Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Be'wiched Cafe, Surrey BC

You really really have to look hard to find this little cafe. In something resembling a strip mall tucked behind the warehouses and big chain restaurants Be'witched gets lost in the noise, invisible from the street. Almost invisible parked right outside its doors.
I suppose Be’witched has to depend on word of month or in my case other bloggers. Thanks to: Follow me Foodie.
I came because word has it that this place makes everything from scratch and uses organic?
I like that.
I also came for the chilli. It was just that type of day but alas, out of luck, no chilli today. So I grabbed the Cuban Sandwich and the Follow me Foodie recommended pumpkin cookie.

The sandwich was nice, above average, maybe I've had too many Panini’s in my time, because at the end of the day that is what a Cuban sandwich is. I'd order it again it was a nice lunch.
The cookie, yes it was fantastic and unique, highly recommended. Not often you come across great taste and uniqueness, but to be fair, it’s easily more of a pumpkin cake with frosting then a cookie. Just saying. Still good.
I'll be back to Be’witched Cafe, I like the homey feel, I like that they make everything fresh and from scratch and like supporting unique mom and pop places like this.

But guys get some signage

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ensemble, Vancouver, Top Chef Eatery

Roasted Beet Salad

I had chef Dale Mackay pegged to win Top Chef Canada by episode 2. And I was right, this guy can cook, not to mention that (from the show perspective anyway) he is ultra competitive, passionate and has a single minded  intensity that I think translates well to owning and running your own reaturant.
Enter Ensemble, Vancouver’s newest celebrity chef joint
I've had the opportunity to eat at Ensemble a couple of times now and here are some general impressions.
The restaurant is cosy if not a bit dark. It has the feel of a mom and pop place but mom and pop consulted with a slick modern designer first feel. Did I mention it was dark? The bar throws me off a bit as well, it takes a whole back wall but has only a small booze display that look budgety. The staff are friendly and attentive but not polished. I like the casual approach.

The menu is all about small plates. Order a bunch. Try a few different things. The suggestion for a typical meal are 4 plates (includes a desert). Still theses are small plates and I can see how a big eater might get into an uncomfortable financial position if they were to order with abandon. Hey, I know these people. These people are upon occasion me.
There are very many interesting and yummy things on the menu:
Here's a few of the things we had.
Sorry about the quality of the photos (did I mention it was dark)

I liked Ensemble

                         Sweet and Sour Eggplant

An Item voted Van Mags Best things to Eat and Drink in Vancouver 2011 – agreed, this was a standout favourite, Baba Ghanoush, Yogurt, Tomato all marry together, fabulous.

Pulled Pork Sandwich
The pulled pork, a dish Dale did on Top Chef. It was good but ya ok nothing to stand on the roof and scream about. The deep fried pickle was interesting if not a bit dry. How do you make a pickle dry? I didn’t get the watermelon, why was it there? Sorry, I’m just channelling a Top Chef Judge.

                                    Potato Gnocchi
Potato Gnocchi, soft, light, nice. But then so was the tomato sauce. It was ok.

I love raw oysters. When I come across oysters on the menu I linger. I quickly scan for something else and then I order the oysters. Yes these oysters made me happy.

Cornmeal Crusted Scallops
With Tamarind-Date Purée, Cauliflower, good, if you like that kind of thing.

Beef Shin and Fritz
The beef shin was a surprise. Imagine taking a tough piece of meat, which for sure shin meat has to be. Cook it, probably boiled for hours until the meat falls of the shin. The meat would be in long strands. Take these strands add sauce and flavorings and pack into a tube mold. The result, a very unique texture, almost a stringy pate, but it works, this was really cool and tasty.

                    Chocolate Fondant
              Hazelnut-Nougatine Ice Cream

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cafe Salads de Fruits, French Fry Fanatastic

Moules et frites
Cafe Salads de Fruits wins two awards:

1. First award: Most non descript frontage.
Let's call this the secret restaurant awards.
I've never been here before, meeting friends for lunch, I have the address and do a slow drive by on

7th Ave
, I hit the end of block. Crap, missed it. I've got the address, 1551, great, should be mid block, I do a Uiee, park mid block. Were this place? Oh wait a second, it sort of looks like someone could be sitting at a table behind the glass in the building next to me. Yup, turns out Salads is sequestered in a small corner of the French Cultural Centre on 7th. The signage sucks. But on the other hand it didn't really seem to matter, once inside, seated and enjoying lunch with friends there was a constant line of people being turned away. This place was packed and rocking. I guess this is the secret hidden gem of French bistro dining in Vancouver.
Those in the know, know and now happily so do I.


Poutine Maison

2. Second award: dare I say it, one of the best frites in the city.
Yes, the fries rock. And its funny because there are so many places doing mediocre fries out there that when you come across fry greatness it blows your head off. Hey, anyplace that includes fries with the pizza order has to have it going on. So what makes these fries so special? I don’t know what they are cooked in, I don’t believe the waiters veg oil answer, but the flavour is outstanding and the cut is Mcdonaldesque, thin, crispy, salty, so tasty that I would upon occasion forget to dip them in the mayo. Hey, its French bistro no ketchup allowed.
The rest of the food is classic French Bitro, simple, uncomplicated and delicious.

Enjoy the food pics and don’t tell anyone were this place is.

Poisson du jour - Tuna
Rouleau du Printemps

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Subway, Everywhere

I can't believe I'm blogging about Subway. So let's just call this an editorial rather then a review. After all I would guess with some sense of assurance that most people in Canada have been to Subway and know all about that familiar smell.
Subway is about fresh ;) if you believe the marketing. It’s about making the right choice in a market deluged with crappy fast food. It’s about sandwich artists. For me it’s the lesser of all evils when my blood sugar levels are in dire lows and there is nothing else around. I rarely eat here. In fact I was lamenting over a couple of past posts why anyone would actually eat at Subway when there are phenomenal options like La Guianda in Kits and La Galleria in Edgemont Village.
 In my case, this time around I pulled into a little strip mall in Burnaby, starving and looking forward to a deli sandwich from a small Italian deli I hadn't been to in awhile. Sadly said deli was under renos and closed. Look there’s a Subway conveniently located in every strip mall in every city.
So, mechanically separated chicken it is. It sort of looks like a chicken breast but there is so much gelatine in this mystery meat press that I think you need to call this what it is a chicken hotdog without the tubing. I try and eat well but I have this weird affection for hotdogs so a chicken dog is not so bad but don't sell it as fresh white meat. And then there’s the bread. Really? What's the ratio of flour to chemicals in this loaf. Take a look at the picture see the way it kind of falls in on itself and you can almost squish it down to nothing?
I could go on but alas I digress. Why would anyone eat at Subway? Because its there its everywhere and we are all most certainly sold on its deceptive "fresh" marketing claims. Until we meet again subway. Yes I will be back.

Friday, January 20, 2012

La Galleria Fine Foods, Edgemont Village, North Vancouver

My work requires that I travel through out the Lower Mainland. It seems I'm constantly on the road and constantly looking for good quick lunch eats, but no crappy fast food please.

I have my favourites. In North Vancouver, Edgemont Village, its La Galleria Fine foods. Looks like its the North Shores favourite as well winner of the North Shore News favourite sandwich shop.

Hey, all these people cant be wrong, there is a constant line-up and stream of lunch goers anytime I've been there.

Why the popularity? Because they care!

The sandwiches are actually a baguette, made to order,  the bread warmed through, crispy but not toasted. The ingredients are high quality and fresh. I always order the prosciutto, sorry its a weakness, it also comes with fresh crisp lettuce lots of mayo and killer in- house roasted red peppers, no soggy red peppers from a can.
Simple is good.
I've said it before I'll say it again. Why do people go to subway?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Campagnolo Roma. A nice casual simple place. I like it.

I like Refeul, especially their burger.
I like Campagnolo on main.

Now I finally had the opportunity to check out Campagnola Roma on Hastings. The third restaurant in the Refeul/Campagnolo empire.

It seams like decreasing fanciness and increasing casualness as we go down this list.
Roma has a real simple mom and pop feel but with a trendy young edge. The menu is short and simple, a few apps a few pastas and a few pizzas. But then really what more do you need.
I had the diavola - spicy salami, tomato sauce, aged provolone  pizza. The crust was good a bit soggy in the middle but that's ok and the topping was a bit greasy from the sausage (99% sure the salami is made in-house at Refeul - I love when that happens) but then that's totally expected.

I like the pizza I would go back in a heartbeat and really thats all that matters as well.

A really nice casual simple place. I like it.

BTW, this is a great dinning corner of Hastings with Red Wagon right across the street. All this corner needs now is that the Churches Chicken  kitty corner convert itself into a soul food Chicken and Waffles joint and the neighbourhood transformation would be complete.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

La Ghianda. Officially my sandwich shop

La Ghianda is an upscale deli / restaurant on Alma kitty corner to its sister restaurant La Quercia on
4th Ave.

Beef tongue - La Quarcia

La Quercia tops Van Mags best Italian Restaurant List year after year. I just eat there last month but I'm not going to blog about it except to say that it was outstanding. I was there with a group of friends and the chit chat got in the way of serious, yes this place demands serious attention, serious critiquing and serious picture taking. My friend Cristina took one photo of the beef tongue appetizer just because it’s something you don't usually see on menus. It tasted a bit like really fine head cheese. The rest of the dinner was a surprise 7 course meal, served family style.

The surprise was the fact that we actually didn’t order anything; this is chefs’ choice all the way. The table next to us got the same treatment but entirely different food.

This place has its act together.
Our dinner culminated it what was probably the best lamb I've almost ever had.

Ok I said I won't blog about La Quarcia, back to La Ghianda.

La Ghianda is a cross between an Italian deli and restaurant. It has a huge kitchen for a deli and an extended menu. Great looking deli like stuff especially the salumi.  
I'm here for a sandwich. A sub actually, roast beef (perfectly roasted pink middle) on a gorgeous crusty sub style bun. The type of bun that has a thick outer crust dusted with flour that gets all over your face and cloths with every bite but soft chewy airy holiness inside. The holes in the bread suck up the ample amounts of horseradish cream and then this masterpiece is finished with crisp bitter arugula. I embellished my sandwich further by purchasing a bottle of good expensive peppery olive oil and then drizzling every bite so that the green oil filled all the air pockets in the bread. What can I say; I've got issues with olive oil (amongst other things).

Remind me again why people eat at subway? This behemoth at La Ghianda is bigger infinitely better and about a dollar more then a footlong at subway. (if you don’t count the olive oil)
La Ghianda is now officially my sandwich shop whenever I'm in this neck of the woods, unless its a Monday they are not open Mondays WTF they should be open 24/7 as far as I'm concerned.

See you there.