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jamiemaw

Casual Fine Dining in Western Canada

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In fact, I would eat at Cactus Club a lot more often if they would just turn down the f-ing music!

Lots of independents in Vancouver have very noisy rooms too, so you can't pin that soley on the CFD chains.

I don't believe I did. I pinned it on Cactus Club.

A.

Fair enough.


Cheers,

Anne

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Oh right, the food. I believe I made some less than salutory remarks about chicken wings upthread . . .

  Stinky Cook Jamie, didn't you do an article some years ago titled "the lamb index" where you rated rack of lamb in various vancouver restaurants? The quality, style and price were all listed. Perhaps a new index that rates some common dishes relative to CFD might make for good reading.

. . . So maybe we should run (in lieu of the 'Rack of Lamb Index' of a decade ago) an index that compares like-food preps (chicken tenders, noodle bowls, wings, etc.) between the CFD chains.

There are a few dishes that I'll go out of my way for. Chief among them is the clam chowder at Earls which is very good and with a piece of bread is a full lunch. I like it best in the rain, looking over the lake. I like the CC won ton soup very much as well.

Another is Julian Bond's new hamburger, which is being rolled out across Cactus Club stores right now. I have also had very good steak dinners at the CC in Kelowna, another exciting hockey venue: they turn the play-by-play up quite loud for older guys like me and Arne. Did I mention that they also have the best pour of Dutch cleansers west of The Hague?

Anyone who read the article (magazine, not internet version), would have noticed an interesting fact. Bond's new hamburger has a staggering 41% food cost (cost = $4.19; sells for $10.25 with fries), which might refute the notion that margins are egregious at CFDs; these ingredients are expensive, and seemingly fastidiously chosen.

Zucchini Mama I'm picking on these restaurants because they make me cranky. Every time I go into a Cactus Club, Earl's or Whitespot I feel the food is overpriced and not tasty at all. This happens once every few months for whatever reason.

Although I admire your pluck, I'm curious why you return to restaurants that you're unlikely to enjoy. I thought that was my job. :huh::biggrin:

Zucchini Mama I believe in the people who love food and love serving it to people. They are so obviously not in it for profit at all.

I agree with your first statement but, romantic notions aside, I don't believe loving food is the exclusive preserve of smaller independents. In fact I would call Noble, Bond, Mills, Rohmer and many of their chefs passionate about food, and their service crews equally enthusiastic about serving it to people.

I do disagree with your second statement. Restaurateurs that don't turn at least a modest profit typically have difficulty feeding themselves. They perish, and their message, no matter how altruisitc, gets heaped alongside the road of good intentions.

   Daddy-A    I've said it before ... I like the food at Cactus Club.  The roast chicken and grilled veggies they do are very tasty.  The burgers are pretty good too.  In fact, I would eat at Cactus Club a lot more often if they would just turn down the f-ing music!

But Arne . . . like I said, it's all about the volume. :laugh:


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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I suppose I should end on a lighter note, as I realize my responses on this thread have partly been fueled by a certain case of Seasonal Affective Disorder. I do have fond memories of both Earl's and White Spot, which is why I do return from time to time. In the 80's I scarfed many an order of fried calamari at Earl's wearing an asymetrical hairdo and an oversized t-short that said "Feed the World." As for White Spot, the one near city hall was very important to me when I was severely sick with pregnancy nausea, and a grilled cheese sandwich and ginger ale was 50 per cent of my diet for months. I think that the key is to develop some good quality classics and stick with them. I tried the new wild mushroom burger at White Spot and I really wanted it to be good, but the burger tasted rancid, the mustard overpowering, and the mushrooms were raw. (Where's the crying tears of frustration emoticon?)

What I meant about not being in the biz for the money of course, that chefs/restaurant owners need to make a living, but there are easier ways to turn a profit. It's the same with being an artist. There are many days I regret not choosing to be a librarian.

On a really positive note, I made a really good salade nicoise for lunch as the talk of tuna gave me a craving!

I would be interested in a round up of the classic dishes of casual dining, and not just the CFD's, but in a city-wide survey.

Now if I could just strap a sun lamp to my toque, I might get through this winter! :wacko:


"I used to be Snow White, but I drifted."

--Mae West

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Just to break up the tempo... I just came back from lunch at Milestone's on Lougheed. This is because the wait at CC was 30 minutes and ditto Earls.

Anyhoo, mind you I haven't been to Milestone's in a few years, but I seem to recall their food being a few notches above Boston Pizza. This was not the case. While the beef dip sounded good on the menu, the plate was loaded with four food groups: bread, fried, fat, and potatoes. Granted, you cannot really gamble with the lunch rush... But still, how boring can you be? :huh:

We've been talking about Earls and CC a lot. But what about Milestones, Boston Pizza, and White Spot? Bang-for-the-buck or just crappy food? How many more famous chefs should appear in White Spot commercials before their food becomes palatable? :blink:


"Since when do you have to be hungry to eat?"

Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish andhe’ll open up his own place right across the street from yours, steal your sous-chef, talk shit about you, haggle with suppliers, undercut your prices, kiss critics’ ass, steal your clients and you’ll eventually curse the day you taught him how to fish.

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If I'm going to eat a tuna sandwich over the sink, it's still going to be a kickass tuna sandwich!

Zuke

This is the "chef's table" for real cooks! ...and beverages served in plastic water jugs or 1 lt portion cups :)

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If I'm going to eat a tuna sandwich over the sink, it's still going to be a kickass tuna sandwich!

Zuke

This is the "chef's table" for real cooks! ...and beverages served in plastic water jugs or 1 lt portion cups :)

So true.


Neil Wyles

Hamilton Street Grill

www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com

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Check out Mia Stainsby's article in today's Vancovuer Sun. I'd say she is a fan of at least one CFD.


Derek

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Warning!  Host about to show his age

I've said it before ... I like the food at Cactus Club.  The roast chicken and grilled veggies they do are very tasty.  The burgers are pretty good too.  In fact, I would eat at Cactus Club a lot more often if they would just turn down the f-ing music!  I don't care what they're playing, just allow me to speak with my dining companion without having to break out the napkins for some improptu semaphore!

Damn kids! :raz:

A.

Interesting comment about the music. I guess it depends on what you're looking for. We sometimes go to the Broadway and Ash Cactus Club as an alternative to noisy bars to save the yelling.

Very happy about the smiles, yes you can always count on the smiles, even when you're asking for your third diet coke refill. One time we mailed in a comment card pointing out the tardy service from a hostess, the $25 coupon arrived within a week.

Food at Cactus Club.. The only dish we would repeatedly order, blackened creole steak. Will have to try the burgers next time. Biggest complaints? I don't know, eating always seems to take a backseat when at Cactus.

And with all the slurpee drinking, they have the most civilized and spacious washrooms, at least at their newer locations.

Different places for different moods, never really consider Cactus as a restaurant, more like a lounge. And for that reason, we only frequent the newer ones with better decorations.

Never really cared for Earl's or Milestone's, they always seem very tired. Does the new Earl at Paramount have nice washrooms too? We are big suckers for places with nice clean spacious washrooms. :wub:

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Biggest complaints?  I don't know, eating always seems to take a backseat when at Cactus.

....... 

Does the new Earl at Paramount have nice washrooms too?  We are big suckers for places with nice clean spacious washrooms.  :wub:

I can see the TV ads right now:

[several fast pan shots of happy, gorgeous, smiling people.] Voiceover: "Come for the washrooms. Stay for the food."

or maybe:

[Wide shot of a sparkling, spacious washroom.] "Hello, Chuck". "Hello, Feenie".


I know a man who gave up smoking, drinking, sex, and rich food. He was healthy right up to the day he killed himself. - Johnny Carson

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Western Canada is unique in the world for the number and high quality of CFD concepts incubated right here. It's been largely overlooked by the food media, and last month CFD ARTICLE I took it upon myself to see just how they got so good.

The short answer: Superlative service training, outstanding development chefs, cleanliness and design, and value. Now industry executives from around the world visit frequently to see the phenomenon first-hand.

What are your dining or actual work experiences at these concept chains, whether Earls, Cactus Club, Milestone's The Keg, Moxie's, Joey's, Saltlik et al?

Jamie, I caught the tail end of a show that you might like to watch. What I saw was very interesting, and relative to postings you have made. Cost/loss/profit factor enlightening. :smile:


"If cookin' with tabasco makes me white trash, I don't wanna be recycled."

courtesy of jsolomon

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Western Canada is unique in the world for the number and high quality of CFD concepts incubated right here. It's been largely overlooked by the food media, and last month CFD ARTICLE I took it upon myself to see just how they got so good.

The short answer: Superlative service training, outstanding development chefs, cleanliness and design, and value. Now industry executives from around the world visit frequently to see the phenomenon first-hand.

What are your dining or actual work experiences at these concept chains, whether Earls, Cactus Club, Milestone's The Keg, Moxie's, Joey's, Saltlik et al?

Jamie, I caught the tail end of a show that you might like to watch. What I saw was very interesting, and relative to postings you have made. Cost/loss/profit factor enlightening. :smile:

Thanks cayenne! Amazing coincidence in that Michael and I scrummed on some story ideas one warm summer night, and his earlier CC show and this one with Michael Noble were amongst them.

I appreciate the heads up,

Jamie

'You Get What You Pay For' with repeats on FNC this Saturday and Sunday, 6:30pm and noon repectively.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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[Wide shot of a sparkling, spacious washroom.]  "Hello, Chuck".  "Hello, Feenie".

I'm with Andrew, that's some damn good comedy right there.

k

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Although I think I vowed never to return to Joey's, except for perhaps a drink in the summer on the patio, for some reason we decided to forgive and forget and tried it again this week.

I think the menu was even more horrible then I remember. I was almost unable to find anything I wanted on the menu, in fact I was unable too and ordered something that sounded the least awful. That choice turned out to be dreadful, quite inedible. Poorly cooked, poorly executed. It just tasted awful. My table mates at least found theirs edible, but only just.

While we were there I noticed some big thing on the menu about the James Beard House, are they nuts! :wacko: If they did cook at the James Beard House there is no way it was anything from this menu, so what was the point? Ego stroking? Just what benefit would a restaurant like this see from cooking at the James Beard House?

Anyway that's it! I will never return to eat at this (Broadway) or any other Joey's.

Service by the way was fabulous! At least someone knows what they are doing!

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Although I think I vowed never to return to Joey's, except for perhaps a drink in the summer on the patio, for some reason we decided to forgive and forget and tried it again this week.

I think the menu was even more horrible then I remember. I was almost unable to find anything I wanted on the menu, in fact I was unable too and ordered something that sounded the least awful. That choice turned out to be dreadful, quite inedible. Poorly cooked, poorly executed. It just tasted awful. My table mates at least found theirs edible, but only just.

While we were there I noticed some big thing on the menu about the James Beard House, are they nuts! :wacko: If they did cook at the James Beard House there is no way it was anything from this menu, so what was the point? Ego stroking? Just what benefit would a restaurant like this see from cooking at the James Beard House?

Anyway that's it! I will never return to eat at this (Broadway) or any other Joey's.

Service by the way was fabulous! At least someone knows what they are doing!

I suspect that Joey's exec chef Chris Mills probably cooked at a James Beard House function.

Edited to add the quote for context, since this post ended up at the top of the next page.


Edited by BCinBC (log)

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From what I am assuming is their own or a related web-site, exec chef Chris Mills and a "team" of 19 others from various outlets of Joey's

http://joey.gastown.radiant.net/aboutus/awards

OK I looked at their web site and I still don't see the point. They could not possibly have served the food that's on their menus therefore they must have served food that is not related to what they actually cook. So what was the point? Did they want to show that even though the food on the menu is casual and uses crappy ingredients that they really do know how to cook and use good ingredients but choose not to? Or does Chris Mills want to prove that he just works there for the money and is secretly embarrassed about the food? What a huge waste of time and money for the chain, and for the sponsors. What happens if those people from New York come to Vancouver and eat in a Joey's restaurant? They will be very unpleasantly surprised I would guess.

Michael Noble at Earls seems to be able to support the culinary scene while not participating or dragging Earls into any involvement with it and besides, Earl’s food has always been good and has gotten even better since he joined the chain. They are what they are, not what the Chef feels he wants to be. OK that was crappy English but I seem to be frustrated to the point I can't clearly write about it.

Joey’s and Earls are related to each other aren’t they? I thought I read in the National Post last week that Joey’s, Earls, Saltlick were all owned by various Fuller brothers who all work for their Dad, who owns the parent (no pun intended) company?

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Would need Jamie Maw to sort out the "family trees" of the Fullers and Allards etc involved with various Earls', Joey's, Cactus Club, OPM...etc.

Isn't Michael Noble and Earls' involved with the Bocuse D'Or this year? If that is true they too are in the upper echelon of food competitions.

Not sure who is Canada's rep. Is it Scott Jaeger of Pear Tree who I assume is an independent? Saw it on one of their menus touting the wood fired boneless breast of chicken "of the month" or something similar.

What is the point of this involvement? Who knows? Don't really care. I go to Earls', quite often as it turns out for a decent burger, some chicken wings and a bottle of good wine. Yes I could do better but my local Earls' is pretty good and I know what to expect and out is "suburbia" it is about as good as it gets without a $60 cab [to and from] ride to better restaurants downtown.

Is it Casual Fine Dining? Well dining is always casual to me but fine dining, not really. It fills the void and I usually have a pleasant time with the staff.

So far it beats their Calgary competitor Moxies. Tried their entree into the higher end steakhouse area, The Chop a few weeks ago. Ok, not great but pretty good.

I think that is what one gets in the area of so called CFD.

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Would need Jamie Maw to sort out the "family trees" of the Fullers and Allards etc involved with various Earls', Joey's, Cactus Club, OPM...etc.

Isn't Michael Noble and Earls' involved with the Bocuse D'Or this year?  If that is true they too are in the upper echelon of food competitions.

Not sure who is Canada's rep.  Is it Scott Jaeger of Pear Tree who I assume is an independent?  Saw it on one of their menus touting the wood fired boneless breast of chicken "of the month" or something similar.

As far as I know Noble and Earls were not associated with the Bocuse D'Or this year, although Michael was Canada's entrant a few years ago. The 2007 Bocuse D'Or happened a few days ago and Scott Jaeger from The Pear Tree was this years entrant for Canada and all I know is he finished out of the medals.

As for the Joey's team going to the Beard House in New York it just goes to show that they (the Beard House) continue to lose credibility as it appears they are ready to accept anyone who will show up with all the food and booze regardless of whether they have a track record of culinary excellence (Chris Mills having been in the Bocuse D'Or earlier in his career means nothing in this context).

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[

The 2007 Bocuse D'Or happened a few days ago and Scott Jaeger from The Pear Tree was this years entrant for Canada and all I know is he finished out of the medals.

Scott came in at 7th place.


Cheers,

Anne

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From what I am assuming is their own or a related web-site, exec chef Chris Mills and a "team" of 19 others from various outlets of Joey's

http://joey.gastown.radiant.net/aboutus/awards

OK I looked at their web site and I still don't see the point. They could not possibly have served the food that's on their menus therefore they must have served food that is not related to what they actually cook. So what was the point? Did they want to show that even though the food on the menu is casual and uses crappy ingredients that they really do know how to cook and use good ingredients but choose not to? Or does Chris Mills want to prove that he just works there for the money and is secretly embarrassed about the food? What a huge waste of time and money for the chain, and for the sponsors. What happens if those people from New York come to Vancouver and eat in a Joey's restaurant? They will be very unpleasantly surprised I would guess.

Michael Noble at Earls seems to be able to support the culinary scene while not participating or dragging Earls into any involvement with it and besides, Earl’s food has always been good and has gotten even better since he joined the chain. They are what they are, not what the Chef feels he wants to be. OK that was crappy English but I seem to be frustrated to the point I can't clearly write about it.

Joey’s and Earls are related to each other aren’t they? I thought I read in the National Post last week that Joey’s, Earls, Saltlick were all owned by various Fuller brothers who all work for their Dad, who owns the parent (no pun intended) company?

The article in the National Post that you allude to is here.

Bus Fuller is now chairman of the family-owned company, which, in addition to Earls, also owns Joeys and Saltlik and has a majority interest in another well-known CFD chain. Stan Fuller oversees the entire operation of the three directly-controlled chains but concentrates on Earls; his brothers Jeff and Stewart operate Joeys and Saltlik respectively; father Bus has stepped back from day-to-day ops but is still a presence.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Would need Jamie Maw to sort out the "family trees" of the Fullers and Allards etc involved with various Earls', Joey's, Cactus Club, OPM...etc.

Isn't Michael Noble and Earls' involved with the Bocuse D'Or this year?  If that is true they too are in the upper echelon of food competitions.

Not sure who is Canada's rep.  Is it Scott Jaeger of Pear Tree who I assume is an independent?  Saw it on one of their menus touting the wood fired boneless breast of chicken "of the month" or something similar.

As far as I know Noble and Earls were not associated with the Bocuse D'Or this year, although Michael was Canada's entrant a few years ago. The 2007 Bocuse D'Or happened a few days ago and Scott Jaeger from The Pear Tree was this years entrant for Canada and all I know is he finished out of the medals.

As for the Joey's team going to the Beard House in New York it just goes to show that they (the Beard House) continue to lose credibility as it appears they are ready to accept anyone who will show up with all the food and booze regardless of whether they have a track record of culinary excellence (Chris Mills having been in the Bocuse D'Or earlier in his career means nothing in this context).

To help correct some of the speculation above: Michael Noble is indeed still very much involved with Bocuse d'Or. As you can read here, he was both a Canadian judge and manager of Team Canada. He is also the chairman of the Bocuse d'Or Canada Committee of the Canadian Federation of Chefs and Cooks. One of his protoges, Chris Mills, who is the development chef for Joeys, was Team Canada's BD representative in 2001.

Further, I would say that Chris does enjoy an impecable "track record of culinary excellence" (Diva et al) and that in fact it does mean a great deal in this context. The evening at Beard House was a great success.

But then, why wouldn't it have been?


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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From what I am assuming is their own or a related web-site, exec chef Chris Mills and a "team" of 19 others from various outlets of Joey's

http://joey.gastown.radiant.net/aboutus/awards

OK I looked at their web site and I still don't see the point. They could not possibly have served the food that's on their menus therefore they must have served food that is not related to what they actually cook. So what was the point? Did they want to show that even though the food on the menu is casual and uses crappy ingredients that they really do know how to cook and use good ingredients but choose not to? Or does Chris Mills want to prove that he just works there for the money and is secretly embarrassed about the food? What a huge waste of time and money for the chain, and for the sponsors. What happens if those people from New York come to Vancouver and eat in a Joey's restaurant? They will be very unpleasantly surprised I would guess.

I disagree with all of your suppositions with the exception of the first one.


from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Hubby and I had dinner this evening at Earls. We were partway through eating our appetizers when our entrees arrived. The person (not our server) bringing our entrees did not seem to acknowledge that we were not yet ready for the next course and 'deposited' our entrees onto our table. Once we finished our appetizers, we stacked the dirty appy plates in the centre of our table and slid over our main course plates. Our dirty appy plates sat on our table until we were about halfway through our entrees.

I tend to not complain to anyone when I have a bad experience, choosing to 'vote' with my feet by not returning. This evening when our server brought us the bill, I decided I would bravely and politely voice my concern regarding the timing of the entrees. She kindly explained that two parts of the kitchen are separate (appetizer and entree area) and sometimes if the appetizer section gets backed up, the entree section will not know this is the case, resulting in overlap and basically there was nothing that could be done. She also explained that the entree area of the kitchen wants the plates taken out as soon as possible so that they go out hot. I 'countered' with the fact that while the entree plates may be going out hot, if we are not finished with our appetizers, they entree plates will be getting cold at our table while we finish our appetizers.

She offered to comp us dessert but we declined.

My real beef in all of this is "who is responsible for the customer experience". Each area of the kitchen seems to have it own goals in terms of getting their respective components completed, however, it appears they can't bother to coordinate or communicate wrt timing. For $16 and up entrees, I would expect more.


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