Thursday, October 27, 2011

Best of Vancouver: Baked Goods

Baked goods are a simple pleasure that I really enjoy. But there are few things that give me more joy than biting into a warm, soft cookie with melting chocolate chunks, the soft crispy exterior of a fresh pastry or croissant, or even just cutting through the crust of a good loaf of artisan bread. Author Neil Pasricha put the "smell of bakery air" in his Book of Awesome for a truly is awesome.
Here is a carb-o-licious list of me and my peeps favourite places to get bread and baked goods. Let me know if you have any awesome bakery suggestions that I've missed.

Best Baked Goods:

Capers/Whole Foods Bakery MM- carrot cake, power cookies, muffins, pretty much everything….

Thomas Haas MM-double baked almond croissants

Butter Bakery MM- peanut butter homemade oreo, homemade oreo

Fratelli Bakery MM- Linda’s go-to stop before every pot luck dinner (St Honore Cake and lemon squares)

Westlynn Bakery MM- Tricia’s loves their bagels, pizza shells, chicken pot pie - and more!

Grounds for Coffee MM- Cinnamon Buns

Honey’s Donuts MM

Uprising Breads   

Savary Island Pie Company Tina works in West Van and is obsessed with their baked goodies

Terra Breads MM- I work near this bakery now and love it. Their goodies are great and even their basic sesame seed buns can elevate a sandwich to a new level of greatness.

Transylvania Peasant Bread

Milestone Grill and Bar on Lougheed in Burnaby

This week I went to Milestone Grill and Bar on Lougheed Highway in Burnaby near Brentwood Mall. I'm not a big fan of chain restaurants, but usually when eating with a larger group, where some people have kind of picky tastes, a chain can be the safest choice with large varied menus and the ability to seat large parties together. We were celebrating birthdays for two of my favourite people and I decided to go in with a positive attitude....but the really terrible service, multiple service issues and pretty terrible food ended up making any kind of positive attitude pretty hard to maintain.

Our server was a nice "Ned Flanders/ Neighbourhood goofy dad" type of guy- but as nice as he was, he was really just a TERRIBLE server.

Some major issues:
-Room temperature beer: A few of the guys ordered the beer special of the night, $4 Coronas. We all had to ask for glasses of water. When the beers came, they were open with lime wedges, but there was one major was room temperature/ lukewarm.
They notified the server, he went to replace them, and came back around 10 minutes later to let the guys know that all of the Coronas were lukewarm. They guys ordered a different brand of beer, which our server did give them those beers for the special price but didn't offer any explanation for what had happened.
-Super sluggish on water refills. We had to ask numerous times for water.
-I ordered a club soda with a splash of cranberry juice. It didn't come for 20 minutes. I reminded the server, then although 10 minutes passed and finally my drink came. I took one sip and it was gross, syrupy and flat. Right away I sent it back and told him it was really bad. He didn't offer to look into whether there was a fountain problem and try to rectify the problem. He just shrugged and said "Whoopsy- I don't know what's wrong there." (I'm paraphrasing)
-He "m'am"-d all of the women at the table......which I'm not a fan of

Some people were happy with their meals and visually, some dishes looked pretty good and my fellow diners were really satisfied with...

Butternut Squash Ravioli (Roma Tomato sauce, goat cheese, fresh basil and spicy-glazed pecans 16.99

Grilled Chicken Pesto Fettuicini (Double breast of chiciken tossed in our Reggiano pesto cream 16.99

But some dishes were hard to swallow.... particularly mine.

Grilled Seafood Salad (Grilled tiger shrimp, Wild Pacific Coho salmon, marinated shrimp, fresh avocado, papaya, roasted Italian tomatoes, crisp noodles and lemon-chardonnay vinaigrette 18.99
The salmon was flavourless and rock hard, the shrimp was rubbery and tasted like it was seasoned with pepper, the salad was an iceberg bagged variety and was also flavourless and dull.

Overall, I'm not a fan of chains- usually, it's overpriced food where the quality just doesn't match the high price point. In my opinion, this was a prime example of that.
*One point to note: I did complain about the experience through the Milestones website and were very impressed by their follow up process.

Milestones Grill and Bar (Brentwood) on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Juice Truck: Awesomeness on wheels in Gastown

The Juice Truck is a bright pink and teal culinary juicing laboratory on wheels and a stand-out of Vancouver's food truck scene. Everything about this truck is fresh, vibrant, and fun- from the truck itself (you can't miss it!), to their explosively flavourful juices and smoothies, and the awesome owner/operators. 

They believe good juice creates, health, happiness, and energy and they use the best, freshest ingredients and their imaginations to create amazing juices, smoothies, and desserts to tantalize the tastebuds and refresh and detox customers. They are the proud owners of 2 state of the art juicing machine (there are only 2-3 other juice bars using it in North America, that blend and press the juice to maximize the nutrient content. This truck has a really varied and imaginative menu....they are constantly dreaming up amazing flavours and getting innovative to create completely new deserts and dishes.

The truck is run by best friends, Ryan and Zach who got passionate about the power of juices when they travelled around the world and ended up learning about healthy juices everywhere they visited. When they returned from their world travels, the food truck trend had just started in Vancouver, and the wheels started turning.....what an awesome way to bring amazing juices to Vancouver-ites! So the two did a bunch of research, got a truck and an amazing assortment of juicing machines and technology to create a juice lab on wheels. 

They are awesome guys who have so much enthusiasm about juice and their's infectious! There is also another truck staffer Aviya, "The Smoothie Queen" who is really knowledgable and can whip you up an amazing smoothie with a smile. Everything is fresh and made from short cuts here. They even make their own almond and cashew milk.
On my visit to the truck, I tried:

Banana Bread Smoothie: They take custom banana bread (local foodie Erin Ireland's "It's to Die For Banana Bread, which is full of chopped nuts, dried banana chips, chocolate chips), slice it, and blend it with frozen bananas, vanilla soy milk, and cinnamon.
Slices of B Bread in a blender
The result, smooth, creamy, and you can taste hits of all of the elements in the banana bread with every sip. It tastes really balanced and isn't too heavy. A brilliant idea and an awesome breakfast or snack in a glass. 
**These guys have more creations they are working with a "dessert in a glass" feel like an apple pie smoothie with cashew milk and apple sauce, and key lime pie with green apple, lime, and avocado.

Banana Sorbet: They create their own frozen banana sorbet made by running frozen bananas using a the first step of their two step juicing machine with a special blade. This is light, creamy and refreshing. A way healthier option than Hagen Daas: even after being topped with their homemade cacao chocolate syrup, it's a relatively guilt-free delicious treat, and pretty inventive.

If you're feeling blue and need a drink to perk you up, cure a hangover, feel better, or just need a treat- find this truck and get yourself a healthy delicious juice, smoothie, or treat.

The Juice Truck on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Best of Vancouver: Breakfast/ Brunch

I love when local papers poll their readers to find out where their "favourites" are.
Every year I look forward to the Georgia Straight's "Best of Vancouver" issue and it has inspired me to poll my friends, co-workers, and family members to get their opinions on their favourites when it comes to anything food in Vancouver.
I've listed the most popular choices, I've added a particular dish if it was mentioned, and added an MM if I've been there and give it my personal thumbs up.
I'll kick things off with breakfast/ brunch. Enjoy and please send me any favourites, suggestions, and recommendations!

Best Breakfast/Brunch:

Café Medina  MM

Epicurean Caffe Bistro MM- Earthy Breakfast

Bandidas Taqueria MM- The Breakfast

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Campagnolo- Simply Delicious

We had planned a "girl's dinner out" for Friday night and decided to try Campagnolo. Many of my friends have frequented and loved this restaurant and I've been really wanting to try their "must-try" appetizer the Crispy Ceci. Campagnolo is located on Main Street between Terminal and Chinatown. 

The space is spacious, warm, inviting, rustic (with old growth fir wood beams), with some simple, modern, industrial touches. They serve rustic Italian dishes.
We arrived at 7pm and were lead to the back bar/lounge area where we waited for about half an hour for a table for 4.

As usual, we were all starving, but ended up gabbing so that it wasn't until the third time the server came around that we were ready to order. Our server was fantastic. She was friendly, knowledgable, and quick to answer questions and make recommendations. We ordered a few different dishes to share.

Crispy Ceci: Chickpeas, chillies, mint, citrus $8.50
This is a must-order at Campagnolo and came highly recommended by our server. I've never had anything quite like this before. It tasted like a Middle-Eastern dish fused with an Italian country dish. They either flash fry or deep fry the chickpeas and then dress them with aromatic flavours which absorb into the chickpeas and toss with some fresh mint and arugula. It's savoury and nutty with a citrus kick and a slight peppery and spiciness. It's light but fairly filling.
*On a side note: I found a recipe for this dish online and made a greener version with the addition of kale and swiss chard for Thanksgiving dinner. It didn't taste as good, but was still pretty awesome. Give this recipe a try! 

Summer Vegetable Salad $11.50
This was a recommendation from our server who thought that it would go well with the other dishes we were ordering. It was a really nice blend of some crisp and roasted veggies in a salty, citrus-y dressing. The salad was a light bed of arugula with small chunks of roasted yam and peppers with shaved fresh fennel and sliced cherry tomatoes and large buttery crispy croutons. This was a good blend of fresh and light and richer flavours with the yam and crispy, buttery croutons adding some body and fullness to the other light elements.

Pork Ragu Tagliatelle: Pork Ragu, basil, pecorino romano cheese $19.00 main size
The noodles were fresh made and well cooked. The pork ragu was rich and full of deep flavours. They to a great job in sauce-to-pasta ratio at Campagnolo. The sauce and shredded pork coated perfectly around every noodle and every bite was perfectly mixed and balanced. The basil and pecorino romano cheese were delicious toppings that added, but didn't over power the dish. I usually don't order pastas out at restaurants because they seem so simple and easy to make but this reminded me that some restaurants really take pasta dishes to the next level and elevate a simple dish to absolute deliciousness. 

Margherita Pizza: fior di latte mozzarella, tomato, basil $12.50
It's a rather light, basic pizza that's easy on the sauce and cheese but super fresh and flavourful. They give you a side plate of pizza toppings and they are all fresh- parmesan, oregano, and chili flakes. The Oregano in particular was awesome. It's crispy and baked in house. The crust was thin but with a little puffiness and was ooey-gooey goodness in the middle. I don't know if it's made the authentic Neopolitan way, but I would say it's done in the same style. So simple, so delicious. 

We were all pretty full so we weren't too disappointed when the additional Funghi Pizza that we ordered didn't come. We asked our server if it was coming and she realized that she didn't put it through to the kitchen. She then apologetically brought out out a complimentary dessert (although it really wasn't necessary- she was awesome, and we were pretty full anyways.)

Vanilla Panna Cotta: Seasonal Fruit (candied plum) with crumbled pistachio. It was creamy, rich and delicious and the bites with candied plum were the best. That candied plum was absolutely bursting with flavour.

We all loved Campagnolo. Really simple food, done with quality ingredients and made amazingly well. Thumbs up for service as well. The owner/manager came over to check in with us at the end of our 
meal- I love when they do that. It's an easy way to make the customer feel special and appreciated.

Campagnolo on Urbanspoon 

Thanksgiving Recap

A recap of my Thanksgiving Feast on Sunday night in Victoria featuring the most beautiful bird I've ever seen. It was sheer gluttony and I loved everything. Thanks to my hosts and fellow diners for an awesome meal!

This Beast was 30 LBS!!!!

Look at that tan.......

My first helping....Turkey Breast, mashed potatoes and gravy, slow cooked beets, spagetti squash, stuffing/dressing, crispy chickpeas with kale and chard

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
Pumpkin Pie

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vij's Rangoli

It was our first-date one-year anniversary, so the sous chef and I planned on a special dinner at a Vancouver institution, Vij's. We biked from work and arrived just after 6. I had anticipated that there would be a wait, but when the friendly host informed us that there would be a two and a half hour wait. I looked at my hungry dining companion sadly, and we bumped into my friend Amy, who recommended that we go next door to Vij's sister restaurant, Rangoli. Even though I was disappointed, I decided to roll with the punches, and go next door.

We were greeted warmly and informed there would be a 10 minute wait. Much more do-able. There is a big difference in the atmosphere between Vij's and Rangoli. Vij's dark, cozy, intimate with a real "taste of India" feel. Rangoli is bright, minimalist, clean and functionalist. They have a covered, warmed patio for outdoor seating as well as indoor seating area that is connected to their "take-out/deli/store" section selling packaged curries, rices, naan, sauces, and spices.

The service was polite, friendly, speedy, and quite efficient. Our food came out really quickly.
The prices were slightly higher than other Indian food in the area, with slightly smaller portion sizes. Rangoli is quite clever with their portrayal of Indian food. They know their target audience and cater to them well. It's a modern take on Indian cuisine, with beautiful presentation, lots of colour, and they balance heavy Indian food by pairing all of their curries and stews with light salads with Indian flare.
We thought we would order two vegan dishes and share- so we ordered the Portobello Mushroom and Red Bell Pepper Curry and Grilled Eggplant with Chickpeas. 

Portobello Mushroom and Red Bell Pepper Curry on paneer with beet salad and naan $13
This comes highly recommended from my pal Amy who works at Rangoli/Vij's.
We should've chatted with our server about our vegan-share option plan (I thought the sous chef could eat around the paneer)...because this dish was definitely not vegan. It was a cream sauce, and not a coconut cream one. The sous chef could tell right away, and with the catch, it was clear that I'd be eating the mushroom curry and that he'd eat the eggplant and chickpea curry and we'd share the sides. It worked out okay for me, because this dish was DELICIOUS! It was a sweeter, rich, onion based curry that tastes infused with caramelized onions, red peppers, and a generous amount of meaty, juicy Portobello Mushrooms with a few small slices of paneer. This was big on flavour and I pretty much licked the plate clean. The side beet salad was a nice balance, texture and flavour-wise. It was tangy, crunchy, and fresh. I liked the naan as well. It was thick, puffy, chewy, and buttery, with a real cumin flavour.

Grilled Eggplant with Chick Peas in ginger and fenugreek curry with chapati and raita $13
This was tasty but nothing too exciting. The flavour wasn't as bold in this dish but still nice. There was a mound of curried chickpeas on top of two slices of grilled eggplant. They really could have used more eggplant in this dish, but the presentation was nice. The side cucumber salad and chapati were tasty as well- especially the chapati flatbread. Unfortunately, the portion size was a bit small for the sous chef, who couldn't even eat the side of raita (yogurt).

They brought us a complimentary Coconut Pudding (thanks Amy!) for dessert. Topped with fruit, this dessert was very refreshing and sweet.

A nice meal and dining experience, but it definitely wasn't quite the "special" date night, I was expecting. I would definitely recommend it though for good food with great flavours and balance. I would definitely bring out-of-town foodie guests here to experience a quintessential "Vancouver" meal. I'm not giving up on Vij's though....I'll be back!

Rangoli on Urbanspoon