Café Portrait

Here is where the specific categories I’ve created for this website keep getting blurred.

Where do you put coffee and eye candy?

Photo: d. king

Unique, unexpected, creative, inspiring…Art with a side of Coffee.

An establishment like Café Portrait in Vancouver’s West End is so much more than just a place to grab a coffee or croissant. Sidenote: the pistachio croissant is the best I’ve tried.  It’s also a breakfast/brunch spot and an art gallery unlike any other.  The entire café is filled with original portraits on the walls, tables…even in a corner with hoodies and coffee cups available for purchase.

Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king

Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king

Told you so!

https://www.cafeportrait.com/

1120 Denman Street (close to Davie)

 

 

 

FIORE

This Italian restaurant in the heart of South Granville has it all.

and wine be thy joy

As their website points out, FIORE is part casual trattoria, part Italian wine shop and part charming market You can grab a bottle from an extensive collection of Italian varieties and go, or make a reservation to eat there (when indoor dining is allowed again).

I took my sister for her birthday to their sister (ha, ha – no pun intended) restaurant FIORE FAMIGLIA at their Kits location so we could enjoy a nice heated patio.  Although at first we went to get a bottle of beautiful organic Northern Italian wine from the S Granville location to bring with us. Wine that you cannot buy in a regular wine shop or liquor store.  It was excellent.  Smooooth!

tasty bowl of warm olives to start

We shared pappardelle with braised short rib, sundried tomatoes, arugula, garlic cream, parmesan +fried shallots.  AND; roasted butternut squash ravioli with tomato beurre blanc, toasted pine nuts, friend sage + pickled apples.

The food was truly outstanding.  Service and presentation too – I’m talking about you, Jacob!

Finished with moist Olive Oil Cake with fresh berries, whipped cream + sprig of mint.

We’ll be back!

Photos: d. king

Wining & Dining at Chaberton

We’re pretty spoiled living here in British Columbia.  We’re blessed with a.bun.dance…a very large quantity of something. We live sandwiched between ocean and mountains with no shortage of sports. It doesn’t get much better.

Photo: Paul Lemay

But speaking of sandwiches…Vancouver is a foodie city.  Condé Nast Traveler named it one of the best food cities in the world. And for a lot more than just a sandwich.  More on this some other time.

We’re also known for wine. Of course it’s better to be here to enjoy the full experience as many wineries (and there are a plenty) do not ship outside B.C.  And the few that do, do not ship all their supply as for the most part they’re smaller batch lots. Which in turn makes the tasting experience that much more personal.

For those of you familiar with wines of British Columbia you probably know about the Okanagan wine region – located in southern British Columbia, and one of the warmest regions in all of Canada.

Having said this, we have several local wineries closer to our home in Vancouver.  And bit by bit we’re exploring all of them.  For this post I’ll focus on Chaberton Estate Winery in Langley, B.C. – about 45 minutes outside Vancouver.

Catherine, our knowledgeable wine server
Tribute Fortified Wine

Langley is a part of the Fraser Valley wine region, which produces high-quality and hand-crafted wines with different styles and varieties. The fertile farmland around the city, especially in the Fraser Valley, is home to many historic orchards and fruit fields that grow berries.

The terroir in South Langley is similar to that of some of the best wineries in Northern France, making it the ideal place to grow a range of different cool weather grapes.  The history of the winery dates back to 1975 when the founders, Claude and Inge Violet sold their winery and vineyard in France and decided to start their next chapter in the “New World”.  So I suppose this means we are considered “New World Wine” with still a way to go.  But if you weren’t already aware of this, you might not even be able to tell. 

If wining were a sport we would win the gold medal.  Actually, we kind of treat it like a sport.

Tamara and Me

Tamara (my partner in wine and crime) and I enjoyed a deluxe private tasting last week before a delicious lunch at their award winning French inspired bistro.  Rated by the Vancouver Sun as one of the top 3 al Fresco dining restaurants in Vancouver, the Bacchus Bistro with a vineyard view, serves authentic French cuisine prepared with local ingredients and a West Coast flair. Coupled with a glass of wine, it was superb.  Tamara had Gamay Noir and I had late harvest Chardonnay.

Bacchus Bistro mussels were the best in the west.  The other stuff was pretty good too (Ling cod in a saffron sauce, seafood crepes, scalloped potatoes au gratin).

After our tasting we both agreed that our favourite white is their estate grown Siegerrebe (a grape grown primarily in Germany) – hand picked right from the Langley Estate.  The flavour is bursting with honeydew melon and mango notes, with fresh grapefruit and velvet feel on the palate.  We bought a few bottles from the wine shop on our way out.

On a nice day you can enjoy a tasting flight at an outdoor picnic table.

As we tend to say upon leaving a place we want to re-visit…We’ll be back.”

Chaberton Estate Winery

 

Find time to wine

Wine is one of the most cultivated things in the world…

A good pinot noir (and gris) is among some of my favourites.  There’s a whole long list of others.

and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.” – Ernest Hemingway

Visiting a vineyard has always been a pleasant past time of mine.  Here in Vancouver we have a few local wineries a little bit off the beaten path.  Last month I re visited Township 7 (in the 7th Township of Langley, off the highway in the Fraser Valley area) with a friend.

I tried to locate a Township 7 Merlot that was part of a Christmas gift basket but everyone that previously had it in stock was sold out.  After exhausting my search I decided to go directly to the source – Township 7 in Langley.  Their other location (Naramata Bench in the beautiful Okanagan Valley) was several more hours away by car.

Once there we ended up doing a tasting.

just a tiny one

Once finished we ended up becoming wine club members.  Which means that every season we’ll be getting drunk several bottles shipped to us.  Which means that by Spring/Summer we’re certain to be in the red.  Other than that, we’re always white and bubbly.

I look forward to soon sharing a new podcast that my neighborhood wino friend and I have decided to create.  We look forward to introducing your senses to BC wine along with the art, culture and culinary experiences brought together by knowledgeable people and others who like to indulge appreciate good wine and good times.  Life is meant to be relished.  

We’re in the process of getting the website up and running.  You’ll be among the first to hear about it.

our kids were so patient

Have a great weekend.

Photos (this page): d. king

 

 

 

The steaks are high

Although I hardly eat meat anymore I’ve always loved a good grilled rib-eye steak.  It’s my favourite cut.  I recently came across this online article from “The Times of Israel” and found it intriguing.  Thought it worth a share.

Have you heard about this?

An Israeli company announced earlier this month that it has made the world’s first laboratory cultivated rib-eye steak complete with all the flavor and texture of regular meat, minus the harm to animals.

A rib-eye steak produced from meat cells cultivated in a laboratory by Israeli start-up Aleph Farms. (Courtesy: Aleph Farms/Technion Institute of Technology)

Aleph Farms claims its printed meat has all the flavor and texture a butcher can offer but *without harming animals, opening the way for sustainable food production.

*Key Words. I really hope this new method becomes the norm.

See link below for full story by Stuart Winer – The Times of Israel (February 10th, 2021)

https://www.timesofisrael.com/higher-steaks-as-israeli-company-makes-first-lab-cultivated-rib-eye-cut/

Dine-Out

Foodies Unite!

DINE OUT VANCOUVER FESTIVAL

I’m looking forward to this…

Dine Out Vancouver Festival is about community, collaboration, and sharing Vancouver’s culinary story.

Along with the Wines of British Columbia, and a host of other Community Partners, Tourism Vancouver is proud to continue to showcase Vancouver’s culinary talent as well as the many different culinary and cultural experiences that only a city like ours can offer.

It all started with an idea. A group of food and wine enthusiasts got together with the team at Tourism Vancouver back in 2002 and pitched the idea of a fixed-price menu deal to get Vancouverites out and into restaurants during a normally slow time of the year. Fifty-seven restaurants jumped on board and from that stellar yet humble beginning, Dine Out Vancouver Festival has grown into Canada’s largest food and drink festival.

Today, the festival is a promotional umbrella that brings together hundreds of chefs, more than 300 restaurants, wineries, craft breweries, suppliers and more for a month of dining, food-forward virtual events and experiences designed to give culinary enthusiasts the opportunity to taste the best flavours of the city. Dine Out Vancouver Festival also includes special hotel offers to help make an overnight Dine Out experience both safe and relaxing.

For 2021, we wish our out-of-Province and International friends could join us, but unfortunately for now, non-essential travel into Canada is not permitted and not recommended into and within British Columbia. BC Residents, let’s do our part by continuing to follow current public health orders.  Stay local and support local, with your immediate household or bubble in accordance with the latest guidelines.

Runs February 5 – March 7, 2021.

Ask For Luigi

Source: “about”

Check out the participating restaurants and hotels:

https://www.dineoutvancouver.com/restaurants/

Veggie Good Pad Thai

This is one of my favorite Vegetarian dishes.  It hits all the taste sensations; sweet, savory, sour and nutty.

One of the things I love best when ordering Thai food is Pad Thai.  One of the things I like least when ordering Thai food is Pad Thai...when it is not up to par. I’ve been disappointed more than once. So I’ve been making my own.

Making Pad Thai is much easier than you think.  You can tweak ingredients to your own liking and add chicken and/or shrimp to make it non vegetarian or omit the egg to make it vegan.  Experimenting with flavors is best. For me personally, I love an excellent homemade vegetarian Pad Thai using rice noodles.  Depending on my mood I might switch up the veggies or make more or less of the sauce.  So this is kind of a non-recipe recipe.

Before we get started a few basics you should know:

TIPS FOR MAKING THE BEST PAD THAI

  1. Prep your ingredients. Have all your ingredients prepped and ready before you begin. Cooking Pad Thai is a very fast process and by having your ingredients prepped and within hands reach, this will ensure that everything goes smoothly.
  2. Continuously stir. I use a huge frying pan (you can also use a wok). You will need to continuously stir veggies throughout the cooking process to ensure even distribution of heat and even cooking.
  3. Do not overcook the noodles. I always pre-cook noodles in a separate pot and add them last (they may appear a bit lumped together if you don’t use them right away, however they do separate once you add them to the pan). Cook the noodles according to package directions and drain. Cook veggies until the sauce dries. The noodles should still be firm and not mushy when you add them to the pan. Fully-cooked noodles will change color from transparent to white. If you are new to stir-frying noodles, I would recommend turning down the heat while cooking, as things move fast.
  4. Serve hot. Pad Thai is best served immediately. Once the noodles turn cold, they will start to lose their texture and flavor.
  5.  Toppings are Everything. Serve Pad Thai topped with fresh bean sprouts, green onion (cut on the bias), cilantro, shaved carrot, chopped peanuts and lime wedges.

Ingredients (for two):

1 package Flat Rice Noodles (you can find ones specifically for Pad Thai)

1 Red Bell Pepper cut into strips

1 Onion thinly sliced

2-3 Garlic cloves, chopped

1 inch chopped fresh Ginger

Extra Firm Tofu cut up into cubes

1 Large Egg, slightly beaten (optional and added to hot pan before noodles)

Handful of Snap Peas

1 Carrot (cut into small chunks)

The above is my go-to but you can also add sliced mushrooms and/or broccoli 

Right before serving add the following:

Handful of Peanuts finely chopped

Fresh Bean Sprouts

Chopped Cilantro

Chopped Green onion

Shredded Carrot

Lime wedges

Cook the noodles according to package directions and drain.

You can use a combination of some or all of the below ingredients for the sauce.  My suggestion is to try what I recommend at first and then adjust according to your taste.  Omit any that don’t sit well with you.  For instance, I don’t always use fish sauce.

These are general guidelines as I don’t have a set recipe.

2 Tbsp. Toasted Sesame Oil, 2 Tbsp. Rice vinegar, 1-2 Tbsp. Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce, 1 Tbsp. chili-garlic sauce, 2 Tbsp. Fish Sauce (optional), 2 Tbsp. store bought peanut sauce, 1 Tbsp. Lime Juice, 1 Tbsp. tamarind paste (not difficult to find in the Asian section of almost every grocery store).

TO MAKE *SAUCE:

Pour about 2 Tbsps of toasted sesame oil in a large frypan or wok.  When hot. add the garlic, ginger, onion + pepper.  Stir until fragrant.  Add any other veggies (snap peas, carrot, tofu, mushrooms, etc.) and then add your rice vinegar, soy, fish sauce, chili-garlic sauce, tamarind paste and lime juice.  With wooden spoon, stir veggies and coat with sauce.  When all veggies are just about done, add the slightly beaten egg, then the noodles to the pan or wok. 

TOSS together then:

Add peanut sauce to the pan; to taste.  Divide mixture among two plates and top with bean sprouts, green onion, cilantro, shredded carrot and chopped peanuts.  Serve with lime wedges.  If you like it spicier add a bit more chili sauce.

Let me know how you like it.

*you can buy store-bought pad thai sauce to try if you like, but some of the ingredients are things like ketchup, corn starch and sugar.  Some people making homemade sauce add ketchup and a bit of peanut butter to the sauce.  I omit ketchup all together (really not necessary) but I like adding some spicy peanut sauce. It’s all up to personal taste.

Gluten-Free Spiced Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

These cookies are simply delicious!

I’ve never adhered to a totally gluten-free diet, however I’ve been experimenting with changing original recipes by trying to make them taste as good, or better by making them gluten-free.  That’s mainly because eating gluten-free foods makes me feel less full and less bloated.

This recipe originally called for 1 cup of all-purpose flour. *Oat flour gives baked goods more flavor than regular all purpose flour, though it may also give them a chewier and crumblier texture.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened

1 ½ cups dark brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

1 1/3 cups oat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. ground cloves

½ tsp. allspice

2 cups gluten-free rolled oats

1-2 cups raisins

Preheat oven to 350F.  Cream butter until light and fluffy.  Gradually add sugar.  Add eggs, vanilla and 2 tsp. water and beat until smooth.

Sift dry ingredients together.  Add to the butter mixture and mix well.  Fold in oats and raisins.  Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet, leaving enough space for the cookies to spread out.  Bake approx. 10-15 minutes, until golden.

Makes about 2 dozen good size cookies

*Not only is oat flour packed with antioxidants, it also has more protein and fat than most traditional flours, and up to 8g of fiber per half-cup serving. One half-cup serving of oat flour contains: 191% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of manganese. 41% of the RDI of phosphorus.

The gluten conundrum

By now you’ve heard of gluten, and you probably even know it’s the wheat protein that gives bread and other foods their shape and texture. But going gluten-free when you don’t have a diagnosed wheat allergy or celiac disease doesn’t promise weight loss or better health, according to science. That hasn’t stopped millions of people from giving the diet a try. Experts recommend consulting your primary health-care provider before making any drastic changes to your diet. Check out some reasons you should not go gluten-free.


Debbie’s Delicious Carrot Cake

A heavenly-spiced, double-decker cake iced with cream cheese frosting.  Apple sauce makes it extra moist and delicious.   Makes 12 servings.

Photo: d. king

I’ve tried several carrot cake recipes including my mom’s (which included in the ingredients crushed pineapple and some mayo).  Sorry mom, it was always my favourite, however my carrot cake connoisseur boyfriend says this one knocks them all out of the park.  But we’ll let you be the judge. 

For the Cake:

1 ½ cups sugar (I always use organic cane sugar)

1 cup unsweetened apple sauce (if you have the time, making it yourself is best)

4 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups *flour

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

2 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. nutmeg

¼ tsp. ground cloves

3 cups grated carrot

1 cup walnut or pecan pieces

1 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Lightly grease and flour 2, 8-inch round cake pans.

To make doubly sure the cakes do not stick, cut 2 rounds of parchment  (I swear by parchment – it’s a baking life saver) the same size as the bottom of the pans and set them in.  Place the sugar, apple sauce, eggs and vanilla in a bowl and mix until well combined.  Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices into another bowl, and then mix into the wet mixture until just combined.  Fold in carrots, nuts and raisins.  Divide and spoon the batter among the pans.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the centre of each cake pulls out clean.  Cool the cake on a baking rack in their pans for 30 minutes, then un mould and cool to room temperature.

To frost and decorate

250 gram pkg. hard cream cheese, at room temperature (I use Philadelphia)

1 cup butter, at room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

3 cups icing sugar (I used organic icing sugar for the fist time and while still sugar; it made me feel better about eating it – it was also easier to beat ).

Place the cream cheese, butter and vanilla in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until quite light.  Gradually beat in the icing sugar until fully incorporated.  Set 1 cake layer, crowned-side down, on your cake stand.  Spread a ¼ inch layer of frosting on it, and then set on the second cake, crowned-side down.  Frost the top and sides of the cake, doing so as neatly and smoothly as you can (not so much for me this time).

If desired, after frosting, you could also coat the sides or top of the cake with unsweetened shreds of coconut and/or walnuts or pecans.

The Added Touch

You could also decorate the top of the cake with small carrots made of marzipan.  To do so, color 100 grams of marzipan orange with **food color.  Divide it into 12 pieces and roll each one into a carrot shape.  Use the back of a pairing knife and make a few shallow, indentations on one side of each piece to give it a slightly wrinkled carrot-like look.

Arrange the carrots on top of the cake.  As you can see, I omitted this extra special step this time around.  

*You can easily make this gluten-free by substituting regular flour for gluten-free.  This time I used “Namaste gluten-free Perfect Flour Blend” and it was divine.  Having said that, I have to admit that using regular cake & pastry flour makes for a perfect tasting allover cake. I was quite pleased though with this gluten-free flour blend.  Make sure you read the package to see how easily adaptable it is for baking – not all are created equal.

**Juicing carrots will provide you with a natural dye alternative that will emit NO additional flavor when used moderately. For a more saturated color, reduce the liquid into a syrup.  This will produce a more vivid color, without changing the properties of the dish.

Enjoy!

Shortbread Snowflakes

With Christmas around the corner and families staying put, it’s beginning to look a lot like a different kind of holiday season. Lots of things are up in the air and I’m not talking flying.  Life as we knew it is a little blurry right now.  I’m trying to look at the positive, but with so many small businesses getting shut down again and struggling to survive, it can become dispiriting. “This won’t last forever,” encouraging as it sounds…is not soon enough.  We should help to save lives while also saving livelihoods. We have to take care of ourselves the best we can.  Little things here and there help to uplift our spirits. 

So I’ve made cookies.  Lots of cookies.  Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter, Old Fashioned Oatmeal Raisin with Indian spices, Thumbprint with Jam, Peanut Butter/Chocolate Chunk and finally holiday shortbread.  The one with the least amount of ingredients and the most challenging. 

This one is a Martha Stewart original.  The only thing I’ve changed is instead of using granulated sugar I’ve substituted with organic cane sugar.  They’re really yummy.  My added touches: some are cut out round and sprinkled with chili cocoa powder instead of powdered sugar.  Or; should you decide to melt chocolate, you can dip half the cookies in the chocolate, as shown.

Shortbread Cookies with Cardamom

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground *cardamom

1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar (original recipe calls for using granulated).

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Whisk flour, salt & cardamom in a medium bowl.

Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer.  Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.  Mix in Vanilla.

Reduce to low, and gradually mix in flour mixture.

Press the dough into a 10” x 15” rimmed baking sheet on top of parchment paper. (the recipe doesn’t call for this but this way turns out being a lot easier to work with the cookie dough).

Press parchment paper onto surface and smooth top.  Remove top parchment; wrap sheet in plastic.  Refrigerate 30 minutes.  This will help the dough become harder and therefore easier to cut into cookie shapes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Using snowflake (and other) cookie shape cutters, cut out cookies, and arrange by size on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Refrigerate 15 minutes.

Sprinkle with sanding (icing) sugar.  Bake until golden, 18 to 20 minutes.

Let cool on sheets on wire rack.

You can freeze what you don’t immediately eat.  I freeze all my cookies.  Once thawed they’re as good as new.  Enjoy!

*Cardamom is a spice made from the seed pods of various plants in the ginger family. Cardamom pods are spindle-shaped and have a triangular cross-section. The pods contain a number of seeds, but the entire cardamom pod can be used whole or ground. The seeds are small and black, while the pods differ in color and size by species.