't get his name, but he is an older Chinese gentleman with glasses who is a true professional server. I'm certain he takes pride in a job well done. The other benefit of hotel restaurants is that many tourists staying at the hotel come dressed in various outfits, so service is not dependent on what you wear, at least not at this hotel. The menu at Mosaic is also very interesting, with plenty of dishes that sound good to eat. I had their tasting menu, and in particular enjoyed their butter-poached lobster starter and the amuse bouche that evening - a hot, creamy potato-y soup served in a shot glass. The environment is quite soothing, with low lighting, comfy chairs and big windows overlooking the city street-scene of Burrard. There is also a more casual lounge side which would be a nice spot for a relaxing drink. I don't hear too many people speaking about this restaurant, but I think their menu is really nicely put together, and wish I could provide a link to it, but they don't have it posted on the website. They have a Sunday brunch buffet ($35) menu posted though, which sounds great. Obviously, fine dining in hotel restaurants can cost quite a bit, but if it's well done, I think it's well worth it. Drop in for a cocktail and an appy for a lower cost version of the treat.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
But today, I visited Harbour Pacific Chinese Seafood Restaurant (4524 E. Hastings, at Willingdon, southeast corner, in Burnaby, 604-294-8059) and they were kickin' it old school with their dim sum. I was quite pleased with it overall, and a good variety of items came out, all on carts, at a nice rate, especially for a holiday Monday about noonish. They were nicely busy, but there wasn't a wait for a table. We didn't eat any ha gow or other similar dumplings, which tend to be a handy measuring stick with which to compare dim sum places. However, everything we had seemed to be of good quality on this one visit. We had deep fried tofu stuffed with shrimp and served with black bean sauce to dip (a nice touch, as opposed to just slopping it all over the crispy tofu, risking premature sogginess). They served some nice pieces of gai lan as garnish for their rice roll stuffed with beef. Their cha sui pastry and cha sui baked buns were great. The beef tendon and chicken feet were good. They had a steamed garlic fish dish that was quite nice, and a little unusual. And we had some nice coconut jelly. I think we got out of there for about $22 for three people. So this place basically fulfilled my dim sum wish list. The carts and food variety are important, as well as good execution of classics (I have to have rice rolls), and a few unusual or unique items. The place has baroque style chairs which are pleasingly slightly out of place, and the service is very friendly (at least with my parents around). The women pushing the carts were also pushing some of the food- i.e. making their recommendations, which I find charming and reminds me of old dim sum times. I'm sure there are more cart dim sum restaurants around, so let me know your favourites.
The other dying restaurant type that I'm sad to see go is the old Chinese Canadian flashback to the 70's diner. Usually it is a Chinese family who run a diner with all-day breakfasts, and typical diner fare like burgers and fish and chips, but who also put up Chinese dishes like chow mein and stir fries. Is it racist for me to say you can count on Chinese people to make a mean plate of fish and chips or fry an egg properly? And there's just something so comforting to me about eating a good plate of chow mein while sitting on duct-taped repaired vinyl booth seating. Don't ask me why. It just works for me.
Perhaps some sort of recovery program could be put started to ensure that we have these restaurant styles for generations to come. Can you imagine them disappearing from Vancouver for good?
Monday, February 18, 2008
They serve food from the Iberian peninsula - Spanish and Portugese. I've been there a few times, and I would have nearly everything again. Pillowy soft salt cod fritters ($9) with a thin crisp outside shell are served with a thin fiesty piri piri. I've had these twice, and the first time they were really dreamy. For those who can't handle the heat, don't worry, there are plenty of dishes for you. Sunday was prime rib day (though this may change), and it's a straight ahead dish with some nice veggies. I've had the caldo verde with chorizo ($8), a tasty potato and kale soup, and an excellent grilled squid dish smothered in capers and other yummy bits. If you see the squid dish, I highly recommend it. They also fillet their sardines, and those are great too, served with a tapenade and sweet peppers ($9). I had their pork and clams, and it was so tasty. Some of the pork cubes seemed dry and some were really succulent. They all looked pretty uniform in size, so I'm not too sure how this happens unless different cuts of pork get tossed in. But the whole combination was just so tasty, it's a minor quibble. It's a surprisingly generous portion for an appetizer, and I'm starting to give myself a craving just remembering the dish. I enjoyed their version of the classic tomato salad as well - goat cheese instead of bocconcini, with tomato, greens, and a balsamic vinagrette. I've had more appetizers than mains (in the spirit of tapas), but Bac'n girl enjoyed her duck breast and duck confit main. And I've enjoyed their prime rib. Main courses run about $25-32, I think, but you can choose from any of their dishes for a $35 three-course meal or $45 for a four-course meal (with a small upgrade for certain dishes). They'll do wine pairings too, but I always find myself driving to this restaurant. For dessert, I have had a fantastic warm chocolate bread pudding that they make with their cornbread, and Bac'n girl and I have had a dessert trio as well, which was fun to try, but I remember truly enjoying just one of the three. I think the favourite was a cheesecake, and the meringue was fine, and then there was a brulée. I would go for the bread pudding over any crème brulée dessert, as I'm a bit of a stickler for a super thin sugar crust. I happen to be a fan of bread pudding in general though, but theirs was memorable. The trio changes though, so it's worth asking about.
There are still dishes on the menu that I want to try. And apparently there's paella day and roasted suckling pig day too. They're also open for lunch most days of the week. I honestly think it's one of the most underrated restaurants around the city, but they seem to have always have a steady stream of people in there, probably from the surrounding neighbourhood, as their name (good neighbour, in Portugese) suggests. It would be a great stop on the way home with an out-of-town guest who has just flown in at YVR. I also think it's worth the trip if you just want to go for a nice dinner somewhere. At least there's free parking.
I first went to this restaurant after I came home from my first and only trip to Europe, which was mostly spent falling in love with Spanish food. I really think that we should have more Spanish restaurants in town, especially with the abundance of seafood available here. Senova is a good start though.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
I'll also document my past blog favourites here, and when they randomly held the esteemed spot. They tend to be places I have a desire to go back to over and over again. The exception was Rare, as I never got the chance to go back to it (and changes have taken place since then, so I can only really talk about that one great time).
January 2005 - October 2005: Guu with Garlic (15 + visits)
October 2005 - November 2006: Yuji's Japanese Tapas (10 + visits)
November 2006 - January 2008: Rare (only based on one visit. Still a regular at Yuji's)
January 2008 - ?: *Today's Mystery Restaurant* (2 visits so far)
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Monday, January 21, 2008
Saturday, January 19, 2008
The new place is a big (really big!), open, comfy space with pleasant lighting and has at least one exceptional server. I'm not sure how the others were, but the one waiter we had was perfect. He was enthusiastic, prompt, refilled our water glasses, and was exceptionally polite. For example, my dining companion asked for the "cream brulée", and I watched as the server quickly stifled the urge to repeat "crème brulée" to avoid correcting him. I also saw that he was checking on us throughout the dinner, yet trying not to be obtrusive or interrupt conversation. He even automatically refilled our bread basket without asking if we needed more. (For those of you thinking this is a given, I once had a waiter at O'Doul's who had the audacity to ask me if I wanted more bread or do I want to skip the empty filler. He made some other comment later about restraint with dessert, I think too. If I wanted to be nagged about my weight or my eating habits, I'll just go to a nutritionist or a doctor. That's not what I pay for when I go to a restaurant!). To be honest, I would go back simply because the service was so good. I also talked to a very pleasant woman on the phone when I called ahead to see if I should make a reservation. However, I was greeted by one of the other servers, and I suspect that I was lucky and wound up getting the best server that evening.
I enjoyed my meal, including a Raspberry Ma Ma, one of their two cocktail specials for the night. It was something that I was expecting to be on the syrupy sweet side, but turned out to be quite the "grown-up" cocktail, and very nice. It was early, so quite quiet in the big restaurant, and perfect for conversation with my friend, Hamburglar.
I had this yummy starter dish of veggies: roasted tomatoes, long stem artichoke hearts, grilled asparagus with feta, hazelnut oil and grainy mustard dressing ($9).
Then I had more veggies: The Westcoaster is a dish of warmed Indian candy smoked salmon, sweet peppers, organic celebration greens and goat cheese, tossed in maple balsamic dressing ($15). I polished it all off and enjoyed it, but it is a dish of sweet upon sweet upon sweet, so it is probably not for all tastes. The maple balsamic glaze is a bit cloying, so I think I would have enjoyed a little bit of lightness or acidity to counter the sweetness of the salmon and sweet peppers, but I should have expected it with the description. I really liked the chewy Indian candy.
Hamburglar's cannelloni stuffed with ruby chard, ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan baked in a savoury tomato sauce ($17, or $19 with chorizo). I had a taste of the sauce, and it seemed quite nice and bright with lots of fresh basil.