i’d hop provinces midweek again in a heartbeat to eat here!

The Cannery
2205 Commission Street, Vancouver
604.254.9606

I’d heard things here and there about the Cannery, but I’m surprised no one had suggested this place to me before – because it is fabulous! The décor shouts ‘made in the 70’s1′, but is classic enough to stand the test of time. Located in an elite gated community, so to speak, in the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority(VFPA) district2. From the elevated dining room the view is spectacular. You can see my beloved Lions3, for which the Lions Gate Bridge is named, which you can also see. Views of the city scape, Stanley Park, North Vancouver…and the perfect view of the sunset complete the picture. Excellent impress your date venue, but also very good celebratory family atmosphere. The menu includes an extensive Fresh Sheet, and a good selection of regulars. It was here that I tried many foods for the first time…mussels, prawns, and scallops (in order of preference!). The mussels were amazing…rosemary, pine nuts, saltiness of the sea…mmmmmmm…and I’m told that even to a seafood experienced palate these are the best mussels around. They send a basket of bread to the table and fill a plate with Lobster oil and balsamic (yummy!) 4. My main was smoked bc black cod which melted in my mouth. I don’t really remember my sides, but who cares about sides when you’ve got mains like this. Skipped dessert, so I can’t report…if you know share a comment. Perhaps the most memorable part of our experience at The Cannery was our Rocky and Bullwinkle service duo (Server and Busboy). Our server was excellent, and made some very subtle and very funny jokes and our busboy defies explaination, but was really fun too.  If you want to try something special they also have a Fly and Dine program and do Sunday Brunches (including a special Father’s Day Brunch). Mmmm..yummy now I want to go have brunch there! So all in all, I’m giving The Cannery a Great! And for now (based on my limited experience), ranking it as my all-time favorite meal at a Vancouver restaurant – which is some feat!

 

Factoids:

1. The Cannery was established in 1971
2. The Cannery’s lease has not been renewed by the VFPA, and they will be moving to a new location in 2010 after the Olympics.
3. Frank Giustra, former investment banker and Vancouver resident, founded the Lions Gate Production company
4. The secret is out: The Cannery shares a selection of Lobster oil recipes here

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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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No parking

River Café
200 Barclay Parade SW, Calgary, Alberta
403.261.7670

 

The River Café is my most beloved restaurant in Calgary. After being to Rouge, I’m challenged to say it is the best, but for overall the River Café still has my vote. The food quality is reliable, the food philosophy is admirable, and the service is good. The smell of the wood burning oven and wood fired grill permeate the air bringing the rustic details of the cabin ambiance to life. To add to the mystique there is no valet parking (a shock for downtown Calgary), in fact you have to walk through Prince’s Island Park to get there, and I’ve done so happily on rainy, snowy, and sunshiny days alike. Breakfasts are divine, and you must try the smoked trout flatbread (featured in the photo here)…melt in your mouth. I’ve heard two less than positive reviews on their bison as a main course, but I’ve always had good fish and vegetarian meals. My favourite appetizer was the mushroom perogies, I love perogies! The menu changes seasonally so don’t get attached to any one specific dish, but try new things. Sal Howell owner and founder together with Chef Scott Pohorelic have given us an epicurean oasis in downtown cowtown.

 

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Bowl licking good…

Rouge
1240 8th Avenue S.E. Calgary, Alberta
403.531.2767

 

If you are going to venture out in minus 20 degrees Celsius it is best that it be to a place as inviting as Rouge. A quaint red house on a corner in Inglewood’s is the perfect setting for a romantic dinner, or celebratory dinner with friends. If the best hits menu that we ordered from is any indication, Rouge’s kitchen will not disappoint. The amouse-bouche from the kitchen was yummy spiced pumpkin soup with pecans and chives. A selection of starters all proved to be delicious, with the Rabbit Fois Gras Tourtiere as my favourite. The mains were rich in flavour but well portioned. The details and presentation are excellent, and the service is both amusing and attentive. Our server made excellent and strikingly honest suggestions the most notable of which was to order the sticky toffee pudding, which is among the best desserts I have ever had. It was so good the birthday girl coined it ‘bowl licking good’. One the selections from the enRoute feature which has proven to be helpful, but keep in mind among Calgary’s best restaurants it meets the criteria for a high price point as well. Dinner is likely to be in the 100$ range per person, more depending on courses and beverages.

 

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These are a few of my favorite things…

Flour
1595 Washington St., Boston, USA
617.267.4300

 

On my most recent trip to Boston I was treated to many wonderful things. The Science Museum, the Aquarium , a backstage pass to a hockey game, and several yummy food experiences. But one of my foodie stops, Flour, was so good, I had to go twice. In a thrown down with Bobby Flay Pastry Chef and Owner of Flour, Joanne Chang beat out Bobby in the sticky bun category…and now I know why! I only ate the sticky buns once, and I only had a half, but that was the most delicious half of a sticky bun I’ve ever had. But what is more the reason I actually went back again was for the sandwiches. I love sandwiches! The breakfast egg sandwich has a dash of horseradish in it, the basil pesto tomato sandwich comes with roasted tomatoes, and the fresh bread (whole wheat or white) will make you think you are in carbohydrate heaven. I stole a bit of the smoked salmon sandwich which is amazing, but don’t get too attached to it, because it is on the special menu, so I don’t know how often they make it. I’m glad I don’t have to walk by this place on my way to work, because I wouldn’t be able to resist! Joanne has a career path I have to admire, from consultant to Pastry Chef, and in following her passion she has been successful. I’m giving Flour a Great!

 

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At Ouisie’s Table I was welcomed home.

Ouisie’s Table
3939 San Felipe Drive Houston, Texas
713.528.2264

 

Sitting on Lucy’s porch last weekend I was reminded of the spirit of my great grandmother, Nana, who owned and operated a tea house in a small lakeside community in the mid 1900’s. And in reading more about Elouise Adams Jones, the proprietress & Executive Chef, I understood why. Her establishment is clearly a labour of love and each room and menu item is thoughtfully arranged and prepared. While I love my life and work, Ouisie’s (pronounced We’ – zee’s) made me dream of a life of afternoon lunches in sundresses and heels with my girlfriends. And sitting there with two of the most beautiful women I know it didn’t take too much imagination. We started with The Original Taster Plate that included amazing egg salad, pimento cheese, and saltine crackers. My main course was Sautéed Belly of the Salmon & Deviled Eggs. I haven’t seen devilled eggs on a menu before, but they were great, and what is more the salmon belly was amazing. I’d eat at Ouisie’s Table again and again, so it gets a Great. And if I lived in Houston I host showers and birthdays here.

Special thanks and congratulations to V.A.J. and S.O.J.B. 

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Dancing Elephants, Short Lines, and Treacherous road conditions…

Vij’s
1480 W 11th Ave, Vancouver
604.736.6664

 

For the first time ever I walked into Vij’s last week and did not wait* even a moment before they sat us at our table. As one of the elite restaurants in town, reviewed by the New York Times, and acclaimed by foodies around the globe, Vij’s was a must stop for me and my friend with the discerning palate on our winter culinary adventures in Vancouver. When you walk into Vij’s you are met with the warmth of candle light that casts shadows of elephants around the room and the rich aroma of curry. The restaurant bustles with service staff that meticulously ensure tables are set, cleared, and guests are attended to. The man himself, Vikram Vij, is present in the dining room, caring for his guests and supporting his staff. In each my visits here he has stopped by to ask how our meal is or share a story. We ordered two different house cocktails, although worth trying, I would not order either again and stick instead to well selected beer or wine. On the suggestion of our server we started with the Portobello mushroom appetizer, which is an absolute must try on the menu. I didn’t try the lamb popsicles, which was our second server selection, but I did taste the sauce and understand why it such a fan favourite. The lamb was varying degrees of cooked from medium rare to well done, and probably would have been better served in review were it all medium rare. The meal was accompanied with a limitless supply of yummy naan and rice, but just be careful not to get too stuffed with carbs while mopping up the delicious sauces. In the New York Times article linked above Sara Dickerman says that Vij’s food is “not fusion exactly”, but I respectfully disagree, as I think this is one of the few restaurants on earth that executes fusion cuisine flawlessly. While the food shares the spice and colours of Indian food, its preparation, ingredients, and presentation are far from traditional. My main course, the marinated sablefish is an excellent fusion of Indian spice, modern presentation, and local ingredients. I finished my meal by tasting the house rice pudding served cold and topped with edible gold leaf, it is good, but not nearly as remarkable as the dinner itself. I was fortunate enough to be treated to dinner on this occasion and I ordered with reckless abandon from cocktails to dessert, but in the handful of Vancouver’s elite restaurants this is likely the most reasonably priced. We had an excellent evening experience at Vij’s which continues to sit at the top of my must try restaurants in Vancouver list.

 

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*Note: You can’t make reservations at Vij’s so don’t go on an evening when you’re in a rush, and prepare yourself for a long wait.  This night the weather conditions in Vancouver were treacherous, which is likely why we were saved the wait, however on past occasions I’ve waited an hour and half before being seated.  The dinner is worth it though, and while you wait in their lounge you will enjoy complimentary warm appetizers from the kitchen.  And if you are in a rush, stop by Vij’s more casual sister restaurant, Rangoli, right next door.

Contact the New York Times Crossword Department…we have found a four letter word for heaven!

Tojo’s
1133 West Broadway, Vancouver
604.872.8050

 

And the word is…Tojo. To kick-off holiday dinners in Vancouver one of my closest foodie companions and I ventured out in a blizzard to Tojo’s. Dining at Tojo’s is an experience, and if you can, and the evening suits it, make a reservation for the bar so as to watch the master at work. While you can order your meal al la carte the ideal way to order at Tojo’s is – Omakase. Omakase is Japanese for “entrust” and is a meal where the chef creates a custom menu of both hot and cold Japanese dishes. They will ask if you have any dietary restrictions for which the servers will likely make funny sarcastic jokes throughout the meal (this has happened to me on more than one occasion), but they will definitely accommodate you and make a wonderful meal that meets your needs and exceeds your expectations. For those of you who have been dawdling around only ordering sushi rolls in Japanese restaurants, venturing sometimes into sashimi territory thinking that is adventurous, Omakase is a perfect way to break the cycle and enjoy other types of Japanese food, as only one of the courses is sushi. There are three set Omakase options varying in price from $60-110$ per person and in courses from four to five.

For 80$ each we enjoyed five scrumptious courses, and I will humbly only note the remarkable as best I can. The second course for me was a house smoked salmon, with a peanut sauce, served over mixed greens. I am quite particular about smoked salmon, there have only ever been three that I have loved, the first is candied and sold in Granville Island (of which I can only have petite nibbles because it is so rich), the second caught and smoked in the Queen Charlotte Islands I enjoyed many times, and the third, here, was spectacular. The most delightful course, was the third – seared white snapper served on a bed of mushrooms topped with broiled roe was a frenzy of flavour and texture that tantalized my palate. As I have a particular love of mushrooms and the chefs who prepare them well I will take a moment to note that of the fourth course I can’t remember anything except the sweet flavour and firm texture of the mushrooms. If you enjoy mushrooms you will be enchanted by the magic Tojo works with mushrooms throughout the courses. The fifth course, the sushi course was very good, and each piece was uniquely, thoughtfully, and elegantly prepared. The most interesting sushi to don our table was a scallop wrapped in thin egg paper instead of the traditional seaweed. To me the most delicious was then spicy tuna, and lastly the most beautiful was a masterpiece of colour that was wrapped in bbq salmon skin. In reflecting back on the meal it was best to have entrusted the chef, because he took me on a journey I would not have chosen for myself, but one that I am grateful for having explored.

If you love Japanese food you must try Tojo’s, you can save it for a special occasion and be sure to take with you friends and family who will appreciate the experience. Reservations recommended!

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Celebrating after a seaside run in the cold snowy Vancouver? weather…

Raincity Grill
1193 Denman Street, Vancouver
604.685.7337

 

The perfect location to celebrate a cold and snowy run along the seawall on a Saturday morning. This is another pick I owe to Alyssa, and it is one I love to go to myself, and to pass along to friends. Raincity Grill is located in the west end with view of English bay and in the summer they have a lovely terrace, which is where we sat when we first visited. This weekend it was a chilly minus 6 outside, and surprisingly even snowy, so we enjoyed sitting inside sipping complimentary warm cider with a slice of pear and fresh croissant drizzled in warm chocolate. Our breakfasts were delicious and while I was tempted to venture into more experimental territory I stuck to the classic Benedict. My companions enjoyed the English breakfast and back bacon Benedict. We ordered a maple apple appetizer to share, which I would skip in the future. We enjoyed the mimosas though, such a civilized drink to have with breakfast. The ambiance inside is a classic restaurant with white linens and plates. Nothing witty to say about Raincity Grill, but do come and enjoy, you may pass it along to your friends as well. It was a perfect way to kick off the holidays in Vancouver and I must get back here for dinner someday. Great.

 

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