Sunday, February 27, 2011


I have decided to devote a portion of this blog to where to satisfy particular cravings in Victoria.  For example where to find the best croissant, the best cupcake, the best breakfast.  I'll be fastidious.  It’s a tough job, but someone has got to do it!

In this vein I simply have to give kudos to Fernwood Inn Pub's exquisite mac and cheese.  Now, this is no ordinary pallid, bland, wimpy macaroni and cheese mind.  At Fernwood Inn Pub you'll get a generous portion of perfectly cooked fusilli noodles swathed in creamy cheese sauce topped with golden crispy panko crumbs.  The cheese sauce has that slight sharpness that I love (I think mac and cheese MUST have sharp cheddar to be palatable) but this  is still creamy enough in texture divinely comforting.

Now here is the best part of all.  You have a choice to add chorizo or BACON to your mac.  For you omnivores reading this I have to insist on the addition of the bacon which somehow takes this dish right over the top in the best way possible.  I haven't tried the chorizo version but the addition of the chorizo is $7 while the bacon is $1.  The bacon version is so delicious I don't dare deviate from it. The bacon gets crisp for lovely texture contrast and it doesn't overpower the cheesy goodness. Personally, I don't really see more gilding the lily as necessary but you do as you please!

So if you are having winter blahs and craving comfort food you could do worse than cozying up at Fernwood Inn pub in one of their lovely booths and ordering a nice porter, Guinness or stout and the macaroni and cheese with bacon.   It’s the crack cocaine of the pasta world!  Your serotonin levels will thank you.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Pizzeria Prima Strada

Steve and I had a hankering for pizza one Sunday and headed down to the village to Pizzeria Prima Strada. The place was already humming at 5:30 pm with a line up out the door. I figured this was an omen of good things to come. The courteous hostess took our cell number and offered to call us when our table was ready. We were able to take a quick trek around the picturesque neighborhood in the interim. Later we returned to the cozy ambience of dark wood and candle light. We opted to share a fennel salad with orange, red onion and mint to start. The licorice crispness of the fennel was a lovely contrast to the sweetness of orange and fresh dill. The red onion was a little sharp but not enough to ruin this delectably refreshing dish. Next we decided to try the funghi pizza with porcini cream, roasted mushrooms, roasted onions,
fresh thyme, mozzarella and pecorino. This was simply one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten. The crust is thin and tender and the roasted mushrooms, thyme and pecorino made the topping delectably creamy without being overpowering. Prima Strada takes care in sourcing fresh local ingredients and it shows in the results. We passed on the gelato but I’ll be trying it on a subsequent visit. Service was knowledgeable and enthusiastic. After one dinner I can see why this pizzeria is so popular. It’s utterly addictive and the best thing you’ll get outside of Italy!

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Pizzeria Prima Strada (Cook St.) on Urbanspoon

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Last night Steve and I were celebrating our 6 month anniversary. Since we are both saddled with your garden variety flu bug we opted for takeout from a new joint called Foo which, in principle appears to be mimicking the perennially successful Noodle Box. Some folks want comforting blandness when they are under the weather, I am a gal who craves chili and heat!

We tried three dishes to share opting first for chicken soup with soy and ginger. I wanted this to try and placate my virus. We opted to share the Indonesian Fried Rice (with pulled pork and pineapple) and an intriguing starter dish referred to as Vietnamese caramel chicken. Excitedly we took the ample bag of nosh home with us. Everything is priced reasonably - our three dishes combined came to 23 bucks.

Steve and I agreed that the soup and Indonesian Fried Rice were adequately prepared but uninspiring. The soup was a tad heavy on the soy and VERY salty. However the caramel chicken was rhapsodically wonderful. Sweet, spicy morsels of fork tender chicken with crunchy bok choy and some very flavorful fried rice. For this dish alone I would go back to Foo, the crunchy soft texture of the chicken and salty sweet flavor was sublime. This reminded me of why I am so crazy for Vietnamese fare, it’s that sublime combination of freshness and amazing textures. You never feel all gross and grease laden after eating it.

I am eager to go back to Foo to try their other dishes. Their pakoras (as reported by another blogger) are purportedly delicious. Foo has other Indian fare on the menu such as butter chicken and paneer dumplings. The dishes range all over the globe but the menu is not over laden with choices. Staff are courteous and seem enthusiastic. There are daily specials in addition to the regular fare (which includes pot stickers, red Thai curry and short rib chow mein to name a few).

I think Foo will be a welcome addition for those of us who want a quick bite before the movies or take out that is creatively prepared and isn't overly greasy or heavy. The caramel chicken dish alone is reason to visit this spot again! I look forward to another visit soon to try the other mouth watering options!

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Foo Food on Urbanspoon


Moss Street Market

I have always been a lover of Farmer's Markets and I was delighted to see the tents go up for the Moss Street Market this Saturday. Handily, this little market is just down the street from our house. We couldn't resist doing a little tour around before getting on with our day. The market appears slightly larger this year, with more variety of food and crafts. We bought homemade lemon loaf from one seller and a dense chewy baguette from another. There was some interesting pottery in the offing and we couldn't resist snapping up a really snazzy vase decorated with a skull (the design was more irreverent than Goth). We were tempted by many other items including homemade preserves, pickles and relishes/chutneys, tortiere and pork pies, artisan cheeses, jewelry and a really great clothing booth with fab hoodies, skirts and tops with irreverent silkscreened prints. There was also wildflower honey and some lovely soaps (one of which looked exactly like a lemon and smelled gloriously citrusy).

I'll be excited to return to the market again over the next few months and sample some more of the wares. We enjoyed the lemon loaf with a little lemon curd dolloped on top with a cup of tea the next morning.



JJ Wonton Noodle House

Sometimes I discover a restaurant I am fond of and, inexplicably, forget to go again. A couple of weeks ago I was craving Won Ton soup and I remembered the strong reputation of J&J Wonton Noodle House (and my own fond memories of their tasty cashew chicken). We decided on a belated visit. We opted for the ubiquitous Wor Wonton soup to start followed by the somewhat unadventurous but always tasty sweet and sour pork and an order of curried Singapore noodle.

The Wonton soup was the highlight for us with a tureen of golden flavorful broth chock full of scallops, prawns, two kinds of won ton (TWO!!) the the freshest crisp tender cooked vegetables I have ever had in a soup ever. It was marvelous. The dumplings tasted so fresh and light. I loved the sweet and sour pork which again was adorned with perfectly cooked vegetables. Steve likes the sauce a bit stronger and syrupy but I rather liked the lighter texture and lack of goop. For once the sweet and sour sauce seemed homemade and not overwhelmed by cornstarch and food coloring. The curried shanghai noodle was mildly disappointing but perhaps this simply isn't my dish of choice. The curry flavor tasted generic and the vermicelli noodles were a little too soft. But given the superb yumminess of our other fare, I am more than willing to try other dishes at JJ! Service was prompt and pleasant.

For those of you who get a yen for wonton I daresay this is the tastiest you'll enjoy in Victoria. I'd also encourage ordering any veggie dish here as their freshness and perfectly cooked texture are wonderful. I'll definitely be going back. J&J also offers take out!! And I want to sample other items from their varied and appealing menu.

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J & J Wonton Noodle House on Urbanspoon


Dutch Bakery and Coffee House

I finally got around to visiting the venerable “Dutch Coffee Shop” when Steve and I were in dire need of a vanilla slice (there is something insanely comforting about the oozy eggy custard sandwiched between gossamer pastry layers.). We opted to have lunch special that included a sandwich, potato salad or soup and choice of pastry with tea or coffee (for a paltry 8.50!). The décor of the Dutch coffee shop clearly hasn’t changed since it opened in the 50’s and I love taking a stool at the long counter and watching the busy beehive activity of the servers, some of whom have probably worked at Dutch for decades. Unlike many establishments that try to replicate 50’s kitsch, this lunch spot is the real deal. For fans of authentic 50’s diners this place is worth a visit to propel you back in time.
The food at Dutch Coffee Shop isn’t so much to write home about (with the exception of those famous vanilla slices). Sandwiches are simple, satisfying but not fancy. The soup is tasty with homemade veal meatballs. This would be a great spot to have a grilled cheese sandwich, bowl of soup and hot tea with a tempting tart or slice. Or pop in for a couple of their homemade chocolates.

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Dutch Bakery on Urbanspoon


Homer’s ode to the pig from “The Simpsons”
“Homer: Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. Lisa, honey, are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?
Lisa: No.
Homer: Ham?
Lisa: No.
Homer: Pork chops?
Lisa: Dad! Those all come from the same animal!
Homer: [Chuckles] Yeah, right Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal”
After a harrowing day at the office I headed to Langford with a few fellow frazzled coworkers to Smoken Bones Cook shack. The restaurant employs traditional methods of smoking meat, using wood chips from Island alder and organic fruit trees. They also source their beef, chicken and produce from Island and B.C. farmers. I was sorely in need of some comfort food and word of mouth had me salivating at the prospect of an omnivorous comfort feast. We were seated in a cozy booth in a candlelit corner. The menu had many tempting items on offer, hushpuppies (crispy corn fritters), homemade cornbread, gumbo and even fried dill pickles. Reluctantly I bypassed the appies for the main event. My friends opted for the pork chop and pulled pork. I decided on the Smoken pork ribs, Smoken Bones’ signature dish. The larger entrees come with a choice of two sides. Choices range from braised collard greens, cornbread, oven roasted garlic potatoes, butter fried cabbage and candied carrots. I decided on candied carrots and homemade macaroni and cheese.

Our food arrived and we were uniformly rhapsodic. My friend declared her pork chop tender and flavorful (they brine the meat to ensure it is moist) and she had a generous portion of the roasted baby potatoes on her plate. The pulled pork has just the right smoky vinegar tang – my friend opted for the local side which turned out to be pickled beets and she declared them excellent. My ribs were cooked to perfection with a good smoky slathering of delicious bbq sauce. The meat fell off the bone and the bones piled up on my plate ala Fred Flintstone. The accompanying sides were delicious, whole caramelized roasted carrots and the macaroni and cheese was creamy and cheesy and delicious. Regrettably we were too stuffed to try dessert. I took a piece of Mississippi Mud Cake home for the boys. Smoken Bone’s bread pudding, served with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream is purportedly delicious. I was sorely tempted by their homemade truffles. It is too bad there isn’t a location closer to town but after this wonderful repast I’ll be making the trek back for sure!
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Smoken Bones Cookshack on Urbanspoon


Steve and I visited the Bard and Banker Pub one Friday night before a poetry reading. The first sign that our experience was going to be less than stellar was the presence of a piano dude hammering away at athe ivories butchering Billy Joel cover tunes. I am mystified the owners would opt to provide the kind of entertainment no one really likes early in the evening when people want to talk, relax and decompress from their work day. If one MUST have the cheesy piano player (and I wonder why it is even necessary when 99% of the planet hates this sort of thing) it would be prudent do it later in the evening when people are either drunk enough to sing along or too drunk to care. Even though we were seated on the second floor of the pub the amplifier ensured we still had to shout at one another across our tiny table.

We concentrated on the menu - conversation was rendered moot by the din of the “music”. I opted for a cocktail instead of my usual dark beer. I tried a “Pimm’s cocktail since I’d had a delicious facsimile at Canoe pub and found the slightly gingery concoction addictive. Bard’s Pimm’s was disappointing, not enough sweetness to balance the palate. I would have been better off trying one of Bard’s ample beer selections. We decided on a cup of the tomato cod chowder to start. The chowder was delicious, creamy with ample chunks of fresh cod. For mains I chose the mushroom taglietelle and Steve opted for the curry. My pasta was ably cooked but at 20$ awfully pricey and could have been more flavorful and ample in portion. Only a few mushrooms dotted the plate. Steve’s curry came in a small ramekin. Steve’s curry was merely ordinary, bland and generic without distinctive assertive flavors. Given the portion size left room to spare in our bellies we opted for dessert. Bard does a wonderful Sticky Toffee Pudding with just the right hit of decadent sweetness without being overpowering. It’s served with a creamy caramel ice cream and a delicious gooey toffee sauce. I opted for the white chocolate and nut brownie. This dessert was a big bummer. Again, a teeny portion of dry, hard brownie with oh so trendy cranberries (which don’t really go with peanut butter). Service throughout was polite and personable but a wee bit slow towards the end.

I must profess that in spite of my enthusiastic food nerdiness I abhor pretention and I’d be happy to see the gastro pub trend abate and go back to old fashioned pub fare (i.e. comfort food in sustaining portions) at affordable prices. Many of the menu prices at Bard and Banker are in the fine dining range (18$ for fish and chips, many menu items are over $20) and cocktails for 8$. For this price range I expect only excellence and this just didn’t make the cut. The din of the dreadful music don’t make this an appealing spot for a beer and nachos, despite the beautiful renovations. The décor is lovely for certain. On a previous visit to B&B Steve and I each had a beef and chicken pot pie and they were delicious with a lovely puff pastry crust and refreshing side salad. On our last visit, the pot pies were no longer on the menu. For my part I am going to continue my search for a pub with delicious homemade food at prices that won’t break the bank. Reader suggestions welcome!
Bard and Banker on Urbanspoon


Steve had come home one day and reported that he'd had a business lunch at Glo with very tasty results.  Given it was the one year anniversary of when we first met we decided to go to dinner to celebrate.  Glo has a funky modern design with surrounding ocean views (the patio would be killer in the summer time).  We had a stormy vantage point as it was a very wintry, blustery day!  We arrived hungry and in the mood for a celebratory cocktail.  I started with a classic gin martini which was ably prepared (though I was mystified when the waitress asked if I wanted it on the rocks?!  Who orders a classic martini on the rocks?  Someone enlighten me if you do..)

But I digress...  The appetizer menu had an interesting array of starters including beef Carpaccio, and braised short ribs with cauliflower puree (as well as old tried and true "old chestnuts" such as calamari, chicken wings, and the ubiquitous tuna tataki - a tasty dish that seems to be cropping up on menus all over Victoria).  We opted to share the house made flat bread which is served drizzled with Asiago Cream.  While not being quite as good as the flat bread served up at Fifth Street Grill it was still quite delicious (especially with the decadent assuage cream)  For our mains, I ordered the Arctic char only to be informed by the waitress that it had been replaced with salmon.  FYI servers: it is good to inform customers what the restaurant has run out of BEFORE they order.  It’s a minor quibble however as our server was otherwise pleasant and professional.  Steve decided on a classic burger.  Glo makes their burger with prime rib and you have the option of soup, salad or fries as an accompaniment.  He ordered his with the daily soup.  My fish arrived perfectly cooked and adorned with a slightly sweet and delicious crunchy roe.   The sides of roasted vegetables and a squash puree with goat cheese were delicious.  Steve's soup was delicious - A good hit of throat warming, sustaining curry made creamy with a dollop coconut milk.  I'd kill for the recipe for this soup which manages to be homey and exotic all at once.  Steve's burger really did taste of prime rib and was moist and juicy.  Sometimes all one needs is a good burger and Glo doesn't disappoint on this front.  The burger comes with mushrooms, bacon and cheddar and an onion marmalade/chipotle aioli.  The flavors merged very well indeedy.  
Inexplicably we still had room leftover for dessert.  I was craving a chocolate fix and ordered the chocolate pate with blackberry compote.  I reluctantly passed on the sticky toffee pudding (which you can glean from previous posts is a favorite of mine).  Steve ordered a trio of desserts (you get to pick your three faves!) including the sticky toffee pudding, creme Brule, and flourless chocolate torte.

The pate was tasty with the blackberry compote and vanilla gelato but Steve's picks were what really stood out for us.  The sticky toffee pudding (our server recommended it to us as her favorite) was lovely with a hint of saltiness to the caramel to offset the sugariness.  The creme Brule was tasty but the other standout was the flourless chocolate torte which came drizzled with the most delectable bing cherry caramel sauce.
Service was attentive and our food came at reasonable intervals without an interminable wait.  

I'd heartily recommend Glo to my friends for the view, service and the yummy food.  Excellent!

<a href=""><img alt="Glo Euro Pub & Grill on Urbanspoon" src="" style="border:none;width:104px;height:34px" /></a> Glo Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon