Friday, June 24, 2011

Talkin' BBQ on the First Weekend of Summer!

Although it's been a less than impressive spring season, summer is now officially here and that means BBQ season.
If you check your local grocery store shelves, you'll notice a few really big trends in summer BBQ dining and entertaining.
I talked to PC Cooking School Executive Chef Tom Fillippou about the major food trends for Summer 2011.
According to Chef Tom, the biggest trends are:


Mini burgers aka "Sliders" have become a popular appetizer item on most menus. Now people will be able to whip up and serve all sorts of mini mains. You'll find mini slider patties, mini sausages, and a variety of mini buns in your local grocery store. Tom loves this trend because it is fantastic for entertaining- put out a tray of basic mini burgers or hot dogs and let guest jazz them up with all sorts of traditional or crazy condiments and toppings. Make it Italian with tomato sauce/mozza/fresh basil. Make it Mexicali with salsa/ avacado/jalapeno rings. Greek it up with Tzatziki/cucumber/feta. Make your own Japa Dog with wasabi mayo and shredded nori.
The combination options are only limited by your imagination and how adventurous your taste buds are.


Bring the flavours of the world to your BBQ this summer with a variety of meats, veg, marinades, and sauces. Burgers and 'dogs are great staples for summer grilling but try taking your tastebuds for a trip around the world. It's pretty simple with pre-seasoned items available like Middle Eastern Lamb and Beef Koftka skewers, Korean Beef Shortribs, or Souvlaki Marinated Chicken Breasts.
Veggie Skewers brushed with Spicy Asian BBQ sauce

And if you are a condiment junkie like me, there are tonnes of options: Argentinian Chimichurri sauce, Spicy Asian BBQ sauce, spicy tzatziki, Souvlaki marinade, Thai fiery Chili Pepper Sauce, Portugese Piri Piri BBQ sauce (amazing with chicken or shrimp), Tuscan Balsamic and Fig sauce, Montego Bay Fiery Jerk sauce, Japanese Kobe Tamari Sauce......and more.
Quinoa salad + Argentinian Chimichurri=YUM!

Try these sauces on everything- beef, fish, veggie skewers, sandwiches, in salads, as dips.

Enjoy the first official weekend of summer, get grilling, and try some new flavour combinations!

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Fishy Birthday Dinner at the Boathouse on Kits Beach

It was my birthday and my parents wanted to buy me a birthday dinner. Now, I have a list a mile long of eateries that I love and new places that I'm dying to try. But with a vegan sister (who didn't end up coming), a vegan-ish boyfriend, and a dad who can be a pretty picky customer (a basic burger/steak and potatoes/ fettucine alfredo kind of guy), I had to pick a place that I wanted to try, but research the menu to make sure that there were options for everyone. I had a hankering for seafood, wanted something that wouldn't break the bank, and had a patio to enjoy the early summer I picked the Boathouse on Kits Beach.

We were seated on their gorgeous closed patio on a table/booth with extremely comfortable seating.
This patio is really the selling feature for this place. The view is absolutely spectacular. It pretty much stretches along the beach towards Jericho to the west and across to English Bay. Its a fantastic venue for soaking up Vancouver scenery and all sorts of people watching. Service was a little slow to start with taking our drink orders and bringing us our drinks. We had some tasty beers and margaritas and perused the massive menu.
We waited for quite a while and eventually had to call our server over to give our order. The food was a little slow coming out, but the delay in taking our order was the big hold up....especially because we were all REALLY HUNGRY!

We shared a bucket of shrimp for 2 with vodka cocktail sauce ($13.99) and bucket of complimentary warm bread.
the shrimp was fresh, plum, juicy and the sauce had a intense kick from horseradish and vodka. I would say almost too much so from the vodka.

My dinner was from the "Fresh & Wild Fish" menu. I ordered Ahi Tuna: pepper seared; over shitake rice, with garlic chilli mushrooms drizzled with chilli oil ($26.99)
I really enjoyed my dinner. The tuna was buttery and soft on the inside and the exterior had a wonderful, peppery crust. The mushrooms were an awesome compliment to the fish and I absolutely loved the asian flavour of the oils and sauces and thought the flavours all mingled together really well.

My dad only ever orders the most basic dishes and doesn't like to play around with sauces and flavours, so I was blown away when he ordered the Cedar Plank Triple Berry Sockeye: lightly crusted with brown sugar, served with triple berry compote, roasted potato wedges and seasonal vegetables ($26.99). He cleaned his plate and said he really enjoyed this dish. He likes berries- so he enjoyed the compote, even though its nothing he's ate with salmon before. He liked that his side vegetables were quite basic and didn't come with any real sauces or herb-y flavours.

My mom ordered the Apricot Stuffed BC Wild Sockeye with shallot butter, garlic mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetable ($26.99). Another meal that got the thumbs up. My mom loved the presentation and the pea shoots that topped the zucchini-wrapped salmon medallion. She was a little disappointed that they used dried apricots instead of fresh apricots but all in all, she really liked how the sweet, subtle flavours went with the salty fish.

Middle sister (Mis-ster) ordered the Miso Crusted Wild BC Salmon with wasabi mashed potatoes and white wine butter with seaonal vegetables ($26.99).
This came to our table and with Mis-ster's first bite, she felt like the salmon was undercooked and raw on the inside. When our server came back with the last few plates, she let him know and he took it back to the kitchen to get a new one. This took around 15 min and the manager did check in and offered apologies. When the new plate came out, she really liked every element of the plate- from the light almost-tempura batter miso exterior to the crisp green beans and especially the wasabi mashed potatoes.

The sous chef ordered the Wild BC Grilled Salmon Burger with wild greens (15.99). This dish looked really good with a hearty, generous slab of salmon with fresh vegetables on a delicious whole wheat sesame seed bun. Unfortunately, this dish suffered from some inferior service. The sous chef asked if the burger came with a mayo or cheese. Our server said yes, the sous chef asked for his burger without. When the burger came out, it was slathered with tartar sauce. Not wanting to be a bother or complain, he just scraped off the tartar sauce and picked the cheese out of his salad. In the end, he said it was good, but I couldn't help being disappointed that the server ignored his request.
At the end of the meal, while sorting out the bill, the fire alarm went off due to some renovations that were going on in the cafe level below. It was really loud and irritating and thank goodness we had finished our meal...but I felt really bad for people who were in the middle of the meal.

Overall, this was a good experience because of the amazing setting, the great company, and the tasty food. The questionable service and fire alarm incident put a bit of a sour spin on the restaurant experience....but all in all it was still a really nice evening.

Boathouse (Kitsilano) on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 13, 2011

Team Dinner at Relish Gastropub

My soccer team recently got together for our annual season ending dinner. After trying to make a reso for a large group (22 peeps) at a few places, our coach remembered that the team had a season ending dinner at Relish a few years ago. The service in booking this reso was awesome. The manager who took my phone call for the reservation asked a lot of questions to make sure everything would work out and followed up twice with me. The last time the team had a dinner at Relish, it was a restaurant/lounge and it's now a smaller, cozy gastropub. We were seated at a wrap-around L shaped booth in the corner of the pub. We had one server and she was great. Right off the bat, she let me know that everything on the menu was made in-house with a focus on using local ingredients in all of their menu items. Often, when dining with large parties, I've had pretty questionable service, but she was awesome- glasses were constantly re-filled, she was friendly, and most importantly...everyone's food came out right.
It was a large group and I tried to keep on top of what everyone was ordering and get feedback.
On the table: 

Lamb Mini Burgers "Slambers"(Braised Lamb, Mint, Goat Cheese on a Choux bun) $11
*This was 5 mini burgers and they looked delightfully delicious, especially the light pastry buns
*The team mate that ordered this, ordered it with a poutine as a meal. She said that since it was lamb, instead of beef, it was too rich to eat all 5- but said they were tasty.

Poutine (Natural Veal Gravy, Local Curds, Homemade Fries) $11
*ordered with the "Slambers" and she commented that it was basic but yummy

Spicy Broccolini (Seared in Chili Flakes and Garlic) $8
*ordered as a appy to share, and was also a side to many of the dishes 
*this was a bonified hit and got positive feedback all around
*team mates really dug the aasian inspired taste and felt like the sauce tasted like a soy/miso gravy with a buttery flavour and a slight spicy kick. This veg dish was well cooked- a bit firm, not too mushy.

Another appy was the Roasted Sundried Tomato Baked Goat Cheese Dip ($8- i think)
*another hit, it was rich and delicious with a good level of creamy saltiness without being overly heavy
*team mate Nicole thought the crostini toasts were possibly a bit stale (can toast be stale?)

Another appy was the Shrimp Cocktail ($10) which looked like a mini shrimp salad. I tried a bit of the dip/dressing and loved the spicy tomato flavour.

I ordered The Vito (Spicy Italian Sausage served on a whole wheat hoagie with caramelized onion, pepper rings, and spicy Dijon mustard) $13. I ordered extra hot sauce and extra spicy dijon.
*Apparantly, this was named after one of their bartenders. He must be quite the guy!
*I really liked this dish. The sausage was rich and actually had a nice subtle spice. It was juicy but not greasy with a nice exterior crisp with every bite. It came with a side salad which was OUTSTANDING. *It was your basic mixed greens with roast pears, goat cheese and lemon cider vinagrette. The roast pears were a unique touch and a amazing flavour burst and combined so well with the flavours of the goat cheese.

Grilled Chicken Salad (with house salad) $13
*The team mate that ordered this gave it a shrug and a "meh." She thought it was good, but too light for a meal- noting that it needed a crunch or something hearty in there....croutons, a side of bread or crostini, or a roasted nut.

Pesto Macaroni & Cheese (Mix Cheese, Pesto, Parmesan Crust, Broccolini) $17
*A few team mates ordered this and liked it, noting it had a nice crisp on the top with a good level of cheesiness, but that the pesto flavour was a bit weaker that they would've liked.

Prime Rib (with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Broccolini, Gravy, Biscuit) $20
*My coach is a Prime Rib enthusiast and he ordered this and gave it a 9 out of it must've been good. It was a tasty looking plate.

Grilled Cheese (Sourdough, Caramalized Onion, Roasted Garlic, Brie) $14
*The team mates that ordered this- LOVED IT! The buttery sourdough with ooey, gooey brie and soft caramelized onions were an amazing blend of rich flavours and soft textures. The side of tomato soup was apparantly good- but not the best ever.

Spicy Chicken Sandwich (Spice Crusted Chicken, Garlic Mayonnaise, Lettuce, Tomato, White Cheddar) $15
*This was another popular choice and people seemed to all like it and the garlic mayo sauce, but no one thought it was spicy.

Beef Dip (Shaved Prime Rib, Swiss, Caramelized Onion, Horseradish, served on baguette) $15
Apparantly this was a good sandwich with all the right tasty elements, but the au jus was a let down. The texture was thick like a gravy, but the taste was unfortunately kind of bland.

I liked this place- my meal was good and service was great. Plus, they have a different $3 pint featured every night and apparantly a really fun pub trivia night every Tuesday.

Relish Gastropub on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 10, 2011

New Favourite Homemade Salad with Hummus Dressing

Chili- Garlic Fried Breaded Eggplant and Mushroom Spinach Salad with Hummus Dressing.
So easy and so tasty. Toast a slice of bread, break into crumbs, then mix/beat with one egg/ a pinch mediterranean herb mix/ a teaspoon of chili garlic paste. Slice up eggplants and mushrooms, dunk them in the egg/crumb/seasoning mix and fry in a lightly oiled frying pan for a couple of minutes. Dump on some spinach and fresh red pepper. Add my new favourite salad dressing: PC Hummus Dressing. It's a lighter, liquid-y version of rich garlicky hummus. An awesome flavour kick!
There is a great mix of textures going on here: creamy dressing, crispy eggplant, soft mushroom, and crunchy red peppers. It's an easy and delicious summer dinner.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"Is that a chunk of meat on your shirt and BBQ sauce on your pants?"

is what my vegan boyfriend asked me later that evening....the answers were: Yes and Yes. I'm a messy eater and after my second visit to Memphis Blues BBQ on Commerical, it's really no surprise that I was a sloppy mess. I pretty much inhaled my delicious pulled pork sandwich, coleslaw, and pit beans- and although I made an initial effort to use utensils...I gave up quickly and ended up getting all up in this big juicy meal with my fingers.
I met up with Bree who being the dedicated Canucks fan that she is, flew back to Vancouver, not a week after her most recent visit from Peace River, to get tickets and go to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals series at Rogers arena with her bro.
The next day we met up for dinner and she had a craving for Memphis Blues BBQ. Yep, they don't have sushi in Peace River, AB and I guess they don't have any BBQ joints either. I think they have a Boston Pizza.....

We met up at the Commercial Drive location on a drizzly, grey Vancouver evening. Inside, it felt warm and comforting with some blues-y music playing, sports on the TVs, music posters and memorabilia on the walls, and most tables occupied without it feeling packed. It is awesome to watch people eat at Memphis Blues- especially groups of skinny, young teenage/early 20's guys working their way through one of MB's sharing platters like the Memphis Feast (43.95) with all of their meats (brisket, ribs, pulled pork, bbq chicken, rib ends, smoked sausage) with all of their fixin's (corn bread, pit beans, coleslaw, potato salad, fries) or the supersize version with even more meat... the Elvis Platter (72.95). Watching one of those platter come out is a pretty epic sight. It is an laid-back venue for a meal of unpretentious, meaty indulgence.

At Memphis Blues, you order and pay at the counter and then they bring your food to the table pretty quickly. I think we waited about 10 minutes after placing our orders. We decided to get fries (3.95) after waiting about 5 minutes because we decided that we were really hungry.
We both ordered Pulled Pork Sandwiches- and all of their sandwiches come with pit beans and coleslaw. Bree ordered a large (9.25) and replaced her beans and slaw with a side salad and got a retro glass bottle diet coke. I got a small for (8.25) and the regular sides.

Behold my "small" pulled pork sandwich. I honestly couldn't tell the difference between my "small" and Bree's large. It may have been bigger because I polished off mine and Bree couldn't finish hers- but visually they looked the same. They definitely don't skimp on their portions- piled onto a soft, squishy bun is a mountain of saucy pulled pork. It spills out the sides and there isn't really a clean way eat this massive, ooey, gooey, saucy sandwich. There was a tiny bit of slaw under the pork which added a bit of fresh crunch. This pork was moist and doused in a sauce with more of a vinegar-tomato, smoky flavour and fortunately for my particular tastebuds, it didn't have the sweetness that comes with many pulled pork sandwiches. I loved this the way it came out but since they had a variety of sauces at the table, I had to sample them all for different bites.

My favourite was the yellow mustard with a real spicy, salty, vinegar kick to it. It helped to cut through the richness and made for a few bites with a lighter kick. I also really enjoyed their spicy bbq sauce. A big surprise for me was the savoury, slightly spicy BBQ vinagrette salad dressing. It was awesome and a great dip for the fries and added to the sandwich.

The slaw was too creamy and thick for my taste, but I added some of the spicy mustard which cut through the richness and made it way better for my particular tastebuds. The pit beans were okay- a thick consistency with a flavour that was smoky and sweet.

The fries were actually really tasty: super crispy and heavily seasoned with green onion flakes and pepper.
We left feeling full and happy and planning our next visit to MB's, hopefully with a large group to tackle one of the platters.
Memphis Blues Barbeque House (Commercial) on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sandwich Saturday- Part 2: Fancy Banh Mi at Big Lou's Butcher Shop

After a successful start to Sandwich Saturday, with a truly delicious experience at La Ghianda, Jobin and I debated and discussed for a while planning our next sandwich stop. He wanted to hit either Meat and Bread or Big Lou's Butcher Shop in the gastown/crosstown area, and since I've been to Meat and Bread (and loved it), we decided to go to Big Lou's to try something new for both of us (although I insisted that he go to Meat and Bread as soon as humanly possible for their porchetta). So we got in the Honda Fit, or the Meat mobile as it was subbed on my last sandwich adventure with Coop, Leggy Redhead and Big A. and headed into town from the far west of Kits.

Located in a restored heritage building on the corner of Powell and Gore (across from Sunrise Market- a busy, cheap stand by for produce), this  retro-styled butcher shop and delicatessen is brought to you by the same owners and chefs behind Two Chefs and a Table in Gas town. The inside features two large glass cases full of locally sourced cuts of beef, pork, and poultry, sausages, stuffed meats (*apparently everything is butchered on site), jars of local or in-house pickles, sauces, marinades,dry rubs, and seasonings.

They also carry specialty items like pre-marinated meats, braised short ribs, pork belly, lamb shanks, pulled pork, and coq au vin. 
*My friend Tim said his sister swears that Big Lou's Argentian Marinated Chicken is life-changing!
 There is about a 6-10 bar stools and a long counter along the wall for those eating in. The decor is manly- yet playful, retro- yet clean and modern with old butcher aprons, chalkboards, meat charts, an old cash register, and all the staff wear butchers whites. 

Service was great- we got a warm and friendly welcome when we entered, were offered samples of their delicious salty, smoky, juicy pastrami while we pondered our order, and all of usual foodie questions were answered with real knowledge and genuine enthusiasm.
 We were torn between the featured Canucks Playoff themed sandwich, the Big Lou-ongo ($7.50 spicy italian meatball, house made marinara sauce and parmesan on rustic ciabatta bread) and the Pulled Pork Banh Mi that was listed as one of  Vancouver Magazine's best sandwiches in the city. Van Mag was certainly bang on with our sandwich one hour ealier (Corned Beef and La Ghianda), so went ordered their pick, the Banh Mi ($8.00) with house pickled vegetables, pork shoulder, house made pate, cilantro, spicy mayo on a crusty french baguette style bread loaf. 

When our sandwich was ready, we asked that they cut it in half for us to share, and they wrapped up in a package with butcher paper and twine, the way a butcher shop would wrap up a steak. Pretty cool presentation, but it didn't last long as we ripped into the package to start devouring our second sandwich of the day. The pulled pork shoulder was plentiful and had a really nice texture. I'm not a fan of pulled pork that is too dry and like the sloppier texture but with chunks of the exterior roasting where its a little drier and crispier. This pulled pork was very much that awesome texture. Unfortunately, the pork was sweeter than I'd like it to be. If I could, I'd add some spice and take away some of the sweetness. The pickled veg was pretty much just carrots but it gave a nice tart, fresh, vinegar-y, light flavour to an otherwise pretty heavy sandwich. This sandwich also had a tonne of fresh cilantro which helped to lighten things up. The pate was rich, creamy and very "herb-y"- an interesting mix of flavours and texture. I LOVED the flavour of the spicy, savoury mayo, but this sandwich was bathed in it, and it was a bit overpowering, especially with all of the other "heavy" elements in the dish.

 The bread was just okay for me. I thought it was a good sandwich, but not really worth the hype.
Jobin loved the combo and balance of the pulled pork and pate together in the sandwich and really loved all of the fresh cilantro. Unfortunately, he had a few bites of the pulled pork on its on and found the fennel (black licorice) taste to be displeasing. He also found a chunk of bay leaf it his sandwich which turned him on a bit.
Another good overall sandwich experience, but one that will probably have us coming back to try the other delicious sounding sandwiches (we bumped into one of Jobin's friends who strongly recommended the pastrami sandwich and claims they pile a pound of meat on the sandwich!) and to buy some of their meat products to cook at home. 

Big Lou's Butcher Shop on Urbanspoon