Sunday 31 March 2013

Day 1 of Easter Weekend on Lummi Island: Beach Store Cafe

2200 N Nugent Rd  Lummi Island, WA 98262
(360) 758-2233

Tastiness Factor: 7/10

Atmosphere: 3/5

Service: 4/5

Locavore Approved: Maybe?  (said to specialize in local fare and menu does feature seasonal produce, but menu does not seem to change often based on previous revues, do feature Stumptown espresso made nearby in Seattle in the morning hours).

Lummi Island, a small island off the coast of Washington, was our choice of getaway for this long Easter weekend.  Although it is a beautiful island and that in itself made it worth the trip,  I must admit that the reason for our visit was entirely food-related.   More specifically, this choice of destination was made to experience Blaine Wetzel's local, foraged wonders at the Willows Inn (James Beard Finalist for New Rising Chef!).  See the whole scoop on this meal coming soon:)

Choice of venue for the first night of our trip (we chose to eat at Willows Inn on our second night) ended up being pretty straightforward, since there is is only one other restaurant on the island- The Beach Store Cafe.  This casual little restaurant, located right near the ferry drop-off point, was taken over by the Willows Inn in 2011.  They gave it a little "facelift" to accommodate guests like us who were looking for decent food on nights when they were not dining at Willows Inn.  They installed a pizza oven, scaled down the deep-fried factor, and added a seasonal flair to bring it more in line with the philosophy at the Willow's Inn.

You will drive by Beach Store Cafe right after you get off the ferry over to Lummi Island from Washington (only a 7 minute ride!).  It has a pleasant yellow exterior with a large porch that is a nice place to sit and have a drink in nice weather.  The interior is fairly plain, but the large open kitchen complete with its pizza oven makes the space seem big and inviting.

When we arrived at around 8:30, the restaurant was about half full and we were told to seat ourselves wherever we wanted.  Our server was pleasant, gave us some menu suggestions and apologized that they had run out of some items.  I was impressed that, when my brussel sprout dish came out with bacon after I had specifically asked for no bacon (I am pescatarian), she recognized the mistake before I could even mention it, and then proceeded to bring me a side salad to eat while I waited for them to redo the brussel sprouts.  Much appreciated.

Here is an overview of our first dinner on Lummi:

Mushroom and leek soup- This was the soup of the day (available as a cup or a bowl).  It was in miso broth (not cream based) and, while it was a little over-salted, I enjoyed the flavor of the mustard seeds that they had added in.  A little piece of buttered bread was on the side for dipping.

Roasted brussel sprouts- I was pretty excited to see these on the menu as I LOVE brussel sprouts, especially roasted in a salad.  While I was a bit disappointed at the size of the dish ($9 for about 8 brussel sprouts seems a bit outrageous), I loved the lemon-butter dressing and the fact that the little cabbages were charred beautifully.

Steak Fajitas- This was the special of the evening and, strangely enough, my hubby had been longing for a good plate of fajitas for weeks so he jumped on this opportunity right away.  And he was not disappointed- nicely spiced, tender steak slices, served with all the fixings including grilled peppers and onions, lettuce, a very nice corn-cilantro relish and the most amazing refried beans (not sure what was in these things but they were mighty tasty!).  The only criticism would be the absence of cheese and the fact that he only received two small tortillas to wrap all of these fine fixings on (fortunately, he was given a third when he asked).  All in all though, these really hit the spot for him and he was still raving about them the next morning.

We left the Beach Store Cafe feeling satisfied and relaxed.  We really enjoyed the laid-back vibe and the friendly service.  The food could perhaps do with a little polishing up but I hear that they have a brand new chef so hopefully he will be up for the challenge.  With a little fine-tuning, the Beach Store Cafe will be a great place to dine for locals and visitors alike.

Beach Store Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday 28 March 2013

A Latte for Here Please Part 7: Lost and Found Cafe

33 W Hastings St 

Overall Rating for Staying In (poor, fair, good, very good, excellent):

Caffeinated beverages- Good
(see below)

Food- Very good
(see below)

Space- Excellent 
(very large space with a variety of tables to suit all needs, very inviting and relaxed feel)

Table availability- Excellent
(even with the lunch crowd, there were still a ton of empty seats because of the sheer size of this place)

Seat comfort- Excellent
(again, a lot of variety of seats, most with cushions)

 Laptop plug-ins- Excellent
(lots spread out all around the room)

Internet connection- Excellent
(password protected, fast)

Attitude toward "perchers"- Excellent
(staff were all very inviting, brought my drink and food to my table, felt as though I was welcome to hang out all day)

If you are wondering why you have not heard of this new little Gastown gem, it is likely because it has only been open for about 7 weeks.  They do not yet have a website, but do have a nice Facebook page that has beautiful photos of their food and artwork that adorns its walls.  The owner travelled extensively in the developing world prior to opening this cafe.  He is also a philanthropist who started an organization called "The Dirty Wall Project"(check out the blog at for more info).  The place is has a very unique concept- a place to relax and enjoy great food, while learning more about the developing world through travel books, magazines and even videos shown on a huge projector on the back wall.  There is also a little "charity section" at the side selling products made by charities and women's groups from a number of different third-world countries.  While the philanthropy aspect of the store certainly has a presence, the cafe does not have a "preachy" sort of feel and customers are left to explore this more to whatever extent they wish, or just cozy up and enjoy the food and drink.

My first request of the morning was my staple- an almond milk latte.  I was very pleased to see that they use local coffee (Republica Roasters in Fort Langley) and, as always, was happy they offered almond milk as an option.  When my latte was ready, they brought it right to my table with a smile (how nice!). While there was a nice layer of foam on the top and it had lovely latte art, it had a bit of a burnt taste.  Overall though, the expresso was smooth and it certainly gave me my morning buzz:)

Next, my thoughts turned to food, and luckily, there was plenty to choose from at Lost and Found.  There is a wide assortment of buns and cinnamon rolls (made fresh daily, from the owner's grandma's recipe apparently), cookies and other treats, plus a whole lunch menu with sandwiches, soups and salads (you can create your own using over 20 ingredients).  I was really yearning for a yogurt parfait, and lucky me, they had this too:)  Again, it was hand-delivered to my table and came in a nice glass.  Although it may not look all that sizeable, looks are deceiving as this little cup is full of tons of goodies.    Vanilla yogurt makes it a bit sweeter than others I have tried but not overly so.  The granola is chock full of nuts (whole hazelnuts and walnuts!) and raisins.  At the top is a lovely layer of coconut, cranberries and dried apricots.  Who knew so much could fit in such a little glass!  I left with a very satisfied tummy:)

I also took some chocolate chip oatmeal cookies to go (could not resist!) which were crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside, and not too sweet.  Just the way I like them!

I will definitely return to Lost and Found.  Not only is it the perfect place to punch in a solid morning's work, it also has amazingly friendly staff and great food offerings.  Next time, I hope to have a bit more time to check out the philanthropic aspect of the cafe to really get the full experience.

What a great addition to Gastown's ever growing food scene!  Be sure to check it out for yourself!

Lost + Found Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday 23 March 2013

"A Latte for Here Please" Part 6: Revolver

325 Cambie St  Vancouver, BC V6B 1H7
(604) 558-4444

Overall Rating (poor, fair, good, very good, excellent):

Caffeinated beverages- Excellent 
(see below)

Food- Very good
(see below)

Table availability- Fair
(a few booths which are a bit awkward to share with those you don't know+ a handful of chairs by the window, many end up standing at the little counter at the back)

Seat comfort- Very good
(I have always been fortunate enough to snag the booths which are quite cozy, not sure about chairs near window)

Laptop plugins- poor 
(none in booths, ?maybe some by window seats)

Internet connection- Excellent
(password protected, fast)

Noise- quiet 
(small place so noise travels, but there never seems to be a lot of annoying chatter)

Attitude toward "perchers"- Good
(it is a bit hit and miss with the staff- some are friendly and some are not, but have never felt pressured to leave)

I have already posted a complete review on Revolver (see post from November 2012) and raved about their excellent beverages and hip vibe.  And fortunately, those things remain consistent.  In particular, their lattes (no almond milk, but they do offer soy milk and 1% milk) remain among the very best in town in my opinion.  Served in a glass instead of a mug (very hip and unique) is always bang-on with just the right amount of foam and very smooth.  The staff are obviously all very knowledgeable about coffee and they offer a tasting of 3 different coffees for customers to enjoy and compare the flavors back to back.  These guys do not mess around when it comes to caffeine.

Their food offerings are all made by Crema, their sister coffee house in West Van, and based on what I have sampled so far, I am a huge fan.  Their Whole Wheat Scones are to die for, with poppyseeds for crunch and raisins for a hint of sweetness (yum). The Power Cookies are also a nice little treat, tasting healthy and delicious at the same time:)  Food is limited to cookies, muffins and pastries so you will not find sandwiches and other lunch items like at other places I have visited.

Bottom line- Revolver is a place for true coffee connaisseurs to enjoy what I will argue is the best coffee in the city.  They really know their stuff.  While table availability is often limited, I really enjoy curling up here with my laptop for an hour of work because the vibe is just so cool and relaxed.  I just try not to overstay my welcome so that others have the chance to experience all that Revolved has to offer.

Revolver on Urbanspoon

Friday 22 March 2013

"A Latte for Here Please" Part 5: Beaucoup Bakery and Cafe

2150 Fir Street, Vancouver BC V6J 3B5

Overall ratings (poor, fair, good, very good, excellent):

Caffeinated beverages- Very good

Food- Excellent 

Space- Good
(very pleasant space with fresh, clean look but VERY tiny with many seats crammed in to try to accommodate the increasing number of customers, some outside seating as well)

Table availability- poor
(see above- small space for lots and lots of customers, so very cramped)

Seat comfort- Fair
(comfortable seats at individual tables but you will be VERY lucky to snag one of these and will likely end up sitting on a backless stool)

Laptop plugins- poor 
(did not see any...)

Internet connection- No Internet

Noise- moderate
(small room so you hear all conversations next to you)

Attitude toward "perchers"- Good
(staff is pleasant despite being very busy)

I have already done a full review of Beaucoup (see previous review done in February) and this is an update to give my views on Beaucoup as a place to curl up with a laptop.

I went to Beaucoup with my laptop in tow one afternoon when I was craving their AMAZING tropical scone (I raved about them in my last review and still cannot stop dreaming of them!).  And, thank goodness, the scones are incredible as ever:)

I also had a lovely latte.  It was very smooth and had a good amount of foam.  They offer an 8oz size which is perfect for a little afternoon pick-me-up.  The advantage to having your latte in is the little bite-size wafer served on the side.  What a nice touch!  What I also thought was pretty neat was the house-made syrups that are on the counter for customers to add a little extra flavor to their drinks.  No synthetic syrups here, just the real deal.  Very original.

The bottom line is that Beaucoup serves high-quality food and beverage but, although it is called a Cafe, it is no meant for long work sessions or meetings.  To sit with a friend for 15 minutes is nice if you are fortunate enough to snag a table, but hopefully the table situation will improve when the nice weather comes and customers can gather outside.  The volume of customers speaks to its excellent product and, while I will not be returning with my laptop again, I will DEFINATELY be coming back to sample more of their tasty offerings:)

Beaucoup Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday 21 March 2013

"A Latte for Here Please" Part 4: Coffeebar

10 Water St  Vancouver, BC V6B 1A4
(604) 566-9693

Overall Rating (poor, fair, good, very good, excellent):
Caffeinated beverages- Fair

(see below)

Food- N/A 
(did not get order food)

Space- Very good
(large room, lots of space between tables, nice big windows, a bit bare)Table availability- Excellent
(lots of seating available, including individual tables for one and large tables for two, plus banquets and window seating)

Seat comfort- Good

(a lot of variability in seats between chairs and banquets, but most chairs could use higher backs and have wooden seats)

Internet connection- Excellent

(password protected, fast)

Noise- quiet to moderate
(there in the late morning, many people having meetings, large size of room makes the noise level seemingly less)

Attitude towards "perchers"- Very good
(they were not overly friendly at the counter, but they certainly do not seem to mind people sticking around for a few hour, most people there alone were working away on laptops)

Coffeebar is yet another coffee establishment located in the heart of Gastown. They also have another location in West Vancouver.  Located right on Water St., they are easier to stumble across than the others and have their eye-catching sign out front.

Coffeebar is less intimate than some of the other Gastown joints (Revolver, Nelson at Seagull) and has a bit more of a corporate, cookie-cutter feel to it (less hipster). Having said that, what they do have going for them is LOTS of seating with many options to choose from (small round tables, larger rectangle tables, and banquets) so there is something to suit every purpose.

They use largely 49th Parallel product here.  I had an almond milk latte and, although I give them kudos for having almond milk, I found this latte to be inferior to the others I have had so far in Gastown.  It tasted a bit "water-y", and the milk seemed slightly burnt.  The latte art was very pretty however.

I never tried any food on this visit, but they have a wider assortment of food here than other places, including cookies (a whole glass case full), some pastries (no sweet scones unfortunately) and sandwiches made to order.

Overall, I would say that this place is less about putting out exceptional coffee, and more about providing a space for Gastown folk to get together for meetings, or come solo to get some work done.  Therefore, for the purpose of "perching", it is just the ticket as you will likely always get a table to your liking, but you will have to sacrifice a little in the way of character and coffee craftsmanship.

Milano Roasters Espresso Lounge on Urbanspoon

Tuesday 19 March 2013

"A Latte for Here Please" Part 3: Musette

1262 Burrard Street
VancouverBC V6E 4L8
(604) 336-1159

Overall ratings (poor, fair, good, very good, excellent):

Caffeinated beverages- Very good
(see below)

Food- Excellent
(see below)

Space- Very good
(perhaps not as esthetically pleasing as others, but this is a cyclist's haven- biking paraphernalia galore!

Table availability- Excellent
(smaller individual tables by the door and large row tables at the back where you can happily spread out  all of your papers)

Seat comfort- Good
(metal seats are a bit hard, but they have nice backs and do not rock)

Internet availability- Excellent
(password protected, fast and consistent)

Laptop plug-ins- Very good
(there are a few beside the row table, with a few being used by the store for their laptop that projects biking races on the wall)

Noise- quiet to moderate
(earlier in the morning it was busy but most people take drinks to go, and at times I was the only one there)

Attitude toward "perchers"- Excellent
(staff are very friendly and the owner even delivers your coffee personally to your table.  It seems that the more often you visit, the friendlier you will be as they were regularly chatting with regulars)

Musette is certainly the most unique of the coffee hotspots I have hit to date.  It is truly a cyclist's haven.  First outside, a dedicated place to park your bike outside and then (a sign in the window says only half jokingly "bikes, no cars allowed") and inside, biking paraphernalia from floor to ceiling and biking racing projected on the main wall.

I love spinning and go at least 3-4 times/week, but I am not an outdoor rider.  So when I first walked in and saw all of the customers dressed in their spandex and helmets, I felt like a bit of an imposter.  This sentiment was fortunately, short-lived as the staff, including the owner, were all very friendly and welcoming.  Throughout the morning, they were constantly chatting with customers who were obviously regulars, many who were cyclists but some who were not.  They obviously take pride in treating all of their customers well.

I ordered my regular, an almond milk latte (kudos to them for having almond milk!).  They use the 49th Parallel product here which is always a good choice.  My latte was quite good, with a nice rich flavor.  A little more foam would have been nice, but overall it was very well done and beautifully presented.

Even if you do not like coffee, you MUST come here to try some of their tasty food offerings.  They have amazing baked goods (a bought my hubby their salted chocolate cookie and it was to die for, oh so gooey!) and also, surprisingly, as whole menu of breakfast and lunch items, as well as smoothies!  I was won over by the Power Chia Snack on the breakfast menu, which was a mixture of chia and almond milk, with spices, dried cranberries and a almond and pistachio topping.  So original, so healthy and so tasty!  It was just the thing to fuel me for my noon spin class!

So if you have not already discovered Musette, I HIGHLY recommend checking it out.  Great coffee, amazing food and a very welcoming vibe.  I cannot wait to return!

Musette Caffe on Urbanspoon

Monday 18 March 2013

"A Latte for Here Please" Part 2: Milano Gastown

36 Powell St
Vancouver, BC
(604) 558-0999

Overall ratings (poor, fair, good, very good, excellent):

Caffeinated beverages- Very good 

(see below)

Space- Excellent

(impressive- very spacious, modern with clean lines, nicely-matched furniture) 

Table availability- Excellent

(there between 9am and 1pm; LOTS of tables with seating, some communal)

Seat comfort- Fair

(many stools without backs, and most chairs with backs are deep such that sitting forward to work on your laptop will get uncomfortable)

Internet availability- Excellent

(password protected, fast)

Laptop plug-ins- Excellent

Noise level- quiet to moderate 

Attitude toward "perchers"- Excellent

(VERY friendly here, they even told me I was welcome to "set up my office" here)

Today's pick for my morning work session was Milano, a Vancouver coffee establishment with 4 locations, opened this newest location in Gastown about a year and a half ago.  Milano specializes in Italian coffee.  They differentiate themselves by offering up to eight different varieties of espresso and use the Italian method of making coffee (pouring hot water over the beans through a filter).  

I had a very productive morning at Milano, thanks to the great atmosphere that is suited for working.  The room is very large so the tables and high tables with stools are spread out enough that you can enjoy relative peace and quiet.  The lovely decor makes this a very pleasant place to perch.

I ordered my new standard, an almond milk latte.  I always give kudos to those who offer almond milk and not just soy.  I have no aversion to dairy, I just love the flavor of almond milk as a latte base.  My latte was served a nice large-rimmed mug, which I love, but I would have preferred a bit more foam.  A little latte art would have been a nice touch too:)  Overall though, I quite enjoyed it, and the espresso was lovely.  

After Nelson at Seagull and Milano, I am now batting two for two in Gastown!  I am certainly up for a return visit to Milano soon!  Highly recommended as a great place for productivity:)

<a href=""><img alt="Milano Roasters Espresso Lounge on Urbanspoon" src="" style="border:none;padding:0px;width:200px;height:146px" /></a>

Sunday 17 March 2013

"A Latte for Here Please"- Part 1: Nelson at Seagull

 The North American culture is always go-go-go.  Take-out food, 30-minute mani/pedis, express check-outs and, of course, coffee to go.  In the morning rush-hour here in Vancouver, there is the common trend of the umbrella in one hand and the Starbucks coffee in the other.  Gone are the days when people actually sit down and drink their coffee in a civil fashion. 

Although I have never been to France, I understand that in many parts of the country, you cannot even get your coffee in a to-go mug.  While the idea of savouring my morning coffee is full of appeal and romanticism, I just cannot imagine fitting that into my usual work day.  It is a treat that is reserved for the rare Saturday morning when I am not rushing off to work or the gym. 

While I am usually busy racing up and down the stairs at VGH, I am currently enjoying a nice change of pace doing a month of research.  Although there is a lot of work to be done, this month is allowing me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of actually sitting down with my morning (and afternoon!) coffee as I read papers and type up a storm.  I am also discovering new places around the city (as well as some old favourites!) that provide a great environment for productivity while serving up a mean java. 

Over the next month, I will be profiling some of my favourite places around Vancouver to cozy up with quality caffeinated beverages and my laptop to hunker down for a few hours.  I will of course be rating their beverages (I am really into lattes these days!) as well as their suitability for productivity (noise level, space, table availability, laptop plugins, and overall attitude of staff towards "perchers"). 

I will be giving each category a qualitative rating between poor and excellent (poor, fair, good, very good, excellent).  Noise will be rated on a three point scale (quiet, moderate, loud).

Lets start with a newly discovered favourite of mine:

Nelson at Seagull

315 Carrall St  Vancovuer, BC V6A 0A7
(604) 681-5776

Overall ratings:

Caffeinated beverages- Excellent+++ 
(see below)

Space- Excellent
(huge space, lots of big tables)

Table availability- Excellent
(went around 10 and had the choice of several tables)

Comfort of seats- Fair 
(all mismatched, mostly metal, some are broken so watch your back!) 

Internet availability- Excellent 
(password protected, fast) 

Laptop plug-ins- Very good 
(I was lucky and found one right next to my table.  There are a few others scattered around the large room)

Noise level- moderate

Attitude towards "perchers"- Excellent 
(the servers were all super friendly and smiled at me every time they came by my table over the several hours I was there)

This tucked away spot in Gastown is a real gem.  The storefront is quite small so you may walk right past it if you are not careful, but this would be a huge mistake! Nelson is serious about their coffee, so much so that they do not make decaffeinated beverages and only use whole organic milk in their milk-based drinks.  They really want you to experience the way coffee and espresso beverages are actually meant to taste in their purest form.  I respect this stance, and I promise that you will too when you take their drinks.

After reading a fellow bloggers review of the Nelson (thanks Greedy Guts!), I had to get the Flat White.  I have not seen this drink offered anywhere else in the city so I had to find out what it was all about.  A Flat White, developed in Australia, is kind of like a latte, except it is made with microfoam (found beneath the milk) and is served in a smaller vessel such that there is a higher espresso:milk ratio.  The result is stronger espresso flavour and a more velvety, smooth texture.  

Trust me, if you are a latte lover you need to go to Nelson asap to get the Flat White.  It is incredible.  I savoured every last drop and almost had an out of body experience. Wow.

Nelson is also impressive in the quality if its food.  I was yearning for a nice breakfast and ordered the homemade muesli with yogurt and honey (also available with almond milk and agave).  It was brought to my table beautifully presented with the muesli in a bowl and the honey and yogurt in separate mason jars so that you could assemble the dish to your liking.  The muesli was perfectly toasted with plump raisins or sweetness and the yogurt was nice and creamy.  Others sitting near me ordered sandwiches and poached eggs on toast (they make the bread in-house!) which also looked delicious.  I bought my husband a gingerbread man and, after taking a little bite of his chocolately foot, I was in ginger heaven. 

Cannot wait to head back for more Nelson awesomeness this week:)

Nelson the Seagull on Urbanspoon

<a href=""><img alt="Nelson the Seagull on Urbanspoon" src="" style="border:none;padding:0px;width:200px;height:146px" /></a>

Forage- An Ode to Sustainable Dining

1300 Robson Street
VancouverBC V6E 1C5
(604) 661-1400

Tastiness Factor: 9/10

Atmosphere: 4/5

Service: 4.5/5

Locavore Approved? Enthusiastically YES (This is their main focus, and they give a nice description of their dedication to sustainability on the website.  Their menu reflects seasonality and highlights local ingredients.  We were even told that we could be given all of the names of the fisherman and farmers if desired.  Love it!!!)

I am actually a bit embarrassed to admit, as Little Miss Locavore, that I had not heard of Forage until about 2 weeks ago when I stumbled across it on the Internet.  I was reading an article about how Fable has been voted one of Vancouver's best new restaurants (which I completely support!) and when I scrolled down the page, the name "Forage" caught my eye.

Forage has a philosophy that is explained in detail on its website.   They recognize that "local' and "sustainable" have become trendy here in Vancouver but they are proud to describe themselves as such.      As they rightly point out, sustainability will be the reality of all food in the years to come as natural resources become more scarce, and fortunately more and more consumers want to know where there food is coming from.   Forage bills its food as being casual and unpretentious yet innovative, which I think describes their offerings perfectly.

They have located themselves in the Listel Hotel, which also has a commitment to environmental protection and sustainability.   The entrance is right onto the street and is quite visually appealing from the sidewalk.  The inside is modern and chic, with the tables positioned around a large bar.

Although I have seen some past negative reviews of service, the service we received was second to none.  Our main server Sebastian was extremely enthusiastic and attentive, and those that brought out the dishes did a great job of explaining each one.  Spacing between the dishes was right on the mark.

All wines and beers at Forage are local and the selection is quite commendable, especially in terms of beers.  They also offer some house-made cocktails on which I cannot comment as we had wine and beer.  

The style of dining is quite unique.  It can be thought of as tapas to some extent, but guests are encouraged to order a few dishes to share, and then decide on others later instead of ordering all up front.  Sharing is encouraged, but my husband and I ordered our own dishes due to our differing tastes and this worked just fine.  The menu is broken up into several sections, and picking a few from each category is recommended for variety.  Although there are recommendations, there are no rules and you can just make it up as you go depending on what you are feeling like next.  The kitchen will then prepare to order.  I really enjoyed this.

Here were our picks:

Kale and Apple Chips- This little starter dish, in the "Snack" section of the menu was the perfect little nibble to accompany my wine.  Usually, bar snacks heavy and indulgent whereas this was the complete opposite.   The kale, which made up the majority of the dish, was light and crispy (not sure if it is baked or fried?) and nicely spiced.  They do tend to get a bit salty if you eat the whole plate like I did, but this is admittedly a sharing dish (I couldn't resist!).  The few apple slices overtop gave a nice contrasting sweetness.  Finally, a nice bar snack that does not weigh you down!

Cracklings and Popcorn- This was a husband's choice of snack which he paired with a local chocolate porter.  Although admittedly not as healthy as the kale, it was a very light bar snack with great flavors to really warm up the palate for the meal to come.  The popcorn really took on the flavor of the surrounding pork cracklings.  Again, this may not be the best choice if you are watching your salt intake but is sinfully delicious, while still leaving you with plenty of room for your meal.

Roasted Pan Bread- As I have noted previously, my husband loves bread, especially warm and cheesy pan bread.  Forage's version with Golden ears cheddar and spiced honey immediately caught his eye as a "must-order".  Again, this dish is certainly intended, but that did not stop my dear hubby from devouring the ENTIRE pan.  OK, to be fair, I have a bite off the end of one piece to get the flavor and I  loved the spiced honey on top as it had a bit of a "kick" to it which I did not expect.  The bread, like all of our dishes, was piping hot out of the oven when it arrived at the table, for which the kitchen and servers should be applauded.  It is almost certain that my husband will be ordering another panbread, likely all to himself, on our next visit!

Local mussels- After the feast of carbs, my husband wanted a lighter dish and the mussels, which were the special of the night, seemed to fit the bill perfectly.   For $12, this dish was a complete steal.  The local mussels were huge and juicy, and were surrounded by a broth made of ale (timely for St. Patrick's Day weekend!) and  bacon.  As if this wasn't enough,  the mussels were served with a side of frites with horseradish aioli.  I am not usually the wife who picks at her husband's fries but I have to admit that last night, I did perhaps steal a few (or more than a few...).  These fries were plump and crisp (you could almost hear the "crunch" as you sunk your teeth in!) and the horseradish aioli was the perfect accompaniment.  If you are a fry lover, these are a must (they come with a few of the other dishes too, like the burger).

Spiced grains with autumn vegetables- This was my pick for the main, as quinoa is my favorite grain and I love to try different preparations.  I have to say that this is perhaps the best quinoa dish I have EVER had.  The quinoa was tossed with wheatberries, giving it more of a hearty texture, and mixed with a perfect combination of middle-eastern spices (the cumin flavor really stood out for me) and small, cubed pieces of rot vegetable.  The addition of the raita on top was perfect as a cooling balance to the spiciness.  Although I give them kudos for making their own raita to serve on the side, I would argue that it is perhaps unnecessary and a bit distracting.  I suspect they are intended as a wrap for the quinoa but this would be a real shame as this quinoa is much too tasting to be wrapped up!  Perhaps a few greens or another vegetable to add a dash of color to the dish would be more appropriate.  Having said that, I would order this dish again in a heartbeat (I see that it is on their brunch menu as well...).

After our experience last night at Forage, all I can say is THANK GOODNESS I stumbled across this dish on the Internet and got a reservation right away.  This is a place that I am eager to try again soon for dinner, as I am sure that with their focus on sustainability, their menu will be changing fairly regularly.  As for brunch,  I am happy to say that we will be heading there next Sunday at noon with some friends and I cannot wait.

A restaurant that offers local and sustainable food that tastes amazing at affordable prices in a chic yet friendly atmosphere- what more can you ask for?

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Saturday 16 March 2013

Winter Farmer's Market: Building the Perfect Salad from the Ground Up!

A little rain didn't keep people away from Nat Bailey Stadium this morning, and how could it?  There is way too many treasures waiting to be discovered (and eaten!).

Salads appear on our table almost every night now and we like to get creative!  The market provides the perfect opportunity to choose from a wide variety of greens.  Who needs boring old iceberg or romaine?

And don't stop there!  Layer that salad up with interesting toppings for more palate-pleasing flavor!

Layer 1: Greens

This week, I visited Sole Food Urban Farms, who specialize in greens and root veg.  They have an amazing deal- 3 bags of greens mix and match, for $12!  I chose two bags of their winter lettuce (delicate and light) to mix with a bag of the spinach (hearty and full).  These friendly guys will tell you all you need to know about each and let you sample a leaf or two:)

Layer 2: Color

Winter and fall brings a bounty of vegetables that are not only delicious but also beautiful.  I just love the color combination of squash and beet.  I roast up some beets and squash in the oven together (a little S&P, beets on top and squash on bottom) and toss a few pieces on top of my greens.  The colors are stunning!

Layer 3: Sprouts

These nutrition powerhouses pack a healthy punch of many different nutrients while giving your salad a little crunch.  Although they look a little like grass, do not be fooled- these will surely add a whole new dimension of flavor to spice up any salad!

Today, I gravitated toward the incredible selection of sprouts at Shalefield Organic Garden.  They have a table filled with an assortment of different sprout mixes to suit everyone!  And sampling before buying is recommended so you can find the right one for you.

Layer 4: Topper

After hearing that the man behind Granola King will be appearing on one of our favorite shows, Dragon's Den, next weekend, I had to pay him a visit to see what goodies he had to offer.  Although I expected to find delicious cereal (which of course I did), I also unexpectedly found a new salad topper , bursting with flavor and health benefits.  The Omega Mix is a medley of almonds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds all ground up fine.  Sprinkle it on anything from cereal to roast veggies to, of course, salads for a nice nutty kick.  Can't wait to try it!!!

Here is the final results.  Delicious:)

So why not come down to Nat Bailey Stadium next week and and start building your perfect salad!  The sky is the limit!