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Month: October 2018 Page 1 of 3

Homer St. Cafe, happy hour

Today I was looking for a unique happy hour destination downtown. My choice was dependent on a fulsome menu, a good selection of drinks, and a restaurant that many have yet to visit. (I enjoy excising my earned blogging knowledge by turning others on to places that I myself have been to and like.) After reviewing many options I finically decided on “Homer St. Cafe”. I have been before, so knew the quality of food would hold up, but the cincture was that their happy hour snack menu featured pork belly and chicken wings!

There is plenty of parking right up front when not dining during peak times, so the location is convenient. With several adjoining rooms to the place, visits may feel different depending on where you sit and what you eat. Today we were gathered in their main dining area, adjacent to their lengthy kitchen space, set behind a white marble bar. The same white marble topped the individual table we were seated at. All together it felt like you were dining in a modern, cozy kitchen. Swinging your feet, waiting for a relative to prepare a plate lovingly before you.

Our group of seven started with a round of their $5-6 wines, bubbles, beer, and/or cocktails. A cheers captured in photo is necessary.

Between us we ordered all but 2 out of their 8 small plate appetizers, doubling up on the fried chicken so that everyone could have a piece. We passed on the chicken liver pate and the smoked fish croquettes, I guess the others weren’t as adventurous as I am, I would have ordered the pate for sure.

I didn’t plan for there to be a vegetarian in our group, but luckily there were meat free options for her to nibble on. Like the bowl of marinated olives with cubes of manchego cheese for $5. It was your standard bar offering, best paired with a red wine, taken in with small sips and stimulating conversation.

The chickpea dip was a favourite amongst the table and another veggie friendly offering. Made with chickpeas, scallions, and paprika, served with a forest of dried taro and plantain chips. I liked the presentation of the chips upright in the dip for easy gripping and scooping. Although there was far less chips then dip, and we definitely needed and ordered a second bowl of chips to finish off the chickpea dip with. This dish was both healthy and delicious, and at $5 you can have two here and take what ever is leftover home.

“Homer St. Cafe” is known for their in house churned rotisserie chicken, so even though we couldn’t get a taste of that at a special price during happy hour, we were at least able to get their fried chicken on the discounted menu. You got 4 pieces of chicken to a plate, along with their buttermilk garlic dip. The quickest hand to either of the two plates we ordered, earn the full drum, the others enjoyed a full wing with drumlet that was less juicy and a lot more crispy. But the flavour persisted between pieces, and this still serves as some great fried chicken. If you are downtown during happy hour and are craving fried chicken, I suggest getting some refined dark meat here for $10.

But the meat dish that was the crowd winner tonight was the “maple butter pork belly”. This is reason enough to visit them during happy hour. Take a succulent piece of tasty and slightly fatty pork belly, and caramelized it in maple syrup for a crispy coating and some sweetness. Delicious, enough said.

As a base and to add some starch to it all, we also had a serving of fries. Who can say no to a well crisped and perfectly salted serving of potato? These came with an aioli for a more sophisticated dip, but I still prefer ketchup.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I often forget that happy hour eating is not in place of a meal, but act as a warm up before it. Therefore I look for more food and full plates, as apposed to what is great for snacking on. But if you are like me, and looking for an happy hour menu to act as your early bird dinner, “Homer St. Cafe” serves as a great option. Especially as this menu also includes a charcuterie board and chicken sandwich on special for $12. And the listing advertises 2 desserts at $6 each: a plate of cookies or some chocolate pudding. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

HOMER ST CAFE
898 Homer Street, Vancouver BC, V6B5S3
604-428-4299
homerstreetcafebar.com
Homer St. Cafe & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kokomo

This was another meatless Monday with my vegetarian friend. When looking for a spot near by “Kokomo” came up. I liked the photos of its peachy exterior and the quote that was splashed a-crossed its front window. Both beckoned for warmer weather and sunnier days, that and it’s colourful menu were enough to peak my curiosity.

The interior matched the exterior with its peach coloured tiled counter that separated the open space between kitchen and eating area. The colour then begins to pattern with white, striping the cushioned seats that surrounded the rest of the room. Sections were punctuated with a similarly coral coloured throw pillow. It was fun and flirty, but was easy to get dirty. The whites of the cushion and the floor showed the cafe’s age with stains and smudges.

The only thing that felt out of place was their choice in music. Not that I minded, as I liked their rotation of hip hop. A playlist I assume was off of a staff member’s phone. Although up beat and catchy, we did find the juxtaposition of light food versus hard hip hop hard to swallow. Given how lighthearted our serving below was and how airy the space felt, you expect something more calming to play, the music to be more zen. Something you can mediate to, maybe something with some chanting.

You order at the podium by the door. They only have one printed menu for viewing, it has a little more information then what is on the wall menu, like what goes into the named bowls, salad, and noodle dishes. But given that many of their customers this afternoon, didn’t need to reference it or the wall, I can safely assume they had a well established following of regulars. And I can see why. They were not trying to fool the diner with meat friendly substitutes, their dishes fully celebrated being vegan with its use of colourful vegetables to highlight the flavour of other rich veggies.

Although I recently read that several vegetables like lettuce and avocado aren’t actually vegan given the need for and use of bees in their pollination, therefore no bees no avocado. Other vegetables on this list includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, muskmelon, mustard, okra, parsley, peppers, pumpkins, rutabaga, squash and watermelon.

Being an omnivore I good either way, and was just happy to have found this new and tasty way to eat healthy and be happy doing so. Not that I would crave any of it again, but it’s nice to know that when my body craves green I can offer it another option and a full menu’s worth of variety.

Vegan food typically has a lot of fillers to add textures and flavours, but here everything is made to order using whole foods.

To start with I ordered one of their smoothies, mistaking it for a juice to accompany my lunch with, instead of its intended meal replacing beverage. The “lush greens” was recommend to me as being the easier to drink of all their green based juices. Banana, kale, mango, apple, lemon, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, coconut oil, and coconut water. It was as savoury as it sounds, where I should have mentioned I wanted something sweet and juicy… I guess I actually wanted a pressed juice and not a thick smoothie to hard swallow. This would be better suited as a meal on the go.

For a full meal you get one of their bowls. The “coastal macro” was another recommended to me, this was majority of their customer’s favourite bowl. Brown rice layered with greens, marinated tempeh, roasted squash, cucumber, ginger pickled cabbage, and a edamame hummus. All drizzled in a Thai turmeric sunflower seed dressing, and eaten like a salad. The rice was present to make you feel full with the starch your body craves. I liked the fulsome assembly, with the varying combinations of textures and tastes, they offered a new squish, crunch, or chew as random surprises. Overall it had a crunchy feel with a tangy pickled flavour. I could have used a rich element or spread to create a dense chew, and  with some more cucumber for balance. Towards the bottom of the bowl, the rice became really salty, so much so that I couldn’t finish in full. Though this was a large serving, that many wouldn’t be able to finish half of, let alone get to the bottom of the bowl. It at least helped to change the taste and keep the bowl interesting from the first scoop to last grain. Whereas the highly anticipated noodle dish below, we found boring.

This was their interpretation of laksa, without most of the noodle’s trademark heat and/or spices. It tasted toned down and made bland for anyone who has had the authentic South East Asian noodle dish before. “Golden laksa”, a coconut and turmeric broth with rice noodles, zucchini spirals, sliced cucumber, ginger ferment carrot, green onion, cilantro, and sunflower cracker croutons. I should have known that this would be far from authentic, having read the inclusion of croutons in their laksa. It certainly tasted healthy, but I just couldn’t get behind it, as the broth lacked punch, and some heat would have greatly helped to flavour. Some tomato would have also been a welcomed tradition. The noodle dish was good as a side, but not the main and the only thing on the plate.

We were smart enough to order and pay for our dessert when we did so our mains. Ours was the last of their “cocowhips”, which I am thankful for. Because honestly this is one of the best ice cream-like desserts I have ever had, and it’s surprisingly it is void of any milk or cream. This is their coconut milk based soft serve. And unlike other vegan ice creams, it doesn’t over power with a coconut flavour. It tasted fresh and light, like a sorbet but actually creamy instead of icy. It also had the perfect amount of mild sweetness to it. It is available topped in either a berry mix or our chocolatey explosion version. Raw brownie chunks, cacao nibs, hemp hearts, and a dark chocolate sauce. Those who know me, know that I am not a fan of chocolate, but here, found myself appreciating the flavour it added, and the chew the brownie chunks offered. The nibs and seeds provided the crunch you like in your desserts.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Given my appetites, I don’t think I will find myself here again, or anytime soon. I wouldn’t travel for anything in particular, but if roaming around west 4th I could see myself stopping by for a smoothie. And if they were open later, back again for dessert after dinner. I prefer them to their neighbourhood ice cream purveyors. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KOKOMO
611 Gore Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6A 2Z8
604-428-6599
heykokomo.ca

Mamie Taylor’s, 2018 fall menu

I have been a long time fan of “Mamie Taylor’s” with their absinthe flights and deep fried ice cream stuffed into apples of the past, to their nose to tail feasts and their seasonal offering of turtle and gator that I once enjoyed. Over the years they have given me much reason to visit them time and time again. Fun and fantastical treats and eats you won’t find anywhere other than on their southern menu.

It is this and their unique stylized space that has me recommending them as a fun spot. The resto-bar has a den-like feel to it. Crafted with red brick, brown wood, and black leather; all surrounded by a collection of taxidermy animals stuffed and mounted. Birds, beasts, feathers, and horns. There was a full bear skinned rug hanging on the wall, and talks of procuring a full length python in the future.

Tonight, we were gathered for a dinner meant to celebrate their new general manager and head chef, and the new direction they would be taking the bar. I was able to chat up the GM, discussing his impressive resume with stints spent at “Hawksworths”, “L’Abattoir”, “Keefer Bar”, and “The Diamond”. And not only did he bring this experience with him to “Mamie Taylor’s”, but his passion for spirits and mixology as well.

The newly minted head chef, also comes with his own impressive resume. No only is he a celebrated chef, but he is also a certified WSET Level 3 sommelier, having worked at Vancouver’s “Calabash Bistro” and “Memphis Blues BBQ House”. He also spent a summer touring the Southern United States BBQ circuit, where he perfected his grilling technique. Then opening the award-winning JAROblue restaurant in Calgary. Together they will be pooling their experience together to take “Mamie Taylor’s” to the next level of its evolutionary journey.

As a well established bar, they are already know for their huge cocktail selection and now they hope to bring more attention to their neighbourhood bar with a new bar menu and some winter specials. In fact our night started with a welcome cocktail and was followed up by a selection of their other alcoholic offerings.

Our welcome cocktail was described as being “Not your grandma’s lemonade”. A citrus spritz made with charred lemon, tequila, gin, lemon juice, and soda water. A great drink for warmer days and cooler nights spent on your back porch.

“Between two fernets” was gin, house vermouth, fernet branca, lemon, and honey. It was so easy to drink, it tasted like juice.

“Jessie’s girl” was a cucumber forward cocktail, it was what you’d imagine combining fresh pressed green juice and spirits would taste like together. Gin, lillet blanc, fino sherry, lemon and orange bitters, topped with a salted cucumber and egg white foam. It was a beautifully refreshing and elegant to drink. There are talks of creating a different foam flavour to help transition it into fall.

The “Negroni on tap” spoke to the popularity and confidence that they had in the drink, keeping enough of it to pour quickly and frequently. Gin, Campari, and vermouth, finished with a house soaked amaretto cherry. This was a  strong and punchy drink, ideal for those who like a bold start.

Every drink that came, and every plate that was placed didn’t match the one next to it in either size, style or design. Their mismatched collection gave the table personality and the diners a conversation topic. I appreciated the lack of uniformity, and how it helped to foster the casual air of our meal to come.

With drinks in hand, we were invited to be seated in the second half of the bar. This area served as a great party space, with the ability to draw a velvet curtain close, to help create some privacy. The meal below was served as a tasting, with smaller versions and sized down portions. So be warned, should you yourself visit at a later date, what you get might not get what is pictured below.

Our long table meal began with some appetizers to share, delicious bar favourites that I would come back for. “Roasted brussel” sprouts seasoned with chilli, blue cheese, and sherry vinaigrette. It was a great sprouts dish, crispy and firm, packed full of flavour. Though personally, I would have liked more of the blue cheese to shine through.

“Crispy cauliflower” with persevered lemon, fried capers, and herbs; in a apple reduction. It was crispy, slightly sweet, and simply delicious.

The “ham grenades” were humourously described as being “glorified tater tots”, by our chef. It utilized smoked ham hock with cheese and was served topped with their house-made garlic mayo. They were fun to pop whole in to your mouth. The crispy coating paired well with the smooth cream atop. It makes for a great bar snack to nibble on as you drank down a pint.

Given their southern background, “Shrimp and grits” found a prominent place on their menu. “Grits” are coarsely ground corn kernels boiled with water or milk. Here it was creamy and lumpy like oatmeal, but cheesy and comforting like macaroni and chese. The crispy shards of baked cheese and the juicy shrimp created textural contrast. The latter also offered a freshness to the dish; I just wanted more shrimp, and for each to have a deeper char.

The “Cobb salad” was one of the best salads I have ever had. If you have ever read my other works, you know I dislike leafy greens and therefore stay away from salads. However this bowl with its smaller leaf to topping and dressing ratio had me going back for more. Dare I say this might be my favourite salad in the city. It is not a traditional Cobb salad, instead of using the more commonly seen chicken breast and bacon bits; the kitchen opted for chicken crackling and pork belly with its soft boiled egg, and avocado dressing. Each highlighted ingredient was amazingly prepared and altogether, absolutely amazing.

We had the two bite slider version, where normally this is served as a two handed burger with just as much fries. All beef patty topped the a roasted red pepper relish, Swiss cheese. iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles; all between a house made bun. So simple, but so delicious. This interpretation of a classic spoke to the direction the kitchen was taking: comforting plates prepared with good, local ingredients, that are as fresh as they can get them. Everything they are offering you can technically make yourself, but here, they are doing it for you so you don’t have to. And instead can sit and enjoy it, exactly as you expect it.

The fried chicken was just as good. Where else can you find chicken and waffles that isn’t on an exclusive brunch menu? Here, you can have your crispy fried white meat chicken, with a spongy roast cauliflower waffle, and dressed with a sweet Szechuan honey dressing any time of day. You can taste the quality in the chicken, the breading held up, even after the dish cooled. It remained crunchy until the end, and was best paired with their creamy slaw with its cooling crunch. Using cauliflower in the dough of the waffle was an interesting angle, although flour is still the main ingredient, therefore it is still doughy and fluffy, and far from being gluten free. It had some curry notes in with its cinnamon-y flavour, both giving it a new spicy and exotic twist.

We ended with a teaser of their “Mississippi mud pie”. Perfect for those who love their chocolate rich and dense. The base was a crunchy cookie, the middle a luscious mousse spread, and the cream that topped it the binder that brought them together. The cherry on the top was both figurative and literal. It was soaked in amaretto and ended things with a bang.

However if you are looking for more fine liquors to end your meal on, they also offer a collection of spirit-full digestives. Lighter sips that help you to wind down and digest what you just had. This one did so with the aid of their ginger syrup. Ginger, being a proven digestive aid.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
During previous visits I recall the menu being hit or miss, myself debating whether or not to keep it safe and get what I know will satisfy, or ordering the dish that sounded the most interesting, but risking that I won’t like its combination. However everything I tried above was delicious. It gave me the comfort and satisfaction I sough out, but with new and rewarding interpretations. Thus giving me another reason to visit and recommend them, more than just for their limited release dishes, their fine selection of cocktails, and their setting surrounded by conversation starters. They have definitely done well to keep their intimate, social bar the buzz of the neighbourhood with homestyle dishes, a friendly atmosphere, and good conversation. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MAMIE TAYLOR’S
251 East Georgia Street, Vancouver BC
604-620-8818
mamietaylors.ca

Opus Lounge, happy hour

My friend and I stumbled upon this one, we were looking for dinner, but were lured in my how great their happy hour pricing was.

This is the “Opus Hotel’s” lobby bar, adjacent to the fine Italian restaurant, “La Pentola”. Visitors lounged about in a chic adjoining room with tiled columns framing a bar with golden shelves, marble counter tops, and a tribute to biggie and pac. The choice of art spoke to our musical preferences, and eluded to what the in house performer was bringing to us tonight. Live music is a happy hour treat here every Wednesday, as well as a good reason to stop by and drink on hump day.

And tonight it was because of this performer that we ended staying longer and having additional drinks then we had originally intended to. He stood awkwardly at the corner of the marble and glass fireplace, this was barely standing room, let alone a stage. He was plunged in and belting out jazzy upbeat versions of your favourite rap and pop Ballards. This was a new way to enjoy the top 40’s.

Seven days a week, from 3-7pm “Opus Bar” treats early birds with a $5 everything menu. A healthy selection of wine, beer, and small plates all for $5. At $5 each you don’t have to choose, but did as we did and ordered one of everything (sans the beer, as it was a wine kind of night). Truth be told, it wasn’t the tastiest small plates, but at $5 you aren’t going mention it.

I had a cocktail to start, only because I spotted and wanted my drink served in one of the their tiki cups. The lone bartender and server hosting the space, did a good job creating something on the fly, even going through the trouble of finding strawberry slices to finish it off with panache.

“Meatballs in a tomato sauce”. They were a little over cooked, and flat in flavour. But nothing a little salt and some herbs couldn’t rejuvenate. I would have liked some garlic bread on the side to use to scoop sauce and ground beef up with.

“Grilled prawn skewers” seasoned in lemon and a parsley aioli. They were juicy and large enough, but they just lacked flavour, even with a generous dip in the sauce. With these I just wanted them grilled more. They lacked a Smokey flavour, and could have done well with a coating in butter, and a seasoning in pepper.

You really get your money’s worth with the “warm olive” plate. This was the most olives I have ever had in one sitting. A collection of four different types that was almost too much to share.

“Ricotta, honey, and walnut” on toast. Out of the two toast options I preferred this one. It was a creamy spread with bites of crunch from the nuts. I liked the tease of honey, and found myself trying to find more drops of it on the toasted rectangle.

“Baccala, salted cod, and whipped potato”. I didn’t like the similar mouth feel of the mashed potatoes over the chewy bread, and found the salted fish far too distracting to take note of anything else. More pickled onions and/or some cornishons would help in this regard.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I wouldn’t make my way down for any of their food, or any of the above again. But their happy hour drink selection is quite expansive, compared to others only offering what’s on tap and/or what the house owns. And with live music on Wednesday, this makes for a very fun spot. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

OPUS BAR
322 Davie Street, Vancouve BC, V6B 2G2
604-694-2107
vancouver.opushotel.com/en-us/eat-drink/opus-bar
Opus Bar - Opus Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cinara

Tonight was our monthly blogger get together, we choose a restaurant that many of us have yet to visit and were prepared to feast. It is enjoyable dining with like minded people, those who value the experience and the trying of fine foods at a premium cost, like I do.

Tonight’s destination was chosen based on one of our group’s previous visit. She wrote a glowing review of their pasta that she tried, enough for us to want to visit, and for her to try more of. Plus, “Scout magazine” declared “Cinara” as the place where other Vancouver chefs go to dine, and that you can typically spot them at the bar.

In actuality “Cinara” will be no more after this year. It will still be the same restaurant in an essence; the same chefs, management, and owners. Only its name will change and a few cosmetic upgrades will take place within. Their new title marks the redefining of their brand, in parallel to their sister restaurant. Much like the planned extension of their bar and an update to their lighting. I hope the latter includes making them brighter, I found it impossible for my eyes to adjust to the romantic ambience with its soft orange glow.

The restaurant was simple. All white walls hung with rectangular mirrors, wood under elbows and under foot. We were seated smack dab in the centre of the dining area, and my seat gave me the perfect vantage point to peer into their open kitchen. It attracted your eyes, given how white it was, and how well-lit with florescent bulbs it was. Stainless steel shelves surrounded the casual dressed team of chefs. The were comfortable in tees and ball caps, working together in unison. Utensils hung over them and the island kitchen counter they shared. Throughout the night, I continued witnessing multiple hands go to plate and dress one dish with superb teamwork.

We all agreed to getting their 6 course $75 tasting plate, a requirement being all of us had to want to. It promised dishes from off the menu and a couple that isn’t. However, I found it more like a couple of dishes that strayed from the fine print of the menu. This was just a cost effect way to try smaller portions of the same dishes that you can order a la carte, and it looked like it too.

We began with some bread for the table. A half loaf of their fresh baked sourdough, served with whipped butter and Kosher salt. It had a crunchy crust, made dryer with its coating of flour that clung to the roof of your mouth. The centre of the bread was spongy and chewy, flavoured with that tell-a-tale faint sour tang that sourdough has.

It was here Picky Diner taught me that bread to start not only serves as an intermission to the meal ahead, but you can also ratio it on your side plate to use throughout your meal. Rip a piece and it becomes a base for the tartare, another helps sop up some sauce, and most of the time it serves as a palette eraser, setting your tongue and taste buds back at 0.

Next we were treated to an amuse bouche, a small bite that serves as a glimpse of the chef’s style and the meal to come. And it spoke true. I found this chicken liver pate both rich and overly salty, as I did everything else that followed it.

Chicken liver parfait on a crispy sourdough flatbread with their own house fermented cornishons. It was highlighted by our server as one of the four things that never changes on their ever revolving menu. I loved the presentation, but you definitely had to spread the parfait over the cracker with your butter knife first. The pate was overwhelmingly strong, just as much as the pickle that choose to battle it with its own tangy strength of flavour. I liked the smooth velvety paste, it made for a great contrast to the crunchy cracker with large air bubbles; resulting in a dense and salty start.

Given the next course was creamy buratta cheese, I expected it to be underwhelmed by the course above. In actuality this was the most rich cheese dish I have ever had.

Burrata cheese delivered from Italy on the day, served with a smear of preserved and fresh plum purée, and drizzled over in their best balsamic, best olive oil, and cracked pepper. The salty plum purée drastically changed the taste of the cheese. I found myself separating it on the plate as it really added nothing for me. And instead I made effort to smooth gummy cheese into the sweet balsamic. Here, I missed the usual raw tomato pairing. Foodgressing was impressed then puzzled by the sheer quantity of cheese that we got on each of our plates. It really didn’t leaving you wanting more. Here, the bread above came in quite handy as a base to balance out the creamy texture, it also played a similar function for the tartare below.

House ground strip-loin beef tartare with pickled pear and creme fraiche. Finished with a dusting of herbed bread crumb, salt, pepper, and olive oil. It too was salty, but I enjoyed the refinement of the dish a lot. Fresh and free falling on the plate, whereas typically it is severed tightly packed and towered.

The “Pacific halibut cartuccio” was explained as fish wrapped up in parchment then baked in the oven. It is prepared with potato, carrot, and escarole; poached in plenty of butter. Once out of the oven it is topped with aerated potato cream; before it is presented before you, still in the parchment. Everyone agreed that the fish was over cooked, it flaked in chunks and was as dry as it felt under the pressure of your fork. The foam cream and the pond of butter did help in this regard. I ate the fish as to not waste it, but I didn’t enjoy it, nor the bone or something sharp that I accidentally swallowed. I only realized I did so as I felt it slowly and painfully creep down my throat. The best part of this dish was the potato. It was buttery and tender, and wasn’t too salty. Overall it felt in complete, like you were missing an element to help round out the dish.

The pasta course was the best course, and the first time I have ever had Tortelloni, a larger version of tortellini. Instead of a small rounds, these were boat shaped crescents with plenty of firm dough surrounding the tightly packed centre. It had a good flavour, but too salty with butter and the shards of Parmesan. Four each was plenty as without a side I could see the flavour growing tiresome.

The braised pork collar was a shoulder cut served with a cipollini onion, cannelloni beans, apples, chanterelle, and Brussel sprouts. The meat had a great texture, but I didn’t find the taste all that dynamic. It was flat with a meaty flavour, surrounded by a collection of vegetables offering their texture to the flaky meat. I preferred it to the grainy lentils and the slightly bitter chanterelle mushrooms.

Dessert was a strong end to a strong meal, whereas I wish I got something a bit more refreshing to wind down on. Salted caramel tart with crushed pine nuts and a dollop of apple purée. It was decadent and sweet, and I liked the slightly chilled temperature it came at. This sliver was plenty for me.

I called ahead and made the reservation, so in doing so, requested something special of one of us, who had just celebrated a birthday. The result, a lone candle on Foodology’s dessert plate. Given the velocity of the spinning fans overhead, it arrive cloched by a wine glass and she was told to blow it out quick. Given our commitment to the meal it would have been nice to have the moment a little more special.

I am glad we got the tasting menu as to not commit to full servings of each course. With it, it felt like we got regular portions doled out six ways. It didn’t look like much, but altogether plenty of food. Although if you add up each individual course we had (including 2 servings of the bread and the complimentary amuse bouche) it would total to approximately $162, around $32 each. I feel we would have been just as satisfied sharing all the above five ways and saving on the $75 per person charge for a little larger bites.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Having our last tasting menu serve as such a success in value and taste, then comparing it to the dinner before, things fell flat. I would like to see what their rebranding yields, however, based on this meal I don’t feel the need to revisit. We tried plenty and nothing really stood out. The pasta was good, but as are others at other restaurants offering their own homemade version. I did like the presence of who I assume was the manager. He was great at explaining each dish that came before us, even slowing down so I could gather more notes than what the menu offered. He was also the one that took the time to run through the future of “Cinara” for us. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CINARA
350 West Pender Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1T1
604-428-9694
cinara.ca
Cinara Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Starbucks’ Witch’s Brew Frappuccino

Halloween is right around the corner, and as they do every year, Starbucks Canada has released a limited edition spooky frappuccino to mark the occasion. As they did in the past, they have themed it after one of All Hallow’s Eves’ creepy crawly creatures. Like the vampire and zombie frappe’s of year’s past, the witch’s brew delivers on colours and theatrics.

Starbucks’ adverts don’t actually list the flavours or the ingredients that go into this neon purple beverage. Instead they have renamed each element into something that you could find brewing within a cauldron, and have invited the adventurous down to try it for themselves. So naturally, as a lover of novelty and all things weird and wacky, with a limited release, I found myself at my local Starbucks at 7am.

 

For the vlog version of my experience and my first blush impressions of the “Witch’s Brew”, check out my YouTube channel: MaggiMei for its making and the taste test.

The actual purple, blended, milk based beverage was reimagined as “toad’s breath” with “lizard scales” green sugar sprinkles, “swamp fog” whipped cream, and “bat worts” chia seeds dyed green.

Despite its colouring, this wasn’t a grape flavoured frappe, like you would imagine. Instead, it is actually an orange cream frappuccino with your usual milk, cream, and syrup flavouring. Starbucks kept it safe for those who don’t like the mixing of flavours, and instead focused all flavour into the drink itself. It tastes like orange creamsicle, with the chia seed adding no flavour, little texture, and major creepy vibes. I liked it well enough, but felt the flavour could have been chosen to be more reflective of the season and occasion. When I think Halloween I think candy and fall, so why not a caramel corn frappe or maybe a caramel green apple?

Either way, this is still worth checking out, and you best be doing so soon, as it is only around until supplies to make them last, or Halloween ends: October 31st, in less than one week’s time!

 

 

Tocador, Happy Hour

Seeing some pretty impressive drinks and dishes come out of their social media presence I was excited to give “Tocador” a shot. Its pale pink exterior with white, pink, and blue striped patio was eye catching in its simplicity and new coat of paint.

Walking in was like an explosion of colour. The pastel walls and bold accents helped to craft this wonderland. Featured walls were papered in pink hibiscuses and blue. There was a mural of a joyous woman bathed in streams of yellow sunlight; smiling in full, surrounded by palm leaves. Pink patterned tiles creeped from wall to bar, its hue matching the striped vases that sat on the chestnut coloured counter top. I especially liked the up-cycling of the two vanities with mirrors, that sat on the actual bar as shelving.

This afternoon I visited their colourful restaurant with a friend to try their “Punch of the week”. I ordered it using a photo, but sadly didn’t get what was pictured. I was envisioning a tall glass goblet with a long stem, the length of my forearm. A lavish vessel to be enjoying a grand drink in. Instead, we still got just as big of a drink, except it was in a short and stout glass. This drink has a two person minimum. Its making varies from week to week, but it always has plenty of rum and fresh juices, and as the menu describes, “some stuff that will taste good in your mouth”. This week included a mix of both white and dark rum. It was good enough, but not memorable in terms of flavour profile, but let’s be real, I definitely got it for the novelty.

And seeing we were at the right place, at the right time: between 4-6pm; we also partook in their happy hour offerings saving on average $3 per dish. Although there were only 2 options available, and neither were printed on its own menu. So perhaps they were testing this out in their market? None-the-less, here they are.

“Croquetas con carne” potatoes croquettes made with a rotating selection of meats. Today it was lamb, you don’t get much of the meat, but plenty of its flavour. Little nuggets of dark meat embedded into the fluffy whipped potato ball, all wrapped and coated in crispy fried breading. The creamy white sauce it sat in gave things some moisture and another dimension of flavour, however I would have preferred a gravy or a tomato based sauce to give it a more familiar feel.

“Dip & Dab”. The name was fun. It was like chips and dip, but with crispy dried plantain slices and house made guacamole. A nice bar snack to nibble on as you drink, and on the healthier side too. Loved the crunch of the fruit chip and the lumpy guacamole that paired with it.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Sadly I didn’t get enough food or drink to give a full assessment of the place, but I did like what I saw and tried.
I will definitely be back for a more fulsome meal. In fact, a few days after this, I attempted to invite a Cuban friend to try their dinner service with me, to get her perspective on their cuisine. But after glancing at the menu she declared that it wasn’t authentic cuban cuisine, so passed. Until next time I guess. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TOCADOR
2610 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5T 3E6
604-620-2433
tocador.ca

Fayuca, Brunch

“Fayuca” is a new modern Mexican restaurant that opened earlier this year. And this weekend, they have launched their very own version of brunch. The owners have a long history celebrating food and creating their own in and around Mexico City and Vancouver. They are inspired by the food they grew up eating, and combine it with ingredients readily made available in Vancouver. They are now open from 9-3pm Saturdays and Sundays, offering a Mexican twist on your favourite breakfast items and drinks. Spiked coffee, pancakes, and eggs benny.

This sunny fall morning we were seated on their heated patio. A little oasis in Yaletown with palm shrubs and wicker chairs. However the interior of the restaurant is also worth noting.

Today, and for the next few months, in jubilation of brunch, they will have a live DJ in house spinning tracks behind a straw lined table. The straw here matched the woven straw walls and ceiling panels, the wicker lamp shades, and their overall tropical theme. Orbs of light wrapped in netting, masks carved in wood, and the first half of a marlin fish mounted on the wall.

From where we sat on their open patio, we had a clear view of their bar. A wonderful tiled feature that looked right out of a tropical vacation advert. There, we immediately honed in on the box of Honey Cheerios that was behind it. When we asked, we were delighted to learn that it was a garnish-to-be on one of our “Fayuca” brunch time drink specials.

“Sol dorado” with Reposado tequila, honey, lemon, and marmalade; finished with crushed Cheerio dust lining the rim. It was strong with citrus to start, but ended on the tequila side of things. It fostered the feeling of “waking up to a party”, according to one of my guests. Ultimately, we were all enamoured with the rim and found it a shame that the menu didn’t mention it. And disappointed that there weren’t other brunch drinks that had a different type of cereal coating its rim. For example, “El Tucan” was just asking for a crushed Froot Loops dusting.

Instead, “El Tucan” is a very serious drink, it is has heavy as it looks. Black strap rum, Campari, pineapple, and coffee bean. Definitely for the coffee lovers, pairing its natural bitterness with some strong rum notes.

The “Feature licuado” was a lot more light hearted, sans the alcohol. It was basically a milkshake, featuring a fruit in rotation. Today it was a banana blended into the whole milk and cardamom. The result was basically a banana smoothie, making this a great way to help you start the day!

“Champurrado” is Mexican hot chocolate and better than any hot chocolate I have ever had. Made with corn flour, milk, and piloncillo. It was a rich and silky sip with nutty and earthly notes. It was finished off with a mild spice that makes it both a great dessert drink and a terrific side to our meal to come.

The “Feature pastry” was a “Concha”, a freshly baked bun with a cinnamon biscuit shell, served with butter. It was sweet and flakey with a taste and a crust like that of a Chinese pineapple bun. According to my guest with some background knowledge, this pastry is not commonly served with butter, but more offered as a dessert. However, this is fusion Mexican brunch, and this “concha” found itself recreated as a dinner roll.

Similarly, these were pancakes reimagined as sweet corn hot cakes, served with maple syrup and your choice of bacon or sausage. Super tasty, but a tad too burnt, giving acrid bites. Simple, but so good. I would have enjoyed them as is, without the need of the tart strawberry or sweet syrup.

The “Seafood chorizo scramble” was two scrambled eggs mixed with BC octopus and humbolt squid chorizo. It is served with a side of beans, feta cheese, and flour tortilla. Shame you only got two of the tortilla rounds, as these were a great base; helpful in transforming your scramble, beans, avocado, and sour cream into a taco or burrito for easier eating.

Our table loved the “Birria” aka the “hangover stew” the most. The name and the idea of it was just fun. This was a traditional spicy brisket stew, with crispy tortilla, onions, cilantro, and limes. The chips stayed crispy for a long time, bobbing in the stew. The pieces gave the serving something to chew through, much like the tender strands of beef did. Overall it was a hearty and comforting serving that was good both hot or cold. I can see how it would help those with a handover.

“Huevos rancheros” is a classic Mexican dish. Two fried eggs, corn tortilla, salsa roja, beans, onion, creme fraiche, avocado, and feta cheese. Tomatoey sauce, soggy tortilla, runny yolk, gummy beans, and refreshing cream; need I say more?

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
There is no other brunch like it, you are whisked away from decor to drink. A fun spot for something different. Curious to see how their dinner fairs now. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

FAYUCA
1009 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 5T4
604-689-8523
fayuca.ca

Downlow Chicken Shack

There isn’t much that my partner and I agree on food wise. Whereas I am an adventurous diner, he is more cautious when it comes to what goes into his mouth. Although when it comes to fried chicken, it is something we can both enjoy. Therefore we have been meaning to check out this new deep fried chicken place for a while now.

When “Down Low” originally opened they kept irregular hours, testing the waters of the Vancouver food scene. They stayed open until they sold out of their chicken, meaning we would park and walk to the front only to be turned away. Almost half a year later, here we were entertaining a late lunch. It took a Friday afternoon between lunch and dinner to get a bite with them. And they were still as popular and as busy as ever, and based on the chicken we enjoyed, I can see why. By 3:30pm there were plenty of bodies dining in and even more taking out. With two working the floors, three behind the counter and two more fronting the deep fryer. Each employee dawned a black tee with their logo bold on the back.

This was a chicken giving you the side eye, a cheeky stare, knowing full well what he was offering you how he would have you hooked. The same chicken graced the restaurant’s front window with a yellow beak and red crown. If you are enamoured by his grin you can take him and it home on some of the restaurant’s merchandise in the form of tee shirts and ball caps.

They are available at the back, the same place where you ordered and pay. You engage with the clerk seated at the very end of the restaurant. Today, she was nursing a sprained foot and resting it high on milk crates. She did a great job, giving you all the options and ensuring you got exactly what you wanted. Then shouting it out to those working behind the open kitchen. Like her, everyone else I spoke to was friendly, cordial, and as chill as the setting. All set to a nice mix of hip hop: loud and full of base thumping beats.

You pay and then pick your seat, where your food is quickly brought out to you. Benches outside on their patio, or high tops inside, against all the open windows.

We ordered the half chicken as I like dark meat and my partner likes white. This cost us $17 instead of $19 together. I didn’t take note of the heat level on the menu up front, so ordered the chicken “mild” only to realize this gave things “just a dusting of heat”, whereas I wanted the classic: dredged and fried without chilli. And sadly it was this, the seasoning, on the thick breading that had me liking it less. I am positive that if I had the “classic” I would have liked it much more. At least the meat at the centre was juicy and the breading crunchy, despite my mini photo shoot and allowing it to cool before we took our first bites. My partner however, really enjoyed the chicken here, and more so in his burger below. He declared that when it comes to flavour and size nothing else comes close to this in the city.

My partner loves a good chicken sandwich, so wanted to try their chicken “on a bun”, as well This is their “Hot chicken sandwich” made with white meat chicken breast, their DL sauce, sweet n sour slaw, and house pickles. Given the use of a whole slab of chicken breast, it was  a little hard to get a full bite around, but I preferred it and its ratio of breading to meat than the serving above. It was also nice to see and have more meat than bread, whereas many such burgers has it the other way around. The slaw offered a nice balancing and creamy crunch, and the pickles a refreshing tang to lighten up the meal. I appreciated the clump above and more of them on the side here.

My partner ordered some fries as a side. He didn’t find them all that great, likening the crinkle cut potato sticks to the frozen McCain version. Although at “Down Low” they managed to give them new vitality with a dusting of the “mild” spices and a generous squeeze from their bottle of house mayo. As tasty as the sweet and tangy mayo was, it was just as heavy as everything else, so much so that I was craving some ketchup for freshness.

I like a good corn bread so was excited to try their version listed as being made with “honey and butter”. However it was a dry brick of cheese and jalapeño. Another spicy element to this meal, whereas I could have really used some sweetness from this, as a break from all the bold flavours. And sadly the texture was crumbly, the dough dry from elongated exposure under a heat lamp. There, each square proceeded to cook, wrapped in wax paper oozing with grease that saturated the sheet. Needless to say, we each took a bite and didn’t bother to finish it.

In hind sight, instead of the fries or the cornbread, we should have gotten the creamy and cooling macaroni salad or the crunchy and juicy coleslaw. Either would have acted as a nice cleanser in between bites, helping to balance everything and increase my longevity for the meal before me. Without either, I found myself drinking cups and cups of water from their self serve water station. Overall I did find things on the saltier side.

After we ate our fill, I wanted to get a new box and amalgamate all that we couldn’t finish into it. However an extra box would have been $1 more. So instead, we got a brown paper bag to take our current greasy boxes home in. Despite my disappointment, I did appreciated how one of the managers took the time to explain the reasoning for the cost, with his apologies. He explained that these compostable boxes are the restaurant’s most expensive cost. And they are currently looking for a more reasonable distributor and cost, so that he doesn’t have to seem like he is “cheap”, when customers (like my self) ask for another box; one that he can give to them freely.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Fried chicken is one of those dishes that almost everyone likes, and great fried chicken is on everyone’s list. Therefore this, with its original flavour, one that I have never tasted before, is worth sharing with others. I would skip the sides, but definitely declare that the chicken as is and in between a bun is definitely worth trying. And best late at night after some drinking, whereas it was hard having it for our breakfast this morning. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DL CHICKEN SHACK
905 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5L 3W8
604-283-1385
dlchickenshack.ca

Jaguar F-Type i4 P300

With the sunny and crisp fall weather that has descended upon us, this was the perfect week to cruise around in the Jaguar F-Type. This is the type of vehicle that you don’t need to be a car enthusiast to appreciate. It was a sexy ride that made you, yourself feel exponentially sexier just by getting behind its wheel. The long hood, the wide stance, and the low roof line all come together to craft this beautiful sport car.

It is available in a coupe and a convertible trim, with different engine and transmission configurations. The one we were sporting is the entry model equipped with a 4 cylinder turbo engine matted with an 8 speed automatic transmission. This transmits the power to the rear wheels.

The little 2.0L engine is good for 296hp and is the reasoning behind the P300 badge, (296 is close enough to 300) the F-Type felt pretty quick and its turbo lag was very minimal, which helped given that this was first F-type we test drove. By contrast, if we had test driven the other F-type with the more powerful v6 and v8 engines first, this little four cylinder model would have felt a little disappointing. But on first blush impressions, this car has more than enough power to put a big smile on your face, whilst earning you a speeding ticket or two. Having a smaller and lighter 4cyl engine under the hood does have its advantages, the main one is being its lower engine position, more toward the centre of the car; thus resulting in better handling capacity, and super sharp steering response.

The engine noise was synthetically enhanced trough the sound system, via the push of a button (active exhaust), thus making the 4 cylinder sound a lot different to what it normally would. However, this seems to be the norm and something you can expect nowadays, with most competitors going the same route. The 8 speed automatic was flawless on the automatic mode, it allows you to perform some pretty quick gear changes in the manual mode, by easily flicking the paddles behind the steering wheel.

The interior was built with elegance and class, with premium materials in mind. The 12 way power seats offered a sporty feel and look without sacrificing too much comfort. Usually you can’t expect too much interior space from a 2 seater roadster, but here Jaguar did a phenomenal job. You aren’t squished, and there is plenty of arm and leg room for that leisurely Sunday cruise.

For 2019 the Jaguar F-Type comes standard with a 10inch infotainment system, the system was pretty responsive and easy to navigate, but it lacked some of the bells and whistles you would expect from such a luxury vehicle. But it has all the modern safety features down pat.

In short this is one of those cars I would love to take home and keep. A sexy little roadster that is easy to drive for those long rush hours commutes, while seamlessly transitioning to that weekend whip to drive top down in; with thick rimmed shades and a silk head scarf:  Hollywood style. Thank you for allowing us to play the part with this week’s loan Jaguar, looking forward to switching the pace with the E-Pace in weeks to come.

 

JAGUAR F-TYPE i4 P300
jaguar.ca

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