Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Guest Post: Delectable Dine Out Vancouver at Forage

I was struck down with a case of some kind of terrible flu that took me out for a weekend. I won't go into too many details, but there was some puking, pain, an inability to remain awake and for me, the most shocking symptom, a total disinterest in food and loss of appetite. I was housebound for an entire weekend. When Monday came around, I was starting to feel a bit better but I was still queasy and struggling to consume a bowl of soup. And unfortunately, Monday night came along and I was scheduled for a highly anticipate group dinner for Dine Out Vancouver. We were booked at a fairly new restaurant, Forage. I was so looking forward to this- and had been looking forward to this meal for a long time. Especially since I tried their Award-winning seafood chowder in November at the Vancouver Aquarium's Chowder Chowdown event. Fortunately my friends are awesome and agreed to take photos and send me their thoughts on the restaurant and the menu dishes. Just to re-iterate: they are absolutely amazing and their descriptions made me sad to miss out on the meal, but eager to plan a dinner or brunch at Forage.

The Appetizers:

Kale and Okanagan Apple Salad, candied hazelnuts, quince dressing, aged Golden Ears Cheddar. Pretty good, some richness from the shaved aged cheddar and hazelnuts, but light and refreshing. 

BC spot prawn and seafood chowder, soft-poached egg, smoked chicharrón, pork hock -This was the most popular choice with our group. It smelled absolutely amazing! They didn't skimp on the prawns and the soft poached egg on top was an appreciated touch.

The Mains:

Pacific Provider Salmon, red wine and  balsam fir cure, kelp pasta, roasted squash puree. It was delicious. The pasta was nice and the squash puree along the side of the bowl gave it a nice sweet flavour as well. The salmon was cooked to perfection and the flavours all worked together well in a subtle harmony.

Gelderman Farms pork belly with crackling, celeriac pomme puree, ambrosia apple, braised cabbage. This dish got a thumbs up.

Foraged and Cultivated mushroom wheat berry "cassoulet", confit celeriac, savoury biscuit. This was ordered by the party's resident "biscuit expert" and she enjoyed this dish. 


Agassiz Hazelnut Macaroon, raspberry caramel. All of the ladies went for this dessert options. It was delicious. Their server also went the extra mile to bring the table a serving of the other dessert option (Summer Berry Preserve Frozen Parfait Meyer Lemon gel, Toasted meringue) - a gesture they all LOVED. But they all agreed that the chocolate dessert was the best. Although one diner noted that the cake ratio was a bit too much raspberry and not enough chocolate.

Restaurant Experience:

Overall, the consensus was that the portions were pretty much perfect for a 3 course meal. They were all satisfied but not stuffed to the point of discomfort. They all really enjoyed the food and felt like they were really eating quality dishes with quality ingredients and wonderful flavours..

The service was quite good for the most part, although the table wasn't ready when they arrived for the reservation and they did feel as though they were being "upsold" on some items. The decor of the restaurant was nice,  decorated in a modern way, but not cold. The music volume was playing at a pleasant level. 
The chef came out to talk to the party and thanked them for coming and asked them for feedback in an enthusiastic and genuine way. They all thought that was charming and a nice touch.

Forage on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Paying my respects on National Peanut Butter Day

January 24 is National Peanut Butter Day in the US and with a little research online, it seems like many Canadians pay respects to their favourite spread on the 24th as well.

As a self-admitted PB junkie, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge this nutty spread. I like the healthy all-natural versions but I have a special spot in my heart and stomach for the cheap and cheerful brands too. There are health benefits (high in potassium, a great source of protein, full of the "good fats") but I like how it tastes and for some reason, peanut butter just makes me happy. Maybe it's nostalgia, gleeful memories from my childhood peeling back the foil seal on a fresh jar revealing the smooth top with a peanut on top.
I love it in a basic PB & J sandwich, in baked goods, in sauces, with chocolate, and as a topping on just about anything. I eat peanut butter on rice cakes just about every day. I think Peanut Butter goes with just about everything and in most cases makes things better. Please enjoy some Peanut Butter porn!

Peanut Butter and Peanut Butter Cup Sundae
Grilled PB and J
Peanut Butter and Jam Cupcake (Cadeaux Bakery)

Peanut Butter and Bacon Jam Burger

The perfect snack

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Whet Kitchen Bar Patio VanEats Package

This was my first VanEats package and I won it through their website! Hurrah! I love the names of their packages...This was a dining package for 2 called Whet UR Appetite.
I decided to take the sous chef out for a little date night. Whet is located right at the entrance area of Granville Island, right where the Old Sammy J Peppers used to be. This location means a nice view of boats docked in the harbour and the False Creek Seawall.

The interior of Whet is really nice, big solid wooden tables, cozy booths, a semi-open kitchen, and a rustic quasi maritime feel to the decor.
The Whet UR Appetite Package was:

  1. Prawn, Shrimp, and Wild Mushrooms Salad, pan seared prawns and wild local mushrooms, hand peeled shrimp, arugula, grapefruit, taro root crisps, lemon-hazelnut vinaigrette
  2. Coconut Scallop Ceviche, hand peeled shrimp, citrus juices, ginger, jalapeño, corn chips, tobiko & ikura
  3. Choice of the following:
    • Crispy Duck Leg, Confit of Fraser Valley duck leg, sweet chill ginger sauce, yam and plantain chips, sesame seeds, grilled plums
    • Red Honey-Curry Coho, wild BC Coho, saffron yoghurt, hot pickled lime puree, candied almonds, cinnamon market vegetable
  4. 2 Sleeves of Angry Scotch Ale, Russell Brewing Company’s strong, dark ale with dominant malt accent that originated in Edinburgh. Made with Scottish specialty malts including Peated Malt imparting a slight smoky character to the beer                  *This package does not cover tax or gratuity

We kicked off our dining package with two pints of the Angry Scotch Ale. This is a really delicious beer. I tend to veer to ordering lighter beers, but there are some dark beers that I really love. This is one of them. Slightly smoky, rich, full-bodied and not too bitter.

The two appetizers came out first, the Prawn, Shrimp, and Wild Mushroom Salad, and the Coconut Scallop Ceviche. Really enjoyed them both. 

The salad was a nice balance of light and refreshing, with the citrus, peppery arugula, and earthy flavours from the mushrooms. The seafood with nicely cooked and seasoned and the taro chips added a nice crunch. 

The ceviche was different than your typical ceviche. Instead of the seafood marinating purely in citrus, this was a coconut milk dominated dish. This was also a refreshing and light dish. I liked the roe topping and the scallops were wonderfully tender and juicy. I did think that the coconut flavour dominated the dish and muted the others. I also wished the ceviche either came with more chips, or something different like a flatbread. I found the chips didn't really work well as a vessel for this extremely liquid-y ceviche.

For the entree, we went with the Red Curry-Honey Coho, with the saffron yogurt on the side. This was a really interesting and creative dish. The fish itself is essentially smothered in curry paste, giving it a slight crust, giving it a mild spice and beautiful flavour. This was a quality piece of fish and wonderfully cooked - every bite was texture and flavourful excellence. The additional flavour kicks from the candied almonds, hot pickled lime puree and saffron yogurt were wonderful. The salmon came on a bed of broccolini.

We did feel the portion sizes were a bit small and that this dining package was a bit skimpy for two diners. All in all, these were delicious dishes served up in a nice restaurant. I was also impressed with their craft beer menu!
Whet Kitchen.Bar.Patio on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 14, 2013

Salmon n' Bannock

Salmon n' Bannock isn't a new restaurant. It's been around for a couple of years and I've been wanting to check it out. It's a small restaurant on Broadway, a subtle neighbour to the loud signage of Toys R Us (Broadway and Alder). They are a First Nations restaurant- definitely a branch of ethnic food I had never explored.

My pal T Mc had been wanting to check it out as well, and she was working in the area that evening,  so it was an easy decision for a dinner venue. The space is cozy (seats 20?), dimly lit, spotless, and there was only one other party of two dining when we arrived for our 7pm meal. It was decorated with a few framed aboriginal art and there was even a beautiful painted canoe hanging from the season. Service throughout was pleasant, friendly, and prompt. The menu has a wide variety of appetizer, entree, and dessert options- either traditional First Nations (Deer Stew n' bannock) or popular dishes with a First Nations twist (Wild Boar Hot Dog on Bannockette, Bison Indian Tacos.)

I ordered the Red Seafood Chowder n' Bannock ($11). It arrived and I was impressed with the bright, fresh red colour, and the smell. Unfortunately, this dish didn't deliver. Although the ingredients (veggies and seafood) tasted fresh, I found this dish quite flavourless and completely one note. I was really looking forward to the bannock. I liked the harder biscuit-like texture, but again found it really bland and boring. Perhaps a flavoured butter could've saved this for me.

TMc ordered the Salmon n' Bannock Burger ($16); 6oz wild salmon fillet with caper mayo, red onions, and fennel slaw- served with sweet potatoe wedges. She liked the burger ok and thought the bannock bun was an interesting twist. I thought the burger seemed a bit small for $16....it was about the size of a english muffin breakfast sandwich. Interesting to note: when they say sweet potatoe wedges, they actually mean sweet potatoes and not yam fries.

I'm glad that I tried Salmon and Bannock and I might recommend it to someone who was looking to try a completely different type of cuisine, but I won't go out of my way to eat here again. My tastebuds need more flavour.

Salmon n' Bannock on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Early January Brunch in Yaletown at Cache Bistro & Lounge

My buddy Jobin got in touch right after the holidays to invite me for brunch. He bought a Groupon for Cache Bistro & Lounge that was getting close to due that needed using. I was only too happy to oblige. A "need to use this coupon" meal is always a good reason to get together and eat. This Groupon was a Brunch for 2 for $20. This consisted of a coffee, a choice of 4 of their brunch entrees & a Belgian waffle with topping.

I liked the feel of this place. On the classy side, but definitely not pretentious or too fancy and upscale. Service throughout the meal was really friendly and efficient, and our food came out extremely quick.

Our Belgian waffles came out first (regularly $3.50). We misunderstood the wording on the groupon deal and ordered all 4 toppings to try them. The groupon only allowed for one topping. We tried to explain that we had been confused but our server just kind of shrugged his shoulders and said that it would only be an additional $2 ($1 per topping.) The waffles were quite light, with a nice exterior crunch, and they weren't too sweet. I thought they were okay- but Jobin really liked his and to quote him "I'm not usually a waffle guy." Our favourite toppings were the rum caramel and the vanilla whipped cream.

Jobin ordered the Bacon Benedict (regular $12); Back Bacon, croissant with country style potato hash and seasonal fruit. Nice presentation when it arrived and generous portion of hashbrowns. Unfortunately, the "back bacon" really just seemed like thinly sliced ham lunchmeat. Overall, he enjoyed the dish and liked croissant spin on the benedict. We both liked that they used the hollandaise sauce a bit sparingly, many places completely drown eggs benny with the 'daise.

I ordered the Vegetarian Frittata (regular $13); Sun-dried tomato, gouda, spinach and caramelized onion, choice of toast, yam hash, fresh seasonal fruit. I've never seen a frittata look like this before. This was served in a small ramekin and more like an baked omelette souffle. It was light and fluffy. The vegetables were hidden and not very generous in this dish. The flavour was really mellow and dominated by the cheese, egg, and perhaps cream. I was able to get some dijon mustard on the side which really perked up the dish and made it enjoyable. The toast was pretty standard grocery store load style. I LOVED their yam hashbrowns. They were well seasoned and cooked perfectly.

All in all this was a nice meal in a nice place. I wasn't blown away, but especially with the Groupon, the price point was fair for a tasty meal that filled me up and friendly service.

Caché Bistro & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Soaking up the winter sun at Havana

Some great friend's were in town from Montreal over the holidays. I visited them in Sept and they made sure we had some truly awesome eating experiences.
It was their last day in Vancouver and before they headed to the airport, a group of us planned a lunch. Picking a location was a challenge, but we ended up choosing Red Wagon, hoping it wouldn't be too busy on a Tuesday. Wrong. The place was packed and we were looking at a minimum 45 minute wait for our group of seven. Dang! I was pumped and started to drool as I peered through the window at happy people being delivered platters of pulled pork pancakes. We decided to hit Nuba the Waldorf nearby and drove east on Hastings. I've tried three of their other locations and loved them, but have yet to visit the Waldorf location. Unfortunately, they weren't open for lunch. Since my friend used to live in the Commercial drive area, we decided to head to Havana, one of the most popular restaurants on the Drive. 

It's been a long time since I visited Havana, and I remembered my last meal being delicious, so I was happy with this option (although I was still longing for those Red Wagon Pulled Pork Pancakes). I was even happier when we all decided to eat outside on their heated, sun-soaked patio. 
Our group ordered 

Tuna Nicoise $15.95- rare grilled Pacific Albacore tuna loin, green beans, olives, potatoes, boiled egg and avocado with lemon honey dressing *I thought this portion size seemed small

Jerk Chicken Wrap $14.95- grilled fresh jerk chicken breast, spicy mayo, salsa, lettuce, feta cheese in a grilled tortilla

Huevos Rancheros $13- three sunny eggs, black bean chili, salsa, sour cream, green onions, cheddar cheese over grilled tortilla (she eats G-free and they were able to substitute the tortilla for plantains)

Two Eggs your Way $9- choice of bacon or turkey sausage, hash browns or salad, brown toast *this is what I ordered, eggs perfectly poached, wonderful flavour to the sausage, and the bright citrus dressing on the salad was stand out tasty.

Veggie Benedict $12- avocado, goat's cheese, fresh tomato and hollandaise

Latin Breakfast $13- three scrambled eggs (subbed for poached), rice, red beans, grilled flour tortilla, salsa, sour cream, green onions.

Everyone was happy with their meals, atmosphere, service, and soaking up the winter sun outside (although the heat lamp was bordering on too hot believe it or not.) Love that when you ask for hot sauce, they bring you three options for mild, medium, and hot.

Havana Restaurant & Gallery on Urbanspoon