888 Nelson Street
Ph: 604 -669-1962
Visit 1: Chilled by the icy wind and still stunned by the film we had just seen, (the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) we settled gratefully into the comfortable booth we were offered and began to thaw. It was not quite 5:30 and quiet so we had the opportunity to chat to Tracey, our charming server, about the restaurant and menus. Although I was tempted by many of the other a la carte items on the menu, the Prix Fixe special that offered a soup or salad, an entree from the fresh sheet, and a dessert or cheese plate, was too good value to pass up. And it was a good choice too.
We both started with salads; he had the house salad and I took the caesar salad. Very tasty and satisfying, with plenty of parmesan shavings. A glass of 2007 Pentage Gewürtztraminer was a nice sipping choice. Our mains were excellent; a seared duck breast cooked to perfection and a mocha crusted sirloin served with gnocchi and asparagus in a parmesan cream sauce.
He chose apple pie but I couldn't pass up the two-cheese plate. I picked the featured Guiness Cheddar and Cambazola. When Tracey brought the cheese, apricots, candied walnuts a couple of grapes and toast slices served on an attractive slate, she noticed that instead of the chosen Guiness Cheddar there was a different cheese. She promptly brought an additional side plate with some Guiness cheddar. Nice touch.
3014 Granville Street,
As we walked along Granville looking for Ouisi (with my "infallible" sense of direction, I had turned right - south instead of north from our parking spot on 12th), we were speculating about the origin of the name. Since it could be deconstructed as oui and si, we decided that it must mean "yes, yes." Great name for a restaurant, we thought. But after we found the place and were seated, Catherine, our smiling server, said it came from the middle part of Louisiana. We should have guessed since it serves Cajun and Creole food.
Ouisi features a theatre menu which looked great but as I am not usually to keen on dessert, we each decided to have a starter and then try the Jambalaya. I ordered a glass of Cono Suv Viognier 2005 from Chile to sip on while we waited.
My Cajun style Dungeness crab cakes, served with corn relish and roasted red pepper vinaigrette, were spicy but not too hot. I have never acquired the ability to consume very hot foods and drinks, whether thermally or gustationally hot, so these were perfect for my taste. My companion enjoyed her tomato based seafood chowder.
Canoe Restaurant and Bar
66 Wellington Street W,
Ph: 416-364-0054 or Reserve Online
The restaurant has a spectacular location, high above the city with a great view. We were seated at a comfortable sized table. I took the banquette seat looking outwards. My companion faced into the restaurant where she could watch the tables rapidly filling up. They have a large open kitchen area where one can observe the action. Doug, our server, was knowledgeable and attentive without being intrusive. He had worked in Vancouver and we shared perspectives on the incredibly abundant restaurant scene in the city.
243 Carleton Street, Toronto
Ph: (416) 920-8991
On my last visit to Toronto during another cold, snowy spell, we visited Omi Restaurant in its old location on Church Street and had our first introduction to their Omakase meal. Omakase essentially is a chef's selection of dishes based on high quality fresh ingredients available on that particular day. On that first visit we were so impressed that we actually went back a couple of days later to try it again. Then it closed.
When we learned that it had relocated to Carleton Street (see Mexico and Me: Day -2) we decided it would be our choice of restaurant for one of my two nights in Toronto en route to Mexico. So again we went for the omakase.To acompany certain dishes of the tasting menu our server provided a smoked soy sauce – interesting and unusual aroma and taste.
I have been a fan of German Rieslings for years. Raised eyebrows, quizzical or even somewhat patronising looks and comments about sophisticated palates and full bodied red wines would wash over me. I just smiled to myself as I picked up my Rhine or Mosel Riesling at the BC Liquor Store for a very reasonable price, and prayed to Dionysus and Bacchus (depending on whether I felt more Greek or Roman that day) that these wines would not become too "fashionable."
"Let them drink Chardonnay", I thought. And they did. And I bought my favorite Rieslings for a mere pittance.
Of course prices of the German Rieslings increased over time as with other wines but the idea that a preference for white wine indicates a lesser palate or ignorance of the "French paradox", still lingers in some circles. Yes I know about resveratrol and its possible health benefits but I figure I can get that anyway enough just by eating red grapes, skin and all. And fulfil a fruit requirement of the Canada Food Guide at the same time! So I continue to indulge in my preference for white wines and choose a Riesling or Gewürtztraminer over the ubiquitous Chardonnay every time.
Lift Bar and Grill 333 Menchion Mews Vancouver Ph: 604 689-5438or Reserve Online
Heading off to a play at PAL, the Performing Arts Lodge, I looked for a restaurant in the vicinity. I remembered that I had passed Lift on several occasions while strolling around Coal Harbour and wondered each time whether the food would be as good as the view. This was the perfect time to try it out.
Villa del Lupo
869 Hamilton Street,
Vancouver Ph: 604-688-3058
I was recently invited to dinner at Villa del Lupo, an elegant Italian restaurant in a heritage building on Hamilton. Although I have dined there several times, it has to be more than ten years since my last visit. It retains the old-world European ambience with comfortably sized tables, spaced far enough apart to allow quiet conversation.
For a change this dinner was not a prelude to a theatre outing so it was great to be able to relax, eat leisurely and enjoy wine with our meal. The service was quietly efficient and obliging. The menu featured Nodino di Vitello, a veal chop, done Marsala style. I did not fancy gnawing on a bone in company and I was sure I would want to eat every last morsel of the dish, so two of us asked if we could substitute scallopini for the chop. No problem.
So following an Insalata Caprese with deliciously sweet tomatoes and fresh bocconcini, I got Vitello Scaloppini with porcini and marsala wine demi-glaze. And sure enough the veal was soft as butter, and if I had not been with company I would have sopped up every last drop of the gravy and probably licked the plate too.
Having recently learned a few culinary terms for Italian, Spanish and Indian dishes, I was delighted to be invited by my friends, Linda and Brian, to a Swiss night for racelette and fondue. Their plan was to ply us with food and wine and then have a quiz about all things Swiss. This is an occasion where my "just in time" approach to life let me down. I forgot my firm resolve, formed when Linda invited me, to cram a Wikipedia post full of Swiss trivia into my brain so I could stun my friends with my encyclopedic knowledge. In fact, until the moment Linda announced the contest I had forgotten there was to be one. So there I was, totally unprimed with facts, other than its location in Europe, the appearance of the Swiss flag, and the fact that I had actually spent two days in Zurich more than thirty years ago.
But first, the food. The dining area was divided into two locations, 6 people at each table. I got the raucous bunch, although after my wine glass somehow remained full no matter how hard I tried to empy it, I guess I was pretty raucous too. The picture shows the table set up for raclette ( which derives from racler, to scrape). We put slices of cheeese into little paddles and stuck them in the machine (centre of the table) to melt. Then we scraped it out onto small boiled potatoes and ate it with prosciutto, picked onions, tomatoes and gherkins.
As I was working on my review of Influence, Janet Munsil's new play now on at Performance Works, I found myself thinking about another of my favorite courses at UBC; Professor Lee Johnson's course on Romantic Poetry which I took through distance education. Although as I worked my way through Wordsworth, Coleridge and Blake to Keats, Shelley and Byron, works by each poet in turn became my favorite of the moment, but ultimately it was Keats that I really identified with.
I like the way Keats seemed to take responsibility for directing his own development as a poet and as a human being. I guess when you have been orphaned after your father dies falling off a horse and your mother dies of tuberculosis, and you see all manner of awful things as an apprentice apothecary, it's hard to think of an omnibenevolent, omnipotent and omniscient being controlling your life.
Keats, Shelley and Byron died within a couple of years of each other - Shelley drowned, sailing in the Gulf of Spezia. He was around 30 years of age. Lord Byron went off to fight for the Greeks in their war against Turkey. He died just before he would have been 36. I suppose they were both responsible for their own early deaths.
Dockside Restaurant 1253 Johnston Street, Granville Island, Vancouver Phone number604-685-7070 or Reserve Online
The Dockside Restaurant in the Granville Island Hotel is really convenient if you are going to see a play at Performance Works, about 1 minute walk from the hotel entrance. We were going to see Influence, a new play by BC writer, Janet Munsil, that was opening at Performance Works, so dinner at Dockside was an excellent choice. Whenever I have been there before it has been quite busy so I made a reservation for 6 pm. We were shown to a window table with a beautiful view across False Creek. Vancouver is such a spectacular city.