Slow Cooker Saturdays

I wasn’t ready for summer to be over, but whether I like it or not it seems that fall has arrived and made itself well at home. The temperatures have dropped, the leaves are changing colour and I have had to whip out the scarves and jackets. There is a noticeable chill in the air and it sure ain’t summer’s doing! The rainy weather we have experienced recently has me crawling back under the covers and grabbing the remote for some serious Netflix bingeing. In addition to the creature comforts, it also has me craving comfort food; soups, chili, curries and slow-cooked anything! Goodbye fresh summer salads and BBQs on the beach.

Last weekend, the miserable rainy one that it was, provided the perfect setting to batten down the hatches and remain inside, curled up on the couch with a book in hand. Nonetheless, a girl still has to eat! Typically our fridge is pretty empty by the weekend, however, the boyfriend and I, after seeing the forecast for the weekend, planned ahead. We scored ourselves a big chunk of beef to throw on the stove and slow cook for the whole of Saturday. After hours of bubbling away, covered in tomatoes, black beans, chilies and other spices, that bad boy fell apart into wonderful, flavoursome, juicy shreds of meat. It paired beautifully with the cornbread I made for it (a super simple Betty Crocker recipe. Look it up!) and was the perfect drool-worthy addition, stuffed inside tacos, for Sunday night’s dinner.  That slow cooked beef was a great reminder of how much I love slow cook food, especially slow cooked meat, especially slow cooked lamb!

If you have been following this blog for a while now, then you are well acquainted with my love of lamb. Discussing favourite foods with my boyfriend last week, I announced with full confidence that lamb is hands down my all time favourite meat. The lack of lamb consumption I have endured since living in Canada has made this even more apparent (such a first world problem for this little Aussie)! With lamb on my mind, I have decided to dedicate this post to the number one meat in my life. And since we’re on the topic of slow cooking, then I can’t turn down the opportunity to share with you my favourite slow cooked lamb shanks recipe.

Lamb shanks may be considered by some to be the off cuts you feed to the dog (my friend’s farmer mum is of this belief. It breaks my heart), but for any person of sound mind, shanks should be considered as some of the tastiest meat you can sink your teeth into! You just have to know how to cook them and that is sloooooowly! A quick pan fry is not going to do the trick here. You will end up with a very chewy and unsatisfying hunk of lamb that IS only worthy of a dog’s meal. The trick is to cover them up with liquids of your choice and put the stove on low and let them gently bubble away for hours on end.

I have tried a few different recipes for lamb shanks. And sometimes I feel like all slow cooked meat can end up tasting the same- meaty and delicious, but never as robust as what I may have been hoping for. However, my favourite lamb shank recipe allows the flavours to shine in addition to the meat itself. It is one that I cut out of some food magazine yonks ago, but after a quick google, I have managed to find it online. It goes by the name of Honey-Mustard Lamb Shanks and you can find it on Recipes Plus’ website (alongside many other scrummy sounding recipes).

The beauty of slow cooking is that it is ridiculously easy and this recipe is no exception to that. I have found that it’s always beneficial to brown the meat first and seal it, before adding the rest of the ingredients. This shank recipe calls for that, once the meat has been coated with a dusting of flour, salt and pepper. You are then required to put the meat aside and fry off onions, carrots and garlic. Feel free to add in some extra veg at this point too. You can never go wrong with some celery in there as well. Once the veg has softened, the recipe calls for the addition of honey, mustard and thyme, which is then deglazed with white wine (yeh I know…you would think red wine with red meat, but trust me, the white wine is the better choice for this recipe). Before you put the lid on you need to top the whole thing up with water to ensure the meat is covered. Or, for a little bit of extra flavour, add half water and half stock, especially if you have homemade boyfriend stock like me!

The size of your shanks will determine the cooking time. I have always been of the opinion, the longer the better. You want to literally see the meat fall off the bone when you lift it from the pot. LITERALLY! This recipe advises 3 hours of cooking, but in my opinion it will more like 5+. A squirt of lemon upon serving will help cut through some of the richness.

Voila! After 5 or so hours you will have some of the best tasting, in my opinion, THE BEST tasting lamb shanks! Honey-mustard is a well known favourite flavour combo and works a treat with the richness of the lamb and the hint of thyme only adds to this mouth-watering dish. I recommend serving the shanks with some kind of mash to absorb all those meaty juices.  Potato, sweet potato or polenta- the choice of mash is up to you! A serve of greenery like green beans will also add some freshness to this hearty dish. Serve it up for your carnivorous boyfriend/husband/partner and you’ll have them speaking your praises for days.

http://recipes-plus.com/recipe/honey-mustard-lamb-shanks-26221

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Tofin-oh so good!!

If you have read last week’s post then you already know that I am head over heels in love with Tofino. If you haven’t read last week’s post, then you now know I am head over heels in love with Tofino! The boyfriend and I spent four days camping on The Island over the recent Labour Day long weekend and had the most incredible time. Not only does the town at the end of the road offer an abundance of REAL beaches (ones with actual sand and surf), it also offers an abundance of restaurants and great eats, essentially a foodie’s dream destination.

Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or a good old fashioned carnivore, Tofino has something for you. Located pretty much as far west as you can go in Canada, it has direct access to the Pacific Ocean and all the salty critters that call the ocean home. It is also a town that prides itself on sustainability, which is reflected in the locally sourced seasonal produce that most restaurants feature in their menus. Fair to say I did a reasonable amount of googling “Tofino’s must eats” and was astounded by the variety and abundance of places this little slice of coastal paradise has on offer. Like I said, something for everyone!

With four days up our sleeves we figured it was plenty of time to gorge ourselves and experience Tofino’s entire food scene. Sigh, little did we know! I underestimated how many cafes, restaurants, food trucks etc etc etc there really were. Nonetheless I am still very proud of our efforts (my Tofino food coma spoke for itself). Due to the variety of eateries, there is no possible way to compare and rate the places we ate at, instead I am just going to give you my little debrief on each. Below, listed in no particular order, are some of my Tofino food highlights.

1. Wolf in the Fog- I have already gone into great detail on why these guys are a must eat in Tofino in my previous post No Foggy Doubts about Wolf in the Fog. Push the boat out, open up the wallet and treat yo self! This place is rated number 48 on Canada’s Top 100 Restaurants for a reason! Have a read of the previous post for the full review.

2. Tacofino Tofino– The original and the best! These guys started whipping up tacos in their truck at the back of a surf shop before it expanded all over Vancouver. Their focus is creating and serving food with that well known BC “West Coast is best coast” vibe. The flavours represent the produce that is available to the region, not necessarily representative of a traditional Mexican taco. This place was so good we went back for seconds and was well worth the long weekend queues. Serving up burritos, tacos and gringas (imagine a grilled cheese crossed with taco, i.e, heaven!), as well as fresh fruit drinks and smoothies, you really can’t go wrong! I am yet to meet a person who has turned down a taco! We ordered fish tacos, tuna tacos, a crispy chicken burrito, a fish burrito and a chicken and a pulled pork gringa, as well as a choc-banana smoothie to wash it all down. This was over two seatings! I can put a lot of food away, but this was A LOT of food. Everything was cooked fresh and the taste reflected that. The flavours exploded in my mouth and with a dollop of the provided Valentina hot sauce I was able to adjust the heat to my liking. Hot! My top recommendation- the tuna taco! But make sure you try a gringa too. As a cheese lover I was never going to be able to resist.

3. Wildside Grill– now if you ventured to the back of the car park to find Tacofino, then you would have had to have strolled past this gem of a food truck. Wildside Grill are located just a hop, skip and a jump from Tacofino, so if you haven’t gorged yourself on tacos and burritos, then fill yourself up with with a serving of this grill’s finest fish and chips. Otherwise make sure you return the following day, avoid the temptation of yet another tuna taco and visit Wildside Grill instead. This place serves, alongside some pretty epic sounding burgers and sandwiches, some of the best fish and chips I have ever eaten. Possibly the best ever. Coming from an island renowned for its seafood, that is a HUGE call! The fish is determined by what has been caught fresh that day, but cod and salmon are typical choices. It comes panko crusted and deep fried to mouth watering, crispy perfection. It is of course served with chips that are proper chip thickness and not fries (in my opinion fish and fries should never appear together) and a small tub of house made apple coleslaw. My inside tip for this place is to add a cup of chowder on to your order. The fish and chips serving is generous and no other food is required for a full belly, but Wildside’s chowder is worth the uncomfortably full belly. It’s creamy, packed with fresh seafood and the perfect consistency- you’re able to stand your spoon upright in it! No trip to the beach is complete without fish and chips, just make sure it is a serve of Wildside Grill’s when you’re next in Tofino.

4. Tofino Brewing Company– not typically an establishment known for their food, although they do serve some tasty looking bar snacks, this brewing is still worthy of a shout out. They pride themselves on their handcrafted beers brewed with malted barley and pacific northwest hops. The brewery has a tasting room attached that offers great views of the behind the scenes action. You are able to fill up or purchase growlers and beer cans to go, as well as take a perch and experience a flight or simply order a pint of your favourite. We didn’t have a favourite yet, so the boyfriend and I went for a flight each, which entailed a tasting of 4 beers of your choice. I had their Tuff Session Ale, the Hoppin’ Cretin IPA, the Cosmic Wave Double IPA and their Kelp Stout. The Comic Wave was my favourite. It was a very strong beer with 9% alcohol, but had a nice crisp finish. Not normally a stout fan, I was intrigued by the company’s Kelp Stout which is brewed with local and sustainably sourced kelp. I found the coffee flavour a little over-whelming (note: I am NOT a coffee drinker, I can’t even stomach a tiramisu), however for those stout fans out there, I think you will be a fan. Great brews, great space, a must visit for every visiting beer lover.

In addition to these top picks, I also suggest paying a visit to Summit Bread Company (just around the corner from Tofino Brewing Company) for all your bread and pastry needs and Tofino Coffee Company for all your coffee needs (according to my boyfriend who is my coffee connoisseur). And even though this place is not actually in Tofino (they’re located in Ucluelet), they are a must eat. Raven Lady Ucluelet is a food truck serving up some of the freshest and creamiest freshly shucked oysters I have ever devoured. I am still dreaming of these half a dozen and wishing I grabbed a dozen. In addition to oysters they also offer other fresh seafood main options like burgers and seafood pasta. But go for the oysters! You’ll thank me for it!

Other options that would be worthy of your appetite, that I didn’t get a chance to visit, but by all means are rated highly are Shelter Restaurant for all your lunch and dinner needs. Just around the corner from Wolf in the Fog, these guys also pride themselves on their fresh and sustainable menus. RedCan Gourmet and Picnic Charcuterie are the places to hit up for all your picnic needs. They respectively have some great gourmet sandwiches and pizzas to take away and meat and cheese provisions. And I hear that Rhino Coffee House has the best donuts in town, quite possibly on the whole island. They also have a reputation for whipping up a pretty scrummy brekkie as well.

You can now see how four days is not enough to experience all the food that Tofino has on offer. Don’t be fooled by the size of this town, it is punching well above its weight! And even if you do manage to try everything once, you will always want to go back for more. Thank you so much for the experience Tofino. You, the town at the end of the road, perched on the edge of the island, were a highly memorable food experience that I have now had the pleasure of indulging in. I can’t say when our paths will cross again. But upon my departure from Canada, a trip back would not be complete without you appearing on the itinerary. Until then I shall continue to dream of oyster, fish and chips and tuna tacos!

No foggy doubts about Wolf in the Fog

Aaaaaahhhh long weekends, there is nothing quite like them. And over this past Labor Day long weekend the boyfriend and I decided to really make the most of it by taking an additional day of leave and turning it into a long long weekend. With summer coming to a sad end (where did the last three months go?!) we thought it best to make the most of, possibly the last days of beach weather and head to Tofino for the four days.

We had been itching to get to Tofino since arriving in this country almost two years ago. Everyone we speak to raves about the beaches and the food- two things I feel very passionate about. However getting to that side of Vancouver Island is quite the mission and rather expensive when you don’t own a car. On top of that you have to factor in the popularity of the place! Snagging yourself a campsite over any weekend in summer in one of the many campgrounds is near impossible! But when we made the decision that we were to pack up our bags and say au revoir to Canada in October, we knew we couldn’t leave without a trip to Tofino. So last weekend we took the four days to soak in all the place has on offer and even though I suffered from a severe food coma and the bank balance may have suffered too, there are no regrets! I now understand what all the fuss is about!

Now as I mentioned Tofino has quite the reputation for good food. Most of it is advertised as fresh, foraged and locally sourced. There is no sign of a McDonalds or KFC anywhere around there and that in itself is amazingly refreshing. I mean why would you bother with a Big Mac when you can get a serve of freshly caught fish and chips?! Besides the popular grab and go options like the takeaway seafood you’d find at Wildside Grill or the tasty tacos you can order at Tacofino, Tofino also has some amazing restaurants. One of them, perched over a surf shop (typical Tofino style), in a very unassuming spot opposite the fisherman’s wharf, happens to be ranked as the 48th best restaurant in all of Canada. It was also the destination of our Saturday night date night and is now my new favourite restaurant. If you haven’t figured it out by now (the title of the post should be a big enough hint) my latest restaurant love is Wolf in the Fog.

Being isolated from the hustle and bustle of “the big smoke” and established literally at the end of the road, meant that I had never heard of Wolf in the Fog until recently. Its reputation had not made it’s way across to my shores. Thankfully the boyfriend’s work colleague had mentioned it as a must eat for any foodie venturing to that side of “The Island” (we have already sent her a thank you note). And thankfully she gave us a heads up on how popular the restaurant is, as weekend bookings for this summer hot spot are hard to come by. Even booking a month in advance we were left with only early or late dinner reservation time slots. With popularity like that you know you are on to a winner!

Upon arrival we were greeted with a very friendly, well presented, but casual front of house staff member who showed us to our table on the upper level of the two-storey restaurant. The walled staircase opened up into a large, airy, open space adorned with chic touches that alluded to the class of a high end restaurant, but because of the more relaxed vibe of the wait staff and the surf town feel of the place, Wolf in the Fog remained unpretentious in its presentation.

The menu was broken down into starter dishes, smaller in portion size at the top of the menu and progressively getting larger, as well as mains for one and plates for two. As we were only going to be dining here the once, for the foreseeable future anyhow, we decided to allow our eyes to be bigger than our bellies and ordered possibly one or two dishes too many from the menu, all of which we shared. In addition to the food, Wolf in the Fog also has an extensive wine menu consisting of mainly BC wines, many from the Okanagan region. We splashed out on a very lush bottle of rosé from Pender Island which complimented our food and the balmy Saturday evening perfectly. I have also heard amazing things about their cocktails. Hailey Pasemko, the restaurant’s bar manager, is apparently some kind of cocktail genius. Unfortunately, but not regrettably, I was unable to squeeze in any cocktails after our feast (food over cocktails always!), but judging from other patrons’ beverages, Wolf in the Fog would be worth visiting just for an evening tipple.

From the small plate section of the menu we ordered a potato crusted oyster each, the pacific octopus and the hot smoked steelhead trout. In addition to the starters we also ordered the pork belly, which was one of the plates for two. Curious to know if this was too much food (if that is even a thing…?!) we inquired with our waitress who implied that it was a decent serving of food for two, but would be fine if we had arrived hungry. So with that encouragement we decided to add on some bread. Since the boyfriend started making his own, we have found it difficult to avoid ordering a starter of bread when dining out. Like I said- eyes were bigger than our bellies.

The food was staggered over our two hour seating and the impeccable timing of plates arriving at our table didn’t go unnoticed. Nothing worse than feeling rushed to finish a delicious meal and the staff at Wolf in the Fog made sure that this wasn’t the case. We were encouraged to soak up every last little bite.

The oysters and the bread arrived first. My initial thought was wow that is a lot of bread! Have I made a mistake here!? After the first bite though that thought quickly disappeared. Not only was the serving size very generous for two, it also consisted of not one nor two but three different varieties of bread; a foccacia, a chili bread and a sourdough all served with a side of roasted pepper dip. Fresh and spongy, all bread was devoured with ummms and aaaghs, however the chili bread was a clear favourite.  As for the oysters, never have I ever had something as unique and wonderful as them. Reflecting back I am regretful I didn’t order another serve, despite having to unbutton my pants at the end of the meal. The were unique in presentation, all wrapped in curling strands of stringed potato and served on top of a bed of smashed english peas and truffle mayo. Words cannot describe them, so just do yourselves a favour and go try them!

After a moment’s rest our next set of dishes arrived; the pacific octopus and the hot smoked steelhead trout. The octopus comprised of Lebanese flavours thanks to the black lentils, tahini, harissa paste and cucumber it was served with. It had the perfect amount of chew and the octopus worked beautifully with the middle eastern ingredients, especially the lentils which were ever so more-ish! As for the trout, it was piled on top of a couple of quinoa pancakes and adorned with a dollop of creme fraiche, roe and aji. This dish would be perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner! You wouldn’t have even known there was quinoa in the pancakes, they were so light and fluffy and absorbed the aji which altogether perfectly accompanied the rich flavours of the smoked fish and roe. Flawless! It made sharing this dish very difficult!

Last, but certainly not least, the pork belly for two arrived. At this point we were already well satisfied and our final dish could have probably been considered to be over-doing it, but by golly am I happy to have thrown caution to the wind and stuffed myself silly instead. The serving of pork was very generous and cooked to melt-in-your-mouth perfection. It was served with halved peaches, blackberries, fat cut wedges of baked sweet potato, long pepper and radicchio. This dish had everything. It had the richness of the pork belly, the sweetness of the fruit and the bitterness of the radicchio. No other dish I have tasted has experimented with such a diverse range of flavours and come out winning as much as this dish. All I can say is bravo Wolf in the Fog, in particular their head chef, Nicholas Nutting. Bravo!

Despite the popping of jean buttons, Wolf in the Fog was a slice of dining perfection. The quality of the food speaks for itself but flourishes with the creative touch of their head chef. Nicholas Nutting adds an elegant ruggedness to such simple and locally sourced ingredients that creates dishes that will forever leave a mark on my memory. Thank you Wolf in the Fog for an unforgettable experience and possibly the best dining experience I have had to date. It is a long way from Australia to Canada, but a trip back to your restaurant would be well worth it. Until then, may your dishes visit me in my dreams and may the memories of their taste never fade.

http://www.wolfinthefog.com/

Hungry Hangover Cures

I know for a fact that I am not the only one who has 1. suffered from a hangover and 2. suffered from a hungry hangover. In my book these two are the main categories of hangovers to exist. I feel like after a day, a night, sometimes even a morning (hold the judgement- champagne breakfasts are a thing!) of a few too many drinks, I am destined to head down the pathway of one of these hangover types. And as I am only getting older, these haunting hangovers only seem to be getting worse, even though my days of binge drinking are much fewer in comparison to those raucous university years.

Now a hangover for me often involves a dull thudding headache, some nausea and waking up with the feeling of there being a dead ferret inside of my mouth. For these hangovers I just want to gently sip on a powerade (the blue one of course! Only crazy people would chose any of the other flavours!), possibly nibble on a piece of vegemite toast to test the waters (for Australians no other spread is worthy of addressing the woes of a hangover) and throw down a couple of ibuprofen.

However, if I have struck gold and have woken with a hungry hangover instead, then the solution to curing me of its symptoms are much more vast. I will still wake up with the dead ferret in my mouth and possibly a dull thudding headache (less so than just a hangover), however, in the place of nausea there may be a rumbling stomach, at least an empty one that’s ready to devour alllll of the food! This is what happened to me on Sunday after waking up from a rather good time at Safe and Sound Music Festival last Saturday and hence inspired this post.

Waking up with a rumbling tummy as the result of a hungry hangover, for me, is something I need to address with urgency. From past experience, when left alone, this hungry hangover can quickly disintegrate into just a hangover and leave me feeling all nauseated and nibbling on a piece of toast. With haste, breakfast (let’s face it more like brunch, it’s at least an 11am start) is prepared at home. No waiting in cafe lines and for dishes to be prepared in a busy commercial kitchen for me. I need a quick fix! Luckily, at age 31, I am more than familiar with both kinds of hangovers so I, as the ever prepared adult, tend to stock the fridge the day before to ensure all hangover “medicine” is on hand.

My go to brekkie for this situation is good old eggs on toast. And thankfully these days we often have boyfriend bread on the weekend, which when toasted and buttered (real butter only please), compliments a couple of poached googlies beautifully. I am more than happy to have just the basic eggs on toast, but if there happens to be some crispy, salty, fried up bacon lying around or perhaps half an avocado, then I will happily add that to my plate of hungry hangover curing brunch. I suggest to serve the dish with a good swig of pineapple juice, as it always helps to wash down a plate of eggs and aids in the eradication of the dead ferret mouth.

With brunch demolished it’s normally only a couple of hours before the hungry hangover strikes again. On a normal sober day, a decent serve of eggs and bacon will keep me full for half a day, not so much on a hungry hangover day. Again, being an old hand at this, I am well prepared and often start brainstorming the menu for my afternoon meal upon completion of the morning one.

A typical hungry hangover lunchtime cure, are foods with potato. Roast potatoes, fries, truffled fries, wedges, potato cakes (an Aussie fish ‘n’ chip original) basically anything with potato that as been roasted or fried. A boiled potato is definitely the last thing my now ferret free mouth desires. I am happy enough to pop out to one of the local stores and grab something potato-ey from the freezer section. If I am in need of an urgent fix then luckily for me I have a McDonalds within walking distance who do reliable fries (obvs) and if I am looking for a burger to go with those fries (a REAL burger- sorry Maccas you don’t quite classify as a real burger in my books), then thankfully Caffe Barney (who also do a great brunch! Have a read of Patio Season for my review) and Bin 4 Burger Lounge are just a short seedy stroll up the road from me. I had Bin 4 Burger’s “Boss Hog” burger recently; a chorizo and pork pattie wedged within a fresh bun with panko crusted goat cheese, black bean salsa, lettuce, tomato, red onion, chipotle aioli and avocado lime cream. It was frickin’ delicious and I can therefore vouch for their REAL burgers.

By the late stage in my hungry hangover and after feasting on allllll of the carbs, I am normally looking for something a little fresher, something that isn’t going to make my belly feel like a lump of dough the next morning. Something perhaps a little zingy, a little spicy, something like Thai or Vietnamese! Again, living in South Granville I am spoilt for choice. Bob Likes Thai Food is a scrumptious option located on West Broadway that serves up some traditional and some more modern takes on much loved Thai favourites.  Their Pad Pik King Chicken is my absolute favourite! And then there is always Express Pho for your Vietnamese fix. I have previously blogged about their steaming, tasty pho (check out Pho-licious for a read), but their vermicelli noodle salads are the perfect solution to your fresh food cravings. They will kick that hungry hangover to the curb.

After a day of indulging in all of the must eats to soothe my hungry hangover symptoms, I am then able to doze peacefully to sleep and wake up the next morning feeling 1000000% better and ready to jump back on that health kick wagon! Luckily, as a grown, semi-functioning adult, my weekends are no longer consumed predominantly by boozing and recovery sessions. But when the hangover does strike from time to time, you can all rest assured that I have got that bad boy under control!

Special shout outs must also go to Bella Pizza who is another go-to hungry hangover cure or a splendid option for that late night salty snack before heading home. And to Memphis Blues BBQ for always having me sorted with the juiciest rib tips and the most melt in your mouth brisket. I couldn’t have left either of you off my hungry hangover post!

Jam it ALLLL in at Jamjar

If you have been following my posts for the last few weeks you may have started to notice a bit of a theme with them. There has been a sense of urgency and a determination to venture to as many iconic “must-eat” Vancouver places as possible. This is all because my time in Vancouver is wrapping up. I have just 7 weeks left to live in this wonderful city I currently call home, and although the idea of my time ending here and having to pack up shop is a bit of a sad one, it is also an exciting one, as new adventures are just on the horizon. Food Dunn Right gets to hit the road! So for these final weeks I will be aiming to cross off as many delicious treats and must eats off my list as possible. No regrets or empty stomachs! This week’s post is about one of those such places. It goes by the name of Jamjar.

Jamjar is an unpretentious Lebanese restaurant nestled in the heart of South Granville on West 11th St. It also has a second location on Commercial Drive, which I have not ventured to, but have been assured it’s just as tasty. Jamjar, along with pretty much all the restaurants within walking distance of my apartment, made it on to my must eat list quite some time ago. I am very proud to announce that since living in South Granville I have devoured a number of delectable dishes at most of my hood’s selection of restaurants and up until a few weeks ago Jamjar was just one of the remaining few left on the list. I have now crossed that baby off!

Catch ups with friends are the perfect excuse to go wining and dining.  And as my friend from home was visiting a few weeks ago (the same one I took on the brewery crawl. Check out Brewhall- a welcomed addition to the brew crawl to read all about it) I needed no further excuse to grab a table at Jamjar and to see why this neighbourhood favourite is always humming with customers.

Before proceeding, I must admit that I have been lying this whole time. I actually have been to Jamjar previously, but I could only half tick it off my list because I was only there for a Happy Hour tipple and nibble. They do a great Happy Hour between the hours of 4pm and 6pm each week day with specials on nibbles as well as drinks. The halloumi fries for $5 are a steal and an absolute must! Now that I’m thinking about it, being a cheese obsessed individual, I can’t believe I haven’t ventured back to this place sooner.

Jamjar’s dinner menu consists of both salads and hot and cold mezze plates. They pride themselves on sourcing fresh and local ingredients, free from preservatives and when an ingredient can’t be sourced locally, they have been known to fly spices in from Lebanon to ensure the flavours of their menu are not compromised and remain truly authentic. Talk about dedication to the cause! The menu is designed to share with the idea being that the sharing of food is a way for people to connect- an ethos of Lebanese culture. I am a HUGE fan of a shared menu, as I get to maximise the taste without maximising the cost or risk stretching my stomach to the point of explosion.

With guidance from our polite and friendly, yet somewhat inattentive waiter (our order was a little slow to be taken and the bottle of wine that we ordered seemed to take yonks to arrive at our table, despite being only one of three tables left in the restaurant) we ordered a variety of dishes off all sections of the menu, including some of their recommended “must eats”.  Between the three of us we were informed that about five dishes should be ample to satisfy our appetites, we got a little greedy (typical! Eyes were bigger than our bellies!) and ordered six.

Each plate arrived as it was ready and to ease our rumbling tummies we took advantage of the food as soon as it was served. It was only within minutes that all six of our dishes were laid in front of us. We ordered the seasoned olives, a hummus trio, the chickpea lentil artichoke salad, shish tawouk, riyash and makali. The wonderful thing about Lebanese food is that although each of these dishes could have been enjoyed on its own, they also blended so well together.

The seasoned olives were ridiculously more-ish, none of us could resist popping just another one into our mouths. The hummus trio consisted of three different types of hummus. One of them is always the original hummus and the other two are seasonal flavours which change on a regular basis. That evening we were served a bright pink beetroot hummus and a very black activated charcoal berry flavoured hummus. All three were delectable when smeared across the freshly baked pita bread it was served with, however the berry flavour was most unique. It definitely had a sweet finish to it, but paired so well with the savoury dishes, just like a chutney or quince paste might in many savoury European dishes.

The warm mezze dishes didn’t fail to disappoint either. The shish tawouk, which are yoghurt marinated chicken skewers, were perfectly cooked and seasoned and the makali, which is deep fried cauliflower tossed in pomegranate molasses, were also full of flavour but perhaps a lacking the crunch normally associated with something that has been deep fried. It was delicious and lovingly devoured nonetheless. The star of the warm mezzes was of course the riyash, which are lamb popsicles rubbed with cinnamon, tumeric and Greek yoghurt. This lamb-deprived Australian was always bound to fall in love with the lamb dish (especially when the Lebanese flavours compliment this meat so well!). The only problem- I wish there were ten more! The chickpea lentil artichoke salad was the perfect dish to freshen up the meal and served as a nice reminder that Lebanese food is much more than seasoned meat, hummus and pita.

Although I may only have several more weeks left in Vancouver and I have crossed Jamjar off my list (a list which still seems to be growing larger than what I can keep up with), I hope that I can venture back for another trip or two. This place does what they do so well! It really is some of the most authentic and delectable Lebanese flavours I have had in awhile, but with a menu that allows a creative and modern take on this cuisine. Thanks for the eats Jamjar, being so close to home hopefully I’ll be back, even if it is just for a Happy Hour serve of halloumi fries!

https://www.jam-jar.ca

Food Dunn Ritchie

A Guest Blog by Jaime Ritchie, aka the cake baking sister in law/founder of Jaime’s Cupcakery

As soon as I saw that my brother (likes to eat, but a foodie? You decide) had done a guest blog for Food Dunn Right (FDR), I knew I had to be involved.
Jess has been in a relationship with my little brother for awhile now, but for all but a week of that, they’ve been living abroad. So like you, I know Jess through her love of food, and this blog.

In November, just a couple of months from now (yes the countdown is definitely on!), Jess and the bread baking little brother will be coming home for some NZ weddings (Jess is helping me fly a wedding cake from Auckland to Christchurch….your prayers are appreciated), and in amongst that, I’ll be endeavouring to entice my foodie sister in law back to Auckland by sharing with her everything this city has to offer.

So here’s the dilemma, when someone has travelled ALL OVER the world, where do you take them to eat in Auckland? Jess has lived here after all and considers it her second homeland, therefore she knows many of the great places. After thinking of my faves and painfully ruling out a few, I feel like I have a very convincing day planned out. Note – time and expense may prohibit some of these but it’s my ultimate plan so I’m being optimistic!

Brunch. Yes. This day of eating MUST start with brunch. Jess has a well documented love affair with it so I’m all in. I thought of Depot (a personal fave for anytime of day) or The Fed (poutine in Auckland!?) but I’m going with Odettes. It should be noted Odettes is not a cheap brunch option, but it is undeniably good. From matcha brioche with ice cream to crepes with wild mushrooms, it has something for everyone, AND Bloody Marys, no clam juice though, sorry Jess.

Lunch. Fine, late lunch. Low Brow in Queens Rise is a new place by the very clever owners of Culprit. They are famous for their (free range, organic) fried chicken, white bread tacos and smoked brisket. They are the REAL DEAL team. They are also pretty inexpensive, and licensed. Bonus. Ideally a day of eating is best served with adult beverages.

Obviously we’ll need to walk this off a bit, so we’ll take a stroll up Queen St and through Myers Park to Cocos Cantina. Cocos is an Auckland institution and I know Jess has been there because that’s where I met her for the first time. When Jess told my brother to order the polenta chips and spaghetti and meatballs (and dear reader, he did!) I knew I liked her already (she missed the parfait but I was in a forgiving mood). Cocos has a great vibe and their happy hour prosecco in champagne saucers is an unmissable Auckland experience. This may just have to be a refresher stop, but if we can squeeze in a happy hour nibble, without the risk of spoiling our appetites for dinner, then you can’t go wrong with any of their antipasti/primi dishes (oh and of course don’t forget about the polenta chips).

Next up, Cassia. In a basement in Fort Lane, this modern Indian restaurant is moody, noisy, dimly lit and smells like heaven. They are famous for gin cocktails, and not to be missed are two of my favourite dishes; delicate fried aubergine and spiced lamb cutlets. Although you could safely order anything off their menu (I pretty much have) and you would be very, very happy. Cassia has been awarded “Best Restaurant” twice and for very obvious reasons. Go! You will not be disappointed.

We’re not done, it’s only 10! Next up, Karaoke. There are some great places on Queens St, but very close by is Luxury Karaoke. With spacious, private rooms and all the Prince and Queen you could wish for 1 hour is never enough, so book 2!

So there you have it! An incredible Auckland day around the city, but filled with cuisine from around the world. Sure I missed the Waterfront and the Sky Tower and all the delights Ponsonby has to offer, but I think I’ll have her wanting to move back here….I’ll keep you posted.
Plus, cakes?

Jaime Ritchie

https://www.facebook.com/jaimescupcakery/
https://www.instagram.com/jaimescupcakery

Brewhall- a welcomed addition to the brew crawl

I have been living in Vancouver for just over a year now. The time has passed so quickly and although I feel like I have been conscientiously making the most of what Van has on offer, there are still plenty of activities to partake in and a whole list of must eats to cross off. And what perfect way to get crossing than to share the experience with a friend?!

Last week I had the great honour of having one of my dearest friends from home come and stay. She was a “Canadian virgin” and decided that my living here was the ideal excuse to pop her cherry. She currently has a brother living in Banff, so although he provided a valid reason to travel to the land of maple syrup, I like to think I was the main motivator.

Now when a friend visits from home you want to show off your new home town and in the process hope to convince them to move there too (despite their boyfriend, house and job all being based back home). I like to show a place off by treating my friends to a day of eating and drinking. Because Vancouver offers up so many culinary delights, it makes choosing just one or two places rather difficult. However, with a city full of breweries known for creating some of the best craft beer about, then a brewery crawl is an obvious choice. A crawl creates a great opportunity for multiple locations to be visited (why limit yourself to just one or two?!) and for a friend who shares a similar love of beer, then a brewery crawl stands a good chance of convincing her that Vancouver is worth the move (houses can be sold and new boyfriends can be found, right?!).

Now I know this is a food blog and technically beer is not a food. However, beer does have enough carbs in it that you could classify it as a meal. Right?!  Either way, most of the breweries around are well educated on how well beer goes with food and therefore many have savoury snacks on offer.

Now I am ashamed to admit that I have only been to a small handful of Vancouver’s breweries, all of which are located in the Mount Pleasant vicinity. I still plan on venturing to East Van to check out that hood’s offerings, but for last weekend’s crawl I decided to keep it a little closer to home and properly cross the outstanding breweries off my list.

The first to kick us off on our afternoon of sipping, tasting, glugging and skulling was the new kid on the block; Brewhall. Brewhall has only been opened for the last few weeks and already seems to be a hit among the locals. This was my second visit in the few short weeks since opening and obviously a new favourite of mine, hence round two.

The space is huge, bright and airy, and although a little quieter last weekend (we were there just after brunch) it is normally humming with beer drinking activity. The place prides itself on offering a community like venue where people can come together (of all ages), drink beer, have a bite to eat and play some games (yes there are board games, arcade games and even some outdoor games). Something for everyone and for all seasons.

We grabbed ourselves a table outside in the dappled sunlight with beers in tow. The beer menu is extensive and has many of Brewhall’s own creations, as well as beers created through collaborations with other breweries, such as, Parallel 49 and Twin Sails. So if you are after a big juicy IPA or bright sour or just ya good old lager, then Brewhall has something for you. I have to admit, I am normally an IPA fan and wouldn’t have hesitated to order a big glass of the It takes two to mango, passionfruit mango milkshake IPA, but as my belly was rather full from a decadent brunch at Fable Diner (worth every bite), I decided to stick to a less hearty beer and ordered a pilsner. It was crisp and refreshing, the perfect way to start an afternoon of day drinking.

Brewhall has a food menu consisting of both shareables and meals designed to compliment its main offering, beer. Again, due to the recently consumed brunch at Fable (seriously please go), there was no food ordered this time round. But I can vouch for the spicy Korean chicken wings thanks to a previous visit. The food is simple, delicious and created with fresh ingredients, however I would recommend coming for the beer, staying for the beer and grabbing a bite if your drunken taste buds so desire.

Our second stop on the crawl was Faculty Brewing Co. It’s a conveniently short stumble up the road from Brewhall and provides a more intimate setting for the tasting of its beer. The brewery use to be an old bike shop and still has somewhat of that feel about it, stripped back to a simple and unassuming space. The tasting room is located within the brewery, so while you sip your drink of choice, you’re surrounded by the beer tanks it was poured from. No food menu is available at this brewery, it is all about the beers, however, I did spot a handful of patrons munching on twiggy sticks (a cured meat stick like jerky), which are available at the front counter as a little meaty morsel to appreciate your beer with.

With my full belly still not quite ready to tackle an IPA, I ordered the Citra Pale Ale. With 40 IBUs and an alcohol percentage of 5%, it was a delight for the taste buds. It had a citrus flavour with a tropical touch, a perfect beverage on a scorching Sunday. The brewery also offer growler fills and keg sales. It doesn’t get more Vancouver than riding your bike to your local favourite brewery to have your growler filled with your craft beer of choice does it now?! Needless to say, Faculty Brewing Co I will be back for your beer and a twiggy stick!

Brewery number three on the hit list was R&B Brewing Co. Again, just a short stroll from brewery number two, really emphasising the crawl in brewery crawl. The short strolls were not really assisting with my brunch digestion, however by this mid afternoon stage I was ready to tackle an IPA.  And low and behold R&B shot to my new favourite brewery as I rediscovered my number one beer from last year, Shake Your Fruity milkshake IPA.

The whole summer thus far I have spent wandering from liquor store to bottle-o to off-licence shop looking for the IPA that rocked my socks off last summer. I knew that it had fruity, shake and milkshake in its title and that I must have looked like a helluva rookie enquiring at each store I wandered into. So you can imagine my absolute delight when I wandered into the brewery, which has more of a cool friend’s lounge room vibe about it, than a brewery, to discover it is in fact the home to my fav IPA.  They sell this baby on tap, but unfortunately it is no longer being bottled, hence its departure from the liquor store fridge. Looks like I have found myself a new local and thankfully it is a welcoming, homely place where I can park up with a glass of my favourite and tuck into one of their many scrumptious looking pizzas (yes they do food too! I’m planning on checking out their $18 Sunday beer dinner before the end of summer).

Lucky last for the day was another relatively new addition to the brewery scene, Electric Bicycle. Last, but certainly not the least, Electric Bicycle offers an eccentric take on a brewery, with its bright coloured walls, grooving music and theme park mirrors plastered outside the loos.  You would be forgiven for thinking you’re at a carnival and not a brewery, however, the first sip of one of their freshly poured beers will bring you back to reality. The brewery has their own beers on tap and I recommend their IPA, it’s all the things I fancy in a beer like fruity, hoppy and refreshing. These guys also do grilled sandwiches and from the rate at which they were being scoffed down by other patrons, I would say good ones too. As it is on the same street at R&B, it would be rather rude of you to not pop in for a beverage or five!

That concluded the Sunday’s stumble through many a varied, but many adored brewery. Can another one of my friends please come and visit so I have an excuse for another crawl?! Oh please like I need an excuse! Thanks for the hop hopping Vancouver and for those breweries that I missed, don’t worry, you are next on my list. East Van watch out!

http://brewhall.com/index

https://www.facultybrewing.com/

https://www.randbbrewing.com/

http://www.electricbicyclebrewing.com/

Oodles of Zoodles

It has been three months since I posted “Summer Bod Pending…” which marked the start of my health kick. The aim was to cut down on the carbs during the working week and implement more of the green leafy stuff to improve my overall diet. And let’s face it, in turn, I was hoping this would result in me proudly strutting a perfect beach bod down at Wreck, Vancouver’s infamous clothing optional beach. Cue any classic scene from Baywatch with a young, babing Pamela Anderson jogging along the sandy shores of the TV show’s fictional LA beach setting. In reality though I do not possess the genetic make up of dear Pammy, nor the cosmetic enhancements, but I can say that the low carb thing is working out. I may not have shred multiple dress sizes, but I have been feeling more energetic and body positive. And much to my amazement, the reduction of carbs has been relatively pain free to implement.

I am only responsible for two dinners a week, as my boyfriend plans the other two. I know that only adds up to four days a week, however Friday tends to be a cheat day (the end of the working week should be celebrated in style), or any leftovers get put to good use. Each week we aim to create something new and exciting for each other to maintain the low-carb hype and stop us from falling off the bandwagon. And thanks to the wonderful powers of the internet, researching new recipes has been a breeze. A big shout out goes to websites such as Buzz Feed, All Recipes and Delish. Their sites have been clicked on numerous times over the past few months due to their delicious low-carb dinner ideas, recipes that go beyond your classic chicken salad. There are only so many times a girl can eat chicken salad in any one week, even month for that fact.

Now I am a BIG Italian cuisine fan. And of course Italian food is notorious for its carbs. All that bread, pizza and of course pasta. I know nothing beats the real thing, I am certainly not arguing that, but when a hankering for a midweek Italian fix beckons, then some alternative takes on their traditional dishes are required to keep it low-carb friendly. I have tried the cauliflower pizza bases, homemade by my lovely dedicated paleo preaching friends. They don’t come anywhere close to the real thing! However, I can vouch for zoodles, otherwise known as courgetti. Basically it is zucchini cut into fine strips or spiralized (if you have one of those fancy gadgets), mimicking the shape of spaghetti. It is not as wonderful as pasta, in all its many shapes and forms it comes in, but for the carbs I am saving, a great veggie alternative to the Italian classic.

I have known of the existence of zoodles well before this health kick started. I have a vegan friend who has made me a scrummy cashew pesto zoodle dish in the past for example, however due to my undying love of pasta I have never considered making it myself until recently, when one of these unforeseen creamy pasta cravings kicked in. My online research led me to Café Delites’ blog page and her recipe post; Creamy Sun Dried Tomato + Parmesan Chicken Zoodles. The recipe for the sauce in this dish is very similar to creamy pasta sauces I have made in the past, so essentially the only real difference was swapping the pasta for zoodles.

I don’t have a spiralizer so making the zoodles was a little time consuming, but other than that the recipe is very straight forward. I prepped my zoodles first. The recipe called for two large zucchinis for a serving of six. I used three medium to large ones and found that it served closer to four. The other changes I made were to the sun-dried tomatoes. The recipe calls for two different kinds; fresh semi-dried tomatoes, the kind that you would find in the deli section of your supermarket and jarred sun-dried tomatoes. I didn’t worry about the semi-dried variety and just used a whole jar of sun-dried instead. I also limited the time the zoodles spent simmering in the sauce to 3-5 minutes, as I can’t stand a soggy zoodle! Just like pasta, a zoodle should not be cooked past al dente!

The meal was a hit! The texture of the al dente zoodles was similar to pasta and just like spaghetti, it absorbed the flavour of the creamy sauce. The sauce thickened nicely and its creaminess kicked my cravings to the curb. The boyfriend loved it, especially for someone who was highly skeptical of replacing pasta with a vegetable. I am happy to report it is now his favourite low-carb dish (most probably thanks to its very moreish creamy sauce).

If you are looking for a “cheat meal” without too much cheating, or a recipe to disguise vegetables, especially for those fussy eaters, than get your hands on some zucchinis and give this creamy zoodle recipe a try! Due to much insistence from its new number one fan (my boyfriend), I have already whipped this dinner up a second time and I am certain there will be a third, fourth, fifth etc etc etc! Thanks Café Delites for the recipe and for keeping my creamy pasta cravings at bay!

https://cafedelites.com/creamy-sun-dried-tomato-parmesan-chicken-zoodles/

So much more than fruit and bubbles

Living in a city crammed with restaurants (a food lover’s heaven), and with new places continuously popping up, makes it difficult to keep on top of one’s must-eat list. I find that there are only so many meals in a day and only so many days in a week, that keeping up with my ever growing list is impossible. But hey, is this really a complaint?! Oh woe is me living in a city where the streets are lined with endless choices of brunch, lunch, dinner and dessert. If only my bank balance could keep up! Thankfully, for my summer bod’s sake it can’t and so my list continues to grow.

I was, however, able to tick one place off my list last Friday night that I had written down quite some time ago. I am a little embarrassed to say that it is only a short walking distance from my abode and considering how much time has passed since this neighbourhood gem first caught my eye, there really is no excuse for not venturing through its doors sooner. And now that I have, well, there is no turning back.

As per most Fridays afternoons, I was in the mood for a tipple to celebrate the end of the working week. Last Friday so happened to be a glorious sunny day, which only increased my need to quench my thirst. The boyfriend came to meet me down town after spending the day working from home (in the spare moments he had between baking loaves of boyfriend bread- the real reason he works from home on Fridays).  We started our Friday drinks off at Dublin Calling to review their advertised rooftop patio and then made our way along Granville Street in the direction of our apartment, hopping from bar to bar.

As we crossed the bridge home, not quite ready to stumble through the front door while the sun was still shining, I realised that we were about to pass by that very bar I had written down on my list all those months ago. There was no excuse this time! It was pay day, therefore I was flush with cash, we were on a bar crawl, this place served alcoholic beverages and it was still a few hours from 10pm (seemingly my bed time even on weekends….oh that thirties life). The time had come to cross Grapes and Soda off my list.

Grapes and Soda, located at 1541 West 6th Avenue, opened in the middle of 2015 and judging by its success, has never looked back. It is by the same culinary geniuses as its neighbour and more highly acclaimed sister restaurant, Farmer’s Apprentice, and prides itself on being Vancouver’s first natural wine bar. This is reflected in its thoughtfully chosen wine menu with bottles from mainly abroad with only a small selection of Canadian wineries (mostly due to limited natural wine makers in Canada). The drinks in this intimate establishment are the centre of its creation, and the food has been designed to complement the drinking. Like its sister restaurant, the focus is still to produce a menu that is seasonally inspired with the same farm to table ethos, however with smaller plates in mind.

Upon entering the bar, I realised how intimate the place was. Its a tiny 25 seat space with an open kitchen design, which gives the whole bar a very cozy and casual feel, almost like stepping into a friend’s trendy apartment where you’re bunked up on the couch but still able to suss out what’s going down in the kitchen. The dimmed lighting only adding to the intimate ambiance.

My boyfriend and I were seated in a corner table and took advantage of the cozy atmosphere and snuggled up. Our table provided great viewing of the bar, which in itself could have entertained me for hours. The bar staff appeared perfectly at ease in their work space, concocting an assortment of beverages as orders flowed in. We had planned on just ordering a drink or potentially two, until the menus were handed to us by our friendly, yet professional waiter. You should all be well aware of my love for cheese by now and so when a girl like me, who believes cheese is always the exception, is presented with a menu of cheese boards, charcuterie boards and cheese and charcuterie boards, then how is she to resist?! In addition to the cocktail of the day (my foggy memory can’t quite remember what it was other than being gin based) and a BC IPA (the boyfriend’s favourite), we ordered a mixed board of cheese and charcuterie, as well as the house special of the day; pork ribs with Italian parsley

Our drinks were, as you would expect, served first. Mine arrived served in a vintage glass bottle, similar to the old coca cola ones. Very quaint! We inquired and found out that the cocktail of the day gets pre-made in this fashion, perfectly playing up to the soda in Grapes and Soda. Despite not remembering the exact ingredients of this drink, I can vouch for it being delicious and refreshing on the balmy summer evening that was last Friday.

The food arrived in a very timely manner and I felt it was on the more generous size of cheese boards in comparison to others I’ve ordered in the past. It came with four different types of cheese, two cured meats, terrine, pickles, mustard, bread, crackers and my hands down favourite element, a pâté. Pâté has been a favourite of mine since I was a wee girl and a close second to my love of cheese. The four cheeses served on the board were all delicious, each one offering something different from the other, whether that be a smooth texture versus a firm cheese or a nutty flavour instead of rich creamy taste. However, the pâté won me over. I have found it very difficult to source delicious pâté in Vancouver and have often wondered at my ability of making it myself. Now that I know Grapes and Soda is selling some of the finest stuff about town, I imagine I’ll be in for a little pâté fix every other week. It is just down the road after all…The pork ribs were succulent and fell straight off the bone into my mouth. The flavour was great, can’t fault them, but they weren’t the pâté. Seriously pass me a bottle of this stuff and watch me devour it in one go!

Grapes and Soda is the ideal bar for a date night or the perfect little nook for catch ups over a bottle of their finest, whether that be wine or cocktails. All pretension is left at the door, this bar is just about good wine and cocktails and finding the perfect small plates that complement the beverages the bar prides itself on. Grapes and Soda expect me for regular visits, you are only a matter of blocks down the road and I feel like I have only scratched the surface. And I beg of you, please don’t ever run out of pâté!

http://www.grapesandsoda.ca/

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