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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
First things first, park your preconceptions about this restaurant and everything you may have heard about it. Granted most “Revolving Restaurant” tourist traps are all flash and no substance. I could forgive your preconceptions about SkyCIty. I had those very same thoughts when I found out that I’d be spending my Saturday night in Seattle 500 feet above the ground with a bunch of people I didn’t know. It turns out SkyCity is very, VERY good and my dinner companions were fantastic company.
The ride up takes just over a minute and the views from SkyCity are amazing. One revolution takes 47 minutes which means you’ll see the whole view at least one time and when your finished your meal you can access the observation deck which is 20 feet above and offers windowless views of Seattle and its surroundings. Try and plan your visit around sunset so you see daytime views as well as night.
Executive Chef Jeff Maxfield has created a menu featuring world class ingredients that is influenced heavily by Seattle and the Pacific Ocean. Is SkyCity expensive? Yup, very. You do get the amazing view along with access to the observation deck but it’s a pricey meal for sure. Is it worth it? Let’s find out.
The Hokkaido Scallops ($49) are big, perfectly seared and seasoned and the little dab of caviar on top is perfect. Did I mention it was perfect? For $49 the plate could’ve been wiped down a little better but I’m grasping a straws to find something negative about this plate. The celery root purée and the cippolini agrodolce (basically sweet and sour onions) matched up well with the scallops and the roasted veg was top shelf.
The Pacific Halibut ($47) (flown in from Alaska that day) was super fresh, seared and seasoned just right and was moist and… Ok the superlatives are getting to be a bit much. This is a solid dish with some interesting twists, like the shrimp and pork dumplings that had an Asian character. Again, $47 is a lot but you’re paying for an experience and it just happens to come with great food.
After dinner we wandered upstairs to check out the open air views, have a look.
So is SkyCity worth the money? Yes, yes it is. There’s a $35 minimum per guest but that’s pretty easy to get to given the menu prices. The bill for me and a guest was just under $140 before tip and that included drinks of the adult variety. The wine list is nicely varied and they even have a few tasty local beers in bottles.
Did you know that there’s a part of Richmond located in the middle of the Fraser River that you can only access from Marpole? There’s a tiny Island called Richmond Island located on Musqueam land that is part of a development called Milltown. There’s a new Bar and Grill at 9191 Bentley Street, which is the home of Milltown Marina. Milltown Bar and Grill is pretty damn cool.
Milltown sits just north of the Vancouver International Airport and has an incredible view of the north runway. More on that later. There’s a rotating craft beer tap, currently Hoyne Devil’s Dream IPA, and a small selection of craft bottles to keep my beer nerd pals happy. The Devil’s Dream was pouring beautifully and was the perfect companion to sunshine and plane watching on the south patio. There’s another patio on the north side that overlooks the marina, they’re both good choices if you like to sit outside.
The menu is a classic west coast bar and grill line-up with all the usual suspects along with some non traditional items like Butter Bhicken, Halibut Tacos, and Salmon Wellington. I opted for the Freighter Burger, a house made all beef patty with Pale Ale BBQ sauce, bacon, and gouda plus the standard veg. The freighter is a solid buger, I’d order it again. The house made patty has nice tecture and is properly seasoned. The fries that came with it are battered, something I’m not super keen on but they were tasty none the less. I’d love to see in house hand cut fries with this burger!
Sitting on the north patio puts you up close with some pretty big planes landing at YVR from all around the world. The noise isn’t as loud as I thought it would be and watching planes land is pretty awesome, ya know? Here’s a couple of 747-400’s I managed to photograph.
Overall Milltown Bar and Grill is a great place to spend an afternoon. There’s tons of parking, good beer, tasty food, lots of action on the patio, and you can bring the whole family (something I did not know until after I got there…oops). Here’s a handy Google Earth shot to show you where they are, followed by all their pertinent links and so forth.
I was recently invited to Sabatino’s Trattoria in South Surrey to sample some dishes from their new menu. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a menu tasting as I’ve been blogging less and exploring Vancouver with my camera more these days but it was nice to be back in the game. I was joined by May and Dennis of pangcouver.com and Sherman from shermansfoodadventures.com, good company indeed.
We were treated to Gamberi Napoli as an amuse bouche, Tiger prawn flambéed in Pernod with garlic, grape tomato, onion and basil. There was a very slight hint of licorice from the Pernod and the prawn balanced well with the tomato and onion. A little more seasoning would’ve made this a home run but it was still quite nice.
Next up was the Barbabietola Arrosto, a lovely roasted beet salad. Roasted beets, goat cheese, tomato, and roasted walnuts with spinach and dill vinaigrette. The dressing wasn’t overly oily and the dill worked well with the earthy beets and the punchy goats cheese. When I started writing about food 4 years ago I never thought that beets would end up being one of my favourite foods.
Spaghetti Carbonara was the next dish to arrive. Rich, rich, did I mention it’s rich? I love Carbonara but it’s not something I could eat often. Prosciutto, egg yolk, and Granda Padano wrapped up in tender spaghetti noddles. Slightly more oily than I’d anticipated but the deep, rich flavours were great.
The main course was Brasato al Valpolicella, red wine braised shortrib on the bone with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. The short rib is from Two Rivers Meats and is outstanding. Braised perfectly, seasoned well, juicy, tender. The potatoes are rich and creamy and quite dense, not your average restaurant mash. This dish was a winner from start to finish.
Along with my food there were some great, original cocktails and bold red wine being served. My favourite was the Agavé Julep, a tequila based cocktail with mint, watermelon, simple syrup and soda.
Last but not least is dessert, Frangelico and chocolate cheesecake with biscotti crust. So decadent, so good. I’m a savoury guy so when a dessert wows me it has to be pretty great.
For all of you craft beer fans out there you’ll be glad to know that Sabatino’s has Fat Tug IPA and Whitebark Witbier from Driftwood Brewing on tap.
If you’re in the mood for Italian check out Sabatino’s Trattoria in South Surrey, it’s a nice spot and a bit of a hidden gem.
Grain Tasting Bar is the downstairs cousin of the uber amazing Mosaic (check out my post on Mosaic RIGHT HERE!) at the Hyatt Regency on Burrard st. Offering up an upscale feel and an outstanding food and beverage lineup it’s easily made it into WFLBC’s short list for places to grab a drink downtown. After a manly afternoon of shopping at Lululemon on Robson street I needed a beer, you know, to man up a little.
Chef Thomas Heinrich has created a very nice menu for Grain. It is less up market than Mosaic but still has some amazing dishes that you won’t find at just any hotel bar. Add the great food to an impressive cocktail list and a very nice craft beer selection and Grain is hard to beat. It’s just steps from the Skytrain too? Stop it! It’s not fair to the other bars!! AND you can also order off the menu from Mosaic Bar and Mosaic itself. I’m really starting to wonder why I haven’t just set up a bed in the corner and moved in.
For starters I had the Spicy Thai Chicken Wings (from the Mosaic Bar menu). They were big, hot and juicy with all the sweet and savoury flavours you’d expect from a Thai Chili dish. There’s also a subtle heat that sneaks in after a few chews. The plating is also very nice, something Chef Heinrich takes a lot of pride in.
For my main I had the AMAZING Albacore Tuna Nicoise Salad from the Mosaic Lunch Menu. Perfectly seared albacore tuna, green beans (aka haricot vert if you’re French), olives, hard boiled egg, potatoes and fresh tomatoes over baby greens with thyme vinaigrette. A classic Nicoise salad beautifully presented. I would order this again, and again, and….again.
I washed this all back with Parallel 49 Brewing’s delicious Hay Fever Spring Saison, yum.
Ever wonder what would happen if someone took over a KFC/Taco Bell and started making the same kind of food but actually used good ingredients and cared about what they were serving? Just off Highway 99 as you roll into Squamish there’s a VERY bright yellow building that used to house the aforementioned fast food giants. It closed about a year ago but has been resurrected as Mag’s 99, a fried chicken and Mexican joint using fresh, never frozen chicken and house made GOOD stuff with no preservatives whenever possible.
I was in the mood for fried chicken, the Mexican dishes will have to wait for another visit, so I ordered the 3 piece “snack pack”. It takes up to 10 minutes to get your order but it’s piping hot and fresh when you get it and you get a plate of tortilla chips and chunky house made salsa while you wait.
The chicken is everything that fried chicken should be, the flavours are very reminiscent of KFC or Churches but the quality of the chicken is far above any fast food joint. I had a thigh, a full wing and a breast in my combo with fries and a drink for under $10. The batter is delicious and you don’t get the greasy fried chicken hangover that usually accompanies fast food fried chicken.
Verdict. Mag’s 99 is good, classic fried chicken made by people who care. Go check it out if you’re in Squamish.
You guys know that I’m a regular at Big Ridge Brewing Company in Surrey. They have amazing beer, great food and have been very supportive of my charitable efforts over the past year or so. Their sister restaurant in Whistler, the Brewhouse, is everything that I love about Big Ridge surrounded by one of my all time favourite places, Whistler Village.
Located just a few steps from the Olympic Plaza the Brewhouse offers craft beer brewed on site, a kids menu with lots to chose from, a pretty imaginative cocktail list, great food and very friendly staff (possibly too friendly…lol, that’s a story for another day). I’ve been to the Brewhouse many many times but this is the first time I’ve written anything about it. I went 3 times over the last week, once with my daughter, once by myself and once with my daughter and a hot date. The third visit was awkward, not for me though, for…reasons.
I had their award winning 5 Rings IPA, voted best IPA in BC in 2012 and it is definitely worthy of the hype. Well hopped with a solid malt backbone, this beer captures the true essence of a west coast style IPA.
One can not survive on water, hops and barley alone so I decided to order the Ale braised Angus beef cottage pie. Now to me cottage pie and shepherd’s pie are the same thing. Ya ya there’s a “definition” of what each one is traditionally made with but I really don’t care, they’re both ok with me. This particular cottage pie had Angus beef braised in house brewed Grizzly Brown Ale, button mushrooms, carrots and onions topped with mashed potatoes. It’s then baked in a cast iron pan and served with greens.
Overall this pie was outstanding. Rich, flavourful, well seasoned and piping hot. I would absolutely order this dish again except for one small issue. $19.99 is an awful lot to pay for humble peasant food. Sure you can dress it up with “Angus Beef” but at the end of the day cottage pie is simple fair based on food that the poor used to have to eat out of necessity. I understand that most things in Whistler are a little pricier than things in the Lower Mainland but come one, this should be $13-14.99 tops.
Will it stop me from going back? Not a chance. Like I said, most things in Whistler are more expensive than they are here, if something’s good then I’ll probably order it again. The beer is outstanding and the staff, like I said, are VERY friendly 😉
A few months ago I told you about Beast and Brine, a cool charcuterie and cheese (and a million other things) shop that was set to open in South Surrey just up the road from Crescent Beach. Well guess what? They’ve been open for awhile now and it has become a weekend ritual for my daughter and I to visit and stock up for the week ahead. Sausages, high end cold cuts, the best bacon in Greater Vancouver, specialty cheeses, a sandwich counter and much much more. This kind of product used to be the exclusive domain of Granville Island Public Market vendors and a few hidden gems around Vancouver. A lot of their product is made in house by Uli’s Restaurant Executive Chef Ryan Bissell who is a co-owner along with Uli’s owner Tyson Blume.
The staff is incredible and it’s always buzzing in the shop with happy customers eagerly awaiting their meaty treasures to take home and brag about to their friends, it’s that good. Check out some photos I’ve taken over the last few weeks, they’ll make you want to drop whatever you’re doing and drive to Beast and Brine. It’s ok, I would too. Kudos to Tyson, Ryan and the whole Beast and Brine team for totally living up to my ridiculous expectations. I love this place.
Added bonus – Fieldstone Artisan Breads is right next door – food heaven. After you’ve looked at the pics there’s a list of my “WFLBC must buys” at Beast and Brine at the bottom of the page.
Heritage Bacon, Double smoked bacon, Frikadelle, Porchetta, Bavarian Meatloaf, The famous Uli’s hot dog (!), Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar (when it’s in stock), Phillip’s Soda Work’s Captain Electro Intergalactic Root Beer.
Moderne Burger in Kitsilano is a no nonsense burger joint with a great nostalgic feel that isn’t forced or cluttered up with random Elvis and Marilyn Monroe paraphernalia. They have a small, focused menu that has burgers, BLT’s, grilled cheese, fries, milkshakes, floats and speciality sodas. Their burgers are made fresh daily and have no additives, not even seasoning! The inside of Moderne Burger has a great Art Deco feel and would fit right in under the Empire State building or somewhere similar.
Moderne offers 4 burger choices, Steak, Ground Turkey, Veggie or Wild Salmon fillet, with all the usual additions. The burger is juicy and delicious and doesn’t need seasoning at all. The Bun is light yet substantial and suits the burger very well. The cheese is real cheddar and the bacon is thick cut and high quality. All in all a fantastic burger in every way. The fries are equally as good and are hand cut for every order. I was advised by someone who may have been the owner to arrange my fries in a “deck” to place my burger on so they would soak up the juicy burger drippings. Good advice.
Next time you find yourself in Kits go check out Moderne Burger.