December 14, 2014

Six Mile Pub, View Royal

On the way out to a nice muddy trail race around Thetis Lake, Andrea decided that a new reality show is required, called 'Drive-thrus, Dumps and Trail Races'.  I think this was highly amusing to everybody inside the car (Population2).I won't be ousting Guy Fieri any time soon from the Food Network.  Or be the new Tom Green.  However, it is very true that I do love chicken sandwiches, fried chicken, roast chicken and any other variation on chicken that doesn't involved it pulverised into pink slime (Chicken Nuggets).  So perhaps the idea of reviewing every chicken fast food, drive-thru in the Vancouver Island area would make great television.

I will send the idea to Chek News.

Otherwise, lets stick with some semblance of reality.   I ran around a muddy forest, up to my calves in cold water and mud for an hour and fifteen minutes, on purpose.  After you've run through ice cold stream, you realized as long as you keep moving, your feet warm up again.  And the next one doesn't need to be gingerly stepped through... jump in, and get through it, and up the other side to the next hill or bend.

This is all great until you get back to the car, realize you don't have dry trainers, and hence have to walk into the Six Mile in just your socks.  I didn't see a sign saying 'no shoes, no service', but to avoid anyone spotting my lack of foot wear sat behind a bench table in the corner and hid my feet.

The rest of the runners from the trail run were heading down for a free snack and glass of Fat Tug, but I needed a proper feed.  I run, partly as I do get the elusive runner's high at times, but also so I can justify eating a lot of high calorie food.  Like fried chicken.

Naturally, after all the talk of chicken, I ordered the New York steak sandwich, with a fried egg on top.  My favourite post run meal... steak and eggs. Unless there's chicken and waffles. I pretend the protein attack helps my muscles recover fast, and the fat replaces some of the energy stores I have used up.  I could do with losing some of those 'stores' around my belly, but then this blog would be describing a lot of green salads.

And you don't make friends with salad.

The Six Mile back room is lovely wide open space, over looking a small kitchen garden and the end of the Mill Stream as it widens and flows into Esquimalt Harbour.  It's a nice bright space, compared to the more traditional nooks of the main bar area.  Our server, Faye, came over once we got settled and brought us coffee quickly.  She was lively, and really interested in the run we'd just completed.  Top marks for her service, and for the staff behind the bar who got us pointed in the right direction when we arrived.

The food was good, the eggs done over easy so I can dribble the yolk over my medium-rare steak.  The steak was tender and cooked a bit over towards medium, but it's a thin New York cut, so no problems there, as once seared it's going to be close to cooked in the middle too.  The fries were fine, nothing special.  I suspect a pile of greens here would have been a better choice...

Andrea got the all day breakfast, with all the meat options being replaced by bacon.  A huge pile of crispy pork goodness, and a large croquette potato to go with the eggs, tomato and toast.  The bacon was good. Both plates looked good and filled us up.  As ever, take a pinch of salt with any review after a long run.  Hunger covers up flaws.  But I have been in hear before for a lunch time sandwich, and been happy with that too.

The place filled up rapidly with tired and happy runners just after we got our meals.  Our server was rushed of her feet bringing out drinks and orders to people, but she seemed to not miss a beat, and was pretty awesome throughout the time there.  Always keeping our coffee mugs filled up, and checking on our progress.

All in, a good retreat after a trail run.  And the Liquor Store sells cold and flu remedy (Dewars Honey whisky... mix with hot water and lemon, cures most of what ails you).

Six Mile Pub on Urbanspoon

December 07, 2014

Sunnyside Cafe, Esquimalt

Saturday was my third running of the Salvation Army Santa Shuffle.  Which went very well, Andrea paced me to push me hard, and I finished in a personal best for the course.  And it was a -fun- run, not a race.  I had fun, the people dressed as elves had fun, the Sally Army raised some money.  So who cares what my time actually was, just that it was more good exercise (I was happy I ran a fast time, so I guess I cared after all)

And afterwards, we headed to the Sunnyside Cafe in Esquimalt. I'd seen it at the top of many brunch lists, and as we were near-ish by, invited the normal brunch crew along to join in, and they came out for food and a catch up.  It is situated almost at the Navy Base, underneath Action Motorbikes.  The space is small, a long narrow frontage with a couple of tables outside and about seating for 20 inside.  It's counter service for the orders, but there was a server double fisting coffee and cream once we got seated.

The menu is pretty extensive, with about eight different Benny's, half a dozen lunch items and the standards of eggs, bacon, sausage and bread. The huevos have been mentioned as being really good. There's a also a build your own sandwich option, where you can get scrambled egg in a bun or wrap with two extras, like bacon, mushrooms or cheese.

I ordered the scrambled egg wrap with bacon and sausage.  There was an option of turkey, normal pork and sage or chorizo.  I went for the spicy sausage, with a side of potatoes and a big coffee.  The Brunette joined us a bit later and order a half portion of the vegetable Eggs Benedict.

The wrap was good.  The sausage was cooked well, spiced well and tasty, the juices flowing into the eggs and bacon.  The potatoes were sliced and quarter pieces of vegetable, partly fried I think and mostly boiled. And covered in a red powder that might have had some cayenne in.  The filled me up, but not so that I'd get excited about them.  Like I can get excited about good hash browns.

The Lovely Brunette of My Acquaintance has just raved about the Benny.  The half portion was a perfect size for her, and the hollandaise had some basil or herbs in it to make it really flavourful.  It was served with a couple of big slices of tomato, which had been warmed, not fried in the pan. This completed the meal, rather than carbing it up with potatoes.

The coffee was a good solid brew, setting the energy levels off again, but not so dark and potent that I would be vibrating for the next two hours.  I appreciated the constant top ups, and the service all around was fast and happy.  The whole experience was a good one, partly helped I am sure by the venue being just busy enough that we didn't have to wait, but there was people and liveliness about the place.  It's a good local place, and I'll be back next time I'm in the area for brunch... which given normal service will be for next year's Santa Shuffle.

Sunnyside Cafe on Urbanspoon

November 30, 2014

10 Acres Bistro, Downtown Victoria

I was heading down to Las Vegas a couple of weeks back and the lovely Brunette of my Acquaintance deserved a fine meal for letting me go down solo.  The idea of farm-to-plate is appealing.  Knowing where the food comes from means that the chef can build menus that suit the food, get it in fresh and roll with the seasons.  Then again, I've always been told not to visit an abattoir, so maybe I don't want to know too much about where my food comes from.

At least my meat.  There's is nothing too bad about cuting down some Kale and Chard, or digging up potatoes.  Unless you are allergic to mud and grime under your fingernails.  But fresh veg that you've grown does seem to taste better.

Can 10 Acres capture that?

The location has been a few different places since I've been here. One memory of it was back when I first moved to Victoria. Some poor guy dressed in chef whites holding out menus for tourists at the lower end of Government street.  He looked desperate and tired. Tourist didn't want to be bother, however passionate he seemed. I have no idea if the food was any good, but I did feel sorry for him trying to drum up trade.

10 Acres doesn't seem to need this tactic to get them in.  When I got there at 4pm to book a table it was quiet.  When I got back two hours later, it was full, with guests being turned away, much to the chagrin of one local. He seemed to think that it was a terrible shame he couldn't get a seat, being local and all, and that was more important that tourists.  The bar area was full up at all the corners; the patio heaters were keeping the semi-outdoors space warm; and the warren of narrow rooms down into the back of the restaurant were all full.  Though parking the poor lady on crutches down two sets of stairs seemed a little unreasonable

We got a high, bench table near the bar. A highly enthusiastic server set us up with some drinks.  She made up a ginger beer and bitters combination for me, which sharpened up the taste buds.  The sharp, bittered ginger drink was fantastic and matched well with my meal.  Good move to cater to the driver well with something interesting but teetotal. The Brunette got a fancy Negroni cocktail, as I recall.  She liked it, and the wine with the meal got a big thumbs up too.

For my meal, I ordered the half-chicken from the rotisserie.  Mostly because I am a sucker for good roasted chicken, but partly because with an early flight the next day, I didn't want anything too heavy (fish and chips; or a creamy Tagliatelle were both consider).  I didn't want steak-frites, as I was expecting to eat steak on vacation (I didn't get any the end, but never mind).  And I didn't want to have the risk of a seafood stew with a clam gone rogue.

I ignored that risk though to try one of the Brunette's mussels on her big bowl of Salt Spring island bi-valves.  There were just done... like -just-.  Ten second less in the pot and they'd have been a warm mess.  But cooked to this point, they weren't tough, or beginning to mush up.  They quivered there in the white wine sauce, garlic filtering through the meat of the mussel.  Well worth it.

We also ordered a side of the seasonal vegetables, all from the farm.  A whole mix of veg, all roasted long enough so they were on first name terms with each other, but not yet overly friendly.  Carrots, parsnip, strings of green veg.  Tasted great, with that fresh picked flavour I've had from my own vegetables.

My chicken was juicy and moist with a rich glaze of sauce. The skin had got crispy in all the right places, while the interior was cooked through perfectly. The fresh roasted potatoes had that combination of a crisp skins and battered, soft insides.  The kale coleslaw was also fresh, and had a crisp bite to it.

It was a little -too- fresh though, and I had to send it back to the kitchen after over turning one leaf to find something that shouldn't have been there.  The server grabbed it straight away, apologized and whisked it off.  She offered us a free dessert after depositing the plate in the kitchen. A cook came out a few minutes later with a fresh dish, and profuse apologies for the problem.  They handled this very professionally.  I'd prefer not to have my farm fresh food that farm-like, but things happen.  They dealt with it... though I did toss over the coleslaw a lot on the second run, and probably should have asked for it without.  Just because it stuck in my head that I might get a repeat.

As an aside, I was a little unsure if I should relay the problem. I liked the food there. The Brunette loved it.  I like the locally sourced and cooked simply menu.  It is home-cooked kitchen table food. It's not fancy.  It's not pushing any bar into the exotic, or technical gastronomy.  But executing the simple concept itself is a challenge, to keep it simple and unfussy.  I was a big fan of the place up until that point.  And three minutes after getting my replacement dish, a big fan again. My goal is not the cheer-lead for restaurants in Victoria and write bland, happy reviews.  My goal is to write about what I thought, tasted and saw.  If it is an unfair reflection, I'm happy to discuss it.

So, they sorted us out a free dessert, with no problems... a rich chocolate zuccini brownie.  Moist, flavoursome and finished up a good meal.  We wandered out after settling the bill with happy stomachs and a wrapped up portion of chicken that, I'm told, went down a treat cold in sandwiches the next day.

The restaurant would suit a small group looking for a casual meal, or a couple looking for a relaxed meal out.  There's a good range of beers and wines, though the bar service was rather slow, as the Brunette pointed out as well.  But the food was a hit overall.  The space has a great feel.  Would visit again.

10 Acres Bistro, Bar & Farm on Urbanspoon

November 23, 2014

Four Mile House, View Royal

Pubs that do a good brunch.... trying to think of a top five on Vancouver Island list.  There's lots of places open early for the sports fans, or for lazy Sunday mornings before the real trade starts around noon, but I'm drawing a blank right now on great ones.

The Four Mile House does a Sunday brunch.  A small menu, that covers the breakfast basics to get things under way, especially for the poor unfortunates working Sunday.  Or the hungry runners coming in from the cold, damp November morning.

Our party of four contained both workers and runners. We convinced the server to get the fire lit, so that warmth flowed out into the open main bar room.  The idea of sitting under out door heat lamps was given to us, but that seems like a waste of energy, and also not a good way to keep the elements out.  It was a day for indoors, feeling cocooned up in our own bubbles.

It is also a day for brevity in reviews.

I ordered a hash skillet, which was plenty of potato, meat and eggs covered Hollandaise sauce.  Parts of the skillet were only luke-warm, possibly as it was served in a china dish, not a big metal skillet.  The hollandaise was just hollandaise, and nothing special,  The eggs were cooked about right.  The coffee was warm and plentiful.

Two others ordered the Four Mile stack: A ham slice topped with a waffle, topped with bacon, topped with a waffle, topped with sausage, topped with a waffle, topped with eggs.  With fruit, syrup and whipped cream on the side.  This was 'a lot of meat' (quothed Andrea). It took some deconstruction to be edible, unless you have an unhinge-able jaw you need to split this down. Good waffles, while the meat was typical breakfast protein... I snagged a sausage, and it was an average sage-spiced pork tube.

Good value for a monster breakfast, but not exceptional such that I urge you to drive out to View Royal.

I feel much the same about the Four Mile as the beer they brew.... I love the design of the labels on their beer, but the contents is just average.  I love the feel of the pub and the way it is laid out, but the food and service is just average.  You can do better in other places around town, so unless living near by, why bother going here?

Four Mile House on Urbanspoon

EDIT : Two of the people I was with seemed to think this review was harsh and unfair.  They noted the staff were really friendly, getting the fire turned on.  And how often our coffee mugs were refilled.  They also reported the bacon was -almost- as good as the bacon at 'Relish'.  Which is very high praise.

I didn't want to come across as harsh, just trying to communicate it was an average experience... some good points, a couple of negative ones, but over all... it was there, we ate there, it'll still be there and no reason for it not to be there, or for anyone to avoid it.  Just no reason to drive across three municipalities to get there.  But if nearby, why not?

November 15, 2014

La Taquisa, Downtown Victoria

Burritos and Tacos and Tex-Mex were a holiday treat for my Dad.  He never loved the pseudo-Mexican you could get in London, but whenever he came over to the US, he'd always try and get one meal in based around spicy beef, beans and tortilla.

I liked a big burrito, stuffed full of protein, beans, cheese and good dollop of sour cream.  The best, fast burrito I've had is about 3 minutes walk from where I am right now, Qdoba in Seattle airport.  He said name dropping to prove his jet setting ways.  For airport food, especially, they make a great tasting, rolled right in front of your face, hot burrito.  The meat is spiced, but not hot. The tortilla is steamed and looks like it could be placed over your face as a refreshing hot towel.  But it tastes nothing like a hot towel, being doughy and flexible, keeping in the contents all in place.

I like to grab a burrito there on lay over between Victoria and Seattle, filling my stomach up before a long distance flight; or refuelling after a long flight in.  Much better than anything high salt and high fat they serve on planes.  I recommend it, while sitting at a table watching the planes taking off.

Qdoba Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

In Vancouver, I have fond memories of eating at Red Burrito on Robson Street near my friends apartment.  Coming back in after a evening playing poker or watching a BC Lions game, we'd grab a burrito, wrapped in a red tortilla and dripping in bean juice.  The meat was not up to much, but the filler always seemed fresh and, well, filling.  But it need a plate, you couldn't transport this and eat in one handed.

Looking at Urbanspoon, it seems it has gone now.  It always looked like someone had put it up in a hurry, with a simple wooden counter and daubed on paint work, cheap Formica tables and plastic chairs.  You weren't encouraged to stay around, really. Get in, get food, get out to wherever the night was taking you next.

So, as this becomes a column of burritos I have known and loved, we go back to Victoria and La Taquisa.  They started in a small shop in Cook Street village, and have now grown to two outlets, one down town and one out in the West Side Village.  They are going for fast and authentic, with certified meat from BC producers.  You can choose your meal, meat and salsa to build up your own burrito or tacos.

The first time I went, I ordered the Chicken Mole burrito with a medium mild salsa.  It was not for me.  The chicken tasted too bland and gritty, and the mole really didn't compliment anything else in the burrito. There was nothing wrong with it, I just didn't care for it.

But I went back again, and got the Cowichan Chicken Tinga El Gordo.  Shredded chicken cooked in a chipotle stew, and then wrapped with grated cheese and beans.  And extra beans for the El Gordo (big sized) wrap.  The tortillas are fresh and you can see the staff making them in the kitchen as you wait.  The meat complimented the rest of the filling, and the fresh, spicy flavour came through to make a package that worked together. Filled me right up, and no complaints.

I sat at the bar table talking through the world and it's worries with a good friend.  There's space to sit and relax over your food. They've made a bright, open space, with a few bench tables.  And decent sized too so you can spread out.  The only odd corner is the drinks and utensils alley way that has the recycling centre.  It seems like a dingy little space where I'm dumping my waste, but also getting a fresh glass of water.  I don't know, but those two things seem like they shouldn't go together.

I am not sure if La Taquisa will somewhere I remember in years to come, but for now, it's good spot.

La Taquisa on Urbanspoon