Famiglia Supper Series – Communal Table at La Pentola

Words & pix: Stephanie Yuen

http://taiyangbao.ca/food/323138/

I always love communal tables, quite likely because that’s how meals are served in Asian homes; but more so because communal meals allow you to enjoy multiple courses all at once! When the invitation to go to last month’s La Pentola Famiglia Supper, I shouted out a big “YES”! What could be better than a rustic Italian dinner served family style inside Yaletown’s most notorious boutique hotel on a cold and damp Sunday evening?

Opus’s family supper served communal style is a great way to meet new friends, embrace the culinary culture of Italy and of course, share a bottle or two of wines. This is also a great venue to create your own supper event – a special celebration or a birthday party – when your food is prepared by a talented chef and served by friendly and able staffs. The best part, the 10-course dinner is at $55 per person, boiling down to $5.50 per course each!

I’ve been told about the scrumptious La Pentola Famiglia Supper Series which takes place every last Sunday evening of the month only here, and was warned beforehand to bring a big appetite. To prepare, I walked extra distance to the next Skytrain Station and hopped onto the train, surely glad I did!

IMG_6067Once seated at the round table where my friend Kelina and I were greeted by fellow ‘diners’, we ordered our drinks. Not usually a cocktail fan, only because my stomach doesn’t always agree with the recipes, but I found myself sipping away the tall glass of Opus Bar’s featured cocktail “Montmorency” infused with orange and vanilla aromas. With certain resistance, I reminded myself to go easy with the drink since the first platter of the 10-course family supper arrived.

Here’s the 10-course menu we indulged that evening:

Speck (cured meat), mustard fruits (pear and zucchini), canederli (bread dumplings) – Can’t believe how wonderful it was to start a meal with poached pear and fluffy dumplings that reminded me of mini green onion pancakes.

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Carne salata, greens, parmesan – What a plate of colourful lettuce – oh, more parmesan please!

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Trout, apple puree, roasted chestnuts – Apple and trout? Yes, they’re meant to be together!

 

Fennel and blood orange salad, pine nuts, speck. – The pairing of the fennel and blood orange was as good as how the fennel was cooked.

Spatzle, duck confit, duck jus – A juicy and moist version of spatzle that complemented the duck jus beautifully.

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Salt cod, potato, cauliflower, caraway – I fell in love with cauliflower all over again, and again!

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Tortellini with brown butter and sage – That’s what al dente was all about.IMG_6084

Cotechino, lentils, squash, Brussels sprouts – The pork sausage (cotechino) using all renegade meats such as pork rind, cheek, neck muscle and shoulder was singing my tune.

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Grilled venison, porcini, polenta, juniper butter – What to devour first, the venison, the porcini or the polenta?

 

 

Tamarind Ice Cream – treated acidity of tamarind cut through nicely with the silky ice cream. The slice of meat on top was bacon!IMG_6099 Chef Lucais Syme has prepared a roasted pig and a lamb for previous Famiglia suppers, but the above 10 courses showcased classic Italian cooking technique and communal fares perfectly. The next family supper will be this Sunday, Feb 23rd.  Reservation is recommended. 604-642-0557

http://info@lapentola.caIMG_6096

Dine Out Galore

Henry & Stephanie Yuen (Chinese blog – http://taiyangbao.ca/food/304664/?variant=zj-hans  )

No matter if you’re a foodie or not, you’ve got to know about “Dine Out Vancouver”! Being in its 12th year, the chance of you hanging out with friends or families in one or more of the Dine Out participating restaurants during the 15 days of Dine Out in past years should be pretty high.

The fact is, from 40+ restaurants to the astounding number of 263 today, and that media from as far as Britain is discovering how successful “Dine Out Vancouver” has been, and with the price tags of $18, $28 and $38 for a 3-course meal, we Vancouverites should be supporting this wonderful food & wine event. Besides choosing and dining in any one or two or more of the 263 restaurants, there’re dozens of fun-filled events which are hosted by some of the city’s who’s who characters. For instance, our very own Man About Town Fred Lee (CBC & The Province) will be conducting The Grape Debate 2014 on Friday, Jan 31 at the Vancouver Public Library. $38 gets you into the Debate, followed by wine tasting presented by Alumni UBC and the Wine of British Columbia.????????????????????????

We urge you to log onto http://dineoutvancouver.com , check out the list of restaurants from each group and the different events taking place between Jan 17 to Feb 02, and book your seats ASAP! Don’t forget to find out how you can win prizes – what about ‘Dine Out For a Year Contest?

We started riding the Dine Out waves by previewing these three restaurants.

A)   Roma BurgerYaletown, W. 4th,  River District$18  and  $28

Located in three different areas with distinctly different backdrops, you may feel like the three Roma Burgers are not related.  Well, their settings and ambiance do vary, but they’re offering the same Dine Out menu.  There are plenty mains to choose from for non-burger fans; such as the Fish and Chips and a Quinoa Burger for vegetarian which is amazingly delicious and well-structured! But I guarantee you will fall in love with those appetizers and salads. No one says you cannot share your fries, the wings and of course, keep those mini donuts to yourself!

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Drinks:  The mellow and fruity Prospect Winery Major Allen Merlot will not disappoint any wine sippers. Juicy, lengthy with subtle woody aroma, it does go well with the dripping burgers.  Most of the white wines are from our own backyard, plus a good selection of easy to please wine on taps. Craft beer fans can take a look at the black board for choices.

Our $18 recommendations:

The Fish Shack

Hapa Izakaya – Kitsilano

Luke’s Corner Bar & Kitchen

Memphis Blues

Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts – Bistro 101

Trattoria Italian Kitchen

       B. The Parker  $28

Another non-orthodox vegetarian restaurant in town whose slogan of ‘sustainable & sexy’ put them on the list of 2013’s new ‘hot spot’ in town.  Of course, Executive Chef Curtis Luk’s partake in the last Top Chef Canada had already given them the edge.  Everyone loves the fresh, local ingredients Luk sources and applies brilliantly.

 

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The plates are so beautiful, the flavour and textures so rich, the execution in fine details, so please do not consume them in a flash,  take the Cauliflower appetizer as a great example – do enjoy with your eyes and noses first, than indulge – you may easily forget what you’re eating are non-meat dishes. IMG_5969

Drinks: Out of the 4-page menu, only 1+1/3 belongs to the food section, the remaining spaces are all about cocktails and wines, a strong indication of how much attention is given to making sure diners enjoy their liquid food as much.  Cocktails with fun or fancy names are very tempting, but we found the Liquidity white, a BC Okanagan blend to be quite a palate-pleaser. Floral and refreshing, this  will pair well with most of Chef Luk’s vegetarian creation.

Our $28 recommendations:

Cactus Club Café (Bentall, English Bay, Park Royal, Yaletown)

Café Pacifica (Pan Pacific Hotel)

Campagnolo

Cibo Trattoria

Forage (Robson)

The Italian Kitchen (Alberni)

Le Parisien

Provence

Pastis

Pier 73

Siena

Tap & Barrel (Coal Harbour, Olympic Village)

C. Wildebeest  $38

Located on Hastings in the Gastown district, Wildebeest interprets the ‘wild’ in its name artfully.  Daringly created dishes served communal style put the restaurant onto the honour roll. It did not take long at all for Wildebeest to develop its very own image and secured its luring power.IMG_5972

From a simple salad such as the Wildebeest Salad with crunchy apple, winter herbs and frozen mascarpone; the Lamb Tartare dressed with heritage onions, horseradish emulsion and mustard seed gastrique; to the Roasted Chick’etta’ with winter squash and black garlic vinaigrette, the dining process is a sensational experience. Please note: Dine Out menus are individual plates.

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Drinks: Wildebeest offers an extensive wine list, including a couple of Junmai Sake. We thoroughly enjoyed what went into our glasses: Wildebeest’s own label wines, a red (Gamay & pinot Noir) and a white (Riesling, Gerwurztraminer & Pinot Gris) blend that match Chef Wes Young’s cooking style and food profile nicely.  A diligent collaboration with Road 13 Winery resulted in 50 cases of each blend. By the look of the crowds in the dining room, it won’t take long for Wildebeest to consider another new batch.

Our $38 recommendations.

Coast Restaurant

DIVA at the Met

Five Sails Restaurant

Hart House

Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House

The Keg

L’Abattoir

Pidget

Yew Restaurant + Bar (Four Seasons Hotel)

 

 

 

Maboroshi & sushi

Eat Toronto – The joy of sake pairing at Ki Modern Japanese + Bar

Ki decor

Ki Modern Japanese + Bar
181 Bay Street  (416) 308-5888  http://www.kijapanese.com

Words & pix: Henry & Stephanie Yuen

(Chinese blog: http://taiyangbao.ca/food/289821 )

We were not expecting to see standing-room only happy hour crowd at 7pm on a Monday night.   The thought that perhaps we had the dates mixed up while trying to convince ourselves today was not Friday diminished when the hostess found our reservation in the book. We found out later such is a normal restaurant scene on most weekdays in popular restaurants around downtown Toronto, thanks to the financial and corporate offices inside every towering building spilling out flows of well-dressed ladies in high-heel shoes and nicely-suited gentlemen who gather after work to grab a drink and a bite, to socialize with the peers and quite often, to execute some ladder-climbing motions with managements or sealing business deals. Oh yes, the commercial pulses in Toronto are on a much higher speed, during and after business hours!

But of course, there is always the harsh reality that restaurants without good food and apt vibe will still be left out of the scene. The contemporary décor and energetic crowds in front of the stretch cocktail bar set the mood the instant you step inside Ki. High ceiling, geometric furnishings and attractive colour schemes feed the vibration.  It has the casual feel of an upscale chain restaurant and the detailed elegance of an oriental fine-dining club. The girls at the reception and our service team of duo greeted us warmly and provided attentively, indicating calibre staff training which is a must but not necessary found in all restaurants.

We  believe the best way to see how Chefs work with the freshest ingredients available in the market is let them take care of our order and allow the surprise factor to elevate the dining pleasure. To add to this anticipated Ki experience was the presence of Ontario’s very first Certified Advance Sake Professional Michael Tremblay, the Head National Sake Sommelier designing and perfecting Ki’s sake programs in both the Toronto and Calgary locations.

Maboroshi & sushi

The protégé of N. American’s renowned Sake Expert John Gauntner, Tremblay hones his Sake knowledge by going to Japan’s top Sake Breweries to observe and talk to the masters all the time. The impressive sake menu at Ki’s confirms Tremblay’s profound passion and deep lore in this ancient art.  For sake enthusiasts, ‘sake’ conversations with Tremblay, as he unveils the how and the w5’s of sake making, from choosing the rice and water to the histories of the families and their breweries, is inarguably the highlight of sake-dining here. Tell him what you’re having; his pairing recommendation often becomes the integral part of the meal.Tremblay suggested two sakes, one cold and one warm, to charm our palates that evening. “Cold sake should stay between 10 to 20C while warm sake can be sipped at 40 to 55C. Some sake can be enjoyed at room temperature.” Tremblay explained, “Place unfinished opened bottles of cold sake back to the refrigerator, 2nd fermentation will take place otherwise.” 

Abocore tuna with a beautiful floral designWe started with Nakoa ‘Maboroshi’ Junmai Ginjo from Hiroshima served cold in a wine glass. Hiroshima is the birth place of ginjo and Nakoa Brewery started in 1871. Brewed from 58% ground grains, this Maboroshi Junmai ginjo has a beautiful written Chinese character meaning ‘mirage’ on the bottle.  Clear and crisp, this mildly sweet ginjo is quite mellow with subtle aroma, a good sake for beginners and to wake up the palate, no doubt a lovely start to a great dinner, it can be sipped on its own too.

To go with this, we had the Albacore Tuna Tataki with Sweet Chili Dressing, the Torched Salmon Belly and sesame and white miso sauce garnished with dried red pepper and ginger, shaped like a flower. The plate of 6 pieces of almost carved-like sushi was so beautiful it took our breath away for a few seconds, luckily our desire to sink our teeth into it stayed put. You can imagine how exotic one of the sushi – Iko Squid marinated in white truffle oil was and how excited we were to indulge!

Juicy pork bellyWith hot items, we had affably served warm sake from Ontario Spring Water Sake Co. here in Toronto.  Meaning ‘creek’, the‘Izumi’ Junmai Nama Genshu was poured from a dark clay pot into authentic sake cups which we sipped with admiration. Using premium junmai rice grown in California and water in Ontario, Izumi is a floral unfiltered wine with a lengthy finish. Interestingly, different aspects of the wine character surfaced and somehow harmonized with the nutty-sweetness of the crispy-skin pork belly, the creamy texture of the soft yet firm scallops and the capturing soy-flavoured grilled short ribs.  Higher alcohol content and bolder structure give this wine length and depth.

Jumbo scallopsNicely presented warm sake

The popularity of sake in Toronto has been on the rise, as indicated by sold out sake events and festivals. Ki’s sake menu is likely one of the most listed and descriptive sake menu in Canada. We both agreed the simple but functional menu is an education tool in itself, a good read for sure for novice or veteran sake lovers. With Tremblay’s immense knowledge in sake and his tireless effort reaching out and explaining to each table ordering sake; no wonder Ki’s sake program is so successful.   

 

Okanagan’s world-class food and restaurant scene

Words & Pix: Stephanie Yuen

( http://taiyangbao.ca/author/stephanieyuen/?zh=vans )

No matter what the reason, every Okanagan visit proves to be a lovely break for me!

The most recent one took place this early Fall, when trees were at their ultimate forms of natural beauty; when orchards and vineyards were changing hues.  With many shades of red and gold adorning the highways and the random sun emitting warmth into the car, the 4-hour drive was a pleasant one.    

We chose this time to go simply because the vines and wineries at harvesting time were calling. Oliver, Summerland and Penticton were our destinations. While visiting wineries and tasting the wines were the main focus, we were both ready and excited to bite into the top-notched restaurants and food programs we heard so much about. The fact that the valley has always been the land of bounty, where orchards, farms and ranches flourish, the region’s developing into a sensational food and restaurant scene is a natural fit. From artisan cheese-makers to lamb-roasting dinner; music and wine to chefs’ wine-paired feasts, Okanagan is now poised as the haven for culinary tourism.

Our delicious journey began at Miradoro (Tinhorn Creek), where Executive Chef Jeff Van Geest (formerly of Aurora on Main & E. 8th), partnered with two Marcs of Gold Medal Plates fame.The two champs from Atelier in Ottawa and Auberge Du Pommier in Toronto brought along their magic wands and the three of them orchestrated an evening of palate supremacy, the ticket price of $155, along with a take-away gift bag of a bottle of Tinhorn Creek wine and other gadgets, was enchanting. Take a look at this lavishly presented plate of Scallop and Lobster poached in butter with the pickled garlic and miso sauce as the surprise flavour factors. 

#1 Miradoro

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Breakfast next morning was a $12pp very generously-prepared and displayed continental buffet breakfast, beverages included, inside the modern, quaint and beautiful lakeside Watermark Beach Resort Hotel where we stayed the night. The word continental was an understatement, with hot eats such as eggs and bacon; cold treats such as smoked salmon and fresh fruits; oven-fresh baked goods including croissant, the value was exceptional. Full and happily contented, we began our packed program of the day.

The much anticipated lunch at Hester Creek’s Terrafina was as hearty and delightful as any family-style meal in Tuscany would be. The pan-fried Squids and Smoked Trout Sandwich were masterfully done. Unpretentious was the dining room and the ambiance, locally-sourced and tastefully-crafted were the seasonal menu items. We were told that Terrafina’s made-to-order pizza was ‘Okanagan famous’, no wonder we say quite a few of them on some of the tables.#3 Pan-fried squids

#4 Chef at TerrafinoTucked away in the lush green garden at the back of Hillside Winery’s tasting room, the country setting of Hillside Bistro was particularly warm and welcoming in the gloomy nightfall. Executive Chef Robert Gordonier may be young, but the flavour profile of the dishes we ordered that evening showed nothing short of innovative ideas and culinary senses. Infusing local recipes with Asian ingredients and seasonings is much more challenging than some might assume. The application of hoisin sauce in the braised beef shank was a real showcase of how it should be done. An extra thumbs up to Gordonier who gave the credit to his Chinese wife!#6 Hiiside-chef & his own sauces#5 Hillside - Braised beef shankBlessed with a majestic view, Vanilla Pod Restaurant at the very architectural building where Poplar Grove lies was the perfect lunch spot on a mild autumn day. The reflection of the sun upon the surrounding vineyards and river belt was as sumptuous as the meal. We opted for a couple of simple lunch items to share, but simplicity here referred only to the name of the dish, the presentation and the depth of each dish was astounding. The salad was a collection of the latest harvest of plump, juicy and colourful grape and cherry tomatoes from the garden; the artisan cheese in the ham & cheese sandwich established its own name and fame; but it’s the rice pudding that took my breath away! “Many locals come here just for this pudding!” said our waiter. The golden rice pudding, presented stylishly, was beyond my imagination. We did thank the waiter for insisting us to try!#8 yummy rice pudding

Fall is here, let’s eat your heart out!

Words & Pix: Stephanie Yuen

Chinese post: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/stephanieyuen/?variant=zh-hans

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Quinto Quarto: Brain & Bottega Dinner

Chinese are known to eat everything and anything, well almost! When it comes to offal, we eat plenty! Quite often, when the term ‘internal organ’ is mentioned, facial expressions of surprise, dismay or even disgust are shown, sometimes verbal expressions such as ‘barbarian, non-human’ are added. You could imagine how happy and awed I was to sit amongst fellow offal eaters at Campagnolo Roma; ready to indulge into an evening of ‘tendon, ears, skin, heart and brain’!

Oh yes, pig brain! That’s part of the Quinto Quarto: Brain & Bottega Dinner Chef Nathan Lowey in stored for us, in time to inject some Halloween mood into every body there. But before brain was served, we had to go through the following extremely creative and somewhat exotic dishes:

tendon

Appetizers:

1/ Puffed beef tendon that reminded me of shrimp chips Chinese restaurants often serve with Crispy chicken.

2/ Pig ears that shaped and deep-fried like French fries; extra crunchy thanks to the soft ear bones.

3/ Pigs Trotters which were deboned, braised and then fried.

Primo: Pasta with softened julienne pig skin  – who would have guessed those semi-translucent shreds were pig skins?

Second: Beef heart stuffed with sweetbreads and black truffles, the texture of the heart was a lot like beef tongues.

And now, the brain – blended into the dark chocolate torte, was indeed a piece of cake. Finally, the Vanilla ice cream sprinkled with duck crackling bits!

To go with the wild menu, we had the following wines from Bottega, a young, innovative and very energetic winery who produces grappa, wine, sparkling wine and liqueur that distributes to 120 countries worldwide:

Bottega Prosecco N/V , Bottega Pinot Grigio 2010 , Bottega Valpolicella Ripasso 2010 

Bottega Amarone 2009 , Alexander GrappaIMG_5114

Both Campagnolo on Main and Roma put on one-of-a-kind feasts regularly. Go online to find out when and what the next one will be!

www.campagnoloroma.com

www.campagnolorestaurant.ca

Mushroom Festival at Siena

For those mushroom-craving folks who may not be able to or are not too keen on going deep into the forest for mushroom hunting, Siena’s $32 three-course Mushroom Festival menu comes highly recommended, by the four of us who last week, had a joyous dinner there!

We ordered two mushroom dinners, a sumptuous plate of antipasti, a grilled flat iron steak and a mushroom risotto. The total ticket price $140, tax included.IMG_5125

In terms of value, the $32 menu was almost as good as a steal, simply because the portion, flavour and presentation of each single course were solid.  Good choices were offered for the first and main courses. The texture of the crimini & oyster mushroom soup was creamy but silky smooth. My pork tenderloin with morels was tender and juicy; the olive oil sautéed potatoes and Chianti sauce elevated the palate satisfaction. The porcini stuffing in theravioli was a bit too salty for our liking but the charred shallots and the Madeira cream were marvelous. Not a steak person, but the two slices of grilled steak I bit into were one of the most flavourful beef I had in recent months; the balsamic-basil marinade did its trick. Same comments could be made to the risotto – steamy hot with perfectly balanced amount of creamy and cheesy texture – bravo! IMG_5133

White chocolate and black truffle tart was the dessert that came with the mushroom menu, but I had to order the blackberry panna cotta off the menu and found myself absolutely lost in it. Black was the colour; started with blackberry-blended top layer which was a fruity and sweet sensation and eggless custard was velvety and dreamy.

Siena’s Mushroom Festival will last till November 6, reservation, I say, is a must! www.eatsiena.com  1485 W 12th Ave.Vancouver.  (604) 558-1485

2/ Something different is happening everyday at Seventeen89

Paul Puratich, a third generation fisherman who knows his seafood like his own palms and Chef Daryle Nagata, one of my favourite Canadian chefs partnered up and opened Seventeen89 recently and is already creating a buzz. No, it has nothing to do with which restaurant was there before, who cares really? But everything to do with what Nagata and Puratich are doing.  Let’s look at the Fall menu line-ups that offers something different on a daily basis. From your choice of beer on tap plus a pair of bratwurst pretzel dogs and Chef’s addictive crispy fries for just $10 on Tuesdays; BYOB with zero cockage fee on Wednesdays and Nagata will happily and readily create hearty, delicious food to pair with your wine; to Senior Sunday when the older and wiser 65 and up get 25% off their meals! Neighbourhood friendliness and reaching out to the community – now we’re talking!Chef Nagata's fall-coloured beef dish

1789 Comox Street (at Denman), Vancouver. Information: 1789.ca or call 604-428-0705Chef Daryle Nagata and Paul

3/ Thomas Haas’s One! Bar – Grab it while you can!

Chocolate and dessert fans know what the name ‘Thomas Haas’ entails. The limited release of 1000 only ‘One! Bar’ is  his newest seduction. The one and only Chocolatier in Canada, Haas’s newly created to-die-for chocolate bar is made with carefully selected wild-foraged cocoa beans from Grenada. He happens to be one of the few Chocolatiers in the world to allow access to this unique and robust vintage of 65% cocoa from Valrhona’s prestigious Sourcers’ Selection. To refine the bar even further, Haas has intensified the flavour profile to 79 per cent using a unique blend of 100 per cent pure cocoa — this bar truly is a one-of-a-kind indulgence for the palates and senses.ONE!-Black

One! Bar Raffle for Canucks Place
In the spirit of the Thomas Haas annual charitable Easter Egg raffle, chocolate lovers will have a chance to win the very first ONE! Bar produced, bearing serial number 0001 and an interactive chocolate experience with Thomas Haas. Thomas will welcome the winner and up to seven of his or her friends to his North Vancouver chocolate kitchen for a fun and interactive evening of chocolate making and tasting.
 
Raffle tickets will be sold at both Thomas Haas cafés at the following rate: 3 for $5, 7 for $10, and 15 for $20 and will be randomly drawn on
Dec. 3, 2013. One hundred per cent of the funds raised will be applied towards the purchase of toys for Thomas Haas’ longstanding charity of choice, the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.

North Shore Store
Unit 128, 998 Harbourside Drive, North Vancouver. 604-924-1847

Kitsilano Store
2539 West Broadway, Vancouver. 604-736-1848 

 

A Pasta Euphoria at Cibo

A plate of Pappardelle to die for!

Photo: Don Genova

               Stephanie & Henry Yuen (Chinese blog: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/stephanieyuen/?variant-zh=hans )Cibo Trattoria – 900 Seymour Street, Vancouver (at Moda Hotel) http://www.cibotrattoria.com

It’s been a long while since I had a plate of sensational pasta. And by sensational, I mean more than ‘al dente’! 

Let’s start with the bouquet.  You can smell the sauce, the seasoning, the pasta and the cheese individually, yet the conjoined aroma shall begin to flow into your nose as soon as the waiting staff holding the plate approaches.

Next is the texture. Al dente is only the prerequisite, it is the sensuous tenderness woven within so delicately that it captures your palate’s attention right at the first bite.  You will slow down in order to caress it with your tongue and teeth. 

Don’t forget the temperature. Each component has to be hot enough to allow the luring steam to prelude but comfortable enough for a grand entrance to kick off a period of edible joy filled with oohs and aahs.

The flavour, of course, must be in perfect harmony.  With the perfect amount of sauce on each mouthful and when the plate is empty, nothing is left behind! It is so tantalizing it makes love to your palate and stays there for you to mesmerize with even after the plate is emptied.

I encountered such a symphony of all of the above recently at Cibo where Henry & I and a couple of good friends Don and Ramona enjoyed a lovely evening.  I’d be lying if we weren’t expecting dinner to be delectable, yet I had no idea I would be lifted into the 7th heaven of ‘Pappardelle’, hand-made and cooked by Executive Chef Faizal Kassam, with pizzazz!

Rosa dei Masi & salmonThe flat, long, wide and ripple-edged Papperdelle reminds me of the ‘Dao Xiao Mien’ Northern Chinese chefs shave from a block of well-kneaded dough right into a pot of boiling water that can be served wok-fried or in soup when cooked. I love that light and doughy mouth-feel which brings out the simple joy of having hearty noodles every time. Chef Faizal mixed in local chanterelles, wild onions and garlic; along with the rich but not over creamy mascarpone. Every bite was a mouthful of yearning for more! Though we already had 3 courses – Zucchini Carpaccio, Buffulo Mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes and a piece of superbly handled crispy-skinned Sockeye Salmon before the arrival of this pasta dish, I could not help but fell under the Papperdelle spell that left me sitting there focusing the next few moments onto the well-orchestrated ecstasy of adorable aroma, texture, flavour and temperature!

Henry my meat-loving husband embraced Wild Boar dish almost the same way. Chef Kassam, in order to present the different texture profiles, served both the loin and chop on slow-cooked fennel drenched in its natural jus. I took most of my home to be savoured at a later time – must leave room for dessert which I was told, was was Chef Kassam’s crafty creation.

Proven to worth the wait, the cloud-like Tiramisu made with campari and house-made mascarpone was absolutely dreamy! Don’t I wish Chef Kassam would make extras and sell them whole!

 Henry Yuen’s Wine Notes

Great wine-pairing certainly enhances the dining pleasure, but is often easy said then done.  This particular evening at Cibo, the food and wine pairing affair, as agreed by everyone, was “masterful”. The flight of Italian wines, chosen diligently by General Manager and Wine Director Steve Edwards, was presented to the table with exceptional detail and passion. Expectation became part of the pleasure and each wine Steve brought out heightened so much value to the whole experience!  

aperitivo

 zucchini carpaccio, pine nuts, chianti vinegar, parmigiano reggiano

adami ‘bosco di gica’ valdobbiadene superiore, veneto nv

  • This processo wine from the Veneto wine region in the North Eastern area of Italy is crisp, clean with green apple aroma. It has a slight mousse feel but the reserved bubble; though not overpowering, still manages to bring out that bliss, it was a good match to the thinly sliced fresh but nicely flavoured zucchini. The subtle vinegar was not overpowering and the shaved cheese partnered well with the bubble to emit a pleasant after taste.   

antipasti 

buffalo mozzarella – heirloom tomatoes, basil, garlic, chili, mint

anselmi ‘san vincenzo’ veneto 2011 

  • A light aromatic white from the same wine region, it is full of citrus flavour with a hint of peach and melon in the palate. This pairing was intended not to take away the delicate flavour of the mozzarella but acted as a charming complement to the fresh tomatoes drizzled with the mixed condiments of garlic, mint and chili.  

pesci 

sockeye salmon – zucchini trifolata, olive pangrattato

masi ‘rosa dei masi’ rosato, veneto 2

  • This rose wine is crafted differently than the typical rose wines from other places. Some harvested grapes were air dried before fermentation to infuse it with a mild sweetness and good body with balanced acidity. But it still carries lots of berry flavours and a hint of Asian fruit to romance the senses. The salmon was nicely grilled to provide a crispy skin texture and the rose with some weight cut through this classic fish dish from beginning to end enticingly.   

primi

pappardelle – local chanterelles, garlic, mascarpone, wild onions

vietti ‘perbacco’ nebbiolo, piedmont 2010

 Using 100% Nebbiolo grapes, this red is from 35-year old vines in the Barolo wine region. 28 months in barrels and further aging time in casks, this is a medium bodied wine with lots of fruit but inlays with a subtle hint of herbs and spices that profound the well balanced intensity. The pasta with the fragrant mushroom and onions coming together was gratifying. The wine prolonged the sensational pleasure, a fulfilling back-drop to this dish.  

secondi

wild boar loin & chop – slow cooked fennel, natural jus, blueberries

rivera ‘violante’ nero di troia, puglia 2008 

  • This medium bodied ruby red is from the heels of southern Italy at the Puglia wine region. Lots of berries and plum seeps through in the palate; with adequate tannins to profuse its intensity and performance. It is this intensity in the wine that matched well with the gaminess of the meat. The sweetness of the fennel and the jus enhanced the wine profile giving it a long lasting finish.

 dolci 

tiramisu, campari, house-made mascarpone

trabucchi recioto della valpolicella doc, veneto 2005 

  • A late harvest style dessert wine is from the Veneto wine region in North Eastern region of Italy. The grape is slightly air dried before fermentation to give it more character and structure. It is a dark red with sweet and gentle honey and cocoa aroma that packs in complex flavours. While the tiramisu was light and smooth, the fluffiness and creaminess went in zinc with this heavier late harvest wine. A lovely way to finish off the evening for sure!   

Volenta & wild boar                  dessert

Longtail Kitchen

Words and pix: Stephanie Yuen

As a New West resident who’s ready and willing to support neighbourhood businesses, I pay local eateries more visits than elsewhere. I do admit, however, that New West is a long way from being a ‘gourmet town’, except for Ki Sushi across from the Skytrain Station on 8th, , Hon’s on 6th, Spring Garden on 12th. But with increased high-rise condos and more being built, population is definitely on the rise. This may explain why the above-mentioned restaurants are always jam-packed.

River Market, said to be a trendy market place where stylish shops and eateries supposedly gather, has yet to make much noise. Like many other folks in the neighbourhood, I am still waiting for it to shine. Sad to say the shuffling of shops and the Market’s limited news and lack of community involvement all might have suppressed our interest and participation.  The news of Angus Eng, owner of the popular and well-respected Modern Thai restaurant Maenam opening up his 2nd eatery in the Market was perhaps one of the better news lately.IMG_3952

The Market is only 10 minutes walk away from my place, so my two sisters and I decided to do just that – walked over to Longtail for lunch.  At 1pm on a Friday, the small room was 70% full, with a decent flow of singles and duos coming in, not a bad sign at all compared to some other market shops. But with Maenam’s and Angus Eng’s well-regarded record; plus the recent blasts of reviews by mainstream and social media, I expected to see a bigger crowd.

The kitchen, with a uniformed cook/chef (?) and 3 others moving about in the cooking area, seemed jammed and busy. A rack of canned goods and food supplies occupied the left wall. The wooden counter – a long and rectangular work bench – was topped with tubs and containers of condiments and ingredients where the manager picked at constantly. This is also where customers go to place the order, for take-outs and where they wait for their food too.  At times, this area may seem quite confused. 

IMG_3953

The small menu is simple but with only 10 Lunch/Dinner/Take-out items, offers limited selections. To have the menu prices set from $6 to $12 is obviously a smart decision. We decided to order a few items for sharing. Upon noticing that unless you order the Pad Thai or Curry Chicken Noodle, none came with any carbs, so we ordered a side order of rice – that’s how Asians have their meals, right?

We started off with a bowl of creamy and steamy-hot coconut soup loaded with mussels, mushrooms and chicken meat which we all agreed could have been more aromatic and spicy.  The bowl of Salt Spring Island mussels was nicely garnished with 2 thick sticks of lemon grass and raw tomatoes. The papaya salad, served in a plastic take-out container (bowls are paper products), was crisp and refreshing, yet a bit on the runny side. As a die-hard pan-fried oyster fan, the 4 good-sized battered and deep-fried oysters offered puffy yet crunchy texture but could use a bit more seasoning. The big disappointment came when I bit into the hen in a paper dish.  Pre-cooked, chopped into big pieces and grilled when ordered, the meat was blend, mushy on the insude but dried on the edges, without any hint of Thai savory flavour. Sorry Longtail, but this reminded me of mall-like fast-food.  We did dip them into the tangy spicy sauce provided in small take-out plastic cups but didn’t find it helping.IMG_3960

This $15 per head plastic & paper plate lunch (water was our beverage) in an enclosed fast-food style eatery backed by a famed chef and award winning Thai restaurant, sorry to say, was below my expectation! 

IMG_3955          IMG_3958

What can we tell you about East of Main?

front 2

Chinese posting: 以希飲食 +Am1470節目資料 刊登于中文網頁上

http://taiyangbao.ca/food/180866/?variant=zh-hans

Words & pix: Henry & Stephanie Yuen

May be we should start we the food. Yet, with this familiar name – the well-respected Tina Fineza as the Consulting Chef, do we need to say more?

What we had the other evening – multiple courses of hearty Mediterranean tapas – was an absolute symphony of flavours. “The progression of food”, as phased by Tina herself, was stories of culinary culture and history. Take the Spanish-Style Braised Heritage Angus Beef for example, was tender chunks of BC briskets harmonized with smoked paprika, anche chili and patatas bravas (potatoes) drenched with delicious complexity. “I love to use the odd cuts where most flavour is sealed in.” Tina told everyone, “Hey, it’s about cost saving too!”

Cost saving that benefits others, one of which has to be that this dish is $8 only. Add a $3 Flat Bread, and a $4 Salad, you and a friend can probably go away happy and full. With the most expense dinner tapas at a mere $12 (Pacific Red Snapper, Lamb Tagine and Eggplant Moussaka), and the ‘Charcuterie & Cheese Board’ at $16 (changed daily); and a small but adequate and affordable wine list, East of Main massages your stomach and sets the mood in a very effective wallet-friendly manner.

Tina

tunaBut East of Main is no ordinary café. It is a trend setter here where Strathcona and Chinatown unite; it is a gallery, a beautiful, warm open space where great food meets inspiration. It is definitely a salon where conversations take place! Every Monday evening, the Café invites film industry folks who are directors, producers, screen writers and actors to come in to share their experiences and thoughts. Anyone is welcomed! Go to the website to check out who you will meet there next. www.eastofmaincafe.com red snapper

Project Limelight Society is what East of Main is all about, in a community caring and sharing sense. A mission the two sisters Maureen Webb and Donalda Weaver founded as a give-back, fore fronted by East of Main and back-boned by Project Limelight, this is the haven where young souls are flourished, their lives restored and dreams weaved and humanity cherished. Once in a while, you can find the kids of Project Limelight performing and collaborating. They will be at the Chinatown Night Market this summer.
http://www.projectlimelightsociety.org

This is one restaurant where diners leave with both the body and mind feeling fulfilled!

East of Main     223 East Gerogia Street, Vancouver.   604-899-2777  Maureen & singer

Stephanie on ‘Modern Deborah’ – April 9, 2013

For those who have no idea what the title is about, let me explain.

Henry & I have returned to radio land! We now talk about food, wine & travel every other tuesdays at 10:30am as food bloggers/columnist on Deborah Moore’s morning show “Modern Deborah” on AM1470.  This is a recap of the key topics on the most recent show which is somewhat semi-bilingual, since Enlgish is our lovely host Deborah’s first language.  Having lived in Hong Kong for years before coming to Vancouver, her Cantonese is unique and colourful.  The show broadcasts live on air and online to major cities such as Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton. Hope you can tune in.

 A) The Parlour Restaurant

1011 Hamilton Street, Vancouver. 604-568-3322  www.theparlourrestaurant.com

We walk into the newly opened ‘The Parlour’ on a Tuesday night.  At 6pm, the room is already packed, a good sign for sure.  The open-floor room is done in a contemporary casual style – grey stone walls, high ceilings and approchable art pieces and decorations – a place where one will feels comfortable, no matter what one’s wearing and what he or she’s going to order.

The restaurant consists of 2 areas: The front room where most couples and small groups occupy and where the TV/Bar corner station locates. The back room splits into two: the open kitchen and another dining area where bigger groups gather. Our table is may be 5 meters from the kitchen, we are able to see the non-stop action and smell the enticing aroma flowing about.  With an open kitchen, the centre piece of a place like ‘The Parlour’, the dining experience starts off with a win right at the getgo!

What we tasted:

Salmon Tartare – I am a bit skeptical before its arrival thinking ‘it’s just another ‘fish tartare’, but am I awed! The steelhead salmon, smartly mingled with seaweed, bonito, sesame seeds and crushed macadamia nuts, was dressed with ponzu aioli and micro cilantro.  Citrus, sweet and nuttines all come together in perfect harmony.  Henry loves it from the moment he sees the word ‘Salmon Tartare’! Salmon Tartare with toast

Meatball Minis – Mini burgers these are. Brioche is the bun, reggiano is the cheese and the meatballs are truly Italian.  But the tomato sauce with sambal and caramelized onion sings a different tune. What I like – it’s tiny enough to hold and indulge, but not too filling so I can still enjoy the other stuff.

Mini burgers

Yaletown Pizza – We never had tuna on our pizza so didn’t know what to expect.  We both liked what we saw – with sliced of green and cream avocado on top, this pizza stands strongly on its own.  The albacore tuna, raw red onion and green onion remind us of a fine Japanese sashimi dish.  Adding not-too-hot jalapeno and spicy aioli, Yaletown is surprisingly light and refreshing.

Brocco – Broccoli pan-tossed in sweet soy sauce.  This delightful vegetable is very west-coast, definitely Asian-influenced.

 yaletown pizza 2

After note: I’m going back to try their Chicken quinoa soup and gluten-free pizza. Henry has his eyes on the Arugula Salad.

BC vodka

B) From BC, with Vodka!

Shouldn’t be surprised to find fellow British Columbians wetting their hands to make Vodka, since this is the land filled with hidden dragons and crouching tigers.  Especially so in the F&B field, because these folks are all passionate about doing a good job with a healthy-conscience, both on the product and on taking care of Mother Nature!

Thanks to Forage Restaurant (on Robson) for hosting this eye, ear & palate-opening tasting event. And thanks to Chef Chris who once again, made a perfect appetizer trio to pamper us through the tasting!

All three Vodka distilleries love to welcome visitors to their tasting rooms and distillery tours. My suggestion? Check out their websites and make an appointment before you go!

Long Table Distillery: 1451 Hornby Street, Vancouer, BC. 604-266-0177 www.longtabledistillery.com

Pemberton Distillery: 1954 Venture Place, Pemberton, BC.  604-894-0222 www.pembertondistillery.ca

Victoria Spirits:  6170 Old West Saanich Road, Victoria, BC. 1-250-544-8217 www.victoriaspirits.com 

The 3 distillers

Cachè – A hidden gem in Yaletown

$9.95 Lobster Mania atCache

$9.95 Lobster Mania at
Cache

Stephanie Yuen

Seldom do I visit the same restaurant twice within 10 days, yet it happened last week. The restaurant, Cachè Bistro & Lounge, is a new kid in Yaletown, opened about a year ago.  It could be the very simple yet creative but unpretentious food style, could be the weekend jazz, or perhaps the concordant conversation and free-spirited laughter, the place reminds me so much of the movie “Midnight in Paris”. Let me go back to the first evening.

With our dear friend Bosco Henry & I went there for the first time last Tuesday.  We shared amongst us work stories, wines and multi-courses. Tuesday is a commonly quieter week night for restaurants, so we rolled the evening at a leisure pace as we sipped the wine, cracked up jokes while indulging into Chef Alex’s made-public French cuisine (he used to run a private dinner club at his home Kitchen).  Started off with a handsome wood-board of cheese, charcuterie and Chef’s home-made orange confit, onion jam, fig puree and poached apricot.  A perfect cold plate to share and to warm up the appetite, and with a glass of Tinhorn Merlot ’09 in hand, we took our time. When Manager Hunk removed the board and the merlot, the Foie Gras on house brioche, Escargot in flaky pastry and the PEI mussels paraded onto the table.

A good beginning

A good beginning

  For main, we shared the double-rolled Seafood Crepe, an order of exotic Lamb Rack and Seared Duck Breast drizzled with blueberry demi. To my delight, the seafood, the lamb and the duck were all local products.  We had a silver tree of mango & chocolate for dessert.

 Duck Breast

 

 

 

 

 

 

Came Saturday, Henry wanted to go and listen to live jazz there and I desired for both – the jazz and the French food.  There’s drizzles in the air when we parked our car and walked through crowds of weekend fun-seekers towards Cachè.  Jazz this evening was both music and songs performed by a couple of young brothers who took the room back to the 30’s and 40’s – so mellow and so much fun!  Thanks to an early light dinner we intended to make room for more food at Cache`, we opted for the wood-board of cheese and charcuterie to go with the wine and the light and cheerful rhythm, and an order of garlic toast on the side. While my finger was busy digging into the cheese and meat, my feet were swaying to the young chaps’ easy-going guitar drumming. The night got even better when my dessert order Crepe Suzette – golden, aromatic, thin and fluffy with the right amount of sweetness – showed up. What a splendid way to enjoy a Saturday evening – more jazz please!     

Cachè lines up their evenings with all sorts of fun menu offerings and entertaining programs. Go online and check out their early dinner special, their $35 3-course dinner ($12 wine-flight), and their weekend Brunch menu.  March is the ‘$9.95 Lobster Mania‘, best to make a reservation, from what I have been told, every night is an early sold-out! 

Coming up in April is the ‘Welcome to Spring’ - Cache’s first Wine-paired dinner – hosted by Chef Alex and Henry Yuen, our very own Wine Columnist! An authentic French rabbit dish will be the entrée. This 5-course wine-paired French dinner completed with complimentary reception cocktail for $85 all-inclusive, and only 30 seats are available! Well, what’re you waiting for?

Cache` Bistro & Lounge

1269 Hamilton Street, Vancouver. 604- 558-1269   http://www.cachebistro.com