What does sous-vide mean and why all the fuss?

Sous-vide machineSous-vide ( /suːˈviːd/; French for “under vacuum”)[1] is a method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath for a long time—72 hours is not unusual—at an accurately determined temperature much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 60 °C or 140 °F. The intention is to cook the item evenly, not overcook the outside while still keeping the inside at the same ‘doneness’ and to keep the food juicier. FROM WIKIPEDIA. Read more…

Why do we care? Well, it’s one of the techniques that seems to be popping up in Vancouver cuisine. While we’re not real trend-followers, this one is worth paying attention to. When food is cooked this way, it not only retains more of the vitamins and nutrients in top form, the textures, flavours and colours are seriously impressive.

We tried some chicken wings at Rogue Kitchen and Wetbar that were prepared this way. Let’s just say that anyone who says “wings are wings” needs to go try the wings, and then eat their words. The meat just falls off the bones, is a consistent texture, nice and moist and there are none of those weird stringy, tough bits you sometimes find with chicken wings.

The FRIENDSEAT blog has a very informative article on all things Sous-vide which you can read here. If you’re interested in trying it at home, there are now some affordable machines on the market to help you get it right.

As for restaurants using this technique – use the comment form to let us know which ones! We want to try them all.


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Hotspots in Gastown for Food and Drink – our “to-do” list

Gassy Jack in Gastown photo by Israel Camarillo

Well, it’s day 21 of our 21 days of Downtown and the main conclusion we’ve come to is that we need about 20 more years to try all the places we’d like to in downtown Vancouver. That’s not going to stop us though, we’re going to do our best to try all of them and tell you all about it.

Gastown is an area we’ve not fully explored, and to give us a checklist of where we need to start, our photographer friend Israel Camarillo from ICD Photography took some amazing photos of places he thinks we (and all of you!) should be checking out.

All photos in this post are courtesy of (and copyright) Israel Camarillo & ICD Photography.

He particularly suggested we check out Jules, where he had recently attended a great afternoon of gourmet cocktail creation with H – a well-known local bartender who is most passionate about serving quality concoctions. You can read an interesting Q&A and learn more about H here. Some photos from the cocktail event:

 A visual tour of some of the many fine establishments in Gastown.

What are your favourite spots in Gastown? Where should we start? Let us know in the comments section if you would recommend one of the places above or somewhere else we haven’t discovered yet. 




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Prestons at the Coast Hotel in Chilliwack – Day 20

Okay, it’s not downtown Vancouver – but it was a great dinner so we’re going to fudge the rules a little on this one so I can tell you all about it. (What’s the point of being in charge if you have to always follow your own rules?!?)

As part of this past week’s World Culture Month tour for the Fraser Valley Regional Library system, I was provided with a stay at the Coast Hotel in Chilliwack the first night of my tour. It was almost dinner time when I arrived, and the hotel restaurant – Prestons - was calling to my rumbling stomach.

The first thing I noticed was the uniforms the servers had on. Gorgeous, violet dresses which stood out nicely against the muted tones of the dining room. It was a nice change from the standard black and white that most servers are sporting these days.

Prospect Point Pinot Gris $5 (regular $8/glass)

I decided to sit in the dining room instead of the lounge, as the view of the mountains and the duck pond was more easily visible from there. Brittany (my server) was very helpful and once I had decided on the calamari as a starter, she recommended the house white – Prospect Point Pinot Gris from BC –  as a pairing since it was on special for $5 a glass. The wine was tasty, with hints of apples, pears and lemongrass. It was nice and smooth, with a good mouthfeel – not too viscous but still coats the tongue with flavour as it goes down.

Grilled Calamari appetizer $12

The calamari was grilled, naked, and spiral cut so it was interesting to eat. Rolled almost like a sushi roll, it was topped with olive tapenade and served on a bed of arugula. Like all grilled calamari I’ve ever had, there is a risk of chewiness from overcooking, but the spiral cut and the light hand of the chef made sure this wasn’t a problem. I found the overall taste a bit smoky and on the bitter side with the way the flavours came together (and the charcoaly taste), but with the lemon squeezed on top the citrus brightened the flavour up a bit. The portion size was quite large, and because I was on my own I found myself not quite finishing it to make sure that I left room for my entree. I found the charcoal taste from the grill and the olive tapenade overpowered the lighter fruity flavours in the wine, so I would probably try pairing something a bit more robust if I had this dish again. Perhaps even a citrus based cocktail.

Top Sirloin with fingerling potatoes $21

For a main course, I was in the mood for some red meat and ordered the top sirloin with fingerling potatoes. The steak was melt in my mouth tender and cooked to a perfect medium as requested, and the veggies were crisp, bright and not overdone. Although the potatoes didn’t have a lot of seasoning on them, they were nice and moist and were an excellent way to convey the very delicious jus to my mouth. It was like grandma’s gravy with some serious class – a bit sweet, a bit citrusy, and straight up tasty. The verdict on the main overall?

Yes mom, I used my last bit of steak for art making, not my tongue as I might have liked.

I did get all crazy and have a glass of red with my entree. Brittany recommended the Pascal Toso Malbec from Argentina, which was smooth, smoky and rich. Also, budget-friendly at $8 per glass. Full bodied, it had a bit of a mineral, or earthy, flavour and stood up nicely to the steak and jus combination.

Even though I was quite full, I was also aware that there was a pool on site and was planning to hit the gym and then do a few laps to tire myself out before bedtime and work off my dinner. Sooo, when I saw the Vanilla Matcha Creme Brûlée with Mini Sugared Donuts on the dessert menu there really wasn’t much hesitation. The number of laps I was committing to in the pool went up, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t regret it.

There was a moment of heartbreak when Brittany returned to tell me that the people before me had just laid claim to the last order of creme brûlée in the house, but I’m taking it as a sign that I’m meant to go back to the Coast again someday in the near future when Jared can come with me. Creme brûlée has always been his favourite, and I watched the people enjoy their mini donuts with envy.  We’ve got several tasty looking reasons to return!

Thumbs up to the social media team at Coast too. Before I left the restaurant, they’d already sent me a reply to my tweet to see how everything was going after I’d posted I was planning to have dinner there!

TIP: check your room BEFORE you hit the restaurant for dinner. I discovered a 30% off lunch or dinner coupon in the room when I went upstairs ; ) Not sure how long that promo will be on, but it’s definitely worth taking advantage of. The prices were reasonable (fine dining atmosphere with upscale pub in Vancouver pricing) but saving your pennies while living it up just means you’ll be able to indulge yourself even more!

View of the duck pond from my room.

Great place to stay, as well as eat. Rooms were clean, the bed was amazingly comfortable, the business centre came in very handy prepping for my presentation, and staff members were all helpful and friendly. The pool was chilly (great for doing laps) but the hot tub and sauna more than made up for it! Two thumbs up for the Coast Hotel in Chilliwack.

Prestons on Urbanspoon

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Day 19 – Chirashi at Sushimoto in Burnaby

My appointments took me down the Lougheed Highway today and, as always, I was on lookout for a new lunch spot. I was craving sushi (which is usually the case) and I happened to spot Sushimoto in time to make a left turn off the highway. Parking is definitely an issue in the area but I suspect a large portion of the clientele come from the nearby Holdom Skytrain Station.

The decor is fairly typical of a sushi restaurant, with one big standout feature – their sushi bar faces a glassed-in display of 20-30 collectible action figures ranging from some classic anime and manga characters to Al Pacino as Scarface to a commemorative model of Prince William on his wedding day. Unfortunately, the video I shot on my phone didn’t turn out well due to poor lighting conditions, but trust me – it was very interesting.

Time was a factor so I didn’t study the menu too carefully, but I did note that the majority of the items had accompanying pictures, which is good because the descriptions are coloured by lots of funny little ESL quirks that could otherwise create confusion.

I quickly selected the chirashi lunch special, which included six different kinds of fish plus tamago (egg) and a bowl of miso soup for $9. My soup arrived almost immediately and the main course was also very quick – both pluses for a business lunch.

The presentation and portion size of my main course were great and I especially enjoyed the sauce they added to the rice (though I missed the name).

Overall I was quite impressed and I hope to have the chance to go back for dinner when I’m not in such a hurry. I’d also like to bring a few more people so we can share a bunch of items from the a la carte section of the menu.

Sushimoto on Urbanspoon

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Day 18 – Chicken Curry at the newly renovated India Gate on Robson

I’ve dined at the India Gate Restaurant several times in the past but it had been a while since I was there for dinner. Crystal was out of town for a few days so I was on my own this time.

Chicken Spinach

Rice & Peas

As I walked up to the restaurant I noticed they had new chairs in the front window. Inside I saw that they’ve recently updated the look of the whole restaurant. New tables, chairs and some funky tiles on the walls and bar-front. I was chatting with my server and he told me they were also replacing the old dark-red carpet with hardwood laminate. In fact, it was scheduled to happen that night. I look forward to seeing the finished product.

Naan Bread

BC Gewurtztraminer

For dinner I decided to stray very slightly from my usual Bhuna Chicken (chicken breast in a yellow curry sauce).  I chose the Chicken Spinach ($17.00) and couldn’t resist adding an order of Naan Bread ($2.00). My server informed me that the Chicken Spinach starts with the same sauce as the Bhuna Chicken and then finely cut spinach is stirred in. Anything with spinach must be healthy, right?

I glanced over the (very short) wine list and despite the temptation of Cono Sur Chardonnay, I decided to have something more suited to a spicy curry. I decided to stay local and ordered a BC Gewurtztraminer ($26.00) instead of the equally tempting German Riesling (wineries are not listed on their menu). The gewurtz was from Sumac Ridge and, as expected, it paired quite nicely with my curry. Conveniently, the bottle was a screw-cap, which made it easy to take the rest of the bottle home since I only wanted one glass with dinner.

The curry was quite spicy (as requested) and both the portion size and flavours were good. I think there may have been slightly less chicken in the Chicken Spinach than there usually is in the Bhuna Chicken, but it may just have been due to normal portion variance.

Through the whole evening the only complaint I had was that I was seated in the dead centre of the room – not really a problem for me since I’m quite accustomed to dining on my own, but it did stand out as something that might bother many solo diners.

The Pros

  • Very friendly service.
  • “Family-owned” feel.
  • Excellent flavours.
  • The new decor looks great!

The Cons

  • Very small wine list that doesn’t list wineries.
  • Not well set-up for solo diners.

India Gate restaurant on Urbanspoon

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