Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Vancouver: Oru

brunch buffet
:Coal Harbour:

I love PacRim...why? WILLOW STREAM. Jubilee was kind enough to tell me about it. She also told me about Oru. They do a buffet brunch for $36. Now, when I first posted this - I said I thought it was $18...WHERE DID I PULL THAT NUMBER FROM?!? Oru contacted me via Yelp and advised it's always been about mid-30s - so I obviously have to apologize for my error.

But it got me thinking...why did I think it was $18? Thinking too much can hurt. So I chalk it up to the fact that what I think their buffet is worth. Half the price because it's half way to the quality it ought to be. There. Mistake rectified.

Buffets have Momma GG's name all over them. In fact last week she asked us to River Rock to check out their's. It was terrible. Capital s in *hit. Momma GG and I made the most of it. Then again, I think by now you've all realized Momma GG overfloweth with positivity. She is the epitome of glass half full.

Momma GG and I hit Oru before our appointments at Willow. It was a great deal for $18 (not so much for $36). But get this, Momma GG didn't like it. Surprising right?. She said it looked better than it tasted. I agree. I said it seemed like the selection was bigger than it was. She agrees. I'll put it to you like this: Toronto's Boiler House and Hot House take first and second in the brunch buffet category. Oru didn't place. Points for participation because at least I got this:

You can't really screw this up. 

And a waffle:

Papa GG loved waffles like I love waffles.

And a scone with clotted cream:
Along with a made to order eggs benny:

I know it looks unappetizing.
We were full and that was all we needed before some rest and relaxation at our favourite hideaway in the city. Yes, we're back at Willow Stream. If I sound like a broken record, there's a really good reason. Best spa in the city exclamation point.

Final point of this post: Oru, go again? For $36 not.

Oru on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 19, 2014

Vancouver: La Tortas

work lunch not working lunch
:South Cambie:

The workplace is much like a buffet. A large selection of this and that, but when you've been to as many buffets as I have, you become a pro at weeding out the crap. I only go for the real good stuff because I like quality. Workplaces, same thing.

Poppette is one of those things I like. We don't get to have lunch often. I think she's like me - either we're too busy and when we're not, sometimes it's nice for lunch to be a solo activity. I see it as my little piece of peace at work. Of course I make sure to consistently schedule social lunches here and there. It's happy time selectively sprinkled throughout my calendar and I look forward to each and every one.

Before my latest lunch date with Poppette, I came back to my office to find she left a post-it. She listed a few restaurant choices and told me to pick. I reviewed them and settled on Las Tortas because I've never had a torta, have you? I've had an arepa and thought it was the same. Nope - different and better. I liked the the bread: a crisp and chewy sandwich roll:

Colourful - like a Mexican banh mi?!
Fresh ingredients and condiments amply stacked between fresh bread:

Serious flavours, great textures
The best part of the meal? The homemade chips:

REALLY good...
Service is friendly and I couldn't have asked for more: cheap and delicious. And it started with a post-it. Yay Poppette!

Las Tortas on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Vancouver: Whole Foods Market Bakery

what you needed was here

This is a random post but hey, in a couple hours it's no rules Friday.

Let me set the scene: I like Whole Foods. Not for the abundance of organic products or nutritional yeast or local granola, but for overpriced crackers and cheese and the occasional canned good or produce on sale, but mostly (almost exclusively) for their prepared meals and sweets. (As my friends know, I like to heat-eat as opposed to cook-eat). Also, their ginger molasses cookies are one my all-time favourite things.

The Whole Foods bakery is a special place because there is something for everyone. I've never walked out with something I didn't like. Seriously, how is that even possible. It seems improbable that their cookies, cakes, pies and other treats are consistently good and universally appealing. True, I may not love what everything, but nothing disappoints or makes me shed a sad tear. There's nothing more disappointing than bad dessert. I mean isn't the root of happiness sugar?

My latest Whole Foods discovery was with Ceecee. On a random walk through, a staff member gave us a sample. One bite and we were sold.

After weeks of talking about how awesome it was, we had to have it. One of our coworkers was heading to Whole Foods to pick up lunch so I asked him to pick one up. I use asked loosely since apparently I have an annoying tendency to raise my voice three octaves when I want a favour so he knew it was coming before I even got it out.

Of course he came through, thanks Roro:

Meet coconut cream pie.
So good I'm actually going to throw down these !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A few things to note: I don't really like coconut, nor do I like cream. Although I like custard which is not be mistaken for cream.  Papa GG loved both so I assume I'm now channeling his appetite.

Go pick one up. It's only $5.99 for fluffy mounds of love. So good I want to slap someone. See, none of that made any sense. This pie doesn't make sense...it's got me that twisted.

Mmmmmmmm....coocoo for coconut cream pie.
Confession: Ceecee and I had it for breakfast. Call us crazy...or maybe after you try it, you'll call us genius?! P.S. This weekend Ceecee is off to Seattle for a food blogging conference. I wanted to go with her but knew it would be sandwiched between too many big expenses for me. There's always next year and I can't wait to hear about it. If you're interested you should check her blog for updates.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Vancouver: Don't Argue! Pizzeria

trouble, trouble, trouble
:Riley Park:

I spent my adolescence following the in crowd...maybe that's why I find myself going against the grain in adulthood. I don't like to argue...doesn't mean I won't. 

Don't Argue! isn't worth debating, because it wasn't bad. I enjoyed my dinner date with Totoro. Although I wonder if it was the company more than the food. That's been happening a lot these days.  

I didn't fall for Don't Argue for a few reasons. He wasn't my type. I did like the fact it's a husband and wife duo doing what they are inspired to do - bring quality more traditional Americana pizza to hungry Vancouverites. And for $40 bucks they brought Totoro and I spicy margherita:

Less sauce, more mozzarella please and where's my basil?
And pancetta and pineapple:

I preferred this to the margherita tenfold.
True Don't Argue sticks to its simple formula, and while I' like simple, it fell short because at the end of the meal, I just wasn't that into him. 

If you're going to bring me one layer of flavour it has to be stella and the tart crushed tomatoes and sparse toppings weren't enough to make me stray from GoldiesIf you remember, this place stole my heart - they do simple too and they do it for a fraction of the cost.

Don't Argue! Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Vancouver: Tavern by Trevor

we be brunching
:Spadina + King:

Final east coast post...for now. Actually, probably for a long while. Rather than talk the talk or walk the walk, I intend to work the runway...the runway to the Vancouver love juice everyone else is drinking. Filler up?!?

Weeks ago I was walking up Spadina with Cracker. She took me to another Trevor project. I love Trevor. It's one of my favourite Toronto restaurants. I said it 2010, again in 2011 and if I thought you wouldn't get sick of me singing in all my very tone deaf beauty, I would sing it year after year.

Cracker loves Trevor too, and she loves brunch and of course she loves me. Have you ever had a friend who doesn't just make a face when you're being a first class b*tch but actually yells out, "eh, you're being a b*tch". If so, don't lose them. Because in a world where talking behind someone's back is the norm, you need someone who slaps you in the face. That's Cracker to me and vice-versa.

She took me to The Tavern for brunch (served between 11 and 3). It was what I have come to expect: honest food with flair. I had the egg white frittata with asparagus and 3 year old cheddar. It was more elegant than I expected for $15: Light, fluffy, perfectly cooked and well seasoned with ample amounts of black truffle and a tart arugula salad:

Aromatic and amazing
Cracker had chorizo with crispy poached eggs and sweet potato hash, roquette and red pepper ailoi:

A bright morning medley

Great value for really great food. Comfort food elevated with primo ingredients and a touch of class. I hope this Tavern stays this way until my next visit.

The end of another fantastic east coast trip. As I face what will be endless weeks, months and years of Vancouver - I don't roll my eyes any more. That's at least something. It's my big first step to walking this runway.

The Tavern by Trevor on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 5, 2014

Vancouver: Kirin Seafood Restaurant

dignified dimsum
I will make this real simple. Kirin is way better than your average dimsum and costs more than your average dimsum. Sounds logical to me.

I've had the pleasure of eating at Kirin twice. Both times delicious. I use har gow and sui mai to judge quality, because if the staples of dim sum are good - the place is about to bang out consistently yummy dishes. 
Note their turnip pancake is a let down, not crispy on the outside but everything else was delicious. Like, everything.

You know what makes this story a fairy tale? Someone else picked up the tab on both occasions.

Dimsum happily ever after.

Kirin Seafood Restaurant 玉麒麟海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

Toronto: Rock Lobster

almost rock bottom
:Queen West:

This place - the definition of premature expansion. Rock Lobster in Ossington was all the rave. So they opened another one. Looking at the reviews on Urbanspoon. They shouldn't have.

I didn't hate it. The patio out back is a great place to grab a drink. 
Their signature caesar
I don't hate anything with vodka. It's my plus one for fun.

The food wasn't great...mediocre bar fare at best. 
Bad fries. Soggy, bland, soggy.
My friends and I had a great time, but that was because of the company not the food. Too bad, but it wasn't sad. Because again, just add vodka.

Rock Lobster on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Toronto: Bar Isabel

come away with me
:Little Italy:

Where do I begin? How about at the best part. I was in my favourite Canadian city - M.o.n.t.r.e.a.l. The best - vibrant and inspired. Whether I am 14 or 25 or 30-ish...the city speaks my language.

From there I made my way to the city that stole a big piece of my heart and refuses to let it go. Yes, Toronto.

There are too many beautiful faces to see when I'm in town and I do my best. I did alright this trip - saw Aerie, mother to three of the cutest kids ever and friend to a slightly neurotic, mildly obsessive-compulsive and moderately materialistic woman - yes, yours truly. I scheduled quality time with my favourite duo - The Scotsman and Cracker - and a bucketful of long-time friends.

I also had one of the best meals I've had in a long time. The Scotsman and Cracker joined me and when the three of us reunite, it's usually one part insanity, one part hilarity and two parts love. 

My pick was Bar Isabel. This little gem didn't make it into my schedule on two earlier visits so I made sure The Scotsman and Cracker knew it was a priority, and like they never have and never will - they didn't let me down. Neither did Bar Isabel. She lived up to her gossip.

The venue is cozy and hipster chic but not in an annoying way. It's as authentic as the colourful servers who are, much like the restaurant, unrefined but classy. They're also knowledgeable and efficient. Our server paid just the right amount of attention to us and made some great recommendations.

The three of us shared a fantastic array of tapas, but I would say there were two must eat standouts: the sea bream ceviche and the grilled octopus. Perfectly executed so you are fully satisfied from first to last bite.

We started with a trio off the to begin menu. I wish I could remember what it was, but all I remember was the creamy foie gras crunchy crostini magic in my mouth:

Heart you
Considering I don't like vegetables as much as a grown responsible adult should, I loved these shishito peppers. We almost fought over them...almost:

Salty simple bites
Patatas bravas with blood sausage
Sweetbreads and fresh tuna - I didn't know how well this would work and let me tell you
It worked - on every level. Flavour, texture and money well spent.
Let's end with the two best dishes I mentioned earlier. The whole sea bream ceviche is exactly what you'd want. The presentation was a celebration of the sea: a bed of fresh meaty ceviche surrounded with creamy avocado atop the rest of the fish perfectly fried from head to tail. We demolished the entire plate, right down to the deep fried leeks - ingenious addition.

If you can take something away from Bar Isabel, it's the fact they merge technique with flavour to bring dishes that showcase every ingredient. That is an art - it's for people who just love good food.

Here is the pièce de résistance - a half grilled octopus. If you need to know anything about octopus it should be this - it is really DIFFICULT to cook perfectly. Perfect means tender and this was:

Perfect ending to a spectacular night. This meal actually sums up my entire trip. 

There's more to come, but I'm starting with the best so you can get a glimpse into why I can't let go of Toronto. The city is as colourful as this meal and allows everything and everyone to coexist in harmony.

Bar Isabel on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Vancouver: BKH Jerky

are you there God, it's me GG.

Remember that book? That was a great book. I wonder if kids these days read Judy Blume.

So let's start with the obvious. I've been MIA. My regulars know this happens on occasion. The lead up to not blogging is usually travel. That was 50 percent of the reason, the other 50 percent is work is so busy my brain has no function outside work hours.

During this long hiatus I ate some great meals, snapped a few shots and stored it on my Desktop. And finally I've made it through my to do list and here we are.

I'll keep my return short - JERKY. I love jerky, almost as much as I love doughnuts. It's actually a coin toss. Hence this post does double-duty.

The sister picked up what has arguably been called the best jerky in the city? BKH. It's Singapore jerky, so it's not exactly the kind you pick up at the gas station before a road trip. It's saucier and more tender. 
And yes, it's finger-linkin' good and slightly addictive. Jerky on.

BKH Jerky on Urbanspoon

Now chew on this: Cartems has released some new flavours. It's been almost two years since I had my first doughnut there and this is my new favourite:

London fog souffle
Your mouth doesn't even know. 

Promise I'll post again soon. No seriously, I will...