Where Have All The Burgers Gone?

You may have noticed I haven’t been posting much to wflbc.com lately. Maybe you didn’t notice, I won’t lose any sleep over it. The fact is this site has become a bit of a chore. I used to look forward to writing and I used to worry if I hadn’t posted anything for more than 2 or 3 days. Before I wrote about Famoso Pizzeria last week I hadn’t written anything for over a month. I didn’t know it had been that long until I logged in to upload some photos. I  still enjoy writting and I don’t plan on shutting it down but I’m not going to post unless I really feel like it. There are a few new adventures that occupy most of time now and I’d like to share them with you.

The first is civic politics. I am quite active on social media through @SurreyIsTheBomb breaking down mayoral candidates platforms through inappropriate memes and asking them uncomfortable questions. Their responses have shown their true character and I have enjoyed every minute of it. Civic politics impacts the people of a city more so than any other level of government. I’m not going to tell you who to vote for but I hope you research the candidates and cast an informed vote on November 15th.

The other thing that’s become a true passion is photography. Street and architecture photography are my main focus but I love taking pictures of anything and everything. I share my pictures through Flickr and Instagram, Please follow if you like what you see. Back in May my family bought me a Fuji X-A1 mirrorless camera for my birthday. This little beauty cost $399 and came with a 16-50mm OIS lens. It’s small, light, and very versatile. I inherited some old lens from my mom and I use then on this camera with the help of inexpensive lens adapters. I take a lot of pictures with my smartphone too. It’s a Nexus 5 and I love it. I’m able to share this time with my daughter and teach here about her city, the environment, and photography. Here’s a few of my favourites from Instagram and Flickr.

DSCF1539 15174888315_e01d7268cd_o 15108551032_9bd05fcbd6_o 14929168676_b6e39814e2_o 14695676545_0008ac294c_o 14314630261_13e15e9858_o 10731714_1475357962752947_732085872_n DSCF1583 927461_567504773379567_808064639_n 10724035_349533988544956_366227827_n 10724804_324926714345790_133270745_n 10727501_1479993215608732_1629228028_n

 

Does this mean I’m not going to write about restaurants any more? No way! I love food and I plan on writing about it on my terms. I opt out of most menu tasting invites or new restaurant previews I get invited to these days. They don’t offer a fair view of the subject, it’s all the absolute best that you’ll ever get in those situations which is quite often not reality. I do the ones that interest me and I go as an individual diner but mostly I just go out and eat without anyone knowing I’m there and write about it without the guilt or influence of free food and drink. That being said I am going to a beer launch and a vodka/gin launch this week… I am human after all. You can still follow me on Twitter @WFLBC, but please don’t turn into a creepy stalker, ok?

Thanks for reading. Remember to vote. Take pictures of cool stuff. Include your loved ones in activities you’re passionate about.

Scott.

 

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Quick Bite – Gyoza Bar + Ramen

Aburi Restaurants Canada operates 2 of Vancouver’s favourite Japanese restaurants, Yaletown’s Minami and Miku in Coal Harbour/Gastown (it’s on the boarder…). Their newest spot is Gyoza Bar + Ramen located at 622 West Pender street between Seymour and Granville. Minami and Miku are consistently outstanding and the buzz accompanying the news of a new Aburi restaurant was palpable during the summer. I paid Gyoza Bar a lunchtime visit the first week they were open back in September.

Gyoza Bar + Ramen

Gyoza Bar + Ramen

Due to the hype and the fact that I was working I decided to go right when they opened the doors at 11:30. There was roughly 10 people already waiting outside and 10-20 people behind me when the doors opened. I was seated at the window which suited me just fine as the natural light is great for food pictures. I ordered the Umami Lunch Duo, 7 piece pork teppan gyoza and a medium ramen for $17. I opted for the pork tonkotsu ramen with aburi pork char siu and tamago with the Fraser Valley pork teppan gyoza.

Pork Tepan Gyoza

Pork Teppan Gyoza

The gyoza are cooked in a traditional cast iron pan which adds a crispy outer goodness that run of the mill gyoza can’t come close to. They are filled with barley fed pork and come with a spicy garlic soy sauce and an umami soy sauce for dipping. The spicy garlic sauce is the way to go, it’s fantastic. These gyoza are very, very good.

Pork Tonkotsu Ramen

Pork Tonkotsu Ramen

The ramen, while a little on the small side, is equally as tasty. Rich, salty broth, tender pork, orgasmic egg, great noodles. Basically heaven in a bowl. $17 is a little more than I like to spend on lunch but I left full and happy.

The rest of the lunch menu looks great with a 4 ramen options, 3 gyoza options, 2 sandwiches, and 2 desserts. The dinner menu expands things a bit and the drink menu offers up some nice Sake, Japanese whisky, Shochu, a few nice wines, and even some craft beer!

Gyoza Bar + Ramen. The hype is justified.

Scott.

Twitter – @GyozaBarRamen

Instagram – @aburirestaurants

Facebook – gyozabarramen

World Wide Web – gyozabar.ca

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Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria – Fall/Winter Menu Additions

The last time I visited a Famoso Pizzeria it was the mid 2000’s in Edmonton at the original Jasper Avenue location. Famoso has grown quite a bit since then with 19 locations spread across BC, Alberta, and Ontario. From what I remember of my first visit the food and atmosphere have survived the transition from single location to multiple franchises. That’s not easy to do, just ask Memphis Blues… I was invited to try some new Fall/Winter menu items and there’s a Famoso in South Surrey, perfect opportunity to have a lunch date with my daughter!

The Paesano Fire Roasted Sandwich

The Paesano Fire Roasted Sandwich

Famoso has started doing in house slow roasted pork butt so obviously the 2 new items I tried had a pork theme. Me + slow roasted pork = yes please. First up was the Paesano Sandwich, the newest member of the Fire Roasted Sandwich family. House made pulled pork, salsa verde, provalone cheese, rosemary-lemon aioli, arugula, and roasted red peppers. This guy hits all the right notes. Peppery arugula, tangy aioli, savoury pork, slightly nutty provalone. sweet roasted peppers, a herbaceous salsa verde, and that crisp roasted bun. Home run.

Korean BBQ Pork Pizza

Korean BBQ Pork Pizza

The other new item featuring pork is the Korean BBQ Pork Pizza. This is Famoso’s first foray into “fusion” style cuisine. Slow-roasted spiced pork butt, Korean BBQ sauce, fior-di-latte (cow’s milk mozzarella), green onion, cheddar cheese, hoisin sauce, all on Famoso’s traditional hand tossed Neapolitan crust. Again, this one is a winner. Tender pork, nice cheese combo, sweet/salty/spicy hoisin sauce and BBQ sauce with a little green onion to tie everything together. Famoso cooks their pizzas in a traditional bell oven, imported from Italy, at 900 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 seconds. This is a good pizza.

My daughter had the Kids Special, a small or “Pizzetta” Margarita pizza, a drink, and a scoop of gelato for  $7! The gelato and sorbetto selection is quite extensive but of course my picky kid chose vanilla…

My little picky eater.

My little picky eater.

After almost 10 years between visits I was very impressed with Famoso and the quality that has remained despite their large expansion. I like the communal seating mixed with separate tables, the casual self ordering system, and the quick service. Go check them out.

Twitter – @FamosoPizzeria

Facebook – Famoso Pizzeria

Interwebz – famoso.ca

Scott.

Scott’s Karma retaining disclaimer – My meal was provided by Famoso for review purposes. I left a big fat tip though!

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New eats – Kove Kitchen in Steveston

I love Steveston. Steveston has some great restaurants, lots of places with extensive craft beer menus, and is home to the best BBQ in BC at Hog Shack Cook House. Tucked in behind the Hog Shack, right on the water, is Kove Kitchen. Kove Kitchen has taken the place of Mandalay Lounge, a steakhouse that was popular with locals but was in need of a change. Kove is owned and run by the same people behind Mandalay and I decided to pay them a visit last weekend. For what it’s worth I never dined at Mandalay so I have nothing to compare Kove to.

View from the patio at Kove.

View from the patio at Kove.

One thing that hasn’t changed (that I can comment on) is the view. It’s pretty spectacular, especially at dusk. Kove is, by all accounts, a little more casual than Mandalay was with a menu focused around comfort food made in house using quality ingredients. The beer list is focused on Belgian style beers which is a welcome carry over from Mandalay.

Scotch eggs rule!

Scotch eggs rule!

The thing that drew me to Kove was their Scotch Egg. They had posted pictures of it on social media and I had to try it. There used to be a fish and chip joint in Ladner called Uncle Herbert’s that closed years ago, Their Scotch eggs are the benchmark in my mind. Kove’s Scotch egg is very good with a nice crisp breading and a decently thick layer of savoury sausage meat. The dijon aioli is different…but a nice touch. The yolk could’ve been a little softer, it’s best when it’s in that magical place where the yolk is still dark yellow and soft but isn’t liquid. All in all a very good Scotch Egg.

Crab cakes

Crab cakes

Next up were the house made crab cakes with fresh salsa and Thai chili sauce. This dish was kind of all over the place. All of the parts were great but they didn’t make much sense together. The crab cakes themselves are fantastic. Large, fresh, lots of crab, pretty close to perfection. It’s just one man’s opinion but I’d ditch the salsa and Thai chili and go with something like citrus aioli or just keep them naked with some lightly dressed greens on the side.

Bacon Cheeseburger

Bacon Cheeseburger

The burger was another dish I had seen on social media. There are a few options on the burger menu but I chose the classic bacon cheeseburger. The 7 ounce patty is Canadian AAA and is ground in house. Served on a pretzel bun with double smoked bacon, applewood smoked cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion, and “Kove sauce”, this is a VERY good burger. The patty is thick, juicy, and well seasoned. The bacon and cheese are strong enough to be noticed but not overpowering. The pretzel bun is actually a good addition, I was worried it would suck. This burger will keep people coming back to Kove Kitchen. The hand cut fries are also very good. I paired it with a Dageraad Brewing Amber which was awesome.

 

So, is Kove better than Mandalay? I have no idea, but Kove Kitchen is a winner.

Twitter – @KoveKitchen

Facebook – thekovekitchen

Web – kovekitchen.com

Scott.

 

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Casks for Surrey Memorial – UPDATED

It’s been awhile since my last fundraiser so let’s do this! Big Ridge Brewing Co. and the South Fraser Beer Club present Casks for Surrey Memorial. Join us Thursday August 28th at 6pm to help me show my appreciation to Surrey Memorial Hospital for saving my daughter’s life earlier this summer after a near drowning incident. Words cannot express my gratitude.

Casks for SMH

There will be 3 casks of local craft beer on hand. One from Big Ridge, one from Fuggles and Warlock Craftworks (their Super 8 Bit IPA no less!) and one from Surrey’s own Russell Brewing. Lots of local businesses have donated items for our silent auction/raffle including Dead Frog Brewing, Famoso Pizzeria, The Joseph Richard Group, Tasty Indian Bistro, Starbucks, Well Seasoned Gourmet Food Store,  Dageraad Brewing, and more. Big Ridge Brewing will also be offering up some great swag along with hosting and organising the casks. We will also be doing a 50/50 draw. I can’t say enough about Rob and the whole team at Big Ridge and the Mark James Group, Their generosity over the years has helped me raise a lot of money for some amazing charities.

Hayley says thank you!!!

Hayley says thank you!!!

I hope to see everyone and I can’t wait to do some good for Surrey Memorial Hospital! The Big Ridge shuttle will be making trips to King George Station and it’s regular area, call 7789387433 to schedule a pick up and get home safe. DJ Alibaba will be playing all of your favourite hits from the 80’s and 90’s too.

There’s a Facebook event page here, invite all of your friends!

Please help us spread the word by sharing this on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or wherever you can.

Scott.

 

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Hawthorne Beer Market and Bistro

Hawthorne Beer Market is the newest member of the Pacific North Coast Restaurant Company. Its siblings are the Washington Avenue Grill in White Rock, The Cabin at Crescent Beach, and The Vault which is just down the street from Hawthorne in Cloverdale. I was pretty excited to hear the PNCRC was opening a craft beer focused place and I love the area of Cloverdale where they chose to open it. It’s right on 176th street in old downtown Cloverdale. It took me longer than I’d planned to visit but I finally made it there last week.

Wing Wednesday

Wing Wednesday

It was Wing Wednesday and that means wings are going to happen. Don’t fight Wing Wednesday, just embrace it. The hot wings were quite good, mostly drumettes which was a hit with my dining companion. They aren’t overly hot but the flavours are all there along with some acidity. Nice.

Scotch egg

Scotch egg

Scotch eggs are the perfect food. Hard boiled egg packed in sausage meat which is breaded and deep fried. Probably not recommended by your cardiologist though. Everything here was spot on aside from the sausage layer being a little thin. Actually it was way too thin. More sausage meat and this is a contender for best scotch egg in town.

Prime Rib Burger

Prime Rib Burger

The Prime Rib Burger was a huge let down. The patty had the taste, texture, and appearance of a pre made (read – frozen) patty. I’m not sure how long this dish sat in the window before it made it to the table, it didn’t feel overly long, but the fries under the burger were a soggy, greasy mess. There’s a blurb on their website that makes this burger quite surprising “We’re the new kid on the block, and we do things a little different. For starters, we only use the freshest ingredients, and made from scratch sauces. No prepackaged junk you might come to expect from some of the other guys.” If I’m wrong and this burger is actually made from scratch I’m baffled at how you can make fresh ingredients and non pre-packaged junk taste like it came from a Sysco box.

The beer list is solid. I had a Bomber Brewing ESB and a Four Winds pale ale. The staff was friendly but they seemed like they were short a server as one young lady appeared to be covering the entire place (restaurant and bar).

I think Hawthorne has potential, I like the look of the place and the overall concept. I love the location and the beer selection. I just can’t fathom the choice to serve a pre made burger in a place that preaches fresh ingredients.

Twitter – nope

Facebook – Hawthorne Beer Market & Bistro

Web – hawthornebeermarket.com

Scott.

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Willow’s Galley in Estevan Village – WFLBC in Victoria

Estevan Village is a quaint little neighbourhood in Oak Bay steps from the soft sands of Willow’s Beach. The one block retail strip is pure nostalgia with an independent toy store, a pharmacy, trendy shops, and trendy restaurants and cafes. Estevan Village holds a special place in my heart. My grandpa used to live at The Uplands Gate, an apartment building located about 2 blocks away. I used to walk with him (and my mom) through the village and down to the beach when I was a child. Willow’s Galley is a small fish and chip shop that’s been a fixture in the village since 1978 (I’ve read 1980 but the staff told me 78 so…). If you think the building looks like an old corner store you would be correct! I’m not sure how old the building is but it’s been there for a long time.

Willow's Galley

Willow’s Galley

I spent the weekend in Victoria with my daughter and part of the plan was to retrace the steps of some of my favourite childhood memories. We parked outside my grandpa’s building and walked towards Estevan Village and Willow’s Beach. We stopped at Willow’s Galley for a quick lunch. I had 1 piece of Halibut and chips. The batter was golden and crispy, the halibut was hot and fresh, the chips were hand cut and very tasty. I really like the batter they use. It’s not fancy, there’s no panko, it’s not tempura. It’s just a simple batter. Solid, classic fish and chips from friendly people in a cool location? What’s not to love.

The goods

The goods

Hayley and I ate our lunch on one of the picnic tables outside but Willow’s Galley is close enough to the beach that you could walk there before your food got cold. Fish and chips at the beach seems like a good idea.

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My grandpa passed away many years ago. It’s hard to think about how long he’s been gone. Taking Hayley to “visit him” was very fulfilling. All of the places we visited were just as magical as I remember them. I know that my childhood memories aren’t about the things I had, they’re about the things I did and the places I went with my family. I hope Hayley knows how much this weekend meant to me. Actually, I know she does.

Twitter – @WillowsGalley

Facebook – Willow’s Galley

Web – Nope…

Scott.

 

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PiDGiN Restaurant – Everything you’ve heard is right, and wrong.

PiDGiN, it's more than a video clip on the 6 o'clock news.

PiDGiN, it’s more than a video clip on the 6 o’clock news.

It’s safe to say that most of you have heard of PiDGiN. If you haven’t I’ll assume you are a Quaker who eschews television and the internet. PiDGiN has been the target of anti-gentrification protests since it opened. The thing that I’ve never understood is why PiDGiN was targeted over other places nearby. There are lots of restaurants and bars serving food and drinks that are most likely unattainable to some locals but they’ve been largely left alone. I’m not here to figure it out but I can weigh in on PiDGiN and its menu.

Nikka Yoichi 10 year single malt.

Nikka Yoichi 10 year single malt.

First things first, what’s on the drink menu? I can tell you this, they have an impressive selection of Japanese Whisky and that makes me happy. The cocktail list is long, varied and interesting, and they have wine on tap. My beer nerd pals can choose from a few P49 bottles as well.

Potatoes with spicy cod roe and seaweed butter

Potatoes with spicy cod roe and seaweed butter

The food menu is an east meets west affair with a preference for Japanese style dishes melded seamlessly with classic western techniques. The first dish to arrive was a riff on udon using long shredded potatoes cooked al dente with spicy cod roe and seaweed butter. mix it all together and you have a textural masterpiece. The slightly firm texture of the potato is an unexpected treat. The seaweed butter and spicy cod roe provided a not overly salty backbone with a hint of the ocean.

Shishito peppers with parmesan and pine nuts

Shishito peppers with parmesan and pine nuts

Next to arrive was a bowl of roasted shishito peppers with grated parmesan and toasted pine nuts. 90 percent of these peppers are harmless but one in every 10 has a pretty awesome hit of mouth burning amazingness. Now stay with me hear as I try to describe the flavour. You know the way a movie theatre smells? The scent of popcorn and sweet candy? That’s what this tastes like. I’m being serious. It’s good.

Parisienne gnocchi with radishes, radish green pistou, and buttermilk ricotta

Parisienne gnocchi with radishes, radish green pistou, and buttermilk ricotta

This dish, gnocchi, takes a hard left turn from the east/west love affair, but not in a way that upsets the flow of the menu. The gnocchi are fairly large, fresh, warm, and tender. This a a relatively simple dish constructed in a way that elevates every ingredient. The peppery radish and mild ricotta are a great companion to the gnocchi.

Vitello Tonnato - Veal and Albacore tuna with fried egg emulsion and togarashi

Vitello Tonnato – Veal and Albacore tuna with fried egg emulsion and togarashi

Next up was “Vitello Tonnato”, Veal carpaccio, albacore tuna, fried egg emulsion and togarashi (chilli pepper). Veal is a no go for a lot of folks and I get that. I am not one of those folks, judge me accordingly. The raw albacore and veal were a silky combo with the egg adding richness and flavour. A very nice dish all around. The veal seems slightly unnecessary though. Using a high quality beef that isn’t veal would open this dish up to a wider audience and the dish wouldn’t suffer at all. That’s my 2 cents.

Pan roasted halibut, cauliflower puree, pine nut raisin agrodulce

Pan roasted halibut, cauliflower purée, pine nut raisin agrodulce

Finally I had the Pan roasted halibut with cauliflower purée and pine nut raisin agrodulce. Halibut is a conundrum. It was, until fairly recently, an inexpensive fish but marketing and trends have pushed it to another level. Halibut IS a great fish and this preparation is outstanding. The sear is spot on and the slight sweet/sour character from the agrodulce is a nice touch. Cauliflower purée is the new mashed potato and I’m a big fan.

PiDGiN is the real deal. The protests have seemingly stopped and the place was packed and buzzing with happy customers when I was there. Kudos to owner Brandon Grossuti and his staff for persevering, most business owners would’ve given up long ago. I’ll definitely be back.

Twitter – @pidginvancouver

Instagram – pidginyvr

Web – pidginvancouver.com

Facebook – pidginvancouver

Scott.

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Toulouse Petit – WFLBC in Seattle

Toulouse Petit is a pretty popular place. When I asked my Twitter followers for restaurant recommendations in Seattle there were a lot of Toulouse Petit fans. In fact one person, @cheapbrunch, threatened to kick me in the neck (or something) if I didn’t go. Toulouse Petit was also featured on the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” featuring Melissa d’Arabian who won season 5 of The Next Food Network Star. She recommended the Cured Pork Cheek Confit Hash, more on that later.

Toulouse Petit

Toulouse Petit – That blond girl looks impressed that she’s in my picture.

Located in Seattle’s Lower Queen Anne neighbourhood, Toulouse Petit is very inconspicuous as their sign isn’t really that noticeable. It’s easier to find if you look for the line up of people waiting for a table… We only had to wait 10-15 minutes on a Sunday at 11am so it’s not that bad.

Toulouse Beignets

Toulouse Beignets

To start we had some beignets, Toulouse Petit has a New Orleans/Creole-ish inspired menu but it is so much more that a “regionally inspired” place. The beignets are amazing and are made fresh. The chicory cafe anglais is sweet and rich, perfect for dipping or drizzling over the warm fried dough and powdered sugar.

When you order a "cup of coffee" this is what you get.

When you order a “cup of coffee” this is what you get.

Ordering a cup of coffee provides a pleasant and unexpected result. Your very own French Press. The best restaurant coffee I’ve had in ages.

Grilled Asparagus Wrapped with Prosciutto,

Grilled Asparagus Wrapped with Prosciutto,

My travelling companion had the Grilled Asparagus Wrapped with Prosciutto with an Artichoke-Fennel-Arugula ‘Salad’, cestenza bruschetta, with two poached eggs. I had a little taste of, ok I had, like, half of this (she likes to share) and it was awesome. The prosciutto was not quite crispy and wrapped very tightly around the asparagus. The flavours worked very well together and the poached eggs added that runny yolk goodness that every breakfast needs.

Cured Pork Cheeks Confit Hash.

Cured Pork Cheeks Confit Hash.

I had the dish raved about by someone I’ve never heard of on a TV show I’ve never watched, The Pork Cheek Confit Hash. So, was this dish the best thing I ever ate? Well, in a word, no. It may be the best hash I’ve ever eaten, even the best breakfast, and that’s pretty damn good. Obviously this dish has been reviewed a billion times by a billion food bloggers and I read a few of the most popular posts. Some of them are laughable, people like to complain about the most trivial things. Some of them are good, but most of them fail in one specific aspect, they ordered their eggs the WRONG way for this dish. If you ordered this with scrambled eggs I’m honestly confused how you managed to find the restaurant let alone tie your own shoes. Even over easy or sunny side up eggs don’t work here. Soft poached is the only way to eat you eggs with any kind of hash, You NEED that yolk to intermingle with the other ingredients and if you fry the egg you lose a lot of yolk volume. The confit pork cheek was dynamite, the potato hash had some asparagus (possibly slightly pickled) mixed in which most people don’t even mention and the bits of peppery arugula were the perfect garnish for both taste and appearance.

Toulouse Petit, it’s worth the trip. I’d also like to thank the sunshine and our window seats for making these food pictures extra dreamy.

Web – toulousepetit.com

Twitter – @ToulousePetit

Facebook – Toulouse Petit Kitchen and Lounge

Scott.

 

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Local 360 – WFLBC in Seattle

Finding great restaurants is one of my favourite things about travelling. A few weeks before I went to Seattle I asked my Twitter followers for some restaurant recommendations in Seattle. The awesome bearded dudes at Hired Guns Creative recommended Local 360 in Belltown, a few blocks from my hotel.

 

Local 360, 1st and Bell.

Local 360, 1st and Bell.

An Emerson quote on their sandwich board? I approve. Local 360 uses locally sourced ingredients found within 360 miles of Seattle whenever possible. Their website has a sourcing page that outlines their philosophy. So, is the food any good?

Fried chicken* Bacon mousse chicken roulade, cheesy grits, collard greens, sunny-side up egg

Fried chicken*
Bacon mousse chicken roulade, cheesy grits, collard greens, sunny-side up egg

The “Fried Chicken” is actually a roulade made with chicken and bacon mousse. The chicken is tender and juicy, the seasoning of the batter is awesome, We don’t see a lot of collard greens or grits in Canada but they’re both great. The egg was a little over cooked but the yolk was still runny. All in all a tasty dish.

Butcher's grind house burger.

Butcher’s grind house burger.

The Butcher’s Grind House Burger was the Hired Guns recommended dish and it didn’t disappoint. I ordered it medium with bacon and cheese (obviously). The patty was delicious, you could really taste and feel how fresh the beef was. It was seasoned perfectly and came on a fresh bun with the usual burger accoutrements,  lettuce, tomato, onion, etc. I’d put this burger in my all time top 3. The fries are good too, hand cut and nicely salted.

If you find yourself in Seattle and want a good meal you can feel good about eating check out Local 360.

Web - local360.org

Twitter – @Local360Seattle

Facebook – Local 360 Seattle

Scott.

 

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