Saturday, January 26, 2013

Island Chef Survival Challenge at Madonna Farm

There is good local foodie stuff on Youtube and a lot of people miss it.  I figure if I post it here a few people will see it.

This is with Dan Huhges of the London Chef  and Chistopher Hammer of the Royal Colwood Golf Course.  They are at Madronna Farm.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Go Island! on Shaw TV South Vancouver Island - Finding the Best Cup of Coffee

They talk with Colin Newell of Coffee Crew, Shane Deveraux of Habit Coffee and Frederick Willeboordse of Frederico's Express.   It is a short piece but worth watching

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Paul's Motor Inn - is this Victoria's best diner?

With all the three older boys gone for the evening and a VERY long work week for Sheila, we decided to go out for dinner on Friday night with Max.   This gives us a number of constraints because Max is only four and half.

We wanted decent burgers with a beer and a restaurant that would be accommodating to a little boy that can be very demanding.   We also did not want to spend a lot of money or go fast food - for some reason here in BC fast food restaurants are not licensed, it would be better to have a beer at MacDonald's than a Coke or shake.  I also had no desire to have go a long way to get dinner or be hassled with parking such as at the Fernwood Inn or Big Wheel Burger.

We ruled out Denny's, the Pantry and ABC Country Restaurant because we have not been impressed with the quality of the food at those places.  The restaurants that made the cut were Montana's, Kelsey's and White Spot.   The three of them are not all that cheap, we would be lucky to end the evening spending less than $60.  We decided on the White Spot on Douglas, our experience there had been good in the past though nothing really out of the ordinary.

As we got to the restaurant parking lot I suddenly realized there was Paul's Motor Inn across the street.  It never jumps out in my mind when we are thinking of a place to go, but I had a coffee meeting with someone there about six months ago and I liked the atmosphere and the burger I had for lunch.   I was willing to go back.   It also worked for Sheila because she was looking for the sort of place that would feature in Guy Fieri's show Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.

This place has the classic booths that are right angles to the aisle the waitress walks around the restaurant in - really old school.   The place has not changed much over 55 years since it opened, but the food has changed, it is much better than one would expect from a 1960s motel diner.  It has the cred that places like Floyd's and Spoons want for their places, this is the real deal, this is a real diner.

On Friday night they had three specials on:

  • $11.00 Pork Tenderloin Sandwich - the tenderloin on ciabatta with apple chutney, fontina cheese, lettuce and tomatoes served with choice of side
  • $13.00 Paul's Deluxe Bacon and Cheese Burger with fries and a local beer.
  • $10.00 Rustic Bread Salad - greens topped with a herbed vinaigrette  grape tomatoes, baby mozzarella, focaccia croutons, olives, red onion and parmaesan cheese

With the decent sized portions they serve, these specials are real deals.   I wrote them down how they had them up on the board because they clearly are thinking about good quality ingredients when they make the food.  I saw the bowl of the salad, it was a meal.

We both had the burger special.   Our burgers were clearly hand formed in the kitchen and not something premade they had brought in.  The bacon was generous and well cooked.   The fries were not from a large Sysco bag of frozen fries.   I had gravy with the fries, the waitress asked "Turkey or beef?"   They make their own in house gravy, not brown powder in a bag.

Max had the kid's cheese burger and it was a portion larger than he could eat.   His kid's meal was about the same was would pay at White Spot or Montana's but it offered more food.   The ice cream was a generous scoop of strawberry.  In general it is a very good restaurant for kids.

Max got a better page to colour than most places and better crayons than White Spot.  Most places try to offer their kid's colour page/menu/place mat that is intended to work from age 2 to 12 and really does not work for anyone.  Paul's offers just a good page to colour, something even an ADHD adult would enjoy while waiting for their food  On a side note, if the White Spot Pirate Pak was still like it has been when I was a kid, it would be a good reason to go there with a small boy, but these days there there is no interaction left with the Pirate Pak.

The waitress was one more reason I was impressed with this place, she was attentive and pleasant to talk with.  She also took pride in her restaurant.  She also knew her regulars and greeted them.

Our decision to ditch White Spot for Paul's was a good one.   We also managed to only spend $37 for the meal with the tip and HST - they seem to include HST in their prices.

Can I do better at home?  Maybe but not much better and certainly for the price it is a deal.   Making decent fries at home is a pain and rarely to I have gravy for the fries because that is one thing too many to manage for a burger and fries dinner at home.  

We will be going back not only because of the good burgers, but also to try the rest of the menu - it is four pages of diner classics with modern twists.  You have your steak sandwich, turkey pot pie, turkey dinner with all the trimmings, baby beef liver, Reuben, Clubhouse and mushroom meatloaf together with things like the falafel burger, fiesta sticks (think a deep fried quesadilla) and a Thai wrap.

Paul's Founder Paul Arsens with Bob Hope in the Dominion Hotel
The History of Paul's from the website:

Paul Arsens was a true trendsetter in the restaurant and hotel industry in Victoria. The Motor Inn started with a family style restaurant named, you guessed it - Paul’s Restaurant in 1958. This was just one of many businesses this Ladysmith entrepreneur opened in Victoria. Shortly after the success of the restaurant, Paul and his wife Artie, decided that they would try their hand at a motor inn. So they set about building Paul’s Motor Inn with 78 rooms that would be attached to Paul’s Restaurant.

1956 ground breaking for the restaurant
Paul was always up for doing something different and humourous - at times he would have his billboard advertising hung upside down or sideways to attract more attention. He once got international attention in the Boston Globe and New York Times by having restaurant guests decide what price they would pay for dinner, and even went so far as to have them ring in their own bills and make their own change!

No wonder we are such a unique and fun loving group.

Pauls Motor Inn on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Victoria is the Single Malt Capital of Canada

This weekend sees the 8th annual Whisky Festival in Victoria and once again it sold out early.  It is one of the reasons Victoria is the single malt capital of Canada.   Another example here in town is the Officers Mess of the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary's) has a single malt selection that is possible the best in North America and I suspect one of the top ones in the world

This one of the food and drink events in this city that I think is more interesting than most because it is not something done everywhere by every location.   Wine tastings are dime a dozen but whisky tastings are not at all that common which is why the Whisky Festival is such a great event, the biggest problem is that the tickets sell out so early - I missed them again this year.

Tonight is Jim Murray giving a talk - Jim is the author of the Whisky Bible.  I really wish I could to the event tonight but there were only 90 tickets to the event and they sold out LONG ago.

I really need to get my act together for 2014, ideally I need to get my brother Nik to come to it with me, we are both whisky fanatics.

In the meantime I should join The International Order of the Companions of The Quaich but the Victoria Chapter is not taking new members, it is full.  There is a Westshore Chapter and Saanich Peninsula Chapter I could join.

A quaich is the traditional Scottish drinking vessel for whisky.

The International Order of the Companions of The Quaich is only in Canada, which is not really surprising given that about 7-8 million Canadians are of Scottish descent and only 5 million in Scotland.   Cape Breton was the last place to have a healthy gaelic language populatin.   The Quaish has 22 chapters of which 3 are in the Greater Victoria area - 1% of the country has 14% of the chapters.   Victoria really is the single malr whisky capital of Canada

Monday, January 7, 2013

Why Classico tomato sauces are such a good deal

The 750ml jars of Classico tomato sauces are also canning jars with a standard opening (70 mm).   This means I get a free canning jar with each jar of sauce I buy.   I know a lot of people do not can and this makes no difference to them, but it should because they are not only good for re-using for canning, but they make good storage jars as well.

The 750 ml size of canning jar is not one normally available but I have a more than large enough stock of them because of all the tomato sauce we buy.    It also means that each time I buy the sauce I can reuse the jar and save money on not having to buy more canning jars.

The cost to buy new canning jars is about about $10 to $12 a dozen though this includes a set of lids with rings which is a $4 to $5 value.  The net cost of buying jars is about $0.55 a jar.    So each time I buy Classico tomato sauces I effectively am getting an extra $0.55 value.   It means that the $3.50 typical price for the sauce is really only just under $3 for me because I get the jar.  I not only save money, I save the world some resources.

Most glass jars will end up being recycled but I do not recycle these jars but use them for years to can and store all manner of things.   Re-use is a much better option than recycling because in reality glass is not worth recycling.   The cost to transport and remanufacture the glass makes it a recycled product with a negative value, it in facts uses more energy and resources than to make glass from raw materials.   Glass is well suited for re-use because it can be cleaned so well at home and is moderately durable.

There are no end of products that I buy which if they used lid openings that fit canning jar lids I could re-use.   I am thinking about mustards, relishes, olives and so much more.   The problem is that companies all choose to have products in their own sized jars that can not be re-used.

As an example, we buy various Bick's Relishes in the 375 ml size.   I have re-used as many of these jars as I can to store bits and pieces of hardware and other things, but I have run out of uses for them.  I have to recycle them all now.  If a company were to offer relish in a jar that would fit either the standard or widemouth lids, I would shift my purchases to them.

It is not only for canning that glass jars are good for, but also general storage.  If the jars were a standard 70 mm or 86 mm wide mouth opening I could re-use them for storage such as we do in our pantry which is filled with glass jars from 125 ml to 2 litres in size holding all of our dry goods.  Bernardin sells plastic screw on lids for both the standard and wide mouth sizes, which is much better a fit and cleaner than re-using an old relish jar lid.

I know this is not a big thing but still it is the sort of lack of forethought in our society that means we end up being less thrifty than we should be.    I wish some of the companies out there would pick up on this and point out they have an environmentally sensitive virtue as part of their product.