Showing posts with label regional. Show all posts
Showing posts with label regional. Show all posts

Vancouver vacation 2013 - summer fun now past


Oh Vancouver...how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways... 

1) Your scenery is always breath-taking but even more so during our August visit as the sun made the water sparkle...yes, like diamonds!  Made our kayaking and biking around Stanley Park just THAT much better. 

2) Eating options were numerous and within a stone's throw of our boutique hotel. Crazy-good ramen, down home Italian and fresh sushi made choosing a chore (but not really.) 

3) Friendly people, easy navigation and that cute little "jaunty man" signal which tells you it's time to cross the street. 

The burrata at La Buca
A mouth-watering menu at La Buca
 
 
Finally, how can I forget the really great boutique hotel on Robson Street?  The Listel features comfortable rooms, helpful staff and great location for walking to most of what we wanted to see/do.  Less driving and parking meant more time to chill and enjoy the city. 

 
We did take the car to North Vancouver with the intent of participating in the Grouse Grind before we left on Thursday.  My friend tells me it's a straight up hike on the normally-wintery ski trail with a convenient tram to bring you down when finished.  An un-named person forgot their hiking shoes so we found solace in The Bakehouse and the many pastries on display.
 
I'm back to my usual routine - work and some play - and my summer fling with Vancouver seems so far away.  But I will be back, with hiking shoes in hand!
 
Places to eat
 
La Buca
4025 MacDonald Street
Vancouver BC  V6L 2N8
604.730.6988
labuca.ca
 
Ramen Santouka (amazing)
1690 Robson St
Vancouver, BC V6G 1C7
Neighborhood: West End
(604) 681-8121

 The Boathouse
1305 Arbutus Street
Vancouver BC  V6J 5N2
604.738.5487
www.boathouserestaurants.ca

Eatery Takeout
3431 W Broadway  
Vancouver, BC V6R 2B4, Canada
604-738-5298

The Bakehouse
1050 W Queens Ave
North Vancouver BC  V7R 1H7
604.980.5554
 
Hotel

The Listel Hotel
1300 Robson Street
Vancouver BC V6E 1C5
604-684-8461
 
The lamb agnolotti - beautiful and delish at La Buca
 

Summer Travels - Pacific Northwest

It's way past the end of summer and I'm ashamed to admit I am only posting my August road trip adventures NOW.  Never fear though, the magic of the Northwest is timeless in my opinion and even more so in the Fall.

The trip was somewhat spontaneous and came about due to extra vacation days available, nice weather on the horizon and the lure of being in a car for 15 hours.  Seriously, for me there truly is nothing like the open road and the freedom that comes with it. 

While on the road it's always an interesting challenge to find good food that won't require a three hour wait.  Although not a quick stop, Sa.la.me in Ashland Oregon helped fuel our batteries for the road ahead AND transition into a relaxed state-of-vacation mode.

Sa.la.me
47 N. Main Street
Ashland OR 97520
541.708.5881
 
Bruschetta with fresh cheese - Sa.la.me, Ashland OR




 









Once in the Northwest we hopped a ferry headed for Port Townsend, a charming town that boasts amazing views of the water, a plethora of Victorian houses  and Sea J's for fish and chips (with lots of really good tartar sauce.)


Crispy fish and creamy tartar sauce at Sea J's


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sea J's 
2501 Washington Street
Port Townsend WA
(360) 385-6312
 
Following on the fish and chips theme - some might call it an obsession - we stopped at a relic from the past on our way back to the Bay Area...Skippers Fish and Chips in Roseburg Oregon. 

I was trying to express my love of this chain but the run-down mall it was housed in didn't generate as much enthusiasm as I'd expected from my driving partner.  Buying a case of clam chowder - "it will last longer" boasted the cashier - and fitting it into our packed trunk was quite the challenge but worth the effort in my opinion. 

Anyway, I'll always have the memories of Ashland...and 12 cans of chowder for the rainy days ahead!
 
Skippers Fish & Chips
2090 NW Stewart Pkwy
Roseburg OR 97470
541.672.0909 

Northwest Best: Bernie's, Full Sail Brewing, Roots and friends!

The food scene is definitely hopping in Portland and a quick weekend getaway to visit friends was the perfect excuse to indulge.   We started with a visit to Bernie's Southern Bistro in the very lively Alberta Arts district which was the perfect way to get the party started. 

Key highlight at Bernie's: sitting outside under the trees awaiting our very large portions of fried chicken and mac and cheese.    Of course we ordered way too much but we walked away happy and ready for the arduous task of shopping and hanging out (basically doing nothing.)  Note:  I am NOT complaining here.

Day two we hiked Hardy Falls which served up fresh air and a good dose of nature.  Next up, Full Sail Brewing in Hood River.  With a stunning drive along the water and then a big burger plus salad (gotta have something healthy!) our day was pretty much complete and our trip began to wind down.

Our last day we packed our bags and made a stop at Roots in Camas WA.    Roots is one of those places where you get food and service exceeding your expectations despite the  modest suburban strip mall location.  Don't skip the crab benedict or the Walla Walla onion tart - both amazing! 

Although I seemingly make light of the trip - but not my obsession with the Portland food scene - my true purpose was to catch up with longtime friends over many cups of hot coffee and meaningful dinners.  Past memories and meals tie our friendship together and continue to knit us close despite the many miles now between us.    

So thanks to my wonderful friends for setting aside precious time to connect and remind me what really matters in life.  YOU.

Bernie's Southern Bistro
2904 NE Alberta Street
Portland OR  97211
503.282.9864
berniesbistro.com 

Full Sail
506 Columbia Street
Hood River OR 97031
541.386.2247

Roots
19215 SE 34th Street Suite 110
Camas WA  98607
360.260.3001

Mothers Bistro - Portland

The motto on Mothers website is "it's all about the love" which resonated with this diner!  I loved the reuben sandwich with melty cheese, sauerkraut and, of course, homemade corned beef.  It felt like the entire plate was made with love, right down to the crispy bread which held everything together.

Apparently our short wait for a table was the result of good timing and good luck. I'm told our wait wasn't the norm and a visit usually requires patience.  In any case, don't miss the Reuben.  It's really fantastic.

Corned beef and sauerkraut atop toasted bread.  Just the best.
 
Way to start the day!  A mimosa at the ready
 
212 SW Stark St  Portland, OR 97204
(503) 464-1122

Bistro Don Giovanni, Napa CA

There are many great dining choices in Napa but Bistro Don Giovanni always tops my list of favorites.    The setting is comfortable, whether you're sitting on the patio dining al fresco or seated inside by the fireplace on a drizzly day.   While the setting is key to the overall experience the food is definitely the star of the show; a blend of local flavor and Italian flair served up by the expert staff.

The only problem I have with Bistro Don Giovanni is that there are SO MANY choices and I like them all!  From pasta to fish and the starters it's hard to narrow my meal to just a few items.  This time we focused on the basics: a perfectly cooked burger, fig pizza with blue cheese (amazing flavor) carpaccio and a rich decedant chocolate mousse.  All basic but nothing bland!

The fig and blue pizza starter is absolutely divine!

Carpaccio done well

Chocolate mousse and biscotti
Bistro Don Giovanni
4110 Howard Ln  Napa, CA 94558
(707) 224-3300

Outstanding in the field 2013 - Everett Family Farm, Soquel

Like many, I love summer.  I loved it as a kid (camping, no school, long days) and I love it now (camping, no school, long days)!  The main difference is that time seems to fly by and before I can blink; June is a far distant memory with August in full view.

Each year the past three years I've attended one event from the roster of Outstanding in the Field events (OITF) to fill my "summer activity passport" and which serves to remind me "what I did last summer".  This year I selected a dinner at the Everett Family Farm in Soquel.

I will say that this was one of my favorites to date for many reasons.   Obviously the farm is chock full of lovingly tended crops but in addition, the structures are beautifully maintained with amazing attention to detail (I noticed the carefully crafted wood doors immediately).  That detail carried over to the dinner table setting - the "baseball field" - and the food itself.

The dinner was cooked by Santos Majano of Soif Restaurant & Wine Bar in Santa Cruz and the lineup included pulled pork mini-sliders, fresh greens with a salty, piquant feta, a delectable duck with potatoes and rock cod with quick pickles and farro.  But the dessert capped it all:  goat cheese panna cotta with berries and a touch of super sweet honey.  I really wanted to snap a picture but the dish was gone before I could even half-heartedly gesture for my camera.

As with many memories, this one is now past and I'm thinking about that Yosemite camping trip in August (I know, sigh..what a life I lead!)  If only I could bottle the season to hold onto before it slips from my tenuous grasp.  Soon enough it will be time for pumpkins and all the fine visions of fall.  Until then...I plan to savor the delights of summer and the feeling of youthful freedom most abundant this time of year.

The honor system;  stop by the farm for just-picked produce and fresh eggs.  You tally the final cost, drop the money in the lockbox and go on your merry way!


Destined for a great salad somewhere.


Yosemite Wildflowers in Bloom Hite Cove Trail


I’m forever looking for weekend getaways which combine my favorites: beautiful images to photograph, outdoor exercise and of course, food.  Along came an article about local spots where you can view the Spring blooms and voila!  We were on our way to El Portal to hike the Hite Cove Trail near Yosemite. 

Turns out the timing was perfect as the crowds were minimal, hotel rates reasonable and the hills truly were alive with a painter’s palette of color.  There’s still time to plan a trip as the flowers will continue to spring alive until sometime in May.   Here are a few notes from our trip:

The highlight

Hiking the Hite Cove Trail! It's about 4 miles one-way so take plenty of water and wear comfortable shoes (that seems obvious but figured I’d say it anyway). The trail winds alongside the river for views of blooms and the pleasant sound of water in the background.



Vibrant orange poppies everywhere!
Where we stayed
Yosemite View Lodge. Comfortable and reasonably priced. The best part? The back door opened to a view of the Merced River creating the perfect ambiance for our evening wine/cheese fest. 


Yosemite View Lodge - a view from the balcony
Places we dined
Savoury’s in Mariposa. About 45 minutes from the hotel and worth the drive.  I ordered off the menu and a) they were not annoyed and b) it was delicious (a shrimp linguine – perfectly cooked.)


Ahwahnee Hotel for brunch. A little pricier than your standard buffet ($45) but this isn’t really your standard buffet.  What you get is an amazing array of delectable items served up in a grand setting creating an experience well-worth the price of entry.
 
Ahwahnee Hotel brunch (ok, so this was my third - and last - plate!)

Yosemite View Lodge
El Portal (off Highway 140)
209.379.2681
www.yosemiteresorts.net 

Savoury's
5034 Hwy 140
Mariposa CA 95338
savouryrestaurant.com 

Ahwahnee Hotel

Frances - SF - New year, same great food

There are some restaurants which are worth a second or third mention, and one of those is Frances in San Francisco.  Always challenging to secure a reservation,  loud and crowded once you arrive, Frances is worth the effort when you finally experience the unique flavor and texture combinations served on their beautiful ceramic (assume locally handmade?) plates.

Bavette with butter beans.  Love this dish!
We selected many dishes in an effort to try as many things as possible.  The server hesitated when asked "is that too many?" and proceeded to deliver one dish in error (which he left on the table and...we consumed.)  At that point, it was too many but not something I say with regret.

What we ordered:
  • Applewood smoked beignets - the creamy, bacon-y sauce makes these "double-dip worthy"
  • The little gem salad is NOT your average salad!  The petite young lettuce lightly dressed in a subtle apple vinagrette is a great way to start your meal.
  • Riso nero venero - risotto made of small black kernels and dungeness crab.  Wow.
  • The bavette steak with butter bean compote; flavorful, perfectly cooked and tender.
  • Ricotta gnocchi with nettle pesto.  Again, not your average gnocchi!  The gnocchi were light and puffy ("almost like baked cheetos" which didn't entirely amuse my dinner companion) with the pesto to add punch. 
  • Broccoli gratin - creamy farro, Montegrappa cheese and broccoli. 
As though this wasn't enough for two (it was) we ordered ice cream (maple, browned butter) which was a perfect ending to the meal.  In case you are wondering, the browned butter ice cream won out in terms of taste but we crossed the finish line and consumed everything in our path.

Frances is a top contender on my list of favorites and I can't wait to go back.  A really great gem!

Frances
3870 17th St.
San Francisco
California 94114
415.621.3870


A view from Monterey, Big Sur

It was a nice way to cap the year: a quick trip to Monterey and Big Sur complete with a sprinkling of sun to set off the scenery and provide a backdrop for last-minute resolutions.  Mine definitely included getting away more often given the proximity to such beautiful natural eye-candy!
 
Speaking of eye-candy the Portola Inn, located on Monterey Bay, boasts a fair amount of well-appointed decor put together by someone with an eye for fabulous spaces.  The reason I mention this is that all the details come together to create a sophisticated yet welcoming atmosphere where you instantly want to kick back and relax.  "Why go out all night when we can hang out in such a room?"  was the question I asked immediately.
 
Of course we did manage to get motivated to leave when our appetites beckoned.  We ambled down the street to Montrio recommended by the hotel staff and found a small table in the very crowded restaurant. We sampled the luscious lobster mac n cheese, a bistro steak (with truffle fries - wow!) and a sweet creamy bread pudding served alongside passionfruit ice cream.  A nice find indeed.
 
The next day we saw the line for breakfast at Rosine's snaked out the door requiring us to keep our patience in check and go with the crowd.  The food was good, with large generous portions that could have fed 3-4 per plate (I am serious about this.)  When reading about the history of Rosine's this seems to be part of their "claim to fame" (in Monterey at least!) and it seems like something that resonates with customers.  For me personally I always feel guilty leaving so much food on the plate and eating it all was definitely out of the question.
 
Our last stop of the day was Nepenthe (Big Sur) where we sipped hot spiced cider against the backdrop of the Pacific.  The chill in the air was tempered by the welcome winter sun and I couldn't help but make a mental note to visit again during summer (although the crowds would probably be more visible.)
 
Overall, rather than looking forward to the new year I took a moment to catch my breath and count my blessings which are beyond measure.  And with that, we were on the road home again to get ready to ring in the new year.
 
Holiday decor in Monterey Bay

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur

Seasonal Snacking – Seattle Style

Every year it’s the same:  the holidays sneak up on me, I wait until the last minute to buy gifts and before I know it I’m on a plane headed to the Pacific Northwest to visit family.   The routine might seem, well, routine, but changes to the menu lineup make this “the most wonderful time of the year” for me. 

While Seattle hosts a bevvy of fine dining choices I actually think the unique quick-meal options – some would call this fast food  - define the area (yes, you are welcome to disagree).    Good food at a good price really does make me jolly J  Here’s a snapshot of our adventures…
Taco Time
Crispy meat burritos, housemade salsa and the “mexi fries” (tater tots) all make for a good quick meal at this Northwest classic.  Select from the combo menu and your wallet will thank you.  Oh and it's not just me. A co-worker commented that his first stop in Seattle is Taco Time as well (followed by Starbucks!)
Musashi’s
Nestled in a strip mall in Factoria (suburb of Bellevue) Mushashi’s is the second installment for this family-owned restaurant.   The food was good, tasty and reasonably priced.  My very-picky mother liked it and said she’d definitely return which is good as gold in terms of reviews.
3720 Factoria Blvd SE, Bellevue WA 98006

Sushi from Musashi's in Factoria

The Daily Grill (Seattle) and The Keg (Factoria) share the same paragraph simply because they have similar menu items (steaks, chops, salads) but the experience – and food – couldn’t be more different.
To be fair, we dined at the Daily Grill on Christmas so I have to cut some slack here.  But overall, food was just “okay” (steak wayyyy overdone) with service that seemed to amplify the subpar nature of the meal.  On the bright side, the huge slice of chocolate cake for dessert was decadent and delicious.

Chocolate cake from The Daily Grill - a nice holiday treat.
 

The Keg Steakhouse, located in the same strip mall as Musashi’s in Factoria is part of a long-standing Northwest chain that seems to have aged well and delivers quality in terms of food and service.   I have ordered the rib eye twice (once during my last trip and this time too) and it’s amazing; well-cooked and bursting with flavor.  At 20 oz. you might be tempted to pass up dessert, but don’t.  The Billy Miner pie -mocha ice cream on a chocolate crust with hot fudge, caramel and almonds - is fantastic. 
Now with the holidays soundly in my rearview mirror I am ready to embrace 2013 and all the food adventures I can find.  As always, I’m truly grateful for the people in my life who bring joy and laughter despite anything I might really deserve.  I am blessed and hope you – and those around you – are too!  Thanks for reading.
 

Outstanding in the field 2012

Over the hills and past the wind turbines of Vasco, the road I travelled led me to Brentwood CA in the East Bay. Once past all the traffic jammed on 580 I breathed a sigh of relief and some fresh country air before nabbing my seat (and the many excellent appetizers) at this year's Outstanding in the Field event hosted by Knoll Farm.

If you've never heard of it, Outstanding in the Field an organization dedicated to fostering greater connection with the land and those who nurture the food grown on that land.  After a short intro by the OITF founder and an overview of the farm from Rick Knoll we were seated at a long table right in the orchard with the setting sun. 

An amazing setting for a fine dinner
The dinner we were treated to was vegetarian and all dishes were prepared onsite by local chef Leif Hedendal.  With most ingredients just-picked and wine flowing the dinner courses moved along as easily as the conversation with our table mates.  I have to say that this is an event where the animated guests almost compete with the star(s) of the show - the super-fresh food - because everyone has a passion for food and an opinion about favorite places to indulge that passion.

A menu fit for vegetarians and those who just love food!
With the sun almost set and a chill in the air I began to walk out of the orchard and back to my car.  The host - Rick - walked with our group and chatted about the farm, food and Brentwood.  He too seemed as passionate about the food he grows and the land we were standing on. 

As we talked I thought about the fact that we should give more importance to people like him, people responsible for feeding us and ensuring our food basket is healthy and sustainable and the land is productive for generations to come.   With that revelation I gave a hearty thanks to Rick -and ALL farmers - then pulled out onto the busy country road for the trek home.

Starter plants patiently waiting in the summer sun

Knoll Farm, Brentwood CA
Outstanding in the Field

An Edible Education in Berkeley CA


A welcoming sign at the Edible Schoolyard
What do you get when you combine amazing vision, culinary curiosity and a vacant, asphalt lot located adjacent to Martin Luther King Jr Middle School in Berkeley CA? The Edible Schoolyard (ESY), an organic garden and kitchen classroom which integrates food concepts into the school curriculum for hands-on training and learning during the year. 

A simple lesson in putting things back in their proper spot:  color coded tools used in the garden.

Geoff the cheerful gardener shows off expert raking technique!

A recent tour gave me a close up view of the people and operations plus a healthy dose of respect for the person who started it all. That person being Alice Waters, the venerable force behind the original sustainable, local food movement and proprietor of Chez Panisse in Berkeley CA.

At the base level it’s easy to think “it’s just gardening or cooking” (for anyone who’s ever taken a Home Economics class – this is not IT). The really cool thing going on here is that students are not simply learning WHAT to eat, they are learning how to make – and grow - the things they will eat. The row of corn in the garden will, most likely, end up on a student’s plate having been cooked by fellow students. And in addition to the cooking itself students undergo a fairly intensive knife and kitchen accessories training to learn the basics (eg., “how not to cut yourself with a super sharp knife”).


Kitchen "toolbox" with handy laminted card of contents.

If only my pantry at home were this organized...

It’s really brilliant, in the end. Instead of preaching to kids “do this, don’t eat this” the folks at the Edible Schoolyard are saying “eat more greens, here’s how to get them on your plate – and love them too!” If you will, it’s definitely a carrot (albeit an organic) rather than stick approach.

I’m not sure if this is exactly what Alice Waters intended but it surely struck a chord with me. The program participants will leave middle school with extensive food knowledge and beyond-basic cooking skills they will carry - and share - throughout life.  As corny as it sounds, the seeds have been planted and it will be interesting to see the proliferation of this knowledge. 

Perhaps in 5-10 years an edible schoolyard program in each city across the US will become the norm rather than the exception.  I think the folks at Chez Panisse are on to something here?!

Z-pies - Placerville CA

Z-pies
3182 Center Street
Placerville CA 95667
Phone: 530.621.2626

You can just TELL from the outside of this place – it’s gonna be great. The case of pies in the window, a full house of diners (even at 2:30 on a Saturday afternoon) and a name that just screams comfort food. We were not disappointed.

I ordered the salad with balsamic vinaigrette to start and for a basic salad, it rocked. Fresh greens and a tangy tart dressing bundled together. Yum.

Next up: z-pies… for me, chicken mushroom and for my dining companion, Indian curry chicken. Upon arrival we dug in and quickly realized the pies were screaming hot inside the flaky crust outside. No matter. They were both gone in a heartbeat.

I will say this: the chicken mushroom pie was good. The Indian curry chicken was GREAT. Tender chicken with potatoes and the right amount of spice. Oh, and did I mention the crust is divine?

If you’re travelling east for say…skiing...this is a nice stopover for dinner. Go through the lights at the Hwy. 49 junction and take the next right at the tall building then an immediate right into the parking lot.

Cucina Toscana, Ginza and Vosens - Salt Lake City "Finds"

This is a city that understands food. I must say that while in the area I didn't have a single bad food experience - and it's great to see new places popping up in the downtown area. Can't wait to return and try the Neopolitan pizza place around the corner from Cucina Toscana (which is FAB!)

Cucina Toscana
307 West Pierpont Avenue
Salt Lake City, UT
801.328.3463

Cucina Toscana was a pure delight – from the food and atmosphere to the staff, especially the owner, Valter Nassi who routinely walked the place to welcome guests. He did this both nights I dined (yes, I went back the second night!) and it was a nice touch you don’t see often in restaurants.

What’s great about Cucina Toscana is that the restaurant seems to focus on fresh and flavorful, ensuring that every bite (including the dipping oil for the bread) is memorable. I ordered the Ravioli Quattro Formaggi which was spinach and cheese ravioli in a tender, probably homemade pasta with a decadent and smooth cream sauce. It was probably one of the best renditions of this dish I have tried in years.

My dining companions ordered the pasta sampler (gnocchi with arrabiata and a ravioli with browned butter sauce) and a frute di mare with fresh seafood and again, great flavor. Starters included a very interesting fruit and cheese plate (plums, dates?) and provolone cheese in a simple syrup. Refreshing and unusual.


We finished off our meal with sorbet and tiramisu, both which held up to the usual standard. As we tipped back the last of our wine we reflected enthusiastically on a great Italian meal and a place to return during our next visit.

Vosens Bread Paradise
249 W. 200 S.
Salt Lake City UT 84020

If you don’t pay attention you’ll miss it, the tall building with the yellow sign reading Vosen’s outside. It’s a building that almost appears to be deserted until you get close and see the pastries inside.

The pastries in the case are anything but ordinary, in fact they are all about the size of a small dinner plate and bear names like “vanilla crème custard”. Flaky and sweet, these are the perfect reward for say…breathing or being nice to the neighbor’s dog and they also make a nice breakfast treat.

Lining the shelves inside the bakery are all kinds of German goods from curry ketchup (my friend claims this is “da bomb”) jams, candies and other items like dried spaetzle. Although the pickled items seemed interesting, I couldn’t take my eyes off all the pastries and wanted to buy one of everything. Knowing my luggage space was tight and security a pain in the neck with “unknown items” I grabbed my vanilla crème custard and headed out the door, all the while lamenting my short time in Salt Lake City.

209 W. 200 S.
Salt Lake City, UT
801.322.2224

Solid food in a nice setting. The location was right down the street from the Hotel Monaco and a stop-off when returning from the mall. Service was pleasant and prices were good!