Friday, August 23, 2013

Vancouver: Bob Likes Thai

i like bob
:Broadway + Granville:


I'm going to make this short. Bob Likes Thai is legit, really good Thai. The end.

For those that need a bit more, let me continue. Let's start with who put Bob on my radar. Meet Ceecee here. You can see why I trust Ceecee's palate. So when she raved about Bob Likes Thai I figured I must go. After all, I have been looking for a Thai place since I moved here. A good Thai place, not any Thai place.

Finally. The name is ridiculous, but so is the food, ridiculously good. So far in Vancouver, best Thai I found and I know what I'm looking for: aromatic and flavourful food with a kick.

The menu isn't large, but it doesn't need to be. The prices are reasonable and the portions are generous.

The pad thai is sweet, tart, savoury with a soft lingering heat. I liked it a lot.
It doesn't hold a candle to Faubourg, but some things should never be compared to.
The green curry chicken was even better. Spicy, savoury with ample chicken, bamboo shoots and basil:

Awesome spring rolls - crispy flaky shell stuffed with carrot, cabbage, mushrooms and noodles
This place just became my go-to for Thai. Thank goodness for a guy named Bob.

Bob Likes Thai Food on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Vancouver: Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe

handcrafted
:Downtown:




Ever since New York...I have become fascinated by these little French treats.  But unlike the hoards of bloggers out there criticizing x, y, z...I decided before I speak, I should bake them myself. So I did. And on my first try I produced 30 of my own handcrafted macarons. And you know what? They were pretty, and they were good. 

Contrary to what I read on the internet - I'm not sure there's any magic to making these. You don't really need to spend tons of money buying premium ingredients, but you do need to dish out the $12 or so for a bag of almond meal if you can't be bothered to make your own. When it comes down to actually making them, they're not hard, although I wouldn't say they're easy.

I now have a better appreciation for those that make so many different kinds everyday, but I also have a growing disdain for people who make lists like "What I look for in a Parisian Macaron" and then knit-pick. If you break down these cookies and analyze every minor minutiae you likely have no idea what goes into making them or how little leeway you have to go from a good macaron to a perfect macaron. Make it, then say it.

Now that I've walked the walk, let me talk the talk.

Macarons are either good or bad. Even the best ones, the most praised and celebrated ones from Laduree to Francois Payard fall into the good bag.

Here in my backyard, Theirry is pretty good...

A trio of happy eats.
A good macaron is smooth, chewy, round with feet (ridges) and has the right ratio of filling to cookie:


Salted caramel
I liked Thierry. It's a cute cafe with some really delicious treats. I went on a Sunday afternoon and it was overflowing with Koreans...not sure what that's about. Anybody???

Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe on Urbanspoon

Vancouver: Hamburger Mary's Diner

minority vote
:West End:


People do not like Hamburger Mary's Diner. I think it has a polarizing effect on people. As will the statement I make in the following paragraphs. 

What's to hate on? Seems people complained of service, and the lack of gluten free options, and the fact it was just "okay" and "nothing special". To them I say, hello...it's a greasy spoon. And one that has been around a long time. Sorry they don't have gluten free. Dirty dives aren't known for meeting all dietary restrictions and not every restaurant in this city needs to adapt with the hundreds of evolving diets and tastes out there.

This leads to my observation about Vancouver - why the steep rise in gluten-free eaters in the city when the prevalence of Celiac has not exponentially increased here or frankly anywhere? That's all I will say since I know saying anymore will get me in hot water.

Cool down and consider this: Hamburger Mary's is not here to please anyone. They do what they've done best and that's feed their customers. And they have a lot of them, so if you don't like it I think they'd rather you stay home.

I like them and the sister and I enjoyed our meal. It was a solid clubhouse sandwich. Plain white bread - toasted the way they do it at golf clubs - the way it's supposed to be. Generously stuffed and served with good fries. All for about ten bucks.



I'm sold. If you want comfort dirrtyyyy diner eats, Hamburger's Mary is here to serve and they're doing it until late. I know fellow Yelpers really don't like it. Shame, cause I do.

Hamburger Mary's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Vancouver: Joyeaux Cafe & Restaurant

pho-ology 
:Downtown:




Raulie recommended Joyeaux for Vietnamese. Thanks Raulie.

I loved Joyeaux. It is the definition of cheap and cheerful. Huge menu, friendly service, and Vietnamese comfort food. If you're in a rush they have an easy order by picture/number menu or if you have time, sit down be served.

It has all of my favourites: pho, bun, lemon grass fish, salad rolls, iced coffee, etc. And it's all well made, served in good portions, and easy on the wallet. So easy I let Momma GG pay when we went for an encore.

On the first visit, the sister opted for beef noodle soup:


She ate it all. Animal.
I had the seafood noodle soup:


Not one to talk, I ate it all too.
A week later we returned, this time with Momma GG, and ordered the shredded crab noodle soup, beef noodle soup, seafood fried rice, fried tofu with black bean sauce, and spring rolls. Every dish was good (except the shredded crab noodle soup...skip it). The waitress thought we ordered too much food. OBVIOUSLY she has no idea about us.

Mmmmm...spring rolls. 
Two jumps for joy.

Joyeaux Cafe & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Vancouver: Brioche Urban Eatery

happy trio
:Gastown:



It's hard to find a place that makes my entire family happy. Then the sister found Brioche. She took Momma GG and they loved it. Then I went and I loved it. Trifecta of hard-to-please is so very pleased.

Brioche is a cute brick-lined cafe in Gastown serving up homestyle Italian eats with a westcoast flair, and all with a smile.

It was a beautiful day when I went and the cafe was flooded with sunshine. We grabbed a seat as I reviewed the menu. I wasn't sure what to get, but I hear the salad with shrimp and the gnocchi are winners. I will go back to try those, but for this visit I followed in my ma's footsteps. She got a ham and cheese sandwich. Recall that she likes tradition over innovation. This may be why Brioche is the perfect gateway for the mother. She can get what she knows, even if it's made with things she insists she doesn't like - such as brie:


Brioche's ham and cheese is blackforest ham, brie, and portobello mushroom
You have a choice of house-baked focaccia, sourdough or baguette. If sourdough is a choice, it will always be mine. I had the daily special of an open faced veal sandwich:


Delicious. The bread is amazing, the ingredients are fresh and the flavours are good. Brioche is more than sandwiches, and with service this friendly and warm, it's become a favourite. Thus, Brioche > Finch's.

Brioche on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 19, 2013

Vancouver: La Casa Gelato

too too much
:Strathcona:


La Casa Gelato was overwhelming. So many people. So many flavours. So many workers. So many so many so many. I didn't like the experience. It was too many of so much.

I finally settled on espresso chip. It was an average gelato. 

Tasty but the cone was terrible. Tasted like plastic.

The workers were fantastic though. Each greeted me with a smile and were always happy to help.

This leads me to my important message to independent shops. Appreciate your customers lest you feel my wrath. Read my review on Swiss Bakery on Yelp. Sorry Raulie, but if a business is unnecessarily rude I will show no on mercy. 

La Casa Gelato on Urbanspoon



Sunday, August 18, 2013

Vancouver: Food Cart Fest II

gonna bring the flavour
:Under the Cambie bridge:



Back again...Momma GG in tow. It was a hot, hot, hot day. Momma GG found shade under the tent where she guarded our seats after taking a lap around to peruse the trucks.

The Food Cart Fest is an awesome concept and I look forward to going again next year, and the year after that. One location, many food trucks. But let me break it down:
Food Trucks you must-try:
1. Yolk's Breakfast
2. La Taqueria
 3. Le Tigre 
 4. Johnny's Pops 
 5. Vij's Railway Express
Momma GG wanted pizza so we got her Pazza Rella. I did not like it at all. It was soggy. The sister was more forgiving, although she just said "it's not worth mentioning". Course I rarely listen to her.

Yolk was a clear winner again. I didn't love the chicken and waffles but it was still good.

Vij's was awesome...isn't it always?



Johnny's pops were worth the second take.



Le Tigre was delicious.

Brown paper bags had really cute packaging. Something I would do. 


But these ice cream sandwiches were not worth their price tag.
I'm still indifferent about the natural peppermint they used. I think I prefer my artificial mint chocolate chip ice cream, but that's just me.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Vancouver: La Mezcaleria

sip don't shoot
:Commercial:




I love it when I go to a restaurant and the servers teach me something new. They do that because they know what they're serving. As Papa GG always said - knowledge is power.

La Mezcaleria is using their power responsibly - influencing the masses with their awesome eats and even better shooters. Sorry, they insist you sip mezcal. No one in my family sips or nibbles. We chug and mow. 


Mezcal - a spirit distilled from steamed hearts of various species of agaves
Tequila - a distilled beverage only made from the blue agave plant
It's a small space so seating is limited and it gets busy. Luckily they take reservations for parties of six or more. It was Taro's birthday, so I joined the festivities, along with Raulie and two of the sister's other friends. It's a cute restaurant, long wood bar in the centre in front of an open kitchen area, hanging plants, and drop dome lights. The service is borderline - our server was strong out of the gate, then fizzled fast. Much like the last guy I dated. Pause.


If a trio of mezcal shooters isn't for you, the cocktails are amazing. Get one, two, even three. Since it was Taro's special day she had four, five...



We got two starters to share. In the words of Momma GG, the ceviche was "not bad"...I thought it was kind of bland. The guacamole on the other hand, made to order and made to be demolished. Really, really good:



The sister and I shared the enchiladas clasicas ($12) and the four meat tacos ($9.50):
Filled with chicken, topped with green tomatillo, onion, cream, and Mexican cheese.
Good...but it made me want a taquito.
DE CACHETE (braised beef cheeks)
CARNITA (pork confit with pickled red onions)
POLLO CON MOLE (chicken with mole)
AL PASTOR (
pork marinated in achiote chilli and pineapple)


De cachete was the clear winner. It was pass the taco - take a bite, move to the next. I wanted to stop when I got to the beef cheek. So damn good.


I did not like dessert. It got lost somewhere between a flan and custard. Good flavours, poor texture.




A winning formula: well-priced traditional Mexican food with a focus on local, organic and sustainable ingredients, plus kick ass cocktails and a lively laid-back venue. 


La Mezcaleria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Vancouver: Poised Nail Lounge + Spa II

back again
:Yaletown:
 
Perfectly poised? Yes, quite.


Same same but different. Same name, same owners, different location. It's better only because it's closer. My friends laugh, because for someone so efficient and purposeful, I can be one lazy MF.


ATTENTION: August 7 to September 31, 2013 all services are 15% off. 


What else do you need to know? Poised does a great job and has some of the most competitive pricing I've found in Vancity. And I have been looking. Unfortunately the cost of living here > cost of living Toronto. I've spent countless hours looking online and on foot. It's how I like to spend my weekends. After all, there's no better way to rationalize getting a weekly pedicure than to say you've been walking all day.



FYI, a paraffin mani is just $30. For the quality and service you get, it's the cheapest I've found downtown. Disclaimer, they did JUST open so they may be eager to please and it could be downhill from here, but for now I give them the benefit of the doubt. The true test will be a year from today. For now I found my place. This is the place.



Report on Poised Nail Lounge - Yaletown 

Location: Davie + Seymour
Interior: Clean space + hair and spa services
Ideally For: A place to take yourself and your mom

Service:  Shellac French Mani
Price: $45
Duration: 45 minutes
Details: Polish removal, file, cuticle care, buff, massage, and polish application
Massage: Long enough to be enjoyable and with Avojuice (I love these skin quenchers)

Comments: Thorough, attentive, friendly and appreciative
Products: OPI, Harmony

Longevity: Great

Final Grade: A-

Click HERE for Grading System.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Toronto: Oddseoul (+ #kagoagh)

my soul slides away
:Ossington:

Scroll down if you don't care what I did last weekend. Frown.


Kagoagh Lodge | Fish + Feast
Step outside, 'cause summertime's in bloom...it is you know. So before we get to the meat of this post (quite literally)...I'm going to tell you about my weekend getaway. Get away I did, to a land far from the city, void of concrete, smog, traffic, cyclists, cell towers and the internet. There is a growing need and desire to get unplugged. It's so rare these days that I didn't even realize the last time I was disconnected from the world. As difficult as it is for us to stop and let the clutter fall as it may, we all should. Take a moment and just be.

That's what I did last weekend when I spent four FABULOUS days on Hecate Cove in Quatsino. Quawha? Let me geographically orient you here and here and you can learn more here.

It looks far doesn't it? In fact, it's a 2 hour ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo. Then a 4.5 hour drive to Port Hardy, then another 20 minute drive to Coal Harbour. Then you're placed in the warm and capable hands of your wonderful hosts - the lovely owners of Kagoagh Fishing Lodge and Resort. They'll put you and your belongings (and bring just what you need but what you can't live without) on their boat. A 25 minute scenic ride through the sound and you arrive. It's a trek, but it's easy when you're in good company (I had the sister and the always entertaining merry trio - Chloe's ma and pa + sweet Chloe). It's a small adventure to reach great pleasure. 

I could be seen as being semi-biased as I know Kagoagh's power couple, so in the interest of transparency, I just told you so. That being said, on the spectrum of female generalizations, I'm more in the b*tch pile which basically means I'm rarely swayed to do or say anything I genuinely don't care to.

Kagoagh (pronounced KO, as in knock out) is exactly as described, a secluded (remote retreat), ocean access (infinite waters), fishing (serious fishing, fun fishing, crab catching, whale watching) property located on Hecate Cove. 

I didn't go fishing, but I can tell you that those that did had an experience of a lifetime in the open waters that is Quatsino Sound and the Pacific Ocean. I don't think you realize how vast a resource our coastal city/island sits on; I got a glimpse of it with the fish they brought back - ling cod, salmon, rock fish, and the crab. One of the best things about Kagoagh? It's always fresh and local. They prepare meals sea to table straight from the depths of the oceans to my lips. It's classy cuisine with family warmth. Simply delicious.

The lodge is the perfect balance of rustic and refined. It's a grand building against a backdrop of nature's golden elements and sounds. It's a new resort, and they're still revamping and expanding. The rooms are outfitted with large beds and private three piece bathrooms. It has the feel of a modern hotel room with it's wood floors and dark finishes, but step outside and you see nothing but acres of forest and endless water. When's the last time you got up close with nature but still had a hot shower and a toilet with three-ply? Yes, toilet paper was a highlight, although no more so than those moments when I walked on the deck, glass of champagne in hand, and heard nothing - the antithesis of uncomfortable silence, peaceful serenity. I could get really poetic and tell you about the breathtaking night sky and brilliant stars, but then I'd run out of steam to tell you about Oddseoul, which I'm about to get to.

I highly recommend Kagoagh for those who appreciate anything unadulterated. It was the perfect Vancouver Island destination. Amazing feasts, majestic surroundings, and an inspiring couple who do what they do best - cater, comfort, and care. Sometimes we don't need to go down south to unwind, sometimes someone's backyard is the perfection we seek. Check out Kagoagh's playground. It's open to everyone - families, friends, lovers, children, babies, moms-to-be, singles, gay, straight, short or tall. At Kagoagh, just be.

***


I don't believe that anybody feels the way I do about Oddseoul. Okay, maybe they do. Toronto Life said it best when they described the owners, the Han brothers, as having captured "Ossington's Korean past and hipster present...".


Anytime I eat something amazing, I have an emotional reaction which stays with me. I call it JOY. 


Oddseoul was pure joy. 
Brace yourself because it's about to get real yummy.

My chef buddy and I caught up over some drinks, drank some more with his likeminded peeps, and then we all got hungry and headed to Ossington. Oddseoul is sexy. How so? It just is. It's a long, dark but inviting restaurant cranking out awesome music. There's a bar upfront and semi-cramped high-top seating, but that's just cause they want y'all to get real close. And they're serving food into the wee hours. A culinary delight compared to usual late night dirrrtyy eats like street meat, Burrito Boys, Choochootrain or Rol San. Only the truest Torontonians will grin at the last two. So we piled in and feasted:



Saba - my least favourite of the night. Still delicious but Hapa's saba still takes the win.
Deep fried prawns. Yum! Crispy, tart, and sweet.
The special.
It's a hot dog. Course it's MORE than a hot dog.
Geem/Keem (aka nori aka dried laver aka seaweed), green onions, hickory sticks and some sort of sauce.
This thing was RIDICULOUSLY good. RIDICULOUS.
HIGHLIGHT of my Toronto trip.
Meet The Loosey. She's only $5.
I would describe this as a Korean mother's take on a Big Mac.
Toasted sesame bread (perfectly toasted, nice crunch and good chew)
Beef patty with those familiar amazing korean-bbq flavours, some sort of sauce, ketchup, pickles and...a FRIED egg.
LOVED IT. Ate it. Didn't want to share it. I want one now. Help me?
Now I realize I said "some sort of sauce" twice, but that's because I don't know what it was. If they come back and tell me it's just mayo, I may as well pack it in and go home. Whatever it was, it was delicious. They may have been the same, they may not have been. I was in no frame of mind to tell, and like I said, it was dark. I could barely see my friends. But their smiles showed through. That is what I call JOY.

Oddseoul on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Toronto: Le Neuf

noon in the city
:King West



I loved everything about Le Neuf...except the service. It was odd, slightly rude and abrasive, but I suppose you can do that when you're serving out of your home? The owners are French (not Quebecois), which may be why I let them get away with the attitude and superior air they give off.

Le Neuf is a cute cafe and patisserie. It's hidden along townhouse row facing Clarence Park. In fact, it is 9 Clarence Park, just a stone's throw from busy King and Spadina - though you may forget that. It's a little oasis in my hood, fine my old hood. 

Great brunch, adorable terrace, and a lovely selection of baked goods.

A delightful taste of Paris in Toronto:


Prosciutto meet eggs benny with creamy tangy hollandaise


Portobello mushrooms meet eggs benny with creamy tangy hollandaise

It was an adorable finale to my trip.


J'adore.
It's not my last post...that's coming after the weekend. I have saved the best for last.

I will be off the grid in 12 hours...then it's 4 days of no internet, no cell, no Momma GG. Mon dieu. If you don't hear from me by Monday, it means I'm lost on an island. SOS.

Le Neuf Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Toronto: Origin Restaurant & Bar

used to captivate me
:St. Lawrence:



When Origin first opened...it had my attention. A stylish venue showcasing ethereally plated food. Pseudo-literally...every dish was unworldly beautiful and tasted heavenly. At least that's what I remember. 


This time around, it was less so. It felt more like an overpriced lunch. Still good but I felt no love and service was so proper and pretentious it was almost cold.


Luckily I had the company of an old friend? I question-mark that because although now I consider him a friend, once upon a time I imagined punching him in the face. He's an acquired taste but one that has grown on me over time. Let's call him McLaren.


McLaren picked Origin because it's in the vicinity of his new office, it's also fancy, just like him.


The patio was perfect for a lunch. It wasn't a quick lunch though, they take their time and serve you in a particular order so the dishes follow seamlessly after one another. Of course I found that annoying, cause sometimes girl just wants to eat. McLaren finally spoke up because he needed to get back to the office too. 

Miso black cod...
I love black cod. I've eaten it countless times.
This was not memorable. 
These two were my favourite...because you can't go wrong with duck...and you had me at fior di latte (cow's milk mozzarella):

Fior di latte with mushrooms, truffle oil and spinach - Mmmmm...delectable.
Chinois duck on flour tortillas with cucumber, hoisin, sriracha and sour cream. Yum.
Japanese style tuna salad with asian pear avocado and spicy ponzu dressing
The rice puffs were different. Not better, just different.
Taking every dish into account, lunch was really good. Worth the $100 tab? I think that warrants a retraction.


Lunch was just good.



Origin Restaurant on Urbanspoon