Notturno Paninoteca in Gastown

Have you ever walked into a restaurant and known that you were going to love it without even seeing the menu? I have and it happened at Notturno Paninoteca in Gastown, right next door to the famous (or infamous?) Blarney Stone. The room is small and comforting, the décor is simple and elegant, the menu is small, focused and well executed and it has the cleanest washroom in all of Gastown (seriously). The staff are awesome and owner Scott McTavish is almost always in chatting with customers and making everyone feel at home. Feeling hungry after a fairly lacklustre event at another restaurant Lyndsey and I headed to Notturno with high expectations given what we’d heard from some fellow bloggers.

We shared 3 items from the small menu. First up was something recommended by owner Scott, Pasta di Vitello, veal stuffed ravioli with sage butter and Parmesan. Ya ya veal, if your not comfortable eating it then there’s more for me. I could live off of these little pockets of heaven. The sage butter and Parmesan were a perfect match to the tender veal stuffed raviolis. This dish is rich, very rich but the portion size (6) is perfect and at $11 it’s money well spent.

Next up we shared one of Notturno’s Paninos which are the core of their menu and what they’re named after. The “Tartufo” is  layered with prosciutto, artichoke, caper, black truffle aoli and pecorino on amazing bread which is grilled to perfection in a panini press. Amazing, seriously amazing. Salty, rich, slightly acidic and all in perfect balance. This is more than just a sandwich and a deal at $9.50.

Last but certainly not least is desert. Notturno has created a dessert using Erin Ireland’s “To Die For” banana bread. The bread is stuffed with chocolate mascarpone and grilled in the panini press with a scoop of vanilla gelato on the side. If the rest of the menu was terrible and the place was filthy and the service was awful I’d still tell you to go try this desert, it’s that good. You should probably stop what you’re doing right now and point yourself towards Gastown and start walking.

Did I mention the world class Italian wines and unique Italian beer they have?

Twitter – @NotturnoGastown

Facebook – www.facebook.com/NotturnoPaninoteca

Scott.

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Steamworks bottled beer launch party

Photo credit – Kevin Wu

The life of a blogger is filled with hardships like super fun events and free booze. When the free booze is locally made craft beer you can imagine that my happy meter hits maximum pretty fast. Gastown’s iconic Steamworks Brew Pub has finally decided to bottle its beers and sell them to you to enjoy at home! They’ll be offering their Pilsner and Pale Ale year round in 355ml 6 packs and their seasonal brews, which include Frambozen, Wheat Ale, Heroica Oatmeal Stout and Pumpkin Ale in 650ml bombers.

Photo credit – Kevin Wu

Steamworks put on a great event pairing their beers with small dishes, my favourite was the Frambozen paired with a tiny ice cream cone! Check out http://www.steamworks.com/brewery and follow them on Twitter @SteamworksBeer to learn more about these terrific local beers. Big thanks to Kevin Wu for the awesome photos, check out his work at http://www.604foodtography.com/ and his Flickr page. Also follow him on Twitter @K_Wu!

Photo credit – Kevin Wu
Photo credit – Kevin Wu
Photo credit – Kevin Wu
Photo credit – Kevin Wu

 

Scott.

 

 

 

The Baker and The Chef food bloggers meet n’ eat!

I had a chance to attend a food bloggers meet n’ eat at The Baker and The Chef, a fresh spot on Cambie in Gastown serving up delicious sandwiches, soups, fresh baked goodies and much more! Go check these guys out if you’re in Gastown, they’re priced right and and everything’s delicious. Try the Bean Salad!!

The Baker and The Chef – 320 Cambie st, Vancouver

Facebook – www.facebook.com/TheBakerAndTheChef

Twitter – NOT ON TWITTER!!! (yet…)

Scott.

So you want to be a Craft Beer drinker

So you’re sitting at a bar or restaurant in Gastown with your friends one night having some drinks and you order a Canadian. You may notice people start to stare at you and then it hits you, regular beer isn’t cool! This unfortunate scene is played out several times a day in places like Gastown, Main Street, Kits and Steveston and it is 100% avoidable if you just sit back and learn how to become a craft beer drinker.

The first step in this simple yet intimidating transformation is to stop buying mass produced beer, the Molson, the Labatt’s, the Heineken, they all have to go. They are made with large amounts of ingredients that are 10 times worse for you than the alcohol is. Check the facts on corn syrup here. People are used to the taste of this mass produced beer and they often find craft beer quite overpowering at first but I’m going to give you some suggestions to ease you into  loving the best beer money can buy.

Start with something that’s fairly mild in flavour, don’t start with an Imperial IPA because it will probably frighten you back to the corn syrup brews you’re trying to escape. Some recommendations are North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner or Gordon Biersch Pilsner. If you’re looking for an introduction to the world of hops, start with Sam Adams Boston Lager, Granville Island Brockton IPA or Anchor Steam. These are as close as craft beer gets to being mass produced but they still offer that hoppy flavour that most west coast craft beer in known for.

Once you grow to love these brews you’ll want to dig deeper into the depths of flavour craft beer has to offer. Using resources like CAMRA, Vancouver Beer Blog and the multitude of other beer blogs in Vancouver will help you find your next favourite beer. Good luck fellow beer lovers, if you ever need someone to drink with you in person I’m just a tweet away!! I’m kind of like an life coach, but with booze.

Scott.

HOUSExGUEST in Gastown

Last Friday night I went to HOUSExGUEST (formerly Le Magasin) in Gastown with a small group of people. HOUSExGUEST has been open for a little longer than a month.

The menu is confusing. For example, “Cheese Burger” has neither beef nor cheese in it. On the website it is listed as a vegetarian option, on their menus in-house it is not. The next item, Burger Royale and Fries is not served with fries, it’s served with crab tater tots. Fries are not crab, thank you for that, Scott. They don’t actually do fries at all, which is weird because poutine is listed on their menu. In place of fries are pommes gaufrette, or potato chips. Not the same.  Like I said, the food titles are a bit confusing. In my opinion, the title should be straightforward. I don’t want to have to analyse the title with the listed ingredients and discover it’s not what I think I am ordering.

The burger was average. The crab tater tots were really the best thing we ate all night. I’m a little disappointed that I enjoyed the side more than the entrée itself. The pommes gaufrette that we ordered on the side were more potato-y than ripple potato chips, but nothing unique or interesting about them. Why not just do fries?

We also ordered Fish Tacos, and you really can’t go wrong with Fish Tacos. Guacamole, shredded cabbage, battered fish and some lime, it’s always a safe choice wherever you go. That being said, I always like them and I will keep ordering them.

The Old Cuban, a champagne mojito of sorts, was a fun cocktail. With two days to go before Christmas, this felt like my reward for DOING ALL THE THINGS!

I was disappointed with the food, but it is a new establishment and I think it has a lot of potential. For the last working Friday before Christmas, the service was good. Their brunch menu comes with good recommendations. Check it out and tell me what you think.

La Casita

Mexican food!! I’ve said it before, I am not an expert when it comes authentic Mexican food having grown up in a culture that considers Taco Bell “Mexican” food. I hear there are a few places in Vancouver that offer up true Mexican food and one of those places is La Casita in Gastown.

Raul Pacheco, aka Hummingbird604 has said he likes La Casita and he’s from Mexico so that says a lot. My wife and daughter met me downtown recently and we ended up at La Casita mostly due to convenience. We grabbed a table by the window so Hayley could watch the world go by but we still ended up be the people in the restaurant with the randomly screaming baby…joy.

I ordered the Chorizo Chimichanga which may or may not be authentic Mexican but it was damn good. A deep fried tortilla filled with cheese, beans and chopped Chorizo sausage and covered with salsa and sour cream. The presentation was 100% better than any “Mexican” restaurant I’ve been to, it looked like someone cared how the plate looked instead of being a pile of rice, a similar pile of beans and a tortilla on a plate. The sausage was mild and tasty and cooked just right with a nice crunch from the tortilla. The beans were good, not great and the rice was the same, not outstanding but very good. The vegetables were really quite good though, usually an after thought in a dish like this they were fresh and seasoned with a savory salt and spice mix that took them above and beyond what you would expect from a side of veggies.

Unfortunately we forgot to unhook Hayley’s toys (rattle, ball, rings etc. ) from the highchair when we left. Oh well, I’m sure a less fortunate little one can benefit from them as they are easily replaceable for us.

Mexico, I like the way you cook.

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.

Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar

Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar is located at Waterfront Station in historic Gastown. Built in 1910 Waterfront Station was originally used as Canadian Pacific Railway’s terminus station for its transcontinental passenger line and is a beautiful example of neoclassical architecture. As you enter Rogue you immediately notice the scale of the room, this place is gigantic! Vaulted ceilings, giant chandeliers, towering window treatments all done in a way that blends modern design and old world cool together seamlessly. Visually this is one of the coolest spots in town. My trip to Gastown was actually for the annual motorcycle show & shine which was great but ultimately too hot to avoid seeking out cold beer for relief.

Rogue seemed a good choice as their beer selection is fairly large with a great assortment of REAL beer on tap. When I say real beer I mean beer that doesn’t come from a factory producing thousands of gallons of beer a day. I had the Crannog Bog Trotter Brown Ale (great name!), the Crannog Backhand of God Stout (another great name!) and the Howe Sound Honey Pale Ale, all of which were fantastic.

The first thing that I saw on the menu that really jumped off the page was something called Fries x 3. Hand cut Kennebec fries done 3 different ways, poutine (gravy and cheese curd, for my American friends) in one dish, Gorgonzola cream and bacon in another and Parmesan with truffle oil and basil in the last dish. They were all excellent but the Gorgonzola cream and bacon was ridiculously good. The Truffle oil was almost undetectable in the third dish, which was disappointing because truffle oil is mouth-wateringly good, but they were good none the less.

My co-pilot for the motorcycle show, Al, who is known more commonly as Bert even though his name is Allen…ordered the Rogue Burger with fries. It looked good and Bert confirmed my visual assessment. He said it actually tasted like good quality beef as opposed to most other burgers where the beef serves as texture more than flavor, at least I think that’s how he put it. Did I mention that the beer was really good? The presentation was dramatic with a large steak knife stabbed through the center of the burger holding it together. This burger is 9.2 ounces of house ground sirloin, manly.

I, once again, had a strong craving for pizza and was helped along by the waitress who informed me they were half price on Sundays. I ordered the Pepperoni & Three Mushroom Pizza with roasted garlic and mozzarella. The pizza was fantastic with a thin and crispy crust, whole cloves of roasted garlic and a “mushroom medley”. I’m not sure what the three mushroom varieties were, and the menu wasn’t much help but I am guessing they weren’t “magic” because I remember paying the bill…They were a nice compliment to the pizza though, even with the mystery surrounding them.

Now here’s the weirdest part about Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar. Their menu has a “pay what you think it’s worth” caveat. If you don’t like what you’ve ordered as much as you thought you would you can pay less for it, or if it’s better than expected you can choose to pay more for it. This part of the process seems a little out there to me and it wasn’t made very apparent by our server. When our bills arrived she asked us “does that look ok to you?” Had I not know about the payment philosophy before hand I wouldn’t have had a clue that she was referring to the prices of our food and I suspect most other customers wouldn’t either. I have no problem paying the listed price for something I order or else I wouldn’t order it and if I am dissatisfied enough to complain about something I would hope the restaurant would do something about it instead of leaving me the option of adjusting the price myself.

The confusing payment system aside Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar is somewhere I will definitely be returning to. The food was great, as was the service. The room itself is incredible and the prices are very reasonable, especially for this part of town. Another great food find in our city, go out and enjoy this hot summer weather and some great local food!

Scott.

Website – http://www.roguewetbar.com/

Twitter – http://twitter.com/roguewetbar