Sunday, December 9, 2012

Ladies Brunch at Epicurean Caffe Bistro

Recently a group of girlfriends and I bought tickets to the Arts Club's "It's a Wonderful Life"and they suggested I pick a good place to go for lunch near Granville Island before. It didn't take me very long to suggest Epicurean Caffe Bistro. It had been a while since my last meal at The Epicurean, but I felt pretty confident that it was a good choice for this group of ladies.

It's a cafe/bistro/deli in Kitsilano on West 1st and Cypress, offering traditional homemade Italian meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They also offer up bakery and deli items for take out. I've only been for breakfast (LOVED it) but my friend Tacia says they make the best pizza.
It's a charming, cozy space, and quite popular. Luckily, they took a reservation for a group of 6 because it was quite busy. Their service is friendly and efficient and the food is mouth watering and beautiful to look at.

I ordered the Calazione Romana breakfast; scrambled eggs served with bocconcino, tomato and grilled eggplant flavoured with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, organic greens, toasted bread, butter and jam ($11.45) This is a beautifully balanced plate, everything tasted fresh, flavourful, and fantastic and all of the elements of the meal went so well together. The buttery, fluffy scrambled eggs, the fresh caprese style side salad, the crisp greens with slightly sweet and tart balsamic, the smoky, rich eggplant. For most of their breakfasts, you can choose your side bread- multigrain, rosemary foccacia, ciabatta. I went with the rosemary foccacia and loved it- great flavour, texture, and heavenly rosemary smell.

Other items at our table were:

Margherita Pizza; Bocconcini, Mozzarella, Tomato sauce & herbs $11

Prosciutto & Rughetta Pizza; Fresh Arugula, Prosciutto & Mozzarella (no tomato sauce) $11

Flavor and Color Panini; Fresh milky Bocconcino cheese draped with a delicate slice of smoked salmon and layered with tomato and sliced onions. Served with organic mixed greens. $11.95

Epicurean Caffe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Lunch Meeting at Ceili's in Kits

The boss and I took a meeting with some friends of mine. My boss had visited Ceili's Irish Pub (Burrard and 7th) recently for a fundraiser event and was blown away with their burger, so he recommended the pub for a meeting location.

Was really impressed with the big, open space, friendly service, casual vibe, and the great looking beer list. I had pretty low expectations for the food- figured it would just be typical heavy, greasy pub grub, but I very impressed when the food arrived at our table. It tasted as good as it looked. Definitely better than your typical pub grub, you can definitely taste that they use quality ingredients and are putting some effort and love into their food.

Fish Tacos- Soft flour tortillas, cajun Pacific cod, prawns, key lime chipotle aioli, pineapple mango salsa, melted Canadian monterey and cheddar, shredded lettuce, tortilla chips, valentina hot sauce $15.75

Short Rib Grilled Cheese- Shredded Guinness braised short rib, honey dijon, aged white cheddar, sourdough $15

Belfast Burger- Maple Peppered bacon, sauteed mushrooms,  stout & ale onion ring, melted aged Canadian white cheddar, lettuce, tomato, garlic aioli, roasted red pepper relish, pickle spear $16.75

Ceili's Irish Pub & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Oceanwise Chowder Chowdown at the Vancouver Aquarium

The Leggy Redhead went to this event last year and raved about it. Delicious chowder. Beer Pairings. Trolly ride to and from the Aquarium.
So when tickets went on sale for this year's Chowder Chowder, she circulated and link and encouraged her "food enthusiast" friends and family to buy tickets and come along.
Chowder Chowdown is a friendly competition featuring some of BC's best Ocean Wise chefs battling it out to become the Chowder Chowdown Champion. Guest sample chowders, each paired with a different beer. People vote for their favourite for the People's Choice Award, while a panel of judges determine the night's winner.

Essentially this is a uber cool pre-holiday season event, where you can wander around the Vancouver Aquarium after hours (even outside with the dolphins and whales), get tipsy on all-you-can-drink beer, and fill up on 12 stations of gourmet (and Ocean Wise sustainably approved) seafood chowders.

The line-up of local Ocean Wise chefs contending for the winning title of Vancouver Aquarium’s 2012 Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown Champion Vancouver included:
  • Chefs Alessandro Vianello and Michael Carter| Street Meet
  • Chef Dana Hauser| Herons - The Fairmont Waterfront
  • Chef Tom Lee | Edible Canada at the Market
  • Chef Todd Bright| Wild Rice 
  • Chef Alex Tung | Cotto Enoteca Pizzeria 
  • Chef Troung Minh Xong| Kamei Royale Japanese Restaurant
  • Chef Frank Gort | Showcase Restaurant and Bar - Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle
  • Chef Nathan Tower| Savoury Chef Foods
  • Chef Chris Whittaker| Forage - Listel Hotel
  • Chef Eric Pless| Coast Restaurant 
  • Chef Warren Mercier| Vancouver Aquarium
  • Chef Derek Bendig| Hotel Eldorado
I enjoy Chowder but I'm not the world's biggest Chowder fanatic. This was an interesting event that showed off the featured chef's creativity. Chowder is a versatile soup and they reinterpreted it in many ways. There were versions that were thick and chunky with very little broth, there were chowders that were super creamy, there were chowders with crazy toppings and garnishes, there were some vegetable based chowders. These chowders were enhanced and twisted in many ways: foam, miso, root vegetable and more. But man o man, chowder is filling. I wish that I only ate half servings from every station. By the end of the night, in combination with all of the beer pairings, I was gut-busting full (and tipsy).

Chef Whittaker (from new restaurant Forage) took home the Best Chowder Award from the judges, and also won over the tastebuds of the crowd, going home with the People's Choice award. Whittaker's winning Creamy Spot Prawn Chowder with Poached Egg and Smoky Chiccharon (crispy fried pork rind) white wine, leeks, and bacon. This was a knock out dish- full of rich, multi-dimensional flavours- and the poached egg with it's o-so-slightly runny yolk. 

I loved the pageantry, presentation from Kamei Royal who served up delicious bowls of Lobster Miso Chowder.

Other favourites were the bold, full-bodied Seafood Chowder from Hotel Eldorado from Kelowna (they served a baked oyster roll on the side!)

and the frothy light Roast Powell River Sturgeon Chowder from Herons West Coast Kitchen. The whole event was a whirlwind but I managed to snap shots of all the chowders. Great event!!!!
Cotto Dungeness Crab Cioppino from Cotto Enoteca Pizzeria

Octopus and Corn Chowder from Savoury Chef Foods

Citrus Soy Seafood Chowder from Vancouver Aquarium

Dungeness Crab and Honey Mussel Chowder from Show Case Restaurant and Bar
Salt Spring Island Mussel & Pulled Pork Chowder from Edible Canada at the Market
Local Shores Dungeness Crab & Clam Chowder from Coast Restaurant (yes, that's a crab cake in there!)
Tea Smoked Arctic Char & Szechuan Bacon Chowder from Wild Rice

Sablefish & Slowroasted Pork Belly Chowder from Street Meet (the food truck)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lunch at Nu Greek on Broadway

Went for a late lunch with the boss just around the corner from our office at Nu Greek on Broadway and LOVED IT. Fresh, flavourful, well-priced, healthy fast food and uber friendly service.
Nu is in the family of the Kambolis Restaurant group, who also own C Restaurant and Raincity Grill.

This location in teeny and definitely designed for the grab-and-go takeout lunch crowd. They've got three small bistro tables for those who opt to dine in (which we did).

I ordered their Lunch Plate for $7.50 with a skewer of your choice (octopus, salmon, lamb, chicken), greek salad, chickpea salad, tzatziki, and freshly-baked homeade pita bread (white or whole wheat.) I was disappointed when they told me they were out of octopus, but the friendly woman behind the counter was quick to strongly recommend the salmon. And she didn't disappoint. The salmon was fresh, moist, and well seasoned with garlic, oregano, lemon, salt and was melt in your mouth goodness. The Greek salad was fresh and crunchy, with juicy tomatoes and a wonderful saltiness from the feta and olives. The chickpea salad was bursting with flavours from a garlic/lemon dressing. The homemade pita was KILLER, soft, warm, and delicately seasoned. This is a great portion of quality food for under $8.

The Boss also ordered the Lunch Plate but went for their "wheat free" option and got an extra skewer of meat for 50 cents more (lamb and chicken). He also went for a small Soup of the Day ($3.00), lentil and split pea with crumbled feta, which he loved.

We also shared an order of deliciously, fresh and garlicky hummus with a side of more delicious, seasoned, fresh pita bread ($3.50).

A great place for a filling, healthy, deeee-licious lunch that won't break the bank.

Nu Greek on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Family Feast at Palki North Vancouver

It was littlest sister's birthday and since my parent's are in the final stages of moving, we decided it might be a good idea to plan a restaurant dinner. But our family is a bit tricky....we've got some vegans, we've got some vegetarians, we've got some people that aren't exactly "risky diners", and some people who don't like any place too loud or too busy.

A recent birthday party for another Aunt- saw some family members tasting Indian food for the very first time...and liking the mild dishes. With a bit of brain storming, we decided that Indian might be a good fit for this meal. I've heard good things from North Van friends- and some buddies that travel for their weekend buffet lunch, so we booked a Sunday evening reservation at Palki restaurant.

The interior was inviting, modern, clean, nice lighting, slick decor, with some peacock themed art. I thought the restaurant lay out made it feel nice and spacious. The host (and manager, I would assume) was charming and attentive to our table throughout the meal. My mom had mentioned that we had vegans in our party, and he made sure to get their orders first and seperately, answers questions and making special efforts to meet their dietary needs. He was able to provide a special vegan roti. I was also impressed at how helpful he was at providing menu guidance for the Indian food novices at the table.

I ordered the Baigan Bhartha, whole eggplant roasted, peeled, pureed with onion and tomatoes, herbs and spices ($11.50). I asked for it spicy, and they delivered. It was a nice spice level and a beautiful rich, smoky flavour. All of the mains came out in metal serving bowls, with candles underneath to keep them warm.

I also really enjoyed their Naan bread and found out they cook it in-house in a tandoor. It was extremely fresh, chewy, yet pillowy with a nice charred, slightly crispy exterior.
Other meals at the table were

Tandoor Mixed Grill Platter ($22.95)

Butter Chicken ($11.95) boneless chicken first broiled in the Tandoor and then cooked in butter and cream sauce.

Gobi Aloo ($10.95) fresh cauliflower and potatoes cooked with fresh coriander, ginger and tomatoes

Spicy Lamb Curry (not sure which Lamb curry this was)

Paneer and Pepper Curry

Everyone seemed to enjoy their meals, and everyone was impressed by the service, portion sizes, and pricing. I did ask our host about his buffet and man, did he sell that buffet! 15 rotating items for $11. Adding that to my "to eat in Vancouver" list.

Palki on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 10, 2012

La Quercia- Amazing, Unforgettable Italian Dining

After my recent trip to Montreal, everyone asked how the trip was. 9 times out of 10, I started by telling them about our epidc Pied de Cochon Sugar Shack Dinner. The Leggy Redhead and I were telling Asian Super Director and The Italian Stallion all about it over pizza, and ASD mentioned a recent amazing meal at La Quercia. I've heard that their tasting menus are pretty epic and I've been wanting to go there for a while now. We started planning and scheduling a time when we would all be available and ASD booked a reservation a month in advance for an 8pm seating for the 7 course menu. Joining us were TLR lovely sister, Saucy Chef and TIS's bestie who was visiting from the Maritimes, The Kalamata Crustacean.

La Quercia is tucked away on the corner of Alma and West 4th and looks pretty unassuming from the inside. In fact, you need to look pretty carefully to see any kind of signage since it's delicately etched on their window. Inside, it's a small room with around 12 tables with crisp white linens and smartly dressed servers. I would consider this un-pretentious fine dining, the atmosphere is relaxed but classy. The service was impeccable! We were served dished from a few different servers throughout the meal. All were extremely charming, knowledgable, classy, but they all had a great sense of humour. I think some of them got a kick of how enthused I was when every dish arrived at our table. The 7 course menu items are the chef's choice and come from the Fresh sheet (although if you let them know preferences and allergies, they will apparently work with your tastes). We were there for over 2 hours.

First up was Burrata with braised leeks, artichokes and Hazelnuts on crostini, served with a board of thinly sliced Italian Charcuterie and pickled vegetables with complimentary bread.
I've never had Burrata before and I loved it. People, this is no ordinary cheesy. It is beautiful, light, smooth, with a pillowy, fluffy texture. It was mild and dainty in flavour and ooey, gooey, great.

Next we were presented with Vitello Tonnato- veal cheek and tongue on roasted red pepper sauce.This were little veal cakes (they looked like crab cakes) and they were delicious. They had a very subtle richness and a brighter, more delicate flavour than I expected. The Saucy Chef explained that in many multi course dinners like this, the chef will start the meal's flavours as very mild and subtle, and then make the flavours bigger and bolder as the courses progress.

The next dish was Cauliflower Endive Bagna Cauda. Apparantly the meaning of Bagna Cauda is "warm bath" and it's base is garlic, anchovies, and olive oil. I definitely started to notice a flavour progression here. This was fresh, saltier, with some salty umami flavours. This tasted like a delicious, lighter twist on a Caesar salad.

Next up was our first pasta course, Agnolotti di guido- stuffed pasta with roasted beet tops, parmesan, ricotta, tossed in buffalo butter.
This was my surprise favourite dish of the night. These little delicately wrapped bundles of fresh pasta were awesome. This dish was so simple, so delicate, with enough of a rustic earthi-ness that it didn't feel too precious. Normally, I'm a sauce fiend, but the fresh flavours bursting inside this pasta required no sauce.

Around this time in the service, we weren't sure where we were in the course progression and what was left so The Leggy Redhead decided the table should order some seafood to add to our tasting menu and got the group consensus to order Roast Squid stuffed with Heirloom tomato. I love squid and this was no exception. It was perfectly cooked, not too chewy, with the light squid flavours being given more depth with a robust flavours from the ground heirloom tomato and herbs. We were all starting to get pretty full at this point....

The next pasta course was the favourite of the rest of the crowd,  Maltaliati alla Amatriciana- a linguini like pasta with a pork cheek tomato sauce. This dish was super flavourful and very bold. The pork cheek wasn't visible like in a typical ragu, instead it was very small chunks, implying that the sauce was slow cooked so that the pork cheek was infused into the sauce. Really yummy.

The final entree course was Hanger steak with pinenuts and arugula. We were all full at this point so we weren't able to attack this with the enthusiasm that we should have. It was another delicious dish. The meat was tender and pink, supple and delicious- nicely balanced with the fresh, peppery, crisp arugula and pinenuts. A few at our table found the meat a bit too game-y but still quite nice.

Dessert was a plated trio- Flourless chocolate cake with cherries, lemon creme with blueberry, and tiramisu. The chocolate cake and the lemon creme were my favourites. The cake was so simple and I loved the dense, almost brownie-like texture. The lemon creme with blueberries was light, bright, simple and a refreshing way to end the meal. They also give you a delightful meringue cookie each with the bill.

This was a special meal experience and I highly recommend booking a multi-course chef selected meal here. The amount of food was great (we were over-stuffed at the end but we ordered the extra squid dish and could have taken some leftovers home.) For the quality of the food, wonderful atmosphere and service, $45 for 7 courses is a very fair price. This was beautiful, non-pretentious food, cooked with love and I thought every dish was fantastic.
La Quercia on Urbanspoon