Vancouver Street Food, it’s getting a bit complicated…

Something smells rotten at Vancouver’s City Hall. As you are probably aware I am a huge supporter and regular customer of Vancouver’s Street Food revolution. Made up of amazing food and great people it is easily the coolest thing to hit the streets of our city in years. Given the success of the initial wave of trucks, who won the right to operate in a lottery, the City of Vancouver has implemented a new approval system that seems far too complicated with a hint of favoritism and a dash of political over-involvement.

The new system involves a panel of “experts” who choose from a number of candidates vying for one of the coveted downtown spots. The biggest concern I and many other street food fans have is the introduction of “people who know people” in the restaurant industry giving business associates the green light while other possibly more qualified vendors get left out in the cold because they didn’t know the right people.

Another concern I have is that nutritional value is one of the categories that is considered. Really? Do traditional restaurants face this scrutiny when opening a new location? Are the hundreds of purveyors of fast food held to the same standard? No they are not and it is unfair to expect anything different from street vendors.

Recently a website devoted to Vancouver’s street food scene, vancouverstreeteats.com was suddenly shut down and all content removed by it’s operator and is now completely gone. The reasons given were a damning assessment of the new selection process and after speaking with several vendors I learned that these concerns were shared by most current and future operators. An anonymous source in the business told me “We had these concerns from the beginning with the new selection process”. Another person in the business told me off the record that City Hall had told them out of the final 50 chosen in this round, 19 were getting spots through judging, but the judging never took place and 19 trucks were awarded the spots without giving the other 31 people a reason why they weren’t even able to compete.

Don’t take this he wrong way though, every current street vendor operating in Vancouver has done a great job and they all serve amazing food. It would be a shame for City Hall to over complicate and ruin a great new niche market in the city that is beginning to attract international attention.

Street vendors make this city better, don’t let politics take away another great attraction to Vancouver. Get out and find these guys and eat some really great, affordable food and tell Vancouver City Hall to get stuffed, the people have spoken and we want street food!

Scott

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Great Wall Mongolian BBQ

Mongolian BBQ is a cuisine that causes seizures for those who don’t want the different foods on their plate to touch. Grab a bowl, fill it full of meat, veggies, sauce and what ever else they have and someone cooks it all together on a giant flat top grill, scoops it into a bowl and you eat it, awesome. There are a lot of Mongolian BBQ joints in and around Vancouver but the cheapest (and some would argue the best) is Great Wall Mongolian BBQ.

Great Wall is located at 717 Denman Street about a block off Robson. The lunch special is one bowl for $7.95 and it comes with a bland chicken soup, some rice, a springroll and some water. Those are just trivialities though as the big show is whatever you’ve created in your bowl. I believe I had pork, beef, tofu, udon noodles, bok choi,  sprouts, green onions, zucchini, hot chili oil, soy sauce, garlic and other things I can’t remember. I topped it off with sesame seeds and a copious amount of Sriracha (Rooster sauce as it’s know to white people). Full and happy for under 10 bucks.

If you’re brave all you can eat is only $2 more. Most Mongolian BBQ places have more items to chose from when filling your bowl but I dare you to walk out of any of them spending under $10, it doesn’t happen. Now where did I leave my Tums…

Scott.

Hog Shack Cook House, WFLBC BBQ Challenge stop #5

The BBQ Challenge keeps chugging along, arriving at stop number 5, Hog Shack Cook House in Richmond’s historic and beautiful Steveston neighborhood. I know what you’re thinking, BBQ in Richmond? Yes, and it’s good. My co-pilot on this occasion was my daughter Hayley who behaved like a perfect little angel but wasn’t in it for the right reasons, she’s a little young for BBQ after all…

Hog Shack is a nice room with lots of flat screens for game nights and a ridiculous list of craft beers that I can honestly say will not be beat and I think I should just give them the title of best tap list right now, but I won’t, they have to wait like everyone else! The blues music is fitting but a little played out. We get it BBQ restaurants, your food is southern! Chef John was kind enough to make me a sampler of BBQ items for the purposes of my challenge with smallish potions of  7 dishes and 3 sides with a couple of house made pickles for good luck. 

First was the sliced beef brisket, one of my favorite BBQ meats. It was very tender with a buttery fat cap and tangy BBQ sauce, house made, and melted in your mouth. The BBQ style at Hog Shack seems to be a combo of Texas style rubs and Kansas City BBQ sauce, and it works very well. Some BBQ purists would be horrified but lets face it, we’re in Canada and this fusion works.

The pulled pork was juicy and tender with the same rich and tangy sauce. The meat had great flavor on its own and has obviously benefited from a healthy rub prior to being smoked. Pulled pork is what started my love affair with BBQ but has since become an after thought due to the caliber of other dishes, such as meat number 3, Dino Bones aka beef ribs. Dino Bones is a fitting name for beef ribs as they dwarf Pork ribs by at least 2 to 1. The beef ribs at Hog Shack are meatier than most and have the same rub/sauce combo found in the other dishes. Beef is my kryptonite and beef ribs have that amazing flavor that only comes from meat cooked on the bone. The ribs were tender and full of flavor, but weren’t as juicy as I expected given the amount of meat on them.

Meat number 4 was a quarter chicken, leg and thigh, prepared in the rub/sauce fusion. This chicken was the juiciest I have ever had at a restaurant. When I cut into the meat in almost squirted me. The chicken was cooked perfectly and the flavor of the sauce really matched well with chicken. Meat numbers 4 and 5 were both pork ribs, one was baby back and the other was St. Louis style side ribs. The baby back ribs fell right off the bone and had that awesome fatty/buttery texture that baby backs should. The side ribs were a bit of a miss though, good flavour with less sauce and more rub but the meat was a little tough which is typical of side ribs.

The sides were good, all house made including mini loaves of cornbread. The baked beans were nice and sweet/smoky and the coleslaw was light and had a distinct apple cider vinegar flavor. The best item though isn’t actually on the menu. They are called Burnt Ends and are my new favorite food. Burnt Ends are made from the “point” of  a beef brisket, the point is removed after the brisket is finished smoking and is returned to the smoker for more cooking as it takes longer for the fat to render out and the meat to become tender. The taste starts out like a burnt marshmallow, very sweet with a hint of charcoal, and when you chew it the flavor of the rendered fat, beef, sauce and seasoned crust all swirl together in a money shot of BBQ goodness. I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it. There’s no picture because I ate them too fast but if you click on the picture of the whole platter they’re right in front of the corn bread.

The Hog Shack Cook House is located at #160-3900 Bayview street in Steveston (Richmond). Follow them on Twitter so you know when they have Burnt Ends or click on their logo at the top of the page to see their website.

Wow, longest blog post ever… The BBQ Challenge is getting good, lots of great places with amazing food!!! Still a long way to go though, it’s tough work but someone has to do it.

Scott.

Bowmore 12 year old Islay single malt Scotch whisky – Booze Reviews

My review of Molson M seems to be quite popular so I thought why not review more booze? I don’t think it’s a secret that here at WFLBC we like to drink (by we I mean I…) and I’m not your typical rum and coke drinker. Sure there are days when “what’s on special” can be heard coming out of my mouth but those days are few and far between. So without further adieu I give you the first official installment of WFLBC’s Booze Reviews.

Scotch is an acquired taste to say the least and Scotch from the island of Islay (pronounced “eye-la”) is not for the first time Scotch drinker. Bowmore Distillery is the oldest on the island and is named after its largest city. Bowmore has been in operation since 1779 and currently produces a core range of 5 whiskey’s varying in age up to 25 years old.  They also offer limited editions and a ridiculous 40 year old single malt.

My choice for this review is the 12 year old single malt, a typical age for fine Scotch whisky. The age represents the number of years the whisky ages in oak casks before being bottled. The nose is very heavy with peaty smoke notes typical of Bowmore. The smokiness is carried over into the mouth and is joined by chocolate, citrus and a subtle sweetness followed by a long finish that lingers longer than expected. It took me over a year to drink my first bottle of Bowmore because I found it too smoky having only tried Highland Scotch previously. My second bottle lasted 2 weeks, taste acquired.

I have a bottle of their 15 year old Sherry cask aged single malt just waiting for this one to be empty.

Cheers!!

Scott.

Alta Bistro, Round 2

Alta Bistro oozes cool. A super hip cocktail list, craft brewed beer and a selection of hand-picked wines compliment a focused menu featuring dishes made from local and/or organic ingredients. Owners Eric Griffith and Edward Dangerfield have brought something truly unique to Whistler. Located at #104-4319 Main Street in Whistler, part of the Pinnacle Hotel building, Alta Bistro feels like somewhere that would work in Gastown or Yaletown and gives Whistler’s restaurant scene a modern kick in the ass.

I’ve been to Alta Bistro a few times now and every visit has been fantastic. “Cocktail Technician” Scot Curry and Co-Owner Edward are always willing to suggest drinks to a willing participant and Eric seems to be everywhere at once ensuring that customers are looked after and that Scot and Edward are trying to get me drunk, which I’m totally fine with by the way. On my most recent visit I enjoyed some Bison Carpaccio with juniper berry dressing and alpine cheese and on two occasions I had the BBQ Duck Confit flatbread with Salsa Verde. The flatbread is a special that runs after 10pm and is only $5!!! This is the best food bargain in Whistler, period. It doesn’t hurt that it’s delicious as well as affordable.

The cocktails are made with premium spirits and house made bitters, syrups and infusions such as the Flor de Cana 4 year old rum infused with vanilla pod, clove, ginger, cinnamon & cardamon which I gladly finished off! Their Old Fashioned is also a force to be reckoned with along with the Painkiller. Also, being a Scotch lover, having Ardbeg  on hand is a one way ticket into my good books.

This is the kind of place that I will visit every time I return to Whistler, it’s that good. Eric, Edward, Scot and the rest of the staff are fantastic people and make Alta Bistro a memorable experience. Going to Whistler without going to Alta Bistro is a mistake you just can’t make.

Scott.

Buildit Auto, a social media experiment

A good friend of mine owns an automotive shop in Port Kells/Walnut Grove on the Surrey/Langley border. He’s been fixing my cars for 10 years now and has always done a great job. I’ve had some really awful cars over the years and whatever the problem it’s always fixed right and within my budget. Is this shameless promotion of a friends business on my blog?? Yes, yes it is.

The Shop is called Buildit Auto and I wondered if I could help bring them some new customers by exposing them to social media. They now have a Twitter account, a blog/webpage and soon there will be a Facebook page to finish off the social media trifecta. Check out the “work in progress” webpage at http://builditauto.wordpress.com/ follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BuilditAuto and “like” them on Facebook http://on.fb.me/eDtyNS

They are great guys who do good, honest work without the usual Automotive shop BS and won’t screw you around. My wife and some other female friends are also customers and they get treated the same as the guys. Check them out!

Scott.

Beer Review, Molson M

I like beer a lot, maybe even as much as I like food. Big talk but spend a few hours with me at a pub and you’ll see that I’m serious. I recently had the opportunity to try Molson’s new beer named M. When I tried it I was on stop number four of a pub crawl so my initial impressions may have been a little skewed by my level of intoxication. Lyndsey picked up a case for me today so I thought I would tell you what I think about it while I’m sober.

Molson M is a 4.9% “Microcarbonated” lager. It won a gold medal at the 2010 Canadian Brewing Awards in the North American Premium Lager category beating out Premium Lager, Muskoka Cottage Brewery (ON) and Island Lager, Vancouver Island Brewing (BC). Not bad from a mega brewery not know for winning awards. Microcarbonation is a trademarked process that makes tiny bubbles similar to champagne but less noticeable on the tongue. The beer has a slightly sweeter more malt based flavor than Molson Canadian with a hint of caramel and is far easier to drink. The Gold medal is a bit of a mystery to me though, I don’t see this beer being anywhere near as good as Island Lager but lager’s are all a little “Wonderbread” to keep them accessible to beer drinkers who are a little less adventurous.

Over all a good lager, better that most other Molson products but there are better options out there. Don’t be shy, drink craft beer, it will blow you away.

Scott.

Bob’s BBQ, Whistler Creekside

Stop number four on the WFLBC BBQ challenge is Bob’s BBQ, aka Roland’s Creekside Pub, located at 2129 Lake Placid Road, Creekside, Whistler next door to Nita Lake Lodge. A little off the beaten path for most visitors to Whistler, Bob’s/Roland’s is (according to their website) a favorite for locals and is known for its hospitality.

My weapon of choice for this round of the BBQ Challenge was the K K “Pocket Kings” sandwich. Named after a poker hand, as all menu items at Bob’s, it is a Texas style beef brisket sandwich on a toasted roll with mayo and crispy onions. I opted for onion rings as a side because you can never have too much deep-fried onion. Just to clarify something before I continue, if you go to Bob’s before 4pm during the week you will find locked doors but don’t panic as their whole menu is available at Roland’s.

The presentation of the sandwich was impressive with crispy onion straws piled high atop tender beef. The chopped brisket was good, tender and juicy with a nice rub on the outside and a rich smoky BBQ sauce covering it but to be honest the meat was a little lost under the onions. The onions were great but they really overpowered the taste and texture of the whole sandwich, I had to take a piece of beef out of the sandwich to get a good taste of it. The bun was nice and fresh and perfectly toasted. The onion rings were good but were very obviously fried in day old oil, which is very common as most restaurants use fresh oil for fries only and deep fry everything else in day old oil. This oil was perhaps a little older than recommended though.

Over all I was a little underwhelmed by Bob’s BBQ, although they are a couple of easy tweaks away from making a really good sandwich. Round four in the books, as Jay-Z would say it’s on to the next one.

Scott

2 Man Pub Crawl = Good Times

I went out last night with my buddy Mark who I haven’t seen in a while and did a little pub crawl through the streets of Vancouver. What a great way to see the city! I took the Skytrain downtown and met Mark at his place and we headed for stop number one, The Lennox on the corner of Robson and Granville. Mark and I used to build elevators together and one of our favorite jobs was at the Payless Shoes next door to the Lennox a couple of summers ago. We would end up at the Lennox most afternoons and it brought back memories of the good old days! I started with a couple of Caesars and then a Killkenny, strange combo but it worked. We also ate at the Lennox, I had a “New York style” corned beef sandwich with fries. It was good other than the rye bread being a little burnt.

Stop number two was The New Oxford at 1144 Homer Street in Yaletown. One of the newest members of the Donnelly Group. It’s a cool room, but feels a little cramped. We only stayed there for one drink because the service wasn’t that great, even though we were sitting at the bar! I guess my boobs aren’t big enough for the bartenders to serve me…they did have Anchor Steam beer for $5 a bottle but I only had one and we moved on.

Stop number three was a personal favorite, Glowbal Grill at 1079 Mainland Street in Yaletown. We grabbed a spot in Afterglow, the lounge at the back of the restaurant. I had a couple of Glenfiddich’s on the rocks and General Manager and all around cool guy Brandon talked us in to some tequila…That’s where the night started to get a little fuzzy. The great thing about a walking pub crawl is the fresh air you get between venues, it gives you a chance to gauge your level of intoxication better than staying in one spot and falling over when you go to leave.

After getting the royal treatment from Brandon it was off to stop number four, The Keg at 1011 Mainland street in Yaletown. We took the elevator up to the rooftop patio, easily the best patio in the city. It was recommended that we try Molson’s new beer Molson M, so we did. It’s a micro carbonated beer which means it has small bubbles. It was pretty good for Molson who’s beer is the equivalent of Wonderbread to me. We also had some bacon wrapped scallops that really hit the spot.

After that we hopped on the Canada Line and headed for Gastown, The Lamplighter, Chill Winston and The Charles Bar all had long lines and Rogue Wetbar was closed for a private function so we made a quick stop, number five, at La Casita at 101 West Cordova street. I had a Negra Modelo, we could tell things were winding down so we headed out but I will be back for lunch soon, the menu looks great!

Stop number six was a random find, The Greedy Pig at 307 West Cordova street in Gastown. I’ve never heard of this place but it was pretty cool, friendly staff, good atmosphere and a guy who claimed to be Canadian that kept ordering Bloody Marys. Even the guy from Latvia knew the difference between a Caesar and a Bloody Mary, you weren’t fooling us pal! If you’re from Saskatchewan you’ll love this place, lots of Riders memorabilia and most of the staff hails from Saskatoon or Regina.

After that I headed for the Skytrain for a long trip back to the burbs followed by a cab ride to home sweet home! Great night with a good friend, can’t wait to do it again!

Scott.