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I was watching "Beloved" the other day, remember that one? I loved that movie, although it was a box office flop. It's based on the brilliant book by Toni Morrison. I recommend it highly. Anyway, in one part of the movie Oprah offers to "fry a little corn" for the character played by Danny Glover. And I thought "mmmmm, corn", instead of focusing on the subtlety of the performances and all that other stuff that intelligent people do.

As a child, my parents always insisted that I was smart. They would tell me so all the time. They would point out stupid things I would do and say "is that something a smart little girl should do?" No. Pretty sure not.

But here's something I don't have the heart to tell either of my parents: I'm dumb. Oh sure, I have a fairly decent vocabulary and I have a degree and all that shit, but I'm the worst kind of dumb: I'm the kind of dumb broad that thinks she's a smart broad. To wit: OK Corn.

If you are from BC, and you have spent any time driving through our broad province, you will have undoubtedly see many home-made, spray-painted signs that advertise "OK CORN" for sale on the side of the road. I've seen these signs all my life. And it took me until I was 22 years old to figure out that the "OK" stood for Okanagan, which boasts some of the most beautiful and delicious produce in the world. No. I thought it meant exactly what it said: Ok corn. And every single time for roughly 18 years I would mumble to myself "why would someone stop for Ok corn? Where is the excellent corn? The delicious corn?". I would shake my head.

The day it hit me I was driving with my boyfriend back to Vancouver from a vacation in Kelowna. And as befits someone that stupid, I hung my head in shame for about an hour.

That's not all that screws me up. You know this sign?



Me too. And I thought it was a giant N, with a curlicue on the front of it. For years. This is particularly shameful as both my dad and grandfather worked for the Canadian National Railroad.

Also?


I thought this was either a) a piece of abstract art, or b) a W. It never occurred to me that this was a B until I was EASILY in my 30s. I still read this as the "ay". The "b" has just never really entered into it for me.

So you see, I am dumb. I'm pretty much okay with it. I'm comfortable now with the fact that my initial interpretation of signage is EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of How Things Work.

Anyway, corn:


Fried corn

4 cobs of corn, peeled and kernels cut off
extra virgin olive oil, to taste
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tsp chile powder
1 pinch smoked paprika
lime and microgreens for garnish

Grill corn kernels in oil over medium heat until just tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add lemon juice and chile, stir together and transfer to bowl. Top with microgreens, paprika and a squeeze of lime. Serve hot.



Fortunately being able to taste good food doesn't require brain cells.

Jessica

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If there’s been one business whose reputation has preceded itself, it’s Tacofino. It wasn’t long after the food cart project started that whispers floated in the wind. “That ______ cart is good,” is how many people would start, but “you should check out this taco truck in Tofino” is how many people would inevitably end.

Since they’ve opened shop in Vancouver, I’ve been visiting their trucks off and on, and in particular their Burrard street one, which seems a constant fixture relative to their other truck at the Vancouver Art Gallery, whose presence fluctuates with the season. It was the former truck – Tacofino Blue, in my nomenclature - where I had my first introduction, and didn’t think much of the burritos. Months went by before I’d visit again.


But it nagged at my mind. Those whispers grew bold, and it was no longer restricted to the food cart scene alone. “Those Tacofino tacos are the best in town,” people exclaimed, and I felt like a fraud for not having tried one.

And thus I finally visited Tacofino Orange this year, sat on the Vancouver Art Gallery steps, and looked down at this behemoth fish taco ($4.50) in one hand, lightly tempura battered with a mound of shredded cabbage and salsa fresca (all atop a toasted tortilla, a feature common to all of their tacos, which I’m convinced gives Tacofino a running start already), teemed to the point of structural instability. In the other hand, a tuna ta-taco ($6.50), the fish just peeking out from even more shredded cabbage, mango salsa and a seaweed salad. Both fell merrily apart while I wolfed them down, each bite a sloppy, haphazard one to enjoy, a delicious problem to have. The people were right: there was something to this.


Given that fervour and success, it was no surprise when news of a Tacofino Commissary surfaced. This, a new church for all of its followers, gorgeous in its details (talk will undoubtedly spread just as fast about the Omer Abel light fixtures), the boxed-in heat and noise whirling up to a delirious haze of religious devotion. The booze helps; the inventive cocktail list helps even more. The tacos are here – albeit less structurally challenged – with a couple that were previously only intermittently featured at the trucks now taking a regular position on the Commissary menu: a pork cheek taco ($6) gestures towards an al pastor with bits of pineapple and fried shallots and cabbage duelling in equal amounts; a beer-braised beef taco ($6) also features pickled chayote, peppers and an avocado crema. 


The expanded environment brings expanded offerings as well.  A shared plate portion of the menu runs a broad gamut. A deconstructed tamale ($12) places grilled masa off to the side, providing a bedrock for slightly fried spot prawns, lardons and a slow-cooked egg to bind it all together in a satisfying disarray. The surf and turf ($12) has deep-fried bits from land (chicken) and sea (squid), with the odd deep-fried lemon wedge bringing new revelation. The cauliflower ($8) is not unlike Nuba’s beloved Najib’s, crisped up with other bits of crispy rice, chilies and perhaps slightly too much fish sauce. The eggplant ($6) sees some Asian inspiration, served with dollops of XO sauce, as does the gringa ($6), a crispy tortilla with pork al pastor complimented with a touch of kimchi. Additional desserts join the familiar chocolate diablo cookie as well. The churros ($7) are overly dense, but it’s accompanied by housemade banana sriracha ice cream, a good retort against any jaded complaints that the hot sauce has now reached bacon-esque overexposure.

All of this has been immensely satisfying - both for my appetite and my curiosity - and it makes perfect sense that the line-ups are long, even at only two weeks in. I have no doubt in my mind that the line will grow even longer as news travels. Believe the hype, and get there fast.

Joe.

Tacofino
Blue Truck on Burrard at Dunsmuir
Orange Truck on Howe at Robson (Vancouver At Gallery)

Tacofino Commissary
2327 E Hastings Street (at Nanaimo)
Vancouver, BC
604 253 TACO
@tacofinocantina

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It’s a conundrum: people mainly flock to the food carts when the sunlight gives its blessing, and presumably the food carts tailor their menus according to same. Why, then, is Ze Bite so resolute in offering stews?

The cart features a small menu with a Mediterranean-by-way-of-France focus, run by Brittany-native Mathieu Gicquel, whose schizophrenic resume includes a stint as former chef at So.Cial at Le Magasin. He’s the quintessential charmer, affable and a pleasure to talk to, perhaps particularly so given his dearth of customers.

The blistering sun provides no good incentive to have a hot bowl of beef bourguignon ($11). That will hopefully give the stew a bit of time to simmer: it’s not bad, but could use a deeper touch, especially for the accompanying potatoes, which are presumably roasted separately and don’t particularly taste of anything. A similar problem besets the Moroccan stew ($10.20), a chicken, apricot, chickpea concoction that would undoubtedly have been better served in its traditional tagine. Pick the ratatouille ($9.50) instead, which fares the best out of the three. It’s all comforting, though, and with a little tweaking, each could likely be what keeps Ze Bite going through the colder months (the bane of each food cart’s existence).


Until then, Gicquel offers two different sandwiches: a pulled pork ($9.50), which no food establishment in town seems to be able to escape from, and the Provencal ($9). The latter is a nice summer touch: as the name suggests, roasted vegetables (particularly peppers) feature well here, served with sundried tomatoes, an olive tapanade and goat cheese. One only wishes, though, that Gicquel could’ve brought in better bread for an even better taste of France (that is no slight against Ze Bite: it is no exaggeration that the average loaf there exists on a higher plane of existence than most everything available here).

But that limited offering might not be quite enough for Ze Bite to get by: as compelling as Giquel is, he is no match against the long-awaited summer weather. Stews, good or great, will be a hard sell. Best hope that they make it to fall, when the ensuing rain will make that decision less of a conundrum.

Joe.

Ze Bite
Cordova Street at Burrard (Tuesday through Thursday, 11pm to 3pm)
Vancouver, BC
604 992 7030
@eatzebite