Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Love Lucy's...Eastside Diner

I have been wanting to try Lucy's Eastside Diner since it opened last fall. I've heard great things through articles, word-of-mouth (check my buddy Matt's top 5 burger picks in Van City), and blog love and I love the look from the outside. It scream old school, kitschsy, retro, but clean, fresh, and hip.
It is bright and cheerful inside with bright orange table tops covered in vintage laminate covered in little boomerang graphics, light turquoise walls.

They really put some love into the decor details here. You can't quite see it in this photo but on the north wall of the diner their are bicycle handle trophy heads mounted, they play doo-wop and oldies on the sound system, they have awesome old schoolhouse light fixtures, and have 50's/60's music posters and amazingly awesome blow-up black and white photos from the Palm Springs Historical Society. Seating is....cozy. You can dine at the counter, 2 person booths towards the back, and a few tables at the front. We came with a group of 6 and although we had to wait for about 20 minutes, they were able to set us up in the front.

The sous-chef and I ordered two veg burger options and went "halfsies."

Black Bean Veggie Burger $7.5
Chickpea and bean patty topped with herb crusted goat cheese. 
We ordered this one with no goat cheese for the sous-chef. This was amazing and put all of the other restaurants using lame frozen veggie patties to shame. It had a nice crispy exterior but was a bit soft in the middle. There were hints of cumin and oregano and parsley ground up in the burger too giving the burger a lot of flavour. Nice, soft, chewy bun and fresh dill and tomato slices. A special shout out to the dressing on the side. Yowza- an awesome mustard, lemon, super fresh flavour going on!

Roasted Portobello Mushroom Burger  $7.5
Portobello mushroom marinated in basil infused balsamic, topped with herb crusted goat cheese 

This was so juicy and flavourful. The goat cheese gave an added depth and made the burger rich. Super flavourful with no meat. The fries were pretty bland. I doused them in vinegar, ketchup, and hot sauce, they ended up tasting pretty good.

All Day & Night Breakfast Special $6.5
2 eggs, bacon or sausage, served with hashbrowns and toast 
Captain Bif ordered this with sausages, scrambled eggs, and sourdough you can see, he was a happy man to see this plate and obviously liked the looks of it. He said it was pretty basic but pretty good. I really liked the look of this plate, especially chunky, roasted potato hashbrowns.

Lucy's Classic Burger $7
Served on an kaiser bun with mayo, mustard, tomato, & lettuce
Graeme liked his burger, thought it was well cooked, had a nice flavour, and thought it was a pretty good value.

Cinnamon French Toast $6.5
Served with berry compote, syrup and whip cream (ordered without whip cream)
This looked and smelled AMAZING. Aasia let me have a bite and although, I'm strictly a "savoury breakfast" type of gal (I put salsa and sriracha on my french toast, not powdered sugar and fruit), this dish could covert me. Or I would order it for dessert. The texture was spongy, and they really committed with the cinnamon and sugar rather than just sprinkling it on top.

All of the food on the menu is decently priced and won't stretch your wallet. Everything on the menu seemed to range between $6- $10. Portion sizes were great in my opinion but a few of the folks I was dining with said they could've used a bit more food. Awesome atmosphere and decor, great food and good value make this a really fun breakfast place on Main. The perfect "Happy Hipster" brunch spot for an upbeat, fun meal. Other menu items I'm looking forward to trying: Peanut Butter Milkshake, Pulled Pork Benny, Uncle Ever's Chorizo Hash, Chorizo and Pepper Sandwich.....


One of my favourite dining trios visited Lucy's this week too and had a similar awesome experience. As you can see from the photos, Baby Lucy was super excited to be eating at a diner with her namesake....
She can't pry her eyes away from the delicious looking menu! 

Adam and Leah both ordered the veggie burgers and fries/ milkshake combo for $11. Leah got a oreo milkshake (which apparantly tasted like a "childhood flashback") and Adam got custom peanut butter/ strawberry combo milkshake that was mind-blowing. Apparantly, the milkshakes are huge and the "extra" steel cup was 3/4 full.

Lucy's Eastside Diner on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 26, 2011

Not feeling the love for: Pink Elephant Thai

Recently, a meet up with Asian Super Director and Tw-Mamma (twin mamma) lead to dining downtown. We were going to go for Ramen, but Tw-Mamma is gluten free, so we changed our game plan and headed to Alberni for Thai food @ Pink Elephant Thai.

The restaurant interior is quite gorgeous. Modern surroundings, white and pink furniture, and eye catching light installations.This place is really trying to be modern, sleek and trendy. Overall, I didn't love my experience here. The decor was fun and service was friendly and efficient. But overall, I felt like the whole restaurant is...confused and doesn't really have a clear identity. It's going for a hip, sex-in-the-city, cutting edge, lounge vibe but on the night of our visit, it was really missing the mark. Most customers where in grungy sweats slurping noodles and we were sweated right beside a large family eating with screaming kids running around. They have large TVs playing sports at the downstairs bar, which obviously helps with a Canucks crowd, but confuses the feel of the restaurant even more.

Ika Sugata Yaki- BBQ Squid with Osaka sauce $9
Grilled Squid- pretty puny, kinda bland cold and chewy. This dish was served with a lame iceberg garnish but AMAZING dipping sauce. Spicy, salty, slightly sweet- we kind of licked the bowl on this one.

Lettuce Wrap- Double "O" Fresh oyster and free range ostrich str fried with chili paste and fresh basil $8
I really liked this dish. The ostrich is the dominant "o" in this dish. In fact, I didn't really taste any oyster...other than oyster sauce maybe used in the stir fry. Ostrich tastes like a tender and lean beef tenderloin. It's not gamey or overly chewy, instead it's lean, but still juicy. It's well marinated and the flavours and textures with the basil, carrots, onions, and peppers all blended really nicely. Unfortunately, this tasty dish was quite small.

Garlic Eggplant- sauteed with garlic sauce topped with green onion $9 
A nice veg side dish that was a good portion size for sharing. Eggplant was cooked really well with some slivers of red pepper and served in a really nice garlic sauce that had a beautiful "kicky" rich flavour.

Organic Pumpkin Curry with Roti $14
The curry was decent but not stand out and the portion size was small. The presentation was cute, maybe too cute. It made it really tough to share and unless you rip this pumpkin apart with your hands and dunk it in the curry, you didn't really get any pumpkin in it. Another disappointment was that the Roti was fried, leaving it crispy and oily with a greasy aftertaste.

I can't recommend this place. I feel like it's trying too hard to be cool, modern, and hip and over pricing, and missing the mark on presentation. The squid was so underwhelming in the presentation department, and yet, on the pumpkin curry dish, they overdid it. Vancouver has so many options for budget friendly and delicious Thai food (my favourite is Sawasdee Thai on Main St) , I don't see myself rushing back here anytime soon.

Pink Elephant Thai on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kimura- Amazing Japanese food tucked away on Rupert Street

Tucked away on Rupert and 23rd, not exactly a foodie hotspot, is Kimura Sushi and Japanese Restaurant. If I wasn't a food nerd always on the hunt for great places to eat, I don't think I would've heard of Kimura- but many a positive review and a lot of love from my fellow Vancouver food bloggers put Kimura on my radar. Apparantly, their $30 Omakse (chef selected tasting menu) is THE thing to order- but since I was with the vegan-ish sous chef, we ordered a la carte, with a veg focus.

The outside is very unassuming and its surrounded by a variety of other small businesses. It's a hidden gem as it's a small operation with food and interior atmosphere that rises above its exterior and location. Chef Itsuroku Kimura is the man behind the sushi bar and the quality of his food and passion for food (and jazz music which is pumping through the speakers.) He's worked and owned Japanese restaurants in Japan, Shanghai, Mexico City, and LA. The menu has a focus on fresh and local ingredients with a slight global influence. He seems like a real character (and has a sweet mustache to boot) and I would like to sit at the bar next time to watch him work. Everything had a really authentic Japanese feel to it and service was really great. On to what we ate....

Eggplant-Sauteed Eggplant with Miso Sauce $3.00
Slightly singed and a little crisp on the outside and soft, buttery and tender inside. Perfectly cooked with a heavenly black thick goopy soy-miso sauce.

Shiitake Mushrooms Grilled Shiitake Mushrooms $3.30
With Bonito flakes. A little dry and bland but when dipped in the eggplant miso sauce....pretty tasty.

Spinach Goma-Ae Boiled Spinach with Sesame$3.00
Fresh- subtle sesame- not drenched in thick goopy dressing, which I liked, but some people might miss.

Red Yam Tempura 4 pieces Deep Fried Yam $2.50

Super Light batter- I would say this was the best tempura I've ever had. It was not oily or overly salty so you got mainly yam taste and flavour.

Unagi Avocado Roll Eel and Avocado $4.50
Delicious with a smoky-salty BBQ flavour and creamy avocado with a thick delicious bbq/miso drizzle.

Spicy Tuna Roll Ahi Tuna with Special Spicy Sauce $4.75
Flavours well-balanced and a light rice to filling ratio- savoury, salty, lots of toasted sesame seeds. Tasted amazingly fresh.

The one disappointment was that we weren't able to order the awesome sounding "Avocado Tempura" since they had a stock issue- the sous chef is a Avocado junkie and was blown away to see that item on the menu. We polished all of this off and shared a large Asahi beer. It was a great meal and dinner felt like a "special" sushi experience and I can't wait to go back for Omakse at the bar!!!!

Kimura on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Feast of Fields 2011 at Krause Berry Farms

This Sunday, I attended a food enthusiasts paradise....Feast of Fields. The event is a 4 hour gourmet wandering harvest festival. WIth a wine glass and linen napkin in hand, it's a chance to taste the very best of BC from chefs, vitners, brewers, farmers, fisherman, ranchers, catering companies, and food artisans from across the province.....pretty much a unlimited 40 course sample meal paired with wine and beer! The "Feast of Fields" concept is to highlight the connections between producer and chef, field and table, and farm folks and city folks. The event (which is in its 17th year) is actually an annual fundraiser for a non for profit organization, Farm Folk City Folk, which is dedicated to support sustainable food sources. 

Last year, Leggy Redhead and Big A attended the Feast of Fields on Vancouver Island and told me so many wonderful things about it. This year, when they told me that they were planning on buying tickets to the "Metro Vancouver" event- without hesitation, I bought one too.

Tickets for this event were $85 and we paid an additional $15 for a shuttle bus from Vancouver to the venue in Langley, Krause Berry FarmsThis venue was gorgeous, scenic, with much-needed shady areas for the amazingly gorgeous, but hot, late summer afternoon. There was a small stage with live music, wagon rides, ponies (I mean horses) behind fences, and various hand-washing stations, port-a-potties, and water stations. This event is run extremely well and even with a sell out crowd, even though their were a few long line-ups (that actually moved at a pretty quick pace) the atmosphere remained relaxed, friendly, and chill throughout the afternoon. 

Our bus rolled on to the farm just after 1pm, we promptly checked, received our linen napkins and wine glasses and enthusiastically entered what I started calling my "Food Lover's Disneyland."

I ate A LOT, and drank A LOT. I sampled every food item, and tried a wide range of beer, wine, and beverages. Some things that I sampled, I've tried before/ eaten at that restaurant before, but  most of the options were from places I've never dined at and in some instances, that I've never heard of. It was so great to learn about more delicious places to do and things to try all over Greater Vancouver. Everything I had was good, but there were some items that really stood out for me. 

My first taste of FOF was amazing. From Fishworks in North Vancouver, Local Oysters with blood orange aspic with homemade mignotte and citrus jelee. Really refreshing and bright flavour. Cold oysters on a hot day...We were off to an excellent start! 

Savoury City City Catering Two Rivers Meats' Fraser Vally pork bangers and mash. Mini sausage served in a twice baked nugget potatoe with chives and a variety of out of this world mustards including a lime cilantro and masala options.

Meat & Bread Pemberton Meadows beef chuck roll sandwich, soy braised, hoisin glazed with house-made kimchi. This was slow roasted and falling's no porchetta (the flavours were good, but mellow) but still pretty tasty.

Dockside Restaurant had one of my amazing oversize sushi roll filled with pickled daikon, carrots, and veg, topped with a sliver of veal tongue and garnished with pea shootsThis was so fresh but then topping it with the rich, buttery cooked tongue. When I finished my first epic round of all of the samples and let everything digest, I tried to get seconds of this item but they had run out.

Seasonal 56 took the club sandwich to the extreme with their Duck Club: Cured Duck Breast, Duck Confit, sliced local tomatoes and greens on house made rye. The meat was soooo tender and juicy and the tomatoes were vibrant and exploding with flavour. The greens were fresh and crispy and the bread had an amazing chew level. 

Go Fish! on West Broadway and their high-energy team were an extremely busy station all day serving up Tequila cured wild Sockeye salmon Summer ceviche. with thinly sliced salmon rolled around picked vegetables and topped with fresh pea shoots and sprayed with a hit of tequila flavour. 

The Vancouver Club had an impressive offering (and long line to match) for a Yarrow duck confit  pizette mini pizza with pumpkin seed pesto. I was really impressed by this culinary team: they were efficient and friendly, and enthusiastic about their food and the event. They also really paid attention to detail and presentation and the head chef grated fresh parmesan to top every pizza as it left the grill. THis was a hearty dish so after a few bites, in the interest I had a few bites and then, because I'm classy picked off the meat and licked off the delicious pesto. 

EBO was neighbours to the Vancouver Club and they too, offered a dish with a WOW! factor (and long line to match). Roasted BC Salmon, BLT sliders with Tiroler bacon, Hazlemere Organic Farm's greens, tomatoes, pickled red onion, chili bean mayo on a brioche bun. This was a beautiful little sandwich. The succulent salmon with the smoky bacon the fresh vegetables and the creamy mayo with a slight kick in a soft slightly sweet brioche bun was absolutely heavenly.

On a lighter note, Aphrodite Pie Shop offered a baked beet crisp with sweet onion tzatiki. Super light flavours just dancing on your tongue. It really tasted like a bite of late summer/early fall.

Edible Canada @ the Market wowed me with their ultimate salty/sweet dish, Silk Spice crusted BC Albacore tuna served on a wedge of yuza marinated cucumber and watermelon with a drizzle of strawberry balsamic reduction. 

My favourite dish of the afternoon was from Lolita's "South of the Border" Mexican Cantina. Executive chef Shelome Bouvette and her team were presenting and serving a mind-blowing Ceviche Habanero. Tangerine Citrus and habanero pepper cold marinated local oceanwise select seafood (looked like mainly salmon and scallop) with fresh guacamole and pickled chayote (mexican squash) served on an organic blue corn tostada chip. This dish has a lot of elements and they all worked together to make a bright and beautiful dish. It was pretty to look at with the bright colours and looked like a perfect summer dish. The bright citrus really popped with the fresh seafood, the creamy avocado guac added a richness in texture and flavour, the habanero gave it a significant kick, and the crisp pickled chayote and tostada kept everything light. It tasted like an awesome afternoon on a sunny patio with friends and cold beer. An unreal offering and perfect for the hot day.

In the interest of eating as much delicious food as possible, I tried to limit the carb intake and I stuck to mainly savoury options. There were a few gorgeous desserts that I had to try.

From the The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn, Smoked Milk Chocolate (they smoke it in house), topped with peaches, corn and chanterelles. Slight bitterness and amazing soft texture that was just on the verge on melting with an ooey, gooey, deliciousness. The corn/chanterelle flavour was a bit lost on me, but the fresh peach with the smoky chocolate was to die for. I asked the chef how they smoke the chocolate and he told me that they use a smoker, put it in for no more than 5 min (otherwise you get a chocolate- flavoured cinder) and make sure you put ice in the metal box to cool the smoke as it flows through. The slight bitter flavour of the smoke perfectly offsets the sweetness of the chocolate. 

Cocolico served up Caramel Apple tarts featuring Apple Barn apples and caramel sauce. The pastry was super dense and crumbly and not too sweet, letting the crisp apple and salty caramel flavours dominate. 

The Vancouver Club served up a dessert option that was light, cool, and refreshing with a kic- their twist on an ice cream sandwich with mini gingersnaps filled with house-made basil and peach sorbet. 

I definitely also sampled many of the booze (or libations....I love that word) offerings......and went back for multiple re-fills. My favourites were: From Driftwood Brewery- Whitebark Wheat Ale, Farmhand Ale, Crooked Coast Altbier, Vista D'oro Farms Sangria, Village Taphouse poured Howe Sound Brewery Whitecap Wheat Ale, R & B Sun God Wheat Ale, Whistler Brewing- Whisky Jack, and Victoria Spirits Victoria Gin. 

It was an afternoon of pure, sun-soaked culinary delight and gluttony with awesome pals Leggy Redhead, Big A, and Judith. One of the best afternoon's ever! I'll definitely be at Feast of Fields 2012. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Meinhardt's Cooking Class: Picnic Perfection

Months ago, Jobin and I each bought a Meinhardt cooking class Groupon.

"Meinhardt: $39 for a Two-Hour Cooking Class at Meinhardt (Save 51% Off)
Small class sizes ensure you'll get plenty of attention from the chef, creating an encouraging atmosphere for culinary discovery. Sample the fruits of your labour before perusing Meinhardt's stacked selection of specialty goods."

We're foodie buddies, and it seemed like a decent deal and like fun experience. Unfortunately, between our busy schedules, classes being booked up or not sounding interesting, we struggled to get booked and organized. Finally, we just decided to pick a day that we were both available and just book it.
The class we registered was called Picnic Perfection. There isn't much of a description on the website, so we didn't really know what we would be preparing.
We met at 6pm at the back of the Meinhart's at 16th and Granville. Essentially, our group of 10-12 was set up across and around 2 tables tucked at the back of this small-ish grocery boutique store. I'll start with the positive: they had an assortment of snacks for us to nosh on and nice cold water and club soda. This was a really nice touch. Our instructor was very nice and extremely knowledgable. A former sous-chef at West, he was really enthusiastic about cooking and food and offered up some great tips along the way. It was mainly a "watching" class, but he did his best to bring up "helpers" to help peel and chop along the way. Now for the negative. We were stationed in the back of the store right near the bakery and prepared food/deli area. This meant a tonne of noise from the mixers, grinders, blenders, staff chatting. So I wasn't able to hear him very well and missed/ mis-heard a lot of the tips and points along the way. It was also extremely distracting to have shoppers walk by throughout, looking over our shoulders, having loud conversations, etc. The class was designed around "summer food for entertaining."

We learned to make:

Melon Cucumber Soda
Honeydew Melon/ Mint/ Sparkling Water

Heirloom Beet Salad
Roasted Beets/ Goat Cheese/ Orange/ Pistachios

Watermelon Tomato Panzella Salad
Watermelon/ Red and Orange Vine Tomatoes/ Sherry Vinaigrette

Honey Dijon Glazed Chicken Thighs
Chicken Thighs/ Mustard/ White Wine/ Honey

Chicken Satay with Dip
Chicken/ Lemongrass/ Oyster Sauce/ Smooth Peanut Butter
Everything was really tasty but really basic. Unfortunately, I didn't really learn anything from this class because everything was so basic. Another thing that I didn't like, was we "learned" two chicken dishes and they were both at the end of class, and because we were short on time, we didn't actually see any of the prep or cooking. The best part of the lesson was actually chatting with the chef/instructor after class and asking questions about salt and his recommended food/ cook books.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Top 5 Vancouver Burger Picks.....from a true burger enthusiast

I love me a good burger. Whenever I'm torn between different menu options.....a burger always seems like a good bet. It's always a satisfying meal. Burgers have an emotional connection to BBQ's and picnics, greasy spoon diners, sitting on a patio with a pint of cold beer, all of my favourite condiments, and kiddie birthday parties. There are hamburgers, beef burgers, fish burgers, veggie burgers, beef burgers, chicken burgers, falafel burgers, turkey burgers, bison burgers.....the list goes on and on. You can play around with toppings, different kinds of buns, and condiments for endless combinations and a variety of flavours. Burgers can be found pretty much everywhere, from fast food burger chains, pubs, diners, drive thrus, concession stands, to gourmet burger shops and independant burger shops. Burgers can be simple or they can be elaborate. 
Burgers can be a healthy meal or a gluttonous culinary extravagant experience.

My friend, Matt, loves burgers more than anyone I know. In fact, Matt is such burger aficionado, that he and his associates created a clothing line and named in Hamburger Disco. They work images of Burgers into all sorts of creative designs and images. I have some of their shirts and love them! I asked Matt for his favourite burger picks in Vancouver and he was happy to share his burger favourites. 

My top 5 places to get a burger in Metro Vancouver:

Yes, it's a big fat corporate chain. I am sorry. This is the only chain on the list. The thing with Red Robin though is that you always know what you'll be getting - no matter which one you go to - Juicy, quality hamburgers. They're also conveniently located all over Metro Vancouver. And what an array - Turkey! Lamb! Burgers with Egg! Grilled Pineapple Rings?! The reason they made my top 5? BOTTOMLESS STEAK FRIES!!! **Try: The Banzai Burger. Tip: Sneak in some bonus steak fries by asking them to send you out a basket while you're waiting for your burger. 
Red Robin (Broadway) on Urbanspoon

The iconic Wally's Burgers was a staple of my childhood. Located along Kingsway, Wally's Burgers was our only true classic burger joint. And in 2008, they closed their doors...

but not for long. 
A new Wally's Burgers franchise opened up right in Killarney Market last year. While it's smaller than what I was use to growing up, and missing a pinball machine, the new location provides just enough nostalgia to keep me coming back. **Try: Deluxe Chuck Wagon. Get it with Onion Rings.
Wally's Burgers on Urbanspoon

I Love Lucy. Looking for a cute place to take a date out for lunch? Take her to Mount Pleasant. More specifically take her to Lucy's Eastside Diner. A neon sign, chrome bar stools, and black vinyl booths - Amazing. 
**Try: For $11 you can get a burger and milkshake combo. You can also substitute that milkshake for a can of Red Racer (if Surrey beer is your thing). 
Lucy's Eastside Diner on Urbanspoon

Two Parrots is on this list because they serve the infamous 2 lb burger. This is the biggest burger that I've ever found in Vancouver. And this is no novelty burger - this beautiful piece of culinary art tastes amazing. I once tried to tackle this beast, but finished only a mere 45% of it. 
Share it with 2-4 friends, or take the 2 lb burger challenge! If you finish the 2 lb burger alone, without going to the bathroom, and in under an hour, it's free! And you get put on the wall of fame. 
**Try: The 2lb Burger! Duh! My Everest.... 
Two Parrots Perch & Grill on Urbanspoon

Back in the day, whenever we would trek up to Whistler, we always make sure to grab burgers at Splitz Grill. Lucky for us Vancouverites, that they decided to open up a second location on Main St! Splitz has a pretty sweet subway-esque system. You order your food, and then you follow them as they grill your patty in front of you, and throw in whatever toppings you like. The staff is super friendly, they have beer, the burgers are always amazing, and they're the only ones that carry the super secret Splitz sauce - That's why Splitz is my favourite burger joint in Vancouver. PS. To all the vegetarians out there: The Splitz Spice Lentil burger is the heartiest meat-free burger I've ever had. 
**Try: The Bison Burger w/ babaganous.
Splitz Grill on Urbanspoon

Please send me a message or comment: Where is your favourite burger spot in Greater Vancouver???