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So many varieties

So many varieties

My favorite part of summer is the amount of amazing food that is in season. And nothing says summer more than a gorgeous bounty of tomatoes! From your run-of-the-mill beefsteak to the exotic Green Zebra heirloom, the tomato is one of my favorite fruits. So in honour of the beginning of tomato season, here is my favorite gazpacho recipe that I got from a lady when I was travelling in Spain.

Zebra Heirloom

Zebra Heirloom

Andalusian Gazpacho:
2 garlic cloves, peeled & sliced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 1/2 lb very ripe tomatoes (you can use any variety you like, as long as they are sweet!)
3 inch baguette, sliced & dried overnight (as long as it’s slightly stale, any bread will do)
1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Garnish
1 cup cucumber, peeled & diced
1 cup onion, diced

Put garlic, green pepper, tomatoes, baguette, oil, and vinegar in blender. Blend until very smooth. Pass soup through fine sieve. Season with some nice salt. Chill soup in fridge for at least an hour. Add as much garnish as you like before serving!

Summer bounty

Summer bounty

Cosmo

Cook Street Village is a Victoria Gem! Its close proximity to both Beacon Hill Park and Dallas Road make this community a favorite among locals yet widely missed by tourists. In addition to the quaint small-town feel of this historic street, the neighbourhood  also has an abundance of cafes, restaurants, pubs, and numerous boutique grocery shops. In other words, Cook Street Village is an awesome place to sit back, have a bite and a sip, and watch the locals stroll by.

Here are our top 5 picks for the neighbourhood:

1. The Tin Roof Market & Deli (101-1075 Pendergast Street)

Tin Roof

Owner Candace Bath opened this great deli because she wanted to create a community store for real people with healthy, clean products. Mission accomplished. The Tin Roof Market & Deli sources great local products at a very reasonable price. The deli section of this quaint shop has some great meal options including homemade sausages, deli salads, and pretty terrific pizza (including a gluten-free option). They have a great little patio and FYI they are licensed offering a small selection of beer and wine.

2. Pizza Prima Strada (230 Cook Street)

Food Tour 010

Want some seriously delicious pie? You need to try Pizza Prima Strada. Serving up traditional Neapolitan pizza, this place is authentic. They use Caputo OO flour for the crust, Italian plum tomatoes for the sauce, and local ingredients including fresh Mozzarella di Bufala from local Fairburn Farm. Despite having won a ton of awards for their pizza, the atmosphere is anything but stiff & pretentious. The big open wood burning oven in the middle of the restaurant is a welcome site on a rainy day. Our favorite slice? The Salsiccia Piccante with the house made fennel sausage, mozzarella, and roasted bell peppers!

3. The Beagle Pub (301 Cook Street)
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This is a neighbourhood classic serving up traditional pub fare in a fairly standard pub setting. What sets this place apart is the patio. They have amazing outdoor seating where you can meet up with friends and watch all the action on the bustling street. They also serve up some great local craft beer including Philips, Driftwood, and Race Rocks.

4. Hot and Cold Cafe (313 Cook Street)
Hot and Cold Cafe
This is one of those places that is like a secret club that only a few are privy to the exact location and know how amazing it is. It’s tempting to want to keep that a secret but I guess I’ll share it with you all. The food at this tiny cafe is nothing short of amazing. The menu features various soups made daily including at least one vegan and a gluten free option. All of the soups come with this fluffy, delicious organic house-made focaccia bread that I dream about at night. They also serve up an array of globally influence mains like the beef curry or Irish chicken sandwich. But with only 20 seats, please don’t share this secret with everyone!

5. Bubby’s Kitchen (355 Cook Street)
bubby's Kitchen

This cafe/restaurant opened its doors in 2011 and have since become a neighbourhood staple. They have a cafe on one side that serves up great coffee (Victoria’s own Discovery Coffee) and pastries to go, and on the other side a sit-down restaurant with an extensive menu serving up comfort food and wholesome meals. They have a beautiful open kitchen where you can watch the chefs prepare your dishes, many made with local ingredients (some from their own herb garden!). This is a great spot to come for brunch (I am partial to the ancho-braised beef short rib hash) but like all Victoria brunch hot spots, come early!

 

Want to try all of these great places and learn more about the Cook Street Village? Well why don’t you join us on our Cook Street Village Culinary Tour! This tour is a fun 2-hour journey through the neighbourhood where we learn about the history and culture of the area while tasting and sipping our way through the local hot spots. Here are the details:

  • Days: Thursdays & Fridays
  • Time: 2.30-4.30pm
  • Meeting place: Tin Roof Market & Deli (101-1075 Pendergast Street)
  • Cost: $65 (includes all food & beverage samples and GST)

For more information or to book tickets visit: www.offtheeatentracktours.ca/victoria

 

 

Antique Row on Main Street

Antique Row on Main Street

Main Street may be one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city but it is home to some of the youngest and hippest locals. It is where many of the city’s trendiest restaurants, designer local boutiques, and funky antique shops are located.
Here are our top 5 reasons to dine on Main Street:

1. Trafiq Cafe (4216 Main Street)

Delicious Eats at Trafiq Cafe

Delicious Eats at Trafiq Cafe

With two locations (the other location is in West Vancouver), this airy open cafe is a wonderful place to grab a lovely lunch or a tea and dessert. What makes them special? Free wifi, curbside tables, and delicious pastry makes it seem like you are dining in a Parisian cafe! Want a glass of wine with your croissant? Of course you do and they just happen to have a nice little selection of wines. Insider tip: try the Chunky Monkey. Made with their fresh croissants and dark chocolate, this little piece of heaven is a top seller.

2. Trilussa Pizza and Pane (4363 Main Street)

Authentic Roman Style Pizza at Trilussa

Authentic Roman Style Pizza at Trilussa

Trilussa serves authentic Roman-style pizza. Don’t believe me? Well, owner Alessandro Fonseca (Alex) was born and raised in Rome. He opened his first restaurant when he was 18, and ever since has been devoted to creating the true taste of Rome. Alex was an instructor at Confartigianato Romana specializing in bakery and a member of Associazione Pizzerie Italiane. He has worked at various Pizzerias all over Rome including at the Vatican, later taking these traditions to North American opening Italian restaurants in Boston and Vancouver. I’d say that’s pretty authentic.

3. Locus Lounge (4121 Main Street)

Pacific Northwest Cuisine at Locus Lounge

Pacific Northwest Cuisine at Locus Lounge

A Main Street classic, this funky eatery has been around for for almost 10 years. With cheap late night drinks and a great varied menu, it’s obvious why locals still flock to this establishment. The interior is very eclectic and the service is great. I recommend the organic red beet gnocchi with gooey burrata cheese and pine nuts.

4. The Shameful Tiki (4362 Main Street)

Just like Hawaii at Shameful Tiki

Just like Hawaii at Shameful Tiki

This new tiki lounge has only been open since March but I suspect they will have a very successful summer, what with the amazing tropical cocktails and beach theme. The room itself is reason enough for a visit. The windows have been blocked out which adds an air of mystery to the place. When you walk in, you part the dark curtains and emerge into another world! I’ll leave the rest a surprise but know this; they have a drink called the “zombie” and it contains 3 ounces of booze including a whole lot of rums. Yes please.

5. Sweet Revenge Patisserie (4160 Main Street)

Beautiful Teacups at Sweet Revenge

Beautiful Teacups at Sweet Revenge

Walking into sweet revenge is like being transported back in time. Delicate desserts are served on vintage china. Textured wallpaper, faux tin ceiling, and an overall velvety feel add to the ambiance. They serve old fashioned desserts, pies, and pastries just like Grandma use to make. Some of the recipes were in fact from the baker’s Grandma! They use real butter and organic eggs and flour to make some of the most amazing desserts in the city.

Now, want to visit all of these places in one amazing evening?

We just happen to have a fantastic culinary tour that will go to all these wonderful places where you get to try a sample at each place. Our Main Street Restaurant & Cocktail Tour is a 5 course progressive dinner that lets you experience the best of Main Street food and drinks. The tour runs every Thursday and Friday evening from 5-8pm. We pick you up in our private van from Waterfront station and drop you off to the tour site. This is a 2 hour culinary walking tour in which you will learn about the history of the neighbourhood, be introduced to some of the funky local shops, and of course dine at the best restaurants on Main Street!

To book or for more information on the tour, visit:
https://vancouver.offtheeatentracktours.ca/tours/main-street-restaurant-and-cocktail-tour/

My two week vacation in Maui is sadly coming to an end! I have spent the last 12 days scouring the island for amazing food and I have not been disappointed. I am not much for buying souvenirs with the exception of buying local food. Here are my top 5 choices for Maui-made products to bring home:

5. Coffee
Though coffee is not native to Hawaii, the climate and topography offers some of the most ideal growing conditions in the world! There are plenty of companies to choose from, including the famous beans grown on the Kona coast. For a local Maui company, I liked Lava Java. The plants were brought over from Kona and now they are nestled on the slopes of the local volcano Haleakala. I visited the shop in Kihei almost everyday for a nice iced latte. https://www.lavajavamaui.com

The Espresso Roast from the local Lava Java company

The Espresso Roast from the local Lava Java company

4. Salt
I have a bit of an obsession with salt and it is one of my favorite souvenirs to buy when I travel. I was very happy to see that Maui has an extensive array of different salts available. One of the most prominent companies was started by a local named Nancy Gove. Her company Pacifica Hawaii has numerous salt flavours from Black Lava to Koloa Rum. These salts are sold in many places but here’s a tip: for the cheapest price, visit the Foodland grocery store in South Kihei! https://www.pacificahawaii.com/index.php

Blush Lava salt from Pacifica Hawaii

Blush Lava salt from Pacifica Hawaii

3. Wine
The winery at Ulupalakua in the Upcountry region of Maui has been around since 1974 and they make both wine and fruit based wines. I have really been enjoying the Maui Splash fruit wine. With it’s pineapple and passion fruit taste, this wine mixed with a bit of soda water and lots of ice is a great sipper in the hot Hawaii sun. And for a lovely $11 price (retails for $13 if you buy it at winery) I have been sipping away perhaps a bit more than I should admit. https://www.mauiwine.com/

The wonderful fruity Maui Splash pineapple wine.

The wonderful fruity Maui Splash pineapple wine.

2. Granola
Okay, I’m cheating a bit on this one. I have totally been digging on Anahola Granola, a company that is actually based on the island of Kauai. I have been having a bowl of the Tropical flavour with ripened papaya, coconut, pineapple, and local Hawaiian honey. You can buy this granola in most stores throughout Maui and they even ship to Canada! https://anaholagranola.com/index.php

The Tropical flavour granola from Anahola Granola

The Tropical flavour granola from Anahola Granola

1. Local Jam/Jelly
I went to the local swap meet in Kahului that happens every Saturday and I discovered one of my favorite things! The company is called Jeff’s Jams and Jellies and he makes local spreads that are to die for. I was partial to the Lilikoi Lavender Jelly (lilikoi is also known as passion fruit) but I also bought the Kula onion jelly, spicy mango jelly and the pineapple coconut jam. Jeff (the owner and chef of the company) was born and raised on Maui and his products really make a fantastic local gift. I am going to have a really hard time parting with these spreads that I bought for friends, I’m hoping they will crack them open when I happen to be around. https://www.jeffsjamsandjellies.com/index.html

Local spreads from Jeff's Jams and Jellies

Local spreads from Jeff’s Jams and Jellies

 

Stacks of the local pineapple

Stacks of the local pineapple

 
Aloha from Hawaii! I have been in Maui for the past week and I have had an incredible time! There is so much to do and see on this beautiful island, not to mention all the amazing food that I have been trying! Here are my top 5 dining experiences so far:

5. Saimin noodles from Sam Sato’s:
Tucked away in an industrial park in the small town of Wailuku, this noodle joint is consistently packed. And not a tourist in site! I tried the Saimin noodles, a tasty chewy salty dish served with a hot dashi broth. Saimin noodles were developed in Hawaii during the plantation era and like most Hawaiian food, they have a distinct Asian influence.

The Saimin noodles from the famous Sam Sato's in Wailuku.

The Saimin noodles from the famous Sam Sato’s in Wailuku.

 

4. BBQ Kalbi from street festival in Makawao
I stumbled on to this cool street festival in the cowboy town of Makawao. The smell of BBQ lured me in and I just had to try what they were cooking on these big open grills. And boy am I glad I tried it. Kalbi marinated beef, sticky white rice, corn, and a green salad, yum! The best short ribs i’ve ever had! Kalbi is a Korean-influenced marinade that has soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, and some local cane sugar for some sweetness.

Street festival at Makawao

Street festival at Makawao

Amazing bbq plate with Kalbi pork, sticky rice, and corn.

Amazing bbq plate with Kalbi pork, sticky rice, and corn.

3. Shave Ice:
Take a block of ice and shave off super thin slices. Add local flavours such as guava, pineapple, or coconut. Serve. Refreshing, delicious, and fun. What more can be said?
Shave Ice

 

2. Maui Winery on Ulupalukua Ranch:
At the end of a very winding but beautiful road lies the Maui Winery located on the picturesque Ulupalukua Ranch. They began growing grapes here in 1974 and while they waited for the grapes to mature, they decided to develop a sparkling wine made from the plentiful pineapples grown on the Island. Now they have both grape and pineapple based wine for sale. I bought the fruit forward Maui Splash which I will be saving for a nice hot day!

Assortment of grape and pineapple wines from Maui's winery

Assortment of grape and pineapple wines from Maui’s winery

 

The Ulupalakua Winery in Upcountry

The Ulupalakua Winery in Upcountry

1. Surfing Goat Dairy:
The organic cheese that is produced by this goat farm is fantastic! With over 30 different cheeses and an interesting goat cheese chocolate truffle selection, it was hard to pick what I wanted to sample! I had heard that the mango chevre was delicious so I was sure to get a sample of that in my tasting plate. It definitely lived up to the hype!

Surfing Goat Dairy Farm

Surfing Goat Dairy Farm

Sample of 6 of the soft goat cheeses from Surfing Goat Dairy Farm

Sample of 6 of the soft goat cheeses from Surfing Goat Dairy Farm

Interesting goat cheese flavours from Surfing Goat Dairy farm

Interesting goat cheese flavours from Surfing Goat Dairy farm

Railtown Studios

Railtown Studios

Never heard of Railtown before? Well you soon will! Railtown, the unofficial name for the area just east of Gastown, is an up-and-coming neighbourhood that is quickly becoming a hot spot in the city for amazing restaurants. Gritty, historic, and teeming with artist lofts, design shops, and tech companies, this neighbourhood is an interesting mix of new and old.

Here are our top five foodie reasons you should visit:

1. H.A.V.E Cafe (374 Powell Street)
https://www.have-cafe.ca/

Chef Amber Anderson at H.A.V.E Cafe

Chef Amber Anderson at H.A.V.E Cafe

The HAVE Culinary Training Society is a culinary training school that provides food service job training and work opportunities to individuals in Vancouver who experience barriers to employment. H.A.V.E.‘s students are youth and adults facing mental and physical disabilities, poverty, addiction and homelessness. Over the past 5 years, they have successfully trained 500+ students with over 75% of those students gaining steady employment in the tourism and hospitality industry. Plus they have an amazing cafe serving up all kinds of great food. Try the tomato soup, it will blow your mind!

2. Vancouver Urban Winery (55 Dunlevy Ave)
https://vancouverurbanwinery.com/

The Roaring Twenties Wine at Vancouver Urban Winery

The Roaring Twenties Wine at Vancouver Urban Winery

 

The store at Vancouver Urban Winery

The store at Vancouver Urban Winer

With 24-foot ceilings and over 7,000 square feet of space, even the building (built in 1924 for you history buffs!) is impressive. Even more impressive? The wine on tap concept. Relatively new to Canada, this movement is taking hold all over the city (they currently supply over 70 restaurants throughout  Vancouver). Essentially wineries from all over Canada send in their wine and these guys put it into steel kegs to sell on tap to various establishments. All the flavour of the wine is unchanged with the added benefit of less bottles in the landfill and no corked wine that goes bad!

You can stop in for a wine tasting at their beautiful tasting bar which includes 5 samples of wine including their very own brand, the Roaring Twenties. Pair that with some delicious bites from Railtown Cafe and you’ve got yourself one fantastic night out. P.S they are open late on Friday night!

3. Railtown Cafe (397 Railway Street)
https://railtowncafe.ca/

Railtown Cafe

The beautiful deli counter at Railtown Cafe

This bright and airy cafe opened last summer and it is a great addition to the neighbourhood. They specialize in a cooking technique known as sous vide. For those of you not addicted to reality cooking shows, sous vide is a method of cooking food (mostly proteins) that involves sealing the food in a vacuum pack and then boiling it at a very specific temperature for long periods of time. Yes, it sounds a lot like boil-a-bag but I assure you this is much more complex. The benefits? Perfectly cooked food with no oil and lots of flavour. Railtown cafe has a great assortment of home-made salads, sandwiches, soups, and sweets. They are only open during the week so if you are looking for a new work lunch spot, this is the place to head to!

4. Big Lou’s Butcher Shop (269 Powell Street)
https://www.biglousbutchershop.com/

Sandwich at Big Lou's Butcher Shop

Sandwich at Big Lou’s Butcher Shop

Bonnie & Andy at Big Lou's Butcher Shop

Bonnie & Andy at Big Lou’s Butcher Shop

Big Lou’s Butcher Shop is not owned by Big Lou. Big Lou was the childhood mentor of Karl Gregg who is co-owner of the busy shop along with 2 Chefs and a Table, another popular eatery in the neighbourhood. When asked why local butcher shops are gaining in popularity, Karl answered “I think people are starting to appreciate sustainable and traditional nose-to-tail butchery. Nowadays, people want to know where their meat is coming from.”

The meat at Big Lou’s is sourced from local farms including Polderside, Pemberton Meadows, and Sloping Hills. The display cases and deli counters are a tribute to old-style butcher shops and they have  a wide selection of fresh cut meats on offer and deli sandwiches made fresh. My favorite is the pastrami sandwich. This mammoth of a meal includes one pound of pastrami topped off with house-made pickles, hot mustard, and sauerkraut. Yes please.

5. Cadeaux Bakery (172 Powell Street)
www.cadeauxbakery.com

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Spiced nuts at Cadeaux Bakery

Cadeaux 2

The beautiful display case at Cadeaux Bakery

Do you like delicate sweets that are beautiful to look at and bursting with flavour? Do you like an airy bright bakery with an open kitchen and modern design? How about lovely staff headed by two world-class bakers? Well guess what, Cadeaux bakery has all of that and they are just around the corner! Opened in January 2012, owners Eleanor Chow and Slavita Johnson have impressive resumes (Lumiere, Blue Water Cafe, and Chambar to name a few) and an even more impressive repertoire of recipes. All of their products are seasonal and made on premise and are sure to satisfy any sweet tooth.

Now, want to visit all these places in one amazing afternoon?

We just happen to have a fantastic culinary tour that will go to all these wonderful places where you get to try a sample at each place and meet the owners and staff that make this neighbourhood thrive! The Railtown Tour runs every Thursday and Friday afternoon from 1.30-3.30pm. Cost is $50 with 5% of the ticket price being donated to the HAVE Culinary Training Society.

To book or for more information visit: https://vancouver.offtheeatentracktours.ca/tours/railtown-tour/

Easter and spring are just around the corner and what better way to celebrate than to indulge in some delicious chocolate! Did you know that the Cadbury Easter Egg was introduced in the UK in 1875? Easter and chocolate go hand in hand and Vancouver has an abundance of amazing chocolate shops and chocolate treats. Here is a sample of some of the wonderful options. They also happen to be our partners on our East Village Chocolate Tour happening on Saturday, March 30th (4-6pm).

1. Steam Tea House

Chocolate Tea

Steam Tea House is located inside the Donald Market at 2342 East Hastings. Owned and operated by Nolan Cockburn, this tiny tea shop has over 80 varietals of tea! So whether you are seeking out an exotic blend or a comforting Earl Grey, Nolan has the goods. On the East Village Chocolate Tour, we will be sampling two chocolate infused tea blends including the black tea infused with Vietnamese cocoa as seen in the above photo.

2. Black Rook Bakehouse

Black Rook Bakehouse

Located at  2141  East Hastings, this bright and beautiful bakery is a must when visiting the East Village. Owned by Karen Bloodsworth and Dana Blundell,  these ladies know a thing or two about baking. Using a scratch baking philosophy and local ingredients, these ladies make delicious and delicate pastries, cakes, pies, and more.

black and tan

Photo curtesy of https://hhphotography.ca/

Introducing the Black and Tan Cake.  This epic treat from Black Rook combines stout infused chocolate cake, whiskey buttercream, and dark chocolate ganache. Recently listed on Vancouver Magazine’s “25 Things To Taste Before You Die” and featured in En Route magazine, this cake is flying off the shelf. We are very lucky to have this included in our chocolate tour!

3. Schokolade Cafe

Schokolade

Edward Sutter is the master chocolatier at Schokolade Cafe (2263 East Hastings). This shop uses the best quality chocolate and local ingredients to make their delicate and amazing chocolate treats. Edward completed his 3 year culinary apprenticeship in Luzern, Switzerland in 1988 and worked in both Zurich and Singapore before finally moving to Vancouver to open Schokolade.

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We will be tasting a variety of chocolates from Schokolade including a gourmet hot chocolate and an assortment of Edward’s creations. Edward will be on hand to give us a brief chocolate lesson and answer any questions regarding his chocolates.

4. Campagnolo Roma

Tiramisu 2

In it’s first year of business (2011), Roma was nominated for Best New Restaurant, Best Casual Italian, and Best Pizzeria. Located at 2297 East Hastings, Roma is an amazing addition to the East Village. “The neighbourhood is incredibly rich in food culture with ethnic restaurants, butchers, and Italian markets,” said Tom Doughty, chef and owner. “We feel privileged to join the diverse community,” he added. Here we will sample their tiramisu with a light chocolate dusting.

For more information on our East Village Chocolate Tour and to book tickets visit:

https://vancouver.offtheeatentracktours.ca/tours/the-east-village-chocolate-tour/

 

Alright the secret is out. Alexis and myself (Bonnie) are originally Island girls! Vancouver Island that is. I recently made the journey back home to visit my parents and got the opportunity to take in the wonderful culinary scene that is sprouting up (he he) in the Comox Valley. I was lucky enough to participate in Dine Around Comox Valley and visited the always entertaining and delicious Comox Valley Farmers’ Market. I am always amazed as how friendly the people are and how fresh and delicious the cuisine is in such a beautiful area. Here are some highlights:

1. Dine Around Comox Valley

From February 20 through March 17, 2013,  many Comox Valley restaurants will partake in the campaign by creating delicious three-course, prix fixe meals – each available to diners for $17, $27 or $37 (Cdn, per person).

I had a lovely lunch at the Mad Chef Cafe located at 492 Fitzgerald Avenue in Courtenay. Chef and owner Kevin Munroe has a fun “rebel” attitude towards food and it shows in his dishes. Participating in Dine Around has been a positive experience for Munroe and on the day that I ate there, the room was full.

The Mean Grean Bean Dip

The Mean Grean Bean Dip

“Dine Around is a great way for me to create a menu different from our regular menu, to encourage patrons to come in and try something a little different. This year our Dine Around menu has been very popular and we have seen a lot of new people in our restaurant who probably would not have thought to try us,” said Munroe.

Clam & Crab Slider

Clam & Crab Slider

2. Comox Valley Farmers’ Market

The market, running since 1992, is a great mix of local products that are diverse and delicious. The market is a great place to say hi to the neighbours and pick up local seafood, homemade jams, baked goods, and all sorts of produce. The market takes place every Saturday at the Native Sons Hall.

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Local Tree Island Yogurt

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A bustling crowd at the Native Sons Hall

The pie lady

The Pie Lady

Delicious Samples

Delicious Samples

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