Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dining Out for Life - Nook

For Dining Out for Life on March 25th, I picked two places to try: Emelle's Catering for breakfast, and Nook for dinner.

My good friend Lynn who lives downtown recommended Nook as one of her favourite places quite a few months back, and I had been meaning to go for quite a while.

I had reports of it being a terribly busy place, frequently with lineups and no reservations taken, so it was awfully kind of my dining companion to drive out for an early 5pm dinner. It didn't get really busy till closer to 6pm, and then the ~30 seat restaurant was full and had diners waiting at the door. (There isn't much room to wait, either, and in case you're out on a rainy day, bring your umbrella as the awnings outside aren't contiguous enough between stores to provide proper coverage against rain.)

Our server took his time with us (ah, the advantages of having the restaurant to yourself!) and patiently satisfied my companion's curiosity about the restaurant (open only since May 2009) and how they did during the Olympics (miserably, as it turned out).
Then he talked at length about the day's antipasto special, involving ricotta wrapped in buffalo cheese and sliced out onto wedges of toasted baguette.
My companion and I were having a fine time getting to know each other and catching up since the last time we met, and time flew by with us both blissfully unaware of the menu. Our server popped by to inquire lest we completely forget, and I give points for his patience and courtesy with us, considering how long we yapped.
I was intrigued by his description of the appetizer and ordered it right away. It swam in olive oil and there was a stack of baby tomatoes on the side. Honestly, I can't remember too much of it as I thought it rather bland, but there was a delicateness to the flavour and though my unrefined palate didn't appreciate it, my companion was very impressed.

My companion yielded ordered to me, and next I asked for the crostini with ricotta, grilled radicchio, pistachio, and fireweed honey; and the flatbread special of the day.
Like the appetizer before, the crostini appetizer came across a bit bland, I thought, as I never was particularly impressed by more or less tasteless white cheeses.

The flatbread, finally, was very tasty. It was a medium-pizza sized, and although it wasn't as loaded as "regular" pizza you might get from Dominos or Pizza Factory, it tasted fabulous.
I took points off for the meat sliding off the slice completely, but that does happen when the pizza is fresh from the oven and the sauce that the meat's sitting on is still very wet.
You can get a decent bulk pizza from Pizza Factory at just over half the price, a superior tasting pizza from Dominos or any of the better pizza chains for the same price, or you can get something that's lighter but tastes just that much better from Nook.

Dining Out for Life - Emelle's Catering

Emelle's Catering on Urbanspoon

For Dining Out for Life on March 25th, I picked two places to try: Emelle's Catering for breakfast, and Nook for dinner.

I didn't have any particular recommendation for Emelle's, but rather chose it because it was very close to where I volunteer for the Vancouver Crisis Centre and could pop by in the morning after my shift.
I had a look at their website beforehand, and had picked out their Corned Beef Hash and Jumbo Buttery Croissant. When I got there and checked the menu again (in case of something new -- websites can be notoriously outdated, like Le Gavroche's, which makes no mention of their Lobster Fest as the "latest news" on their website is from November 2005), there was mention of butterhorns and I thought to ask about it.
Sadly, I was told that it wasn't being made anymore, and should have been taken off the menu. No problem. Jumbo buttery croissant it is!
Oops... No, that wasn't on the menu either. In fact, I was told that the entire baked goods blackboard shouldn't still be up there. So if you researched their menu online, you shouldn't count on anything listed under "fresh from the oven" to be available.
Did they at least have corned beef hash? Yup. Whew.

Overall the corned beef hash was pretty tasty and though some might find it not salty enough, far from bland. I personally felt there could have been a bit more beef and a bit less onion. And the potatoes could have been cut much smaller, too.
The potatoes were cut into chunks about a cubic inch in volume, which meant that you couldn't really scoop it up with either fork or spoon and expect to also get corned beef and other hashy goodness with it in the same bite. Likely you'll spear it with a fork, and all the other ingredients in the dish would fall off.

The hash came with two eggs any style; and two slices of toast, cut diagonally and pre-buttered (or was it margarine?), so if you're watching your waistline, you might want to ask for butter on the side.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Holy Moly! - 50% Off at Capones

Look what I got in my e-mail box today!

"...Come into the restaurant and mention that you are a "LOCAL" and receive 50% OFF your food bill Sunday till Wednesday for the month of March (not in combination with our "weekly specials")."

Here's the link, which takes you to their March/April 2010 newsletter. Scroll down for their weekly specials.

Capones March-April 2010 Newsletter excerpt

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dinner at db bistro

I finally got myself down to what used to be Feenies (I waited too long, and POOF, they're gone) but now db bistro moderne to try their "NY's original db burger", listed as "Top Sirloin Burger Filled with Braised Short Ribs, Black Truffle; Served on a Toasted Parmesan Bun; Pommes Frites".

Soup of the day was French Onion, and I gave that a pass since I already had my eye on the burger and was committed to dessert.

After I placed my order, I was offered a "mushroom soup latte". A very flavourful mushroom soup with light foam (of something I forgot -- sorry) served in a tiny cup with a tiny spoon. I did catch sight of other diners treating it like a soup, but I decided to treat it like a small coffee, and after stirring in the foam -- bottoms up! There was still a bit of mushroom soup at the bottom that needed to be scooped out. All it all, tasty soup but more of a novelty than anything.

Next, the obligatory bread and butter. Sad to say, boring normal (but softened) butter. And slices of baguette that were cold and very possibly, from their dryness and the toughness of the crust, to have been baked way early this morning, if not the day before. Or just kept badly in between. Who knows? I had one to sample and ignored the rest.

Finally the burger came, and first off I checked the fries. I tend to check the fries first because if you check it later, you might not know whether it came hot and fresh or not. These, happily, were. Pleasantly crunchy, beautiful golden colour. Lackluster dips, though: ketchup, mustard, mayo. Blah. In any case, I thought the fries were in fact salted well enough and really didn't need anything else, especially if you polished it off while they were still somewhat hot or more than warm.

The "burger" itself was not so much a burger as a small but fat (a hair over 1" thick, I think) steak stuffed with something in the middle. The steak part was (and by default) medium rare, and though there was some redness, maybe scooping out the middle did it in because it was on the dry side.
The bread had a toasty hard top with what were presumably parmesan chunks. The whole stack was about 3-1/2" in diameter, maybe 4" tall, and cut in half (convenient for sharing!). At that height, even if you could juggle the tiny width in your hand for a bite, you'd have to dislocate your jaw to jam it in for a regular burger bite. So I flipped off the top and use fork and knife on it.
Overall tasty, and there was enough moisture from the burger filling and the rest of the burger (primarily from the skinned tomato slides inside) that it made up for the dry steak. A bit of a gimmick, though, since you're really just eating a chunk of steak for $28. Just don't think "burger".

For dessert, I chose the Tarte Bourdaloue - Red WIne Poached Pears, Almond Cream, Eggnog Ice Cream. Gawd, it was delicious! With the syrup it sat in, a bit oversweet on its own, but nice when tempered with the ice cream, and in any case sweetness is forgiven in desserts.
My only complaint was that the carefully built layers came apart when you tried to scoop it up. The problem it seemed was the sauce soaking the bottom layer, so that it stuck to your plate. That meant you had to really work with fork and spoon (and probably mangle the piece) to get all the layers in one bite. In turn, that meant you often didn't get to sample in entirety what the chef intended.

Service was a bit slow as they seemed to sometimes prioritize setting up tables over bussing. I don't drink so I had no wine. Bill came to just under $40 and I rounded it up to $50. It was a nice touch that the waiter who served me opened the door for me on my way out and into another crisp Vancouver night.

Lunch at the Hide Out

Had to run to the Land Title Office of BC today to get my parents' place re-registered to be under just my mom's name (my dad having passed away in January). Funny how it's not that important, but if you want to straighten things out, they'll charge you $73 and change.

Anyway, the Land Title Office is in New Westminster, and I had a boo at DineHere to see whether there was an interesting place for lunch. (Truth be told, I've always had a dim view of New Westminster as a place where great dining experiences are to be had.)

Anyway, a look about the nearby places listed on DineHere came up with The Hide Out Cafe on Carnavon Street. The site is a bit (okay, a lot) skimpy and the online menu was non-functional on the morning I checked it, but it had had good recent reviews on Dine Here, and I went to look for the mango chicken wrap that was talked about.

It did not disappoint! If the mango chicken wrap (made in-house) were to be improved, I think it would be to have the mango a bit more evenly distributed, but otherwise the wrap was excellent. Not so full of rice (as some wraps are wont to be) that it seems that's all you're eating. Generous with ingredients like the feta, and you can clearly see chunks of mango and large chunks of chicken. They also had a nice selection of teas. Medium tea and full-size wrap (half-wrap was also available) came out to just over $10.

Staff were friendly, and pleasantly confident in their food and beverage offerings by simply being pleased and excited about your order. They checked in with me just as restaurant wait staff might, something you don't always get at a busy cafe. I popped in shortly before the lunch rush from the law courts across the street, and was glad for it because shortly after my grilled wrap arrived, they had 3 people waiting at the counter, some of whom sounded like regulars.

I would definitely recommend this place for the pleasant staff and quiet locale. (here insert punnish reference to it being truly a "hide out" :roll eyes:)