My favourite meal in Kaua’i was at Hamura’s Saimin in Lihue. We ate there three times in 2 weeks. Here’s what you do. Stand and wait for a table to become free (it is always busy, with locals, and tourists picking up soup after they land at the nearby airport). Snag a stool. Wait for the ladies to notice you. Order a Special Saimin. Wait. Wait some more. Watch the sweaty open kitchen action. Listen to the sizzling meat on the little barbecue. Watch others eat. When that steaming bowl of noodles is put in front of you, work your chopsticks furiously to shovel the contents into your mouth. Leave with a full Budda belly. Dream about Hamura’s Saimin when you get back to cold, desolate Canada. Count down the months until you can return again.
We were away for an epic month, and did not always eat inspiring food. But this road trip was an Aaron-trip, not a food one, and these were our culinary glimmers in Washington State and BC. We were fortunate to eat some great meals with my Mom and Dad in Parksville, and Brother and Sister-in-Law in East Vancouver too (roast leg of lamb, beet salad and pavlova? Yes, please). I did not document those family meals because I was too busy eating.
This was mostly a trip about drive-in movies, river floating, hanging on the beach, jumping off docks, jet ski’ing, sleeping in yurts, feeding baby water buffaloes, visiting family and friends and chasing chickens. And that’s all good too.
We are travelling 3,549 km over four weeks with our nine year old son. Our teenage daughter (wisely) flies to meet us on Vancouver Island and then flies back a week later from Kelowna.
This road trip is planned to maximize fun with Aaron. He’s had a rotten school year, to be honest, and we want to just hang out with him, and take his lead on activities. We hope to go to at least two drive-in theatres (we have zero drive-ins in Alberta, did you know that?) in northern Oregon and central Washington, discover beaches, do two separate river floats, eat a lot of ice cream and go on a roller coaster ride.
When we hit Parksville, we are on the family route, mooching accommodations and food and visiting my beloved parents, brother and sister-in-law, and father and mother-in-law.
But the ten days previous are a cornucopia of funky accommodations. I’m so curious to see which one is our favourite and why. I have to say that every single person I dealt with to reserve each of these places was friendly, pleasant and welcoming. This is always a good sign…
Walla Walla: www.wallafaces.com
Near Quincy: www.cavebinn.com
Near Duncan: www.fairburnfarm.bc.ca
I appreciate any and all comments about where to eat along the way!
This is my daughter Ella. She’s 15. We have been going on an every-year-and-a-half chick weekend since she was 11 years old. We’ve been to Winnipeg (birthplace of the Ella), Seattle, and Jasper Park Lodge’s Christmas in November.
This year, we ate our way through Chicago.
This was our coveted restaurant. Ella and I have a history of watching Top Chef together. We were very excited the year when Stephanie Izard won.
I open-tabled the Girl and the Goat for a reservation three months before our trip. I was fortunate to get a 4:30 pm reservation on a Sunday. I grabbed it.
We ate a lot of food. I mean A LOT. Like, a Thanksgiving dinner amount. We had to roll ourselves back to the hotel from the West Loop to downtown in order to even begin the digestion process.
I cannot even recall what we ate. It was 6 small dishes, which included: chickpea fritters, goat belly with lobster, papparadelle (our favourite), goat cheesecake…oh my the food went on and on. The service was surprisingly nice and humble for such a hot restaurant, and we overheard at the table next to us:
“I don’t think you are feeling the pig’s face tonight, are you?”
Stephanie obviously earned her Top Chef honours. Ella and I should now go on a trek to all the Top Chef winner restaurants across America. That would be a worthy cause.
I have a theory about restaurants owned by well-known chefs. If the chef has an offering of restaurants, from fine-dining to casual, skip to the casual place. The food quality remains at cheaper prices. Such is the case with the little sister restaurant xoco, Rick Bayliss’s cafeteria-style Mexican restaurant in downtown Chicago.
The process to order is complex, but it is guided by friendly wayfinding staff. You stand in a long line, but you aren’t allowed to order until you get an assigned table number. Sit down and the food appears. If you order dessert, just flag down a server and they will put in the dolce order for you. And that’s what we did.
Ella had Carnitas – soupy pork and dumpling fare, and I consumed the short rib torta. We had a side of chunky guacamole and snappy chips. And topped the evening off with soft ice cream with maple and bacon (me) and churros (Ella). Then we walked back to the hotel and encountered the Naked Bike Rally not just once, but twice. This was quite the eye opener for both of us, and I had some explaining to do to my teenage daughter about the logistics of nude bike riding.
I had eyeballed the Wicker Park/Bucktown neighbourhood for shoppinng. We hopped a cab a hot Saturday morning, and were let off at the fringes of the shopping street. A gentleman selling wares from the top of his car asked us if we wanted to buy some bear spray. Normally, I would not consider this a good sign for the neighbourhood.
Thankfully, this was misguided foreboding. We tracked down the Bongo Room for brunch, and put our names on the long list to get in. Forty five minutes later, we were seated. Pictured is Ella’s massive strawberry banana hotcakes (what’s the difference between a hot cake, a pancake and flap jacks?), and I drank copious bottomless coffee.
4. Atwood Cafe
Upon arriving for brunch we were seated in a blazing hot table directly in the sun. There were a dozen empty tables around us that stayed empty while we ate, so clearly the bad table was punishment for not having a reservation. I don’t get why restaurants do this.
Nonetheless, the setting was French and the service was pleasant.
I cannot resist poached eggs and grits, so that’s what I ordered. Ella continued her theme of The Sweet Breakfast and had the blueberry waffles with maple syrup and brown sugar butter. That butter was mmm, mmm, good and completed the dish.
This was a find. Our food tour guide told us about this amazing little place in Boystown, just down from the Blue Man theatre. So we indulged in pre-theatre dinner. Oh, the gnocchi. But especially the artichoke and edam fritters. Ella and I declared those fritters the best food of our trip. The chefs here know how to cook.
We stayed at the Hotel Monaco. I adore both Kimpton and W Hotels. Kimptons are more in our price range – a W Hotel is always an extravagant experience AND price.
Hotel Monaco delivered – hip without being pretentious, and a fabulous location in the North Loop, just off Michigan Avenue and south of the river.
Chicago Food Planet Food Tour
This is best told in pictures:
1. reuben from ashkenaz deli
2. unattractive but delicious deep dish pizza from lou malnati’s.
3. apples awaiting dipping at the fudge pot.
4. delightful pastries delight with macarons
Other minor food adventures? They let you drink alcohol in public in America:
Finally, the purchase of a Chicago hot dog at Millennium Park comes with strict rules.
Good bye Chicago. Thank you for being good to us.
ps: As a treat, because I know you want it, a blurry photo of the aforementioned rally:
The always-awesome Cream and Sugar blog posts about must-eats in Vancouver, here. It pleases me that La Quercia and Cafe Medina are on the list, and I’ve actually been to them.
Sadly, there has been very little travelling in the world of Foodie Suz as of late. But coming up: two quick trips – Victoria and Banff. A conference in Washington DC. And a serious food expedition to Chicago in early June with my girl Ella.
I confess while in Toronto, I ate sushi from a hospital kiosk (it was surprisingly fresh), and ordered room service late at night because I was craving french fries. Such is the nature of business travel…
I was fortunate to have three good meals in my three days there. First a welcoming lunch with my SickKids hosts at Midi Bistro, which is a short hike to the hospital and just up the road from the Art Gallery of Ontario. My memory becomes blurry, but I do recall eating an open faced sandwich and stealing my colleague’s fries in a hopping French bistro. Somehow there was only one serving staff for the entire place, and it still all worked.
If I’m a true food and travel blogger, I’d be running all over the city, checking out diverse restaurants. Here’s how you can tell I’m a hack: I went to the same restaurant three times in two days.
Bannock has self-professed Canadian comfort food and was a block from my hotel. I discovered they do take-away breakfast, and I love their concept, so I returned there for a Friday night dinner. I was dining solo again (sad but true), and here’s what I wrote:
So I’m at Bannock, drinking a vodka, maple syrup and lemonade cocktail. The staff are sooooo nice to me, the solo diner. I ordered the tourtiere and poutine because this is regional Canadian cuisine and this seemed appropriate. Bannock is a lively room with an open kitchen, and the chefs are all wearing rather endearing funny little fedora-like hats. I’m guessing this is Canadian decor – homemade Christmas wreaths and white washed wood walls. Maybe if I had a cottage in the Muskokas, it would look like this.
The poutine is the most awesome ever. Soft rosemary flavoured fries immersed in gravy, stretchy cheese curds that I had to twirl like pasta. Apple pie crust tourtiere with pulled and ground pork instead of apples. Cheeky peas and carrot coins on the side. This is fun food.
The next day, I hiked way up Queen Street West to The Drake Hotel. I love that this hotel is a renovated old dive hotel. It is like an exercise in recycling in the best possible way. Their press says, do believe the hype, and although I’m normally suspicious of hipster joints, well I can happily admit it is true. Brunch at The Drake was leisurely served in the lounge, which really was like my living room. I had freshly squeezed mango juice, and my waiter kept saying ‘cheers’ which kept me happy. Then I was presented with a huge egg, sausage, cheese and homefry burrito – breakfast held in the hand. Next time I’m in Toronto, I’m bringing my husband, and we are staying at The Drake. (Mike, there’s DANCING!).
More hiking to Kensington Market, which I really adored. If I had an extra stomach and more time, I would have eaten there too. Sadly, I had to rush to the airport and then eat at a brightly lit Swiss Chalet.
Thank you, Toronto. Until we meet again.
I do eat when I travel for work, but I don’t take many photos. In London, I went for two lovely dinners – one with my Children’s Hospital host, and the other on my own, just before boarding the Via Rail train to Toronto. (I haven’t been on a train for 15 years, since taking the train from Winnipeg to Edmonton in the dead of winter, which took eons because the train kept having to stop to clear the tracks of snow. No such troubles in Ontario).
London is a lovely little city. I’d describe it as ‘flat, but with trees.’ There are many old houses made of stone and brick. I stayed at Hotel Metro, which is a boutique hotel – modern but warm with dark wood and a bathtub in the bedroom. I wandered about downtown, quickly scoping out the Starbucks down the street for the next morning, visiting the eerie South Hospital display (iron lungs, anyone?) at the Museum London, and poking around in Covent Market, a central food market.
My host, Lisa, took me for a welcome dinner to Trichilo’s, which featured southern Italian food done right. We shared sardines on eggplant with fat salty green olives, and I dug into rigatoni with the waitress-recommended tomato sauce. This was perfect comfort food after a long travel day.
The next morning, I met up with hospital staff at the Black Walnut Cafe, which is in the Wortley Village. I ate a savoury scone and sipped a cappuccino, but how I’d love this kind of neighbourhood bistro in Edmonton. (The closest I have in Edmonton is the coffee at the Petro-Canada down the road).
Fast forward to me grabbing a meal before catching that train the next day, and I was pleased at my choice. Braise is attached to Hotel Metro, and oddly empty on that Wednesday evening, save for the parade of people coming in, looking for a pharmaceutical meeting.
The staff impressed me the most, first patiently redirecting all that misdirected foot traffic, and then treating me like a queen, despite the fact I was dining solo. (Last time I travelled and dined alone, it was in Australia, where I was often seated near the toilets).
I was seated at a primo both near the bar. The food was seasonal and spot-on. I ate spicy pumpkin soup with duck confit and a crispy sage leaf on top, and warm bread with salted butter. I ordered the poached egg appetizer too because I will eat any food that has a poached egg perched on top of it. After I captured that egg that was sliding all over my toast, I was exceedingly satisfied to break that yolk all over the accompanying pork belly. This was accompanied by a very cute little bowl of baked beans and a mandatory glass of shiraz.
It was weird the restaurant was empty. The staff were attentive, and the setting was gorgeous – soft jazz on the speakers, exposed brick walls, red tree wallpaper, 60′s mod lighting and reclaimed wood floors and bar.
Will I be back to London? I hope so. Will I return to Braise? Definitely.
We went to Calgary again, two years later. Still with our youngest, and so this is still the kid-friendly version.
First up, a dinner time stop in Airdrie on the way into town, at Five Guys Burgers. So the atmosphere is loud and chaotic, but the burgers are damn good- soft buns, melty cheese, patty cooked until just done. Best of the fast food options, hands down.
Thanks to Andree, we went to Over Easy for breakfast the next day. The tables are crammed together, yes, but the wait staff are very smiley and the food looked delicious. The sausages were big and juicy. Alas, the egg was cold, which seems to be a recurring theme for me in Calgary. But the rest was yum.
For lunch, we split up. Me to Janice Beaton for a grilled cheese (Farm special – cheddar and stinky oka) and Mike and Aaron to Tubby Dog a few doors down. The staff in Janice Beaton were very formal and oddly anxious, and the staff at Tubby Dog were a stark contrast and were having a riotous amount of fun. My grilled cheese was very ‘bready’ and less ‘cheesy’ but the bite I had of the Tubby Dog was delicious. It might have been pigs’ head parts for all I know, but it did taste good. Plus, there are Ms. Pac Man games at Tubby Dogs. Gotta love that.
Some time passed, and we had to eat dinner. We ventured out to Inglewood’s Without Papers, again based on Andree’s review. We trust the Andree. This was the best meal of our modest trip: the wait staff were fabulous with Aaron, even bringing him to the kitchen to take a look at the fire burning oven. We watched the Talking Heads movie and then the Rocky Horror Picture Show on the wall. We ate thin crust proper pizza, and consumed a very expensive ($12) but fresh tomato buffalo mozza sald. And some meatballs. And a float. And a banana split. Then we rolled out of there. Extremely impressed – highly recommended and we will be back.
Without Papers was the highlight of our trip, and we should have left it at that, but noooo, we had to try dim sum the next day. While standing in line for a table at Silver Dragon, a gentleman came RUNNING behind the host desk and grabbed the fire extinguisher.
You are right – this is never a good sign.
We were all politely evacuated, and we ended up across the street. The fire trucks came. This was exciting, but did not fill my tummy. We opted for a near- by dim sum place, which I do not wish to name. They were overwhelmed with the overfill crowd from Silver Dragon. The food was greasy and cold and took at least 24 hours to digest. I believe the last of it digested just a few minutes ago.
Best to put this memory in the vault. We will try you again, Silver Dragon, the next time we venture 2.5 hours down south to the New West.
These are some of my favourite places to eat in Edmonton. This is totally subjective, and where I’d direct folks from out-of-town to eat…
Best breakfast with friends – New York Bagel Cafe
Best place to take teenage kids – Sugarbowl
Best family friendly burger joint – Delux Burger
Best dark wintery night place – Culina Millcreek
Best splurge – Red Ox Inn
Best meat – Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse
Best Italian – Corso 32
Best French – The Marc
Best dim sum – New Tan Tan
Best Indian – Daawat
Best Thai – Viphalay Laos and Thai
Best wonton soup – Dumplings
Best pho - Phobulous
Best wine bar – Somerville Wine and Cheese
Best pizza – Royal Pizza
Sadly, Foodie Suz is not travelling much. She was in Victoria for a week, but it was at school, where I ate cafeteria food, bad pub food (twice) and really bad sushi (only once).
So let’s focus on food in my hometown of Edmonton, shall we? I was fortunate enough to score an industry pass to the Rocky Mountain Food & Wine Festival last night, at Shaw Conference Centre. What I liked most about that was not the free booze, but the fact that the doors were opened early, and the crowds were thin. This was a contrast to the bone-crushing crowds that appear later in the evening. I also gave away two tickets on my facebook page. It was fun to make two guys in business suits happy. People love free stuff.
A few photos from the event. This isn’t cutting-edge food journalism folks. It is a few pictures from a gal that drank vodka and ate cupcakes.