Cartems Donuterie

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My guest deemed this as the “next it” doughnut place. Such a declaration was enough to have me eager to go. Seeing as fellow food blogger, and self proclaimed daily diner, “Miss Vancouver Piggy” and I were in the neighbourhood and looking for something sweet; we ventured two blocks away from our original destination to “Cartems Doughnuterie”. Here we paused for an after lunch dessert. And here I would like to mention that this blog post is written with her insights as well as my own.

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Conveniently located by a busy bus line, they see traffic from those getting off and more from those grabbing a desert ring to go before their ride arrived. Walking in, the space surprisingly opens up like a breath of fresh air. Here a path is instantly formed between glossy wooden seating on either sides. Benches and high tops, round tables and stumps for stools, and bar tops by the door. The bar stooled ones offered hooks for coats and bags under the tables. And the ones by the front of shop windows offered people watching capabilities. I almost thought they could have maximize the free space a little better. Not that more seating was necessary, nor was there any needed to showcase all the doughnuts behind glass. It’s just that real estate isn’t cheap and therefore a waste if not best maximized. Though “Miss Vancouver Piggy” asked me to consider the space needed should a line arrive.

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The Doughnuterie was set up very industrial-like. Raw with worn brick walls, smooth with buffed wood features, roughed with hardwood floors, and unique with a row of light bulbs in beams. Together with the presence of fluffy doughnuts and their cartoonish logo it was a pleasant balance of cute and edgy. The logo, a thought bubble with a smile.

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With all the doughnuts premade and many more cooling on trays stacked on a rolling rack in the back. There was only the need for one employee running the place. She was patient with our indecisive nature and gave us all the time needed to snap multiple photos. I was most pleasantly surprised by her willingness to give just fresher doughnuts from off the racks. Usually you serve the older ones first, meaning those at the counter.

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The doughnuts are lined up in columns and kept safe behind windowed glass. Here flavours are separated into two groupings. There doesn’t seem to be a difference between the set to the right or the double level on the left. Each flavour is presented with their name, a select few include a description as well. The type of sign was an easy way to differentiate between the regular offerings and those on special rotation. The pre printed signs offered consistency and the ones written on black cardboard offered variance.

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This is no “Tim Hortons”. If you are in looking for a traditional boston cream or a honey curler you won’t find it here. Here they experiment with the fun and offer you the different. Majority have names that serve as obvious clarification, and other are presented clear enough to offer visual understanding. Maple walnut, pink lemonade, raised salted caramel, blood orange, vanilla bean, chocolate glaze, Mexican mole, triple chocolate, salted caramel, earl grey, whiskey bacon, chocolate toffee, cinnamon burlee, citrus dust, coconut cream, regular and blueberry yuzu fritters, and the classic doughnut.

IMG_0792IMG_0793 The “sweet snow” looked like a chocolate doughnut with chocolate glaze, sprinkled with sweetened coconut shreds. “Stuffies”, referred to the doughnuts piped full of cream or jellies. Today there was a cranberry jelly, an apple pie filled, and the London fog. The “Fig-get about it” was a clever play on words. A doughnut I assumed like the “stuffies”, filled with a sweetened fig puréed.

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“The kitty” came in pink with an iconic Hello Kitty bow on its sign. This was a nod to the famous cat without infringing on copyright. I assumed “cinnamon sugar” would taste like the sweetness left at the bottom of a milky bowl of “cinnamon toast crunch”. The best part in my opinion.

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There was a lot I wanted to try, but between “Miss Vancouver Piggy” and I we tried limiting ourselves to sharing just three. We wanted the different and refrained from the familiar. She, a fan of tea flavours and not actually drinking it, chose the two tea related ones. “London fog stuffie”, filled with vanilla bean whipped cream, glazed with earl grey icing and drizzled with a white chocolate ganache. Despite the generous oozing of filling and the sticky nature of the doughnut this was surprisingly not as sweet as it looked. The vanilla bean was an appreciated gentle additional to the whipped smooth homemade cream. The glaze offered the slighted hint of tea, accented with the sweeter sauce of white chocolate. A decant doughnut I could not eat all in one sitting. Through it may be prudent to know here, I am not too keen on such sweets.

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The “Earl grey” doughnut was eye catching in beauty. The scattered petal sprinkles highlighted this ring over all the others. Though the connection between the doughnut’s flavour to these edible flowers was lost on me. Earl Grey tea’s main ingredient is Bergamot orange, a fragrant fruit similar in size to an orange, and similar in colour to a lemon. Its flowers are white. These petals looked to be from roses without any smell of them. At least its presence didn’t hinder on the over all taste. None the less this was a pretty doughnut and I felt girly bringing it to my lips. And surprised this was not as dry as it looked. A soft spongy centre perfectly sweetened with the evenly spread icing atop. The ideal doughnut to enjoy with its name sake tea.

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And of course we had to go with the one topped with bacon sprinkles. “Whiskey bacon”. This was more moist than it looked. I always forget that when you use alcohol in cooking it looses its buzz worthy edge and trades its bitterness for sugar undertones. Here the whisky added a smoked burnt taste to the mix, burnt in a good way. We didn’t make out much of the bacon, and could have used some of its grease or fried up pieces inside the actual doughnut dough, and not just as a topping. As a whole it almost tasted like a pecan maple doughnut. “Cartems” is a popular stop for those working in the neighbourhood, so it is of no surprise that I ran into a friend here. She came in to pick up some treats for her and her coworkers after their shift. Already making this one of her guilty pleasures. And I was not shy to request the taking of pictures of her doughnut order. She proudly announced her frequenting of the place and her fixation on their classic flavours, deeming our collection out of her scope.

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“The dark night” was clearly named after “Batman” with the bat symbol on its sign. A chocolate doughnut with chocolate butter cream, topped with chocolate brownie pieces, chocolate chips and walnut bits. This looked as decadent as it read.

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“Cinnamon burlee”. A glossy doughnut with its sugar topping burnt by a torch, for that crisp creme burlee topping feel.

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There were two types of salted caramel. One with a chocolatey base and the other with a more traditional spongy white dough. She got the latter, the “raised salted caramel”. And deemed it her go to, and her favourite.

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For those with dietary restrictions a reusable clipboard and an alter-able sign sits on top of the counter. Here on Velcro are names of vegan and gluten free doughnuts, and those that fall under both categories. As always Vancouver business owners consider all its customers and the growth in the vegan lifestyle.

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And if you are looking for more than just sweet snacks, visit Monday to Friday between 11:30-2:30pm to capitalize on their limited lunch specials. Today a Japanese bun and a deep fried fritto were on the menu. Their write up and demonstrative servings sat on the counter. I wonder how popular these are and how often are they ordered. When is the last time you went to a dessert shoppe and demanded something savoury that ate like an entree? Though it must be noted that their offerings are a clever way of utilizing their equipment and techniques for something other than doughnuts. Would I come back? – No. Would I line up for it? – No. Would I recommend it? – Yes. Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes. Each ring that we enjoyed was better than it looked, and that says a lot as they were each delicately crafted. The doughnuts were good and their presentation certainly memorable. I have never heard of, or even thought possible majority of their creative flavour profiles. Though personally I am plenty happy with any run of the mill, procession made, chain available doughnut. So at “Cartems” being $3 each and $15 for half a dozen, it is a little much for me. Though the price certainly reflects their quality and the fact that these are gourmet doughnuts. They have brought something new to the doughnut game. And although I enjoyed the union of flavours, none of this would be something I crave for again. More as a novelty and less as the stop for my doughnut addiction. You crave a powered jam doughnut or a Krispy Kreme. Though if I was just judging a doughnut by its toppings, this place would take the cake. Don’t deny your cravings.

To read “Miss Vancouver Piggy’s” review of “Cartems” on our blogger’s date click HERE.

CARTEMS
534 West Pender Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1V3
778-708-0996
cartems.com
Cartems Donuterie on Urbanspoon

Eagles Buffet

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My guest and I have been trying to dine here for over a year now. A few complications, including having the time off and the energy for a drive down to states, were a few of the road blocks we faced. This coupled with previously failed attempts, made today’s final visit all the more sweeter. Today the buffet wasn’t closed and the line to enter wasn’t a couple of hours long. After all the food was descent, but certainly not worth a two hour wait to eat it, in under one. The timing and our hunger finally lined up.

When you know you are about to indulge in a large meal, where eating all you can is the challenge, you set yourself up for success. This was done by grazing early to get our metabolisms going and then starving yourself hours before. So we were prepared to truly eat all we could.

The buffet is in the “Tulalip” casino attached to the “Tulalip” hotel. Easily identified by its killer whale mascot. Walking in and judging solely by the bodies in front of the spinning slot machines, this was a popular destination. Dim lights, bright colours, and the happy noises of bells and chimes. I made the mistake of trying to take a picture of my surroundings and was asked to immediately stop.

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The actual buffet is tucked away in its own little corner, right on the casino floor. A convenient way for those needing to take a break from their gambling to refuel with a large variety of foods. Now after 2pm there were no bodies lining up against the velvet stanchions. We were able to walk right up to one of the two cashiers barring the entrance.

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Here they ask you to pay before you enter, and give you the option to tip while you are at it. I truly believe tipping is a show of appreciation for service, and therefore should not be collected nor asked for until after your stay. So certainly not today, not now, not before we were even seated. Yes, I realize majority of restauranteurs view tips as part of wage and under pay their servers. (This I have learned first hand working a few years in the food and hospitality industry, for a few fairly large casual chains.) But that doesn’t make the expectation of a tip any better. Tipping regardless is the norm now, good or bad. Though how much given still lays in the hands of the diners. I give 5-10% for poor service and food, 15% as the norm, and 20-30% for an experience that knocked my socks off. (And yes this is after taxes.) We gave accordingly, to who we were appreciating, when we concluded our time. As a regular diner, I feel that without the use of tipping to reward behaviour, how are you going to guarantee you get good service during your stay? With an entitled generation entering the work force and their minds set on the thinking that an entry level role is an easy thing to replace, my hopes for elevation in the service industry seem bleak. It is a sad thought knowing you have to pay someone to be cordial when engaging in their jobs, and to treat you with a general level of respect while they are at it. This isn’t the case all the time, but I find when I don’t enjoy my stay at any establishment this is the main reason why. The expectation of reward regardless of behaviour. The expectation that 15% is customary and the feeling of entitlement when it isn’t present. I will garner arguments here, but keep in mind that this is humbly my opinion, and I am entitled to it.

Finally the total came to $43.29 after taxes, for two. At $20 per head this was a generous deal. We were directed to our seats and instructed to wait for our server before venturing out to serve ourselves. She took our libation order and reassured us that any juices or soft drinks were included with our meal. This, when we originally settled for water.

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The dining area is a sea of free standing tables and sagging bottomed booths. I am told, majority of which are filled regardless of time or day. As the hotel’s main restaurant, it is seated by those staying in their accommodations as well as tourists visiting the area. Hearing of the value in an all you can eat, who can stay away? If not want an initial try. The ceiling was painted to mimic a baby blue sky with white powdered clouds. It was awe setting, but unimpressive when compared to the ceiling-ed sky of the Paris Hotel in Vegas. I suspect this is where they took influence from. The sprinkling of lights against this backdrop looked like stars hanging in daylight. The carpet was a swirl of colour against maroon. Red, yellow, and green mixed together like a ribbon of tye dye. What I found an eye sore against everything else a little more lavish, offered an easy way to hide debris or food fallen throughout the day.

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The buffet is arranged by sections and themed by cuisine type. The “Asian section” included covered dumplings, freshly fried spring rolls, saucy noodles and dry rice, sweet and sour pork, Kung pao beef, and even wrapped fortune cookies for good measure. I found this food the best. Chinese food remains relatively the same, even when sitting under a heat lamp for extended periods of time. All the sauces and seasonings do wonders in hiding potential lack of freshness.

The pasta bar featured the option to have a single serve portion prepared for you at custom. Here two chefs stood idle and waiting. Shame they didn’t actively approach guests perusing the metal trays before them. As during leisure not many of us bother to read signs, and as a result miss out on great opportunities. And truthfully it is the role of the servers to be that reminder for their guests. Surely the made to order pasta would prove an improvement over the batch left to sit and mushify. Choose your pasta, a few ingredients, and what sauce you want to coat it all. Marinara, Alfredo, Rose, and pesto. Though for those not wanting to wait, as I eluded to earlier, you can help yourself to a troth full of premade noodles. Cheese stuffed shells or others coated in a salmon flavoured cream sauce, with chilled pasta salad available at the build your own salad bar.

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Speaking of salad, before today I have always wondered the need for salads at an all you can eat place. I see the mix of greens as only a filler and rather get more bang for my buck, in the form of pricer items. My thinking is, you want helpings of things a little more intricate than diced vegetables coated in a simple vinaigrette. Though after a few servings of deep fried, and all yellow and brown, I could have definitely use the freshness a spring salad offered.

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At the Mexican themed bar you helped yourself to a heated corn tortilla and filled it with either mixed vegetables, sautéed meats, or seasoned rice. Side offers to this included chicken taquitos, onion rings, chicken wings, fried chicken, and other dishes more common to pubs fare.

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At the meat station a chef stood behind the counter with several cuts before him, this is rotated regularly. His offerings included a whole prime rib and large beef brisket, he slices off sections for you on spot. This guarantees a certain succulence and a moistness in the meat. Like at the pasta station, it was your responsibility to engage the staff employed and draw their attention to helping you. Although I felt bad “bothering” the chef with fork and knife ready, I found the service he provided made a world of difference. And as a result this was indeed one of the better things I tried during this meal. I just wished he was friendlier and the cuts he gave me weren’t the ones sawed off as scrap. Sections laced with fat and tendons and ends hard from over cooking. I suppose I could have asked for better, though he already didn’t seem happy serving me. He stood unmoving, having me reach my plate under his sneeze guard glass and right under the potion he was willing to dole out.

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In hind sight, I wished I by passed the above grief and just grabbed a slice of pizza. This didn’t look in house made, but more believable as the frozen kind from the large “Walmart” a few doors down.

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The stir fry section saw two chefs sizzling up portions of raw foods on their circular grill. You choose what you wanted out of a selection of precut and uncooked vegetables, meat, and noodles. The concept is identical to the “Mongolie Grill” or any food-court wok services. Except here your portion is not weighed and you have the freedom to pile on as much as you like; with no metal dish as base weight. This too was left unadvertised, worked by two men more concerned with talking to one another than addressing guests. Though truth is, I guess it doesn’t matter if such services are known. From the perspective of the employees it is all you can eat, and their extra labour comes at no additional cost to us, and benefit to them. Either way they get paid.

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Desserts took up the most real estate. Refrigerated showcases of sliced pies, coolers of ice cream served by the scoop, and waffles pressed on sight. There was even a section for those needing sugar free options. The cakes, pies, and squares included what looked like: apple pie, lemon meringue, nanimo bars, fruity granola bars, brownies, chocolate cake, angel food cake; and many others I couldn’t identify, as they all were left unlabelled. You definitely pointed and choose with your eyes. Cupcakes and cookies were ready without the need for assistance, left out in the open. And the ice cream selection came with a build your own sundae bar. Pumps of syrups and scoops of ground up cookie, chocolate, and nuts. There was even a whipped cream machine doling out fresh strands of the white stuff.

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Round one is sussing things out and trying a little of what catches your eye. Here you get more than you can finish and take bites of what you want, leaving the rest on your plate. The hope is that this plate will be bussed by the time you come back with a clean one filled. This potion included prime rib, turkey and cranberry stuffing, mashed potato with self labelled beef gravy, ricotta cheese stuffed jumbo shells, smoked salmon pasta, Mexican corn, pork pot stickers, fried chicken thigh, and a beef taquito.

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Round two is now knowing what you like and going back for more, while willing to try what you consider the second best of everything. Beef brisket with barbecue sauce, mashed potato with turkey gravy, onion rings, buffalo wings, and fried rice.

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Round three is giving up on the idea of renewing flavours and is the refusal to waste precious stomach room by trying new things. Here you stick with what you have tried and consume only what you like. More fried chicken, potato, beef brisket, onion rings, and a sweet and sour chicken nugget.

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Round four is your smallest portion. Here you are trying to fit more food in, but not so much that you can’t enjoy a healthy dessert. A plate more for show, it reassures yourself that you are eating all you can and that you are really pushing yourself to your bodily limits. The Asian theme, what I found most enjoyable. Potstickers, teriyaki noodles, fried rice, sweet and sour pork, Kung pao beef, and stir fried mixed vegetable.

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Desert started with what I liked the most: an ice cream sundae in a waffle bowl, with a side of buttermilk waffle and fresh machined whipped cream. I spotted a bucket of waffle bowls behind the counter and wasn’t shy to declare my want in one. Luckily the gentleman working the ice cream station was delightfully friendly (even more so when compared to his peers at the entree stations). He added humour to our interaction and asked me to come back when I was done with number one. With full intention to deck this ice cream sundae out with every topping available, I carefully selected vanilla as my double scoop. Bypassing the familiar chocolate, green tea, mocha, and triple berry; and the more exciting “raspberry velvet cake”, “killer whale”, “Mukilteo Mud”, and “cherry almond fudge ripple”. On my sundae I had strawberry syrup, chocolate sauce, Oreo crumbs, crushed peanuts, and rainbow sprinkles. As excited as I was for this, it was the most disappointing ice cream I have ever had. It tasted watered down, more foamy milk than rich creamy vanilla. And the additional toppings offered no help. The waffles were cut into quarters and left to stay warm in a heated basin. I was too sheepish to ask for one fresh based on the service I have been getting. Though with both waffle presses free, it would have been a possibility.

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A chocolate cheese cake rectangle and a chocolate brownie square. This was overkill. I wanted to nibble, and couldn’t afford the stomach space to devour. At the place I was, this was too decadent and offered no eating value. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that this too was purchased premade else where.

There was just too much. I ate too much. Too much to have to describe each element in the vigorous detail I usually get into. Instead I will best describe things as a lump sum score: food 4/10 and overall 7/10. My guest ranked the former higher at a 7 and the later at a 7.5. The turkey was dry, the beef brisket barely seasoned, the taquitos burnt; and I am sure the onion rings, potstickers, spring rolls, and pizza were all the store bought frozen kind. Though keeping the price in mind and knowing the genre before hand, you get all that you expect. How else do you get to try this much with no consequence for this little? You get what you pay for so no complaints here. After all nothing was bad enough to spit out. It was all okay.

I was surprised to see smoking in the restaurant, as the gentleman at the table next lit up an after meal smoke. Taking Canadian law for granted and the inability to smoke in restaurants as a fixed thing. The same scene was replicated in the casino washrooms.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Everything was good, nothing overtly bad; but none of which I need to try again. I took what I wanted from that experience. All the greasy starchy-ness I could handle. I left full with the longing for something fresh, but feeling too bloated to satisfy this urge. Though I wonder how anyone is capable of making ice cream less enjoyable, or would want to
Though once again, for the price of the lot, I can’t complain. I certainly got what I paid for. Food that fills and goes through you. Don’t deny your cravings.

EAGLE’S BUFFET
10200 Quil Ceda Blvd, Tulalip WA 98271
360-716-1462
tulalipresortcasino.com/Dining/EaglesBuffet
Eagles Buffet on Urbanspoon

Finch’s Tea & Coffee House

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I recall my first and previously only visit here over four years ago. Then it was 2010 and I was working my way through “Vancouver Magazine’s 101 tastes to try”. So when fellow Vancouverite, food blogger, and daily diner, “Miss Vancouver Piggy” chose this as our lunching destination I was more than happy to oblige for nostalgia sake. Therefore this blog post is written with her insights as well as my own. And this is what happens when two indecisive people try picking a restaurant; we came together for our love of food, after considering 10 other restaurants before it.

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The shop was as I remembered homey and full of warmth. Between the rickety nature of the tables and chairs, and the squeak in every floor board you could tell things were well lived in. Faded and stained with wear, tear, and age; the place felt like it possessed a lot of history and could tell you a tale or two. Vintage decor pieces set the stage, scattered for a visual feast. A washed out mint green cabinet housed missed matched porcelain tea sets, to be looked at and not used. A couple of space heaters painted once over in burgundy kept the place warm, not that today’s weather needed it. A gold leaf mirror and a miniature shelf of nature’s collectables hung on a peeling wall. Both were sewn with vines and wild green growth, they decorated an otherwise empty space. And worn books and texts sat on display with fallen spines and loose pages. The low hum of folk songs playing over head matched the casual vibe of the place.

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The large floor to ceiling windows out front, and the carefully staged seating allowed us to fully maximize the sun’s heat. We played a little musical chairs, moving from table to table until the one we desired became free. Here, seated on top of a narrow step up stage we were on display in the cafe’s window. Seated to enjoy and serve as an in motion ad. This was the case with two other strategically set seats. I deemed them the best seats in the house with an eagle eye view.

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With fresh carnations on each table top and help yourself jugs of flavoured water this made for a nice setting to linger at. Lemon wedges and cucumber slices swimming in chilled waters. A cultivated friendly and forgiving environment with help gathered from genuine staff. They didn’t pressure the speed in which you ate, they didn’t insist on bussing a table still being used, and they brought your orders right to you. The waxy parchment that each baguette sat on was used as a placemat. It allowed for easy cleanup and kept tables relatively crumb free. Just as well, seeing that as soon as a table freed up a new party came to claim it. This was done without a once over with a damp rag in between. Though with the rotation of patrons ever moving, today’s majority seemed to be taking their baguettes bundled up and tied up with butcher’s twine, to go. So lining up for a seat went without a challenge. Thought snacking midday on a Monday isn’t exactly peak time.

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After claiming our choice table with jackets on seats, we headed to the front cash to order. Here the menu is presented in script written on black boards with white chalk. Everything was conveyed between a series of rectangular and squared gold frames. Distinguishing between breakfast options; baguettes, their fillings, and add ons; salads; cheese plates; and drinks. With many opportunities to customize and build your perfect sandwich or salad. Salads being similar to the baguettes, but with more greens and the bread on the side.

You leave your name and wait for your sandwich to be crafted. This is done quickly with nibble hands. A wonder how, considering the need of four women squeezing all into the one slim space. This cramped kitchen workspace was visible just past the counter. Here herb filled jars lined a shelf; a cappuccino machine stood on point; and where possible, kitchen equipment hung in reach but just out of the way. All the bread used came from a basket of what looked like fresh loaves, and the tomatoes from a bundle still on vine. After tasting things it all seemed as fresh as their imagine portrayed them to be.

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Seeing as tea was in their title I choose one from their sign of “new teas”. “Cherry blossom green tea”. Though in hind sight, with the direct sun shining on us, and the sweating of my brow, a hot tea might not have been ideal. This tea was more scent than taste. With hints of floral wafting to my nostrils before I gingerly took a sip.

Usually I enjoy a soup with my sandwich and today’s “Tomato basil soup” on the side would have been my number one pick. But as was the case with the tea, it was just too hot out for soup.

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As I did four years ago, I went with their most popular selection and the one mentioned on “Vancouver Magazine’s 101 tastes”: “Pear, blue Brie, prosciutto, walnuts, oil and vinegar”. This was one of the pricer options and given its unique composition, well worth it. Hearty with coarsely chopped walnuts, a little sweet from the balsamic and refreshing pair, and rich with Brie speckled in blue. I could have used a little caramelization and toasting in the walnuts. And didn’t get any of that distinctive blue cheese pungent-ness, although it was very present visually. This is the type of sandwich best served as it was, assembled fresh and eaten at room temperature.

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We chose to try our second choice last, fearing that its bolder ingredients and heightened seasonings would outshine the milder baguette before it. This was by recommendation of the clerk, who was more than happy to oblige us with her option. She spoke with a sparkle and described this as her favourite, and a complete contrast to our order before. It was convincing enough to have me agreeing. “Gypsy salami, lettuce, tomato, and pesto mayo”. With the addition of applewood smoked cheddar. This was a more traditional sandwich. Salty with folds of cured meat, rich and smokey from the chewy cheddar, and fresh from the generous greens. I picked on the absence of promised pesto in my mayo, and the fact the mayo was positioned on the bread next to the lettuce. This made the vegetable soggy and would have been better paired with the meat instead.

Being very environmental friendly they ask you to not use take out cups and sleeves unless necessary. And being a small business, ask you via sign to consider paying in cash as appose to debit. A way to help them with the high fees attached to carded forms of payment. I appreciated their honesty and was obliged to help.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Out of all the sandwiches places I prefer “Finch’s”. They offer unique blends and successful balances of sweet and salty, chewy and crunchy. A grown up artisan sandwich shoppe. My fellow foodblogger and I left satisfied and agree this would be a positive review. However as memorable as this visit was, I would shy away from visiting during peak times. With limited meter parking and the potential of a line through the door I would approach Friday lunch or weekday brunch with much hesitation. Don’t deny your cravings.

To read “Miss Vancouver Piggy’s” review of “Finch’s” on our blogger’s date click HERE.

FINCH’S
353 W Pender Street, Vancouver BC
604-899-4040
finchteahouse.com
Finch's Tea & Coffee House on Urbanspoon

La Belle Patate

IMG_9997IMG_9982Poutine with a French man.

It’s been a while since we’ve had poutine. Me three months, he three weeks. The benefits of living with a French Canadian is that when he has his weekly poutine craving, you are able to tag along for some of the cheesy and gravy good stuff. As I have previously written, having tried many a poutine; a variety of fries, a gallery of gravies, and a collection of cheeses; all from a multitude of restaurants and bars, this hands down is my favourite. Though a large influence on my declaration comes from the opinion of the “Frenchy” I was dining with and only come here with. This is his choice for the most authentic and the most true to the Québécois spirit.

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It was a modest setting, a mix of bar and community centre. Yellow to orange walls, accented in red. With what you would imagine as traditional and cliche Quebec memorabilia was present. A Canadianens flag, pendants, and signs. Signed and framed GSP pictures and merchandise. And Quebec flags and license plates. Souvenirs the owner brought with him of his old life on the East Coast? There was a lot scattered around in advertisements and signs. It made things feel a little cluttered and kept the place casual. But between a child’s coloured picture and the laminated notes, I am sure it all has meaning.

A few bar stool-ed seats stood before windows facing the side walk, and others sat across from the mirrors that made up a section of the wall. Above them were mounted flat screens showcasing the sports of the day. They were angled for the benefit of those sitting at one of the tall backed booth seats, lining the opposite wall. Having all those seats already taken, we sat ourselves at one of the black tables surrounded by brown chairs in the middle of the room.

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You walk in, if busy drop your stuff to claim a table, then stand a feet away from the counter reading what the chalkboard menu over head has to offer. Your choices are separated by “poutine”, “specialty poutine”, and “hot dogs”. A list of fast food done greasy and satisfying included hot chicken, grilled cheese and smoked meat sandwiches; and sides of onion rings and pogos. Here poutine varied by the addition of one or more ingredients. You can put anything in a poutine and it would taste good. Hamburger steak, bacon, peas, eggs, tomato, green peppers, coleslaw, pasta sauce, and even donair meat. Or take your basic gravy and cheese curd and add in whatever you want to have your own customized poutine.

With your poutine they also offer beer and wine. Though I have never had either here. Instead I grab a bottled soft drink out of the help your self style freezer, and use their wall bolted bottle opener to free the cap to take a chug. There are also cupcakes for sale from a local bakery, this would be your only choice for dessert or something sweet. This little glass pedestal and cloche sit just behind the help yourself bottles of ketchup and the jug of water and lemon ready for the self pouring.

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The employees working tonight were as casual they were dressed. The owner is who we often see, he is a friendly face who knows his regulars by appearance if not name. He is more attentive than the young man working the counter tonight. Today we had some part timers who just could not care less. The cashier kept us waiting to order as he had to finish something on his phone. We watched him text before he leaned on the register and addressed us with his profile. Not once did he look us in the face or meet our attention with his eyes. His bad attitude was evident and ever present from the time we ordered to the time he had to serve. When not engaged he waited for business, chin on palm, elbow on counter.

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“Onion rings”. We are on the eternal search for the best onion rings. To date these are closest to the ones that kindled this love affair on the beach Penticton. Golden brown, the perfect fry without that oily taste. Crispy and best eaten hot. A little too perfect in cut, that I suspect they were purchased frozen.

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“Grilled dog” with mayo and ketchup. I prefer a grilled dog over the steamed variety any day. The grill gives it an extra crisp skin and an additional char. They toast the bun to give things a cohesive warmth. Though as tasty as this was it is just a regular hot dog. No better than the street meat you get from carts on corners.

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After trying a number of their poutines: finding the “Italian” too tomatoey and the “galvaude” cold with frozen peas, I have vowed to stick to the original and one true version of the poutine. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I don’t find any one new ingredient added more beneficial to the winning base. To me you can’t improve on this already perfect late night craving, junk food loving mix. This is their classic: crisp fries, meaty gravy, and squeaky cheese. And when you are craving a poutine nothing satisfies like this one, and there is no heartier a size than the large severe in a tin foiled to go tray. But every time we come we ask for there to be less gravy in our portion, and each time there is still that race to finish things before the crisp fries get soggy and over saturated. What remains is a pool of brown deemed inedible.

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Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
As I have already stated this is my favourite spot for poutine. Though there are times in my cravings that make I want a thicker more potato-y fry or a different flavoured gravy all together. But I find that at the end of the day I always come back to “La Belle Patate” and they satisfy majority of my cravings. This is the most authentic Quebec style poutine in Vancouver. Take the word of a French Canadian who has gone out of his way to try it all. Don’t deny your cravings.

LA BELLE PATATE
1215 Davie Street, Vancouver BC
604-569-1215
westcoastpoutine.wix.com/labellepatate
La Belle Patate on Urbanspoon

Cassia Cupcakery

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On occasion I have passed by this cupcake bakery and thought of going in. So today when we were looking for a quick bite after dinner, this proved to be an easy solution.

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The shoppe is a narrow space. A strip of black and white checked floor stood sandwiched by the counter and a few small tables on opposite sides. On the wall hung framed photos of the different cakes. One they have baked over the years for birthdays, weddings, and special occasions; like a row of edible art. My favourite was the cake made to look like Ariel from “The Little Mermaid’s” dress.

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Judging by the rolling racks of baking trays scattered just before the kitchen, their treats are baked on site. Two employees dressed in Cassia logo-ed aprons worked the front and back respectively. We were here later in the day, a time after dinner and traditionally not busy on a Friday. So I was surprised that they were still open past 7pm, but happy to get the pick of the place. Despite the time to close fast approaching we were not rushed, but instead allowed to browse and chat amongst ourselves in decision making.

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A sheet of glass shielded cupcakes sitting out the open. Each flavour shared a coloured three tiered tower with another. A flag labelling them for what they were. Cookies and cream and peanut butter. Regular chocolate with its opposite, white. Coconut and cappuccino. Mint with lemon. The vegan peanut butter and chocolate stood together. And gluten frees and red velvets shared a lonely plate with themselves. The regular cupcakes come with a choice of large or mini. The former satisfies a craving and the latter allows for a taste of many. And still you are given the option to customize your treat by choosing the base of your cake and its cream, from a list of your basic cupcakes broken down and ready for mixing and matching.

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Mint, red velvet, coconut, white chocolate, cookies and cream, and lemon. As good as these looked and as good as they tasted, I felt they were nothing too special. They were no different from the one bite cupcakes that they sell trapped in plastic at grocery stores. They also weren’t that fresh, but even with time, they were able to retain their bold flavour. I suspect this late in the day. the cupcakes have been standing on display since morning.

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If cupcakes aren’t your thing and you don’t care about feeling foolish, coming into a cupcake shoppe looking for an alternative to their name sake? You can do as my guest did and have cookies bagged up. These came from glass jars that stood beside the till. Mini brownies, Peanut butter, and Cocoa swirl. As per all cookies, these would have been better and best fresh.

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We took ours out as I find cookies and cupcakes a portable to go snack, a walk and you talk edible, really un-needing of a sit down setting.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
These weren’t anything special and nothing I couldn’t make for myself. Yes visually they were stunning, but taste wise they were your run of the mill light and spongy cupcakes. I would say it closely resembles the “original” cupcakes. Traditional flavours with a simple look. Nothing different, nothing new. And at a small chain like this it is disappointing to not see a feature cupcake or a seasonal special. Though of note, their business cards are cut up pieces of paper taped to used casino playing cards. Very economical and inventive. Don’t deny your cravings.

CASSIA CUPCAKERY
1706 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC
604-568-6188
Cassia Cupcakery on Urbanspoon

Curry King Cafe

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When a restaurant uses royalty or rank in their name I feel it sets you, as the diner, up with specific expectations. Would they measure up? Is this truly top notch? Though what are the odds of their 24 hour pho neighbours being the best in the city for Vietnamese and Cambodian cuisine? A “fact” self proclaimed on signs. Was this all fluff? Well it worked in getting us in to visit “Curry King”. Without having ever seen the place or done any research on it, I expected one of the best curries, if not the best curry I have ever tried. My guest recommend the place, meeting my distance requirements and his finicky eating ones.

The exterior was pretty standard. Name in neon, with details printed on a banner underneath. “Thai curry and Chinese food restaurant”. You hardly got a look in from the sidewalk. The windowed front was blocked off by a shade and the door was plastered with posters and papers taped. It was too much clutter to sift between, though the free wi-fi logo and coloured take out menu, accordion style did stand out. The wifi message seemed a selling feature. It was important enough to further highlight with “free wifi” taped at every booth, and up in every direction one could face. Prudent, as the culture dictates its need for such a service, even when eating out.

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The restaurant was well light, the brightness gave way to the fact things were as cluttered indoors as they were represented out. In similar fashion, posters of varying colours and writing style were taped side by side. Most were handwritten in Chinese bubble font and coloured in using highlighters. Others were in neon on black chalkboards and back light led boards. All were advertising specials and menu options. Given the fact that majority of which were in Chinese script with very little English they are definitely catering to their demographic. And looking around this evening, I would be correct. Everyone replied in Cantonese as the women working initiated conversations in their native tongue. A new family enjoyed dinner with baby and a group of youths sat leisurely eating their meal. Both seated in one the the eight booths that flank each opposing wall. The booth seats seem newly refurbished, if not well kept. The perfect resting spot for elongated stays, it was a comfortable and roomy sit. Free standing tables were evenly spaced out in the centre of this dining area. They offered the possibility of being merged, in order to seat and host larger parties. Two flat screens were mounted above, both centring the room. They were tuned into what appeared to be a Chinese drama. Unique as most televisions in restaurants either broadcast sports or a music network for extra chatter. The walls were either dry walled in a rosy beige or set with imitation stone. On them hung unmemorable paintings and leaded framed photos.

Judging by the lack lustre greeting I was given upon entry, I knew this would one of those typical fast food Chinese places. The commonly seen model where service is nothing more than the basic requirements of hospitality. The passing of menus, the taking of orders, and the refilling of complimentary hot beverages without cue. I set my expectations low. The two severs on shift stood before the kitchen, forever looking out past the entrance. The sound of the door striking a bell set them into action. I was pointed to a booth, given three cups of tea by one girl, and given a deck of menus without eye contact by another. During our two hour stay one of the waitresses shouted her conversation with a fellow patron. I suspect they were friends, as the diner sat alone eating in her direction. And after three employees sat down to have dinner themselves. A few dishes for sharing and a bowl of rice each. A common sight and practice as employees don’t really get breaks, and there is the need to find time to eat when they can. Though realistically coming from the service industry I would never advise being seen eating or taking a break in front of your customers. It lacks professionalism, and as a diner I would avoid asking you for the service I need if I see you about to scoop a spoonful of rice into your mouth. With a lull and two servers working the front, it is easy to stagger breaks and allow everyone a spot to sit down at in the back. But I guess then they loose that family style eating and comradery that is looked forward too.

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The menu is a long list of common and simple Chinese style dishes. I made no effort in reading all the possibilities. As I suspect is the case with other diners, I stick with what I know and what like, and order it. The familiar jump out and its a matter of deciding whether I want rice or noodles, soup or sauce.

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“Hong Kong style tea” with milk. Easily identified by its almost orange colour.

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Considering its name we had to try a curry dish. This was labelled as being one of their “special curries”. “Curried beef brisket”. We chose rice over spaghetti as a base, knowing the grains would serve as the preferred vehicle in which to soak up maximum curry flavour. The presentation was lovely in a mini wok, and the dome shaped serving of rice dusted in green herbs was a nice touch. The portion was generous, large chunks of beef brisket and proportional cubes of soften potatoes. It was a hearty mix coated in a thicken sauce. The curry was on the sweeter side, sweet with a tinge of spice. Flavourfully seasoned it didn’t need to hide behind sweat inducing spice. The meat was chewy with a fall off the bone tender feel. Chewy to the right extent, thanks to the little fat left on the meat.

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“Deep fried tofu and fish hot pot”. Although the clay pot came to the table still bubbling, I would not consider this to be a “hot pot”. When you think hot pot you think soup and noodles. Here it was more literal. Without rice included, we requested a bowl at an additional cost. A cost that was expected, but went un-clarified. And considering that the bill was tallied numbers without words, a warning of the additional charge would have been nice. The tofu and fish acted like sponges soaking up all the meaty sauce. A stump of ginger, although appreciated for flavour was a rude surprise when bitten into by my guest. We were also caught off guard by the addition of shredded pork in the dish. Just reading its name on the menu, without a description, you would not expect the presence of red meat in the mix. Luckily neither of us were pescatarian and continued eating. This was even despite finding a strand of fine short hair adhering to a tofu cube. We removed it and continue to eat knowing they wouldn’t replace the dish or comped it if we brought it to their attention.

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When there is laksa on the menu I am always compelled to order it, it is one of my favourite dishes that I don’t often indulge in. And as of late all that I have had had been flops. Today was no different. Though in hind sight in may not be the strongest dish to order at a cafe specializing in Hong Kong style cuisine. With three options available I enlisted the help of our server. I wanted the bowl most similar to Singaporean style laksa”. I was reassured that the “Prawns laksa with rice spaghetti” would be the one. When the bowl finally came, by looks alone I knew this would not taste how I expected and satisfy how I needed. The colour of the soup had none of the red and orange typical in a broth boiled with chillies and heated spices. Instead this was a bland and watery neon yellow. Especially tasteless when compared to everything else we had before. The pieces of shrimp although unshelled and plentiful were left unseasoned, hard overcooked bites that tasted fishy. I prefer the dried shrimp used as garnish over it, at least they offered an element of salt and some harder texture. Being familiar with laksa and growing up with the dish, I found it strange to have it served with spaghetti pasta. I know I read it on the menu, but I guess a part of me thought it was the English translation for vermicelli, calling it “rice spaghetti”. So now I felt wronged to not have it made with traditional vermicelli, but with this popular Italian pasta noodle instead. After all the use of the pasta didn’t offer anything to the dish, aside from making it more filling. I recommend this dish for those who like their food plain and are unfamiliar with the breath of spices south East Asian cuisine as to offer. This would be the beginner’s introduction to laksa.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Throughout our stay there was a rotation of customers coming in to dine and others in just for a pick up. They were fairly busy on a Wednesday evening, so I suspect the food to be promising to many others. I on the other hand just found things only ok. A dime a dozen. There was nothing that made them stand our amongst all the other Hong Kong style cafés. Nothing I could get here that isn’t available at any of the other like restaurants. Other than its convenient to get to location and the fact that there is ample road side meter parking and free ones available a few blocks away, there is nothing else worth mentioning. It hardly deserves its self appointed title of “King”. Don’t deny your cravings.

CURRY KING
4250 Kingsway, Burnaby BC, V5H 1Z5
604-437-3638
currykingcafe.com
Curry King Cafe 咖哩皇餐廳 on Urbanspoon

Aussie Pie Guy Foodtruck

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I have previously seen pictures of their delicious looking pies on Instagram, so was excited when the “Aussie Pie Guy” food truck rolled up by my work. A chance to have a taste for myself, instead of asking “how was it?” to others. Their truck was red and white, with a map of Australia on the back and their pie-ed logo all around.

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The menu was a sheet of neon coloured metal with each type of pie adhered to it by magnets. Scanning through the list I was slightly disappointed by the absence of any dessert pies. They offerings were all savoury meats or veggie full. Having this be my first exposure to Aussie pie, I guest this was to be expected.

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The truck was run by two true Australians, accents and all. They were a friendly pair, patient with my questions and friendly with service. They advertised through pictures and a pleading sign that their goal was to save enough money for an Aussie holiday. The photos were happy memories from their last trip to be used as reference.

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Your choices are eight regular pies and one on special. Each came with the option to pay a little more for a combo. The combo came with peas, mashed potatoes and gravy; or a sausage roll on the side. Majority of the pies were premade and kept warm within a glass case. I was luckily enough to get one fresh out of the oven. After my pies were bagged or boxed to go, I asked for cutlery, but other than the pie combo, was told none was needed. The expectation is that you eat the pie as a hand held. Guess this made sense coming from a food truck. But I don’t like having to eat it with my hands of possible.

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I wanted the true Australian experience so went with what I thought were the most outside the box pie fillings. The pie crusts were all the same. Buttery and flaky but held together well, it a non greasy way. It was flavourful enough to enjoy as is, but light enough to not distract from each of the fillings within.

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The “Steak & Guinness” because it was the special with limited supplies left by the time I got there. Chunks of steak in a Guinness gravy with chopped vegetables and softened potatoes. This I got topped with potatoes and peas. The filling was nice, but the most normal out of the other pies I tried. I was disappointed to not be able to make out any of that sharp Guinness taste. The potatoes and peas on top just added to the filling. The peas surprisingly were of the mushed up canned variety.

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“Kanga Pie”, ground kangaroo meat with mashed sweet potato in a peppery red wine sauce. To quote my guest, “Mmmm marsupial”. Kangaroo meat, this is a first for me, and something I can cross one of the food to try list. This was a hearty mouthful with a generous filling of the yam purée. Tangy and a little gamey in a good way, thanks to the exotic meat. It was reminiscent of some sort of meat that we quite couldn’t put our finger on. The yam was the perfect base to balanced it out. A set of complimenting flavours that were well spiced and uniquely flavoured. It definitely came with a very different taste and a different texture from that of your regular pies.

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The traditional “Aussie Pie” made with chunks of free range BC beef and organic onion in a peppery gravy made with “Howe Sound Rail ale”; from Squamish BC. This reminded a guest of her family’s Sunday roast. It was a meal in a pie crust. The really big chunks of meat became a mouth full, you either got too much in a bite or not enough. It was split between whether we liked the generous cuts of beef or not. I prefer to have them shredded and more evenly distributed. Other than it, the gravy and filling were pretty generic. Thick gravy, stewed vegetables. The pastry was certainly the best part.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Who doesn’t love pie? And we love it better when it comes to us! The pies were good, but nothing too different than the frozen pot pie variety, which I almost prefer more. I like the filling of my savoury pies, thick and creamy, heavy with evenly chopped ingredients. Though nothing beats a freshly baked pie pastry, and this was certainly some of the best. I would like to go back for more of their “normal” flavours, the ones with cheese, bacon, and homemade sausage. Don’t deny your cravings.

AUSSIE PIE GUY
West Georgia St & Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC
778-991-7437
aussiepieguy.com
Aussie Pie Guy on Urbanspoon

The Cannibal Cafe

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The name was questionable, and unfortunately not enough to keep us away. By it alone I wanted to visit, and after a peak at their menu online, I felt this was my kind of place. Burgers, deep fried sides, and drinks made with ice cream.

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The restaurant was easy to miss, with only their logo in white stencil-ed on their front glass. And their store front very similar to the one next to it. One of my guests even walked back and forth, past it four times. Their logo, a burger and crossbones sliced into with a oversized cleaver. I found it fun and worth immortalizing on film. I felt foolish making a reservation and when there were plenty of seats to be taken. The server never even checked my name off when she took me in. Though in my defence I have seen lines by this door, and yet now I wondered why.

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The bar was right up front, high tops stood in front of a row of beers on taps. The backdrop was two flat screens playing sports, sandwiching a well drawn on chalk board. On the board, coloured fire, a friendly skull, and an request to buy their tee shirts.

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We past the first kitchen on the way to our seats. I suspected this to be the deep frying kitchen. A line of paper cut outs of sharp and bloody implements hung over its bar. Hack saws, scissors, cleavers, machetes, and kitchen knives. They wafted just over the counter lined and well stocked with clean plates, bowls, and anything else you would need to eat in this diner. Some choice decorations for “Cannibal Cafe”, it might be Halloween themed, but it works here with their name.

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We were seated in the back just before the washrooms and main kitchen. All seats here were either one of the step up booths that lined both sides of the walls, or one from the long share table that went down the middle. The walls surrounding were purposefully and precisely decorated with posters. Paper posters of musicians, bands and performances used as wall paper. My guest felt it reminded her of a similar establishment in Toronto. So by comparison she felt that they were trying too hard to cultivate a certain look, instead of just letting it happen naturally. And worst still, none of the images that were printed on the multitude of coloured paper represented anyone local. All I wondered was how long did this set up take? The effort exerted into making sure no two colours were side by side and that each poster was different. Country rock twang played over head. It was always a smoky voice that matched the laid back vibe that the place gave off.

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Their paper take out menus lived at each table. It was an exciting quadruple fold out that kept me amused with fun pictures and neat writing.

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Their “Milkshakes” were made only in the neapolitan flavours. So I got vanilla only to be disappointed that it came in the metal cup they used to mix it. I was hoping for the soda shoppe style pretty glass decorated with whipped cream and sprinkles, and then having the metal cup as its refill. Though when I asked for a glass our server looked less than impressed. The drink itself was bland. I can’t believe a bland milkshake exists. I don’t believe it was made using ice cream. If otherwise I now question, “Who messes up an ice cream milk shake?” It wasn’t sweet or creamy enough. As evident by the top of the cup, a layer of foam and bubbles, a milky cloud.

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Our food took a long while to come, despite coming in at a slower time and being the only ones to order. We were hoping it would be worth the wait, but by the time we got our food, I was done my milkshake. The same milkshake I intended to enjoy with my meal.

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“Deep Fried Pickles” served with ranch dip. There wasn’t much to like about this, other than the pickles staying crisp and crunchy, and the fact they came to the table hot and remained that way for a while. The slices of pickle were too large. We didn’t like the mouthful and would have preferred thinner slices. One of my guests found the batter it was coated in, a little on the sweeter side. A sweet batter better suited to a deep fried banana. She too also found the type of pickle bland compared to the dills she is use to. All in all it was too much, and only made worse with a dip in the ranch. There was definitely an unbalanced pickle to batter ratio. One that had you saying enough after the second bite and the first taste.

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Luckily one of my guests and I opted to share plates. Less to eat and less to pay. The “Local Salmon Burger” is made with a house made wild salmon patty, fresh dill, citrus aioli, smoked salmon bacon, shaved red onions, and fresh greens. We opted for no sides, something that is usually seen when you order any burger, and should be expected with ones that cost $12.95-13.95. This fish on fish was too much. We expected a tender and moist solid filet, instead were given a dry and crumbly fish cake. Nothing jumped out in flavour. The burger needed a sauce, some mayo would have help. We ended up used the ranch dressing from the pickles to rejuvenate its boring taste.

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“vvFarmhouse Turkey OBurger”. House made turkey patty, caramelized onions, applewood smoked bacon, cranberry relish, goat cheese, and mayo. There was something off about the ground turkey patty. Turkey meat is already pretty dry and with this compressed unseasoned meat it made things harder to get down. Without a sauce, this became a turkey cake. I longed for the mayo and sweet cranberry to kick in, but was left scrounging. I was surprised it was this tasteless. The goat cheese more closely resembled cream cheese. The bacon was too fatty with no actual bacon flavour. And the onions were sopping, without that enjoyable slightly burnt char. My guest struggled to get the whole burger down; to not waste food and to get her money’s worth. For all the work she put into swallowing this could not be worth $13.95.

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I appreciate an encouraging washroom mirror. Shame it smelled like garage in there.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
This is some of the most disappointing food I have ever had. The unique and attention catching name out shadowed the food within, it was their best feature. If their intent was the make all their meat taste like human, well done; because it all didn’t taste like any meat I know of. We were too nice to complain and even nicer to still tip. And worse still, I am sure the server working at the till behind us heard majority of our complaints and did nothing about it. The food was below average. Nothing tasted as expected and none of it was good. The price for value was outrageous and yet here more and more people were walking in, and looking around no one else seemed upset. May be it was our mistake in not getting a beef burger. Though realistically everything on a menu should be good. This isn’t Russian roulette, the food poisoning edition. My guest suggested that in the future we satisfy our burger cravings on commercial at any bar or Fast food stand, and not here. Don’t deny your cravings.

CANNIBAL CAFE
1818 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5N 4A5
604-558-4199
cannibalcafe.ca
The Cannibal Cafe on Urbanspoon

Red Lobster

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I feel, this is one of those places that you have to visit at least once, as a Canadian living on the West coast. If anything just to see what the hype is all about: large portions at great prices and lobster fest. Who doesn’t feel the tiniest bit more fancy when enjoying lobster?

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It stylized as your generic family style restaurant, just with a nautical flair. Paintings of light houses, sun sets at sea, and boats docked on still waters. We sat in one of their two rooms, forked in opposite directions. All the space was certainly warranted as we were led past seated tables and a families still waiting in the lobby. The patterned upholstered booths and potted plants added a muted accent. We were given a spacious booth with a single low hanging lamp above our table, its spot light made for great food photography. Food left the kitchen pretty quick, but kids were still given placemats and crayons to colour in order to keep them patient.

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There were enough staff members scheduled to suitably attend to each party. They were easily identified by their “lobster vs lobster” themed tees, just in time to celebrate their “lobster fest” menu. A seasonal feast offering lobster centric dishes. Our server gave us the time we needed to decide and digest, and was attentive enough that we never felt the need to seek her out.

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All though still relatively full from lunch, my co traveler was feening for their unlimited and complimentary cheddar bay biscuits. A craving she couldn’t pass up during this or any visit to Seattle. These were baked fresh and came to your table warm in a basket. These crumbly savoury cakes were all the right kinds of cheesy, fluffy, and melts in your mouth goodness. You can’t go wrong with a country style cheese biscuit, and the notes of herb made them a hearty appetizer. A preferred starter over bread and butter any day.

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“Bahama Mama”. A frozen blend of tropical fruit flavours mixed with captain Morgan’s original spiced rum and topped with a splash of Barcardi select dark rum. Definitely a drink you enjoy with your eyes and mouth.

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I was upset that my guests did not take more advantage of the lobster fest that was currently running. So I went all out with their, “Ultimate Surf and Turf”. A Maine lobster tail with crab and seafood stuffing, paired with a peppercorn seasoned grilled sirloin topped with Maine lobster meat in a citrus hollandaise sauce. Served over mashed potatoes, roasted tomatoes, and green beans. I was given the option of garden or Caesar salad on the side, or paying more for soup. I passed on it all as there was already a lot of food and even more biscuits to be had. The lobster certainly hit its mark. A generous tail seasoned with melted butter, then heightened with even more seafood on top of it.

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However the steak did not meet my medium rare expectations. It came dull in colour and I could tell it was overcooked without even having to cut in. So when I did it was no surprise to see hardly any pink in the middle. They offered to prepare me a new steak, by suggesting this one be taken away. They did, but left the rest of my plate behind, all the sides waiting for a new steak. I obliged, but now had to eat my tail and veggies without it so that they wouldn’t get cold. Such food is best eat warm. Cold butter sauce and room temperature mashed potatoes? When the steak returned it was heavy in peppercorn, a taste I found overwhelming for the gently salted beans and barely seasoned whipped potato. I found the side of stewed tomatoes unappetizing in their discoloured brownish red. Salty, and half sun dried, they became a good way to balance the steak’s pepperiness with salt.

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“Lobster Pizza”. A thin crusted pizza topped with langostino lobster meat, melted mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes, and sweet basil. The thin crust was chewy, and with less breading, this meant more room in my stomach for everything else. As light as it was, it made a good appetizer, but not hearty enough as the entree it was listed as. My biggest pizza gripe is when the toppings don’t adhere to the crust. And here the limp slice lost everything as it drooped. The flavour was over salted, with an overly cheesy after note. As a result you lost much of the lobster taste. It hid behind the tomato and basil that helped to keep things light, they shone through more as the stars of this dish.

My guests shared the “4 Course feast”, a great deal at $16.99. You choose from a list of soups, salads, entrees and desserts.

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“New England clam chowder”. The soup very bland, it needed excessive shakes of pepper and salt to have it palatable. The texture was watery and overly clam-y. It was like all they did was add cream to canned clam juice. A big disappointment when compared to all the thick and full bodied clam chowders I have had with actual chunks of calm.

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“Fresh Caesar salad”. Pretty standard, and as bland as the soup. But for the price I guess something’s got to give. This is the first salad I have seen being salted and peppered.

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“Wood grilled chicken with portobello wine sauce”. A very generic dish. You did get any of that wood grilled essence mentioned in the title. It tasted more pan fried. The chicken was boring and uninventive. And like those before it, this too was overly salty. The mushroom and wine sauce was muted, flavour notes that only distracted from the dish. I didn’t know you could have too much mushroom-y taste.

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After a different dessert came, we went to our server to confirm the conversation we had before. To pay a little extra for their “cake in a jar”. A couple of dollars more got us the seasonal “red velvet cake in a jar”. The usual is a strawberry short cake. But this was sumptuous layers of red velvet cake, rich cream cheese icing and mini chocolate morsels. As great as this presentation was, it was difficult to eat. Each bite required picking up the jar, tilting it on its side, and gouging what you could with your spoon. Though I was impressed that the jar was branded with “Red Lobster”. Things were really sweet thanks to the abundance of icing topped. We wished for less in exchange of more spongy and soft cake. A dessert I definitely recommend sharing.

I was impressed that their to go containers were microwavable and dishwasher safe. A great idea to get more use out of them, other than just packaging. Our bill came with suggested tip amounts at 15, 18, and 20 percent. And surprisingly they didn’t take debit, maybe just our Canadian debit?

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The food wasn’t amazing, but at least it was decently priced. As I mentioned before this is just one of those places you have to cross off your to try list. Not everything is worth the hype, but at the prices charged I am sure you can leave happy after a four course meal. Even if its just so so. A place I wouldn’t mind dining at again, but only after I exhausted other options. Why eat at a chain when you can potentially discover a gem in a small one of establishment? Don’t deny your cravings.

RED LOBSTER
4231 196th St SW, Lynnwood, WA 98036
425-672-1137
redlobster.com
Red Lobster on Urbanspoon

Thai Tom

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My guests have been here before and loved the place upon first bite. So when visiting Seattle for the day, we made a point to have lunch here. At 4pm there was a line and a wait requiring 50 minutes. 50 minutes we spent loitering around the University District. Apparently this is a common occurrence, to see lines and people standing by outside. Though most are here to get their meal taken out. A great way to avoid the wait, and having to dine in their cramped and less than modern setting.

The restaurant was a dark narrow space. An older building that felt less than clean with its dingy corners, dusty fixtures, and edges filled with grout. The brown patchy walls and photos faded with age didn’t help either. The traditional Thai elements lent their authenticity to the place and gave a distraction from the above. These included framed art of Thai deities, a large tapestry of gold figures sailing in boats, an elephant’s bust with trunk extended and tusks out, and lamps of wicker and wooden cages surrouding bulbs. I dared not use the washroom when the front of house looked like this. And based on her last visit, my guest reassured me it was a bad as I thought.

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The kitchen was visible from the entrance, with seats around it to watch the action of cooking over large flames. A few feet away, chairs by tables were available for parties of two; but groups larger than that were forced to wait for bar stools to open up. The compact placement of stools and the lack of hooks or racks meant loose belonging, jackets, and bags sat awkwardly on laps.

It was loud between the beats of dance music, the sounds of metal spatulas against frying woks, and the chatter of customers speaking in close confines. The music heard was based on preference of the chef cooking that set. We went from electronic dance to party rap during our stay.

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We observed the chefs moving to the beat and keeping pace with the base. Their music must help to keep their rhythm up and their focus on point. Greatly needed to accommodate all the orders and to not have them overwhelmed by the close proximity of guests watching them in scrutiny. Each time the chefs regrouped it felt like a game or match was starting and we were excited to watch. One of the two servers would take all orders, and one of four chefs would cook per batches needed. It is a fast and furious display. Dish after dish pushed out efficiently. With buckets of vegetables sliced and prepped, and sauces pooled with ladles for scooping; it was just a matter of grabbing handfuls and throwing it in the pan.

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You could be seated, but not fed until they were ready to start the next set cooking. Therein our 50 minute wait to be seated became a 75 minute to eat. They were fast, but messy. Strands of lettuce fell on the floor and shards of carrots hit the flame. One chef was set to tending six pans. An impressive feat of multitasking. Though at one point he went too fast and a spoon went flying in front of my co-diner. Without a word or apology he reclaimed his tool to use again. I guess he was too much in the zone to acknowledge us. The other chefs were either washing dishes or pre-chopping vegetables as this one man set about to seed 15 hungry mouths. We were told that serving and cooking in sets, allowed the kitchen staff to clean up. Yet sitting immediately adjacent to the stove, I saw no wiping nor removal any of the mess around each coil.

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The menu was a wooden board painted in black and printed in metallic gold and red. Two sides of appetizers, soups, entrees, drinks and after meal treats. We had lots of questions when ordering, as the menu offered no description and had no pictures included. You had to know the place, or the food to get what you wanted. You can’t simply order not knowing what, “pour man noodle”, “Phad see you again”, or “swimming Rama” was. Sadly when asked, our server couldn’t really give us any answers.

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“Thai ice tea” served in plastic cups. With pre-made servings in to go cup for easy take and travel. I can’t believe I only discovered how good Thai ice tea is a month or two ago.

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“Panang curry”. We got chicken over shrimp and tofu. A very flavourful curry without too much chilli spice. The first bite was the best in exciting flavours. It had a lingering heat that went all the way to the last spoon. Rich and nutty in taste with a buttery smooth texture. Necessarily paired with rice, as a one note plate that slowly grew ragged.

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“Pad Thai”. Without pictures to aid in my entree selection, I played it safe. I choose the shrimp over chicken and tofu, and was delighted over the generous portion it came in. This was the best pad Thai I have ever had. A sweeter sauce coated the chewy noodle. A few strands were overcooked and other were slightly burnt, it gave the dish it’s only crispy component. I was perplexed by the presence of rice on top and would have preferred more noodles instead.

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“Thai curry fried rice with cashews”. We chose the chicken over shrimp and tofu. This was on the over salted side. Tasty, but with too much salt, it took away from that what would be delicious taste. My guest usually doesn’t like nuts in her rice or noodles, but their presence here wasn’t a hinderance. Though it must be noted that she did not finish her plate, and over 70% of what was left was halved peanuts.

Service is not the focal point here and the food definitely speaks for itself. Other than placing our orders and asking for the bill there was no interaction with the staff. Just as well, as there was a bite of a language barrier between ourselves and the authentic Thai staff. Luckily we both had the understanding of food to communicate just enough.

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We couldn’t make heads or tails out of the hand scrawled paper bill. And the symbols didn’t mean anything not paired with dish names. We took for granted that we were paying what we owed.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The place is authentic not only in cuisine, but in culture and community as well. I truly enjoyed my pad Thai and felt it the best I have had to date. The curry and rice fell short, but others dishes yet to be tried deserve a revisit for. Though because of the age of the place, this isn’t the restaurant I would want to come back to for a sit down meal to be enjoyed in. Tight spots and cramped quarters make the privacy of date night impossible, as two couples saw. I judged them on their attempt at hiding their public displays. I rather this delicious Thai food, in the comforts of my home; or in this case as a visitor, my hotel room. Don’t deny your cravings.

THAI TOM
4543 University Way NE, Seattle WA, 98105
206-548-9548
Thai Tom on Urbanspoon