Get Fresh Guide

May 17, 2010 No comments »

My late night adventuring more often than not results in some greasy food cravings and last night was no different. As I was waiting in line for some pizza I starting talking to the guy in front of me about food of course! Anyways he gave me his card and I checked out the website. It’s pretty cool!

getfreshguide.com

From what I gather from their website is that the get fresh guide is a guide designed to map out and highlight the many local producers we have here in Victoria, BC. The guide will include a map as well as a little information on each business. For a fee, local businesses can buy their place in this guide and really get their name out there. Their website isn’t fully up and running right now with all the info but apparently it will be in just a few weeks, but right now there is info on local markets and lists of what fruits and veggies are in season.

Supporting your local producers is really important not only for the environment but also for the community and local economy, and here on our blog we love highlighting places that keep local in mind. So anyways check out this guide! It sounds like a fantastic idea :)

Thanks to guy at pizza place for the card

The most yumtastic cupcake in Victoria?

April 2, 2010 No comments »

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Ah…  the ever elusive question.  A rather touchy one at thats well… what are the best cupcakes that money can buy?  Everybody swears by a certain mix, a recipe passed down, a certain store, or if they’re lucky enough – specialty places where they can purchase delicious cupcakes to consume.  Which is the best though?

Sometime, somewhere a few months ago, a group of us decided it would be a great idea to just buy some cupcakes and see which ones are the best that money can buy.  Our crew of 4 – Katie, Taylor, Janine and Felix… decided to do the ultimate sacrifice.  We donated our palates, taste buds, and figures in the name of cupcake science to see which cupcake is worth of being crowned “The most yumtastic cupcake in Victoria”.

The contenders

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I can’t quite say too much about this because personally I was at work at the time.  I would say more about the decor and the ambiance of the places… but I think that’s an article that the girls will have to write.  Without further ado, here are the contestants:

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  • Pink Sugar – (2) Pink icing, blue icing
  • Thrifty Foods
    • cupcake mix/frosting from a tin – made by Taylor (1)
    • store made cupcakes (1)
  • Starbucks (1)
  • Ooh La La Cupcakes (1)
  • Crumsby Cupcake Cafe (1) – mini cupcake

The scoring method

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Some may argue with our scoring method and question its validity, but we felt that these were fair scoring criteria.  It is as follows:

  • We tried to use all chocolate cupcakes as possible.  Ultimately, there are some variations between taste and the choice of icing… but that’s the way it goes.  Plus every respectable cupcake shop has chocolate, right?
  • We assigned each cupcake a number which sort of lets it become anonymous…. You might be asking how?  More on that later.
  • Made a little matrix, 1-7 for rows, and each column were the criteria: Appearance, Moistness, Taste, Icing, *total score*, comments
  • Rating 1-5, where 1 = really terrible, and 5 = totally awesome
  • Each cupcake would be rated in each category and given an total score.  Biggest score wins.

The testing

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The three girls went to buy the cupcakes, and I just joined them at the end of the day with my camera to snap pics and test these cupcakes out.  We rated appearance first to find the most attractive one. Katie and I were “volunteered” to be blindfolded to keep the test as unbiased as possible.  The cupcakes were separated into quarters by Janine and Taylor.  They both sampled and scored it.  They also fed us the cupcakes, and we gave feedback verbally while they scored it for us.  And let me tell you, it is pretty freaking weird being blindfolded and tasting things.

Between each cupcake, we were given water to cleanse the palate.  At the end… yea, it got pretty gross after eating so many cupcakes in a row.

The results (maximum score of 20)

Overall best cupcake:

*the order is in order of: Katie, Felix, Taylor, Janine.. overall scoring and average score:

  • Homemade: 15/7/15/11 = 12
  • Pink Sugar – Pink Icing: 12/9.5/7/11 = 9.875
  • Crumsby – Mini cupcake: 8/7/8/9 = 8
  • Starbucks: 14.5/14.5/12.5/12 = 13.375
  • Ooh La La: 14/11/11/12 = 12
  • Pink Sugar – Blue Icing: 11/13.5/12/10 = 11.6.25
  • Thrifty Foods: 7/7/6/6 = 6.5

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Best in each category:

  • Appearance aka most seductively looking food porn worthy cupcake: Ooh La la (4 votes)
  • Moistness: Pink Sugar – blue (1 vote), Taylors-homemade-from-a-box-cupcake (3 votes)
  • Taste: Starbucks (3 votes), Homemade (2 votes)… there was a tie from one of the judges
  • Icing: Pink Sugar – pink (1 vote), Starbucks (3 votes)

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By all means…. this means that…. STARBUCKS wins the cupcake contest!!!!!!!  Which is pretty ridiculous and crazy.  They make a pretty okay cup of coffee, and their pastries are nothing special.  But damn, they seriously have some good well manufactured cupcakes from that factory in the Delta.  I remembered it being pretty moist, has a nice light balanced chocolate flavour.  It had a butter cream icing that was okay, but it was light and matched the lightness of the cake.  Balance was the key differentiator here.  Most of the other ones were too dry, too sweet, too dense of a cake etc.  Starbucks actually had it figured out.

Tidbits and Comments:

Homemade cupcake: “This tastes homemade”

Starbucks: “Mmm… buttercream.”

Thrifty’s: “This cupcake is offensive… the gummy bear thing on the top of the cupcake was the best part”

Pink Sugar – Blue: “Icing tastes like fruit, cake was bad”

Pink Sugar – Pink: “Icing too light, cake too heavy”

Thoughts

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Extremely surprising that Starbucks won the contest.  I know for a fact Janine wasn’t pleased… but her tastebuds don’t lie to her though.  Even she rated Starbucks as the best.  I worked there before and I knew they had solid cupcakes.  I was pretty surprised it won.  Remember I was blindfolded.  That aside, it seems that homemade from a box cupcakes are the 2nd most favourable cupcakes!  I guess everybody loves that signature taste that they grew up with eating mom’s cupcakes.  I personally detest the taste and can definitely identify that taste any day… but I suppose it’s like instant noodles/mac and cheese/comfort food – there’s just something about it that makes you happy.  Plus… for value, they are definitely the cheapest.  We made a batch of like 20 or so, works out to be about 25 cents a cupcake.  Starbucks was $2.36 including tax.  Ooh La La was $3.15 each including tax.  Not sure what Pink Sugar was, but I’m sure it’s in that price range.  And Crumby’s was $1.51 per mini cupcake including tax.

Do the cupcake shops offer value?  For one, they definitely have the most enticing looking cupcakes around with their enticing and inviting bright colours.  The icing is typically piped out and ties to be inventive with the flavour, which may be a hit or miss.  There’s the convenience factor… want a cupcake?  Just go buy some!  But at the same time, at $3 per cupcake, I personally think it’s a little expensive… cupcakes really aren’t that hard to prepare.   You too can make it look equally as cool with a bit of tender love and care.

But for sure, if you want a bit of flair at your party and want something different… hit up the cupcake shops.  I don’t think they’re the best, but they’re consistent, and they’re attractive to look at.  Certainly will have all your guests gush over it.  But if you want some really solid tasting cupcakes – apparently Starbucks is the way to go!

Pink Bicycle – Gourmet burgers | Victoria, BC

March 29, 2010 No comments »

I finally had a chance to check out Pink Bicycle, a gourmet burger place, after much anticipation. I suppose something went well because I went back again a few days later.

It’s a small casual place in the heart of downtown Victoria that rocks a laid back sort of indie vibe. They use gourmet (and i use this term lightly) ingredients sourced locally when possible. Yay for local! The presentation of food is taken into consideration and you can even enjoy a glass of wine with your cheeseburger if you like. So are these gourmet burgers worth the gourmet prices?

Firstly, be ready to wait! On any given night around dinner time (6-7pm) expect a wait of about 30 minutes for a table.

The first time I went it was on a Saturday night around 6pm and we were informed there would be a 20 minute wait for a table for two. Let’s just say I was surprised when a group of five who were placed a few names down the list from us received a table before we did. I’m no hostess so that’s all I’m going to say about that.

The menu has a little something for everyone from the traditional cheeseburger, to vegetarian burgers, to seafood burgers. The burgers can be ordered as is, or with soup, fries, or salad. For a bit extra you can sub in onion rings or truffle fries (fries tossed in the much coveted truffle oil) too. For something lighter or to share there is a great variety of sides such as salads, poutine, and macaroni sticks.

I ordered the mutton burger with truffle oil fries ($13). We waited about 15-20 minutes for our food. The burger was really good! The serving size is massive and I didn’t even make a dent in my fries I was so full. I do have to say though the bun makes the burger. If anyone really puts their mind to it they can make juicy tasty burger patties at home, but to get your hands on some tasty buns like that is no easy task ;) I believe they get their buns from Bond Bond’s Bakery right next door. They’re soft, yet chewy, but in the greatest way possible. The mutton patty was good too, nice and juicy and the other burger ingredients complimented each other well. The fries were amazing too. Really crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The truffle oil added a great flavour, it’s worth the dollar if you like truffle oil.     

I went back again the other night. Waited about 30 minutes again. This time I went for my beloved favorite fish ever, Ahi tuna burger ($15) plus a side of poutine to share with my brother ($9). Ahi tuna is a very delicate fish with a subtle flavour so I was worried how it would fair surrounded by all that bread. It wasn’t the greatest. The piece of fish was small, but very tender. I know Ahi is an expensive ingredient, but I probably wouldn’t have minded paying a buck or two more for a more substantial piece of fish. The taste of the fish was lost and to make matters worse the wasabi mayo in the burger attacked my nasal passages, once again taking away from the taste of this awesome fish. The poutine was just okay too. Within a few minutes the fries became really mushy and the cheese formed a tough sort of rubbery cheese blanket that was hard to eat. I then shared a dessert with my brother. It was an apple and pear pie feature that night, which came with ice-cream. Presentation on the dessert was great. Ice-cream was creamy, and the pie was good too but the crust was a little raw still at the bottom.  

On my last visit I tried a couple of different items that I wasn’t too impresed by. I would definately go back to Pink Bicycle again, but sticking to the meat burgers and the fries or salad next time, which I feel are worth the price considering the large portion size and the use of fresh local ingredients.

1008 Blanshard St. Victoria, B.C.

Foo – Asian Street Food | Victoria, BC

March 24, 2010 No comments »

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Foo…  I’ve crossed paths with this place many times.  I’ve heard about this place from friends many times.  I’ve even been in there once or twice but didn’t  order anything.  I’ve heard them rave about it.  It was time to try it.

My friend that I haven’t seen in a while phoned me out for lunch and I thought it was a great opportunity to finally order something from here! Foo presents a relaxed, casual posh ambiance that is inviting.  The menu is pretty diverse to the point where I dare say – adventurous; especially to those who are not accustomed with east/south east asian cuisine.  With that being said, being the son of a chef, I have extremely high standards when it comes to East Asian cuisine.  That’s what happens when you live and breathe it everyday since you’re  a toddler.  For this reason, any Chinese type restaurants I generally try to avoid especially around Victoria – it simply doesn’t meet up to my standards.

Foo was intriguing for me since it was fusion, which I like and appreciate.  I dig the east meets west concept and really look forward to what new dishes can be brought out.

I’m somewhat really watching what I eat due to my training regime, so I decided to stick with something healthier.  Or so I thought.  I picked the Octopus Salad and I have to say that I’m extremely surprised what I got.  I actually expected a cold dish, with octopus that was presented sushi style – light, refreshing but still satisfying.  Instead, I got deep fried octopus in a VERY salty teriyaki sauce.  It was a little watery, so it all settled down to the bottom of the take out container.  To be honest, I was quite taken aback by it.  A dish like this should be subtle with light flavours to compliment the salad.  I would expect something fragrant, not heavy and in your face.  The texture of the octopus was somewhat an interesting tenderized texture, but at the same time, a bit overdone, and a bit stringy.  It was okay at best.  Perhaps I’m too used to eating the Japanese sushi style octopus.  The salad was a mixture of shredded iceberg lettuce, bean sprouts and some thai basil.  Everything in the container was trying to fight each other for my palettes attention.

For the $9 that it cost me, I was actually quite disappointed.  I felt the ingredients were not used to their fullest potential to bring out out their natural subtle flavours.  Instead it felt like a mishmash of stuff, attempted to be salvaged by a sauce – a very salty one at that.  The sauce in asian cuisine (gross generalization here)  is to help compliment flavours, not drown it.  Also, since it was deepfried, it wasn’t entirely *that* healthy either in my opinion.

I realize I might be a little biased… but I am willing and shall give it another try on another item menu sometime.  But definitely not soon.  Perhaps you guys might have better luck than me?

Kirin Seafood Restaurant @ Starlight Casino

March 20, 2010 No comments »

Kirin is recognized for fine Chinese cuisine, attentive service, and elegant décor by their long list of awards and accolades. Whether you’re in Richmond, Downtown Vancouver, Vancouver West, or Coquitlam, they have locations there waiting to satisfy your taste buds. Residents of New Westminster are in luck with the newest addition at the Starlight Casino.  With Alaskan king crab in season, what a perfect time to try out the new Kirin location! Although many Chinese restaurants are busy during the Alaskan king crab season with prices ranging from $10-$15 per pound, I chose Kirin. Being a Kirin regular and having experienced their fine cuisine and service, little can go wrong. As soon as I entered the restaurant, I was surprised to see the contemporary yet elegant décor. The waiting area was generously sized as well as the main dining room. The layout of the main dining room was open view with no obstructions which make it perfect for weddings and banquets.

Attentive service was already in action as soon as we were brought to our table. We were immediately offered a choice of teas by another staff as we were sitting down. The teapot was placed over a lit candle to keep it hot. Other restaurants you would wait a while after being seated before a staff would offer you a choice of teas and it would not be placed over a candle. Since we knew what we were there for, we took no time in deciding what to order. Kirin’s Alaskan king crab market price was $14.80/lb with your choice of how you’d like it prepared into 3 courses. Our first course we chose to have it steamed with egg whites and hua diao wine, second course was to have it deep fried and tossed in salt and pepper with chilli peppers, and third course was to use the reserved sauce from the first course to make a rice or noodle dish. We also ordered roasted squab and snake potage.

The food arrived and it was time to roll the sleeves up and get down and dirty. The king crab was steamed to perfection. Each bite of the tender juicy meat was full of flavour as well as a slight hint of the fragrant yet not overpowering hua diao wine. The second course required scissors and a bit more effort but it was worth it. The king crab was perfectly and evenly coated with batter and salt and pepper. Although deep fried, it was not oozing with oil at all and the meat was still juicy. The third course we chose to have noodle. Although I’m a very picky eater and usually reject bland dishes, I actually found it acceptable since it had the fragrant hua diao flavour as well as the king crab’s flavour. In addition to hot wet towels, throughout dinner our plates were frequently changed by the staff to make our lives easier with less mess in front of us. Our choice of complimentary dessert was hot red bean soup or chilled coconut tapioca soup. We all chose the latter which was delicious and refreshing.

For a newly opened location, Kirin maintained its high level of attentive service and quality and once again made my dining experience a pleasure. I recommend giving them a try especially while the Alaskan king crab is in season and take advantage of the affordable seasonal price.

$14.80/lb

Plate Setting

Snake Potage

Snake Potage

Roasted Squab

Steamed with egg whites and wine

Steamed with egg whites and wine

Deep fried salt & pepper king crab

Deep fried salt & pepper king crab

Course #3

Course #3

Pig BBQ Joint – Langford (an update)

March 19, 2010 3 comments »

On Friday night I checked out the Pig Langford location for early dinner and I brought my whole family with me. We got there around 6 and they were packed! Luckily we found seating for our large party. The staff were obviously very busy, but as always still friendly, attentive, and efficient. I had to try the pulled pork poutine after having so many recommend it to me. It is filling that’s for sure, but oh so good. The portion size was quite large, too much for one person in my opinion. Never-the-less great value for money. I tried a bite of my cousin’s pork ribs. They were tender and very smokey in flavour. My brother ordered the fried chicken and loved how flavourful and moist it was. He had fries on the side too, but couldn’t finish the large serving. KFC move over there’s new Colonel in town!

Pig continues to serve up great flavour and a welcoming atmosphere. Their serving sizes for some dishes, like the side of fries and poutine, are quite large so come hungry! Unfortunately they close early at 7:30 pm from Tues – Sat at their Langford location. Oh and they do take-out too :)

- Check out our other Pig review on this site

3rd Street Cafe – Sidney, BC

March 17, 2010 No comments »

This small cafe in Sidney on, well you guessed it, 3rd Street is my new little breakfast place discovery which I feel deserves an honourable mention. Just when I thought I had exhausted my breakfast place options in Victoria my friend recommended we try 3rd Street in Sidney.

We went on a Saturday morning and I was forewarned by my friend about a potential 30 minute wait for a table. Fortunately, we only had to wait about 5 minutes. I will admit I wasn’t expecting anything stellar as bacon and eggs, bennys, and pancakes have been done a thousand times before. My friend ordered the traditional breakfast ($8) and I was undecided between the crab-cake benny and the Uovo Italiano benny ($13). I went for the Uovo. The waitress asked how I would like my eggs poached, which was appreciated. They had a big selection of all-day breakfast choices of different scrambles, bennys, omelettes etc. We waited about 15 minutes for our food and our waitress made sure we were always topped up on coffee during that time. They have an open kitchen set-up which I can always appreciate as it often ensures cleanliness and organization in the kitchen. I noticed the kitchen staff often engaged in conversation with the waitstaff and customers about how they were enjoying their meal, or what ingredients were in certain dishes, which added to the casual relaxed atmosphere of this restaurant.

Anyways back to the food….

My Uovo Italiono consisted of half a baguette, pesto, grilled prosciutto ham, 2 poached eggs cooked to my liking, and of course hollandaise sauce and a side serving of potatoes. The potatoes looked half boiled half pan-fried. I tucked into those first and well I was very pleasantly surprised. They were seasoned with a lemony type dressing which made them simply delicious. My benny was great too! The bread wasn’t soggy like some bennys tend to be. The prosciutto was crisp, not chewy, and the pesto really kicked it up a notch. A traditional dish made different with a few little touches here and there. Overall very thoroughly impressed!

3rd Street is definitely worth the drive if you’re seeking out a new breakfast place. They have friendly and efficient service (despite what other reviews have said) and those good old traditional breakfast items done well. I’d love to go back to try some of their other dishes.

3rd Street Cafe 2466 Beacon Ave. Sidney, B.C.

Croque Monsieur (and Croque Madame) – The search for the best

March 14, 2010 No comments »

Croque Monsieur is basically a fancy French grilled ham and cheese sandwich and Croque Madame is the same thing but with a fried egg on top. I had a craving for these yummy sandwiches one day and so I turned to the Internet for some how-to. What I found was a load of recipes, all very different. I decided to try each one to see which is the best. So here I present to you my trials and tribulations in the search for the best Croque Madame and Croque Monsieur.

‘The Winner’ is totally based on my personal choice. Try these these sandwiches out for yourself and tweek them here or there to make ‘em your own!

The Basic Necessities:

You don’t have to follow these ingredients exactly. Customize your sandwich with your favorite bread or cheese. That’s what I did. Also quantities of these ingredients vary depending which sandwich you want to make and how many.

Cheese – Grated (I used a blend of Parmesan and Gruyere)

Bread – Firm and dense works best (I used a walnut sourdough from Cobs)

Ham – Regular deli ham does the job

Bechamel Sauce – Recipe at http://www.foodnetwork.ca/recipes/Side/Eggs-Dairy/recipe.html?dishID=8326

Mustard – Grainy mustard is best, it adds texture and crunch

Butter

Egg (for Croque Madame)

Skillet – A panini press works better if you have one

Croque Monsieur “The Cheesy”

This one was inspired by FoodTV chef Ina Garten http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/croque-monsieur-recipe/index.html

Pros : Lots of flavour and nice crispyness to the bread. The melted cheesy top of this sandwich makes for great presentation.

Cons: Too rich!

Croque Monsieur “The Frenchy”

This one is French Toast style

  • Preheat your skillet on a medium/high heat. Add 1 Tbls of butter into the skillet.
  • Make a simple egg mixture by beating together 2 eggs with a touch of milk (2 Tbls) in a shallow bowl big enough to fit a slice of bread in. Add paprika (1/4 tsp) and a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.
  • To assemble the sandwich take two slices of bread and spread some mustard on one side of each slice. Add a thin layer of bechamel sauce and some grated cheese. Then add one or two slices of ham and a little extra cheese to help the sandwich hold together when the cheese melts. Then finish with the top slice of bread.
  • Carefully place the sandwich in the egg mixture. Carefully turn the sandwich over to coat the other side.
  • Place the sandwich in your hot skillet for about 2 minutes or until golden brown and flip to toast the other side. 

Pros: This one is pretty unique. A great way to combine ham and cheese sandwiches with a breakfast favorite.

Cons: The bread, like french toast, isn’t crispy at all.

Croque Madame “The Meaty Misses”

I found this recipe on another food blog and it was claimed to be ‘The right way’. So I gave it a shot. http://mirepoix.org/2009/05/24/croque-madame-the-right-way/

Pros: see cons.

Cons: Too much meat. I love meat! Which is why I was so intrigued by this recipe in the first place. So, is the high meat to bread ratio a pro or con? After tasting this sandwich it was simply too much. Too much meat and too much cheese made for a very rich sandwich.

Croque Monsieur “The Plain and Simple” (The Winner)

Here is my fourth and final variation. This one is the most simple and the one I thought to be the best. Nothing elaborate and not too rich, but sooo tasty! 

  • Heat a skillet to medium/high heat
  • Take two slices of bread and spread each side of each slice with butter. Lightly toast each side of the bread slices on your skillet.
  • Take a toasted bread slice and spread with mustard followed by a somewhat generous layer of bechamel sauce. Sprinkle some grated cheese. Add one or two slices of ham followed by another sprinkle of grated cheese. Top your sandwich off with the last slice of bread.
  • Place your sandwich in your heated skillet or panini press. There is no need to butter the pan because the bread is already buttered. After a minute or two flip the sandwich over. It’s done when the cheese is melted on the inside.
  • Enjoy!
  • To make this into a Croque Madame add a fried egg on top.

Meatloaf-human-hand. o_O

October 28, 2009 1 comment »

In spirit of Halloween, I present you this.

The meatloaf that looks like a human hand. It’s kinda disgusting, but pretty cool at the same time. I’d eat that.

http://www.notmartha.org/archives/2009/10/27/meat-hand/

Wild Saffron – Victoria, BC

October 17, 2009 No comments »

Few years ago I walked by a place called “Wild Saffron”  right beside the Swans pub on my way to grab a bento lunch at Kaz’s (an excellent place as well, but that’s another post).  Intrigued and allured by the name of this restaurant after such a famous herb, I knew I had to take a look at the menu.  I remember seeing some duck and rabbit on there, which piqued my interest.  Duck – afterall, is one my most favorite meats.  Rabbit, I have always wanted to try, but always had some sort of reservations for it lest they were snatched off the UVic grounds. ;)  Alas, I was poor and still working at Starbucks back then so this place was definitely out of my price point.  Not to mention I didn’t really have anybody to go with that would appreciate it the same way I would.  Fast forward several years, I have some sort of spending propensity and slowly accumulating some sort of a foodie group of friends – I decided it was time to revisit this place.  Here I come, Wild Saffron.

Before I came here, I thought that this place had some sort of pretense feel, perhaps an air of snobbishness to it.  Saffron after all is is one of the most expensive herbs out there on the market.  I walked in, and one of my friends was already there waiting.  The decor and ambiance was elegant, but casual at the same time.  It felt relaxing and inviting.  Soon my other two friends joined up and decided to order.  Rather long ordeal between us actually, and the server was incredibly patient.  He came to check us on us, oh say, 4 times before we actually got our act together to order a bottle of Gehringer Brothers Private Reserver 2008 Pinot Noir to start off the night. » Read more: Wild Saffron – Victoria, BC