Monday, December 16, 2013

Vegan Supper Club "Plate Invaders"

My sister is a vegan...not only does she live a meat and dairy and animal product free life, she is also a vegan educator and activist. She hosts a radio program on Vancouver Co-op Radio called "Animal Voices." The show covers topics and interviews people from the world of animal advocacy and vegan lifestyle. One of her colleagues on the show, Alissa and her partner, Tim, a vegan chef, run a monthly vegan supper club out, Plate Invaders, out of their East Van suite. My sister and her wife are regulars at these dinners and I've been talking about joining them for a supper club meal for a long time... and finally, I was able to attend an event in late November.

Plate Invaders hosts two seatings on event events; 5:45pm and 8:30pm. We made reservations for the late seating. The dinner takes place in the upper suite of a East Van duplex in a cozy, retro-styled living room that is transformed into a casual dining room with a ten-person long table, dinner music, and soft lighting. You can bring your own wine (which we did) and throughout the evening, our mason jar glasses were refilled with refreshing lemon water. I was there with my sister and her wife and it was nice to spend time chatting with them and getting to know our fellow supper club diners. The four course menu was handwritten on a small whiteboard on the wall and Tim, the chef, came out to introduce himself and the meal. It was really wonderful to have Tim present each course and provide an explanation of the dish and giving details about where the ingredients were sourced.

The first course was a Gem Squash Chowder. The presentation got a lot of ooohs and aaaahs from the table. Who doesn't love eating out of a gourd? It was actually quite amazing because although the gem squash skin seemed really thin, it was sturdy and a wonderful vessel for the chowder. This chowder was mild but full bodied. At first scoop, I felt like it might be too mild for me and need a kick, but the flavours developed in my mouth and the nice blend of squash, potato, and leek were quite pleasant and hearty.

The second course was Roasted Beet, Red Wine Tempeh, Marinated Black Kale.
The beets were so earthy and robust. The tempeh was full of flavour; red wine and thyme. But my favourite element of this dish was the Black Kale with Japanese sea salt, which gave it almost a seaweed taste. Orange segments added a nice fresh bite, adding some acidity and sweetness.

The third coarse was Marina di Chioggia gnocchi, fennel, pear gremolata. Tim explained the gnocchi was made of a blend of marina di chioggia (a sweet, dry, dark heirloom winter squash) and yukon gold potatoes from Helmer Organic's farm in Pemberton (they grow the most amazing potatoes EVER! look for them at a Vancouver farmer's market near you). This dish smelled amazing, probably from the bold gremolata, punchy with plenty of garlic, parsley, lemon and slivers of pear and fennel to mellow those bold flavours slightly. The soft, pillowy gnocchi and the bold gremolata made for a satisfying and memorable dish.

Dessert was prepared by a pastry chef that works regularly with Plate Invaders, Kishino Watari. Mont Blanc aux Marrons, traditionally a dessert of pureed, sweetened chestnuts topped with whipped cream. The base was more like a nutty, dense cake base and I believe this light, creamy topping was some delicious, light cashew cream creation. The whole dish had a delightful, refreshing, warm citrus flavour and a candied dried orange garnish.

This was a really fun experience. The food was wonderful, creative, and I really appreciated- could taste the fresh quality ingredients that they used. Rather than charge a flat rate, they ask for a donation +/ - $40 on a pay-what-you-can sliding scale. And they donate 10% of the proceeds from every Plate Invaders meal to a local animal charity.

To find out more about Plate Invaders and snag a reservation for an upcoming dinner, you can find them at:

Friday, December 13, 2013

White Spot Celebrates 85 years with a Cookbook!

White Spot recently launched a cookbook with many of their signature appetizers, salads, burgers, entrees and desserts.
White Spot is an icon in British Columbia and pretty much a “go to” for many BC classic family meals.

This is the restaurant’s first cookbook, celebrating 85 years of success, beloved dished and family-friendly service, featuring recipes for classic dishes like their signature Chicken Pot Pie and Teriyaki Rice Bowl, as well as contemporary feature entrées like their Prawn and Lentil Rice Bowl – all geared for the home cook.

I had the chance to chat with Danny Markowicz, the Executive Development Chef for White Spot and Triple O’s about the iconic brand, the cookbook, and his personal favourite dishes.
Lifebitesmm: Why do you think White Spot has not only survived but thrived amongst many other multi-location restaurant brands?
Chef Danny: We are a guest focused company that constantly check in with our guests, staff and conduct regular research to ensure we’re staying relevant to our guests and the market. We stay true to our roots and at the same time continue to evolve our menu offerings to keep up with the ever changing industry.
Lifebitesmm: What is your personal favourite recipe to cook from the book?
Chef Danny: From the cookbook, my favourite recipe is the Champagne Prawn Risotto.
Lifebitesmm: What is your personal favourite White Spot classic order?

Chef Danny: Double-Double, fries and a chocolate shake. Epic!
Lifebitesmm: What is your personal favourite New(er) menu dish?

Chef Danny: My favorite new dish is the Tandoori cauliflower quinoa salad. Healthy, delicious and packed full of flavour.
Lifebitesmm: Any “insider” order secrets……personal tweaks or food quirks that you make to a White Spot dish to please your taste-buds?
Chef Danny: I sometimes order a side of poutine gravy and dip my burger. So wrong, but so good. Guilty as charged!
Lifebites: Tell me about White Spot’s involvement in the community and giving back….Why partner with Variety- The Children’s Charity for this project?
Chef Danny: We support Variety – The Children’s Charity including their annual telethon and many other initiatives throughout the year. Variety is our longest standing charitable relationship and White Spot has been involved since the charity was formed here in BC in 1965. Variety does so much to help kids in need and it felt like a natural fit for our cookbook, especially around the holidays. We will be donating partial proceeds from every White Spot Cookbook sold before December 31st to Variety – The Children’s Charity. To learn more about Variety visit: OR
Here’s your chance to win a copy of the book!
For your chance to win a copy of the cookbook, 1) like White Spot’s Facebook page, 2) follow @White_Spot and leave a comment at the bottom of this blog post or on the Lifebitesmm facebook page about your very favourite White Spot dish. The winner will be announced on Dec 18!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Lunchin' at Tap and Barrel Olympic Villiage

With the TO Boss in town for a few days, he generously offered to take the "West Coast" division out for a holiday lunch. It was a beautiful, chilly, sunny day and we headed to Tap and Barrel on the False Creek seawall in the Olympic village area.

The view can't be beat, the space is cool, the decor is funky, with two levels, two massive patios (normally packed every day during the summer but vacant on this COLD December day. I've been to Tap and Barrel once before and thoroughly enjoyed their PB and J Burger.

This time around, I opted to try a new menu option. When I asked our friendly server about this dish, she smiled and told me with some enthusiasm that these were her new favourite menu item.

The Steelhead Salmon Tacos are served two for $15 in flour tortillas with crunchy cabbage, cilantro, avocado, chipotle crema and pico de gallo. I loved the seasoned chunks of fish; slightly crispy and loaded with a slightly spiced coating and pan-fried. I found this a bit overloaded with the heavy mayo crema sauce, so I did some scraping and added some Frank's hot sauce and really loved it. These are pretty sizeable tacos; Depending on your hunger level, this might not be enough to be a full on you can add a third for $5... or do what I did and order a side salad and "share" my fellow diners delicious herbed fries!

My fellow diners really enjoyed their meals, the setting, and the overall experience.

Tap & Barrel on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Still smiling from lunch at Suika

This was my second visit to Suika. Link to post on my first visit here.
My previous experience was for dinner, so the menu today was slightly different this time around...rather than izakaya style tapas with entree-like main dishes, their lunch menu is designed around "lunch sets."I love the fun, izakaya, yell-to-greet-you-and-to-say-goodbye atmosphere.

All of the lunch specials come with a complimentary starter green salad, served family style in a big bowl. They bring this out promptly, and it is really nice to have something to nosh on while you wait for your meal. The lettuce was fresh and crisp. The dressing was a tangy, refreshing Japanese vinaigrette.
My dining companion, Super Asian Director, and I both arrived craving Ramen, but when she saw "tendon" on the menu, she quickly shifted focus....

Beef Tendon Bowl Set ($8.80) Slow cooked beef tendon, original fresh spice mix and soft poached egg on rice. SAD really enjoyed this but did remark that the tendon wasn't the stringy, muscle-y tendon that she was hoping for. I tried some of this and LOVED it. The meat was smoky and flavourful and the rice was packed with rich flavour from green onion, spices and buttery egg yolk. This set came with a side of pickled vegetables and soup.

Ox Tail Miso Ramen ($9.80) Slowly braised ox-tail with noodles in miso broth topped with dried fish powder and scallions. A perfect cold weather lunch! The broth is SOOO flavourful. The meat is tender and falling off the small pieces of bone. The noodles are cooked so they've got a nice toothsome chew and texture.

Great food, great atmosphere! Service is friendly and attentive.

Suika on Urbanspoon

Sparkling Hill Resort and Spa: Peakfine

It was the Sous Chef's birthday and his fabulous mom wanted to take us to one of her new favourite fancy spots in Lake Country, Sparkling Hill Resort and Spa. The resort opened in 2010 and it is a landmark luxury destination like I've never seen before. First of all, it is set near Predator Ridge, high on the hills overlooking the beautiful Lake Country district. The view and surrounding nature itself is pretty awesome. But then there are the crystals.

This whole resort and spa is all about the Swarovski! Crystal components are scattered throughout the hotel, from blinged out bathrooms, floating crystal handrails in the grand foyer, and one-of- a kind sculptures and massive chandeliers. Everything feels luxurious and glamourous, yet because its also a spa, people are walking around in shorts and fitness gear. The bling continues in the resort's fine dining 
restaurant, where even the back of our dining chairs each had an embedded crystal.

The view from the dining room is absolutely amazing! I would say its worth coming here for a drink alone just to sit and watch the sunset. The menu at Peakfine is a blend of European classics and West coast cuisine with a focus on local, seasonal fare. The menu typically changes everyday. On our table.....

An entree is accompanied by bread, an amuse bouche, and petit fours.

Bread basket with butter, olive oil, herbs, and sea salt 
The bread was warm, soft, and tasty, and the accompanying elements added a special touch. I LOVED the sea salt and herbs.

Amuse Bouche
Don't remember what exactly this was, it was a white fish, light and delicious though...

Black Cod with sesame creme fraiche, wasabi crumble, soy gel, udon noodles, asian salad ($33)
My entree. The fish itself was perfect; soft, velvety, delicate, melt-in-your-mouth. I really liked the wasabi crumble which added a nice hit of spice. The one issue I found was that with all of the elements on the plate, somehow everything got a bit soggy and watery. But good overall and the fish itself was delightful.

Steak of the Day with Yam Crisp Garnish, Potato Cake ($38)
Momma G loved her steak and in particular the yam crisp garnish!

Soup of the Day- Thai Squash ($12)
Unfortunately, Peakfine does not have a lot of vegan options, but their soup was meat and dairy free....and delicious!!!

Petit Fours
These were lovely and a wonderful end to the meal. A special shout out for the in-house-made, chocolate decadence dusted in icing sugar.

Peakfine on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Toronto Trip; A food round up

I recently took a trip to Ontario for my cousin's wedding in Hamilton and my sister's wedding the following week in Ottawa. I was able to sandwich this family wedding trip with a few days in Toronto putting in some work at my company's main office in Toronto. I got a chance to eat some really great food on this trip, here are some highlights:

Holy Chuck
My esteemed colleague JB, recognizes and appreciates my nerdy food ways. After we chatted about some dinner options, she mentioned that she had recently discovered a new favourite burger in TO and I was sold. After my visit, I did some research and this place has received plenty of burger acclaim and is one of the top places consistently mentioned in the debate over where to find the best burger of the city of Toronto.

It looks like a standard, clean, bright, efficient fast food place. You place their order at the counter and then wait for your name to be called. The menu is full of drool-worthy sounding options- it was a tough choice and I was tempted by a number of options including Le Croissant du Paysan (single beef patty with cheese, two slices of crispy pancetta, french fries, a fried egg all between two croissants), The Smokey Cow (double burger layered with smoked mozza, smoked sea salt and double smoked bacon), The Jerky Cow (double cheeseburger with bacon fried in a spicy and salty jerk sauce and topped with a fresh slice of seared pineapple). I ended up going with The Grind n' Shine: Double Cheeseburger with baconm caramelized onions, topped with crispy homemade potato chips and a fried egg ($10.99) with crispy fries and a fountain pop. With the runny egg, this was a 10 napkin burger, sloppy, and epic-ly delicious. The topping and other components were fun and all but the burger patties were actually the star here. This meat is filler-free, ground in house daily and these patties are made with TLC. They are juicy, smooth, full of flavour and cooked to a wonderful medium on request.

JB blew me away with her order, the extremely impressive The Cowlorie: Double Cheeseburger with bacon, caramelized onion between two grilled cheese sandwiches ($11.99). This was a repeat of her previous "best burger" experience and she loved it just as much the second time around. She says their milkshakes are AMAZING (their varieties include Strawberry Cheesecake, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Nutella and Salted Caramel).

 The fries are also worth mentioning, wonderfully crispy and you can smell and taste the fresh thyme and parsley. Also worth mentioning is the Coca Cola Freestyle Drink machine that offers it user over 100 varieties of pop. Pick Diet Coke, then choose from Cherry Vanilla , Orange, Raspberry, Vanilla, Classic. There are a variety of flavours available in all of their fountain pops. Mind blown. A legendary burger experience that will be etched deliciously into my food memory and put me into a heavy, burger, meat sweats-type state.

Holy Chuck on Urbanspoon

Mangia and Bevi
I visited this casual Italian restaurant tucked between two office buildings off King for lunch with some colleagues at their recommendation. Their lunch menu had plenty of delicious sounding salads, paninis, pizzas, and lunch special entrees. They both gave high praise to their pizzas and as soon as I saw their Neopolitana (front and centre) with tomato sauce, bocconcini, capers, olives, and anchovies ($16). This thin crust pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven (which we could see) was wonderful with a beautiful soft, crispy, with a nice chew and slight charring bubbles giving it a nice smoky flavour. Service was great and I loved the side servings of chili sauces, including a rich, full-bodied house made "bomba" tomato-chili paste sauce.

Mangia and Bevi Resto-Bar on Urbanspoon

Fresh- Queen St W and Spadina
My trip to Fresh was a solo evening stroll from my hotel, exploring downtown. I had done some research and was eager to experience this TO vegetarian food and fresh juice institution. They've been around for nearly 20 years and have four downtown locations. Their mission is "to prove that vegetarian food can be satisfying, energizing, and crave-able with food made daily in-house from whole natural ingredients."I arrived around 7:30/8 pm and the place was packed. The wait wasn't too long since I was dining solo. It's a cozy place and tables are quite close together. The menu is large and it was really hard to decide from an abundance of salads, bowls, burgers, wraps and more. There are tonnes of choices and then there are many ways to tweak individual dishes to meet dietary needs, quirks and whims. In my case, I wanted to try the BBQ Burger, but I was still recovering from my carby pizza lunch, so I made it a salad, on a bed of lettuce without a bun. BBQ Burger with bbq sauce, quinoa onion rings, garlic mayo, napa cabbage, hot banana chillies, tomato and lettuce ($11). All of their burgers come with a side of marinated kale slaw. This was really tasty, especially the bold, bursting with flavour sauces and crispy, crunchy, light and not too oily onion rings. Their house hot sauce is out of this world- not burn your mouth spicy but with a bold punch of heat and flavour with a slight garam masala taste!!!!!

Fresh By Juice For Life on Urbanspoon 

I really love falafel and middle eastern wrap cuisine in general. The pita, the fixin's, the sauces....and the wonderful purveyors always know just how to wrap up all of that goodness in a tight little bundle of chow down perfection. When I told a few people that I was going to Ontario, I had a few people emphatically tell me that I shouldn't leave without having at least one shawarma. People love their shawarma in Ontario and there are shawarma shops seemingly on every blcok.

For those of you who are By definition, “Shawarma (Arabic: شاورما‎,) is a sandwich-like wrap of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beef, or a mixture thereof. The meat is placed on a spit, and may be grilled for as long as a day. Shawarma is a fast-food staple across the Arab world, Europe and the Caucasus.” (Wikipedia)

I grabbed one near my office for lunch on my last day in TO and let me tell you, it was pretty great. The key foundation- the meat was juicy with a slight crisp, well seasoned and marinated, the sauces were wonderful (especially the sauce) an I was thankful that they were generous enough to indulge my request for extra pickles and pickled turnips.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Lovin' La Bandidas Taqueria

It had been a long time since my last (highly enjoyable brunch) at La Bandidas Taqueria and I was meeting an friend for dinner and wanted something convenient near the Commerical Drive skytrain station, so it seemed like a natural option. Once again, La Bandidas was great. Simple, delicious, vegetarian mexican grub at a fair price. It's fresh and healthy...but there are a few indulgent options if you wanna get cheesy. Nothing innovative or mind-blowing here, but the food is just plain good. This cozy, tightly-packed place is always busy and for good reason. Cool decor, nice servers, and nice flavours.
Special shout out for having one of my top 3 favourite hot sauces on the table: Tapatilo!

On my plate:
MEXICAN BREAKFAST $8.50 Two free-range eggs, 2 corn tortillas, pinto beans, fresh salsa, purple cabbage salad, and guacamole. 

My dining companion ordered: 
HAMPTON NACHOS $13 (Small) Cheese, smoky-sweet chipotle tofu (organic), pinto beans, onions, sweet peppers, corn, and jalapenos on yellow corn tortilla chips. 
*And she said they were the best nachos she'd ever had...

href="">Bandidas Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Feasting at Fable

My first experience at Fable was lunch. I had an awesome Eggplant Parmesan sandwich with walnut pesto, pea shoots, pickled onion and raita sauce with a masala spiced soup. Months later, I was treated to a belated birthday brunch that was equally awesome. When I got an email about a work-related dinner at Fable, I was excited to round out the meal "trifecta. "

This was an awesome meal that allowed me to sample many of the "must haves" that friends and fellow food bloggers have raved about. For those who don't know about Fable, this is the restaurant of former Top Chef Canada finalist, Trevor Bird. This place focuses on sourcing local product and delivering great food and flavours in a fun, non-pretentious setting. The feel is rustic with barnyard accents like an epic-ly cool pitchfork lamp (I want one!), crates, and a chalkboard walk with art. The feel is laid back but with an elevated sense of energy and excitement from the open kitchen. Our server was a delight: knowledgable, attentive, friendly, and really enthusiastic about their food (so important!)


Canned Tuna "The Best Canned Tuna" ($12): Albacore Tuna, fingerling potatoes marinated with lemon and sage, served with sea salt on the side and crostinis. 

This is VIP tuna, right down to its Pinterest-worthy presentation in a mason jar. The fish is tender  The  is tender and moist and rich. Make sure you stir put some muscle into it and really give that jar a stir to mix up all of the elements evenly for the perfect ratio with every scoop. I loved the sea salt served on the side so each individual could use as much or non at all, depending on taste. I found it a great compliment and a way to cut through the richness of the canned goodness and enhance the brightness of the lemon. 

Chickpea Fritter ($9): Pickled red onion, shoots, curry mayo and pea shoots. 

Nicely spiced and a wonderful taste experience with the crunchy fritters and rich creamy curry mayo topping. For my taste, its a bit heavy handed on the curry mayo, but its a minor issue and I just scraped a wee bit off every bite. I loved the pea shoots with this dish. They really add a freshness and earthy element. Also adding an element of balance, was the wonderfully acidic and slightly sweet pickled red onion.

Spaghetti and Meat Balls ($11): Duck meat ball, tagliatelle, mushrooms. 

This is a creative and fun dish that made us Ooh and Awww when it came to the table; a juicy duck meatball, filled with sauce, and topped with parmesan foam. The oozy, saucy, factor in this dish made it fun to eat.


Squash Gnocchi ($19): Squash purée, pea shoots, apple gastrique, sage pesto

We all shared appetizers but enjoyed our own mains. This is a tasty menu and I had a tough time deciding which main to order. This was a great choice. I'm no gnocchi expert, and its not something I typically order but this was just freaking delicious. Like perfect little light, soft, airy past pillows with a smooth, pleasant bite.The gnocchi itself was wonderful but the rest of the plate sang with what appeared to be the best of seasonal goods from local farms. I just loved the wealth of fresh peas just bursting with flavour and rich earthy sauteed mushrooms. The plate had a hearty dollop of house made whipped, light, fluffy, ricotta cheese that added a nice salty richness to the other elements of the dish.

Halibut ($28): Mussel and corn chowder, parsley crust, chantrelles

Daily Special (forget price but around $25)- Roasted Pork on Squash)

We ordered a round of desserts after some strong recommendations from our server and other friendly staff members.

Peanut Butter and Jam ($10): Ganache, brown butter cake, concord grape jelly
Another really fun dish with a nostalgic twist playing with some of my favourite classic flavours. This is PB and J amped up to a crazy new level with chocolates and a vanilla pop rock-type topping that they've created. 

Mascarpone Cheesecake ($9); 
I believe they serve different twists on this cheesecake depending on the season and ingredient availability. Ours was served was end of summer berries and a light crispy vanilla graham wafer. Heavenly, simple, this was essentially a spin on classic cheesecake- serving a cheesecake mousse and wafer "accessories" rather than a base crust.

The Daily Sweet Bites ($10); Espresso Macarons
Again, I don't typically enjoy macarons, but these were really impressive and I liked them. I especially thought they nailed the bold espresso flavour in the center, balancing out the light, chocolatey, fluffy cloud exterior. Not too sweet and not too rich but big on sophisticated flavour.

Love this place!!! Lunch, Brunch, and now dinner- all wonderful experiences with delicious dishes.
Fable Kitchen on Urbanspoon