Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Vancouver: The Elbow Room

The last time I was in Vancouver, I had so much fun with the Elbow Room's wacky waitstaff I had to go back. Plus, my nephew is a burger fan and they make what is known as the best burger in Van.

The elbow room is a local institution at 560 Davie Street, a cute little cafe that is sparse but comfy. The real attraction, besides the food is the amazing staff that you can't help but love.

The Elbow Room was started in 1983 by Patrick Savoie, an ex-teacher and Brian Searle, an insurance adjuster. It's original location, at 720 Jervis Street, was located in the first mayor of Vancouver's house, and was declared a heritage building. At first Bryan did dishes and Patrick cooked. We had one employee, Vera McKee, who waited tables...We now have 52 seats, a staff of 10-12 and abusing customers from all over Canada, the US and the world.

They do have some crazy-ass burgers. Check these out

Tom Select Burger
Topped with bacon, pineapple, peach slices and camembert cheese.

Trucker Burger

Mushroom, baby shrimp, bacon avocado, a fried egg and cheddar cheese

The Chad Lowe

(For the meat lover, a.k.a. ' The F ' ing Kidding Burger ' )
Two 8 oz patties, sautéed mushrooms and red onions, bacon, pepperoni, B.B.Q. and HP sauce.

But being the princess I am, I ordered

Princess Burger
Bacon, sliced avocado, feta and camembert cheese.

Thick, juicy, feta-y...truly a great burger. We also split an amazing fresh banana-blueberry shake

We had room to split one more thing. Now, if you don't finish your food at The Elbow Room you get a spanking. You can sometimes talk them into accepting a donation to A Loving Spoonful, but they really do try for that spanking. One way to avoid a spanking is to bring a college boy because 1. They can finish any plate of food 2. They are more tempting spanking bait 3. They are probably used to that kind of thing what with the hazing and such. OK here is a sample of the menu. Guess which treat we ordered?

A. Savoury Pancake
Bacon, Cheese, Sausage or a Combination

B. Banana Walnut French Toast (No Jenny Craig here)
Made with pound cake. It's delicious and very rich.
Add Bacon, Sausage or Ham? $2.75
Add Blackberries,Blueberries,Strawberries,Banana,or Raspberries $2.00

C. Evelyn Hilderbrant
A large cinnamon bun, grilled as French toast.

D. Administrative Assistant
Banana, green apple slices, and orange wedges, with a blueberry yogurt and Muffin (cranberry bran or Blueberry Peach). No eggs. No meat. Nothing to clog your precious arteries.

That is correct, sir! C - a French-toasted cinnamon bun. Woohoo! Halfway through our burger, we were confronted by our wild-haired waitress, "What's the matter with your french toast?"

"Nothing. We're eating in courses."

"Yeah, that's our dessert."

"Ohhh dessert! Well, dessert!" She ran off and returned with a giant can of Reddi-whip. "Now it's dessert!"

Friday, August 7, 2009

Vancouver: Japadog!!!!

Friday Justin and I were super-excited because we were going to JAPADOG! The greatest hot dog cart in the world! There are three locations - one on Pender and Burrard (menu), the one we hit in front of The Sutton Place Hotel, and Japadogs has just opened a third location Coal Habour Community Centre.

The line stretched for an entire block, and the wait was long, but the crowd was patient and convivial. They knew there was something wonderful waiting at the end of that line.

There is a regular menu, then each stand has a special menu. The standard menu includes turkey and veggie "smokies", bratwurst, and all beef dogs. Since my visit, they have started offering kurobuta (black hog) dogs. Specialty menus at different stands vary. There are four special options at this stand: Terimayo, Oroshi, Misomayo and Okonomi.

The Terimayo is an all-beef dog with teriyaki sauce, Japanese mayo, fried onions and nori (seaweed). This is their best-seller. The teriyaki flavor was overpowering. We expected the nori to be the overwhelming flavor, but the teriyaki made it almost impossible to taste.

The Oroshi (Daikon) is made with a special soy sauce, grated radish and green onion on a bratwurst. I chose to add wasabi mayonnaise to mine. The sausage was of the highest quality, delicious with a lovely meaty texture. The wasabi mayonnaise was so spectacular I became obsessed with wasabi for days.

The other choices we did not try were still exciting - the Misomayo is oddly enough made with Miso and Japanese Mayo. It was my first choice, but it was sold out. The other is Okonomi (based on a popular Japanese pancake and translates to "what you want"): Special sauce, Japanese Mayo, Fried cabbage, dried bonito flakes. (a review of Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise)

I allowed Google toolbar to translate the Japanese-language story of Japadogs. Computers will never replace human translators because they don't understand context, so they can't make proper word choices. This one doesn't seem to do grammar either.

From what I gather, the Japanese founder dreamed of overseas crepe stands and opened crepe stands in New York. While vacationing in Vancouver, he and his wife decided to open the creperies there - and name them Japadog. Sooo, so much for computer translation. Here is the rest of the story straight from the site via Google translation:

In Vancouver, you can meet a lot of people, luck, 2005 May OPEN. OPEN Initially, I was not decided upon the name of the store. For some time, had become increasingly called JAPA DOG.

Initially, Japanese style, but I did not have much popular gradually in the course of one year one year and continued, it began to be popular items.
Of course, the contracting out of everyone of us (including sales only one a month), but also a visionary and it did not work the menu. Every day, we are prototyping in various ways.

During lunch and evening, you may be side by side. Away to keep you waiting, I'm sorry all the time. That I strive to provide as soon as possible, the limitations of the truly "Darn, and I hasten" in my mind is always crying.

But we don't mind being side by side, because Japadogs is a thing of wonder. I wish I could tell this visionary how much we love them and maybe it will stop his mind from crying.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Seattle Thurs: Surprise! It's the Pike!

After the bakery, we wandered through Pike Place. The parking gods were with us. Look at the amazing spot we got for our black rented SUV!

A trip to Pike as always, included a stop at Beecher's.

Flagship cheese on the move

Picked up a pretzel I think at 3 Girls Bakery - maybe Auntie Em''s all ablur of foodstuffs swirling around my head

We also stopped off at Pike Chowder where we tried a sampler of seafood chowders. The basic clam chowder was the best.

Kids are so adorable

We got some pierogie at Cafe Yarmarka for the road, which was lucky because Justin was starving after his exams

Plus the border crossing took forever, so our picnic basket of collected treats was really needed. By the time we got to our gorgeous room at the Vancouver Westin Bayshore, I was happy to just order room service and a movie while Justin and mom went out for dinner with Uncle John.

And maybe just one of their freakishly giant beers afterwards.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Seattle Thursday: Hey Macrina!

Thursday we had the entire morning and afternoon before we were scheduled to pick up my nephew Justin. At my friend Wathana's recomendation, we went looking for the Macrina Bakery. It was only blocks from our hotel. It really was a fantastic location. We picked up some pastries for the road.

Macrina has a wide selection of breads, all formed by hand, including

Macrina Casera
“Of This House”
1.5 lb Loaf ~ $3.55
This bread is leavened with a natural wild starter made from organic grapes, coarse whole wheat and unbleached flours. Designed for any meal. It has a mild sour flavor.

1.5 lb Loaf ~ $3.55 • 2.5 oz Roll ~ $0.65
1.75 lb Sliced Loaf ~ $4.15
8 oz Panini ~ $1.65
Our classic, crusty Italian loaf. Leavened with biga (traditional sponge starter) and unbleached flour. Lighter in salt and perfect for dipping in your favorite olive oil.

1 lb Loaf ~ $4.05 • 2.5 oz Roll ~ $0.65
Similar in texture to our focaccia, this moist and savory loaf is packed with whole green olives and fresh oregano. Baked on semolina and brushed with extra virgin olive oil.

and the fascinating

1.25 lb Loaf ~ $4.05 • 2.5 oz Roll ~ $0.65
A German-style, 6-grain seed bread. This beautiful loaf is leavened with a beer starter and sweetened with a touch of honey and molasses. Its braided design makes it perfect for breaking with friends.

Their antique pastry case has been offering up goodies since 1993. Like the Roly-Poly, "our homage to the classic cinnamon roll, enhanced with coconut, raisins and walnuts".

Macrina's Fresh Fruit Coffeecake

For September, we are featuring our Fresh Fruit Coffeecake. To make the best possible cake, use freshly picked berries at the height of their growing season. Usually, berries are at their best in September. Pick blackberries, raspberries, blueberries or huckleberries (perfect in mid-September) and toss them in the batter.

Makes 1 bundt cake

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups ripe fruit (whole berries or fruit cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
Edible flowers and powdered sugar for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350º F. Oil a 12-cup Bundt pan.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt into a large bowl and toss with your hands to combine. Remove 1/4 cup of the flour mixture and set bowl aside.

In a separate medium bowl, combine fruit and the reserved 1/4 cup of flour mixture. Toss until fruit is evenly coated and set aside. Tossing the fruit in flour helps keep it from sinking to the bottom of the coffeecake – a true disaster!

Combine butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix with the paddle attachment for 5 to 8 minutes on medium speed. The mixture will become smooth and pale in color. Add eggs, one at a time, making sure the first egg is fully mixed into the batter before adding the other. After the second egg is incorporated, add vanilla extract and mix for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and mix for another 30 seconds to make sure all of the ingredients are fully incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

Alternately add small amounts of flour mixture and buttermilk to the batter mixing with a wooden spoon just until all dry ingredients are incorporated. Gently fold in the flour coated fruit making sure the fruit is evenly distributed through the batter. Spoon batter into the prepared Bundt pan filling two-thirds of the pan.

Bake on the center rack of the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Check the center of the coffeecake with a skewer. It will come out clean when the cake is done. Let cool in a pan for 45 minutes.

Loosen the sides of the cake with a sharp knife. Place a serving plate upside-down on top of the cooled Bundt pan and invert the pan to remove the cake.

This delicious coffeecake is perfect just the way it is, but I like to jazz up the presentation with a few fresh, edible flowers and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Seattle: Connect Four at Buckleys

For dinner Wednesday the historic MGM/Loews building and warm lights drew us over to Buckley's in Belltown. Half of the restaurant/pub is a sports bar with an umm, enthusiastic clientele. One person on UrbanSpoon said that the glow from the rows and rows of flat screens made them feel like they were in the supermarket refrigerator aisle.

Luckily for us there is a cozy restaurant area with tall-backed wooden booths, one of my favorite seating arrangements. I feel like I'm in my own private club compartment.

Reading over the pub's accolades, I am kind of confused by the fact that Buckey's won "The best Guinness in Seattle". Umm, they are brewing Guinness in Seattle? They have the best supplier? They can slow pour like a pro?

We started with the meatloaf sliders. They were OK. I think burgers are really only the proper slider filling. An interesting idea, but didn't quite fly.

Then we split the fish and chips. All I remember is that the fish was good, but the fries were cold.

OK, so Buckleys is not the place to go for fine dining. But if you are with a group of friends and want to get hammered, eat bar food and play a bunch of fun games, the comfy booths are stocked with retro board games that make for a fun night.

Look how EXCITED these kids are to play Connect Four. They are downright HYSTERICAL

Can I just say that my mom kicks ass at Connect Four. It's like that Donkey Kong guy.

Of course, every game has its cheaters and sharks, and you best take heed to this warning inside the game cover:

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Seattle: Breakfast at Lola

Wednesday morning we met the sisters for breakfast at Lola. It was a nice atmosphere for a group - the room is large and open. The sadness was overwhelming, but it was comforting to be together, and when my mom picked up the check everyone was genuinely touched. Sometimes it's those little acts of kindness that give people comfort.

We are all so different from each other - this one won't eat gluten, and that one won't eat sugar, but there was enough variety that there was something for everyone at the table.

The menu had a lot of exciting-sounding options; Tom Douglas even dared to put octopus with pork belly on the breakfast menu. "Tom’s big breakfast: pacific octopus hash, sweet pepper, summer squash, pork belly, sunny egg 16" It was tempting but I went traditional.

The smashed garlic fried potatoes appear to have been bashed with a giant cast iron pan and then thrown in the deep-fryer.

Anne's pork-maple sausage looked delicious

They are known for their fresh donuts, which were exciting. But I had them for "dessert" and maybe they would have been better hot. The strawberry jam and marscapone allowed you to make your own jelly donuts.

We enjoyed breakfast so much, we went back on Thursday. I was tempted by the morel, ramps and fontina omelette. This is the Pacific Northwest, and the morels were unreal.