Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Caffe Barney on Main; Awesome Place to get your Craft Beer and Pub Grub fix

I’ve gotta give a shout out to Caffe Barney on Main as a great neighbourhood pub. I may be biased because I ADORE the management and staff (Bre and Robyn in particular) but this place is cozy, fun, with tasty, accessible grub and a fantastic drink selection. My favourite thing at Barney is the 24 rotating kegs on tap.  Yes- I said 24 lovingly selected beers on tap!!!!!
I started the night with a pint of Four Seasons Saison, straight outta Delta, BC. Its warm with wheatiness, light hints of clove with coriander. It’s a bit floral and fruity without being too precious.
 They offer a beer tasting flight of 4 for $8. My suggestion- give your server an idea a scope of your beer likes and dislikes and let them pick for you. My server was a great beer matchmaker!
I enjoyed the Pfriem Wit Belgian style wit beer , Occidental Hef, and the Chuckanut Rauc. But my very favourite was the Lips of Faith with Yuzu from New Belgium Brewing from Fort Collins Colorado. Citrusy and bold. Strange, delicious, memorable.

The Sous Chef and I shared two burgers. 
The Chickpea and Quinoa burger. Made in house, great texture, and all around tasty. 

The Salmon Burger with asian slaw topping was a generous piece of fresh tasting fish on a toasted bun. 

Other items on the table were:

Pad thai with shrimp

Coconut prawns with a side of Caesar salad

Chicken burger with bacon

Caffé Barney on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 23, 2014

Farmer's Apprentice for Lunch

I was planning a work lunch meet up with a colleague from out of town and a fellow local food enthusiast. When she suggested Farmer’s Apprentice, I was instantly intrigued and thrilled at the opportunity to check out the recently named Vancouver Magazine’s 2014 Restaurant of the Year. It’s located a short walk from my office and I’ve passed by numerous times and thought the space looked charming, and I’d heard and read many rave reviews about the food.

The room is cozy, seating roughly 30 inside with an inviting 12 seat patio. Ceilings are low, wood is mismatched, and the space feels modern and yet rustic at the same time. There is a casual vibe here. 

Sparkling and still water is served in blue-rimmed enamel tumblers and a Fleetwood Mac vinyl was spinning on a turntable towards the back end of the restaurant. There are some great touches in this space; a beautiful photo of an abandoned barn, an antique stained-glass window frame, planter boxes with herbs and flowers on the patio.

This was a long lunch and over the course of our meal we had mixed feelings about service. There were a few instances that we were made to feel like we were causing a real inconvenience with some questions and requests. But I loved and appreciated the love, enthusiasm, and knowledge that every staff member has for the food and this restaurant.

Smoked castelvatrano olives $4, beyond bread sourdough, onion butter $4
These hearty slices of sourdough bread served warm, with a crispy crust and warm sumptuous innards served with a side of extra-virgin olive oil and an onion butter that’s rich, savoury and delightful.
The olives are meaty vivid green with a big, bold, alderwood smoky flavour.

Dandelion, bacon and hazelnut strudel with ricotta $9
The smaller plate was light with a nice balance of light flaky pastry, side arugula salad greens and richness from the smoky chunks of bacon and hazelnut.

Roasted chicken breast, rye berries, nettles, mushroom marmalade, veloute $18
This was a large plate full of earthy flavours. The two pieces of large, tender perfectly cooked chicken breast with toothsome rye berries (like a chewy quinoa?), nettle greens (which also had a surprisingly meaty flavour), with a small dab of salty and slightly sweet balsamic tasting mushroom marmalade with a drizzle of creamy veloute to bring the plate together.

Spring salmon, spring vegetables, aromatic nage $17
This plate was a bit smaller but just beautiful…looked like a delicious spring bouquet. I was lucky enough to get a bite of salmon which was supple with FANTASTIC crispy skin.

There is a lot of effort, skill, creativity, and love in this food. Just reading the menu, taking in the ambience and watching plates come out of the kitchen made me smile. The menu changes daily, depending upon what’s fresh and available. The portions aren’t hefty (the chicken was pretty substantial) but are well executed with prime ingredients and beautiful flavours.

Farmer's Apprentice on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Wayward Vegan Cafe in Seattle

I'm a big fan of "experience" or "activities" as gifts. This year, for Christmas, my little sister and I told my dad we wanted to treat him to a day trip to Seattle to visit the Experience Music Project and Sci Fi Museum.

Since the sous chef, little sister, and little sister's wife are all vegan... it pays to do a bit of research before any out of town trip that will require a meal out. Plus, we wanted to have some lunch options that would work for both vegans and my dad's taste preferences. We found a few options, but managed to decide on a post EMP/Sci-Fi Museum lunch at the Wayward Vegan Cafe in Seattle's University District. Everything on the menu at Wayward is vegan- they offer a wide range of all day breakfast with lunch and some dinner options too. The options range from greasy spoon-esque, tex-mex fusion, vegan twists on diner classics, and a few healthy options. This place was packed when we arrived around 2-2:30pm, feeling extremely hungry, but luckily a table freed up almost the minute we walked in.
This a pretty casual place; you place your order at the front counter, bus your own dishes, refill your own water, etc
We all left stuffed. Portions were a good size-big. Prices were reasonable. The food was straighforward and delicious. 

I ordered the Breakfast Burrito; Scrambled seasoned tofu, spicy tvp chorizo and spinach wrapped up in a king-sized grilled tortilla, topped with zesty cilantro sour cream, with salsa fresco and homefries ($8.50)

Pancake $4
Bikini Bowl $8- Quinoa over a bed of garlic steamed greens topped with mandarin oranges, diced tomatoes, and a grilled citrus-marinated tempeh cutlet. Served with a side of chipotle tahini.

The Bandito Omelette $10 with homefries
Spicy tvp chorizo, grilled peppers and onions, cheddar cheese, and topped with cilantro lime sour cream. Served with a side of salsa fresco.

Three Cheese Melt $9
Cheddar and American cheese, fried mozza wedges, turkey, tomatoes, and mayo on grilled sourdough with fries

Mac Daddy $12
Two no beef patties, reuben sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame free bun,

Wayward Vegan Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Vegan Ice Cream Cake

This week, there was a role reversal in our home. The sous chef had a culinary vision, a mission, an obsession....he stepped up as head chef and I became his sous chef to create a Dairy Queen style ice cream cake for our sister-in-law Ashley's birthday.

Ashley is a vegan with a crazy sweet tooth and before she went vegan, I have vivid memories of her LOVING DQ Ice cream cakes. We chatted about this last year around Ashley's birthday, and the sous chef made it his mission to create an awesome DQ-style birthday cake for Ashley's next b-day.

This was a fun and delicious project to take on and the birthday girl was thrilled with the results.

It wasn't too difficult....but requires planning, preparation, and a spring form pan.

The amount will vary depending on the size of the cake you are making.
2 pints of vanilla non-dairy ice cream/ frozen dessert
1 pint of chocolate non-dairy ice cream/ frozen dessert
1 cup of chocolate cookie crumbles (you might want to add more as a topping)
Approx 1 cup of chocolate fudge/syrup (melted chocolate, coconut oil, vanilla)

Let the pints of frozen dessert soften so they are easy to mold and work with.
Line the springform pan with parchment paper or tinfoil.
In the centre of the pan, create a centre column core of chocolate frozen dessert, leaving some room surrounding outside.
Place in freezer for a few minutes to firm up.
Then top the chocolate centre core with a thick layer of fudge and top that layer with chocolate cookie crumbles.
Place back in freezer to harden.
Then add the vanilla frozen dessert on top and around the edges of the chocolate/fudge/cookie crumble core.
Place into freezer for a longer period of time (we did overnight).
Take out of freezer 15 minutes before serving time, take out of springform pan, smooth out top and sides and decorate as desired. Sing Happy Birthday and chow down!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Save On Meats

I was in Gastown for an industry mingle-r with some of my favourite ladies. We wanted to grab a bite to eat somewhere. I was in a “pho, sushi, cheap and cheerful something” kind of food mood. As a group, we ran through our nearby options, and when one of us mentioned Save on Meats, there was a collective nod as the group agreed we were all hankering for some comfort grub….and most of our group hadn’t visited Save On Meats before and were curious to check it out.

Save On Meats is an iconic and historical part of Gastown, in downtown Vancouver, and it comes with a lot of history. Save On Meats has been open since 1957. The original owner retired and closed it in 2009 but local restaurateur, Mark Brand, rescued the iconic gem in 2010. Along with revitalizing the diner and butcher shop, Brand has been working in close collaboration with various community programs and initiatives, tackling important societal issues like barrier employment and food security straight from the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. Save On Meats has gotten it’s share of kudos for it’s burger and diner classics done right, including an appearance on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” The restaurant recently closed last August for renovations and recently re-opened in February.

Overall, we loved the décor, the atmosphere, the vibe. The feeling in SOM (both customers) was upbeat, relaxed, comfortable, yet with a hint of “hip and cool”. I was really pleased with the enthusiastic service. The décor is bright, clean, shiny and retro cute with some truly cool touches. SOM has awesome signage- you can’t help but smile when you walk into this place.

I ordered; The BLAT sandwich with bacon, lettuce, avocado, and tomato ($7.95)
I really wanted to love my meal but sadly I was pretty underwhelmed. The extra crispy, salty bacon was a highlight but sadly the toasted white bread (I don’t think I was offered a choice of other bread option) was really crusty, hard and dry, with sharp edges that felt a little unpleasant to eat. The fries weren’t very crispy and didn't have much going on in the flavour department. A great hot sauce might have saved this plate, but sadly, they only had Tabasco which didn’t quite do the trick.

Other grub met the same response from the other ladies. “Meh...”; okay, but not great. The iconic burger got a thumbs up, but my pal who ordered it said she was expecting it to be something a bit more special based on all the hype. It’s now a Build your Burger with a variable price depending on your patty, veggie topping, sauces, and “the goods” with toppings like bacon, blue cheese, fried egg, onion rings and more…and then you add a side for different prices.

Also on the table:

PEROGIES sour cream, caramelized and green onions $7.95
add sausage $2.49

Cup $3.95 Bowl $5.95
*I believe this used to be served with their in-house biscuits...but sadly this bowl was accompanied by a pretty sad toasted english muffin

THE AWARD WINNING SAVE ON MEATS CAESAR infused vodka, clamato, tabasco, worcestershire, secret rim salt, on the rocks with bacon and olive $6.95

Despite the lackluster food, we all agreed that we would still come back for drinks, to give some other menu items a chance, and to enjoy the upbeat, feel-good atmosphere.

Save On Meats on Urbanspoon