Friday, July 29, 2011

Italian Long Table Dining Series at Prima Strada

Last night we had dinner at Prima Strada on Bridge Street - it is walking distance from our home.   We once again had good pizza and good gelato.   A bit more about their pizza at the end.

While we were there we saw this long table set up with place setting - it looked like a long reserved table, I thought nothing more about this.   Turns out this was the table for the Italian Long Table Dining Series.

They hold this event on the last Wednesday and Thursday of the month and focus on the cooking of one region of Italy.    Everyone sits at one table and gets the same menu and wine pairings.   This month it was Campania.   On August 24th and 25th the region will be Sicily.

The cost is $50, which given the cost to have a decent meal with wine in this town is normally much higher is a good deal.

I have been thinking about the idea of a communal table and how it would be interesting to have a restaurant in this town have this as a set up for some meals to allow foodies to get to know each other.   With the Italian Long Table Dining Series, we will have a chance to try out regional food and talk with people who are likely to be just as much into food as we are.

Our intention is to go to one of the dinners soon, though we do not know if we can go in August.

Back to the pizza - they use a flour called Caputo 00 flour from Italy.   Apparently it is seen globally as the best flour to make pizza with.   The big difference seems to be that it is actually not that high in protein, only 11-12% and not 14-15% that most bread flours are.   It seems to be especially important for wood fired ovens.  I do think the dough in their pizzas are not like any others I have had, so there may be something to this flour.  

Pizzeria Prima Strada (Bridge St.) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


As I look out over my meager garden this year, I think back to when I picked fruit in the Okanagan as a lone anglo youth.   I talked a lot with the farmer to ask him about farming, especially the economics.   His answers made me really wonder why anyone would farm if there are so many risks and few realistic chances to make any money.   This year I have to wonder how the farmers in this region are managing.

This year everything is late, very late.    In my garden I was able to harvest my first zucchini yesterday, but it was not enough to for a meal - I picked them very small and took all of them I could find.

Most farmers would expect to be well in the deep of the harvest season, but that is simply not the case this year.   I look at the pumpkin field next to Michell's in Central Saanich and I am astonished to see how small the plants are, is there time for the fruit to set and ripen?

I can not imagine that there have been enough heat degree days to have any real start on grape production.   The east coast of Vancouver Island is by nature on the border of being able to ripen grapes for wine, but this year I am not sure that the grapes will harvestable if the weather does not dramatically improve this fall.

I know about bit about the climatic conditions for viticulture in BC because I worked on a project some years back to investigate the grape growing potential of Lillooet and Lytton.   At the time I was astonished to see how marginal the conditions were on the coast for grapes.   I was even more astonished when I visited some of the growers on the coast and found out they cropped at about 1.2 tonnes per acre, this is less than one third of what growers crop at in the Okanagan and under one quarter of Washington State and Oregon.

The only way grapes will ripen this year is if there is almost no crop on the plants which will mean a very low production of wine unless grapes are brought in from the Okanagan.

You can see Duncan, on the far end,
 is already much lower in degree days

This is what wine country in BC should look like

I have no idea how people growing field tomatoes will manage to harvest anything this year.  

Farmers are optimists, you could not farm if you did not believe that everything would work out perfectly.   The horrific weather this year could very likely see an end to many of the new small scale 'hobby' farmers we have seen go into production in this region.   You can only go so long losing money before you have to stop.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Village Restaurant in Sechelt and Moilly's Reach in Gibsons

Last week I was at the 2011 Pacific Jamboree at Camp Byng.

On the one day we went into Sechelt.   Beyond showering at the pool, crucial to me was getting some food from a restaurant.   I walked the main drag and did not see much in town that inspired me.   I ended up decided to try the Village Restaurant.   This was a good decision.

View Larger Map
The burgers are really, really worth it.   They form their own patties and you can tell.  The fries were crisp and hot, the gravy was clearly made fresh and not some over salted sludge from some unknown past era.   I had onion rings with my burger and they were perfectly done - not over cooked or greasy as onion rings often are.   The shake was THICK - they asked how thick or thin I wanted it and I went for the cheek sucking thickness.  Ben had a double patty burger and needed to use a knife and fork to finish it.

Not only was this very well down classic diner food, it was cheap.   My meal cost me about as much as I would have spent at a MacDonalds.  Three of us ate here for just over $30.

When I next pass through Sechelt, I will be eating here again.

Village on Urbanspoon

On Friday, after sailing for the first time in ages, we ate at Molly's Reach in Gibsons.   Molly's Reach was for many years the set for the Beachcombers.

In 1977 my parents took us on the Sunshine Coast circle tour and we ended up in Gibsons.   I saw Molly's Reach and in my 11 year old mind I did not think for a second that it would not be open to the public.  I pushed open the front door and walked to find myself on the active set of the show.   I am sure my father could see what I was going to do but his perverse sense of humour meant he let me walk in.

View Larger Map
Molly's Reach is now a restaurant.   It is clearly not a greasy spoon and is aimed at tourists.   Certainly it got us to go in and eat.   The restaurant no longer looks like Molly's Reach on the inside.

I was not really impressed with the food - it was ok but nothing to go out of my way to buy.   One example was the gravy with my fries - it was close to the worst sludge I have been served as a gravy - it has a skin on it that stuck to the fries and salty beyond edilble.   Just the day before I had one of the best gravies on the same coast.

The price was also not cheap.   For six of us I spent close to $100.   This is for lunch with no shakes and nothing special, just burgers and fries all around.

I can not see myself going back to the restaurant.

Molly's Reach on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 8, 2011

Some day I will get used to this climate, right?

Three things I am going to touch on today:

Here we are a week into July and my veggie garden still looks like it is spring time.   Nothing is growing like crazy, not zucchini plants spewing monster green fruits, no tomatoes that have set etc.....

I would take some pics, but that would depress me too much.  

What I have harvested so far:

  • 2 dozen radishes
  • Some micro greens - though here the chickens twice managed to eat all the greens
  • 4 pounds of strawberries
  • A dozen cherry tomatoes

Each of the last several years people have commented in May to July that it is a cool year and we are not getting the growth that we should expect.   Maybe this is normal here and the other is simply wishful thinking?

I hope that things will take off over the next week while I am gone at PJ 2011 on the Sunshine Coast.

Last week someone I have known for a few years asked to see my chicken set up and get my advice on how they could set up.   They live in Esquimalt.

This is the second person this year that I have given advice to on backyard chickens.

I will be gone at the 2011 Provincial Jamboree.   I will be eating a menu that does not excite and will be cooked for me by two 12 year olds and two thirteen year olds.   I suspect I will be eating less than normal while at the same time getting several hours of physical activity each day.   I will be on a Scout Jamboree diet and I may be able to reduce my current weight problem over the week.

Friday, July 1, 2011

O Bistro -

The other night we were supposed to go out to a political event but we were drained and tired and decided to blow it off and go eat somewhere else.

We both wanted a warm and quiet lounge as our ideal.   Nothing was really coming to mind so we thought we would go to the bar side of Vic's Steakhouse, we were there recently and generally happy with out experience.   In going there, I noticed the O Bistro at the Oswego Hotel.

What made me go in?   Honestly, the look of the logo of the restaurant and the front entrance of the hotel.   It was all modern, clean and interesting.   I would have headed right out again if what was inside did not match my expectations.   The place met not only with the expectations set by the images from outside, but it was exactly what we wanted.

The O Bistro is a small lounge/restaurant that has a clean, warm and modern feel to it.   I could see hanging out here for an evening of drinks and snacks with some friends.

The menu is short, but better short and good than long and mediocre.   There is another problem with the menu, the prices are too low.   They are low enough that it made me question the food quality and portion sizes that I would get.   Please do not let their criminally low prices dissuade you from eating here.

We ordered the humus and pita to start, $4 for what looked like about a cup of humus and a stack of nicely grilled pita bread.   The humus was light and very lemony and grilling the pita gave it that nice just about charred flavour on the outside of the bread.   Well done and a screaming deal.

I looked at the mains and the prices looked like ones I would expect to pay for starters.   Almost everything was $10 to $12.   I really wondered about this but I could see from the table next to us that the portions were decent sized.

I had a prawn dish - they sat on what I think was a mix of fennel and cabbage and topped with a small green salad.   The bowl was filled with an almost light borscht like broth.   The seven prawns were very well cooked, though I can not remember the how they were cooked other than they were perfectly done and succulent enough that I was sucking everything I could out of the tail shell.   Overall it looked like a upscale fine dining dish and it delivered.

Sheila has the spinach gnocchi for $12.   She got a very substantial bowl which allowed me to steal a few to try them.   The gnocchi were light but had a bit of a bite.   What I really liked is that they were fried in butter at the end.

We finished with desert.   This was the most amazing deal of all.   For $5 we got a cheesecake caramel that looked like it belonged in the cover on the cover of a food magazine.    The cheesecake was served as one would serve creme caramel.   There was this wonderful tuile sticking out of the top it.   The plate had a very light clear caramel like sauce with small dots of I think raspberry coulis in it.  

We told the waitress that the meal was wildly under priced and she agreed.   We also told her it was great food.   In the end she even gave us 20% off the food.   Our total food bill was just around $25.  Our booze bill was $13.

The food, atmosphere and price make this a place I have every intention of going back to on a regular basis.

O Bistro on Urbanspoon