Sherman's Food Adventures: August 2020

Granville Island Delivery Co

Recently, I had visited Granville Island and although there were people shopping there, it was a whole lot less busy than it would've been during a normal July.  With a lack of international tourists, Granville Island and other tourist attractions are in a bit of a bind.  This is where we, the locals, can help the various businesses in and around the market.  Despite being a tourist spot, there are many gems on the island that many foodies swear by.  So when I was offered a basket of goods from the island from Granville Island Delivery Co, I was more than game.

Some of the best goodies were represented in the basket including possibly one of the most popular in Lee's Donuts.  We got a mix including sprinkles, chocolate glaze, cinnamon, jelly-finned and of course classic honey-dipped.  Yes, there are newer spots in town, but the soft yeast donuts from Lee's are excellent, especially served warm from the fryer.  Skip the lineup (which is long these days) and order some for delivery.

Another spot in the market, that I've had the pleasure of trying in the past, is Chocolatas.  Silky and smooth chocolates that are gorgeous to the eye and a multitude of tastes to the tongue.  In this box, we found flavours such as mojito mint & rum, anejo havana rum, pina colada pineapple rum and earl grey tea.  Yes, there were some more typical flavours including traditional caramel and raspberry & basil so the kiddies could enjoy too.

In a cooler bag with a gel pack at the back of the basket, two more favourites from the market were included.  We got truffle salami from Oyama Sausage Co and sorcier cheese from Benton Brothers.  I've actually had this salami before and it goes really well on a pizza.  Love their selection of
pâtés!  Nearby in the market, I've also picked up cheese to go with my meats from Oyama at Benton Brothers.  The one included in the basket is raw sheep's and cow's milk cheese with a layer of ash in the middle.  Nicely earthy and rich.

The rest of the basket was a wonderful selection of goodies including Nelson Sauvin Kelly Pilsner from Granville Island Brewing, Almond Butter Crunch from Fraser Valley Gourmet, Cream Earl Grey Tea from the Granville Island Tea Company, Pear Walnut Chutney from Luv the Grub, Canadian Maple Almonds from The Nut Merchant, Wildflower Honey from Chilliwack River Valley Natural Honey, Hand Sanitizer from Healing Bees and Figs and Walnut Wine as an accompaniment with Oyama's truffle salami.  Yep, that is a whole lot of goodies from Granville Island.  So if you want to keep enjoying your favourites without needing to drive or transit down there, Granville Island Delivery Co can fill that void!

*Basket of goodies were complimentary*

Rooftop Patio Dining at Joe Fortes

So after our good experience at Glowbal's outside patio along with their strict Covid protocols, we had to find another similar spot to dine.  Seeing how my parents were willing to dine out for the first time since mid-March, we had to choose a place that boasted not only good food, but outdoor dining.  We settled on an ol' favourite in Joe Fortes and their wonderful rooftop patio.  It seemed like everyone had the same idea as it was hard to secure a table!

We were able to sneak in a few happy hour items as we arrived just before 6:00pm.  Of course I had to get the Mini Lobster and Shrimp Rolls.  Nestled inside buttery toasted rolls, the seafood salad inside was dressed in just enough mayo for moisture and binding purposes without making it heavy.  Not overly seasoned, I could taste the shellfish.  Nice little treat before we got onto the main course!

Continuing on with the happy hour menu, we got the Jumbo Tempura Prawns.  So when they describe these as jumbo, they aren't exaggerating.  Just look it the size of them in relation to the lemon wedge!  Beyond the firmly crispy batter, the prawn inside was thick and meaty.  There was a firm snap texture while the natural aroma really came through.

Our final happy hour dish was the Truffle Parmesan Fries.  These were actually not as crispy as previous visits, but I'm pretty sure this was a one-off.  Despite this, they were still good with lots of potato texture.  Of course the aromatic saltiness of the parm as well as the truffle oil made the ketchup not very necessary.  I dipped it into the mayo that came with the prawns.

Now the real thing we were here for - the 2-Tier Seafood Tower!!!  This beauty sported oysters, clams, mussels, scallop ceviche, tuna tataki, cocktail prawns and lobster. We didn't get the happy hour version because we wanted the lobster, hence it set us back $78.00 per tier.  Worth every penny because other than Blue Water, this is one of the best seafood towers in town.  Things were fresh and prepared just right.

For my main, I decided to go for one of their features being the Halibut Cheeks in lemon butter with golden beets and diced zucchini and roasted potatoes. Oh what a treat!  The unmistakable texture of halibut cheeks with buttery and elastic strands were beautifully prepared.  Subtly-seasoned so I could enjoy the fresh taste of the fish.

Viv also had fish in the Steelhead Trout with lemon beurre blanc with the same accompaniments.  With beautiful grill marks, the fish was cooked expertly where it was flaky and moist.  Again, the seasoning wasn't overly aggressively where the dish let the protein do all the heavy-lifting.  Loved the golden beets as they were sweet with a subtle earthiness.

My daughter also went for something sea-dwelling in the Maple Salmon with tempura asparagus and gnocchi with creamed spinach.  This was another dinner feature and it was also quite good.  Once again, the salmon was cooked just right where the centre was barely done.  The maple glaze provided a delicious lacquer that was sweet and caramelized.  Gnocchi were pillowy soft while the asparagus was crispy.
It seemed like all of us were ordering fish since my dad had the Blackened Ling Cod with pico de gallo, roasted potatoes, golden beets and diced zucchini.  Sounding like a broken record (hey, these are popular again!), the fish was flaky and buttery.  With the blackening spices, there was more depth to the flavours than the other dishes.  Nice brightness and contrast provided by the pico de gallo.

Okay, my mom did not get any seafood and opted for the 7 oz Sirloin Steak prepared perfectly medium-rare (also evenly cooked on both sides).  It was pretty buttery for a sirloin steak as it usually can be a bit more chewy.  It was served with the same zucchini and golden beets.  Rather than roast potatoes, there was buttermilk mashed potatoes which were a bit more stiff than creamy.  However, we didn't mind that as it wasn't overly heavy.

Predictably, my son had the 12 oz New York Striploin also prepared medium-rare.  Since it was a better cut of meat, the texture was softer and more tender.  Instead of mashed potatoes, he got an order of Macaroni & Cheese as his carb.  Good choice as it was cheesy and creamy with al dente noodles.  Loved the crunch on top.  So after so many months of not eating out, it was good to make up some of the good meals we missed with a visit to Joe Fortes.  The bonus was their fabulous rooftop patio under the Summer sun.

The Good:
- Solid eats as usual
- Best seafood tower in town
- Beautiful rooftop patio

The Bad:

- Doesn't come cheap

Private Dinner with Chef Kristian Leidig

Awhile back, I had visited the now-closed Ham & Eggmans with a few others for a delicious brunch.  Owner operator Chef Kristian Leidig created a menu that was both familiar and unique that satisfied many different palates and dietary needs.  Unfortunately, Covid-19 came on full force and his restaurant (like many others) was forced to close.  However, he is still cooking, holding private dinners in Squamish.  We were recently invited out to try his 5-course French-inspired dinner out on a gorgeous rooftop (regularly $69.00).  Definitely a nice way to finish a day out in Squamish, where there are not many choices left for fine-dining ever since Covid-19 helped close restaurants there as well.

To kick things off, we had an Amuse Bouche consisting of a Prawn-stuffed Tomato with smoked paprika, mirepoix and garlic panko.  A little more than one-bite, the tender tomato still retained its shape.  Inside, the buttery shrimp had a light meaty snap while the veggies were well-seasoned and naturally sweet.  As much as the base of garlic panko served as a stability device, it also added aromatic crunch to the dish.

At first, I thought the Rillette de Carnard was going to be shared between Jacqueline and myself, but alas, we were served ONE EACH!  Very generous portion of tender and delicious tasting duck with rosemary potatoes, cherry gastrique as well as crostini and almonds.  There was actually more duck than crostinis on the plate.  Naturally, the tangy and sweet gastrique went well with the rillette where the crunch of the nuts and crostinis added another texture.

From this, we headed off to something much lighter in the Carrot and Fennel Salad with Summer greens, pears, walnuts, and comté dressed in orange & ginger vinaigrette.  As Maggi mentioned, this was a good transition from the heavy rillette as we progressed towards the main protein.  Really enjoyed the comté as the saltiness with a touch of sweetness complimented the veggies and crunch from the walnuts.  The salad was lightly dressed where it allowed us to taste the individual components.

Our main dish was Roasted Sablefish atop saffron hominy grits and haricot verts with a bouillabaisse sauce.  As described in the previous passage, the progression made sense from the salad to the buttery fish.  The best part was the sauce as it had a rich aroma from the shellfish and depth from the reduction.  It was more than enough to flavour the dish in terms of taste and smell.  Loved the extra hit of aroma in the saffron with the nicely textured grits.  Beans were perfect being vibrant and crunchy.

We ended off with the perfect Summer dessert in the Peach & Berry Dacqoise with hazelnut meringue and Chantilly cream.  Other than the fresh fruit, the best part of the dessert was the meringue as it was airy, crispy and light.  Not too sweet either and of course a bit nutty.  The cream wasn't too sweet as well, instead letting the fruit do the heavy-lifting.  Overall, I really enjoyed the meal as it was not fussy while well-prepared.  I went away full and satisfied.  Chef Kristian is planning to bring this back into Vancouver and of course, he can be booked for catering dinners too.

*Dinner was complimentary*

The Good:

- Well-prepared

- Well-portioned

- Lovely setting

The Bad:

- Well, it is in Squamish, but make a day of it


Dine OutSide Vancouver @ The Rise Eatery

Now I'm sure you have heard about Dine Out Vancouver where some of the best restaurants in town offer up special multi-course meals at fixed prices.  That usually occurs during the slower month of January into early February.  With Covid-19 and the accompanying fears of dining inside a restaurant, we now find Dine OutSide Vancouver where restaurants are offering multi-course meals that are served not only inside, but outside and to go.  I was invited to try the menu at The Rise Eatery along with Jacqueline outside on their patio behind the restaurant.  It truly is a hidden slice of peace and quiet to enjoy the food and sunshine.

Before we got to the food, we tried a few cocktails first including the popular Lolliwood North featuring Bench 1775 sauvignon blanc, lychee liquor, elderflower soda, cranberry & orange-mango popsicle.  This was refreshing, especially for a hot day.  Crisp and clean with various fruity notes, the cocktail was so easy to drink.  Presented in a beautiful green hue, The Green Light consisted of white rum, matcha, ginger ale, lime, vanilla, celery bitters and vegan foam.  As much as this appeared to be matcha-forward, it really wasn't.  Rather, it was light, and the matcha was subtle.  No bitterness or aftertaste.  

For our appies, we started with the Chicken Seoul Good with KFC (Korean Fried Chicken), wild mushroom cream, truffle oil and grated parm.  We've had this before and it didn't disappoint.  The nuggets of dark meat were tender and juicy with a firmly crisp rice flour coating (hence gluten-free).  As much as the mushroom cream appeared to be heavy, there wasn't too much and the lemon really brightened things up.  I liked how they were conservative with the truffle oil as it can often be overpowering.

Visually-appealing, the Lo Hay Salad Vegan Edition sported julienned cucumber, daikon, carrot, pickled ginger, onion, tomato and taro crisps with arugula, crisp vermicelli, toasted sesame and peanuts dressed in a apricot and beet vinaigrette.  Light and refreshing for a Summer's evening, this salad had plenty of textures going on and the brightness of the veggies.  Strikingly red, the vinaigrette was mildly sweet with good acidity and a bit of earthiness.  I enjoyed this very much.

Of course a visit to The Rise isn't complete without their famed Uni-versal Pasta XO Edition ($8.00 upcharge if you pick this for the set menu).  I consider this one of the real gems in Vancouver where it is as delicious as it is strikingly beautiful.  A combination of squid ink pasta, sea urchin cream, free run egg yolk, house XO sauce, sautéed prawns, flying fish roe and toasted seaweed, there is umaminess, taste of the sea, silky textures and the meaty snap of the prawns.  One of my favourite dishes in Vancouver without a doubt.

Our other main was the Fryday Meat-up featuring a medium-rare 5 oz. Flat Iron Steak, miso gravy, togarashi compound butter, frites and spicy vegetable jardinère.  Once again, this was a creative use of Asian ingredients that worked with what was essentially steak frites.  Beyond the tender and well-prepared steak, the compound butter was creamy and slightly spicy with umaminess.  Loved the pickled veggies as they were crunchy and offered up an appetizing zing.  Rich and thick, the miso gravy was a good accompaniment to the crispy fries.

I'm not a huge fan of lavender, but the Inside Scoop was fantastic.  It was basically mochi ice cream with passionfruit ice cream in the middle.  Dried lavender was sprinkled on top.  So yes, I did get the lavender notes, but it was completely balanced off by the tangy and sweet ice cream.  Even though it looked really cold, the mochi on the outside was soft and thin.  Loved the colour of the dish.

The other dessert was the Boba Coma with tea tres leches, brown sugar tapioca pearls, crème anglaise, crema, brown butter crumble and warm caramel.  Hidden inside the soft and lightly sweet tres leche cake were tender boba that were just sweet enough.  I liked the crumble as it added more buttery sweetness as well as crunch.  This was right up my alley as it looked sweet, but it really wasn't over-the-top.  Overall, we enjoyed our meal and personally, I've never had a bad meal at The Rise.  They are offering a worthy menu for Dine OutSide Vancouver for $35.00.  It is available from August 21st to September 21st, 2020.

*All food and beverages were complimentary

The Good: 

 - When fusion is done right

 - Vegan and gluten-free options 

- Cute little patio 

The Bad:

- Too bad the Uni-versal Pasta is an upcharge (but I get it, higher food costs for that dish)

Feed Your Flock at Douce Diner

Fresh off our meal at Potluck Hawker Eatery and also a pit stop at Popina for some puff cream, Mijune and I were searching for more food.  We settled on North Vancouver, but did not choose a destination.  As we were driving towards 2 potential spots (Orto and Smoke & Bones), we took a quick right turn onto Pemberton off Marine Drive to see if Douce Diner was full or not.  Normally, Douce only offers brunch, but on Friday and Saturday nights, they do a special dinner called "Feed Your Flock" which included fried chicken and all the fixins.  Lucky for us, they had one table left and as a bonus, it was comedy night!

We didn't go overboard and settled on the 2- Pack Feed Your Flock meal that included 5 pieces of chicken.  It was really a half chicken as it had one drumstick, one thigh, one wing and 2 pieces of breast.  This was some pretty solid fried chicken featuring juicy and tender meat (including the breast) that was encased by a super thin, yet crispy batter.  The skin was fairly well-rendered and the meat was mildly seasoned.  I merely dunked the chicken into their fabulous house-made hot sauce (served on the side).

Included in the meal was a choice of 2 sides and Mijune being Mijune, decided to have ALL the sides!   My favourite of the bunch was the Shoestring Fries.  I already knew I would like them since I had them on a previous visit with their messy and delicious burger.  These thin and crispy fries still retained some potato texture in the middle, but really, they were quite crunchy and well-seasoned.  They were best eaten with the side of side of thick buttery gravy on the side.

There are so many different interpretations of Coleslaw and everyone has their preferences.  For me personally, I dislike overly dressed slaw as well as the type that is pulverized to bits (ie. KFC colesalw).  So the one at Douce was right up my alley.  It was a combination of cabbage, red cabbage and carrots that was lightly dressed.  Refreshing side in my opinion, but for some I can see it being underdressed.

Featuring halved new potatoes, the Potato Salad was also a very simple concoction.  It sported perfectly cooked potatoes where they were fork tender while still retaining a firm texture.  Again, this salad wasn't overdressed, so that it didn't eat overly heavy despite being all potato.  It was mildly seasoned, so I actually dunked it into the hot sauce.  I recommend you do the same if you like spice.

The final option for sides was the Marinated Bean Salad that featured black, kidney and navy beans.  They were prepared perfectly being tender and soft while retaining their appearance and structure.  Another mildly-seasoned salad with some acidity.  Although there probably wasn't any in the salad, for some reason I tasted nutmeg. 

Also included with all meals were Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits and Gravy.  Judging by looks alone, the rise on the biscuits was a clear indication of the buttery and fluffy layers hidden within.  That it was and combined with the crispy and firm exterior, lots of textures at play.  The gravy was pretty solid being buttery and only lightly salty.

Of course Mijune couldn't finish the meal officially until after getting dessert...  So we ended up with the Brûlée Banana Split with pineapple, chocolate and strawberry toppings.  Other than being a delicious banana split, the brûléed banana really elevated the dessert.  With a sweet and smoky hard crunch, it added both texture and another layer of sugary goodness.  Combined with the dessert and the previous meal at Potluck, we didn't finish our fried chicken dinner (yes, to Mijune's dismay...).  It was more than enough food for two (well, we did get all the sides...) and well-prepared.  Good option on the North Shore for eat-in or take-out.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Properly executed fried chicken
- Reasonable-pricing
- That banana split!

The Bad:
- Small diner, so if you don't get a table, you are getting takeout

Potluck Hawker Eatery

For a city that is so diverse with Asian cuisine, some of them are sorely underrepresented.   These include Malaysian, Indonesian and Filipino.  So why not open up a place that dishes up hawker-style street food representing those foods with also a dash of Thai for good measure.  Yes, we've seen this before with Manis in Surrey, but nothing like it in Vancouver, especially on the West side.  Also, with Chef Justin Cheung at the helm (of Longtail Kitchen fame) to bring it all together, it appears to be a recipe for success (especially at a reasonable price-point).  With that in mind, Mijune and I tried out the entire menu (yes, that is what Mijune does) to do a thorough assessment of the place.

Okay, we were served a few things before we got to the Salted Egg Yolk Fried Chicken Sando, however, this is THE thing to get here hands-down.  Consisting of a deep-fried chicken thigh dressed with salted egg yolk garlic butter nestled in grilled Fife Bakery milk bread, it was further amped with cereal crumb, green mango slaw and tamarind chili jam.  OMG.  I wasn't going to eat it all, but I had to.  It was my duty to honour such a delicious creation!  Buttery and lightly crispy, the fluffy milk bread was nicely contrasted by the crunchy salted egg yolk spiked chicken.  The chicken itself was supremely juicy and was complimented perfectly by the crunchy and tangy slaw as well as the sweet spiced tamarind jam.  Foodgasm at its best and only available from 3:00pm - 5:00pm during hawker hour.

The chicken sando can be had with their Malaysian Shaker Fries for $3.00 extra and they are worth every nickle (because the penny doesn't exist anymore...).  These were tossed with ample sugar,
dried galangal powder, rice powder, salt, chili and fried curry leaves.  It was served with ketchup but I found it to go really well with their house-made sambal as well.  Although the fries themselves were of the frozen krinkle cut variety, they were fried perfectly crispy.  As such, it help up and stayed crispy throughout.  Loved the sweetness and extra layer of flavour provided by the sugar.

The tastiness continued with the PFC Chicken Wings dressed in fish caramel sauce.  To be frank, I thought the wings didn't look like much when it arrived, but looks were definitely deceiving.  Coated with rice flour, these wings were appealingly crispy and almost light in texture.  The crunch gave way to tender chicken where the juices were definitely flowing.  The sweet umaminess of fish caramel (
pandan infused palm sugar, sesame and dried chili) really came through while a touch of spice kept things in balance.  Definitely addictive and immediately has become one of the best Asian-style wings in the city in my opinion.

One item that may have needed a bit more depth-of-flavour was Mama Cheung's Laksa.  Okay, I'm not here to insult anyone's mom as the broth was the ideal viscosity being rich and creamy.  There was also appealing aromatics as well as a touch of background spice.  What really could've elevated the dish, they already had in their kitchen - the house-made sambal.  The fermented shrimp paste as well as the added spice would've given the broth more depth and complexity.  We did add this after-the-fact and it greatly improved the flavours.  It could've been served on the side, but also should've been added to the broth at the beginning.  Oh, and that Thai Iced Tea in the background...  On point with just the right amount of sweetness.

Showing off some serious wok-skills, the Nasi Goreng featured discernible grains of chewy rice that were smoky and nutty.  Displaying a good amount of wok hei, the rice was also not very greasy (which meant they achieved the good wok fry without dousing it in too much oil).  Flavours were layered including caramelization, spice and umaminess.  Nestled within the rice, we found bits of seafood and large bouncy shrimp.  Literally topping it off was a fried egg that still sported a runny yolk.

Continuing with the wok, we thought the Char Kway Teow was even better than the already excellent Nasi Goreng.  Look at it, there were no broken noodles to speak of which meant a few things.  First, the noodles were fresh.  Second, the wok heat was high and the toss was on point where it cooked through the ingredients without destroying the noodles.  Once again, there was a good combination of sweet caramelization, aromatics from just the right amount of grease and savouriness from the combination of soy sauces.

Oh the eating kept going and one dish that looked and tasted familiar was a vegetarian take on the butter beef found at Phnom Penh with the Beet Carpaccio.  Flavours slightly different, but the usual
spicy fish sauce & lime juice, chilies, shallots, fried shallots, mint, cilantro & fresh herbs were all there. Nice acidity provided by the lime juice.  I liked how the beets were sliced thin, yet at the same time, retained some meatiness in texture.  For me, I enjoyed it but since I'm more of a meat guy, I would've loved it with sliced tenderloin.  Personal preferences aside, I can understand that they have to offer some vegetarian options as well.

Another classic dish we had was the Roti Canai with caramelized onion curry dipping sauce.  As much as the roti itself was flaky and crisp with certain appealingly chewy portions, the star of the show was the dip. It was rich with the right thickness so that it would caress each piece of roti that was dipped into it.  Deeply sweet with a touch of spice and plenty of aromatics, I could've honestly taken a full cup of it.  This literally could go with anything and combined with their house-made sambal, one could make an old shoe taste good (quoting Mijune).  Although I'm not into eating old shoes...

Something off their Hawker Hour menu was the Fermented Red Bean Curd Fried Pork Ribs.  These were somewhat reminiscent of the ones you would find at Taiwanese restaurants such as Pearl Castle.  However, these were drier and more subtle in flavour.  These would be good with a beer or two since there was a muted saltiness combined with fermented umaminess.  I actually would've preferred them a bit more moist and less "dry ribs-like".  But the flavour was good.

Something less heavy and in fact, refreshing was the Burmese Shrimp Ceviche.  It featured

cucumber, cherry tomatoes & shrimp lightly pickled in fresh lime juice, fish sauce, chili and dried shrimp powder.  Depending on whether I got a slice of bird's eye chili or not, the impact varied.  Without it, the flavours were mild.  If I did get a chili, it was fairly potent and impactful.  Maybe a bit more lime juice and even more chilis would've been a good addition.  Otherwise, it was fine with crunchy fresh cucumber and delicate shrimp with a sweet snap.

Oh they left one of the most majestic dishes to the end in the Crispy Pata.  I've had quite a few versions at various Filipino restaurants and I have to say this one was legit.  Braised for 3 hours and dried overnight, it was deep fried perfectly with super crispy and air crackling with juicy tender meat underneath.  Sometimes, when pork fat is not prepared properly, it is flabby and not appealing to eat.  This one was so gelatinous and delicate, there was nothing but pure pleasure eating it.  The usual vinegary sweet soy on the side helped cut through the richness.

Of course we had to end things off on a sweet note where we tried the Roti with condensed milk and blueberry compote.  Taking the already flaky and crispy roti and topping it with sweetness made it something completely different than the savoury version.  It was not more of a flaky pancake of sorts.  Hard to describe, but trust me, it was yummy.  That was a common theme with the food we tried as the majority were on point and just utterly delicious.  That sando is going to be elicit long lines in the future.  Quote me on that.  If you are craving something different, in particular, SE Asian eats, go check out Potluck Hawker Eatery.  You won't be disappointed.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Impactful flavours and properly prepared eats
- Reasonable pricing
- That Fried Chicken Sando!

The Bad:
- Could've upped the impact of some dishes (laksa and ceviche)
- Small place, limitations with how much food they can put out at one time

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