Seem Real Land
Food, Travel, Literature, Art, Architecture, Gardening and more Food
Monday, April 29, 2013
Friday, March 01, 2013
The best canned tuna at Fable
The only place I read Maclean's magazine is at my dentist's office. At my dental appointment this week, I was reading an article about urban farming. The article was quite extensive, about places around Canada and the States I had heard of, including Vancouver's Yummy Yards tended by the very charismatic local gardener Emi Do and the latest thing in indoor gardening, the roof top vegetable garden the city is promoting called Alterrus. I had seen a piece on the TV news about Alterrus which mentioned that its vegetables were being served in a new Vancouver restaurant called Fable, a contraction of From Farm to Table. I had seen its chef on a cooking segment on the morning news last year making what he called "the best can of tuna." How good can canned tuna be? I needed to find out.
I prepared for my trip to Fable by watching Anthony Bourdain's visit to Spain on his show No Reservations. His guide takes Tony to a bar north of Barcelona that serves canned sea food exclusively. A can of clams for 175 Euros for example.The place is called Ca L'Espinaler. I assume it's canned tuna would be pretty good. The secret must be the olive oil. Can Fable compare?
I have yet to eat a can of Espinaler tuna but it would be hard to beat Fable's tuna dish. It came in a jar (a glass can?) with pressed lemon and potatoes along with the olive oil. I was instructed to break it up, eat it with the accompanying crackers and a tiny spoon of salt. Instead, I wolfed down the whole tuna chunk at the top of the jar. Then the lemon. Stunning. Finally the potatoes. They reminded me very much of the potato pasta with pesto I had the last time I went to a restaurant, La Pentola Della Quercia, 6 weeks ago. When Chef Bird visits our table, I ask about the origin of the dish and he says he was inspired by the Italian recipe called Conserva, only that recipe didn't call for lemon. Good thing he added the lemon.
We also ask the chef about the greens he's getting from Alterrus. He compares the quality of different greens and seems quite happy with what the restaurant has been getting. I want to find out more about their Verticrop project. A way to feed the future? Worth investigating.
The chef was most interested in my dining companion, my farmer friend Terry who was just as interested in the From Farm to Table concept, having an actual farm to supply various tables. The chef wondered if he could buy some wheat from Terry, who said his farm is 1,000 km away in the Peace River country. We thought the chef only wanted food from around here, but it turns out he wants the best food he can get. Terry was particularly impressed with his beet salad. It was the first time he'd had golden beets. We also ordered the chickpea fritters which I suspected Fumiyo would like so I brought them home for her. She was delighted, and found them delicious. I had much less luck with the cod brandade in squash soup that tasted like alien curry. Maybe Klingons would like it, but it was a long way from the Cod Brandade I'd had at Bouchon in Vegas 2 years ago. As longtime readers of this blog would know, that's about as close as I get to saying anything nice about Thomas Keller. I'll definitely try something else the next time I visit Fable.
There had been a lot of news recently about mislabeled seafood. Apparently more than half of the fish sold in Southern California is mislabeled, particularly in seafood restaurants. Was the great tuna in a jar at Fable really tuna? Just before going to the restaurant, I was reading Montreal writer Taras Grescoe's book
bottomfeeder which, although 5 years old, reports the same news about mislabeled fish from its perch in the past. I remember eating a lot of pretend crab in Japan and it's common here too, though usually labeled as such. Some of the fish substitutions reported on the news are of fish dangerous for humans to eat substituted for supposedly tasty fish. I suspect that won't be the case at Fable. In case I am poisoned, I have a couple of stiff cocktails to ward off possible toxins:
Friday, February 22, 2013
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
The Food Chain Gang
While killing time in my room at the Palace of Imps between meals, I turned on the TV and found what appeared to be a local food show. Three cartoonized men in striped prison clothes being chased by a lion. The three cartoon characters now appear as real men, identified as Moe Hawksbreath, a man with a colourful collection of hair attempting architecture on his head, Suetonius “Sooty” Whiteman, who looked like Colonel Sanders if the Colonel had made his fortune selling Kentucky Fried Tofu, and Max Legroom, former Food Critic from a Big City, whose brain maintained big ripples in a small pond of knowledge.
The producer, identified as F-Stop Fitzgerald, introduced the first restaurant the Food Chain Gang would review. Dear Lederhosen, the first Korean-German restaurant in Vegas. How was it, F-Stop asked.
“I started out with the Gangham Style Schnitzel. It made me think I was riding a horse, and invading Poland,” commented Sooty.
“I had the Ludwig Van Bibimbap,” said Max. “It's still thundering on my palate.”
“I read on Yelp that it was originally called the Berlin Bibimbap during the soft opening. No one seemed to mind the wall between the vegetables and the rice, but the piece of beef in the shape of Hitler's mustache struck people as tacky, so they changed the name, “ Moe reported.
“Now its 2 pieces of beef, in the shape of Beethoven's eyebrows, supposedly,” added Legroom.
“What did you think of the Sweet and Sauerkraut?” asked Sooty.
“That was the North Korean dish, wasn't it?” asked Moe.
“ Actually it's a Chinese dish. But so is North Korea,” explained Max.
“Could you figure out what was in the Volksgook burger? It was fantastic, but they wouldn't tell me what kind of meat they used. And I'm a TV restaurant critic,” sniffed Whiteman.
“So overall, how would you rate Dear Lederhosen?” asked the producer.
“As Marilyn Monroe said to Jack Kennedy, 'Take your pants off, Mr. President.'” concluded Max Legroom, speaking for all the critics.
“Next up, Penguinpalooza. Was it really Krillicious?”asked the camera setting disguised as a human.
“I've never seen Arctic Char so charred,” Suetonius shuddered.
“I couldn't find a place in the hotel parking lot so I was late,” explained Max.
“No Legroom at the Inn?” asked Sooty.
“Penguins are too cute to eat. So why are they on the menu?” wondered Hawksbreath,
“I agree with the man with the parakeet landing zone on his head,” said the tofu torturer.
“You're not supposed to agree, you're supposed to argue. Earn your booze coupons,” said the irate producer.
“You were the only one of us with a weapon. You should have skewered the chef with your hair. Did you chicken out, bird brain?” Whiteman taunted Hawksbreath, his camera ready Kentucky fried fury sparked less by his chagrin at his fellow critic's faux pas than by the possibility of a smaller paycheck.
“At least I have a brain,” retorted Moe.
The sponsor, Lazarus of Las Vegas: Let us freeze you into Eternity, smiled avariciously.
“We have a question from the Live Chat Room. A. Cat wants to know if it's real penguin meat?” relays F-Stop.
“To paraphrase the famous New Yorker cartoon, on the internet, nobody knows you're a cat,” quotes Max, always happy to display his vast knowledge.
“Yes, real as death. Pulverized Penguin Pancreas no less. Who could make that up? You'd have to be a cat to eat it,” protests Sooty.
“So, summing up...” insisted F-Stop, trying to speed up the show and get to a bar.
“As Greta Garbo said to Jack Kennedy, 'Put your pants on, Mr. President,'” summed Max as the credits came up.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Great Food Returns to Vancouver
When Ensemble closed down last year, the restaurant industry in this town took a major hit. The best meal I've ever had here was at Ensemble but chef MacKay's empire seems to have expanded too quickly and thus, is no more. However, good food remains at Cioppino's (not as good as before, but still excellent) and a new Italian restaurant has stepped up to bat and hit it out of the park.
La Pentola Della Quercia is the latest offshoot of one of the city's best restaurants (or some I'm told, Haven't eaten there yet) La Quercia, which I'm also told has a 2 month waiting list to get in. Just like Per Se. Hopefully with better food. I read an article in The Georgia Straight about La Pentola when it opened recently. The review raved about its Souffle di parmigiano, zucchini crudo which sounded like the Parmigiano Souffle at Payard's Patisserie & Bistro in Vegas, a meal I have yet to consume but it will be at the top of my list my next trip there. I had great souffles as a kid. Stauffers, the frozen food folks, had a spinach souffle that was one of my favourite foods growing up. So I had high expectations when my friend Frank (no stranger to Italian food) and I got reservations at La Pentola early this week. The souffle was every bit as good as I expected, a bit crispy on top but succulent throughout. The zucchini was refreshing and went superbly with the souffle. I didn't know if the others things on the menu would be as good. I ordered the Stuffed squid, leeks, fennel, salsa rossa also from the appetizer menu and it was just as good, maybe better.Frank had the Eggplant terrine, prawns, agro-dolce tomato which was smooth and not as eggplanty as I expected but excellent anyway. In another review of La Pentola, I read about a Northern Italian dish of pasta and potatoes in pesto which the reviewer raved about. Our profoundly informative server told us it was off the menu but the chef could make it for me, and he did. Before any of the food came to the table, the server brought some warm bread, something I normally ignore,but the server raved about the olive oil he served with it. "Very floral" he informed us. I've only become interested in great olive oil after having it, also with bread and a Greek salad at the Greek restaurant Milos in Vegas (originally in Montreal). That opened the door for my enjoyment of this product and there's obviously far more to engage my palate. Recently Fumiyo and I celebrated her birthday with dinner at Dino's house (Bit's old boyfriend, a long time friend and dining companion of our family) and he told me that Bit used to dive into the bread offering at restaurants, but also had room for the food, something that kept me from eating the bread offerings with most meals. My dad used to say a meal isn't a meal without bread, though coming from Saskatchewan, where most of Canada's wheat comes from, that is understandible. I probably exceeded my capacity to eat the pasta because of the small amount of bread I tried, but the server was right about the floral oil. "From Spain," he informed us. Odd, in an Italian restaurant but I'm really glad to have experienced it. A couple of decent cocktails also added to my enjoyment of the meal, as did it's relatively small price. Now I know where to take friends visiting from out of town.
I didn't notice an reference to Ocean Wise on the menu, and will ask Pentola if they're part of that programme the next time I dine there. Ocean Wise was started as an educational programme by the city's aquarium and several chefs devoted to educating the public about sustainable seafood. It is now ubiquitous in the city's restaurants, sea food shops and even Safeway. I recently read an article by the son of a friend about seasonality of seafood, http://www.seaaroundus.org/about/index.php/2012/12/to-everything-there-is-a-season Whether because of Ocean Wise or other reasons, the seasonality of Spot Prawns has been celebrated in Vancouver for the past few years and various species of salmon are looked forward to in their season in town. Obviously a good marketing device for both restaurants and seafood stores and as the article points out, very important to the continuation of species we like to eat. I'm now reading How Much Is Enough? by Robert and Edward Skidelsky which mentions that in the Koran, the Moslem Heaven features fruit that is always in season. That is not the case on earth. We should eat accordingly.
Friday, October 26, 2012
Monique's 34th Birthday, Turkish and Greek food
I was surprised to find a Turkish beer on the menu. Went especially well with the falafal, not so good with the salad. I find beer goes great with pizza, Chinese and Indian food in general, and some Japanese deep fried food like Tempura and Ton Katsu, but not salads. This "village salad" called Coban Salatsi, however was extraordinary Similar ingredients to a Greek salad, except the Italian parsley I ask my server if the cheese is different from a Greek salad and he says yes, along with the spices. This reminds me of the Greek salad I had at Milos in Vegas back in February, and that's a Greek place aspiring to be one of the top fish restaurants in the world. They succeed because of their olive oil, it seems to me. This place succeeds for a variety of reasons. It's hard enough to know whether it's their special olives, special oil, special vegies or just something Turkish that makes the salad so memorable. I bring some home to Fumiyo who can't taste much these days but does enjoy the food.
The following day we celebrate our daughter's birthday with her friends and her favourite local Greek restaurant, Mythos. Although I've been to Mythos more than any other restaurant in town, I'm usually not recognized but tonight, I'm greeted as if I were family. Maybe Bit's spirit is animating the restaurant tonight. I know she loved going to good restaurants, in the last years of her life. I always orders the eggplant stuffed with crab as it's always great. Fumiyo has the lemon soup and our friends try their meatier dishes. I order the squid stuffed with cheese which is a revelation to me, though Fumiyo remembers we'd ordered it by mistake before. I think it's the quality of the cheese, like the Turkish salad and the great lunch at Milos. Cheese is one of my favourite things and marrying it to squid, not something I would have considered, is obviously something the Greeks and Turks have long experimented with. All in all, a splendid meal Bit would have thoroughly enjoyed.