Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Lunch Perfection at Trafalgars

You might think of Trafalgars Bistro (2603 W. 16th Ave. at Trafalgar, 604-839-0555 ext.1), as just a great place to choose a decadent dessert from a beautiful array of fancy sweets, and this slice of carrot and hazelnut cake was indeed very satisfying, but I found out that it's also a great place for a hot tasty lunch. I had spent the morning mucking about in pouring rain on muddy trails, and was looking for a lunch spot in the west side where I could warm up, dry off, fill my tummy up, and re-energize for the afternoon.

I went into Trafalgars and had their Moules et Frites for $15 on their lunch menu. The mussels were in a delicious tomato caper, lemon and chili broth, which I devoured right down to the last drop sopped up with the generous fresh basket of warm baguette (with butter) that you are presented with at the beginning of the meal. I had a hot cup of tea, and the mussels were like a super tasty tomato soup, perfect for that cold rainy day. The fries made the meal incredibly filling and satisfying, and they were crispy and even topped with a little hot spice which made them more interesting. I finished off with that carrot and hazelnut cake ($8) served with a beautiful striped chocolate curl stick, and mango coulis with a bit of a vanilla cream sauce.

Service was perfect, and incredibly welcoming considering I came in somewhat grubby, wet and muddy. The room was completely filled with people conversing and lunching leisurely, and yet it managed to be calming and relaxing. It was a cheerful spot and perfect lunch.]

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pad Thai At Your Own Pad

I made Pad Thai tonight for the first time...sort of...or at least a Pad Thai-inspired noodle dish. I didn't have some key ingredients around such as bean sprouts (substituted julienned broccoli) and tamarind pulp (substituted Japanese "bulldog" sauce, vegetable and fruit sauce for dishes like yakisoba, which has a similarly sour, sweet, and fruity quality, I'm guessing). I was also missing garlic chives and green onions, so I sliced up a yellow onion instead and started with stirfrying that. I did have Thai rice stick noodles, tofu, prawns, eggs, red chili, and fish sauce though. I was very pleased with the result, especially the mouth-feel of the noodles.

I found a great detailed explanation of how to make it (not exactly a "recipe") online at Chez Pim that is really worth checking out if you've never made it before, or even if you have and want to refine your technique. Apparently, it's closer to the Pad Thai sold in the streets of Thailand from carts and doesn't have that mysterious red oil stickiness that seems to be more common in western Thai restaurants. Give it a try.

If you'd rather eat out, I recommend the Pad Thai at Maenam Thai Restaurant (1938 W. 4th Avenue, between Cypress and Maple St., 604-730-5579), the second incarnation of Gastropod. Actually, everything that I ate there was super tasty when I checked it out shortly after it opened. Really, really tasty. Really.

For a trip down memory lane, here is my last meal at Gastropod before it turned into Maenam.

Okay, I didn't eat ALL of this. Some of it was for Bac'n Girl and Ginger Beer Man too! Well...alright, I admit, I ate most of it. Very rich. Too much food. And a very good time.

But I am very happy with what the chef has done with the Thai menu too. I thought I had pics from that night as well, but I was probably too gaga to remember to take photos. It was an "anniversary" date night that included walking over to the Stanley for a great production of Les Mis. Again, very rich. Too much food. And a very, very good time.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Remembering Hopscotch 2008

Last year, I was treated to a fantastic night of scotch tasting at the Hopscotch festival, which ran November 11 - 16th, 2008. Ginger Beer Man won tickets for us, and we must have sampled about a dozen premium scotches along with tasty bits of food, some beers, and even a tequila.

Pre-sale tickets will be on sale for this year's event on October 1st. Just sign up for their email newsletter on the website, and the event runs November 16 - 22nd, 2009.

The grand tasting event tickets give you admission to the Thursday or Friday main tasting event, five tasting tokens ($1 each) and a little souvenir tasting glass to use as you hop from booth to booth. You buy more tokens at the event, and there is even a complimentary shuttle afterwards (though after all that scotch, it was a great night to waddle off happily to the Main St. skytrain station on our own, from the Rocky Mountaineer Station off terminal (near Home Depot). Various seminars are also included during the evening, so if those interest you, get your name on the list early on in the evening. We wound up needing all the time to make our way around the booths.

Last year, my first year at the fest, was a spectacular event. Some of my favourite tastes of the night were:

  • an old single malt by the name of Penderyn (misplaced my notes, but I think this was my favourite)
  • fall off the bone ribs made with Jack Daniels and Rickard's beer.
I highly recommend the event. I remember the night fondly.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Foodies at the Movies: Julie and Julia

Julia Child, foodie blogging, cooking, women finding themselves, and relationships...this movie had everything I needed to get me excited before I even stepped into the theatre. And I have to say, it didn't disappoint. Meryl Streep does a charming, amusing, believable AND respectful portrayal of Julia Child. For a huge Julia Child fan who grew up watching and loving her cooking show, an irreverent impression could have easily killed this movie for me. Not to worry though, she had it covered and managed to beautifully convey that love of food familiar to many of us and is so fun to watch in people. I also wound up caring for and rooting for Julie, the writer who vowed to cook every dish from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook in a year and blog the entire experience. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and recommend it for foodies and non-foodies alike. Ginger Beer Man saw it with me and enjoyed it as well, so I don't think you have to be a food blogger to get it, but it certainly doesn't hurt. This inspires me to make a top ten movies for foodies list. Coming soon...

Thursday, August 06, 2009


I was thinking about the "breakfast of my dreams" and I started wondering if I really know what I want. The ultimate breakfast place I wrote about has everything I've dreamed about except that I can only go there some of the time. It's expensive and indulgent, and not something I want to do every day. I don't imagine the same spread at a place that I could afford to visit everyday. I am happy with the idea that if I find a breakfast hang out that I could go to every day, that it won't be quite as exciting and filled with the same variety and quantity of treats. I don't even bother fantasizing that I could have it all and have it there all the time. It's a trade-off. A part of me wants to keep dreaming of the ultimate everything place that will always be there for me. A part of me thinks that I will find the perfect everyday sort of place much more easily and would enjoy it more if I didn't spend time fantasizing about having it all. Experiencing the indulgent place is nice though, and it is comforting to know that I can be that satisfied, albeit rarely. Hypothetically, if for some reason all the restaurants in my vicinity were wiped out except for one, and I had the power to decide whether that one would be the fancy indulgent place that I could only go to once in a while, or the reasonable place that fits most of my needs that I could go to all the time, I'm not too sure what the right choice would be. Would I get bored of the second option after a while? Would I be content with the limited time with the first? Meh, I'd probably move.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Breakfast of My Dreams

I finally found the breakfast buffet that I've been questing for years. Some place that has great food, great service, great ambiance and is right downtown. I must admit it's on the expensive side for breakfast ($26.00/person), but it's incredibly satisfying, a beautiful all you can eat spread along with made to order omelettes if you wish, and the price includes bottomless tasty coffee, teas and fresh juices (orange, apple, grapefruit, cranberry). It's the big breakfast buffet at The Westin Bayshore's Currents in Coal Harbour (1601 Bayshore Drive, 604-682-3377). It's served from 6:30 - 11:00 am, which is fantastic for someone like me who likes to sleep in on a day off and have a long leisurely breakfast with a copy of the newspaper (plenty of all three major papers here are provided at a big round table at the front).

For good food, I want all of the hot breakfast favourites in unlimited quantities, "properly" done. Crisp bacon, eggs that are not overcooked (a made to order egg option helps a lot with this, good sausages, a variety of pastries and fruit and some interesting or unusual items, and of course, decent coffee with easily accessible refills (but I'm not too concerned about whether this is due to a diligent server or a help yourself coffee station). In this case, it's super attentive service where they ask you if you want refills before you even think of it yourself. And their theme is "superfoods" so there are all sorts of fun items rich in nutrients, like a variety of nuts and dried fruit including high quality dates. They also have some great smoked salmon, and a beautiful salad, and different items such as roasted yams or veggies. There's a variety of fantastic pastries in nice reasonably small sizes, and even little portions of thick fruity smoothies. Their yoghurt muesli is tasty too. They even have a eggs benedict type dish in the hot buffet section, and as I said earlier, it's nice to have the option of having an omelette or eggs made to order as well.

In terms of good service, I want a place that actually makes me feel welcome even though it's early in the morning, and I'm not really a morning person. For buffets, the servers pretty much just need to not get in the way. The food is always ready when you are, so you're not waiting for someone to bring you things generally. Essentially, you just need to staff to keep things clean, the buffet station looking nice and inviting, and sometimes to provide coffee, juice, water, and made to order items.

For ambiance, I like to have a place relaxed enough that I can read the newspaper and bonus points if they provide those newspapers, and especially if there is enough for everyone, and you don't spend every morning just coveting the paper at someone else's table. I generally like a place that is clean and comfortable. I'm pretty flexible about the decor. I do tend toward pretty surroundings but am happy with eclectic or old places as long as it's not ugly or uncomfortable. I like big windows and good natural light in the morning. This place is beautiful, comfortable, and has expansive windows looking out onto a pool and landscaping.

Generally, I like good value, where I feel like the price is fair. That sometimes means that it is incredibly cheap, but sometimes it means that you get such a good experience that it feels worthwhile. This falls in the second category, and is actually on the lower end of the big fancy hotel brunches in town, which can go up to $40+ per person.

I like the fact that there is no wait and it's quiet, where I can easily get a window seat. I almost worry that telling too many people about it may ruin the serenity of the place, but it's a big room, and they seem to have their system down too, so I'm sure they could handle a crowd if need be. I didn't feel rushed ever, so it's a great place to catch up with someone over a long breakfast.

It's a splurge (in calories and temptation as much as in price), so it can't be my regular breakfast hang out, but it's nice to know that the breakfast of my dreams does exist and is there for me any day of the week that I want it. There is an a la carte menu also for those who have more restraint than I do...or perhaps for those who don't have enough restraint for a buffet.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bandidas Taqueria

I am trying to get back on the blogging wagon.  Hopefully I'll be galloping along at full speed soon, but in the meantime, I'll try to at least post some quick and dirty recommendations.  Check out Bandidas Taqueria, a relatively new vegetarian Mexican inspired restaurant that gives great value, friendly service, and tasty tacos, nachos, burritos and more.  

Prices are fantastic, with two tacos at around $4 to $5.50 with interesting ingredients like breaded spicy walnuts or roasted yams and a half litre of yummy sweet sangria for $11.  We also ordered a "small" order of nachos that included roasted pineapple.  The four tacos, generous plate of nachos, and the sangria were enough to stuff us silly.   

Their environmental conscientiousness makes you feel good about visiting this neighbourhood spot on The Drive.  And they even blog!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Catch Gastropod Before It Creeps Away

Gastropod is closing down on May 2nd, so make your way down to this Kitsilano gem in the next week or so if you can.  Not to worry though, Angus An, the chef, will still be cooking at that location when it reopens as the authentic Thai restaurant, Maenam.  It's unfortunate that the economy has prompted some fine dining establishments in town to downscale, but perhaps after Maenam is up and running, Gastropod may be resurrected again in a different location.  I'm hoping to have one last meal there before the closing though.  If you haven't ever been, it's definitely worth checking out.  I'm looking forward to trying Maenam as well.  

Monday, February 16, 2009

Connor Butler Restaurant

Save up some money, think of it as dinner and a show all wrapped into one and just go.  My typical format for a review is to go into great detail about my personal experience at a restaurant and I try even to relay information from several visits to each restaurant.  But sometimes, it just feels like I should have a huge spoiler alert before each post.  I think that sometimes it is just nice to be completely surprised by an experience.  Which is essentially what happened to me one day when I went in on a whim and had Restaurant Connor Butler's (2145 Granville St, at 5th Avenue, 604-734-2145) six-course tasting menu.  I hope to post details one day, but if you are looking for a fine dining experience in town, and you have an adventurous palate and an appreciation for the creative spirit, just go.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mahek of a Lot Better Than the Indian Food I've Been Eating Lately

Okay, when East Indian friends of yours choose a particular Indian restaurant for their wedding dinner reception, you know that things look good for it to be a blog-worthy spot and a very good meal...  

Mahek Restaurant (9470 - 120th St., just before 95th Ave, near the Royal Bank, Surrey, 604-585-3331 or 604-585-3332) did a great job of handling the festive group dinner, with no shortage of fantastic food and geniality. My friend, Curry Chicken Man, had his wedding on a snowy December day, and it was already a good food day with the morning tea offerings and the vegetarian lunch at the temple before and after the ceremony. 

At dinner, we had appetizers of crispy and tasty pakoras, samosas, and a sort of salad like dish of crispy bits, chickpeas, yoghurt and chutney called chatt. We then moved onto an appetizer of cilantro tikka chicken which looks a bit unusual at first because of the bright green colour (I thought it was chunks of avocado at first sight), but it was delicious, served on sizzling platters with onions and peppers. We also had a fantastic lamb curry and butter chicken, rice, naan, and raita. I finished off with a nice cup of their chai.  All of it was fabulous and we stuffed ourselves silly.

The room is warm, and inviting. The staff were fantastic, and even wrapped up the leftovers for the wedding guests (yup, you betcha, Ginger Beer Man and I scored a big bag of leftovers, hee hee). The restaurant is a bit out of my way, but I'd happily make the trek out to eat there again, and I'm sure it will be a much faster drive on roads that aren't snow-covered. Beware though, it's on a road with two other Indian restaurants that also start with the letter M, so look carefully for it. It's a nice enough spot for a special date or a celebration dinner, but seems very homey and family-oriented too, with reasonable prices.  Looks like they are open seven days a week for both lunch and dinner and even the time in between.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gouuuulash Weather

Apologies to my dear Nancylanders - I haven't blogged in ages.  And to be honest, this winter season, I've spent a lot more time cooking at home or eating other people's home cooking than I have going out to new restaurants.  But I pledge to blog more this New Year.  Even if my eating habits have changed, you can be sure that I am still eating, hehehe.

I love the fog that has descended upon Vancouver...so mysterious. Though I was happy enough to get out of the fog briefly this past weekend at Salt Spring Island, and I will post about the good eating I did there soon.  For now, here is the recipe for the goulash that I like to make in the winter.  I often say that I make it so that I can say the word goulash more...  It's simply a meat stew (in my case, more of a soup), that can be traced back to nineteenth century Hungary, and was also loved by Austrians, and there are many different versions.  At it's simplest, it was meat and broth, made by farmers, and placed in a bag made of an animal's stomach, and cooked down until all the liquid was gone.  It could be eaten dried or water could be added to turn it back into a stew.  I omit the traditional animal stomach container in my recipe, but I do use both Hungarian paprika and caraway seeds that traditionally season the stew either individually or in combination.  

This recipe is based on the one in The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, with my modifications:

a few tablespoons of flour to lightly coat beef
about 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1.5 cups of chopped onions
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 green pepper, roughly chopped
a cup of roughly chopped mushrooms
1 large garlic clove
6 cups of water (or more, to completely submerge meat and veggies)
2 pounds of beef stew meat, cut into 3/4 inch pieces (I prefer a chuck roast)
2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
3 teaspooons salt
1/4 teaspoon caraway seed (I like more)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I use more)
1 or 2 bay leaves
1.5 pounds of potatoes, cut into 3/4 inch cubes (I don't bother peeling)
1 cup of carrots, chopped (or those pre-cut ones)
1 16-ounce can of whole tomatoes

1.  Coat the beef cubes in a light dusting of flour.  In a large soup pot, preferably not a non-stick one, brown the beef cubes on all sides (in small batches if necessary) by searing on high heat in oil.  Set aside beef.

2.  Cook onions, celery green pepper, and garlic in the same pot until onion is soft on medium low heat (about 10 minutes), stirring up all the little bits of browned meat stuck from browning the beef.

3.  Add water, beef, paprika, salt, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, and caraway seed.  Heat to boiling.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer 1.5 hours or just until meat is fork-tender.

4.  Add potatoes and carrots, cover and cook 10 minutes longer or until both are tender.

5.  Drain liquid from can of tomatoes and add to soup.  With a small knife, coarsely chop tomatoes and stir into soup just a few minutes before serving soup (keeps its tangy fresh flavour when added at the last minute).

6.  Cook until soup is just heated through.  Makes 10-12  servings.  Takes about 2.5 hours to make.

Serve it with nice chunks of toasted bread, and you have yourself a good hearty meal for a cold winter day.