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Category: bar Page 1 of 21

Grapes & Soda

I have been meaning to check this bar out, so when looking for an after dinner drinking spot, in the South Granville area, we headed down to “Grapes and Soda”. And to our delight, their head bartender, 2018 best bartender of the year, as voted by “Vancouver Magazine”, was behind the counter mixing tonight.

With its patterned vinyl on the all windowed exterior, you can’t really tell what’s within, if not for the bottle cap logo on the sandwich board, and the flag hanging off the side of the building.

Inside, the little space is a lot more intricate. It has a similar vibe to all the other dark and intimate bars I am familiar with, in the Chinatown area. It leads with a well stocked shelves, 3.5 rows of bottles packed in together tight, and a collection of botanicals and bitters on the counter to speak to their mixing program. The restaurant is spooky and dark, with cozy space saving pockets, and parchment wrapped lights, offering a little illumination. Seating runs down the length of the room, across from the actual bar that continued into their kitchen. Our group of 5 shimmied into the booth by the door.

Interestingly, on the back of the menu was a message, making note of the drawers under each table. Guests were encourage to use these as a place to house their cellphones, a place to put them away securely, and to not be tempted to pull them out for the duration of your stay. However, the fear would be then forgetting them there.

When it came time to order I went for one of their soda cocktails, considering this was their specialty and name sake. Today’s special was a red coloured soda with umeshu, gin, lime, whey, and shiso. They are premixed and pre bottled, served with a glass of ice and bottle opener. It was a easy drink with hints of plum and lime. I didn’t get any of the distinctive shiso flavour though, not that I wanted any.

I liked the look of the wide and short coupe that the “Tempest” cocktail came in. Blackberry, mezcal, coffee, lime, egg white, and a chilli tincture.

The “Lassi legal” drank like a creamy dessert. Kaffir lime, cachaca, kefir, coconut, cucumber, mint, and cilantro.

They can also mix up any of your favourite classic cocktails like this “Spanish gin & tonic”. Basically, anything but a highball, as they don’t carry grocery store sodas like coke or sprite.

We didn’t order any food, but for those looking for a light snack to accompany their drinks they do small plates. Bread and charcuterie boards, vegetable heavy seasonal dishes like cauliflower, peas, and zucchini; and fruit forward desserts like Mille feuille and strawberries and rhubarb with ice cream.

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.
A fun place for some creative cocktails in the South Granville area, and out of downtown Vancouver. I would love to frequent here if not for the need to travel via skytrain and bus to and from, if I plan to drink multiple glasses. Don’t deny your cravings.

GRAPES & SODA
1537 West 6th Avenue, Vancouver BC 6J
604-336-2456
grapesandsoda.ca

Key Party Speakeasy

Today I was invited to “Key Party” to check out some of their creative cocktails and snacks. A hidden speakeasy brought to you by one of “Western Living’s top 19 “Foodies of the year”.

They are best known as the bar with a hidden facade. What looks like the exterior of an accounting firm with the proper name and hours of operation posted, is a front for this hidden speakeasy. You pass through the 80’s furnished space that includes a two hole punch, filing cabinets, turn dial phone, fax machine, and even a “hang in there” kitty poster. Everything is bolted down, but that didn’t stop me from playing with the props. Past the second door is the actual bar. Bathed in darkness it had a spooky vibe with burgundy velvet curtains and black leather booths. Eerie, black and white, optical illusion portraits draw your eyes, especially against their red red wall.

But the centre piece and conversation starter was definitely the hand painted mural behind the bar. Women laying in leisure in the clearing of a forest. Both nude, one emerging from a pond, another embracing a tiger with its tail wrapped around a bottle of whiskey. It really set the tone of opulence, along with the instrumental music playing. A soundtrack that included a classic twist to Snoop Dogg’s “Gin & Juice”. With 20 seats available, this setting serves as a great place for intimate conversation, or smaller parties. And even better as the before or after to your dinner at the neighbouring “Rumpus Room”, which they share a washroom with.

I especially enjoyed their creative use of cupcakes, with a single candle atop, serving as additional lighting on the bar.

During my visit I would spend most of my time at the bar, taking in their mixology. Their trifold menu showcases several signature cocktails and two seasonal offerings listed with tongue and cheek names. A list of sexy puns like “Tai me up” and “safe word spritz”.

The one drink that didn’t have the sexual undertone was their “Apricot sour” with fresh in house made apricot preserve, chai spiced rye, apricot brandy, egg white, lemon, orange bitters, and cinnamon. At 2oz this was a strong drink, a sour that is actually sour, with an egg white foam that finished it sweet.

For those who like a stiffer drink the “Dirtier martini” is a winner. Gin or absolut vodka mixed with olive brine, and finished with a skewer of two blue cheese stuffed olives. The saltiness of the olives smoothed out the sharpness of the drink after it.

The “Bruised peach punch” was a favourite amongst our group, a refreshing beverage with real organic peach purée. Lot 40 whiskey, peach purée, mint, cardamom bitters, and soda.

The “Coconut grasshopper” was like a dessert. A beautiful seafoam green with coconut cream, creme de menthe, and cacao. And it’s vegan friendly too.

I was really interested in the “Mez-zpacho”. It was like a savoury spiced soup, served chilled and spiked. Altos tequila, mezcal, carrot, tomato, lime, and housemade verdita. It was best enjoyed with a lick of the crushed vegetable bouillon cube rim.

And one of the their featured seasonal cocktails was the “S&M”. Absolute vodka, Odd Society bittersweet vermouth, lime juice, strawberry, and jalapeño. Spicy and sweet for a tongue tingling sensation.

But hands down, my favourite way to enjoy drinking here is by taking down one of their Jell-O shots. The “Kir Royal Jell-O shot” is a combination of Champagne, Absolut vodka, and cassis; topped with foamy whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles. This was definitely a mouthful, fun to eat, and it tasted great.

With all this drinking, you might want to snack on something to balance it all out. Like their “Stuffed stalks”, celery stalks stuffed with cheese whiz and topped with dill, red pepper, and crispy beets. It was a nostalgic snack, but elevated for a grown up palette.

The “Chilli cheese dip” was a comforting appetizer. Crispy coloured corn chips used to scoop up the warm chilli cheese sauce. It is everything you like about stadium nachos, but actually tasty.

But the feature item on their food menu has to be the “Have s’more”. House made Grand Marnier graham crackers, marshmallow, and Nutella that you combine to make your own customized s’more sandwich. You can roast your own marshmallow with the table side campfire, because half the fun is the assembling it all.

 

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.
This is a fun place to have a drink at. Great cocktails in a unique setting, worth bringing a friend to. And best of all you can avoid the downtown traffic with accessible transit. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KEY PARTY
2303 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5T 3C9
604-708-0881
keyparty.ca

H Tasting Lounge, new patio

The start of the recent heat wave perfectly coincided with the opening of “H Tasting Lounge’s” new patio. A classy way to eat and drink outdoors, with all the qualities and comforts of a luxury hotel. I have frequented the spot more as a drinking hole, so was exited to be able to get a taste of the cuisine today.

The patio was sleek with a dark wood laminate floor, made more stylish with the white heat lamps that looked like actual lamps with their shade and pedestal base. Adjacent, tiered umbrellas offered the grey and blue loungers and couches some reprieve from the sun and the heat. All with a view of the water in the distance and the cityscape reaching for the sky behind it.

Today, guests were invited to wander in and out of “H”. The tables were pushed aside and the restaurant turned in to a dance floor. Here, food and drink stations were set up for self serve, self indulgence. The kitchen was offering scaled up versions of food and drink off of their regular menu. Giving attendees a great way to sample the menu for future visits.

Inside the restaurant, were 3 tables worth of cheese and meats; pushed together to form one of the longest charcuterie boards I have ever seen.

The “European cheese plate” with a seasonal marmalade, pickled grapes, and seed crackers.

The “Local charcuterie” board including whole grain mustard, pickled grapes, and baguette slices.

And the “Quiche Lorraine” that was a new one for me. Two rounds of pancetta, goat cheese, and zucchini eaten like a spread.

As for drinks, there was plenty to taste and many more to inspire your next sip by the seaside. Drinks included a welcome glass of sparkling and Moët on ice.

At the bar, cocktails were shaken and stirred to order. Here I had the “Thinner walls”, ordering off a menu that included photos (a smart move, catering to the likes of me, those who love a visual cocktail. Naturally, I gravitated towards the green drink with a pea shoot for garnish. It was a wonderful visual and tasted like a spiked green juice with tequila, snow peas, suze, lemon, and soda. The first healthy drink that I got my buzz on to.

I liked the tea station where premixed tea based cocktails were poured and garnish to order. The “Late blossom smiles tea” is normally served in a tea pot, so to paid homage to this, they were served in Japanese style tea cups today. Vodka, st. germain, lillet blanc, nutcracker tea, honey, lime, and soda; completed with a bobbling flower. I liked how you could taste both the black tea and the spirits equally, they were well balanced.

Similarly in balance was the “Rye Chai”, chai tea meets rye, mezcal, apricot liqueur, falernum, and lemon. A beautiful cocktail that I fully enjoyed, it reminded me more a sweet southern tea with a kick.

On the patio, keeping cool over ice was a collection of sashimi and selfish. You could see it across the room thanks to the two giant “H” ice sculptures marking these ice baths. One was a collection of oysters, being shucked adjacent and slurped up fresh.

The second ice station had two bite servings of crudo and carpaccio.

“Kanpachi crudo” with blood orange, pickled butternut, shiso, and sumac kiwi. A refreshing snack that spoke to the quality of their seafood.

The “Halibut crudo” was seasoned in a yuzu vinaigrette with anjou pear, thyme, and micro kale. Sadly my serving was so very salted, that it made my lips pucker.

The “Tuna carpaccio” was my favourite of the three given some pizzaz with pickled watermelon, fresno chili, and mint.

And as we ate, servers toured the patio offering up for more appetizers on trays. Bites like the “Beef tartare” with egg yolk, shallot, caper, chive, and horseradish. A delicious morsel that you easily popped into your mouth.

The “Salmon tartare” with tarragon, cucumber, lemon, labneh, and hibiscus was a refreshing starter, served on an endive leaf.

The “Lump crab cake” was tasty, a crispy baked shell hiding a creamy, flaky crab filled centre; sauced up with their Old bay aioli.

I liked the “Morel mushroom tartine” made with ricotta, black garlic mustard, watermelon radish, and micro kale. Earthy and saucy, one of the more filling, roving appetizers.

And I fully enjoyed the mini West Coast lobster rolls with much gusto. Sweet shellfish, creamy mayo, and a hint of dill for freshness.

For dessert they had “Uno Gelato & Sorbet” doling out their ice cream on site. A cute cart attached to a bicycle, where you could get scoops of either salted caramel, mango, or their vegan “Midnight chocolate” in small cups. I had the former and found it too sweet for my taste.

 

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 truth I have actually have never had a full meal here, my visits typically start and end at the bar, so this was a nice teaser of them and their new patio. And one lavish enough to have me wanting to return for the full experience. I would love to revisit on a separate occasion, to more accurately account for what’s it like to dine-in and drink out on their patio. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

The Westin Bayshore
1601 Bayshore Drive, Vancouver BC, V6G 2V4
604-682-3377
htastinglounge.com

Match Langley, patio open & new menu

Today I was enjoying another patio, but this time in Langley. “Match” located in Langley’s “Cascades Casino” was the place to be tonight, with the NBA finals being broadcasted on all screens and “Ruffino” on location passing out samples of their sparkling Prosecco. We took advantage of both as we soaked in the sun and the warmth of the fireplace once it set.

They had a new fresh sheet, so we made sure to order from that. Including their new “Botanical summer cocktails”. Three flavours of low calorie, spritzer-type drinks to quench your thirst. Ketel One botanical peach and orange blossom, soda, fresh lemon, raspberry and mint. It was refreshing, but a little bland for a seasoned sipper like me.

My second cocktail offer more kick, but with a tropical feel. I ordered the “Hotline bling!” For its name and was not disappointed. Smirnoff vodka, peach schnapps, blue curaçao, lime, orange, and club soda. It’s the type of drink you enjoy at a resort by the water, or here at “Match Langley” pretending you are on vacation.

For food we started with the “Wok this way lettuce wraps”, something I normally wouldn’t order for myself, but glad we got because it ended up being my favourite dish of the night. This was the 2.0 version with wok fried chicken, crispy noodle, spicy xo sauce, carrots, celery, red peppers, green onion, and peanuts. Served with a stack of crisp ice berg lettuce that you use as cups to scoop up and eat the above with. There was so much good texture and flavours to sort through, with plenty of light crunch. It felt healthy and tasted satisfying, which was a similar tone to the rest of our meal to come. Though be warned, eating these do get messy, not cute for date night.

By comparison the “Squid pro quo” was lack lustre. It lacked seasoning, although I fully appreciated its name. Lightly breaded calamari, fried jalapeños, red pepper, diced red onion, and tzatziki. It needed salt which we self seasoned, but even then it was still flat. The vegetable offered little and the tzatziki fell flat, leaving us wanting more.

I really enjoyed my entree: the “Georgia peach and pecan chicken”, another more health conscious menu item that left you satisfied. Bourbon marinated chicken breast with grilled peach, beats, goat cheese, and candied pecans. Served with creole rice and roasted vegetable. I enjoyed the charred flavour of the chicken and the options on the plate you had to pair with it. Tangy goat cheese, sweet peach, and the freshness from all the steam vegetables.

My guest had the “Blackened halibut burger”. Long line caught blackened halibut, mango salsa, iceberg lettuce, coleslaw, tartar sauce, and crispy onion strings; in between a fresh brioche bun, served with fried to order thick cut fries. The fish was fully seasoned in Cajun spice, and it’s heat was balanced by the crunchy slaw and the zestiness of the tartare sauce, (which would have been great over the calamari above). A great burger I would order again, but another messy one with the amount of oil and drippings sopping off the burger after each bite.

 

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.
In short, “Match” is a great place for ambience and the game in Langley, with new food and drinks to try and a great patio to lounge in. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MATCH LANGLEY
Cascades Casino Resort
20393 Fraser Highway, Langley BC, V3A 7N2
604-530-2211
matchpub.com

Pangea Pod Hotel

The owners of “Pangea” (a husband and wife duo) met at a hostel, loving the accessibility of them, but wanting a more upscale experience from them. And thus their, and British Columbia’s first pod hotel was born.

The inspiration is taken from the Japanese style of quick and confined accommodations. Pod hotels offer travellers reasonable lodgings for one. The premise is that you only pay for what you need: a place to sleep. Utilities like toilets, showers, and sinks are shared amongst a cluster of stacked pods. You need not pay for the hotel desk you don’t work on, the lounger you never use, or the art work you don’t appreciate.

All guests are required to be 18 years of age or older, this is to maintain a certain environment. These accommodations aren’t designed with families in mind, and with the necessity to keep noise and talking to a minimum, the age restriction makes sense.

Each individual pod is shaped and equipped with practicality as a focus. A double bed gives you extra room; after all just because you are sleeping in a box, it doesn’t mean it should feel like a coffin. Each mattress fits two comfortably, but only 15% of their guests take advantage of this. And speaking from my own experience, even if I visited with my partner, I would want my own pod, for all the leg and arm room.

They are shelves and a cupboard for storage space. Plus, ample room at the carpeted foot of your bed; a place to position your luggage or overnight bag. A cubby allows you to lock up your devices safely with your own pad lock (or you can purchase one at the front desk).
A rail with hangers gives you the option to hang pieces, or you can prevent others from wrinkling, by hanging it off one of the hooks.

You even have your own mirror in your pod for easy make up applications or touch ups. And what many will appreciate, your own outlet that you can charge two separate electronics with. You can also feed your cable through to the above mentioned lockable cabinet, for a more secure charge.

For the security of larger items, they have a “toy box”. A stylish and secure place to store snowboards, skis, and mountain bikes; basically any paraphernalia you would need to get active in Whistler with.

As for the actual stay, check in is self serve, with attendants on stand by, should you need directions verbalized. You follow touch screen prompts that have you conforming your name and email, and swiping your credit card for incidentals. The process if finished with the activation of a chip that you wear as a bracelet. Not only does this identify you as a guest, but it also functions as your hotel key and form of payment.

Like at other hotels, if you don’t use anything, you won’t be charged for it. But here there isn’t a mini bar or pay per view to add on, instead you can use your sensor bracelet to charge any food or drink purchases. Both of which are available at their indoor lounge (fondly referred to as “the living room”), or the roof top bar with a bird’s eye view of the heart of Whistler Village. All and any purchases “tapped” will be reconciled at check out, with a bill emailed to you. Everything is paperless here.

Similarly, there aren’t any hotel phones in which you can call for room service. Instead, “Pangea” utilizes the technology you already own. With extra high speed internet connection, you use your phone for room service or concierge help, in place of a hotel phone. Your check-in is greeted with a text, and a response from you opens the air waves for requests. You can text the number (now in your phone), when you need more towels (though three are waiting for you in your pod: one for your body, another for your face, and a black one for make up removal). You can text for concierge suggestions, and complaints if your bunk mates are too loud. The messages get sent to one of their many employees. The first available responds, and the others get a prompt, knowing some one is on the job.

Of note, you don’t actually get to choose which pod you inhabit. You make a reservation but your pod is assigned based on your desired exit from the back or front, or if you prefer a women’s only space. You get to make this selection during your touch screen self check in and are informed by way of printed receipt. Similarly you get a receipt to place on your dash if you need to park your vehicle underground, overnight.

However if you are going as a large group you do have the ability to rent out an entire suite, like our party of 10 did. This makes a great option for a girls night, pyjama party in. Simply close the door and lock everyone else out. You can also rent out any additional pods to ensure a similar sort of privacy in any of their suites.

As for the rest you get, I have never felt so safe and secure sleeping outside of my own bed; all boxed up and protected by 5.5 walls. For fire safety reasons you cannot be inclosed in your pod, with a fully closed door. However, I found the curtain that you could draw, to shut yourself in, plenty of a barrier. I was tucked in and cozy. And with sound dampening walls, and a white noise fan, you really don’t hear much around you. You can just sink in and relax on the hotel quality mattress. A mattress that doesn’t need a bed frame or a box spring. It was just as comfortable without, and more so with the crisp white linens. The same linens you expect from a 4 star hotel stay. Truly, “Pangea” gave me one of the best sleeps I have ever had at any hotel.

As I mentioned earlier, they do offer food and drink solutions in common spaces. These, they encourage their guests to linger at. The “living room” is kitty corner from their lobby counter with a lounge to brunch feel. Large windows, mirrored walls, mirrors on the ceilings, colourful murals, a portable fireplace, a long banquet table, coffee and cocktail bar, and board games. Basically plenty to make anyone’s stay a little more personalized.

Here, I would enjoy breakfast after my check out at, as they offer a fulsome menu with plenty of healthy options, coupled with those key hangover helpers. I would indulge in the former. More details below, later.

Check in is at 4pm so after we sorted our selves out, we climbed the stairs up to their roof top patio for happy hour. Here, you take in cold drinks and small bites overlooking the hub of Whistler Village. And with a hot sunny day like today, this is definitely the place to be.

Keeping cool with their trademark cocktail, the “Dalmatian”: vodka, peppercorn syrup, grapefruit, lemon, and rosemary. A citrusy mix with the spice of the smashed rosemary.

The “Espresso martini” was a great pick me up with vodka, coffee liqueur, and Pangea espresso.

In contrast is the “Romina Sour” with gin, cassis, lemon, and egg white. A lighter and sweeter cocktail for a sunny day.

I thought the “Smoked Sriracha Caesar” was a little watered down. It could have use more tomato flavour with the vodka, Clamato juice, sriracha, lemon, DescriptionWorcestershire sauce, and pepper.

I liked the “Canadian Whiskey Sour” a lot more with rye, sortilege, lemon, and egg white. It was a stronger cocktail, yet easy to sip with the egg white foam. I especially liked the cherry that top it as a last sip, finishing touch.

For food, we shared a few of their hand held appetizers. Each featuring their flatbread crust, which they do so well. “Caramelized pear and blue cheese flat bread” with a white sauce base, topped with mozzarella, Parmesan, caramelized pear, walnuts, blue cheese, and olive oil. It was my favourite of the three varieties I tried. A sweet and salty combination with the chucks of pear as the highlight.

“Portobello mushroom + bacon flatbread”. Tomato sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan, portobello mushroom, asparagus, bacon, red pesto, and olive oil.

“Carbonara flatbread”. White sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan, bacon, onion, mushroom, and garlic cream.

The meat and cheese boards were great for grazing. The meat board included prosciutto, chorizo campesino, Genoa salami, grainy mustard, olives, walnuts, balsamic reduction, olive tapenade, and stone baked flatbread. The cheese board had brie, blue cheese, manchego, whipped goat cheese, quince, olives, walnuts, balsamic reduction, olive tapenade, and stone baked flatbread.

When it came time to check out the next morning, it was just a matter of cutting off your bracelet and shedding a tear that you have to leave. Like camping in a tree house with rooms stacked one on top of each other, and one beside another, this was a one of a kind experience.

But before we got into our cars for the 2 hour drive back to Vancouver, we made sure to have breakfast at the “Living room”. “Pangea power smoothie” with mixed berries, banana, Greek yogurt, honey and almond milk. I liked the consistency of this compared to bowl below, however thought the drink could use more fruit flavour.

“Strawberry cheese cake smoothie bowl”. Banana, rolled oats, cream cheese, honey, almond milk; and sunflower, chia, and pumpkin seeds. It was thick with a graininess to it, much like what would imagine drinking a smoothie out of a bowl would feel. I liked the taste, but not the texture and not enough to finish.

The “Spinach Bennie” was a nice meat-free option. Made with sautéed spinach, red onion, roasted garlic, white wine, poached eggs, and homemade hollandaise, all on an English muffin. It was tasty from the full bodied sauce, and the runny yolk added a nice creaminess to each bite. But I personally would have like it greasier with bacon and tomato.

The “Avocado toast” was smashed avocado dressed in feta, chilli, coriander, red pesto, lime, and sourdough. Ironically, I thought it needed more avocado, or maybe to keep the avocado as sliced, for a 1:1 ratio of avocado and bread.

In short, these pod hotels are worth traveling to for a weekend getaway at, and worth looking in to the next time you are in Whistler. I can see why they are rated the #1 specialty lodging in Whistler by TripAdvisor users. A great solution for solo travellers wanting to save, but not compromise. Or the place to party with a group of friends.

 

For the more interactive recap, check out my latest vlog now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

Pangea Pod Hotel
4333 Sunrise Alley, Whistler BC, V8E 1B4
604-962-1011
pangeapod.com

Red Collar Brewing Co.

Today we were leisurely traveling to our destination and weekend stay at the “Tinhorn Creek Winery’s” guest house. We took the long way, dedicating 8 hours worth of scenic driving to the journey. And our travel brought us through Kamloops in time for dinner.

Here, we were looking for a lively spot to best celebrate my partner’s birthday at. And after a few circles around the city centre, we found ourselves at “Red Collar Brewing Co.”; Having spotted their busy patio from the road. They looked like a hot spot for a Friday night dinner and drink.

But sadly by the time we found parking and got there, all the patio seats were filled. And so were the ones in their outdoor room with a fireplace, couches around coffee tables, and no air conditioning. They had several such pocketed seating, each staged to mimic a well lived-in family room or hosting salon. They work because they looked comfortable and were seated in for extensive periods of time. We however were left seating ourselves indoors, on a spacious table, by the entrance. Here, we were able to keep cool in the concrete tap room, with fridgerated units of cans to go and growlers for filling, adjacent.

Seeing as they were a brewery first, I had to taste a sampling of their brews; and the best way to do this is ordering a flight. The following is in order of the strongest to the smallest ABV percentage.

“Impeachment” is a cloudy wheat beer brewed with peaches, for a slightly tart taste. The menu suggested it as a good starter beer for those trying to get into the world of North American sours.

The “Tripel” is a golden coloured Belgian ale of Trappist origin. The boiled coriander used in this gives the beer a dry and spicy flavour with an aroma of bananas and cloves.

“Alternative facts” is a cloudy IPA with citrus notes and very little bitterness.

“Mild”. This dark British style ale earned its name from its 4.2% ABV. It is a session with grapefruit notes meant to be enjoyed for its flavour and not alcohol content.

And my partner ordered a pint of the “Maibok”, a traditional German lager brewed in celebration of a German spring festival that takes place in April. At 6.4% this is one of their greater ABVs.

For food I went safe and ordered their nacho platter. It is typically hard to hit a miss on chips topped with vegetables and drizzled over with sauces. Tri-coloured tortilla chips topped with tomato, black olives, banana peppers, green onion, roasted peppers, and a chipotle sour cream drizzle. Quick to cool, despite all the spice from the banana peppers and chipotle sauce. Good, but I would have liked more of everything for a better chip to dressing ratio; but this came at a cost, $2-3 more on a $15 plate.

My partner ordered the “Smoked chicken pizza” and was disappointed. House smoked chicken, spinach, tomatoes, and mozzarella. It also comes with roasted red peppers, but due to preference he ordered it without. And in doing so removed a necessary fresh component from the 12 inch artisan pizza. The pizza needed something light to cut through all the heavy flavours. The smokey and sharp hickory of the chicken over powered, and we found the pizza better without it. My partner went so far as to pick all the chicken out. But as a whole he didn’t like the pizza and ended up only eating the crusts and avoiding the actual build of the pizza.

 

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.
A great place for a drink, a great stop for the traveling beer enthusiast, and the ideal setting for catching up in large groups. Although I would stick with the drinks and maybe order finger snacks peanuts and pepperoni sticks at most. For the price, the time it took, and the taste I wouldn’t recommend ordering their hot food. This is your happy hour stop or your after dinner drink. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RED COLLAR BREWING
355 Lansdowne Street, Kamloops BC, V2C 1X9
778-471-0174
redcollar.ca

Prost Haus

 

Downtown Vancouver has a new new Bavarian beer and food hall. And in this post I was invited down for the grand opening, to check out all the fun. Located on the covered roof top of “Dublin Calling”, they have found themselves a permanent home; where as “Roof Top”, the reincarnation before, was only temporary. “Prost Haus” has their own entry way on Granville Street, and tonight you couldn’t miss them and their blue and white checkered motif. Past the podium, you walk up the stairs; towards their faux window, overlooking an Austrian castle. From here, you enter via their lounge area. High tops and wooden booths given some mystique with the tinge from red bulbs.

There are many more seats in the dining hall. Lengthy share style benches under the skylight; or more intimate seating by individual tables, towards the secondary bar at the back. Each table clothed in blue and white gingham. With matching blue and white pennants and flags hanging over head.

The German theme is furthered by a collections of beer steins on display behind lock and key, the largest gathering of mustard variations I have ever seen, and all the employees in their brown lederhosen uniforms. I am not sure if the dress code was solely for today’s grand opening festivities; but I hope not, as it really added to the fulsome theme and got me in a more celebratory mood.

Even the bathroom doors were marked with cartoon characters in German traditional ware.

There was plenty to drink tonight with a curated selection of beers on tap. We drank our fill and snacked on roving appetizers.

German pretzel balls with a beer cheese dip. Hard dough balls, only slightly moisten by the thick cream dip you poured over it. Clever presentation, but a messy one.

German pretzel balls with grainy mustard. Same pretzels as above, but with a zesty condiment.

Pork belly and red cabbage over crostini. By favourite bite of the night, wish I got more of it as a plate.

Spicy sausage and grainy mustard over sauerkraut. A great accompaniment to our collection of beer, but a slice is not enough.

Chicken schnitzel. A little dry, even with the cream drizzle. Could have used a little more seasoning as well.

There were also several help yourself fondue stations with vats of warm beer cheese and cubes of bread that you dip into with skewers. Would have liked more options to dip with and fo the cheese sauce to be punchier with sharper cheeses.

But it was lively polka music and their 10 person ski shot that really helped to jump start the party. The latter is a lengthy wooden stick the width of the room. It hangs on the wall when not in use, and requires two individuals to gingerly remove it from display. It is set up with 10 shot glasses and 10 guests wanting to partake in a shot front it. With glasses filled and on a count of 3, it is bottoms up as all 10 participants are forced to drink as one. Unison drinking as the stick moves from table to mouths.

 

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.
All the snacks were tasty enough, and even more so after the amount of beer that proceeded it. But as a whole there wasn’t enough of each for me to be able to paint you an accurate picture of their cuisine. But in terms of libation and ambiance, this was definitely the place to be. It is great to have a new themed bar downtown, one that is bright and happy, with that summer time vibe. With plenty of space, beer, and the salty snacks to pair with it; all you need is the right company. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PROST HAUS
900 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 1L2
prosthaus.com

Backcountry Brewing, #pizzachallengeyvr

Today the weather was beautiful, the skies were blue and the sun was shining. Ideal conditions for a nice cruise up the Sea to Sky highway. And since we would be driving to it, this was also as good of a time as any to stop at Squamish for lunch. Squamish, home of the town’s only brewery, “Backcountry” and their tasting room with full bar and pizza kitchen. It was also the next stop on my Vancouver Foodster #pizzachallengeyvr tour, with me playing the role of one of the three judges.

And this Easter long weekend the neighbourhood too decided to come out to “Backcountry Brewing” for a pint and a pie. Luckily, we were able to grab the tail end of a share style table, without any wait. You order your drinks and your meal at the bar, the former you take with you back to your seat, the latter gets brought out to you.

But many more visitors came in to purchase beers in bulk. Their full assortment was available for grab and go in refrigerator units, you also had the option to buy a grower and fill it from their taps. And to complete the experience, you can drink your “Backcountry” beer out of one of their branded glasses, while wearing their outdoor lifestyle merch. All also available for purchase.

Naturally, we had to start our meal with said beers. Especially considering this is a brewery, and that you can see the tanks from any seat in their open dining area.

My guest had the “Ridge runner Pilsner” for a nice crisp drink.

I will always opt for a flight, to be able to taste more in one go. I choose the following based on their names. Each more and more fun as I moved along. The “I’ll have what she is having” is a peach, boysenberry, and mango sour that actually isn’t all that sour. The “Dead of night galaxy IPA” uses galaxy hops exclusively, for a lighter and fruiter brew. “Everything is coming up Milhouse” is the West coast version of their popular “Widow Maker” beer, but crisper and lighter. And the “Really really ridiculous looking” is new on tap, a lighter and fruitier lager that ended up being my favourite of the afternoon. Each brew I tasted was just as good as the next, each unique, each delicious. They weren’t overwhelming, but easy to drink.

When it came to food, first came the pizza I was sent here to try. “I pity the falafool”, a vegetarian pizza that catered to Squamish’s plant-based eating. Tahini, feta, falafel, halloumi, yogurt, and mint. This was the only vegetarian entry for this year’s competition. I have never had a pizza like this before, and it lived up to its name and the expectations you had reading it. You absolutely got the promised flavour a falafel. It ate like a whole other meal, making it a great vegetarian offering that didn’t have it feeling like you were missing anything. It was also just as complex as any other meat-happy pies on the menu. It had an all encompassing Mediterranean feel, that I would be happy with the next time I am craving the distinct flavour of a falafel.

We also tried their Margherita pizza, wanting a base pizza flavour that we are familiar, and could use to gauge the quality of the pizzas coming out of their kitchen. The crust was beautifully baked with plenty of air bubbles and crispy blackened bits. It checked off all the boxes. Where it lacked was in the depth of the sauce. It was a little two sweet for my taste, whereas I would have liked more seasoning and a lot more fior di latte cheese. Therefore I suggest getting one of their specialty pizzas that they do so well, instead.

Like the “Wake-N-Bacon 3.0”. Maple garlic cream, roasted potato, guanciale, mozzarella, oven cured tomato, and a sunny side up egg. A delicious assembly altogether, but it was really the maple syrup that made all the difference. This was also the chef’s favourite pizza, and a popular brunch option. Salty, sweet, and savoury all rolled into one. My only critique is I wanted more runny egg to go around, only one slice and one person gets to have egg.

We also tried their new “Galaxy Pastrami Sandwich”. The pastrami is brined in their Galaxy IPA, hence the name. It is stacked between two thick slices of herbed focaccia, along with gruyere cheese and a mustard vinaigrette slaw. Served with a side of regular chips, and their in-house made beer pickles. It was a thick and delicious looking sandwich, but a little too dry for my tastes. I was left craving a creamy sauce, more mayonnaise, or even a gravy dip to dunk the sandwich into for moisture. The sides offered a change of taste and texture and helped in getting this down. I liked the pickles the most, but would have liked them sweeter for a better contrast. I did like the meat as is, they were quality you can taste. Similarly the crispy toasted bread would have been great as is with a slather of salted butter.

For some spice in any of the above, each seating had a bottle of their beer infused “Backcountry Brewing” hot sauce. It is prepared locally using their “Ridge Runner Pilsner”. Like their beers it gives you want you expect, without being overpowering.

 

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.
A great spot to stop at when in Squamish great pizzas and beers coming together for a delicious lunch or brunch. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BACKCOUNTRY
405-1201 Commercial Way, Squamish BC, V8B 0R5
604-567-2739
backcountrybrewing.com

 

 

To learn more about the Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge, visit the link. And then try all the competitors to vote for your favourite.

Pizza Challenge

River Rock Casino, brunch

When I think of brunch spots, I don’t immediately think of Richmond as a destination, however “River Rock Casino” is about to change that with their introduction to brunch. As of March they have introduced Sunday brunch to their “Curve Lounge” menu, and today I had the opportunity to get a closer look at it all, dish after scrumptious dish.

This is part of “River Rock Casino’s” goal for the year ahead, to get back to entertainment with a food focused plan. The goal, to get visitors in for a fun night at the casino with live gaming and entertainment coupled with great drinks, to spend the night, then enjoy a comforting brunch the morning after. A “greasy morning breakfast after a night of indulging” featuring plenty of butter and carbs.

“Curve Lounge” is located in the foyer of the casino/hotel, just behind a set of ascending staircase. They offer happy hour specials, a late night menu with live music, an open patio during longer summer evenings, and now brunch on Sundays from 11am to 2:30pm.

Our morning began with some drinks, which included the launch of their build your own Caesar bar. Here, it is a choose your own adventure of spirits, rims, spices, and assorted house made pickled garnishes.

You begin by rimming your glass with lemon juice then follow it with either their house made steak spice, bacon bits, or a Parmesan black pepper mix. Next, you choose your liquor between vodka, tequila or gin. The bartender helps you with this part, adding ice over top. For now they only offer the Motts Clamato juice, with the hope of bringing more tomato based juices to their line up. You fill your glass then season with the classic Worcestershire sauce, cracked pepper, and chilli flakes (if you like).

And finally my favourite part: the toppings, where the world is your oyster. You can choose between two kinds of olives, dried sausages, bacon bits, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, celery, bacon strips, corn segments, pickled green beans, pepperette, jalapeño, dill pickles, cornichons and shrimp. Technically there are no limitations on stacking, and no restrictions on how many of each; but a good rule of thumb is, if you can’t carry it from the bar to your table you have gone too far.

However, if the decision making process is too much this early, just choose one of their premade creations. “The dark and dirty” features vodka with olive juice. “The social”, beefeater gin with a bacon Parmesan peppered rim. And “The little devil” features olmeca gold tequila with a spicy chilli flake rim, Tabasco, and jalapeño.

If you need something caffeinated to perk you up, they also offer Starbucks coffee from their pour over station. It’s best to ask for help from the staff here, as you can burn yourself.

The food portion of our meal began with a little treat from our chef. It isn’t on their brunch menu, but I think it should be added. These are “Okanagan Apple fritters” and they are available at the casino’s West A food court. They are squishy balls of dough with chunks of apple. Each is covered in a thick coating of melt-in-your-mouth powdered sugar that sticks to your lips and coat your tongue. Half the fun is licking your fingers clean of its tasty cinnamon and sugar.

For those who like a sweeter breakfast “Curve” offers a “Cinnamon toast walnut crunch”. Dark rye French toast, cinnamon candied walnuts, whipped mascarpone, and brown sugar glaze. This was the brainchild of their cooking team embracing creativity. The chefs were asked to come up with some great ideas and this one “won”. Here, their dark rye sits and soaks in egg for two days. The use of rye is suppose to give it more chew, but I found the French toast soggy. Though this could have been because we waited to long to eat in order to take photos. I did however get the dark coffee notes that were described. This was an interesting twist, but I wanted more crunch from it, the walnuts although candied helped, but they left me wanting more of its texture and it’s sweetness.

My favourite dish was the “Curvalicious rancheros”, I found its presentation fun and the taste and textures most balanced. Farmhouse sausage, brunch potatoes, black beans, house roasted pepper sauce, crisp tortilla, pico de gallo, fried hen’s eggs and guacamole. (Note: I liked how their menu gussied up eggs by calling each a “hen’s egg”, fancy.) The tortilla is baked to a crisp and they stay that way through the duration of your meal. They ate like nachos with a dull spice. Saucy, crispy, fresh, and tangy. Light and hearty all at once. Great as a healthier breakfast option and even better as a late night snack, shame that it’s only offered 11-2:30pm on Sundays.

The name says it all. The “Hangover healer” is that greasy burger you want to eat after a night of heavy drinking. Shaved beef, bacon, fried egg, cheddar, and a bacon hollandaise sauce; all between two sweet buns from a local bakery. The buns made all the difference, it reminded me of Chinese style cocktail buns. Its sweetness paired well with the salted pile of meat, the freshness of the tomato, and the pickle for tang. All coated in the sumptuous, rich bacon hollandaise sauce that would continue to win me over below.

The “Proper butcher Bennie” was similar to the above, in richness and meatiness. But with two burger patties on a toasted English muffin, along with cheddar cheese, applewood smoked bacon, bacon hollandaise, fried tomato, and their kid Cali sauce. Served with a side of their brunch potatoes. It is also normally served with two fried eggs, but they gave us poached for a more visual sensation today. This was like bacon and eggs elevated in a convenient to eat hand held. And I say hand held because the English muffin was tough to cut into, much like the over cooked beef patty. But the bacon and hollandaise hides most of that behind its crispy and creamy tastiness.

The “Almost English breakfast” is for those who want a more fulsome meal. The traditional eggs, sausage, bacon, and brunch potatoes; but to it add roasted mushrooms, black beans, grilled tomato, and toast. All that was missing was some ham to make it a proper London breakfast. It was hearty assembly, yet healthy tasting. A very clean serving with no excess oil or grease. Even the bacon felt lean between your teeth. And the sausage dull with flavour, where you expected and wanted a fatty and zesty bite.

And for the vegetarians they do have you covered as well, we didn’t try it but they have a customizable dish called “The lousy hunter”. (I enjoyed the playfulness of its name.) Roasted seasonal veggies, brunch potatoes, black beans, house roasted pepper sauce, crisp tortilla, pico de gallo, guacamole, and a fried hens egg should you choose.

In between courses we snacked on their bowl of “Curve social nuts”, served in the lounge at night. A mix of corn nuts, peanuts, and rice cracker seasoned in a barbecue sauce.

And for dessert our heavy feast ended in a plate of fresh fruit and one bite desserts. Although this is only available through their banquet and catering options. On top of a rainbow of gold flake topped tropical fruit this platter also included chocolate truffles, lemon tarts, chocolate mousse cups, and chocolate covered strawberries. Only the macaron are not made in house.

 

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.
“River Rock Casino” now gives traditional brunch seekers a new place to visit when in Richmond. Come for the game play and stay for the breakfast the morning after. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CURVE
River Rock Casino Resort
8811 River Road, Richmond BC, V6X 3P8
604-273-1895
riverrock.com/dining/curve

Bayside Lounge, new cocktail menu

Today I was invited to “Bayside Lounge” to check out a few of their new house cocktails. They are one of the restaurants where if you are a member of the “Vancouver Gourmet Club” your membership earns you 15% off your entire meal, upon any and every visit. And yes, this includes drinks as well.

To learn how you can get discounts on your favourite places to eat with the “Vancouver Gourmet Club” visit the link below and sign up.
https://www.vangourmetclub.com/

They are best known for their view at the corner of Denman and Davie. A second floor scenery that gives you the blue of English Bay in the distance. If you can get past the smell of aged fabric, the space is actually quite delightful. Once you enter it divides between the bar and the lounge. However the former is where you want to be, with a view that curves and a bar that parallels it.

In all honestly, my original visit wasn’t all that glowing, but this was a great redemption meal to rectify that. Starting with the following cocktails that had only launched two weeks prior to when we visited.

I tried a “Hidden dragon” on my first visit, but it wasn’t anything like this 2.0 version. The current rendition is made with Absolut citron vodka, chambord, muddled dragon fruit, lemon lime juice, grapefruit bitters, and a rose lemonade float. The rosy pink hue and the black speckling from the dragon fruit sets this glass apart. It is not a fruity as it looks, it has a sweetness that couples well with the sharp punch of the liquor.

The “Rubics cube” is an interesting one and one I would recommend and order again upon a future visit. Ungava premium Canadian gin, lemon liqueur, muddle celery, lemon lime juice, rhubarb bitters, and a splash of cassis. It was savoury like a Caesar, and it too drank like a meal. It had some spice to it, like what you would use to season meat. The taste of the celery salt is what shone through most for me, with the burn of alcohol to finish off the sip.

The last was “Le caci”, named after the two bartender’s who created it. Beefeater London dry gin, dubon-net, pimms no. 1, burnt chartreuse, orgeat syrup, lemon juice, blackberries, and ginger beer float. It was easy to drink with the ginger beer, and a lot lighter despite its dark and murky colouring.

As for food, we made a point to order items you wouldn’t normally think to, and was pleasantly surprised by both. Normally when you are apprehensive about your meal you order something “safe” like pasta or a burger, so I wanted to test some of the more dressier dishes. I was very impressed by their “Open face steak sandwich” for only $16. This was a great price for a great quality steak, perfectly prepared in medium rare. I enjoyed the crumbs of blue cheese topping it and the crunch from the fried onions. And they paired well with the sweet red pepper, and sautéed mushrooms.

And the “Duck confit salad” was just as good. We got a large piece, plenty of meat to ration amongst all of the salad. Saltier duck, tart greens, and a tangy vinaigrette to coat them all. It was tasty enough to have me eating my leaves, with the pickled ginger and burnt tomato elevating each spoon full.

 

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 menu was updated this January and if everything was just as vibrant and delicious as what we had, I will need to return to try more. And the best part, you wouldn’t expect this quality for the price and the place (with paper St. Patrick’s Day decorations and staff dressed in flannel). So now for food and cocktails I can recommend this long established spot with a view. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BAYSIDE LOUNGE
Best Western Sands Hotel
1755 Davie Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1W5
604-682-1831
baysidelounge.ca

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