Gusto di Quattro Italian Noodle box with an asian twist

My Picks from the North Van Edition of Tasting Plates Vancouver

Tasting Plates North Vancouver editionVancouver Foodster finally did it; he ventured outside of the City of Vancouver.  Where did he go? North Vancouver, just a short Seabus trip to take.  What I enjoyed especially about this particular event is that all the restaurants were about within a 2 block radius.  Walking was a breeze, and it was a beautiful sunny day to enjoy the food.   The restaurants I visited are:

  • Cafe for Contemporary Art
  • Fishworks Restaurant
  • El Matador
  • Gusto di Quattro
  • Pier 7 Restaurant
  • Anatoli Souvlaki
  • The District

We all have our favourite tasting samples from an event like this.  My favourites were from Fishworks Restaurant and Gusto di Quattro, who put together I think something special for the event.  The other restaurants offered items from their menu, which gives you a peek at their menu.

Fishworks offered two items to taste: a Chef’s Creek oyster on the half shell, and a seared tuna served with watermelon, chili spice mayo and scallion (I hope I got the description right. Please correct me if wrong).  I loved the interplay between the meatiness of the tuna with the refreshing flavour of the watermelon, and the hint of spice in the mayo.  My overall favourite dish of the evening!

Seared tuna from fishworks

Seared tuna from fishworks

Gusto di Quattro, an Italian Restaurant, was quite innovative creating a cold Italian pasta dish with an Asian twist.  In fact the dish was served in a Chinese take-out container and you ate this dish with chopsticks.   The dish was called the Ori-talian Noodle Box.  It was a thin spaghetti noodle served with pickled vegetables, balsamic vinegar, garlic and crispy Parmesan wontons.   I enjoyed the different textures and flavours, plus it was cold and refreshing on the hot summer evening of the event.

Gusto di Quattro Italian Noodle box with an asian twist

Gusto di Quattro Italian Noodle box with an asian twist

El Matador served us some tapas; olives, a crusty bread topped with a slice of spicy chorizo, and a spicy prawn.  If you like tapas, give El Matador a try.  All the items were tasty.

Tapas at El Matador

Tapas at El Matador

If you like Greek food, there is solid traditional Greek food at Anatoli Souvlaki.  We were served Anatoli Souvlaki with with caviar spread, prawns, spanakopita, and roasted lamb.

Anatoli Souvlaki with tasting plate with caviar spread prawns spanakopita and lamb

Anatoli Souvlaki with Tasting plate with caviar spread, prawns, spanakopita, and roast lamb

The District offered us Belgian-style pomme frites (twice fried), and served either with a herbed mayo or ketchup.

Pomme frites from The District (image courtesy The District)

Pomme frites from The District (image courtesy The District)

More seafood was to be tasted at Pier 7 Restaurant; a large oyster on the half shell (not sure of the variety), a prawn, and seared tuna.  Pier 7 is located right on False Creek, so you have a spectacular view of downtown.

Pier 7 with sear tuna shrimp and oyster

Pier 7 with sear tuna shrimp and oyster

The Cafe for Contemporary Art offered two items, a Basa fish taco (open face), and a vegetarian taco (not sure the ingredients).

Cafe for Contemporary art with a fish taco and vegetarian taco

Cafe for Contemporary art with a fish taco and vegetarian taco

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Celebrate Mondays as a Date Night at Chewies Steam and Oyster Bar

Chewies date night sign

Chewies date night sign

Did you know that Chewies Steam and Oyster Bar has a Date Night special on Monday nights?  I recently was invited to sample from the Date Night menu and enjoy some fantastic wine too.  My partner in crime for the night was Dianne Chow aka @diannechow on Twitter.

If you have not heard of Chewies before it is a New Orleans inspired restaurant in the Kitsilano area located at 2201 W 1st Ave.  They have a decent wine list with 7 red wines by the glass, 9 white wines by the glass, and 2 sparkling by the glass (which goes really well with oysters on the half shell).  You of course can purchase full bottles of wines at Chewies.

Wild Goose Vineyards Autumn Gold 2011

Wild Goose Vineyards Autumn Gold 2011

For this evening, our host, Charles, opened a bottle of Wild Goose Autumn Gold 2011, BC. I really like Wild Goose’s white wines.  They have a good balance between fruit, sugar and acidity.  This wine is a blend of Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and Pinot Blanc grapes. Off dry in style with higher acidity, and flavours of white peach, pear and lychee. Soft and light bodied.  A very easy wine to enjoy. The bit of sweetness also helps to cool any New Orleans spice.

Our Tasting Menu

The Monday Date Night menu consists of 1 shared appetizer, two main courses, and a shared dessert. Bottles of wine are half price too. Our tasting menu consisted of:

  • Pan seared calamari – Local Humboldt squid, cucumber, jalapeño mint salad
  • Jambalaya – House smoked chicken, andouille sausage, prawns, tasso ham, spicy Cajun rice
  • Beef brisket – Applewood smoked angus beef brisket, sweet potato mash, coleslaw, house made spicy BBQ sauce
  • Lagniappe– pan fried oysters – Panko bread crusted Fanny Bay Oysters, house made tartar sauce
  • Pecan pie – Whipped cream and chocolate sauce

Have you heard of  Lagniappe before?  It is a Cajun word, meaning a little bit extra.  Like when you are given an extra donut when you buy a dozen, or an appetizer at no charge at a restaurant.  Today the pan fried oysters were Lagniappe.

Pan seared calamari

Pan seared calamari

The Pan Seared Calamari was cooked very differently than I have ever had before, and it was quite good. It was thinly sliced and marinated in buttermilk, then pan fried with dried chili flakes and chopped parsley.  The dish came with a sauce on the side that was creamy and spicy with a smoky edge, which I think was from smoked paprika.  If you did not know the slices were calamari you could be mistaken guessing they were a pasta noodle.  Tender, not chewy. The cucumber salad was a nice texture contrast with the crunch of the cucumber. The Wild Goose Autumn Gold, fruitness and sweetness also helped balance out the spice.

Jambalaya

Jambalaya

Jambalaya is a New Orleans classic dish, similar to paella.  Creole Jambalaya according to Wikipedia is made, “..First, meat is added to  the trinity of celery, peppers, and onions, the meat is usually chicken and sausage such as andouille or smoked sausage. Next vegetables and tomatoes are added to cook, followed by seafood. Rice and stock are added in equal proportions at the very end. The mixture is brought to a boil and left to simmer for 20 to 60 minutes…“.  With Chewie’s Jambalaya you get smoky, earthy flavour, where the spice builds in your mouth the longer you eat it.  All the chicken and ham is very tender, with the chicken served in decent chunks on your fork.  The andouille sausage sliced thin has that right balance of meat to fat.  This Jambalaya has lots of spice to it, so if you are spice adverse, avoid this dish, but if you like spice, dig in!

Applewood smoked angus beef brisket

Applewood smoked angus beef brisket

My favourite dish of the night was a Beef Brisket.  It had a wonderful smoky flavour together with a bbq sauce with black pepper and vinegar.  Brisket is always tender, and has lots of flavour on it’s own.  The slaw with this dish had a good dose of vinegar in it, but also a hint of sweetness.  Either of these main dishes are quite large so be sure to be hungry for the date night menu.

Pecan pie with whipped cream and chocolate sauce

Pecan pie with whipped cream and chocolate sauce

If you have room, there is dessert, and for us, we shared a slice of pecan pie, accompanied with a chocolate sauce and a firm dollop of whipped cream. The pie was not too sweet and the pecans had a nice amount of chewiness to them.  The whipped cream looked so firm I initially thought it was ice cream, but the spoon easily carved through it.  Pecans and chocolate are a great pairing, so make sure you get some chocolate sauce on your piece of pecan pie, and some of the whipped cream, and your tastebuds will thank you.  Add a cup of coffee to it too, relax and slowly digest your New Orlean’s dishes.

Chewies is also well known for their 2 day marinated buttermilk fried chicken and they have a special every Tuesday, so after Monday’s date night, drop by for Tuesday’s chicken.  Cheers.

Fall in Love with Le Parisien

Le Parisien LogoFor those of you who have been to Vancouver’s West End and tried the food of Le Parisien, you know how good it is. For the rest of you, there is added incentive to visit Le Parisien during the fall as they refine their menu and add in some special Petits Plats (think tapas), to go with a glass of wine, as the rain beats a steady cadence outside.  Here is the latest announcement about the refined Fall menu from Le Parisien! J’aime beaucoup!

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john blakely

John Blakely

“We’ve been open six months now and it was time to refine the menu” says owner John Blakeley of the changes he and Executive Chef Tobias Grignon are introducing to Le Parisien’s menu. ‘Refine’ might not be exactly the right word, as for Fall Le Parisien will feature more rustic dishes in addition to what Mr. Blakeley refers to as ‘nasty bits’ as daily specials.

The regular menu retains dishes that have become iconic favourites since the restaurant opened – French Onion Fondue, Steak Tartare, Roast Chicken for Two, Chicken Liver and Foie Gras Parfait.

New on the menu are Petits Plats – small plates that can be quickly ordered to accompany a glass of wine or cocktail as you peruse the rest of the menu. Priced at a very reasonable $3.50, diners will be hard pressed to choose between Pork Rillettes (Dijon Mustard), Baked Mussels (tomato and garlic), Oyster Rockefeller (bacon and Pernod), Crispy Calamari (saffron mayonnaise), Smoked Herring (warm potato salad) and Squash Croquette (goat cheese and apple chutney). Of course, you don’t have to choose, you could make an entire meal out of ordering several Petits Plats.

Fall weather demands heartier fare and Le Parisien’s regular Fall menu also includes such French comfort dishes as Choucroute Garnie, Boeuf Bourguignon and Crispy Braised Pigs Trotters.  “We wanted to add a rustic element to the menu,” says Mr. Blakeley. “These are types of dishes you’ll find in any bistro in France at this time of year. They are part of the harvest tradition, where every part of the animal is used, or preserved in some way for use in the winter. As Vancouver diners are now more open to trying offal, we’ve added some dishes as specials to see how well they are accepted. If people like them, then we’ll keep them on the menu.”  Nasty Bits Specials will be rotated over two week periods and appear in all menu categories – from Petits Plats to Plats Principaux.

Chef Tobias has worked his culinary magic to create tasty and satisfying dishes including: Duck Heart Tourtiere, Tripes à la Provençale, Smoked Beef Tongue, Slow Braised Pigs Tail, Popcorn Chicken Livers and House-made Andouillette Sausage to name a few. After trying Le Parisien’s new Fall menu, your taste buds will be singing ‘I love Paris in the fall.’ After all Le Parisien is Vancouver’s own little corner of the Left Bank in the West End.

751 Denman Street, Vancouver BC V6G 2L6 /  604-687-1418
www.leparisien.ca

Enjoying the Northern Icon, Southern Gem, Concha y Toro Dinner

Northern Gem Southern Icon - Concha y Toro at Blue Water Cafe

Northern Gem Southern Icon - Concha y Toro at Blue Water Cafe

The largest and most well-known winery from Chile in my opinion is Viña Concha y Toro.  This winery has been recognized by many wine publications and has 15 awards as “Winery of the Year” in Wine & Spirits.  They are also acknowledged as “Second most powerful wine brand in the world” according to The Power 100 survey by Intangible business.  Concha y Toro does not rest on their past, but still strives to produce wines of extraordinary expression of contemporary Chile. One iconic wine in particular is particularly nurtured each vintage, “Don Melchor“, led by top wine maker, Enrique Tirado, to produce this wine.  With great anticipation, as part of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, I arrived at the door of the Blue Water Cafe in Yaletown to sample the carefully crafted and paired coastal cuisine of Executive Chef Frank Pabst with Concha y Toro’s wines.

Leading the tasting is Isabel Guilisasti Gana, the Marketing Director Origin Wines for Concha y Toro and wine maker Tamara Baeremaecker.

Concha y Toro Chardonnay Carmenere and Don Melchor bottles

The Guilisasti family has a long history in Chile and in the wine trade.  Isabel Guilisasti joined Concha y Toro in 2000.  As marketing manager, she is responsible for Concha y Toro’s ultra premium and super premium brands.Tamara joined Concha y Toro in 1998 after receiving her degree in oenology from the Universidad Catolica de Chile. She has worked on many of their premium-brand wines and in 2006 became part of the Don Melchor wine making team.

Our private tasting room at the Blue Water Cafe was laid out as two long table, with each person getting a name card for their particular seat.  It was quite interesting.  Some of the people I sat with were other media, but I also sat with people who were there as they love Chilean wine and Blue Water Cafe.  I had fun chatting with everyone around me.

Our Dinner

Scallop prawn and oyster with Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2009

Our first pairing:

  • Pan seared scallop with fennel basil slaw and kumquat ginger puree, Grilled prawn with garlic and rosemary, mango salsa and avocado, and Smoked Stellar Bayer oyster in brick leaf with white onion grape soubise and toasted hazelnuts. These 3 seafood morsels was paired with Concha y Toro’s Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2009 from the Limari Valley.

I thought the pairing of each seafood, with their own unique flavours and textures, all paired very well with the Chardonnay. The Chardonnay was medium lemon in colour.  A very fruity tropical fruit nose with some vanilla too. Medium plus body with high acidity leaving a prickle on your tongue, but it still had some roundness to it. Full of tropical fruit flavours with vanilla on the finish.  The higher acidity from the wine comes from the cooler coastal Limari Valley.

The scallop was very fresh, seared lightly on the outside and tasted very nice with the citrusy flavour of the kumquat and the fennel flavour of the slaw.  The latin-spiced, grilled prawn with the mango salsa and avocado were nicely complemented by the tropical fruit flavours of the Chardonnay.

White sturgeon with Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere 2009

Our second pairing:

  • Farmed white Sechelt sturgeon with beluga lentils and Berkshire pork cheeks with a mild Madras curry tomato sauce. This was paired with the Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere Peumo vineyard 2009 from the Rapel Valley.

The Carmenere was deep ruby in the glass with a bright rim. Dark fruit, vanilla and very slight capsicum aromas. Very ripe plums, quite spicy with black pepper on the palate. Round and full bodied up front and then lightens up mid-palate.

The sturgeon was soft with fine texture.  The lentils added an earthiness to the dish and the light curry tied the two elements together.  The curry flavour also made a red berry flavour come out of the Carmenere.  Another great pairing.

Bison Churrasco with Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Our third pairing:

  • Marinated bison flat iron steak, grilled and served with cassava root gnocchi, sauteed salsify, eggplant caviar with oregano, and chimichurri sauce.  Our pairing was the Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Puente Alto-Maipo Valley.

This was the youngest Don Melchor in our mini-vertical that Concha y Toro provided to us.  Don Melchor, Chile’s first ultra-premium wine is the only one with 21 vintages to its credit that are prize winning and known by wine critic around the world.  Don Melchor is produced from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape from the Puente Alto vineyard in the Alto Maipo Valley near Santiago.  2008 was a cooler vintage for this wine and it was more restrained than the 2007 vintage.  The 2008 Don Melchor was opaque ruby.  Light red cherries, some stemminess and cassis aromas.   Full body.  Very spicy mid palate with ripe plums and cherry flavours.  Dry with some minerality.  As this wine breathed in the glass the cassis flavour became more prominent. Still a young, tight wine, but one that you could enjoy now, or in another 10 or 20 years.

The Bison Churrasco was a wow dish for me.  It was soft, medium rare.  The Chimichurri sauce with olive oil, parsley, cilantro, salt, and garlic flavours really enhanced the bison flavour.  Red wine loves protein and this held true for the Don Melchor and the bison.  In addition the chimichurri sauce I think helped to tone down the spiciness of the wine.

Wagyu beef shortrib with Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 and 1995

Our fourth pairing:

  • Wagyu beef shortrib braised with merken spice and espresso, sauteed portobello mushroom whipped potatoes, green beans, and braising juices reduced with tamarind. To this we had 2 Don Melchor wines.  A 2007 and a 1995 vintage.

The Don Melchor 2007 came from a warmer vintage than the 2008 vintage and you could smell and taste the more opulence of this wine.  It had lots of plum, vanilla and capsicum on the nose.  Very silky mouthfeel.  Peppery round and dry on the palate, with black cherries cassis and oak flavours, and vanilla on the finish.  A very nice wine.

The Don Melchor 1995 is now 17 years old.  You would expect the colour and fruit flavours to have diminished, which they have to some extent.  The wine has changed to a medium plus garnet colour with very slight bricking on the rim. The aromas are more complex with capsicum, chocolate and dark fruit aromas.  Soft, medium body in your mouth.  Pencil leads and dark fruit flavour with higher acidity.  A very balanced, complex wine.

If you have never had Wagyu beef, you should try it.  It is so soft and so buttery rich.  The shortrib was cooked to perfection wit the beef falling apart easily.  I think the Wagyu beef with the big braised flavours with the espresso needed a full bodied wine, and the 2007 Don Melchor fit the bill.  The fruit from this wine paired with the strong flavours of the beef.  The 1995 Don Melchor to me is not as fruity, with more complex aromas and flavours.  It was not quite as good to me with the Wagyu beef, but I would have loved a plate of cheeses to try with it and savour them both together.

Kalamansi honey cheese cake with Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Our fifth (and last) pairing:

  • Kalamansi honey cheese cake with papaya and strawberry salsa.  Paired with Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from the Maule Valley.

The Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2008 was pear skin in colour.  Honey and peach aromas.  Medium body with honey, spice, peaches, apples and flowers flavours. Medium sweetness.  I think this wine paired nicely with the Kalamansi citrus from the cheese cake and the peachy fruit from the wine.

Blue Water Cafe and Don Melchor

If you have never been to Blue Water Cafe, I hope this review of the food and wine pairing convinces you to enjoy a lunch or dinner with them.  Executive Chef Frank Pabst is recognized for his creative flair and his dedication towards responsible seafood practices.  He has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants throughout Germany and France.  In 2010 he was recognized by Vancouver Magazine as “Chef of the Year” and inducted into the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame.  Quite an achievement.

Here is a web link if you would like to find more information about Concha y Toro’s Don Melchor wine,

I really enjoyed this dinner.  All the food and wine were paired wonderfully by the Blue Water Cafe.  I look forward to the next time I sit down and enjoy dinner with friends there.