Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chives Bistro in Halifax had the very best table, great wine list and fantastic food.

We recently had dinner at Chives Canadian Bistro in downtown Halifax and it was a pleasure from the moment we walked up to the door.  There is a video screen outside showing what’s happening in the clean and efficient kitchen. What a great first impression.  Up the stairs and we were met with a warm and friendly greeting.  We had booked on Open Table and requested a quiet table.  Turns out we were in for a treat; they had booked us into their private dining room, “The Vault”, a leftover from when the space was The Bank of Nova Scotia. It also serves as home to their considerable wine cellar.   I felt very “safe” surrounded by the thick walls and racks of wine.  We tried an Oregon Pinot Noir from Domaine Drouhin; an excellent recommendation from George Davis, GM.  The meal was pretty fine, starting with a creative Greek Salad with roasted onions, fried panko crusted feta and poached garlic vinaigrette and Pan-Roasted Scallops with goat cheese, pickled beets, beet greens and honey buttermilk dressing.  For main courses I had Steelhead Trout with pak choi and mustard pickle, the fish was full flavoured enough to work with the mustard. David had the “Veg Millanesse”, panko crusted tofu with saffron parmesan risotto, sweet peas, olive tapenade and pesto and pronounced it the best vegetarian dish he’d had in memory.  We loved Chives, the food was creative, tasty and well-presented and the service was warm and efficient.  Casual and comfortable, they’ve been doing it for 10 years, so if you find yourself in Halifax you won’t go wrong booking Chives Canadian Bistro.

Chives Canadian Bistro
1537 Barrington Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Monday, May 28, 2012

Another wine weekend getaway to the Okanagan yields a couple of cases of excellent wines.

On a weekend getaway to BC wine country we drove through the Similkameen Valley and stopped at Seven Stones Winery.  George the winemaker is often at the counter and enjoys sharing his knowledge so we usually learn something new about wine.  Seven Stones makes some nice wines.  I especially like the Meritage, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  At least that’s what went into the trunk of our car.
Next stop was Watermark Resort to check out their Wine Bar and Patio.   I was expecting big things from the food with new chef Jonas Stadtlander making his mark.  We wanted a quick snack so chose the Dukkah Calamari with lentils, cilantro, onion puree and balsamic glaze.    I’d never heard of Dukkah which is a Middle Eastern blend of spices with ground almonds.  It sounded intriguing and turned out to be absolutely delicious.  We’ll be planning a meal there on our next visit.
Our final destination was our amazing villa at Hester Creek and dinner at Terrafina.  More about that in another entry.  It was a fantastic day ending in one of the loveliest rooms I’ve enjoyed in BC.  Hester Creek is one of my favourite wineries in BC.  They just seem to be doing everything right.  Breakfast in the Breezeway the next morning capped off an excellent stay.  I’d highly recommend a stay at the Villas at Hester Creek.

Day 2 and we have a lot of wineries to cover between Oliver and Vernon.  Thank you to every winery that opens at 10am.  Our first stop was Quinta Ferreira .  This is a family run winery with serious knowledge of making great wines and a beautiful tasting room with a wonderful art gallery.  Everything here is about friendly, comfortable good taste.  Next stop was Fairview Cellars.  Bill Eggert is the winery owner and  winemaker and he makes some seriously great red wines . A visit to Fairview Cellars is always a unique experience. This time I was able to taste some of the vintages I have stored to see how they were coming along.   I’d hoped to focus on wineries I hadn’t visited before but it’s tough to pass up some favourites.  Finally we visited Meyer Family Vineyards, a new one for us.  They have a reputation for great Pinot Noir, a couple of single vineyard releases that are killer.  They have a nice room and friendly knowledgeable staff.  Another new one for us was Wild Goose.   They were almost ready to move into their new tasting room and it looks beautiful. I was happy to get to try some of their Mystic River Pinot Blanc, and a Blanc du Noirs made from Pinot Noir and Merlot.  Finally I’ve been trying to taste a wine called Serenata from Serendipity Winery in Naramata but we just couldn’t find the winery so the Serenata quest is still on. 
By now hunger set in and we were headed for Local Lounge and Grill at the Summerland Resort.  This is a consistently good restaurant.  We’ve stayed at the resort before and I will again. 
Our final destination was Sparkling Hills Resort.  We had a beautiful room overlooking the lake and I was delighted to find they had expanded the spa hours to mornings and evening.  I spend an hour in the 7 saunas and steam rooms trying to sweat out some of the wine I’d consumed and curled up in the super comfy bed to watch “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”.    Nice end to a food and wine day in the Okanagan.
What a great weekend.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

El Bulli Cooking in Progress is a look at how Ferran Adria and team create the best restaurant in the world menu

El Bulli Cooking in Progress is an exciting documentary about the 6 month annual process to creation the menu they would serve for the next 6 months.  Now closed permanently the food crazy creators have had a major influence on what and how we eat today and probably tomorrow.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dinner at Terrafina Hester Creek Estate Winery and Villas. One of my favourite places in the Okanagan.

Who ever heard of a Smoked Trout and Prawn Pizza? We spent the night at the villas at Hester Creek Estate Winery so we were happy to have dinner at Terrafina.  Executive chef and co-owner Jeremy Luypen puts together a fantastic menu that reflects the season and place.  It has been clear to me both times we’ve eaten at Terrafina that the people really care about the restaurant and are all trying to make sure you are enjoying yourself.  The dining room and patio are both beautiful and comfortable.  We had 2 salads, a pizza and a halibut dish.  All were delicious but the Smoked Trout and Prawn Pizza with olive oil and sundried tomatoes was one of those things that you remember and could crave. Thin but chewy crust with crisp sweet prawns,  smoky trout and sundried tomatoes to add some high notes.  It was just amazing.  The halibut was perfectly cooked, flaky but not overdone, with an angel hair pasta in a light cream sauce that had some interesting depth of flavour.  We had a bottle of their Semillon Chardonnay from the library collection.  At $45 you would be hard pressed to find a bottle of wine of this calibre for that price in a restaurant anywhere.  Once again Hester Creek blows me away with the attention to detail, beauty and comfort of the place.  Don`t drive through the South Okanagan without visiting Hester Creek Estate Winery.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Joe Beef Montreal was Kitchy and fun but serious about food.

It’s hard to describe why I liked Joe Beef so much, the extensive menu and wine list on chalkboards is nearly impossible to read and seems daunting until you realize the person serving you really wants to engage in a conversation about what you like, what’s on the menu and what you might enjoy.  There was a good deal of talk about it and we never felt rushed.  When it came to wine she returned with 3 bottles of wine that she thought we might like and was happy to let us try.  So by then I was enjoying myself and pretty confident I was in for a good time.  I’m Pescetarian (just to be difficult), meaning, I eat fish, seafood, dairy products and veg but no chicken, pork, lamb, beef.  You get the picture, so a restaurant called Joe Beef seemed all wrong.  The name is a hat’s off to a 19th century Montreal working class innkeeper and has nothing to do with beef and everything to do with the personality of the restaurant and this one really does have a personality.  Bustling with happy people, talking about and dining on great food and wine, Joe Beef was my favourite restaurant on this trip. We shared a traditional French aioli plate of vegetables, fish and prawns with a thick, freshly made garlic mayonnaise to get the appetite charged.  A couple of us followed with the house special lobster spaghetti.  Fresh lobster partly cracked and easy to eat on a big bowl of al dente spaghetti in a rose sauce, I loved it with the suggested Sancerre.  Another amazing dish was the ribs with pommes frites.  The ribs were reported to be good and I can speak for the chips.  I love a good chip and these were pretty amazing.  I’d bet they were twice cooked and I’m glad I don’t live close enough to deal with the cravings they could create.  Joe Beef offered a unique experience, excellent food, generous servings and I loved the discussion of food as a way of ordering rather than just reading a menu.  

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Fox Harb'r Resort on the Northumberland Coast of Nova Scotia is remote and sophisticated.

We recently spent a long weekend at the Ensemble Travel Executive Retreat.    I was happy to be back in the Maritimes and felt at home in Nova Scotia.
Fox Harb’r Resort on the Northumberland Coast is remote.  I like that, especially when it’s also AWESOME!  Just a bit hard to find because they are so discreet, it’s the kind of hard that involves a couple of easy U turns in the middle of a country road, more fun than effort.  It’s a gated resort and there wasn’t a building in sight as we drove through the 1st grove of trees.  Past the private runway we came to a dozen or so buildings, each with several magnificent suites.  Another grove of trees and there was the Clubhouse with the Spa and Convention Centre beyond.  Rolling golf greens all around.
This is some place!  But this blog is mostly about food and wine so let’s get to what was so great about Fox Harb’r .  The People who served us, the bounty of the sea they brought to us and the level of entertainment they provided.  I have to GUSH!   Everyone I met was friendly, attentive without trying to become your new best friend.  They offered an exceptional level of service that is hard to pull off in a resort that is open seasonally.  We were the first group of the season so it was even more impressive.  The wine cellar and tasting room are Wine Spectator worthy and acknowledged.    Our first night was a feast of freshly shucked oysters, 3 kinds of mussels, prawns and scallops cooked right in front of us and salmon sliced fresh with a classic lemon dill sauce, all fresh, local and cooked perfectly.  As for the couple of hundred lobsters cooked the next night all I can say is thank you for it and the Chablis that matched up so well.  Great presentation, great party.  On our last morning we had a lobster benedict.  They warned us it would take 15 minutes to prepare because they had to butter poach the lobster fresh.   It was served on a freshly made biscuit, eggs poached perfectly, lightly drizzled with hollandaise.    I did not expect this kind of food at a remote golf resort
The entertainment, golf, skeet, spa, lecture rooms, all were stunning but I have to give a special shout out about the music. After our lobster bash the band Mary Mack took over the fun.   I couldn’t speak the next day from singing and that’s a fact.  I probably need to apologize to a couple of dozen people about that.  From the Rolling Stones to traditional music, Mary Mack showed us a great time.  Talent, a great set list and a love to play sets the stage every time.  Thanks. .
I’d highly recommend Fox Harb’r.  So many elements of perfection make for a world class resort.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Poutine is a must try if you are in Montreal. La Banquise has it all.

Poutine was on our must have list for Montreal and  we chose La Banquise.  They’ve been serving up poutine since 1968 are open 24hrs a day, currently offering 28 varieties.  We tried 4: the Classic (with veggie gravy), The Mexican (with tomatoes, black olives, hot peppers and veggie gravy), The Obelix (smoked meat and house gravy), and The Kamakazi  (chorizo and hot peppers with house gravy). There wasn't a lot left on the plates when we were done.  The fries were crisp, the curds squeaky and the grav, hot and tasty. Yummy!  This is not your everyday eating but could be addictive. Comes regular or large,  the large might be good if you don’t mind noshing down in a plate of chips and gravy with others but otherwise a regular will satisfy most anyone easily.  994, Rachel Est

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Milos Montreal doesn't live up to it's New York Sibling

Four of us had dinner at Milos Montreal on Sunday night.  We’d been impressed with Milos New York and were anticipating big things from the original.  Unfortunately, raised expectation can sometimes lead to disappointment.  The food was still good , excellent ingredients prepared simply is usually good.  Milos puts great emphasis on how they source their ingredients,  the yogurt is from goat milk 80km West of Montreal.   Best yogurt I have ever tasted.   Order the Milos Special as soon as your  seated, everyone does and it’s worth it.   Thin slices of zucchini, eggplant and saganaki lightly fried and served with the best tzatziki you’ve ever tasted.    There was a steady stream of these plates from the kitchen In both New York and Montreal.  The fish is the feature but  the choice in Montreal wasn’t what it was in New York. It was Sunday night and Milos offers a great Prix Fix menu for $45.  Quite a deal.   Milos was ridiculously expensive and crazy good in New York and Montreal would have still been ridiculously expensive if 3 of us hadn’t opted for the special.  As it was we had very good food with poor service in Montreal.  The price was slightly cushioned by ordering the Sunday special.  If you love fish and have never been, check it out, the food really is excellent and  I think our bad service may have been just a bad night.  You wouldn't go wrong with the Milos Special, some calamari, crab cakes and soft shelled crab, all perfectly prepared.  Good choice of wines.

Montreal is Great for a Weekend of Family, Art, Shopping, Eating and Drinking

Our weekend in Montreal started with a cab ride from the airport $40 and a late night check in at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth.  The largest hotel in Montreal it is also the best place if you have family arriving by train.  It was a family beginning with Sunday morning at Universel on Peel.  A good breakfast with plenty of choices, good seating and  a great location for our next stop,  the Musee Beaux Art.  We were doing a  family group visit to see the Feininger exhibit.   It was a great way to visit with family and enjoy some of Montreal’s great vibe.On the way we saw a great wedding parade with pipers and kilts, marching bands.   I'd love to go back to the museum to check the permanent collection. We did some great dining at Milo’s and Joe Beef with Joe Beef outstanding and Milos a bit disappointing.  We wandered the underground and Vieux Montreal, did a city bus tour and visited Notre Dame.   Next time I want a car, the Metro is aweome but it's Canada, not Paris or Rome, so I’m definitely good to drive and want the freedom to  get out and explore the island, find some great people, places,  beer and cheese.  I'm going back to Montreal again and again.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Best Beer Commercial Ever. I want a Sapporo right now.