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Buck Brand Citrus Bliss

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Buck Brand Finger Lime at Thrifty Foods

Buck Brand Finger Lime at Thrifty Foods

There is something truly special about tasting fresh produce while chatting with the farmer that brought it to fruition. When I heard that Lisle Babcock of Deer Creek Heights Ranch would be handing out samples of his terrific Buck Brand Organic Citrus at my local Thrifty Foods, I made a date with my mother to meet the man behind the oranges that we can’t get enough of every winter.

Lisle Babcock of Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

Lisle Babcock of Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

With his cowboy hat and many, “Ma’am”s Mr. Babcock was generous and genial with the samples of the many types of organic citrus that are currently in season on their ranch. Thrifty Foods has an exclusive deal to carry Buck Brand Organic oranges and some of their 80 different varieties of citrus fruits in British Columbia.

Buck Brand at Thrifty Foods

Buck Brand at Thrifty Foods

I go through bags and bags of their navel oranges every winter and supplement my citrus cravings with grapefruit, tangerines, pommelos, blood oranges, sweet limes and anything else that is available throughout the citrus growing season.

Buck Brand at Thrifty Foods

Buck Brand at Thrifty Foods

Until February 25th, when you buy a 4 lb. bag of Buck Brand Navel Oranges at Thrifty Foods, they will donate $1 to BC Lions Society’s Easter Seals Camps to fund kids camp fees at Easter Seals Camp Shawnigan and Camp Squamish. Plus you’re supporting a 5 acre family owned organic farm with almost 1000 citrus trees, including many heritage and hybrid varieties.

Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

While all the citrus samples were delicious and juicy, I was most interested to try the Finger Lime, I’d seen all the pretty pictures on the internet and I was curious to see if they tasted as fascinating as they looked. Originally from Australia, Deer Creek Heights Ranch has been growing them in Terra Bella. California for 4 years. Lisle cut one in half and gave it a gentle squeeze to make the tiny little juice packets bubble up to the top, to be enjoyed like an ice cream cone. The flavour is similar to a very floral lime, quite tart and tangy, but it is the texture as the little pearls pop inside you mouth that is so delightful. I bought a 50g package to bring home and enjoy at my leisure and to share with my son.

Lisle Babcock of Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

Lisle and Mary Lou Babcock of Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

We had a great time chatting with Lisle and Mary Lou and I really appreciate that they make such an effort to share their luscious fruits and take the time to interact with Canadian consumers.

Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

I now have a nice selection of citrus beautifying my kitchen counter and I’m faced with the delicious dilemma of incorporating them into a recipe or just enjoying them as nature intended.

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Burdock and Co

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Cherry Leaf Cured Scallops, shiso rice crackers, cracked cherry pit ice

Fresh Oysters, finger lime caviar, fresh breakfast radish, chickweed, apple & verbena sorbet, kasu emulsion

Trying a brand new restaurant is just about our family’s favourite thing to do and when the chef/owner happens to be Andrea Carlson (Sooke Harbour House, Raincity Grill, Bishop’s, etc), who is not only an a fantastic cook but a long time friend, we get downright excited! So, we made sure the three of us were at the corner of Main and E 11th Ave for the very first public service of Burdock & Co.

2702 Main Street

2702 Main Street

After admiring the space (the former home of Cafeteria), we sat down and ordered some drinks. I had one of the two non-alcoholic cocktails, from a list designed by Lauren Mote of Kale and Nori Culinary Designs, the Cascadian Cooler.

Apple & Fenugreek, Lime, Mint, Denman Bitters, Gingerbeer

Apple & Fenugreek, Lime, Mint, Denman Bitters, Gingerbeer

The menu featured dishes showcasing local and seasonal ingredients in imaginative combinations that made it difficult to narrow down our selections, so we ordered almost the whole menu to share family style!

Cherry Leaf Cured Scallops, shiso rice crackers, cracked cherry pit ice

Cherry Leaf Cured Scallops, shiso rice crackers, cracked cherry pit ice

We started with the scallops and oysters (both requested by our 10-year-old son, Young Fresh Chef) which were delicate and delicious like a cool spring morning on the West Coast. We even nibbled on the cherry blossoms as instructed by our charmer of a server.

Urban Digs Egg, wild cress, hazelnut & blue cheese granola, brown butter & potato vinaigrette

Urban Digs Egg, wild cress, hazelnut & blue cheese granola, brown butter & potato vinaigrette

The flavour and textural combination of the poached egg and the savoury granola was my favourite of the night and I may have Mmmmmmmed out loud more than once! The peppery wild cress presented a nice contrast to the luxuriousness of the rest of the plate.

Fire Roasted Green Farro, spruce tips, black garlic, sorrel

Fire Roasted Green Farro, spruce tips, black garlic, sorrel

The vegan farro dish was my meat-loving husband’s top pick of the meal and the plate was scraped down to the ceramic glaze. The depth of flavour from the black garlic was earthy and sweet adding a soulful umami element to the farro.

Fried Chicken & Pickles, crispy skin, charred chili vinegar

Fried Chicken & Pickles, crispy skin, charred chili vinegar

Our son most enjoyed the fried chicken and he said that he could taste the love that was put into the preparation. The crispy skin was like chicken bacon and the accompanying pickled vegetables helped cut the richness of this dish.

Harvest Pork Belly Ramen, Candied Bacon, nori, fried egg

My husband and I were slowing down at this point, but the boy went full boar (pun intended) into the bowl of ramen.

Wheat Berry Risotto, sunroot, mustard greens, castelvetrano olives, Farmhouse 'Fermiere', smoked crema

Wheat Berry Risotto, sunroot, mustard greens, castelvetrano olives, Farmhouse ‘Fermiere’, smoked crema

The risotto was delicious and since the smoked crema would be good with almost anything, it just made the dish that much better. While this was a vegetarian dish, the dairy components gave it a rich taste and mouth feel.

Halibut, braised spring radish and hop shoots, pine mushroom and burdock tea, fried burdock, hop salt

While we should have been getting full after so much deliciousness, my fellas had their forks into the halibut before I could take a single photo! Like everything we tried, the dish was a tantalizing combination of ingredients with an excellent balance of flavours and was seasoned to perfection.

Gluten Free Cookies

Gluten Free Cookies

We still had a bit of room for dessert and we really enjoyed the gluten-free cookie selection by the soft glow of candlelight.

IMG_2728

We left with full bellies and hearts already plotting our return.

 

Burdock & Co

Open 7 days a week

from 5pm for dinner

no reservations

2702 Main Street

Vancouver, BC V5T 3E8

604-879-0077

email: eat@burdockandco.com

twitter: @burdockandco

website: www.burdockandco.com

Which dish pictured appeals most to your taste buds?

Kitchenette’s Kitchen

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View from a fridge

View from a fridge

While pieces of my kitchen have appeared in the background of pictures of food, I thought it was time to put the work space front and centre. We redid the kitchen JUST in time to host our families for Christmas 2011. I wouldn’t recommend cutting it as close as we did, wee bit stressful. We replaced the stove and fridge, added a dishwasher, recovered the existing cabinets and added more counter space and open shelves.

The reno is sinking in

The reno is sinking in

We kept the sink and counters, as we were trying to keep the budget down. The faucet is new can be pulled out to fill large pots. By leaving the counter we saved a bundle and figured it would be easy to do later if we changed our minds.

Our sexy stove

Our sleek stove

We were going to get a glass top stove, but the sales rep basically talked us out of it. Our dream stove would be gas, but this isn’t our forever house so we kept it electric.

The cosy fridge nook

The cosy fridge nook

The fridge was the fanciest upgrade in the kitchen, with side by side compartments, ice machine and filtered water. It was larger than our previous refrigerator, but just by removing a bit of moulding and a dusty shelf it fit like it was custom-made.

Let there be light and a light breeze

Let there be light and a light breeze

The light fixture with fan is the priciest light fixture in our house, with all the rest coming from Home Depot, but it’s also the prettiest! Combined with the new hood any smells and smoke are whisked away in a quiet gust.

Stove top with pretty pots

Stove top with pretty pots

We added some butcher block counter top to the right of the stove to give us a larger work space. It was really a one person kitchen before, now it’s a 2 adult and a growing chef space.

Dishwasher that replaced me

Dishwasher that replaced me

The butcher block is in an L shape and covers the dishwasher and some open shelves for small appliances and bakeware. The Pacojet has since found a new home, where it will be used more than once a month.

Dry goods shelves and produce corner

Dry goods shelves & produce

My husband, Exec Chef designed these floating shelves that hold my spice jars, grains, beans and other dry goods. We always have a fruit bowl on the counter for quick snacks and garlic and onions out for easy access since we use them daily.

Shelves next to the stove

Shelves next to the stove

We also added two small floating shelves, of the same design, to the right of the stove. The lower shelf holds our kosher salt-cellar, pepper grinder and butter bell. On the upper shelf, I displayed some orange themed implements.

KitchenAid in the Corner

KitchenAid in the Corner

To the left of the sink, we have our knife block (away from little visiting hands) and my beautiful KitchenAid mixer, which I may not use everyday but it does make me smile.

Breakfast Central

Breakfast Central

To the right of the sink, we have our DJ station, bread box, toaster and blender. Which covers breakfast in our house on many mornings! The bottle matches my spice jars and is full of fantastic olive oil.

Thanks for taking a virtual tour of my shiny kitchen, it will never look this tidy again!

What is the one thing you wish you could most change about your kitchen?

Bay Leaf Bonanza

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Kitchenette Finds Bay Laurel Leaf

My favourite part of our kitchen, since our renovation, is the shelf that cradles my collection of spices and herbs. I can travel the world just by inhaling the heady aromas enclosed in the purple apothecary jars that preserve the flavourful treasures within. I’d like to share some of these seasonings and why they make me so giddy!

My tasty collection

My tasty collection

The scent of Bay Leaf always takes me back to the California coast where groves of California Bay Laurel trees fill the air with a heady scent as the trees sway in the constant ocean breeze. My other strong scent associated memories of California are the night-blooming jasmine in Napa and the ever-present scent of Ranch Dressing in the capital city of garlic, Gilroy. While the leaves of the California Bay Laurel can be used for seasoning dishes, the more subtly flavoured Bay Laurel that is native to the Mediterranean is more commonly used in cooking and more widely available. There are also other varieties of Laurel trees outside of Europe that are used in local cuisines, including: Indian Bay Leaf, Indonesian Bay Leaf, West Indian Bay Leaf and Mexican Bay Leaf. Each has a different flavour profile, but they all have a similar appearance.

Bay Laurel Leaves

While dried Bay Leaf can be purchased at any grocery store, it’s always better to dry the fresh leaves yourself for maximum flavour. While I have never been lucky enough to have my own Bay Laurel, I have been the recipient of branches from generous friends and neighbours who have. My most recent bough was overflow from a bushel given to my mother. The fresh leaves are quite mild and need to be dried for several weeks to reach their full flavour capacity. I like to use the newly dried leaves as I find the flavour is more buttery and rich. In the photo below, the leaf on top is one from the branch above and the bottom leaf was purchased.

Bay Laurel Leaf

I use Bay Leaf in almost every soup and sauce that I make (including Cranberry Sauce), as it works well with most other spices and herbs adding a slightly floral complexity. I always use whole leaves and fish them out near the end as they are inedible unless ground to a fine powder. You can also place the smaller pieces in a tea ball or muslin bag, which can also be improvised with cheese cloth. As with many herbs and spices, bay leaves have long been used for their medicinal properties, but the leaves of the laurel tree are most often associated with the laurel wreaths worn by Olympians in Ancient Greece and victors of war in Ancient Rome. Bay Leaf is always a winner in my books and I will continue to rest on my laurels when I’m looking to create a more complex flavour.

Bay Laurel BranchWhat dishes just wouldn’t be the same without a hint of bay leaf?

Hilltop Diner Cafe

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Family Lunch Order at Hilltop Diner Cafe in Langley, BC

Family Lunch Order at Hilltop Diner Cafe in Langley, BC

Sometimes you just want the classics: a clubhouse sandwich with roasted turkey, a juicy burger or a straight up breakfast. On a lazy Sunday, when this mood strikes us, we pile into the car as a family and take a leisurely drive to the Hilltop Diner Cafe in the middle of nowhere part of Langley. Picture perfect enough to be a constant shooting location for TV shows and movies, they even have a scrap-book that they love to pull out and show off, the food is just as authentic. But it’s the service that makes it the real deal, it’s casual but caring. They are a busy bunch being open 7 days a week from 8:00 to 2:30 since 1946. Their full breakfast menu is served until 11am and then they still have a small list of morning staples available, as well as their crazy mega burgers (with names like Everest burger and Anarchist burger they are ridonkulous) until they close.

Eggs, Farmer's Sausage & Toast at the Hilltop Diner Cafe

Eggs, Sausage & Toast at Hilltop Diner Cafe

Since it is a bit of a drive for us, and it’s hard to hurry on Sundays, we haven’t made it for the full breakfast menu yet. I think I’m stuck on the clubhouse because of the in-house oven-roasted turkey that is so thinly sliced and nestled in the lightly toasted bread with the perfect amount of lettuce and tomatoes and beautifully crisped bacon. I switch between the excellent french fries  and the impressively fresh side salad.   All the sandwiches and burgers that we’ve tried have been exactly as we would want them to be. Their milkshakes and floats are fantastic and big enough to share and share and share. My other regret about the menu is that we STILL haven’t tried any of their amazing looking pies as we are always too full after our sandwich and burger feast. I guess we’ll have to keep going and keep trying things, it’s a tough life!

Hot Turkey Sandwich with Gravy and Cranberry Relish at the Hilltop Diner Cafe

Hilltop Diner Cafe

23904 Fraser Highway

Langley, BC

(604) 514-9424

Open Daily from 8:00 to 2:30

Full Breakfast Menu served until 11am

Closed on Holiday Mondays

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What’s your favourite classic diner?

Maui Maniacs

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Maui Maniacs

Maui, Maui, Maui! I’ve been hearing nothing but lovely things about this island since I was a little girl. Last Spring it was finally my turn to see for myself. After scouring the internet and reading all the reviews I booked a one bedroom suite at the Hanua Kai Resort and Spa in Kaanapali. Then began the restaurant research, I emailed friends and family for recommendations and tried to read through the lines of online reviews. Going on vacation can be a lot of work!

The resort was gorgeous, right on the beach and well maintained. Duke’s Beach House is on the resort property between the three pools and the red sandy beach. We ate once at Duke’s and the best thing I can say about the food is that it was forgettable. Wish I could say the same for our first meal in Hawaii at Maui Tacos. Good thing that the resort was so fabulous, because the food hadn’t been that impressive. But, these choices had been more about convenience than anything.

While the grocery store across the road had decent local produce, there was a nice selection at a farmer’s stand by the ticket booth for the Sugar Cane Express. We took the Sugar Cane Train from Kaanapali to Lahaina for the day, another disappointing lunch at one of the interchangeable ocean front restaurants was fixed by a trip to Hula Cookies & Ice Cream where you get to design your own ice cream sandwich that can be enjoyed in the nearby park under the banyan tree.

On other visits to Lahaina, we enjoyed brunch at Mala Ocean Tavern and a lunch at a mixed plate place, can’t remember the name but we wanted to go to Aloha Mixed Plate. For afternoon treats we sucked back some Jamba Juice and couldn’t get enough froyo at Island Froyo. One more meh place and then we’ll move on to the good stuff: David Paul’s Island Grill looked good from the outside, but you shouldn’t judge a menu by its cover.

When we headed over to the fancy side Maui to check out Wailea our luck changed. We tried out a brand new restaurant called Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman. The decor was bright and fresh, the service was professional and warm, we felt right at home. The food was locally sourced, clearly fresh and prepared with care.

Based on our positive experience at Monkeypod, we made a reservation at Merriman’s the upscale sister restaurant located in the Kapalua Resort. It was a delightful experience with a completely open dining room and top notch service provided by our server, J.J. Again, the freshest ingredients treated with respect.My husband, Exec Chef, enjoyed it so completely that he bought a gift certificate on the spot for family members that would be honeymooning in Maui a few weeks later.

Another hit in the Kapalua Resort was the oceanic treats of Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi, fantastic local fish and great service in a busy room. After some memorable meals we feel like we are on a roll, hitting our stride and walking on sunshine.

Our best brunch of the trip was worth the 45 minute wait in the balmy ocean breeze. The Gazebo is just that, a round roof over tables and a kitchen right on the beach. The fluffy pancakes are served with coconut syrup and I have to recommend  the fried rice as a must share plate.

One of our favourite spots on Maui was a little town called Paia. We had a nice dinner at Milagros Food Company, but the best part was shopping at Wings Hawaii, a lovely shop filled with beautiful jewellery and clothing all made in Hawaii.

We ended our trip on a high note with a dinner at Mama’s Fish House in Paia. It was a picture perfect setting for an Elvis movie and it’s been around since he was the king. While the view was amazing and the food was excellent, it is the only time I’ve heard Exec Chef say that a dinner was overpriced!

 Mahalo!

Estrella’s Montreal Deli & Cafe

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While the restaurant review website Dine Here is mostly good for laughs, rather than reliable restaurant recommendations, I have made a couple of welcome discoveries.

I haven’t yet had an opportunity to visit Montreal, but I feel I’ve somehow come a little closer since eating at Estrella’s Montreal Deli & Cafe in Langley. Their Reuben is fantastic, stacked high with their own smoked meat and stuffed with swiss cheese and sauerkraut. The Dijon gives it a kick and the rye has that touch of chewiness that keeps it all together. The pickle spear has a nice crunch and a well-balanced brine. The coleslaw is shredded finely and slicked with a sweet/vinegary dressing.

Young Fresh Chef and Exec Chef are both fans, but Little Chef skips the mustard. They both know to hand over their pickle spears to me immediately. Estrella’s has a selection of beverages, but Little Chef goes for the Cherry Coke. Yep, it’s a smoky slice of Montreal right in Langley.

Estrella’s Deli & Cafe

5932 200 St

Langley, BC

(604) 539-9988

Open Monday-Saturday 9:00-5:00

Closed Sundays & Holiday Mondays

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