Saturday, April 19, 2014

Boleskine Bistro

Address: 400 Boleskine Road
Phone: (778) 265-7745
Website: http://www.boleskinebistro.ca/
Price: ~$12 for a main
Notes: Something for everyone, huge portions, great prices and a little bit of Indian fare

I've popped by to the Boleskine Bistro a few times since their opening almost a year ago. Although the space has a bit of a utilitarian feel to it (although I can't quite put my finger on why...) and the menus could use a little polishing (in both the proof reading and design department...) the overall experience seems to be solid! They have plenty of specials, and lots of space for larger groups or private events.

The restaurant is located of in the semi-industrial, semi-residential dead zone in between Uptown and Tillicum, so a great spot for lunch or dinner after some intensive shopping. I cannot for the life of me remember what was in the location prior to the opening, but I think it is the first food establishment to operate in the location. The room is L shaped, with windows on two sides and a small bar area next to the kitchen. The decor is modern, with dark wood tables, beige walls and light tiles.

As always, I have a little bit of a pedantic rant about the over-use of the word 'bistro' as a synonym for 'restaurant.' If you're like me and think a bistro serves quick meals that are kind of european inspired then this isn't that - this is a pub style menu without the pub, serving a wide variety of hamburgers and sandwiches as well as classic mains and appetizers. They also cater to diners who need a fully gluten free menu, and are one of the few places that serves gluten free fries in Victoria! The menu sizes are generous for the price, and the service was quick and friendly.

Food:
February 10, 2014
Shepherds Pie
Shepherds Pie
This was my partner-in-food-and-life's choice. It was meaty and filling, well spiced and came with a nice side salad and plenty of dressing options. For $12 it was a great deal! The combination of ground lamb and beef made it nice and savoury, and I am certain the potatoes on top were from scratch - which is great to see!

Pakoras
Pakoras
I ordered these as my main, despite being on the appetizer list, after seeing a friend order them and fries the last time and being overwhelmed with the amount! They were very, very good - hot, fresh and flavourful. Even if they halved the portion size and charged a dollar less I would think it was a good deal! In the end my p.i.f.a.l. and I shared both of our meals 50/50 because as delicious as they were... perhaps not the healthiest of choices as my main caloric intake of the day! 

Lemon Meringue
Lemon Meringue
Since we had split an appy and a main we opted for dessert - a nice slice of lemon meringue with a very healthy meringue on top! The drizzle made it a bit sweet for my taste, but it was still a satisfying end to a good meal.

Service:
February 10, 2014
We came for a late dinner, so there weren't many people in the restaurant, but they were helpful and accommodating, but not overly attentive!

Boleskine Bistro on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 4, 2014

PSA: A quest for putting Victoria's BEST restrooms on the map! Nominations OPEN



Frequent readers of this blog will know that I have an obsession with restaurant bathrooms. I just feel like when a restauranteur has put as much effort into designing the bathroom stalls that I can trust my food is handled with care. When a bathroom feels more like a bad elementary school flashback I get nervous!

For the 5th year running Cintas Canada is sponsoring the competition for Canada's Best Restroom. Our Langley Street Loo was the winner in 2012, but last year we were ousted by the Valleyview Shell Super Station in Alberta.

yes those are solid alder wood doors, granite countertops & chandeliers...
in a gas station bathroom!

Now, I admit... this is no regular gas station pit stop, but I say it's time that we put Victoria's bathrooms back on the map! The competition, dubbed the "battle of the bowls," is voted online by the public and open to any non-residential restroom in Canada that is accessible to the general public.  Entries are judged on cleanliness, visual appeal, innovation, functionality and unique design elements as well as their commitment to customer service.  In addition to national recognition, this year’s winner will receive the royal washroom treatment- a grand prize of $2,500 to be redeemed for Cintas facility services.

But really - this is all about bragging rights, Victoria! I know we have some amazing bathrooms to show off so get your nominations in!

Nominations are open from now until June 20, 2014. Get online and nominate a deserving Victoria area restaurant at www.bestrestroom.com/canada!  

Five finalists will be announced this summer, at which time online voting will begin. The winner and runner-up will be revealed this fall during a nationally publicized media event and then be enshrined in Cintas’ Canada’s Best Restroom Contest Hall of Fame. In the meantime, you can keep up to date with all things Best Restroom related on their Facebook page.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Join the Craft Beer Revolution




In case it wasn't clear already... I love craft beer. My path towards loving local really started with realizing I really liked Phillips Maple Cream ale... and that there was a real difference between something that was being imported from Esquimalt and something that was being imported from far away. As the years have progressed my ability to keep up with the craft beer scene was eclipsed by just trying to keep my finger on the pulse of the food scene, but I still try to pick up the best of the new releases from Victoria breweries and hit up the cask nights when I can. 

I got a chance to chat with local beer writer Joe Wiebe to go into glorious detail about the publishing process for his BC bestseller Craft Beer Revolution: The Insider's Guide to B.C. Breweries. Joe is the Thirsty Writer, a longtime BC beer writer who is in talks with the CBC to do a regular radio column on craft beer. 

This is one of those books that feels like a fantastic deal. I mean, you could spend years painstakingly researching every new brew, making notes, drinking more beers than Joe wanted to think about, drive across the entire Province and leap at any chance to dry a pint of something new. There is a certain appeal to the nerd in me for that kind of dedication and fastidious frontline research, but it is neither practical nor possible for most of us. Thankfully Joe has taken one for the team and served it up on 228 pages of ink and paper. 

His book is pretty much a primer for everything you ever needed to know to truly live local and drink exclusively British Columbia brewed craft beer. He starts with the basics - an introduction and glossary of terms - and moves into regional chapters, each with a little bit of history and a breakdown of available breweries. I love how this book is laid out - it has the same aesthetic and feel of my Tastebud Guides project. It is definitely meant to be used as a guidebook, not just read once and kept collecting dust on the shelf.  Joe told me he hopes that people carry the book with them on their beer adventures, and that it becomes beer stained, earmarked and notated. 

We started our conversations by laughingly acknowledging his Author's Note that the book was pretty much out of print the moment it hit print. It's true - even in the few months since publications numerous breweries and brewpubs have opened up all across the Province. Although he has plans for a 2nd edition next year, there is more than enough selection in the 1st edition to keep you busy until then! 

The change in our local food culture and the change in our local beer culture really have gone hand in hand. Brewpubs like Spinnakers, which was really one of the first (and the most enduring!), have brought along the local food mission along with their craft beer mission. We are so lucky to live somewhere like Victoria where we are spoiled for choice for locally brewed beers, but reading Joe's book made me realize that the same revolution is happening around the rest of the Province, too! I look forward to using it on my next adventure outside of my stomping ground! 

As I said above - I have trouble keeping up with our Island beer scene, let alone the whole Province. Craft beer has just gotten too big! But somehow Joe has managed it. The research in each chapter alone is enough to make a sober person very, very thirsty. Visiting Vancouver for the weekend and curious where to drink? Chapter 4 should suit you quite well. A quick reference chart on page 83 will get you started to find exactly the right location to meet your current needs - whether you plan for just a quick growler refill or you are looking for somewhere to eat, drink and perhaps (if you've had a few to many of the latter) stay the night. Once you have arrived at the ideal watering hole a quick reference of recommended selections and facts accompany the history of the establishment should not only help you order efficiently, but earn you a few smalltalk tidbits to open the conversation with your barman! A win for beer drinkers, socially awkward nerds or those of us who are in the venn diagram overlap of both. 


If you have any road trips planned this year Joe’s book is definitely the guidebook to have as your trusted companion. Copies are available through his website (http://www.craftbeerrevolution.ca/), at local bookstores as well as Spinnakers Pub and Cascadia liquor stores or online via Amazon

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Food Nerd Podcast Episode 20: The Nanaimo Bar

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This months topic for the the Canadian Food Experience Project is about a regional food of Vancouver Island. Head on over to acanadianfoodie.com to see all of the other bloggers from across Canada who participated in this topic as well.

I met up with Nanaimo native Shalyn of VIreviews.com to nerd out about the Nanaimo bar. We managed to cover that in about 10 minutes... and just generally chatted about the state of Island dining. I also discovered that Nanaimo had a mayor that dressed as a pirate! (This made me very, very happy. I love pirates!)

Despite our efficiency in covering it the history of the Nanaimo Bar is actually quite fascinating... somewhere out there lurks proof of the origin of the Nanaimo bar. Make sure to check your cookbooks when you clear out your elders basements... you never know what proof you might find!


Upcoming events:

  • March 1-8th Victoria Beer Week — Prices and location vary
  • March 13th 7:15-9:15pm Wine & Cheese Tasting at the Victoria Public Market — $39 in advance via Taste Victoria
  • March 19th 6:30-7:30pm Good for you Gourmet Muffin Cooking class at Planet Organic — Free! Register in advance at Planet Organic or by calling 250.727.9888
  • March 20th Culinaire at the Crystal Gardens — Sold Out
  • March 27th 6-10pm Sip & Savour Sidney — $55 in advance from the Mary Winspear box office
  • April 30th 6:30-9pm Uncork your Palate at the Crystal Gardens — Fundraiser for the Victoria Conservatory of Music. $95 in advance via the VCM website or in person from the Strath liquor store

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Be Love

Address: 1019 Blanshard St.
Phone: 778.433.7181
Website: http://beloverestaurant.ca/
Price: $12-18
Notes: Alternative-diet friendly and delicious lunch and dinner options

I think many people who consider themselves foodies are also meat eaters. I count myself among this group. There is definitely a confusion deep in my soul about how anyone could possibly live without bacon. That answer, as we discovered during our visit... zucchini bacon! Actually, no. The answer is that when you focus on food flavours and combinations, not necessarily trying to recreate meat dishes, you can create amazing, well-flavoured dishes that tick all the dietary boxes. You just have to think outside the box a bit...

Be Love opened late in December of 2013, although the sibling co-owners have been operating Bliss, a small cafe with a similar vision, for years. Clearly there was a niche in the market for adding another restaurant to the scene, as they have been consistently busy pretty much since opening! The space is taking up half of what used to be the Alpine Market on Blanshard street, but extensive modern renovations have completely transformed the space. The tall ceilings have beautiful beams up to a skylight that makes you feel more like you are outside than inside.

Menu items run the gamut from curries that could just as easily be on any menu to adventurous items such as the "macrobiotic bowl." I was pleasantly surprised to visit fairly early in their lifespan to see that they really have their process down! Every dish ordered at our large table hit the mark, the service was solid, their bartender was fantastic and everything came in record time. I feel like we only just scraped the surface of the menu, especially because many of the flavour combinations are so completely off my radar I don't know what to expect from ordering!  All of the menu items are in a great price point for dinner, but I am surprised that they have not opted for a slightly less pricey lunch menu to feed the hoards of Victoria downtown lunch crowd! They seem to be trying to hit more the price point of Devour (around $15) but I feel like they could do well to rework things a little bit and offer some less adventurous options for closer to $10 or $12. What really impressed me, however, was the ever-changing dessert menu. Typically my partner in food and life and I have a difficult time with competing dairy/soy allergies... but not here! The "cheese" cake is actually made with cashew "cheese!"Everything ordered so far has been impeccable from presentation to flavours to value.

Food:
January 31, 2014
I visited with several other Victoria food loving folk as part of the monthly conviviality pledge. Everyone at the table, vegetarian or not, had an amazing meal although I did not document it all.

I started the meal with a few drinks... an important component to conviviality! We had also heard, and had reinforced, that the bartender was fantastic. My partner-in-food-and-life ordered a custom drink with their house-made kombucha and he came over and chatted about its creation, giving all the benefits of sitting at the bar without the compromises of only being able to seat a few people comfortably!

Red Cedar Swizzle
Red Cedar Swizzle
The Red Cedar Swizzle was a popular choice at the table. It was dry, and the cedar infusion flavour was certainly distinct! I love the fact that they use the Long Table gin. Although not quite local, it's still a BC born gin that is reported to be more consistent than our own Victoria Gin. 

Fernandito
Fernandito
Their take on a fernet and cola with their house-made "Quetzal Cola" was delicious. I have such a soft spot for house made cola and fernet, but now that the management has changed at Clive's it's harder to find. I was pretty stoked to discover a replacement here!

Masala Dosa
Masala Dosa
For my main I opted for the dosa, a fermented lentil pancake that I have never had before! It was pretty tasty, although one corner was oddly chewier than the rest (and I probably only noticed because it was my first bite!). The potato curry inside was well flavoured, and a bite combined with the riata and chutney was heavenly. 

Other menu items ordered, enjoyed and shared by the group at the table included the warm quinoa salad, the macrobiotic bowl and the sweet potato gnocchi. 

Tiramisu
Tiramisu
As mentioned above all the desserts were made without any dairy. Although normally this attempt to recreate the original confuses me, this time it works really well. The richness of the nut-based "cheese" (in this case hazelnut if I recall correctly!) works really well with the sweetness of the desserts.

Service:
January 31, 2014
Our service was great! Friendly, prompt and with a personal touch, especially from the bartender. Despite having a large group our food was well organized, came promptly and was without fault.

Be Love on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Food Nerd Podcast Episode 19: Victoria Beer Week

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Victoria finally has a beer week! Thanks to the hard work of the lovely folks who joined me on this podcast, Jay Nowak of Garrick's Head Pub, Jeff Kendrew of Vancouver Island Brewery and Ryan Malcom of Saltspring Island Ales & New Theatre Tonic! 

I love that this Craft Beer week came out of beer geeks sitting around drinking and realizing that they wanted to make this happen in Victoria! It epitomizes everything this podcast is ready to nerd out about. Little did they know it was going to take on a life of its own... and don't even get them started about what might happen next year!

There are a whole host of amazing, amazing events happening during beer week, and they are selling out SO fast it's not worth me listing the available ones, just get yourself over to http://victoriabeerweek.com ASAP so you don't miss out! 

(Apologies for the audio quality in this one, I had a total fail on the recording side! Bad Jen. No cookie.)


Upcoming events:

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Food Nerd Podcast Episode 18: My Canadian Love Affair

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This month's topic for the the Canadian Food Experience Project is about my Canadian Love Affair. Head on over to acanadianfoodie.com to see all of the other bloggers from across Canada who participated in this topic as well.

A super short episode for you this week... but a recipe for a classic and very Canadian Cocktail! I feel in love with this caesar about two years ago: 
Bourbon Caesar
Full post from Jam Cafe here

It inspire a whole new love of caesars, and has lead to participating in a caesar crawl and trying a caesar with house made Clamato at the Kwisitis Feast House up near Tofino. So when I drew a blank on my Canadian love affair (beyond poutine) I was so happy to be reminded that the great Canadian cocktail that holds such a special place in my heart could be crafted for my Sunday morning pleasure! 

You can listen along below to get the full story behind making this, but here's the recipe!

The Super Canadian Caesar

  • 14-15 oz of Clamato
  • 1-2 oz Alberta Premium Dark Horse Rye
  • 2 tbsp pickle juice 
  • 1/2 tbsp prepared horseradish 
  • 2 tbsp of sweet & smoky BBQ sauce
  • 10-15 shakes of  Worcestershire sauce 
  • 5-10 shakes of Tabasco
  • 1 slice of cooked and slightly caramelized bacon




Upcoming events:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mutsuki-An

Address: 2056-A Sinclair Road
Phone: (250) 595-0378
Price: ~$17 for a dinner combo
Notes: Fresh, classic sushi in the heart of Cadboro Bay

Mutsuki-An has long been on my radar as possibly the best sushi in town! They recently relocated from Oak Bay (next to the high school) to Cadboro Bay village. The decor is bright and decorated with tasteful, modern art. The hardwood floors and birch tables complete the clean, spacious feel.  The menu is slightly larger than it was during my last visit to the old location, possibly reflecting the larger kitchen area in the new location. They still focus on sushi, serving no tempura.

Like their previous location they have maintained the small restaurant size as well as minimal hours. They still only seat a handful of tables, and their hours are pretty minimal, closing Sundays, Mondays and quite early in the evenings. They have also maintained their commitment to the excellent quality that only fresh and local ingredients provides. I really respect keeping things small and local, and being able to control all the variables! It produces high quality results so much more consistently than the alternative.  The restaurant is also truly a family affair. The mother of the family is the chef, and is assisted in the business by her daughters.

Food:
January 25, 2014
Tea
Tea
We ordered a pot of tea for our table, and I loved the brilliant green colour! The tea was clearly high quality, and perfectly steeped with no astringency or bitterness. The tea pot cost $2 and was just under four cups worth. It was so delicious I was tempted to order another pot! 

Spicy Combo pt 1Spicy Combo pt 2
Spicy Combo
This was my choice, influenced by my favourite salad, the sunomono. This one was a bit on the sweet side for my sour palate, but was still a great appetizer. 

The miso soup is without a doubt the best in town. Soy is not my friend, frequently bringing on unpleasant allergic reactions. Normally I can't be bothered to have more than a sample, but this time I had to stop myself from eating the entire bowl. It contained large chunks of tofu, seaweed, green onion and the surprising, but delicious, inclusion of bean curd. 

My plate of sushi contained two rolls, a spicy tuna and a spicy vegetable roll, as well as a spicy vegetable cone. All contained extremely high grade of ingredients and were well crafted. Although it wasn't the largest amount of sushi I have put away in a single sitting, I was plenty full and the value was pretty excellent for $16. 

Taste of Tokyo pt 1Taste of Tokyo pt 2
Taste of Tokyo Combo
This was my partner-in-food-and-life's choice. The miso soup was also well received, in fact my P.I.F.A.L. finished the remainder of mine to save me from myself.

The meal came with gomae salad was clearly homemade and tasted very fresh and delicate. The side of burdock was an unusual and interesting addition. The tuna sashimi, although excellent quality, were quite long and thin. Personally I enjoy the texture of thicker chunks. The two rolls, a cucumber maki roll and a tuna roll, were simple but well flavoured. The one thing my p.i.f.a.l. noted was that the rice was a bit plain on its own, and would have been nice with a bit of sauce. 

Cream Puffs
Cream Puffs
I was a bit disappointed to find out that the wasabi ice cream was sold out. We opted for the cream puffs, but were surprised to find that they seemed to have been frozen. For a business that prides themselves on local, fresh ingredients the dessert kind of disappointed. 

Service:
January 25, 2014
The service was friendly, and our meal came quickly. We did need to ask for chopsticks, but it was rectified quickly.

Mutsuki-An on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 23, 2014

PSA: Former Agriculture Minister Speaking at Food Industry Event

Are you a farmer, culinary artisan,
food processor, chef, or food activist?  
This one's for you!

FarmFolk CityFolk and the Island Chefs' Collaborative have partnered up to bring Corky Evans, former Ministry of Agriculture, to speak at their annual "Meet your Maker" industry networking event next week.

Mr. Evans will be addressing the hot topic of the proposed changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve. Changing the ALR is a delicate subject because it threatens to shift lands that have been set aside for agriculture into lands that are can be used for urban and resource development, both of which threaten our food security and environment. The food community both on and off the Island have been anxious to find out more about how this will affect the industry and how they can voice their support for the ALR. This is a great opportunity to hear more about changes to the ALR and connect with others who are also concerned!

The remainder of the day will involve a gourmet lunch, a local wine and beer reception, and workshops by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, LeftSpoke Media, FarmFolk CityFolk, The Islands Chefs’ Collaborative, Greenchain Consulting, and Food System Optimization. Topic discussions range from food labelling and safety to new ideas for local food distribution and regional branding, as well as ample opportunity for networking with all levels of our local food community. So... it sounds pretty amazing overall!

Pre-Registration (required!)www.farmfolkcityfolk.ca
Date: Monday, January 27th
Time: 9:30am-3:00pm; speech at 10am
Location: Saanich Fair Grounds
Cost: $50/person

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Food Nerd Podcast Episode 17: Coffee & Community at Shatterbox

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Although Shatterbox opened more than a year ago I haven't managed to get there quite yet to blog... but I have been impressed by the level of coffee nerdery that I have experienced on every visit! The small espresso bar on Yates Street across from the Harris Green plaza serves beverages and the occasional muffin, but doesn't let its commitment to great caffeination be distracted by much else. 

I sat down with owner Kalen to talk about how his journey came to owning Shatterbox, and we ended up getting quite philosophical on the role of the coffee shop in our North American coffee culture vs the cafe culture of Europe where he began his coffee journey, and how he now helps people to find their coffee heaven every day! 

We also touched on the role that Shatterbox has played as a community member itself, supporting various community projects and developing their back room into a welcoming community-focused space. I also managed to get a bit of a scoop about what is coming this spring at the Shatterpod food truck spot!