Tag Archives: Food

Willows Inn – Round 2!

18 Aug

B and I recently celebrated our four-year wedding anniversary and, as has become tradition, we try to get away for a day or two to indulge in some good food and a bit of R&R. Last year, we visited Willows Inn for the first time and had such a blast that we decided to return again this year.

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I am saving myself the effort of re-writing my glowing review and instead will direct you to my post from last year. You’ll notice that there were a number of dishes that were the same as last year’s menu but those were the snacks, not the main courses – most of the mains were new dishes (except for the mind-blowing smoked salmon and the blueberry dessert). Once again, my favourite snacks were the kale and black truffle, the drippings with local bread, and the crispy crepe with steelhead roe.

Although our experience last year was fantastic, I did notice two areas where they have made improvements. The first was the pre-dinner service. Last year we found it difficult to place our drink order and to get our drinks before we were taken to our table. This year, we had no issues at all and they are now offering pre-dinner snacks to all guests whilst you wait to be seated. Secondly, you are now able to eat breakfast in the Inn the morning after your dinner (see pics below). That wasn’t an option for us last year and I think it really added to our experience as there isn’t much else available on the island (plus, everything else is a let-down after Willows).

Again, I wasn’t super impressed with the wine tasting menu. Next time (oh yes!), we will just order a few bottles for the table as I didn’t think the wine elevated any of the dishes for us.

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Pre-dinner snacks on the patio.

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More pre-dinner snacks…sauerkraut brine oysters.

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The dining room.

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Smoked Samish Bay Mussel.

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Squash blossoms & edible nasturtium with nasturtium paste.

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Crispy crepe with steelhead roe.

Kale with black truffles.

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Local albacore with smoked bones.

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Shiitake roasted over fire.

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Puffed halibut skin.

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Lopez Island smelt.

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Salt-baked beets with dill flowers.

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Aged venison tartare and purslane.

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Oh, smoked salmon…I need you in my life, always.

Just-dug potatoes with watercress and herring roe.

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Pan dripping and bread made from local grains.

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Local black cod steamed with lovage and cherry tomato.

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Sunset interval.

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Slow-roasted lamb with sour cherries.

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Wild chamomile and wood sorrel in blackberries.

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Blueberries with woodruff and malt.P1080900

Breakfast Plate

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Breakfast of house-made muffins, egg, and zucchini chilli jam.

I absolutely adore Willows Inn and highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for something a little different to other dining experiences. There is a reason why chef Blaine Wetzel won the James Beard Rising Star Chef Award this year. Get there if you can!

New York – May, 2014

20 Jul

Wow! It has been a long time since I’ve updated this blog and I absolutely blame my absence on being busy, with a hint of laziness. Life has been wonderfully busy as I have recently started a new job…in the food industry! I’m so excited to have finally made my dreams of working in the food industry a reality, that I’ve been completely absorbed with learning all that I can and that means that I’ve had no energy for my hobbies. Hopefully I can find a balance soon.

I had a week between jobs so my sister and I made a last-minute decision to fly to New York for a quick trip. We learned that May is a glorious time to visit the city that never sleeps. The flowers were in full bloom, the weather was warming up but not yet humid, and the city didn’t feel overly busy. Having been to New York a few times, this trip was all about taking it easy, avoiding the touristy stuff, and eating and drinking our way through NYC. Unfortunately, as our trip was last-minute, we didn’t get into some of the restaurants that I had really wanted to visit (at the top of the list was the NoMad restaurant). I also couldn’t afford to do the high-end experience that B and I had on our last trip so, instead, we explored the more affordable side of the New York food scene.

Spring time in New York = lots of flowers!

I was less adventurous this time around when it came to food and we ended up going back to a few places from my last trip with B, so that I could show them to my sister. These included Eataly (always reliable), Shake Shack (meh, won’t be going back again), Blue Bottle coffee, and Magnolia Bakery (we know this place well!)

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Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes (I still love these, regardless if people think they are over-rated).

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Eataly – Buffalo mozzarella with olive oil and sea salt. Classic. Perfect.

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Eataly - Ravioli filled with spring pea, ricotta, pecorino, mint, and finished with butter and asparagus – superb!

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Eataly – Tagliatelle with short rib ragu

I had wanted to visit Momofuku Milk Bar last time I was in NY but could only find the time to get to the UrbanSpace market stall. This time, I made it my mission to visit an actual store. We ended up at the East Village location on East 13th street (I recommend that if you go here to also time it with a visit to Momofuku ssäm bar as they are across the street from each other). I wasn’t as taken with the things that we tried as I’d hoped to be. I found that the crack pie, which is what they are famous for, was a bit of a disappointment. To me, it just tasted a lot like pecan pie, without the pecans. I still absolutely adore their birthday cake truffles though – I ended up with two bags of those to take home.

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Cereal Milk Soft Serve

P1080661The famous Crack Pie

We made the mistake of spending most of our first day getting to, and visiting, Smorgasburg in Williamsburg. Smorgasburg is an outdoor market, right on the water in Brooklyn (great views of Manhattan). With over 75-100 food vendors on offer, it sounds like heaven. Unfortunately, I found it more like my personal hell. There were soooo many people at the market that we couldn’t even see what most of the vendors were selling. The line-ups for the vendors were ridiculously long and, once you’ve managed to get some food, it was difficult to get a spot to eat it. Personally, I won’t be going back even though I love the concept.

Although we didn’t try too many new food places, we did try a lot of bars. My favourite bar of our trip was Employees Only. Hidden down in the West Village, the cocktails and the prohibition bar atmosphere were awesome. We actually popped in for “one drink” but end up staying for three. I could have gotten into a lot of trouble at this bar as every cocktail was tempting to me.

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P1080667Cocktails from Employees Only

Not too far from Employees Only is The Top of the Standard. Here is a tip: save your money and avoid the long line-ups at The Empire State Building or The Top of the Rock and, instead, soak in the impressive city views from the Top of the Standard for the cost of a cocktail. Personally, I found it a bit pretentious but worth suffering through for the views.

We started to do a bar crawl through the East Village but couldn’t get to even half of our wish-list as the East Village has so many excellent drinking spots. The ones we did visit were Amor y Amargo and Mayahuel. Amor y Amargo is probably the smallest bar I’ve ever been in, which creates a very intimate atmosphere. They are all about the bitters here and the cocktails are interesting as a result. Mayahuel has a strong focus on tequila and mezcals and, again, has some very interesting (and dangerously tasty cocktails) on offer.

Due to lack of time, we missed out on going to Crosby Street Bar (in Soho), PDT, Booker & Dax, Death and Company (over an hour wait), Beauty & Essex, and Schiller’s Liquor Bar. I plan on spending two nights the next time I’m in NY, just exploring the bar scene in the East Village.

My perfect New York trip would include some of the high-end places from our last trip (Eleven Madison Park is a must-visit) and I would combine those with some of the bars that we visited. I still have a very long list of places that I’d like to visit when I next return (Buddakan is one of them) so this isn’t it for me and New York.

Photo Visit – L’Abattoir – May 2014

1 May

217 Carrall Street
Vancouver, BC
V6B 2J2

T: 604 568 1701
www.labattoir.ca

Brief Description: A chic, unpretentious Gastown restaurant that dishes up French-meets-West Coast cuisine.

I have just gotten back from another wonderful dinner at L’Abattoir and I felt I had to share what a remarkable experience it was…again. Is it just me, or is this place underrated? Although there is a slight buzz about it, I expect to hear a lot more about a restaurant that is producing such impressive food and cocktails. For all the details on L’Abattoir you can read my post from a few years ago. This post is more to show you the beauty of the food (look at that presentation!) and to mention (again) how truly great it was.

Gastown Swizzle – $11

Complimentary bread basket

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Ceps (porcini) with pork belly and jus gras – $30

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Roast filet of Pacific Halibut with pasta of Dungeness crab and pork, asparagus – $33

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Steak Diane with charred onions, potato fondant, peppercorn – $33

Brown butter clafoutis with poached rhubarb and rhubarb sorbet – $9

The appetizer special was unbelievably good, with succulent, firm ceps (porcini mushrooms) and tender pork belly finished with a luscious foie gras jus. Both mains were plated beautifully with flavours that were perfectly balanced. The dessert was also a treat, although by this stage, we were too full to fully appreciate (but my god, is it beautiful!).

I have to ask myself why I don’t go there more often and the only valid reason I could think of is the cost. The prices are on the high-side (although, the value is there) so it is more of a once-in-awhile kinda place, or a special occasion place for me and my budget.

Photo Visit – Ask For Luigi – April 2014

26 Apr

305 Alexander Street
Vancouver, BC
V6A 1C4

T: 604 428 2544
www.askforluigi.com

I have only been to Ask for Luigi twice but it is fast climbing up my list of favourite restaurants in the city. Ask For Luigi is brought to us by the same folks that run Pourhouse and Pizzeria Farina (another favourite of mine). Ask for Luigi is Italian all the way, with a focus on house-made, fresh pasta dishes. Sharing is recommended and the atmosphere is casual and relaxed. The space is a cute one with an open concept kitchen and a small and intimate dining room.

In the same way that my other local favourite Nook impresses, Luigi delivers simple, well-prepared food at a reasonable price. Dishes on the dinner menu are all under $20 and for lunch and brunch, all dishes are under $16. The coffee is impressive too, which makes it a rarity (good food paired with good coffee). If you’d prefer alcohol beer, wine, and prosecco (yes!) is offered by the glass for $6, or choose wine by the bottle.

With good food and limited seating, Ask for Luigi is busy. Be aware that it is unlikely that you will be seated immediately. On the two occasions that we’ve been during the day we have been fortunate to get a table immediately but that doesn’t seem to be the norm. I’ve been on a Wednesday night at 8pm and have been told the wait is over 45 minutes, so be prepared. But once you are in, sit back, and enjoy the experience.

Exterior
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Pork belly with a fried egg, salsa verde and creamy polenta - $15

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Tagliatelle alla carbonara with a poached egg - $16

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Fingerling potatoes cooked in duck fat – $4

Risotto with pancetta, peas, and asparagus – $15

Ask for Luigi on Urbanspoon

Osteria Francescana – Modena, Italy

25 Apr

I recently became aware of two terms that I feel are very fitting for me, and for this post. Those terms are “destination foodie” and “culinary conservative”. “Destination foodie” is someone who is willing to travel to a destination, or make a major detour, for the purpose of indulging in food. “Culinary conservative” is someone who isn’t adventurous when it comes to food and tends to eat what they know or within their comfort-zone.

I believe that both of these terms could be used to describe me, and our visit to Osteria Francescana in Modena (Italy) reinforced this. When B and I were first planning our trip we hadn’t intended on visiting Modena at all. Time was limited and “it’s too far from Florence” we claimed but, in the end, our curiosity won and we felt that the more than three-hour round-trip to the third best restaurant in the world (2013) was completely reasonable. Hence, the “destination foodie” label.

Even though months have passed since our dinner, I still have difficulties reconciling how I felt about our experience at Osteria Francescana. On one hand, it was like no other menu that we’ve had before (and that is one of the reasons why we go to fine dining restaurants) but on the other hand, I was disappointed by the menu. I found that I didn’t enjoy the dishes as much as I had hoped – some I found to be quite odd – and this is why I (shamefully) think I deserve the label of “culinary conservative”.

Once seated in the dining room, you are given the choice of three menus to select from: Traditions (€130); Classics (€165); and Sensations (€190). The titles of the menus describe them perfectly; the first two are definitely more traditional and classic Italian. Feeling bold, we ordered the Sensations menu, which was created to be a tour of Italy through the eyes of the Chef, Massimo Bottura. Each dish represents a different area of the country and all were a complete surprise. Here we go…

The entrance: an unassuming door off the beaten track

The dining room

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Almond Granita

Savoury Oyster and Anchovy Macarons

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House-made bread selection

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More house-made bread

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Baccalá: dried and salted cod

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A whole grilled sardine, stuffed with cream of scampi, and topped with the ash of seaweed, vegetables and lemon peel. Finished with squid ink

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Risotto with cod fish balls

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Eel with saba sauce, swimming upstream

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Lamb Oyster (lamb meat in an oyster shell)

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“Think Green” – green peas and beans, topped with green pea granita, chlorophyll, and curd of Parmesan cheese

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“Snails on a grapevine” – snails with chlorophyll, red beet sauce, and black truffle shavings. Weird!

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Foie gras ravioli, topped with black truffle, served on a black truffle and balsamic vinegar sauce – easily my favourite dish

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Pigeon with beet reduction. I could barely eat this as it looked like a murder scene!

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I don’t really know how to describe this one. Candied leaves, served with strawberry, pumpkin and chocolate purees and topped with black truffle shavings

P1080007“Oops! We broke the lemon tart”

So there you have it…a trip through Italy without leaving your computer chair. Unfortunately, for me, it was a very seafood-focused menu (strike 1) and I personally found some of the dishes to be just down-right strange (strike 2). Whilst I appreciated the innovation, the boldness, and the skill, I did not love most of these dishes. It would appear that I am just not adventurous enough to have appreciated it for everything that it was.

In no way do I want to discourage anyone from going to Osteria Francescana; it was certainly unique and I will absolutely remember it.  However, I do believe that the Sensations menu is not for everyone, particularly the “culinary conservatives” out there. The next time I return to Osteria Francescana, I will settle on the more traditional menu and be satisfied in my comfort-zone, but for now I’m glad that I tried a menu this interesting and creative.

Photo Visit – Nicli Antica Pizzeria – March 2014

2 Apr

62 East Cordova
Vancouver, BC
V6A 1K3

T: 604 669 6985
www.nicli-antica-pizzeria.ca

For some reason I’ve been having major pizza cravings lately (perhaps stemming from our Italian trip in October) and, with Nicli being one of my favourite pizza places in the city, I made it a point to return twice in March to get my much-needed fix. My sister and I were able to get a table on a Wednesday evening at about 8pm without any hassle but if you want to be assured that you won’t have to wait in-line at all, try a lunch time on the weekend – I was recently back for lunch with B on a Saturday and we walked straight in. Alternatively, you can join their wait-list by using the no-wait app.

Although I hadn’t been to Nicli in a while, they are still turning out great food in a modern space. My only complaint is that they won’t cut the pizza for you (I asked) and so it can be a bit of a struggle to cut your pizza on the slippery white plates.

Daily Special: Prosciutto, jalapenos, arugula

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Photo Visit – Nook Kitsilano – March 2014

16 Mar

1525 Yew Street
Vancouver, BC
V6K 3E4

T: 604 734 3381
www.nookrestaurant.ca

Since becoming home-owners late last year, we have been trying to save a few pennies by foregoing our usual weekend brunches out. Unfortunately, habits are hard to break and we’ve found ourselves returning to our brunching ways. I have found myself brunching at Nook Kitsilano the past three weekends in a row. I could pretend to be shameful right now but the brunch is so good that I hold my head high. Nook is, without a doubt, the restaurant that I find myself at the most. I’ve talked about my love for Nook on this blog numerous times and so it comes as no surprise that I would also enjoy their brunch offerings.

A typical breakfast diner this is not (head up the street to Abigail’s if that is what you are after) but you will find Italian-influenced skillet dishes, pizza, and these two dishes; the baby Dutch pancake (almost like a sweet Yorkshire pudding) and the Italian breakfast (a plate of Italian meats and cheeses). Be warned: the Italian breakfast is like a hot girl that walked into a room – heads turn when this dish gets delivered to your table. I’ve had other diners stare at my ordered brunch of Italian breakfast and ask “What is that?!” and then proceed to order it. It is a meaty start to the day and only $14.

Besides hearty breakfast dishes, the coffee is also quite good meaning that this is a one-stop shop – no need to get a caffeine hit before, or after, brunch.

The Baby Dutch Pancake

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The Italian Breakfast

Brunch special: lentils with lamb sausage ragu and poached eggs

Brunch special: guanciale, spinach, egg, and parmesan pizza

Bites of Italy – Part 3 of 3

10 Mar

Bruschetta

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Spaghetti Carbonara

P1080119Wild Boar Pappardelle

Platter of Tuscan meats and cheeses

Grapefruit and Prosecco Gelato

Dinner made up from our market finds

Porcini Fettucine from the incredible Le Logge del Vignola, Montepulciano

Porcini risotto from Le Logge del Vignola, Montepulciano

Wines from Poggio Antico winery

Bites of Italy – Part 2 of 3

4 Mar

Pappardelle with wild boar ragout from Borgo Antico, Florence.

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 Rigatoni with bacon and tomato sauce from Borgo Antico, Florence.

Pizza from O’Munaciello, Florence.

Porchetta sandwich, Florence.

P1080104A simple, yet tasty, lunch that we had whilst on a bike tour through Tuscany.

We didn’t meet a bottle of Italian red that we didn’t like…

Although not visually appealing, ribollita was surprisingly delicious.

 Mushrooms at San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale, Florence – a must visit for foodies.

More truffles!!

Bites of Italy – Part 1 of 3

2 Mar

Italian food is some of my all-time favourite food and this was reconfirmed when we were in Italy last October. I was in my element as we dined for more than two weeks on pizza, pasta, risotto, gelato, robust red wines, fizzy Prosecco, cappucino, sliced meats, and different varieties of cheese. What strikes me most about Italian food is that it is honest and uncomplicated. Rather than relying on heavy sauces or complicated dishes, the Italians prefer the ingredients to speak for themselves.

As we were there in the Fall, we were just in time for the season of chewy porcini and fragrant truffles, of which we consumed a lot. Pasta was a regular item on our daily menu – which I was incredibly grateful for as I never tire of eating pasta – as were the divine Italian red wines that we sampled (our favourite being a type of wine called Nobile di Montepulciano).

The following images (and the others that will follow) are a capture of some of memorable dishes that we had the pleasure of experiencing whilst in Italy.

A breakfast of crema croissant and cappuccinos.

Flavour-packed pizza sold by weight. The porcini and proscuitto pizza was a favourite.

Piles of tasty and affordable panini from All’antico Vinaio, Florence.

Porchetta and truffle panini from All’Antico Vinaio, Florence.

Wine by the glass for only €2.

Heapings of Tuscan ham and mozzarella from Borgo Antico, Florence.

Duck tortellini in a light broth from Il Santo Bevitore, Florence.

 Shaved truffles over house-made pasta – simply divine.

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