Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Foodie Resource:

Merry Christmas, Nancylanders!  Wishing you a new year filled to the brim with amazing food adventures.  Of course, one of my resolutions is to post more frequently!  In the meantime, I just stumbled upon a very handy site - the ChefDB.  I'm a big fan of film and IMDB, so it's great to learn of this resource where you can trace the careers and restaurants of chefs around the world:

I was just trying to confirm that Andrey Durbach was the chef responsible for a beloved restaurant in my memory - Parkside, and the exact dates popped up on chefdb along with all his other past and present restaurants.  I was thinking about this because I was reading about The Sardine Can and planning on trying this little tapas restaurant of his and his long time business partner.  It's in Gastown and sounds great to me - I mean, I felt like I should have been born Spanish when I visited Spain.  Feliz Navidad!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Nancy's Quick Pick #9: Salt Tasting Room, Second Location in Kits

I loved Salt since it first opened, but I hadn't been visiting it lately, and part of it was just not being in that part of town as much.  The empire is spreading out, reaching out past Gastown into Kitsilano.  This is perfect for me, as I pass through Kits all the time, on my way home from work.  Salt is very simply a meat, cheese, and wine bar, but the beauty of this concept is the idea of these salty delicious things becoming more spectacular in their pairings with wine and vice versa.  They accompany everything with great sides, such as the cherry compote, mixed marinated olives and the house made Piccadilly relish (yum!).  The bread basket with a variety of crisps and bread is complimentary (or comes with the trios).  There is lots to choose from, or you can get their help with the decision making as well.  It's not going to be cheap, but there is so much flavour, the tasting nature of the experience is well worth it, and I'm always full anyway at the end.  The tasting plate that gives you a choice of three meats of cheeses (I picked out two meats and one cheese) along with your choice of three sides was $16.  I left the wine flight choices up to them to pair and surprise me and that was $15.  Everything was delicious alone.  My favourite pairing was the stone fruity Riesling with the soft cheese and cherry compote.  Also delicious was the meritage specifically with the Piccadilly relish (without the roast pork).

I delight in the heightened sensory nature and intellectuality of this sort of experience.  I just finished a short continuing studies course on food and wine pairing, so I was pleased to practice my careful tasting skills.  With the tastings you get at Salt, there is the opportunity for many different stages of tasting if you enjoy this sort of thing.  Think about all the potential combinations:

  • looking at the wine by itself 
  • smelling the wine by itself
  • tasting the wine by itself 
  • tasting the meats and cheeses by themselves
  • tasting the meats and cheeses with their respective side dish pairings
  • tasting the wine with its meat or cheese pair (are both or either better than tasting them alone?  Is the wine better with the food pairing?)
  • tasting the wine with the meat or cheese pair and the side and the bread
  • now which bread is the best with each combination?
  • tasting everything with all the other elements that it hasn't been paired with to see if the pairing is the best choice.
  • do your dining companions taste the same things you do?
  • and it goes on...until you run out of food and wine.
I ended up with a Tiramisu (cute in its mason jar, as shown), which was quite nice.  It looks like they will serve Stumptown coffee, but they didn't have it the night I went.  The room has almost a more casual airier feel compared to its counterpart in Blood Alley, and I think it's fitting in the Kits neighbourhood.  It should do quite well.  Staff are knowledgeable, helpful and not pretentious.  The only thing that I imagine would help them do better is if they made the portions of the meat and cheese slightly bigger, but I do think they are priced fairly.  

Nancy's Quick Pick #8: Acme Cafe

It looks like my quick picks are going to need to get even quicker for me to blog regularly.  So just trust me on this one, Acme Cafe on E. Hastings St. (near Army and Navy) has it going on.  The photo shows a delicious meatloaf sandwich on a pretzel bun, with a side of a delicious macaroni and cheese (for about a $2 add on cost).  I had this meal on two occasions and on the first finished it with pie, which was the real reason I sought this place out (on Pi day, March 14).

Do I really need to say more?  Actually, I do, because the first time I went there, I ordered three very personally risky items.  I have only had pretzel buns that I have found too hard and chewy to be really practical as a sandwich bun.  I have lately been having horrible luck with mac and cheese.   How can you screw up mac and cheese, you say?  That's what I thought!  No time for those horror stories.  Suffice it to say, Acme's mac and cheese is creamy, tastes like cheese, and is a good texture.  The third risky item was a coconut cream pie.  I love pie.  I love cream pies.  I am weird with coconut.  It's something about the stringy chewy bits ruining a smooth creamy filling, I think.  But it was really close to closing and there were only a few choices left.  Compared to earlier that day when they had 18 (I know! 18!) pies to choose from.  Anyhow, the coconut cream pie was delish, and all three things impressed me that much more given my wariness from bad prior experiences.

On my second visit I also had a B52 shake.  That meal was a great treat at the end of a busy week.  I do wish this place was right in my neighbourhood.  Maybe one day, since I've been dreaming lately of Gastown lofts with huge roof patios.

Staff are friendly, the place is cute and all retro diner-y, and prices are very reasonable.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Nancy's Quick Pick #7 La Taqueria

I have been to Mexico a couple of times and loved the food, especially the street stalls and super casual open air joints that sell tasty little tacos.  To me, La Taqueria on Cambie St. at Broadway (with a second location at W. Hastings St. that I have not been to yet) sells real tacos and they are delicious.  I love the small corn tortillas, and have tasted most of their toppings, and they have all been tasty.   If you could only pick a couple, I would say the Al Pastor (pork marinated in achiote chili and pineapple) and De Lengua (braised beef tongue) are good bets if you enjoy meat.  However, you can get four meat tacos for $9.50, and it was "Taco Wednesday" when I went, so when I quoted the Georgia Straight newspaper ad, they gave me 6 for the price of 4.  I also had pollo con mole, pescado (fish), carnitas (pork confit with pickled onions), and braised beef cheeks.  There are lots of vegetarian options too and four vegetarian tacos are only $7.  They have Mexican sodas, beers and horchata too, so I like to get a tamarind soda there because I can.  They have some tasty salsas and pickles that you can help yourself to, so don't forget to pick up some of that.  It's counter service, but they'll bring your order to you when it's ready, and it's usually busy.   Note that they are closed Sundays but are open for lunch through dinner time (until 8:30 pm) the other days of the week.  And Taco Wednesday is coming up!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Nancy's Quick Pick #6, Rajio Japanese Public House

I just tried the new Rajio Japanese Public House at West 10th at Alma St. for the first time and loved it.  This doesn't surprise me too much, as this is the new sister restaurant to Suika on Broadway, which I also love.  Rajio (as in radio) has only been open about three months, but everything seems to be running smoothly.  Perhaps as smoothly as their "smooth pudding" which is this amazing creme caramel cold dessert that so lives up to its name.  I've visited twice in total but on the first visit, it was a very chilly night and their big bowl of oden is perfect.  Thank you Y's Mommy (as credited in the menu for the oden)!

Kushi katsu - it's hard to go wrong with fried things on sticks.  They are served with a Japanese tartar sauce, onion relish, lemon salt, and kushi katsu sauce (thin and salty).  I liked all of the ones I had, but there was definitely a stand out for me - the braised pork belly was both melty and crispy.  I also love the chewy texture of mochi, so the rice cake was delicious.  You can customize and choose your own, go with one of their combos.  My first set on the first visit was on the fresh sheet and was called the premium set.  On my second visit, I chose eggplant, oyster, gyoza, camembert and pancake (which was really chunks of okonomyaki, Japanese "pancake" with pieces of cabbage) and they were all tasty (though I recommend going with the premium set if you can).  On the topic of cabbage, you are given a complimentary bowl of salt cabbage with some sort of salty relish on it.  They say it is for digestion, and it is the perfect light, crunch complement for the fattier izakaya foods.  I've tried two cocktails so far, and they were both fantastic - the homemade ginger highball and the special pineapple sour.   The tuna from the fresh sheet wasn't that great to be honest, but these things vary so much from day to day, I wasn't too worried about it.

 Homemade Ginger Highball, Complimentary Salt Cabbage and Condiments for Kushi Katsu

 Kushi Katsu Premium Set

 Disney glass is to put used skewers, Japanese Tartar, Lemon Salt, Onion Relish, Kushi Katsu Sauce

 Secret Oden (yes, there's a little weiner, and mochi in a soybean wrap)

Local Tuna (Albacore) on the fresh sheet 

Seafood Rice Cake Pizza

 Mentaiko Kimchi Yaki Udon

Mango Pudding

 Smooth Pudding (SO smooth!)

The seafood rice cake pizza (like a giant rice cracker) was a special, and was pretty good.  The udon dish was very tasty, but I would say that the texture of the noodles at Suika is slightly better, but I still gobbled this dish up here.  Mango pudding was excellent with a layer of tender  mango on top and a relatively light and creamy pudding underneath.

Their decor was pretty cute (lit up children's character masks on one wall) and casual, but I hope they replace metal folding chairs which are a little too casual looking and not that comfortable. There are some banquettes though, which were quite comfortable.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Nancy's Quick Pick #5, Nero Belgian Waffle Bar

Nero's Belgian Waffle Bar , on Robson at Bidwell St., makes waffles in both the Brussels and Liege styles.  Pictured above is a Liege waffle with banana and ample Nutella, with that denser, chewier  texture, uneven edges and bits of pearl sugar.  I will try the lighter, crispier Brussels waffle next time I go.  They have all sorts of interesting toppings including savoury ones, or you can just have your fresh waffle topless.  It's a cute little shop with several tables and charmingly authentic Belgian owners (a young couple who have just had their first baby).  They also make good espresso coffees, and seem to be open all the time - right now listing 11 pm closing times!  It's nice to be able to find an excellent dessert and coffee in a sit-down restaurant available after dinnertime downtown.  Too often, places close down early, or they just have mediocre desserts and rely on their ambience.  As of this posting, they are closed on Mondays.  Don't forget the savoury options though!  I've had brie, honey and walnuts on a waffle there too.  Their Facebook page seems to have more information right now than their website which is under construction.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Nancy's Quick Pick #4, Shuraku


Shuraku on Granville at Robson St., downtown is my fourth quick pick.  I went for lunch and chose the "gozen", a set meal for lunch and was presented with a beautiful and delicious array of food (about $17).  The photo above shows the meal, and miso soup, rice, and green tea ice cream for dessert were all included.  It was more than enough food.  I also had a sake flight (I think this was $12 for the three samples of sake), and loved especially the bottle pictured above that has a distinct taste of tea.  The owner of Shiraku seems to be a big fan of sake and brings in bottles that you can't get on your own.  The food is great.  My service that day was slow because they were running around trying to keep up with the big Boxing Day crowd, but they are friendly and attentive otherwise.  This place can seem pricey to someone who is used to cheaper sushi places, but the food quality and taste is high, so I think it is well worth it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Nancy's Quick Pick #3: España

España at 1118 Denman St. at Pendrell St. is a great little Spanish Tapas restaurant with delicious food.  They do not take reservations and during my mid-week visit, there were people waiting for tables at the door later in the evening.  There were so many things I wanted to eat on the menu, but I settled on the crispy chickpeas, the chicken liver, anchovy, and sherry pate on country toast, Padron style peppers, and an endive, serrano ham,  egg, and manchego salad.  They have a nice list of wines by the glass, and I chose a glass of red.  I finished with coffee and a sherry trifle with pomegranate and strawberries.  All of these were delicious, and I heartily recommend them.  I fell in love with a little tapas joint in Barcelona, and I think Espana might be the closest thing to it that we have in town.  Service was excellent as well.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Nancy's Quick Pick #2, Forage

Forage is the new restaurant at the Listel Hotel on Robson St. at Jervis St., replacing O'Douls.  The restaurant is in a completely different space and to me, the decor is a vast improvement to the old, dark O'Douls.  Really bright and cosy with flannel blanket-like wall covers.  Unfortunately though, the live jazz aspect is lost, I think.   The focus is on sustainability, and I've been a fan of Chef Whittaker's approach to food for a long time.  I've only had a chance to have brunch there so far, but hope to check out dinner soon.  My brunch (a great hash with winter veggies and turkey sausage, with eggs and toast (served with house made cherry and berry jam) was delicious and reasonably priced at $12.  Coffee was good too.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Nancy's Quick Pick #1, Sal y Limon

I must admit I'm finding it hard to write full blog posts like I used to.  So in an effort to get things rolling again here, I'm going to post a series of quick picks.  Basically if you think your taste is similar to mine, just go.  These are places that I'm strongly recommending based on just one very recent visit where I experienced a problem free meal (food, drink, service, decor, etc.).  I'm keeping it simple so I'll just give you the name and location of these restaurants.  But only the best are going to be good enough to be quick picks.

Nancy's Quick Pick #1 is Sal y Limon, Kingsway at Fraser St., a great, authentic casual Mexican counter service restaurant.  Just go.