Quick Bite – The Sugar Shack in 70 Mile House

Ah 70 Mile House, the gateway to Green Lake and a place you’d probably miss if you blinked while driving through it on Highway 97. 70 Mile House isn’t known for much but that is about to change. There’s a new spot about a mile past the general store that feels like a slice of Quebec in the middle of rural BC. The Sugar Shack has everything your inner Quebecois desires. Tourtière du Lac-St-Jean, Poutine, Montreal Smoked Meat, Maple baked beans, Cretons, Maple syrup, Maple toffee, Maple bacon… They also do some kick-ass breakfasts and make maple sweetened coffee.


I stopped in to check out their smoked meat sandwich and poutine. The poutine is very good. hand cut fries, house made gravy, and real cheese curds. It’s up there with anything you can get in Vancouver and wouldn’t be out of place in Quebec. The smoked meat sandwich was just ok. The meat is very salty and a bit dry.

The maple sweetened coffee and poutine make The Sugar Shack a “must visit” kind of place if you ever find yourself in this picturesque part of BC.

Facebook – The Sugar Shack

World wide web – thesugarshack.sfobc.com



The Old Spaghetti Factory, A Culinary Dinosaur.

It’s been years since I’ve eaten at The Old Spaghetti Factory (OSF for short, I’m lazy and that’s a long name…). I remember fresh sour dough bread, reasonably good American/Italian pasta dishes, and spumoni (Italian ice cream). Hayley and I had dinner at the OSF in Richmond during a recent “Awesome Dads” outing with my pal Allan and his daughter. The place was packed and there was a 30-40 minute wait for a table. Thankfully there’s a bowling alley next door with an arcade so the wait passed quickly.

"Bacon" Caesar
“Bacon” Caesar

Once seated we received our ubiquitous loaf of sour dough bread that comes with regular and garlic whipped butter. The only problem I found with the sour dough bread was that it was not sour dough… When did this happen?! It’s a loaf of white bread, not particularly fresh either. That’s fairly disappointing. I ordered a Bacon Caesar from their drink menu. Where do I start. The bacon garnish was of the “McCain Readycrisp” variety and had been sitting out a LONG time. It was pale, floppy, and disgusting. My straw kept getting clogged by something which, after some digging, turned out to be artificial bacon bits. Seriously, just a bunch of soy based crunchy garbage added to a drink for flavour? No thanks.

Caesar Salad
Caesar Salad

Next up was an appetizer sized Caesar Salad. Other than a few bits of brown Romaine the salad was ok. Store bought croutons, dressing not dissimilar to The Keg’s Caesar dressing you can buy at a grocery store. To be honest this is what most people would bring to a pot-luck/picnic.

Spaghetti with spicy meat sauce
Spaghetti with spicy meat sauce

My entrée was Spaghetti with Spicy Meat Sauce. You would think that having a restaurant with the word Spaghetti in the name would mean they would know how to cook spaghetti. You would be wrong. Mark, aka @TheLowerCrust on Twitter, provided that insight for me and added this gem when I asked my followers what they thought of OSF and their pasta;

The noodles seem like they were made days ago and reheated. The sauce is ok, slightly oily and not much spice for “spicy meat sauce”. The random parsley is almost pointless and looks as if it was put there by mistake.

For dessert I had spumoni that tasted like ice cream.

There you have it. No entrées over $13 might be the only thing that would get me to recommend this place. I apologise in advance to all of the tourists who end up at the OSF in Gastown because they don’t know any better. It’s not your fault.

Twitter – @OSFCanada

Facebook – Old Spaghetti Factory Canada

World Wide Web – oldspaghettifactory.ca


Quick Bite – Estrella’s Montreal Deli and Cafe

The Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich, a Canadian icon. Greater Vancouver has a few places that make a decent version but there is one that stands above them all. Estrella’s in Langley is as close as it gets to being in Montreal. Hidden in plain sight on 200th street between Industrial Ave and Logan Ave, you’d drive right by Estrella’s if you didn’t know it existed. It is surrounded by automotive shops, industrial buildings and an oddly placed dentist office.


Now that you know where it is open up your calender and make some time to check it out. The smoked meat sandwiches are the best around, by a wide margin. Most places in Vancouver make a sandwich with meat brought in from Montreal which tends to taste like it’s travelled in a truck across Canada. Other places make their own but it always comes out too salty. Estrella’s house made smoked meat is absolute perfection. Tender, juicy, flavourful without being too salty. You can order it lean (less fat) or marbled (more fat) just like they do it in Montreal. Obviously the full fat is tastier, the choice is yours.


You can get poutine, grilled paninis, burgers, sandwiches, soups, espresso and speciality coffee. Nearly everything is house made from scratch. The poutine is outstanding.

Tired of mediocre smoked meat parading as the real thing? Go check out Estrella’s at 5932 200th street in Langley (There you go random Twitter guy who couldn’t Google the address yourself…)

Web – estrellasdeli.com


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.


Twitter – @GyozaBarRamen

Instagram – @aburirestaurants

Facebook – gyozabarramen

World Wide Web – gyozabar.ca

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


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.


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…



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


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



PC Black Label Wagyu Beef Burgers

Let’s leave the “Wagyu” debate until the end of this post, are these burgers actually good? President’s Choice Black Label series is the best of the best that PC offers, here’s how they describe it on the PC website “The President’s Choice® black label Collection brings an exceptional array of fine foods and flavours from around the world and here at home, to the grocery store. All with the value and convenience you expect from the PC® brand. Not only are they an extraordinary selection, they’re the very best we’ve ever tasted”. Ok, but what does that actually mean?


The packaging is minimalist and “Wagyu” punches you in the face with its bold, gigantic redness. The stately fellow pictured with the large knife cutting into a gorgeous slab of marbled beef looks promising. Then you notice the little round meat puck to his left, almost as if they don’t want you to see it?


The frozen burgers look like pretty much every other frozen burger I’ve ever seen, complete with assembly line dimples. They’re slightly thicker than a typical frozen burger, I’d say roughly 5/8ths of an inch. They are uncooked and the box recommends to cook them from frozen for 5-6 minutes per side over medium heat on a BBQ or in a frying pan.


Once cooked the burgers take on a slightly reddish orange colour with lots of fat trying to escape through the middle. The high fat content of the beef (typical for “Wagyu”) and the fact that the second ingredient is water means lots of big flare ups on the grill. So much so that I slightly over toasted my burger buns. Keep an eye on these things while cooking.


The cooked patty ends up with a crusty outer layer and the colour changes to a more consistent brown after resting. The burger is very moist, has good flavour, and a nice firm texture. The flavour is similar to lots of other frozen burgers as is the texture. It loses very little size and retains its shape which is not typical of other frozen burgers.


I ate some of one patty on its own and had another on a PC Blue Menu Thins – Multigrain Round bun which are really quite good. Notice the flare-up induced charring around the edges of the bun. I kept it simple with some romaine lettuce and Stonewall Kitchen Smoky BBQ Aioli (you can find it at Fresh Street Farms and it’s amazing). As a complete burger it was very tasty. Now, let’s ask some questions. These burgers cost almost $11 for 4 five ounce patties. That’s $2.75 per patty. I can make a damn good burger myself for that kind of money.

The big issue I have with these burgers is the word “Wagyu”. Once synonymous with beef raised only in Japan the word itself means “Japanese cow’. PC uses the word “Kobe” in the description of these burgers on their website, “From the Kobe beef family, Wagyu beef is loaded with sweet, rich buttery flavour from omega-3 rich marbling, making it one of the most succulent meats in the world”. This is a blatant lie. Kobe beef is specifically Tajima-gyu cattle raised in the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan. Everything else is a fabrication. There is VERY little Kobe beef exported to Canada and no one in their right minds is going to grind it up and freeze it.

There are farms in Canada, Australia, and the United States raising “Waygu” beef that has bloodlines traceable to Tajima-gyu cattle in Japan. There are other farms with cattle that have bloodlines traceable back to other strains of Japanese cattle. These farms use the “Wagyu” tag in a dishonest way to charge more for their product. I’m not saying their beef is substandard, in most cases it is VERY high quality, but it is not real Waygu and is most definitely not Kobe.

I contacted PC through Twitter to try and see where their Waygu was from and here’s their answer.

Let’s talk about DNA profiling. If I descended from Napoleon Bonaparte and this was traceable by 3rd party DNA profiling would that mean I am a tiny French dictator?. No, it would not. Was Michael Jordan’s father the best basket ball player of his generation? Not that I’m aware of. Genetics play a part in the make up of of certain breeds of animal and specific traits that these animals carry from generation to generation but there’s more to Wagyu than DNA. The environment, the feed, the treatment the animals receive, it all contributes to the finished product.

I asked them to, at the very least, tell me what country the cattle are from and they did not reply until the following day. I called the PC customer service number and was told that they couldn’t access this information. There is a small Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) logo on the box but that just means it was inspected and meets Canadian standards. Why the mystery PC? When they finally got back to me this is what I was told.

The Australian Wagyu Association is a promotional group whose singular purpose is to extol the virtues of Australian “Wagyu” all over the globe. The best part of their website is their disclaimer, “Information contained on the Australian Wagyu Association (AWA) web database, including but not limited to pedigree, DNA information, GeneProb values, Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) and Selection Index values, is based on data supplied by members and/or third parties. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of this information, the AWA and the Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI), their officers and employees, make no representations or warranties as to the accuracy of completeness of the information. AWA disclaims all liability for all claims, expenses, losses, damages and costs any person may incur as a result of the information contained on the AWA web database, for any reason, being inaccurate, or incomplete in any way or incapable or achieving any purposes”. So basically the farmers can claim whatever they want and the AWA will promote them! What a joke. Similar disclaimers adorn the Canadian and American “Wagyu” Association websites.

Here’s my conclusion, these things are fake and a waste of money. Grinding up real Japanese Wagyu is the dumbest thing anyone could do with such a fine grade of beef. Go to a butcher shop or a grocery store with a REAL BUTCHER and get them to grind you up some nice chuck or even sirloin, you can make way better burgers yourself for less money and it’s great to know what’s actually in them.


WFLBC Building History – what we’ve seen so far.

For the last 2 weeks I’ve been exploring Vancouver’s buildings and trying to uncover some history about them. I’m really enjoying digging through the archives and learning about Vancouver’s history. Here’s a quick recap of the buildings I’ve looked at so far.  Click on the pictures for more info/history about the building and remember to click follow while you’re visiting my Instagram Page. Also you should check out the Vancouver Archives page, it’s a great place to lose an entire day looking at the past.

The Robert Lee YMCA and Patina.

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The Marine Building.

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The Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue.


Cathedral Place and the Georgia Medical Dental Building.



The Dominion Building.



Nelson Square.

Nelson Square