Sunday, March 20, 2011


We had a friend visit recently and thought he'd enjoy some classic pub fare so we headed down to Spinnakers.  This pub is a beloved watering hole for many locals.  While our server was delightful and the beer delicious the food fell short of our expectations.  Spinnakers does have more wallet friendly prices than many of the gastro pubs in town. The atmosphere in the restaurant is very appealing with romantic harbor views and the lights of the city winking from the large windows.   To their credit, Spinnakers makes an effort to source local cheeses, seafood, meat and vegetables.  The problem is the execution of the dishes.  Steve and I had visited a previous time and shared the pulled pork nachos.  Ostensibly from the menu description this sounded delicious.  Unfortunately, there was little cheese on the nachos and what cheese was there had completely dried and welded on to the chips.  The pulled pork was tasty and a fun addition but I am fussy about the cheese to chip ratio on nachos.  There has to be a good amount of gooey cheese not just rock hard burned bits.  The accompanying salsa was bland and uninspiring.  I must profess I prefer the tomato version of salsa to the green version when it comes to nachos.  It just goes better.  On that occasion we sat in the pub part upstairs which isn't quite as appealing for atmosphere.  The service on this visit was pleasant and professional and I did enjoy my glass of homemade chocolatey ale.
Spinnakers on Urbanspoon
Now, back to our most recent visit to the Brewpub.  Our friend opted to have the moules frites while Steve and I decided to try one of the three course tasting menus priced at a very reasonable 25$.  We had a choice of three separate appetizers, entrees and desserts.  Steve asked for the seafood chowder to start.  I asked for the beetroot and potato pakoras.  Steve's chowder was flavorful and chock full of seafood and accompanied by homemade bread.  My pakoras were tasty if not exceptional.  I would have preferred a little more spice but addition of the beetroot added an appealing earthiness.   Entrees were disappointing.  David's moules frites had good mussels but too few of them for an entree portion.  Our pasta sauce was bland and the pasta underdone and under sauced.   The sauce itself was overly thick and claggy. We should have taken note that the server suggested adding lots of pepper (i.e. warning the dish would be bland).  I didn't taste the leeks that were supposed to be in the sauce at all and we found the sausage in the dish very uninspiring. It was cut in tiny strips and more like bacon than sausage meat.   We all opted for hazelnut torte for dessert.  I was excited about this as hazelnut cake is one of my favorite desserts.  However the purported "torte" turned out to be a "tart" and not a cake at all.  Why is it so unfashionable to serve an old fashioned piece of moist cake these days????  Someone enlighten me as to why this is? Perhaps this is why cupcakes are popular ad nauseum right now.  People are craving old timey desserts like grandma used to make.  The tart/torte(?) was flavorless and lackluster and I left half of it uneaten on my plate.  My fellow diners shared my lack of enthusiasm.

Spinnakers certainly has views and beer to recommend it but the food really needs to step up.  Steve says that they used to be much better.  I had heard stories about their incredible mile high apple pie for example and they used to have ample sandwiches. The chowder is still very tasty. Admittedly I am a little dubious about this whole "gastropub" trend overall.  Why can't pub food be simple, substantial and delicious to soak up all those artfully prepared microbrews.  Why must a greed satisfying old timey slice of hazelnut torte be perverted in to some bland, dry small tart that doesn't even resemble a torte?  Because of the location, Spinnakers could be fabulous. Stop resting on your laurels Spinnakers!

I'd love incidentally to hear from you readers where your favorite pub is and why.  Steve and I are still hunting for a local watering hole that has really good food.  Don't get me wrong.  I LOVE fancy food!!!! Just not in a pub.  In a pub I want something sustaining and old timey like mom used to make.  Is that a thing of the past?  I certainly hope not! Sigh..

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Saturday, March 12, 2011


This bakery used to be called The Rhineland but has changed its name to Renaissance, perhaps to attract a broader clientele.  VERY happily for fans of the old Rhineland (such as me!) they still have many of their original breads, cakes and pastries in the offing along with some new and tempting treats.  Now Germany might not be appreciated for culinary contributions beyond the ubiquitous sausage but they happen to have some serious baking chops!  I initially discovered this bakery when a friend insisted I try their famous sausage roll.  Now, the thing is I normally don’t like sausage rolls AT ALL.  I don’t like the hard, overly thick pastry and the usually very greasy bland sausage within. However, Renaissance Bakery’s sausage roll is a revelation!  Flaky, light filo like layers of pastry around piping hot, sublimely flavored, peppery sausage meat.  The texture combination is absolutely incredible!  I was so addicted to these sausage rolls I used to grab one every day before catching the bus on Fort Street to work.  I still treat myself to a sausage roll after a long browse in the neighboring Russell books.  Even if you are a former sausage roll hater you MUST try Renaissance’s version!  You’ll become a convert and possibly even an addict.  They also make a turkey sausage version as well.  
There are other honorable mentions with this bakery one being that in a time of the yuppification of bakeries this eatery is charmingly old school and this reflects in the pricing. Prices are extremely reasonable for the quality of the product.  I have always loved German crusty buns for sandwiches and this bakery does a great job of this staple.  The buns have a satisfyingly chewy crust outside and are tender and moist within.  The German rye is authentic in texture and flavor.  The poppy seed squares are delicious. We have bought cookies and squares here as hostess gifts or when we are having friends over and they always get devoured.  Renaissance bakery also has an impressive array of gluten free breads and goodies for those with Celiac disease.
Check out this bakery for a savory or a sweet treat.  Your taste buds AND your pocket book will thank you!  Don’t be fooled by the lack of fancy frills in the space, they make up for it in the end product!  Service is polite and welcoming. 

<a href=""><img alt="Renaissance Bakery on Urbanspoon" src="" style="border:none;width:104px;height:34px" /></a>
Renaissance Bakery on Urbanspoon


Fifth Street Bar and Wood fire Grill has long been a favorite of mine.  They have delicious food and drink at VERY reasonable prices and this is probably why this venerable institution is so popular.   The restaurant is huge and airy with warm hardwood floors.  It can be noisy at times but not unduly so, I’d call it appealingly lively! 
Fifth Street has an array of dishes listed on the menu by price.  There are a sizeable number of appetizers available for 5 bucks.  The flat bread is a particularly good bargain.  It’s a large pizza like round of crisp on the outside tender on the inside flatbread slathered in a tapenade with shavings of parmesan.  Steve, who is normally not a fan of olives approves of this snack.  Other stand outs on the 5 dollar menu are the French fries with chipotle aioli, lemon and parmesan, the crispy miso oysters and a huge Caesar salad which is lemony and garlicky and an amazing bargain for the portion size.
Fifth Street has delectable thin crust pizzas (only 10 dollars for a pizza large enough to share).  The flavor is enhanced by the smokiness of the wood fire grill.  Also standout for 10 dollars is a huge plate of tender juicy rotisserie chicken accompanied by mashed potatoes, gravy and tender crisp vegetables.  This is far better than anything you’ll get at Swiss Chalet but at about the same price!    The lemon pepper chicken wings or the maple garlic wings are the best I’ve had anywhere and delicious accompanied by a side of the parmesan fries if you are feeling naughty.  Menu items do not exceed 20 dollars and I have had wonderful pork chop here as well as fish and lamb entrees all cooked in the wood fire oven and all uniformly delicious. Specials change regularly and are worth checking out.  On a recent visit I had a moist salmon fillet accompanied by a beautiful balsamic roasted potato salad.  Healthy and delicious!
I do have a couple of minor quibbles with this restaurant.  The service, while always friendly and knowledgeable has become a little hit and miss.  Fifth Street used to be the best bet for a quick bite before a movie but the wait for the food has become considerably longer.  The last time I was in the restaurant I sat for ages  and the server never removed my dirty plate from the table despite being by several times.   We waited eons for the bill which was mildly frustrating.  However, you’ll find the food at Fifth Street makes it worth the wait as are the wallet friendly prices.  With the varied menu this is a great family destination as there will be something for everyone  and the food is consistently of good quality. Flavors are enhanced by the wood fire cooking method.
Desserts are fairly pedestrian at Fifth Street but the chocolate bottom crème Brule is pretty tasty.  Overall, I’d heartily recommend Fifth Street Grill for delicious food at VERY reasonable prices! 

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5th Street Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 5, 2011


I have always been fond of the ubiquitous cinnamon bun but finding one in town that isn't much too sweet or the opposite, hard and dry has been challenging.  I finally found cinnamon nirvana via the delightful Bubby Rose bakery.  The bun itself is a generous size and it is perfection.  The bun is soft, gooey and moist but without the cloying sweetness that makes most bakery cinnamon buns inedible.  You even have the choice of with or without raisins.  Bubby also has many other temptations delicious homemade soup, pannini sandwiches, croissants, pain au chocolate, and a tempting array of tarts and squares. This is one of the better bakeries in town.   Its just a few blocks from Cook Street Village.  Worth a stop on your way to Pic A Flic video!  Caution: heavy addiction factor.

<a href=" alt="Bubby Rose's Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon" src="" style="border:none;width:104px;height:34px" /></a>

<a href=""><img alt="Bubby Rose's Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon" src="" style="border:none;width:104px;height:34px" /></a> Bubby Rose's Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon