November 22, 2015

Heron Rock Bistro, James Bay, Victoria

A long weekend, with Saturday seeing me at TEDx Victoria, and today doing some casting work for a show I am putting together.  That's my humble-bragging, oh-woe-is-me I-am-so-busy entry line.  I did however get to have brunch with breakfast friends (without the Brunette this week) at Heron Rock Bistro.

There may have been a wait list when we walked in.  I am not sure. It go confusing, as some people were being written down on the list, but I wasn't when I asked for a table of four.  As the next group got on the clipboard, I thought it best to check why I hadn't got on the exalted level of being written down.  Still no idea, but we got sat in a booth 60 seconds later, so all was well.

Unless of course that was someone else's booth, and they are waiting, cursing my name. The curse probably was to dry out my toast. Or make the coffee watery.  One of those two things, as the rest of the meal was good.

I ordered the Huevos Cubaneros. Two poached eggs on a mound of black beans, caramelized onions, crisp breakfast potatoes and some avocados.  And a mess of other good hash like things.  The mound was crowned by a good dash of Hollandaise and some finely chopped spring onions.  Topped off with a little splash of the house hot sauce. The hot sauce had a smoky punch to it, which rounded of my dish nicely. It's a hearty dish, that combined a lot of good veg into something that still felt like a decadent breakfast.

It came with some toast, which was pre-buttered, but not a soft, warm round. It was a warm and dry and tough triangle, I ate all of it, but really shouldn't have.  I like toast.  This was not good toast.

My friends raved about the Corned Beef Hash, made with cabbage for some bite and a pile of the caramelized onions.  The chef knows how to make a onion sweet, as it was also mentioned by the guy piling into the pulled pork special benny.  This was pork on french toast, with coleslaw and apple and guacamole and far too many things going on.  All good things, but like a ensemble cast movie, you sometimes want a hero to come forward.

And on that note, I leave you for another week, as I got more stuff to do tomorrow, it's almost midnight, and I am half asleep.

Heron Rock Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

November 15, 2015

Murchie's Tea and Coffee, Downtown Victoria

It has been a very busy week here, so not much to report in, and I've not got much left in reserve to write about.  But, before I hear celebrations from Andrea's blog, and her cheering a win on our weekly blogging challenge, I did have a very pleasant cup of tea and biscuit at Murchie's this week.

The contents of Government Street were huddling in from the monsoon that's hit Vancouver Island. It was a busy and damp place this past Saturday.  The line up was long and there was a slow evaporation of the water in the air, make it humid among the rattling teapots and clinking of the china.  The staff were doing a pretty stand up job getting us served though. One big pot of Earl Grey and a large white chocolate and cranberry cookie were presented to me for less than $5 and no hassles.  There's a long array of choices for tea, and long array of choices of cakes and snacks too. My friend's order of a lemon tea and a Madeline took a bit longer, but we soon found two seater marble table to sit down and talk.

The tea was brewed just right, strong but not stewed into a tanin-flavoured filth.  There was that sharpness of the bergamot balancing the black tea, creating a citrus filled aroma.  Contrary to popular belief, Earl Grey tea was not made first in thanks to the Earl Grey for rescuing a mandarin's son.  Bergamot is an inedible fruit from Italy, and wouldn't have been available in China.  That said, the Grey family claims the tea was created for their ancestral pile in England, Howick Hall. Brewed with the oil to offset the heavy lime deposits in the water (that's the mineral lime, not the fruit lime, of course).

I don't know who first put white chocolate and cranberries together.  I don't suppose it was minor nobility, though I do think they should possibly have had a life peerage.  I value their contribution to biscuits, and the large saucer sized cookie served here was all good things. Moist, slightly chewy, tart but sweet.

Despite the hustle and bustle, and busy day they were having, it was actually a fine place to sit and have a serious conversation about a couple of projects.  I didn't have to strain to hear, or worry if we were being over loud.  I might start suggesting Murchies for other business meetings, as the continue stream of Habit coffee in my veins after 3pm is one day going to take it's toll.

Murchie's Tea & Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

November 08, 2015

Bin 4, Downtown Victoria

Bin 4 just celebrated its fourth anniversary by offering it's "Heritage Burger" for just $4 on November the 5th.  The delightful Brunette of my acquaintance, her daughter and I took advantage of this offer.  The venue was busy, with a short line-up and every table in use inside.  As expected when you make an offer this good: the normal price is $12.

Bin 4 is in the small Harris Green strip mall on Yates Street. It's a small space, that they've crammed in a lot of tables, but without making it feel cramped.  There's also a small patio space, that was well in use to deal with the demand, despite it being an autumnal day.  They've got one long bar for some seating, a half dozen booths and a few high tables along one wall.  It's a bit dark inside, lit with moody lights bouncing off the brown walls.  All very modern lounge.

The Heritage Burger (Bin 4... no idea why they name their burgers after wine storage areas) is their base burger: 4oz (I think) of BC beef from 63 Acres, bacon aioli, lettuce, tomato served on a Brioche Bun.  Now before we get too excited about '63 Acres' being a small farm, it's not.  It's a meat supplier, who specializes in hormone free, BC cows.  Well cow carcasses from particular partner farms.  So it's pretty good meat.  Just not a single source, 'we know the burger came from Daisy-Dandelion, daughter of Buttercup-Tulip the Fourth' meat.  We all went for the added cheddar to make it a cheeseburger.

The meal came out relatively fast... after we got the wrong order the first time, and the wrong sides the second time.  Both corrected quickly, and we have to give some allowance for the sheer volume of people in the venue that day.  The staff were still super pleasant, despite (as they told us) being busy and non-stop for their entire shifts.

The brioche makes a denser, rich carrier for the patty.  The patty is a thick, fresh cooked hunk of meat.  The meat was flavourful and dense.  They were slightly on the dry side, maybe due to the high volume in the kitchen that day, but certainly not ruined.  Just one side of great... a little more juice would not have gone amiss, that's all.

The fries were good, fresh cooked and hot, with sufficient crunch to go with the warm and earthy centers.  We tried three different aoili's with the fries: a bacon, a truffle and a basil.  All were a dense thick paste to dip into. The truffle version was subtle. It had a light trace of the deep intense savouriness I associate with truffle oil.  The bacon was more of the same from the burger, a nice salt accent.  The basil version was really good, with the full flavour of the herbs coming through. I think we all voted that it was the best of the dips.

Overall, for $5.50 for a burger, we didn't go wrong.  I'd said I would pay full price, thinking it was a $15 burger, but at $12.00 sans cheese, I might go for it again.  It's tasty, well made and good ingredients.

Bin 4 Burger Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

November 01, 2015

Roast, Downtown Victoria

Unexpectedly, I won a $30 voucher for Roast courtesy of the Zone FM and Pol's Burger club.  I have no idea when I entered this draw, but here was a gift card, loaded with money to spend on food.  Sweet.  So after watching the very silly and very amusing WEREWOLF improv show at the Intrepid, myself and the Brunette of my Acquaintance headed over to the Victoria Public Market.  This is a space that always seems under busy.  It some excellent food vendors.  The pie shop (Victoria Pie Co) is wonderful and makes pies (both proper savoury pies and fruit pies) that are sublime.

But on the other hand, it has over-priced Olive Oil (Olive the Senses), a shop whose business must be doing well, but I don't get why.  In fact, most things in the market seem over priced for what you get, but the shops seem to be staying open.

So Roast.  They specialize in serving up roasted meats in sandwiches or salads, to go.  They have large slabs of meat on display, all roasted and ready to carve. Huge triangles of pig fat, all crisped up, just like a massive pork scratching.  And a large rack of rotisserie chicken, turning and cooking just so.

For $13, we got a fresh roasted chicken, straight out of the oven.  The skin was crispy, and the smell of rosemary and lemon wafted over us briefly before the bird was sealed into a plastic to-go bag.  It was a no-brainer for me.  Half a pound of beef, or roasted chicken.  As previous readers will note, I love chicken in all its forms.  Oh yes, it was local and ethically raised. The Brunette checked.

We added in a hand tossed salad.  That consists of a big tray of leaves, a scoop of meat and some extras.  We decided on lettuce leaves, rare beef cubes, black quinoa, pumpkin seeds, cucumber and tomato mixture.  Unsure what to dress it with, we asked for some advice.  The gent behind the counter suggested the simple Italian.

Good call by him, as I would have ruined it with a garlicky Ceasar topping.  Instead we had this lovely light, tasty salad, that mingled the flavours well, and kept its crunch.  The meat in the salad was pretty secondary to the effect.  Though it was nice and all. If I ordered from there again I'd not bother with the protein additions.

The roast chicken we paired with some home cooked potatoes and a big baguette from the French Oven.  Such beautifully light bread.  The chicken was crispy and moist, with the rosemary coming through, but not obscuring the meat.  There's probably four good servings on the bird. Maybe more if you stretch it out a bit more.  A bit more than a Thrifty's fresh roasted bird, but tastier too.

We could have topped up the meal with meatballs, or sauces.  They do a line of sandwiches as well with fresh roasted meats.  But this set up did us well.  $25 was pretty good value. Not outstanding bargain of the week, but worth it for a good quality of food.

Roast Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We did have dessert with a cherry and custard brioche from the French Oven Bakery, which we paired with a Persian ice cream from Kid Sister.  Both were fantastic, with the Brunette still lyrcial about the lightness and taste of the brioche twenty-four hours later.  I think it fair made her day.

October 25, 2015

Nourish in the Harbour, James Bay, Victoria

Nourish has two locations. One is out at the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific in the backroads of Saanich (and a short run from the Vancouver Island Tech Park, having passed it many a time while running). The second newer location is in an old converted house in James Bay.

It's a BIG converted house.  We aren't talking a small starter home.  It's a heritage house, a big wooden building, stretching over three storeys (I've been in the unrenovated attic.  It looks like my crazy great aunt's attic.  If I had a crazy maiden great aunt). The first floor has space for 40-50 covers and a coffee bar.  Plus the fully functioning kitchen.  On the second floor, there's more dining space and meeting space if you want to book a nice, vintage feeling area for an intimate cocktail reception.

Back on the ground floor, there's the main business of the general admission cafe/restaurant, pushing out brunch.  The philosophy is natural ingredients, nutrient-rich foods and seasonal choices.  Combined with a desire to make interesting food, and not just quinoa, kale and aubergine stew for everyone.

There was plenty of tasty, tasty kale for those that want it.  One of our group didn't, choosing to pass on the option of an Eggs Benedict piled up on a green-bean-and-kale base (Benny in the Moment), instead of the normal muffin.  Even my love of the green leafed 'super food' passed at that option.  We also passed by on the small cups of bone broth that were on the brunch menu.  It's all very good, I am sure, but not before I have had my coffee!

Instead, I went for a standard breakfast, paired with an americano coffee.  The coffee was good, rich and smooth, with a big flavour to wake up my morning.  So it didn't last to long in the cup.  Was offered plenty of refills of drip coffee, but decide to hydrate with the rosemary infused water on the table.  I assume it was meant to be in the milk bottle, and not a poor cleaning job by the Avalon diary from whom the bottle had been purloined (those things have a big deposit on them, wonder if they know there's about $100 of glassware here?).  The water didn't really taste of rosemary.

The breakfast was a platter of good stuff: a fistful of kale dressed in a light dressing, two soft poached eggs with thick golden yolks, a slice of seed toast, some potatoes and a herb and leek sausage.  The kale was kale.  If you like kale, you'll like it.  If you don't, this is raw kale.  It tastes of raw kale.  The seed toast was crunchy and mostly seeds.  One slice with a smear of butter and little bit of the soft apple was tasty.

The potatoes were rich and earthy and flavourful.  They probably could have been fluffier or crispier... they weren't new waxy spuds, so the consistency of them was -like- they were slightly undercooked. They weren't but, something didn't seem quite right.

The sausage was a let-down (my fault for not choosing the bacon).  It had no flavour beyond the seasoning, and tasted like it had been boiled or steamed, with very little time on the grill.  Grill time makes meat taste better (in general) by the chemical reactions that occur when it browns.  And when the fat in the meat gets a chance to melt and merge around with the rest of the filling.  Wasn't impressed with whatever they had done here instead.

Two of my friends had the pancakes.  These were more like big slices of fresh cake.  Huge thick triangles of oatmeal.  There wasn't much of them, though.

The dining room is great, bright airy and comfortable.  The food is served to please the eyes, the staff are bright and cheery, and everything seems to be working in the right direction.  The menu is encased in an old hard backed book.  Maybe there's just a little sense of trying a bit too hard to be different that unsettled me a little?

That all said I think I'd go back to try some other dishes out.  I like the concepts and the rest of the menu looked good, and I did feel good and ready to face the world.

Nourish In The Harbour Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato