Beach Bums and Benedicts – Putin wears the pants

Café Zen
1631 Yew Street, Vancouver
604.731.4018

 

A quaint little breakfast nook in the heart of Kits. The Café Zen signature is that they have half orders of eggs benny – or even better, mix it up and do half and half. Given my search for a great pancake in Vancouver I probably should have tried that, but instead we gave the bennys a whirl and split the baked eggs Mexican style. Hashbrowns pretty standard – deep fried chunks of potatoes. Benedicts were yummy (though to be a true critic I’ll say they hollandaise was not to my Montreal standards, a bit thick and not lemony enough). But by all appropriate west coast breakfast standards this place delivers and gets even higher marks for promptness of service and how quickly they seated us. And best of all on a sunny Sunday afternoon it is just seconds from some beach sports or lounging.

 

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Nuts, bananas, dulce de leche – sign me up!

Masa
439 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116
United States
617.338.8884

 

This place is hoping in the mornings, and no wonder as it was one yummy breakfast! The Nut Crusted Texas Toast Stuffed with Caramelized Bananas with Dulce de Leche Syrup is perhaps one of the most memorable breakfast dishes I’ve had. I’m getting excited just thinking about it… Cornbread for breakfast with yummy flavoured butter – woo hoo! Our breakfast mains were solid – but nearly to the standard of the texas toast. I’m giving Masa a very good, but the texas toast on it’s own gets a GREAT!!!!

 

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Yummy Orzo Salad – thanks Giada

After 269 ratings on the foodtv.com website this recipe still scores 5 stars! Now that’s saying something – and now we know why. Inspired by a newly acquired bag of orzo (part of my ‘this ain’t your mama’s pantry’ acquisitions) I went in search of a good salad recipe. There is a pre-made orzo salad I get sometimes in Granville Island that is just ho hum, but I love orzo so wanted something with a bit more pizzazz. My foodtv search brought me to this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis, the celebrity chef with a surprisingly small figure considering the food she makes and while quite beautiful a head that on tv appears strangely large on her tiny body.   Her food is fantastic, and I suggest sticking to her instructions.  For example don’t skip out on boiling the orzo in chicken stock…it is a thoughful touch that makes this salad special.  This is a great accompaniment to lamb or fish (tried it with both).  Also I sprinkled some toasted pine nuts on it the other night – yummy!

click here orzo-salad to view my recipe card with notes for salad.

A couple key modifications I made to this salad

1. Cut the oil in half! (even a bit less) Make sure you have a good balance of acid – but I find 1/4 cup more oil than acid not necessary. Also note that she doesn’t use all the vinaigrette in the salad – so in my case I just made less of the vinaigrette.

2. Added Feta cheese – why not I love cheese

3. Squeezed the seeds out of my tomato halves (take a few minutes but I think it is a step worth the effort)

4. Blended almost all the herbs in with the vinaigrette in my magic bullet

5. Mixed everything except the cheese and chick peas together the night before and let it set over night! Then add the cheese, tomatoes, and a few fresh herbs before serving.

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What’s the line up all about?

Stepho’s Souvlaki Greek Taverna
1124 Davie Street, Vancouver
604.683.2555

 

Usually the line up outside this place is outrageous…which leaves the passer by wondering what delights are inside. A couple of weeks ago at lunch we were passing by and there was no line up so wandered in. There is nothing really fancy about it, but it has a quaint atmosphere with a Mediterranean flare. The service is prompt and the prices are great! We enjoyed chicken souvlaki, but to be honest, didn’t blow me away. The meat was tender and delicious but everything else (fries, salad, tzatziki) was just Very Ok.

 

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Happy birthday to you…happy birthday to you!

Lift Bar and Grill
333 Menchions Mews, Vancouver
604.689.5438

 

You know what they say…”location, location, location”. In my restaurants with a view tour of Vancouver I was treated to an evening at Lift after some leisurely sea kayaking. The perfect stop to enjoy a glass of wine (or a pint depending on your fancy), have a bite of the sea, celebrate a milestone birthday, and take in the sights. I have long said (based on a lifetime of waterside experience) that often restaurants with a view compromise on food quality, and sometimes that compromise is worth it and other times it isn’t. When you think of some of Vancouver’s finest dining establishments you’ll realize they don’t have views – West, Fuel, Tojo’s, Bishops, Cioppinos (and more). However, I would put Lift in the worth the compromise category, and even say they managed to deliver on the food. I enjoyed my ” Slash n Burn Halibut’ with saffron rice, and the stilton cheesecake was a delight for the senses(if you like stilton, which I do!). I’m not convinced my host was as pleased with their meal, but was equally enamored with the view. The atmosphere is the hallmark of this restaurant with crisp linens, clean lines, and excellent cutlery and glassware. Modern, a bit edgy, strangely (must be a Vancouver phenomenon) has TV’s in the bar. But fortunately said TV posed no distraction for the evening’s conversation that barely went uninterrupted for hourswhich brings me to – the service, was attentive. The patio was closed when we were there, but I have it on good authority it is a great patio for drinks in the summer. All in all I’m giving Lift a Very Good, and I will definitely come back again.

 

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Is field hockey really a sport?? Lucky number four

Top of Vancouver Revolving Restaurant
555 West Hastings Street, Vancouver
604.669.2220

 

If you’re as lucky as me you’ll be treated to a landmark quiz of Vancouver from the Top of Vancouver Restaurant at 553 feet. A bird’s eye view into the life and times of a local and the meaningful landmarks a new resident should know. The restaurant is a bit dated with neon lights over the bar and dining room furniture circa 1985. The menu is slightly more up to date, but not significantly, with classic pasta and fish that are fairly over priced. However that being said I actually thought my spring salmon was good. Although I’m not trading my dinner here for anything in the world (more about the view and company) my suggestion is to go for drinks instead of dinner. In our two full rotations of the Vancouver skyline and landmark highlights included GM place (I knew that one!), Victory Square, Andy Livingston Park, Bentall 5 tower and more! So in short it is a great stop for new resident to gain their citizen button (or in my case celebrate my first vote in a BC election), good for visitors to the city (aka tourists) and despite the granny furniture the view does make it romantic.  And if you are looking for something  to do afterwards a great choice is to walk over the Railway Club to listen to some live bands and enjoy the people watching!

 

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“A country that dares to dream. That dares to act”

Bluewater Café & Raw Bar
1095 Hamilton Street, Vancouver
604.688.8078

 

To celebrate our wildly successful half marathon we had dinner at the Bluewater Café. But overall I’d say it was solid, but not Great.  I’ve been before and found my main fish to be amazing, this time was no exception. But that experience wasn’t shared for every course or around the table unanimously. The appetizer I had was sushi, and it was just so so, as was the Qualicom scallop foam appetizer, and the artic char that were ordered. The service was good, the carrot cake dessert was amazing, and the wine selection was excellent. We went with a delicious bottle of chardonnay from Grgich Hills. The big open restaurant is well lit and they have a beautiful collection of decanters decorating the restaurant. The tables are well spaced and organized so you feel as though you have enough privacy even when the restaurant is packed. But for the price point I’d rather choose Coast, West, or the aforementioned Cioppino’s. Bluewater is probably worth a Very Good but given the price point it is getting a Very Ok.

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Race weekend…carbing up for prospect point!

Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca
1129/1133 Hamilton Street, Vancouver
604.688.7466

When I left a message for a reservation at award winning Cioppino’s I was surprised when the chef himself called back, and even more surprised when eating there we saw him several times throughout the dinner. This personal touch makes you feel as though you are a special guest in Pino’s kitchen, rather than a patron in his restaurant. We were seated in the wine room which had such a great ambiance, but unfortunately with our race the next day we weren’t able to indulge. Instead we focused our efforts on the food. OO had the risotto seafood special, LA…with the braised wild boar shoulder, and LA!! with the “Scalopine ai funghi”…OO…LA…LA!! We all shared the potato gnocchi, which was the best gnocchi I’ve ever had…it was divine. Our appetizers were also delicious with the warm goat cheese salad taking the prize. My veal was good, but not great, however based on the combined pleasure around the table we are giving Cioppino’s a “Great” and a “We’d like to come back when we can have a bottle or two of wine!”. The service staff got a bit too casual with us for my liking, but they were very attentive, and helped us make some good choices. So if you are looking to celebrate a special occasion with friends or share a romantic evening this is a great place!

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Ceasars…good for a hangover or to keep the celebration going!

Rodney’s Oyster House
1228 Hamilton Street
604.609.0080

 

If you’re missing the east and wanting a bite of the sea with a Cape Cod flare this is your joint. Introduced to me by one of Vancouver’s foodies Rodney’s is now one of my favourites. Most recently I visited after a morning brunch and an afternoon on the boat. Rodney’s bridged the gap between the mornings post run celebration and dinner. I’ve got a bit of mixed experience here…I’ve ventured into the sea world here, but not fully dedicated to it. I’ve had a Ceasar (which is unbelievable with fresh grated horseradish) but can’t bring myself to eat the prawn that hangs off the edge of the glass. I haven’t tried the house specialty oysters, but I did manage to try the crab cakes. Still not sure how I feel about those. I love the white washed furniture and the bartenders are fun and friendly. I did have to wait awhile once for service, but they made up for it by comp’ing us drinks. So make sure you stop by Rodney’s and if you’ve tried the oysters let me know all about it!

 

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Happy Birthday Girl Friday…Mexican Martini Throwdown!

Because of the half marathon the full on celebration part of my birthday was a bit delayed (there were many different birthday celebrations this yearJ). The best part of my delayed birthday celebration was the birthday Mexican Martini throwdown (Bobby Flay style)! The Mexican martini, lesser know than the Margarita, is a delicious tribute to Tequila!! The rules of the throwdown are that each participant must submit a recipe for the perfect Mexican martini to an independent judge who will ensure there is no recipe duplication and coordinate ingredient acquisitions to ensure maximization of ingredients (for example only one bottle of cointreau, or tequila needed, unless participants require special liquors). The party’s host put together a Mexican feast smorgasbord that delighted the senses…Spicy Bison Taquitos, Refried Bean Chalupas, Flour tortilla appies, queso and chips…yum, yum! The results of the competition are as follows:

 

The first Martini is the Austin classic (casa Trudy’s) and is an easy drink with well balanced flavours with the secret ingredient being Sprite! The second Martini is the Gayle twist, and is a bit more sour, but I love it…so in short it is a dead heat depending on what you are looking for!! But be careful, these things are addictive!

 

Trudy’s Mexican Martini (The original, from Trudy’s in Austin)

 

2 fluid ounces tequila (Herradura Silver)

1 fluid ounce Cointreau liqueur

1-2 fluid ounce Sprite

1 fluid ounce orange juice

1/2 lime, juice of

 

If you have made Trudy’s Mexican Martini mixed by the devine Valerie share your rating using here Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
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Gayle’s Mexican Martini

2 ounces premium tequila (silver, 100% agave)

1 ounce orange liqueur (cointreau)

1 ounce lime juice

1 ounce lemon juice (sweetened with sugar to taste)

 

DIRECTIONS

1. Moisten the edges of martini glasses with a little lime juice mixed with 2 generous dashes of chipotle sauce (chipotle powder in the salt would also work), and then dip moistened edges into coarse salt. Place a decorative pepper in each glass (be careful they aren’t too spicy so they don’t transfer flavour!).

2. Pour remaining lime juice into a cocktail shaker, and then add tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, and sweetened lemon juice. Fill shaker with ice, shake vigorously, and strain into prepared glasses.  

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