Tuesday, October 23, 2012

CULINARY TOURS WITH HEIDI FINK


I recently participated in an inspiring and mouth watering Thai cooking class at Cook Culture. The instructor was local chef Heidi Fink. Buoyed up by what I learned in the class, and impressed with Heidi's teaching style, I decided to accompany her on one of her culinary tours of Chinatown. 

I have always been smitten with Victoria's tiny but vibrant Chinatown. Heidi's culinary tours are a veritable gold mine for anyone who loves Asian style cooking but finds the array of unfamiliar ingredients on display a little daunting.  Heidi will demystify everything with her warm accessible teaching style.  During the tour, I learned about Asian produce and how to prepare it, the differences between rice, egg and bean thread noodles, where to find the best quality condiments, sauces, rice, and curry paste and much more.  We sampled unique bakery items and some succulent roast duck and bbq pork.  I had been trying for ages to find galangal to no avail and Heidi showed me the light (hint: it is on Government street) The tour concluded with a tea tasting at Silk Roads.  We were given a comprehensive handout full of pertinent information and some mouth-watering recipes to try.  

I strongly recommend Heidi's tour for anyone interested in expanding their home cooking repertoire and knowledge.  I will most definitely be trying my new recipes as soon as I am able.  I can now shop in Victoria's Chinatown with confidence and enthusiasm.  Thanks Heidi!

For more information, check out Heidi's web page:

http://www.chefheidifink.com/chinatown.php

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

BRENTWOOD BAY RESORT







Brentwood Bay Pub has ambiance to spare.  Floor to ceiling windows flood the room with light.   Whether you choose to sit indoors by the cozy fireplace or out on the heated patio (complete with outdoor fire pit!) you'll have a commanding view of the marina.   This pub offers friendly service and one of the best ocean views on the island.

I must profess I haven't sampled much from Brentwood Bay Pub's menu but I simply had to give a shout out to their superb seafood chowder.  Steve and I have sampled it on two occasions.  At first we balked at the price ($13 for a bowl seemed eye wateringly expensive) but we had a craving so we gave in.  We were glad we did.   We were each served a veritable tureen of smoky creamy broth brimming with chunks of salmon, halibut, ling cod and clams and topped with a garlicky crouton.  Steve orders chowder nearly everywhere he goes and he gave this a big thumbs up.  It is the best we have tried.  This chowder is sublimely smoky and sweet and the creamy rich broth sated our appetite for hours.

While the chowder may be on the pricey side, beer is very reasonable. A pint of craft beer is $4.50. A glass of wine is $4.00.  Brentwood Bay pub also serves up gourmet woodfire baked pizzas, steaks, salads, and burgers.  Given that restaurants face tremendous challenges to meet their costs and retain any profit I am not going to begrudge them here.  The relaxed atmosphere and excellent service go a long way to placating any wallet angst.  

I would suggest for a double bill you head to Oldfield Farm (see previous post) and cap off your afternoon with a cold beer at Brentwood Bay pub.   I can't think of a more rewarding way to spend a lazy weekend afternoon!

Brentwood Pub on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

OLDFIELD ORCHARD BAKERY







Oldfield Orchard Bakery is located in picturesque Saanichton.   It is well worth the drive.  If you do venture out you'll enjoy some of Vancouver Island's most idyllic scenery as you meander along.  Once you reach your destination you'll be glad you made the trip. 

This Bakery, located in the farming community of Saanichton, makes superb fruit pies using their own produce.  And that's not all. Check out their beautiful vegetables and fruit, homemade jams and jellies, soups, tortiere, savoury pies such as chicken or steak and vegetable, golden yoked free range eggs, hanging baskets and more.  On your way out the door don't forget to visit the donkeys and goats in the petting zoo.

Whenever we go to Oldfield Farm we invariably load up on more than what we originally intended to buy yet we never seem to regret it. We discovered Oldfield's pies by accident.  Steve and I purchased a pie at the Saanich Fair last year. It was so delicious we took note of its origins.   From then on we never think to go anywhere else whenever we are craving pie.  Their pastry is outstanding, flaky and light and the fruit has just the right balance of tart and sweet.  Oldfield also makes superb cinnamon buns and if you are lucky you might get one that is still gooey and warm.  Charmingly, Oldfield is unstaffed in the wintertime but they leave their stand open.  You can purchase baked goods from the freezer and leave your money in a jar.  They use the honour system!  I was truly touched that this vestige of rural life remains and it is nice to still be able to enjoy their bounty year round.  

If you are looking for a fun excursion on the island I highly recommend visiting this pretty and friendly farm.   Afterwards head to Brentwood Bay Pub for a bowl of seafood chowder (see separate blog post).  You'll return home both renewed and relaxed!

Monday, October 8, 2012

HUNGRY ROOSTER FOOD TRUCK





http://www.hungryrooster.ca/truck.html

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows of my affinity for anything dumpling related.   I originally stumbled upon the friendly folks at Hungry Rooster Food Truck at Rifflandia Music Festival.  A generous sized plate of their pillowy cheese and potato perogies sustained me through many hours of concert going.

Recently I was craving some stick to your ribs fall food. To my delight I found that Hungry Rooster routinely park their truck downtown, just steps away from the public library. If you head there (and you should!) try the "Mexicanca" a plate of perogies topped with aged cheddar, lime chipotle aioli, salsa and sour cream.  Alternately, you could opt for the "Polka", served with the traditional accompaniment of bacon, caramelized onion and sour cream.  Hungry Rooster also sell steaming bowls of homemade borscht.  If you are in a carnivorous mood order a smokie topped with onion and sauerkraut and served on a fluffy Portofino bun. All the combo plates are served with an addictive Asian cabbage salad that would convert the most fervent coleslaw hater.  The crunchy slaw adds wonderful textural contrast and lightness.  Hungry Rooster uses quality ingredients and prices are very reasonable. 

Food trucks are a welcome addition to the Victoria food scene and I hope they won't go away any time soon.  Reward yourself for returning your library books with a plate of  cheesy potato goodness.

 a, lime  & chipotle aioli, sour cream, fresh cabbage sl

6  perogies, aged cheddar, tuck made salsa, lime  & chipotle aioli, sour cream, fresh cabbage slaw, cilant6  perogies, aged cheddar, tuck made salsa, lime  & chipotl, fresh cabbage slaw, cilan6  perogies, aged cheddar, tuck made salsa, lime  & chipotle aiolih cabbage slaw, cilantr

Hungry Rooster on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

GREENLEAF BISTRO







Greenleaf Bistro is a cheerful little eatery located across from the old Bay department store on Douglas Street.  It is one of three terrific restaurants lined neatly in a row in a part of town that is otherwise a wasteland of fast food joints and crummy chain stores.

Here you can sit down in front of a sun drenched window and sip tea while you peruse the extensive menu.  Appetizers such as salad rolls with pork and shrimp and deep fried crispy tofu tempted me. Alas, as I was on my own, I could only try one dish at a time!  I ordered vermicelli with lemongrass chicken and onions.  What arrived shortly after was a pile of tender crisp vegetables and juicy chicken on a mound of gossamer thin rice noodles. At only $10.25 for a huge plate this is a remarkable bargain.  If you like, jazz up your noodles with the condiments at hand. Add a dollop of licorice sweet hoisin sauce. If you like it spicy, try a drizzle of chili oil.  This is part of the fun of eating Vietnamese; you can doctor your plate to your particular liking.

On a separate visit to Greenleaf I tried tofu with crispy noodles.  Once again my lunch arrived promptly. Greenleaf really respects vegetables.  They always serve them at the peak of freshness.  The tofu was puffed and golden.  My only quibble about this dish is that the crispy noodles are hard to eat.   No matter, it was still very tasty once managed to fork the crunchy shards in to my gaping maw.

FYI: the Vietnamese consider plunking a bill down on your table to be rude.  They don't want you to feel rushed.  So, when you are ready to pay, go directly to the till and they will ring in your purchase.  Greenleaf is a great place to bring your vegetarian friends, as the meatless menu is extensive.  Omnivores don't fret; there is lots for you too including meatball pho, ginger chicken, lemongrass shrimp or crispy skinned barbeque quail.  

I think this little row of unassuming restaurants is an exciting addition to the otherwise ho hum Douglas Street.  Why go to Burger King when you can get delicious food quickly and inexpensively?  Give Greenleaf Bistro a try and you'll see why this restaurant has a bevy of loyal customers.









Monday, October 1, 2012

LOGANS



Logans is a neighborhood watering hole located  a hop, skip and jump from downtown. It may seem unassuming on first glance but within these walls beats the heart and soul of the local independent music scene.   Some would say the space is  too lived in.  For me this utter lack of pretension is precisely what makes Logans the perfect hang out.

If you are feeling blue on a rainy Sunday afternoon head down to the Hootenanny.  Cozy up in one of the vinyl booths and nurse a cold one as a bevy of seasoned performers grace the stage.  If you are lucky, local songstress Carolyn Mark will be hosting and she’ll play a handful of hauntingly beautiful melodies.  Fridays and Saturdays are the usual performance nights but other evenings frequently feature live acts.  Check the website (loganspub.com) or grab a copy of Monday Magazine to peruse the line up.  Drinks are affordable and there is a full pub menu available if you get peckish.

Logans is the perfect place to imbibe, unwind and relax.  Head on down there and see for yourself!  You may discover your new favourite band and you are sure to have a good time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

OTTAVIO ITALIAN BAKERY



http://www.ottaviovictoria.com/

The neighborhood of Oak Bay is viewed with disdain by many Victoria locals.  It is derided as stuffy, old and boring.  I beg to differ.  Of late, Oak Bay Avenue has become increasingly fun and, gasp, dare I say it, downright funky!  This I attribute to Ottavio's.  Ottavio's, in business for over a decade, is the establishment that began the "tweed curtain's" transformation from haute to hip.  Other local businesses followed suit.  Oak Bay Avenue, once the home of fusty matronly consignment stores and uninspired tea shops is now chock full of bakeries, delis, retail clothing stores, unique gift stores, cafes, even a pub!

Ottavio is a combination bakery, deli, gourmet grocery, and licensed cafe.  In the cafe you can enjoy an affordable and tasty lunch.  Paninis are made with cheese and charcuterie from the amply stocked deli.  There are also salads, soups and a tempting array of mixed plate specials to choose from. Espresso is brewed manually (yes, there IS a difference!). Ottavio’s crafts their own gelato using organic milk and local fruit.  If you have never tried gelato before you are in for a treat.  The texture is silkier than ice cream and the flavour very grown up.

If you are more in a mood to eat in, browse the vast deli section for Galloping Goose sausage, herbes de Provence, homemade pesto and demi-glace, pasta, gnocchi, lasagne (made in house) and much much more.  There are over 240 varieties of handcrafted artisanal cheeses in the deli case.  Breads are hand rolled and made with only flour, water, yeast and salt.  

Ottavio has a vast selection of quality olive oils for sale and they occasionally host tastings.  Ask the friendly and knowledgeable staff for assistance.  Ottavio is a great starting point for a wander down Oak Bay Avenue.  Check out the new delis, clothing stores, bistros and cafes.  See for yourself that change can be good!

Ottavio Italian Bakery, Delicatessen & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 21, 2012

SPECIAL COOKBOOK




As much as I enjoy dining out I love home cooking with equal fervor.  Autumn conjures up images of cozy afternoons and delicious aromas emanating from oven or stove top.  As the leaves turn and the air cools I look to cookbooks for inspiration and comfort.

I would be remiss not to mention Victoria chef Mary Patterson's "Special Cookbook" which is chock full of drool worthy recipes.  The book contains sumptuous reproductions of still life paintings by artist Shawn Shepherd making it a feast for both eyes and soul.  Mary has deftly categorized the cookbook by ingredient, showcasing and transforming each into something marvelous.  My mouth waters over recipes such as golden cream and apple tart, carrots and lentils with smoked bacon, beet and tangerine salad, bbq duck and sweet chili pizza, pan roasted chicken with avocado and papaya and many more.

This book is the very definition of creative soul food.  If you are  an armchair cook you'll enjoy the clever anecodotes about each featured ingredient i.e. find out why Welsh soldiers carried leeks in their helmets or learn about the unique communication style of herring (hint: acronym FRT). 

We are very fortunate to have a bevy of talented cooks and chefs residing on Vancouver Island.  Special Cookbook gives you a chance to replicate some of the bounty at home.  Mary's recipes are meticulously laid out and easy to follow.  This book will appeal to both seasoned home cooks and kitchen novices alike.  

Special Cookbook is available at The Market on Yates and Polychrome Fine Arts.  This is an irresistible cookbook you will turn to again and again.  It would make a splendid gift for any enthusiastic home cook.

http://polychromefinearts.com/







Friday, July 20, 2012

SOPHIE'S COSMIC CAFE



Sophie's Cosmic Cafe on Urbanspoon
Sophie's Cosmic Cafe is an institution in Kitsilano.  Just look for the giant chrome cutlery on either side of the front door and you'll know you have arrived.  Inside, Sophie's emulates the style of a retro diner with a long counter top and shiny red vinyl booths. All kinds of fabulous knick-knacks and art adorn the walls. Check out Englebert Humperdinck album covers, mini statuettes of Pee Wee Herman and Charlie's Angel's lunch boxes to name a few.



All the nifty eye candy would be for naught if the food weren't up to snuff.  Sophie's was recently awarded the Golden Plate from the Georgia Straight for "best restaurant to cure a hangover". If you need to soothe YOUR savage beast try chowing down on eggs benedict dolloped with lemony hollandaise (served with fresh fruit or rosemary potatoes) or order up some good old bacon and eggs.  If a sweet brunch is more your cup of tea, ask for a stack of Sophie's impossibly fluffy buttermilk pancakes or try the Belgian waffles with whip cream and fresh berries. Portions are ample and the quality is exemplary.  Wash everything down with copious amounts of trucker style drip coffee or order a Viet coffee with condensed milk for a sweet treat.


If you are jonesing for lunch rather than brunch, Sophie's offers a tempting array of burgers, sandwiches, soups and salads.  Try a milkshake (they are huge) or share a piece of the pyramid shaped apple pie.  You can always work off the calories with a vigorous walk at nearby Kitsilano beach.

Service at Sophie's is consistently attentive, fast and friendly.  Line-ups are long on weekends but tables turn over quickly.  If you head to Vancouver, be sure to visit this iconic and fun eatery. You certainly won't leave hungry and you'll probably be very happy!


http://www.sophiescosmiccafe.com/


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

THE TEMPLETON





The Templeton has been a diner in Vancouver since 1934.  The owners, hearing it was to be sold and gutted bought the place and retained its iconic decor.  This restaurant is old school right down to the long Formica countertop, vinyl booths and individual jukeboxes on the tables.  

This is an efficient eatery that serves tasty food from scratch just like mom used to make.  Every time Steve and I visit the Templeton we are served by the same friendly no nonsense waitress.  Snappy service, snappy repartee!  The Templeton uses quality ingredients such as free run eggs and natural bacon.  I recommend the Trucker's breakfast or the blueberry pancakes.  If you are feeling virtuous, order the half grapefruit with brown sugar and pecans.  They caramelize the sugar under the broiler.  Delicious!

If you arrive at lunchtime order a gourmet burger or a grilled cheese sandwich.  Wash it all down with an authentic milkshake.   Portions are sustaining.  This is food both comforting and skillfully made.

If you are in Vancouver and you love old school diners I can't recommend the Templeton enough.  It is on our must visit list whenever we hop across the pond!





Monday, July 16, 2012

CAFE MEDINA




As much as I love certain eateries in Victoria I'd be remiss not to give a shout out to a few cherished restaurants in neighboring Vancouver.  After all, most of us take the ferry over occasionally for a little big city action.  Steve and I have found brunch heaven in the French Moroccan inspired bistro Cafe Medina.

Cafe Medina serves fine food in a relaxed environment.  The restaurant sports my favourite decor, lots of dark wood in Parisian bistro style yet with a modern edge. The first time Steve and I visited Cafe Medina it was bucketing rain outside.  The little bistro proved a warm and welcome respite from the deluge.  We were drawn in by the smell of waffles wafting out on to the street. 

We were warmly welcomed when we walked in the door.  Somehow I felt as in Casablanca that "this was the start of a beautiful friendship".  The loving continued as I perused the unique and appealing menu.  We decided to order some a la carte breakfast items.  We chose poached eggs, bacon, roasted potatoes, a plate of fresh fruit, and a waffle each.  Medina offers mouth-watering waffle toppings such as salted caramel, lavender milk chocolate, dark chocolate, mixed berry compote and more.  We asked for mixed berry compote and good old maple syrup. 

The food was a revelation.  I am normally more of a savoury breakfast person but if you visit this restaurant you simply MUST put your bias aside and order one of the waffles.  You won't regret it!  These babies are so ethereal, light and crisp and the accompanying fruit compote was absolutely delicious.   The roast potatoes were similarly scrumptious.  They arrived in a generous mound on the plate.  The potatoes were flecked with herbes de Provence and smothered in oozing Gruyere cheese.  Eggs were free range with sunny yellow yolks.  The bacon was thickly cut and meaty rather than fatty.  They drizzle the bacon in balsamic reduction, which adds a hint of smoky sweetness.  We mopped our plates clean.  A second visit in July proved the quality of the food had not diminished.  Happily, Cafe Medina had expanded their space to include their neighboring restaurant space.  This worked out great as we had tried on another occasion to go back but were daunted by a line up that stretched halfway down the block. 

There are many other intriguing dishes on the menu at Cafe Medina such as La Santé- soft boiled egg, ripe tomato, avocado, prosciutto, extra virgin olive oil and grilled ciabatta or the Moroccan inspired tagine with poached eggs, spicy tomato stew, merguez sausage, sun dried olives, cilantro and served with grilled focaccia.  This is only a sampling of the many creative, mouth-watering entrees in the offing at this cozy eatery.   

These days, I can't visit Vancouver without at least one visit to Cafe Medina.  The owners are considering opening a similar establishment in Victoria.  Fingers crossed!  In the meantime those superb crispy waffles will be an essential part of my big city repertoire.

http://www.medinacafe.com/

<a href="http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/14/335186/restaurant/Gastown/Cafe-Medina-Vancouver"><img alt="Cafe Medina on Urbanspoon" src="http://www.urbanspoon.com/b/link/335186/biglink.gif" style="border:none;padding:0px;width:200px;height:146px" /></a>

Cafe Medina on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 13, 2012

PUERTO VALLARTA AMIGOS



Sometimes I just have to get the word out before I have had a chance to fully review something.  This is the case with Puerto Vallarta Amigos.  My fella, Steve had sampled the tacos at the Fisherman's Wharf location and was terribly impressed.  I decided I had to follow up. Mexican food has been a revelation to me.  I only discovered the authentic stuff recently and I am besotted.  The extreme freshness and combination of textures is nearly chemically addictive.

On Steve's recommendation I tried the tacos.  You get six tacos per order for a paltry $7.50.  You get to choose your fillings - beef, chicken, pulled pork, spinach and cheese, bean and cheese or soy chorizo.  For an extra two bucks you can opt for premium fillings such as poblano pepper, portobello mushroom or chipotle shrimp.  I tried two each of the chicken, spinach and cheese and bean and cheese.  The vegetarian fillings were my favorite with the spinach and cheese being the standout. I recommend squirting a liberal amount of salsa verde over each taco.  It is a mild green salsa of tomatillos - utterly delicious. You fold your soft taco shell into a little purse and devour.  The tortillas are pillowy soft and creamy textured, not at all like those hard dry burrito wraps you buy at the supermarket. 

 I cannot wait to be back to Puerto Vallarta Amigos to sample more of their menu items.  Steve and I ordered six tacos each; a side of Mexican rice and two drinks and it all came to $20.  A bargain and phenomenal quality.  Service is friendly and very fast.  After a quick bite on the sun drenched patio of Fisherman's Wharf we made it to our concert in plenty of time.  Puerto Vallarta Amigos has two locations, a kiosk in Fisherman's Wharf and a food truck downtown at the corner of Yates and Wharf.  Try it today! 

July 21, 2012
A quick update: do try the tacos but avoid ordering nachos at Puerto Vallarta Amigos.  All other menu items use real cheese and authentic fillings but the nachos have processed cheese!  Must be for gringos and gringas only. 
Puerto Vallarta Amigos on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 21, 2012

COOK CULTURE



Cook Culture is located in the bright airy atrium building on Yates Street.  It is a clever combination of cooking school and cook shop with a broad selection of nifty gadgets for pimping out your kitchen.


I enrolled in the introductory bread baking class with chef Brad Williams.   Williams, a bon vivant and skilled baker with an impressive pedigree imparted his philosophy of bread making along with his recipe for scrumptious high hydration bread.  I am happy to report that we got to eat the fruits of our labour accompanied by good runny Dauphin cheese and some lovely wine. By the end of the evening I was chomping at the bit to make my own artisan breads at home.

Classes at Cook Culture offer something for everyone. If, like me, you are a hands on sort of learner I'd suggest signing up for a 2.5 to 3 hour instructor multi-course class.  If you are more of an armchair cook there are demonstration classes where you can watch skilled chefs in action.   At Cook Culture you can learn to make everything from Mexican cuisine, to Indian breads to irresistibly crispy Naples style pizza. If you are a sweet tooth, take classes in pie making or discover creative ways to deal with your summer berry crop.

If your meals are getting a bit ho hum a class at Cook Culture might just be what the doctor ordered!  You'll share good food and you'll leave with the wherewithal to create delicious dishes to impress friends and family.  As a bonus you can also browse the store for quality cookware, appliances, premium chocolate and drool worthy cookbooks.  The selection of bake wear at Cook Culture is extensive.  Cook Culture is open 7 days a week.


http://cookculture.com/

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

BEAN AROUND THE WORLD

Bean Around the World on Urbanspoon




For many years, Bean Around The World was my favorite coffee shop in Victoria.   When I moved to a different neighborhood I stopped going for a while.   Last week I decided it was time to head back to my old haunt and see if it was still up to snuff. 

I am happy to report that not much has changed and heck, if it ain't broke... I ordered a panini and a latte and sat down admiring the cozy interior with its brick walls and dark wood.  Interesting bric a brac adorns the walls.  I like the Miles Davis album covers perched atop the coffee bar.  Many coffee shops just aren't inviting but this one has ambiance in spades.    Bean Around is just at the periphery of Chinatown.  On a sunny day take a seat at an outdoor table and watch the neighborhood hustle bustle while you sip your java.

If you are feeling peckish but you are a bit broke this coffee shop will have you covered. A cup of homemade soup is only $2.45.  I go rangy for the plain grilled cheese panini which fills me up just enough and satisfies my nursery school craving for homey comfort.  At only $4.80 it satisfies my pocket book too.  You can also get the same panini with pesto or artichoke and sun dried tomato pesto for a more grown up version of grilled cheese.  The tuna Diablo, a panini with tuna, molten cheese and hot peppers, tempted me.  Sandwiches range in price from $4.80 to around $6.50.  It is rare to be able to get lunch for under $10 these days.  This is an exceptional bargain.  On my last visit they also offered chicken stew and vegan chili.

The coffee is exemplary here.  Coffee beans are roasted in house for a rich brew that is never bitter.  I love that my latte comes in a European style bowl.  The milk/espresso ratio is just right.  Try their famous Black Dragon espresso blend. 

For those of you who like to languish in coffee shops or those who just want to restore themselves with caffeine or a quick bite this is the perfect spot!  The friendly counter staff will take care of your needs.    Bean Around the World is perfect for a light bite or a good hit of caffeine anytime!  http://beanvictoria.com/

Thursday, June 14, 2012

CACTUS CLUB



Cactus Club would not normally be my sort of restaurant.  The thumping techno bass on the stereo makes my temples ache.  All the servers have a signature look: faux tans, whitened teeth, hair extensions, breast implants and stiletto heels.  Everyone wears black head to toe.  It is a bit discomfiting for us regular folk with our pallid complexions, wrinkly unbotoxed foreheads, jiggly cellulite and gasp, horror of horrors, no veneers on our teeth.

In spite of all this I visit the Cactus Club fairly regularly for one reason, the tuna. We discovered tuna tataki one fateful night.  We haven't been the same since.  We were out with a friend who wanted to use up a Cactus Club gift certificate. I was intrigued by chef Rob Feenie's signature menu.  Feenie incidentally used to be at the helm of the legendary Lumiere restaurant in Vancouver (now sadly defunct).  

We ordered a few items to share starting with the tataki.   What arrived was a revelation, silky slices of sashimi grade tuna seared on the outside served atop a crunchy "slaw" of daikon, carrot, Thai basil and cilantro with chunks of avocado and papaya.  The whole dish is bathed in yuzu vinaigrette, which has the most sublime sour sweet citrusy kick.  I kept mopping my tuna slices in the sauce.  The slaw adds the most wonderful textural contrast with the sweet papaya, buttery avocado and crunchy daikon.  This was and is one of the best things I have ever eaten.  It is rhapsodically delicious. Another hit was Rob Feenie's flatbread, topped with grape tomatoes, caramelized onion, pesto, arugula, balsamic glaze, goat cheese and Maldon sea salt.  The peppery arugula is a delicious contrast to the juicy tomato and the creamy chevre.  This is food that tastes fresh and light but packs in big satisfying flavors.  

Honorable mentions go to the sliders, three mini cheddar bacon burgers topped with house made red pepper relish.  You see sliders everywhere on restaurant menus these days. You can't go wrong with these ones.  I like them because there are times when a whole burger is just too much.  With these mini burgers I satisfy my craving without feeling overstuffed.  I can understand now why these little bites are perennially popular.  Also recommended (from Cactus Club's regular menu) is the spicy chicken with wonton. Lightly breaded chunks of chicken are served with a spicy sweet chili sauce and crispy fried wontons.  This is a fun dish to share as an appetizer.  If you have room for dessert, try the key lime pie. It is tart and refreshing.

Service at the Cactus Club for all the gym bunny glamour is attentive and efficient.  This is not a place where you'd be inclined to linger but for a quick bite before a movie it works fine.  Food arrives quickly and is just as quickly devoured.  The booth tables are comfortable enough and Feenie's menu is undeniably mouth watering.  In spite of myself I have to give kudos to Cactus Club for having good food reasonably priced. 

In any event I’ll be back for that tuna.  No place does it better. Until they do I'll just have to keep going back!
Cactus Club Cafe (Victoria) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

REBAR MODERN FOOD







I must confess right off the bat that I am an unrepentant omnivore.   A good hamburger or juicy steak is about as near to gustatory nirvana as I get.  Nonetheless, when I am in the mood for delicious food that invariably feels good to eat I ALWAYS head to Rebar.   There are many things I love about this vegetarian eatery, the friendly servers, the playful decor, the fresh squeezed juice and fine selection of microbrews but first and foremost there is the food.

The great thing about Rebar is that but they aren't afraid of decadence and they don't skimp in the flavor department.  Rebar was my first introduction to cuisine with a southwestern twist.  Rebar's enchiladas are a revelation.  They are delicate yet substantial and the smoky hit of chipotle is sublime.  The Caeser salad is deliciously garlicky and lemony.  The pot stickers are served with sautéed greens and a huge mound of fragrant jasmine rice.   Rebar includes fish on their menu.   If you do eat fish, try the shrimp clubhouse with chipotle mayo.  It’s a standout.  For those of you with a more ascetic palate don't fear, Rebar also has vegan menu items.  Try the tofu scramble or a vegan brownie.  

I used to eat breakfast religiously once a week at Rebar.  Each week I'd choose between omelets with fillings like roast yam and Asiago cheese served with home fries brimming with fresh herbs (try the homemade ketchup for dunking) or the phenomenal pancakes, truly the best in Victoria.   The pancakes often have fresh fruit in them (or a scrumptious compote on the side).   I'd wash everything down with an expertly made Americano or a glass of fresh squeezed juice.   If it is your first time at this restaurant take a seat at the counter and watch the staff make fresh juice and foamy cappuccino.  

Rebar is also a great place to go for a treat.  The desserts are appropriately decadent. On my last visit, friends and I shared an enormous slice of chocolate torte with raspberry cream cheese icing.  Rebar also makes homemade cream pies.  Try the banana or coconut cream.  The carrot cake is justifiably famous for its generous slathering of white-chocolate cream cheese icing.  After all, don't most of us eat carrot cake for the icing?

Rebar is well worth a visit for the staunchest of carnivores.   Good food is universal and I promise in this instance you won't miss the meat.  If you want to replicate the food at home you can purchase their wonderful  cookbook entitled "Rebar Modern Food Cookbook". 






Rebar Modern Food on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

FERRIS'S OYSTER BAR




Ferris's Oyster Bar is an iconic eatery for Victoria residents.  This is in part due to the unfailingly friendly service and a few standout menu items that once tried induce cravings that can only be sated with repeat visits.  

I have to give a shout out to Ferris's legendary chicken penne soup.  When Neko Case played here she mentioned this soup. With a dreamy far away look in her eye she recounted the memory of richly flavored broth with vegetables and fluffy rice dumplings.  To my delight you can order EXTRA dumplings for your soup at 50 cents each.   The soup arrives in a bird bathed size tureen.  Sure to cure the common cold or quite frankly whatever else ails you!  I often go to Ferris's in the winter for this soup.

Ferris's has many other menu items that are revered by locals as classics.    Ferris's french fries are hand cut and justifiably famous.  They do a great burger here.  I have vacillated between ordering the lamb burger with spicy harissa or a good old beef burger. I get mine with pungent Gorgonzola mousse and sauteed mushrooms.  You can order a mixture of yam and potato fries here or go half fries half salad with your burger.  Priced at around 11$ for an enormous platter, this is one of the better burger bargains in Victoria.  Also standouts are the panko-breaded oysters.  I haven't had the pleasure of trying dessert at Ferris's.  Regrettably I have always been too full but I hear that "Sandy's famous brownie" is to die for.  Ferris's has pints of local draught on tap for $4.75.  There is also an appealing list of old school cocktails and new school martinis.

This would be a great place to go with a group, as many of Ferris' appetizers are ideally suited for sharing.  This is an amiable casual restaurant with a lovely patio in the back. The brick walled interior is cozy and inviting. Ferris's keeps their prices affordable, which is, I think part of their appeal in addition to the romantic ambiance.  Service is speedy and delightfully unpretentious.  

Ferris's also has a bistro upstairs and I will be writing about that in a separate review.  If you haven't been to Ferris's I recommend you head there and find out what you have been missing all these years!  

Ferris' Oyster Bar & Grill (Downstairs) on Urbanspoon