Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cork and Fin for a Belated Birthday Celebration Dinner

Some fabulous girlfriends treated me to a belated food-centric birthday celebration. They booked the night, made resos but wouldn't tell me where we were going. As our car headed into Gastown, my mind was rolling through list of places that I haven't tried but wanted to, trying to figure out where they were taking me. To my surprise and delight, they dropped me in front of Cork and Fin.

Cork and Fin is located right beside Gastown's Blood Alley, across the street from the Irish Heather on Carrall Street. It's located in the historic Alhambra Hotel which is one of the oldest standing buildings in the city (built in 1886). Inside, brick walls are contrasted by a soft white banister and the white linens and chairs evoke a French bistro; it's warm, inviting and a room you could easily settle into and spend a relaxing evening. I loved their menus, every diner is seated with a manila folder. We were greeted warmly at the door by the manager, Rodney, who seated us near the front of the restaurant at a cozy table by the window. 

We ordered drinks, asked plenty of menu questions and asked for dish recommendations. Two of us got the 3 course menu for $32 and the other two ordered the 4 course (an extra pasta course) for $45 (and generously offered to share their pasta!)

I was impressed by the basket of warm bread that was brought to our table. Warm, great chew, nice flavour and a soft, whipped butter. 

For my first course, I ordered the 'Bras' salad; heirloom carrot, cucumber, zucchini, lemon vinaigrette, aiolim pepper puree. It was light, fresh, flavourful, and bright. Good but not an OMG dish.
The other first courses at the table were 


Summer Salad; Vine ripened tomatoes, House Ricotta, Barnston Lettuce, Basil Vinaigrette.

For my second course, I ordered the Amberjack Sashimi; Edamame Puree, Horseradish Ponzu, Apple, Fennel, Crispy Shallots. This was DE-licious. So fresh with a nice balance of salty and sweet flavour and a great contrast between the buttery, thick cut fish and the thinly sliced apple/fennel and crispy shallots. Loved the crispy shallots.

Other second course dishes at the table were

Steak Tartare; Quail Yolk, Spring Onion, Sriracha, Creme Fraiche, Chips. Everyone at this table loved this dish. It was so rich, with great texture in the finely chopped steak and creamy egg yolk, and bursting with flavour.

Scallop Crudo; Plum, Salt Cured Foie Gras, and Frisee. This dish got more of a meh reaction from my friend who ordered this. 

Next up were the pasta course dishes which were both really really good. 

Cavatelli; Wild Mushrooms, Bacon, Brandy. This dish was a crowd pleaser. Deep, warm, earthy, rich....this was the type of comfort dish that makes you want to lick the plate....

Spaghetti; Dungeness Crab, Broccolini, Chili, Bread Crumbs. While this dish didn't get the oooo, aaaa, response from all of us, I really loved this dish and thought the crab meat itself was stand out awesome.

Our last courses dishes arrived. I ordered the Grilled Rockfish; Taro Root, Pepper Puree, Anchovy Butter, and Greens. This could be a "food memory" dish that sticks with me. I loved it and I've been craving anchovies ever since. It was such a great plate with elements that all worked well together and created a nice strong flavour symphony in my mouth. The crispy taro root added an awesome textural element. Highly recommend this dish!

Other mains on the table were
Roasted Ling Cod; Andouille Sausage, Broccoli, Sicilian Pesto

Braised Lamb; Summer Vegetables, Gnocchi, Gremolata.

After we polished off our last plates and I was feeling ever so lucky and every so spoiled to be treated to such a wonderful night of wine and delicious food, the manager brought out a beautiful birthday cake. The Leggy Redhead had ordered a London Fog Cake from Cadeaux Bakery

I've visited Cadeaux before and have been wow-ed by what I tried (delicious delicious bacon sticky bun!!!) so even though I was stuffed, I couldn't wait to dig in. The London Fog Cake is a vanilla cake with Earl Grey infused syrup, Earl Grey milk chocolate ganache, white chocolate mousse, and topped with chantilly cream. This cake ROCKS. It somehow is both dense and light and fluffy at the same time. Its not too sweet. It smells amazing. Nothing taste artificial, you can taste the quality ingredients.

This was an awesome night and fantastic dining experience. Cork and Fin was fancy, but not too fancy or at all pretentious. Service was attentive, helpful, friendly throughout the evening. Special shout out to the music that night which was a retro playlist featuring Billy Ocean and Phil Collins. So good! I also found out that the manager Rodney had actually made a special trip to Cadeaux to pick up the London Fog cake. Talk about service!!!!!

Pretty much a perfect evening. I'm so lucky to be spoiled with such a DELICIOUS evening.

Cork & Fin on Urbanspoon

Cadeaux Bakery on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tasting Plates East Van - Commercial

The sous chef surprised my for my birthday with tickets to Vancouver Foodster Tasting Plates East Van- Commercial Drive. I'd never been to a Tasting Plates event but I've seen posts and info online about previous events. Vancouver Foodster, Richard Wolak put on his first Tasting Plates event in Feb 2012 and this is his 8th event. 
Essentially Tasting Plates events are culinary roving tours that take place in different areas of the city featuring either a neighbourhood or specific type of cuisine. Since we've just moved to the Commercial Drive area, this was a great way to explore some restaurants in our new 'hood. For this event, there were 7 eateries participating. Essentially, you bring your ticket to a registration location where they give you a Tasting Plates Map Card which acts almost like a passport giving you access to a tasting plate experience at each participating eatery.

Prado Cafe
Choice of Iced Coffee, Iced Tea or Macchiato and a mini "Cookie with No Name".

This cookie is pretty legendary, especially since they were warm and fresh from the oven. Ooey gooey oatmeal, chocolate and marshmallow. 

Siddhartha's Indian Kitchen
A plate with Aloo Tiki (crispy potato cakes served with a special blend of Delhi sauces) and Chicken Goliya (chicken meatballs sprinkled with sesame seeds served with mint chutney) and a shot of Chai tea.

Pasture to Plate
Soda Samples, Grilled Pork and Beef Sausages with Mustard, Bacon Plum Pizettas with Caramelized Onions, Herb crusted Beef Carpaccio Crostini with roasted Garlic Aioli, Porchetta on house foccacia with orange pine nut and basil aioli.

La Mezcaleria
Ceviche, Beans, Guacamole

Via Tevere Pizzeria
One slice of Margherita Pizza and one slice of Capricciosa Pizza (prepared and cooked in their new food truck and a separate Tasting Plates dining area on their back patio.) 

Five Elements Cafe
Choice of either
Menu A: Crispy Spring Roll, Green Papaya and Shrimp Salad, Shrimp on Sugar Cane, Creamy Pumpkin Coconut Soup.
Menu B: Crispy Spring Roll, Green Papaya and Tofu Salad, Coconut Curry, Tom Yum Thai Hot and Sour Soup.
Choice of Full sized Noodle Soup
*We shared Menu B and a bowl of the Pho Sate Peanut Sauce Rice Noodle Soup with Tofu.

Gelateria Doce Amore
Two scoops of two featured flavours (their selection); Hazelnut and Polenta Streusel.
*and for the sous chef since he's vegan, a scoop of Grapefruit Sorbetto and Blood Orange Sorbetto.

This was a fun experience ( I usually do have fun anytime I get to eat a lot and try new things!) I liked that it was a self-guided experience and you could go in any order that you wanted to. We walked and biked from eatery to eatery. Some eateries take different approaches to providing ticket holders a Tasting Plates experience. At some places, food was ready, you were given your food quickly and then you could either linger and explore the space or eat quickly and move on (Prado, Siddhartha's, Gelateria Dolce Amore, Pasture to Plate). At some places, they wanted guests to have a sit down experience and these venues had some wait times and line ups (Mezcaleria, Via Tevere, Five Elements). My favourites: 
*The Prado cookie
*The lavender soda and the Herb crusted capaccio from Pasture to Plate. It was also great to peek into their neighbouring store, Daily Catch, and drool over some of their delicious looking seafood.
*La Mezcaleria- LOVE LOVE LOVE this place and can't wait to come back. The Ceviche was a stand out; the rest of their regular menu and cocktail list was mouthwatering. Overall a huge cool and fun factor; great decor, friendly service, ability to sit at the bar and watch the chefs in action, and best of all.... A MARIACHI BAND! 
*I've had one dining experience at Via Tevere and loved it. The love continues. Great staff and beautiful, quality food. You can taste the love.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cheap Eats at The Dime on Commercial

I just recently moved to the Commercial Drive area but have been too buried in furniture, moving boxes, endless organization of stuff to really explore many eats in my new 'hood. My pal T Mc wanted to check out the new place and grab a bite to eat beforehand. I was curious about The Dime and their menu which features all food items for $4.95.

When we arrived at 6:30pm the room felt busy but we grabbed a booth right away. I noticed the place definitely got really busy as the evening went on. The room itself is quirky, decor is eclectic, and screams "Roadhouse." The wall space is pretty much covered with road signs, music and concert posters, skulls, pirate flags, strung up christmas lights, old skateboards....you name it. Music and chatter made this place loud and lively....maybe too loud for some, but we didn't mind it.

Our server was friendly and efficient. Their menu is small with a lot of tasty-sounding options. They also had a small seasonal menu with three options.

I ordered The Veggie Burger; vegetarian patty, roasted corn salsa, fresh avocado, pea shoot, cheddar cheese, toasted bun, roasted pepper mayo, all the fixin's and a side of fries ($5). I ordered this with no cheese and mayo but added a fried egg for $1 extra. This was a damn tasty burger for $6 and better than your average pub veggie burgers. I love that they don't phone it in with this burger. Instead they've upped the ante with the avocado, corn salsa, and pea shoots to give it some flair. The egg added a nice depth and gooey yolky goodness. Their fries are pretty good too. Crispy and well seasoned.

Tmc wanted to try the  Korean Chili Fried Chicken and Cucumber; crispy fried chicken pieces, sweet fiery korean chili sauce, cool cucumber and toasted sesame ($5)

and the Quinoa & Green Apple Salad; crisp apple, sweet corn, cucumber, toasted almonds, avocado, mint and cilantro, soy and lime dressing ($5)- so she ordered both. Thumbs up for both dishes.

Our expectations were pretty low for $5 food and we were both quite happy with our meals. It's pub grub, done right and priced right. If they can put out a nice veggie burger for $5...it makes me wonder how other pubs are charging at least double that price (and sometimes not delivering on quality and taste. With plenty of TVs- this could be my new "go to" for Canucks games!

The Dime on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

North Vancouver Shipyards Market

Metro Vancouver officially has another awesome night market!
Be sure to check it out - The Shipyards Night Market is on every Thursday and Friday night until mid-October from 5-10pm.

YAY!!! This market has a food truck pod set up. On the Friday evening that I visited the market there were approx 10 food trucks parked and serving up delicious treats to line-ups of hungry market-goers.
I noticed Kaboom Box, Le Tigre, Guanaco, Tasers Grilled Cheese, JJ's Truckeria, Holy Perogy, Ze Bite, Urban Wood Fired Pizza and Blue Smoke BBQ. Many many drool-worthy options to choose from.

I finally decided on a Kick Ass Rice ($8.50) from Le Tigre Food Truck. This rice bowl comes with Pork Belly, Popcorn Chicken, or Vegetables (their fried brussel sprouts and cauliflower). It's cooked in sake, butter, dashi (a japanese stock or broth) and topped with a poached egg and fresh herbs. This rice was chewy, sticky and flavourful. The chicken was crispy and crunchy, not dry, perfect but a wee greasy. The poached egg took this simple dish to another level. Mixing in the runny yolk made for the perfect rich, deep-flavoured sauce. I wish this dish had a few more herbs in it and I wish they had a hot sauce station at the truck for spice junkies like myself to make this rice bowl spicy.

Le Tigre Cuisine Mobile Food Truck on Urbanspoon

There were plenty of other smaller food vendor set ups selling snacks and desserts, a stage with live music, a beer garden (i think they are still figuring out logistics here...I saw a lot of line ups and heard they ran out of beer), and many other booths selling clothes, art, plants, and produce.
For more information check out the market website and check out the Street Food Vancouver app to link to food truck schedules and play detective to find out which trucks will be there.