• Cocktails
  • Jul28

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    Joe Fortes Brunch-4

    With a wide grin from Maitre d’ Frenchy at the Joe Fortes door, we knew we’d be well taken care of on our recent outing to one of Vancouver’s best-loved steak and seafood restaurants.

    Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House turns 30 next year, its name taken from Seraphin “Joe” Fortes, a Barbados-born sailor who arrived here in 1885 and became a popular figure in our city’s early culture. A competitive swimmer, Joe was appointed the city’s first official lifeguard at the turn of the 20th century, after teaching so many kids at the beach to swim. Before becoming a lifeguard, Joe was a bartender.

    The historical theme continues throughout the restaurant, with photos of celebrities who’ve dined here gracing the second floor walls, including a special section devoted to Joe.

    Joe Fortes Brunch-3

    Once seated, we’re given a tall menu filled with seafood, steak, pasta, and salad offerings, together with an equally-impressive, award-winning wine list, boasting over 300 wines.

    Choose your wine by reds, whites, rosés, interesting whites, interesting reds, Rieslings, champagnes & sparklings, Gewürtztraminers, Pinot & Gamay noirs, Merlot and blends, Italian reds, Zinfandels, Shiraz, Syrah & Rhône varietals, and Cabernet: Sauvignon, Franc & Blends. The whopping, double-sided wine menu will leave you spoiled for choice!

    As well as wines, there are about two dozen malt whiskey sorts and classic cocktails to choose from.

    From the oyster bar

    A meal here wouldn’t be complete without a selection of oysters on the half shell—during Joe’s daily Appy Hour (4-6 pm), between 100 and 150 dozen oysters are shucked. We particularly enjoyed our selection of Shigoku (Washington State), Kusshi, and Beach (both Read Island) oysters, served with a trio of sauces. A special version of Joe’s ponzu sauce is slightly-spicy on the palate, containing a mix of lemon juice, soy sauce, fresh ginger, and a little Tabasco.

    Lagunitas IPA, Petaluma, California

    Our waiter brought over Joe’s famous lobster-infused oil and basalmic vinegar, drizzled onto a plate for dipping into warm bread; this marries well with a glass of Petaluma, CA-brewed Lagunitas IPA, its very hoppy taste cutting right into the lobster oil, for a rich-to-bitter palate toss.

    Joe Fortes also uses the Vivreau water system, something I discovered three years ago at the company’s opening event in town. Vivreau is a sustainable water bottle solution that’s made the rounds globally, eliminating the need for bottled water consumption in both restaurants and businesses.

    We ordered a half bottle ($43.50) of Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc for the table to go with both our seafood entrées.

    Joe’s features a Sunday-to-Thursday three-course dinner for $38, a Creation of the Day (market price), and Trio of Fresh Fish ($41.95), alongside steak and chops, classics such as halibut and chips, and a seafood tower on ice (priced per tier), piled high with Atlantic lobster, crab, local oysters, poached jumbo prawns, scallop ceviche, smoked local Albacore tuna, clams, and mussels.

    Coho salmon topped with chopped lobster and smoked heirloom tomatoes, greens, lemon beurre blanc

    I chose Chef Wayne Sych’s creation of the day: Coho salmon topped with chopped lobster, smoked heirloom tomatoes, carrots, fresh greens, and lemon beurre blanc. The salmon was perfectly cooked and seasoned, made extra decadent with the chopped lobster and smoked tomatoes. Finely chopped zucchini and a few micro greens added nice texture to the flaky fish, while a squeeze of lemon elevated the sauce’s flavours.

    Trio of fresh fish: prawns, Sockeye salmon, halibut, served with pico de gallo, beurre blanc

    My husband ordered the trio of fresh fish (on our visit: 3 oz. each of halibut and Sockeye salmon, with two jumbo prawns), great for seafood lovers who’d like to try a little of everything. While two of the three were paired with fresh greens, he particularly liked the mashed potato texture/seasoning choice, combined with those two large and succulent prawns.

    The Sauvignon blanc was a great partner for both seafood dishes.

    I’d like to particularly mention the service: The waitstaff anticipate needs; water was poured, extra glassware brought to our table before we asked—it was as if Johnny could read our minds!

    Tahitian vanilla crème brûlée, tiramisu, molten center chocolate cake, brandied cherries, biscotti, vanilla gelato

    As we’ve only had tiramisu here in the past, we decided to indulge our sweet tooth and order the Dessert Trio ($16.95) showcasing some of pastry chef Candace Mui’s delightful concoctions: Tahitian vanilla crème brûlée, tiramisu, molten center chocolate cake, brandied cherries, biscotti, and vanilla gelato, beautifully presented for us on a large, flat white dish.

    Joe Fortes Tahitian vanilla crème brûlée, biscotti
    [Tahitian vanilla crème brûlée with homemade biscotti]

    The light, creamy brûlée with its hard-caramel top was divine, offering a fantastic contrast to its rich chocolate neighbour. The tiramisu portion was also a treat, enough to satisfy two people. A couple of gelato balls on the side are perfect for dipping the biscotti or tiramisu finger into—or that gorgeous molten chocolate cake. Between the tastes and the presentation, we were very happy to have saved just a wee bit of room to savour this!

    In between bites, I enjoyed a cup of decaf Americano while my husband sipped a 2 oz. glass of Penfolds’ Grandfather Tawny Port ($14), with its lovely caramel aroma. This is one of 10 ports served at Joe Fortes; there are also vintage, late-bottle vintage, and a BC fortified port from Unsworth Vineyards on the menu.

    Joe Fortes Brunch-2

    Dessert wines, dessert drinks, and hot speciality coffees round out the post-entrée offerings.

    We’d arrived at 5:30 for early dinner, with the bar packed for Appy Hour; an hour later, the entire dining room on both levels was filled with a wide range of clientele, from locals to cruise-ship tourists. I finally noticed (and heard) the piano player, tucked into the landing of a large curved staircase between the two levels.

    The restaurant is a well-oiled machine and takes a dedicated staff to run successfully night after night (and in the daytime too, as they’re open for lunch and weekend brunch).

    Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House is located at 777 Thurlow Street in Vancouver. Our meal was compliments of Joe Fortes, for the purpose of experiencing their current menu.

  • Jul23

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    Chambar Restaurant Preview-2

    Last Friday, media were invited to check out the nearly-completed and expanded Chambar Restaurant, located next to the current Beatty Street location in Crosstown Vancouver.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-5

    A city favourite for years, Chambar is three-star-Michelin-trained chef Nico and wife Karri Schuermans’ vision of Belgian and North African cuisine melded into a diverse menu of appetizers, moules frites, plus lamb, duck, venison, and sustainably-caught seafood dishes.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-3

    Karri will oversee the new space’s design, with blood red booths, Italian-designed chairs, and a rotating art collection on the walls. The 1912 heritage elements have been preserved and complement the brick and wood walls. Resin-covered table tops with walnut inlays, plus a custom-designed communal table that can seat up to 10 diners will move to the new space.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-12

    The restaurant’s bar will feature prominently towards the front of the establishment. Although covered at present, we’ve been told that it’s inlaid with walnut and tined resin, perfect for enjoying some of Chambar’s award-winning cocktails, wide range of wines, and beers, one brewed just for the restaurant. We found it immensely refreshing on the warm, late afternoon day of our visit.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-10

    A side patio will seat 50 diners away from the street. There’ll be enough space to accommodate 270 diners between the restaurant’s two levels. I personally can’t wait to see what the lighting will look like together with all the thoughtful touches when opening day arrives.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-4
    [A much larger kitchen downstairs]

    Chambar is also proud of their extensive wine collection, including eight wines by the glass, 50 international whites, 75 international reds, 25 BC wines, and 15 sparkling wines.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-6
    [Summer sippers between the construction]

    The restaurant’s name is derived from a loosely translated French saying, “When the teacher leaves the room, all the kids go crazy”. In other words, enjoy a fun night on the town here with friends, good food, and drink. In addition to dinner, Chambar will also start offering breakfast, lunch, brunch, and a late-night tapas menu.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-8

    As we walked through the main floor, downstairs kitchen, and side rooms, we kept imagining the finished product through the dust and machinery. An outside rooftop deck with gorgeous city views in the adjacent building is also available for booking special dinners and events.

    Chambar Restaurant Preview-7 Chambar Restaurant Preview-9

    Chambar as we know it will close in two weeks, with the larger space opening shortly thereafter at 568 Beatty Street in Vancouver.

  • Jul7


    Giovane Cafe

    Fairmont Pacific Rim’s Giovane Café now features Stumptown Coffee’s Cold Brew on tap. The Portland-headquartered coffee company’s become a favourite bean roaster and destination café chain for North Americans, using direct-trade sourcing and selling a sustainable coffee product line.

    Stumptown Cold Brew Coffee

    The nitro-infused cold brew is a crafted coffee recipe of steeped, fresh roasted beans creating a complex, smooth and sweet, full-bodied brew with a chocolate finish.

    I had the chance to sample a glass recently at Giovane together with a gourmet salad and Genovese panini with roasted turkey, pear, fontina, proscuitto, arugula, and pesto (a divine combination with the large pearl couscous, tomato, cucumber, and mint salad). It’s lovely, even before adding milk. Each serving is topped with a layer of natural, creamy foam.
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  • Jun20

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    Earl's Summer Kick-off-2

    Last night saw the launch of Earl’s Restaurants’ summer kick-off, to celebrate longer days, patio weather, and a summer menu.

    Earl's Summer Kick-off-1 Earl's Summer Kick-off-8

    A fun new campaign with a ‘It’s on a school night’ theme includes a menu with salads, cedar-planked salmon, crispy Thai prawns, and a Sunday through Thursday special with $5 tacos, nachos, tequilas, margaritas, and Coronas. These deals will last through September 9.

    Earl's Los Cabos chicken tacos
    [Earl's Los Cabos chicken tacos]

    In addition, each day has its own food and drink specials (an excellent Tuesday deal: 12 oz. Driftwood IPA sleeves for $3!).

    Alongside tried-and-true favourites BBQ back ribs, burgers, and a wealth of salads, soups, and sharing plates, comes a very tasty, light prawn and quinoa salad, made festive with avocado, feta cheese, strawberries, candied pecans, in a citrus honey vinaigrette (perfectly paired with a crisp glass of white wine or a sangria).

    Earl's Prawn + Quinoa salad
    [Earl's Prawn + quinoa salad]

    The salad was a great combination of tastes, with the quinoa and crumbled feta so well paired in the citrus honey vinaigrette that I’m hoping to replicate it at home. Los Cabos chicken tacos (served three to an order) are served on soft corn tortillas with Valentina hot sauce.

    Earl's BBQ pork buns
    [Earl's BBQ pork buns]

    Another discovery was the BBQ pork buns, created to look like mini tacos, dressed in a flavourful, not-too-spicy hoisin sauce, garnished with cilantro and roasted peanuts. So tasty!
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  • May28

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    EatDrinkPlay banner 

    On Thursday, June 19, the Firehall Arts Centre will present its annual fundraiser EAT.DRINK.PLAY., an unforgettable evening celebrating locally-produced food, drink, and performance. Proceeds will help the Firehall continue to bring cutting-edge theatre and dance to Vancouver.

    The event will highlight a selection of food from Gastown and Railtown’s burgeoning food scene graciously provided by 11 local restaurants – Lily Mae’s, Peckinpah, Cadeaux Bakery, The Irish Heather, Salt Tasting Room, Bitter, Hogan’s Alley Cafe, Deacon’s Corner, Mahoney & Sons, Elephant and Castle, and Scent of a Sandwich. Tastings of microbrewery Parallel 49’s seasonal offerings will be available, plus vodka and crème de cassis from Odd Society Spirits, a newly opened small-batch craft distillery in the heart of East Vancouver.
    This celebration of all things local will also feature a ‘taster flight’ of live theatre, dance, and music performed around the Firehall space, including an acoustic performance by rising theatre star and three-time Jessie Award nominee Kayvon Kelly (Chelsea Hotel) and a performance by Proud star Emmelia Gordon.
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  • Apr2


    MARKET Sashimi with chipoltle aioli, crispy Japanese rice, honey soya glaze

    Rare Finds is an annual fundraising cocktail party to benefit the Rare Disease Foundation. This year’s fifth annual event will again be held at VanDusen Botanical Garden, hosting many of Vancouver’s top chefs, mixologists, and pastry artists in a naturally beautiful setting.

    The popular event includes both a silent and live auction (featuring many rare items), delicious bites, and live entertainment by DJ Girls on Wax. I attended in 2012—it was a fabulous night on the town. Here’s a photo set from that memorable evening as well.

    little girl

    The Rare Disease Foundation is committed to growing and developing a community that provides a new approach for rare disease research and care. The organization provides funding to inspired clinicians and scientists for their patient-focused projects. All proceeds are distributed within three weeks of the event for immediate impact.
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  • Mar19


    Secrets Silversands Resort-34

    Looking at numerous websites, Trip Advisor reviews, and tips from friends, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to picking a travel destination and resort. My husband and I wanted to visit the Riviera Maya this month, in a location away from the thumping of Cancun or Playa del Carmen. What we found was Puerto Morelos, a smaller town smack in between the two, yet close enough to get to the Mayan ruins while enjoying the warm, tropical breezes of the Caribbean.

    Secrets Silversands Resort-29

    After much research, we booked a week at Secrets Silversands Resort, one of the newest in the Secrets resort chain. Owned by AMResorts, Secrets (together with Breathless) is the adults all-inclusive collection of luxury destinations, with Sunscape, Now, Dreams, and Zoëtry all falling under its umbrella organization.

    Secrets Silversands Resort-22

    We were ready to unwind at the beach, and this stunning resort was just what we needed. Upon arrival at Silversands, we were immediately checked into their Preferred Club, giving us extra perks such as use of the lounge (where appetizers and desserts were served throughout the day), upgraded mini-bar and bath amenities, concierge services, and larger oceanfront rooms.

    Secrets Silversands Resort-18

    The AAA Four Diamond resort aims to keep things green by asking you to reuse towels and to place a sign on the bed only if sheets need to be changed during your stay. We would have also liked a recycle bin in our room for newspaper and empty bottles, but we can only assume that both were tossed properly by housekeeping.
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  • Feb6

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    Fairmont Hotel Vancouver75 Launch-1

    How does an iconic hotel such as the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver celebrate a milestone birthday? With a $12 million restoration and the opening of a pop-up roof lounge and restaurant!

    Fairmont Hotel Vancouver75 Launch-4 Fairmont Hotel Vancouver75 Launch-2

    The grand old dame’s 15th-floor lounge made its debut in 1939, soon becoming the city’s go-to place for fancy dining and dancing high above the city. Dal Richards and his 11-piece band made their name here back in 1940, when management booked a six-week gig for them that lasted 25 years. CBC later used the rooftop venue as a broadcasting space to host a weekly show.
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  • Dec12

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    Chewies Blackened Steelhead
    [Chewies Blackened Steelhead]

    How do you take your bivalves? Steamed, stewed, or nude? That’s the question Chewies Steam & Oyster Bar poses when you enter their world of fabulous oysters and Southern-inspired cuisine.

    Chewies Coal Harbour-9

    Newly-minted Chewies Coal Harbour has been open for nearly a month now, and last night was a chance for both media and local food-lovers to get their hands (and stomachs) on some of their menu items.
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  • Dec6

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    Yaletown Distilling Launch-7

    “We celebrate Repeal Day because December 5th marks a return to the rich traditions of craft fermentation and distillation, the legitimacy of the bartender as a contributor to the culinary arts, and the responsible enjoyment of alcohol as a sacred social custom.”

    Yaletown Distilling Launch-1

    And what better way to celebrate than with a distillery opening right in the heart of Yaletown? Last night, Yaletown Distilling Company opened its doors for a media preview ahead of a public tasting of their farm-to-bottle gin and vodka, in a well-lit, beautifully designed space adjacent to Yaletown Brewing Company.

    Tasting glasses

    This is the Mark James Group’s latest venture, bringing craft spirit production to Vancouver while utilizing 100% BC ingredients. Using BC grain offers a huge tax incentive, explained head brewmaster and distiller Iain Hill.
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  • Dec2

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    The Roof at Black + Blue Brunch-7

    Glowbal Group’s The Roof at Black + Blue has put together an amazing selection of mouth-watering brunch dishes on offer at their heated, colourful downtown Vancouver roof space.

    The Roof at Black + Blue Brunch-1 The Roof at Black + Blue Brunch-11 The Roof at Black + Blue Brunch-12

    Restaurateur of the the Year/Glowbal Group owner Emad Yacoub will soon be headed to Toronto, where he’ll receive the coveted annual award.
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  • Nov20

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    Monster Party at Cornucopia-1
    [Cornucopia Revolutions Party presented by Monster Energy at Bearfoot Bistro]

    Whistler Cornucopia was extended to an 11-day festival this year. Alongside food and wine dinners came morning meditation and yoga sessions as well as diet, lifestyle, and wellness-related seminars.

    I selected three events for variety: Nourish: Healing Foods, All About Grapes in Cocktails, and Matching Wine with Pizza.
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  • Nov6

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    Craft Beer Market Opening-20

    CRAFT Beer Market – with its high ceilings, beautiful lighting fixtures, and 140 tap lines – opened its doors earlier this week for invited guests and media.

    Craft Beer Market Opening-5

    It all started with a vision from owner PJ L’Heureux. At the young age of 18, much to his parent’s dismay, he started to brew beer at home, quickly discovering that making beer was not his forte, but serving it was. A trip to Portland combined with a passion for fresh local food brought the CRAFT concept to Vancouver.
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  • Oct30

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    PiDGiN's Rice crackers, sweet soy anchovies
    [PiDGiN's Rice crackers, sweet soy anchovies]

    Earlier this week, I was invited to sample PiDGiN’s award-winning Chef Makoto Ono’s East Meets West-inspired cuisine. Not only was this a fine opportunity to enjoy food and drink with industry friends old and new, but also to celebrate Ono’s respectable fifth place spot in enRoute’s 2013 Best New Canadian Restaurants issue.
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  • Oct1

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    Torta di zuccha
    [Torta di zuccha with zucchini and ricotta]

    I’ve always found Vancouver’s Opus Hotel to be on the trending edge of restaurant concept and design. From 100 Days to 100 Nights to Cento Notti, it appears that La Pentola Della Quercia has found a permanent base in the Yaletown dining district, next to one of the loveliest hotels in the city.

    Barrel-Aged Vieux Carré: Courvoisier VS, rye whisky, Benedictine, mellowed in charred oak
    [Barrel-Aged Vieux Carré: Courvoisier VS, rye whisky, Benedictine, mellowed in charred oak]

    To get a real flavour of La Pentola, we recently sat down to enjoy their Famiglia Supper Series, offered the last Sunday of each month by Chef Lucais Syme. Each month, the theme changes. From 6 pm onwards, each table becomes filled with courses for friends, family, and groups to share, depending on who you’re dining with. 10 courses will make their way to your table, so arrive hungry!
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