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Posts posted by merlin

  1. Just returned from our annual visit to Vancouver Island with some limited news concerning Tofino.

    Had been looking forward to returning to Matthias Conradi's Pasticceria Conradi upstairs ...in the building across the street from the government liquor store... as we had enjoyed the thin crust pizza and especially the pastries during past visits.

    However, it was closed upon our arrival and then while there...I think on the 13th... re-opened as the new location for SOBO. No sign of the "catering truck".

    I popped in later in the week and a decent "killer" fish taco and a very good bowl of curried cauliflower soup.

    It was literally "early days" for the restaurant but from the brief chat I had with my server, I think their intention is to serve what SOBO has been serving in the past.

    There was no deep frier, so the yam fries were not on offer.

    The hanging chalkboards indicated the daily specials: 3 pizzas along with several soups.

    I believe she indicated they were to open for lunch closing in late afternoon, then breakfast and dinner on the week-ends when I expect they get busier with the arrival of the week-end surfing and particularly "storm watching" customers.

  2. Look forward to it.

    Steve Letts aka Stovetop is back in town from Vancouver Island and we got together for an ale at Sherlocks not so long ago.

    I am heading out to the Island on Saturday morning but expect to be around the city come the holidays if you do make the trek back out here.

    I was just running errands today and encountered Peter Jackson of Jack's Grill in the parking lot of Sunterra's Lendrum Shopping Centre location. He just got back from a week outside of Duncan at the Averill Creek Winery [owned by former Medi-Centre founder, Doc now winemaker, Andy Johnson who used to practice here in Edmonton].

    Best of luck...keep us informed.

  3. chromedome:

    Thank you for the update and best wishes.

    My wife and I are thinking of visit to the Halifax and Cape Breton region to re-visit friends nex year and if we do we'll try to squeeze in a drive to Saint John to see acquaintances in "Surf City" and visit the Inn.

    Chuckled when I saw your photo as I remember you from Sunterra Downtown as I worked across the street at the Bank of Montreal building.

    Continued good luck.

  4. Emil:

    Good luck with your venture.

    Truth be told, I am not particularly familiar with the Comox area. Although we go to the Island at least a couple of times a year we have not spent much time in the Comox/Courtenay region. We usually visit Tofino/Ucluelet [in fact driving out on Thanksgiving week-end] and Victoria so am more familiar with them.

    Most of my admittedly limited knowledge of the area comes from reading EAT Magazine which usually has some "up island" info.

    I know more and more Albertans [like me] are becoming interested in the area now that WestJet services Comox with direct flights.

    The list of ingredients you cited sound wonderful. I am hoping it has not been too rainey as I love my wild mushrooms especially yellow chanterelles and matsutake [they are pine mushrooms are they not] and usually by the time we get to Tofino the shop off the highway near the turn in to Chesterman Beach has them available.

  5. BW:

    I will leave the Vancouver suggestions to the locals more familiar with what is on offer there.

    We pass through Kamloops en route to Vanouver Island but usually it is just overnite so we have not had much time to scout out decent spots to dine.

    I have "heard" good things about the Brown Door which I think is downtown but I not seen a write-up here.

    Partly out of default we have ended up in Ric's Grill but despite that less than flattering intro, we have enjoyed the food. It is a "chop house" for all intents and purposes but my tuna was delicious as was the lamb and steak we had on other occasions.

    The wine list was quite good. Significantly better than the ones I have seen in the same establishment [it is a chain which I think originated in Prince George, BC] here in the one of three or four that are in the Edmonton region. A number of well priced good choices from the Okanagan. Having 97-C close at hand must help.

    I think there are two in Kamloops, the one we tried was up on the ridge as you enter down from the west/Coquihalla where there are numerous hotels/motels. I think it was off the lobby of the Sheraton 4-Points.

    I believe there is another downtown or elsewhere which seems to have gone the route of the Joey's, i.e. Mediterranean Grill v. World Grill, etc. and has a reference to the Med in its title.

    Let us know what you find. We'll be driving right through en route on Thanksgiving week-end but will likely stop for the night on the way back.

  6. Riders? Lions?

    Who d'ey...what's that?

    Oh CFL football? We have not have much around these parts for at least a couple of years :rolleyes:

    I will have to check out some more Sunday open spots and let you know for your next visit Junior.

    It happens more often than not with people flying in for work or conferences and they want to get out and eat somewhere other than the hotel's restaurant and as we discovered, not an easy option.

  7. Excellent timing Chris.

    We arrive on Tuesday the 9th and leave before noon on Friday the 18th so our respective stays will overlap. I'll PM with the details.

    "Drinks at the Pointe?"....although it is highly unlikely for me to have drink especially when on holidays :raz: it will be terrific to see you and Shari-Lynn

    Agree about Famoso. I usually end up stopping in en route back to the burbs in the evening once or so a week. The pizza suffers a little from the drive. Better there but you can recrisp it in a hot oven pretty quickly. Good addition to the pizza scene in this city.

    See you in Tofino

  8. shaggywine:

    My input may not assist you very much as it has been over a year since our visit to the Rosemeade. [www.englishinnresort.com]

    I am not sure about a change in ownership but at the time Mark Wachtin was the dining room manager who gave us a tour of the kitchen and I did read in EAT magazine that he has since left for another location.

    We thoroughly enjoyed our evening. It has been too long to remember much in the way of specifics of what we ate or drank but we did have a good time.

    The sun had set by the time we were eating so we took the water ferry back up to the West Bay stop the following afternoon and walked back to the grounds and the staff were more than happy to let us look around the restaurant.

    You are right, although a lot of people in the industry knew about the Rosemeade you do not read many reviews compared with say Brasserie L'Ecole or Brio to name but two of our traditional "haunts".

  9. ...and your point is?

    Just do not follow the "politics" of semi-privatized liquor sales in BC or AB.

    I would never buy from Liquor Barn or Liquor Select or Liquor Depot or whatever the increasingly centralized liquor industry in this province has become.

    Mind you I probably would not buy Yellow Label "anything" ... but at $10.50 why not?

    Better stil at $9.50 or cheaper if you can find it.

    Mind you I still chuckle at the Canadian comic's coments about an east coaser being in California and seeing a "liquor barn"...Lord Jeezus...the same fellow from "Blackfly" etc.

  10. Nice to have you back Steve.

    Have not been out to the Highlands area for quite some time so have not tried Bacon. I am still chuckling about La Boheme. Yes, that is quite the "mouldy oldie". I can tell you a few stories about Ernst Eder and Claude Buzon.

    I was just thinking that I would have to look you up when we head out to Vancouver Island in October.

    We have a couple of days in Nanaimo before 10 on Chesterman Beach in Tofino.

    Drop by Sherlock's some afternoon and I will buy you a pint.

  11. Just back after a few days in Ottawa. Did not have much time to get out and about but did manage a return visit to the Wellington Gastropub on Tuesday evening.

    Another very good evening. Nice to chat with Shane again and this time was served up at my perch at the bar by Pooya.

    Opted for their green salad accompanied by some delicious beets followed by grilled skirt steak served over barely ccoked crisp green beans and a blue cheese polenta accompanied by some port jus.

    Very good. The beans were just the way I like them and the polenta, I can still taste the blue cheese.

    Tartare was on the menu which I was told by Shane is something they are known for. I think this was bison. Although I did not decide to have it, if it is on the menu the next time I am in town, I will. I was given a taster. Nicely spiced accompanied by some truffle oil. Excellent colour and nice texture.

    I had a number of glasses of wine from their good list and left feeling very well fed.

    I got there barely after their 5:30 p.m. opening and people were steadily arriving and it was quite full by the time I headed back to my hotel.

    The evening before a few of us wandered down to the Market after a reception we had back at our hotel that went to about 8:00 p.m.. As a result, the restaurants in the market were quite busy. When told it would be more than an hour at Stella we retraced out steps back to Luxe.

    Very busy and crowded when we arrived. Nice friendly service did get us a table after a little wait. Our server was friendly and competent. Unfortunately, I do not think the kitchen was prepared for the numbers. Seemed to take quite a while for our food to arrive. I opted for their halibut. Was told it would come as requested, i.e. a little undercooked. Unfortunately it came a little more cooked than the flakey state I enjoy. The bok choy and other accompanying vegetables were delicious and did not suffer from "hanging around" which I think was the fate of my halibut.

    The others in my party enjoyed their food especially the veal chop which was one of their specials. I am not sure that I would "race" back.

    When I arrived Sunday afternoon I had also walked down to the market to stretch my legs after the morning flight. I was not too hungry but did want some wine and a little bite to eat. Grabbed a chair on the patio as Empire Grill and was going to skip the food part but was convinced by the server, Trish to try their crab cakes. Two round crab cakes slightly larger than golf balls fried to a crisp brown extgerior accompanied by a chipotle sauce which possessed some fire. The crab inside was quite good without a lot of detectable "filler". Quite rich. Hit the spot and I do not think I could have eaten much more.

    I then wandered down the street and decided to check out Stella. I ordered some wine and their grilled calamari salad. I waited and waited but did not particularly care since it was a nice afternoon and perfect for people watching. Some time later my waiter came back and rather than apologizing profusely said something to the effect of "I will not BS you...I completely screwed up...here is your salad and wine...they are on me"....cannot complain about that.

    All in all a nice trip.

  12. CharityCase:

    I had not been to Ottawa in quite some time until two visits in February and March respectively earlier in the year.

    On three of the evenings I ate at Beckta and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I never ate there when Vardy was the chef but it certainly did not disappoint. Owner Stephen certainly does know his wine and his wine list is not overladen with "trophy" expense account bottles. Well chosen for what his chef is preparing.

    On another evening on my waiter's suggestion I ventured to Whalebones. Vardy had the night off but I thoroughly enjoyed myself chatting with who I think is the owner of this small spot. Good oysters, decent wine. Good time.

    On Stephen Beckta's suggestion I hailed a cab out to the Wellington Village and a top notch evening at the Wellington Gastropub. Excellent food in a relaxed setting. Good wine list and friendly discussions with chef Chris and front of room Shane.

    I am flying out there again on Sunday for a few days. Not very interested in the Market but Domus might be a good suggestion. Quite a number of years ago I almost dropped in...back then I frequented Meditheo [sp?], Black Tomato, another one with a large deck whose name escapes me which had a good wine list but was quite expensive and Au Claire de Lune.

    Truth be known, in years gone by I usually ended up "paying" for the two hour time difference in that wine bar downstairs below the fish restaurant in the Market...Vinelands?...seemed early until the alarm clock went off for the morning meeting....

    I almost went to Aroma twice...it is the one diagonally across Nepean from Beckta isn't it? I was caught in a snowstorm walking up to where I thought Beckta was and saw the lights. If, I can convince one or two others to join me so we can order a lot of taps offerings that might work.

    I would appreciate any other suggestions you might have especially for my first night Sunday.

  13. The Petales d'Osoyoos is not bad but I think you could do better with comparable priced wines from other producers in the Okanagan.


    Which ones would you suggest? Off hand I can think perhaps of the standard label from Cedar Creek. But what others at the $20 to $25 range? I would like to try them if I can find them. Of course being in BC and Okanagan assists. That was the reason for my comment about "crossing the Rockies" since we do not have access to the BC Liquor stores that Barolo suggested.

    Certainly agree with your recommendation of the Joie Rose. It was all pinot noir as I recollect and am not sure what blend was used in the Quails Gate bottle. The latter reminded me more of what Sumac Ridge produced and the Gray Monk Rothberger [sp?]. Decent quaffable, picnic or cold cut wines. A little more sophistication with the Joie.

    Of course rarely if ever see Joie wines in Alberta as well. Tried to get the Rose, Unoaked Chardonnay and Noble Blend this spring but fear of a liquor board crackdown on out of province shippers put an end to that request I am afraid...more for you BC'rs to drink....

  14. eatrustic:

    That seems to have slipped in under the radar hasn't it? I'll ask at my favourite store but expect that allocations are likely quite small and as a result it probably has not made over the Rockies.

    The same store obtained a mere two cases of Nota Bene from Black Hills.

    Speaking of Nota Bene, I read that Black Hills is producing a Carmenere which is complete news to me.

    You mentioned Quails Gate' Rose. Had it at a tasting a few weeks ago and quite enjoyed it. As you indicated, good sipper during the summer heat.


    But at that price point it is pretty competitive. I have stopped buying much CA wine due to price. Loonie keeps going up as compared to the Greenback, purported glut of juice and yet, despite our supposed competitive liquor industry the prices are not going down [referencing Alberta].

  15. Tofino:

    It is only 9:30 a.m. here and I am ravenous. I am sorry I missed Holder during my visit to Montreal although L'Express was delicious.

    It certainly is a great walking city and that trekking does help given all the food. I took Sandy "home" once and our day consisted of steamed hot dogs and fries at the Montreal Pool Room and the Main, a stop at the Slovenia Meat Market en route to Schwartz' for smoked meat and then a stop on the balcony at Sir Winston Churchill's on Crescent for some vino....and then crash and burn back at the hotel.

    My favourite Calgary bagel shop is Wayne's Bagels in Kensington on the main drag just before you get to the Safeway. I heard that it may be moving south on MacLeod Trail so check before you try to go the next time you are in "Cow Town". I was there over the week-end but too busy to stop....we were in the company of our 7 week old golden retriever pup Mystic who we acquired that morning from a breeder in Okotoks......

    There are a couple of other bagel and smoked meat shops that Calgarians recommend that a post to the Western Canada list will be able to ID. So many Montrealers have moved to Calgary with a couple of the headquarter relocations.

    Now I need to start planning my next visit to Montreal.

  16. Tofino:

    Glad your visit to the Wellington was as good as mine. I'll be down that way for a week in August so expect that a return visit will be in the "proverbial cards".

    That barbequed California Roast sounds delicious. I have never heard of it.

    I will wander over to the Quebec section and read what else you had when in Montreal.

  17. fedelst:

    Thanks for the morning chuckle.

    Given my typical "black humour" [?] I will save this anecdote until the next time we head to the west coast and someone orders salmon tartare.....

    The use of the name/term "dodo"...at least for a Western Canadian... has particular apparent application here.

  18. Congrats to the real Sparky [who posts here from time to time] and the rest of the kitchen and front of house staff at Victoria's Brasserie L'Ecole who took top billing for that city over other excellent spots like Zambri's, The Rosemeade, Cafe Brio and Daidoco.

    Daidoco is the only one we have not tried on visits...my better half's aversion to fish does not make Japanese food a favourite...maybe it was just the restaurant's proximity to the Bug Museum in Nootka Court ...[smile]

  19. Gourmet Magazine's April edition has an article on Whister written by Jane Daniels Lear. Within its "Eating There" component it features some well known names like Araxi, Bearfoot Bistro and Rimrock Cafe along with Ciao-Thyme Bistro...so "cute" it makes me wince.......

    Meanwhile Jamie Maw....now, perhaps I understand why this site has been relatively devoid of "Maw-isms" for the past while...writes about Vancouver and its Destinations Izakayas in the April issue of Wine & Spirits. Others write about their popularity in New York City and the Bay Area.

  20. Chris:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the Club Chasse et Peche recommendations...my brother and I dropped a bundle there about this time last year but it was worth the grape stained teeth [smile].

    Not in old Montreal but definitely worth the cab ride is Au Pied de Cochon. Had a terrific time there one evening.

    Again away from the area where you will be but experienced good bistro fare at L'Express, Ferreira's and of course Schwartz'

    Hope you enjoy your stay. Best wishes to Shari-Lynn. Hope to get down your way but our next trip will be to the Jasper Park Lodge for our anniversary rather than Banff/Canmore but we'll see. Maybe we'll do the Parkway and come south if I can spare the time from the office.

    I am sure that you will enjoy yourself in Montreal

  21. Michel:

    Thank you for the info.

    Just "Google'd" Art-Is-In and I think Kevin Mathiesen is the name I had mentioned to me.

    The "blurb" I read referred to Bistro 1908 which is a spot I remember fondly from visits years and years ago despite my awkward efforts at using my Albertan French..."does your dog bite?"...mind you, the more minervois red wine I drink the better I "think" [grin] I can parlez-vous.

    Funny, you commented on Aroma. I almost stopped in on spec on both occasions. Originally, I was not sure where Beckta was located apart from being on Nepean so when I initially saw the lights, assumed that Aroma was it before looking diagonally across the street.

    I love the meze concept. It is on my list for the next time I am back in town with my wife so that we can order more small plates and try different things. Maybe during the summer.

    ...and yes, EVERY city could use an AP de C...still one of the best evenings I have had sitting up at their cooking bar drinking lots of good red wine and devouring duck and foie being charmed by the server Eugenie......

  22. After not having been to Ottawa in quite a number of years I was back for a second time in the space of just about a month or so.

    Once again I had a delicious meal complemented by some very good wine at Beckta where I had dinner two of the three nights during my first visit. I very much enjoy the classy but at the same time, casual feel of this restaurant.

    In the course of the evening the owner, Stephen Beckta, inquired if I needed any recommendations for another spot to try while visiting. I did and he suggested the Wellington Gastropub at 1325 Wellington [www.thewellingtongastropub.com]. He phoned the pub making arrangements for me to be able to sit up at their bar which is where I usually want to eat when traveling solo.

    I gather the chef, Christopher Deraiche and head of front of house, Shane Waldron both used to work at 18 in the Market. I had heard of 18, probably from discussions here on this web-site but had not tried it.

    So the next evening I took a cab off along Sommerset which eventually turns back into Wellington through an interesting mix of neighbourhoods. Lebanese bakeries and meat shops giving way to Chinese, then Vietnamese and Thai shops past two quite large and imposing Asian restaurants across the street from each other that I remember from years and years ago.

    I am not sure of the name of the area where the Wellington is but it seems to be going through a bit of a revival or renewal. Two or three English or Irish pubs that looked busy and the landmark I was told to look for by chef Chris when I phoned for directions, the Ottawa Bagel bakery.

    I do not know about your experiences but out here in Alberta, the term "gastropub" usually prompts a series of not so flattering reactions from those not familiar with the European term. Leaving that aside, I have unfortunately found that contrary to the promised inventive up-scale food it has often meant pretty standard fare but with higher prices.

    Not so at the Wellington. You walk up the internal staircase from front door off Wellington [there is a private dining room in the "White Room" which I am told is no longer white that was closed this evening on the bottom floor] which leads to the bar which can accomodate about 6 or 7 persons. The staircase essentially divides the room in half. I think the restaurant seats about 65 to 70 persons and true to its former "life" as a Scottish pub has a lot of hardwood planking, wooden tables and chairs with one side banquettes and sofas.

    I was warmly greeted by Shane [whose hospitality I returned, much to my own chagrin, by getting his name wrong for most of the balance of the evening...blame it on the wine!] and seated at the bar. When I arrived there were just two ladies "holding court" at one corner getting a lesson in ales and lagers from the bartender Paul. The pub has quite a number of beers on offer. Most I am told from local breweries.

    For me the attraction was Stephen Beckta's recommendation of their wine list and especially those available by the glass. It was quite good and I started with a glass of Albarinho from Spain.

    I then was left to go over the menu which I am told changes daily depending upon what is fresh and available. The menu quickly confirmed that this was not a pub based upon bangers and mash, fish and chips and mushy peas or pork pies......

    The appetizers ranged from a white bean and almond soup, chiffonade of mint [$7] to seared foie gras, carmelized apple and pecan compote [$15]. Also available was a Lolla rosa & pea shoot salad, parmesan, blood orange vinaigrette, green apple and truffle oil [$8], tuna tataki and a grilled vegetable napoleon at {$13] and [$11] respectively.

    I opted for the salad even though I had to ask Paul what Lolla rosa was.

    While waiting for my appetizer I muched on some outstanding bread. It comes from the same baker who supplies Beckta and I am told other Ottawa restaurants whose bakery is close by the Wellington as I saw a large tray of loafs carried in by someone. I meant to remember the baker's name and even scrawled it down but then, as is my wont, tossed it out. The whole grain and fennel loaf in particular is delicious.

    My salad was a good starter. Nice greens complemented by the cheese and vinaigrette. Lots of flavours. Simple ... if you can call anything complemented by truffle oil to be simple ... very good.

    For my main course I chose the duck breast, grilled eggplant cannelloni stuffed with spiced quinoa, baby squash and sweet tomato sauce [$26]. The menu also offered a grilled 10 oz striploin [$28], scallops, crab and parmesan risotto [$24], the pasta was fettuccine with green olive and caperberry fondue {$18] and trout, swiss chard, gnocchi, pickled beets and creme fraiche [$22].

    In between courses the chef sent out a small plate of gnocchi with a broken veal sauce which would have been good as a main as well. I opted to have a glass of the pinot noir from the Vincor/Boisset collaboration in the Niagara, Le Clos Jordanne. This is a wine which I had for the first time the night before at Beckta. I think in both cases it was the '04 Village Reserve label which apparently retailed at about $25. A price which I find astonishing given its quality. I did some internet sleuthing and see that their top end $60 label sold out very quickly but I certainly would like to get more of this "entry level" pinot.

    I almost did not order the duck as I misread the menu that thought that it was going to be a duck cannelloni and I was not particularly interested in pasta but I do enjoy duck. I should have known when Paul inquired how I wanted my duck done.

    As it turned out it was a delicious duck breast served rare as ordered accompanied by the "eggplant cannelloni" with the former replacing the pasta component. The quinoa had a nice "bite" with the flavours and some heat added by cumin, tumeric, cardamon, garlic etc. The baby squash had been thinly sliced and barely sauteed so they still had some crunch.

    With this course I again opted for the Le Clos Jordanne. I thought the "old world style" of the pinot worked very well with the duck and spiced grain.

    I think I had arrived at about 6:30 or so and at that time the restaurant was about half full. As the clocked approached 7:00 more and more people had arrived and quite shortly people were being turned away promising to make reservations the next time. A nice neighbourhood feel about it. Very pleasant atmosphere. You would be comfortable whether casually dressed or "suited up". It compares favourably with one of my favourite restaurants of this type, Victoria's Brasserie L'Ecole.

    I finished off my meal with some very good Ontario cheese.

    The Wellington Gastropub was a terrific "find" which if you get a chance and are in Ottawa, one should try. I doubt that you will be disappointed.

    Thank you Shane [got it right that time], Chef Chris and Paul for a very good meal and evening

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