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Month: March 2020 Page 1 of 2

Water St. Café, take out

With the need to distance yourself socially, given the viral landscape we are currently living in, local restaurants are doing what they can to stay a float during these uncertain times. Many of them, such as “Water St. Cafe” are offering customers promotional pricing and deals. Like if you purchase a $50 “Water St. Cafe” gift card you get a second one at $15. It doesn’t need to be gifted. If you are planning on purchasing take out from them, you might as well buy a gift card to use as payment. The two together covers a full meal including appetizer, entree, and desert.

You can’t dine in, but you can still have the perfect romantic date night date by setting the mood for yourself, at home. And I can speak from experience, their food taste just as good out of biodegradable, cardboard take out boxes as it does from off of their dish ware served on their white clothed tables. Albeit, you don’t get their stunning view of the Gastown clock, but as a whole it can be whatever you make out of it.

Their full menu is available for take out or delivery via “Skip The Dishes” and “Uber Eats”. The following is what we ordered to celebrate the first day of spring. It is all about the little things right now, simple joys and any reason to be jovial. I suggest taking them all. Plus, indulging like this also supports local businesses like “Water St.” who have been serving Gastown for the last 32 years.

The “Water St. Salad” is a popular appetizer to share. A dressed bowl of Tuscan greens topped with heirloom tomatoes, goat cheese, half an avocado, pumpkin seeds, and cucumber; all coated in a honey lemon olive oil vinaigrette. A light start, better served as a side to accompany all the food before us.

The “West Coast crab cakes” are declared a “Water Street Cafe tradition” by the menu. A battered and deep fried round that includes Pacific rock crab and baby shrimp, served with preserve citrus, fennel, arugula, and a saffron aioli. Another light plate to wet the appetite with. A little bland as is, but ideal with the aioli that helps to brighten the serving up; along with a side of fennel for some crunch.

The “Short rib pappardelle” is one that never disappoints. It features 72 hour braised short rib raguet, confit garlic, fresh basil, and Asiago cheese. A comforting serving that fully satisfies with its sheets of thick el dente noodles, evenly coated in the sweeter tomato sauce and tender pulled meat. This is one I recommend.

The “Grilled wild bc salmon” was a great one to kick off spring with. Made with balsamic and honey pickled blueberries, and served with pan roasted potatoes. A flavourful main that I would have liked best if the salmon was left a little more raw, for a more silken texture. Something with a lot more moisture to offer in contrast to the soften potatoes, crisp veggies, and juicy berries.

The “Braised beef short rib” was a stunning plate. Two generous pieces of sous vide Prince Edward Island beef topped one over the other, on a bed of herb crushed potato, crispy onions, and a pool of hoisin jus. Another comfortable main that gave you the flair of fine dining with the familiarity of a causal, non pretentious plate. Tender meat and fresh vegetables, tried and true.

And for dessert we had the “Lemon tart” with housemade lemon crude, apricot glaze, and berry coulis. This, my guest raved about.

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.
For delicious, classic staples that are dressy yet comfortable and familiar, look to “Water St. Cafe” for a meal that doesn’t disappoint. And doing so now with their spend $50 get $15 back giftcard promo adds great value to your take out. Don’t deny your cravings.

Water St. Café
300 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B6
(604) 689-2832
http://www.waterstreetcafe.ca/menus/

Heritage Asian Eatery, take out

Despite the need to distance and isolate, Vancouver food lovers are finding ways to support local businesses, while still enjoying their favourites restaurants. And thankfully the weather is cooperating. Today we were at “Heritage Asian Eatery’s” second location on West Broadway, where you could order from their entire menu for take out. And in part of the “Breaking Bread” initiative created by “SMC marketing”, they and other participating restaurants are offering special menu item at door crasher prices to attract customers in. Today we would take advantage of this.

In order to flatten the curve and diminish the spread of COVID-19 restaurants are no longer able to host dine in customers. Majority of them have shuttered their doors completely, but others like “Heritage” have taken to take out to make ends meet. And on the perfect day with sun and a park near by, you can make do with a picnic in a park. Continuing to practice social distancing as you, of course.

It is so odd to see “Heritage’s” open space seating area with share style tables completely void of people. You walk right up to their counter and place your order, reading off the blown up menu on your right. Barbecue meat options, bowls of noodles and/or rice, and plenty of small sides to share in between.

The daily, limited specials are printed off by the counter. We would order both the spring roll and the sprouts. At $2.25 per roll the “bbq spring rolls” were still a little pricy, but absolutely worth it. They were incredibly crispy with a wrapper that flakes off. It just needed a good blotting from all the oil that literally dripped down your fingers as you held it. Not to mention the additional grease from the sweet and fatty diced bbq pork filling inside. But taste and texture wise this was just aces.

The “five-spice brussel sprouts” were a great way to add a little vegetable to our outdoor feast. Although the seasoning could have been more evenly spread out. I got pieces that were too salty and others that needed more zip. The texture was slightly crispy, with the individual leaves that have fallen off the round sprout being my favourite. This was a lot for $6, although at the same time I would have been just as happy with 1/4 less for $4. Too much between two, overwhelming for one.

My guest was excited to see “Dan Dan” noodles offered, so we had to indulge with a bowl. However he was disappointed to learn that this rendition did not include the peanut butter sauce he associated with this mince meat noodle. He found the meat to be chalky and salty, from the starch that they used to thicken it, causing it to congeal quick. I on the other hand loved it just fine for the thick saucy udon noodles that you slurp up greedily. I also liked the thicker, syrup-like sauce they were coated in. This too was on the saltier side, but paired with the sprouts it was the perfect balance of freshness for such a dense and rich dish.

But the rice bowl is the one we both raved about. We ordered the one topped with pork belly seasoned in five spice. The thick cuts of belly were a little more fattier than I’d like it to be. However, the bed of rice, raw side salad, smashed radish, runny egg, and crispy fried topping helped to cut into some of its gristle. Each bite is best taken with a little bit for everything. So good that I want to grab more take out from them to try the chicken, duck, and even vegetarian eggplant and shiitake versions as well.

For dessert I highly recommend their “Salted egg bun”. A white bun deep fried to golden brown perfection, and filled generously with a liquid salted egg yolk core. It is best to eat this while it is still warm and toasty, but be warned things can get messy if you are unprepared for what can spill out with the initial bite. This happened to be the case for my guest, who despite ruining his shirt, joyfully declared he would come back just for more of them.

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.
The food travels well, everything was satisfying as a whole, and the specials are worth exploring. I would highly recommend their modernized, Chinese comfort food for your take out needs. Don’t deny your cravings.

Heritage Asian Eatery
382 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1R2
(604) 559-6058
https://www.eatheritage.ca/

Kisso Sushi & Ramen, take out

With the announced mandatory closure of all restaurants for dine in services, take out is the only way to go. So when looking for a bite in Port Coquitlam we found ourselves at the newer restaurant, “Kisso”. Sadly, they were spending their grand opening avoiding people. However, with the nicer weather they still had guests coming in to try their sushi or ramen offerings. Grabbing a takeout menu from the door, and placing their order at the counter within, and waiting for it to be wrapped up to go.

Their list of offerings is pretty substantial. Several pages to flip through, and without photos it made the ordering process challenging for the indecisive. More complicated with descriptions of what topped the roll, what was outside of it, and what you could find inside.

We ended up choosing the “Tiger roll” for its name. “Sauce: Unami & honey ginger. In: 2 pieces prawn tempura, pineapple, and crab meat. Out: BBQ unagi, salmon, cooked ebi, green onions, and sesame.” Sadly it didn’t survive the travel. What ended up before us was a saucy pile of ingredients and rice that still tasted just as good. Enough salty and sweet flavouring to mask everything else, and has you still going back for another piece.

We also took advantage of their verbally advertised daily special of 2 rolls for $5.99. You can either have it two California rolls or two yam tempura rolls, or one of each. We did the later to be able to taste and compare their base rolls, with other sushi restaurants we have been to. The California roll was pretty standard creamy and sweet artificial crab meat, that could have used more avocado or maybe some cucumber for freshness. And the rice was a little hard.

There was a lot of yam in the tempura roll and nothing else. Here, it would have been nice to break all the starches apart with something fresh and crispy. Everything else was pretty much as you expected.

For something a tad more fancy we got the “softshell crab roll”. This was my favourite of the lot. This was not only visually interesting with the neon red fish roe accent, but stuffed full of tempura-ed crab, lettuce, and cucumber. A little dab of soy sauce and you are good to pop everything into your mouth.

Overall, there is something about not dining in that has you dropping your expectations. Food matters less and the setting more. And either way the latter will be casual, and the food you order more likely to match. This was definitely the case when it came to our sushi lunch today.

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 go out of my way for sushi I can find anywhere else, but I wouldn’t be apposed to trying their take on ramen if I am ever back in the area. I am glad we supported another local business trying to transition through this challenging time for the food and hospitality industry. Don’t deny your cravings.

Kisso Sushi & Ramen
1475 Prairie Ave B109, Port Coquitlam, BC V3B 1T3
(604) 461-0442

Farina a Legna, brunch

With all that is going on with COVID-19 restaurants and the hospitality industry are doing their best in these times to stay a float. Remaining open and making money, without being able to pay their staff or serve a gathering of customers in their physical restaurants. Social distancing and staying at home is encouraged, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy good food from your favourite establishments. An initiative to serve local business by serving customers from the comfort of their own homes. Spearheaded by local marketing company SMC, meant to support local businesses through an initiative called “breaking bread now”.

What started off as a noble attempt to continue to reassure the community with the highest of cleaning and hygiene standards, has now transformed into take out menus. And “Farina” is offering their food to go from Wednesday to Sunday, between 4-9pm. Wherein you are able to place your order via phone at 604-980-3300.

Here is their full messaging on the situation, as taken from their website.

IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO OUR VALUED GUESTS:

Due to the uncertain conditions in our community, we are taking measures above the requirements mandated by the government and have made the decision to close the dining rooms of all of our restaurants. The health and safety of our staff, customers and people in our community is our top priority.

IN THE MEANTIME – We are doing our best to help those who can’t get groceries, or want to avoid the crowds, by offering takeout friendly menus. We will keep you informed over social media as things progress and more details are available.

Please know that we are listening intently to the advice from government and health authorities and are taking all extra precautions in sanitation and cleanliness to ensure everything and everyone is safe. As things change we will keep you informed.

We thank you all for your patronage – friends, guests and staff, and we look forward to having you dine with us in person again on the other side of this.

I have yet to try this abbreviated take out menu, but I can speak to the skill of their chef and the quality of food through the limited run they had of their new brunch. Naturally, the following won’t be available, but I am choosing to still cover the full experience, as hope of things to return.

A couple of weeks back we were the first ones in for the launch of their new brunch menu, at their North Vancouver location. This would be the last restaurant I dined at for a while.

This Italian cafe has a causal charm to it. Checkered floors, wooden tables and chairs, green booths and furniture, and colourful posters set a modern tone. The menu takes inspiration from their wood oven, which is the heart of their kitchen. All dishes were designed to be shared family-style, with a selection of antipasti, risotto, pasta, and pizza.

The following is what we had on that day that now feels so long, long ago.

They have a bar/pastry counter right up front, when you enter. It tempts and teases for those who find themselves waiting on one of the benches in the foyer, across from it. From behind a glass showcase you can pick and chose your sweet treat. All great on their own, but better paired with any of their speciality coffees.

We sampled from a platter that included a chocolate and nut brownie, a blueberry cake, a flaky croissant, and a jam tart. The chocolate brownie was dense, not too sweet, with a surprise crunch from the bits of nuts that you find hidden within. The blueberry was your typical coffee cake. A mild flavour with a dryer texture, ideal for nibbling on with a side of coffee that you can use to moisten the slice. I liked the butteriness of the tart, along with its maple accented filling and shortbread crust. It was extra cute with the pastry stars on top of thin jam layer. But out of the four, the croissant was my favourite. Its shell was crispy layers that flaked off to reveal a soft cakey centre. A centre that was spongy with a sweet orange and almond flavour, punctuated by the sweetness of cinnamon and sugar. I would come back just to take this out.

I am not a coffee drinker, but I appreciate the way they present theirs. Fluffy foam tops, dainty espressos with perfect milk drawn hearts, and even a dessert option that offers a shot of espresso with custard cream.

The latter was just as much a dessert as it was a pick me up. One that I recommend, even as a non-avid coffee drinker. This one isn’t on regular menu, you only get it with a special secret menu request. You fold whipped custard into thick coffee, and gobble it all up with a spoon. It has a similar sensation to tiramisu.

For something a lot more boozier, order one of their mimosas made with fresh squeezed orange juice, or the classic citrus diced aperol spritz. Both a served in glasses with an additional bottle on the side, for an at the table refill.

Even during brunch their wood fire pizza is fully utilized. One of their thin crust pizza becomes more breakfast friendly with the addition of a sunny side up egg at its centre. This is aptly named the “breakfast pizza” with white sauce, pancetta and a soft egg. The crust had a great stone baked crunch to it. It was delightful as is, and given more panache with the a sprinkle of either their own chilli or oregano infused olive oil.

For the vegetarians you can get it without the pork, and instead plenty of mushrooms for an earthy mouthful. Both are equally delicious and worth trying.

One of my favourite dishes was their “Italian Benny” featuring house made focaccia. It is topped with a pomodoro sauce, two perfectly poached eggs, and parmigiano reggiano. And served with a evenly dressed side salad of arugula and crispy polenta. The tang of the saucy tomato was best exemplified by the herbaceous, spongy bread. This was a great take on a classic that I found myself preferring to the English muffin Benny; it is all in the bread. And its side of polenta was no slough either, it was light and almost eggy with a delicious mix of Italian seasonings. For a bit of freshness look to bites of peppery greens in between. The gluten free polenta is a great substitution that didn’t have me missing the typical breakfast accompaniment of hash browns.

And what is Italian food without pasta? At “Farina” there are 2 options available for breakfast, both are worth exploring. Featuring perfectly done noodles that is not only fun to chew through, but overall highly satisfying as well. The “pesto genovese” was a vegan option that doesn’t leave you missing meat. Basil pesto, roasted garlic, pine nuts, and parmigiano reggiano. Fragrant and herbaceous with a most enjoyable, springy chew. Writing about it now makes me wish I had a bowl before me.

This was only second to the “carbonara” pasta with guanciale, egg yolk, pecorino Romano, and black pepper. A sumptuous serving of el dente noodles that are made decadently luscious with thick cream and runny yolk. Silken, creamy, and peppery; beautifully done. So good you keep wanting to wrap your mouth around it. Fun to slurp and toss between your tongue and teeth.

Another vegan and gluten free option is the “mushroom frittata” topped with pesto and parmigiano reggiano. Served with crispy polenta and fresh arugula. It is basically a mushroom omelette. It had a light egginess to it, with the great texture of squishy mushrooms to gnaw through. Good, but bland by comparison to everything else before and after.

For a little more of anything, there are sides you can add to perk up any serving. We sampled the thick cut, salty guanciale bacon and their red wine fennel sausage. Both salty as is, but added a nice heartiness to our meal over all.

Moving on to sweet breakfast offerings, everyone was enamoured by the “Nutella toast”. It featured their own house made chocolate and hazelnut chocolate spread, topped with roasted banana jam, vanilla whipped ricotta, fresh berries, and toasted hazelnut. This was a gourmet, grown up version of Nutella that wasn’t too sweet, it allowed all the other toppings to have their moment on the spongy, cake-like bread. The bread was also slightly salty, well highlighting the tart fruit, and airy creams. I am not a fan of sweet things, but did appreciate this.

It was recommend that we end with the pannettone as the sweetest of all the plates. Not enough as a solo serving, but great as a dessert you don’t want to share. “Zabaglione”, an airy and sweet pannettone with sweet custard to dip into and fresh fruit to enjoy with.

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 was floored by the consistency and quality of everything we had at brunch. There was nothing major that I didn’t like or anything that I would want to change. When they reopen, I highly suggest making them one of our first brunch destinations, as you will not regret it. I can still remember the flavours of everything we had clearly, which made me want to try each menu during all their seatings, and now their take out. Don’t deny your cravings.

Holy Crab, brunch

Today, breakfast practitioner and enthusiastic food lover, Diana of @foodologyca and I were out for brunch. We stopped at the well known, Louisiana inspired seafood shack: “Holy Crab”. Here, to try their seafood focused brunch, the entire menu’s worth. Be warned, if you order as much as we did, it does take some time for all of it to come out. With so many different components per dish, (from a kitchen that typically offers simply steamed seafood or deep fried snacks), these were a bit more complex to push out.

“Holy Crab” might not have the most extensive brunch menu, but for what they do have, they stand out. Any brunch place can do eggs Benedicts, but where else can you get it topped with blackened catfish, a crab cake, or lobster as the main protein? Given all the options above and smoke salmon, we decided on the “lobster klaws”. Because when given a choice, lobster is always the way to go. But sadly the claw meat wasn’t as expected, I wanted buttery and juicy, but it came out dry. We should have taken our server’s suggestion and gotten the crab cakes instead, in hindsight I am certain that, that would have been the best option. Be warned, you want to dig into this one quickly as the slightly spiced, creamy hollandaise does congeal and the lobster meat does harden as they cool. But the biscuit base we choose over the regular English muffin one stood the test of time. And it proved to be a great variation on a classic breakfast staple, especially with perfectly poached, ooey and gooey yolk that dropped down its sides.

Available during brunch, but great any time of day is their seafood grilled cheese served with the soup of the day. You started with a grilled cheddar and mozzarella sandwich and to it can add shrimp or lobster, or keep it the classic cheese only. Made with whole wheat toast, it is full of seeds and finished with a deep grill. The toast choice made it crispier and heartier than most; ideal for all the large chunks of lobster we choose as our filling today. This is another one to eat quick, before the bread gets soggy and the cheese oiler than necessary. Though if that is the case, a dip in soup is an easy remedy.

Today’s soup was a seafood chowder. It was thick, yet bright with a slow back of your throat spice. I especially liked the chunks of potato and clam bobbing about, giving it a watery stew texture. But truth be told, this was better by itself or with a side of garlic toast, to better highlight the soup. And the grilled cheese best with a tomato bisque to give the sandwich some needed tang.

The “Breakfast poutine” took the Canadian favourite of fries, cheese curds, and gravy. And to the assembly added an egg to give it more of a breakfast feel. Followed by some shrimp and snow crab claws to make it “Holy Crab” specific, with their Cajun-spiced fries. The result, an easy to graze on skillet. Tasty, but I was left wanting more diversity in my seafood, not just shrimp. Maybe some squid rings and scallop, plus the crab claw meat shredded over top. A little more panache to elevate the serving to the impressive standing of the others dishes. This felt very normal, comparatively.

For a lighter offering the “toast board” gave you two open face slices of toast, served with their rice salad. The latter was a chilled mix of black bean, corn, and wild rice. I didn’t find that the salad added anything to the board, or was even all that complimentary given the toast options available like shrimp and egg or vegetarian with avocado and spouts. A regular leafy green and tomato side salad would have been nicer. Better served as a full break from all the flavour each toast was bringing.

As for the actual toast, the menu doesn’t include any sweet breakfast options, so we sought out the banana toast with sliced banana, peanut butter, chopped toasted walnut, and a caramel drizzle. However, they didn’t have bananas on this day, so we opted for two savoury choices instead.

The smoke salmon was a familiar classic made with cream cheese, capers, shallots, and fresh dill. A fresh bite that offered a break between the heavier, denser plates before and after.

I also liked the truffled scramble egg toast as a palette refresher. A black truffle tapenade spread over crispy broiled white bread, topped with fluffy scrambled egg; and seasoned with truffle oil, Cajun spices, and chives. There was no mistaking the truffle flavour in this.

I was most excited for the Southern fried chicken and pancakes”, out of preference. No seafood in this one, just a twist in the batter and the spices used. Southern fried chicken seasoned with their signature Cajun spices, served on top of three fluffy cornmeal buttermilk pancakes. I liked the thorough crunch that the breaded chicken had, but wanted more meat on bone and seasoning to have gone through. There was gravy, but it was better suited to the poutine (as they are both use the same gravy). I could also make out the taste of oil and the need of plenty of pepper to balance it. To take it in a sweeter direction, there was also some maple syrup served on the side. It was nice, but I didn’t add any of it as the pancakes were served pre-dressed in jam and syrup with the butter melting slowly over them. This I felt this added unnecessary decadence to the dish. Whereas I would have liked the pancakes undressed and therefore less soggy, to better match the the crispy crunch of the chicken. Instead, they were sticky sponges that served as a base. Although given how stunning this looks, I ain’t even mad. This dish was all about presentation; a leaning tower topped with thyme and it worked.

The next dish I didn’t like out of personal preference, but I had to give it a bite in order to say that I have had “Holy Crab’s” entire brunch menu. The “Egg Sardou” are poached eggs and more of the Cajun hollandaise over artichoke hearts and creamed spinach. So basically a keto take on eggs benny, plus an toast or two. This is available as a half serving and a full. The texture of wilted greens makes me gag, so I worked my way around it. Not for me, but I recognize it as a very creative alternative for those who are looking for something more lean.

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.
In conclusion a great spot for seafood lovers, and those looking for a differing kind of brunch. With no other options in the are they are your go-to. Don’t deny your cravings.

HOLY CRAB
1588 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 2G5
604-661-8533
theholycrab.ca

1931 Gallery Bistro, happy hour

Today, we were killing some time at the art gallery, checking out their latest exhibit on its last legs. Cindy Sherman’s collection of self portraits in costume, over the decades of her career. An exhibition well timed for International Women’s Day.

Our leisurely stroll through the echo-y art gallery halls found us at the threshold of their redone restaurant. Once simply the “Gallery Bistro”, now renamed and rebranded as “1931 Gallery Bistro”. Spotted tiles, new furnishings, a different configuration, and a fresh coat of paint left the space feeling renewed. Though pretty facade aside, the food was as I remembered it to be.

We began with a couple of drinks, my girl friend especially liking the idea of being able to drink at the gallery. She was in disbelief that she didn’t know that she could have done so sooner. A light rose for her, and the “Triumphs of caesar for me. 1oz nutrl vodka, Clamato, Worcestershire, tobacco, and steak spice. It felted watered down and flat, something uninspired that you would get from a food court kiosk. I didn’t taste much more than tomato juice, hot sauce, and ground pepper. It was a basic as far as caesars go, especially as it didn’t have a garnish. I should have stuck with the $4.95 house red or white, from off of the happy hour menu.

The food was not that much different. Where as the previous concept had pre-made plates at the ready, displayed in refrigerated units for the customer to take and pay for, and then to be microwaved at the back. They were now more than just a salad and sandwiches cafe. Now they totted restaurant quality appetizers and small bites, baked up relatively quick in the kitchen.

I was intrigued by the small list of $3.95 to $7.95 happy hour small plates. Beans, tortilla, and bruschetta; their descriptions all sounded lovely enough, making ordering challenging.

The “Miso-sake cauliflower bites” was probably the best out of the three plates we shared. Cauliflower florets marinated in a white miso and sake glaze. It was salty, but had no depth from either miso or sake. It wasn’t bad, but I would have liked the vegetable crispier and the flavour not so monotone.

The “Potato croquettes” were best on its first bite. Pressed with duck fat and served with a dollop of truffle and garlic mayo each, it was a little much by the last block. Crispy cubes with a hot smashed potatoey centre. There was no missing the musky characteristic of the duck fat, or the saltiness of the truffle. But I needed something tangy, and was looking for some ketchup to help with that.

I was the most disappointed by the “Pineapple tuna poke”, it was bland and therefore the first poke I had that I didn’t like. Ocean wise ahi tuna, soy, sesame, pineapple salsa, edamame, and rye crisps. There was no seasoning or marinade on the fish, you barely got any pineapple despite the title. And the hearty cracker added nothing to the taste, leaving me wanting a lighter crisp for crunch. Disappointing and small for $8

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
If you like the novel ideal of drinking at the gallery, I suggest coming down for a glass of wine. The view isn’t bad and the setting is relaxing. I just can’t recommend the food in good faith. Don’t deny your cravings.

1931 Gallery Bistro
Inside the Vancouver Art Gallery
750 Hornby St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2H7
1931gallerybistro.com

Hawksworth, brunch

My girl friend and I decided to do brunch this Saturday. We wanted a nicer venue and meal, and were willing to pay for it; so decided on “Hawksworth” at Hotel Georgia. It wasn’t very busy, we walked in and were able to get a lovely table by the window. And here, with the natural light I was able make out the interior of the restaurant clearly, having only visited during the dark of the evening, previously. The white of the upholstered chairs and booths brightened up the space with some freshness, while the shards of crystal from the oblong chandelier glinted in the sun. Light, that found its way in past the drapes and on to my shoulders. All in all it was a very lovely scene.

And since the setting was so delightful, we decided to linger in it for longer with the “BC mimosa kit”. A full bottle of sparkling served with three different juices that you can use to mix your own table side mimosa. “Blue Mountain Brut” with either blueberry, peach, or cherry juice. The bottle was kept on ice by the kitchen, yet our glasses remained dutifully full, thanks to the eagle eye sommelier. I tasted lavender in the blueberry juice, rose along side the cherry, and a bit of citrus with the peach juice. I found this a nice way to change up the flavour from drink to drink.

For food I originally wanted the “crab and prawn toast”, only to learn that for $27 you simply get the listed ingredients on a small piece of bread. Not enough to fill me, let alone pair with all the sparkling wine we committed to.

So instead, I opted for the omelette filled with brie, apples and walnut, served along side their “Parmesan new potatoes”. The omelette had a beautiful texture, a smooth blanket of egg that was not too sweet, and reminded me a lot like angel food cake in its mild flavour. I like the flavour combination, I just didn’t get enough of it. I specially wanted more salty brie. The potatoes looked like they had a good bake, but they could have been more crispy around the edges, as a nicer contrast to their soft centres. As for taste, the were seasoned enough that I didn’t ask for ketchup to squeeze over it.

My guest got the “Eggs royale”. An eggs Benedict where a toasted English muffin is topped with smoked salmon, and Hollandaise; and also served with the same Parmesan new potatoes as above. The salmon was not as expected. You read smoked salmon and imagine thin sheets of sashimi-like fish. But what we got was flaky chunks, a little nicer than what you get out of a can.

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.
Nothing was bad per se, it just didn’t measure up to the level that I associate with “Hawksworth”. Minus the mimosas, I felt like I could get this almost anywhere. Don’t deny your cravings.

HAWKSWORTH
801 West Georgia St, Vancouver BC
Rosewood Hotel Georgia
604-673-7000
hawksworthrestaurant.com

Shape of Wine Seminar, hosted by Riedel

I am a big fan of the International Wine Festival, I attend the grand tasting every year, and have done a few events over the years. But this year I was especially excited to be part of a class that would expand my wine vessel knowledge, while drinking out of them. This is the “Shape of Wine” seminar hosted by “Riedel The Wine Glass Company” at the “Terminal City Club”. A unique class that gave us the background on this well known wine glass company, and how each of their glass’ shape effects the bouquet of wine you are having.

Not your typical wine tasting this one is hosted by Riedel’s Regional Manager, Alysha Harker, as she guides you on a journey through your senses. (As listed on the event page) “Discover how glass shape changes your wine as you sample Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon in the Performance Series, Riedel’s new ultimate loudspeaker for fine wine. The set of glasses is yours to take home!”

Glass by glass, we would taste the wine as it was intended in the proper varietal vessel, then again and again in glasses that left it flat and lifeless. Our wine changed from the best to the worst, thus proving what you drink out of definitely makes a difference.

“Riedel” is an 11th generation wine glass company, making glassware for over 265 years in Austria. The origin story begins with a bottle of fine wine that didn’t taste the same from vinery to home. Where Riedel’s founder saw an opportunity in the mechanism he was using to drink out of. Fast forward, their glasses have earned them the best invention title at the museum of modern art. With their first customer being the queen, who ordered 99 glasses for her party. Down the road, they were also the ones to invent stemless glassware.

Their focus is on varietal specific stem wine. They work with master wine markers and sommeliers to design a glass that goes best with the grapes of that region. The physics of the bowl, length, and rim diameter are taken into account. The goal, to have the wine hit the tongue perfectly to make it taste the best, as parts of the tongue do taste things differently. This is where they introduced flow into the equation. How far to tilt your head back when drinking, to taste the wine at its best.

Our wine class featured 4 wines and 4 glasses. The “Culmina Family Estate Winery N° 003 En Coteaux Riesling 2016” in the “Riedel Performance Riesling” glass, the “Black Hills Estate Winery Chardonnay 2018” in the “Riedel Performance Oaked Chardonnay”, the “Quails’ Gate Winery Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2017” in the “Riedel Performance Pinot Noir”, and the “Majella Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2017” in the “Riedel Performance Cabernet”. We would leave with our bellies full of wine and chocolate, and a whole set of glasses to take home as a keepsake. And honestly having tried wine in their proper vessels, there is no other way I want to have it. The only down side to this education is not having the perfect glass for all the wines I might buy, and definitely not getting the proper glass at any given restaurant. I finally fully understand the saying “ignorance is bliss”. Nonetheless, I do not regret my new found knowledge and have actually downloaded their app so that I can now only buy wines that I have the proper vessels for.

I will do my best to try and describe the experience in my usual vivid detail, but truly there is no better way than to try this experience for yourself. Before we got into tasting each glass of wine, the panelists that represented the winery spoke to it.

At the “Culmina Family Estate Winery” everything is planted from scratch. This is so that they can control and maximize the quality of their results, specifically cooler climate varieties. What we were sipping on today was part of their number series, only available through their wine club. A small lot made in 2016, and never again. We started with the “N° 003 En Coteaux Riesling 2016” in the Riesling glass. It had our heads tilt back at a 45 degree angle, giving us apple spice on the finish, with some tingling sweetness.

We then moved on to the same wine in the fish bowl shaped Oaked Chardonnay glass. We noted how the wine smelled different from glass to glass. And it tasted muted and lost its light delicate character in this one. There was no tilting of the head here, leaving it tasting like the wine had been open and sitting out for a few days, flat.

In the Cabernet glass we weren’t smelling much of anything. There was none of the fruit that you got in the first glass, which made sense given that there was the least amount of head tilting here. Our host accurately described its flavour as “Sour keys”. This was our first hand proof that the same wine changed from glass to glass, which once again, was the intention of this class. This is also why each serving of wine was held in a separate plastic cup. So that we could distribute it between the glasses ourselves, knowing full well that it all came from the same source.

Next was the “Black Hills Estate Winery Chardonnay 2018” in the “Riedel Performance Oaked Chardonnay. The winery is located at Black Sage Bench in the Okanagan, between Oliver and Osoyoos. It has one of the hottest climates, with the cacti to prove it. They are known for big reds, but also makes a great Chardonnay, like the 2018 we were trying today. Hand picked and pressed for 8 hours in slow and gentle increments. The juice is so clear that it goes straight into the barrel using 50% wild fermentation and natural yeast. It sits for 10 months, oak aging in a 10-15% new oak. This gives the wine a great creaminess and more texture. And lucky us, today was the first time they were pouring it at a tasting.

With the “Riedel performance Oaked Chardonnay”, they perfected the ridges in the glass in 2019. The changes gave it the most optic impact, and increased the surface area for wine by 25-30%. Drinking out of it it we got the vanilla and pear notes as intended, a full bodied white that tasted of bright fruit. Ideal for “red drinkers” that say they “don’t like white”.

The same white in glass number one, the Riesling had it smelling oaky with a strong acidity and a distinct grittiness. And in glass number four, the Cabernet it taste spoiled, like it had been open and sitting for several days.

With this course we were also treated to chocolate from “Lindt”, one of “Riedel’s” partners. A Lindt excellence milk chocolate was paired here. And Alysha hilariously described it as “silky halibut”, to help paint a first course picture and the perfect plate to pair with the white.

Wine number three was a pinot noir from “Quail’s Gate”, who were the firsts to bring this grape into the Okanagan as clones. Over the years they have been able to find the best area to grow said grapes, thus resulting in a better by-product and wine then what they had 25-30 years ago.

We would enjoy the “Quails’ Gate Winery Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2017” best in their “New world Pinot noir glass”, easily identified with the tulip bulb. The glass gave the wine it’s intended smokey cherry flavour, one we got from curling our tongues and having the vibrant flavour hit the sweet and salty part of it. For sensation, my mouth liked the way it felt on this glass the most, it was also aesthetically the most appealing. But maybe just because I prefer reds.

Having it out of glass number four, the Cabernet glass, the pinot noir was tart with tannins, that had you salivating.

With it we enjoyed a square of “Lindt Excellence” white chocolate described by Alysha as duck confit. As one who isn’t a fan of Pinot noir or chocolate I liked both here and together in this partnership. Alysha herself stated that she cannot drink Pinot noir without Lindt white chocolate.

And last, but not least our varietal glass tour ended with Australia’s “Majella Wines” and their Cabernet Sauvignon 2017. Grown in a strip of red soil, the winery has a fine tune on the land. And as grape grower, our panel speaker was not shy to boast that he and “Majella” grows the best cab sav grapes in the region. He described the wine as being “very commercial”, stored in some of the best oak barrels they can get, for 22 months.

In its proper “Riedel performance Cabernet” glass we got a fragrant mix of mint, eucalyptus, cassis, and mulberries. A great wine compared to the salty and bitter flavours we got drinking it out of glass number one.

With this we had with a piece of “Lindt Excellence” dark chocolate in 70% cacao. And this was our “Triple AAA 28 ounce steak” or “Deep fried tofu with soy” for the vegans.

In conclusion this class was not only informative and fun with a great host, but you get chocolate and the glasses you drank with to take home. And best of all they are all said glasses are dish washer safe. And you are actually advised to not wash them by hand, because you don’t know hard you are actually scrubbing them. If you ever get a chance to chat up Riedel’s Regional Manager, Alysha Harker or attend such a class, I highly suggest that you do. It is life changing and will definitely improve your everyday wine drinking experience.

RIEDEL
https://www.riedel.com/

Terminal City Club
37 W Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V6C 1B6
(604) 681-4121
tcclub.com

Well Seasoned Cooking Class

Week Night Dinner with Chef Carl Sawatsky

Tonight my girlfriend and I were visiting “Well Seasoned”, a cookware supply store and cooking school all rolled into one. Located in Langley, it is a bit of a trek to get out there, but worth the effort for all the specialty items alone. We are not the most domesticated of women. We don’t pretend to know how to cook or even that we like to. So “Well Seasoned’s” intimate and approachable cooking classes seemed perfect for novices like us. A small class, reviewing with the basics, and giving you everything you need to enjoy cooking without the pressure.

We arrived early, so had the opportunity to peruse their shelves thoroughly. From cocktail mixes with socks to match, to hot sauces guaranteed to hurt going in and out. The store front is a food lover’s dream with many new flavours and elixirs to buy and try. There are even food themed dish cloths and aprons that help to add a little pizzaz to your everyday preparations. And best of all, enrolling in any class grants you 10% off on the purchase of any of these.

When time, our class congregated at the back of the shop, picking our spots, to be able to watch and duplicate three courses for our “Week Night Dinner” class. You take the class in pairs, an intimate workshop of 8 in total. We began by washing our hands and dawning one of their communal aprons. Each cooking station surrounds the staged instructor’s counter. It includes a televised screen broadcasting the overhead view. Multiple angles to watch and learn. And if you can’t retain it all, a recipe sheet is available at every seat for students to follow along with.

 

For the real life recap of the class and our lack of skills, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

I won’t be recapping the recipes and the how to here, you will have to take a class for yourself. But I will point out some interesting cooking tips and facts that I did learn. Our class was described online as, “Getting dinner on the table shouldn’t be the worst part of your day. It should be a great way to unwind and prepare a tasty, healthy meal for yourself, family and maybe even friends. Chef Carl will help you figure out how to take the pressure off in the kitchen and enjoy meal prep!” Tonight’s dinner included 3 courses, including dessert. Fresh Tomato Bruschetta, Creamy Portabella Chicken with Mashed Potatoes, and Coffee and Chocolate Steamed Pudding. One by one we would watch the demo and replicate what we had learned. Then after plating, we would get to consume our creations fresh.

We got enough ingredients to make 12 tomato bruschetta crostini between two. We marinated our freshly sliced cherry tomatoes with tomato vinegar, to amp up the flavour. Although our personable Chef spoke to using what we already have in our pantry, and utilizing it to help customize a meal. We rubbed freshly cut garlic onto broiled bread, then smeared it with thick ricotta cheese, before topping it generously with our tomato mixture and fresh basil. Simple, yet delicious, the type of dish I would definitely replicate for myself and others at home.

We then made our dessert next, so that it could sit and cool down before we dug in at the end of our class. A “coffee and chocolate pudding” that was topped with fresh whipped cream, and ate like a moist sponge cake.

This process was made easier for us with pre-measured ingredients. So we were only required to mix all the dry ingredients together, all the wet ingredients, then the two together. Here, we got a lesson on the quality of ingredients used and the difference they make. Like vanilla paste over extract, and instant expresso that the restaurant industry uses. The result, a dessert that was quick and surprisingly easy to make. And without the need to make it look “pretty”, another great dinner option in a pitch. Two for two, this class was right up our alley in terms of skill.

Our last course was a “creamy portobello chicken”. Made with heavy cream and plenty of butter, the “Well Seasoned” team was very accommodating when they offered my lactose allergic cooking mate, a coconut milk product to use instead. It didn’t quite taste like what was intended, but it still ended up really good.

Here, we went over knife skills: how to smash garlic, slice vegetables, and butterfly chicken breast. We also went over the importance of the wine being used in cooking. Chef advised not using wine that you wouldn’t consume as is. Quality in, quality throughout. Oxidized wine is okay, as long as you have drank it. Everything was pan fried at our table, over the portable stove stop. We learned that you know your pan is warm enough when you can smell the extra virgin olive oil, and can see the wisps of smoke coming from off of the pan. I liked how this recipe had everything coming together in one pan, saving time and the trouble of clean up.

When cooking meat, you want to have it turn golden brown, as this is a reaction of the caramelization of proteins, which equals flavour. Here, majority of amateurs cooks, such as myself, don’t leave the chicken alone, they toss it and turn it, instead of allowing it to brown; thus elongating the cooking process. This was a lesson in learning how impatient we are.

Our protein was served with garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus seasoned in duck fat. Both of which ended up being my favourite part of this course, as they were both made by Chef Carl, in an effort to save time. Though we did get the demo as to how to do it ourselves, at home. For the potatoes, the bigger the pieces you can leave them the better, allowing them to sit on a sheet pan, before crushing them using one of many different types of apparatus. Here, he used a potato ricer with a hard squeeze and a finer gauge. And suggested flavouring it with mayonnaise, butter, sour cream, or any combination of all three.

Our entree was served with a glass of white, as a nice treat and a great way to pat ourselves on the back.

In short this was a great class and a fun thing to do. Date night or a way to learn basic cooking skills, you leave feeling full and having learned something new that you can apply to your everyday life. I highly recommend their comforting setting, a class without judgement or embarrassment. Just friendly fun.

To attend a class yourself, visit the link below or call the number to book.

Well Seasoned
20353 64 Ave #117, Langley City, BC V2Y 1N5
(604) 530-1518
https://wellseasoned.ca/collections/cooking-class-vouchers

Vancouver International Wine Festival 2020, Tasting Room

The 42nd annual Vancouver International Wine Festival was a success. Eight days of wine and food fuelled fun. The event hosted 163 wineries, with 16 countries participating in 57 events, showcasing 1,450 different wines, with over 25,000 participants and attendees. And featuring 42 wineries from this year’s featured country alone: France. There is no surprise that this is Canada premier wine show.

If you can’t attend the week’s worth of events, or any of multiple seminars, dinners, and shows a day; I suggest at least attending one of the grand tastings. With 4 different opportunities, this is the best way to see and try many different wines as possible, all in one setting. It is essentially a wine convention, where wineries are arranged by country. And guests are invited to peruse through rows of tables, with each table representing a specific winery. At each, you can taste your way through their entire offerings: white, rose, sparkling, and/or red. Coming back for more of what you like.

Amongst all the drink options there were nibbles to snack on and games and activities to engage in. Cured meat carved from bone, miniature gelato scoops into miniature cones, and a showcase of cheeses and crostini to graze on.

We tried our hand at a few contest draws and tested our sensory skills by identify shades of wine and flavours that would go in to them.

One of my favourites booths is the Riedel one. I have always believed in the importance of the vessel when it comes to drinking, and I get to experience it first hand when I drink out of their varietal stemware.

  

We tried so many wines, and there were even more that we couldn’t get to. So the following is merely a glimpse at this awe-inspiring assembly. Something to marvel over and use as inspiration when looking into attending this event next year. If not others along with it. And help create the hype, the feature country is already announced. The 43rd annual Vancouver International Wine Festival will be celebrating the wines of South America.

VanWineFest may be over, but you can still enjoy your favourite festival wines. Many wines from the onsite BC Liquor Stores Festival Wine Shop will be available at select BC Liquor Stores – some even have the winery principal’s signature, a fantastic festival souvenir.

Need a guide to your festival faves? Download the Tasting Room program pdf, which lists all the wines in the room. Or get the festival app from Google Play or the App Store. Many of these wines are available at BC Liquor Stores and private wine shops. Buying festival wines is the best way to show your support and appreciation to the 162 wineries that brought their wines directly to you at VanWineFest 2020.

Vancouver International Wine Festival Headquarters:
Vancouver Convention Centre West
1055 Canada Place
Vancouver, BC V6C 0C3

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