gracecheung604 | write on time: November 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Whet - Autumn Menu Revealed!

Ever since I tried Whet as part of the VANEATSca #WhetYourAppetite package, I've been a fan of Chef Peter Gray. And when I found out they were launching a new Autumn menu, I was eager to give this a try. IMG_1563 We started off with a trio of appetizers, ranging from seafood, to duck and an Oyama sausage.IMG_1558 The Hamachi sampler was amazing, served on a cucumber slice, the freshness was unmistakeable. I particularly liked the black tobiko and the ikura garnish. Between the hamachi and the cucumber was a smear of wasabi and a light lemon hazelnut vinaigrette. This was a nice light bite and a great introduction to the other tastes to come.   IMG_1559 Our next little bite was a bit of Oyama sausage, topped with a goat cheese and a generous serving of cherry compote. The sweet and savoury combination was a good mix of flavours; my only complaint is that the brioche bread was touch dry.IMG_1562 Our last taste from the trio is the Seared Duck Breast atop a brioche slice, with a thin slice of cherry tomato. The mandarin slice underneath blends well with the seven-spice rub on the duck, giving it a nice Asian flavour. IMG_1565 Also on offer tonight were two Fresh Cask Ales made by Phillips Brewing and R&B Brewing.IMG_1573 We've tried their Crab Cakes before but I liked the cute presentation here. All crab and no filler. Just crab meat mixed with a blend of spices ranging from mint, jalapeno, ginger, garlic, cilantro, tomatillo and oregano. If you like crab, give this a try!IMG_1572 For something lighter, the next appetizer we tried was the Roasted Vegetable Crostini. This had a bit of goat cheese as well, which gave the crostini a nice creaminess. The taste is quite mild and the balsamic reduction give it a nice tang. IMG_1570 For a heartier appetizer, we gave the Yam Maki a try. This would have been with a hit with my mom, who loves her yam fries, and the addition of the avocado on the outside was pretty. It's a filling bite and the mayo is perfect, instead of wasabi.IMG_1579 And as with before, we had to get the Jambalaya. There is something so hearty and comforting about this dish. Lots of prawns, mussels and some Oyama sausage as well. The wild rice base was cooked to perfection and filled our hungry bellies!IMG_1580 And yes, the Jambalaya comes with a side serving of Corn Bread. They've switched up the recipe just a bit and this is now more corn-bread like than before. It's a bit drier and less cake-like than before. The cheese and jalapeno are still present, but more blended within the whole loaf instead of just on the topping.

Take Note:

  • The chef is passionate about using organic and fresh products
  • The menu is packed with seafood, even for brunch
  • Their location at Granville Island ensures freshness of ingredients and they are Ocean Wise as well. 

  Whet Kitchen.Bar.Patio on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chowder Chowdown!

This past month, I attended the Chowder Chowdown at the Vancouver Aquarium. For the event, twelve Ocean Wise chefs in the Vancouver area compete head-to-head for the title of 2012 Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown Champion. All the original chowders are paired with various Granville Island and Rickard's beers. the big shrimp
I don't remember the last time I was here, but the giant prawn is unforgettable!   Citrus Soy Seafood Chowder Vancouver Aquarium 2 Of the twelve chowders, I had a few favourites. Here is the Citrus Soy & Seafood Chowder by Warren Mercier of the Vancouver Aquarium. Very Asian in flavour with crab, shrimp and halibut, this had a very strong sesame flavour and the freshness of the herbs really shone through.   Cotto Dungeness Crab Cioppino Another of my favorites was the Cotto Dungeness Crab Cioppino from Alex Tung of Cotto Enoteca Pizzeria. This had a good spice to it and I loved the use of the ciabatta crouton. It gave the rich soup a nice texture contrast.  Tea Smoked Artic Char & Szechuan Bacon Chowder 2 Another interesting one was the Tea Smoked Arctic Char & Szechuan Bacon Chowder from Todd Bright of Wild Rice. The chowder had a nice smokiness to it but it was just a touch too watery for me. The little jalapeno and green onion biscotti was fun and even better when crumbled up into the chowder. Lobster Miso Chowder From Kamei Royale, Troung Minh Xong presented us with a Lobster Miso Chowder. This was very creamy with a smoothness unmatched by the other chowders we had. There were chunks of lobster and salmon with each serving and it was one of the heartier chowders in the lineup. Creamy BC Spot Prawn Chowder 2 And the winner of both the Critic's Choice and the People's Choice was the Creamy BC Spot Prawn Chowder from Chris Wittaker of the newly opened Forage at the Listel Hotel. The chowder was topped with a poached quail egg and a smokey piece of Chicharon. Creamy BC Spot Prawn Chowder 2
I have since visited Forage and am happy to report that they serve this on their current menu. And if you want to try to make this at home, you can! Here is the recipe. But to be honest, I don't know anyone who'd be willing to slow roast pork skin for 6 hours at home!

Stage Wine Bar

Our last dinner in Victoria is a place that was recommended to us by the bartender at Brasserie l'ecole. Located a little bit out of town, in a section of Victoria called Fernwood. Parking is  a bit hard to come by, but it's worth it for a visit.  
IMG_1424  The people that I talked said that the bartender at Stage is amazing, so instead of wine, we opted to try some of their cocktails. Here is the Absinthe Orange , made with three different alcohols: Bombay Sapphire, La fee absinthe, Grand Marnier. Despite the amount of alcohol in this drink, what really comes through is the citrus from the orange and a hint of absinthe. And I loved the kitschy glass that this came in. 
IMG_1428 Most of their food offerings are tapas sized and meant for sharing. Because we had already had Nachos at Irish Times, this was perfect for some light bites. We started off with the Sooke Trout. The portion was larger that I expected for a "tapas" and it was really good. I love it when they serve the skin with fish, especially when it's crispy. Rounding out the place were some green beans and a smokey cured bacon. The saltiness of the pork paired well with the trout, and the whole dish came to life when you squirted some of the juices from the grilled lemon. This was definitely a winner.
IMG_1429We wanted some meaty goodness in addition to the trout, so we got the Lamb Merguez Sausage. Again the portion surprised me, I guess I'm just used to the rather tiny servings of tapas in other places. The sausage was a bit drier than I was used to, but the chickpea ragout accompanying it helped to balance that out.

Take Note:

  • Amazing cocktails, if you don't see it on the list, ask for it anyways, they might just surprise you
  • Reasonably priced, three drinks and the food you see here for under $60
  • Parking nearly impossible, but you can park at the Victoria High School front and back lots.

Looking for more Victoria ideas? Here you go!
Stage Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Skinnytato - Polish Home Cooking

Last day in Victoria! I had wanted to find a restaurant that was part of You Gotta Eat Here, sort of like the Tomahawk, but I was unsuccessful. I did find a restaurant that was a mom and pop spot, and serves up home cooking, Polish style. And that is how we ended up at Skinnytato. 
The lady who took our order strongly recommended a cocktail, a martini actually, this is called a Zubrowka/Bison Grass Vodka. The Szarlotka, a vodka based cocktail was infused with cucumber water and apple juice. This tasted amazing and the vodka was almost undetectable, deadly! I didn't know this at the time, but Szarlotka is actually the name of a Polish apple tart, and yes, this definitely reminded me of a apple pie-like dessert.
IMG_1433 Deciding against a potato pancake, we decided to get a bit of everything. We opted for a few of their specialties. They were kind enough to split everything up for us. The Polish Sausage was reminiscent of a European Weiner. It was probably not the best part of our plate. I didn't think it was worth $3.75 (note that the serving you see is a half order.  
IMG_1436 These Cabbage Rolls were amazing. Inside the very tender cabbage were pork and bacon, and some rice as well. The home-made tomato sauce was really tangy and gave the rolls a moistness that was very appreciated. At $7.95 for two, this was the second priciest item of our lunch. 
IMG_1437 We also got an order of their Potato Pancakes. These were quite oily and softer than your average latke. It wasn't seasoned as much as I would have liked either. The greasiness was a bit too much for me, and they could have been fried just a bit more to give the cakes a bit more of a crust. These were $5.95 for three.
IMG_1435 So what was the priciest item? Our Pierogies coming in at $9.95 for six. We opted for a selection of their Potato and bacon, Potato and cheddar, Sauerkraut and mushroom and a generic Meat version.
IMG_1438 These were really good, with plentiful fillings, but again, I would have like them to be fried a bit longer, to give the dumplings a bit more of the crust.
The service here is very friendly, almost as if your mother was making you lunch. What we found out afterwards was the You Gotta Eat Here did actually film them for the show, so I guess I was a bit ahead of the curve on this one. I can't wait to see the show now.
Looking for more Victoria ideas? Here you go!
Skinnytato Polish Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Forage - winner of the Chowder Chowdown

Forage is the new restaurant at the Listel Hotel, formerly O'Douls. The space smells fantastically new, almost Ikea-like, with its ample wood panelling. I had sampled Chef Whittaker's Chowder at the Chowder Chowdown earlier in the week and was excited to see what else was in store.   IMG_1694 This is amazing, such a simple decoration but so lovely. I now have a new use for mason jars. Using a fake candle and a bunch of moss, this was pretty and delicate. I'm going to be mimic this for my dinner table. IMG_1691 We started off with Cracklings and Popcorn, but for some reason, although I had expected Pork Rinds, I was surprised by the Duck Crackling too. The popcorn itself was light and fluffy but the best part was the various skins...the crispy duck skin had a nice smoky flavour and the translucent pork rind had a delightful crunch. It is something they should start serving at Silvercity!  IMG_1697 Another thing on our "must eat" list was the BC Spot Prawn and Seafood Chowder, served with a soft-poached egg. There are also bit of chicharrón which had a slight smokiness to it, as well as chunks of pork hock. It's easy to see how this won the top prize of Chowder Chowdown. I loved that it was served in a hot cast iron skillet, which served to keep the chowder warm while we munched on the popcorn. IMG_1698 Another hot skillet dish was the "Foraged" and Cultivated Mushrooms. Sprinkled on top was some   Okanagan goat cheese and fresh parsley. I wasn't a huge fan of the arugula pesto, which was way too bitter for my liking. The grilled caraway rye was a good accompaniment but I felt that the pesto overwhelmed everything else on the skillet. IMG_1703  For our main, we opted for the Gelderman Farms braciole. For me, my introduction to braciole is from Everybody Loves Raymond. A true braciole is supposed to be a thinly sliced beef cooked in its own juices but this was a bit different. They used pork here and it was too fatty for my liking and the raw Italian parsley was too crunchy served whole, it stopped becoming a garnish and was way too earthy for me. The bed of pasta rags were good, albeit a bit overcooked, and the heirloom tomato sauce was a touch too tangy. The beef was also really fatty, and the whole plate was rather "mushy". It was probably the most disappointing dish of the evening. 
I think that Chef Whittaker has great ideas for his menu, but the execution is a little weak. The ideas are impecable as is their service, but a few of the items area a bit off balanced. Considering they have only been open for a few days/week, it's just a matter of ironing the kinks out. I would like to revisit this place in a few months.

Take Note:

  • Try the popcorn, or any of the "snack" item
  • Cocktails are interesting and worth a try
  • Service was better than expected for a new restaurant, let's hope the food improves accordingly.

Forage on Urbanspoon

Buck a Shuck at Oysters (Pescatores)

There are lots of Buck a Shuck options in Vancouver and I was delighted to see  that the same was available in Victoria. We hit up Oysters at Pescatores while we were in town and they have theirs daily 5-6pm.IMG_1351 They make a strong statement for fish, oysters and clams...I'd never heard that about clams...have you? IMG_1356 It's not really a habit of mine to take pictures of the interior of a restaurant (but I will try to do more of this in the future) but I was struck by the floating porcelain mermaid above the bar. I really liked the sleekness of this sculpture.
On the fresh sheet today, four different oysters. What is the one for Buck a Shuck? Can you guess? IMG_1361 All their oysters come with four types of sauces, there is a Soy Ginger Sauce, a Spicy Hot Pepper Sauce, their House Cocktail Sauce and a Cucumber Mignonette. We liked the soy ginger best but each of the condiments are good in their own right, try the soy with some hot pepper sauce for a unique blend.IMG_1367 For buck a shuck selection, we got the Glacier Bay, just a dozen with a bit of horseradish and lemon. I ate one and found it strangely lukewarm. When the waitress asked me how everything was, I told her it seemed warm and asked how they stored their oysters. She responded that they are kept on ice. What she said next surprised me..."Is there anything I an do to fix that?" I was impressed by this and said I'd try another one first. The next one I tried was fine and actually quite sweet and fresh.
A great way to start our evening, but we were on our way to Ulla next! 

Take Note:

  • Wednesdays are buck a shuck all night from 5pm 
  • Tequila & Taco Tuesdays - $2 Tacos after 4 pm and $6 Premium Tequila shots 
  • $10 Sunday Eggs Benny $6 and Mimosa $4

Looking for more Victoria ideas? Here you go!

The Oyster at Pescatores Seafood on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 26, 2012

Irish Times - twice in a day!

IMG_1401 2While in Victoria, we decided to check out one of the many pubs in the area. Irish Times looked appealing so we gave it a shot. I am a fan of cool quotes and I really liked this one. Words to live by, boys and girls.
Since I was on holidays, I decided to start with a cocktail. This is called the Crooked Nose, and it's a blend of Blueberry Vodka with Galiano, muddled mint, raspberry and elderflower water. It was very refreshing and the fresh raspberries were a great addition, despite making it a bit hard to sip through a straw.
IMG_1405 For my lunch, i decided on the Irish Bacon and Brie Burger. A gluten free bun option was available so I decided to give it a try. Served with a side salad, I figured this was fairly healthy. The salad had a light dressing and I really liked the addition of sliced apples too.
IMG_1409 The burger had an all beef patty, fresh, not frozen, and was topped by some bacon as well as a good amount of brie, which melted perfectly into the burger. I took out the red onions though, I find them too strong inside a burger, especially raw. The burger was good but my choice of the gluten free bread was not my best idea. The bun bottom was a little too moist for me and it seemed too weak for the hefty burger and its toppings.
IMG_1408 We also tried the Irish Stew, loaded with braised lamb, diced yukon gold potatoes, onions & carrots. The sauce was rich and creamy, very hearty and a perfect base for the stew. The rosemary dumplings sitting on top was plump and crispy on the outside but moist and soft on the inside. And in case there wasn't enough carbs in the bowl, they gave you a few pieces of bread as well. the lamb was very tender but I wish there was more of it. The sauce was well-seasoned and we used the bread and dumplings to soak it all up. 
IMG_1418 2 While we were there for lunch, we noticed that they had a Happy Hour special (Sunday-Thursday) where all their appetizers were half priced. One of the items we had been hunting for in Vancouver was Nachos with ground beef. And they had that here, actually you could add spicy chicken or pulled pork too. So we made plans to return that same day jsut for that. We weren't disappointed, the nachos would have been $24 with the addition of the beef, and totally not worth it at that price, but because of the deal, we only paid $12, and that was well worth it!
Looking for more Victoria ideas? Here you go!

Irish Times on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Holiday Tea at Urban Tea

After a less than stellar visit for Moon Festival Tea Service, I was invited to come back and try their Holiday Tea service. I had been to Urban Tea Merchant before with my mom and had an amazing experience, I was hoping for a repeat of that today. As we were waiting to be seated, we took a look at the new items in their retail section.
IMG_1647 As a fan of Earl Grey tea, I was delighted to see this version, Chocolate Earl Grey tea made by TWG. Opening the tin, the chocolate smell is hidden behind the smell of the tea. Take a second sniff and you'll know what I mean. 
IMG_1646 Another tea offering for the holiday season is their Red Christmas, a rooibos tea with strong hints of hisbiscus and clementine, truly bringing the scents of the holidays to life! 
IMG_1644 Another offering for the season is the Noel Noel tea, a black tea with some white tea buds. The flavours are bold and it's a great after dinner drink. These teas are great for the people in your life who have everything, as it invites them to relax, take a break and truly enjoy the holidays. 
IMG_1652 And if you don't know what teas to get for your friends, you can always opt to get them a teapot instead. Urban Tea Merchant has a wide selection of them, some traditional and some bordering on whimsical, like the one shown above. 
If you are not in the food for a full tea service, you can drop by and purchase a macaroon or two...prettily displayed here.
IMG_1661 We started off with a Red Christmas infused Prosecco Cocktail (you can upgrade to a flute of Veuve Clicquot instead). The flavours of the tea does come through and you can clearly taste it over the sweet prosecco.
IMG_1662 We also got some Petit-Chou to start accompanied with their “Weekend in St Tropez” butter, which had a light touch of citrus. The pastries are fluffy and really light, and not oily at all.  The best thing is to pull one open and put a generous pat of the butter inside.
IMG_1665 32
We got these huge tins of teas to help us pick out the tea that we wanted. I went with the White Christmas, which I fell in love with when I first smelled it. According to their website, the tea is made from Precious Yin Zhen (silver needles) blended with orange peel, hibiscus and spices. IMG_1682 This was delightful and I loved how they brewed this tea in a clear glass pot, so you can really appreciate the golden colours of the tea.
And here is our Holiday Tea Service, three layers of savoury and sweets!
The bottom tier is filled with sandwiches and crostinis. There are a total of eight items, ranging from a Yam Puree Pastry Puff, a Crostini topped with Boursin Cheese and a “Singapore Breakfast Tea” Sesame Crusted Seared Ahi, and two variations of the “Red Christmas Tea” Turkey Tea Sandwiches, complete with cranberry sauce and dijon mustard. These are paired with the cornichons you see in the middle.
IMG_1681 Highlights for me included the Smoked Salmon Ribbon with the Ponzu Jelly strip. The salmon was thinly sliced and served on top a thin slice of rye. The ponzu jelly is all you need to flavour the salmon.
IMG_1679 The Roast Beef Double Decker is a new item for me, and I loved the medium rare roast beef. Nothing is worse than overcooked roast beef. The extra layer of bread is probably not necessary, but it does offer a visual difference from the other tea sandwiches.
IMG_1680 And the standard that comes with almost every tea service, the “Lapsang Souchong Tea” Chicken Salad Cone. Although I've always found the cone to be a bit too sweet, the chicken salad is solidly savoury and the cone is filled to the brim with with it. I remember when it used to be served in little petit chou cups but it's just as tasty as ever.
IMG_1674  The next tier is filled with Scones, little creme brulee Chocolate Cups as well as a delightful Gingerbread Cake with a Red Christmas Tea icing.  The Devonshire cream is made in house and a little terrine of strawberry jam complements the sones. I loved the poinsettia made from fondant and the holly decoration made with pomegranate seeds and a sprig of mint. How pretty! My favourite was the cake with the scones a close second.  
IMG_1671 On the top tier, there are lots of Seasonal Fruits, such as gooseberies, pineapple, starfruit and even persimmon. The Chevron Strawberries are a classic, we also have Petit Fours, Macaroons and the Chocolate Tea Truffles rounding out the plate. 

Take Note:

  • The staff are very knowledgeable and passionate about the teas
  • Breathe deeply when opening the tins of teas, you'll get more out of it
  • Not sure if you want milk or not? Ask the staff and let them guide you. 
The Urban Tea Merchant on Urbanspoon


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