Kakao Chocolate & Coffee Cafe 415 Westlake Ave N Seattle, WA (206) 833-5467
I admit freely to having some cravings for sweet stuff and giving in. The times are few and far between though, so thankfully I’m not on a permanent sugar high like some people I know who guzzle litres of pop a day or never are without a sugary doughnut with their morning coffee, a candy bar at their work desk, or pass on a daily dessert at dinner time. When I do crave something with chocolate as its primary ingredient, its often a dark variety bar.
Earlier in August, I was exposed to a variety of sample product from a Vancouver-based XOXOLAT ahead of a private function. The use and dedication to serving single origin chocolates struck a chord with me, as it reminded me of what a segment of the coffee scene is like with its strive to procure ingredients from reputable and solo operations.
While on this recent trip to Seattle, we came upon the Kakao Chocolate & Coffee Cafe, located right by the Tesla showroom and an outpost of Serious Pie. A very large and open concept space, outfitted with a mishmash of comfortable looking and more stiffer wooden furniture. Big bright windows and high ceilings, led me to think this used to be some kind of industrial or commercial storage facility before it was transformed to the people-friendly business it is today. While primarily concentrated on the chocolate realm, they do give ample attention to their coffee beans as well for their espresso (provided by Seattle roaster Herkimer Coffee) and the loose leaf tea on the menu is from Miro Tea.
Laleh Bakery 130 W15th St North Vancouver, BC (604) 986-6364
North Vancouver’s Laleh Bakery specializes in Persian cookies that you serve to accompany traditional afternoon tea. These melt-in-your-mouth treats pair well with tea drinking. They come in a variety of textures that complement the ritual – often slightly dry, flakey, and grainy – with crunchy punctuation provided by walnuts, or pistachios. Some are sticky sweet, or are covered in powdered sugar.
Butter and semolina lend their richness, and the subtle flavour of cardamon or rosewater permeate many of these confections. Date and fig jams are used as spreads sandwiched between cookie rounds or as fillings. Preserves such as apricot, or berry jam serve to fill thumbprint indentations.
Stumptown Coffee 616 E Pine Street Seattle, WA (206) 324-6755
The Capital Hill area of the Emerald City is an intriguing one to go for a stroll around in. Bars, live music venues, theatre houses, fashion boutiques, bookstores and coffeehouses abound. I think you could spend a full day up and down the main streets of this area and get in a complete day of good eats and entertainment. One of the most popular places to unwind and get a solid cup of coffee is Stumptown‘s location on the steeply inclined East Pine Street.
My only previous experience with their coffee was when I picked up some of their roasted beans in Vancouver’s Chinatown district. So I was keen on actually going to one of their two cafes in this part of Seattle. With limited seating outside and big glass windows leading inside, it was quite inviting from the sidewalk when you approach it. Stepping inside, you are in direct line of sight with the main service counter.
Go Fish Ocean Emporium 1505 W 1st Avenue Vancouver, BC (604) 730-5040
“Thirty minute wait for anything fried and ten minutes for the grilled items”. That’s what was being hollered out to the still not fully depleted lineup as the last business hour of the day approached this fine sunny weekend day. With hungry bellies, our rat pack of five quickly huddled and decided we’d opt for the healthier and quicker grilled menu choices, and that was by no means a default as these creations as you’ll see here did not disappoint or a downgrade to the more popular deep fried dishes like their fish ‘n chips.
In reality, the wait was indeed longer than advertised, but I assumed their time clock began once they could actually begin cooking your order, and not from the point of time when the order was actually received and paid for at the til. But with the nearby bench seating providing a view like this, the clock moving slowly isn’t all bad…
88 Supermarket 4801 Victoria Drive Vancouver, BC
88 Supermarket is one of the many reasons why I feel privileged living in the East Side.
As an avid cook and general enthusiast in all things pertaining food, I’m always on the lookout for great sources for ingredients. When I am cooking Southeast Asian food, I would usually head on over to stock up.
Madras Dosa House 5656 Fraser St Vancouver, BC (604) 327-1233
Recently my daughter told me that her favourite cuisine is South Indian vegetarian…this is after many years of sushi as here top choice when dining out. A couple of years ago, I had taken her to the Vancouver location of Saravanaa Bhavan – a restaurant chain hailing from the city of Chennai that specializes in the cuisine of Tamil Nadu. She was smitten. She always asks if we can dine there whenever we are nearby and she held here birthday party with her friends there recently. (She and a number of her friends are verging on vegetarianism). I am only too happy to oblige her.
Being a carnivore, I find Indian vegetarian food to be the only meatless food that truly satisfies me. Unlike the typical “beans and tofu” vegetarian cuisines endemic to this city, I truly do not miss meat at all when I eat this food. Also, I had traveled through that part of India a couple of decades ago and fell in love with the cuisine and had always wanted to explore it first hand. With impetus, I am now in the midst of exploring this cuisine with my daughter by learning to cook it. I would like her to grow up knowing that vegetarianism can actually be a delicious lifestyle. I have stocked my kitchen with the requisite pantry items – luckily all very easy to find here in Vancouver. I already had a number of great cookbooks (I’m a bit of a cookbook hound), and there is no shortage of websites from which you can learn this cuisine.
Kalvin’s Szechuan 5225 Victoria Dr Vancouver, BC (604) 321-2888
As far as Food Trends go, Pork is an odd duck. After many years (even decades) of virtual banishment from many restaurant menus, this “other white meat” has surged with a vengeance. Pork Belly Anything, Pulled Pork on Anything, and Bacon Anything is all the rage in restaurants from casual breakfast joints, all the way to fine dining establishments. It is getting quite tiresome to be honest. The Chinese diner, insulated and bemused by these strange Western trends, have never shied away from this beautiful meat. Kalvin’s – a relatively unsung Chinese restaurant on the East Side of Vancouver serves two of the finest examples of Pork dishes in town.
Kalvin’s Szechuan, is a Taiwanese-run restaurant that specializes in Sichuan cuisine by way of Taiwan. Taiwan became an incubator for Sichuan-Taiwanese cuisine when the civil war forced the defeated Chinese nationalists to retreat to the island of Taiwan and declare the Republic of China (Taiwan) as a sole governing authority over all of China. The connection to Sichuan (and thus its cuisine) is a primarily symbolic and spiritual one as Sichuan province was the last stronghold of the Republican forces and the last to fall to the Communist troops. Chongqing (in Sichuan province) was also the home base of Chiang Kai-Shek’s Republic for many years. The two dishes examined here, however, are not Sichuan in nature – they both probably originate from other parts of China. We will have a look at the Sichuan inspired dishes here in a later post.
Ayoub’s Dried Fruit and Nuts 1332 Lonsdale Ave North Vancouver, BC
Along Lonsdale in North Vancouver’s Little Iran, is a seemingly non-descript dried fruit and nut shop called Ayoub’s. The green awning and the oddly chosen typography of its brand belie what is inside the store.
Ayoub’s interior is a caricature of opulence – crystal chandeliers, marble, and trimmed out cabinetry adorn the store and its displays. The product, however, is undeniably good albeit pricier than the nearby competition. You can get high quality nuts, dried fruits of all kinds, fruit preserves, halva, loukum (Turkish delight).
Serious Pie 316 Virginia Street Seattle, WA (206) 838-7388
There are definitely folks out there who take their pizza seriously. It’s no joking matter to them. From the in-depth discussions about the best kinds of flour to use, the optimal oven environments and of course the ideal toppings to make the perfect pie, the discussion will never result in everyone agreeing on one definitive pizza as the “best”. At foodosophy, we’ve certainly not been shy about expressing our thoughts and sharing our experiences at various pizzerias around North America as can be seen here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Wow, that was a lot. And not all of them either. 🙂
Now from the Tom Douglas empire comes a boldly named enterprise that would apparently be an apt gathering spot for interesting gourmands willing and able to discuss all things pizza. Serious Pie. Just adore that name. On this visit to Seattle, we had this particular address programmed into our minds but by shear chance, we walked right past the other location in South Lake Union, after checking out the nearby Tesla car showroom. But keeping with our agenda, we hoofed it back to Virginia Street as we weren’t quite hungry yet after our late morning meal back at Toulouse Petit.
Guu With Garlic 1698 Robson Street Vancouver, BC (604) 685-8678
It would seem I’m slowly making my way to checking out all thoseizakaya that I’ve heardabout the past five years or so that I’ve subconsciously been avoiding deliberately since I perhaps harbor some bias in that I will no doubt mentally compare them to all the great ones I’ve been to in Japan. Alas, Guu seems to have won me over as I’ve now been to several of their stations and will perhaps make my rounds to them all one day. This particular visit was the back end of a night out with an old friend visiting Vancouver for a short business trip. In reality in keeping with true Japanese salaryman tradition, we should have reversed the order, but oh well.
Immediately after our hearty meal, I’m surprised we were able to down a short but steady stream of nama beeru. Asahi was the pick on this evening. A visit to an izakaya just wouldn’t be the same without some cold ones, so once again, glancing over the the folks seated at the counter bar with us who were just drinking water just made me shake my head. Its like dressing up to go to the ball, but not engaging in any dancing, I just don’t understand. 🙂
Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge 601 Queen Anne Ave. N. Seattle, WA (206) 432-9069
Booze with breakfast. Sad but true, that was the criteria upon which some research was done as I had a thirsty companion who was riding shotgun on this trip. Trying to get our drink on well before the night game at Safeco Field, this place popped up as the sole option. Surprisingly, it also turned out its a pretty well known joint. Dodging the lineup and delaying our entry into the place with a coffee from down the street, we were able to get a pair of stools at one of the rectangular communal tables – fittingly right in front of the beautifully stocked bar. As it said on the menu, “daytime drinking has never been so dignified, fun and guilt free…”.
There was a special pricing event going on during the hours we were here, so it did knock a few green bills off the total tally. With a section devoted to some more uncommon creations, my dining partner and I chose from that area, skipping past the usual eggs/toast combos, that we might have otherwise chosen. Our picks: the cured pork cheeks confit hash and the smoked salmon and asparagus hash.
Hee Rae Deung Korean Chinese Restaurant #24 435 North Road Coquitlam, BC (604) 939-0649
Normally I’m not one to wait in line. Blame it on impatience or a sense that my time is worth more than waiting for my turn at something. Especially something as mundane as getting something to eat. As a result, you’ll never find me in line at the latest, hippest joint in town despite what all the critics might be spouting on about regarding the place. It might not even be that “cool” of a spot either, just the fact that there is a queue will deter me from stopping and joining the line of lemmings. Are you the same or perhaps different (e.g. more patient)?
The photos from this meal at Hee Rae Deung are actually from a trip there that dates back a few months to early May. I’ve driven by a few times since and just like that first visit, I could clearly see some waiting customers just inside the door, and some even outside on the sidewalk. It kind of baffled me when I walked up to the doors and had to get in behind about six other people for a late dinner meal. Was there something special about this place? Was the food something amazing? Or were the prices incredibly pleasing and could you get fantastic value? All these things swirled in my head as I tried to rationalize what I was seeing…
Sciue Italian Bakery 800 W Pender St Vancouver, BC (604) 602-7263
A spacious and bright space benefiting from the fantastic natural lighting that floods through the large glass walls, Sciue Italian Bakery is perhaps best known for two items. The first being the Pane Romano, described to me as a crispy flat bread/pizza like slice adorned with various Mediterranean-influenced toppings. The other is the Paninoteca, traditional Italian sandwiches. I’ve seen many a public transit rider carrying one of this place’s branded to-go cups of hot or cold liquids as well over the years.
Several types of the Roman-style pizza were laid out on the counter ready-made. I wasn’t sure if they were to be re-heated slightly upon ordering but apparently mine was not. You can essentially dictate how much you want as a serving, asking the server to cut off as small or as large a piece as you desire. Prices were calculated by weight. Despite the seemingly heavy layering of toppings covering the slices I chose, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they did not soak into the base layer, thus keeping the bottom intact.
Kawawa Ramen 4700 Kingsway Burnaby, BC (604) 435-8577
Another of the local Vancouver area bloggers first brought Kawawa Ramen in Metropolis at Metrotown to my attention. I can recall the post about the place next door (under the same Kawawa umbrella) had several hilarious points that are common to his style of writing and its remained one of his classic reviews filled with disappointment about his meal. So much so that whenever he encounters a pathetic food experience, Kawawa becomes a direct reference point in how bad it really is. All this didn’t phase me however from eventually checking it out – perhaps mainly just to join in the hilarity – and check out some of their offerings. So here goes…
The basic ramen. Added the hard boiled egg. Broth was on the thicker side but rather flat in terms of flavor. Not extremely salty, but just completely uninteresting without any depth. I’m not sure of the exact composition of their base broth, but it can’t be something that is getting much love and attention, and a careful building of layers over extended periods of cooking time. The noodles while drowned in the liquid were somewhat clumped together in an awkward mess, making drawing some out to eat slightly difficult. Chalky in taste too and overdone with no bite left in them. If you haven’t gathered by now, I’m not a huge fan.
Japadog (Waterfront Station) 600 W Cordova St Vancouver, BC
Much is already out there about the Japadog phenomenon. Your truly has had his fair share of dogs at some of their outlets, but this one at the Waterfront Station was a first timer. Melding in with the throngs of visiting tourists fresh off the cruise ship and wandering around Gastown was interesting to say the least, and I could do some casual observing of how they interacted with our fair city. A few minutes near the Japadog cart was a key highlight. I’m sure many of them had no clue what was going on or being offered here.
I haven’t bothered to keep up to date with the latest flavor combinations but this #6 on the menu board, the Gokudare, seemed something fresh. I should have investigated further. But alas, I got drawn to the classics. This time the #2, Kurobuta. I love how they have dubbed it the MVP – the Most Valuable Pork. I’m torn if that’s the result of a clever play on words or some odd Engrish creation…