Vancouver Staytion

Usually, we are on the road for two weeks this time of year. We haven’t managed to hit the road since moving to BC. Too busy exploring our new world close to home. Not much has changed this year. Earlier this year we booked our petsitter, for a four-day vayy, destination to be determined. Our choices were limited this year by wildfires still burning in much of BC. We settled on the big city, a 40-minute trip, where we are still very much tourists. We are treating ourselves to four all-star restos, pared down from a list of 40. AND the Hotel Georgia, an elegant, grand dame built in the 1920’s and newly renovated, known for its superb service, downtown lol, and an excellent bar.

The day, hot and sunny, marred only by the smoke of new wildfires, and the knowledge of the weather turning to rain and cloud tomorrow has us cruising into the city at our leisure for a late lunch at Meet, a vegan eatery on Main Street.

Meet, very much a homemade hippy enclave features a creative menu showsing a large “burger” selection, including the famous Beyond Meat patty (unavailable currently everywhere in nada due to its popularity), coconut bacon, real ice tea, rice bowls and mushroom lamari. A small tv over the bar is playing Little Shop of Horrors.

For starters we shared the sweet-chilli uliflower fritters, beer battered and glazed with a sticky-sweet tamarind chilli-ginger glaze. They promise to be addictive, and they are. Sweet with a mild heat, well-fried and not greasy.

Rob and I both choose burgers, The Meet for me and The Mighty Mac for Rob. The patties are thick and tasty. Nuts and mushroom are the predominant flavours. The bun is soft and the toppings fresh. Crispy onions on mine add a nice crunch. Rob’s burger me slopped on with a pile of mac and cheese which was tasty enough with what I imagine was a shew-based cheese. The well made skin-on fries are served on the side with chipotle mayo and a rather dull salad of greens, shredded rrot and beet and little or no dressing.

Meet gets a bit noisy when half full but you n be seated outside if you like. The bathrooms are NOT clean ( have not had a good scrubbing in some time) and almost a deal breaker. Service is slow, so don’t go in a hurry, but if you are looking for creative vegan, check it out.

Tonight we are eating Thai at Maenam, a sister resto to Longtail, a more sual place we have previously enjoyed. We n’t get a taxi at this time of day, so the Hotel Georgia sent their Bentley around to take us to dinner. An unexpected treat for sure.

Maenam in Kits is small, clean, modern and not particularly Thai in design. Seated by a window overlooking a busy, vibrant street, beers are ordered, and menus are oohed and ahhed over. Choices are hard. Finally, despite being momentarily tempted by the chef’s menu, we settle on two appies and two mains to share.

The grilled Thai sausage and crispy rice salad was a lime bomb! So delicious with fermented pork sausage, crispy curried rice puffs, coriander, lemongrass, ginger, fried chillies and limey goodness. The portion size, a bit substantial for an appetizer, should be shared family style as with most of the menu items.

The Thai “tacos” with mungbean wafers and their crisp, light sweetness, were stuffed with Dungeness crab meat, coriander root and young coconut. Elegantly presented with a few flower petals and some gold leaf, I would go back time and again just for these.

We rounded the meal out with 8-spice lingcod, crunchy and ramelized with a palm sugar tamarind sauce and crispily fried basil leaves as well as a classic pad Thai with shrimp.

Excellent on all counts, food, service and clean bathrooms.

Rob’s Bullshit Food Terms

A warning: This is a curmudgeonly and cynil rant. Maybe I’m the only one who res about how words are used around here or being a positioning and messaging guy, I have a lower tolerance for words that are used to either disguise bad things or words that have little to no meaning at all, except to lull the reader with some vague association.

Here’s a short list of what’s bugging me lately, plucked from the menu of a dining establishment near you.

  • Fall-off-the-bone tender. Usually, this describes ribs. Most real barbeque doesn’t do this unless it’s a bone-in pork butt that’s been smoking for 14 hours. Certainly not ribs. It’s binary. Either you’ve smoked the ribs just right and they will have a little pull to them, or you’re serving boiled meat that’s been grilled to finish.
  • Piled high. This means one thing if you’re talking about Nachos — a pile of unadorned tortilla chips under the top layer of goodies and chips. The best nachos are served flat unless they really are piled high with layers of toppings, and the plate weighs 20 pounds.
  • Flavour profile. Do you mean “flavour”? This is one of those useless terms people use to sound smart, like “incentivize” instead of “incent,” or “utilize” instead of “use.”
  • Flavourful. Well, duh. Is its size sizable too?
  • Unctuous. Unctuous means oily, or greasy. It’s one of those terms you hear people use to describe something that tastes rich or luxurious. They use it beuse they heard someone else use it. And so on. And so on. Nobody in that chain bothered to look it up. I did.
    Merriam-Webster defines it this way:
    ? ? ? a: fatty, oily
    ? ? ? b: smooth and greasy in texture or appearance
    If you know what it really means, it is NOT an appealing food term. It’s a flat-out insult.
  • Artisanal. Made by an artisan? n I see their papers? Doesn’t this mean that someone took re in preparing something, so it’s good? Artisanal muffins. Artisanal pizza. Artisanal hot dogs. It loses meaning.
  • “Handmade” or “Hand” anything. Those crappy deep-fried cubes of breakfast potatoes are handmade. Places that have to brag about that shouldn’t need to brag about that.
  • “Deconstructed” anything. I don’t pay you to “un-cook.” Please construct my food.
  • Superfood. Look in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a nominally more nutritious food than the average!
  • Natural. Cyanide. Poison Ivy. Asbestos. Mosquito bites. Mercury. Sulphuric Acid. And your granola. Yippee.
  • All-Natural. What does this even mean?
  • Harvested. Well, I’m not sitting down to it in the field with a knife and fork. What’s the alternative?

I’m sure there are plenty of others. What are your favourites?

10 Acres Kitchen – You need to go here

Last day on the island and we are heading up the coast to visit a high school chum at his float home in Maple Bay. The drive up the Trans-nada and through the Cowichan Bay area reminds me of cottage country anywhere in nada. Sun-parched grass and rock faces.

The big difference being glances of ocean and mountains through Sitka spruce and gorgeous outcroppings of cinnamon barked arbutus trees high on rocky promontories.

We drive through the sun-washed, salt-worn seaside town of Cowichan Bay, on the scenic route detour off the Trans-nada, past a happening folk festival and on to the Shipyard restaurant, a classic friendly seafood joint on Maple Bay where we come upon Salty Steve chilling in the sun, checking out the lol talent on guitar and sax. We go way back with Steve.

This is our first visit to the marina where he makes his home. We share an idyllic meal wharfside and tch up, take selfies to mark the ocsion and head back to Victoria where we get held up by construction and cottagers heading back to real life.

Last evening we had a very memorable dinner at 10 Acres Kitchen on Humbolt in Victoria. So remarkable in fact I must insist that if you are in town you need to go as well. There were several items on the menu that we wanted to try last night and so we went back this evening. Staff did not seem all that surprised to see us again. They know they good.

The two apps that we had to bypass last night were the Tomato Panzanella Salad and “Toast.” They did not disappoint. The salad of large chunks of toasty sourdough drenched in good quality EVO and balsamic, topped with farm-fresh basil and succulent strawberry tomatoes, shavings of Parmesan and warm milky fresh mozzarella was everything I hoped for.

The toast was a simple dish — great crab claw meat and sweet BC tiny wild shrimp all melty and gooey with gruyere on …toast. Spectacular.

On every menu, at every restaurant, we visited this weekend in Victoria there seemed to be a clam linguine option. I make pretty spectacular clam linguine myself and am often tempted then disappointed when I order it. Too liquidy and light on clams usually. Until tonight, I successfully avoided the dish. I thought, why not? Even poor clam linguine is pretty good with a glass of vino. I order the Vongole at 10 Acres. I am disappointed again beuse it’s seriously up a notch and better than mine.

The oven-dried tomato embellishment gave the loose, but not thin, sauce a depth of flavour that was inspired. The addition of a bit of fresh spinach added a little green freshness that brightened the overall flavours. A generous helping of plump clams and perfectly cooked linguine makes 10 Acres’ version of the Italian classic the best I have ever had. A glass of cherry, smokey Foxtrot pinot noir put this meal way over the top.

Rob had the Berryman Farm Porkchop with garlic and chilli summer squash and parmesan polenta. Rich and luscious, it was very generous, almost a rack of pork. Our puppy will be nearly as happy as Rob was upon tasting it.

Our new fave?

This morning starts out crisp and sunny. A beautiful day in BC’s pital. We breakfast at a funky diner, Spoons. On the way, we duck into a Chevy dealer to check out the Chevy Bolt in our quest to find an electric vehicle that suits our needs. This only further clouds the contender list.

Spoons, an eclectic diner, with booths and stools, checkerboard linoleum, and framed classic movie posters offers well-made creative diner fare. You n even let the kitchen whip up a surprise for you. Portions are overly large, and coffee is passable. On the whole, Spoons is a pleasant spot to grab breakfast.

Today we are headed to Butchart, Victoria’s famed gardens. Butchart Gardens are not a botanil garden but are somewhat more akin to a Gentleman’s hobby garden on a grand sle.

The plantings are a must-see in Victoria. As a horticulturalist, I was hoping for more specimen plants, particularly in the Japanese garden area, but was satisfied with the use of annuals to create spectacular broad vistas of colour.

The lack of plant identifition on site was a bugaboo for me, but a Plant ID desk maintained in the information area of the main square upon entering or leaving the gardens suffices to answer some of my questions.

We opt out of lunch after our heavy diner breakfast and have early dinner reservations at 10 Acre Kitchen, a two-block walk from our hotel on Humbolt. Heading over a tad early on purpose, we grab a cocktail in the bar. Classic night tonight: An old-fashioned for me and a dirty martini for the man. Excellent.

The bar menu looks and smells delish, and I almost wish we were eating there. In retrospect, I am glad we waited. The best was yet to come.

10 Acres Kitchen uses fresh, innovative ingredients, much of it raised ethilly on their farm in Saanich or procured from like-minded farmers and fishers. Both dinner and service were pretty much perfect from beginning to end.

When I want five items from the starters menu, that says something. We settled on two to share: Zucchini blossoms, a first for both of us, and Humbolt squid. Three squash blossoms, stuffed with smooth, creamy goat cheese, were then so very delitely battered and fried and plated on a most excellent vinegary, complex tomato relish, and completed with a sprinkling of peppery wild arugula leaves.

The second starter, Humbolt squid, presented with meaty pieces of squid, imaginatively paired with a chunky “satay” of peanut, chilli and lime, with crisp plantain pieces. Both of these plates will live in memory for some time and inspire me in my kitchen.

Rob has been jonesing for steak since I have stopped eating and cooking mammals this year. His medium-rare strip me with a chimichurri sauce, some fresh corn pudding and a mix of foraged mushrooms. A Haywire Pinot Noir Reserve completed the story.

I chose the halibut which was delivered perfectly seared and nestled on a crisply fried rosti potato ke in a pool of lemony Bernaise. Perfectly sauteed farm fresh kale rounded out this entree. Paired with a Poplar Grove Viognier from the Okanagan, this meal was divine on all counts. And we haven’t even had dessert yet.

I spy a special Taylor Fladgate Single Harvest 1966 for $42 a glass. Ouch. Worth it or no? I flip a text to the son in law, my go-to sommelier.
Damn. Working and unavailable. My daughter Hannah is the next best resource. After a few texts back and forth we decided to order and share a glass with our dessert. #yupworthit.

I selected a chocolate tart with island berries and blackberry ice cream. The thin tartlette was rich and but not cloyingly sweet. Perfect blackberries and blueberries adorned the tart, some frozen, icily delicious and pretty with a dusting of lacy frost, some fresh.

Rob’s elevated blueberry cheeseke arrived with a similar mix of berries for texture, both flash frozen and fresh.

This memorable meal was pped with Jamain French Press…mmm. I want to return tomorrow for the things I could not have tonight. 10 Acre Kitchen has been the dining highlight of our trip.

Srabs, Sun, Seafood

A slow wake this morning — no alarm, no furry, staring presence, no warm, sweet breath, no beastie accompanying you to the bathroom, no beastie banging on the baby gate that keeps her nightly prowls and?lickies at bay — and so day two in Victoria begins.

Since today will be on the cool side, we opt to stay indoors and visit Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs, a special exhibit at the Royal BC Museum. First, though, we make an egregious error in judgement. A hotel breakfast. I won’t go into details beuse we tend to only talk about good experiences. Suffice it to say, give breakfast at the Doubletree in Victoria a wide berth.

We walk four minutes in bright sunshine to the museum. Victoria, always gaily decorated with imaginative civic plantings makes walking anywhere pleasant. We have missed the start of the exhibit’s accompanying IMAX feature and so head on into the special exhibit hall through a kitschy pyramid. The collection does not disappoint. Many of the artifacts are on loan from the Aberdeen Museum and feature statues, small sphinxes,?sarcophagi, jewellery, hieroglyphics, a t mummy, pictorial rvings of royal daily life, clay pots, linens, dishes and personal use items. The personal effects were the most fascinating. You could almost see the ghost of a woman grinding khol in a pot and mixing makeup on a palette, pinning up her hair with a clip getting ready for her day. I also noted with interest that when the Egyptians embalmed, they had four nopic jars to preserve the liver, lungs, bowel and stomach. They seemed to be less enamoured with the brain and heart, not elevating them to the status we do today. If you get a chance to see this exhibit, I highly recommend it.

The museum was crowded, especially around this popular show. After viewing and perusing the gift shop dedited to the Exhibit, we crossed the street, toured through a rose garden and into the Fairmont Empress hotel.

On the recommendation of another foodie friend, roline Lenardon, we headed to the hotel bar for gin and tonics, made with the Empress’ custom-blended gin. This spirit, while traditionally crystal clear, has a gorgeous shade of indigo, courtesy of the added butterfly pea flower.

The Empress’ custom gin is made with hand-selected botanils centred around the hotel’s own custom tea blend. When exposed to a tonic, the gin changes from blue to purple and then pink.

Quite the show and quite possibly the best G and T you will ever have. Could have been the waterfront view flavouring it as well.

After an afternoon siesta and a little time exploring the boutique shopping district of LoJo (lower Jonhston St.), we head off to our 7 pm res at Ferris’ Upstairs Seafood and Oyster Bar. Parking is brutal here, but we finally score a spot in the parkade.

Ferris’ is housed in an old structure with warm exposed brick. The walls feature the artwork of Timothy Wilson Hoey, and his eclectic mix of nadiana themes, from politics to Hudson Bay blankets, framed with old hockey sticks, and held together at the corners with hockey tape. The National Post describes Hoey this way: “If Hoey were any more nadian, he would be a doughnut.”

Cocktails are ordered, and cocktails arrive. An elaborate Ceasar for Rob with an oyster on the half shell and a bit overly sweet Corpse Reviver for me.

Appies all look interesting, but we settle on two to share, the smoked seafood board and Korean-fried oysters, KFO. On the board were generous slices of smoked salmon, tuna, trout and an oyster, pickled fennel, daikon, and uliflower, crostini and, most inspired, a slice of butter dipped in smoked black salt. What a combination! A fantastic foil to the smoked fish. I n’t wait to experiment with this at home.

Rob’s KFO had two expertly-fried oysters atop a Korean slaw with Kimchi and a Kimchi aioli. The fried oyster with the spicy bbage and cooled by the aioli made a perfect bite.

Tried a new white, Torres Pazo de Bruxas Albarino 2016 from Spain to accompany our meal. Delightful and bright, citrusy and slightly mineral –an excellent choice to pair with Rob’s Bouilliabase and my wild salmon and crab risotto mains.

My salmon was well cooked, but a tad over salted. The bed of Dungeness crab risotto was excellent, flavoured with crab bisque and crab butter, accented with summer squash and some golden beet, rendering the salmon superfluous.

Rob’s Bouilliabase revealed its Pernod and fennel, making the broth rich and complex. A delicious mix of halibut, salmon, shrimp, mussels and clams, topped with a small dollop of saffron aioli and a slice of grilled bread. The broth was the star of the show.

Finishing up with ppuccinos, we were talked into lemon ricotta fritters by our excellent server and neighbouring table. The fritters arrived hot and fresh, with unsweetened whipped cream and a puddle of ramel.

The lemon was all but absent, but the key confections were light, airy and very eggy, like a good souffle. An excellent finish to a lovely second evening on the Island.