December 27, 2015

Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken, Campbell River

I've been away to north end of the island, and just driven back in the cold, cold rain.  The roads were covered in a loose slush for the most part north of Campbell River. But they were gritted and clear, little traffic and beautiful wintery vistas to glance at. A light right foot and careful eye on the road (the occasional look at the vistas, okay), and we got over the passes, ready for coffee and lunch.

Just south of Campbell River is a shell garage, liquor store and a Lee's Famous Chicken And Ribs.  The services are the last traffic lights before Nanaimo, and a clear run south.  So we stopped in to fuel up.  The services are spread out, like there was expected to be more built here.  And why a BC Liquor Store exists in a highway services?  Is it for last minute beer pick up before heading into the great depths of the Island back roads?

Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken looks like a shiny neon diner, all branded and bright red and yellow.  I've never heard of it outside this one and one in Duncan.  My research tell me they are spattered across the American Mid West.. in Ohio, Michigan and points south into Florida, and north into Wisconsin.  And Vancouver Island.  And Jordan.  No idea why the sudden leap international to Duncan, but clearly a forward thinking franchisor decided there was a need for fried chicken here.

And not KFC joint.  I got the three piece meal, a mix of light and dark meat, some spicy and some original 'honey dipped'.  The meal came with a biscuit (for UK readers: doughy scone), gravy and my sideof choice: coleslaw.  It was all far better cooked and prepared than your typical fried chicken joint.  The batter was crisp, the meat still tender, and there was some flavour in there.  In stead of the greasy dough-like poultry bits KFC offers up, we had fried chicken done well.  It still looked like it had come from a bird.  The spicy batter had a zing to it was sharp and interesting, rather than a muddy mess of  heat I've had before.

The coleslaw was fresh and crunchy and not a mess of mayonnaise and wispy cabbage. The biscuit fresh and hot and well able to soak up the gravy... which was the sort of spiced gravy I don't really like.  You get the same sort of thing at Swiss Chalet or St Hubert's. Too much paprika... however, my best friend tells me she loves that stuff and could drink it by the bucket load, so that's my just my take.

I tried a couple of the BIG potato wedges.  They were skin on, lightly coated chunks.  Good, firm chunks of spud.  A little floury and heavy, but a nice change from the thin 'fries' beloved of McD's. The chicken sandwich special meal at under $8 is a bargain for hungry travellers needing a refuel. We all walked away happy, rating it 'would stop again, would like to see in Victoria'.

December 20, 2015

Fairfield Fish and Chips,

I'm a little buzzed.  In my head I have this epic post about beer, fish, good friends, Star Wars, improv theatre and going out drinking before Christmas.

The fact the above sentence needed twenty two corrections (and this one thirteen) suggests it's only epic in my head.  Just like the Phantom Menace was brilliants in the mind of George Lucas.  Sure, my fans might accept it, but everyone else will point at it and laugh.

As they should.

So instead, I'll keep it simple.

You want good fish and well cooked potatoes?

Go to Fairfield Fish and Chips.

Fairfield fish and chips : 1275 Fairfield Road, Victoria, BC

... okay I'm told this is not enough detail.  Damn you Andrea, and your rules you just made up that don't take into account my sobriety.

I went out for a beer or two with a good friend at the Ross Bay Pub, before heading to an improv show.  In between, we had planned a trip to a good 'chipper' and get some fish and chips before Christmas.  Turns out the Fairfield Chip Shop was on the way, and has very good reviews. The Fairfield Chip shop is a small place with no seats inside, with a short counter and few outside patio tables.  It's winter, it's raining, so we didn't use them.  We ran across the road and back into my friends mini-van.

We order haddock, halibut and small chips to share between us both.  Best part of this: under $20 for fish suppers for two. And this included tartar sauce for us to share.  We got our orders in under ten minutes, wrapped up in real newsprint and fresh paper.

The portions aren't huge.  A good sized chunk, but not the massive whale tail you might get in a British chipper (for three times the price).  Still it was clearly NOT a frozen chunk of a flesh, stored for days before being fast fried (Barb's place style).

It was a good serving size of fish, cooked for just the right amount of time.  The meat had turned to white inside the batter.  No under cooked translucent flesh.  And no flaking apart, dry meat that felt like chewing bitter leaves. It was cooked to a tender white mass. The flavour of the haddock was there. All savoury yet ocean-sweet.  Inside a crisp batter, that was not greasy. Big and puffy and golden brown, not over powering the fish. Not soggy and wet and slippery greasy. But crunch crisp, complimenting the fish.

The chips were solid chunks of potato.  Cooked and still fluffy inside, with a warm crispness.  And forward facing taste of the spud gardens. Not over powered by the fat or the flavours of the batter, or beaten into nothingness with an overcooked deep fry.

The only complaint was that the portions were about 2/3rds the size I'd want for a meal.  For the price, it was huge value for money.  But I was still a little hungry afterwards, and would have really wanted a bit more fish and a handful more chips.  But, at under $10, it's hard to complain.

December 13, 2015

Subway Cook Street, Downtown Victoria

Andrea just deleted her link to my blog from her pages.  She can't cope with this review, and can't have her friends see who she's hanging out with occasionally.  If she doesn't, I will at least have to do a run with her which will involve my being mocked for about 35 minutes.  That's okay.  I have plenty of pride still.

But yes, I have eaten a subway sandwich on more than one occasion from Subway.   My preferred meal near my down-town co-work space (hello, The Watershed) is Picnic Too's Breakfast Sandwich (The Better than Timmies, which they still don't call it that on their menu, funnily enough).

However, sometimes, I'm hungry and need something to keep going in the late afternoon after skipping lunch.  Picnic Too is closed. So into Subway for a six inch tuna sub (okay, it's sometimes a foot long).  Whole wheat bread, tuna, toasted with cheese, a layer of lettuce, tomato and cucumber, topped with hot sauce. Wrap up, take back to office.

I like this sandwich.  Subway has this slightly odd smell to it.  It's not a bad smell, it's the smell of the herbed bread wafting around with the fast toasting ovens melting cheese, with the slight whiff irony from 'Eat Fresh' as their slogan when they bring out huge bags of pre-cut lettuce, chilled and transported half way across a continent.

But this sandwich is still good.  The cheese, the hot sauce all mingles together with the tuna-mayonnaise and makes a mess inside the bread.  The bread is odd.  It can barely stay together, like a dysfunctional couple at their mutual friends wedding. It doesn't completely fall apart under the load, but it tears and splits at the seams, obvious to everyone but the couple in question.  You know it really can't hold it together for much longer, but it should just be able to make it long enough so the split is seen out of the public eye, somewhere less embarrassing.

That adds to it's charm, for me.  The morass, tied in with the crisp lettuce and cucumbers (kept crisp by unknown means) has a flavour and consistency that I can't reproduce anywhere else.  I've had great tuna melts (Hawk and Hen, for one) and tuna subs (Salt and Pepper Fox's delivery edition is a truly great thing)... and they are superior beasts for sure. They have nutrition and freshness and locality and care.

But they don't have guilty pleasure and speed and immediacy.  They don't have Franks mingled in with processed cheese.  They don't have the crinkle of the grease proof wrapper in my hands.  If I get a packet of chips with it, there's the salty grease on my fingers and in my stomach that merges in there as well.

It's not high cuisine.  It doesn't make me a better person.  But I like a tuna sandwich from Subway, and I'm not ashamed to admit it in public.

December 06, 2015

Fig Deli, Mount Tolmie

Fig is a purveyor of Mediterranean food, tied in with a café .  You can get a bout a dozen types of olives, cans of lentils, egg pasta's of brands I've never heard of, a 1001 tinned fish and a whole long wall of fresh from the deli salads, cheeses and meats.

Their café section is a little odd.  A bit like eating in the aisles of Thrifty's, diners are surrounded by piles of bread and cans of tomatoes.  The seating arrangements are small little tables, and all around you people are shopping for groceries or deciding on which baklava they want from the display.

So, when myself and the lovely Brunette visited last week, we didn't eat in.  Instead, we ordered a couple of manoushi to go, with a pair of small side salads.  Under $20 for a fresh, and big meal for two is a deal.  Manoushi is Syrian flat-bread topped with spices and cheeses and (may be) meats.  It's not unlike a pizza, but the dough is golden, softer and thicker.  The toppings are drier, complimenting the fresh baked, fluffy dough.  We had one topped with a pesto and sumac mix.  This was aromatic, slightly spice and full of flavour.  The other was topped with parmesan cheese and a mix of herbs.  This made for a slightly crisper top that cracked and broke in your mouth to release the savoury, salty flavours.

We also got a bright green tabbouleh salad and some fattoush. The former had a pungency to herbs, cut with the richness of the tomatoes and green onions.  The fattoush is a mix of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, roasted pita bread and olive oil dressing.  The oil is cut with mint, and soaks into the pita bread, to combine up some deep flavours, balancing the lightness of the greens.

Very impressed with this combination, and am thinking it might be something I try again when working from home.  A short work over to Fig will get the legs working, and let the brain rest for a bit.  I just have to try and avoid buying too much of the fantastic breads on offer as well.

The place is family run, having moved from a smaller location.  The owner, Yasser Youssef, has been in this trade for at least a long time, and knows how to source interesting and different food that you can't get on the shelves of Thrifty's or Save On.  And his son is taking on the family business too, as we chatted to him as paid up to leave.

Fig Delicatessen, 1551 Cedar Hill Cross Rd Victoria, BC V8P 2P3