Greek Summer Festival 2009

The Greek Summer Festival 2010: June 29th to July 11th.

Suanne and I were invited by Amir, the Executive Director of the Greek Summer Festival, to the event to experience Living A Day The Greek Way.  Suanne and I had been having way too many invites these days but this was one event we could not turn down because we felt we had so much to learn.

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We met Amir and to our surprise, he had actually gotten the people behind the event together so that we could meet them.  Never in our imagination how much history there are behind this annual event.

The Greek Summer Festival had started as a one day event 23 years ago organized by the Greek Orthordox Community of East Vancouver.  The event’s main goal is to raise funds (this year they partner with Make a Wish Foundation) and to introduce to Vancouver the richness of Greek culture, traditions and FOOD!

They told us how this one day event grew from one-day event to an event that spans two weekends around Canada Day.  This year’s event runs from June 26th to July 5th.

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George Economous was our host of the evening who was gracious enough to spend two hours that day to bring us around the place and showed us the event behind the scene.  He he he … Suanne and I felt like we were on a guided tour of Greece!  We were so intrigued by the stories we are hearing we decided to learn more before digging in to the food.  But since this is a food blog, I gonna share with you the most important aspect of this festival … FOOD … especially …

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… LAMBS.   If there is only one thing we came away impressed, it was the lamb.  Being Chinese who generally finds lamb gamey, we ended up thinking of lamb in a much different light.

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The Greek Summer Festival sold a whopping 465 lambs within 10 days in the festival last year.  This year, they are on track to break last year’s count and I am not going to be surprised.  We met George “The Real Boss” (the person above is George “the Host”).  George “the Real Boss” is the man behind these lambs since the inception of the Greek Summer Festival.  Boy, he sure has lots of stories to tell and BBQ burn scars to show too!!

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They used to do this by hand and using charcoal but today they have a whole row of rotisseries imported from Greece that slowly cooks this.  It takes four hours of slow cooking to make each.  They use the very best New Zealand lamb because of the tenderness of the meat and of the consistent size.  They tried to use local lambs but gave up because it was best only during Easter period.

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They used to chop the lamb piece by hand.  It is impossible to keep up with the demands that they had introduced new ways and machines to do the job better and faster.

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Many people actually come to the Greek Summer Festival only for their lambs.  People would drop by the festival on their way home to pick the lambs on the spit up by the kilo ($32) or half-kilo ($16).

Some people even order the whole lamb.  That is $185 and is more than enough for 20 people.  They will cut it to your choice.  Sometimes there are customers who comes in a group and order an entire lamb to feast at the festival.  That would be fun!

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This is what Suanne and I had — the Lamb Dinner, Bone-In.  This is wonderful … perfecto in every aspect. (more…)

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Taste BC 2009

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You know, one of the things we enjoy a lot with food blogging is when we get invited to events. Suanne and I was invited as “media” to cover the Taste BC event which held on Thursday last week. Ooooo … “media”, fancy huh? LOL!

Angie (Sea Salt with Food) who is a wine enthusiast joined us. We like that because we are such babes when it came to wine and we wanted to learn from the event. I thought that we would only spend like 30-45 minutes but ended staying for almost 3 hours. We had a great time at the event.

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Taste BC is more of a wine than fine food event. The event is presented by the Liberty Merchant Company in the effort to bring together the best of BC wines. All proceeds from the event went to the Oak Tree Clinic of the BC Children’s Hospital. I am afraid we did not take many photos of the wine although I did try quite a lot that night.

Our favourite was simply the Ice Lady ice wine from the Forbidden Fruit Winery. Surprisingly, almost all the food blogs that covered the event also picked this as a favourite. I want to say that no one pushed this to us to blog but for some reason it just stands out. It is made of Pink Lady Apple and is very sweet and fruity. It does not reek of alcohol at all. Suanne who does not drink loves this.

I also like the Victoria Gin. They first gave me a shot of Victoria Gin which was awful, like drinking jet fuel. Then they added Tonic Water which made it like a million times better. Nice.

We also had sake and learned a lot of flexibility of this brew … that how this is about the only liquor that can be served both hot or cold and its ability to be paired with any type of cuisines.

The Garibaldi Honey Pale Ale (from the Howe Sound Brewing Company) was another one I like … it was smooth and light with a hint of honey.

In all, there are over 60 wine and drink participants with an average of 5 types of wine showcased. It was impossible to try every one of them for sure … for us at least. On to food …

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The Wild Sockeye Salmon on Artisan Bread was presented by a “baby” restaurant in Gastown. It is interestingly called “2 Chefs and a Table” which had just opened for 7 months.

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We like the sushi from Miku Restaurant a lot. As a matter of fact, we went back for seconds … and thirds … and fourths. (more…)

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Dine Out Vancouver 2009: Elephant & Castle Restaurant – Delta Vancouver Airport Hotel

Updated 18th Nov 2010: This restaurant has been closed according to Urbanspoon.

Polly and I also take the opportunity to go for a Dine Out Vancouver meal in place of our regular cake meet. Since we can only go for lunch as Polly has to pick her twin daughters from school before 2:30 pm, our choices is very limited. We ended up with Elephant & Castle Restaurant at the Delta Vancouver Airport Hotel which offers the lunch option from 11:00 am.

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Elephant & Castle Restaurant is on the banks of the Fraser River and has a panoramic view of the oceans and mountains. Parking is free if you dine in the restaurant.

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Unfortunately, it is a very foggy day and the view is very limited. Nevertheless, the mistiness adds a sense of mysteriousity to the dining experience.

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Elephant & Castle is North America’s leading British Pub and Restaurant chain across Canada and United States. This location has a fairly large seatings on 2 levels. It has a bar and thus minors are not permitted.

Elephant & Castle offers a 3 course menu for the Dine Out Vancouver 2009 for $18.

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For appetizer, we opted for a soup and a salad. Polly and I decided to share our dishes and we asked the waitress for extra bowl to share the soup. The waitress is kind enough to serve the soup in 2 different bowls and gave us extra serving plates for sharing for the rest of the meal. I like their services. Back to the soup, the soup of the day is Seafood Chowder. It’s a creamy soup with salmon, prawn and potatoes with crackers served on the side. It’s quite an ordinary chowder.

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There is a choice of Classic Caeser Salad and Tossed Green Salad in Raspberry Vinaigrette and we opted for the latter. We like the flavour of the vinaigrette which is very fruity. (more…)

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Dine Out Vancouver 2008 – Gastropod

Updated 4 June 2009: closed (source from Urbanspoon)

Suanne and I had always been mesmerized by the legend of the top restaurants in the world. Namely, the El Bulli and the Fat Duck. Some day, we hope to have the opportunity to dine out in one these places. For now, we settle for something more attainable … a restaurant owned by a chef who had worked in one of these restaurant.

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The chef behind Gastropod is Vancouverite Angus An who according to his biography is said to had a stint in the Michelin 3-stars Fat Duck. In the local scene, Gastropod had won many awards and perhaps one of the best restaurants along 4th Ave in Vancouver.

Featuring modern European cuisine, Gastropod had won the Gold Award for Best New Fine Dining and Silver Award for Best Design from the Vancouver Magazine’s 18th Annual Restaurant Awards. We knew that we would not go wrong with such a restaurant … and we were right.

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The setting is chic and inviting with white linen and simple lines. Best of all, the service is very friendly, sincere and unpretentious. They did their very best to connect to us which made our entire experience very enjoyable.

BTW, Gastropod’s DOV menu is $35 per person.

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Someone must make it mandatory for all restaurants to provide bread, like they provide glasses of water for each table … don’t you agree? Gastropod is one of those who had simple but great bread. Their butter had sprinkles of salt which really enhances the flavour. When we finished the bread, they promptly came by asked if they could give us more.

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For the appetizer, we had their Duck Two Ways which came as a “$5 supplement”. This is a 24-hour confit leg, liver parfait and cucumber salad (more…)

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Dine Out Vancouver 2008 – Chambar

I had been to Chambar twice before with the last time during last year’s Dine Out Vancouver. However, this year, I decided to go there again because Suanne had never been there before and wanted to try their famous mussels.

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Chambar is a Belgian restaurant located on Beatty St just outside that Stadium Skytrain station in Vancouver. Our reservation was for 5PM. By the time we arrived 5 minutes before, many had arrived earlier and waited at the lounge. We can see that Chambar is perhaps one of the most popular DOV venue.

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We got seated in the inner dinner hall which I preferred because it is wider and had a big window (not that there is a view from it anyway). One thing you will notice about Chambar is that the walls are decorated with art pieces which they help local artists showcase their work.

Just a couple of tables away was a group three Asian diners who also whipped out cameras and took pictures of their food. For a moment, we were wondering if they are one of food bloggers we know. We tried to establish eye-contact but failed. I thought it will be great to say hi to bloggers.

Oh, we were also told that we had only 1.5 hours for DOV. We understand the reason why.

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Since this is a Belgian restaurant, I chose a Belgian beer. They had a good selection Trappistes beer which is renowned to be “all one needs” and are known to be brewed in monasteries by monks. I got myself the Rochefort 8 which is 9.2% alcohol. Small bottle but packs quite a punch.

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For the appetizer, we had the La Salad d’Hiver. This is a Belgium endive and watercress salad with cranberry and vanilla vinaigrette. (more…)

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Dine Out Vancouver 2008 – Aurora Bistro

Updated 4 June 2009: closed (source from Urbanspoon)

It was Saturday night — one of those DOV nights that were unrushed, unlike some of the nights where we had to rush from work to dinners. It has unbelievably busy at work in that I hardly had time to to even have a proper lunch. So, I treasure my weekends a lot more these days.

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We went to the Aurora Bistro located on Main Street in Vancouver. This was a last minute change of venue from an earlier booking for Pub fare. It’s surprising that we even got a table considering how absolutely packed the bistro is on a Saturday night with a DOV event on.

We were the first in and within just 20 minutes, all the tables were already taken up. They had a sign posted by the door that due to the demand during the DOV, there is a 2 hour limit for each table.

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We had never been to Aurora before but had heard a lot about them. I had imagined that they would be rather big and posh. However, the place is long and narrow with just enough tables arranged in two rows.

I guess looks can be deceiving because for what it’s worth, the Aurora Bistro is actually a Gold Medal winner of the Vancouver Magazine’s Annual Restaurant Award. They won the 2007 Best Regional Restaurant of the Year for contemporary West Coast cuisine.

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We started off with the Aurora Cocktail. It is a gin, Elephant Island apricot wine, and fresh lemon juice served up with a splash of BC bubble. It’s Aurora signature sparkling cocktail. They loaded up the gin quite a bit which got me quite tipsy for a while.

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The appy was a great start with what called the Sloping Hill Pork Rilettes with quince mustard and cornichons. Rillettes are made by slow cooking pork in lots of fat until it’s very tender. (more…)

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Dine Out Vancouver 2008 – The Observatory on Grouse Mountain

Of all the Dine Out Vancouver restaurant we booked in 2008, this one is simply the best — dinner at The Observatory on Grouse.

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The prix-fixe dinner is $35 but it not includes the dinner but also the Sky Ride gondola ride up the Grouse Mountain and a show too. I heard that the price also included a sleigh ride and skating on the pond but that we did not try. Considering that a ride up Grouse is about $27, this $35 dinner is simply best value for money.

We went on a Thursday evening and had a table for 5:30PM. The Sky Ride was nothing to shout about because it was absolutely packed with skiers and snowboarders. Each car can pack in 100 people (amazing!) and they made sure they had a full car before they moved. The Sky Ride travels every 15 minutes and just took minutes to get up to the chalet.

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The view from the top of the Grouse Mountain were stunning at night. It was clear sky that night which was fortunate seeing how much rain and snow we had the past couple of weeks. This view is what makes Vancouver so beautiful. I can’t think of a place with a setting this this in the world.

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The Observatory is located at 3,700 ft is Grouse’s Fine Dining restaurant. We were informed before we went that the dress code is business casual. I think they don’t want to see people walking in with ski boots and jackets (or in summer, shorts and T’s from trekking up the Grind).

We were quite intimidated … the service was impeccable. The people spoke soooo softly and moved sooooo slowly. And we were just rushing from work and got crunched on on the tram ride up. These guys think of everything … took our coats to the cloak room, showed us the way to our table … and reminded us to turn off our cell phones. Now, that I like!

Really, I would describe the service as very polite, soft spoken and they move very … errrr … gracefully, much like a ballet dancer. If not for the fact I was quite hyper from work that day, I would have loved it.

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They gave us the table with a great view of the glittering Vancouver downtown. We could see the sun was just about to set. It was really beautiful and just what I needed from another hectic day at work.

I noticed that while it was freezing cold outside, it was warm and cozy here.

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The place is unbelievably quiet and not surprising because of the romantic setting. This is not a place for an after work drinks! The only “ruckus” we heard was this family of four celebrating the mummy’s birthday when they sang the birthday song.

The place was not fully booked as we can see quite a few empty tables. About half the tables have views, which was very good considering the fact that many people want to dine here because of the view.

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The Observatory had a very extensive wine list … no, it was more like a wine book. We counted — it ran into 24 pages long. The most expensive bottle was $1400 and there are quite a number running above $1K … wow!

We got something considerable cheaper. The Koola cocktail was only $9. Served in a martini glass, it is raspberry with light alcohol.

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Suanne had a glass of lemonade.

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The Observatory’s house bread was shaped like interconnected leaves and was fresh and warm when served. It really felt it it was just fresh out from the oven. We knew it would be good when we broke it with a crunch. Perfect.

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Again, we shared dishes between us. The first appetizer was the Cream of Shallot Soup with pancetta chantilly and orange vincotto (whatever!). (more…)

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Dine Out Vancouver 2008 – Unwine’d

Updated on 10th January 2011: This restaurant had been closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

Suanne and I sort of gate crashed into Joseph and Elizabeth’s Dine Out. When we found out that they are going to Unwine’d, we asked if we could tag along too. We met Joseph in the “chowtimes dinner” at Tong Kung about a couple of months ago.

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Unwine’d has strange name. It must have been a play on the words Wine and Unwind. It is described as a wine and tapas lounge, quite evidenced by the variety of casual table settings. The place is really dim and again both Suanne and I had so much trouble reading in the dark. I think we should just get ourselves one of those mini torchlights for the dine outs.

Hated the choice of music. The constant pounding was simply too much for Suanne and I. But we were not surprised with the choice of music as the place was teeming with a really young crowd.

We got ourselves a high tables with stools right in front of a TV and the bar. There was a Canucks game on the TV that night but I did not pay much attention to the game. It was simply too painful to watch … the Canucks had been losing an awful lot of games of late, including the one that night.

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Joseph and Elizabeth ran a bit late and for us, we were early. Got myself a Stella. The Stella Artois seems to be a popular “imported” beer in Vancouver — at least that is my perception. I said “imported” because I think it is brewed under license in BC. What I like about this Belgian lager is that it’s light.

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As an appetizer, the Lobster Butternut Bisque was a good start. Made from Atlantic lobster and butternut squash, it is lighter than I expected from a bisque. Despite that, it was flavorful and does leave a lasting after-taste for quite a while.

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The other appetizer we had was the Crab Cake. (more…)

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Dine Out Vancouver 2008 – Ouisi Cajun and Creole Bistro

For this year’s Dine Out event, Suanne and I virtually selected our choice of restaurants rather randomly. We thought we wanted to have a bit of varieties. So, the first place we selected was a cajun and creole place — the Ouisi Cajun and Creole Bistro.

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The Ouisi Bistro is located on Granville Street in Vancouver. It is located across the street from venerable West, which we had waited and waited for a special occasion to go, someday. For now, the Bistro is good enough.

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The place is really dim even though the picture above looked bright enough. We must be getting older as we had a tough time looking over the menu even with the lone candle on the table. I must say that it’s sort of a Frenchy setting because of the many fleur-de-lis symbols decorated along the wall.

And the music was great … jazz. We were there early at 5:30PM and having the entire place to ourselves was certainly great. It was great until a group of 10 boisterous girls came in which quite ruined a quiet evening I was expecting! All I heard was their screaming and laughing. I think they got drunk.

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On our table was two bottle of hot sauce. While waiting for the food, we tried them. There is one called Fear Itself Habanero Sauce and the other was Auntie Bev’s Hot Sauce. Oh man … the Auntie Bev’s Hot Sauce sure was hot … we like it. You don’t really feel the heat for the first 10 seconds or so but it will gradually grow very very hot.

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I had the Big Rock Traditional Ale which is kind of soft. Frankly, I just randomly choose a Canadian ale but was a good choice.

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Like the few southern cooking places I had been to, Ouisi also served corn bread with butter. There are 4 really big pieces. I don’t know how this is normally served but I think it would great if they had warmed up the bread a bit. It was crumbly and sweet but just that it’s a bit dry.

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For dine out, my strategy is to order what I want and Suanne order what she wants. But no, Suanne insists that we order different dishes so that she can try more varieties.

Our first appetizer was the lamb and rosemary sausage. (more…)

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