Category Archives: wine

A Weekend in the Big City

Living as a country mouse means I get to enjoy space and quiet and peace of mind most days. That’s not to say I don’t like a dose of urban hustle and bustle once in a while. Hubbie and I just got back from a whirlwind weekend in Vancouver, so I thought I would share some of our highlights. Then you can try out our discoveries, if you like what you see.

We met my stepdaughter for dinner on Friday night in downtown Vancouver. She is recently engaged so we knew the conversation would be all about wedding plans. That required a place casual enough for lots of silly chatting and sharing of Pinterest photos; a tapas restaurant in Gastown sounded perfect. The Sardine Can worked out really well, with delicious food and lovely wine.

As an added tip, I’ll mention that Gastown is a busy part of town for after-work drinks and socializing. Be prepared to wait – you will likely have to get a drink at one place while you wait for a seat at another place. Maple Tree Square is the centre of the action, with restaurants and pubs all around. We wandered into Chill Winston to have our first toast of the evening, since The Sardine Can only has a few seats and they were all full.

Even the lighting at Chill Winston is cool

We visited, but you could go alone and enjoy – it’s a great people-watching spot, and the staff are friendly. Our bartender Charlie even made a custom drink for my stepdaughter.

The tapas were great and the Spanish wines helped transport us; we felt as if we’d snuck into a cozy spot on a side street in San Sebastián.

Good olives are even better when they are warm

Have you ever heard of zucchini carpaccio? It’s delicious!

You have to include chorizo – I think it’s a rule.

Prawns and lamb meatballs made for our grand finale. They were only missing one thing…

…Fresh bread, for dunking in the sauce (served warm, like the olives.) I loved the practical presentation.

By the time we were done we had discussed wardrobe, menu, flowers, and the ceremony venue.

When your Papa is a chef who knows pastry and chocolate, dessert has its own significance. A trip to Sweet Obsession was in order.

If you have a hard time making decisions, this place might be overwhelming. Just take heart in knowing you can’t make a bad choice.

This gem in Kitslano was made famous by a protegé of my hubbie, so it’s near and dear to our hearts. Tracey now owns Lemonade Bakery, where she specializes in gluten free products. There is no cafe to stay and eat, but it is worth a trip even if you aren’t gluten free.

the smell and colours of tropical flowers always makes me smile.

fresh coffee is another of my favourite smells. I am a JJ Bean fan, but any of the vendors you see on Granville Island will fix you up with a fresh brew.

prepared or semi-prepared food adds to the cheeses, charcuterie and fresh produce. Plan ahead or save the day with a few choices.

Stewart’s Bakery has been a fixture at the market for as long as I can remember. I still dream about their eccles cakes…

On Saturday we had to make our cardinal stop. Ever since I was a kid, my favourite foodie spot in Vancouver has been Granville Island Public Market. It still warms my heart and my tummy on every visit, especially now that it’s the source of so many memories.Brave the busy parking and shuffle your way through the crowds – it’s worth all the fuss to enjoy a coffee, or a piece of pie, or fresh fruit, or fudge, or fish and chips (they have it all) and sit outside to watch the boats and birds in False Creek.

We stocked up on all our favourites, planning for a picnic dinner that night in our hotel room. (Having a full suite with a kitchen made it easier and much more comfortable than eating on a hotel bed.) More on that later.

Saturday lunch was for more family time, so again casual was the theme. Hubbie wanted to do some research, so we chose a BBQ joint – oddly enough, it was back at the same square in Gastown that we had visited the night before.

We met my brother and his girlfriend to trade gifts and then wandered down to Peckinpah BBQ, a southern style joint where most of the menu is set up very simply: pick your meat, then choose a few “sides” to go with it. There was beef, pork and chicken (we had a bit of each). Sides included corn bread, hush puppies (basically fried cornbread), coleslaw, fried pickles, and of course mac and cheese.

I can’t speak for the mac and cheese as we skipped that one but the other items were all solid efforts. I prefer vinaigrette for my coleslaw dressing; theirs was creamy and peppery. Fried pickles are good if you eat them fresh from the fryer; wait more than a few minutes and they get soggy. The jalapeño mayo they make for dipping the pickles was just the right touch of heat. We discovered it worked well with hush puppies and chicken wings too.

There is something especially comforting about food shared with family after a long absence. My brother and I hadn’t shared a meal in years and dipping hush puppies together as we laughed at old stories made the tastes even better. I know it won’t be nearly as long till we sit around a table again.

The picnic my hubbie and I set out that evening was just a nibble before heading out dancing, as we weren’t very hungry after all that BBQ. What an elegant way to picnic, though, in our vintage suite at the Arundel Mansion Hotel in New Westminster.

preserved lemon-stuffed olives, duck rillettes, fennel salami and a full cheese selection with baguette and PEI artisan butter went well with our gamay from The Hatch Winery

Sunday brunch was my own sentimental indulgence. Years ago my dad introduced me to a place out by the airport that was unique in its ambience. The Flying Beaver Bar & Grill sits on the water in Richmond, next door to the Harbour Air terminal for seaplanes. You can sit and watch them land and take off as you sip your beer and nibble on a homemade burger or Eggs Benny. I hadn’t been back in years, but it was just as good as I remember. (It’s just busier, like everything in Vancouver fifteen years later.)

Beaver hash, which is Eggs Benny atop chorizo, veggies, cheese and pan fried potatoes

A bison burger, fully loaded

How cool is that?!

Sometimes we head to the city and try out new places, looking for new adventure. This time was more about connections. It was heartwarming to reconnect and add to the memories. Not to mention we filled the fridge with delicacies.

Quality time

Sundays are for quality time. Time with family and friends, alone time – time to regenerate. That’s what Sunday dinner is all about. 

We had the perfect combination of quality and convenience this Sunday. A few slices of slow cooked prime rib reheated to perfection with some twice-cooked baby potatoes made for a decadent dinner with a bit of green salad. 

Good old fashioned meat and potatoes!


Thankfully I had a wee bit of something meaty in the cellar (you have to love local talent) :

Spierhead Pursuit 2010 – a delicious #bcwine pairing with the beef


And that’s all. My time was spent offline today. It’s good to check out once in a while. Can we all toast to that?

Be Flexible, and Committed

This morning, I remember thinking, “it’s a good day to be a worm”. As I walked with Ella this morning in the pouring rain, the only other creatures outside were the worms. It was then I decided that we should have stew for dinner. But then,  the sun came out at 1 pm.

Thankfully, I did my computer work early in the day, so when the skies lightened and the thermometer actually slipped into double digits I high-tailed it outside. The vitamin D did wonders for my mood and the look of the garden, after I finished trimming all the herbs.

I’m glad I had the ability to be so flexible in my day’s plans. Back in the days when I had an office job, I used to have to just pull the blinds up to soak in the rays. Today I even had time to stop and smell the flowers, hear the bees buzzing. Being self-employed has its advantages, especially in the shoulder season.

I did want to stay committed to dinner. I have a great cookbook for stew inspiration: Lobel’s Meat and Wine. It offers choices by meat type, with different themes based on recipes from various places in the world. Tonight I made a beef stew Provençale. The recipe is based on their Beef Stew Flavoured with Black Olives & Oranges, adapted for my tighter time schedule and ingredients on hand. We did still manage a nice local wine pairing.

I also got to chat with my brother today. We have had a tumultuous relationship over the years, running hot as great buddies or cold when we didn’t speak at all. These days, there is water under the bridge that doesn’t run smooth or clear, but we have found our way in the current and it feels good to have my oldest pal back. I suppose that speaks to the same theme of being flexible and committed, doesn’t it?

Life is about balance. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Porridge for Dinner? Definitely!

There is a new trend going around, called “brinner”. It’s all about having breakfast food for dinner. The latest variation in comfort food, if you ask me. But I’m not complaining. It wasn’t dinner but rather lunch when my mom would occasionally make apple pancakes on a cold winter day – one of my favourite childhood memories.

But back to today’s meal. We are lucky enough to have a freezer with some pretty awesome leftovers. Since hubbie’s specialty in summer is southern-style BBQ, we have portions of some of the best pulled pork ever stashed away. Tonight it sat atop a delicious mound of steaming soft polenta. Polenta is just an Italian word for porridge made from cornmeal. Granted, it was served savoury – gussied up with aged cheddar, chopped zucchini and some coriander. The pulled pork was heated with some sautéed peppers, onions and then Greg cilantro at the last moment. I pulled a Sangiovese from the cellar, and presto chango, we had a trendy meal. 

Thanks to Howard Soon for making local Sangiovese possible. #bcwine

Simple and elegant, just like a great breakfast. Or a good dinner. 

Here’s to your good health and happiness! I do hope you’re enjoying good food in good company. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, it’s some of the best quality time you can have. 

Spoiled Girl

There are many reasons I count my lucky stars. Just living in this part of the world is a huge blessing, and the Okanagan in particular is a special spot for someone who is a foodie and a wine geek. But most of all, I’m spoiled by my hubbie.

Some people call it luck. Others call it fate. Whatever label you want to attach to the concept, when you find your soulmate, your live your life on a higher level. Quality time becomes precious time, not because it is rare but because it is special. Soulmates share passions, and so every moment shared holds special meaning. For us, the passion we share is food so every meal we have is a memory.

Contrary to popular belief, a chef and a sommelier don’t always eat lobster risotto and drink vintage French wine. Sometimes we have grilled cheese sandwiches, or salad, for dinner. Breakfast is often yogurt with fruit, and a protein shake. But when we decide to “dine”, we do it right. Yesterday was one of those days.

For breakfast, we had shakshouka. “What?”you say! I know. The only reason I know the same is because it’s trendy and I read about it – we call it eggs poached in tomato sauce.

My hubbie made the tomato sauce with a blend of sautéed and roasted veggies (artichokes, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, and squash). He warmed the sauce up in the oven, using our spiffy boats that we bought for just such a meal. Then he cracked the eggs into the dishes and put them back in for another ten minutes or so. A bit of grated cheese went on top, and back in they went for a couple of minutes (we had Parmigiano Reggiano but any cheese you like will work). The rest of the cooking happened on the plate as I got toast and coffee ready. (I have a nifty milk steamer that he bought me so I can make lattes at home just the way I like them.)

And voilà. What could have been an ordinary day started off with a special moment shared.

We spent the day in the yard, spring cleaning. Each of us has our own responsibilities, so we mostly work alone outside. I prepped the greenhouse for early plants, and did some cleaning in the flower beds. Hubbie was busy being manly, chopping fruit wood that will be used for BBQ cooking this summer. We worked until cocktail hour. (What can I say, we work hard and live hard.)

As I made cocktails after cleaning up and feeding the dogs, hubbie prepared dinner. I had picked up a piece of fresh halibut at our local fishmonger, since the season just opened. He put a bit of a citrus spice rub on it, and prepared a Caesar salad to accompany it, with radishes instead of croutons for crunch (how’s that, gluten-free readers?)

Since I am his muse, I prepared just a bit of sauce: diced pieces of preserved lemon in a sweet wine reduction. (It might sound weird, but the sweet and salty elements were a nice foil for the richness of the fish.) I chose a new local wine from a winery I like that has a sassy image but great quality wine. If you have access to wines from BC, check out The Hatch.

This new Roussane Viognier has a different label but it’s from the same team at The Hatch.

Simple flavours, true to their character. (They say one way to test a chef is to have them make a Caesar salad. My guy could stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone in any kitchen.)

It wasn’t a day celebrating anything special except another day together. But that’s how we live. Fridays are just as worthy of celebrating as anniversaries. I highly recommend it.

 

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