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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Our first night in Toronto was, in a word, “horrible”.  The bed is too small, it’s too hard, and the curtains are insufficient and, in parts, non-existent so that the street lights (and, at approximately 2:30 a.m., the flashing police lights) streaming in to our bedroom made sleep almost impossible.  ALMOST impossible because I was so exhausted I could have fallen asleep – if it wasn’t for Jelly’s crying keeping me up. Eventually, I had to set her down behind the bed to shield from the light so that she eventually dozen off – at just after 3:00 a.m. – only to wake up with the sun.  Of course.

Today, we were off in search of tape and black material so that we could create our own blackout curtains.  And also some winter coats.  And boots.  It’s cold!  4 degrees celsius/39 fahrenheit.  WTF?  Toronto was actually warmer than Vancouver – until yesterday when the temperature suddenly dropped to near freezing – coincidentally, on the day of our arrival!  The fates continue to conspire against me.

C-c-c-c-c-cold!

C-c-c-c-c-cold!

Thanks to everyone that offered advice on dealing with Bubba’s separation anxiety.  The problem has sort of sorted itself out for the time being.  The poor little guy has howled himself hoarse and now just squawks -

On the bright side, a full day in and the eating has been good.  For lunch, pork belly buns at Banh Mi Boys -

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And then back to Buca for a thank-you dine with Jeff -

Hand-cut blood pasta.  I was honestly leery, but it was delicious.

Hand-cut blood pasta. I was honestly leery, but it was delicious.

Sweet corn gelato topped with finishing salt.

Sweet corn gelato topped with finishing salt.

And the house tiramisu

And the house tiramisu

Speaking of Jeff who is flying out tomorrow, he dropped by to say goodbye to his flying companion and new best friend -

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Heading into the office tomorrow.

Wonder what we’re having for lunch…

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October 9, 2014: Toronto dining!

“Whatever you do,”said my writing partner, Paul, clearly concerned about my penchant for adventurous eating, “don’t order the brains.”

“When was the last time you saw brain on a menu?”I scoffed.

And then, there it was, in the appetizer section: lamb brains.

In retrospect, it shouldn’t have come as that big of a surprise.  After all,  we were dining at Buca, my favorite Toronto restaurant, known for its creative offal offerings.

“No innards,”Paul reminded me as a we perused our menus, squinting to make out the tiny print in the darkened room.  Finally, I gave up and used the flashlight app on my phone.  Yes, I felt old – but not quite so bad as the evening progressed and about a half dozen other diners followed suit.  “Just go ahead and order for us,”said Paul, obviously too proud to use the flashlight function on HIS phone.

There were a lot of very intriguing menu options, but many fell foul of the “no innards” edict.  Eventually, I decided to split the difference by reading aloud slightly altered versions of the dish descriptions.  For instance, the pasta with duck offal ragu became “pasta with duck ragu”!  The revised descriptions proved more palatable to my squeamish writing partner.

A couple of the highlights…

1The nod ini: warm bread knots with olive oil, rosemary, garlic, and sea salt.

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The crispy pig ears.  Yeah, yeah, I know, but it’s not brains and, technically, not an “innards”.  It’s more of an “outard”.

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The bianca pizza with gorgonzola and duck eggs.

And various awesome pasta.  Love that place.

Then, last night, we met up with Brad Wright for dinner at another Italian restaurant in the neighbourhood.  My review: Pizza good, pasta okay, service excellent, slight urine smell.  Not sure about that one.

I was walking the neighborhood today, shopping for necessitates – socks, underwear, towels, a soda stream shaped like a penguin – and noticed A LOT of intriguing dining options in the area.

Tonight, it’s oysters with the director of our first two episodes and then, tomorrow morning, I’m homeward-bound.  And none too soon.  Akemi tells me that Jelly has been restless since I left, up and panting through the night, and has taken to following her around.

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I’m off to Toronto tomorrow, returning Friday.  That gives me eight dinners, roughly fifteen meals (minus the turducken/piecaken extravaganza I have planned for Canadian Thanksgiving next Sunday)  to enjoy in Vancouver before I leave it – for seven months!

Last night, Akemi and I got together with our foodie friends, Nicole and Lan, for the first of our many farewell feasts.  Rather than visit an old favorite, however, I decided to try somewhere new – The Union in the city’s Strathcona district – partly because the menu intrigued, and partly because it’s located steps from Crackle Creme and their varied creme brûlées.

The Union is very casual.  Menu items range from spicy wings to Singapore Laksa. Perfect for sharing.  We ended up ordering – well, a lot.  Some of the highlights…

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The Cha Ca Hanoi: fresh snapper, market greens, turmeric chill coconut milk, dill, rice vermicelli, nuoc cham, fresh herbs and scallions.  So good I had to resist the temptation to drink the sauce.

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Sweet & Sour Pork Crepes with marinated pulled pork and spicy pineapple slaw. Akemi loved these so much she couldn’t stop talking about them.

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Sweet & Sour Fried Fish Banh Mi with spicy sriracha aioli, jalapeños, daikon and carrot pickles, cucumber, and cilantro.  This was the first time I’ve tried a fried fish version of the Vietnamese-style sandwich – and I was completely won over.

In truth, pretty much everything we ate was terrific (crispy pork belly banh mi, Hawk thai chicken wings with sweet and spicy nahm jim glaze, fried pork dumplings with scallion soy dipping sauce) with the exception of the bland Nasi Goreng.

Rather than sample dessert (which I’m sure is excellent), we walked over to Crackle Creme for an assortment of creme brûlées…

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Owner Daniel Wong fires ‘em up!

1Flavors – clockwise from left to right: Madagascar vanilla bean, lemon basil, ferrero richer, black sesame-matcha cheesecake with mango sauce, Guinness-espresso topped with roasted marshmallows.

While I’m away, I’ll have to enjoy my Vancouver meals vicariously through this site – my favorite local food blog: http://dennisthefoodie.com

The Union: 219 Union St, Vancouver – 604-568-3230

Crackle Creme: 245 Union St, Vancouver – 778-847-8533

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The other day, Akemi and I happened across a small dessert shop in Vancouver’s Strathcona district.  It’s called Crackle Creme and it specializes in creme brûlée – oh, and waffles.  Real Belgian waffles with pearl sugar, not those other ones!

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The place is a one-man show run by Daniel Wong and, what he lacks in restaurant experience he more than makes up for in passion and sheer enthusiasm.  On the afternoon we checked out his place, there were 12 different varieties of creme brûlée available.  Since it was our first visit, I decided to go simple – straight vanilla bean creme brûlée.

Daniel Wong = proprietor, creme brûlée master.

Daniel Wong = proprietor, creme brûlée master.

Layering on a fine crackle.

Layering on a fine crackle.

The brûlée was perfect – neither eggy nor overly sweet with a nice thin caramelized sugar covering.

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Check out the vanilla beans.

Check out the vanilla beans.

As if often the case when I can’t decide between two desserts, I get both.  And so, in addition to the brûlée, I also ordered a Liege waffle with “adult nutella” (Pssst. The secret ingredient is booze!).

Studded with pearl sugar that he imports for his waffles.

Studded with pearl sugar that he imports for his waffles.

Golden crisp with a nice chewy center.

Golden crisp with a nice chewy center.

Topped with the adult nutella.

Topped with the adult nutella.

A terrific waffle – which I thought could have been even slightly more so with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  But I’m no waffle purist.

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Check it out the next time you’re in town.

Crackle Creme

Opens Wednesdays to Sundays, 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

245 Union Street (Vancouver, BC)

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This time, it was Taiwan Fest where Akemi and I enjoyed grilled spicy squid, even spicier lamb skewers, and more inclement weather!

This time, we came prepared.

This time, we came prepared.

More or less.

More or less.

We arrived early to beat the line-ups.

We arrived early to beat the line-ups.

There were about a half dozen different stands offering about a half dozen different food items.

There were about a half dozen different stands offering about a half dozen different food items.

The giant steamed barbecued pork buns weren't bad...but you had to go through A LOT of dough to get to that pork.

The giant steamed barbecued pork buns weren’t bad…but you had to go through A LOT of dough to get to that pork.

Want a bite?

Want a bite?

Hot dogs and chicken nuggets - just like your Taiwanese mother used to make 'em!

Hot dogs and chicken nuggets – just like your Taiwanese mother used to make ‘em!

Akemi can't wait to get her hands on those chicken nuggets.

Akemi can’t wait to get her hands on those chicken nuggets.

Festival revellers!

Festival revellers!

The game plan: 1. Order 2. Retreat across the street to seek shelter under the store awnings and await our orders. 3. Pick up orders. 4. Retreats back across the street to eat.

The game plan: 1. Order 2. Retreat across the street to seek shelter under the store awnings and await our orders. 3. Pick up orders. 4. Retreats back across the street to eat.

Manning the squid grill.

Manning the squid grill.

Akemi keeping her spirits up…

What's in the mystery box?

What’s in the mystery box?

Right on the first guess!  Goopy oyster omelet!

Right on the first guess! Goopy oyster omelet!

Delicious Taiwanese sausages: sweet, savory, and fatty.

Delicious Taiwanese sausages: sweet, savory, and fatty.

Master Chef!

Master Chef!

The lamb skewers were practically dipped in the cumin and chill.  Not for the weak of heart.  Or stomach.

The lamb skewers were practically dipped in the cumin and chill. Not for the weak of heart. Or stomach.

No food festivals tomorrow.  It’s Draft Day!  Time to set aside my script and start some intensive fantasy football research!

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Akemi and I were in Vancouver’s Gastown area today and happened to come across a BBQ Festival featuring pit and grill offerings from about a dozen local eateries.  Also coleslaw.  And rain.  Lots of rain…

Hey, what this?  BBQ!  The damp calm before the storm.

Hey, what this? BBQ! The damp calm before the storm.

An alright rib with some too creamy coleslaw.  Not pictured (because the photo came out fuzzy) is the accompanying pork jowl chill.  Tasty!

An alright rib with some too creamy coleslaw. Not pictured (because the photo came out fuzzy) is the accompanying pork jowl chill. Tasty!

Deacon's Corner serves up damn fine wings.  But some underdone potato salad.

Deacon’s Corner serves up damn fine wings. But some underdone potato salad.

Railtown Cafe's melt-in-your-mouth brisket, delicious jalapeño corn bread and cole slaw were my highlight of the day.

Railtown Cafe’s melt-in-your-mouth brisket, delicious jalapeño corn bread and cole slaw were my highlight of the day.

Have to check this place out.

Have to check this place out.

Akemi's favorite - by far the most tender ribs of the day = The Blarneystone's maple glazed ribs.

Akemi’s favorite – by far the most tender ribs of the day = The Blarneystone’s maple glazed ribs.

Wings from the Hastings Warehouse.

Souther Comfort Jerk Wings from the Hastings Warehouse.

Bubba awaits his cut.

Bubba awaits his cut.

Served with a cool cucumber yogurt!

Served with a cool cucumber yogurt!

Bubba and Six Eyes try to stay out of the rain.

Bubba and Six Eyes try to stay out of the rain.

But not doing a very good job of it.

But not doing a very good job of it.

BTW – Vancouver does a TERRIBLE job of getting the word out about these types of events.  I can only assume their thinking is: “More for us!”

P.S. Head on over here (https://www.facebook.com/groups/332854913534175/) to participate in an online auction in support of a service dog for blog regular Bethany Draves.  Among the items up for grabs is a copy of Ripple Effect, signed and lovingly annotated by yours truly.

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