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  1. For those of you who live on the westside, quince is also available at Stong's Market at Dunbar and 31st.
  2. Well, if you like wine, as we do, especially roses in the south when the weather is warm, and have a habit of picking up bottles at different places en route with the thought of tasting them at the end of the day, properly chilled, not being able to find any ice to chill the bottle down with is cause for consternation. Yes, we could - and do - head out to the closest bar/cafe to enjoy a pre-dinner drink, and order wine with dinner, where there is no such problem, but it would be nice to have the option of relaxing on the terrace with that special bottle bought from the winemaker that morning, instead of trying to cool it down in a sink full of lukewarm tap water. We don't often stay in rooms with minibars, but when we do, we empty it out and put the wine in to cool off, but this usually takes several hours - a very long wait. Otherwise, we don't miss ice at all and rarely, if ever, put any into our drinks.
  3. The Only used to cook decent fish at a reasonable price. It's not rocket science, but nowadays you have to go to Chinese and Japanese restaurants to eat good seafood at a moderate price. Lots of local product diversity there, ie, whatever is in season. It may not be strikingly innovative, and I can't comment about the ethical bent, but the standards are high, the clientele discriminating, the service quick, the choices varied and the dishes as a result reliably fresh, properly cooked (if cooking is required), invariably tasty, fairly priced and generously portioned or you can be sure that the restaurant will not survive long in a very competitive environment. It's curious thing why non-ethnic restaurants should operate any differently, but perhaps here on the coast we are either so used to getting our seafood from the source - ie, for free or nearly free - in which case we prefer to do it ourselves and not order it at a restaurant except on the rare special occasion when we take guests from out of town to C hoping it will be a singular experience, or don't know any better and follow other people's recommendations to eat there.
  4. We've been to C on three occasions over five years and each experience was unfortunately more disappointing than the last, despite our abiding hope that it should be otherwise. We have access to some very good seafood here in British Columbia and C in particular is widely respected for sourcing the freshest, best and most sustainable species on the coast. The focus is pretty much exclusively on fish and shellfish. The wine list is tailored to match. It may not be Fat Duck/Tetsuya's/El Bulli expensive, but it ain't cheap either, so for all these reasons our expectations are justifiably high. The problem is, nothing has ever stood out for us. It's hard to remember much about any of the dishes we've had - even the 'signature' ones. This last time my wife's scallops were overdone - a cardinal sin for any seafood restaurant, much less one of C's stature. My friend found the 'chorizo' in his "sablefish chorizo" overpowered the sablefish. I'm a big fan of sablefish, but had a similar premonition and ordered the lobster salad instead (okay, but nothing special). Diva at the Met, IMHO, does sablefish - aka Alaska black cod - the way it should be done. It's something of a mystery to me why C gets so many raves. Based on our experience, when it comes to quality and price, there are many mid-priced restaurants in Sydney and Barcelona which could run circles around C. Fortunately, we have other options here in Vancouver, where the price of that chef's menu would be enough for eight people to eat extremely well at just about any decent Chinese seafood restaurant in town.
  5. In late May, we revisited some of our favourite places in Languedoc, many of which were recommended by Graham Tigg, including the following: The Auberge du Cedre. Yes, opt for the Garden Room, it's worth the extra Euros - and take advantage of the excellent wine list. The Domaine de Cazeneuve is across the road and produces some very good bottles too. St. Guilhem le Desert, one of the more charming of the "beautiful villages of France" and not far from the wine village of Montpeyroux. Not all of the plus beaux villages de France live up to the billing, but this one is worth a detour. Another good place to stay is the discreet but nicely-appointed Ostalaria Cardabela in St. Saturnin de Lucian, itself a wine village - Domaine Virgile is just a few doors down - with others close by (Pascal Fulla at Mas de l'Ecriture in Jonquieres led us through some barrel tastings), but the principal attraction is the wine service delivered by David Pugh at Le Mimosa in St. Guiraud. Nearby Clermont l'Herault is a provincial town, but now has an impressive wine shop facing the main square where there are a number of restaurants. The proprietor is very welcoming and has an extensive selection of the best regional wines. The Grand Hotel in Sete. Try for one of the suites with a balcony facing the canal. Given the Belle Epoque ambience, it's a bargain. If you are lucky and it is sunny, sit outside in one of the many restaurants by the water and drink chilled rose or picpoul de pinet with shellfish. Otherwise, bring a bottle back to your balcony where you can sip and watch the canal traffic below as the sun sets. Octopus, a fairly new restaurant in Beziers. La Raffinerie was closed, but this second choice was a very pleasant surprise - creative cooking with some Catalan influence, eg, a gazpacho milkshake(?) with olive oil ice cubes served with drinking straws. The service was not as playful as the kitchen, which is too bad. Interesting wine list. Narbonne. We'd vote for this over Montpellier as a base because it has has a pretty canal, is small enough that you can walk everywhere, has the most attractive indoor market in the south of France (Les Halles) and the best wine shop in the region (the Palais du Vin, next to a one star restaurant, Le Table St. Crescent where you can have a bargain lunch). There is also a good value, well-located hotel - La Residence - with lovely rooms for 80 Euros. Collioure. One of the nicest seaside towns we have come across anywhere. Our third time, and still charming. The Casa Pairal is a bit pricey, but is quiet, central and just too pretty not to make it your address. If you arrive on a Saturday, the open air market cranks it up the next morning in the park across the way. The best syrahs of the Collioure appellation are underrated - low production, very high quality. Homps on the Canal du Midi. This is a small village in the Minervois, so lots of wineries close by, and beautiful walking paths on both sides under plane trees. There is a chai by the water which is a co-op selling local wines and two or three simple but good places to stay. We liked En Bonne Compagnie a lot for the rooms (50 Euros) and the food, but it closes in the winter, so the other perfect option is the Auberge de l'Arbousier down the way. Some big residence secondaire developments nearby have dismayed some visitors who preferred the sleepiness of the old Homps, but it is not overly intrusive. If you venture as far north as Cahors, there is a cozy creperie called La Balandine near the cathedral which offers a refreshing cider should your palate be jaded by too many wines. Cahors has an excellent wine shop near the Pont Valentre specializing in local vintages.
  6. We prefer the regular curry beef instead of the brisket at Mui's. A little less heavy as the pieces are less fatty. The sweet and sour pork at Mui's is also first class, if you haven't tried it.. ← The beef curry is very good, but we go there for the fish cakes, which are exceptional.
  7. What's missing for me are bistros like Brasserie l'Ecole in Victoria and Le Pichet in Seattle - mixing a warm atmosphere, an interesting and affordable wine list, some well-executed comfort food, knowledgeable staff, and attentive and professional service without the pretense. Straying farther afield, we could do worse than a good souffle restaurant like Cafe Jacqueline in San Fransisco. She does one thing and she does it well. As for seafood, I'm with Jamie: your best bet for consistency, freshness and proper preparation in Vancouver is a Chinese or Japanese restaurant. There's nothing like Cal Pep in Barcelona, where they serve up the daily catch simply, with lightning speed and cooked to perfection. There's is a line up everyday to prove it, just like there used to be at the Only on East Hastings. I also miss small, hole in the wall stand up wine & tapas bars like Quimet & Quimet, also in Barcelona. You don't have to speak Catalan to get their attention, even when access to the bar is several people deep, just look hungry and show some respect for the food. Some limited or single menu restaurants would be welcome too. Le Bistrot du Paradou in Southern France comes to mind, with its set menu for each day of the week, including entree, main, dessert, wine, bread and coffee included. It's the same price every day and very satisfying. We could also use some nose to tail eating, like Fergus Henderson's St. John in London. Bring on the rook pie, lambs tongues and roasted marrow bones!
  8. I'm sorry to hear about the demise of this bakery. We used to live on the Drive many years ago, but haven't found much reason to return until we discovered this place. Beautifully crafted cannoli, milles feuilles, eclairs and profiteroles at relatively low prices, inviting presentation and friendly staff. It's hard to figure why this level of quality couldn't attract enough business to make it viable - the store was always busy when we stopped by. Perhaps it would have done better on the west side, where artisanal Italian pastries might be a more distinctive draw and find a more appreciative clientele.
  9. I'll second Ajisai. We go there on a regular basis and the sushi is of very high quality. However, it is not the kind of place where you can yack back and forth with the sushi chefs. They are very courteous and give you eye contact, but the interaction is very low-key and restrained. The focus is on the sushi. We used to go to Tojo's, until a few years ago when the prices got so ridiculous that you had to think twice even if you were on an expense account.
  10. When we're stuck for a good nosh in Penticton, we head for Vecchio's, where the made-to-order Italian sandwiches are delicious and a wonderful bargain for $2.99. Always lined up. Pick up a handful of cherries and you can have a picnic lunch for under five bucks. Mahdina's at Lake Breeze Vineyards - about 10 minutes from town on the Naramata bench - has the best food in the vicinity. The menu is interesting, varied and well-priced. I had an excellent calamari in a red pepper salsa paired with a glass of Semillon a few days ago. The patio restaurant also has the best views on the bench. Lunch only for the time being, but they stay open all afternoon. The wines are very good, too, especially the Semillon and Pinot Blanc. On September 11th, The Naramata Bench Winery Association is having a Tailgate Party at Lake Breeze, so if you are lucky enough to get a ticket, you can get the food, view and wines from all the wineries in one package.
  11. Oops, Michel Trama's restaurant now has three stars, not two.
  12. I forgot to put in a plug for a very comfortable gite just north of Cahors, where we have stayed many times over the past 8 years and still have some wine stored in the cellar: www.frenchconnections.co.uk/accom/719.html
  13. LaRochelle is very pleasant, but even more delightful is the Ile de Re, which is connected to the mainland by a long bridge. The island is much favoured as a weekend getaway retreat for the French - unlike La Rochelle, we didn't encounter any non-French tourists - and seems to be blessed with lots of sunshine, beaches and quaint villages. It is the perfect place for loafing, indulging in what the Italians call "dolce far niente" - the sweetness of doing nothing - with walking and bicycle paths galore and a democratic cross-section of French society wandering around aimlessly, enjoying the pleasures of idleness. For an Atlantic resort it has an oddly Mediterranean feel, except there's not a poodle to be seen. There are at least two villages rated among the most beautiful in France (Ars en Re, St. Martin de Re?). We stayed in Ars en Re, in a charming hotel called Le Senechal, parked our car next to the famous church with the black roof that you see on all the postcards and took long walks along the water. There are at least two other hotels on the island which are also included in a book called "Hip Hotels: France", where I first learned about the place. All were quite affordable. St Martin has a very atmospheric market in a medieval square in the heart of the town, busiest on Sunday morning. You can buy a bottle of the local Pineau de Charentes and have a sip as an aperitif every night before heading out for dinner when you get to the Dordogne. The langoustines and/or potatoes are famous enough, if I remember correctly, to have their own AOC. The seafood looked wrigglingly fresh. As for the Dordogne, I would highly recommend a meal at Le Gindreau in St. Medard, about 20 minutes west of Cahors. Relaxed country dining in a renovated former schoolhouse overlooking the valley, warm, attentive service, refined and imaginative cooking with regional flavour, lovely wine list, exellent sommelier. No ties required here. We've also eaten at L'Aubergade in Puymirol, where Michel Trama works his magic, but, while the food was memorably wonderful, we had the distinct feeling that the experience would have been more relaxing if we had dressed up a little more for the occasion. This is a two star restaurant and a Relais et Chateaux, with commensurate expectations.
  14. You are right about Le Baratin. We went there a couple of weeks ago for a late lunch, no reservation, got the last table for two near the bar right in the middle of the hubbub, ordered the prix fixe (12.50E for entree, plat + dessert) and a demi of Cote d'Auvergne off the big chalkboard, relaxed and soaked in the friendly ambience. I had the feeling we were in someone's warm kitchen, people coming and going (regulars at the bar taking their glasses of wine outside to examine the colour in the natural light), the smell of Gauloises in the air... We knew we were in the right neighbourhood when we exited the Pyrenees metro station, turned the corner and saw the Eiffel Tower in the distance framed by the buildings on each side of the street curving down toward Jouye-Rouve. The 7th arrondissement was a world away. The food was better at Chez Catherine, where we went the night before, but we had a lot more fun at Le Baratin, at a fraction of the price.
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