Saturday, June 29, 2013

Vancouver: Elysian Coffee

concrete jungle
:W Broadway:


I'm off to see old faces -- the best faces -- my dearest friends in the Tdot. They're my "other" family, my support network, my be-alls-and-end-alls and stand-by-mes. These are a rarity. You only learn that with each year that passes. I will miss Momma GG and the sister, but I trust they'll miss me more. Sure, they'll enjoy the peace and quiet on days 1 and 2, but days 3 to my return will seem like an eternity, a sad, sad eternity. Right?

Tonight I'm off to New York.  I know, you're green with envy. Stay green because I'll also be stopping in my favourite Canadian city, Montreal where I'll eat some poo-tine for me, and some empanadas for the sister.

Yesterday was a busy but quiet day at work. I had to run some errands on my lunch. Not the smartest idea because it seems everyone was running errands the Friday of a long weekend so there were long lines and a handful of impatient people hawing and hoing. How do I balance that negativity? By treating myself to one of my favourite things - a perfect cappuccino.

Perfect? Does that exist? It can, it's all about context too. Your mood when you got it, the manner in which it was made, the care in which it was served, and of course, that first sip.

My first time at Elysian Coffee, and it was exactly what I needed after those errands, a cute, simple, quiet, and anti-hectic space. It was full of students studying quietly and several health care workers (obviously, given its proximity).

The two guys behind the counter were cute, not cute I want to make babies, but cute I want to high 5.  They were pleasant, friendly and welcoming. They genuinely bantered and the barista made my cappuccino exactly the way I like it...with lots of crema - the foamy brown stuff at the top of an espresso shot.


My first sip of crema was genuine happiness. Creamy, aromatic, not burnt or bitter. 

It's the little things that make me smile, all these little things...

they add up to why I'm in love with you
Next visit to Elysian - must try their baked goodies.  They were placed with such care into their display case, and smelled delicioso.

Elysian Coffee on Urbanspoon


Monday, June 24, 2013

Vancouver: Food Cart Fest

and on the seventh day, let there be food trucks
:Under the Cambie bridge:



Who: The good people of The Streetfood Vancouver Society (There's a society for that?!)
What: About 20 food trucks parked in a circular pattern in a random lot.
When: Every Sunday until September 22, 2013 between 12 noon and 5 pm
Where: 215 West 1st Avenue
Why: Because our street food scene is blowing up. 

Some hits, many misses, and a few awesomes:

Doggie dog - MISS

Feastro the rolling bistro - MISS...the pulled pork nacho bite was lacking SEASONING. As Gordon Ramsay says, if you can't even get the seasoning right, f*ck off.


Holy perogy - good, but I'd skip it.

Jj's trucketeria -  meh, skip it.

Johnny's pops - didn't try it, but it got an honourable mention because something tells me it's a HIT- balsamic strawberry basil pop...YES please.

The juice truck - good, especially if you like to drink tasty health - think blueberries, almond milk, cinnamon, cardamom, dates and matcha

The kaboom box - HIT, mushroom poutine


Mogu Japanese street eats - AWESOME chicken karage

Reel mac and cheese - AWESOME seven cheese mac and cheese...count that, seven, repeat that, holy what.


Roaming dragon - MISS, bad rice ball, bad - if I wanted sticky rice, I'd go to dimsum and if I wanted arancini balls, I'd find an italian joint. I would not fuse the two. But that's just me.

Tacofino - AWESOME chocolate-diablo cookie - sweet and spicy goodness, same goes for the pork jowl taco - AWESOME. You also have the choice of hitting up the restaurant on East Hastings - great decor, awesome drinks

Yolk's breakfast - AWESOME truffle potato skewer and helloooo, chicken and waffles, what.




Tacofino's $5 tacos
Top: AWESOME pork jowl
Bottom: Okay fish taco
Notes: 

1. It will be busy, so prepare to line-up if necessary. 
2. Admission is $2. Don't gripe, support. Children 13 and under are free and families don't pay more than $5. Vancity members get in free.
3. This is their second annual festival. Let there be many more.
4. For more details visit: http://www.foodcartfest.com/#home

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Vancouver: Romer's Burger Bar

food in the window...pause
:Yaletown:


Sometimes, I just want a burger, and I want it bad. I get these cravings and become mildly obsessed until they're satisfied. Burger craving set it on Tuesday. Hit Romer's on Thursday. Romer's was top of mind because I was there on Sunday and left without trying the doughnuts...I know - that's unlike me. Lucky I had a burger craving a few days later isn't it.

Romer's burgers are a la carte. That's probably how their average burgers fly under the radar of the less discerning public. Things add up and before you know it, you spent a lot for nothing.  That's how I felt about Romer's. It was good, but it wasn't THAT good.

Overall, it's a solid burger. They use quality ingredients: range-fed Angus beef, natural pork, free-run chicken, to name a few, all served on lightly griddle brioche buns. Thumbs up for brioche - one of my favourite breads. All burgers come with an "amazing garlic olive and pepperocini". Romer's menu does a lot of this - fanfare that is.

Service was slow. Very slow. The sister almost got hangry. It was NOT the kitchen. The kitchen was banging the food out. Every time I looked at the window, there was food sitting there. Minutes passed and still there. Ours was in the window for way too long, and the poor couple next to us, same thing. Where were the servers? Talking to each other. Shame. One was even facing the kitchen. 

We had the man's man burger:

thick applewood bacon, amber ale cheddar, onion strings, smoked alder salts, vine ripened tomato, whole grain mustard
Good.
Truffle oil and reggiano fries:

Mmmmm....smells good, tastes good.
Roasted organic beet salad:

two-bite salad for $4
Now, the reason Romer's came onto my radar in the first place - DOUGHNUTS. Four people, from four different circles, all told me they were amazing.  Sorry guys, I disagree.

They are the fairground doughnuts - you know, the kind you get from CNE or PNE.  I think they're called Tiny Toms. They're good, but they're nothing to call home about. I am inclined to think everyone likes them because of the sauces. In order of deliciousness: Maple Whiskey-Lemon Limoncello-Kahlua Nutella (Psst, Romer's your menu has a typo: unless kaluha is not kahula)

If I could, I would dip everything in that maple whiskey caramel sauce. Yes, even my finger.
A few days earlier I had fries with truffle aioli:


And spicy pork lettuce wraps with tamarind chili:

Passable.
Now don't judge me because I had fries twice. I love french fries.

So this post is one of those rare occasions where I have two-times the opinion. Sadly for Romer's, both times I wasn't impressed, but then again I wasn't disappointed. I doubt I'd go for a burger again, after all, Vancouver has some great burger joints offering better flavours and worth the money. 

But I would go back to Romer's for all their different fries and dip. They have so many. Remember, I love variety. It wins me over every time.

Romer’s Burger Bar on Urbanspoon


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Vancouver: Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House

for a good time call 604.669.1940
:Robson Street:

Happy. Hour. Sigh. Say it to me again.

Happy hour in Toronto = $3 drinks and a good timeHappy hour in Vancouver = food at 50% and a good time

A good time in Toronto is usually me and a couple dozen or so friends, frenemies, acquaintances and strangers letting loose the good old fashioned way - with the help of free-flowing liquor. It usually leads to a night of laughs, spilled drinks, sore feet, blaring music, and one or two fist pumps. It also leaves me with my wallet still full.

A good time in Vancouver seems to be me and a handful of friends or family sharing stories and conversation with a few high priced drinks and half-priced food. I leave with my wallet half-empty.

Apples and kumquats?!?


I've had dinner at Joe Fortes over the years. It's always as it was. Classy service and solid food. It's where families rub elbows with like-minded families to break bread.

But I'm here about the half-priced food. I only JUST tried their happy hour: 50% off their bar menu, but only in the bar. The bar consists of high-chairs and small tables. It's excruciatingly limited seating, and not the most comfortable, but for a 50% discount it's a small sacrifice.

Their happy hour ROCKS because they have buck-a-shuck. I love oysters. Like deeply. I believe my record is 72 oysters (set in 2010 in Toronto).

$1 x 6 slurpworthy bites
Jumbo tempura prawns ($14.95) and truffle parmesan fries ($9.95)
I wasn't crazy about the tempura prawns. Way too much tempura and far from evenly coated. The fries you ask? Glad you did, delicious alone but bonkers with truffle and parmesan.

Jumbo tiger prawn cocktail ($14.95)
Beautiful isn't she? I mean really, stunning. Makes you dismiss the fact there are only three. Seriously?

Mini lobster and shrimp rolls ($13.95)
I am partial to the way they make lobster rolls over in the east simple with the fewest ingredients possible. That said, I didn't mind these and they were quite adorable in their mini toast-like pockets.

Other items on the bar menu include mini cheeseburgers, onion rings, fried oysters, sweet potato fries, crisp calamari, oysters rockefeller, beef carpaccio and shrimp ceviche.  I think I can cover all that in two more visits. Wait and see.

I would NOT pay full price for anything I ordered on the bar menu. The price of the items borders on unreasonable for what came out of the kitchen. For me, at those prices, Hi Hawksworth. Hi L'Abbatoir. Hi Chambar. Walk away Joe, walk away.

Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Vancouver: Peckinpah

carolina, carolina, oh carolina...
:Gastown:



I completely forgot about Peckinpah, and that's not because it was forgettable. Was it amazing? No. But it was good y'all.

I love barbecue. Although my favourite type can't be bought...it's the home-kind - throw some sh*t on the barbie, get friends to bring some crap (crap here is salad, dessert, junkfood, etc.), knock an ice cold drink back, and then graze...for hours...I love grazing. I do it so well. Sit, eat, eat, sit, eat, stand, eat... ... lay down.

Last night was one of those nights. So I was thinking about barbecue...then Peckinpah re-surfaced while talking to the bestie. I usually have a great memory, but somehow I forgot we ate here during his visit. Better late than never.

It was downpouring on the second-to-last day of their visit and everything was closed. Vancouver is not the city for Sunday funday. Everything's closed.  

Peckinpah was open so we strolled in...STARVING. Which may explain why we ate all this:


Beef and pork platter ($23) with southern greens and fries
Those green was dayam good.
Baked mac'n cheese $13 - applewood smoked cheddar
If you don't like mac and cheese we can't be friends, and...
WHAT'S wrong with you?!
Oyster po'boy ($15)
Fantastic bread, nicely fried oysters, and all the right fixings.

Salad with brisket and pork...
This is how I prefer my salad: 50% protein, 50% green.
The salad was my least favourite thing, but it was still good. The hushpuppies were a little dry, but the rest of the food arrived in great portions, well-seasoned, and tasty.

It's CAROLINA style BBQ so don't expect the barbecue you're thinking about right now. It's not sweet, tangy, or saucy. It's more dry rub, vinegary, and smokey. People take their BBQ seriously. It's an art - which means it's open to interpretation and not everyone has the same taste.

For us, it was good ol' southern BBQ at solid prices. 

Peckinpah on Urbanspoon


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Vancouver: Tamam

boldly understated
:Hastings-Sunrise:



I have a feeling I will be back in this area, on repeat.  Last night I joined the sister and her peeps, Raulie and Yertle. Raulie pointed out more restaurants than I had time to paw into my iPhone. The sister trusts Raulie's opinion, after Tamam, I do too. I have now moved their suggestions to the top of my List.

My growing List prompted me to start prioritizing so I created a system about an hour ago. Let me share. At the top is 'need to try' - as in if I don't eat there soon I'm a food-blogging-fraud. Then there's 'nice to try', then 'eventually try', which is mostly a mish-mash of recommendations that sound okay, but likely won't blow my mind.  Finally, there's 'pretend to try' - a handful of restaurants I wrote down out of politeness but could care less. I don't trust the people who offered them because they over-analyze and are more eager to participate than educate. Regardless my system is a testament to the fact there are so many (maybe too many) people adopting the role of amateur critic - voicing complaints, sharing recommendations, and pimping their favourites - I like it.

But I'm no critic. I am just down with good food.  

Tamam is good food. It's a little hole-in-the-wall. A slightly ragged and worn mom-and-pop stop, but clean and cozy. The five of us sat in their solarium where I spent about five minutes staring at words I'd never seen before. Mujaddarah, freekeh, mutabal...Que?

One familiar word stood out - HALOUMI...I f*cken love haloumi. It's cheese that eats like meat, and Tamam cooks it up the best I've ever had: chewy, golden, lightly charred atop baked eggplant with tahini, garlic and olive oil.  


THIS is mutabal. An instant favourite.
Raulie shared the lamb with cabbage rolls and chicken with mujaddarah:


Tender lamb, no knife needed.
The sister had the chicken and freekeh:


Tender, juicy, well-seasoned chicken. 
What do you need to know about freekeh? I giggle when I say it...no seriously, it's a super-grain. Kale-eating yoga-loving tree-hugging Vancouverites are going to be all over it in a matter of time.
Yertle had the baked grape leaves stuffed with beef:


Tasty.
Yours truly had the halibut with mujaddarah - rice and lentils with roasted onions:




The fish was PERFECTLY cooked. I loved it.
I could throw every superfluous word at this fish...it was THAT good. Mind blown.
Dessert was kunafah - white cheese in phyllo with saffron.


Wasn't feeling it. Too sweet and sugary for me.
They have a wide selection of black teas. If you recall here, I don't like rose anything. But I had some of it and liked how subtle and inviting it was. At $2 a pot it's a steal deal.  Needless to say, all five of us give Tamam a thumbs up. 

Tamam is the type of restaurant I hope those who offered me 'pretend to try' recommendations stay away from because they would over-analyze. Tamam is too straightforward for their rigmarole. Succinctly put - it's healthy, flavourful, colourful and beautiful, plus affordable. Traditional Middle-Eastern flavours of fresh ingredients cooked to order with olive oil and herbs. Ridiculously simple, and amazingly delicious.

P.S. Before writing today's post, I just spent ten minutes Google-mapping Palestine. Those that know me are laughing because they know my geography knowledge is twice as bad as I am intelligent.  Take a moment to get that...

Moment's gone. Weekend's here. I'm off to a bad-ass BBQ at Raulie's tomorrow. The sister is making galbi. I made what my fans call 'crack pie'.  Let there be feast.

Tamam: fine Palestinian cuisine on Urbanspoon