Saturday, April 27, 2013

Vancouver: Cafe Medina

latte gold

Once news got out I was moving back to Vancouver, people had a lot to say to me. Many words of encouragement, some words of discouragement…

The one consistent thing people said to me was: have you tried Medina yet? You will love Medina.

Look at that, I do.

It wasn’t necessarily about the food. In fact it was 25% the menu and food, 50% the venue, culture and service, and 25% the latte. One latte grabbed one-quarter of my love.  Seriously.

The lavender latte is good as they say. It’s subtle,lightly  sweetened, softly scented and loudly delicious. 

Poetry in a cup
It’s a quaint café with chic décor, and a little east coast urban if you ask me. Comfortable but chic, very much like the service. The back room gets fully lit by natural light that I recommend you go on a sunny weekend afternoon. It’s perfect.

We all started with a waffle ($3.15 plus $1 topping):

Salted caramel because I don’t much like rosewater, and chocolate and fruit make me uncomfortable…

The menu is culturally eclectic and flavor-packed bistroesque food. Favourites include paella ($12), cassoulet ($15), and tangine ($14). I had the latter:

2 poached eggs, spicy tomato stew, red pepper, merguez sausage, Moroccan olives, cilantro with grilled foccacia and raita
My favourite twin had the paella:
1 baked egg, curried orzo, Hungarian chorizo, zucchini, red pepper, roasted corn, grano padano, watercress, avocado, and tomato salad

 This is not your mother’s brunch/breakfast. It’s cultured comfort food with a fabulous twist.

Cafe Medina on Urbanspoon


Friday, April 26, 2013

Vancouver: Go Fish Ocean Emporium

no ace
:Island Park Walk - Granville Island:

I know...I have been quiet.  The sister would disagree, but then again you guys choose when you want to hear me, she doesn't get such a choice.  I have been off the grid entertaining the BFF and his lady love.  I think I've now fully recovered from from the long gluttonous, lush-icous visit. They made a dedicated stop in Vancouver for me. Awww shucks right? They also brought with them a few east coast friends. Double J were itching to hit Go aquabus later we were on Granville Island walking up to 1st.

Along Island Park Walk (a beautiful walk) lies a little shack that gives its patrons a peek into quintessential west coast life: sun, sea, sky, and great seafood.

We arrived about 15 minutes before it opened and waited in line. By the time they started taking our orders, there was a very long line behind me. I can tell you this. I would not wait in that line. Nothing that came out of the shack was worth the wait time. But your time, your choice.  I would take out of town visitors who enjoy the novelty of things that are very Vancouver-in-your-face. They will love it. Those who like to play in the underbelly of a city, likely will not.

Since it was a beautiful day and I was in amazing company, I didn’t much mind the wait. I ordered an oyster tacone.  Not sure why they call it a tacone – it’s just a taco (flour tortilla, not corn).

My wonderful company enjoyed the meal, and the way in which we had it. At a giant picnic table under the sun, by the water, with the sound of the water and a light breeze.

West coast happiness.

It’s pricey. It’s good. But it’s ordinary.

Go Fish Ocean Emporium on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 12, 2013

Seattle: Café Campagne

good egg hunting

Here is the final post from my trip...

Of course it's brunch. I love brunch, oh yes I do.

The sister and I miss our east coast brunches. I miss Mildred's, Stockyards, Petit Dejeuner, while she misses an entire city of AMAZING brunch. Montreal is the city where even bad brunch is good. Their bar, way up here.

Café Campagne looks like a quaint, cute, traditional French venue. And it was. They make a fantastique petit déjeuner:

Croque of my favourite brekkie/brunchie eats

My mother's omelette a l'épinard - French rolled omelette avec spinach, goat cheese and herbs
Homemade chicken and pork sausage - DELICIOUS - meaty not greasy

Side of brioche french toast...MMMmmmm
Delicious.  A great spot for well-seasoned, flavourful, true to French food.

Cafe Campagne on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 8, 2013

Seattle: Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts

love fried dough

By now y'all know I love doughnuts. They're probably my favourite sweet snack. If I ever get married...forget wedding cake, my friends and family know I want doughnuts - doughnuts doughnuts doughnuts everywhere. Would I get Top Pot to cater? Probably not. They're good, but not Top 5, and they sure don't beat my hometown hero: Cartems.

Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts has a cute story, especially how they got their name. Read here.

The doughnut selection at about 3:00 pm on a Saturday.
Like most doughnuteries, Top Pot has cake doughnuts and the usual fluffy ones, as well as fritters, swirls and twists. I can tell you the maple bar (not pictured) seems to be a favourite among patrons. While there, 7/10 people got it. Maybe I should have picked up on it, but I just wanted this:

I like round things more than rectangle things.
I'm not afraid to own my weirdness.
Both were very good. But just a little too sugary for me. Contrary to what you may think, doughnuts may be made with sugar, but they don't have to be super sweet. That is the key to a GREAT doughnut. Top Pot's are just GOOD. I loved the shop though - a large, two-floor open space loft-like vintage venue with lots of tables, huge amounts of natural light, and a really, really friendly staff.

Top Pot Doughnuts on Urbanspoon

Seattle: Pike Place Chowder

nonetheless delicious
:Pike Place:

It's an institution. I use that word to describe anything locals and tourists know is a trap, but go anyway. I'm sure years ago it was cheaper, but as critical acclaim and press accumulate, so do the dollars. I suppose that's just good enterprise?  Who knows, I'm no business major. But I have a degree in CHOWDAAAA...pause.

I have been here two of the three recent trips I've taken to Seattle. Papa GG liked it here a lot.  He loves chowder too. He would never wait in line of course, no, he would sit and relax in the sun as Momma GG and I go get his food and bring it to him. 

It was a fifteen minute wait, but worth it for Momma GG to get herself a "famous" crab roll and me the seafood bisque and new england clam chowder. Both were really good. I had meat in every bite - how often does that happen?!  The chowder was the perfect consistency, not too thick and not too runny. But remember, these two little cups will set you back about $15 with tax. Shudder. (You get free oyster crackers with that. If you like that sort of thing. I do not. I am a cracker-free-soup-kinda-woman.)

Chowder > Bisque per yours truly
Bisque> Chowder per the sister
If you're wondering what the sister had...she had Jack's. Another famous Pike Place joint. It's an actual fish stand in the market that serves up really, really good fried fish (and fried prawns, etc.). She had that because she's always gotta walk to the beat of her own drum.  Dun, dun.

Pike Place Chowder on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Seattle: Olivar

something old, something new
:Capitol Hill:

Momma GG has never tried Spanish food. My sister and I took 15 minutes to explain tapas to her.  Well, sell tapas to her. Sometimes we have to sell things to our's the only way we can get them to do things we want, eat things we want, or see things the way we do. I blame it on the whole 'generation of immigrant parents' thing. Anyway, we won her over...

Olivar came highly recommended so I made a reservation online through Urbanspoon.

It's a really cozy and quaint restaurant with an old facade - reminiscent of a heritage home.  It's not very big inside, and not at all fancy, but has an old romance to it. The menu is easy to navigate (cold, hot, and large plates), and they have a nice range of daily specials.

Left to Right:
Frisée salad with poached egg, crispy Sserrano
Seared scallops with leeks
Pulled pork lasagna - MY FAVOURITE
Sea bass and garlic risotto
Macaroni and cheese
Profiteroles & Ice Cream of the Day and Chocolate Creme Brulee.
The profiteroles were a little stale and the chocolate brulee was far too dense for me.
All the dishes were really good. Flavourful - bold Spanish tapas with a French influence. I only had two complaints. The first was with the bass and risotto. While cooked perfectly, there was no garlic taste and the risotto leaned a little to the bland side. My second issue was with the spicy mussels. They were amazing. Truly. I could have ate it all night. So what's my issue? Take a look:

What is obviously wrong with this picture?
You needn't be a blogger, foodie, cook, chef or critic to answer...
Yes, the VERY VERY burnt baguette. It looks unappetizing. It tasted unappetizing. It should never have left the kitchen.
But it did. we ate around the burnt pieces and then asked for more bread.
 The waitress, Kelly was her name, CHARGED me for the extra bread. That alone made me cut her tip in half. Yes. Half.
Do not mess with me when I'm on vacation.

I wanted to tip her $2. But Momma GG and the sister would not have it. My family makes me nicer.
Just so I can end on a happy note.
Olivar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Seattle: The Crumpet Shop

must love crumpets
:Pike Place:

I like crumpets.  My sister does not. But she's also not a morning person...poor crumpets, never had a chance.

In keeping with what has become a Seattle trend, service was fantastic - with a genuine smile and love of their job. That makes this place a little gem - IF you like crumpets. They've been making them for almost 4 decades.

My sister thought the green eggs and ham was okay. She was happy they didn't skimp on the ham - a meaty generous serving - and she liked the eggs with pesto. But I think she wanted it on an english muffin.  No they are NOT one in the same. 

You think Dr. Seuss knew he'd influence the restaurant scene? I bet not I bet not Not I bet.
Momma GG really liked the red lentil soup, more than her egg and ham crumpet:

really delicious bowl of fresh, clean, flavourful soup
I thoroughly enjoyed my ricotta, honey and walnut crumpet:

just the right amount of sweet and salty, creamy and crunch
Things to note: it's not the most comfortable place to dine in and it gets busy, but the line flies. It's no frills and remember, just crumpets.

The Crumpet Shop on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Seattle: Serious Pie

negative ratio

Took a weekend trip down to the good old US of A.  I like Seattle. The city puts Vancouver to shame. Seattlers are so very customer service oriented. If I made hotel recommendations, I would tell you stay at the W hotel. I've stayed in a lot of hotels, and the people at the W Seattle are by far the best I have ever encountered in this continent or the next.


I would describe Serious Pie as a casual restaurant with a fun vibe that serves soulful pizza - simple yet complex and hits home. It's got a nice blistered stone-encased oven crust with simple, flavourful toppings but a very poor crust to topping ratio. Handcrafted pizza that's priced at just under $20 should never be short on toppings. Never, ever.

If you're wondering then why it's so popular, that's easy - it's one of Tom Douglas' many (ten I think) restaurants.  He is arguably the face of Seattle's restaurant/chef scene. But Serious Pie is not his baby - I've had pizza like this everywhere from Toronto to NYC to right here in my new hometown of Vancouver.

Is Serious Pie's any better? No, but it's just as good - and that works for me. 

penn cove clams, house pancetta, chilies $18

buffalo mozzarella, red sauce, fresh basil $16
 And this stew, although too salty, delicious: 

mediterranean octopus stew, white beans, fennel $11

Beware of:
1. Long waits
2. Crowded communal tables
3. It's louder than your average restaurant
4. Mexican coca cola - is literally that. I should have known. $4 for a small bottle of Coke that may or may not be made with cane sugar.
5. Skimpy toppings
Approach with extreme caution:  
A very rude male waiter - a plumpish, sloppy hipster looking guy. Said gentleman didn't serve my table, but he happened to be blocking my mom when we were on our way out. When I tapped him - because he was wholly oblivious - he retorted: "whaddyawant?". Shame on him. Needless to say, my tongue is still bleeding from whenst I bit it. Better to bite my tongue - goes in line with my motto: grin and bear it, then blog it. Blog it loud.

Serious Pie on Urbanspoon