Gourmet Croissant – Canmore, AB


Gourmet Croissant
101-1205 Bow Valley Tr.
Canmore, AB
(403) 609-4410

I often dream of moving to the mountains, especially to the gorgeous town of Canmore.  I am one of those people who will go out of my way to extend any trip home from Calgary with a jaunt through the Icefields parkway.  Usually it is to take in the serenity of the views, or to make time for a quick hike, but on this particular trip – we made the trip out to Canmore specifically for a Gourmet Croissant.

I first visited this cafe a few years ago while on vacation.  Luckily, we found it early in the week – and made it part of our daily routine while in town.

It has since changed hands, but thankfully there was no noticeable change in quality.  On this particular visit – we noticed a ‘for sale’ sign (best-wishes to the current owners, but my fingers are crossed that it remains the same).  There also seems to be a few other vacancies in the building since our last visit – but we didn’t inquire, assuming the current economy isn’t boding well for tourism worldwide.

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Torarenbo – Richmond, BC


Torarenbo Japanese Restaurant
Richmond Centre, 8191 Park Rd
Richmond, BC
(604) 214-1402

Escaping the madness of people flowing out of the Richmond Oval after an afternoon Olympics competition, and navigating along some very unfamiliar territory looking for someplace quick to eat, we found our way to a place known as Richmond Centre.  Essentially its a strip mall with some limited parking and thus I drove right into one of the reserved (likely for staff?) stalls right in front of Torarenbo.  Rules be damned, I was hungry.

With these random, shotgun approach dining adventures, I never know what I’m going to get.  The partly covered window coverings further created a shroud of  mystery about this place as I could not really see inside and know if in fact there was anyone eating inside.  Alas, once I got through the front door on the side, I did see some people having meals and a few empty tables.  After being asked if I had reservations (“for a place like this and on a weekday?”, I thought) and replying “no”, we were given one of the empty spots along the glass wall.  In hindsight, I’d suggest you ask for a table deeper into the restaurant as whenever the front door opened, a brisk gust of cold wind would hit us, as well people who wandered in waiting to be greeted would linger not far from our table.

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Smoqe BBQ – Aptos, CA


Smoqe BBQ
10110 Soquel Dr
Aptos, CA 95003
(831) 662-2227

Sometimes, things are tougher than they seem.

At least, I figure it must be this way, since there are many things that should be pretty easy, and yet, are usually poorly executed. Hamburgers are a perfect example. It doesn’t take much to make a good hamburger. Some nice meat, decent bun, nice fresh condiments and cheese. Yet, so many places fail. It must be more complex than I make it out to be. I feel the same way about BBQ.

In the tiny village of Aptos, just outside Santa Cruz, CA, there already exists a BBQ shop, Aptos BBQ, that serves up good ol fashioned smoked BBQ. Yet, in an embarrassment of riches, on December 9, 2009, a second BBQ shop opened up. Smoqe BBQ.

The Smoqe BBQ philosophy is simple – cooked on 100% wood, dry rubbed and slow smoked for hours. Sounds simply perfect. They pride themselves on their pizza as well – time consuming dough, all organic ingredients, wood fired oven. They’ve taken some very simple dishes, and put in the time and effort to make them as perfect as possible.

When you first walk in, the order counter sits at the front. A fairly simple, yet extensive menu is available. Some fantastic selection of beers on tap, including Leffe, Black Butte Porter, and one of my favorite IPA’s ever, Racer 5 from Bear Republic. You order from the gentleman at the front, who may or may not greet you, grab a number, and take a seat.

In terms of the interior, everything is clean and minimalistic. There is quite a bit of distance between tables – which is usually nice for privacy, but definitely kills a bit of the atmosphere.

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Pizzeria Bianco – Phoenix, AZ


Pizzeria Bianco
623 E Adams St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(602) 258-8300

Before we get into my pizza trip to Phoenix, let me introduce myself.

I’m currently a barista in Alberta and finished a Bachelor of Arts last spring. I’ve been working in the food industry for the last 11 years, but only started appreciating real food when I began working in the specialty coffee industry three-and-a-half years ago. Being a part of the coffee industry has been an excellent opportunity for palate training: there are over 1,000 chemicals in roasted coffee, making for a very complex and diverse drink. No two cups of coffee or two pulls of espresso are the same; the quest for the perfect extraction lead many baristi to lose sleep, become over-caffeinated and obsessive.  One major upside is that any good barista will become concerned about everything she consumes. It is through this process that I really began to care about the food I eat. By no means do I claim to be a culinary expert; I’m just a food-lover, like every other contributor on foodosophy. I care about where my food comes from and hope that the person who prepared it cares even more. I also believe that when someone focuses on one thing and decides to put everything he or she has into it, the results will come through. This is obviously true in the food industry and I intend to experience as much of that passion around the world as I possibly can.

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Lost in the 50’s Drive-in – Burnaby, BC


Lost in the 50’s Drive-in
7741 Edmonds Street
Burnaby, BC
(604) 521-2813

December 2010 re-visit post here

Original post below:

Lost in the 50’s, indeed.  That was my initial thought as I zipped past this lot that housed what appeared to be – in a brief, nonchalant sideways glance out of my moving car – an old school diner.  Without giving it any much thought, I continued on my way out of town and didn’t really think about it again until I came across it this week while out in the area again, now several months later.  In actuality I passed it completely, despite the fact that this time I actually concentrated on locating a visible sign for the business.  As I made my way further northeast and began heading down eastward into New Westminster, I was positive it couldn’t have been this far down Edmonds Street and made a swift u-turn.  As I slowed down to the intersection at Canada Way, this is what I saw (coming from the other direction of course)….

Exactly.  I know what you’re thinking – no more sign!  Or was there one to begin with?  And was this place even open?  A small commercial neon OPEN sign suggested it was still truly in business, and I pulled into the nearby parking lot, albeit from the wrong direction (I think I drove right into the ‘going out’ side of their drive-in lane).  Lucky for me, I was the only customer. 🙂

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Estea Beverage Club – Burnaby, BC


Estea Beverage Club
6401 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC
(604) 438-0186

Finding a good, well balanced menu between food and beverages in a place that specializes more on their liquids is often a problem that I encounter (most izakaya in Japan being the exception).  Here in North America, I experience this phenomena primarily in bars, public houses, as well as in bubble tea shops.  Located virtually across the street from Posh, Burnaby’s Estea Beverage Club has taken on this challenge of jacking up their food options despite being more of a drink-oriented place.  Places like Pearl Fever Tea House come to mind when I think of BBT places that don’t serve any hot food at all.

Alas on this weekday evening when we were seated at one of the four-top tables along the east side of the space, nestled in tightly among many young Asian teenagers making me keenly feel the generation gap, I quickly decided to order one of their fruity slushies sans pearls.  I’m not quite sure if its a trend but lately I’ve discovered that these ice cold drinks taste so much better when I have them inside, rather than when they are scooped up into a plastic to-go cup.  This passionfruit slushie was no exception – sweet and silky smooth but a thicker consistency unlike those terrible liquidy 7-11 Slurpees.  I am quite sure they make this from fresh juices as it had none of that awful powdery consistency hidden inside.  Aside from a pair of horrific head rushes the deep cold of the drink gave me, I really enjoyed it!

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Famoso – Edmonton, AB


Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria
Downtown: 11750 Jasper Ave
Magrath: 14123 – 23 Ave
South Common: 1437 – 99 St
[All outlets visited on separate visits; photos from Magrath location]
Edmonton, AB

Caputo ’00’ flour from Italy, tomatoes from the Campania region of Southern Italy, fior-di-latte mozzarella ,fresh herbs, and 900F – does make for very good pizza.  The ‘Famoso Story’ tells of their training with the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana but like others in Canada (i.e. Pizza Prima Strada), they have not registered with the VPN.  For Famoso, this could possibly be difficult due to the franchise structure of this organization.

Entering any one of their establishments – first find yourself a table.  Peruse the full menu of salads, flatbread, pagniotielli sandwiches, pizza, gelato and tiramisu imported from Italy.  When you’re ready, proceed to the counter and place your order (remember your table number).

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Korean BBQ House – Edmonton, AB


Korean BBQ House
6111 – 28 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta
780-461-5509‎

As I started writing this post, I noticed that fellow Edmonton blogger ‘eating is the hard part’ was also through this restaurant recently (and quite possibly the same day, a few hours apart).  While he took the adventurous route, we stuck with the better known classics.  Our dinner started with the same trio of banchan: savoury sprouts, sweet daikon, and spicy kimchi — all good.

I have a secret obsession with Pajon, a.k.a. Puchingae.  Shokutsu probably has haunting memories of me dragging him through the streets of Seoul into the wee hours of the night, in my desperate hunt for a quality vendor (with only hours before my flight out).  The hunt in Seoul was a success, but this local option was fairly basic – with green onion, squid, egg and a vinegar based dipping sauce.  It is an acceptable base representation, but sadly not great.

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Pad Thai – Edmonton, AB


Pad Thai Cuisine of Thailand
10159 – 82 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
(780) 437-4858

I have driven past this location on Whyte avenue (just east of the train tracks), a countless number of times in my lifetime.  On a quest to try somewhere new – we stopped in for lunch.

There was a solid lunch crowd already seated in this small little restaurant, so we ordered a couple appetizers right away fearing a slow lunch service.  I was proven wrong – as the food quickly started arriving at the table.  Starting off with an order of spring rolls and satay skewers – the skewers win the appetizer battle.  Spring rolls & sauce were good, but not memorable; however the sweet chili sauce with the satay was a definite winner.  Nothing against the peanut sauce, but it looked unlike any peanut sauce I’ve ever seen and tasted like every other peanut sauce I’ve ever had.

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Nando’s Chicken – Burnaby, BC


Nando’s Chicken (Burnaby South location)
5761 Marine Way
Burnaby, BC
(604) 451-0020

It was out in my familiar Kerrisdale neighborhood where I first saw the sign for Nando’s Chicken.  At the time, I was completely unaware that it was a chain of part dine-in, part take-out food enterprises.  From the outside, that particular outlet on W 41st Ave. looked to me like  a regular restaurant and so it wasn’t until I saw it later in a few other places that I began to wonder about its setup.  As an aside, a visiting friend from the UK told me upon seeing the store front that they have these in the UK and he was surprised to see them here as well.

The south Burnaby franchise where I had my first ever Nando’s meal is in a shopping area along Marine Way, which bears a striking similarity to the commercial area known as South Edmonton Common in the provincial capital of Alberta.  Kind of lost amid the big box stores and rows of business, it has set up shop in a smaller part of the strip malls in the area, with a Starbucks (surprise, surprise) nearby as well.  Getting a quick meal while driving in the region, I got caught up in the obvious lunch hour rush of customers, and was surprised to see a decent crowd eating inside as well as those waiting for take away orders.

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Cake-ya – Port Moody, BC


Cake-ya
2415 Clarke Street
Port Moody, BC
(604) 931-9005
Tues – Sat: 11:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm – 5:0
0 pm

December 2010 re-visit post here

Original post below:

This was a far cry from my usual pattern of seeking out new eats.  First off, this mission required an extended drive way out to the community of Port Moody – a quaint little place with an older downtown core near the water but also has some beautiful natural surroundings up in the nearby mountains.  Second, this was a deliberate foodosophy trip focused solely on sweets, with no regular food component as part of the meal.

So what led me to what is self-dubbed as the “City of the Arts”?  A Japanese-specialty dessert shop known as Cake-ya.

Located in an older building next door to a funky used bookstore and down the same path as a soup/sandwich joint, Cake-ya began as a place that made and sold Japanese pudding, otherwise known as Purin.  To describe it simply, I would say it is a smooth, silky custard (with the usual key ingredients such as butter, milk, sugar, eggs, etc.) with a sweet caramel syrupy sauce at the base.  I’ve traditionally enjoyed it as a simple after meal sweet treat, or on its own while drinking a contrasting bitter green tea.

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Pho Ha Noi – San Jose, CA


Pho Ha Noi
1759 Capitol Expressway
San Jose, CA 95121-1561
(408) 239-0888

When discussing the origins of Pho, there are not a lot of facts available. While some think that the origin of Pho (pronounced ‘Fuh’) is from the French dish Pot au Feu, there is very little that historians can agree on. Reconstructing an oral history from something from the turn of the 20th Century can’t be easy. But there are a couple facts that are always agreed upon – Pho was originally beef, there was undoubtedly a French influence on the creation of the dish, and that it originated in the North, somewhere around Ha Noi, and was brought South with locals who migrated when the country was split into two in 1954.

Versions of Pho from the North ended up quite different than versions of the South, which was adapted a lot more for the Southern palate. As i discussed in my post on Pho Y #1, which is just across the road from Pho Ha Noi, versions in the North are much milder and more subtle. Far less anise, clove, black cardamom, and lighter treatments of charred onion and ginger, resulting in a lighter, cleaner broth. Pho Ha Noi serves a true northern style Pho, quite different than the Southern style Pho served at Pho Y #1.

Located at the intersection of Capitol Expressway and Silver Creek Road, it’s another in the large number of Vietnamese noodle shops in the area.
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Pho Y #1 – San Jose, CA


Pho Y #1
1660 Capitol Expressway
San Jose, CA 95121-1839
(408) 274-1769

In travelling through Vietnam from North to South, it was interesting to see the changes in Pho. Starting in the North, the flavour was extremely subtle, delicate, and extremely balanced. Very light accompaniments. Broth had a wonderful clean odor like perfume, and the taste of beef with gentle underlying spice notes.  A delicate balance between sweet, and salty. As you moved further south, things got richer, spicier, beefier. Bolder flavours, stronger presence, the broth was more pronounced. Darker, saltier, more charred ginger, onion, and star anise.

Bringing back this understanding with me to North America, I’ve come to realize how many variations exist in Pho restaurants here, and that your favorite Pho will likely be a matter of personal preference. The key element, balance, exists in both styles, and in an infinite number of small regional differences.

With a very large Vietnamese immigrant population, it is no surprise that San Jose is home to some of the best Vietnamese restaurants in North America. One area with a particularly high concentration of high quality restaurants is the intersection of the Capitol Expressway and Silver Creek Road. One of the oldest, most highly regarded, and best known Pho restaurants exists there – Pho Y#1.

Pho Y#1 is a bit of an oddity. If you’ve been a frequent reader, you know I’ve stumped at length for the past few years about restaurants staying within their means, and trying not to be all things to all people.  Keeping a manageable menu that allows them to maintain high quality standards.
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Redwood Grill – Big Sur, CA


Redwood Grill
47200 Highway 1
Big Sur, CA 93920
(831) 667-2129

I love road trips to no where. They give you an opportunity to see new places, and explore areas that you would otherwise just drive by. Some of my favorite memories come from impromptu trips and destinations unknown.

The California coast line has some of the best driving vistas in the world. The stretch of Highway 1 from San Francisco down to Morro Bay has a great diversity of scenery – oceans, cliffs, redwoods, beaches, dunes, winding canyons, big surf. It also has some fantastic food finds like Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero. On an impromptu trip to Big Sur, I hoped to discover another find in the Redwood Grill.

Located in the Fernwood Resort, the Redwood Grill isnt exactly what I pictured. A restaurant inside a resort conjures images of white linen, stunning vistas, and well attired servers.

Driving through Big Sur, I almost missed it. What I thought would look like a resort actually looks like a motel with attached drinking hole. Pulling a quick u-turn, we slid into the parking lot.

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Hanwoori – Burnaby, BC


Hanwoori Korean Restaurant
5740 Imperial Street
Burnaby, BC
(604) 439-0815

[Thanks to foodosophy reader michelle from Australia, for providing the push to do this particular post!]

Aside from Insadong out in Coquitlam, when it comes to the top of mind ranking for Korean restaurants in the greater Vancouver area, Hanwoori generally gets strong billing in local magazines, online boards and word of mouth.  So it is somewhat surprising that throughout all of my dining out experiences with Korean food, I had not yet visited this popular establishment out in Burnaby.  Until now.

On a late weekday evening, the parking lot in front of the restaurant was completely full, resulting in having to park along the street nearby.  I began to worry if we would be able to get a table, even for just two people, as upon opening the door it was clear it was a busy night.  Even the larger separated rooms were filled to capacity.  Luckily, they had just cleared one lone table and we were led to the area near the cashier’s bar.  It was a brightly lit and homey place, with the buzz of conversation and sizzling meat providing ample atmosphere.

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