One of the more odd things that we do at Scout is catalogue all the eateries that we think stand to make an impact on Vancouver’s restaurant scene. We introduce our readers to these businesses when they are still in their embryonic stage, keeping a very rough photographic record of their different stages of construction as they inch and crawl towards opening day. As time goes on and we get used to the finished designs, it’s hard to imagine them as naked as they once were. The spaces depicted above might be unrecognisable to most, but I’m sure there are some among our readership willing to give this little game of ours a try.
How many can you name from photos 1 through 4? We have no clues for you, except to say that all of the above were opened within the last five years. Top marks to the right proper restaurant wonks who can identify more than one of them in the comments. It would be crazy if someone named three, and scary if someone got all four. And that’s the challenge, as we won’t be publishing any guesses in the comments until someone gets all four. Good luck!
by Andrew Morrison | The first ever Victoria Gold Medal Plates went down last Thursday night, pitting some of our brightest chef talents against one another. The competition has, in past years, been held in Vancouver, and decides which BC chef will represent the province at the annual Canadian Culinary Championships, which take place in Kelowna this February.
The duelling chefs this year were Darren Brown of the Fairmont Pacific Rim, Marc-André Choquette of Coal Harbour’s Tableau Bar Bistro, Kunal Ghose of Victoria’s Red Fish Blue Fish, Daniel Hudson of Hudson’s On First in Duncan, Jeff Keenliside of Victoria’s Marina Restaurant, Makoto Ono of Gastown’s Pidgin, Terry Pichor Sonora Resort on Sonora Island, Garrett Schack of Victoria’s Vista 18, Brian Skinner of The Acorn on Main Street, and Chris Whittaker of Robson’s Forage.
As a judge, I saw first hand how close the scoring was. Typically, only the top three chefs have their marks revealed, but I can tell you that there was only something like 7 percentage points separating 1st place from 7th place. So it was a very close run thing at the very top.
As always, there were some delicious oddities and outliers. Pidgin’s Ono, for example, chose to serve a sake and gin cocktail instead of a wine pairing with his otherwise perfect Onsen egg, smoked salmon roe and risotto (one of the best plates of the night). While not the least bit objectionable in and of itself, the sipper’s admittedly low intensity alcohol “burn” proved more of a barrier than a bridge. I saw the point and the purpose, but the little seafaring flavour bursts of roe begged instead for a juicy, coddling Riesling. Similarly, Vista 18′s Schack decided to double down on the different, serving a dessert – sweet potato beignet with chocolate and brown butter ice cream – next to a Scotch Ale. It was good eating, but there wasn’t much room for winning nuance in the sweetness, however multi-dimensional it might have been.
I suppose, then, that plating/pouring away from the savoury and the grape in cooking/pairing competitions is inevitably fraught with risk. It’s seldom rewarded in this particular arena, that is unless the results are revelatory in their perfection. That being said, I don’t want to put future competitors off from trying new things. It’s always great to see chefs swinging for the fences at the Gold Medal Plates!
I’ll have some final comments at the end as well as some photographs, but here’s the prime skinny from my boss at the event, James Chatto, whose palate and writing skills far exceed my own…
It’s always exciting to bring the Gold Medal Plates phenomenon to a new city. Last night we were, for the first time, in Victoria, British Columbia, where chefs from the city challenged their colleagues from elsewhere on the island, from Vancouver and from Sonora Island to see who would win the gold medal and progress to Kelowna in February. It was an extraordinary evening with a sold-out crowd of 500 completely involved in proceedings, with emcee Adam Kreek in fine form and more dancing to the music than I’ve ever seen at any GMP event. It seemed like half the room was up and rocking to a veritable orchestra of musicians – Jim Cuddy, Barney Bentall, Dustin Bentall and Kendal Carson, John Mann and Geoffrey Kelly from Spirit of the West, and trumpeter Daniel Lapp.
The competing chefs (representing Vancouver, Victoria and several Gulf Islands) also performed brilliantly, crossing the line like some kind of gastronomic peleton, all marks tightly bunched within a mere 12 percentage points. Fortunately, I had a brilliant team of judges to help me sort them out, led by co-Senior Judge, educator and international wine and food guru Sid Cross and co-Senior judge, author and editor, Andrew Morrison, alongside writer, blogger, editor and culinary judge, Shelora Sheldan, hotelier, international food and wine judge and Slow Food ambassador, Dr. Sinclair Philip, former chef, sommelier and innkeeper, now writer and editor, Gary Hynes, and last year’s gold medallist from our Vancouver competition, Chef Mark Filatow of Waterfront Restaurant and Wine Bar in Kelowna.
Taking the bronze medal was Terry Pichor of Sonora Resort on Sonora Island. Ambitiously, he included a foie-gras-filled raviolo on his plate, pulling off the textural challenge in a masterful way for the pasta was tender and the foie almost liquid. Under the raviolo was a cushion of duck leg confit surrounded by a rich butternut squash purée but the dish’s main focus were two slices of duck breast that chef had brined poached in duck fat with star anise, the pink meat ending up with the sleek and juicy texture of ham. A number of garnishes added nuance. Black garlic granola had a very fine texture, sprinkled onto the ravioli with a spoonful of the duck’s natural jus bolstered by a brunoise of pine mushroom. Candied squash seeds and a sprinkling of vividly purple young beet seedlings completed the plate. Chef Pichor chose Foxtrot Vineyard’s 2010 Pinot Noir from the Naramata Bench, a wine that picked up the mushrooms and brought a refreshing acidity to the dish.
Our silver medal was won by Darren Brown, executive chef of the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in Vancouver. He worked with local Camp River Farms pork belly, deliberately grown to be leaner than most pork belly, confiting it in Kahlua and carving a thin slice that had a lovely crust and a flavour like first-class bacon. The meat lay on a pool of poi made not with the traditional starchy taro but with much lighter lotus root, coconut and heart of palm. Limning the poi was a second sauce, a sweet pineapple and maple-mustard glaze thickened by a syrup made from Chef’s chosen wine. Sprinkled on top were some tangy mustard seeds, slices of crunchy betel nut, a cross of puffed white pork cracklings and a scattering of dehydrated pineapple flecks that worked particularly well with the wine. A final flourish of welcome green came from a floret of baby bok choy. And the wine? An old friend – JoieFarm Winery’s delicious 2012 Noble Blend, an Alsatian-style melange of Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois and Schoenberger.
Who won gold? Chef Brian Skinner of The Acorn in Vancouver, who achieved the exceedingly rare feat of winning at GMP with a vegetarian dish. His dish was a casual assembly of pale drums, some of them cut from smoked king oyster mushrooms, others turning out to be confited potatoes. Thumbelina carrots had been roasted to soft caramelization while others had been turned into “carrot meringue” like shards of paper-thin wafer. Minute braised shallots no bigger than chickpeas were a sweet component while acidity came from dots of intensely flavoured sherry fluid gel. A combination of mushrooms were used to make the fragrant mushroom jus and the coup de grace was a scattering of wild-foraged watercress. The dish was relatively simple but most effective, with every ingredient coming from within 100 miles of his restaurant, and the wine pairing worked on many levels. Clos du Soleil’s 2012 Chegwin & Baessler Pinot Blanc is delightfully aromatic with a hint of sweetness that worked with the carrot and shallot components and a sly acidity boosted by the sherry gel, all in a fine balance.
All in all, Victoria provided a very welcoming and energized West Coast adventure and Chef Skinner will be just as welcome in Kelowna in February.
Skinner’s win came as a pleasant surprise. That’s not because I thought anyone did a more masterful job, but rather because his dish didn’t contain any meat. It was, without a doubt, pretty damn perfect, as was its alliance with the well chosen Pinot Blanc, and even though the selfish glutton in me thought his efforts could have been hugely improved by a flashed paillard of veal or a mere nugget of pork tenderloin, I scored him high across the board (as did, evidently, the rest of the judges on the panel). He absolutely deserved gold.
As to what the vegetarian chef will do when he’s supplied with a meat/fish at the Canadian Culinary Championships’ gruelling (no other word for it) Black Box competition this winter is beyond me. Many years ago at the same competition we had a nut-allergic competitor who discovered peanuts in his black box. He had to have his sous chef sub in for him, which was hardly ideal. Needless to say, I’m sure Skinner will figure it out when the lid comes off, and it will be exciting to watch happens next.
by Andrew Morrison | As far as picturesque estate vineyard locations go, the Skinner family struck gold with Painted Rock. They bought the 60 acre Skaha Bluff (just outside Penticton) property back in 2004 and started planting the following year, gearing up towards their critically-acclaimed Bordeaux-style Red Icon blend and of course their Syrah, Merlot, and delicious Chardonnay. I’ve been a fan from the get go, both of the wines and the property, even when the tasting room was just a shack.
It wasn’t that long ago – maybe two summers – that proprietor John Skinner walked me up the hill at the back of the winery, pointed at the tiny, rather humdrum building and told me about his plans to replace it. His enthusiasm for “the big idea” – a modern tasting room facility that could host all manner of events, even weddings – was infectious, but it seemed a far way off.
I checked in again earlier this summer when I was up buying wine. John had just had a very gnarly high speed bicycle accident and was lucky to be alive, but there was no way that he wasn’t going to show me around the shell of the new facility. Though he wasn’t 100% (and probably shouldn’t have been out of bed), he was nonetheless giddy as hell about the progress that had been made, and quite rightly. One could easily tell from the framing of the construction site that the finished product – by architect Robert Mackenzie with detail work by Keith Panel Systems – would be something special, even spectacular. The materials are state of the art, the design sleek and tucked nicely into the landscape, and its orientation within the vineyards overlooking Skaha Lake is just perfect.
All of that is to say that what I saw earlier today was a great vision made finally real. It was very satisfying to see. In the photos above, the big tent on the sprawling lawn (rain had been forecasted) detracts from the design, so the pictures really don’t do the new tasting room justice. Rain or shine, the place is in a class of its own.
Need another reason to be stoked for this summer’s imminence? The awesome outdoor extravaganza so deliciously seared into our memories as Food Cart Fest is set to make its tasty return every Sunday this summer – starting June 23rd – at a new location: 215 West 1st Avenue. It’s going to be bigger than ever before, with some 20 food trucks parked laager-style around communal tables with community markets, live music, and all manner of ancillary vendors besides making it the raddest bit of real estate in the city ($2 entry charge). We mentioned this excellent eventuality back in March when the old Waldorf team announced the launch of their new agency, Arrival, but now the deets are locked in and we’re super exited to share! Here’s the full skinny, complete with a map that comes free of drool stains…
The Arrival Agency and the Streetfood Vancouver Society are pleased to announce the second annual Food Cart Fest. Beginning Sunday, June 23, at its new home at 215 West 1st Avenue, the festival will run for 14 weeks until September 22. Boasting one of the largest gatherings of food carts in North America, this year’s festival will highlight Vancouver’s exploding street food culture.
Not strictly for foodies though, Food Cart Fest is also about enjoying the summer with friends and family. Building on what many considered a highlight of last summer, each week over 20 food carts will be complemented by community markets, live music, DJs, craft food vendors, and kids’ activities.
After a successful first year, where attendance was upwards of 5,000 each week, the festival is expecting even more people in its new, centralized location. The Arrival Agency worked with Mayor Gregor Robertson and the staff of the City of Vancouver to find an ideal location for the event this year. “We are really excited to be in the heart of the city, connected by so many transit options and right along the Seawall,” says Arrival’s Ernesto Gomez.
The festival’s new location is adjacent to the Cambie Street Bridge and the Olympic Village; between West 1st Avenue and the Seawall (where Cavalia: A Magical Encounter Between Human and Horse took place). The site is a short walk from the Canada Line’s Olympic Village Station; the Aquabus’ Spyglass Place Dock; and bus routes along Broadway, Cambie, Main, and West 2nd Avenue.
Vancouver was recently named one the top three cities for food carts in North America by Travel+Escape and has been drawing international praise for its diverse and delicious street food. “We’re excited to have the entire summer to showcase why we do such a damn fine job here in Vancouver,” says Kaboom Box’s Andy Fielding.
FOOD CART FEST 2013
Launching Sunday, June 23 | 12pm-6pm
Happens every Sunday until September 22 (14 weeks)
215 West 1st Avenue
Admission is $2
Children 13 and under get in free
Scout Magazine is a proud sponsor of Food Cart Fest. We’ll be seeing you there!
by Andrew Morrison | It’s hard to imagine an open, 8-10 seat kitchen bar that looks straight into a massive, glass-fronted “Rotisol” rotisserie oven that can hold as many as 36 birds at a time, but that’s just what diners will get when they sit center stage in the heritage section of the soon-to-open Homer St. Cafe & Bar: an eyeful of the lamborghini of rotisseries (the Grande Flamme Olympia edition, complete with fire engine red enamel finish and brass knobs) spinning Fraser Valley chickens marinated in house brine and roasted in signature rubs that change daily (think Ras el hanout, Za’atar, and Herbes de Provence). The birds will be served whole, halved, or in quarters with drippings and typical country vegetables (pototoes, cauliflower, etc).
Ok, so maybe it’s not that difficult to imagine. Perhaps it’s just hard to wait until the end of June, when the restaurant is scheduled to open. We’ve reported on it before, back in February when the name and concept were still secrets. We had the place listed in our Opening Soon section as “Beasley”. The skinny from back then:
Led by principal Lilliana L. De Cotiis, the team behind Coal Harbour’s Tableau Bar Bistro – executive chef Marc-Andre Choquette, chef Tret Jordan, lead bartender J.S. Dupuis and manager Steven Wright – are opening a second restaurant, this time in Yaletown in the ancient Homer Cafe classic diner location (just across the street from Subeez).
When I say “ancient”, I’m talking in Vancouver years. The Homer Building at Smithe & Homer celebrates its 100th birthday in 2013, which is to say that it’s old enough for a history that stretches back beyond the Homer Cafe, with its famous pair of eggs with sausages and toast for $3.95. Prior to the humble Homer, it was the Stratos Cafe, and before that it was Rose’s Coffee Shop. Before that it was Pauline’s Cafe, and before that it was the Smithe Coffee Bar. Peel the layers back past the 1950?s and you’ll find a Japanese candy store, a cleaners, a grocery, a barber shop, and so on. It was always a community hub of some sort. You can see it in its bones.
Fast forward to the Fall of 2008, when The Homer underwent the knife. The major facelift, retrofit and rebrand was completed in the Fall of 2011 (you might remember the aged facade braced in glossy developer wrap marketing the place as “Yaletown’s last opportunity”). It’s now called The Beasley after former city planner Larry Beasley, and exists as the heritage foot forward and namesake of a brand new neighbouring 33 storey condo tower. To my knowledge, the only facet of the new development that has yet to be completed is the restaurant space, which was leased this past Fall.
The truth of it is that only half the restaurant is in the original Homer Cafe spot, with its bird Lamborghini, old bones, and pressed tin ceiling panels reclaimed from an old church in rural Ontario. The other half is in the freshly constructed Beasley (connected by a short staircase). This half will see a 40 seat lounge sporting a good looking bar with wood paneling salvaged from a 1900 butcher shop in the American Midwest. Up a few steps beyond is an elevated private room with beautiful swing out windows sourced from an old mill, circa 1910. From what I’ve been told, the bar will serve 5 craft beers on tap (plenty more in bottles), plus a wine and cocktail program on the same scale as Tableau. The design is a collaborative effort between Linus Lam, Denise Liu and Craig Stanghetta.
I’m looking forward to this one, and not just because I’m a big fan of Tableau and chefs Choquette and Jordan. I dig all the rooms that have so far been designed by Craig Stanghetta (see Pidgin, Revolver, etc) and love what Denise and Linus do for Vancouver with Artsy Dartsy. The good folks at Glasfurd & Walker (see Meat & Bread, Wildebeest, etc) are pretty well known for only ever working with sure things, and I like the location, especially how it will see a 20 seat covered/heated patio away from the madding crowd. It’s not on Yaletown’s main chain restaurant-crowded thoroughfares (Mainland & Hamilton), and with prices in the $10-$25 range, I know I’ll be getting good bang for that buck. If there is any weakness to the Homer St. Cafe & Bar, I think an argument could be made against the name, which exhibits all the imagination of a chair leg. Alas, what’s in a name when there are 36 spinning birds, slowly browning, rubbed with all manner of deliciousness and dripping, dripping, dripping…wait…what was the question again?
by Kurtis Kolt | Just sending a quick note to share that Maenam’s Chef Angus An and I are in New York City and in the home stretch of prepping for his dinner at James Beard House this evening. As a little refresher, Angus has been the consulting chef in New York at Kittichai in the Thompson Hotel for the last little while, so he’s officially wearing two hats tonight as he presents contemporary Thai dishes out of both New York and Vancouver. As the lucky guy who consults on the wine list at Maenam, I got to come along for the ride; designing tonight’s wine program and overseeing wine service!
Angus was invited to cook at James Beard House many months ago, and much of the coordination has come out of Vancouver. I got to dive into a whole new realm of liquor laws to adhere to, and track down various wines from suppliers I have no experience with. The good folks from the Okanagan’s Tantalus Winery did us a solid by doing a good ol’ fashioned border run of their kick-ass 2010 Riesling a few weeks back. I’m quite excited and proud to represent BC wine country tonight, with a little Mission Hill in the mix as well!
Angus and his team – many of whom are from Vancouver – are hustlin’ away doing prep as I type this, and they’re pretty stoked. I will indeed rock out a full report for you on our New York adventures later in the week, loaded with pictures and good cheer. In the meantime, I will be Tweeting and Instagramming (both @KurtisKolt) tonight using the hashtag #AAJBwKK.
Do follow along as we represent!
by Andrew Morrison | Main St. fixture Habit will be closing its doors for good after dinner service this Sunday, April 14th after 8 years in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. The owners – the same folks who brought us Cascade next door, El Camino’s to the south, and The Union to the North – will launch a new concept, this time Italian, before the month is out. They’ve just sent me the following note:
Habit has changed throughout those 8 years, but it’s always stood as a hub to the community and has had a strong, loyal following. We felt the time was right for a shake-up, and after much thought and deliberation over what we feel the neighbourhood needs, we decided on what will be known as “Charlie’s Little Italian”.
So, what to expect from “Charlie’s Little Italian”? A fun, lively, old school, affordable pasta joint for the neighbourhood, evoking memories of a bygone era of the type of place where you’d go with your family: red & white gingham tablecloths, oversized peppermills and tableside parmesan service, but now in a fast-paced, hip, cafe environment.
Chef Tristan Burley and his team are putting together a fantastic, value-driven menu featuring a great range of traditional pasta dishes, antipasti, salads and hand-tossed garlic breads. Don’t worry, we’ll still be doing brunch!
The bar will be relocated to the front of the restaurant, where you can expect a tight little wine list, classic Italian cocktails, sodas, beers, espressos. The team at Habit are really excited to bring this new concept to the neighbourhood that has supported us for so many years.
So, with the clock ticking on the last days of Habit, we invite you to come down and say goodbye with some great specials from the kitchen and a tiki cocktail or two. We look forward to welcoming you back in mid-April, (expected re-opening date Monday, April 22, 2013).
I always had a soft spot for the redesign after the late night fire on December 7th, 2008 destroyed the first incarnation. And my god…the brunches! Still, this sounds like a fair trade, and I’ll gladly take it.
Mmm…if this meaty Nowness film by Alison Chernick was salted and stored for two years, we’d slice it paper thin, pair it with melon (and a dry Muscat) and eat the hell out of it. It was shot at the new Chi Spacca (“The Cleaver”) in Los Angeles…
The intimate meat emporium is the latest addition to an epicurean empire that includes Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca in New York and Carnevino Italian Steakhouse in Las Vegas. Having just opened its doors this February — helmed by the indefatigable Mozza restaurant trio made up of Nancy Silverton, Joseph Bastianich and Batali himself — Chi Spacca showcases the charcuterie talents of Head Chef and Batali disciple Chad Colby, whose philosophy concerning the preparation of meat chimes with his mentor’s own. Colby became so entranced by Italian salami culture that he developed the first authorized “dry cure” program in LA, a lengthy process involving the addition of salts and other ingredients that can take months or even years, but which results in an array of pungent meats made in house. “What isn’t captured in the video is the wild smells,” recalls Chernick of her experience filming. “I have been enlightened by the science of a good salami, and we can thank Mario for capturing Italian culture and bringing it to us on a platter.”
[puts coat on, grabs wallet and keys, heads over to Granville Island for salumi at Oyama]
Dig this cool short film on the life cycle of city-grown heirloom carrots from Melbourne, Australia’s Little Veggie Patch Co.. It’s a company with a rad motto: “We don’t care who you are or what you do, we want to make growing food easier for everyone.” (hat tip: Alexa Harder).
From the inbox comes good news via FeastVan, an awesome initiative from East Vancouver restaurants that Scout has been very proud to support since the start:
FeastVan organizer Joe Chaput announced today that over $2500 had been raised by a combined effort from participating restaurants as well as donations from customers and staff during the two week FeastVan campaign (January 18-Feb 03, 2013). All of the participating restaurants donated $1 from the sale of each prix fixe menu or from a specific menu item. All of the funds raised will be donated towards the Strathcona Community Center Backpack Food Program. The annual dining event was established to introduce diners to the vast array of restaurants in East Vancouver. Each year, local foodies and visitors to Vancouver are invited to enjoy a selection of specially priced three-course meals from some of East Van’s best restaurants. $1 from each meal sold is donated to the Strathcona Community Center’s Back Pack Food Program, which provides back pack meals for both the Strathcona Community Center and the Raycam Community Center.
The primary objective of the Strathcona Community Center Backpack Food Program is to bridge the weekend gaps when school food programs are not running. Regular school programs provide for the food requirements of children on weekdays, but this program provides kid-friendly nutritious snacks and meals for food insecure elementary school-aged children over the weekends. Children from both Seymour and Strathcona Elementary Schools receive food back packs every Friday afternoon.
2013 FeastVan participating restaurants included: The Acorn, Au Petit Chavignol, Bao Bei, Campagnolo Roma, The Cascade Room, East of Main, Eight ½ Restaurant Lounge, El Camino’s, Habit, Harvest Community Foods, Les amis du FROMAGE, Les Faux Bourgeois, Nicli Antica Pizza, The Parker, Pat’s Pub, R&B Brewing Co., The Union Bar, and Vicino Pasteria & Deli.
Hats off to Joe Chaput and all the chefs/restaurateurs and staffers who got involved!
Well, this is good news. Hats off to Minister Rich Coleman for continuing to move our Byzantine liquor laws into the 19th century (baby steps).
“We are elated by today’s announcement. This is a huge step forward for B.C. craft brewers, vintners, distillers, restaurateurs and publicans. We applaud the government for updating an outdated and archaic law that was impeding progress not only for us but a number of businesses in the craft beer industry. We look forward to sharing the beers which we so carefully craft at Parallel 49 with our valued customers at St. Augustine’s.” – Anthony Frustagli, co-owner, Parallel 49 and St. Augustine’s.
Toronto restaurant industry veteran Bruce McAdams recently presented his “Rethink Tipping” talk at TEDxGuelph. In it, he expertly explained why Canada’s $6 billion a year (!) restaurant tipping model is racist, sexist, ageist, unjust, and otherwise so thoroughly messed up as to be completely nonsensical.
PS. The video is 20 minutes long and worth it (and no, the Glowbal Group isn’t mentioned…not even once).
by Andrew Morrison | Sisters Stephanie and Andrea French have just opened The Pie Shoppe in Chinatown. It’s a tiny little joint featuring freshly baked pies (currently apple, chocolate pecan) and good quality coffee at 721 Gore Street. It’s a pretty cool little operation that took them just 9 days to build/open with the help of friends and family (the vinyl collection came from their father). The tasty pies are baked fresh throughout the day and the coffee comes from Stephanie’s own Panoramic Roasters (single origin, roasted on a rooftop in Kits). The Pie Shoppe opens at 11am and stays open until they run out of pie, which I imagine will be quite often because they only have a small oven to work with.