Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Vancouver: Faubourg

fall romance

There's nothing more romantic than the fall. The warm colours, the falling leaves, and a fresh chill in the air. It's a prelude to winter, and my favourite season. To me, autumn is scarves, cappuccinos and croissants. Three things that make me happy. Happiness was fleeting last year. I did not have a happy year, and as we approach the day that defined unhappiness for me, I keep focused on things that make me happy.

Saturday dates with Momma GG make me happy. Even when she irritates me, like mothers so often do. 

I took Momma GG to Faubourg, a beautiful, busy French patisserie across from the Art Gallery and adjacent to one of the city's greatest landmarks, Hotel Vancouver. I tried their almond croissant on Friday. It didn't hold a candle to that little bakery in the Plateau, but it was damn good so I knew I had to go back.

Sadly they were out of croissants, but Franck Point - at least that's who I think he is - was happy to say he'd have more in an hour. 

This place is true to its French roots. They don't compromise. Note I think Beaucoup is better, but Faubourg is downtown. And what is it that I always say about proximity?!

Fauboug's array of baked goods are refined and aimed to please discerning palates and it shows in the price point. But I'd gladly pay $3 a croissant for this:

Flaky, buttery, soft and chewy - Perfect and fresh out of the oven
I also convinced Momma GG to try a macaron. Granted she didn't like it, but at least she took a bite. Three bites actually - one of each:

Personally I thought there was too much filling but the Hazelnut Prailine and Earl Grey were good. 
The Signature (passion fruit and white chocolate) was not - far too sweet.
Faubourg is a sophisticated and stylish bakery in a city that gets criticized for its bad fashion sense. Breads wouldn't have been my starting point, but every city's makeover is different.

Faubourg on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 11, 2013

Vancouver: Pure Nail Bar

PreambleI did not like Pure the first time I tried it. So much so it was to be the last. Read here. It seems that location closed down shortly after my visit. Rightfully so. Beauty karma.

But Momma GG came to spend the weekend with her girls, and we like to shop and get our nails done, although the ma swears she doesn't. Doth protest too much. So I "dragged" her while we were out shopping on Robson. This Pure is the closest so I called a few hours before and had them book us in. This location looked ten times better than the other one, and they were also ten times more professional. It's a quaint nail bar next to Suki's above Tiffany & Co. It's easy and affordable. I still like Poised, but I would go back to this Pure, especially since they have great specials and corporate discounts. Look into it, you might just qualify.

Report on Pure Nail Bar - Downtown

Location: Georgia + Burrard
Interior: Small but clean and chic
Ideally For: A place to take yourself and your mom or you and your girls

Service:  Pure Mani/Pure Pleasure Mani
Price: $25/$35
Duration: 40 minutes/60 minutes
Details: Polish removal, file, cuticle care, buff, massage, and polish application/all that + paraffin
Massage: Long enough to be enjoyable 

Comments: Thorough, attentive, friendly and a big screen television to keep you occupied 
Products: OPI, CND, Essie

Longevity: Good

Final Grade: B-

Click HERE for Grading System.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Vancouver: Campagnolo Roma

big beat to blast
:Main Street:

This is the final post in honour of the sister. If you've been keeping up you'd never know that it was my birthday too...

Course I've been quite spoiled over the past decade with a few awesome birthday celebrations so it's only fair that it was her turn. It just made me miss my friends. And miss them I do...terribly. But their love always shines through...and there are a handful of lovers whose birthday wishes I could set my clock to - like Aerie's heartwarming handcrafted card, Cracker's emoticon cuteness, Jimmy's Whatsapp-Facebook combo, and the BFF's card, always written in ALL CAPS. He recently celebrated his birthday too...we haven't celebrated together in years, owing to the fact we live on opposite ends of Earth. No really, we do. My bad, we were talking about the sister weren't we? 

Well her too-legit-to-quit crew gathered at Campagnolo Roma for a set menu. Raulie, Leroy, Taro, the sister, yours truly and four others sat down for a family style meal. Two hours later you had to roll us all out. 

I loved the pulse of the place - lively and vibrant with an open kitchen and a stealthy group of professionals working the front line. They were invisible when necessary and pleasant otherwise.

I'll give Campagnolo this - it's amazing value - so much food for just $35 a head. The most obvious criticism I had was the fact this place is not a carnivore's restaurant. There was a noticeable lack of meat. Even when it presented in a dish you could barely taste it. That's great for vegetarians, not so great for a caveman eater like me.

Midway through you start to notice everything muddles together. The pizzas tasted like the pastas and the pastas tasted like each other. There were no distinct flavour profiles and in the end, it wasn't a dynamic meal. That's when I realized this place is best for a one-off dish. I still enjoyed the dinner because it was well seasoned, well made and in celebration of the sister...even when I dislike her, I love her. If you have know this story all too well. And we're back to the food...

The menu started with seasonal olives and a smörgåsbord of salads:

garnish salad - vegetables and grainy mustard vinaigrette
autumn squash salad - squash with sage and ale dressing
celeric salad
 Their housemade bruschetta is a twist - beets, caramelized yogurt, pistachio:

New texture, different beat
A buffet of pizzas:


a basil and sausage variety

bianca - my favourite - cauliflower, crispy provolone, and pickled onions
The last of the mains came by way of an explosion of carbs -two different types of strozzapreti and a ravioli:

strozzapreti with cabbage
strozzapreti with pine nuts and mushrooms

I don't want to see, smell or eat strozzapreti for a long time. There is such thing as too much of something.

Our sweet finale:

The food came out at a nice steady pace and we rolled out in smiles. Campagnolo Roma is hearty and homemade, and despite the subtle (or not so subtle) protests sprinkled above, it was still a happy ending. 

Campagnolo Roma on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Vancouver: Oakwood Canadian Bistro

with glowing hearts

I have been wanting to try the Oakwood since I moved to this city. No other restaurant got more word of mouth love than this gem. It's a down-to-earth bistro in the heart of Kits and it's serving some stellar food. 

Owner Mike Shea and Chef Michael Robbins have created a well-loved neighbourhood joint. It's a beautiful venue for friends and family to come together and share a meal, some laughs and warm conversation. All the staff who came to our table were polite and friendly. There's a genuine sense they believe in the food and are happy to be there. When staff feel that way, it naturally follows that everyone else who walks through the door will too. And they captured my heart at the door with a smile and the sign - loved it, loved the interior more.  The restaurant - from its name to its seating - is a nod to the reclaimed wood prevalent throughout. It's cozy and casual but neither homely nor boring. It's got character and understated elegance.

Eight ladies gathered last weekend for an epic meal in celebration of the one who irks me like nobody but I love like no other...the sister. It was her birthday and her Vancity girls came out to celebrate and eat. Feast we did. Everything was good and the prices were modest. 

When you order 80% of the menu, there will be some standouts, so let's start with our table's favourites (I missed some photos...I may or may not blame it on the vodka)...

Fried octopus, bacon ailoi, pickled shallots, komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach):

My only complaint was there wasn't enough.
Flat iron steak, bone marrow barley, asparagus, chimmichurri ($22) - sinfully rich and delicious.

Warm kale salad, cauliflower, sprouts, lemon parmesan dressing, buttermilk onions:

All Canadian poutine with brisket:

Yes. Yes. Yes.

These next dishes were good, but not unanimous favourites...

House tagliatelle, zucchini, spinach, chanterelle mushrooms, parmigiano:

Simple and tasty; al dente and well-balanced
Beef tartar, egg yolk, mustard pea shoots, crackers:

I love runny yolks like I love shoes.
This final group had our table divided...

Beet salad in textures, goats cheese, arugula:

I found it off balance
Halibut cheeks, bacon lardon, chanterelle mushroom, lentils, crackling ($20) - I think I liked it more than others. But I love cheeks...except mine, they're cherub-ly fat.

Duck duo, breast and confit thigh rotolo, butternut squash, pickled fennel:
Too much fennel flavour
Seared tuna, ponzu, sesame snow, jicama:

I like ponzu and jicama. I don't really enjoy seared tuna and I'm on the fence about that sesame snow.

Salt Spring mussels, tomato coconut broth, cornbread biscotti:

It came too late, we were too full to enjoy but it had an enticing aroma and full bodied flavour.
Did we order the entire menu? Almost. I hear we missed one of Oakwood's most celebrated dishes - the burger but I'll be back.

We ended the night with two orders of the mason trios ($15):

Lemon meringue - laughter in a cup - sweet and sour
Custard and chocolate - kisses in a cup - creamy and lovely
Rustic apple - hugs in a cup - warm, tart and crisp

Mason jars. One of my most favourite things.
The Oakwood is a reminder that comfort food can be fabulous, memorable and easy on the wallet. It takes the right team to execute such a flawless vision - a truly Canadian restaurant for the Canadian people. It's worth a visit if you haven't been and it's worth repeating if you have.

The Oakwood Canadian Bistro on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Vancouver: Forage

great celebration, poor execution

It's based on an admirable concept - homegrown and sustainable.
It's built on a beautiful idea - comfortable and unpretentious.
But it fell a little shy of being all that.  

Forage had all the potential to be a brilliant night out. The restaurant has received so much praise from critics and diners so the sister thought it'd be the perfect place for a family night out.

Nothing was terrible but as a family we felt the food fell short. Dish after dish something was always missing...
Foraged and cultivated mushrooms, Okanagan goat cheese, grilled caraway rye $12
The cast iron is for show...too bad because it could have solved the missing piece - texture
Rangeland game burger, caramelized onion preserve, house-cured bacon, gouda, fries $16

This wasn't missing anything per se, but that homemade ketchup was terrible.
Haida Gwaii halibut, ginger squash purée, gnocchi,lamb bacon, spicy heirloom tomatoes $22
A BEAUTIFUL fish made ugly by overcooking...shame.
A Thanksgiving special
(I's excuses for my tardiness except that I'm super busy)
It was missing seasoning - so bland.
By the end of the meal it was clear, we were glad we tried it. The food was fine and the restaurant and service were lovely, but we wouldn't go back.

If every dish falls short I don't generally feel like I'm missing out on anything if I don't ever go again. I'm that harsh, course the family agreed with me and they're a warm and fuzzy lot. Two ends of the spectrum, same verdict - sorry Forage.

Forage on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 1, 2013

Vancouver: Dasom

real seoul

This post is about two of my favourite things:

Amazing bakers
Korean food

Sure they don't go together, but in October they do.  Look what Ceecee made in honour of our obsession with the Atlanta panda twins. We're not the only ones all over it...Lainey recently posted about the cute furballs too.  Ceecee's post tells you how to make these, because Gord only knows I couldn't.

banana cupcakes with cream cheese icing
by Ceecee
Now onto my other favourite thing - Korean food. Of course Vancouver is not making it easy for me to get some...

I ventured out to Surrey - one of my least favourite cities in Canada - for  quality time with Momma GG. Finding worthy Korean food (other than Momma GG's homecooked goodness) in Vancouver has really been shameful. It has a little to do with cost (I'm still having a hard time accepting how high the cost of living is in Vancity) and a lot more to do with quality (everything just tastes below average).

In the one year and twenty-three days since I moved here, one restaurant stands out. I would go again and again if it wasn't so far. 

It's a family owned restaurant in a strip mall across the street from the beast that has become Guildford mall, and it's always good. That may explain why it's generally busy at peak hours. This place was a go-to for Papa GG, and if I've taught you anything, it's that Papa GG demands excellence. 

Dasom is excellent:

One of my favourites - Kalbitang (beef rib soup with glass noodles, daikon, egg and onions)

This is Momma GG's favourite - it's a two pack punch of grilled mackerel and soy bean paste soup:
Always best together. 
Consistently good, traditional, conventional, and delicious. That makes it worth the trek, non?
DaSom Korean Restaurant on Urbanspoon