Saturday, 29 September 2012

Brunch and Booze at Fable


1944 West 4th Ave


Although I have already written 2 reviews of Fable (Urbanspoon and a previous blog post), I could not stop there without having reviewed Fable's brunch which, similar to its dinners, has gotten rave reviews.

Fable serves its brunch every Saturday and Sunday from 10:30-2.  It has now started a tradition of doing a "boozy brunch" on a monthly basis.  

I was planning a mini-baby shower for my friend who, like myself, is a big Top Chef fan, so Fable immediately came to mind.  It just so happened that it was Boozy Brunch week but, after I made sure there were lots of "non-boozy" options for her, she was on board!

From talking with the servers, Fable has been pretty much filling up for brunch every weekend.  This was their second Boozy Brunch and the place was hopping!  I was glad to have made a reso well in advance (using Direct Message on Twitter is a great made to make resos here- they get back to you in a jiffy!).


The appeal of Boozy Brunch is that most alcoholic beverages are half price- so you can get 2 shots instead of 1!  This gave my pregnant friend's husband the inspiration to create his own secret creation- adding 2 shots of vodka in his smoothie!  That really is the breakfast of champions!

My husband and I were not feeling quite as creative so we chose their mimosa (me, grapefruit and my hubby, orange).  Very yummy and, even better, half price!

I chose the "Fable Egg"- lovely nuggets of new potatoes surrounded by seasonal kale and mushrooms topped off with a sunny-side up egg.  There were a few small pieces of lardon in the mix to give a little flavor punch.  It came with a small piece of toast.  Although the dish was very tasty, I must admit that my favorite part was the toast because of the delicious condiments that it was served with- fresh blueberry jam and homeade almond butter.  I mean, come on, when was the last time you got house-made almond butter at a brunch joint?  My only gripe was that I would have liked at least 1 more piece of toast to act as a conduit to those luscious condiments- I ended up eating them solo right out of the jar!


My husband ordered the pulled-porked pancakes which he really enjoyed (better than those he had previously at the popular Red Wagon on East Hastings).  He also ordered a side of their bacon with apple jam.  Just FYI, this bacon was not your typical bulk supermarket bacon!  Instead it is a thick slab of pork with a nice amount of marbling.  The texture is different than your everyday bacon- chewy and meatier.  The apple jam on the side was a nice sweet accompaniment to the salty bacon.  



My friends chose other of the menu's offerings, including the Eggs Benedict with ham that came with a cute little piece of roti and the French Toast made with Curtis' brioche.  The French Toast was especially yummy- when my friend could not finish it, it was passed around the table until every last morsel was gone.  Way too good to waste!



At the end of our brunch, we were delivered a tasty little white chocolate and almond cookies on the house- a nice touch!



Fable is certainly the hot ticket in town these days and after two recent dinners and this brunch, it is easy to tell why.  This place is just getting better with time (service has gotten better with each of our visits) and their menu continues to evolve (they now have a new dinner menu too).  Looking forward to my next visit to see what they have up their sleeves next:)

Fable Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Pi- Another on my list of top pizza contenders...


10 King's Rd., St. John's NL


(709) 726-2000


Overall tastiness: 5/5

Atmosphere: 4/5

Service: 4/5

Locavore approved?  YES (loved how the blueberries for my crisp were picked my the co-owner!)


I have many favorite pizza joints on Vancouver.  In the last couple of  years, Vancouver has been swept up in a wave of new pizza restaurant openings, including my all time favorites Nicli and Farina (read my Urbanspoon posts to read my rave reviews on these!).  I have not yet decided which of these I like best, but was confident that there could not be any better than these.  Until I went to Pi in St. John's tonight...

I had been to Pi on a visit to St. John's a couple of years ago and loved it then, but thought that since being "spoiled" by the great Vancouver pizza spots, it might now measure up.  Boy was I wrong!  Some may critique Pi for being not quite as "authentic".  They have a much longer lit of pies to choose from, and include options that certainly did not originate in Italy (for example the Sir Isaac Salmon which has a "sauce" made of sundried tomato and avocado cream cheese and toppings including smoked salmon and sweet potato!), but please do not let this keep you away!  Trust me, these guys know how to make pizza!!!


The restaurant is what my parents call "yuppie", with bright colored walls, loud paintings and an ecclectic clientele.  Our waiter was friendly and our food came quickly, with our pizzas arriving hot and fresh out of the oven. 




We started with a Sunrise Salad for two, which was more than enough for 3 of us.  It was a very fresh tasting salad with mixed greens, cucumber and a light dusting of crushed almonds.  It was finished off with the perfect amount of a sweet yet light citrus-pomegranate molasses dressing.  It was a great prelude for the pies that were to come.



After just the perfect amount of time needed for us to digest the lovely salad, out came our pizzas.  Out of the 20 pizzas options on the menu (and the choice of making your own), I chose the Calabria, layered with a very flavourful creamy red wine tomato sauce (the hint of red wine added a subtle twist to the basic tomato sauce) and topped with generous amounts of sundried tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, red onion, black olives and just the right amount of italian blend and parmesan cheeses.  I also requested the addition of artichoke (my favorite pizza topping!) which  they gladly accommodated.  The crust is thin and light (made with 100% vegan ingredients).  It lacks the rustic bubbles and charred ends created with the use of a wood-burning pizza oven (as required to obtain the infamous Napoletana status) but I really enjoyed it nonetheless.  Different, but not inferior. 


My father ordered the Classic (tomato sauce, green peppers, mushrooms, tomtato) which he joyiously gobbled down, while my mother opted to "live on the wild side" and ordered the Szechuan Chicken (habenero-infused tomato sauce, spinach, roasted peppers, red onion, chicken, pineapple chunks and cheese).  I had a taste of both and they were also delicious!


Although I usually pass on restaurant desserts, I could not resist ordering a piece of their Blueberry Crisp, especially when I heard that the co-owner had picked the blueberries a couple of days ago in St. Johns.  How could a locavore like myself turn that down:)  The wild blueberries were small and sweet, and were topped off with a simple oat crust that thankfully did not distract from the little blue jems. 


Overall, this was a great meal, but lets get back to the issue at hand- how does the pizza offered at this small St. Johns resto compare with my Vancouver favorites?  After giving it some thought, I have to say that Pi pizza is at least comparable to the great such as Nicli and Farina.  Although some may shun their "unauthenticity", I actually liked their unique and quirky choice of pies and cannot wait until my next visit to try another.  St. John's now has a Napoletana-certified pizza establishment (Piatto Pizzeria) and I think it is smart for Pi to stay true to themselves and continue to offer something outside the box.


Although Serious Pie in Seattle remains my all-time favorite pizza (see my previous review for details), Pi offers a pizza that is different in concept but just as good in quality and taste than any I have had back in Vanny.


On my next visit back to my home province, I will certainly be scheduling in a parent-daughter pizza night to Pi!


Pi on Urbanspoon




Saturday, 22 September 2012

Discover St. John's Newfoundland!!!

Now that I am back home in Vancouver and reminiscing about my time home in Newfoundland, I thought I would share some of the other fun things(food and non-food) to discover in St. John's!

Discover...Farmer's Markets- Lesters Farm Market- Wow, look at all of these local veggies! I had no idea that so much could be grown here on "the Rock"!




Discover...Newoundland Vegetarian Style- The Sprout and Happy Hummus Hut

The sprout- glad to see this place full at lunch time.  Had a very flavourful miso soup with rice noodles and tofu!


Happy Hummus Hut- this new little restaurant has to work on developing its flavours a bit more (the hummus was a bit bland) but I give them "A for effort for tailoring to vegan and gluten-free needs!


Discover...Authentic Newfoundland Cuisine- Velma's Place- I did not have the chance to visit Velma's on this visit, but from past experiences, I know that Velma makes a mean Newfoundland-style pea soup and fried cod!



Discover...Newfoundland's Food Truck Contingent- It is a small fleet but Ziggy's fries have been a Newfoundland favorite for years and the newer kid on the block, Long Dick's Sausage Emporium (yes, that is actually its name!) is reported as having pretty amazing street meat.  As the Food Truck craze grows in Canada, hope there will be new additions soon!


Discover...Beautiful views on Signal Hill- My mother and I did a four hour hike to signal hill and around Quidi Vidi lake.  Newfoundland definately has no shortake of breath-taking scenery!


Discover...Quidi Vidi brewery- This is St. John's locally-brewed beer.  Head down to the distillery for a tour that complete with a free beer!


Discover- St. John's Nightlife- George Street and the Duke of Duckworth- George Street is one of St. John's most renowned attractions.  It is a street lined with bars that are all open into the wee hours of the morning.  And before you head out for a long night of partying, why not stop at the Duke of Ducksworth for a big plate of their signature fish and chips!


Discover...Newfoundland sushi- Kimchi and Sushi + Basho- from Kimchi and Sushi, a new little take-out spot in the Atlantic Place on Water St. serving standard sushi lunch fare to Basho, a sophisticated Japanese restaurant that could rival many Japanese favorites in Vancouver (I went there on my last visit), St. John's has its sushi bases covered.



Discover...St. John's Caffeine Boost- Fixed Coffee and Baking- I was impressed with my tasty Americano at this new, hip coffee joint that serves none other than 49th Parallel products.  They also sell antipastis for a quick lunch or late night munch.


Discover...Finding your Zen- Nova Yoga- Thanks to owner Melanie Caines for a wonderful Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga in her welcoming little studio in downtown St. John's.



So do not delay- go discover all this and more for yourself in the wonderful city of St. John's, NL!!!! 







Lifehouse Picnic- a little piece of Newfoundland heaven

Ferryland Picnic

709-363-7456 (call to make resos in advance in the summer to avoid dissapointment!)

Ferryland is a one of the many quaint little towns on the outskirts of St. John's, the capital city of Newfoundland. It is a very, very small little town, with a population of under 500 people, and, if you did not know any better, you might drive right on through. But please promise me that you will not leave Ferrytown without first stopping for a walk and a lunch at Ferryland's Lifehouse Picnic.

The Lighthouse Picnic is open for the spring through to the fall, meaning that it will sadly end for the year soon, on September 30. Fortunately, I got home just in time to go experience the picnic for myself for the first time. Although it was calling for rain, my parents and I were relieved that the Picnic was still a go (they update cancellations on their website daily) and so we set off in layered in warm clothes and carrying our rain gear. It is about an hour drive from St. John's, and along the way, you will be mesmorized by the natural beauty of the rugged terrain of Eastern Newfoundland. If you are running a little early and would like to work up a bit of an appetite, you may want to go for a walk one of the East Coast Trails that line the sides of the highway.

When you arrive in Ferryland, finding the Picnic is easy. One of the first things you will see from the road is the Lighthouse so just keep driving towards it! You can park on the side of the road right at the hike's base, or drive up the dirt road a bit where you will find a parking lot to park. Depending on your parking location, it is about a 20-30 minute walk into the hike on a well-traversed dirt road where the staff there drive in every day on their ATVs with all of the ingredients needed to make their delectable homeade offerings. If you are a picture buff, you may want to leave yourself more time to walk in as the views are breathtaking with many possible photo-ops.


When you reach the end of the road, enter the Lighthouse and begin your adventure. Inside, you will find a gorgeous little room decorated in true Newfoundland stye and, whether you are from Newfoundland or not, you will immediately feel at home. On the wall, you will find the menu options of the day (usually 4-5) as well as the daily desserts. For $25/person, you get the lunch of your choice (usually a sandwich on homeade bread or crabcakes if in season), accompanied by a side salad, a mason'-jar full of homeade lemonade and your chioce of dessert (there are usually 5-6 different options so this can be a VERY difficult choice!!!). You have the choice of eating upstairs in the Lighthouse, but I STRONGLY suggest that you eat outside on the rocks outside the Lighthouse. The view of the water and the Newfoundland salt air blowing though your hair is too good to miss. We even saw a whale as you were sitting there!



If you do choose to eat outside, you are given a flag to bring with you so that, when your food has been freshly prepared, you can be located one of the staff who will bing you your lunch in a wicker basket. Look at cute it is!


Between my parents and I, we sampled 3 of the 5 lunch choices. I had the Veggie Lunch which contained the "Lighthouse Salad", a lovely orzo salad with bits of chopped veggies and organic, local mint. Simple and lovely. My sandwich was made with homeade (of course!) oat and molasses bread, goat cheese, sundried tomato and local, organic luttuce. My mother had the Curry Chicken lunch- her sandwich filling was made from organic Newfoundland chicken meat, curry and mango for a hint of sweetness. My father chose the ham and brie sandwich, made with real cooked ham (no pressed meat to be found here!). For desserts, we had the apple cake with toffee sauce, the gingerbread cake with vanilla sauce and the marshmellow brownie. For me, the desserts were a little on the sweet side, but would I do not have much of a sweet tooth so they would probably be much enjoyed by most, including my father who had no problem finishing off every last bite!

A trip to the Lighthouse Picnic is guaranteed to leave you feeling full, both in tummy and spirit:)

Newfoundland- the place I call home

How nice it is to be home visiting my parents in my home province of Newfoundland. Although I dearly love my Vanny, a part of my heart will always be back here in this amazing province.   If you have not yet come for a visit to "the Rock", I urge you to do so. I have not met a person yet who has not raved about Newfoundland's beautiful ruggedness and, most of all, its warm hospitality. It really is a special place that you must come to discover for yourself.

I saw this sign at the Ferryland Picnic (see my next post) and thought it summed life on the island perfectly.



Friday, 21 September 2012

Local Fare Reigns Supreme at Chinched in Downtown St. John's


7 Queen Street  St. John's, NL A1C 4K2

(709) 722-3100

Tastiness Factor: 4.5/5

Atmosphere: 4/5

Service: 4/5

Locavore approved?: ENTHUSIASTICALLY YES (much of the produce and the seafood is locally sourced and our server was able to tell me where everything came from- very impressed!)

Since I would only be in St. Johns for two nights, I spent quite a bit of time looking into where to go to experience the best of what the city's food scene had to offer.  Pi was a no brainer since I enjoyed my pizza so much on my last visit.  I had also been to Atlantica and, while we did have a good experience, I wanted to try something different on this go around and preferably somewhere in the downtown core (Atlantica is located out if town).

Admittedly, Raymond's, voted Canada's Best New Restaurant 2011, was my clear first choice but, ironically, the Executive Chef at Raymond's was actually in Vancouver as a guest chef at a restaurant in my very own neighborhood that evening.  Come on, how cruel is that???

After learning that Raymond's was a no go, I went back to the drawing board.  A google search for "best St. Johns restaurants" led me to several hits for Chinched, a relatively new Bistro in downtown St. Johns.  After two amazing experiences recently in Whistler (Bearfoot and Alta) I was intrigued.  I was perused through several of my favorite review sources, and was encouraged by very positive cudos for their food and also for their use of local produce. I also liked their use of local media (a dedicated blog, active Twitter and Facebook). This place came out the front runner and I made a reso using their website.


Chinched is a cozy little space, with a bar downtown with its own menu, and an intimate dining room upstairs serving a menu with apps, split/full plates (the split plate is a tapas-sized portion) and generous-sized entrees (the bar menu is not available upstairs).  Their wine menu is small (a few local options might help to round it out a bit) but quite reasonably priced.

The atmosphere is very "bistroesque"- small and friendly, yet sophisticated.  It would be suitable for either a casual Friday night dinner, or a special occasion. Service was good overall.  I was a little disappointed that they had ran out of one of their entrees (there are only 5 on the menu after all) and also my dad's choice of beer.  They did ended up giving him his beer for free though, which certainly helped to make up for it!  Although there was a bit of a wait (about 10 minutes) between being seated and seeing our server, service was excellent after that.  Our server was very friendly and extremely knowledgeable about the dishes ingredients and their origin.  I was quite impressed that he was able to tell me the name of their local fishmonger and the names of the local farms where each vegetable was grown.  I really appreciated his enthusiasm  about their extensive use of local ingredients.  


So that I could try a greater variety of dishes, I opted to get 2 appies and a split plate.  My choices included:


Salt cod with corn chowder with bacon and parsley- Although bacon is certainly not a staple of my pescatarian diet, I just had to have this very "Newfoundlandish" dish.  And let me tell you, it was well worth it.  The big chunks of salt cod (caught locally and bought from a fishmonger right down the road) was floating in creamy yet light broth and balanced by delicate locally-grown corn nibs.  The small slivers of bacon added a wonderful salty bite. If you are not super-hungry, this could easily be a meal on its own (or you could just order two bowls like I considered doing!!!).  This was hands down the best chowder I have ever eaten.


Seed to Spoon Salad Mix, Poached Cherry Tomatoes, Sheeps Feta, Toasted Sunflower Seeds- "Seed to Spoon" is the local farm that grew the greens for this salad and many of the other veggies used at Chinched.  The salad was piled high on the plate and contained a nice variety of greens including mustard greens which added a nice contrasting sharpness to an otherwise delicate dish.  The poached cherry tomatoes, baked for hours at a low temperature to bring out their sweetness, could easily have been mistaken for candy.  Yum.  The locally-made sheep's feta was mild and there was just enough to give the salad some added richness without taking away from the vegetables.

Squid Ink Cavatelli Pasta, Artichokes, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Kale, Crispy Calamari- By the time I got to this dish, I was getting a bit full but I could not bear to leave a morsel of this on the plate.  The cavatelli is reminiscent of gnocchi and was light and fluffy. The lightly fried calamari nestled on top gave a nice contrasting "crunch".  I appreciated the addition of kale (local of course!), which added another texture and looked beautiful against the black cavatelli. 




My father's dish:

Pan Seared Skirt Steak with Roasted Bone Marrow, Olive Oil Potato Puree, and Parsley Salad- My father enjoys his meat and potatoes so this was a good choice for him.  For those diners who have never tasted or seen bone marrow (like my dad!), do not be intimidated!  The towering marrow looks stately on the plate and you are provided with a little fork to pry out the few bites of marrow from the middle.  The skirt steak was thinly sliced and, while it could have been a little more tender, it was cooked nicely.  My dad was not a huge fan of the parsley salad that sat atop the steak as it was packed quite a punch of parsley flavor, but it did add a nice freshness to an otherwise heavy dish, as well as some color to the plate. 



My mother's dish:

BBQ Braised Pork Shoulder with Black Eyed Pea & Roasted Corn Succotash and Avocado Relish- The braised pork shoulder, done "pulled pork" style was tender enough to melt in your mouth and was covered in a perfectly sweet BBQ sauce.  On top was a little pile of diced avocado for freshness and creaminess.  The large bed succotash underneath was perfect, both for texture and color.


So, well I still have Raymond's on the top of my St. John's restaurant wish list for my next visit, I am extremely glad that I had the chance to eat at Chinched this go-around.  The bistro fare at Chinched could easily stand up to any comparable meal I have eaten in Vancouver.  The chef's insistence on using local ingredients whenever possible is outstanding and certainly contributes to the quality of his dishes.  He obviously knows flavors and textures very well, and presentation was simple yet pleasing as it should be at a bistro. 


There are many "thank you's" in order for this dining experience- first and foremost to my wonderful parents for their company, to the local farmers for their fresh ingredients grown with love and for the staff at Chinched who should be applauded for their knowledgeable service and thoughtful food. Thank you, thank you and thank you!

Chinched Bistro on Urbanspoon