Mmm Meaty Montreal

I would like to start this post with a special announcement. Montreal is now where my food-loving heart lies, sorry Vancouver! After spending four days in the French Canadian city last week, I fell in love with not only its charm and oh so European vibes, but with it’s delectable food scene.

The trip had been planned for a number of weeks. My Mum is currently visiting from Tasmania and had offered to fly me somewhere for a Christmas/birthday present. I chose Montreal, mainly to see see if the amazing food rumours were true and if the city could live up to it’s well regarded reputation. I also heard that it was a pretty chic place to visit, so that’s always a bonus. The boyfriend also tagged along and played a very helpful tour guide/porter. Some strong muscles never go astray when hauling luggage is involved. Plus he is my BFF (best food friend) and one should never venture to a new food city without their BFF.

Unlike Portland, I unfortunately didn’t have the chance to whip up a foodie map for Montreal. Damn my hectic work schedule cutting into my googling time! I did, however, have time for a quick power scroll through the must -eat lists plastered across the internet. It was enough to wing it. And wing it we did!

We stayed in the ever so dreamy suburb of Mile End, just a few short walking blocks from Saint Laurent and all that it has on offer. The infamous Fairmount Bagel and St-Viateur bagel shops were just a pleasant stroll away, as well as the highly recommended brunch spot, Fabergé, which we hit up on the first morning. For you brunch fans out there, I highly recommend their Belle Province waffles. I mean what is there not to love about bacon stuffed waffles topped with more bacon, maple syrup and blueberry compote?! Streets known for bar hopping, such as Rue Saint Denis were also only a couple of blocks from home, which suited us perfectly when the urge for a late night tipple arose. And when in Montreal, a late night tipple can often result in a late night poutine, which was definitely the case for us.

In the four days we had exploring the streets of my new favourite Canadian city, we managed to cover a lot of ground and consume a lot of calories. Each morning started off with coffee and tea on our gorgeous balcony attached to our accommodation, followed by brunch at a cafe of our choosing. Along with Fabergé, we also devoured some mouth watering brunches at Les Folies and Larry’s (the little sister to the well regarded brunch spot, Lawrence). Afternoon drinks were also accompanied by some nibbles at whatever establishment we happened to find ourselves. And dinner was devoured, normally at some raved about restaurant in close proximity to home, but only after we indulged in a cheese board back on our gorgeous balcony. It really was the stuff of a foodie’s dream holiday.

Out of all of the places we read about, all of those which made the various must-eat lists and out of the ones we got to try, one in particular holds a special place in my heart. It has a reputation that goes well beyond the borders of the city it calls home. So far west, that even people here in Vancouver know of its existence. It goes by the name of Schwartz’s Deli.

Outside of poutine, Montreal is known for its smoked meat and Schwartz’s is known to be the best joint in town offering up the goods. Schwartz’s was founded in Montreal in 1928 by a Reuben Schwartz, a Jewish immigrant from Romania. Ninety years on and the deli can still be found at the same establishment on Saint Laurent, a convenient hop, skip and jump from our Montreal abode.

Walking into Schwartz’s is like taking a step back in time. It has that old school diner feel about it, with its white tiled walls adorned with mirrors and framed photos of celebrities who have had the honour of devouring some of Schwartz’s smoked meat. The store is the definition of juxtaposition, nestled in among some of Montreal’s trendiest bars and hipster boutique stores.

The menu is a simple one with both take out and sit in options. If you decide to sit in you have the choice of sandwiches, steaks and sides. Sandwiches are your only take out option, along with sides such as french fries. You can also purchase meat to go if you prefer a DIY sandwich. Priced per the pound, you have the choice of everything from the traditional smoked meat, to a smoked spiced whole turkey.

Shwartz’s Deli was the final stop on our Montreal foodie crawl and we may have just saved the best for last. We opted for a take out sandwich as the clock was ticking and we were soon due at the airport. All three of us ordered the traditional smoked meat sandwich, the stuff that the deli was so well renowned for.

The sandwich was more meat than bread, but lets face it, that’s what you’re after when the meat is as good as Schwartz’s. Half a pound of meat was wedged between two slices of sandwich bread that were spread with mustard. The bread was just bread, but the meat was heaven sent! 100% the star of the show. It was succulent, juicy, melt in your mouth perfection. It barely needed chewing. Schwartz’s also nailed the balance of flavours between the meat and the mustard, which one would hope so after being in the business for nearly a century. After devouring our sandwiches in moments, it was quite apparent why both tourists and locals alike queue the street outside Schwartz’s Deli for a taste of their specialty smoked meat.

Four days was never going to be enough to conquer a food city like Montreal, but upon reflection I can safely say that I am proud of our efforts. Montreal sure knows the way to my heart and it’s definitely through my belly. Thanks for the taster, you beautiful city and a special shout out to Schwartz’s Deli, a real highlight of the trip and 100% worth the hype. I am already planning trip number two.

https://schwartzsdeli.com

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One potato, two potato, three potato, four!

May has now passed and June 1st has been marked off the calendar, therefore it’s technically summer right?! I know the weather over the last couple of days may have us thinking otherwise, but the start of June, for most northern hemisphere countries, marks the start of summer. And even if Mother Nature isn’t 100% co-operating (I mean snow in June for those poor Newfoundlanders, c’mon Mother Nature), I have decided to kick off June with some summer activities nonetheless.

Nothing screams summer like BBQs at the beach. So it seemed very fitting that last weekend, the first weekend of June, i.e summer (don’t argue with me people, I’m not waiting until June 21st), we headed down to Kits Beach with a couple of friends for a picnic BBQ and to soak in the sun. Our friends have one of those portable BBQs (they are amazing), which in previous trips to Kits I have been very envious of. Wafts of BBQ meat cooking while you sit and eat leftover salad is enough to give any foodie some serious FOMO.

As per any group picnic, we were each designated something to bring along. One couple were in charge of burgers and buns, another sausages (more commonly referred to as snags in Australia for all you North American readers) and condiments. We opted to bring a salad and some chicken wings.

For all the carnivores, the meat is usually the star of a BBQ show. Being appointed with the responsibility of a salad can often be a daunting one if you want to compete alongside the meat. A good old standard garden salad is often a go to for many, it works nicely to freshen up a meaty plate and is easy to throw together. I, however, have earned a reputation for myself for a mighty fine potato salad, so that tends to be my go-to BBQ salad. And trust me, it does well at rivaling the meaty alternatives.

Now potato salads can come in all different shapes and sizes- just like bras..?! Some people like to throw in some celery, others prefer a pickle. Many add dill for some extra flavouring and I have also witnessed potato salads dusted with a little paprika. My take on potato salad uses none of the above and admittedly, I haven’t seen one exactly like it. But in my non-biased, expert foodie opinion, I think it’s the best one out there! And I have had many a potato loving consumer who has agreed with me!

Now I don’t exactly follow a recipe for this creamy number. Of course there are a list of ingredients and a few steps to follow but no real quantities. I normally cook up as many potatoes as what I think will be required and then just base the rest of the ingredient quantities around that. This salad was a favourite of mine growing up. Mum use to make it fairly regularly for BBQs etc and I used to happily stand alongside her and be her sous chef. Therefore the recipe has been ingrained in my memory over the years. No need for a written copy!

The obvious ingredient is potato of course. In terms of what potato you use, that’s up to you. Little/baby/new potatoes boil up nicely and are a perfect bite size for this salad when cut in half. I also think they are the most delicious option. But if you can’t get your hands on any of the little ones, then any good boiling potato will do.

In addition to your potatoes, you want to chuck a couple of eggs into your pot of boiling water. I normally do about six eggs for a salad to feed about six people. Boiling both at once is just plain old efficient common sense. You can’t “over boil” an egg and it also makes for less dishes. But be careful not to over cook your potatoes. You’re looking to avoid a mashed potato salad.

While they are boiling away, you want to fry off a few rashes of chopped bacon . You can get fancy with the bacon if you want with some of the maple cured stuff or smoked bacon, but I tend to just stick to the standard variety. Once everything is cooked, peel your eggs, chop ’em and throw it all together in a large salad bowl.

For your dressing you will want a couple of hefty tablespoons of full fat mayo, as well as full fat sour cream (don’t waste your time compromising the flavour of this creamy number with the low fat stuff). You will need a generous dollop of seeded mustard and a bunch of chopped spring onions/green onions/scallions/whatever you want to call them. Season with salt and pepper as necessary. I just keeping add a bit of everything until I’m happy with the end flavour. It’s all about how you want it to taste!

I recommend pouring the dressing over the cooked ingredients while they are still warm, it helps to evenly coat the salad. Then I like to finish off with an extra sprinkling of salt and pepper and some more green onions for decoration.

So there you have it, my take on potato salad, inspired by my Mumma’s and one of the best you will ever taste. So if you have an upcoming BBQ and you have been delegated the salad option, do yourself and all your guests a favour, whip up this creamy delectable number! The leftovers taste even better the next day!

Backcountry Cooking

Two weekends ago here in BC, we celebrated Victoria Day with a long weekend. For the boyfriend and I, a long weekend means a weekend away (you’ve got to make the most of an extra day off when you only get two weeks of paid holiday over here). And since May has bought an abundance of sunny weather our way, we decided to make the most of it and head off on a camping trip.

Canadians love camping, maybe even more so than Aussies. So you can bet that within British Columbia alone there are a tonne of camping options. I currently have a “must do” list piling up that I would love to conquer before my time is up in Canada. Due to the fact that we don’t have a car and wanted a budget friendly weekend away, the boyfriend and I assessed our camping options closer to home. We wanted something accessible by public transport. His work colleague had mentioned a kayaking trip you could do from Deep Cove and camp ashore. Knowing that we could easily get to Deep Shore via a couple of Translink buses, and that we’ve both had a crack at kayaking in the past, we excitedly locked it in and booked a double kayak for the entire long weekend.

Now, when going on an adventure like this, one must prep in advance. I have done a fair bit of multi-day backpacking through some of Australia’s and New Zealand’s most scenic trails, so am well aware of the food preparation that goes into such a trip. Normally my main concern with food for such a trip is the weight. For a multi-day kayaking trip weight wasn’t as much of a concern, as we would be paddling, not lugging backpacks.  My number one worry was bulk. We would have limited space in the kayak to store our camping equipment, sleeping stuff, clothes etc and therefore packing streamline food was a must! There was also limited access to fresh water at some of the campgrounds, so we needed to factor that into our cooking too. Drinking water would be a priority over cooking water. In addition to weight/bulk there are a few other key factors to consider when packing food for some kind of backcountry trip. It also needs to be; shelf stable, calorie dense and quick cooking.

Obviously you don’t have a refrigerator when camping out in the bush and we certainly didn’t tow a solar powered one in with us. I can vouch that the water would have been cold enough to refrigerate the food (I did manage a “swim”, others who witnessed it may have described it as a quick dip), however who needs that sort of drag out of the back of a kayak when you have to paddle 44km over 3 days (I know, so fitspo!).

Kayaking 44km over three days not only affords you fitspo bragging rights, it also sucks the energy right out of you. So you want to ensure the food you are bringing is calorie dense. You need to replenish your energy if you are going to row row row your boat not so gently down the stream.

Finally you need to have food you can whip up quickly. For one, after kayaking 44km over three days (have I mentioned that already?!) you can’t be bothered whipping up a three course gourmet feast, nor do you have the patience to wait for it to cook. Being “hangry” is real people! You also have limited cooking gas, due to the whole packing light thing, so speedy suppers are a must!

I like to eat some fresh food on day one, so I often will cook something up the night before with lots of veggies and freeze it, that way it never gets too warm to run the risk of you getting food poisoning. Bolognese works a treat and makes for a perfect hearty camping meal. My boyfriend had whipped up a lentil bolognese earlier in the week, which we had frozen and then reheated with fresh pasta. It tasted just like beef bolognese and we also didn’t have to worry about the risk of a meat dish getting warm! Winner winner, pasta dinner!

For breakfasts I usually run with oats and pimp them with dried fruit, fresh banana, nuts etc. Snacks such as mini chocolates like snickers hit the sweet spot, as do nuts or muesli bars. For lunches on the go, tortillas are great with baby bell cheese, a salted meat like salami and then spiced up with any sachets of chili sauce you may have. 2 minute noodles and packet rice can always be added to wraps for extra energy.

Second, third, fourth etc day dinners become a little bit trickier. Fresh ingredients like veggies don’t last well in the heat and also tend to be bulky and heavy. As much as I would totally devour lentil bolognese every night, it simply would not last the journey. I have found that the dehydrated meals actually work a treat. You can always add extra rice or pasta and whatever seasoning your camper heart may desire. Mind you some brands and flavours are better than others.

On our recent trip I had to go with my gut instinct, as I had never tried any of the brands that were available to me at MEC. I can safely say that Backpacker’s Pantry and Mountain House both get my tick of approval. The chicken teriyaki hit the spot and dehydrated smores for dessert was the perfect way to finish a perfect day. Although I do have to mention that the boyfriend’s and my take on smores the next night was the winning dish of the whole trip. Picture a tortilla spread with peanut butter, sliced banana and pieces of Cadbury cookie chocolate and then warmed in the pan. It results in a dessert worthy of non-campers. Take it to your next dinner party, it will be a guaranteed mouth-watering success!

If you are reading from down under, then I always found both chicken and beef meals from Back Country Cuisine fill a hungry camper’s tummy and if you want to get a little fancier, then The Outdoor Gourmet Company have some mighty fine options too.

Now if you Aussies want to get reeeeaaalllllly fancy then I suggest you look up Strive Food. They are a Tasmanian based company making their own dehydrated food from scratch and they are simply delicious! And they do ship nationally! Unfortunately for my readers elsewhere, international shipping is not possible due to obvious customs regulations, however you can always buy a dehydrator and give the whole DIY thing a go.

So what are you all waiting for? Pack a bag full of light, shelf stable, calorie dense and quick cooking food and get out there! Don’t forget the tortillas, peanut butter, banana and cookie chocolate! Camping is the perfect excuse to indulge in excess calories and you get to reap all the benefits of exploring and being adventurous too.

http://www.backpackerspantry.com/

https://www.mountainhouse.com/

https://backcountrycuisine.co.nz/

http://outdoorgourmetcompany.co.nz/

https://strivefood.com.au/

It’s my party and I’ll eat the cake if I want to!

Last Friday was my birthday, and I celebrated my second year of being in the dirty thirties on Bowen Island for the weekend. Surrounded by my main man and a couple of friends , we shacked up on the far side of the island in an idyllic A-frame beach house with a hot tub and stunning sunset skies.

A weekend away is always a great excuse to treat yo self and gorge on alllllllll of the food. A birthday weekend away is an even better excuse. No matter your take on birthdays and aging- whether you celebrate it because you love your birthday no matter what (like me) or want to drown your aging sorrows with copious amounts of wine, celebrating with food and friends is always a winning combination. This foodie’s birthday weekend away was the perfect example of that.

Choosing an island as your birthday destination, means that you may have restricted access to your desired luxury items. And when I talk about luxury items, I don’t mean bath salts and designer handbags, I am talking about food and wine of course. So before heading across to Bowen we made sure to stock up on lots of delectable food (let’s face it, mainly cheese) as well as sparkling wine. There was going to be some serious bottle popping.

Now, no birthday buffet is complete without the star of the show, a birthday cake! And lucky for me, I have a boyfriend who happens to be a whiz at making birthday cakes (even if this year’s cake was only the second cake he has ever made from scratch). Last year I got a single layer chocolate ganache cake, but this year he decided to step it up a notch and created a DOUBLE layer chocolate cake with raspberries and buttercream icing. As we had double the people celebrating my birthday from last year, we apparently needed double the cake…

Now, as much as I love my boyfriend dearly, and truly believe he can conquer any task he sets his mind to, I cannot give him full credit for my very much appreciated and lovingly devoured birthday cake. Some recognition must go to his oldest sister, Jaime, who is the actual master of cakes. She is the one who provided him with a very detailed step by step recipe and may have helped out with some words of cake wisdom via video chat.

Jaime, based in Auckland, New Zealand, started a cupcake business about a year and a half ago, aptly named Jaime’s Cupcakery. During those 18 months, the business has flourished and has seen Jaime whip up some amazing cupcake creations. Judging by her scrumptious looking instagram page, not only has she mastered the art of cupcakes, she has also demonstrated her impressive talent for creating cakes for all occasions. Need a cake for a 21st birthday? Hit Jaime up! Wedding cake? No problem…Jaime can cover that too. Oh and did I mention she can do gluten-free and vegan cakes as well? Because she can! Like I said, master of cakes. From flavours like banana salted caramel to spiced chocolate pear, her cakes are seemingly nothing short of delicious. I say seemingly because I am actually yet to taste one of these beauties. Unfortunately, Jaime started her business after my boyfriend and I left Auckland, and although he has since returned to the motherland, I have not. But thankfully my boyfriend does seem to have developed a flair for creating cakes under the close guidance of his big sister and I got to reap the benefits for my birthday.

On the day of my birthday, I, alas had to trot off to work for the majority of the day, whereas my boyfriend got to work from home. Except work last Friday consisted of mixing bowls, beaters and flour instead of laptops, emails and spreadsheets. I knew I had a cake on my way, as a birthday isn’t a birthday without cake and candles, I just didn’t know exactly what cake. When I arrived home in the early afternoon, I was amazed and in awe of the double layered chocolate cake that laid before my eyes. It towered before me with a vanilla buttercream icing and grated chocolate adorned on top. The old boy had nailed it!

Now it may not have been as beautifully decorated as some of his sister’s masterpieces, but it certainly had as much love poured into as a Jaime’s Cupcakery creation. Anyhow, it’s not what’s on the outside that matters, it’s the inside that counts. And the taste of the inside of that cake was a chocolate lover’s dream come true. The cake was moist and had a rich but not sickening chocolate flavour to it. This was dangerous, as additional slices easily made their way on to my plate. The vanilla buttercream icing complimented the richness of the chocolate and ratio of icing to cake was perfectly balanced. The inclusion of fresh raspberries between the cake layers gave it that extra bit of zing, a freshness that is often required with such a decadent cake.

Many thanks to my incredibly wonderful boyfriend for pulling out all stops to make my 31st birthday a scrumptious hit with a cake that we are still devouring 5 days after the fact. Thank goodness calories don’t count during birthday month! And a much deserved shout out to his big sis, Jaime, for the inspiration and mentoring. If any of my readers ever require a cake in the Auckland area, then do yourselves a favour and order one of Jaime’s beautiful creations. If her little brother’s take on her cake is anything to go, then it’s a cake that you won’t regret! Even outside calorie free birthday month.

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

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

It’s Patio Season

Now that the sun is shining (except for yesterday and today…typical), it’s all about maximising your vitamin D dose and spending as much time as possible soaking in those golden rays. I like my golden rays with a side of eggs and caesar, so I find brunch the perfect excuse to enjoy the best of both worlds; spring mornings and alcoholic beverages.

I have been a fan of brunch from waaaaaaaaay back. In winter you may remember my post about Catch 122 and the delectable brunch they serve up. Their chic, brick lined space made for the perfect retreat from the grey of winter. However, now that we’re embracing temperatures above 10 degrees (thank god!), brunch for me has become all about snatching that sunny table to enjoy my sunny-side up eggs.

With the increase in temperature, I have noticed a significant decrease in clothing among the Vancouver population. I mean c’mon guys…it was still only 20 degrees on the weekend, not exactly bikini weather, well not for this sun loving Aussie anyhow.  Therefore it’s pretty apparent that Vancouverites love embracing the warmth of some summer-like weather. Thankfully the city caters for that love through the large number of restaurants that have sun-drenched patios attached. Patios which I have great intentions of making the most of this sunny season.

Patios isn’t typically a word associated with restaurants back home. What is known as a patio here may be a beer garden back home, or perhaps a rooftop, even a balcony. We don’t really seem to have patios…it’s just outdoor seating. I suppose that’s what you get when you compare Australia, the land of seemingly eternal sun to Canada, where it can snow in Spring… Nonetheless, now that the sun appears to be making a regular appearance, and summer feels like it may not have abandoned us after all, Vancouver restaurants have begun to dust of their patios ready for the queues of scantly dressed patrons.

Now everyone seems to know the most popular patio destinations in town. If you google best patios Vancouver, links for Daily Hive and Narcity will pop up, listing their top picks. However, on those warm summery days, you will most likely be confronted with a 30+ minute wait for any of those listed destinations, unless you want to sit inside like some kind of vampire. And while sitting in the sun with a cool beverage in hand and your desired brunch dish on its way is ever so divine, waiting in line for a hair of the dog with a self-induced headache is not. Therefore the boyfriend and I have made it a mission to discover some hidden gems, patios that may have gone under the radar.

On a recent sunny Sunday ( I mean it would have had to have been recently- were there any sunny days in winter?!) the boyfriend and I decided that our slightly sore heads from the previous night’s activities were in need of a treat. Brunch seemed like the perfect cure and even better yet, brunch with a dose of sunshine. Vit D seems to really have a way of helping me shake off a hangover. The boyfriend swears I am solar powered. Without wanting the hassle of having to walk our sluggish bodies too far from home, we decided that we would hit up one of our many local choices. Caffe Barney had been on our radar for awhile and we had caught wind of there being a patio out back, even though we were yet to witness it for ourselves. As we were about to discover, we had struck patio gold!

Upon arriving we were greeted by the casual but ever so friendly wait staff who began to escort us to a table for two. I quickly inquired if there were any available tables outside. I was doubtful, as Barneys was pumping with brunch patrons. We were assured that there was and were guided through the cafe, to a wonderfully sun drenched patio out back, surprised, actually quite stunned, to find we were the only patrons making the most of this hidden treasure.

The patio was small, but quaint. Being before noon, half of it was still shaded, but with the direction in which the sun was moving, it wouldn’t be long until the whole thing was sun drenched. It looked over the back street which was a pleasant enough setting, no ocean views, but it was dumpster free. So that’s always a win! And while we’re talking about wins, not only were we the first guests that day to snap up a prime patio table, we were some of the first guests of the year. We were informed that the patio had only opened the day before. Well if perfect timing isn’t my middle name…

Now that my vitamin D dose had been addressed, it was time to focus on the food/drink element. Caesar was an obvious choice for drink. Who doesn’t adore a caesar in the sun? And they always taste that little bit better with a sore head. Unusually for me, I had a hankering for something sweet that day. A rare occurrence for a hangover Sunday.  And even though Barney’s savoury dishes like huevos rancheros and their west coast benny sounded heavenly, I could’t look past the fruit stuffed french toast. Especially as the fruit that day was a raspberry compote and I loooooooooooooooooove raspberries.

The serve of french toast was well sufficient for my hungry belly. Three large pieces adorned my plate, all stuffed with raspberry compote, dusted with icing sugar and served with a side of syrup and fruit salad. The flavour was just what my sweet tooth craved and the portion size not too large to make me feel like a gluttonous pig afterwards. The addition of the fruit salad was a nice touch to freshen up the palate after the copious amount of sugar I had consumed. The bread was cut thickly and nice and fluffy- just like French toast should be. The raspberry compote was the right amount of tart and was perfectly complimented by the sweetness of the syrup. Overall a great take on french toast, despite it arriving at the table a little cooler than what I would have liked. This was easily overlooked as the the staff were ridiculously friendly and they had a full house on their hands. Plus I was in sunny patio heaven.

If you find yourself questioning your choice of sunny brunch destination, possibly because of some hefty line, then I would strongly advise you to consider a trip to Caffe Barney. I can’t promise that you’ll be as lucky as us, because with a patio as good as theirs and delicious food to match, their popularity will no doubt spread. But maybe if you get in quick, before the peak of the season, you can bathe yourself silly in sun on their back porch. Open for brunch, lunch and dinner seven days a week, you stand a good chance. Thanks Caffe Barney for the perfect Sunday brunch experience. With a patio like yours in our local hood, we will no doubt be back soon.

https://www.caffebarney.com/

Summer Bod Pending…

Spring has definitely sprung! The sun is shining, the days are longer, the birds are chirping and everyone has that extra spring in their step. This warm weather has assured me that summer is on its way; for a while there I started to believe it would never come and the grey clouds were going to hover above me (and Vancouver) forever. Thankfully the sun has broken the grey curse and we can all rejoice that we won’t have to rely on pills to get our daily dose of vitamin D.

However, with the sun’s appearance, comes the rude awakening that my winter body, a result of my Canadian hibernation, is in no shape for the summer sun. I may have gotten a little heavy handed with the winter treaties and taken full advantage of those warm comfort foods. I blame Christmas and Easter and most definitely NOT my lack of self-control. Having a food blog can also really take its toll on one’s figure after all. Anyhow, with summer now well on its way, it is time to shape up! And that means cutting down on the carbs and scrimping on the sugars. I have always been a girl who believes “everything in moderation (except cheese, cheese is always the exception)” (obviously that hasn’t applied to the winter months), therefore I am sticking to a strict healthy food regime during the working week and saving the weekends for treats.

The boyfriend has thankfully jumped on my bandwagon and is in full support of a health kick. It’s not like we have junk food 5 nights a week, but being mindful of our portions and adding in a few extra veggies certainly isn’t going to go astray. We share the cooking, so the summer bod is dependent on him sticking to the rules. Basically our health kick, as designed by us, is low carb meals from Monday through to Friday and no booze. Friday night is the exception, as a girl has to treat herself after a working week. Plus, there are too many good Happy Hours to take advantage of. We have also decided to cut out sugars during the working week- no after dinner sweetie for me and take better control of our portions. Girls, we really don’t need to eat the same sized meal as our boyfriends! I am super competitive, but I need to stop competing at the dinner table.

At the start of each week, each of us choose 2 recipes each for dinner. These recipes normally feed 4, so we always have a packed lunch for the next day. Easy peasy! Any ingredients left over at the end of the week can be thrown together for additional meals. The time between me getting home from work/uni/school and dinner time has always been my biggest weakness. So conquering this prime snack time with some small low carb proportions is key to nailing this healthy eating challenge I’ve set myself.  Instead of toast or crackers and cheese as an after school tie me over, I’ve been snacking on corn nuts or celery with peanut butter. Pow pow- take that health kick!

Thankfully the internet makes researching low carb meals a breeze and with the warmer weather the idea of a salad for dinner is much more appealing. Especially for those pending picnics down at Kits (Kitsilano Beach for my non-Vancouver readers). It has forced us to be a little creative and cook food that we might not have considered otherwise but we are both open to new things and we try to incorporate at least one vegetarian meal in there as well. I have become a fan of meat free Mondays- eat less beef and the world should be subjected to less cow farts and therefore reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Every little bit helps you know.

We have had a few winning recipes, ones that we have printed off and are planning on adding to our regular rotation. We have also had some massive fails. Well maybe not massive, as we have still managed to stomach them, but they have definitely left us pondering our take out options. One of the winning options was, however, a little stir-fry number that I stumbled upon while browsing the very extensive list of recipes on the Epicurious website. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Epicurious, please do yourselves a favour and become familiar with their site, you’ll never find yourself pondering what to cook for dinner ever again. Their collection of recipes is extensive and most are cheap, easy and crowd pleasers.

At first I was doubtful about how successful this stir-fry recipe would be. Intrigued, I opened it up in a new tab on my browser, but continued to scroll to further assess my options. It wasn’t your standard stir-fry. Being a low carb option, it didn’t include any rice or noodles. The main two ingredients were pork mince and squash, kabocha squash to be precise. Strange, I know!

Basically the recipe calls for you to fry off the meat and then add the ingredients of the dish that bring the flavour; such as onion, chile, garlic and ginger. Next, the squash, which has already been steamed and browned in the pan is added to the meat. Lastly, a dash of lime juice and fish sauce are required, as well as a dusting of sugar. The meal is then served with a sprinkling of peanuts and coriander (cilantro for you weird North Americans). So like I said, basically mince and squash. Can you understand my hesitance?!

Despite my reservations, the end product was delicious! It had the flavours of a Thai dish with the freshness of the coriander and the saltiness of the fish sauce. And who doesn’t like Thai food?! The squash ensured that the dish was filling, but still fitted my criteria of being low carb.

A shout out to Epicurious for posting such great recipes. You have become one of my go-to websites for all things food. A big thank you must also go to the reviewers of the recipe. Without your praise for this dish I would have probably dismissed it. Now everyone else, do yourselves a favour and add this recipe to your collection. Your taste buds and body will thank you for it.

https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/kabocha-squash-and-pork-stir-fry

Bravo Burdock & Co

Two Fridays ago I decided I was in the mood to splash some cash and treat the boyfriend to a fancy dinner out on the town. I had endured a fairly average week at work and couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate its completion. Fancy food and drinks can cure anyone of weekday work blues. Upon making this decision, I of course spent my Friday afternoon googling my options. We really are spoiled for choice here in Vancouver! My googling revealed too many delicious choices, resulting in quite the conundrum. Oh the first world problems of it all!

I decided that my dinner date destination had to be a touch fancy, to warrant me applying make up and donning a pair of heels. It also obviously, first and foremost, had to have a reputation for divine food with rave reviews to match. In addition to all this, it had to have a little bit of something something, you know, a bit of pizzazz to set it apart from the pack. After all, it was date night and I was treating my man to dinner. I wasn’t after a diner experience here people. After trawling through my short list and looking up all of their respective menus, I decided a night out in Mt Pleasant would be the winning location and Burdock and Co would be the dinner destination of choice.

Burdock and Co have been on a solid handful of “best eat” lists that I have come across, and therefore, well worthy of being on mine. I literally just got an email this morning, as I began typing this post, from Vancouver Magazine, announcing their 2018 restaurant award winners. Burdock and Co were listed as best brunch! And, as I am sure many of you Van foodies out there are already aware of, they were also listed in Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants for 2018, coming in at number sixty six! Their well regarded reputation appears to stem not only from their fancy fare brunch menu but also from their delectable dinner menu. After my Friday night experience, I can certainly attest to that.

We arrived 15 minutes before our reserved time, thanks to our failed plan to enjoy a cheeky cocktail at The Shameful Tiki Room beforehand. Damn those Friday night queues! Our early arrival was of no concern to the friendly wait staff and we were seated without hesitation. The space was charming and oozed date night romance. The long narrow space consisted of a white-washed brick wall and warm woody tones. The dimmed lighting with candle lit tables gave it a perfect romantic ambiance. I love a restaurant with an open kitchen and Burdock and Co has been designed with a good one. Surrounded by bar stools, it allows customers to have a sneak peak at each of the chefs’ culinary creations.

We were seated on one of the high-top tables for two. It was quite closely nestled among the same tables on either side, but because of the restaurant’s atmosphere, it didn’t detract from our privacy. The table was set with linen napkins and vintage silver cutlery. Our waitress was prompt with delivering our menus, as well as glasses of complimentary sparkling water. I am always a sucker for those small touches and Burdock and Co deliver without arrogance. I love a fine dining experience without having to feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Although it’s a nice place (worthy of my heels and make-up), Burdock and Co is by no means snooty.

The menu embodies the restaurant’s philosophy of fresh and locally sourced food that reflects the environment it is produced in. Each dish sounds lively and vibrant in its presentation, but has been well considered in its creation. The menu has been designed to be shared. Although, if you don’t like anyone else playing with your toys, then no one at Burdock and Co is going to force you to. I play well with others, so the boyfriend and I decided to chose a couple of dishes each and share them all, as well as a bottle of wine.

Now this blog mainly focuses on food, but a shout out to the person behind Burdock and Co’s wine selection is well warranted here. A round of applause is in order for Matthew Sherlock, their wine director (according to their website). The wine list consists of all ‘Naturalist’ wines, which means they are preservative free etc. A few Canadian wines make the cut, but the majority of the wines are sourced from Europe.  And for people who are a little more conservative like me when it comes to splashing cash, you will be pleased to know that there is a wine priced for everyone.

Our waitress for the evening advised us that 4-5 dishes between the two should be adequate to meet our appetites. Going with that advice we decided to order five (why stop at four right?!) with the intention we could always order more if our stomachs so desired. I had already studied the menu online in great detail (obviously) and was disappointed to see that the bison wasn’t on the menu in front of me. Thankfully everything else on the menu still sounded delectable. We decided upon the Buttermilk Fried Chicken, the House Milled Arctic Sourdough Bread (because the boyfriend is now a bread expert, therefore all house made bread must be tried), the Braised Leeks, the Braised Lamb Ribs (no surprise there, typical Australian) and the Fried Purple Sprouting Broccoli.

Each dish came out as it was ready and seemingly in no particular order. We never had more than two dishes on the table at once, which I have to believe was deliberate. It meant that our table was never crowded, something which can be a pet peeve of mine and detract from an otherwise flawless dining experience. Like I said, I am a sucker for small touches! Many thanks to our wait staff for keeping an eye on us and enhancing this element of our dining experience.

The sourdough bread was first and came lightly grilled with some of the best goddam butter about. Previously living in NZ, I have been treated to some delicious dairy, so I feel well qualified to pass judgement. The boyfriend also gave it his nod of approval and pondered the idea of inquiring about their baking tips and tricks.

Secondly the leeks were served. The leeks were wonderfully braised, but the real star of the dish was the hazelnut crumb they were adorned with. My boyfriend and I found ourselves competing for the remaining crumbs, a fight between forks, well after the leeks were devoured.

The fried chicken closely followed and I can now understand what all the rave reviews are about. The chicken was perfectly crisp and dusted with dill powder, a touch of flavour that set it apart from your typical fried chicken. It also complimented the pickle mayo it was served with perfectly.

Up last were my two favourite dishes of the evening; the lamb ribs and the broccoli. The lamb was melt in your mouth. It’s rich, succulent flavour matched wonderfully with the fenugreek flagolet beans, which didn’t detract from the flavour of the lamb, but instead provided added texture to the dish. As for the broccoli, oh boy! It was cooked to perfection, seasoned to perfection with garlic caramel and cayenne chili and presented with perfection. The pickled shiitake and egg it was served with took this dish to a whole new broccoli level. If your kids don’t eat greens, then you should consider taking them to Burdock and Co and ordering this dish. Fair to say it was amazing, a worthy contender of best dish, even up against the lamb!

I am so happy that you made it onto my list Burdock and Co and even more thrilled that I chose you to cheer me up with your culinary creations. You deserve to be on all of the “best eat” lists and I encourage people to add you to theirs. Hopefully it won’t be too long between dates (hint hint boyfriend), as I fancy myself coming back for that infamous brunch and maybe a side of broccoli.

http://www.burdockandco.com/

I like hot cross buns and I cannot lie

Aaaaah Easter. Another holiday that somehow evolves around food. And just like Christmas, I managed to stuff myself silly.

Easter has always been, for me, a time spent with family and close friends. Traditionally back home in Tasmania, my family and I would venture down the East Coast to our friend’s shack (Australian word for beach house) for the holiday. The shack, lovingly named Gumby (as it was decided once upon a time ago that the building was shaped like Gumby’s head), would normally play host to five families. All of the Dads had gone to university together and had remained close friends since those boozy uni days. Thankfully, all our families had become very close, practically growing up together over the years. Easter was our traditional gathering and Gumby was the much adored location.

Each Easter was spent surfing, snorkeling, putting on concerts for the parents and of course gorging on food. Easter bunny always came and spoiled us rotten (maybe some of the kids more than others…not naming names, but you know who you are) and all the Mums always managed to cook up a storm, treating us with feasts of roast lamb, chili con carne, lasagna and other such hearty dinners. There were always cheese platters for afternoon nibbles and thanks to the diving skills of a few, plenty of fresh seafood, including abalone, a real Tassie treat for Good Friday. So yes, Easter was a time for family and friends, but also a great time for devouring all the Easter treaties.

This year, living 13 244 kilometers away from The Gumby Shack, meant that Easter was celebrated in a slightly different manner. Instead of beach hangs with family, there was skiing with the boyfriend (not a shabby trade by any means). But not to worry, you can all breathe a sigh of relief, the gorging wasn’t sacrificed. Many a meal was still devoured throughout the Easter celebration. Perhaps even more calories than usual.

The boyfriend made his bread (for which I can vouch, is getting better by the loaf), I made a roast lamb, so of course there were lamb sandwiches. And I mustn’t forget (although I wish I could) alllllll of the Easter eggs that were consumed. Too many for this waistline. The ski pants were literally popping open on Easter Saturday up the mountain.

Despite being away from home, I refused to go without some of my Easter favourites. Along with the roast lamb and chocolate eggs, I made sure to purchase some of my all time favourite Easter treats, the beloved hot cross bun.

Normally at home I am pretty satisfied with the good old supermarket hot cross bun. Purchased in a 6-pack for a couple of bucks, you can’t go wrong! However, sometimes I would spoil myself with a bakery one. Treat yo self! Fresh or toasted, with butter or without and sometimes even with jam, the bun has always made for a perfect morning tea snack or even a little brunch tie-me-over (you all know how I fancy a tie-me-over).  Spending my first Easter in Vancouver, I was very keen to try the aBUNdant buns available to me. I am a traditional girl so those chocolate chip variety were of no interest to me. I am all about those fruit buns hun!

First on my hit list was Terra Breads. I love Terra Breads. And before the boyfriend started making his own bread, we would often pop into our local Terra Bread supplier for a loaf of their finest. Being such a huge fan of their sourdough and french loaf, I was an eager beaver to try their hot cross bun.

Thankfully my nearest Terra Bakery was opened on Good Friday.  The buns were displayed at the forefront of the store, their icing glistening in the sun. Suns out buns out! Upon first bite, I realised that the bun had been decorated with a lemon maple icing, straying from the traditional cross and adding a sweet touch. It didn’t go unappreciated. And hell, it gave it some Canadian flare! The bun didn’t have as much spice as some of the others that I have tried, which may suit those with a milder palate, but I like my buns spicy! It was filled with a generous amount of a variety of dried fruits. The bun was a generous size, it had great density, however, my particular bun was a little dry for my liking. I would have loved a slab of butter on top. Nonetheless I am already looking forward to Easter next year, as Terra pulls out all stops every year to produce these crowd favourite buns.

Second on the hot cross bun crawl was Cobs. Cobs is a Vancouver-based bakery franchise with stores scattered across the city. For those readers at home, it reminds me of Baker’s Delight. Similar logo, same storefront and comparable baked goods. Like Baker’s Delight, Cobs had a few hot cross buns on offer; traditional fruit, cranberry orange and chocolate chip. No chocolate temptation was going to lead me astray from the traditional.

The Cob’s hot cross bun, out of the handful I tried, was the closest to the traditional kind. It had a shiny glazed top with the standard cross. It also had a generous dose of dried fruit and a nice fluffy texture. Again a touch of butter wouldn’t have gone amiss, but overall a scrumptious version of a classic bun.

The final contender and perhaps the winner for me, was Beaucoup Bakery’s version of a hot cross bun. I say version, because out of the three it was the least like the original hot cross bun. Beaucoup’s buns were made with brioche which obviously made them more buttery than the original dough. This may be considered cheating, but I don’t care. As per the other buns, Beaucoup’s had a generous amount of fruit including orange and lemon peel both of which had been sourced from France. Oooh la laaaa so fancy! We also got our buns fresh out of the oven. A new batch were put out on display as we placed our order. Obviously this gave the French bakery an upper hand on the other buns. Beaucoup Bakery have a well renowned reputation for pastry treaties and after devouring their hot cross bun I can see why.

At the end of the Easter bun feast, I can see why all three contenders draw the crowds they do for their take on a hot cross bun. All were delightful and gave me the hot cross bun fix I was craving. Unfortunately there are 372 days until Good Friday next year (trust me, I have counted).  Therefore it looks like I will be waiting, most likely impatiently, until then for my next fix. Luckily all three bakeries have many more treaties to devour in the interim and I look forward to trying them all.

http://www.beaucoupbakery.com/

http://www.terrabreads.com/

https://www.cobsbread.com/

Yum Yum Tasty and Sons

So it has been over a week now since my ventures south of the Canadian border to Portland, Oregon’s well regarded food city, and I am STILL daydreaming about all the delicious delights I stuffed myself silly on. Even after the food feast that was Easter, my mind is still consumed with wafting memories of food truck deliciousness, bite worthy burgers and brunch bliss.

Last week’s post focused on the food cart scene that Portland is infamous for. This week I have decided to hone in on possibly my favourite food delight devoured on the trip, my brunch at Tasty and Sons.

As I have previously mentioned, I did some serious foodie research in preparation for the Portland trip.  I impressed my travel companions with my colour coordinated, food orientated map. Basically I had a different colours for the different food categories; brunch, lunch/dinner, drink spots and “best ofs”. Each destination was then marked on the map under a designated number in their category colour. Some of the chosen destinations were optional (if time allowed) and others were definites. Tasty and Sons was a definite.

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My Portland Foodie Map

For me, when heading to a new city over a weekend, going out for brunch is a must. It still permits a warranted weekend sleep in, without forgoing breakfast food. If you google best brunch in Portland, places like Sweedeedee and Screendoor are bound to be at the top of many a list. However, it was Tasty and Sons that grabbed my attention. Their brunch menu was different to anything I had previously eaten and I read a review which claimed they served up the best Bloody Marys in town. I needed to see what the hype was about and whether it rivalled Canada’s most adored Caesar.

Even though Tasty and Sons might not quite have the same brunch reputation as Screendoor, we had been warned that a wait for one of their tables was inevitable on a Saturday morning. We arrived on their doorstep at about 11am to find a 60+ minute wait. We would have happily pulled up a pew at the bar and started on the Bloody Marys, however it wasn’t that kind of set up. Instead we put our names down as a party of 4 and decided to wander our new surrounds for a “tie-me-over” coffee or nibble (if you read last week’s post then you  would already know we struck gold with our pre-brunch food cart taco. If you haven’t read it, then do yourselves a favour and read it! Then book yourselves a trip to Portland for a food cart crawl).

Our 60 minute wait was more like a 45 minute wait. Winning! I was now two tacos deep and ready to endulge in second brunch. The tacos had awakened my appetite and cranked my metabolism into gear. It was time to get amongst Tasty and Son’s must-try brunch menu.

Tasty and Sons’ brunch menu is broken into smaller, bigger and board sections, as well as sides and salads.  I wasn’t there to mess around, or as my true fair dinkum Aussie friend would say, “I wasn’t there to fuck spiders”, so I ordered from the “bigger” section. Culling the other options made my decision easier, as everything sounded so creatively delicious.

After reading and re-reading the menu a near million times, I decided to stick with the dish that originally sparked my interest, the Hangtown Fry. More so listed than described, it included; fried oysters, lardons, green onions, scrambled eggs, biscuit and remoulade. I was intrigued. After trying to eye off surrounding patrons’ meals, I was no more aware of how this wonderfully sounding dish would arrive. Trust me when I say, it was better than I could have ever imagined.

The scrambled eggs came more like one big scrambled fried egg. It was as yellow as a Disney princess’s hair, buttery and just all round scrumptious. The egg was served on some biscuits- the American kind, not the English kind (eggs and a scotch finger don’t really go). They were also buttery and delicious. Some biscuits I have had in the past have been dry and crumbling. Not the case here. Tasty and Sons’ chefs nailed these ones, which one would hope, as biscuits featured on a few of their brunch dishes. The lardons, hidden under the egg gave the dish a lovely salty element, without taking away from the main star, the fried oysters. Three generously sized and perfectly crisp oysters adorned the top of the dish. They were crunchy on the outside and proved to be juicy little suckers on the inside. The only negative….I wanted 10 more (despite undoing my top jean button to accommodate my bursting stomach)! To top it all off, the remoulade was dolloped on top. It’s flavour complimented the dish perfectly and gave it that creamy, but not over-bearing element.

And of course there was the Bloody Mary. It was served beautifully in a long, salt rimmed glass with a skewer of pickled veg perched across the top. The flavour was quite “horseradish-y”, but luckily I am a big horseradish fan. The boyfriend found it a little overwhelming. And although I blissfully slurped it down, it didn’t rival the multiple Caesars I ave tried across Vancouver. It seems this little Aussie is well accustomed to and has become a big fan of clam juice with her tomato juice. I might have a little Canadian in me after all.

Tasty and Sons you have me won. Your brunch was almost good enough to have me pack my bags and move south. Too bad about that whole green card situation. I give you ten out of ten fried oysters and hope that I am able to grace your space again, maybe for dinner next time..? I see the fried oysters make an appearance there too. For those who are curious, they are worth the 45 minute wait and more. Thanks for a most delectable introduction to Portland and its brunch scene.

http://www.tastynsons.com

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