Monday, December 16, 2013

Vegan Supper Club "Plate Invaders"

My sister is a vegan...not only does she live a meat and dairy and animal product free life, she is also a vegan educator and activist. She hosts a radio program on Vancouver Co-op Radio called "Animal Voices." The show covers topics and interviews people from the world of animal advocacy and vegan lifestyle. One of her colleagues on the show, Alissa and her partner, Tim, a vegan chef, run a monthly vegan supper club out, Plate Invaders, out of their East Van suite. My sister and her wife are regulars at these dinners and I've been talking about joining them for a supper club meal for a long time... and finally, I was able to attend an event in late November.

Plate Invaders hosts two seatings on event events; 5:45pm and 8:30pm. We made reservations for the late seating. The dinner takes place in the upper suite of a East Van duplex in a cozy, retro-styled living room that is transformed into a casual dining room with a ten-person long table, dinner music, and soft lighting. You can bring your own wine (which we did) and throughout the evening, our mason jar glasses were refilled with refreshing lemon water. I was there with my sister and her wife and it was nice to spend time chatting with them and getting to know our fellow supper club diners. The four course menu was handwritten on a small whiteboard on the wall and Tim, the chef, came out to introduce himself and the meal. It was really wonderful to have Tim present each course and provide an explanation of the dish and giving details about where the ingredients were sourced.

The first course was a Gem Squash Chowder. The presentation got a lot of ooohs and aaaahs from the table. Who doesn't love eating out of a gourd? It was actually quite amazing because although the gem squash skin seemed really thin, it was sturdy and a wonderful vessel for the chowder. This chowder was mild but full bodied. At first scoop, I felt like it might be too mild for me and need a kick, but the flavours developed in my mouth and the nice blend of squash, potato, and leek were quite pleasant and hearty.

The second course was Roasted Beet, Red Wine Tempeh, Marinated Black Kale.
The beets were so earthy and robust. The tempeh was full of flavour; red wine and thyme. But my favourite element of this dish was the Black Kale with Japanese sea salt, which gave it almost a seaweed taste. Orange segments added a nice fresh bite, adding some acidity and sweetness.

The third coarse was Marina di Chioggia gnocchi, fennel, pear gremolata. Tim explained the gnocchi was made of a blend of marina di chioggia (a sweet, dry, dark heirloom winter squash) and yukon gold potatoes from Helmer Organic's farm in Pemberton (they grow the most amazing potatoes EVER! look for them at a Vancouver farmer's market near you). This dish smelled amazing, probably from the bold gremolata, punchy with plenty of garlic, parsley, lemon and slivers of pear and fennel to mellow those bold flavours slightly. The soft, pillowy gnocchi and the bold gremolata made for a satisfying and memorable dish.

Dessert was prepared by a pastry chef that works regularly with Plate Invaders, Kishino Watari. Mont Blanc aux Marrons, traditionally a dessert of pureed, sweetened chestnuts topped with whipped cream. The base was more like a nutty, dense cake base and I believe this light, creamy topping was some delicious, light cashew cream creation. The whole dish had a delightful, refreshing, warm citrus flavour and a candied dried orange garnish.

This was a really fun experience. The food was wonderful, creative, and I really appreciated- could taste the fresh quality ingredients that they used. Rather than charge a flat rate, they ask for a donation +/ - $40 on a pay-what-you-can sliding scale. And they donate 10% of the proceeds from every Plate Invaders meal to a local animal charity.

To find out more about Plate Invaders and snag a reservation for an upcoming dinner, you can find them at:

Friday, December 13, 2013

White Spot Celebrates 85 years with a Cookbook!

White Spot recently launched a cookbook with many of their signature appetizers, salads, burgers, entrees and desserts.
White Spot is an icon in British Columbia and pretty much a “go to” for many BC classic family meals.

This is the restaurant’s first cookbook, celebrating 85 years of success, beloved dished and family-friendly service, featuring recipes for classic dishes like their signature Chicken Pot Pie and Teriyaki Rice Bowl, as well as contemporary feature entrées like their Prawn and Lentil Rice Bowl – all geared for the home cook.

I had the chance to chat with Danny Markowicz, the Executive Development Chef for White Spot and Triple O’s about the iconic brand, the cookbook, and his personal favourite dishes.
Lifebitesmm: Why do you think White Spot has not only survived but thrived amongst many other multi-location restaurant brands?
Chef Danny: We are a guest focused company that constantly check in with our guests, staff and conduct regular research to ensure we’re staying relevant to our guests and the market. We stay true to our roots and at the same time continue to evolve our menu offerings to keep up with the ever changing industry.
Lifebitesmm: What is your personal favourite recipe to cook from the book?
Chef Danny: From the cookbook, my favourite recipe is the Champagne Prawn Risotto.
Lifebitesmm: What is your personal favourite White Spot classic order?

Chef Danny: Double-Double, fries and a chocolate shake. Epic!
Lifebitesmm: What is your personal favourite New(er) menu dish?

Chef Danny: My favorite new dish is the Tandoori cauliflower quinoa salad. Healthy, delicious and packed full of flavour.
Lifebitesmm: Any “insider” order secrets……personal tweaks or food quirks that you make to a White Spot dish to please your taste-buds?
Chef Danny: I sometimes order a side of poutine gravy and dip my burger. So wrong, but so good. Guilty as charged!
Lifebites: Tell me about White Spot’s involvement in the community and giving back….Why partner with Variety- The Children’s Charity for this project?
Chef Danny: We support Variety – The Children’s Charity including their annual telethon and many other initiatives throughout the year. Variety is our longest standing charitable relationship and White Spot has been involved since the charity was formed here in BC in 1965. Variety does so much to help kids in need and it felt like a natural fit for our cookbook, especially around the holidays. We will be donating partial proceeds from every White Spot Cookbook sold before December 31st to Variety – The Children’s Charity. To learn more about Variety visit: OR
Here’s your chance to win a copy of the book!
For your chance to win a copy of the cookbook, 1) like White Spot’s Facebook page, 2) follow @White_Spot and leave a comment at the bottom of this blog post or on the Lifebitesmm facebook page about your very favourite White Spot dish. The winner will be announced on Dec 18!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Lunchin' at Tap and Barrel Olympic Villiage

With the TO Boss in town for a few days, he generously offered to take the "West Coast" division out for a holiday lunch. It was a beautiful, chilly, sunny day and we headed to Tap and Barrel on the False Creek seawall in the Olympic village area.

The view can't be beat, the space is cool, the decor is funky, with two levels, two massive patios (normally packed every day during the summer but vacant on this COLD December day. I've been to Tap and Barrel once before and thoroughly enjoyed their PB and J Burger.

This time around, I opted to try a new menu option. When I asked our friendly server about this dish, she smiled and told me with some enthusiasm that these were her new favourite menu item.

The Steelhead Salmon Tacos are served two for $15 in flour tortillas with crunchy cabbage, cilantro, avocado, chipotle crema and pico de gallo. I loved the seasoned chunks of fish; slightly crispy and loaded with a slightly spiced coating and pan-fried. I found this a bit overloaded with the heavy mayo crema sauce, so I did some scraping and added some Frank's hot sauce and really loved it. These are pretty sizeable tacos; Depending on your hunger level, this might not be enough to be a full on you can add a third for $5... or do what I did and order a side salad and "share" my fellow diners delicious herbed fries!

My fellow diners really enjoyed their meals, the setting, and the overall experience.

Tap & Barrel on Urbanspoon