Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cafeteria on Main

Head out early or go late to try Cafeteria on Main at 11th. They take no reservations and the restaurant is small. The menu changes a bit every day so you may never see the food below.

There are only 5 starters and five entrees and although the menu says no substitutes, they happily accommodate vegetarians or allergies. With no entrees over $20, this restaurant offers value.

The menu is displayed on both walls and I found the wine list difficult to read so asked for an appropriate glass of wine for my meal. A Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc was a safe choice I was happy with.

Strangely, they don’t serve coffee but offer Cold Caffeine; coffee brewed with star anise and cinnamon and served cold with cinnamon foam. Being typical Vancouver coffee snobs I actually sneered at the suggestion but David had to try it and was pleasantly surprised. I admire them for trying something other than serving mediocre coffee.

Here are our choices:

Steamed Mussels with Fennel and Chili was served with Chorizo as well but there was no problem adjusting it to suit our meatless request. I always try the mussels and these were some of the best I’ve had lately, the broth was balanced perfectly with the flavours of chili and fennel, and the presentation with all of the mussels standing up in the dish clearly displaying the plump treasures inside was delightful.




Tuna Tataki Spicy Pineapple Salsa. Big hit here, David thought of ordering another for dessert. Our very knowledgable server said the sauce was Nobu inspired. We’ll be going back hoping this is on the menu again.




Potato Carmelized Onion and Taleggio Ravioli with Chanterelles. Topped with both chanterelles and morels and a little salad, the ravioli covered a mushroom puree that was rich and satisfying. The perfect vegetarian dish.




Snapper Black and Gold Tagliatelle Tomato Vongole. Two pieces of local snapper with a lovely crisped finish topped the pasta. I think there should have been a bit more pasta to make the dish perfect but the vongole circling the plate were lovely.




One bite of David’s dessert told me the Dulce de Leche Yoqhurt Mousse with Apples and Pecans was incredible.



We will return.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Oceania Cruise Party at The Travel Group

Last night at The Travel Group we had a wine and cheese tasting to represent the ports of call on an Oceania Cruise with Jacques Pepin.

We had cheeses from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Morocco prepared by Allison from Les amis du Fromage and matched with BC wines in the European style chosen by Leah from Kensington Square Wines.

We started with Spain and a sparkling wine; the gold winning See Ya Later Ranch Brut. It really worked with my personal favourite, salty potato chips and more to the point a Manchego with cherry compote and Spanish almonds.




Since the cruise spends 2 nights in Bordeaux, France we had a Cedar Creek 2006 Meritage that paired perfectly with a Pierre Robert triple cream and French fig preserve. Based on the number of empties I'd say it was a hit.



Portugal was a whole new experience for us. We tried a Quail's Gate Fortified Vintage Foch with a semi soft sheep milk cheese called Queijos Casa Matias and a cow cheese - Dom Villas. The Quince paste was delightful, especially with the Queijos. The Fortified wine is like a Port. I don't have an appreciation for Port. YET! Sometimes scares me how these things come about and I don't need another wine to love.




Italy was represented by a Sandhill 2007 Small Lots Sangiovese and a Gray Monk 2009 Pinot Gris. For cheese we had a Gorgonzola and Piave Vecchio,a beautiful cheese that I hadn't tried before it was firm and fruity. This one will move onto a regular rotation at TTG's Friday wine down. The sangiovese is a personal favourite.




Finally we had a Fromage frais with honeycomb and pomegranate seeds served with mint tea to represent Morocco. What a combination! It was excellent! I can't wait to try it again. There are leftovers. Always a good thing.




Many thanks to everyone who came, ate, drank on such a dark and dreary night.



Friday, November 26, 2010

Wine and cheese tasting today at The Travel Group

What does Merlot do to Cabernet? Cage match – Sumac Ridge Private Reserve 2007 Merlot vs. Cedar Creek 2007 Cabernet Merlot. Same vintage, both well under $20.

I’ve heard that Syrah is the “fix it” grape for Cabernet that has a hard time ripening in the Okanagan, let’s see what Merlot does.

We have 3 cheeses; a 12 month Manchego, a triple cream brie from Chateau de Bourgogne and from Italy a Crotonese Calabrese, sheep with red pepper, we’ve never tried this one before so I’m looking forward to the taste and the response

Schokolade Cafe, Vancouver

I visited Schokolade for some Christmas shopping today. This is my third visit and each time I like it more. These people are serious about chocolate and pastry and I'm thankful.

Couverture chocolate encases each beautiful piece. Fillings are fresh and local where possible. The big box packaging is beautiful, my favourite extravagant hostess gift. Bring it back for a refill and you get 2 extra chocolates free. They have one client that returns every month for a refill. It’s that kind of chocolate and packaging.

I’ve tried a couple of pastries and they are also good. Today they had a Swiss croissant, stuffed with hazelnuts, a traditional Swiss breakfast food. I brought a half dozen back to the office and they were a BIG hit. If you have lots of Aeroplan points you can cash in 5,000 for a chocolate making class held once a month for Aeroplan members.

Schokolade Café, 2263 East Hastings Street, Vancouver

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Breakfast at Corner Suite Bistro


Louis XIII chairs dipped in turquoise rubber and a hand crafted Venus Century espresso machine set the tone for this sophisticated room. I tried the oatmeal brulee, fresh squeezed OJ, a croissant and an Americano. The oatmeal with stewed fruit was excellent, the OJ was generous and chilled and the coffee good enough for a second. The croissant is baked fresh in house but if you are used to Patisserie LeBeau, Thomas Hass or La Baguette you won’t be impressed. I can’t wait to go back and try lunch or dinner. With 30 to 40 cheeses on hand at any time as well as a thoughtful wine list and a beautiful bar this could be my new favourite place.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Groupie Feature by Grace Ho: VIETNAMESE CUISINE AND A COOKING CLASS

No visit to Vietnam would be complete without participating in a cooking class to learn about the flavours in Vietnamese cuisine which are unique, delicate, exotic, complex, fresh and light. Their food reflects the strong influences of Cantonese cooking, having been occupied by the Chinese for 1,000 years, as well as Thai and Malay influences, with a bit of French twist having been under their control centuries later for a 100 years.

I joined the Hanoi Cooking Centre’s half day cooking class. The school is run by an Australian ex-pat, Tracey, who had previously taught cooking in her homeland. There were individual cooking stations for 2 people for hands-on lessons. The dishes prepared during the lesson were enjoyed at the end of the class.

The class started with a trip to the market where the locals buy their food. It is unlike any market found in North American. At the entrance to the market we stopped at a small grocery stall to learn about the packages of dried rice vermicelli, noodles, sauces, dehydrated mushrooms, etc and they also had various eggs on display. The most interesting was the “balut”, a fertilized duck egg which is just about to be hatched. The Vietnamese prefer the “balut” matured to the point when the embryo is recognizable as a baby duck. Tracey, our instructor, purchased 2 to for us to taste during our class.

Entering the market was quite an experience, each section sells something different. The meat section sold pork, goat, lamb and beef, all displayed on an open unrefridgerated counter. The woman selling the meat sits bare feet right on the counter. The locals shopping for the meat would ride their motor-cycles right into the market and up to the counter to make their purchase.

THE MEAT COUNTER

As nothing is wasted in Vietnam, the next section displayed various organ meats like lungs, hearts, livers, intestines, bladder of pigs and cows, duck tongues, kidneys and animal blood. Here we also saw a yellowish pile of live larvae. A bag of larvae was purchased for us to taste.

NOTHING IS WASTED

Fortunately, the next area was not used at this time of the month as this was where dog meat is sold during the second part of the lunar month when you would see dog meat hanging. It is commonly eaten in Vietnam and is believed to raise the libido of men!

There was a seafood area where the catch of the day are kept live in large plastic buckets. Occasionally, a fish would jump out of the bucket and be seen flapping away on the ground. Adjacent to this was the bounty from the paddy fields, the paddy crabs, eels, frogs and snails. A woman was squatting in her little stall with a basket full of frogs. She would grab a frog by its hind-legs, give it a hard whack on the counter and proceed to slit the frog open to clean it for her customers.

SNAILS FROM THE PADDY FIELDS

Finally, we came to counters that were piled high with fresh vegetable and herbs.

Back at the school we learnt to make some of the Vietnamese Street Foods for which Hanoi is famous. Interestingly, in Vietnamese food, you will find the balance of 5 flavours: sweet and salty, spicy, sour and bitter. This creates the delicate flavours of the food which is laced with limes and lemongrass, fresh chilies, vinegars, coconut milk and the signature taste of so many Vietnamese dishes, the light and pungent fermented fish sauce, “Nuoc Nam”. Fresh vegetables and herbs are the main ingredients of every dish.

The “balut” was boiled and then the whole egg served with salt and pepper or lime juice. The beak, eyes and shape of the duckling was clearly recognizable. All the contents of the egg is eaten. The larvae were stir fried with some seasoning. Although I am adventurous with food, I just could not make myself taste either dish. Both dishes are definitely not for the faint of heart and I was the only one in the class who fell into this category.

We ended our class with a delicious lunch of the dishes we prepared:
Pho Bo – Beef Noodle soup, West Lake Prawn Cakes, Vegetable pickle, Pho Cuon – Beef Rice Noodle rolls, Green Papaya Salad and finally a desert, Banana Che.

The cooking class was an amazing experience and a fun way to get some insight into Vietnamese food.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bierbrasserie Cambrinus


Bierbrasserie Cambrinus is the place to go if you like beer. They have over
400 beers on their menu and much of the food is cooked with beer. Reasonable
prices and good food in a lively atmosphere. A good casual food night out in
the centre of town. www.cambrinus.eu/english.htm

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wagamama, London


These noodle bars are everywhere in London. I saw one in Heathrow this time. We’ve eaten here 4 times now and each time the food was good quality, fresh, and fast. The prices will help lower your average cost per meal.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Nam Kee in Amsterdam


If we can get a good recommendation we like to try Chinese food when we travel and Nam Kee came highly recommended. The house specialty is Oysters and these were beautiful. Not for the faint of heart; if you have any fear of oysters, these aren’t the ones for you. But if you love the ugly monsters, do go, dig in, slurp on. Nam Kee Zeedijk 111 – 113.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Brasserie Roux, London


We stayed at the Sofitel St James in London. This is our favourite hotel in London for rooms, location and cofee. Brasserie Roux serves a pot of coffee that makes me happy to settle in behind a newspaper and enjoy the start of every day in my favourite city. We also tried a pre theatre meal at Roux and weren’t disappointed. Albert Roux consults on all things food at Sofitel St James and lends his name to the brasserie. This is Michelin food without the cost of those stars. Time it right and you can have a short walk after dinner to your show. A perfect evening.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Bridges in Amsterdam


Even if you aren’t lucky enough to stay at the Sofitel Amsterdam be sure to have a meal at Bridges. I had the best mussels I’ve eaten in my life and I’ve eaten the lovely bivalves a long time. Bridges restaurant at the Sofitel Amsterdam is a modern restaurant that exudes northern European chic. The mussels were served on the half shell. Impressive. Bridges (at the Sofitel), Oudezijds Voorburgwal 197.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cheeses in Amsterdam

Tip: Canada Customs allows hard and semi hard cheeses back into Canada. Technically you can bring 20 kilos or $20 worth of cheese back into Canada. I don’t know where you can buy 20 kilos of cheese for $20 or who would want to eat such a thing. In practice I’ve never been asked about the specific value of my cheese but have been asked whether the cheese was runny, soft or liquid and if it was packaged with a shrink wrap.



Reypenaer Cheese Tasting Room Amsterdam is a delight for the cheese lover. 182 at the South East corner of the Nine Little Streets it’s a must for food lovers visiting the city. http://www.wijngaardkaas.nl/en/proeflokaal

Reypenaer XO is the Wijngaard families King of Cheeses. They claim that the cheese factory itself contributes to the maturation process so important to this cheese. The accumulation of micro organisms and aroma aged into the wood of the building built in 1906 on the Rhine river are factors in the flavour of this protein and fat rich cow cheese. This specialty gouda must be aged at least one year to be called Reypenaer, the XO loses approximately a quarter of it’s weight in the aging process.




De Kaaskamer van Amsterdam Runstaat 7 is a member of SlowFood . Also in the Nine Little Streets they carry nearly 400 cheeses. Here you’ll find the best cheeses of Holland and Europe along with wine, salads and lots of great take away.


Kaashandel Wout Arxhoek Damstraat 17 – 19 carries an excellent variety of cheeses but I especially like their selection of small round goudas and specialty Dutch products. A trip to this store right off Dam Square could take care of all your shopping.

Au Vieux Bruxelles


In Brussels we loved Au Vieux Bruxelles www.auvieuxbruxelles.com - casual, no reservations, opens at 5:30pm. We had sole 3 ways on the good recommendation of our friendly and helpful server. There were a lot of happy diners there.

Sint-Bonifaasstraat 35
1050 Brussel ( Elsene ), België
02 503 31 11

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Wolseley


The Wolseley, (160 Piccadilly), breakfast, lunch, dinner for exquisite high-end food. (Loved breakfast!)

One of the best places for breakfast in London.

160 Piccadilly
160 Piccadilly, London W1J 9EB, United Kingdom
020 7499 6996

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Restaurant Perraudin


www.restaurant-perraudin 157 rue Saint Jacques, left bank is a traditional brasserie. Six of us enjoyed everything we ordered. Bustling and noisy but lot's of fun.

RESTAURANT PERRAUDIN
157, rue Saint Jacques
75005 Paris
Tél. : 01 46 33 15 75 - Fax : 09 50 46 15 75
Email : RESTAURANT.PERRAUDIN@ORANGE.FR

Monday, April 26, 2010

Le Christine


Le Christine www.restaurantlechristine.com also on the left bank won't disappoint.

1 Rue Christine
75006 Paris, France
01 40 51 71 64

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Le Reminet


For consistantly delicious and imaginative food that's not crazy expensive Le Reminet hasn't disappointed us yet. Close to Notre Dame on the left bank.

3 Rue des Grands Degrés
75005 Paris, France
01 44 07 04 24
www.lereminet.com

Monday, April 5, 2010

Oru

Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel
Vancouver, BC, V6C 0B9
Canada
Phone: (604) 695-5300
www.orucuisine.com

In Vancouver, for a night of in-expensive but fine dining, Oru is a sweeping expanse of floor to ceiling windows framing a series of stunning portraits of Coal Harbour, the New state of the art Vancouver Convention Centre as well as the beautiful North Shore Mountain Range. Oru named after the Japanese word meaning to fold, the restaurant is crafted around a magnificent Origami sculpture and specialises in traditional and authentic Pan-Asian style dishes from the Pacific Rim.


Dishes are creatively crafted and beautifully executed to achieve an optimal culinary experience that can be shared among friends and family. The Nasi Goreng and the Murgh Makhani (tandoor roasted chicken) are just a sample of the wonderful tastes offered amongst a very inviting atmosphere with excellent service.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

La Camarilla


Sunday afternoons are made for strolling La Latina in Madrid. The streets are alive with people eating, drinking and having a good time. We managed to get a table at La Camarilla, the staff were accomodating and the food creative and delicious. Reminded me of the French Quarter in New Orleans.

www.lacamarillarestaurante.com