Lately, say this past month or so, I’ve been lucky to have been dining out at a bunch of awesome Gastown restaurants. For those of you who don’t live in Vancouver, Gastown is the oldest part of Vancouver. Now, this blog is all about the food that I cook, but I just couldn’t help raving about a certain few Gastown places that especially impressed me!!! And, this post is a copy-cat version of a dessert I tried at one of these restaurants. A girl has to get inspiration from somewhere!!! If you have no desire to read about these next few restaurants, skip ahead to the part where I talk about making this awesome dessert!
Okay so here comes a handful of places I’m in love with now:
I had never heard of this place before… But it is my new FAVOURITE spot, hands down, no question about it. I’ve been twice so far. Have tried the radish salad, pork jowls, and lamb tartare with a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 2008. Radish salad was interesting!! The spiciness of the radishes, and the crunchiness, was offset by the slightly sweet sorbet and honey yogurt. The pork jowls were so smooth and fatty, but not fatty in a gross way. The lamb tartare was my favourite. Because what tastes better than raw baby animals?! Obviously. There was no strong taste to it, just delicate, and perfect piled on top of a crostini with the eggplant and olives. The next time I went, I had the lamb tartare again! I also got to taste the grilled beef tongue which was so tender and amazing when they poured the wild mushroom consommé overtop. I had the pâté as an appetizer, which was good, but not amazing. I’ve had better pâté from Granville Island Market. The wine I had this second meal with was the Rioja Gran Reserva, 1981. Awesome, awesome wine. I plan on going again very soon… This time, I’ll be trying the roasted bone marrow!
So not technically a restaurant, but a nice dimly lit, cozy tavern behind Lamplighter. Their specialty is cocktails. I had the Apiary which I highly recommend. It’s a strong, heady drink with Bourbon, honey, lemon, lime, egg white, and walnut bitters. And the BEST part, is that they serve it with a whole chunk of honeycomb in the cocktail! I tasted their grilled marinated squid, and the empanadas. Both were tasty to snack on, especially the squid, but I wasn’t especially wowed. Go for the cocktails!
Okay so not technically in Gastown… It’s located in Yaletown, but I was so blown away by this place that I just HAD to include it in my “favourites” list. One of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had. And their wine list is… huge. Like encyclopedia huge!!!! I know we got a delicate Pinot Noir, but was so focused on the food, I forgot exactly what kind. I tried the Fraser Valley Duck (because I love, love, love duck, and couldn’t not pick it from the menu), the lobster, prawn and scallop entree, the octopus appetizer, and the avocado and crab salad. I think I pretty much ate all my favourite things that day. Octopus is easy to overcook, but this was tender and strangely, tasted pretty good with the soft mozzarella! I would have never thought to pair the two. As for the salad, well I knew this one would be good because crab pairs with avocado perfectly all the time. It was a simple dish, but I think it tasted so good because it was uncomplicated. The lobster/prawn/scallop entree was a real winner. Everything cooked to perfection, you can tell that this restaurant is all about quality. I think that when food is cooked well, but in a simple manner, with fresh ingredients, that’s when the dining experience is at its best. And with seafood, you really can’t overdo it too much because the flavours are so delicate. And now the duck. Oh god the duck. I think I would have liked it even if it had been served out of a truck on the street, because I just love duck so much, but to have it served two different ways at a good restaurant, well that is my idea of heaven!! I love confit, I love duck terrine, and the combination was just awesome. Needless to say, it was also cooked to perfection. I have absolutely no complaints about this place!! But… I still like Wildebeest more. I know, it’s weird. But Wildebeest is eclectic, and serves unconventional foods, and being the adventurous person I am, I like the change.
Here, I went with some girl friends for a quick late-night meal and some drinks. We’d just come from having dirty martinis (extra dirty, with vodka) at the Fairmont lounge, and were pretty hungry since it was 10pm and we hadn’t eaten yet. I got the seared scallops and crispy pork belly, and a glass of their Barbera d’Alba 2010 from Piedmont, Italy. It was interesting because I’m not very familiar with Barbera wines.. I usually opt for a stronger Barolo or Barbaresco. But Barbera is great as an everyday, whatever wine, and I liked it! Although to be fair, I don’t know if I’ve ever encountered a red wine I didn’t like! The scallops were super tender, and well cooked, and the pork was melt-in-your-mouth yummy. Although for the price, I would have expected a slightly larger portion.
This place is aptly named, because it is so tiny! But what they lack in square footage, the more than make up for by the quality of their food and service. I sat at the bar, which actually turned out to be a great idea, because I got to talk and interact with the owner, as well as the cook. This place stocks only Spanish wine, and all its tapas are Spanish as well. I tried the smoked ham wrapped prunes stuffed with Mahon cheese, the roasted piquillo peppers stuffed with salt cod, the calamari cooked with anchovies, olives, chickpeas and tomato, and lastly the pulled rabbit on crostini. The bottle I picked was the Faustino Rivero Tempranillo, 2009. I chose this one because the Rioja region of Spain is classified with the Protected Designation of Origin label, so I assumed it was a safe bet! The wine did not disappoint, it was actually really good. Onto the food. The prunes were my favourite. The crunchy grilled ham on the outside contrasted nicely with the soft, sweet prune, and the salty cheese on the inside. Love. The peppers and calamari were okay. The salted cod inside the peppers was a bit mushy, and the calamari could have benefited from something… Something was missing, but I don’t know what. The pulled rabbit was a winner! The cook behind the bar was such a sweetheart too. I got to talking with him about wine, and asked him which his favourites were, and he kindly offered me samples of all of them! After dinner, he gave us complimentary dessert: crostini topped with a chocolate spread, and drizzled with olive oil, served with some nutty Oloroso sherry. I wasn’t expecting such a huge punch of flavour!!! Upon tasting, I found that the chocolate crostini had been salted, and was slightly spicy too. Mmmm… Salted chocolate crostini with cayenne! All the different flavours, especially when washed down the the rich, nutty, and viscous sherry, was a party in my mouth. I swore to recreate the dessert, and asked the cook to show me the bottle of sherry, so I could snap a pic, and buy it myself.
Okay FINALLY! Are you tired of reading yet?! I always swore never to be one of those people whose food blog consisted of them just talking about restaurant food, but… I couldn’t help it. This sort of thing will be rare, I promise! So I’m not a big dessert gal. But as I said, the Sardine Can’s dessert was the best sweet thing I’ve tasted since… Since I made pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. And the sherry pairing had me sold. Here’s what I did to recreate it!
- French baguette
- Olive oil
- Nutella (or you can be not-lazy and make your own chocolate spread)
- Cayenne pepper
- Sea salt
- Gonzalez Byass’s Nutty Solera sherry
So this is easy.. Which makes it dangerous, because now I’m going to make it all the time. Slice up your baguette into rondelles, drizzle with olive oil.
Grill in a pan over medium heat until crunchy and toasted on the outside, but not completely crunchy on the inside.
When done, spread generously with Nutella. And yes, I know this is cheating. But I couldn’t be bothered to make my own chocolate sauce over the stove, only for it to taste very similar to Nutella!
Sprinkle some cayenne pepper overtop… I sprinkled WAY too much on, and my mouth was burning, so go easy on it!
Season with some salt… I love the flavour combination of chocolate and salt, if you don’t like it, I suppose you could just not salt your crostini, but trust me, it tastes so good, I wouldn’t dare mess with the recipe! And then pour yourself a glass of that awesome Oloroso sherry!
You are WELCOME. You will like this, trust me. I don’t even like sweet stuff that much, and this got me addicted!!!