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We don't often get giddy about press lunches, but when a Bocuse d'Or Canada meal is up for grabs, we take it without much thought.  Last week we checked out an event to celebrate Canada's 2013 representative, Alex Chen.

A short synopsis: the Bocuse d'Or is, as many people are wont to describe it, a culinary Olympics of sort.  Countries choose two chefs, a lead and a commis (who must be 22 or younger), who get two years to prep, eventually competing in Lyon, France (the event is named after famed chef "is-he-dead-or-not" Paul Bocuse).  Each team then has about five and a half hours to prepare a meat platter and a fish platter, using theme ingredients chosen for that year (2013's ingredients are beef filet, European turbot and Brittany blue lobster) and three garnishes, with one garnish to feature flavours and ingredients from the contestants' home country.  This year, the Bocuse d'Or American team (who has never done as well as they've hoped) will be streaming the event live this week, January 29th and 30th.


Alex Chen was the executive sous chef at the Beverly Hills Hotel when he was chosen for the Canadian team two years ago, and subsequent became the 'culinary architect' at Moxie's.  In the team's history, Canada has usually ended up in the top ten.

Coach Dan Olson

Bone-in roasted European turbot, butter poached blue lobster, saffron potatoes, cauliflower puree, and a lobster hollandaise and vinegrette

Roasted beef tenderloin, bone marrow roulade, seared foie gras cubes, black trumpet mushrooms and black truffles, ox tail potato gratin



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Recently I attended the opening of TWB, The Wine Bar, adjacent to Provence Marinaside.



Here's something that not a lot of people know: Vancouver architect Stanley Kwok designed that entire portion of our seawall. And it has a sister seawall - in Dubai. However in Dubai they have put many more restaurants and hangouts on the waterfront, understanding that people love to sit near water. Marinaside is one of those streets I never go to simply because there's nothing really on it. You can only walk through Aquarius Mews and see apartments you will never afford so many times before it gets boring.

This is a great little spot. Clean design, good lighting, reasonable prices and wines on tap, it's a fantastic date spot. A little crispy pork belly and some Persecco and a walk on the water? Yes.

Wines on tap means that TWB orders huge bags of still and sparkling wines and when they are empty, the waste product is reduced to the size of your palm. I hope to see more restaurants drop the hundreds of bottles route on their top sellers and do the same. Keeps costs down and is better for the environment. Everybody wins.

I was impressed with the food that was served, especially
Executive Chef Jean-Francis Quaglia's incorporation of sardines into one of the share plates. Sardines are a sustainable seafood that is totally undersung and delicious, in my opinion. I love their salty, briny taste and texture. But the hero of the evening was the calamari. Possibly the best I've had in this city, served with a red pepper garlic aioli and fresh lime, I don't recommend sharing. You will need your own. Shout out also to the crispy pork belly on a bed of pickled fennel:


Try it sometime!

1167 Marinaside Crescent (at the foot of Davie St in Yaletown)
Open daily from 3pm until late.
Call : 604.681.4144 or visit theWineBar.ca

Jessica

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If you recall, for a period in time we had searched the city for the best croissant.  We stopped reporting on that search as our interest diminished: there were enough local food blogs around reporting on their own missions.  Each might have sought after a different Holy Grail, but we didn't feel like adding more to all the crusades going about.

Coupled with that, we went to Paris last spring. I've been depressed about bread and pastries ever since our return.  I could go on but that story's been told many times over.


That moping about can stop.  Jackie Ellis opened Beaucoup Bakery a (very) short time ago, after leaving a career in design behind and studying pastry-making in Paris. It's mere weeks in, and I already feel like I've been missing out.


Nostalgia can be a bitch; couple it with misguided romanticism and it amplifies exponentially. This croissant ($3) floods the mind with memories, real or imagined, in a way that's as unhealthy as the butter content that is presumably in it.  This is the stuff of longing pangs, of heavy sighs.  It is the stuff  that makes life go by that much easier.  Go.

Joe.

2150 Fir Street
Vancouver, BC

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For those that have kindly pointed out our relative lack of inactivity in 2012, we assure you that we too were aware of the lack of restaurant reviews, and can only offer this as our best explanation: we didn’t really care.

Or, to be more specific, we did really care. It ate at us that we couldn’t deliver at least one review per month, much less one review per week, checking in only enough to feign some interest. It’s not that we didn’t eat this past year, and certainly not that we didn’t eat out: it’s just that we didn’t care enough to write about it. 2012 was our year of disinterest, not of you, but of us.

What exactly that has to do with Fable, the no-longer-new-ish restaurant from Trevor Bird, may not be readily apparent.


We first took note of Bird (and his co-conspirator, Curtis Luk), when Top Chef Canada, Season Two aired, a show which, as proud Vancouverites, we feel a duty to watch, and as proud television junkies we feel an ever greater duty to trash. We cheered him on as our hometown boy, and enjoyed that he took second prize (first would have been even better, though it apparently means nothing in this town, for good or for bad.) And our interest piqued when shortly afterward, he took over the space on West 4th vacated by Refuel.

Since it opened, we’ve visited Fable on more than a few occasions. Despite the usual opening kinks, it has only improved since those early days. The service is pleasant, the food is consistent, and the overall experience more than acceptable. (Those lightboxes at the back still bewilder me somewhat, and the room still feels packed in: all opinions that are highly subjective but obviously assholish.)

By our second visit, there was little doubt in our mind that Fable would not go uncovered. At the time it seemed ridiculous for us not to follow suit, but we wanted to do so in a different way. This, in part, was because of our disinterest: in us, in this format, as food blogs multiply and proliferate into a constant noise, a static fading increasingly into a background din that becomes easily ignored. “Food” as a subject seemed inescapable in 2012, one that more and more people had an opinion about, at a rate that increased as quickly as the rate at which we decreasingly valued our own.

So we decided to focus on one dish in particular: get the backstory, and chart it from concept to realization. We’d start a new feature on the creative process, exploring – pushing – that idea of ‘chef as artist,’ feed into the hype machine and elevate it past the typical blog review, to give our site that appearance of grandeur that would make amends for all the months of neglect that preceded it.


We had their canned tuna ($12): it is a charming start, familiar but not overwrought, just clever enough to make one take note, and one of the few dishes we repeatedly order. We have had their seasonal iterations of other fish (Bird cooks a mean Arctic char), beef (the black pepper jam sticks out a bit more), and otherwise. We generally agreed that Luk may be a bit of a show stealer with his desserts, particularly with the daily sweet bites (generally meringues of varying sorts and macarons). But it was their first duck breast dish that caught our attention.

At the time, Fable served their duck breast with a scallion perogy, atop a puree, a gastrique, that taken altogether hit the same flavour profiles as a Peking duck dish (at least to us; they have since altered the dish given the season). Was this Bird’s nod to Vancouver’s strong Chinese community? Was this the doing of Curtis Luk and his Asian heritage? Here was an ‘angle’ – however strained – that presented itself to us, one we hoped would reinvigorate our increasingly chore of a site.

Days after we posed those questions to the restaurant, Fable (not Bird, not Luk) responded:
“Trevor wanted a duck dish on the menu and told Curtis to come up with a duck dish. He was working with beautiful duck breasts from Yarrow Valley. Curtis wanted to accompany the dish with what was in season and originally we had fiddle heads. Curtis loves perogies so he started working on the perogy and wanted to lighten it up and came up with a scallion perogy. He also wanted to have a little colour in the perogy as well so green was the perfect match with the scallion puree perogies. Curtis then worked with Trevor with the sauce to accompany the dish and they wanted a little gastric to accompany the dish and add a little contrast. Voila duck breast.”
It was not the sort of response that generated much excitement, a bit of a disappointment, the sort of matter-of-fact answer that had us abandon the idea as quickly as it came.

But, months after digestion, it is the sort of response that encapsulates Fable in a better way than any post we could muster. It is earnest. It is straight forward. There is not too much fancypants-ing to report. It is about the cooking, and not the show. It is about the craft.

And for that reason, we chose to wrap up 2012 with a post about Fable. It was the year we lost our sense of earnestness, a year that we lost focus of – and actively questioned – our own craft. It was the year that we didn’t care. Thank God someone else did.

Now let’s see what happens in 2013.

Joe.

1944 West 4th Avenue
Vancouver, BC
(604) 732 1322