To say that Chef Al Brown has a thing for North America would be an understatement. New York/Montreal style deli’s and cafes, not things you would expect to find in New Zealand. Federal Delicatessen is a hip spot oozing with North American mid century style located on Federal Street in Downtown Auckland. Federal Street sits under the Sky Tower and is part of the Sky City casino complex.
The breakfast menu is made up of kosher deli favourites. I opted for the “Mish-Mash” ($17.50 nzd), pastrami hash with potatoes, peas, deli mustard, and a fried egg. The pastrami is thick cut, tender, and has a bit of a Montreal Smoked Meat vibe to it. The peas aren’t something you’d normally find in a hash but they worked. This is a simple dish elevated with quality ingredients. At almost $18 it seems a bit expensive but tax and gratuity are included. To be fair everything in New Zealand seems expensive to me…
Auckland, and the rest of New Zealand, is known for its coffee culture. You’d be hard pressed to find a Starbucks here, I’ve seen 2 in 4 days and I’ve walked a good portion of the Central Business District (CBD) and Waterfront. For The Fed to not have an espresso machine is an oddity. They offer “filter coffee” only which is bottomless ($4 nzd) and comes in Havana or Supreme varieties. It is good enough to satisfy the coffee nerd in all of us.
Federal Delicatessen is worth a visit if you find yourself looking for a bite to eat in Auckland. Good food, friendly service, central location, that’s a winning combo.
The craft beer scene in Surrey is at an interesting point in its evolution. You can find craft beer at most pubs and restaurants but you’d be lucky to find more than 3 taps and a couple of bottles to choose from. There’s Big Ridge and Central City, both are fantastic but you’re limited to their beers. That’s not a bad thing but it’s always nice to have a little more choice. The Taphouse offers 20+ taps, 12-15 of which are craft with local and non local options. Is there another spot in Surrey with that kind of craft selection? No, not even close, and don’t bring up Hawthorne because that place is terrible.
I’ve been to The Taphouse before but this was the first time I was there to eat. We started out with some classic Hot Wings ($10/pound). Hot but not too hot, nice flavour, good mix of drummies and flatties (ya, I said it). Good stuff.
Sticking with classic pub food I opted for The Beef Dip ($13), slow roasted house smoked brisket on a garlic baguette with light horseradish mayo and a side of jus. The meat was tender, juicy, and full of flavour. The smoke and the horseradish mayo work well together and I may have detected a hint of liquid smoke in the jus but I might be wrong. This is a tasty example of a pub food staple. The fries were good too, fresh cut kosher salted Kennebec potatoes,
If you were a Bar Star in the 90’s you already know where The Taphouse is. It lives where The Mirage night club used to take all my money on $1 drink night… 15330 102a Ave in beautiful Guildford.
The only word of caution I have is that a lot of the servers seem new so service can be inconsistent.
How do you win your way in? Simply tweet the following “I want meat, beer, and cheese @ThePortsidePub with @wflbc! #PortsideMBC” You can also post a picture of meat, beer, and cheese on Instagram. Make sure you tag @wflbc and @theportsidepub and use the hashtag #PortsideMBC so I can find it!
The winner will be chosen on Wednesday, February 25th and your tickets will be waiting for you at the event. Portside is planning on making this a regular event. I’m going to get gout!
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.
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.
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.
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;
@WFLBC@pinkwhiskers I swear they probably just make them by the bathtub full and let them sit all night. They don’t know al dente
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.