If Simi Sara were a name-dropping kind of person (nah), she could blow any preening foodie out of the water. Anthony Bourdain (gasp) has cooked for her. So have Donna Hay and Michel Roux and the New York Times's Mark Bittman. She's been up close and personal with just about every restaurant chef in the region. She's even coaxed moms and grandmas into sharing their best-loved recipes. As host of CityCooks (9:30 a.m. and noon on weekdays, 9 a.m. weekends on Citytv), Sara eats her way around the globe, bringing viewers the entire highly flavoured ethnic spectrum of Vancouver. Since 2002, when the show debuted, Sara has cooked up over 1,800 dishes from 225 chefs on 600 episodes (with recipes for what looks like all of them at www.citytv.com/vancouver/tvshows_citycooks.aspx). The question is, when you've been hand-fed delicacies from the likes of Jamie Oliver, where do you nosh on your own time? "On the run during the day," says Sara. What she rustles up at home is "whatever the kids [eight and five] will eat. I cook some of the recipes from the show. Whatever's easiest…" Otherwise, these are her favourite haunts.
Best Bakery For breads
"Solly's. For the chocolate babka. It's just chocolate and carbs. My two favourite food categories. And Cobs [Bread, various locations], I love Cobs, especially at Easter because they have chocolate hot cross buns and they call me when they come warm out of the oven."
Best cheap eats
Molly's Coffee Shop
1832 Columbia Street
"There's only one place I go. It's next door [to Citytv]. It's called Molly's. I always have tea and maybe a sausage-and-egg sandwich on sourdough for my breakfast, and it's maybe three bucks."
1488 West 11th Avenue
"It's fast, it's cheap, it's good, and it's fantastic food. I loved the lamb saag, but they took it off the menu."
Best fine-dining restaurant
"We love Provence [Provence Mediterranean Grill, 4473 West 10th Avenue, 604-222-1980; Provence Marinaside, 1177 Marinaside Crescent, 604-681-4144]. I've been to both and they're both beautiful. When I go for brunch, it's always the French toast. They made it on the show once. C [Restaurant, 1600 Howe Street, 604-681-1164]. It's always a big treat to go there. I usually put myself into their hands and go with their recommendations. Morton's [the Steakhouse, 750 West Cordova Street, 604-915-5105]. We went there and had a fabulous meal. That's definitely splurge dining. And that molten chocolate cake for dessert is to die for."
Best romantic restaurant
1064 216th Street, Langley
"I couldn't come up with one. I need to get out more. I had to ask my good friend Dave Gerry [cohost of Breakfast Television]. He says the Bacchus Bistro at Domaine de Chaberton because it's right in the vineyard."
Best fast food
"I always order the same thing. The Titanic. Red ginger slaw with peanut chicken and rice. The really good one was the turkey one. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, and turkey. It was a turkey dinner in a wrap. I loved it, loved it, loved it. Not everyone makes it. I think they do at Granville and 10th." (They do: 2566 Granville Street, 604-739-9440.)
Favourite type of cuisine
"There's not enough Mexican restaurants in this town. I tend to go to Taco Del Mar [various locations]. They're tired of seeing me."
"We usually go to Tim Hortons [various locations] but only for the cookies: peanut butter/chocolate chunk. Sometimes they're warm out of the oven. If I go upmarket, it's got to be Sen5es [Bakery, 801 West Georgia Street, 604-633-0138]. The chocolate sparkle cookies. We love having [pastry chef and chocolatier] Thomas Haas on the show. I can't believe some of the flavours he comes up with. He does a garam masala one. It shouldn't work, but it does."
Best Food Store
1207 56th Street, Tsawwassen
"I drive into Tsawwassen every Saturday [from Ladner] because the customer service is exceptional, and if they don't have it, they'll get it for me. I love their bagels. They were out last Saturday. They went to the truck [which had just delivered them] and got them for me."
Favourite Place to Go on the Spur of the Moment
Memphis Blues Barbeque House
1465 West Broadway
1342 Commercial Drive
"You can never go wrong with the platter. I go for smoked sausage and pulled pork. I've done the Elvis [platter] with not as many friends as there should have been."