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New summer menu items from Tim Horton’s

“Timmy’s” has launched a few new menu items this summer, and in this post, I taste my way through the three I found most interesting.

For the raw reaction, check out my latest taste test video, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

The following was ordered from their food court presence at Metropolis at Metrotown, in Burnaby. A full meal with drink and dessert that came to $9.31 after taxes.

The “Jolly Rancher slush” is a pink drink with flecks of hard candy mixed in, like sprinkles in a cake. It is super sweet and tastes just like the candy. Not one flavour, but all the Jolly Rancher flavours muddled into one.

Their new poutine was a nice interpretation. I am already a fan of their herbed potato wedges with crispy edges and chewy centres. To it they add Quebec squeaky cheese and a rich beefy gravy. It was a nice snack and about time Canada’s favourite coffee spot had their own poutine.

The doughnut sticks were disappointing. Hard sticks of dough deep fried and tossed in cinnamons sugar. They weren’t fried to order, but allowed to sit and harden. It would have been better served warmed up and maybe with a dipping sauce, considering it is already the shape of a fry and therefore easy to dip.

Keeping in mind this is fast food for quick snacks and sugar cravings, these offerings are a fun edition to their menu. Not ones I would necessary revisit, but the right child would be thrilled to have this for lunch.

Showcase Restaurant, #ChickenWingsChallengeYVR

Tonight I was at “Showcase”, here to try another “Vancouver Foodster Chicken Wing Challenge” contestant. I am 1 of 3 judges looking for the best wings in the city.

Admittedly I have been to “Showcase” a handful for times, but never to sit down and eat, so I was excited to get the full experience today.

We choose to sit in the lounge, adjacent to the bar for ambience sake. Although the menus between their bar and their dining area do differ, and if you want a certain item, you need to be seated accordingly. However, the chef and staff obliged, and an exception was made where we were able to taste from both menus at our table; seated by the all glass exterior. An exterior shared with the the “Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel”.

We took all our chef’s suggestions and were not disappointed. We also got to learn a little more about Chef Westley. He had his apprenticeship at “Showcase” many years ago, then left to work at the “Vancouver Club” for a year, following that he started his own catering company, and shortly after landing himself a desk job as the product developer for “Joey’s” the chain. However, not being able to cook as much as he wanted to, he found his way back to “Showcase” all these years laters, now as the “Chef de Cuisine”, helming the kitchen and launching their new dinner menu.

In fact the very wings I would be judging today were from Chef Westley, added on to the regular menu before he left, and kept on due to popular demand. Our server even made a point to mention to us that they were her favourite menu item, and she had pushed back when the kitchen announced that they were going to update them. So here they are, just as they were 4 years ago.

“Soy marinated chicken wing”. They are breaded and fried, then tossed with a soy ginger glaze and topped with spicy aioli. They are only available on their bar and happy hour menu, but the restaurant has been known to serve them wherever their fans want them. They were hearty and meaty wings, with plenty of crunch from the thick and lumpy coating. It had that lick your fingers quality to them. A tad on the salty side, making them the ideal pairing with beers at the bar.

From off of the dinner menu we enjoyed some seafood. “Grilled pacific humbolt squid” with romesco sauce, watercress, fennel, charred lemon vinaigrette, and pine nuts. This was a beautifully elevated dish befitting of a classy hotel lobby restaurant. The flavours in this were bold and tangy with dull spice, and the greens and fennel added freshness to the smokey char of the squid.

Next, we enjoyed “Seared Ocean Wise scallops”, I love a good scallop and found there aren’t enough of them on menus; so to be able to try them here, so well done, was a treat. Prepared with Ajo Blanco, caramelized cauliflower, and calabrian chilli. This was my favourite dish with the night, and I would order a bowl of the cauliflower as is.

To drink I tried one of their new cocktails, created by their new cocktail consultant from “Odd Society”. The “Hibiscus cosmo” with vodka, fresh lime, orange liqueur, and salted hibiscus syrup. This was a modern, less sweet take on the cosmo. It was very refreshing with citrus, but I kept looking for more floral notes from the hibiscus.

And for dessert I couldn’t stay no to trying their “Japanese cotton cheesecake”. I am not a fan of rich desserts, so a light and fluffy cake with the texture of angel food cake but more custard-like, was a nice way to end the meal. Dressed with pink grapefruit, yogurt cremeux, and white chocolate puffed rice. I liked the burst of freshness from the fruit, the extra decadence from the cream, and the crunch of the puffed rice.

 

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.
Now that I know the food is this good, I will be back. They have the menu of a great waterfront restaurant, but sadly without the view or setting, shame. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SHOWCASE
1122 W Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V6E 4J6
604-639-4040
showcaserestaurant.com

Jasci & Marchesani wine tasting at Homer St. Cafe

Today I was at “Homer Street Cafe” for a intimate lunch, featuring Italian wine brand, “Jasci & Marchesani”. Our time would begin with a wine tasting and the meeting of our two hosts, who only just arrived a mere 2 hours prior, straight from Italy.

We were introduced to the second generation owner of “Jasci & Marchesani”, and their brand ambassador who spoke English with a thick Italian accent. The brand ambassador would do the translating as he walked us through the 5 bottles presented today. He commanded the room like a Quintin Tarantino character, with a thick collar on his neon shirt and a large belt buckle drawing your attention to the word “energie”. Together, the two men took us to trip to Italy with wine.

“Jasci & Marchesani” is produced off the East coast of Italy, on the same latitudinal line as Rome. What sets them apart is the fact that they are the first organic vineyard certified in Italy, in 1978. This and their strong focus on sustainability. This focus was first introduced when the original owner noticed a lack of birds chirping on his property, and a dip in crop production. The solution, going organic and giving back to the land in order to yield from it for years to come.

No animal products go into their wine making, where as some other wine makes filter their wines using egg whites or add a fish substance for colour. Whereas “Jasci & Marchesani” uses minerals for its colouring; a pricer solution but one that gives their wines a unique lustre and sheen.

The winery specializes in montepulciano grapes and therefore the wine. But many of their grapes originate from all over Italy, replanted in the South, with the sun’s position in mind. Their agricultural planning goes so far as to considering which direction their grapes are facing, knowing that this changes the taste and production of them. And no sugar is added to their wine for a focus on fresh and crisp vintages.

Sustainably doesn’t just stop at what’s in the bottle. Each and everyone of their glass bottles are made from recyclable bottles. And the caps, cork, and labels are made from sugarcane and corn to easily biodegrade. The bottle is also as light as they can make it, making them not only easier to carry, but when they are shipped, they produce a smaller carbon footprint. Although, their production is already very green, being powered by renewable energy for the last 2 years.

As for our tasting, each place setting had a labelled map with 5 wine glasses. They were filled as we went through each, from 2 whites, on to 1 rose, ending with 2 reds.

The “Trebbiano D’Abruzzo Doc 2017” was a sweeter white with notes of apricot, pineapple, and yellow pear. A great refreshing wine, perfect for patio sipping.

The “Pecorino 2016” was a favourite amongst our group. It had great body to it, allowing you to feel the texture and levels as you drink. It is refined, spending 6 months in steel and the following it with the bottle. This process gave the wine a lifespan of 5 years versus the typical 2 years for a white.

The “Cerasuolo D’Abruzzo Doc 2016” was a rose named after the cherries used to make it. A lot of effort was put into manipulating these grapes, which is even more so when dealing with an organic vineyard. The fruit was hand picked with the belief that, this loving step makes a difference. The result, a lovely light rose with a great balance between sweet and tart. It isn’t as bitter as some roses, and not as sweet as others, it teeters at a good place in between.

The “Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Doc 2016” is made with grapes from their Northern vineyards. Here, our host brought our attention to the ability to taste the difference between grapes, based on the techniques used to farm them. Traditional methods yield a smaller bounty, but at a better quality. Whereas new ways increase production, but less time and resources are put into their cultivation.

This particular wine has never seen wood. The grapes are crushed and bottled without any external factors flavouring it. And an interesting property of it is that the way it hits the inside of our mouth and cheek causes you to salivate. Almost like watering it down.

Our last glass was a deep red with plenty of bite, the “Nerube Montepulcino D’Abruzzo Riserva 2016.” It was on the bitter side, a more concentrated batch due to a smaller yield. Great as a sipping wine to enjoy as is.

After tasting our way through today’s offerings we were then given the ability to have a full glass of our favourites, revisiting them with a 3 course family style meal, courtesy of the “Homer St. Cafe” team. Majority of the offerings below were served in larger portions than they normally are, in order to better share between 5-6 people.

The collection of pickled vegetables served as a great way to get our appetite going. Cucumber, red peppers, leek, and carrot. I liked the olives the best, finding the green ones not overly pickled or too salty.

“Duck liver parfait” with a morello cherry preserve, served with thick slices of chewy and oiled chunks of crusty bread. This was a delicious meat product, and luscious to spread. Smoky and rich with notes of sweetness, thanks to the preserve.

A favourite amongst our table was the collection of dips eaten with crispy taro and plantain chips. Chick pea, scallions, and za’atar. Each dip had its own flavour, which easily mixed together for one homogeneous spread.

The “House salad” was a fresh serving of greens with roasted beets and radish.

They are known for heir rotisserie chicken and this serving of sweet and sticky chicken drums did not disappoint. Tender dark meat coated in a harissa honey glaze, best enjoyed with hands and fingers you lick clean after.

The platter of porchetta was an impressive serving, ordered up feasting style. Not on the menu, this was the feature roast for the day; served with asparagus, green beans, and peas in jus. One slice was plenty, full of meat and enough fat to make bites soft and chewy. But the highlight was definitely the crispy crackling. To help balance all this pork we enjoyed it with the sides below.

These pickled horseradish turnips are also not on the menu, just something creative whipped up for us. They were hard to pick up, and even harder to chew through. Jawbreaker-like bulbs that you crunch through for some freshness.

I preferred the heirloom carrot side with its cream sauce more. A more traditional accompaniment that goes well with any protein.

And the only vegetarian of the group had a specialty made pesto pasta dish with spinach and cheese made for her. It was delightful, but compared to everything else a little bland.

And for dessert we ended on a silky smooth chocolate mousse topped with fresh strawberry. The mousse was so full bodied that it reminded me of ice cream. Rich and decant, a delight for any chocolate lover.

In short, a great meal and a great way to learn more about “Jasci & Marchesani”; how their organic and sustainable wines are a great additional to any one’s wine rack. For more details visit the link below. https://www.jasciemarchesani.it/

 

HOMER ST. CAFE + BAR
898 Homer Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 2W5
604-428-4299
homerstreetcafebar.com

Alta Bistro

Declared the best restaurant in Whistler, at the Van Magazine awards, I found myself at the threshold of “Alta”, as part of a tourism of Whistler organized trip. Truthfully, majority of our group has never heard of this place and I frequent Whistler enough to know all of its drinking holes, or so I thought. Either way, I would get a chance to experience the buzz tonight.

“Alta” hosts an intimate setting, kept romantic in dim lighting. You walk into a lengthy bar that opens up into a more spacious dining area. There, we sat around a long wooden table, under a set of paintings showcasing Whistler’s snow capped mountains.

But what caught my attention was the shelf of jarred perseveres. Mason jars of lemons, beets, carrot, and peas, etc.

We started off with some drinks. I was tempted by all the wine stacked on racks and the wall of bottles separating the bar from the dining room. And more so after learning about their special machine that serves wine, fresh every time. Poured from the bottle, with every glass as good as the first. This specialized machine ensures no air gets in the bottle, resulting in the freshness of it for up to 3 weeks. Many of the others went the wine route, ordering half pours to be able to try more. What a great idea in place of a flight.

I however, wanted to try their cocktails. Like their food, many of their drinks too feature ingredients locally sourced and foraged in their backyard.

I was intrigued by the “Garden party” with its use of spring pea pods, along with Sheringham aquavit, yuzu puree, homegrown mint, and fresh lemon. I got the citrus, but none of the pea. Overall, this was refreshing drink, similar to that of a mojito.

The “Rhubarbarita” was tequila forward and only rhubarb in colouring. Olmeca Altos reposado, Cointreau, spring rhubarb, and fresh lime; served on the rocks with a smear of sweet lime sea salt. I wish I got more of the vegetable that would have been highlighted by the sea salt.

The “Rainforest daiquiri” is a mix of Havana Club 3 years anejo, lillet blanc, Douglas fir and green tea liqueur, fresh lime and a hint of green chartreuse. It was refreshing and you got the piney notes from the Douglas fir sprig.

The “equinox” was today’s special and a pretty cocktail. Bombay gin, flower and luxardo cordial.

As for food, I took advantage of their $29 three course meal. Here, you choose two appetizers and an entree from a list of choices. First course was between soup or oysters, so I went for the latter. Two fresh oysters with horseradish, lemon, apple, and ortega granite. They were of the East Coast PEI variety, but on the smaller side.

 

For my second course, I went for the most unique sounding of four options. This was the “Venison tartare and chicken liver parfait” with a rye and chocolate cracker, egg yolk, thyme, parsley, picked shallot, and malted black barely. This was a very inventive dish, plenty of flavours paired together that I have never had prior. I didn’t get any of the chocolate on the crackers, but plenty from the crust that surrounded the meat. This was a nutty spread that I wish was more salty and meaty, like a pate. A little too rich to finish, but interesting to try.

And for my third course I went for the “Pork shoulder cassoulet” with slow cooked white bean, a soft poached egg, rich pork jus, bacon, frisse salad, and crackling. A stew full of textures and warming flavours. The pork meat was tender, the bacon crunchy, the beans gritty, the greens crispy, and the runny egg bound it all together with its creaminess. I liked the idea and the flavour of the pork rinds, just not how thick and hard they were. It was hard to bite down to size, and therefore hard to enjoy together with the rest of the cassoulet.

Our table also shared a side of “Seasonal veggies”, maple roasted carrots and freshly picked sea asparagus. Some light and refreshing bites to balance out the richness and the gravy soaked flavours above.

As for desserts, the chocolate mousse cake caught my eye, with its candied lichen (Moss) edible decoration. The candied lichen didn’t really taste like much, but it was such a unique way to showcase something else hand picked from Whistler’s back yard.

 

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 different way to experience all that Whistler has to offer through its edible nature. This favourite spot of local, is soon to be a popular destination, so be sure to stop by during your next drive up. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ALTA
104-4319 Main Street, Whistler BC, V0N 1B4
604-932-2582
altabistro.com

Edible Canada, revisit

My latest visit to Granville Island had us stopping up iconic Canadian restaurant “Edible Canada” for dinner. And today we tried enough new dishes that I thought it worth documenting in a revisit post.

We arrived a little too early for their 5pm dinner service, but were still invited in for a couple of drinks while we waited. I was sold on their special of the month. A “Double espresso martini” that our server raved about. I don’t like coffee unless it is as a dessert, so this was lovely. Good with its cold brew, but not uniquely Canadian, nor is it something I couldn’t get else where.

I suggested that my guest get one of their caesars, as a great introduction to the restaurant, seeing as it was her first time. The “Maple bacon Caesar” with Stealth vodka, Clamato, Worcestershire, sriracha, candied bacon and a seasoned salt rim. A classic flavour made their own with their candied bacon garnish. Once again I wish the drink itself had a more unique personality.

For food I had the “Quebec duck tartare”. Raw duck with kumquat, gin, juniper, cucumber, radish, pickled ramps, and soy; served with tapioca crisps. The raw duck itself didn’t have much flavour, a little gamey and a lot fatty. And it was the vegetable sides that were the prominent notes. This was best enjoyed with their complimentary collection of salts gifted to each table. This was a new touch that my guest and I both appreciated and took advantage of.

Regular sea salt, spicy molten salt, and truffle salt. We had a pinch as is and could fully taste all the promised flavours in each grain. A few more pinches enhanced the above and the burger below. In hindsight I should have bought a pack of it to go from their neighbouring store. A gift shop of Canadiana ready to be bought up by the tourists that dine with them. And in doing so earn 15% off their purchase.

“Dry aged pemberton beef burger” with onion jam, crispy onions, aioli, butter lettuce, field tomato, and aged Canadian cheddar, all in a brioche bun. It comes with your choice of salad or fries, my guest got the former, but I would have gotten the fries, and added a fried duck egg for $5 more. The burger as a whole was good, the patty being the stand out of an otherwise standard burger build.

And we made sure to save room for their “Maple doughnut”, I read “crispy duck skin” in the description and was sold. House made yeast leaven maple doughnut with crispy duck skin, and an apple white chocolate sauce. These were balls of chewy fried dough that reminded me of Chinese deep fried mantou, with a heavy coating of powered sugar for a nice textured crunch. The light apple flavour from the creamy whip it sat in was nice, but could have used more flavour and sweetness for a dessert. I wanted an apple caramel sauce to double dip these balls into instead. And the saltiness I expected from the duck skin was non existent. A nice novelty but I wanted more from this dessert.

 

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.
One of my favourite places to recommend to anyone visiting from out of country and wanting a Canadian-esque experience. An ever evolving menu that has me returning and cataloging my visit. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

EDIBLE CANADA
1596 Johnston Street, Vancouver BC, V6H 3R9
604-682-6681
ediblecanada.com

Locus Restaurant and Lounge

This long standing restaurant is a Main Street staple. For over 21 years it has been run by the same owner, serving their community dutifully.

“Locus” is better known for its eccentric decor. Artsy with oil painted portraits and a series of sculpted branches twisted above booths.

Even the washroom has a touch of their dark and rustic art aesthetic. Painted like a cave wall, this single stall depicts a drawn savannah setting with birds in flight and hoofed animals grazing on the plains.

Today we were invited down for a reintroduction and a taste of what the kitchen has been churning out most recently. A kitchen helmed by the same head chef for the last 5 years; who features plenty of seafood on his menu, drawing inspiration from protein and produce sourced from local organic farms. His offerings include a weekly revolving fresh sheet that at times can get adventurous with camel, crocodile and even giant octopus. Sadly, this was not one of those weeks.

The following is what we had, we ordered all that peaked our interest, or what we saw as something different and unique to the restaurant.

To start, we sipped on some chilled cocktails to beat the heat. With blinds up, our seats by the windows took in a lot of sun, and things got fairly warm. “The railbird” came highly recommended by our server and bartender. Bourbon, ginger beer, peach preserve, honey syrup, and fresh lemon. It was light on the ginger and strong on the alcohol. A great one to beat the heat with and still get the sting of alcohol that you are looking for in a double. (All their cocktails are made with 2oz).

The “War of the roses” is Pimm’s no. 1 gin, St. Germaine elderflower liqueur, fresh pineapple, and cranberry. It was like a spiked ice tea with a strong hint of mint. I got some tang from the pineapple, but missed the cranberry completely. Here, it would have been nice to have either of the two fruits as a garnish. The drinks are tasty enough, but given that this was a Lounge I wanted things elevated, with more thought on the presentation. But at $10 for a double, I can’t complain.

“The Flirtini” was fun and filled full in a large martini glass. Stoli raspberry vodka, Cointreau, pineapple juice, cranberry juice, fresh lime, and sparkling wine. This was a good time in a glass, a great drink to sip on all night long, and get into trouble from well after.

As for our meal, we had a complimentary basket of bread brought out to us to start. Their potato wheat bread is baked daily by their Main Street neighbour, “Cobs Bread”. But the potatoes that are needed and the recipe that is used is all “Locus”. Said potatoes are first boiled in house, then walked across the street and transformed into the fluffy and airy slices of bread that now sat before us. You got the starchiness of the potatoes, but not their dense nature. Great as is, but better with either their spicy or sweet butter. The latter is a cinnamon and brown sugar spread served in the morning with their cinnamon raisin bread.

We were here just in time for happy hour cut off so ordered their “Crispy Brussels sprouts” as a starter. I am a fan of fried Brussels sprouts, so can confidently say that this is one of the better renditions. There was plenty of flavour and taste without extra grease or oil. Simple and clean greens salted with hard cheese and seasoned with cracked pepper for $7. It is worth noting that their happy hour runs from 3-6pm and 10pm to close Sunday to Thursday.

The “Cyprus Halloumi skewer” is not actually served on skewer, but simply prepared on one. Grilled Cyprus sheep’s milk cheese, basil-arugula pesto, toasted pine nuts, sun dried tomato, charred artichokes, kalamata olives, arugula, citrus olive oil, and cilantro sprigs. Altogether the assembly tasted great. Though the halloumi didn’t stand out like you would expect it to, given the name of the dish. I enjoyed its firm texture, but didn’t get much taste from it or any of its blackened char. As a whole this dish would have been great over pasta, flatbread, or salad. Tasty as is, but I left like it was missing a base.

From this week’s dinner feature menu we tried their land and vegetarian offering. If you were expecting dressed up dishes with contrasting flavour profiles, this isn’t them. The following are rustic offering in large servings. Sensible flavours and familiar pairings for hearty and comforting plates.

The “Surf n turf steak and frites” was pan roasted AAA Alberta beef strip loin in a demi-glace with grilled garlic black tiger prawns, Parmesan black truffle pomme frites, smoked paprika aioli, wild and cultivated mushrooms, and a seasonal salad with French red radishes. This was a good amount of food, small servings of everything for a balanced meal. We ordered the steak in a medium rare, but it came more like well, with very little pink. At least it was cooked tender and sliced for easy sharing. But it was the large and juicy prawns that were the stand out, along with the crispy fries. There was only a little truffle essence on the latter, but the paprika aioli gave each stick more than enough kick.

The vegetarian “Mac and cheese” was not as expected. When you read mac and cheese you expected a gooey cheese sauce over tender pasta. This was noodle and vegetable topped with cheese. Serpentini pasta, carrot, grilled asparagus, curly red kale, blistered heirloom tomatoes, basil arugula pesto, arugula, pine nuts, and micro greens. All the vegetables above were prepared individually then mixed together with the cooked noodles, and after the whole lot is topped with soft ripened Quebec cheese. It was a light pasta serving, not creamy or cheesy, more like a pasta salad in a non-tangy vinaigrette. It had a similar flavour as the halloumi appetizer above, but less punchy. A dish I would make myself when wanting to eat better, but not one that I would order again from a restaurant.

Our second pasta dish was a lot more satisfying. Pan seared wild spruce tip, chèvre (cheese made with goat cheese) gnocchi” with crumbled chè·vre, arugula pesto, grilled summer squash, asparagus, fresh strawberries, and a balsamic reduction. We ordered this one out of curiosity and was pleasantly surprised by how much we all liked it. It had a similar pesto and vegetable flavour to the appetizer and other pasta dish above, but enhanced with the other ingredients. Ingredients that you wouldn’t think would work together, but just does. All brought together by the large, chewy balls of gnocchi deep fried for a crispy and doughy chew. Each irregularly shaped ball was great on its own, but best as a base for the crunchy and gritty pine nuts, the bitter squash chunks, the sweet strawberry slices, the grilled acrid asparagus spears, and the pops of salty goat cheese every now and then. And what originally seemed like a dish constructed as an afterthought was really a well conceived and very interesting entree. It is no surprise that this was the first dish we fully finished, leaving not even a single pine nut behind.

Our third pasta dish too felt flat by comparison, it too tasted like everything else; with similar seasonings, pesto, and like vegetables. Here, I wished we would have been given a warning of all the similar flavours, and that our server would have steered us toward dishes with their own unique flavours. “Seafood Spätzle”. “Spätzle” is a type of pasta that looks like lumps or threads, made from a batter poured through a coarse colander into boiling water. The texture of these noodle drippings were great, but with all the vegetable and seafood to sort through, it got lost. I would have liked a more simple dish, maybe just three vegetables or simply mushrooms and spätzle. Less to better highlight the feature ingredient and its texture, that you don’t find on too many menus. Fried sage and orange spätzle with Atlantic lobster, rock crab, Manila clams, jumbo tiger prawns, sockeye salmon, capers, caramelized fennel, snap peas, blistered tomatoes, curly endives, and mustards greens; all in a citrus herb oil.

I liked the simple beauty of the “Haida Gwaii BC halibut”. A pan roasted local halibut filet served with a torch Provençal lemon herb butter, grilled summer squash, roasted bell peppers, caramelized fennel, organic fingerling potatoes, spinach, and a Chardonnay halibut fumet. It tasted just like how you would expected it to with buttery smooth white fish and its crispy buttery skin.

To be honest, we were considering dessert, eyeing their blood orange cheesecake or Anjou pear featured strudel and bread pudding; however it was just so hot in the restaurant that I had to get out. I was boiling, and fanning myself with my cloth napkin wasn’t helping. Therefore our stay was cut short. So I guess that gives me a reason to return, and hopefully I can coincide my next visit with some adventures game meat. I have never had camel and didn’t know it was even an option in Vancouver. But trying this requires a keen eye on their website when their fresh sheet updated weekly, on my part.

 

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.
Their dinner menu was okay, but where they shine is their happy hour specials and offerings. Interesting small bites that I wish I got to take better advantage of. A handful of small plates partnered with their tasty cocktails, overlooking Main Streets sounds like summer time fun. $4.50 beers, $5.50 wines and cocktails, more Brussel sprouts, a miso poutine, halloumi fries; and nachos with charred corn, black beans and a pineapple salsa. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LOCUS
121 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 3P6
604-708-4121
locusonmain.com

Burgermania at Glowbal

Anything with “mania” in its title has my name written all over it. Therefore I made sure to visit “Glowbal” during its limited release run of “BurgerMania”. They have now launched a specialty menu which includes a burger with lobster, another with duck confit, and one of the better veggie burgers I have ever had.

Between March 11th to the 22nd diners can enjoy one of four full sized burgers or a slider trio, each with a unique side for $22. From Monday to Friday the following is available between 11-6pm, and during the weekends you can enjoy each between 2:30-6pm.

You can visit multiple times during the 12 day run to try them all ,or better yet, visit with a group and grab the whole shebang for $110. It is one attractive looking assembly. The following is my full review or each burger and its side, in the order from my favourite to the least.

When it comes to burgers, the more in between the buns the better, in my books; and “The Ultimate Burger” does just that. One beef patty, double smoked bacon, onion rings, fried egg, tomato, lettuce, pickles, and truffle aioli. All this is then topped with two deep fried, white cheddar mac and cheese squares. It is everything I want in a burger: plenty of meat to chew through with crunchy bacon, crisp vegetables, and a runny saucy egg to tie it all together.

It comes with sea salt fries that are seasoned in a Cajun spice, giving it plenty of flavour to enjoy as is.

“The Veggie Nation” was a great burger, and an even better vegetarian option. Tempura battered portobello mushroom, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, chipotle aioli, and roasted eggplant. This was a substantial order with plenty of textures and tastes to keep each bite interesting. Crispy mushroom pieces, charred smokey eggplant slices, fresh and juicy raw vegetables, and hearty guacamole. A great option for meatless Monday and a tasty burger for any other day of the week.

It is served with truffle fries that have plenty of that salty truffle flavour you are looking for. Another crispy potato stick that doesn’t need ketchup or any other dip.

“The Mediterranean” ate like a meal. Lamb patty, hummus, tzatziki, fried halloumi, bell peppers, and slaw. There was a lot to unpack in this and plenty that you wouldn’t find in any other burger. The halloumi was grilled with a smokey char, the bell peppers sweet, and the hummus creamy. If only the lamb patty wasn’t over cooked and dry. I could have also liked more of the tangy tzatziki, or a dish of it to dip bites into.

This came with my favourite of all the side: sweet potato fries served with a truffle aioli dipping sauce.

I liked the creativity of “The Funky One”, beef patty, spicy duck confit, pickled cucumbers, chili lime aioli, and cotton candy. The burger earned its name thanks to its sides. The large chunks of duck set it a part, although I didn’t find it spicy; and together with the beef patty both came across as dry. Here sauce or a tangy cream would have been nice. I didn’t taste any of the lime aioli, and once again got no spice from it. The cotton candy tuft comes on the side, but in my opinion, it is best eaten with the burger. It sounds and seems weird, but it works. Salty and sweet without the sugary finish.

This is served with a fun twist on poutine: “tater tot poutine”. Crispy fried potato nuggets with gooey mozzarella and an oniony gravy. I would have liked a thicker more meatier gravy thought, something more peppery out of preference.

The “Slider Trio” is a great way to try a little bit of the above. It comes with three bites of “The Mediterranean” with its cheese-stuffed lamb patty, hummus, and bell peppers. And “The Funky One” with beef patty, spicy duck confit, pickled cucumbers, and chilli lime aioli.

But the reason you order this is for “The Surf & Turf”. A decadent slider with caramelized onions, braised short rib, tempura lobster, truffle sauce, and slaw. In my opinion, it is the best of this set of three, so if you are sharing grab this one first. However having these few bites aren’t enough to get a true taste of the chunks of tender beef and crispy fried lobster. I would have also preferred the lobster meat simply dipped in butter and not hidden under a coating of batter. Overall, I found this and that each slider left me wanting more. More dressing, more ingredients, more lobster.

All three is served with two sides, some cotton candy for the “Funky One” and “Tempura green beans”. I liked the look and the taste of the green beans, but could have used less tempura batter coating each one.

And as a bonus treat our meal ended with a crispy buttery shortbread for us each.

In conclusion “BurgerMania” is a great idea and a fun way to introduce something new and interesting to an ever evolving menu. There is no better way to get bodies into the restaurant than with a mound of delicious food. Great on its own, even better when it all comes together. Make sure you check each out between March 11th and 22nd, before they are gone.

 

GLOWBAL
590 West Georgia, TELUS Garden
Vancouver, BC V6E 1A3
604-602-0835
glowbalgroup.com/glowbal

Arc Dining, brunch

This morning we were downtown by waterfront for brunch. Wanting to have a hearty start to the day, (before the wine festival tasting hall), we found ourself here, within walking distance to the convention centre.

The name explained the restaurant’s floor plan well. From the entrance, the restaurant spreads out on either ends. They narrow, but never quite meet, like an arc. To your left is the lounge created with nooks and crannies for some more intimate seating, eventually leading you to the Fairmont Hotel’s lobby. To the right is the central dining room, set over hardwood floors. We would be seated here for brunch, with plenty of natural light streaming in from the all glass exterior and vaulted ceiling.

Our meal began with complimentary “Sundried tomato buns”. Warm to the centre with actual chunks of tomato visible. You don’t get much of it in terms of taste, but with the whipped butter than was quick to melt over the bread, you aren’t missing anything.

From the brunch menu one of my guests had the “Lamb shakshuka”. Spicy lamb sausage, organic eggs, grilled pita bread, and chermoula. It was served piping hot with a “baseball mitt glove” around the handle of the cast iron pan it was served in. Not only did it add interest to the presentation, but it also helped to keep it from burning you. This was a hearty meal with plenty of spicy chewy sausage to work through. The pieces of pita were a great base to scoop up chunky tomato paste with, and the eggs with their runny yolk gave the mash a certain creaminess.

I had the “Corn crusted French toast”. I don’t often order a sweet breakfast option, but this was a very original assembly worth exploring more of. Brioche bread, matcha solids, yuzu curd, maple syrup, and field berries. It was delicious as is, but our waiter offered to add on bacon to my meal, and I took him up on it. This way I was able to get some salty with my sweet. What I didn’t appreciate was the price.

When he suggested a side of bacon I assumed 2-3 strips which is typical for any breakfast platter, this plate was excessive and our waiter made it seem like the kitchen was being generous when he delivered it. So I ate it happily, until I was slapped with the $7 cost for it all. Not to mention each strip was over cooked, crunchy with hints of an acrid burn. Though they did bacon as a whole did its job, the French toast was given a new taste. A great add on to the citrus flavoured custard, and the toasted matcha crumbs without any actual matcha flavour. It and the corn flake breading gave the toast plenty of crunch.

My other guest enjoyed the “Arc burger” from off the lunch menu. It was a standard beef burger with house made patty, dill pickle, onion, lettuce, tomato, house mustard, and farmhouse cheddar. Served with a Caesar salad on the side. The salad was presented in a metal container to avoid having it get warmed up by the hot plate that the burger was served on.

With it he enjoyed their “Waterfront gun and tonic”.

Our server was really engaged. He checked in often and gave us plenty of small talk. He was forward with a few comments and jokes, like teasing me about the photos I took to write this review. But overall you could tell he was simply trying to connect, and that he enjoyed his job.

 

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 necessarily make them a destination, but if looking for brunch in the area they are a nice solution, set to a great backdrop. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ARC
900 Canada Place Way, Vancouver BC, V6C 3L5
604-691-1818
fairmont.com/waterfront-vancouver/dining/arc-restaurant

New Oxford, Dine Out 2019 menu

I have been saying it for a while now, but here it is again, ever since Chef Sarah Stewart and Chef Chris Stewart (unrelated), have joined The Donnelly Group’s development and culinary team, the caliber coming out of their kitchens (within all their public houses), has taken a 360. Chef Sarah has taken on the mantle of “Development & Training Chef”. “Coming from rural Ontario and attending OCAD in Toronto, Sarah has cooked across Canada in eco lodges, rustic camps, mountain escapes and bustling city-centers.” She was hired to work on developing both people and tasty food. And Chef Chris is currently the Director of Culinary Development, having first worked at “some of the best kitchens in the world: Michelin-Star winning “Fat Duck” in London, California’s “French Laundry”, and Vancouver’s own “Hawksworth”! Their focus on quality, presentation, and taste shows through. And the result is, not only are Donnelly Public Houses the spot for a great night life vibe with plenty of drinks, but now you can sit down and enjoy the food they are served with as well.

And today we would do just that at one of their 3 locations participating in Dine Out Vancouver. I choose our destination based on the menu, and found myself at the “New Oxford” in Yaletown, wanting chicken wings, fried chicken, and brisket. A three course meal for $25! And trust me what I say for the quality of food and the amount on each place this was a deal! Most places would charge you $20 for a pasta dish and here we got that and two more courses to boot. So naturally it is easy to funnel those saving to some wine pairings. Perfectly chosen wines to highlight flavours plate to plate.

To begin, you have your choice between 3 appetizers. We passed on the “Currywurst, charred bratwurst, fenugreek, and cumin” with the Tantalus vineyards pinot noir wine pairing.

And instead started on the “Heirloom carrot soup” with jalapeño yogurt, sumac, and pistachio. It was a creamy start, hearty and warming, but I wanted it more tangy like a tomato soup to pair with those buttery toast points.

With it we had 3oz of their Road 13 honest john’s red as a pairing. This was the perfect amount of vino to sip and eat to. The red here had more bite to it, a snap back to offset the rich texture of the soup.

And we also shared the Red chili wings”. And what you assume would be a smaller appie for one, was a dish you could share with another, with 5 wings a piece. A pub with poor wings is a crying shame, so I am happy to report that these were amazingly juicy. Not dry and shriveled up Wednesday night special wings, but great meaty bones. They reminded me of and tasted similar to buffalo wings, they even gave off the same nose tingling sensation. Although, despite its name and the jalapeño, it really isn’t all that spicy. The distilled vinegar balances most of it out, and the parmesan aioli covers it completely. So what you are left with is a slow to rise burn.

With it we had the Evolve shiraz, a sweeter red that helped to transform the heat of the wings, and balanced it out.

For your next course, you also have your choice between three entrees. Here we passed on the “Quinoa & avocado salad”, with charred chicken, feta, pickled shallot, citrus, and thyme. Along with its BC VQA Wine Pairing: Summer Hill Alive White.

Instead we enjoyed the “Brisket cavatappi” with basil pesto, roasted garlic, and grana padano. The sauce was more like a salsa, summer fresh with its raw ingredients: cherry tomatoes and sprouts. And with the noodles, it felt like a pasta salad. I liked how light and refined this take tasted. It was more tomato than beef brisket though. Not that I needed any in the first place. But what I could use more of were the Parmesan cheese chips, the cheesy shards added some crunch and interest.

With it we enjoyed the Adega malbec, a wine so smooth that it blended in well with the light pasta.

Whereas we had a nice white Lock & Worth Sauvignon Blanc with our chicken sandwich below. The clean white gave the sandwich some a tang, it offered itself as a nice palate cleanser in between bites.

The “Golden chicken sandwich” with panko crusted white chicken breast meat, iceberg lettuce, pickle, bay leaf, and hot sauce. The chicken patty is amazing. And it is not just one breast, but two overlapping pieces of breaded chicken go into this. Lean and juicy on a fluffy butter bun, with luscious mayo and crisp lettuce for freshness. The nice thin fries compliment the sentiment.

Dessert was offered with a beverage pairing of coffee, but it was a little too late for some. “Cherry cheesecake” in a jar with vanilla, brown butter, and a crushed tim tams crust. This is if cheese cake were a mousse, slightly chilled and foam-like. The cookie crunch offered a good base, the chocolate shards a good chew. The cherry gel was a nice surprise, along with the one maraschino cherry hidden within.

The “Dark chocolate praline bar” was a more dense dessert. It was hard to cut through and most of it shattered across the table. I should have just picked it up and ate it with my hands. There were plenty of bits to chew through and even more nuts to get stuck in your teeth. It tasted like a crumbly peanut butter bar, but more buttery. Given how sweet and decadent it is, I am glad that they made the serving smaller for this Dine Out service. I can’t imagine anyone finishing a whole version of this, which is double the side of it in my photo.

In short the “New Oxford” makes for a great place to take advantage of a $25, limited time only Dine Out menu. The taste and service will surprise you. Great comfort plates that both look good and satisfies, served by staff who are friendly and attentive. Gone are my preconceived notions of them as being nothing more than a rowdy bar.

 

OXFORD TAVERN
1144 Homer Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 2G2
604-609-0901
donnellygroup.ca/new-oxford
The New Oxford Public House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fable Diner

At my grandmother’s age she no longer likes eating Chinese food, so my family has introduced her to hamburgers, and she has taken to them it like fish in water. So to avoid another dinner at a chain restaurant serving her new favourite handheld, I suggested we try somewhere different. We all gathered at “Fable Diner”, where they too offer hamburgers.

“Fable” is what you would imagine a modern diner to be with laminate table tops, winter green upholstered booths chairs, round orbs of lights, and bleach wood finishings. The posted flyers and frosted plastic glasses gave things a casual feel. One that made us feel comfortable enough to linger amongst, well after our meal was completed and the bill had been paid.

When I think of diners I think of classic milkshakes made with ice cream and shaken in a metal cup, so when I saw their seasonal special printed on a chalkboard menu, I knew I had to give it a try. This is their “Winter nog shake” made with egg nog, vanilla ice cream, and a healthy drizzle of caramel. The chocolate spoon that topped the tuft of whipped cream was both functional and edible. And the candy cane crumb was a nice finish to balance out the sweetness with some minty freshness. It was so good that my mother took a sip from the extras serving in the metal cup and decided that she should finish the rest for me, to spare me the calories; all the while declaring how good it was.

For my entree I decided on something off their all day breakfast menu. The “Roast duck pancake” peaked my interest, as the most unique dish offered. This was you classic pancake topped with pulled duck meat and kimchi, topped with kewpie mayo, and a sprinkling of puffed rice and fried onion that they called “crispy business”. Naturally, to make it even more breakfast-y, I added an egg for $2. Sadly, all together, it looked better than it tasted. All the toppings were too salty and too tangy, with too much punchy flavour all together. The pickled kimchi was at battle with the spicy mayo. And the pancake absorbed all their run off juices like a sponge, it was soggy and lacked the fluffy sweetness that I wanted and expected from a pancake. And if there were two more rounds of it, they both would have provided the base that this meal needed for balance. Then there was the dry duck pieces that were over cooked and rough. At least my pricy sunny side up egg was good.

As planned, my grandmother got her burger, both she and my mother had the “Reno burger” with grass fed beef, pickles, tomato, iceberg lettuce, and their fable sauce. All their burgers are prepared medium well with your choice of sides between salad, fries, or soup. My grandmother got a side salad that lack dressing. As for the burger it was pretty standard, not the best that she has had, but good enough to finish without the addition of any condiments.

My father got the FD burger, which is basically the same as above, but with two beef patties instead of one. But the first wasn’t that good that you craved another. He had the fries as his side and wished they had an additional dip in the fryer, to give their soft centres some crispness.

 

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.
I would come back for a milkshake, especially if they continue to offer up seasonal creations, but as for everything else, this was enough of a taste to not have me coming back for another. Especially when there are so many other restaurants offering all day breakfast and burgers in town, just as good or better. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

FABLE DINER
151 East Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5T 1W2
604-563-3463
fablekitchen.ca
Fable Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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