Monday, September 26, 2011

Ursu Korean BBQ Tacos - Corner of Richards Street and West Georgia Street

I don’t spend much time downtown during the day, but occasionally, I have to go in for a meeting. That was the case one day last week. After my meeting, which went over the lunch hour, I was famished, but rushed, and with very little cash on me. I figured it was a good opportunity to try out some of the new Vancouver street food. I happened to pass by the Ursu Korean BBQ taco truck en route to my meeting and had been thinking about it all meeting long, so I returned to sample their wares. Before saying anything more, I should be up front about my food history. I lived in Mexico for year, and ate lots of great street food, including tacos. I also have had the good fortune to eat lots of Korean food, having lived in places in the US with large Korean populations. (I've even eaten at a great Cuban-Korean joint.) So the deck was stacked against this truck. It sounded intriguing, but I was skeptical. The blending of techniques and ingredients could work, but it could also fail miserably. I was hoping for greatness, but not betting on it.

The have a small menu, appropriate for a street vendor. I ordered two bulgogi beef soft tacos with optional kimchi. They were 2.99 each, so two tacos for basically 6 dollars. The soft corn tortillas were fresh (important for soft tacos), and large enough that 2 tacos was a decent sized lunch for one relatively hungry woman. (I was biking around that day, so hungrier than usual.) They were topped with the bulgogi beef, lettuce, cheese, and a tiny bit of kimchi. The beef was tender, but the strong flavour of the corn tortillas overwhelmed the delicate Korean marinade, compounded by the cheese. Don’t get me wrong, I love cheese, but I thought the combination was a little off.  I like my tacos and my Korean food with some heat, hence asking for the kimchi. Unfortunately, I got only one small piece of kimchi on each taco, which was not enough for me. Too restricted in heat ‘coverage’ to balance the sweetness of their bulgogi marinade (a little too sweet for me in all honesty).

Final assessment is that I liked them, but didn’t love them. They were neither a huge hit nor a disastrous fail. If it were a choice between eating them again as served and McDonald’s, I’d eat the tacos, or even better, I’d try another food truck. However, I do think that some easy changes would make the tacos better, or at least, more to my liking. One, skip the cheese. Cheese may be integral to people’s idea of tacos here in Vancouver, but that’s not the case south of the borders. And it didn’t add anything to these tacos, in my opinion. Quite the opposite, it detracted from them. Two, ask for extra kimchi. The bulgogi is sweet, and needs the counterfoil of the spice. I’ll let you know if I get the chance to try these again, and how I like the modified tacos.

Two thumbs (I’m just doubling my one thumb; Chris didn’t try these with me.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Quails' Gate 2008 Old Vines Foch

Someone gave us a bottle of Quails' Gate 2008 Old Vines Foch as a gift recently. It was very thoughtful, as they know we love wine, tend to drink red, and have become BC wine enthusiasts. We were a little trepidatious, nevertheless. But with no ‘drinking wines’ at home last week, we thought, hey, let’s give it a try. We did, however, have another bottle picked out as a back-up, just in case, and we just about opened it. Chris initially thought the Foch was off. I assured him that it wasn’t, it was just not a great wine. Thankfully, we were distracted by our 2 year old long enough for the Foch to open up a little. I say luckily not because the Foch was fantastic (it wasn’t) but because I would much rather have the Oregon Pinot with duck as originally planned and the Foch was good enough.  It is an interesting wine, with hints of complexity and fullness, hints that don’t deliver in my opinion. It is dark, but not lush. It is not fruity, nor is it big and inky. It doesn’t have a great deal of tannin or acidity. I am describing it in terms of what it isn’t, rather than what it is. That’s because that’s how we experienced it. Chris described it as being something like a cross between a Beaujolais and a Primitivo. I think it’s a great description, if you do not expect the best of either grape. It fell quite flat with food, but was quite pleasant to drink on its own. I will make what might seem like a strange recommendation though, open it the day before you want to drink it. We decanted it, but it was still very tight on the first night. It was much better on the second night. Even Chris actually liked it, rather than tolerated it, and had a second glass.

We tend to be wine with food people, so wine that is best without food is something I don’t think much about. But this wine fits that bill, and is local (as in from BC), and given it’s apparent heft, appropriate for the current season (fall), so on those points, I can recommend it. The 2009 is listed at $24.99, which is a perfectly reasonable price for this wine.O ne reason why we tend to stay away from BC reds is that they just don’t represent good value. I', happy to say that the Foch doesn’t fit this generalization.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bordello's Italian Pizzeria - Kelowna, BC

Last week I happened to be in Kelowna, BC, visiting family, and after a long day of running around after toddlers and a dog, we all desperately needed something to eat, and fast. Given that we were feeding four adults, three toddlers (one of them mine), and a dog, picking up some pizza seemed like a good option. Luckily, my sister had noticed a place the day before while wandering around – Bordello’s Italian Pizzeria – that enabled us to avoid the ubiquitous goopy, greasy, chain pizza.

We ordered three pizzas, a Margherita, a Bernardo, and a Verdura, and two salads, the Italian Chopped, and a spinach salad (not on the website, they no longer make the one listed there) for pick-up. They said 15 minutes, but when our ‘delivery person’ arrived 20 minutes later, not only was the order not ready, she had to wait another 10 minutes. But despite the inaccurate time information, we were overall very happy with our dinner. Living in Vancouver, I actually have access to some decent Italian style pizza, so my standards are pretty high (although by that point in time, I was so hungry that I would have been happy with pretty much anything). Bordello’s is not BiBo (doesn’t quite have the right crispy to chewy ratio in the crust, but isn’t as expensive either), but it’s as good as Marcello’s (a neighborhood standby for us on busy nights). The crusts had a little too much burn on them for me, but the toppings were present in just the right amount, so all in all, quite tasty.

Notably, everyone was happy with the pizza: me, the two year old who eats anything, the two moderately picky adults, the two very picky almost two-year olds, the not-very-adventurous-eater adult who was expecting ‘regular’ pizza. Even the dog who cleaned up the floor under the children. I preferred the two tomato pizzas to the white one, but only slightly, and my preference wasn’t shared by everyone. The salads were on the small side, and pretty much just fine. Fine, as in, OK, but nothing special. If I lived in Kelowna, I would probably just make a salad to two at home instead of buying any there.

Overall then, 4 thumbs up for the pizza (I’ll just treat everyone else’s thumbs as one pair), and probably 2 for the salads. So definitely go for the pizza, but skip the salad.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Golda's Cilantro Pesto

I first tried Golda's products at the Trout Lake Farmer's Market last summer, but then forgot about them, as the excitement and demands of a new job, new house, new neighborhood, and a toddler overwhelmed me. But a few weeks back, I spotted some in the cooler at Bosa Foods. I filed that information away for use at a later date. That date came last week. I wanted something summery and local, and settled on fresh tagliatelli with shrimp (from The Daily Catch) with some of Golda's Cilantro Pesto.

I love traditional basil pesto, and I love cilantro. This pesto doesn't taste like either, but it is delicious. It is richer and has more depth than basil pesto, probably a result of the use of pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts. And those of you who don't like cilantro need not be scared away; I don't taste much classic cilantro flavor in this paste. It is just a lovely vibrant green, rich, but not too rich, and pairs fabulously with shrimp. (I have also used it as a wet rub on roast chicken. Good, but not as good as with the shrimp I think.) We had bocconcini and tomato salad, and Sumac Ridge Gewurzt along with it. Both were great pairings with the pasta dish. It was hard to not eat 2 huge platefuls of the pasta, so it may not be a great idea for a dieter - not because it's unhealthy, but because it's hard to not keep eating and eating. It was a multi-generational hit too: my 2 year old kept asking for more and more and more.

Golda's products come from Vancouver Island, but are available in various stores around southern BC. Well worth seeking out.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Daily Catch Seafood Company at 1418 Commercial Drive

Apologies for my delinquency over the past year; it's been one heck of a year for me. Mostly I haven't been doing much worth writing about, and when I have, there's been no time to write about it. But I have the intention at least to remedy that. (We'll see how far good intentions take me...)

I may try to catch up on some of the restaurants I've been to recently, but for now, I'm sharing what I hope will cease to be one of the best kept secrets in the city - Daily Catch Seafood on Commercial Drive.

They have a wide variety of fresh sustainably caught seafood daily. They are not cheap, and I do sometimes feel guilty for being able to afford such wonderful guilt free fare, but if you can afford it, it's so worth it. It's all so fresh, let me say that again, fresh, and flavorful. It reminds me of the seafood of my childhood. I grew up on the island, and we went shrimping crabbed, fished for cod and salmon, dug for clams, the whole nine yards. Seafood had character, and taste! I had begun to think that the flavors of my youth were wistful creations of my memories, but since I started splurging at this shop, I have learned that no, seafood really can taste like I remember.

Whether your motivation is the flavor, the environment, or some of both (like me), I urge you to take a gander by this store, and take some really great seafood home tonight.

Oh, in case you're wondering, they are an OceanWise partner

Friday, July 30, 2010

Bosa Foods - 562 Victoria Drive

I'm back, and exploring new places around Vancouver and the rest of the province as much as I can. And although having a toddler means we eat out less than before, that, and the fact that I now live in the city full time, means that I cook more, and that, in turn, means that I am always on the look-out for great local products, stores, and the like.

My recent find may be a bit out of the way for some, but worth a trip if you like Italian groceries, and a definite gem for those who live nearby. Bosa Foods, an importer of Mediterranean foods that also sells directly to the public, is located in a residential area at 562 Victoria Drive, a few blocks off of Commercial Drive, just south of Hastings Street. They carry a large selection of pastas, oils, vinegars, tomatoes, sauces, meats, and cheeses, as well as sweets, dishware, and the like. The quality is generally great, as are the prices. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, stop in. If you're not, take a trip next time your cupboards are bare, and stock up.

Be aware the store is not flashy, and you could easily miss if if you weren't looking carefully.

(Note, they have another larger (?) location on Kootenay St. that might be closer to where you are.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gold Train Express II on W. Broadway

It has been a long time since my last posting here, and I apologize for that. Thankfully for me it is not because I have no new BC Food and Wine experiences to write about, just no time to write them up. The baby is keeping us very busy indeed! I will, however, try to get some of our recent restaurant visits and wine tastings written up as I can. As a start on that effort, a short review of Gold Train Express on W. Broadway Ave.

Gold Train Express II is a Vietnamese Restaurant that opened up at 3236 W. Broadway in January. We were eagerly awaiting its opening: we really like Vietnamese food, and it is a great quick, inexpensive meal option that works with children too. We had visited their other location on West 10th in the past, but have always found it dirty, to the point where we were not comfortable eating there. The new location is much cleaner, and with a fairly open kitchen making it easy to keep tabs on food preparation, it feels much less sketchy. The decor is exactly what one would expect in an inexpensive Vietnamese restaurant - fake plants, rocky tables, etc. In fact, I found it difficult to believe that the renovations had taken as long as they did. But it's kind of comforting in its own way, and very up front about the kind and quality of food one can expect.

We've now been several times and found our food to be equally fast and tasty each time. Chris likes the Pho, and I tend to order rice noodle bowls (which are served on plates there and without any extra dipping sauce for the spring rolls which is customary at many similar restaurants - they were quick to bring me some when I asked, however). Unlike the location on W. 10th, this one serves bahn mi, (Vietnamese sub sandwiches), which is what we went for yesterday. We love bahn mi, and we were quite excited to see that we were finally going to be able to get some in the neighborhood. A good bahn mi comes on a French roll, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, often with a bit of pate spread on one side (I usually skip this), some butter or mayo, pickled vegetables, and some form of protein, usually grilled chicken, pork, or beef, although tofu can also be tasty. They are or should be inexpensive ($3.50 here), and substantial enough for a meal for a person with a small to medium sized appetite. These ones are a little smaller (a very little) than most I’ve had elsewhere, and I suspect that they use margarine, but they are still quite delicious. The rolls are perfect, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. (Be warned, we recently learned the hard way they don’t serve them on days they can’t get fresh rolls, like Sundays.) And the fillings are quite generous. They don’t put hot peppers in them as has been typical most other places I’ve eaten bahn mi, but that’s OK since my toddler insists on eating whatever I do and he is not a big fan of chilis as yet. All in all, they were a hit in our house, and we will go back for more.