Succulent discovery in East Sooke Park

Broadleaf Stonecrop Close Up

Nature walks along the coast are always a brilliant idea. Particularly when you are on Vancouver Island; an area roughly the size of the state of Hawaii, that is barely populated at all. Which means… soo much land to explore! And much like a young Gerald Durrell*, who delighted in exploring Corfu and learning about new animals…. I really enjoyed a recent day trip to East Sooke Park; where I discovered a beautiful species of succulent, the Broadleaf Stonecrop!

 

Hawaii vs Vancouver Island Size
Visual generated thanks to this cool site: https://mapfight.appspot.com/

The Location – East Sooke Park:

This regional park is located past Metchosin, towards the SW of Victoria, B.C. and is roughly a 45 mins drive from the city.

East Sooke Park Map

The Coast Trail hugs the rugged cliffs, and offers beautiful views of the Straight of Juan de Fuca, and the majestic Olympic Peninsula (USA) across the straight. Quite spectacular!

What captivated me most however was this super cute succulent I kept seeing along the way. It was everywhere. Clinging to the coastal rocks and abundant in various cracks and crevices. So I took a sample and carefully gave it a new home in my SW facing, super-sunny corner of my living room.

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The succulent is native to western North America (from BC to California) and I am besotted with it! 

Honestly – this is probably the first time I have ever really seen and appreciated succulents that are native to British Columbia. I just don’t associate British Columbia with succulents, but rather with huge Douglas Fir, Sitka and Red Cedar trees. 

Notes:

(*) One of my favourite books from High School was ‘My Family & Other Animals’ by Gerald Durrell.

Would you order pizza at Nightingale?

Nightingale Restaurant Lamb Sausage Pizza

My personal philosophy on dealing with food cravings is that it’s better to indulge a little. Scratch that itch as it arrises, rather than endure the misery of abstinence. Years of experience have thought me that if I try to ignore my desire for pizza for instance, I will loose.

Eventually there comes a point where I cave. My love affair with pizza is that strong, and I blame it on my Mediterranean roots. But sometimes I try to fight the good fight and resist all the same, and last Saturday night was one of those instances.

After we made a deliberate choice to not go to Nicli Pizzeria, (one of the best in the city, but I like to space out my Nicli visits, and Thomas isn’t as pizza crazy as I am), we settled on Thomas’ terrific suggestion; Nightingale.

A spot we always seem to enjoy, but have only been to a couple of times in the past 2 years.

 

Nightingale Restaurant Bar
Beautiful bar – love the bird cages and alcohol cabinetry

 

Oh crap… there is pizza on the menu:

So imagine what my face looked like when my eyes landed on the sizeable pizza section in Nightingale’s dinner menu. Dismay mixed with delight. All my focus pulled into that one section and everything else sort off went fuzzy. Pizza 1 – Nicole 0.

This might be weird but there are certain foods I prefer to not order from fancier restaurants. Pizza. Pasta. Bruschetta. Especially in the days when I would cook pasta all the time… I would never order pasta in a restaurant.

So I really didn’t want to order a pizza from Nightingale. What a culinary waste I bemoaned in my head. And yet that’s exactly what I had to do, and you know what? It was surprisingly fantastic!!

 

The drinks: 

To start we ordered 2 cocktails – Jungle bird (dark rum, campari, pineapple, lime) for me and Hesperides’ garden (vodka, elderflower, apple, ginger, lemon) for him.

We later moved on to an outstanding half bottle of Italian wine, Campania Aglianico – Le Masciare Irpinia Campi Taurasini. You better believe I took a photo of the label to include on my Vivino wine app! I also found it for sale in a North Vancouver liquor store.

 

Nightingale Restaurant Decanted Red Wine
Wine paired nicely with our mains.

 

The food: 

To kick things off food wise we ordered 2 starters – the Kanpachi aburi, avocado, serrano pepper, with ponzu and the Roasted apricots, burrata, red currant, with aged balsamic. Stunning dishes! 

For our mains we both ordered lamb dishes – the Lamb sausage, broccolini, macedonian feta, mint pizza for me and the Charred lamb chops, red harissa, mint charmoula, wild rice dukkah for him.

I’ll be honest – I was not expecting that pizza! I was expecting a smaller flatbread style pizza that would be served on a wooden board. This version was soooo much better than what I was expecting!

 

Nightingale Restaurant Kanpachi
Kanpachi Aburi
Nightingale Restaurant Roasted Apricots
Roasted Apricots
Nightingale Restaurant Lamb Chops
Super delicious lamb chops.
Nightingale Restaurant Lamb Sausage Pizza
Amazing Lamb Sausage Pizza – look at that charred crust!

Notable Additions:

My Jungle bird cocktail was garnished with a charred piece of pineapple that was delicious.

Another location that serves great Lamb sausage pizza, albeit in a much more casual setting, is Corduroy Restaurant in Kitsilano. This was the spot that introduced me to the lamb sausage + pizza culinary combo actually!

Nightingale Restaurant Interior
Dining area
Nightingale Restaurant Cocktails
The cocktails

West End Memories & Hidden Patios: A Visit to Adesso Bistro

Adesso Bistro Front Entrance

Sentimental. That’s what I was feeling last weekend.

Astrologically speaking, it was bound to happen. I am a Cancer Ascendant, celebrating a ten year anniversary, during a uniquely intense retrograde period.

For the Astrologically un-savvy, Pluto, Neptune, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars are all in retrograde mode right now.

Retrograde periods are all about looking back, before moving forward. Even if you are someone who thinks Astrology is BS… there is something truly beautiful in this practise of evaluating past actions and beliefs, possibly making adjustments and corrections, and then moving on.

I dig that whole heartedly! Additionally Cancerians are supposedly prone to nostalgia. So there is simply no escaping the sentimentality.

2008 > A New Chapter on the West Coast:

I moved to Vancouver exactly ten years ago. This fact about my life is so surreal to me. So soooooo much has happened during this time, and yet I cannot believe it’s already been ten years!

Many different ideas on how to ‘celebrate’ the big 10 year marker had crossed my mind over the past few months. In the end I settled on what I needed most; a week long break and lots of me-time!

West End Vancouver Map

West End Neighbourhood Borders according to Google Maps. I’d argue that the blocks East of Denman and North of Robson Street are no longer part of the West End anymore. 

My beloved Harwood on Burrard:

From all the apartments I have occupied during these past ten years, nothing compares to the one that I shared with my friend James for a good four years. What a gem of a place!

It was a large SE facing corner unit with plenty of light, and stunning water views. And I had a fabulous walk in closet.

Trading my current Yaletown pad for that former apartment would entail downgrading to only one bathroom and giving up in-suite laundry. Big no-nos right? And yet I still totally would be tempted to move back in! I really did love it that much.

But that is nostalgia for you!

At some point in this past year I discovered some very sad news. Almost all the buildings along my former street are scheduled to be torn down for condo development.

Ever since then I have been meaning to go and take photos of the street before this happens. It’s been months in the making… but I finally went and took the ‘memory-capsule’ photos I desired. And I am so glad I did!

There are ten buildings along that portion of Harwood street, sandwiched between Thurlow and Burrard. One building was torn down and redeveloped a few years ago. From the nine remaining buildings, five are slated to be demolished in the next 1.5 years. The area will be truly unrecognizable.

As though by fate, while I was adjusting my angle for one of the photos, I realized the man walking his dog along the sidewalk was someone I knew! A former neighbour who I hadn’t spoken to in a good five years. It was so nice to catch up and exchange contact info before he too has to leave the neighbourhood.

Patio Entrance to Adesso Bistro

Adesso Bistro – A hidden patio: 

Snapping away at the various interesting buildings along Harwood street I remembered something else I had been meaning to do for a super long time. Visit Adesso Bistro – one of Vancouver’s top hidden patios.

This place is so obscure that Thomas and I had to do a Google search to remember the name of it, and its exact location. All I could remember was that it was somewhere west of Denman street.

Nestled among the trees in a residential neighbourhood on Haro Street, about a block and a half past Denman, Adesso Bistro offers patrons a secluded al fresco dining experience. Tucked out of the way, it’s no wonder that people are surprised when they stumble upon this little beauty. Flaunting beautiful hanging flowers, the bistro’s 50-seat patio is the perfect place to perch oneself on a summer evening, whilst tucking into an antipasti platter. Reservations for the patio are required.

– Daily Hive Vancouver

As though prompted by the name (Adesso means ‘now’ in Italian), we decided we both needed a mid-afternoon pick-me-up sooner than later. So we headed over.

What a beautiful Euro-style patio!! Tucked away on a quiet street, surrounded by lush greenery, this patio is perfect for a solo afternoon of drinking wine, nibbling on snacks and catching up on some reading or writing.

Adesso Bistro Happy Hour Menu Adesso Bistro Happy Hour Drink Menu

Thomas and I ordered the following from their Happy Hour menus:

  • Haro Bellini
  • Fiorente Spritz
  • Cheese & Charcuterie
  • Tuna Crudo
  • Beef Tataki
  • Roasted Root Veg

On sight I thought the drinks looked very elegant and Instagram-worthy.

I do wonder what happened to the rosemary for my Bellini though. An odd addition that wasn’t added in the end.

Also I do think a gentle stir is required to blend up that Aperol/ Peach mix at least 1/2 way up the flute glass. For Thomas’ Spritz, mint was used instead of thyme, so we think the bar might have been lacking is some key herbs that day.

Cocktails at Adesso Bistro

Roasted Root Veg & Cheese Charcuterie Board

As for the nibbles:

So many delights! My definite ‘order again’ choices would be the Tuna Crudo and Roasted Root Veg.

The Tuna Crudo had a finely chopped topping of radish, celery and pink grapefruit. That flavour combo is deletable and so refreshing! The main menu version has some additional ingredients like campari caviar and black olive crisp – I’d definitely want to try this fuller version.

The Roasted Root Veg was so surprisingly delicious, I kept trying to reverse engineer each new bite. The slivered sweet yellow carrots, the orange carrot ribbons, the cashew curd. Yum, yum, YUM!!!

I don’t think I have ever tried popped sorghum before. When you want to recreate a dish at home, exactly as it is plated… that’s when you know you’ve found a winner!

Worthy mentions:

  • The generous helping of thinly sliced, olive oil drizzled, toasted bread slices… which were probably not made in house but I enjoyed them a lot anyway.
  • The smoky castelvetrano olives.

Beef Tataki

Tuna Crudo

Roasted Root Veg

West End Girls:  

I may live in Yaletown now… but I’m still a West End Girl at heart!

Beautiful tree-lined, LGBTQ proud, immigrant friendly, oasis of a neighbourhood… hopefully you don’t change too much.

Team Lunch Hawaii Style: Poké

Poké Bowls

If you have to take care of ordering a team lunch, best to keep things interesting and try something new I say!

I could have ordered some sandwiches. It would have been easier really. Sandwiches are safe, and we’ve ordered them before.

But that’s just not me.

I have a serious aversion to doing the same thing over and over again. I wanted something new and tasty, that could also accommodate everyones’ unique tastes.  So what did I come up with?

Poké!

All thanks to the food delivery app Foodora actually.

A quick scroll through the available options was all it took to come up with a perfect solution; Poké from The Poké Shop in Gastown.

This place is literally a 10 to 15 mins walk from my house. Yet I had no clue it existed. Then again… it’s not easy to spot since it’s a sub-level establishment on Water Street.

There were a few hiccups… 

  1. I couldn’t get my 5 person order delivered because the time kept changing from 12pm to 3pm during the checkout process on the app. I assumed this might be a timezone bug on the app since no where did it say they couldn’t do deliveries. So I had to pick up the food.
  2. The restaurant forgot one of the drinks, and I only noticed when I had already arrived at the office. So I made everyone share.

But other than that… everyone was super happy with their customized Poké bowl.

Photo by khanghl20000 on Pixabay

Traditional Hawaiian Tuna Poké. Photo by khanghl20000 on Pixabay.

My order (Bowl bottom left near chop sticks) was:

  • 1/2 Japonica White Rice 1/2 Organic Purple Rice
  • Ahi Tuna + Wild Sockeye Salmon
  • Red Radish, Guacamole, Pineapple, Cilantro, Cucumber, Edamame, Nori, Sesame Seeds
  • Spicy Sauce

I thought mine was very delicious, and the drink I sampled (Pineapple Plantation Ice Tea) was super yum too. The portion size (regular) was just right.

Based on this initial experience I think I will omit the guacamole and add pickled ginger for next time though. How could I have omitted the ginger?!?

 

Hawaii Photo by Colton Jones on Unsplash

                          The birthplace of Poké – Hawaii. Photo by Colton Jones on Unsplash

 

Poké Newbie to Poké Master

Truth be told it was my first time ordering Poké. (What?!)

A handful of Poké specific restaurants have opened in Vancouver over the past three years, and I definitely noticed them….but I hadn’t actually bridged that culinary gap until this team lunch gave me the opportunity.

So my Poké experience turned out to be the culinary highlight of an otherwise stressful day!

Thank God for food… and the Hawaiian fishermen who came up with this super tasty dish!

 

The Poké Shop in Gastown

A Po’ Boy in Yaletown – A trip to Wild Tale post New Orleans

BC Oyster Po' Boy Side View

Talk about serendipity…

Wandering into a busy Yaletown restaurant for lunch on a sunny Saturday, less than 24 hours after returning home from a glorious foodie inspired week in New Orleans…. and seeing (to my utter surprise) BC Oyster Po’ Boy on the menu!

Cue brain explosion: What?! Is this actually a thing I can find & enjoy in Vancouver?!

The New Orleans culinary adventure wasn’t over yet! So of course I stopped looking at anything else on the menu, because I knew exactly what I wanted to eat; a delicious Po’ Boy.

 

Wild Tale Lunch Menu

Wild Tale Lunch Menu

Wild Tale Drinks Menu

Wild Tale Drinks Menu

 

I ordered a Rosé from France without even realizing it was Rosé day. I’m all about the Rosé in Summer! 

Castaway Cocktail & French Rose Wine

 

My Po’ Boy – served open face.

BC Oyster Po' Boy

 

The Po’ Boy – A New Orleans Classic:

According to local legend, the term comes from the phrase ‘Poor Boys’.

Pronounced ‘Po’, in Louisiana’s southern dialect, and spelled alternately with an apostrophe or hyphen or without (Po’ Boy/ Po-Boy/ Po Boy), the sandwich was originally served to streetcar strikers, and later to the general working class of New Orleans, aka the ‘Poor Boys’ of the area.

Here’s a The Mind of a Chef YouTube video about the history of the sandwich.

These sandwiches are ubiquitous in New Orleans and NOLA residents are very passionate and opinionated on where you can find the best Po’ Boy in town.

 

Ask any local, and they will tell you, with fervor, where to find the best po-boy in town, from take-out corner stores to dive bars to sit-down eateries. Know that New Orleanians are prepared to passionately defend this position. Expect supporting details from the quantity of the meats, to the crispiness of the bread, to the value vs. price debate, to the atmosphere of the venue. Indeed, feelings can run so high that it’s almost dangerous to publish any list purporting to be the city’s best.

– Eater New Orleans

 

Me in three layers of clothing … after a week of 33* Celsius weather. Bit of an adjustment being back in Vancouver! 

 

Frequency Illusion at Wild Tale? 

Thomas and I don’t normally land at a restaurant haphazardly.

We tend to know exactly where we are going, after compromising on a mutually agreed upon location. I’m fussy and hate going to the same place too often. He has dietary restrictions and is all about the reviews.

Yet on this particular day I just wanted to find any sunny patio that looked nice, and get something (anything!) to eat from there. Basically, survival mode thinking when you are travel fatigued and need to eat.

I guided us towards Yaletown as it’s the closest and easiest for us, with row after row of patio options, and we ended up at a seafood restaurant called Wild Tale.

Now I’ve been to this restaurant before, but only for dinner, and we’d just missed the brunch menu at the time we arrived (after 2:30pm). So lunch menu it was, and coincidentally, the Po’ Boy is only available on the lunch menu.

Prior to this New Orleans trip I had no clue what a Po’ Boy was. So I wonder what I would have imagined it to be?? Perhaps an Asian inspired dish?

Would I have asked the server for details or glossed over the option entirely seeing as I’m not usually a fan of fried oysters? I’ll never know…

What I do know is that my eyes probably looked like saucers when they landed on the Po’ Boy option and I was all in! 🙂

 

My Po’ Boy – Top View (the coleslaw and cajun fries were pretty good too!)

BC Oyster Po' Boy Top View

 

Thomas’ Ahi Tuna – Top View (a classic healthy Vancouver dish)

Ahi Tuna Top View

 

Change the Bread! 

All in all, very satisfying. I practically devoured it.

The only way the meal could be improved, in my humble ‘just-returned-from-the-birthplace-of-the-sandwich’ opinion, is if the Po’ Boy came in a bun a little more similar to New Orleans French Bread.

Obviously it can be a little hard to replicate a dish with the exact bread of the area, but here is the solution:

This article suggests Vietnamese Banh Mi style buns, since Vietnam also has that French influence in its cuisine. I’m sure there are plenty of Vietnamese bakeries that could supply this bread in Vancouver, and it would really elevate the dish.

Thomas’ Ahi Tuna (he enjoyed it!)

Ahi Tuna

 

New Orleans Cuisine – Where to next?

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit The Big Easy this year.

Such a memorable experience!

Although I already knew I liked the cuisine from the area (I’ve made this dish for guests before and I’ve used Cajun seasoning since forever), actually visiting the place opened my eyes to lots of new foodie experiences, including some I just didn’t get around to, like Turtle Soup.

I’ll most definitely be returning to the city sometime in the future, hopefully sooner than later. Meanwhile, I’ll attempt to relive my NOLA experience by following a few recipes from my newest souvenir cookbook, visiting Vancouver’s original New Orleans inspired restaurant Ouisi Bistro, and last but not least, sharing some more posts about my trip on this blog.

More to come!

 

 

The Greek by Anatoli

Photo by Oleksii Khodakivskiy on Unsplash

It’s kind of funny when you realize something has come full circle in your life. 

Here I am sitting in an airport lounge, in 2018, intent on writing a blog post about my recent ‘Greek restaurant’ experience at The Greek by Anatoli.

I’m about to board a flight to New Orleans to attend a Public Relations conference, and I am more than a little amused by life’s circular patterns in this moment.

You see, my very first solo-travel adventure, which happened way back in 2005, also involved a Public Relations conference. And it was held in Athens, Greece.

Photo by Sofia Sforza on Unsplash

                        Photo by Sofia Sforza on Unsplash

A trip down memory lane

I had wisely sandwiched that first trip with some days on either side of the conference, so that I could enjoy the city. Always do this if your schedule allows it!!*

Touring the historic ruins, visiting galleries, museums and churches, eating delicious Greek food, dodging the thousands of scooters, walking up and down steep hills…. it was a fun first solo trip. Some memorable foodie moments included:

  • My first ever meal in Athens – a heavenly Moussaka at a cute taverna located in some alley. Back in those pre-smart phone days, I would just wander about to find a place I liked.
  • A server drawing a bird’s nest on a paper table cloth to better explain a dessert to a mixed Polish/English speaking group I was hanging out with. None of us had ever eaten a dessert that resembled a toddler scribble before. So we ordered it, and it was the bomb! What was it? Kataifi and here’s a YouTube video on how to make it. 
  • Accepting a slice of spiced cake in a very old Orthodox Church by a very eager old woman, who was completely clad in black and kept grinning and nodding at me until I took a slice. Universal truth – all grandmas insist on feeding you. Homemade cake = yummy!

A Greek experience in Yaletown

So fast forward to 2018; I’m off to another PR conference, and while I won’t be eating Greek food in New Orleans (I’m doing Creole/ Cajun/ French all the way baby) – I did drop by The Greek by Anatoli just a few days ago. So here is what we ate & drank …

Cocktails

Cocktails:

Thomas and I always say we need to slow down on ordering so many drinks all the time… but then we eye up the menu and say ‘F*** It’.

Each and every time.

At least we took it easy and stopped at one each this time. Baby steps! I ordered the Athena Spritz and he got the Sangria.

Verdict: I like the glass mine came in – but I’m not crazy about the lemon wedge on the rim. I only want lemon wedges for my water. I think a better (and classier) garnish option would be a curled orange rind in the drink itself or a dehydrated round orange slice on the rim.

Souvlaki Platter

Food:

Food is served as it’s ready at this restaurant – so it’s best to share whatever you are having. I’ve seen some people complain online about their food not coming out all at once for an entire table of solo-eaters. Which is a little befuddling to me. Mezze/ Tapas style restaurants don’t work that way. It’s all about ‘sharing is caring’!

So that means mostly Gluten-Free options for us, which luckily this restaurant has plenty of.

We ordered the Grilled Mushrooms & Fava Beans Purée (which we’d had before and loved) and the Souvlaki Platter (something new and meant for sharing as it’s huge).

The food took a while to come out – the restaurant got slammed 15 mins after was arrived, but wow, the food was so delicious! Worth the wait.

Both dishes came out in pans, which I find very rustic and endearing. We scarfed down the lot.

Mushrooms & Fava Beans

 

Smoke – The Good & the Bad:

The food at The Greek has this distinctly charred taste to it that is so satisfying.

If you take a peek into the kitchen you’re guaranteed to see a plume of smoke rising from the grill, being sucked up by an industrial exhaust, that then proceeds to belch out said smoke onto the patio area of Mainland Street. Why is this?

Maybe I’m a little fussy, but I am a little surprised the city is so cool with this arrangement. If you’ve ever walked through the cloud of smoke during peak dinner time – you know what I mean. It’s overwhelming. Yet if I were to judge by the PHAT Sports Bar patio guests, drinking beers, watching Sports, inhaling smoke… most people don’t seem to mind.

So on that note – I don’t know that I would ever want to sit on the patio at this restaurant. Which is a shame because patio dining is a very short-lived, fought-for privilege in Vancouver. But I will continue to go there and sit indoors.

We already know what we are ordering for next time – the lamb!

Side Notes:

(*)  In fact, I am heading in early and leaving later for this year’s New Orleans trip. I do as I preach.

 Feature Image Credit: Photo by Oleksii Khodakivskiy on Unsplash

 

 

 

That’s Gold, darling! Horchata Series: Part I

Alboraya Horchata Big Bang

‘That’s Gold, darling!’ he exclaimed upon tasting a sample of the drink. So…who am I talking about? What is he drinking? And why am I opening up my blog post with a Spanish quote?

He is James I of Aragon (d. 1276),  who according to Valencian urban-legend*, was in a Spanish town called Alboraya **, for some reason… ***, when he came across an insanely delicious drink called ‘horchata’. And he clearly liked it!

The English translation in it’s original Valencian is  ¡Açò és Or, xata! 

Or, xata —– > orzata —- > horchata.

I highly doubt my first horchata encounter will similarly become centuries-old lore**** , but I’m going to share it with you regardless, because horchata is mind-blowing! 

So here’s how it went down…

Striking Gold: 

Tucked away on Hornby & Dunsmuir, lies a sizeable Mexican taco shop called La Taqueria. For weeks my boyfriend swore up and down that we’d been there before (although we hadn’t), and somehow we ended up going on Cinco de Mayo, just a few weeks ago.

The bar which we did not sit at…

La Taqueria Taco Shop

 

If you’re wondering whether there was a big hoo-ha going down to celebrate – I thankfully didn’t have any expectations going in*****. To be honest, it wasn’t really happening at this location festivity-wise. At least not during the time we were there – which was that weird in-between lunch and dinner period. Which is often, pretty dead for restaurants.

Additionally, the location is smack-dab in the middle of Vancouver’s business district, which is a very small yet literal ghost town on most weekends.

So anyways – we didn’t go there for ‘party-time’. We went to drink horchata. And eat tacos.

That first sip was divine!

It reminded me of a creamery version of orzata, an almond based drink that is super popular in Southern Europe.  I looooove anything remotely almond tasting, so I gave it my seal of approval. I also assumed it was made of almonds.

Here’s a shot of the horchata drinks we very specifically ordered. It reminds me of Maltese tea in this photo. All that is missing is the steam rising from the glasses and some pastizzi.

Glasses of Horchata

 

Gold indeed…

But I was wrong about the ingredients. The Mexican version I tried is made from rice, not almonds, and the first legit horchata recipe I tried (below) involves rice.

The North Star: 

As a starting point, I used this recipe to get an idea of what I should be using and doing… and then I just super winged it and improvised to my heart’s content.

  • I used half & half instead of regular milk – only because that’s what I had in the fridge.
  • I drained the last remaining globs of maple syrup into the mixture instead of sugar – substituting sugar with maple syrup always gives me elated Canadiana tingles.
  • I obviously had no cinnamon sticks handy, so I just used the ground kind – efficiency!
  • And I didn’t have a fine-enough sieve for my perhaps slightly over-ground rice and cinnamon mix, so I used a french press instead – MacGyver of the kitchen!

One thing I did follow was to allow it to infuse overnight. And I think it was all worth it in the end, because the following day we were able to enjoy this…

Homemade Horchata 

The boyfriend took the liberty of adding a dash of cinnamon and some gold flakes to the glasses before serving.

So elegant! I will definitely be making this drink again. 🙂

Also this little culinary adventure has opened up a rabbit-hole for me. More to come in Part 2 of the series. 

ps. For anyone that wants to know how to make a Spanish inverted (upside down) exclamation mark, like in this post’s title… it’s ALT/Option + 1 on a Mac. 

Side Notes: 

(*) Are legends the result of centuries old marketing?

(**) It’s a town in province of Valencia, Spain – on the West Coast (Mediterranean).

(***) maybe dodging more arrows to the face? Check out this guy’s story! Listen to this, in his written word:

“As I was coming with the men, I happened to turn my head towards the town in order to look at the Saracens, who had come out in great force, when a cross-bowman shot at me, and hit me beside the sun-hood, and the shot struck me on the head, the bolt lighting near the forehead. It was God’s will it did not pass through the head, but the point of the arrow went half through it. In anger I struck the arrow so with my hand that I broke it: the blood came out down my face; I wiped it off with a mantle of “sendal” I had, and went away laughing, that the army might not take alarm”.

(****) … and wow the 13th Century is ages ago!!

(*****) I literally only clued in on the ‘May 5’ connection part way through my meal.

 

 

Grilled Watermelon with Burrata

Grilled Watermelon Top View

Credit where credit is due. I owe my culinary discovery of grilled watermelon to my good friends Ed & Eka. They sure know how to throw a mean party.* The type an immaculately detail-oriented Martha Stewart would be proud of.

So cue my initiation to a life-changing grilled watermelon experience during early Summer 2016. Warning – once you try this there is no going back.  It’s like a B.C / A.D type transformation when it comes to watermelon-eating.

Really it is sooooo delicious.

All this to say…. Thomas turned our mini-watermelon into a truly stunning dish last night, and I want to relive it with you**!

He went with a super classic variation –  avocado oil (for grilling), olive oil & balsamic vinegar (for dressing), creamy burrata, fresh mint***, salt and pepper.

Check that out…. so yummy! And it looks like a pretty 3D psychological Rorschach test doesn’t it?

Grilled Watermelon Side View

 

It was fabulous and a great way to feast on Summer-worthy food during Memorial Day weekend! Aka the unofficial start to the Summer season.

Try it!

There are countless recipes out there for how to grill watermelon. Like notice all the variations from this one, to this one, and now this one,  and…. finally this one! One with cilantro & lime, another with blue cheese & prosciutto, yet another with pepper flakes …

It’s such a simple dish; yet you can keep it interesting & exciting by experimenting with different flavours****.  I love that.

Side Notes: 

(*) By that I mean culinary extravaganza! 😉

(**) ahem….brag

(***) Although basil works too.

(****) I’ve also encountered some memorable disasters like one recipe that called for way too much cayenne. Which I regrettably followed…. grr! The entire lot went into the trash sadly; was simply inedible.

Sunday Brunch at Chambar

Tajine from Chambar Restaurant

Located in a micro-hood called Crosstown*, Chambar is an award winning and long-standing ‘Belgian spiced with North African’ themed bistro. It’s stunning inside. They serve delicious food and boast a huge Belgian beer selection. There really is nothing quite similar to Chamber in this regard, which makes going there a unique experience. I like that.

So we impulsively went there for Sunday brunch. (Brunch Menu for the curious).

Thomas (the boyfriend) ordered the Fricassée (Braised short ribs, balsamic cipollini onions, potatoes, watercress, fried eggs, applewood smoked cheddar) and I ordered the Tajine (Spicy merguez sausage, saffron tomato stew, fried pita, raita, poached eggs, fresh herbs).

Both were delicious but if I’m to be honest…. I kicked myself for not having ordered a few waffles instead. I don’t know why I never ever order the waffles. I pretend to not crave sugar in the morning, but I most evidently do. And their waffles look so delicious. No photos sadly… next time I will try to remember!

Look at those apple matchsticks! Yummy.

Fricassée at Chambar Restaurant Side View

 

Here are my ‘Top Tips’ for Sunday brunching at Chambar: 

(1) Kind of a ‘duh’ tip but…. make a reservation if you’d like a table. Vancouver is notorious for long Sunday brunch line ups. I don’t know about you, but I don’t do lineups. Especially when I am hungry.

(2) If you’re the carefree reservation-free type and want to eat before noon … arrive early. Even if you intend on sitting at the bar. This place fills up fast, so sauntering in at 11am with no reservation is risky. We arrived at 10:45am and got sat in an area I didn’t like – a narrow high-top ledge section that is teeming with ‘service hustle & bustle’. As a Cancer-ascendant I especially don’t like it when I have heavy traffic/ loud activity happening behind my back.

(3) Alternatively, if you are a late-riser, swing by after the brunch-rush is over. Brunch is served from 8am to 3pm on Saturday & Sunday**. Even though this is a fairly large restaurant, with upstairs, downstairs and outdoor seating, you’d be surprised how crazy busy it can get between 11am – 2:00pm. Crazy busy and a line of 20 people waiting outside for a table.

(4) Go to the females’ washroom… if you are of that gender. One of the nicest in Vancouver!  I won’t give any more details… just go see it! 🙂

(5) A side of Focaccia… is a must if you order the ‘Tajine’ for brunch. From the three bread options I tried; the fried pita chips it came with, to the focaccia I pinched from my boyfriend’s plate, to the sourdough side I added partway through the meal… the focaccia was the best. Hands down.

(6) Enjoy the catwalk. All the staff at this bistro have the best & more eclectic style ever. I almost never check out what restaurant staff are wearing, but I cannot help myself at Chambar!*** I swear they must list ‘fashion sense’ as a non-negotiable requirement on their job postings.

(7) Leave the ‘Bon Matin’ alone if you are hungry.

Well, that’s all I have for now. All in all, a nice spot for brunch…. if you can get in!

A dinner review of this place is definitely next on my list, haven’t been there in the evening since last Summer!

Garnished with Mint & Cilantro.

Tajine from Chambar Restaurant Close Up

 

The pita chips are so tasty… but I like to sop up that sauce with a softer bread.

Tajine from Chambar Restaurant Top View

 

Side Notes: 

(*) Where the F is this? It’s right by the ‘Chinatown – Stadium’ tube station. Referred to as ‘Crosstown’ by true, long-time-dwelling downtowners, this micro-hood is boxed in by these four others – historic Gastown (to the North), historic and cultural Chinatown (to the East), preppy Yaletown (to the South), and the alternatively charged Downtown Core (to the West).

(**) The thought of a long busy shift like that still sends shivers down the spine of this lil ol’ retired server. I sure had my fill of crazy-busy and long shifts in bars, clubs and restaurants.

(***) The city is still recovering from a super bland ‘all-black, short and tight with heels’  omnipresent server look. So boring! I myself have noticed & personally experienced aspects of this, and seen a huge shift between 2008 – 2018 (the 10 years I have lived here).

 

 

Burger Cravings at Cactus Club Yaletown

Crusty Chicken Sandwich

This post is about burgers, but first…. a Geeky Intro: 

According to research conducted by Technomic … Canadian burger consumption is on the rise once more.

“Burger consumption has benefited from an increased emphasis on quality and sourcing, particularly as it relates to domestic beef, as well as operators’ ability to adapt the classic burger to modern demands through menu development,” explains Anne Mills, manager of consumer insights at Technomic. “Going forward, routinely innovating with new flavours, particularly sauces and premium toppings, will be key as expectations continue to rise for unique burgers.”

Key takeaways from the report include:

  • 36% of consumers have a preferred restaurant that they almost always go to for their burger occasions (up from 30% in 2015)
  • 40% of 18- to 34-year-olds says it’s very important that restaurants offer burgers with new and unique flavours, compared to 22% of older consumers
  • 56% of consumers say it’s very important that they can customize burger toppings

Aside from ‘toppings’, I would say just being able to customize period. That’s definitely a ‘modern demand’ that’s HUGELY in demand now, thanks to diners with intolerances.

  • Are you Gluten Free? No Problem – we have GF buns.
  • Are you Lactose Intolerant? Neverfear! We can hold the cheese and provide non-creamy toppings instead.
  • Do you want a lighter option but also really want a juicy burger and feel conflicted? Easy! We can swap out the fries for a side salad instead.

It’s so versatile and user friendly for customers that dine in group.

So easy to successfully implement on the production side, i.e. the kitchen.

No wonder we’re seeing burgers make a resurgence on menus, and that customers are loving it and aiding to its sustained growth by ordering them more often!

My stats:

  • 99.9% of the times that I eat burgers with my boyfriend it is because of some prompt I gave earlier in the week. Either that I had eaten one already, or mentioned I’m kinda craving one, or mentioned the word ‘burger’ at all really… haha

We’ll either order-in or go somewhere nearby that can cater to my boyfriend’s GF needs. That place is more often than not – Cactus Club in Yaletown. I’m not one to really like chains, but Cactus Club sure does make my life easier when I want to enjoy an ‘eating burgers’ experience with someone.

You know… that feeling of ‘OMG this is SO DELICIOUS, and decadent. Glorious and Sinful’. A Food Orgasm.

So this is what happened last Saturday night when we dropped by Cactus Club.

He got the Feenie burger (GF bun) with yam fries (substitution) and I ordered the Crispy Chicken Sandwich with regular fries.

We were all in.

Burgers at Cactus Club Restaurant

Both dishes were created by Chef Rob Feenie (who in 2005 became the first Canadian to win on the show ‘Iron Chef America’). Even award winning chefs are putting an effort into branding their signature burger experiences.

  • The Feenie Burger: smashed certified angus beef, sautéed mushrooms, aged cheddar, smoked bacon, red relish, mayo, ketchup, mustard
  • Rob’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich: spicy panko-crusted chicken, swiss cheese, sambal mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion

Worth every bite.