restaurants


7
May 13

Afternoon tea at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver

Before I moved to Vancouver I didn’t think I was terribly British at all, but the further away I am from England, the more I find myself ticking all those stereotypical Brit boxes. Take afternoon tea, for example, I’m no tea drinker at home – I don’t even own a kettle! It’s coffee all the way for me, but when Nancie invited over to the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver to see what their spread was like I jumped at the chance. Tea! Sandwiches! A three-tiered cake stand! Oh, be still my fluttering British heart…

Essentially how I'd like every Friday at 3pm to start, please.

Essentially how I’d like every Friday at 3pm to start, please.

I had a fun afternoon ‘cocktail’ tea at the gorgeous Fairmont Chateau Whistler as part of the Cornucopia festival. I’d imagined this tea was going to be a traditionally sober affair, but hooray! I was wrong. We started our feast with an glass of bubbly, which is a hugely cheery thing to do on a Friday at 3pm, and I absolutely recommend it.

The most tricky task of the afternoon was picking which tea to have; the menu is pleasingly large and infuriatingly tempting with some two dozen blends to pick from. I ummed and ahed over the Maple Maple or the Empress Orange Pekoe but in the end went for the divine-sounding Versailles Lavender Earl Grey – after all, I was about to eat cake so why not go for something Marie Antoniette-ish? I’m a fan of florals, I know they’re a kind of love-them-or-hate-them flavour but I’m definitely in the ‘love’ camp. Anything with a rose, violet or lavender taste, count me in. There was just enough perfume in this blend to not overwhelm, I decided against adding milk and wondered where I could find some to have at home. Tea worth buying a kettle for? Maybe.

*Muffled sounds of greedy applause*

*Muffled sounds of greedy applause*

It was tough not to whoop when our three-tiered stand of delights arrived; scones on top, delicate patisserie in the middle and itsy-bitsy sandwiches on the bottom. The formality and utter indulgence of an afternoon tea delights me in every way. It’s always been one of my favourite things to do and the Fairmont didn’t let me down. The scones were a little too sweet, but I think this has to be a Canadian thing as everywhere I’ve had scones they are always a touch over-sugared for me, but the patisserie – one little raspberry pastry flecked with gold leaf in particular – superb and the crispy bacon on one of the sandwiches had me gurgling with delight!

Who can resist a smoked salmon pinwheel? Not I.

Who can resist a smoked salmon pinwheel? Not I.

I leaned back on the padded armchair (with wheels! so you can adjust your chair in ultimate comfort) and looked at the room; all gilt-edged and old-fashioned glamour, I was definitely in my happy place. I think I’ve found my new favourite Friday afternoon treat – now, who’s coming with me next time?

*Dribble*

*Dribble*

I was a very cheerful guest of the Fairmont Vancouver hotel for tea – but all my words, as ever, are 100% my own. Admittedly, they were mostly moans of pleasure as it was glorious, but still. 

Need to know:

Book afternoon tea at the 900 West Lounge at the Fairmont Vancouver at 1pm or 3pm here or call call (604) 443-1807 to reserve.

Afternoon tea is $39 per person, a glass of Moet & Chandon champagne an extra $20.

 

 

 


30
Apr 13

Gulf Island Hopping Part 5: Hastings House, Salt Spring Island

I knew I was going to love Hastings House before I even got there – how could I not? A boutique Relais and Chateaux hotel, in a Sussex-style farmhouse overlooking the sea, on an island I’d dreamed of visiting for years. On paper it looked good, in reality it was even better. I was living in Brighton before I came to Canada and I used to love to go to the glorious old pubs out in the lush Sussex countryside for lunch. I almost clapped my hands with glee when I saw the Manor House dining room; crackling fire, leaded glass windows – it was like being back home in England – but with the promise of Canadian cuisine to come – the best of both worlds.

Wind-spun art and faux- Sussex farmhouse

Wind-spun art and faux- Sussex farmhouse

Hastings House was built in 1940, a reproduction Tudor-style manor house, it became a hotel in the 1980s with some of the old estate buildings repurposed as luxury country house-style accommodations. I stayed in the west wing of the farmhouse; a two-storey cottage which made me feel I’d stepped back into my grandma’s home, everything was pleasingly old-fashioned with just the right soft touches of luxury. From the stone fireplace with its stack of logs to the invitingly cosy sofa and feather-soft bed, here was a hotel that I could happily have moved into.

I pottered around the grounds, admiring the vegetable and herb gardens – all of which are used in the kitchen – and snapping photos of the wind-spinning sculptures dotted around the gardens. I wound up seeing these mesmerising pieces all around the island; Salt Spring is quite the artists colony and there’s a trail that you can follow, taking in the various studios around the island. That first day I took it easy; curled up on the sofa and read a PG Wodehouse novel by the fire. It was lashing with rain outside and there’s no happier feeling than listening to the rain thrum on the roof, feeling toasty-warm, as you toss another log on the fire.

Perfect Ganges Harbour view

Perfect Ganges Harbour view

As I strolled across to the Manor House that evening for dinner, I was already beaming contentedly, but the prospect of my meal tipped me over into idiot-grin territory. I’d read nothing but raves about the food here and after my meal I can see why. The most plump and perfect buttery prawns, pan-fried in Armagnac piled high on fresh-from-the garden greens. A succulent duck with the most ludicrously creamy, just-right dauphinoise potato. A swirl of watercress soup that almost had me licking the plate. A table-bangingly rich chocolate and raspberry confection to finish. There’s a reason why people wax lyrical about this place; it’s exceptionally good. Pair that with deft service, a crackling fire and wonderful room and you’ve a recipe for perfect happiness.

Wonderful desert at the Manor House restaurant by the fire

Table-bangingly good food

 

I strolled the few steps back to my farmhouse, the rain had stopped by now; the stars were coming out and I could hear the sounds of the sea from the harbour below. Tomorrow I’d explore Salt Spring Island, I’d wake to a warm pre-breakfast muffin and fresh juice delivered to my porch at 7am, but tonight I’d stoke the fire up again and listen to the wood pop and crackle as I drank herb tea feeling oddly at home, as though I were in Sussex, yet thousands of miles away from Brighton.

I stayed as a guest of Hastings House. Thank you! But – as ever – these are 100% my own words and opinions.


29
Apr 13

Wine for Waves

I’m a huge fan of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise programme. I wrote about them for En Route – you can read here why it’s so crucial that we choose our seafood wisely. We’re at a tipping point with many species and if we want to continue feasting on good things from the ocean we have to make smart choices and not fish and eat species into extinction. Restaurants across Canada have signed up to pledge to serve Ocean Wise sustainable seafood on their menus, when you visit Canada, definitely make the effort to support them, after all, we only have this world on loan from the next generation,
it’s really not ours to strip bare.

Cool touch

Cool touch

As well as being the social conscience of the seafood world, those splendid Ocean Wise types from the Aquarium like to have a party, so I headed down to the Four Seasons to join them to toast the Naramata Bench wineries’ first spring releases. I’ve tried hard to immerse myself in BC-only wines and now spring is on its way, I’m excited to have the chance to finally head up to the Okanagan and see where these ambrosial wines come from.

Shh! It's under the seal...

Shh! It’s under the seal…

I’m amused by the sassy names of some of the wineries in the Okanagan; Therapy, Monster, Misconduct – no stiff French formalities here. I tried a decent spread of reds and whites and my favourites from the night were from Red Rooster, Laughing Stock and La Frenz. My pick of the night? A white with a secret, ‘Blind Trust‘, Laughing Stock’s Cynthia Enns explained it to me, “We like doing blends, the idea behind Blind Trust was you have to trust the winemaker so we didn’t tell anyone what the blend was. We wanted to keep it secret but people were crazy to find out, so we hid it on the bottle, so if you have to know you can, but otherwise you can guess what it might be.”

Passionate about sustainable seafood? Just a bit.

Passionate about sustainable seafood? Just a bit.

Of course, all that wine needed something delicious to pair with it; enter Yew’s chef Ned Bell and team with a showstopper of a sustainable seafood display, “We’ve got albacore tuna, our Chef’s Table Society ingredient of the year and in my opinion, the only tuna you should eat,” says Bell, brandishing a crab claw at me, “fresh dungeness crab, prawns, all from our local waters and Effingham oysters from vancouver Island.”

100% sustainable and delicious. Look at that 'Effing oyster!

100% sustainable and delicious. Look at that ‘Effing oyster!

Finally because it’s all about staying Ocean Wise, what’s Ned’s sustainable fish tip for this month? “Right now halibut – it’s in season and everyone is loving it. At Yew, we’re got a wicked halibut burger, halibut ceviche, roasted halibut – it’s a versatile, meaty fish, it’s a sponge, it just loves to soak up flavour.”

Find out more about who’s smart and signed up to Ocean Wise. 

 I attended as a guest of the Aquarium as always – my words are 100% my own, and in this case mostly about how great ‘Effing Oysters‘ are. 


8
Apr 13

Feeling at home in Fairmont’s Charlevoix Chateau

Out of all the things I imagined that I’d miss about home, one thing I didn’t anticipate missing was old buildings. Vancouver is such a modern city, it celebrated its 125th birthday in 2011. Gleaming high rises are everywhere and but it wasn’t until I arrived at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu in Quebec’s Charlevoix region and beamed at its stone exterior and gleaming wooden interior that I had a sudden flash of realisation; I like old buildings, they feel comforting and like ‘home’.

I could not love this more.

I could not love this more.

Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu certainly ticked all my Heritage Building boxes, just an hour or so drive along the stunning St Lawrence river, it was a world away from the funky modern delights of La Ferme. The original hotel was built in 1899, but burned down in 1928. I can’t imagine what dazzling riches the workers who rebuilt the hotel were offered but it was redesigned as a French Chateau and inaugurated in June 1929. Good work, chaps! I loved the huge fireplaces, the lavish lounge which looked out over the river and the spacious comfortable bedroom which came with the only hotel toiletries I ever ‘steal’ – I’m such a fan of the Fairmont’s rose-scented range.

How I wish I'd had time to laze around under the sunshine here...

How I wish I’d had time to laze around under the sunshine here…

Although the hotel has a pleasingly old-fashioned vibe, thanks to a multi-million dollar refurbishment, the facilities are bang up to date; well equipped children’s area, gorgeous outdoor hot pools and and all winter fun activities are catered for, you can hire everything from skates to tubes to go sliding. There is an Amerispa on site too which offers some interesting ice-cider treatments – I love the use of local ingredients – even in the spa.

After reading about the magnificent food that made the Charlevoix region so famous, I was excited about dinner; a tasting menu of the region created by Chef Patrick Turcot. The restaurant works with ultra-local producers, sourcing food within a 50KM radius. I ate  foie gras from a small farm, served with a brandy snap, honied fruit and a dollop of whipped cream, it came served with a glass of Le Pedneault, a local ice cider. At first taste it was syrupy sweet, but it became pleasingly dry with each forkful of foie and was easily a decadent day of calories in a few bites. I’ve found the flavours of the east coast of Canada to be so much richer and sweeter than those of the west coast. After a few days enjoying the riches of their terroir, I’m always just about ready to crawl back to Vancouver’s seafood and kale – no wonder they stock up on winter sports equipment! This is hearty food to fortify the body and soul through bitter winters – but so delicious!

Yes please.

Yes please.

I spoke with Chef in the morning, before I left, he was full of excitement that his plans to create their very own breakfast sausages with local organic suppliers was finally coming to fruition. He’d be making 20kg of sausage over the next few days and looked like a man who couldn’t wait to start. In the wake of the horsemeat scandals in Europe, it’s genuinely refreshing to spend time with a chef who can tell you the name of each and every one of his suppliers and can point to them on a local map. You could taste the care and dedication in every bite.

I travelled as a guest of Tourism Charlevoix and Le Manoir Richelieu. As always, my views are 100% my own.

Find out more at Tourism Quebec.

Chef Patrick Turcot

Chef Patrick Turcot


1
Apr 13

Homesickness hits: bring on the Balti Challenge

Being British seems to make most people assume that you are a raving tea addict. When I talk about the rare times I’m homesick, Canadians imagine that I am craving oceans of Earl Grey, that I am wistfully musing about a pot of PG Tips… but nothing could be further from the truth. Home, for me, tastes of curry – Balti, to be precise. A sag aloo Balti, fragrant with spices, with just the right hit of heat, eaten with a buttery, garlic-y naan bread. Heaven. But, guess what? Turns out that they don’t have Balti in Vancouver.

Ask a curry fan about the origins of the Balti and you’re asking for a l-o-n-g drawn out debate. Is it an Anglo-Indian dish? A Pakistani one? Or is it simply a type of curry named after the shallow handled dish that it’s served in? I think that it combines elements of all those things but one thing I’m sure of is that I’m missing them like mad.

Hands down the best bhaji I've eaten in my life

Hands down the best bhaji I’ve eaten in my life

I was expecting the curry houses to be overflowing with fine Baltis; after all – Brits are everywhere here, one of the largest immigrant communities in fact – and Baltis are incredibly popular back home, but no, no Baltis at all. So I asked on Twitter if anyone knew of anywhere that might help and hurrah for the Palki restaurant who stepped up and offered to try to make my curry dream a reality.

Delighted, I headed off to Palki on Commercial Drive. Unlike many traditional British Indian restaurants, the Palki has a modern Zen-like feeling with plum-coloured walls, water features and a bright airy interior. While I was waiting for the balti to be prepared, I snacked on the best onion bhaji I’ve tasted since Naffees in Leeds in 1989. Crispy, spicy and not a doughy cake like so many are – these are reason enough to pay a visit.

Let the games commenceTheir first Balti attempt arrived and smelt heavenly – but the texture was wrong and it had too much heat. I tried to explain as best as I could what I was looking for to Sharath, the incredibly patient manager, and he disappeared off into the kitchen to discuss it with Chef Shiv Singh. Balti mark 2 arrived and although the texture was better, it was still missing something. I’ll be perfectly honest – I take my hat off to the team here for trying to create a dish that I haven’t eaten in almost 7 months, that they may not have experienced either! Chef Sigh is an experienced and talented chef from Uttar Pradesh and I love that he tried his best to whip up an Anglo-Indian creation, as explained by a British non-chef.

Yes!!

Yes!!

So – third time turned out to be the charm; not too spicy, not too hot, the perfect slow heat and texture – this was the food equivalent of Goldilocks’ ‘Just Right‘! I scooped up a judicious helping with the delicious garlic naan, and savoured the aromatic taste of home. If you’re craving a Balti, or fancy trying one, unless you can get a ticket back to Britain, this is absolutely your best bet. Sharath said that they’d be adding the Balti to their menu – I couldn’t be happier to have made a mark on the Vancouver food scene in a more spicy way.

Thanks so much to everyone for being such good sports and getting stuck into the Balti challenge – go see them & try for yourself.

I was a kind of annoying guest of Palki – who sends food back so much?! – but my views are 100% my own.

Palki Restaurant, 1130 Commercial Drive, Vancouver, BC V5L 3X2


7
Mar 13

The story of Maggie, her doorway and Rainier Provisions

Pantry full of treats to take home

Pantry full of treats to take home

I heard something over lunch yesterday that made me tear-up over my roast beef sandwich. I was at Rainier Provisions, checking out Sean Heather’s latest Gastown foodie-magnet. Gastown is a tricky district to define. On the one hand it’s Vancouver’s oldest and most tourist-friendly; home to the ‘Gassy Jack’ statue, the singing Steam Clock, cobbled streets and twinkly fairy-lit trees. There are more hipster joints here than you can kick a hackysack at. It’s also home to the Downtown Eastside, where you’ll find more crushing poverty, drug addiction, homelessness and downright misery than any other area I’ve encountered in Vancouver. These two extremes live uneasily side by side. Occasionally, as with newcomer Pidgin, things break out and get weird.

I get it. Gentrification brings its problems between the haves and have-nots but I have to wonder – what would you rather? If it’s a choice between an empty building and no jobs, or a buzzing establishment that makes a conscious effort to give back to the local neighbourhood, well, it feels like a no-brainer to me.

Large room which can be hired for parties

Large room which can be hired for parties

Sean’s been in Gastown for almost two decades. He’s got a solid record of giving back and getting along with his neighbours. Rainier Provisions is next to the Rainier Hotel, a women’s single-room occupancy hotel, which just had a block of federal funding removed. Thanks to Sean, residents get fed, for free, once a week and a similar meals programme has been in place for years at another of his places, The Irish Heather. I got all mascara-smudged yesterday because I was told about Maggie, a lady who’d lived in the front door of the previously-disused building for three years. When Rainier Provisions was being constructed, instead of evicting Maggie from her doorstep home, it was decided instead to give her some security. So they frosted windows on three sides of one of the unused doorways, added a combination lock on the gate and now Maggie has a place to leave her things where she can come and go as she pleases. She says she feels safer now.

That’s what made me cry. So yes, while many talk up a storm about what gentrification may or may not mean for an area and those who are less well-off, I put all my support behind a company that pays more than lip-service to the idea that we all deserve a place in our community and a damn good meal too.

The food? It was perfect.

The food? It was perfect.

Oh – the food? Hey, it’s Sean Heather – a by-word for excellence – small producers, local suppliers trying to get along with their foodie dreams, so on the menu, great sandwiches, a daily roast (a huge plateful for as little as $8) and jaw-clangingly great ice cream from Vancouver’s finest, Earnest Ice Cream.

Love at first lick with their salt-caramel

Love at first lick with their salt-caramel

Pop in for a meal, or to stock up on deli items like East Vancouver’s Moccia Urbani, D-Original Sauage Company, Germany’s Drews Driessen, and England’s Neal’s Yard Dairy. Take an empty bottle to fill up on peppery olive oil and choose a treat from the towering pantry shelves. And say hi to Maggie if she’s home.

I ate here as a guest of Rainier Provisions. As ever – my views are 100% my own.


6
Mar 13

All hail the Alaskan King Crab

I love it when things come together. I went to a party last week and shared a lift home with Alexandra Gill, a food writer I’ve been enjoying reading for a while in the local paper, the Globe and Mail. I was telling her about my plans for ‘Asian Month’ a dine-around of ten different Asian countries and their cuisines in Metro Vancouver. (I’ve been inspired by walking around my new neighbourhood, the West End, in a few short blocks you could eat your way around Asia and I planned to make a good start by setting myself a target of ten new-to-me styles of cuisine by mid-April).  Alex said that one thing not to miss was the short but oh, so sweet season of Alaskan King Crab. We swapped numbers and a few days later, I got the call… The Crab Had Landed.

Hello Mr Alaskan King Crab

I was caught unawares, so this is a rather terrible photo. Apologies.

I drove across Vancouver to Marpole to the Red Star Seafood http://redstarvancouver.com/en/ restaurant to join a table of 12 crab aficionados and had probably one of the most exciting meals I’ve had for some time. I’ll confess; I know less than nothing about Asian food, so very nearly every mouthful I ate that night was new to me and – apart from the red bean soup for dessert, which I found watery and rather weird – I loved it all. There was a great deal of intense discussion about exactly how much crab we needed. The largest was a 10 pounder and that wouldn’t be enough for our group but it seemed that the consensus was that two smaller crabs wouldn’t yield enough meat, so a large and a small was decided on. Then, a seemingly-furious debate kicked off about what else to have and how to have it. I sat back, beaming as the melodic Cantonese washed over my head.

Sweet, juicy and fragrant with garlic

Sweet, juicy and fragrant with garlic

The crabs were bought to the table in a huge bowl, waving their spiny legs. OK, so I didn’t expect them to be alive but hey – at least you know it’s fresh! One of Alex’s friends, Lee, was born in Hong Kong and was incredibly kind answering my questions all night, he told me that ordering was important; there needed to be a balance of cooking styles, of heat and spice, of vegetables, fish and meat – it would be a bad meal if everything was cooked the same. Imagine applying this to European or North American dining styles – so many meals are ‘a roast’ or  a fry-up – greedy gal that I am, I love the idea of mixing everything up.

Knuckles delivered a powerful spicy kick

Knuckles delivered a powerful spicy kick

We had the crab five different ways; its legs came first, butchered into little cigars, served with steamed minced garlic. It tasted sweet and buttery – all from its own juice. Next my favourite, the crab knuckles fried with spicy garlic chips ‘hurricane shelter-style’. There was so much juicy meat, it was almost like a chunky cod goujon, but eye-poppingly hot. The knuckles were also cooked a second, milder way with spring onions, ginger and ‘first draw’ soy sauce.

Sweet and mild with ginger

Sweet and mild with ginger

A noodle dish next, delicate noodles tossed in crab sauce, then a Portuguese baked rice dish, sweet with coconut milk and flecked with crab meat. The noodles and rice were presented at the table, stuffed into the head of the crab and then taken away and bought back in small bowls. Two different vivid green veggie plates, pea tips with garlic and gai lan (chinese broccoli) with ginger. Lee showed me the care that the chefs had taken as every single stem had a small leaf attached, just as it was meant to. Beautiful.

I love that there is no waste at all

I love that there is no waste at all

I was dizzy with food at this point. Everything so new and so delicious. We also had a peking duck, first the skin with pancakes and a plum sauce, then the rest of the duck, chopped which went into a crisp lettuce leaf with another spoon of that lip-smacking plum sauce. Finally, the best sweet and sour pork I have ever tasted. I’ve never enjoyed Chinese food in the UK – and yes, before you say so – undoubtedly I was just going to the wrong places, but it feels like there are no wrong places to eat Asian food here in Vancouver. The city has an almost 20% Asian population – that means the different Asian foods available are going to be authentic, fresh and plentiful. This is a great start to ‘Asian month’ – I cannot wait to see what else this city has for me to tuck into and I’m already excited about the arrival of the King Crab next year.

I'd happily have tucked into this all by myself

I’d happily have tucked into this all by myself

 


22
Feb 13

Campagnolo Vancouver: essential Italian comfort food

So… I fell off the wagon. And I’d been doing so well. I’ve stuck rigidly to Canadian-only wines (yes, Canada has great wines!) since I arrived in Vancouver in September and this week I fell face-first into a crisp Italian Soave. Oops. I wanted to soak up (hic) all those amazing new varietals from the Okanagan and confining myself to a strict BC-only wine list seemed to be the best (and most delicious) way to get a crash course in How To Drink Like A Canadian. So far I have discovered that:

- I adore Joie’s ‘Noble Blend’ but I often can’t find it/afford it

- When I want a cheap-ish bottle, Jackson Triggs is usually on special at the local wine shop and does the job

- Tinhorn Creek do some of the (few) reds that I genuinely love

- Wineries like ‘Wine O’Clock’ and ‘See Ya Later Ranch’ which have silly names make seriously good wine

- That (sorry!) I haven’t yet found one sparkling BC wine that I like (I have a get-out clause when it comes to drinking champagne and cava and no, I am not going to outline my reasons as they are ill-thought-out at best, so shhh!)

Crisp ceci with a minty-chilli salad

Crisp ceci with a minty-chilli salad

And I’m only five months in. So much more to discover! But then I went to Campagnolo and everything kind of slipped away…. I blame Katharine. I was having lunch with her and – bad behaviour-enabler that she so clearly is – when we pondered the possibility of matching Italian food to Italian grapes, all my good intentions slipped away. Before I knew it I found myself with a glass of Bertani, a silly grin on my face and a mountain of food in front of me.

As photos go, this isn't great but even so it makes me want to lick the screen as the ragu was SO GOOD

As photos go, this isn’t great but even so it makes me want to lick the screen as the ragu was SO GOOD

I’ve been on such a seafood-eating trip since I arrived that I’ve barely tried any Italian food in Vancouver. In fact I fear I may becoming part-seal. But oh! I have missed Italian and they do it particularly well at Campagnolo. A salad of charred octopus along with a dish of crispy deep-fried ceci (chickpeas) spangled with mint and chilli made me realise I was in for a treat but nothing could have alerted me to the jaw-clanging brilliance of the pork ragu tagliatelle. A densely-flavourful sauce that spoke of long hours simmering on a stove, thick with ground pork and absurdly buttery, was sopped up by an eggy delicate home-made pasta. It was absolutely brilliant. We tried a few other things, but I couldn’t stop my fork snaking across the table mid-chew of something else, to get just one (more) last buttery meaty mouthful.

This was a first for me: never seen cauliflower on a pizza before

This was a first for me: never seen cauliflower on a pizza before

The pizza crust was a trifle too thin for me but the cauliflower and sprout leaf topping was inspired. All garlicy and salty, it paired with the Soave perfectly. After I regretfully scooped up the last of the ragu sauce with a pizza crust and talked myself out of licking the plate, I discovered my new favourite dessert; a butter tart studded with toasted pine nuts, served with a splash of sweet milk. I think I’ve found my go-to comfort food restaurant. I can’t imagine any situation that won’t be immediately better after eating here.

Butter tart of pure wonder. Damn, this was delicious!

Butter tart of pure wonder. Damn, this was delicious!

Upstairs, I’m told, they take delivery each week of two pigs, butcher them, and use everything in their creations that week. Charcuterie, sausages, and yes – that amazing ragu. Love this place. Food that’s good from nose to tail and definitely worth falling off the wagon for.

Thanks to Campagnolo for hosting me – as always, my views are 100% my own.


20
Feb 13

The Best Crab Cake In Canada

I’ve often said that one of the things that I love most about living in Canada is the culinary discovery of it all. Not one week goes by when I don’t try a new fish, fruit or vegetable or discover a new way of cooking – or sometimes – a whole new cuisine. After seeing (and eating) sablefish on all the Ocean Wise restaurant menus, I decided to try making it at home and cooked my very first marinated sablefish this week. It was gorgeous but so expensive!  ‘Pay day fish’ @CarolynAli called it on Twitter, after giving me this fabulous recipe.  so perhaps I’ll save it just for special occasions.

But there’s another West Coast sustainable speciality that I see everywhere and had never tried before; Dungeness Crab, but after a trip to Coast, I figure I’ll not even bother trying to cook one as they have spoiled me forever by making The World’s Best Crab Cake (a title previously held by a tiny restaurant in Cork. Sorry guys, it’s time to hand over the trophy).

Look at it! All gorgeous and mouth-watering

Look at it! All gorgeous and mouth-watering

A confession: I’m never usually a crab fan; it’s not that I don’t like it, it’s more that I don’t love it, but I think I may have just been eating the Wrong Kind Of Crab. Turns out, I’m a West Coast girl all the way, as I was smitten after just one bite. So – what is a Dungeness Crab? They’re unique to the coastal waters of the pacific, they look just like a regular crab and Hiro Amano, Chef de Partie at Coast, told me that he thinks the Dungeness Crab is the “showcase fish for the crab family.” A little sweeter than say, king or snow crab, with an almost buttery flavour, this is just perfect on its own.

So why is this the World’s Best Crab Cake? Well, unlike most others this has almost no ‘filler’ at all. It’s 99% pure Dungeness Crab, bound together with a roasted-garlic aioli (no salt added) to enhance the natural sweetness and the smallest dash of panko to add a little crunch. It’s extraordinary. I went back a few days later just to have another taste as thoughts of its sweet juiciness had been swimming through my head. That second portion convinced me; this is just about as close to a perfect fish dish as anything I have ever tasted.

I’m sure there are a million things I can learn to cook with Dungeness Crab, but I shan’t ever bother replicating this. Go, eat it, but beware – just one bite may have you hooked.

I ate as a guest of COAST however, as always, my views are 100% my own.


13
Feb 13

Vancouver’s shore thing: the Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier

“You know, we’re spoiled really.” said my dinner date as he scooped up a handful of seafood nachos, loaded with tasty seared tuna and spicy shrimp, as he waved at the view. Vancouver was lit up before us. All glittering high rises and moonlight over the water. “Anywhere else this would be THE best restaurant in town. But here it is, tucked away on the North Shore.”

He was right. I’m slowly making my way around Vancouver and discovering its many different neighbourhoods. I’d imagined the North Shore to be The ‘Burbs. Not much happening there. Kind of quiet. Guess what? Think again.

A break in the rain and a golden view of Vancouver

A break in the rain and a golden view of Vancouver

I got there on the ferry bus from the terminal downtown. It’s a pleasant 12-minute trip across the water and I’m guessing if it wasn’t bucketing with rain, it’s a lovely view. The rain held off for a few minutes when I hopped off the ferry and looking at the city from the other side made me see with fresh eyes how gorgeous it is. On the way to the hotel I stopped into the Lonsdale Quay market place which really reminded me of the indoor markets in Paris, something about the metal shutters and artistically-stacked fruit and veg, I guess. After wandering around and making a mental note to come back with shopping bags another day, I checked into the Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier.

My room was big and I loved the huge tub with its glass-wall shower which faced onto the bedroom. Very steamy! Floor to ceiling windows gave a show-stopping view of the city. I sat on the bed and tried to make out my new apartment building, it’s nice to finally start to recognise the skyline. All settled in, I went to explore, and discovered one of the largest hotel pools I think I have ever seen, on the third floor – flooded with natural light and a big gym too.

Hard not to just stare... and stare...

Hard not to just stare… and stare…

We had dinner at Pier 7 , which has Executive Chef Dino Renaerts, ex-chef of Diva at the Met (one of Vancouver’s best) at the helm. I tried the Dine Out menu, three courses for just $28, which was spectacular value for money, I loved the braised beef short ribs and hope they weren’t just a Dine Out special… People always talk about hidden gems, which are often in full view, but after raving about the food to other Vancouverites who’d never heard of Pier 7, perhaps this really is one after all. Maybe these North Shore-ers are on to something

New day dawning over the city

New day dawning over the city

After being led deliciously astray by sommelier Alain – a guy who knows far too much about wine and wants you to try every drop – I reeled my way back to the hotel and kept the curtains open as I curled up in bed so that I could see that view. In the early morning at dawn it just got better.

The Pinnacle has a huge patio which they have open in the warmer months and I’m already making plans to head back on that ferry and get a heaped plate of those amazing seafood nachos to enjoy with a few cocktails and watch my new city light up as the sun sets.

I stayed and ate as a guest of The Pinnacle Pier and Pier 7. My views are 100% my own and I am definitely going back once it stops raining!

Find out more about Vancouver’s North Shore

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