Thursday, June 21, 2012


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.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


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!

Thursday, June 14, 2012


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


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