Vancouver


1
Aug 13

Adventures on Vancouver’s North Shore: Kayaking at Deep Cove

Get ready to take the plunge

Get ready to take the plunge

I’m not a sporty person. I fall too much. Slip over. Lose my balance and hurt myself. I’m a natural-born loser when it comes to competing with Vancouverites who seem to be always racing up mountains on the thigh-burning Grouse Grind, gracefully paddleboarding across the silky waters of English Bay or merrily gliding along on rollerblades. I may as well book myself a nice bed in hospital before even starting out on any of those. But it seems like I may have found a sport that even I can’t screw up: kayaking.

No one told me that it was possible to do exercise and enjoy a doughnut at the same time, yet that was precisely what I did half-way through my happy paddle along Indian Arm at Deep Cove. I thoughtfully bit into my glazed doughnut, paddle balanced across my kayak, and beamed with delight at the mountains soaring up before me, the hills green with dense woodland and the sea an endless midnight blue bobbing all around me.

The perfect view

The perfect view

I was anxious before I started. If anyone was going to wind up soaking wet, clinging to the kayak and embarrassed it was almost certainly going to be me, but I was told that no, it was ‘almost impossible’ to fall out of this kind of kayak (once I’d got over my initial fear I tried wriggling about to see just how true that was and I felt perfectly safe).

Getting from the kayak to the water was a concern but happily all I had to do was get comfy and settle myself inside it on the little beach by the water. I would be pushed into the water rather than having to try and shuffle down myself. The only ‘technical’ information was about the rudder which is controlled by your feet. You adjust little straps to bring the peddle close enough and then press right to turn right and left for left. Easy!

Look! Doing sport! (Doughnut out of sight).

Look! Doing sport! (Doughnut out of sight).

There’s a tremendous sense of accomplishment with kayaking, you can feel like you’ve got the hang of things incredibly fast. Within ten minutes I’d worked out that I could paddle in a circle, stop, go backwards – I felt like this was something that I could easily do again. And wow – what a place to do it.  I’d taken the ferry from the heart of Vancouver across to the North Shore – just a few minutes – but I was deep in dazzling nature after a brief car ride. Deep Cove is gorgeous: just beautiful. We’d stopped in at Honey’s to get doughnuts on the way to the kayak hire shop, later we’d enjoy a post-paddle feast of perfectly-crisp calamari and a garlicy humous with summery Aperol Spritzes at the Arms Reach Bistro. I may have been less than an hour away from the bustle of Vancouver but I felt I was on holiday. Feels like fun’s always a sure thing on the North Shore.

Reward for a good day kayaking.

Reward for a good day kayaking.

I paddled along as a guest of Vancouver’s North Shore tourism – but as ever – views are 100% my own. You should do this: it’s fun! 

Find out more:

Vancouver’s North Shore Tourism  

Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak


26
Jul 13

Blueberry season hits BC

Image

Image courtesy of Sunday Morning Ice Cream

One of the (many, many) things that I adore about Vancouver is the way that people live and eat seasonally. I was wondering what summer would bring after a spot prawn and halibut late spring: it seems that it’s all about the berries and stone fruits and king of all is the blueberry. Last weekend’s UBC Blueberry Fest on the Triple O’s patio, with its pancake breakfast and chef demos kicked off this year’s season. But beyond what I’m told is the ‘traditional’ White Spot blueberry pie, bakers, ice cream makers and chefs across the city are showcasing their best blueberry-inspired creations. I plan to dig in while they’re fresh and in store…

Newbie to the Van food cart scene, Johnny’s Pops has blueberry cardamom and blueberry mojito ‘artisan popsicles’ from his ‘can’t miss’  red bike with the cooler on the front. You can usually find him along the seawall by the Olympic Village, but check to avoid playing ‘Where’s Johnny?’.

Bella Gelateria have a BC blueberry sorbetto and my favourite ice cream people, the Sunday Morning Ice Cream have a creamy blueberry and sweet basil which you can catch at the Chinatown Night Market. Earnest (whose salt caramel flavour is one of the best in the world) are keeping a lid on what they’ll be doing so far but co-owner Erica Bernardi mailed me to say that “Last year we made a blueberry cheesecake flavour. We’ll definitely make another blueberry flavour this year.” Can’t wait!  Cocolico has both a chocolate bar and a chocolate spread using local blueberries on sale in all their usual outlets, including Edible Canada.

Blue Breeze Jay Jones cocktailI got a sneak preview of Jay Jones‘s Blue Breeze blueberry cocktail yesterday. Made with Absolut Grapevine Vodka, Fresh BC Blueberry Syrup, Lime juice, Fentimans Ginger Beer and garnished with blueberries & mint it’s incredibly refreshing and dangerously more-ish. It reminded me of a deliciously drinkly melted ice pop. Perfect for patio season, it’s going to be the The Three Brits pub’s Absolut Community Vancouver Pride Society cocktail - so drink up! It’s for a good cause.

Langley’s organic A Bread Affair bakery have a blueberry and hazelnut whole wheat and sprouted wheat loaf, ‘Love At First Bite’ from Cedar Isle Farm in Agassiz; the hazelnuts are from Abbotsford and blueberries from BC. It’s sweet and matches well with charcuterie.
Lucky’s Doughnuts have a limited edition blueberry Berliner and Cartems have two: a blueberry strawberry compote stuffed donut and a blueberry lavender glazed.Love At First Bite

Chefs getting in on the blueberry trend include Ned Bell at Yew who appeared on Global TV last week with a BC salmon and blueberries recipe and both Tableau and Forage are offering pickled blueberry dishes.
Save the date for the culmination of All Things Blueberry in BC with the Cloverdale Blueberry festival on Saturday August 19th with its legendary pie eating contest.


25
Jul 13

New summer menu deconstructed at Forage

ForageThe new season summer menus are hitting boards across town. I spent the post-breakfast lull with Chef Whittaker in the Forage kitchen, watching how to make one of the dishes from his new menu.

Forage chef Chris Whittaker is best known for his commitment to sustainable farm-to-table eating. Forage’s new summer menu launched this week with a stand-out dish of Hannah Brook Farm watercress, garlic scapes, 64° egg, bison bone marrow croutons and mushroom ‘soil’.

Forage “All the ingredients in this salad – this is the stuff I wait for all year to get back into business with.” Whittaker says. “The croutons in bison bone marrow bring a robust meatiness to the dish, we use Alberta bison which are hormone and antibiotic-free and grass fed. The eggs are from Richmond’s Rabbit River and the greens from Maple Ridge – where I live. The watercress really excites me: it’s flavourful and peppery, so the croutons need to be weighty enough and the egg has to be cooked a certain way to hold into the salad. Then we add “soil” of dried morels which are in full swing right now across BC with freshly-ground local hazelnuts.”

ForageTo make the dish, Chris starts with the garlic scapes, blanching them in salted boiling water for a minute and then plunging them into iced water. They’re set aside to grill at the last minute. Next a generous scoop of clarified rendered bison bone marrow is spooned into a pan and heated. Chris hand-tears bread to toss in the fat to make croutons. They are sauteed in the pan for a few minutes until golden-brown and then drained on paper.

ForageWhile all this has been going on, the eggs are cooking in a combi-oven at 64 degrees for 45 minutes. They’re removed from the heat and doused under a cold tap to stop the cooking process.

Forage The scapes are dipped in the remaining bison fat and flame-grilled and the salad dressed with a red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing (3 parts oil 1 part vinegar). Forage

The dish is plated with the croutons tossed across the peppery leaves and scapes, with the egg resting on top. “It’s a great dish,” says Whittaker, “As the season changes and evolves so will the ingredients, so once the garlic scapes are over we’ll put radishes or dried tomatoes in instead.”Forage


15
Jul 13

Join the club: Toronto Ritz Carlton

Some names bring with them an almost-too-high expectation of luxury. Tiffany’s for example; it’s impossible to say it out loud and not imagine the gleam and glitter of diamonds. I felt the same about the Ritz, the name alone conjures up images of crisp uniforms, chauffeur-driven Bentleys purring at the kerb, silver salvers and the click of designer heels skittering across a marble floor. Romantic? Me? Well, maybe a little. But that’s the thing with big-name hotels they have a lot to live up to.

Might this be a tad too much in my flat?

Might this be a tad too much in my flat?

So, high expectations for the Ritz on my first stay, but you know what? The Ritz Carlton didn’t get to be The Ritz Carlton without delivering on the promises that its name makes. I was already delighted in the time it took me to get from the door to the reception desk – coppery maple leaves embossed on the shiny marble floor, the glittering chandelier-art that bounced light around the spacious lobby and the Canadiana art on the walls – all were lovely (I later discovered that the Ritz has some 450 Canadian works of art dotted around the hotel – better than some art galleries!). My grin got even broader as I was told that I was staying ‘in the club’ so I got escorted by an equally delighted staff member “Oh, you are in for such a treat…” up to the 20th floor to check in.

I’d been unaware of the Ritz’s ‘hotel within a hotel’ concept – but here it is: if you don’t think you’re already being spoiled silly then you can take things up a notch and book in to Club Level which gives you access to a private check-in and lounge which has an impressive food and drinks programme all day and evening, offering time-appropriate snacks, from breakfast and juices through to hors d’oeuvres, wine and sweets. It has a fabulous view of Lake Ontario and the CN Tower from its squashy sofas and comfy seats. I popped in a few times and there was always a happy buzz about the room – I loved that it was full of people who seemed to be genuinely appreciating it – there was no eye-rolling sense of entitlement here which was a really pleasant surprise.

Club level: you've arrived...

Club level: you’ve arrived…

After check in it was time to check out my room; I’m always amused when I stay in a suite that’s clearly larger than my flat at home and this had to be at least double if not triple the size with a picture-perfect view of the Tower from the floor to ceiling windows. I kept my curtains open all night – impossible to stop watching the tower glowing different colours – at one point it lit up in a kind of dreamy shimmer, for all the world like the Aurora Borealis, it was superb.

There’s a kind of fantasy bubble that the best sort of hotel makes you feel you’ve stepped into when you stay; everything is beautiful, nothing feels like too much trouble, the staff are friendly but never obsequious and you feel genuinely delighted to just be there and glide around the public areas with a slightly foolish grin on your face. I spent almost the whole time I was at the Ritz with precisely that daft grin on my face. For once, the reality is just as good as the legend – I felt more spoiled than a Kardashian when I left, but oh! so much more classy.

Love this view!

Love this view!

The Ritz Carlton are currently running a ‘Treat You‘ package which I think is a pretty good deal. It starts from $750CAN a night – BUT! that’s for two people and includes Club Level access (so that’s breakfast, mid-day meal, light snacks, hors d’oeuvres, alcoholic beverages and sweets – all included) plus roundtrip airport transfers, internet access AND – if you book for two nights you get the third for free. The perfect ‘champagne’ experience for ‘cava’ prices. Ts & Cs – of course – apply.

I travelled as a guest of Tourism Toronto and stayed as a guest of the Ritz Carlton – all views are, however 100% my own. I just really, really enjoyed this!  

For more info:

Ritz Carlton.

Address: 181 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5V 3G7

Phone: (416) 585-2500


10
Jul 13

East of Main Cafe: Food with a heart and soul

Food production has such a ‘butterfly effect’ on the world; grow fruit and veg with pesticides and you affect the eco-system, grow them with the wrong kind and you affect the life of bees, which affects every one of us. Get those chemicals in the food chain and water supply and it can have a serious affect on health and fertility - a butterfly flaps its wings and half a world away, everything changes… 

I was thinking about how small things can have a huge effect as I listened to 12-year old Celestine Hilechi, singing her heart out for us at the Project Limelight event at the East of Main Cafe. She was fantastic, eyes lit up with pure joy, she radiated happiness and a dash of star quality and thanks to the Project Limelight programme, she’s learning how to express that and now has the confidence to sing – unaccompanied no less – to a room of strangers.

Project Limelight's songbird, the fantastic Celestine

Project Limelight’s songbird, the fantastic Celestine

To put this into a little context, I should explain a little; walking through parts of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side (DTES) always feels like a shock; there are serious homelessness and substance abuse and addiction issues, whole blocks are taken up with shopping cart-pushing addicts. I say again – after the beauty of the surrounding area, the pure gorgeousness of Vancouver as a city – the grinding poverty of the DTES is a nasty shock. It’s an area that needs help and needs support and there are businesses who are taking up the challenge.

Project Limelight is a charity founded by sisters Maureen Webb and Donalda Weaver, both born and raised in the DTES with successful careers in the film business (respectively as a casting director and owner and manager of a studio) who wanted to give back to their community. Project Limelight works with at-risk kids aged between 8-15 in the neighbourhood – children who typically wouldn’t get within shouting distance of creative theatre work – and pulls them into a hard-working, fiercely disciplined programme. Each session lasts for four months running three days a week. At the end of the four months the children perform an impressively professional full-length production which lets them show off the skills they’ve learned.

Project Limelight's Maureen Webb and Donalda Weaver with Chef Tina Fineza

Project Limelight’s Maureen Webb and Donalda Weaver with Chef Tina Fineza

I must admit – I was a theatre group kid – I loved the fun, the sense of community and the freedom of expression that it taught me. I made great friends and learned about the importance of showing up and doing your absolute best. But I was lucky – I had a stable family life, having that three-days-a-week rock of normality (plus a free healthy meals and snacks) must mean the world to some of those children. And you can imagine the immense effect that four months of positive attention can have – when this butterfly flaps its wings it changes the whole direction that a child’s life can go in.

They rehearse upstairs from the East of Main cafe where 100% of their profits go towards the Project Limelight Society. That’s reason alone to go there – but of course, because it’s Vancouver, food with a heart has a soul too. Talented Chef Tina Fineza has designed a  pan-Mediterranean tapas-style sharing plates menu, packed with fresh and spicy flavours, taking a delicious journey across the world wherever it touches the Med. Hop from a ras el hanout-spiced lamb tagine from Tunisia to an aromatic aubergine (eggplant) Greek moussaka to (my favourite) an Italian raw courgette fragrant with lemon with a faint crunch of pistachio.

Simple and just delicious

Simple and just delicious

It’s a perfect storm of good intentions resulting in great things; an excellent menu in a cute venue, where your money goes directly to helping out a brilliant cause, which then affects the lives of those around you. This butterfly’s wings are certainly flapping in the right direction. Go join in and flap yours too.

Find out more: 

East of Main cafe www.eastofmaincafe.com/

Address: 223 E Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6A 2Z9

Phone:(604) 899-2777


9
Jul 13

Five Rules for Successfully Ordering Room Service

There's something rather stylish about curry accompanied by a starched tablecloth

There’s something rather stylish about curry accompanied by a starched tablecloth

Despite staying in dozens of hotels each year, I could count the times I’ve ordered room service on one hand – I’m usually whizzing around, trying to fit in as many restaurants, bars and sights in whatever city I’m visiting to spend too much time in my hotel room. That’s why I got excited when I stayed at the Four Seasons in Toronto as they invited me to check out their in-room dining programme. Really? After a long flight AND an early start I could just… relax?! Hold me back…

There’s a kind of glamour and old-world decadence to that heated cart covered in heavy, beautifully-ironed white linen trundling to your room. But I discovered that it takes a certain level of skill to successfully order from a room service menu – a skill that I, as a rookie, did not have.

Toronto is known as being a city of neighbourhoods and I thought it was a neat touch that the menu reflected this with a ‘Streets of Toronto’ section – butter chicken from Little India, a souvlaki sandwich inspired by Greektown  - I wanted to hop around town so picked the butter chicken, a maple-braised pork belly pad Thai, a starter of BC Dungeness crab popcorn and I couldn’t resist the Nanaimo Bar with Brown Butter ice cream too. When presented with ice cream as room service you order it, right? Just to see if it makes it to the room or melts on the cart.

Crunchy - and I really liked the salsa.

Crunchy – and I really liked the salsa.

About half an hour after ordering it all arrived and after taking a few photos I dived in. I eyed the ice cream with some trepidation – it looked good on its bed of ice – would it manage to not disappear into a puddle before I got to it? First up the popcorn crab; the breaded shell was still crunchy, the crab was tender  and the lemon-saffron aioli it came with just tangy enough. It was good, but not great – it was like ordering something fresh from a fryer and then leaving it for half an hour – which, to be fair – was pretty much what I had done, although, of course, the heated cabinet had kept it warm.

The noodles were prettiest so they were next; alas, they were kind of gummy. Like a teething baby, they had not travelled well. I nibbled on a few veggies before heading for the cashew and raisin-studded butter chicken, which – I can definitely say is THE thing to order. Heaven on a plate with just the right balance between that sweet, creamy buttery taste and the warm glow of spice and heat. The rice hadn’t dried up and the time in the heater hadn’t hurt the curry at all.

The ice cream was a little liquid around the edges by the time I dug in but oh! It didn’t matter at all. It was ridiculously good. I wished I’d had time during my stay to go and have some more. It was up there on the deliciousness stakes with my adventures with the Sunday Morning Ice Cream club…

So, my Five Rules for Successfully Ordering Room Service are…

* Think ‘what would be best as a take away’?

* Anything that can tolerate sitting in a warmer works – curries, soups etc.

* Anything that should be gobbled up fresh off the griddle or out of a wok does not.

* Anything that’s deep-fried probably won’t be at its best but will still be good if you’re craving stodge.

* If there is ice cream – order it anyway – even a little puddly it’s better than NOT ordering it. And slurping it up whilst dressed in a robe, flicking between channels, eating off a gorgeous crisp white tablecloth-draped table – unbeatable.

I stayed in Toronto as a guest of Toronto Tourism and the Four Seasons. However – as always – my views are 100% my own. 

 Find out more: 

Four Seasons, 60 Yorkville Ave  Toronto, ON M4W 0A4, Canada
Tel: +1 416-964-0411

Toronto Tourism

 

 


1
Jul 13

Two things I Just Remembered Which Utterly Delighted Me About the Four Seasons in Toronto

This is very silly and completely brilliant.

This is very silly and completely brilliant.

1. They have the most gloriously bonkers watering system in their garden. Really. It’s a giant – and amusingly effective – misting device. I saw it working and raced to run through it. Pleasingly refreshing, I felt as though I had plunged into an 80s music video as I was suddenly obscured from view by the clouds of mist. Fantastic! Cute design and I loved the metal cut-outs of flowers too.

I'm having serious problems trying to NOT lick the screen right now

I’m having serious problems trying to NOT lick the screen right now

2. I had breakfast at Cafe Boulud and tried the absurdly decadent duck confit hash. This is a crazy thing to eat first thing in the morning but oh, damn – it was brilliant. Just fabulous. The duck confit was as meltingly-perfect as you would ever wish a confit to be, the hash – mysteriously – not really what I’d call a hash at all. Instead eggily-yellow Yukon potatoes – that were surely part-butter – rested under the tangle of duck with two free-range eggs on top. I am drooling just thinking about how wonderful it all was when the yolk met the duck and the potatoes. If you are in Toronto you really should go and have this. It’s fabulous.

I travelled as a guest of Toronto Tourism and the Four Seasons – but as ever – my views are 100% my own. 

Find out more: 

Four Seasons, 60 Yorkville Ave  Toronto, ON M4W 0A4, Canada
Tel: +1 416-964-0411

Toronto Tourism


1
Jul 13

Toronto: Four Seasons hotel and spa

Stunning high ceiling lobby

Stunning high ceiling lobby

The first thing I did when I arrived at the Four Seasons in Toronto was get lost. Later, I did it again in the spa and – just for good measure  – I got lost on the way to my room. Usually this would have me fizzing with rage but to be honest – it’s so ridiculously pretty that I almost didn’t mind at all. I asked about the baffling lack of signage and was told that signs were a-coming – once everyone could agree on fonts and size and so on – that is.

Fingers crossed when you get there, that’s all been sorted. But I have to say – there are many, many worse places to get lost and by being a little lost I did get to find a few things I may have otherwise missed. I admired the stunning floral arrangements – not something that I ever pay too much attention to if I’m honest, but these were magnificent. I looked up at the high, high ceilings and felt their calming influence so when I finally made it to reception I was all smiles.

Adore these cool shades

Adore these cool shades

The restful feeling in the lobby spreads throughout the hotel; I loved the colour palette of creams, a pale jade-y-turquoise, moss green accents and warm peach touches. In my room I spotted that a fabric-like covering had transformed an ordinary bathroom door into something special. I like that kind of detail. I had chance to soak all this up later as when I arrived I had chance to barely hurl my case into my room and gallop back downstairs again as I had a spa appointment scheduled. I almost clapped my hands with glee when I saw the pool; I love to swim and hotel pools tend to be lost in the basement so this light-flooded dream of a pool area made me long to hurl myself in at the deep end. Gorgeous.

The spa was glitteringly clean and bright, I spent 20 minutes warming up my muscles by stretching out in the unexpectedly large steam room in the changing room. Then, I took a quick shower, wrapped myself in my robe and curled up in a comfy chair, waiting for my therapist. I like the idea of the spa massage menu here – all at the same price point for times, you just choose which style and pressure you’d like and if you want 60-minutes or 90-minutes of bliss. I liked the look of the Asian Fusion – which promised to blend techniques from across Asia into one stress-relieving, energy-restoring treatment.

A rare - and lovely - sun-lit hotel pool

A rare – and lovely – sun-lit hotel pool

I’m always so happy when I experience something completely authentic in a Western spa that I’ve previously had in its original setting. I may have been in a spiify hotel spa with soft towels, chilled music and heated massage bed, but the techniques that my therapist used could have been straight from the little hut on the river where I had dazzling Ayurvedic massages in Sri Lanka or the all-Chinese spa that I used to visit in a Paris backstreet where no one spoke a word of French. It was one of those treatments when I felt like rolling around on the floor wailing “More! Please! More!” once it was over, but I managed to control myself and instead thanked her and lay there for a while, feeling like the exhaustion of the brutally early start, the delayed plane, the hours of travel – all of it – had just melted away.

I got a bit lost trying to find my locker and – indeed – the exit, but I was so delightedly chilled that I just enjoyed my confusion and floated back up to my room to watch the city lights sparkle and catch a spot of room service…

I travelled as a guest of Toronto Tourism and the Four Seasons – but as ever – my views are 100% my own. 

Find out more: 

Four Seasons, 60 Yorkville Ave  Toronto, ON M4W 0A4, Canada
Tel: +1 416-964-0411

Toronto Tourism

 


29
Jun 13

Fish and chips: a taste of home

I guess it would be traditional for me, as a Brit, to crave the taste of fish and chips. When I was growing up it was a regular Friday night treat – I guess a hangover from more religious times of always eating fish on a Friday. I loved to ride in the car to the chippie with my mum or dad and wait at the counter – that way I didn’t have to set the table, my brother would do that -  and it meant that I could enjoy the theatre of the chip-lady chatting to all the customers while handling the bubbling vats. I would rest my chin against the heat of the cabinet and watch; the chips flying out of the basket with her practiced flip, the delicate dipping of the fish fillets into the creamy-white liquid batter before being submerged in the fryer with a hiss and a fizz of bubbles.

I enjoyed her brisk ‘Sal’vinegar?’ (I don’t think anyone ever said no, but I always asked for extra vinegar) before she anointed the steaming crisp fish and chips with a good shake of both.  I’d stare at the pies, they seemed oddly mysterious, almost exotic in their golden cases – we were not a pie and chips family so I never got to try one until, I think, I was in my teens, when I became fiendishly addicted to the cheese and onion pies filled with a dense sauce that tasted so good with the salty chips and the tang of the vinegar. My mum, brother and I had cod and my dad alternated between chicken and haddock. If I was good I’d get a can of Dandelion and Burdock and sometimes a little container of gravy too.

A la recherche du fish and chips perdu

A la recherche du fish and chips perdu

I can taste those cod suppers now. Warm, satisfyingly fatty and oh – so, so good, they tasted of the start of the weekend and the end of school. Which is why I was feeling a little homesick the other day, I knew what would fix it; fish and chips friom the summer-season window counter of the Raincity Grill, a restaurant around the corner from my flat in the West End on English Bay.

I love the ethos of the Raincity Grill, they were the first restaurant in Vancouver to base their menu on the ’100 mile diet’ – ingredients gathered from a 100-mile radius – a philosophy built on sustainability, seasonal eating and cruelty-free farming. I ate dinner there a few months back and adored every mouthful. Heaven. It’s set at an amazingly good price point too but the real bargain is to be found at the window; fish and chips, with a tangy coleslaw salad and house-made tartare sauce all for $13 in a biodegradable carton.

Perfect flakes of heavenly fish.

Perfect flakes of heavenly fish.

The chips were pleasingly fat – crisp on the outside and almost buttery-soft inside. The fish was perfect; thick juicy flakes of fresh-caught local halibut wrapped in possibly the best batter I’ve ever had, light, crisp and without too much of a greasy aftertaste. I ate it on my balcony and it tasted like home and pure happiness. Just writing this on a Friday, a little after 6pm and I feel my tastebud-memory kicking in. I want to go and eat it again. I’d love one more of those family dinners, being small enough to rest my chin on the counter that now I’d most likely rest my elbows on. Like Proust had his madeleines, I guess I’ve got my fish and chips so when I’m in search of my ‘lost times’, I can go down to Raincity Grill and find them again.

Interested in the 100 mile diet? Read this great interview by Kat Tancock in Canadian Living.


26
Jun 13

Beef Dip at Black and Blue

Beef dip… people kept mentioning it online and it caught my attention… we don’t have ‘beef dip’ back in the UK. In fact, I’ll confess, I had no clue what a beef dip was – my guess was it was a kind of meaty pâté – so I threw it out on Twitter and got back a range of equally baffled suggestions… @anniebennett wondered if it was “something you can actually eat…” the @Priorytavern ventured that it was “…some kind of rendered fat/bone marrow kinda thing” and naughty @Traveltechgirl reckoned that “it means something rude…”.

Is it a bird? Is it a train? Um, no - it's a beef sandwich with gravy...

Is it a bird? Is it a train? Um, no – it’s a beef sandwich with gravy…

We were all wrong. It’s actually a much-loved North American classic of shaved prime rib roast beef on a toasted baguette served (as they call it) “au jus” which means with a flour-less gravy made from the meat juices, stock and wine. I gave it a whirl at Vancouver’s temple to all things Meaty and Marvellous; Black and Blue.

I rather love this place – there’s a spiffy summertime roof terrace that you get to via a lift, I’m told it’s got one of Vancouver’s “best secret date tables” (and trust me – I intend to check that out) but most importantly, it’s got a drool-inducing chilled cabinet of some of the finest cuts of meat on display. I asked about the welfare of the beasts used and was pleased by the reply – I was about to tuck into beef from cows raised in the “lush seaside fields of Prince Edward Island” – free-range and fed on potatoes! Read more about the beef here...

Rare cuts of superb steak on display at Black & Blue

Rare cuts of superb steak on display at Black & Blue

So how was it? My verdict – the UK is seriously missing out – I adored it. You *dunk* your beef sandwich into the jus, the bread soaking up all that gorgeous gravy, the soft texture balanced perfectly by the crunch of french fries; salty and crisp on the outside, fluffy and almost buttery on the inside.

My only regret? They weren’t outsourcing their baking because I’ve honestly never had such a good authentically French-style baguette since I moved away from France. I’m so sad I can’t go out early in the morning, as I used to in Paris, and buy one fresh from the oven. Still – I can always go back and eat another – and each Wednesday Black and Blue have a Beef Dip lunch special – for just $10. Bargain!

 Need to know: 

Black & Blue: 1032 Alberni St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2V6. Phone:(604) 637-0777

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