Oh, I do love our Golden Plates issue here at the Straight. I get to find out where my esteemed colleagues have been eating, and what. And I get to add my two cents’ worth to the lineup, digging through a year’s worth of food-stained notes and trying to decipher abbreviations that seemed so sensible at the time. (Check with restaurants to confirm prices and availability.)
These, then, are favourites from a wine-splodged calendar: some new, some old, all great combinations that I’ve enjoyed in months past. I’ve included prices for many of these, wherever I remembered to write them down. Some you’ll have to discover on your own; all are good value, as that’s essential.
Mindful of the old adage “Life is short, eat dessert first,” we’ll start with sweets.
Tiramisu della Casa with a glass of Quady Essensia. That familiar fixture, the yellow house and courtyard at the foot of Hornby Street, is fading fast: the property has been sold, and guess what will rise in its place? Condos. Yep, no more bistecca alla fiorentina in a month or so. Will Umberto relocate? Speculation is rife; we’ll just have to wait and see.
Tiramisu means “carry me up” or “pick-me-up” in Italian. Many think it must be an upward journey to heaven. Airy sponge cake (or ladyfingers) dipped in espresso, layered with mascarpone and grated chocolate, it goes perfectly with Quady Essensia.
Spiked Espresso B-52 and macarons. You really need the espresso to tame the ultra-sweetness of these tiny, airy treats by “one of the finest pastry chefs in the world” (says none other than the old culinary curmudgeon Gordon Ramsay). There are many different flavours and colours, priced around $1.75 each and sold in better-deal seven- and 12-packs. In the Spiked Espresso ($7.95), the rich, bitter coffee is blended with St-Rémy à la Crème, Kahlúa, and Cointreau. You can have it any day from 7 a.m. until late, on the Alberni Street patio or inside the classy café.
Uva Wine Bar in the Moda Hotel
Buck-a-shuck oysters and prosecco. The oysters are fresh and cold, the prosecco too; it costs $5 a glass on Sundays. Lots of places are doing dollar oysters (theirs are noon to 5 p.m. every day), but it’s the chilled prosecco with its minerally bite that makes this work so well. Fill your boots; add some starch if you need it from the lounge menu.
Tableau Bar Bistro in the Loden Hotel
The Wednesday lunch feature: duck confit and cassoulet beans ($20) with a glass of Nichol Vineyard Pinot Gris (the one with the pink hue) or CedarCreek Pinot Noir (each $12 a glass). Rich and filling. The wines work perfectly—have one of each; it’s Wednesday, after all.
Steeve Raye’s breakfast “skillets”, the heartiest breakfasts in town. Cast-iron pans full of spinach or beans or whatever, with a couple of eggs on top, plus sides: salad, potatoes, crusty bread ($13.95 to $15.95). Other brunch dishes, too. One of the skillets and an ice-cold Kronenbourg is the winning combination.
Nicli Antica Pizzeria
The Margherita pizza—pomodoro, Grana Padano, fior de latte, and basil ($13)—with a bottle of Primitivo di Puglia or Insolia di Sicilia ($39 each). Then stop in at the fabulous little deli next door and get dinner to go for tomorrow.
Forage in the Listel Hotel
Sure, some of us miss O’Doul’s, but this replacement more than covers the loss. If chef Chris Whittaker creates nothing else, his seafood chowder with crackling and a quail’s egg on top ensures his place in heaven’s kitchen. That, with a glass of Wild Goose Riesling (they motored through their allotment of Road 13 Chenin Blanc in the first week!), is the perfect snack. Or lunch. Or, if you have two bowls of chowder, dinner! One of the great dishes in the city, from one of the most interesting menus this town has seen.
Superchef Scott Kidd finally gets his own place, and yes, it’s well worth the drive over the Lions Gate Bridge. A cozy-comfy place (“a neighbourhood joint”, according to the website) that’s open for lunch and dinner daily, brunch Saturday and Sunday, closed Monday.
Generous portions of sensational food (I still don’t know what “Mr. Bean futomaki” is, but it comes with the spicy albacore sashimi, for $24); a nice little bar and lots of organic wines. Kidneys and mushrooms in a dark sauce (Kidd specializes in offal) with Cono Sur Pinot Noir from Chile does it for me. Wine prices are generally easy. Start with a glass of Fresita (sparkling strawberry wine from Chile), for $8.
Black + Blue
The ultimate steak place, downtown on Alberni Street directly across from Thierry (see above)—a meat lover’s heaven. The Friday lunch special is one of the best values in town: a super-sized burger with onions and a massive, battered onion ring, plus fries or salad, and a bottle of Granville Island Lions Winter Ale (it still feels like winter some of those drizzly mornings when the dog gets me up at 5:30 to go around the block!), the whole meal deal for 10 bucks!
You won’t be needing dinner; maybe another bottle of ale and that’ll do it.
I’ll send you toddling off to bed with my favourite nightcap while you reread the above and plan your foodie outings for the week. This is my hot blueberry tea: a perfect rainy-day cuppa.
1 Polish blueberry tea bag (from any Eastern European deli)
1 raw sugar cube (more or less, to taste)
A splash of the new Collingwood Canadian whisky
Boiling water to fill the cup
Put the tea bag, the lemon, and the sugar cube in a mug. Add the whisky to taste. Fill the mug with boiling water. Sip slowly and think good thoughts.