Archive for March 2013

Fish ‘N Chips, London

When you go to the UK there are many delicious edibles to be sampled; sort of high on our list were fish and chips.

Now, just because we a food people, doesn’t mean that we don’t like things that might be considered old-school but they must be really well done. Consider the complexity of fish and chips: proper oil, proper temperature, great fresh fish, “chips” and wait for it, mushy peas. You could probably change up the mushy peas if you are not a fan!

Two versions were tried. The first at Rock & Sole Plaice (ya I know, cute hey), in Covent Garden. We each ordered a different fish for our fish and chips, Haddock and Plaice, both were very good, served with “chips”. We simply are not used to this kind of quality. Not the least bit greasy! The chips are approximately ½” thick (apparently, because of the size of the surface, they do not absorb oil like thinly cut ones), and guess what…most importantly, they were not pre-salted. Wow! Not like the salt bombs you get here. What is with that anyway? I mean, aren’t we supposed to be cutting back on the salt thingy? And quite frankly, if I want salt, I want to add what I want not what some cook thinks I should have. This really bugs me in Vancouver. I rarely eat chips and when I do I have to remember to tell them NO SALT!

The second place we ordered fish and chips was in Canterbury at Deeson’s British Restaurant.  I ordered the haddock in a very light beer batter and chips. I think that haddock might almost be the best piece of fish I have ever eaten! It was so moist, flaky and not the least greasy, same with the chips, again thick cut, which from what I can tell, is traditionally English. It came accompanied with mushy peas (my first time and not bad!) and homemade tartar sauce. This is what fish and chips should be all about!

Two years ago we had really good fish and chips at Geale’s in London, even if the place had white tablecloths. They have two locations, one in Notting Gate and the other, Chelsea Green.

And, believe it or not, there’s one of those commemorative blue plaques at Oldhams Tommyfield Market. This is the home of the first British fried chip, fried around 1860!

There are a few places recommended here in Vancouver that claim to make “traditional British style” fish and chips. Two I have already tried, one is pretty good the other too greasy for my taste.  Chances are, I may report back on my findings!

Phyllis Signature

Food Networks Are Everywhere

One of the things we find absolutely fascinating (when we stagger back to our rented flat/home after a day of sightseeing, museum or gallery visits, etc.), after we pour ourselves a large glass of wine, is to relax with a favourite guilty pleasure; watching local cooking shows. It’s amazing how much one learns about the culture and food of the country you are visiting and how much fun and inspiration you can get trying to re-create or change up what you’ve seen! A couple of years ago, when we were in Rome, we were addicted to a cooking show, “Alici.” It was completely in Italian, the “star” of the show wore an outfit that included aprons with things glued onto them; our personal favourite being the one with different pasta shapes all over it! There is normally a sidekick who gets bossed around or in the case of the Italian shows, the two constantly argue (not understanding the language very well, it’s pretty funny to watch trying to get the drift).

We spent two weeks in London this past October and watched Delia, Gordon, Heston and Theo and Mary Berry. All great cooks, but the kicker was a new show about Fanny Cradock, England’s first television celebrity chef, (from the 50’s up to 1976). She was a restaurant critic and writer as well. It appears she “invented” the prawn cocktail and God knows, we couldn’t live without them? The time frame has been moved forward to 2012; very campy and really funny! It’s a time warp about Fanny with her monocled husband, Johnnie (aka Major Cradock), hovering in the background with a glass of wine in hand. The “real” Fanny was really bossy, wore enormous bows in her hair and was apparently, ruder than Gordon Ramsay.  Wish the new show was available here!!  Our loveable Julia Child she was not!

We’ve always love watching English television. Maybe our all-time favourite cook was Keith Floyd. He was smart, articulate, seriously funny as hell, a delight to see every week and he is missed, I can tell you! Two of our favourite Keith shows were “Piperade” and “Pork Stew in Centurion Sauce”.  Click on the names to go to Youtube if you want to have a laugh!

“Come Dine with Me, Canada” is a take on the English original. We checked it out when we were in London a couple of years ago and watched it again on this trip. All I can say is that the English version’s contestants are sure a lot more vicious than their Canadian counterparts!

The Brits really do have a wonderful sense of humour and a sense of silliness. I like to think we Canadians have inherited some of it!

More Favourite Things – “Rammed Earth”

A former colleague introduced me to “Rammed Earth” construction a few years ago. I found the concept to be both intriguing and beautiful, I think it works beautifully on the westcoast.   I love the backdrop of the rammed earth walls with modern furniture. Mies van der Rohe displayed his Barcelona furniture in front of granite walls, simply gorgeous! 

If you have gone to visit VanDusen Gardens in the past year and a half, you may have noticed the interesting outside wall along the entrance to the visitor centre. That’s what I am talking about. It’s so organic and so beautiful. In my mind it has a kind of  desert look.

 

There is a company in B.C. that does this construction. I just love their work! If you want to check them out, go to Terra Firma Builders.  There are photos of projects on the site. I’m impressed!

The Dead Zone

Where to meet up for lunch in downtown Vancouver?

I often meet friends for lunch downtown in the Georgia and Granville area, often at least one of us is on our lunch break. We used to meet up at the White Spot at Georgia and Seymour before it shut its doors. Not your gourmet delight but on a limited break it worked. So now that they are gone, there is very limited choice for a quick, hopefully nutritious, reasonably priced place to get together for lunch. What is available is the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Hawkesworth and the very small café on the corner of Georgia & Howe, the Café at the Art Gallery, a bunch of fast food places, the really depressing food court in Pacific Centre basement and the terrific food trucks, a welcome addition to the Vancouver Food Scene. But my friends and I are uninterested in standing outside, eating lunch in Vancouver, in the winter.

In my opinion, this situation is a big dilemma and very frustrating and  every time we plan to hook up for lunch, it’s the same question “where should we have lunch!”

I have been in touch with Nordstrom’s to see what they might bring to the table, so to speak, when they open in the old Sears/Eaton’s (let’s hope they really do a lot of work on the place). They have, in their stores in Washington State: Ebar (for coffee & pastries as well as take-away sandwiches), ESPRESSO BAR , Marketplace Café (a casual café) and a classic full service restaurant called “The Grill”. Their policy is fresh, local, seasonal, so I guess we can only hope.

Unless one has the time to wander further afield to Scuie, or Q4 (not inexpensive for an everyday lunch), it’s pretty trying to find something. And, much further down Granville there are a number of places but again, if you are on a short lunch break, they will probably not work. All over the place in London, England, and on the east coast of the U.S, you find Pret A Manger, very casual, take-away or eat in, self-serve sandwiches, wraps and salads with hot food, coffees, etc. ordered at the front counter. Perhaps something along those lines but on a somewhat larger scale with more seating for those who do want to eat in.

Just a thought.