The first day we arrived into Vancouver, confused and jet-lagged, A and I agreed that we should just keep on going, determined not to waste part of one of our few days there sleeping. We were staying at Hotel Burrard in Downtown Victoria, just a short walk from most of the downtown area hotspots. We shopped along their famous shopping strip of Robson Street before making our way over to the harbor to watch early sunset over cocktails at Mahony & Sons Landing.

We learned that the food in that area was on the pricier side so we opted to explore a bit before settling on a place for dinner. We made a stop in at Steamworks Brew Pub Brewery for a quick bite. The baked spinach and crab dip was a perfect nod to our surroundings yet light enough to leave our options open for the rest of our explorations.

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From there, we continued on to Chill Winston, which our server at Steamworks told us was a great spot for people watching and cocktails. It was already eight o’ clock, but the deceptive light outside made it feel closer to 6 o’clock. We sat just inside, situated against a large open window, perfect for taking in all of the fellow patrons as well as the foot traffic passing by along the front of the restaurant. I tried one of their cocktails called the Eternal return, which their menu described as “Bulleit Bourbon, Cointreau, West Indian Orange Bitters, lemon, fig jam served in a universe that ends again and begins again and again and again”. Such a dramatic description that definitely delivered.

Chill Winston - Vancouver, British Columbia

Based on recommendations from our server at Chill Winston, we made our way on to Incendio, a pizza place in Gastown just on the fringe of where the neighborhood started to turn a bit. I was instantly sold when I saw their self-selected category – Italian Soul Food. We were so hungry that it was a bit difficult to focus on the menu. What to choose! Thankfully, we were almost instantly greeted with a focaccia of sorts, giving us a bit more time to ponder.

Focaccia at Incendio, Gaslight, Vancouver

We finally decided on trying the Gastown pizza, which per the menu was spinach, roasted chicken, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, and gorgonzola. They were so kind as to substitute the gorgonzola for mozzarella per our request. We just made it under the window, with their kitchen preparing to close just as we were ordering. I’ll admit I think it was part quality and part hunger, but the pizza was just what we needed. And with a long day ahead (for a reminder, read here), we were excited to be able to stash leftovers in our fridge. Thanks to Incendio, dinner the next night was fabulous as well!

Gastown Pizza at Incendio - Gastown, Vancouver

Mahony & Sons – Burrard Landing, Vancouver – 604.647.7513
Steamworks – 375 Water Street, Vancouver – 604.689.2739
Chill Winston – 3 Alexander Street, Vancouver – 604.288.9575
Incendio – 103 Columbia Street, Vancouver – 604.688.8694

I’m recently back from one amazing trip out to the Pacific Northwest. It was a whirlwind – only one week covering Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland. I was lucky enough though to cram in (of course) some amazing food along the way.

I was traveling with my good friend A, who shared my interest in exploring and attending some Tori Amos shows. Perfect combo to me! We spent a good day and a half exploring Vancouver so we decided we could afford to spend one way out of town. Tight on time, we opted to coordinate with a tour company by the name of West Coast Sightseeing that our hotel, Hotel Burrard, was so kind as to help arrange.

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We woke up super early to meet the tour van to venture out to Victoria. The trip to Victoria required a bus ride to a ferry to another ride out to the town. En route to Victoria, we stopped off in Brentwood Bay to visit the Butchart Gardens. The gardens were so gorgeous I couldn’t stop taking photos. Photos don’t begin to do it justice.

By the time we reached Victoria, we were famished. We’d skipped a snack in the gardens to allow more time to explore. Our tour guide rambled off suggestions. There was a bit of this and that in their Chinatown. And then there was this pub … and that pub.

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We were instantly drawn to the one option that was completely different. “It’s this fish and chips place. I’ve never been, but some people say it’s great. One Fish, Two Fish … Blue Fish, Red Fish … Something like that!” He was close. It sounded good and points for the Dr. Seuss reference!

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We walked down and around the harbor area. It was a particularly amazing day. No clouds, super sunny, low 80s with light breeze. We didn’t see a restaurant though as we continued our way around. And confined to a wi-fi only world, we had no way to check our whereabouts. Luckily we ran into a security guard patrolling in his crisp uniform. I caught his attention and he volunteered to take us there personally.

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When we reached Red Fish Blue Fish, it was clear why we thought we were lost. We had a bit to go and it turns out it was a free standing shack along the harbor. There were several people ahead of us. A couple of the ladies from our tour group looked annoyed at the wait. I looked to our new friend, Mr. Security guard and as if responding on cue he interjected, “This? This is nothing. Sometimes it curves back along the harbor. Sometimes they run out of things too.”

There was no question as to what I was getting. They’re known for their fish and chips. I was absolutely starving so my friend and I opted to each get an order, which turned out to be way too much food. I’d suggest splitting and then assessing from there. The halibut is the way to go. I’ve never had halibut that’s come close to this. Amazing.

A ordered some gazpacho to start and after a long day out and about, it was amazing. It was super flavorful. Light and refreshing. I really loved their choice of topping – a heaping scoop of little shrimp. Such a simple but transforming addition.

And the fish. Oh the fish. I’ve had fish and chips many a time in London. I’ve had them in the Scottish countryside out from Edinburgh. I’ve even had it in Dublin. Hands down, the fish at Red Fish, Blue Fish is the best I’ve ever eaten – period. So even though that portion size was way too hefty, you’d better believe I didn’t let any of it go to waste.


Red Fish Blue Fish – 1006 Wharf Street, Victoria, British Columbia – 250.298.6877

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity along with my friends to check out Ethos, a new restaurant in the East Village. We arrived to find the front sidewalk carpeted in pastel rose petals, balloons, and a smiling hostess greeting us at the door. I quickly realized as we walked into the space that I had been there before to dine at the prior establishment. The space had been brightened, from the open and exposed kitchen to the fabulous enclosed patio space and garden at the rear of the restaurant.

Ethos, East Village

Currently the space in the back features a garden which supplies the produce for the restaurant. The very warm owner was on hand to take us on a tour through the space, including a downstairs spot perfect for accommodating large groups. There’s even a separate bar on hand to complete the event. Having been in a few other East Village locations with basements, I was impressed how warm the space felt. This will be a great addition to restaurant.

Ethos, East Village

While the menu has some heavier options mixed in, it’s very much a place focused on small plates, perfect for sharing with a group of your closest friends (though works equally well for a first date!). You can choose your preference amongst the open bar area you walk through when you first enter the restaurant, the main dining room, or the enclosed patio.

Ethos, East Village

We started the meal with an assortment of appetizers, including the mandatory spreads ranging from tsatziki to hummus, to baba ghanoush. Not typically all that fond of tsatziki, I was surprised to find just how fabulous their rendition is. You could taste all of the layers of it, making it a cool contrast of an addition to their fresh warm pita. Their hummus was nice and smokey and the baba ghanoush was the best I have ever tried. Definitely recommend this assortment for sharing among friends.

Ethos, East Village

Another starter we tried was the baby octopus with mixed organic greens, vine ripened tomatoes and grilled peppers, which was served with a lemon and olive dressing. This clean fresh meal tasted like summer on a plate, complete with tomatoes from their on-premises garden. Their grilled octopus had that nice touch of char stopping just shy of overly crunchy. Perfect. For something with great flavor and a bit of flourish (hello, table-side ouzo-soaked flambé), don’t miss their Saganaki Kefalotiri. Imported greek kefalotyri cheese pan seared in olive oil. Nothing wrong about that.

Ethos, East Village

Of course, we had to try one of their lamb dishes. This here is off the mezes, but there are also other larger portions which come accompanied by side dishes (if that’s more your style).

Ethos, East Village

To finish, we tried a pastry creme tart with berries and their crème brûlée. I was a bit disappointed to not get to give their baklava a taste seeing as it’s such a signature Greek dish, but I figure that’s just yet another reason for a return visit. Great addition to a great neighborhood!

Ethos – 167 Avenue A (b/w E10 & E11) – 646.596.9051
Reservations Suggested

Photos courtesy of Joey Pasion.

I left one day with an ambitious plan – going to bed early. It had been a busy several weeks at work with events and I needed an early night to help offset. My big post-work “plan” was simple – a quick post-work sweet treat at Buttermilk Bakeshop before I turned in. So yes, a pre-dinner dessert. Yolo.

This spot was much more narrow than I was expecting. There’s a thin lane going the width of the store for customers to stand in. There were a few chairs though it was tricky to really hang out. Much more of a grab and go scenario.

Since I came for the cupcakes, I had to give that priority – though I really wanted to try the whoopie pie. Next time…

I went simple. Plain vanilla / vanilla. A friend of mine once mentioned you can really tell a good bakery by something as simple as vanilla / vanilla standing out – and I have to agree. Putting them to the test, I have to say their’s were quite good. Their name is not just to be catchy, as buttermilk was noticeably present in the cake of their cupcakes.

They also have a weekly macron schedule. Amazing. Since I was lucky enough to be there for PB&J (couldn’t have asked for a better flavor) I had to take one of those too.

Buttermilk Bakeshop – 339 7th Avenue (b/w 9th/10th St), Brooklyn – 347.689.4376

Before Lady Gaga’s final show at Roseland Ballroom – the final show ever at the venue – my sister and I met at Don Antonio for dinner. To be honest, I don’t even know what the back part of the restaurant looks like. It was cold and rainy and we were in a bit of a hurry, so we sat instead at the bar (coincidentally, much closer to the door). I opted to start with their Trasteverino – cynar, limoncello, and carpano in a pistachio-rimmed glass. Delicious.

We started with some fried bites – their arancini (Neapolitan rice ball with baked Italian ham) and fritattine (traditional spaghetti cake with baked Italian ham and mozzarella). The arancini was great, but oh the fritattine is where it is at. It’s like a fried mac ‘n cheese ball at it’s finest with only a $3 pricetag.

For the main dish, we had to try their signature dish – a fried pizza, or “Montanara Starita”. This is Antonio Starita’s specialty and is a lightly fried pizza dough topped by their signature Starita tomato sauce and imported smoked buffalo mozzarella. Now I’ve had fried pizza once before and thought it was tasty but, more or less, that it was just pizza.

This though? Was something entirely different. The crust was light and fluffy, but with that interesting slightly oily crispness you get when something is fried. So good. So worth the hype. If you’re in the area looking for a bite (or meeting friends somewhere where the food is … less than desirable), this should be the spot you try.

This is an area which I often have difficulty finding something good for dinner. I think I’ve found a new go to!

And although the weather might have left a bit to be desired, the concert definitely did not. Another fun and fabulous night. Only sad that there are no more to be had at Roseland… Xo.

Don Antonio – 309 W 50th St (@ 8th Avenue) – 646.719.1043
Reservations Suggested

There are so many places I mean to try but never do. Call it home base syndrome. You know it’s here, it’s popular, there’s likely to be a wait, but you’ll go – sometime. The Burger Joint has been on said list for a long time. I’ve listened to Anthony Bourdain wax poetic about their beef patties, confirming they should indeed live up to the hype – but yet I’ve never been.

But thank you, Lady Gaga! I finally was going to be over in the area to work a VIP experience we had connected to her next to last show at Roseland Ballroom. Not sure what the food situation was going to be and knowing I’d be at the venue from 4:30 until likely 11, I thought it was a perfect time for a burger.

When I arrived, it was every bit the out of place venue I’d always heard it was. Plopped right into the glorious lobby of the Parker Meridien over in the back left was a snaking line, corralled by a series of ropes. There was no sign directly in the lobby and it was a kind bellhop who let me that was indeed where I needed to go.

Knowing their policy of making you order immediately, I started scrambling to find the menu on the wall along the long dark hallway that leads to the entrance – the main thing confirming you are indeed in the right place being a large glowing neon burger on the wall.

The family in front of me was from Australia. They were staying in the hotel, so you could say they had the “home court” advantage when it came to the line. And they’d definitely put this advantage to use, having visited the spot three times during their visit. I was looking through the various menu boxes with languages from French to Japanese when they stopped me. “The English menu is inside behind the register. You’ll have time.” Ominous.

When I entered the restaurant, I was surprise by the overwhelming amount of graffiti on the wall. The sign prohibiting graffiti seemed to be a pointless decoration as clearly, no one was reading it.

I went simple on my order. No shake this time, but I went with the cheeseburger, fries, and a Diet Coke. My bill came to around $10.

The room was filled with patrons, but respectfully they all are their burgers quickly, cleaned up, and allowed the next customers to cycle in. No stragglers playing on their phones holding up the process. This is a large part of what helped make my wait a mere 15-20 minutes. Not bad.

And the burger? So good. I was concerned that it would be massive and that I’d end up ruining my outfit for the evening. The patty wasn’t Shake Shack thin, but it wasn’t one of those super thick ones either. Just right. Nice and juicy with great flavor. The fries were on the thinner side and just the right amount of salt (which is key). If you haven’t tried their burger, I highly recommend. And now that it’s almost warm, it’s in the perfect spot too to grab and head into the park!

How was Gaga, you ask? So good. I followed my stop at Burger Joint with a lovely treat yourself session at Drybar (loved it!) before heading to the show.

The soundcheck was awesome. There’s something magical about getting to see a major performer without the stage costumes, just taking the stage for those few songs to get their bearings.

The show itself was a nonstop energetic hour ride, complete with a serenade to the legendary Tony Bennett.

I heard this show was not as choreographed as her typical tours. I’d love to see what the full tour would be!

 

Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien – 119 W 56 Street (b/w 6th & 7th Ave) – 212.708.7414
No Reservations

Locanda Verde had been on my “must try” list for over a year before I finally made it there. Now that I’ve been (twice) I’m fairly certain it was my subconscious keeping me away, knowing that once I went, I’d want to keep coming back over and over (and over).

We’ll start with brunch. It was a cold wintry Sunday, one so windy I remember being thankful I made it there since I couldn’t see most of the walk there. I’d managed to secure our reservation thanks to calling directly. The restaurant limits the advance window and overall number of reservations available via OpenTable. For better availability, I suggest calling Locanda.

Since it was so cold, I ended up ordering not one, but eventually two cappuccinos. They weren’t cheap, but fellow cappuccino aficionados would approve of the strength of their espresso and proper foam. Perfection.

To start, we had to order the ricotta toast with honey. I’d had this for dinner on my first visit, the only difference being that the brunch version pairs it with a burnt orange toast instead of plain. Both times I was so blown away by the creamy fresh flavor of their ricotta. I don’t think I will ever be able to come for a meal at Locanda and not order this dish. I’m obsessed.

For my main dish, I couldn’t resist making it a full ricotta brunch, so I went with the lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberries and meyer lemon curd. While the pancakes were not cheap ($17), I have to say they are some of the best I have had in a long time. The ricotta made the interior almost creamy and the meyer lemon curd was the best I’ve ever had. I think I have found my new go-to brunch spot. I could happily spend hours upon hours here. We actually did this specific Sunday! Highly recommend.

Locanda Verde – 377 Greenwich Street (@ N Moore Street) – 212.925.3797
Reservations Recommended

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