Tag Archives: restaurants

Drinking for Two

30 Jul

The “before” picture.

There have been a whole lot of changes going on in foodNURDland, not the least of which is the ever-closer arrival of the foodNURDling in December. As someone who loves food – and many, many of the alcoholic beverages under the sun – this has required some alterations in my normal routine. It was not easy to give up some of the foods and drinks I love. Prosciutto, wine, raw fish, tiramisu, beef (steak, at least. I am a firm believer that beef should not be cooked to more medium rare at most, so that’s pretty much out, too) and beer. While I’ve chosen to have a little bit of wine here, some beer there, I’m obviously no longer unwinding after a long day with a glass – or two or three – of cab sauv.

And what’s a wine-loving woman to do when she goes out with friends for dinner and can’t face another ginger ale or glass of water? She asks the bartender to get creative.

The easy option is a virgin mojito. All the bartender has to do is remove the rum et voila: drink. In my experience, though, virgin mojitos are far, far too sweet. J makes a much better version than any I’ve had at a restaurant: it’s nowhere near as sweet. My girlfriend, the Hot Biscuit, doesn’t drink much and her tasty stand-by is a mix of cranberry, orange juice and 7-Up. It’s definitely sweet, but the cranberry juice’s tartness helps.

When I was out at Murphy’s Law over the July long weekend, I asked the waitress what she could recommend that was,  “non-alcoholic but looks like it could get me tanked.” She thought about it for a moment and then suggested a virgin pina colada. Given that pina coladas generally don’t taste like alcohol anyway, this seemed like a pretty solid option though certainly one I’d think of off the top of my head. (Pina coladas = beach resort drink.)

…and after.

The most entertaining drink I’ve had so far? A Shirley Temple, made for me at Salvador Darling. The bartender seemed a little stumped initially, so I suggested she just throw some orange and cranberry juice in a glass. Seconds later, it was like a light bulb went off over her head: “I can make you a Shirley Temple!” Awesome. I haven’t had a Shirley Temple since I was ten. I was asked repeatedly if it tasted like I remembered and it pretty much did: sweet, a little fizzy and…sweet.

The best drink so far? That was created one night while I sat at the bar at The Grove. I was a few minutes early for my reservation, so I hopped up on a stool and presented the bartender with my now-standard request. As usual, there was a moment’s pause while he got over the shock of someone not wanting alcohol and then started processing the quandary. “Well, I’ve been experimenting with ginger lately…do you like ginger?” Oh, I do. “So long as there are no olives involved, I’m in!”

A tall, frosty glass of tastiness arrived in front of me a few minutes later. Filled with ice, mint, ginger, homemade lemonade and a couple of other delicious ingredients, this was pretty much my perfect (non-alcoholic) drink. It was refreshing, not overly sweet, and complex. I’m hoping to be as pleasantly surprised elsewhere as I was that evening but so far, still searching.

Anyone have any suggestions for a great drink or bar?

Eating Vancouver: Monday & Tuesday

12 Jan

This week, I’m out on the beautiful west coast. I haven’t been out here since I was 15 and while I have fond memories of my first trip, I definitely didn’t appreciate it the way I do now. This applies to the stunning mountains, the rolling waves of the Pacific and the friendly, relaxed vibe of Vancouverites; however, this is exponentially true of the food. As soon as I found out that I’d be coming out here, I started making dinner plans. I want to eat and I want to eat well, dammit.

First stop: a night out with my cousin on Monday. We met at the downtown hotel where I’m staying and wandered around til we found somewhere that struck our fancy. And where was this place? A little Japanese spot that look enticing. First up? Bring us a Sapporo and some warm sake, my good man!

Once that important decision had been made, it was on to the food. You just know the seafood is going to be incredibly fresh which automatically gives it a leg up. We order a variety of yummy things: salmon, tuna, shrimp, crab, California rolls….and they quickly disappear. Friendly atmosphere, great sushi, even better company: the makings of a great night.

Next, on to lunch at our hotel. Generally, I’m kinda “meh” about hotel food; however, this place does it up really, really well.  Lunch is done tapas-style, but we were absolutely ravenous by time we ate so no sharing for us.  Instead, we ordered sides and a “main.” Asparagus with melted parmiggiano reggiano was ordered by everyone at the table and my companions opted for the flatiron steak with sauteed wild mushrooms and caramelized onion aioli while I opted for the caramelized black cod in a ginger-carrot broth with bok choy and taro chips. De-freaking-lish. The fish was cooked beautifully, flaky and tender, and the broth was bright and warming. A great lunch option as it was filling without making me pine for my comfy hotel bed just a few floors away.

Finally, on to dinner this evening at Lift, a cozy restaurant overlooking the water that was recommend to me by a friend who was on the west coast late last year. Greeted warmly at the door by yet another unfailingly friendly Vancouverite, we were ushered to a great corner table. After ordering a glass of Malbec, I spent a long, long time perusing the menu. I. Wanted. Everything. I finally settled on the duck confit salad with
mango, pine nuts, wild greens and a raspberry dressing as my app…and probably could’ve stopped there. My dinner companions ordered the sea scallops with truffle mashed potatoes and lobster sauce and baked wild mushrooms on polenta, respectively, and we all had a little of each other’s dishes. Wow. Big flavours, each dish cooked exactly as it should be and interesting combinations to boot.

For a main, I had the braised veal cheeks (I swear they’re great, despite the fact they’re, well, face) with side stripe shrimp ravioli, shiitake tempura and spinach. Whoa. Three surprisingly massive pieces of veal arrived in front me and I gasped a little. Wasn’t quite expecting that! But the meat was incredibly tender, falling apart with each forkful. When asked by the server if we’d like to see a dessert menu, a great groan arose from the table, “Uhhhhhh…..noooooooooooo. Fulllllllll.”

Two days in, two days to go. Wednesday night holds dinner out with some friends I haven’t seen in quite a while at what looks like a great Japanese place called Miku and Thursday night is to be dinner with my boss and coworker at a place just outside of Vancouver proper. Can’t wait, but am so very glad that I have access to a treadmill this week. More to come soon!

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