Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Food

One new year's day, my friend Bac'n Girl invited me to her family's home for their traditional Japanese New Year's Day lunch. It was an impressive feast, with hand-pounded mochi and all sorts of interesting things to eat. Maybe you have some new year's food traditions. If not, you can always make up something. Here's hoping you eat something noteworthy tomorrow. And here are some traditions from around the world. Cheers!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Red and Green Food

Beet Panne Cotta

Just a quick post on Christmas Day to wish Nancylanders happy holidays! This bit of red and green was a delightful dish I enjoyed at Fiddlehead Joe's (1-1012 Beach Ave, 604.688.1969) on the north side of the False Creek Seawall, under the Burrard Street bridge, amongst all the Concord Pacific highrises. The beet "panne cotta" was soft and silky, made from organic roasted beets, served with goat cheese, gorgonzola and organic greens ($10). The meal I had at Fiddlehead Joe's was really a pleasant surprise. I had never paid much attention to this little restaurant on the water, despite having cycled and walked past countless times. It's actually been around for about seven years. Service from the bartender (in retrospect, I'm wondering if it was Fiddlehead Joe himself?) was absolutely delightful and the little dishes I had were creative and tasty. I also enjoyed a soup that was like tasting the forest in a bowl - fiddlehead (as you may know, they are unopened Ostrich fern fronds, and have an appealing coiled shape) and forest mushroom soup ($6). It was a nice brown, earthy broth, which I thought was quite fun, at least conceptually. As for flavour, I'm more of a thick, creamy soup person, so I might not order it again, but it was good and worth trying. I also had some great pomme frites with a mayonnaise based dip. And last but definitely not least, I had a fantastic dessert. The chocolate chili sauce had just a perfect amount of heat to really make this dessert interesting. It worked perfectly with the crisp rounds of meringue and the dense chocolate mousse underneath ($8).

Toasted Meringue with birds eye chilli infused chocolate mousse

I actually wound up going to this restaurant on the spur of the moment, as I was trying to sober up from the EnRoute magazine cocktail party at Nu where they announced their Best New Canadian Restaurants awards. The funny thing is that this experience at Fiddlehead Joe's won me over more than anything else that evening. I'll definitely check it out again sometime. I was in the mood for something light and interesting that evening, but they also have "medium plates" for $15 and "large plates" for $24. I'm now eyeing the trio of quail under the medium plates section of the current dinner menu. They serve brunch and lunch too. In fact, it seems as if they're always open. I'll also keep it in mind for large groups, as the restaurant was almost entirely taken up by a large group when I was there eating at the glowing bar, and the staff seemed to be doing quite well with them.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Best Restaurant in the World? Guess I'll Have to Take Their Word For It

I'm drooling over the thought of my very first trip to Europe in September 2007, which starts in Spain. Naturally, I'm thinking ahead to the meals. This is my naïve line of thought: "Hey, isn't elBulli in Spain?" A quick look at the elBulli restaurant's website confirms that they were touted as the "Best Restaurant in the World" as voted by 500 critics, chefs, and gourmets from around the world that put together the 2006 list of the World's Best Restaurants for The Restaurant magazine. "I know about this trip nine months in advance, maybe I can save up all my money for one unbelievable meal, or a snack, or..something..." I poke around the site and find the very serious "synthesis of elBulli cuisine" - twenty-three statements laid down like restaurant commandments. The pretension of it all feeds my curiousity rather than squelches it like I might expect it to. I skim through the bios of the chefs. Again, very serious stuff. *CLICK* - the reservations page. They are filled up for the 2007 season. Aw, man. The whole year. Well, I really shouldn't be surprised. I know how hard it is to get in to even the French Laundrey. So then, feeling a bit silly for thinking this would be easy, I go looking for the menus, to really rub it in. The history of all of their dishes from 1983 - 2006 are photographed and catalogued beautifully. I've borrowed the phrase graduate level dining before, but I think the phrase really applies here. The geek in me savours the elegantly organized documentation of their creations. Is this place overrated? Who knows? Possibly, but I would so like to take that gamble and experience it in person. I mean, I just started slow with the food porn on their site by clicking on last year's cocktails...and even that looks wildly creative. Also, I'm actually quite fond of foams, so I'm good to go. So join me and feast, virtually, upon some wonderfully ambitious food and drink here. You'll have to click your way through. There is always an English option (EN), go past the ad for the books, and click the "enter to" at the bottom of the screen. Find the catalogue under gastronomy. Bon appetit!

Monday, November 27, 2006

...And the Winner of the Nancyland Best (New) Vancouver Restaurant of the Year Is...

Rare Restaurant (1355 Hornby Street, at Pacific, 604.669.1256 )! This is a pretty bold declaration since I've only been able to go once, but that one time was a really fabulous experience. And, having had the pleasure of briefly meeting Tim Keller (at the enRoute Magazine event that I will post about soon), and having read about many of their events, including frequent charity dinners and black box type dinners which sound like a blast, I am fully prepared to declare Rare my new current favourite restaurant (with the caveat that I've just been once). That night the restaurant operated as if it could do no wrong though. It was the whole package - food, service, and atmosphere. In other words, tasty, charming, and good-looking. I was thoroughly seduced. Details like the personalized menus, being given the table for the entire evening (yes, they only have one seating a night), and being treated to wonderfully personal and knowledgeable service makes this a great place to celebrate a special occasion. In this case, it was my impending birthday that gave fellow foodie, Cheeseboy, and I an excuse to splurge. I had been wanting to go since before they even opened, as I was following their opening soon blog, and also because there was some talk about developing innovative non-alcoholic drink pairings, which I think is still a great idea.

I arrived to a tastefully elegant, yet cosy room in neutral tones, and fabric covered surfaces. A smiling, and very gracious host greeted us. We were originally attracted to the restaurant for that evening by a promotional prix fixe three course dinner, but when we got there, I really just wanted to have the chef give us whatever he thought best with the six-course tasting menu. In my opinion, the six courses for $65 is a bargain, and definitely worth the splurge. There is also a very convenient option to have them pair wines for $25, $40, or $65. I say, just go for it, and have the pairings. Cheeseboy was driving that night, and I'm a lightweight with alcohol, so we shared a $25 pairing, and our server very generously split it for us, and served every pairing in two glasses for us. I had expressed an interest in the Guinness Bread Pudding dessert, and the server very kindly arranged for us to get both a cheese plate and bread pudding for dessert. He had also arranged to get the prix fixe menu that I enquired about initially specially printed for us too. Really, even without the spectacular food, this evening would have been worthwhile for the service alone. Since the chef created the menu for us, I don't have a written version of the menu, and I won't be posting detailed descriptions of the dishes. It was one of those meals that you just have to sit back and enjoy all the sensations - all the flavours and textures popping out at you, and how they combine with the carefully chosen pairings. Any effort to make fastidious notes about wines and plate components would have detracted from that experience, and this night was all about indulgence, baby. It's all a happy blur in my memory. I didn't take a photo of the bread, or the amuse bouche, but like all the details, they met the high standards that Rare has set for itself. Plus, this was a birthday celebration after all, and I can start blaming my fuzzy memory on my age now. With apologies to the chefs, I will just make up my own names for the dishes.

Chanterelle Soup That Eats Like a Meal

Tender Octopus Sous Vide with the Best Ratatouille Ever

Prawn-like Animal with Incredibly Crispy Little Potato Thingies

Quail and His Friends, Fresh Fig, Yummy Sauce, and Chanterelle

Tasty Beef and What the Hell, Go Ahead and Put Cheese On Top Too!

At this point, we were starting to lose count of where we were in the meal, so my reaction was an excited "oh my god, there's a beef dish too!" Remember kiddies, today's special word is "INDULGENCE." But I wouldn't say it was over the top, because while this beef dish would have been great without the melty cheese on top, it was even better with it.

Mango Sorbet and Lemon Curd Sauce Pleasing Palate Cleanser

Really Good Cheese Platter with Cute Grapes

Guinness Caramel Sauce Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream

This sweet sauce was smooth and the Guinnessy quality made it through without having any unpleasant "beer aftertaste" for those of us who aren't big beer drinkers. A great dessert for a cold evening. The flavours of the entire meal were classic, and exceptionally well-executed.

If you'd like to know about one of the people behind all this, Chef Quang Dang is featured in EAT Magazine's November/December issue. I picked mine up at the wine store on Davie St. And it's a fantastic piece - he's submitted recipes for the magazine's "black box" feature, where he was asked to come up with dishes for quail, duck, pheasant, cornish hen and squab. The photos are beautiful too. To my delight, I noticed right away that the delicious ratatouille is included. I've never been a fan of ratatouille until now. Perhaps because I've only had very harsh, acidic versions. His version (or perhaps it's Brian Fowkes') was mellow and delicate, yet still packed with flavour. The article notes that Chef Quang Dang has now left Rare to deal with personal matters in Calgary, but I believe he was in the kitchen that night in mid-October.

Here's another little tidbit I'm very excited about. While chatting with restaurant director and sommelier, Tim Keller, I got the scoop that he's working on opening a new restaurant downtown, near the Canada Place side! It's going to be called Metro, is a large space, and is replacing a Japanese Restaurant at 200 Burrard. That's all I know for now. Keep your eye open for an opening soon blog, like the one chef/owner Brian Fowkes and co-owner Tim Keller wrote in setting up Rare.

One last note of interest for Rare - their website says they are open for lunch Monday to Friday for the month of December. They also have a "lounge" area in the upper, back part of the restaurant that I've been meaning to pop into too. I hope to visit again soon, to see if I have another great experience. It will definitely be high up on my list for intimate, indulgent celebration restaurants, right up there with C. I love tasting menus; it's like dinner and a show all in one package. It might be funny to call a $90/person meal ($65 six-course meal plus $25 wine pairing) a bargain, but I think it's probably one of the best fine dining bargains in town and definitely the best tasting menu bargain.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Ode to Adam's Eve (Vancouver)...Or An Elegy?

Sadly, there are only 38 days left before Adam retires from his incredibly thorough directory of Vancouver Restaurants, Adam's Fabulous Vancouver Dining Guide at He has had a note on there for a while about taking over, purchasing, or leasing the site, but I've never really been able to wrap my head around how much work it would be to maintain that site to the level that he does. Yes, even eating at restaurants and writing about it can be hard work. Thank you, Adam. I can't even count the number of times I've used that site to locate a restaurant, or to help me pick a place to eat. The geographical organizational scheme of that site is very handy in many ways. Here's hoping someone takes over. But even if someone does, I'm sure I'll miss Adam's style, his discerning palate, and his particular take on the restaurant scene. I'll miss his ranting about bastardized dishes, and most of all, his delight in a really great find.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Thank You Adventurous Nancylanders!

A very belated thank you to the Nancylanders that came out to the first ever Nancyland meet on October 14th, 2006. It was great to meet some of the people who have stumbled onto my blog, and confirm my suspicion that Nancylanders are a pretty neat bunch of people, at least judging from the brave souls that ventured out to Le Piazza Dario Ristorante that night to have dinner.

Embarassingly, the restaurant let me down in a big way, being downright rude, as well as serving rather mediocre food. An Italian restaurant seemed like such a safe choice, too. I mean, how many times have you had bad service or bad food at an Italian restaurant? This is a culture that usually knows how to entertain. Also, I had a great birthday dinner (a friend's choice for her birthday) there, in a half-full room, a year before that was really exceptional in both food and service, and I even loved the decor (see October 2005). But this place was really dismal the night we went. We were rushed, and given a time limit upon arrival without having been told about the time limit at the time of booking. There is a diplomatic way of doing this, and then there is the way they did it that night - to the point of actually being discouraged from ordering dessert with the line "you have 15 minutes left, if you think you can finish dessert in that time." The food was just okay, and the decor loses its romantic charm when the room is full. We did have some last minute cancellations, but I had someone call ahead about that before the dinner started. We offered to move to a smaller table or to move over so that they could change the arrangement of the table, but they didn't accept the offer. We did have a bit of a late start, but I was pretty open about that happening when I made the reservation in the first place. They were abrupt enough with us, that I will not bother giving them another chance though. I'm not going to worry about it too much, because the food wasn't really that great anyway.

Don't let this discourage you from future Nancylander events though. It was great fun to meet more people who love to eat, and, well, to eat with them! Maybe we should get a gang together for Daniel's new Senhor Rooster location, now that he has moved to a bigger space, on Renfrew St., just a couple of blocks south of Hastings. He was telling me before that there will be a dancefloor!

Below are some pictures of some of our food at Le Piazza Dario. But since I can't recommend the restaurant, I will recommend one of my favourite dependable Italian places again instead - Amarcord, which I have not been disappointed with in my four visits there. It's not somewhere I would think of for a large group, but a very lovely place for a small number of people (particularly for two).



Spaghetti with Turkeyballs

Lamb Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Another Natto Adventure - Shiru-Bay Chopstick Café

Natto ice cream. That's right. I ordered it, I ate it...and, I loved it! Some of you may have read about my first experience with natto, the Japanese fermented (read rotting) soy bean product that oozes long sticky, mucous-like threads. I survived, but I didn't really take to it. But when you put it in some vanilla ice cream, add dark molasses and corn flakes, and mush the lot together? You wind up with a truly inspired dessert. This was the ending to a great dinner with Nori Boy at the Yaletown restaurant, Shiru-Bay Chopstick Café (1193 Hamilton St., at Davie St., 604-408-9315). The fuzzy photo below shows the dessert, after the extremely thorough mixing at the table by the server at Shiru-Bay. Unfortunately, I didn't capture the dessert when it was presented at the table. Also, the photo doesn't really show off the sticky consistency of the natto that is retained even in the vanilla ice cream, and accompaniments, but trust me it's still there. Check out the photo on the restaurant's website (in fact, all of their dishes are beautifully photographed and displayed there). The strong molasses flavour actually masks the fermented flavour of the natto, but there is something so appealing about the texture of the soft little beans amidst the gooey ice cream, as well as a bit of crunch every so often from the cornflakes. It was a huge portion at only $4. Actually, it was enough to share between two people, and I managed to talk Nori Boy into having a spoonful, but he wasn't a fan of it, like I was. He had considerable previous experience with natto and has never really liked it anyhow, but I think it had to do more with him not being a fan of dessert immediately after dinner. Kudos to him for being adventurous enough to try it anyway. In any case, this is a warning that although I liked this dessert, it is probably not for everyone. Funny thing is, I'm not even a fan of Chinese desserts that have red beans in them. For that matter, I'm not really that into beans in general. But I think that I liked this dish because the red beans in desserts are grainy and heavy feeling, whereas the soybeans are smooth and so tender. They just have such a great "mouth-feel" for me.

Natto Ice Cream, post table-side mixing

A few notes about the rest of the restaurant. Despite its Yaletown location, I found the food reasonably priced, and the atmosphere very warm and inviting. Heh, I might have to stop dismissing Yaletown so much - there are now several restaurants that I enjoy there (Amarcord, the smoked meat sandwiches at Phat, Hamilton Street Grill, Elixir in the Opus Hotel, the nearby Kolachy shop, and now Shiru-Bay Chopstick Café). I admit to being a bit of a Japan-ophile, and really enjoy the izakaya format, so perhaps I'm predisposed to enjoying this restaurant. Shiru-Bay is a chain of twenty izakaya restaurants (along with the Raku restaurants) in Tokyo, Japan. The Uno family opened the first 30 years ago, and this Vancouver restaurant is their first outside of Japan. On the Saturday night, it was busy, everyone was young and fairly casually dressed, and there was a nice upbeat energy in the air, yet we were still able to relax and hear each other talk easily in this room.

Nori Boy and I ordered the popular Chili Ebi Mayo ($9.80), and it was fantastic - big, plump prawns decadently drenched in spicy mayonnaise, served with almonds and (decorative) wonton skin chips. I loved the look of the dramatic slash of chili sauce across the plate too.

Chili Ebi Mayo

We also had the seasonal sashimi salad ($9.80) which was very nice, big, and well-dressed (yes, I'm still talking about the salad), and the tako wasa ($4.50), wasabi marinated raw octopus. This was served with small sheets of nori, and I ate it, and it was fine, but it wasn't to my taste. I would probably not order this one again, but that is purely personal preference. I am sure that it's a very competent rendition of that dish. We also enjoyed their drink special for that night of the week, a pitcher of sangria. We chose their white sangria, which is a nice cocktail for my sweet-tooth, with little tiny cubes of strawberries and other fruit floating in the white wine mixture. Our server was delightful to talk to, and service was great throughout the evening, including even our departure, where a staff person was ready at the door, offering us a chocolate Hershey Hug before we stepped outside. I've only had one visit so far, but I'd love to go back. Too bad tonight is the last night of "Taste of Yaletown" but I think this place is great even without any special deals. You'll still spend a little more money than at a Guu restaurant, but it's great to add another nice izakaya to the list of options around town. I would say that because of the large size of the place and the lack of server shrieking, it's a nice pick for a pleasant, casual date with an adventurous eater. Well, really, why would you want to date an unadventurous eater anyway?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Name That Vancouver Restaurant No. 6

Here's a quick round of everyone's favourite Nancyland game, "Name That Vancouver Restaurant." This small Japanese restaurant quietly turns out some amazingly creative and tasty food, and sits at the foot of a bridge to Richmond. The chef has submitted a recipe to the fun little cookbook, Vancouver Cooks, which has dishes from chefs all over town. I browsed through a copy of the book in the restaurant, while waiting for my "Eggplant Volcano" and now I want to pick up a copy. I definitely think this place deserves more attention. Name that Vancouver Restaurant!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Nancylanders Unite!

I wrote a while back about a possible meet for next weekend. Sorry for the late notice, due mainly to indecision. If anyone is still interested, I propose Le Piazza Dario Ristorante at the Italian Cultural Centre 6 pm [EDIT: NOW CHANGED TO 5:45 pm - this was the closest time I could get for the reservation], Saturday, Oct 14th. Lots of room, cozy atmosphere, simple food, lots of parking, skytrain accessible, and tiramisu. What more do we need? It's in East Van, on Grandview Highway (at Slocan St.). If interested, please comment here, and email me at, and I will make a reservation for you. We'll split the bill, so it would be a good idea to bring cash. It will likely be a very small group, but this restaurant can handle larger ones too.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pleasure and Pain - Elixir in the Opus Hotel, Yaletown

I had this amazing meal at Elixir Restaurant in the Opus Hotel in Yaletown...delicious, beautiful, interesting, deeply flavoured, perfectly served...a real pleasure. But a real pain came later...intense abdominal pain, fevers, chills, and the urge to poop within two hours of the meal. I did let the restaurant know, through email, and got a follow up reply asking me to call. I called and left a message, and then hadn't heard from them again. Oddly enough, I'm not holding a grudge...the meal was that good. Maybe it was because I was dining with Instant Noodle Girl, and her Cordon Bleu graduate hubby, who are great fun to overanalyze a meal with, but all the flavours and presentation really seemed to pop that night. Instant Noodle Girl and I even checked out the much talked about washrooms together at one point. They have a transparent wall disguised somewhat with a beaded curtain separating the men's and women's washroom, so presumably, you could give the hottie washing their hands on the other side of the wall a wink while you're washing yours. Unfortunately, there weren't any men to be silly with on the other side on our visits to the washroom. And yes, one of the urinals is visible from the women's side, if you're wondering. The mirrored wall above the sink featured cool blue lights, and mini monitors embedded at eye level so that you can check out the action in the Opus Hotel Lobby.

As trendy and pretentious as Yaletown has a reputation to be, this little modern French bistro was warm, cosy and welcoming. There are three rooms to choose from, one of which has dramatic red velvet banquettes, another is more of a summery, feminine patio, and the one we dined in is the main area, includes the bar, and has that French bistro feel, with leather banquettes, and brass bars.

Service was outstanding, with the manager making us feel like he was really taking care of us. I'm just guessing that he was the manager, with my clue being that he wasn't dressed in some ultra chic all black outfit as the other servers were. It IS a bit intimidating to see the servers better dressed than you are, but again, I felt only warmth, instead of pretension that evening. With this being a quiet night due to the fireworks, and this place being a fine dining restaurant, the service was really perfect, as it really should be at this level of dining. This is the kind of place that you will return to a neatly folded napkin, if you make a trip to the washroom. They were enthusiastic about the food, and the timing was great. Probably the only thing that could be improved was just checking on our water a little more frequently. They had the bottle of bubbly Vos water that we ordered in an ice bucket out of reach, which meant that we were dependent on the servers to repour. On the subject of drinks, I had the Serendipity cocktail, which was heavy on the sparkling wine, and lighter than I expected on the flavours from the Calvados, apple juice, and fresh mint. But let's talk about the food!

Amuse Bouche of Chilled Organic Tomato Soup

I really enjoyed this shot of chilled soup to start. It was sweet and tasty, and we tried to guess what went into it. I think we decided there must have been some garlic in it, but whatever it was, we all enjoyed it.

White Walla Walla Onion Soup

I couldn't stop saying "Walla Walla" all night long. This soup was a seasonal special. And we found out that Walla Walla's are sweet onions from Washington's Walla Walla Valley. They are available mid-June to September. Quite a nice soup, and very different from a traditional "French onion soup."

Tuna Tartare Special

I didn't order this one, but I had a bite and it was tasty. There were some really nicely balanced Asian flavours here that I can't remember exactly, like miso, and maybe sesame.

Tomato Tarte Tatin with Avocado Sorbet ($12)

This is the starter that I ordered, off of the Petit Plats menu. It was very sweet, and caramelly, just like a regular apple tart tatin. Definitely the first tomato tarte tatin I've ever had, and the avocado sorbet with it was light and lovely. It was still a bit like starting dinner with a dessert, but that's kind of fun. Not an appetizer for someone who doesn't like sweets, but for me, it was great. Really interesting, and different, yet familiar at the same time since it's based on a very traditional French bistro dish.

Pan Seared Wild Salmon with Sweet Corn and Green Onion Risotto and Tomato-clam Vinaigrette ($29.95)

Doesn't this dish look inviting? Beautifully cooked salmon - moist, and tender, not overcooked at all, but still with a great crispy skin.

Ahi Tuna with Coriander and Fennel Crust with Blackberry Ginger Gastrique, Roasted Cippolini Onions and Sauteed Collards ($30.95)

Assiette of Duck - Confit, Breast and Ravioli, with Armagnac Jus ($30.95)

This was my dish, and I loved it! I also suspect this might have been where the food poisoning occurred, because my dining companions didn't have any of this one, and they were fine. The armagnac jus with the duck breast was delicious (cooked medium rare, which the servers made a point of checking with me about), and I loved the creamy sauce under the confit leg too. And the duck ravioli was delicious, with a wonderful chewy pasta wrapping. And I loved the baby veggies too.

Lemon Curd Cheesecake with Blackcurrent Sorbet ($9)

I really enjoyed the bite I had of this lemon curd cheesecake.

Warm Chocolate Cake with Caramel Cardomom Ice Cream ($10)

My warm chocolate cake, with a gooey centre and a very nice cardomom ice cream was the perfect end to a very decadent meal. They made me a nice Americano when I asked for coffee. Their teas are loose leaf. All the little nice details add up to a wonderful place to have a substantial dinner. It won't be cheap, but I feel like it's worth it. I've only had one visit so far, but I'd definitely like to return. I can't imagine that I would get sick again, but I'll let you know if I do. Perhaps I just need to work on my fat tolerance? It was a very rich meal, but the fat and sugar is what makes it taste so good! Go ahead, splurge a little, calorically and monetarily.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Best Donut Joint Ever!

Okay, first of all, apologies for the lack of posting lately, and really this particular post might not be what Nancyland foodies are looking for, but there's some food porn on it's way soon, I promise. But in the meantime, I just wanted to say that I went to the coolest donut store ever last week - the Duffin's Donuts on 41st and Knight. That place has an amazing number of food options for a donut store. It has great cheap torta subs (Mexican sandwiches), pho (Vietnamese noodle soup), bahn mi (Vietnamese sandwiches), an array of fast food type Chinese food, AND donuts. And the place is open 24 hours! I had a bbq beef torta, that had a beef steak drenched in barbecue sauce, on a wonderful roll, with avocado and onion in it, along with lettuce and tomato (I think), and it was a whopping $3.50. I loved it. That was a good sandwich. I also had this incredibly sugary "buttermilk" donut (85 cents) that is quartered and stuffed with (in my case) custard cream. Yah, I gobbled that thing up, but I had to do it in two sittings. All fast food places should be like this place. There is a smaller Duffins on Main St. too. Please do not confuse this with "Nuffy's" and their nuppets. Possibly the worse donut store I ever went to, back when there was one at the westerly end of Robson St. That place was 24 hours, and I swear they had 3 nuppets and a donut there one night at about 9 pm. "When are you getting more donuts?" "Oh, probably not until the morning."'re a DONUT STORE, I almost said. Okay, I admit it, the real reason I like telling that story is because I like saying the word "nuppets." Can you blame me?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Upcoming Birthday Festivities - Nancyland Meet, Anyone?

My birthday is coming up at the end of October, and I have traditionally (well, it's a new tradition, only a few years old) held a big dessert buffet extravaganza at my place, potluck style, complete with secret ballot voting for the grandmaster champion of desserts. There's fanfare, prizes, and adulation for that champion, and there's a dizzying array of sweets for everyone involved to indulge in. You can get one hell of a massive sugar high, and the ensuing sugar hangover, but I think it's worth it! I'm still thinking of throwing another one of those, but as much as I'd like to, I just can't invite the whole world safely into my home (though I imagine some of you Nancylanders could bring some pretty fabulous treats with you). So, I'd like to see if there's any interest in an October Nancyland meet at a public place. Please use the comments section to express interest, and to throw out ideas for a venue. Keep in mind, it should be hassle free - each person can show up and pay for themselves directly to the lounge/bar/restaurant. I would likely have it on a weekend, so perhaps the evenings of Friday October 13th or Saturday October 14th. Or perhaps on a weekday.

Last Year's Nancy's Dessert Buffet Winner - Bak'n Girl's Amazing Apple Frangipane Tart (a.k.a. That Apple Pie Thing)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sometimes You Just Need a Little Mac' and Cheese

Nancy's Macaroni and Cheese

In this particular mac' and cheese, I used cheddar, Monterey Jack, Danish blue, Parmesan, and Asiago. Plus I threw in some spinach that I had around. Baking makes it so pretty, but I think next time I might just eat that creamy wonderful sauce on the macaroni right away. The sauce turned granier after baking. Watch out if you make one, though. These things are dangerous, and I don't mean just calorically. You just don't know what kind of trouble you'll lure in with a decadent mac' and cheese. Have fun!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Richmond Night Market 2006

As the end of summer approaches, I hope you get a chance to hit things like the many farmers' markets and fairs like the Richmond Night Market before it's too late. I'm personally going to try and get to the PNE before it ends to get my mini doughnuts. There's also other community events like Country Celebration in Campbell Valley Regional Park in Langley (a GVRD Parks event) on Sept 16 and 17.

Here are photos from my trip last night to the food section of the Richmond Night Market. For me, these tasty little bites are well worth the trouble of wading through the ridiculously crowded aisles, and withstanding the background sounds of amateur karaoke (going on that night at the entertainment stage). I hope they widen the food aisles next year. That's where all the action is. We started eating right around opening at 7:30 pm, and kept going for a few hours, with strolls through the merchandise aisles in between.

Crispy Duck-filled Pancake - I liked this quite a bit. ($1.75)

Curry Puff - unfortunately served cold (2 for $3).

Roti Canai (2 for $3)

A School of Fishies - Look they're swimming so fast, they're blurry.

We Caught One of the Veggie-filled Ones! - Yummy. Also comes filled with Sweet Red Bean.

Waiting for our Lamb Skewers to Cook

Watching Someone Threading Big Squid Tentacle Sticks

The Ice Shaving Machine with a Block of Mango Ice

Big Bowl of Mango Shaved Ice without Toppings - wonderful lacy texture ($3.50)

Fistful of Meat: The Best Lamb Skewers Ever - So tender, fatty, and spicy! (4 for $5)

Lychee and Osmanthus Jelly (not very sweet), Side View

Lychee and Osmanthus Jelly, Top View

I can still taste those wonderful spicy lamb skewers, which were definitely the highlight of the lot. Worth the very long wait (they handed out numbered cards), and having to stand near the stinky smell of the fried tofu skewers served with a very odd sauce. We also had some great takoyaki, puffy balls of dough embedded with cabbage, and a chunk of octopus in the centre, and tasty Japanese toppings, that is not pictured here. Also missing from the photos are a bowl of fried rice, Korean sweet chili meatballs, and five pieces of fish cake stuffed eggplant and green pepper ($3). Bac'n Girl and I probably spent about $20 each on the food, shared everything, and came out stuffed. Oh yah, we also bought some cute crap from the merchandise stands (yes, I did have to buy those socks with the Ampanman cartoon figure on them), and paid $4 in parking, so you can factor that into the cost of a visit there. My first time was last summer. It's not for everyone, but it's now on my list of favourite summertime hotspots to hit each year.

Some tips for first-timers? Bring lots of cash. Resist the temptation to get too many of any single food item (even though they often are cheaper if you buy more), so that you have room to taste everything that you'll want to taste. Bring friends that will share food so that you'll have room to taste more items. Ask for that weird sauce for the fried tofu cubes to be served on the side if you are brave enough to try that dish (ew). And finally, be friendly to everyone around you and patient, as you're making your way through the crowds. Oh, one more tip, get those lamb skewers. There's several stands with meat on a stick, but we had the skewers from the one in the middle, serving just lamb skewers and squid skewers, that sold a paper bag of them at four for $5. We were glad we said spicy when they asked spicy or not spicy. They were so spicy and so good. They were also so wonderfully soft and tender, I wish I had their marinade recipe. In the classic words of Bac'n Girl, "even the fat tastes good."

Monday, August 14, 2006

Fisherman's Terrace Seafood Restaurant

Here's just a quick post about Fisherman's Terrace (in the Aberdeen Centre Mall, 4151 Hazelbridge Way at Cambie Road, Richmond, 604.303.9739). I'm somewhat undecided about the place. The food was fine on this visit back in May, with some highlights, but service at the front was a bit cold and odd at the front, with us having to wait in the crowded foyer area for a table when arriving on time for our (birthday dinner) reservation, despite nearly half the restaurant being empty. The space is massive, and it looks like the servers really have to run around to cover the big space. Since I'm so ambivalent, this post is not really meant to be a recommendation or a warning. Anyhow, I thought you might just like to see what we ate.

I'm feeling guilty about Shark Fin Soup these days. I've mentioned this to my family, but it doesn't deter them. Think of the poor sharks thrown back in the water without their fin, trying to swim. The soup we had was supposed to be made with some sort of extra special shark fin. The stuff still doesn't actually taste like anything in particular! It's all about texture, but I say, if you can save a shark, and use a noodle instead, then just go ahead. We could make those noodles extra expensive to allow people to feel just as elitist about your meal as your heart desires, if need be.

Shark Fin Soup

The soup was part of a set meal meant for five people (and we had four that evening). If you had five really hungry people, I'm not sure this meal would do it, but I can't remember if we ordered any plain rice to go with it, so a bucket of that should help. This set meal was quite nice because the food wasn't too oily and included a couple of braised dishes, instead of fried ones. In many Chinese restaurants (as many of you will know), often times they will have set menu's printed up in only Chinese, and any set menu's written out in English are suspect. Those tend to be what the restaurant will think white people will want to eat, or are familiar with, like sweet and sour pork or spring rolls). I've never done this myself, but if I were going to a Chinese restaurant with a group, and no one at the table could read the Chinese, I would say that pointing at the menu meant for the appropriate number of people would be a good way to go, especially if everyone was in the mood for a fancier dinner. Have the server explain the dishes maybe.

Fresh whole abalone, with bok choy, and braised duck feet

This abalone dish was quite tasty. The server doled out all the individual portions for us, as they should when at a Chinese fine dining restaurant. I'm pretty comfortable with eating the feet of fowl, but I grew up with it. Plus, I don't mind the weird bits of animals in general because I feel that if you're going to kill an animal for food, you shouldn't waste any bit of it. But in this case, I didn't really enjoy the texture of these feet. The braising makes it very, very tender. Almost mushy. I would prefer if the webbing retained some of its chew. This is just personal preference though, because I believe they are going for that super soft effect. I did enjoy the abalone. The other braised dish, that I somehow managed to miss photographing, was really good, and was probably my favourite of the evening. It was a vegetarian Buddhist's feast sort of dish, with lots of gingko nuts. There's just something I love about gingko nuts - the texture, the smooth rugby ball shape, and probably just the fact that I don't get to eat them all that often.

Crab with a chili sauce

I really enjoyed this crab dish, with it's sweet chili sauce. Reminds me a bit of my trip to Singapore, and it's not one of the usual sauces my family would get on crab. We tend to go with the ginger, green onion one or the cream sauce, so this was a nice change.

Almond cookies and sweet coconut rice rolls dessert

Some nice desserts to finish it all off. I really like the soft, chewy rice roll dessert, covered in shredded coconut. I'm not a huge fan of the hot red bean sweet soup, but it's fairly traditional and this one was nice enough.

Red Bean Sweet Dessert Soup

Sunday, August 13, 2006

I'd Like to Send a Nancyland Shout Out To...

...whoever made my spicy jerk chicken burger today at The Galley Patio and Grill, the casual restaurant on top of the Jericho Sailing Centre, at Jericho Beach. It had a delicious mango salsa and a spicy sauce on top of a really tender, juicy piece of chicken breast (about $9). I even liked the big, soft whole wheat kaiser it was served on, and the fries that came alongside. Another great summer patio, with a view of the ocean. It's very casual - just a counter service place (and they're constantly calling out people's numbers for them to pick up their food), and the food is served on paper-lined plastic baskets, but that's great, because you can feel comfy clomping up from the beach below wearing whatever you have on. Martini Man and his friend both wore their soggy wetsuits, and I was wearing a swimsuit and shorts, from sailing. It's a perfect example of how a restaurant experience can be so satisfying when you come in with low expectations and have them totally exceeded. I was just so impressed that the chicken wasn't overcooked, that I thought I would tell y'all. Plus, I was vaguely under the impression that the restaurant is only available to the users of the sailing centre, but it's actually open to the public. They have a buffalo burger, a giant nacho plate (18 inches across), and fish tacos too.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Slice of Vancouver - "Uptown" to Downtown

It always amazes me how abruptly some of our neighbourhoods change. I like to go for walks, and one noteable example is how suddenly West Hastings turns into the "Downtown Eastside" in the matter of a block. It's almost like there's some sort of invisible wall that keeps the respective regulars on their side of the wall. I take some joy in crossing boundaries like that, and observing city life. Myself lying in a sort of middling spot economically, I can peek at the excessively rich buying their designer handbags with as much interest as observing the homeless going about their day. Well, I went on another single street walk that struck me as being another Vancouver spectrum. First, I had dinner at West (2881 Granville St., 604-738-8938), one of Vancouver's most touted fine dining establishments. It sits on Granville and 13th, in the heart of the "South Granville" neighbourhood, and afterwards, I walked all the way down Granville Street, over the bridge, to where it crosses Robson Street, taking me through what I think must be Vancouver's largest collection of porn shops around. But even this side of Granville Street is undergoing a transformtaion, and I stopped in on one of the new trendy eateries opening up on what used to be a much grittier area. Whineo's (pronounced "Wino's," I believe, 1000 block of Granville St., and surprisingly difficult to find on the web) was the one I stopped into, Sanafir is across the street, and a very modern looking sushi bar was next door. I think this trio just shoved that invisible wall over one block South. The other wall seems to be the bridge itself. What will happen to that shrinking grungy porn area? It's down to a couple of blocks now. I think The Templeton, a long-time fixture on that block, brings in plenty of the un-grungy into the area, but it somehow manages to blend in with it's surroundings, with it's old diner looks. I think we'll be alright in the end as long as no one plunks down a GAP on Granville. Anyhow, at least for now, exploring Granville makes for an interesting evening.

In a White Bread World...
The early bird prix fixe menu at West is great if you want to see what it's like to live like an uptown girl, without spending nearly as much as one normally would for dinner. Arriving at 5:30 pm, for $45, Runny Cheese Woman and I experienced a three-course dinner, complete with amuse bouche and petit fours, and excellent service. Each option has a wine pairing by the glass, which is a nice touch. To start, we were given a little cup of hot tomato cream velouté, I think. I don't remember exactly what the soup was, but I do remember it being quite tasty. The bread was served with organic butter and organic olive oil. The butter was fine, the oil either slightly rancid or not to my taste, I'm guessing the latter.

We both chose the salad pictured below. Apologies for the fuzzy photo - I was extra self-conscious about taking photos in this room. It's very bright and open, with good sight lines, and the staff always seem to have an eye on us. Not a restaurant I'd think of for a romantic evening out, incidentally. My photo doesn't do the dish justice, as what really struck me, even more than the taste, is how pretty this looked when it came out.

Crispy Duck Confit Salad with Beetroot and Candied Walnuts, Honey Essencia Syrup

It's a nice salad. I really like the Essencia Orange Muscat dessert wine that I'm assuming is the base for the syrup, but I didn't really "get it" when I tasted the syrup. What I mean is that the syrup was a nice accompaniment to the salad, but it could have easily have been made with anything else, with a much cheaper product, and it would have had the same impact (aside from making the menu description sound interesting). I think I should have ordered the ravioli of ricotta and goats cheese instead. Or maybe the wild mushroom soup with blue cheese beignet.

Runny Cheese Woman enjoyed this risotto main dish.

Risotto of English Peas and Chanterelles

Fillet of Wild Spring Salmon with Dungeness Crab Beurre Blanc, Parsley Pomme Puree

This salmon dish is offered on the regular meal. I was quite pleased with it. The parsley in the potato puree gives it a beautifully striking colour and it was very tasty too, in a mild, refined way. The salmon was perfectly cooked, and the crab beurre blanc was delicious, as you would expect it to be. Take good wild salmon, butter, and could that be bad? Nothing mind blowing yet, but certainly pleasant, and mild-mannered, much like the entire restaurant itself and the staff.

It's funny though. I was really expecting David Hawksworth's cooking to be the star, but really the wonderful desserts from Rhonda Viani stole the show. Perhaps this has to do with having the prix fixe instead of the regular menu. It would be interesting to go through their tasting menu, I think, but I'm not entirely convinced that I would get really excited about the place even then. I think, for me, it's missing a bit of that really personal touch that gets me excited about a place. I never really felt like I belonged there, as pleasant as the staff were, I only felt the warmth flowing strongly from the one who came out to serve us a couple of times with the white apron on (someone from the kitchen?). I'll report fully on Elixir a little later, a meal I was ecstatic with a couple of weeks later. I think it helped me pinpoint what I was missing from my West experience. It's not that the food was technically better at Elixir, but that it contained more interest, and was served with more warmth, and for lack of a better term, a bit of charming humility. Top that off with a room (actually three) that I actually felt like staying in, and you get an all around beautiful evening. Again, it's all personal taste. If I were the power business lunch type, I think West would be a very safe bet. Oh, but the desserts did wow me. They were really amazing, and I'd put up with (almost) any amount of smugness to eat them.

Fresh Summer Berries with Buckwheat Honey Ice Cream, Coconut Wafers and Canteloup Coulis

Cantaloupe (with or without the e at the end) Coulis is a wonderful idea by the way. So good, in fact, I wondered why I've never encountered it before. Go pulverize a ripe melon and serve it under something sweet right now. So refreshing!

Dark Chocolate Torte with Creme Caramel Ice Cream, Rum Marinated Bananas and Sesame Florentine

This chocolate dessert was absolutely the highlight for me. It was much smaller and thinner than I expected (almost like a square or bar, rather than a torte), but it was delicious. The rum flavour of the banana concassé was intense. It was all so tiny and perfect. I could have eaten two or three of their desserts. The coffee I had with it, an Americano, was great. We ended with petit fours of banana cake with a caramel topping, and oat covered "truffles" with a bit of chewy apricot centre. I preferred the truffles while my dining companion preferred the banana cake. Adorable. Nice.

Petit Fours

And Now She's Looking for a Downtown Man...

Well, maybe not a downtown man, but it's almost like having too much sugar, and suddenly finding yourself craving salty things - I went searching for a downtown experience with some character to balance myself out on my way home. Plus I wanted to poke around and peek into the new places popping up. I looked in all the windows, thought about stopping in at the Yale, and wound up stopping into the young and earnest Whineo's, where there was only one other group there. It was still early in the evening. Had great service, a glass of wine (Big Yellow, $11.50) , and a $7 cheese plate of a tiny wedge of a single cheese (I chose a BC camembert) with apple slices, tiny pita wedges, and three interesting spoonfuls of condiments. Can't really evaluate them based on that, but I'm sure they'll do fine. I felt mostly neutral about the place, but I left feeling like I wanted a bit more for my twenty bucks. Really what I should have done, if I could have fitted it in, was gone to The Templeton and had a coffee and a deep-fried Mars bar. Or simply a few beers at the Yale. But perhaps then I'd run the risk of really finding that "downtown man." I'll save that adventure for another night.