Author Archives: Britt

Monk McQueens Retires After 26 Years

 

Monks Under Construction

After over 26 years in its premier oceanfront Stamps Landing location, the Monk McQueen’s Fresh Seafood and Oyster Bar is announcing it’s passing the reigns to The Mahony Family of Vancouver for a new Mahony & Sons location as of January 1, 2013.  With a plan to renovate and reopen in summer 2013, this is the third location for the Vancouver based Irish pub themed chain; the Monk’s Group will maintain ownership of the building.

“Since opening for Expo 86, we’ve had an incredible run at Stamps Landing,” says Monk’s owner Bob Lindsay.  “We’ve employed well over 2,000 people, and had a tremendous impact on the community. Find me a Vancouverite that hasn’t been in love or fallen in love on Monk’s deck! After a decision to change our business focus, we worked hard to find the right group.  The Mahony Family is the perfect fit.  We wish them the best of success and sincerely hope they enjoy this iconic, unrivalled location as much as we have.”

Tiki Indy Party at Monk McQueens in 1999

Chris Mahony, Proprietor of Mahony & Sons states, “We are very proud and excited to be opening Mahony & Sons Stamps Landing and look forward to being a part of the growing South False Creek community.  The team at Monk’s – from the owners and management to their entire team – have done a remarkable job in building Monk’s into the destination it is today and we welcome the opportunity to build on that tradition.”

Monk’s is celebrating the transition with what is sure to be a memorable New Year’s Eve Retirement Party on December 31, 2012 – details to unfold at www.monkmcqueens.com

What I Miss About Living in Madrid

As I say goodbye to a city that has somehow become a part of me, I can’t help but reflect on what I will miss most. There is a pulse that beats through the veins of the city, that most tourist cannot see or feel. In fact, I am surprised by the amount of people I meet, who say they found Madrid “boring” or “not as nice as Barcelona”. Of course, no one can deny the beauty of the beaches in Barcelona, but Madrid has something different. Something I will always struggle to describe. A life, a culture, a feeling…

Although there is really no way of describing what makes Madrid so great, I have done my best to compile a list of what I will miss about Madrid……..

The Sherry Bar or should I say the Jerez Bar. In Spain, Sherry is simply known as Jerez because Jerez is the region where Sherry is from. In Madrid, the best place to sample some of the finest Jerez  is La Venencia. Once frequented by Republican rebels, La Venencia is authentic as it gets. Stepping into La Venencia is like stepping back into the 1940′s. Old, curt, men pour Jerez from old barrels and write up your tab on the wooden bar in chalk. Taking photos is out of the question stemming back to the Spanish Revloution when spies would try and take photos of Republican sympathizers. Tips will be angrily waved off so don’t even try (trust me we tried on numerous occasions) – the socialist Republican ideals still run strong to this day! If the only Sherry you are familiar with is Bristol Cream, forget everything you know. I would recommend starting with the lightest Jerez (a Manzanilla or a Fino), and work your way down the list. Olorosso is my personal favourite. Be sure to order some olives, cheese, and chorizo to go with the Jerez.

*Note pictures were taken before being shouted at to not take pictures!

Affordable Wine In Vancouver the land of overpriced, government controlled alcohol, affordable and wine almost never fall in the sentence. In Spain, however, drinking wine is as important as drinking water, therefore there are thousands of affordable wines to choose from. One of our favourite everyday drinking wines was Pirineos from the Somontano region, which cost only €3 and I preferred it to the popular Marqués de Cáceres that was €6. If you are willing to spend €10 – €15  you can get some amazing wines. Most of my favourite wines were usually from Ribero Del Duero and I also loved white Verdejos from the Rueda region.

Some of my Favourite Wines (prices ranging from €3 – €15)

The Local Markets For those of you who know me, or have read my previous blogs, you know that cooking was neither something I really enjoyed nor was very good at. In Madrid, I discovered my passion for cooking and I think that is largely due to the accessibility of fresh and delicious foods. Most Guiri’s (foreigners) shop at El Corte Ingles or the Mercado de San Miguel – still a must visit if you only have a few days in Madrid – but if you want to shop like a local do go to Mercado Antón Martín. Mercado Antón Martín has a great selection of jamóns, cheeses, butchers, fruit and vegetables and is a lot cheaper than the tiendas (grocery stores) or the more touristy markets. Basic Spanish and/or a Spanish dictionary is a must here as most of the vendors don’t speak any English.

The Squares You can’t walk two blocks in Madrid, without stumbling upon a cool square that is packed full of Madrileños sipping €1 Cañas (glass of beer) or Copas Vino Tintos (glass of red wine) and nibbling on tapas.  Every single night of the week (even Sundays) these squares are packed till the wee hours of the morning, making the city feel alive. Although every square has it’s charm, here are three squares you can’t miss.

Tim at 100 Montaditos with a Caña & Tinto de Verano

Plaza Santa Ana is my personal favourite as it is both beautiful and has great food. For an incredibly cheapo lunch, eat at Cervecería 100 Montaditos. The sandwiches are small but tasty and €1 – €3. Try the Tinto de Verano to pair with the sandwiches which is similar to a Sangria. For dinner go to Lateral. Lateral has awesome tapas that are always prepared perfectly and it is extremely well priced.

 

Plaza Santa Ana at Night

 Cool Barrios Madrid has some of the coolest, most diverse barrios (neighbourhoods) and the best part is they are all within walking distance of each other. My nights of wandering from barrio to barrio would begin in the trendy gay barrio of Chueca. Nothing whets your appetite like shopping and cocktails and Chueca is packed with awesome shopping and uber hip cocktail bars. After working up an appetite in Chueca I would head to La Latina. 

 

La Musa

La Latina’s winding streets are packed with tapas bars that are so full, people are literally spilling out of restaurants onto the streets. Every time I’ve gone to La Latina I’ve discovered a new fantastic restaurant. You can’t go wrong in almost any restaurant in La Latina and an easy way to pick out the good ones is whichever restaurants are most busy.  Two favourite restaurants in La Latina are La Musa and Taberna Tempranillo.  Of course, I would finish my barrio tour with dancing in Malasaña, Chueca’s more edgy and gritty sister. If you want to see Malasaña in full action head there after 1:00am as most of the places don’t get going till after 2:00am and are pumping well into the morning.

Taberna Tempranillo

 

In closing if you are heading to Spain, or Europe for that matter, you must visit Madrid. It will not disappoint. No one can sum up Madrid as eloquently as one of my favourite writers, Ernest Hemingway. “In Madrid on cold nights you can drink sherry brandy and go to bed. To go to bed early at night in Madrid marks you as a little queer. For a long time your friends will feel a little uncomfortable about it. Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night. Appointments with a friend are habitually made for after midnight at the earliest. In no other town that I have ever lived in is there less going to bed for sleeping purposes.”

Surviving Ryanair

No one provides cheaper flights in Europe than Ryanair. I recently bought a flight from Madrid to Jerez for 6€. As I’m on a budget, I really shouldn’t complain about the cheap Ryanair flights, but I’m going to, so don’t judge me.

My advise about Ryanair is this, avoid it whenever possible. If a Vueling or Easy Jet flight is €15 more, I would recommend spending the extra €15. But if you do have some upcoming Ryanair flights here are some tips to surviving it.

Baggage – If you are planning to travel around Europe it is important to only travel with a carry on bag. And when I say carry on I mean “weigh no more than 10kg and not exceeding the maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm”. Although they don’t weigh the bag, the lovely check in crew are very sticky about the dimensions and will make you stuff your carry on in to the metal stand as you are boarding the plane. If your bag doesn’t go in easily (which most bags don’t) the check in crew may charge you because they make a commission for every bag they deem “too big”. It’s important to note by one carry on, they mean one carry on. No purses, laptop bags or even duty free. It must all fit into the one bag.

Here are a few carry on baggage tips:
- Ladies travel with a small purse as you will have to stuff it into your carry on
- Don’t forget to travel with travel sized beauty products
- Wear your most bulky clothing on the plane and wear as many layers as possible
- Try not to stuff anything in the front compartments of your bag as it will bulge, making it hard to stuff into the metal carry on measuring device
- If you live in Europe it may be worth it to buy the Ryanair Samsonite Bag

Print Your Ticket - Make sure to print your tickets before arriving to the airport. In fact print two copies and put each copy in a different spot in case you lose a ticket. If you don’t have a printed ticket it will cost you €40 (or £40 depending on where you fly from) which can be more than the cost of the flight.

Priority Boarding – Paying 5€ for Priority Boarding. Priority Boarding doesn’t give you much, but it does put you ahead of the line and after a long day of traveling sometimes it’s nice to not have to worry about getting a decent seat.

Double Check the Airport – You may think you are flying out of Barcelona, but really you are flying out of an airport that is an one and a half hour bus ride from Barcelona. This happened to my husband and I. We had a 6:00am flight to Pisa from “Barcelona” but really it was from Girona which is an hour and a half away. So we had to leave Barcelona at 2:00am, got no sleep and arrived in Pisa at 7:30am. Needless to say we didn’t bother to go see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but instead opted to head straight to Luca to check into our B&B and get some sleep.

Bring Patience – Last but not least remember to have patience. You will be waiting in unnecessarily long lines, you will stand out in the cold on the tarmac waiting for a shuttle to take you to the plane and if the plane is late you most likely won’t be told anything about it. But if you are patient and stay relaxed it won’t be that bad.

Have you flown Ryanair? What did you think?

London Serves Up Awesome Vietnamese

After being in Spain for four months, I have been longing for a fix of Asian food. In desperation, we’ve made homemade pho, but the broth wasn’t the same, as we couldn’t get all the necessary ingredients to make the perfect pho.

On a recent trip to London I was very grateful to not only eat some great Asian food, but also, to be introduced to some of the best Vietnamese food I’ve ever had.

Song Que is located in the uber trendy Shoreditch area. Think hipsters, sporting ironic onesies with black horn rimmed glasses and a complete distain for the “mainstream”. I digress, in Shoreditch, Pho has become a trendy thing to eat and so there are tons of a great pho shops, especially on Kingsland Road.

Song Que has a reputation for being one of the best and doesn’t just have fantastic Pho, all of the dishes are outstanding. In fact, the next time I go, which is very soon, I’m to skip the Pho so I can try as many dishes as possible. Definitely order the Spicy Squid. It’s deep fried and served with garlic, chilies and a lemon pepper dip. It won’t last long on the plate. The Fried Spring Rolls are fantastic because they are hand rolled and have rich undertones of cinnamon. The Fried Cube Beef with garlic & black pepper is also yummy. Song Que is some of the best Vietnamese I’ve had. The most important thing to remember is, go with lots of people so you can try lots as many dishes as possible.

Spicy Squid & Fried Cube Beef

Fried Spring Rolls

Vancouver’s Top Ten Eats

It seems ironic to write about my top ten restaurants in Vancouver, when in fact I’m not in Vancouver. Yet in actuality, it’s the perfect time to write it. Although I am currently living in Spain and surrounded by amazing food, I find myself craving my favorite restaurants in Vancouver. Vancouver has some of the best food in the world because it’s so diverse. Although it’s hard to narrow down my favourite places to eat, I’ve done my best to give you my 10 must visit restaurants. This list is in no particular order as my favourites change depending on what I’m craving.

1. Kintaro – The best ramen in the world! To be fair I haven’t had ramen in Japan, so the statement may be a bit over the top, but it’s definitly the best ramen in Vancouver. I have had many fights with my foodie friends who prefer Hokkaido Ramen Santouka or Motomachi Shokudo, but I’ve tried them all and Kintaro is the best. Despite the fact that there is always an ominous line and you will most likely have to wait in the rain, only to arrive in a pork filled sauna, the soup will make up for it. The broth is rich and the noodles are a perfect texture being both chewy and buttery at the same time. Everyone has their own preference for ramen but my personal favourite is Miso Ramen, medium richness (broth) and lean pork. Also, I always order extra corn and a side of Kimchi.

2. Dinesty – This is another controversial pick. I have had many debates over which Xiao Long Bao restaurant is the best. What I have learned from these debates is there are two different types of XLB. The thick skinned, larger, more traditional Shanghainese dumplings or the the thin skinned, delicate, Taiwanese XLB. I prefer the Taiwanese style dumpling as I think the thin skin allows you to taste the broth and pork. Plus from a purely gluttonous standpoint I can eat more Tawainese style XLB than the larger Shanghainese XLB. Dinesty has the perfect Taiwanese XLB. Some of the other Chinese dishes here are mediocre so I always stick to the same 4 dishes. A vegetable dish, either “Doh Meow” (spelled phonetically because I don’t know how to properly write it in Ping Ying and so you can pronounce it) or “Cong Shing Chai”, Fried Rice with Lup Chun, and the Rice noodle dish (pictured below, don’t know the name) and of course as many XLB as I can eat. My record to date is 20. Want to know how to eat XLB? Watch my post about Din Tai Fung.

Rice Noodle Dish

Xiao Long Bao

3. Lanna Thai – This the newest addition to my favorite restaurants. I think it’s one of the best Thai restaurants in Vancouver. It specializes in Northern Thai dishes and is authentic as it gets for Vancouver Thai food. Check out my recent blog for dish recommendations.

4. Phnom Penh – This restaurant is no secret to food lovers in Vancouver. If you are from out of town or live in Vancouver and haven’t tried it yet, get your ass there. This hole in the wall restaurant in the heart of China Town is packed every night, but worth the wait. The food is a mix of Vietenmese and Cambiodian and it’s unbelievable. You must try Grandma’s Recipe wings/calamari/ribs, Butter Beef, Hot and Sour Soup (also known as Magic Soup among friends because it’s great for when you have a cold) and of course Tong Choi (a green leafy vegetable cooked with garlic).

Grandma's Recipe Calamari

5. Bin 941 - The perfect date spot. The tiny room is always packed and playing loud music which adds to it’s charm and makes the room more intimate. Don’t go starving as you will have to wait at least 45 minutes for a table. Bin has a great “By The Glass” wine list so while you are waiting try some lovely glasses of wine in the back waiting area. Every time I go to Bin I order the same things and they never disappoint. Order the Coconut Curry Mussels, the Shoe-string Fries with balsamic reduction and green onion, the Cinnamon Rubbed Flank Steak, Duck breast with truffle potato hash and the Wild Mushroom and Truffle Risotto. This may sound like a lot of food for two people because it is – I’m very, very greedy.

6. La Buca – Once upon a time, Italian food in Vancouver was expensive and pretentious. Five years ago, Chef Andre Durbach and partner Chris Stewart saw the obvious gap in the market and lead the way by opening La Buca and since then great Italian restaurants having been popping up all over Vancouver. La Buca strives to cook authentic, home style Italian dishes from fresh ingredients, which is why the menu is always changing. If there’s Gnocci on the menu be sure to order it, as it’s hand made and melts in your mouth.

7. Guu with Garlic – Guu with Garlic is a Japanese Izakaya (think Japanese tapas). The Guu Restaurant chain pioneered the Izakaya movement in Vancouver back in 1993, but really started gaining popularity in the early 2000s. I’ve been to a few of the Guu locations and Guu with Garlic is by far my favourite, probably due to the clever incorporation of garlic in most of the dishes. The restaurant is always busy and quite loud as all the orders are yelled to the kitchen. Order Tuna Yuki, Yaki Udon, Takoyaki, Ebi Mayo and Beef Tataki.

Tako Yaki

8. Vij’s - The NY Times said Vij’s is one of the best Indian Restaurants in the world and I couldn’t agree more. Owner, Vickram Vij, makes you feel as if you are a guest in his home, feeding you samples while you wait. The hospitality is only rivaled by the outstanding food. Every dish is made to perfection, which I attribute to the all female staff in the kitchen. Do not go without ordering the Lamb Popsicles. I repeat, do not go without ordering the Lamb Popsicles. Expect to wait 30 minutes or more as Vij’s doesn’t take reservations.

9. Thai Son (Broadway location, haven’t tried the other locations yet) – Pho is the perfect pre and post hangover meal, which is probably why I eat it so much. I am very picky about my Pho and have had a hard time finding something to replace Pho 99 ever since it changed ownership. TThe rich and spicy broth is what sets Thai Son’s pho apart from the thousands of other pho shops in Vancouver. Also Thai Son has some other amazing dishes. If you are feeling extra greedy, get a side of pork chop, an order of short ribs, spring rolls and a Vietnamese Coffee.

10. Meat & Bread – I’ve never been big on sandwiches. I find most sandwiches bore me, that is, until I went to Meat & Bread. The concept is simple, delicious, fresh roasted meat and fresh baked bread. Still not convinced? Well take this non-sandwich lovers word for it. They have different sandwiches features every day but I highly recommend the Porchetta. Roasted pork with crispy skin (the best part), served with a salsa verde. Honestly this sandwich will change your lunch break forever.

Porchetta

Make sure to save room for dessert and try the Bacon Maple Ice Cream Sandwich because what’s better than bacon and icecream? Nothing!

Lanna Thai Gives Back

As you know Lanna Thai is my new favorite Thai restaurant in Vancouver and I will use any excuse to eat there. If you haven’t tried Lanna Thai yet, I’ve got a great excuse for you to get off your couch and head down there. From October 15 – October 25, 10% of all proceeds will go the Thai Flood Relief Aid. With over 60 provinces flooded and over 700,000 homes destroyed it is clear that the people of Thailand need help our help. So grab some friends and eat some amazing Thai food for a good cause.

Metro in Madrid

When you are taking the Metro in Madrid, anything can happen. On Friday I got onto the Metro and everyone was singing. It was awesome.

Lanna Thai

Vancouver has some of the best Asian food in the world. When traveling abroad I find myself bragging about Vancouver’s food regularly. We have some of the best Chinese, Japanese and Indian in the world but our selection of Thai restaurants is mediocre at best. Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of Thai restaurant chains and they’re ok but nothing like the kind of Thai food you get in Thailand*. That is, until I discovered Lanna Thai. From the outside it looks like another small Denman Street restaurant that is doomed before it opens, but once I tasted the food I knew the place would be crawling with foodies in no time. The chef cooks up Northern Thai food and manages create unbelievable dishes despite her tiny kitchen. She also grows her own herbs and vegetables and adds them to the dishes which contributes to the fresh flavours that are imperative for the authentic Thai taste.

Everything is delicious but here are some of my favourites from the menu:

The Beef Larb (also known as Laab) is unbelievable. It’s spicy as hell but is perfectly balanced with mint, basil, toasted rice and lime. If you are with more than 2 people I would recommend getting 2 orders as this dish will disappear fast. (There is also a Lanna Larb on the menu. I haven’t tried that one yet so let me know which one you prefer.)

Beef Laab

Som Tum (Papaya Salad) is spicy and delicious! I like that the doesn’t have the small dried shrimps which, I know is authentic, but I’m not a big fan of. Also it’s not too sweet which is a mistake some of the chain restaurants make.

The Northern (Chiang Mai) style curry called Gaeng Hang Lay with pork is amazing. This curry is actually more like a soup in it’s consistency but the broth is full flavored and the pork melts in your mouth. Thanks to Mike and Jade for introducing me to this dish.

The Tod Mun Pla (fish cakes) are delicious! They have the perfect amount of rubber bounce to them and come with a delicious dipping sauce. Definitely authentic and highly recommended.

Try an order of red rice (I think that’s the name) as well as the white rice as it has a nice full flavor.

Of course no Thai meal would be complete without Pad Pak Boon (Morning Glory Stems). This is not on the menu but if you call ahead and order it the chef will bring it in for you.

If you are heading to Lanna Thai be patient. Service is very slow due to the tiny kitchen and tiny stove but I promise it’s worth the wait.

Leave a comment if you’ve tried it and let me know what you think. Hopefully you love it as much as I do as I really want it to be successful for purely selfish reasons.

Lanna Thai on Urbanspoon

*I would like to exclude Maenam from this statement as I think their Thai food rocks.

Cooking with Lift Restaurant

Richard with Lift Bar Grill View, teaches me to cook the scallop and corn, mushroom, and spinach succotash. Super easy recipe that even bad cooks like me can do it.

Filmed by Jade Brion with White Rabbit Productions.

Food Trends that Need to Die

Meatballs
The Glowbal Group made meatballs mainstream with their Kobe Meatball over five years ago. Now meatballs can be found on way too many menus throughout the city. I tried it, I liked it and now I’m over it.

Expensive Cocktails
Since when did making a cocktail become worthy of high prices? When did $8.00 for a cocktail become cheap and $12 become the norm? Please don’t tell me it’s because the cocktails are two ounces, that’s BS. For the rest of my rant I will refer to this Food to Miss your Plane For article.

Pabst Blue Ribbon
Really people? I don’t see anyone drinking Kokanee, Canadian or Lucky at trendy bars and they taste just as shitty as Pabst does. Already I can hear hipsters saying they don’t drink it because it’s trendy, they drink it because it’s cheap. Maybe price is a factor, but really most hipsters drink it to look cool and different. Want to be cool? Order a Lucky and drink it with pride.

Gastronome
Do we really need to make food tasting more pretentious than it already is? Anyone who calls him/herself a Gastronome is a douche bag. Enough said.

Pretentious Food
I am suspicious of any food can be described as having an “essence of” or that is finished with a “froth”. Recently I went to one of Vancouver’s hottest new restaurants and they served a salad with chicken that was pureed into cubes. The chicken, by the way, tasted like chicken. Boring and bland but it looked pretty. Pretentiously small portions with supposedly delicate flavours are always overrated.

Sustainability
Although I completely believe in demanding sustainable practices from restaurants, sometimes I wonder, how extreme is too extreme? Watch this video, you’ll see what I mean.

What food trends do you hate?