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I encourage you all to get your hands on some fresh seafood ASAP, before the season is officially over. I recently had a craving for scallops, and had a vision in my head of the big, juicy jumbo ones that you get from Granville Island. So I took myself down there and discovered that about 4 of those fat beauties will set you back $20 before tax. Ouch.

Of course, a whole world of affordable seafood opens itself up to you if you are willing to consider frozen. Now, of course we know fresh tastes better. But unless you are a fisherman yourself it's going to be hard to maintain that kind of diet. So you may want to do what I do, which is treat fresh as an absolute treat and have frozen the rest of the time. And well frozen (on the boat as caught, never previously thawed then frozen again) fish and seafood can be delicious. So I settled for a considerable smaller scallop and about 80 of his brothers and sisters from Qualicum Bay in a frozen, vacuum-sealed bag.

Here's something I learned from the writings of a five star chef from South Carolina: nuts bring out the flavour of many seafoods like prawns, scallops and oysters. I was pretty skeptical but thought I would try his almond vinaigrette to dress my butter-grilled Bay beauties in our last seafood days:

Seared Scallops with Almond Vinaigrette

1/4 cup roasted, unsalted almonds
5 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
8 large sea scallops or 1/2 bag of small ones
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 sprigs thyme
2 tbsp fresh peaches, mashed in a mortar and pestle, or peach preserves
fresh microgreens

Finely chop almonds into small pieces but not into a powder. Mix almonds and 4 tbsps oil in a medium bowl. Whisk in 1 tbsp vinegar and chives, season with salt, pepper and more vinegar if desired. Set vinaigrette aside.

Heat the leftover oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season scallops with salt and pepper. Add to skillet. Cook about 2-3 minutes. Turn scallops, add butter and thyme. Cook, frequently tilting skillet and spooning butter over, until scallops are just cooked through, 2-3 minutes longer.

For plating, place peach preserves or mixture (I added pomegranate seeds) in the centre of the plate, and surround with grilled scallops. Drizzle vinaigrette over top of scallops, top with microgreens. Serve immediately.


There is an extraordinary flavour that is added by creamy almonds to the tender, delicate scallops, but the full experience is not just about the flavour, it's also about the texture. The crunch made tart by the vinegar sets off the well-seasoned scallops. Easy to prepare and cheap, I recommend you cook these for yourself and enjoy with a glass of chilled white wine to say a proper goodbye to summer.

(recipe with my variations from Bon Appetit)

Jessica

www.crasscuisine.com

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Joel Bakan should really need no introduction: he is the author of The Corporation: the Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, a bestseller in numerous countries and winner of countless awards, and  the writer and co-creator of the accompanying documentary (also an award winner: The Corporation won best documentary at the Sundance Film Festival).  He is also a jazz musician and a professor of law at the University of British Columbia, but still somehow found time to write his most recent book, Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Children

Joel Bakan is a featured author at The Word on the Street festival (September 28 to 30), and we are more than honoured to present his Top Slop, which follows below.

There are some great restaurants in Vancouver. Tojo’s and Vij’s come to mind – to everyone’s minds. They get enough praise. They don’t need more here. So let me offer my list of less celebrated, though, at least for me, equally special places:

Chin Ho

Tiny and family-run, the ever-gracious Shirley serves out front, while her gifted husband cooks in the back. Lunch is under $20, for two, spectacularly fresh, tasty, and alive with energy (dinner is just as good and may set you back another five or ten bucks). Try the garlic and salt prawns with an order of steamed gai lan and oyster sauce, wonton soup to start, banana fritters for dessert. Among the best meals I’ve had, anywhere. If you’re up in Kerrisdale, try The Golden Ocean. I ate there as a teenager with my family, and still do. Consistently great food, reasonably priced. The Wintermelon Soup and Peking Duck are outstanding. Ask for the amiable and efficient Mike as your server. 


You’d think you were in Greenwich Village, not the western edge of Kitsilano – rough brick walls, oversized paintings of jazz greats, shaky tables crowded together, and the best jazz musicians, from this city and around the world, on stage six nights a week. This is the real deal – one of the top-100 jazz clubs in the world according to Downbeat Magazine – with good food, a well-stocked bar, and its own award-winning record label. You can have a stellar New York-style night of jazz, dinner, wine and drinks for less than $150 a couple, all in. 


Steak is, for me, a rare (and I like mine that way) indulgence. So when I have a steak I want it to be good. The traditional steakhouse, of which Gotham is one, should be a simple and unchanging place: same menu everytime and everywhere; no fanciful inventions or whimsical displays. Yet brilliance is still possible at a steakhouse. Like a brilliant rendition of a jazz standard or a blues tune, traditional form can be filled with stellar substance. By that measure, Gotham is brilliant, the best steakhouse I’ve found anywhere. Great ingredients, perfectly prepared, gracious and knowledgeable staff. Ask for Jaier as your server, a philosopher-of-steaks, and life in general.

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Le Tigre's "Kick Ass" Rice

I’ve been re-reading Kevin Chong’s article, “Revisionist Chinese,” and stare down at my bowl of “Kick Ass Rice” ($7) from Le Tigre. The food truck is run by Clement Chan and Steve Kuan, and offers what I presume generally fits into that subject matter (pan-Asian with a Chinese emphasis, technically). The rice is cooked in sake, butter and dashi, with bits of red chilis, mayo, mint and Thai basil scattered here and there, topped with chunks of kakuni style pork belly and a soft-cooked egg, the yolk just gelatinous enough to mix pleasingly into the bowl but not runny enough to offend health inspectors. There is little to complain about this dish. Good is good, and this rice dish is as comforting as a warm duvet.


Chong’s article, however, makes mention of that common criticism, one of inauthenticity and ‘pandering’ to Westernized tastes. It might be Le Tigre’s other offerings that fall more susceptibly into this trap. Its steam buns ($4 for one, $7 of two) take their inspiration from the traditional “gua bao” – generally a plain bun folded over with meat (typically braised pork belly) and veg – but with the obligatory ‘twist.’ Le Tigre gives three options: aforementioned kakuni pork belly, a Szechwan beef, and “bang bang chicken,” a sort of shredded chicken breast whose flavor profile does not nearly provoke as much as the Le Tigre song of same name. Each is serviceable, but falters without much effort, the buns splitting in half with the slightest touch. With the same fillings, the shao bings ($7) don’t fare much better, the pastry tasting much like pounded white bread, and one need not compare it to the traditional to end up with the same disappointing conclusion. Each is a good example of a better criticism of this ‘revisionist’ fare: it’s entirely unclear if Chan and Kuan had mastered the basic traditional components of these dishes before imposing their tweaks.

(Some mention should be made of at least the availability of beet fries ($6) – a soggy mess of a side – and a brussel sprout salad ($6) – fried to a crisp with no shortage of salt – both of which seem at odds with the conceptual theme.)

As a middle ground, try the chicken karaage ($6) instead, which taste much more like the Taiwanese salty-peppery variety than the name would suggest, hardly an issue. If, however, nomenclature is your hang-up, walk over to Mogu, which has a similar thought pattern with a Japanese take.
Mogu's Miso Katsu Sandwich

The cart is run by a former Suika employee, and it makes perfect sense that he should already be in a ‘revisionist’ frame of mind. The menu is a simple spread of three sandwiches ($7.50 a pop), each a behemoth portion of Japanese standards re-conceptualized between a soggy bun. We opted for the pork miso katsu sandwich, dreaming of a North American greasy-spoon roadside diner run by Japanese immigrants. It is a breath-taking mess, fascinating to observe but difficult to ingest: the extreme saltiness of the red miso kills the sandwich after a few bites.

Mogu’s chicken karaage is our dish of choice, and it has me contemplating Chong’s article even more. Do I like it best because there’s very little revision here ($6.75 regular, $4.25 mini), or is it because tender bits of chicken, battered and fried, is what I surmise to be a constant truth unifying any cultural shift? I make my way slowly through the bowl, contemplating that question. I don’t know that there’s an easy answer.

Joe.

Corner of Alberni and Bute on weekdays generally (location varies)
Vancouver, BC
778 990 2853
Le Tigre Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Howe at Dunsmuir (location may vary)
Vancouver, BC
Mogu Japanese Street Eats on Urbanspoon

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Kevin Chong is not just an all-around good guy, but also an author of four books, including his latest, My Year of the Racehorse.  It just so happens that he also wrote one of my favorite pieces from last year about a corner of Vancouver's restaurant scene, "Revisionist Chinese" for Walrus magazine.  Kevin appears at The Word on the Street (September 28th to 30th), and we have a copy of My Year of the Racehorse to giveaway (details below).  Here's his Top Slop.

I love breakfast at the Acme. Usually I get the breakfast special. My girlfriend likes how they make their eggs in the oven, the coffee is normally excellent, and the staff is very friendly.

For lunch, I am going with Chubby Lamb in Richmond. I teach at UBC and the Surrey and Richmond campuses of Kwantlen Polytechnic. There is an abundance of cheap but bland grub at UBC, a cafeteria and some nearby Indian buffets in Surrey, and the food court across the street in Lansdowne Mall in Richmond. While Chubby Lamb is best known for its hot pot, I like the eponymous lamb in rice noodles and soup.

For dinner, I really like Pronto on Cambie. The porchetta sandwich is their claim to fame but growing up in a Chinese household it's a little hard to get excited about pork belly; I feel the same way about tail to snout eating (which should really be called "How People Eat Outside of North America"). But they always have a pasta special, not expensive and not humongously portioned, that really sings with flavour.



For a chance to WIN A COPY of My Year of the Racehorse, make up your favourite racehorse name and leave it in the comments.  Be inventive! We'll pick our favourite.  Contest ends at 11:59PM (Vancouver time) on September 28th.

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Lovers of food carts and lovers of art, you have been forewarned: don't miss this. There ain't too many more weeks for the Waldorf's Food Cart Fest.  It all ends this month, so why not do yourself a favour?

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Like many people, I grew up reading Peter Bagge's seminal comic book series, Hate, and the various adventures and exploits of Buddy Bradley.  This was eye-opening stuff to an adolescent, and along with Clowes, Ware and others, it cemented a love for comics that has extended to present day.  I grew to think of Seattle as Bagge depicted it, and - in conjunction with his appearance at The Word on the Street (September 28th to 30th) - we asked him for his "Top Slop." 

My Top Three Eateries Within Walking Distance of My Own Home
By Peter Bagge

First off, let me apologize for not listing my top three Vancouver eateries. I can't recall ever having a bad meal while up there, but I simply don't visit often enough to even recall any of their names! Meanwhile, not only is my home town of Seattle going through an explosion of excellent restaurants (what city ISN'T these days?), but even my home NEIGHBORHOOD of Ballard has become a foodie mecca these past few years. There's WAY too many choices for me to limit it to just three places!

Instead I decided to limit it to 3 places within easy walking distance (i.e.: 15 minutes) of my own home. I'm not exactly in the heart of Ballard, but more on the outskirts, where the pickin's are slimmer but still plentiful, and where the choices keep improving.


Speaking as a typically snobby ex-New Yorker, one thing Seattle -- make that the rest of the CONTINENT -- never gets right is how to make a decent New York Style pizza. It has everything to do with the crust: something about NY's tap water, apparently. At least some folks gave up trying and started making truly excellent Roman style pizza instead -- known for its thin crust and cooked quickly at super high temperatures. Seattle's four Via Tribunale's  came along first, and they do a fantastic job, but Brandon Pettit upped the ante (IMO) when he and his wife, food blogger Molly Wizenberg (of Orangette), opened up this perfect little off-the-beaten-path place miraculously close to my own home four years ago (this area was a foodie desert previously).

Delancey quickly became a trendy destination spot -- and was unfairly criticized by some because of it -- but has always been worth waiting for a seat (the ONLY place I'd say that about, being notoriously impatient). They've also thankfully stuck to their simple menu, though they've recently opened up a next door called Essex with its own excellent small plate menu. These folks REALLY know what they're doing, folks!


An unadorned, stand-alone former butcher shop (appropriately), with their own smokers grinding away in the back parking lot. I'm generally not a huge barbecue sauce fan, since it's usually way too sweet for my taste (I don't like a lot of SUGAR in my main courses). Thankfully, Pete's offers the LEAST candy flavored bbq sauces I've ever had, and the meat itself is incredibly tender. Their portions are also enormous, so you better be in a major meat-eatin' mood when you go there! It's a perfect place for lunch, though they have live music in the evenings as well.

Owners Eric and Julie Reinhardt have a real passion for what they do, as evidenced by Julie's own blog, She-Smoke


Another simple, unadorned, inexpensive place specializing in Lebanese food. This place is located in the forlorn little corner of a business district where good restaurants go to die, so I sure hope this place ends that trend. The food is incredible, and has a lot of excellent vegetarian choices to keep my veggie daughter content. Owner and chef Rajah Gargour also has a very non-Middle Eastern passion for whiskeys, particularly rye whiskey, and he'll generously let you sample some of his most recent finds if you ask. My kinda guy!

Peter Bagge's new series, Reset, is published by Dark Horse, and we've got the entire set to GIVE AWAY.  To enter, let us know your favourite Bagge comic or Seattle haunt in the comments.  Remember: if you win, we can't contact you unless you leave some way for us to do so.  Contest ends at 11:59PM PST on September 23rd, 2012.   UPDATE: CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. THANKS!

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It's no huge shocker that the Waldorf's Food Cart Fest has been a summer success, and since our late summer seems (hopefully) intent on staying with us through September, so has the event! If you haven't made it out to the Waldorf for a Sunday afternoon (noon 'til 5pm), then we suggest you hightail it over there before October rears its ugly head.