January 08, 2017

Chuck's Burger Bar, Sidney, BC

Post 1 of the 2017 challenge, and it's a nomination by Rayna of Quench Wines. Chuck's Burger Bar in Sidney. It claims to have the best burgers on the island, using local, fresh ingredients. So well worth a try. Especially as I was at the airport to pick up Andrea from the airport. Now I look at the map, I know it's just around the corner from the airport terminal. But I didn't do that. I set off on a grand tour of Deep Cove, Lands End Road and Swartz Bay instead.

It was nice to see some of the countryside. We passed the church used in 'Graceppoint', the terrible remake of the British show 'Broadchurch'. I pointed this out to Andrea. She wasn't impressed. I think my 'turn right out of the airport' plan was not the right one.

We did get back to somewhere I recognized. The highway by the ferry terminal. We headed south and called up a map. This quickly found us Chuck's in the middle of the small industrial estate next to the airport. Nestled next to a Boyd's Auto Body, opposite Slegg's Lumber is Chuck's Burger Bar.

It was still a little early in the evening, so we were the only two people in there at first. Our server, David, was super warm and friendly, and got us settled in with the menu and fresh water. The inside of the place is what I call 'West coast wood'. This means lots of varnished lumber, big cuts of wood for the tables, stained dark brown chairs and exposed bricks. Clean, tidy but not feeling over-dressed. It also had a huge picture of a cow along one wall.

Showing pictures of the animals you are about to eat is a thing.
A cow. Painted.
The menu is large... as long as you want burgers. There are nine different patties to choose from. These include ground bacon, Angus beef and lamb. To go with this is are around 50 different toppings, so you can build your own perfect burger. This goes along with a host of different cheeses; and the option to add a 1/4lb of lobster as well.

Or if you can't be thinking of your own recipe, there's twenty or so pre-made burger recipes. For example, the Hawaiian is a bacon burger with pineapple and a zesty tequila BBQ sauce.

The Pescetarian caught my eye. A veggie burger topped with jack cheese and lobster, with black pepper mayo. I checked in with our server on how the veggie burger was made. I was told it was made with fresh vegetables. Not the fake veggie mince or some weird quinoa and mushroom mix. So I decided to go for it. It was either this most unusual offering, or the standard cheese burger.
I fear I need to go back and try the cheese burger.

This was a disappointing mess of a burger. A breaded veggie burger that is super crispy on the outside, but with a muddy mess of vegetables inside. There's no real flavour to it, but a odd combination of textures. The lobster meat was tepid or even cold. That doesn't work for me on a burger, and as I expect it was from the fridge it was slight rubbery as well. That made for a unpleasant mouthful. None of the flavours or textures were working together. It was a sad choice, as it looked pleasant, and apart from the choice to have cold lobster, all put together well.
But it just didn't work for me.

The mound of fresh cut fries served with it were crisp, fluffy and great fries. The coleslaw was good, the pickle spear crunchy, the service great. Everything but the burger. Which makes me a little sad to write about it, as I wanted to say they're were all awesome.

I do have to report Andrea thought her poutine was good to great (needed the cheese to be a bit more melty). She ordered the Fire Grilled Chicken and Chorizo burger. The report I asked for said it had some great spicy kick to it, and was still warm and tasty when she finished it up later.
So, you should -probably- go to Chuck's and try it out. I know next time I'm doing an airport run and want food, I'll go there instead of White Spot. Now I know it exists.

And I will report back in.

December 30, 2016

Where should I go in 2017?

The end of the year is here.   Victoria In Person went on a long hiatus after I lost the blogging challenge to Andrea. With Fringe and a lot of work in the last quarter of the year, I had to let something slide a little. And this blog was the casualty.

In the end, I think it was good to take a break. There's still lots of places I want to visit but some of the joy of writing had slipped by.  It's back now. I think. I've seen many blogs before going on a break, announce their return, post once more and then fade away for ever. So there's a chance that might happen.

But planning for success, myself and Andrea have a new challenge. She's going to try 25 new things this year. With five picked by her loyal readership, and a little filtering by her friends... so we can avoid her choosing easy things like picking up a copy of the Vancouver Sun.

I'm going to review twenty of the top rated places in Victoria (whether repeats or not), with five extra chosen by you, dear reader. 

The Top Ten on tripadvisor are as follows:

  1. Saveur
  2. Fishhook
  3. Ithaka Greek Restaurant
  4. Il Terrazzo
  5. Cafe Brio
  6. The Blue Fox
  7. John's Place
  8. The Fish Store at Fisherman's Wharf
  9. Olo
  10. Restaurant Matisse

Thank goodness Cora's is #12 on this list. Which also makes me question the validity of this list, as it's the most soulless, miserable place I have eaten in Victoria.

As my normal eating buddies are brunch specialist, I also took the top ten from Yelp for breakfast:
  1. Jam
  2. Blue Fox Nourish in the Harbour
  3. John's Place The Ruby
  4. Frankie's Modern Diner
  5. Mo:Le
  6. Hawk and Hen
  7. Spoons
  8. Floyd's
  9. Frank's Honeybun Cafe
  10. ReBar Modern Food

And I miss out on Cora's again, being #13 on Yelp. Seriously, apart from fruit platters and the longing for the original version back east, why is this place so loved when it serves industrial grade breakfast in surroundings that would not be out of place in a middle school cafeteria?.

Reply here, or twitter at me to pick one of the extra five that I really should visit. I will veto Cora's. Won't veto anywhere else. Will also visit bars and other interesting Victoria places that I don't have to stuff food into my face at.

August 07, 2016

Bout Time, Paper Street Studio Sessions, Victoria

Paper Street Studios do a variety of things in improvisational acting space... lessons, shows, team building and studio sessions.  The latter are smaller sessions in their studio space on Fort. I assume they are moving sometime as the Black/White development takes over on that corner of Fort and Cook.  They are also a great way to see very talented performers, up close, for not much money.

Bout Time is compered by Brooke Cameron, based on a format she developed in Ontario, and has shipped it up into British Columbia for our enjoyment.  It's a competitive format, with two teams of three duking it out to build scenes for the crowd's approval; but with a twist in the rules.  if you've done theatre games or improv sessions, you'll recognize the rough concepts.  But Brooke's imagination seems to take them to evil, twisted places to make it harder for the players.  Watching the verbal and acting gymnastics as they struggle to keep up is all the fun.

Last night, I saw one team attempt to keep a scene about playing jazz in line while Brooke forced them to play the scene backwards and forwards at her whims.  Watching them try to recall the order they had added and removed new elements was as much fun as watching the story line they tried to create unfold.  The best piece was by the female team of '3 Cigs' that made a musical number about living in the South, and turned into a piece about feminism....  taking down the 'father' of the nuclear family for singing over the mother and daughter was an absolute brilliant move.  The discovery of moments like this out of chaos is what makes improv both fun, but also thoughtful and interesting.

The best improv is all about the collaboration between the parts, with each person supporting and building with others to create something... often something that's only seen by the observers.  With the offer of a word or a movement being taken and built on, there's no one person with control.  But the whole team is in some sort of control, all steering and pushing forward to create.

So there was laughter, no-one taking anything too seriously.  But it's not flippant.  The energy of compere kept the audience engaged, while the music from  Matt Cowlrick added to the atmosphere.  3 Cigs won the bout, and will be back again to defend their crown.

Well worth checking out the next one, with the fringe coming up next month it might be a little delayed.



July 24, 2016

Victoria Sushi, Victoria West

I'm currently using some space in Vic West to rehearse a show for the Victoria fringe (see: aQuietSeason.com).  The scary part about doing my own show is that someone out there will be reviewing it with the same critical eyes I've done to other fringe shows.  But I'm pretty happy with what's been built so far, so we'll see how it goes.

And as a bonus for me, it means I can check out a couple of places in Vic West for dinner beforehand. Last week, I walked into Victoria Sushi, in Westside Village Mall.  This square is just over from the Dockside Green development but has been around far longer than that new build.  The Sushi restaurant is on one corner, so has plenty of natural light to offset the black and dark brown tones inside.  The lighting is kind of moody in there, with diffuse light, and there are lots of glass panels with bamboo strips stuck to them...

Service didn't blow me away.  I was sat on my own at a large table (six-person table) in one corner.  It then took a while to get an order taken, once I had green tea served.  And then a while for the food to arrive.  I went for my typical choice of Pork Katsu and BC rolls.

The Katsu was served on a small bed of lettuce, with about three tablespoons of rice and a ramekin of a thick, brown sauce.  The Tonkatsu sauce was the best part of the meal.  It had a tingly spice and a pleasant gingery flavour, as well as being unctuous and gloopy over the breaded pork.  The pork had been pounded flat o make a very thin, crisp cutlet.   It was a bit dry but otherwise was okay, but nothing superb.  I've had better.

The BC Rolls were also fine, but again nothing wonderful.  They also arrived so late into the meal, I thought they'd forgotten about me.  I have kind of forgotten about the BC rolls now, so it's a mutual disinterest.  But I did note that there wasn't much of the crisp, BBQ-smokiness to the salmon skins the role.  Which is the combination of flavours I love to have in my food.

I'd not pass up on Victoria Sushi if I am over there again, and the ambience did start to grow on me.  But there was nothing that made me want to travel to visit.  And nothing that made me completely avoid ever again

July 10, 2016

A First Nations Potluck Feast and 200 posts

This is my 200th blog post on Victoria in Person.  I hope someone made a cake for me.  Ah, here it is... but is looks like it got mostly eaten on the way.


The above is a pretty awesome cake made with yoghurt by the Brunette of My Acquaintance. And it was not made for this blog, but instead for a potluck.  This was held outside the Mungo Martin house, next to the BC Museum, in honour of a visit from Kamloops by one of her friends. Forty of her friends and family gathered to meet up and share food from all sorts of places.

There was a massive pot of fish soup which was damn tasty.  Or the portion I had without Oolichan oil (aka Grease) was.  I was warned by the First Nations's folks who invited me to share the meal that it was a rather distinctive flavour and an acquired taste.  Super fishy, and strong, cloying smell.  Reading up on the fish itself, the smoked or fresh meat was a big part of the diet for the coastal peoples, and the oil was traded extensively into the interior. Creating the trade routes known as the 'Grease Trails'.

There was also Bannock.  Bannock was a Scottish way of prepping bread, mostly by frying the dough on hot stone. It was either taken up by the First Nations or very closely aligned to a way of preparing maize before the Scots brought their version over, and the two things became aligned.  In any case, the style here was plain but tasty.  If you took all the bad things on a Krispy Kreme donut away (the terrible sugary coating, the nasty oil taste), and squished them down in a flat patties about the size of your palm, you'd get this Bannock.  Except I'd probably eat it before you got it.

Finally, for dessert, there was Sxusem, more commonly known as Indian Ice cream.  This is a whipped mix of soap berries, water and sweetners.  It makes a big pink-orange frothy mousse, eaten with a spoon.  Soap berries are well, soapy tasty, and bitter. The soap flavour sort of fades after the first taste, and it's a pleasant sort of bitterness, not unlike the pleasant bittering of hops in beer.  What is neat is that berries are a source of saponins, that have the effect of creating the foamy mass to make the dessert.  The saponins might have some positive effects on digestion and reducing inflammation, though the research is still out.  The lady who gave me some of the juice left over swears by drinking some very day, diluted with water.  Though she also said harvesting the berries is not the easiest thing to do either.

I'm very grateful for being part of this gathering, even if my contribution was carrying some boxes, and chopping up a salad (which was not my finest pile of greens ever...).

So here's to number 300, I'm keeping at this, Andrea!