Oru ceviche bar tower of awesomeness

We unexpectedly got to sample Oru’s new tower of ceviches, escabeche, lomi lomi, and poisson cru when I hosted my last birthday dinner there. My guests and I were impressed by the presentation, selection, and deliciousness. In fact, the tower was nearly enough to feed us on its own (we still made a valiant effort to digest the 3-course set menu and dessert).

As of this posting, the ceviche bar tower includes:

  • Humpback Shrimp Escabeche
  • Sing Lobster Poisson Cru
  • Humboldt Squid Ceviche
  • Grilled Albacore Escabeche
  • Lois Lake Steelhead Lomi Lomi
  • Grilled Kyuquot Sablefish Ceviche
  • Sawmill Bay Oyster Caesar
  • Qualicum Scallop Ceviche
  • Dungeness Crab & Cilantro Salad

Try the tower experience for $59 per person or opt for single tastings at $6 a pop.

Oru at Fairmont Pacific Rim on Urbanspoon

And if you want to know what else a custom menu at Oru could get you on your birthday, browse through my photos of our night:

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Burnt ends are just the beginning at Hog Shack

Off the menu requests.
Off the menu requests.

When I first fell in love with Hog Shack, it wasn’t because of its craft beer taps, its porcine decor, or even anything on the menu. What did me in were the Burnt Ends–the blackened, fatty bits of the brisket’s point end–which are available for gleeful ingestion should you come in when they’ve got ’em.

I don’t know why they don’t list this glorious item on the regular menu. Until they do: grab your seat, ask if they have it tonight, decide if you want the $12 appetizer or the $16 plate with all the fixings, feast, and then thank me later. Continue reading “Burnt ends are just the beginning at Hog Shack”

East Richmond soup fiends, get your fix at Farmhouse Bakery

I’ve been coming here 3-4 times a week since they opened in the summer of 2013. Every soup is swoon-worthy (my favourite thus far being the Coconut Thai Vegetable) and even the buttered slice seems to have been thoughtfully architected as the perfect soup companion.

A great $5 treat for those seeking a hot bowl near Cambie and No. 5 Road. Continue reading “East Richmond soup fiends, get your fix at Farmhouse Bakery”

Ohanami, bicycles, and a West Coast sakura tea service

My favourite time to be outdoors in Vancouver is when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Our new neighbourhood is lined with aged blossoming trees, shaped with an artist’s precision by city stewards. The avenue that we frequent the most, from a distance, looks as if a guard of bonsais had been trained to rain pink and white petals on Marpole denizens.

The sakura zensen, or cherry blossom front, is an official weather pattern in Japan, where citizens emerge from their homes in droves during the fleeting Ohanami season. Ways to reflect upon and admire the sakura are numerous, but for many, it begins with a picnic under the blooms, often enjoyed with treats and tea. Celebrations can also linger beyond dusk, getting tipsy as the night goes on.

You can approximate this Japanese tradition in Vancouver if you know where to go. My top picks, in no particular order:

Nitobe Memorial Garden (UBC)

My shutter finger goes wild at this beautiful Japanese garden retreat in UBC. This year, one of the trees is laden with tags that people write on with messages to loved ones. It’s said that the well wishes will spread as the petals scatter in the wind.

Bike the Blossoms – April 28, 2012

Got bike? Follow the flowers with your cyclist brethren on the 28th. Your route will be lined with petalled trees, and vendors that you pass will sometimes have goodies for you to enjoy when you pause.

If you’re bereft of bicycle or not free that day, find your own viewing spot using these resources from the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival:

The Urban Tea Merchant

The Urban Tea Merchant's courtyard of sakura

The Urban Tea Merchant remains unrivalled as my afternoon tea service of choice, much of it due to its rotating collection of top-tier teas and the seasonality of its tea services. Their courtyard on Alberni is canopied by cherry blossom trees each spring.

The courtyard blossoms have already come and gone this year, but their Ohanami tea service, featuring several items infused with cherry blossoms, is still being served until April 30th. This menu ranks as my favourite high tea food pairing to date–it is not to be missed.

Sakura West Coast Tea Service

$30 per person (minimum 2 persons; 90 minute seating)

to begin
Tea Sommelier’s choice of chilled white tea

sweets
tea-infused macaron, chevron strawberry, chocolate truffle
edible spring flowers, Sakura! Sakura! tea-infused jelly, sous vide vanilla watermelon, green tea-infused melon ** LOVED THIS! **

savouries
open-faced smoked salmon & wasabi aioli with in-house ponzu jelly
miso-maple glazed sable fish wrapped in butter lettuce ** LOVED THIS! **
spring rice roll with honey & balsamic, shiitake mushroom and crisp vegetables
Japanese fish crackers, crisp soba noodles with tangy seaweed salad and sesame crumble ** LOVED THIS! **

My seasonal tea pairing picks for the Sakura service

Both of The Urban Tea Merchant’s Ohanami tea features pair beautifully with the Japanese-fusion menu.

Urban Tea Merchant: Enchanted Beauty green tea

Enchanted Beauty Tea: “Sophisticated oolong tea leaves are handcrafted into a bouquet with amaranth and orange lily. This TWG Tea composition will bloom in the teacup.”

Urban Tea Merchant: Sakura! Sakura! green tea

Sakura! Sakura! Tea: “An ode to spring, this fragrant TWG blend evokes Kyoto’s most celebrated season. A scattering of cherry blossoms and green tea yields a most aromatic and elegant fragrance.”

Where will you go for your cherry blossom celebration?

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On why I hate sandwiches but love Meat & Bread

This is what I think of when I hear the word sandwich.

Take a look at the other members of Chow.com’s Sandwich Hall of Shame >

My sandwich trauma stems from a childhood overrun with Wonderbread and  lunch meats of questionable provenance: liverwurst, bologna, spam, Vienna sausage. [Spam and Vienna sausage are magic with rice, though.]

Wham, Bam, Spam!
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License by Kevin H.

Scarred by this kind of sandwich history, I find myself amazed at how I have come to frequent Meat & Bread, one of Gastown’s newest breed of minimalist, casual eatery.

Meat & Bread: storefront

The restaurant is exactly what it claims to be: a place with a small but stellar selection of meat and bread. You will find 4 sandwiches to pick from on any given day.

Meat & Bread: porchetta

Porchetta, $8. They pronounce it like “pork-etta”. Fattylicious roast pork chopped together with its juicy stuffings and topped with salsa verde. My favourite.

Meat & Bread: meatball sandwich

Meatball, $8. 3-5 giant, oozy, spicy rounds of pork drenched in housemade sambal. My husband’s favourite.

Meat & Bread: daily special

Daily Special, $8. Previous offerings have included jerk chicken, duck confit with blue cheese, and braised turkey leg. You can check out what is on feature that day by visiting their website before you arrive. I occasionally cheat on my porchetta with these temptations, and it is a constant battle at the counter between the tried-and-true and the I-can’t-believe-you-can-offer-that-in-a-sandwich.

Grilled Cheese, $7. Shaved onion and aged white cheddar melting goo between generously buttered toast. I ordered it once for my daughter but she kept stealing bites from my porchetta…so no photo, sorry.

Meat & Bread: maple bacon ice cream sandwich

They do veer off course to entice you with their single dessert item, which is simply labelled ice cream sandwich on their menu board. Don’t be fooled…this is a to-die-for concoction of maple & bacon ice cream, sandwiched between stroopwafel-like wafers that are similarly infused with piggy grease. If you haven’t tried this out yet, I suggest you split one of their regular sandwiches with a friend so you can have enough room in your belly for dessert.

Photo courtesy © Cathy Burrell of Cathy Eats

If you like their housemade mustard and sambal as much as we do, grab a jar off the shelf near the entrance and keep it in your fridge for sandwich emergencies. Extra handy when you take M&B fare to go and find, like we have, that the usual dollop of mustard present on your cutting board plate is unfortunately not something that can be easily transported.

Meat & Bread: Coca-Cola alternatives

There’s not much to dislike, but I have found a few minor areas for improvement:

  1. Stock Coca-Cola. The mom & pop colas are just not cutting it for me. I feel like a jerk for smuggling in my favourite carbonated bevvie from the pocket of my daughter’s diaper bag. [UPDATE: They now sell locally made Sip sodas–these herb-infused sparkling waters are a great fallback, but I still ask for less guilt and more Coke, pretty please.]
  2. Be open for dinner. One diner came by at 5:05pm and was aghast to see that he was too late for a sandwich. He looked at my cousin, who was on her way out, and asked, “Nooo…?”. “Yes,” she replied sadly. “No! No,” he exclaimed. My cousin looked sympathetic. Up and shaking went his fist, and from his mouth came a wail straight out of a Star Trek epic: “NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!” I hope he got his sandwich fix the next day.
  3. Be open on Sundays. I need you guys 7 days a week!

Maybe I’ll see you at the Meat & Bread communal table one day soon.

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Crepe heaven is found at La Bretagne Creperie

This is Blogathon post #34 of 48 in support of the David Suzuki Foundation

La Bretagne Creperie is place I go to satisfy my frequent cravings for crepes and galettes.

La Bretagne Creperie: peche melba?

It’s leagues better than the other franchises that are spattered across downtown Vancouver. Enjoy your meal while sipping on apple cider and listening to Isabelle sing French ditties while she cooks.

La Bretagne Creperie
795 Jervis Street | Downtown Vancouver
(604) 688-5989

La Bretagne Creperie on Urbanspoon

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