Lunch at Memphis Blues Barbecue

The barbecue scene in Vancouver has certainly improved over the last few years; there is the Hogshack out in Steveston, Dixies on Hastings Street, Peckinpah in Gastown, and of course a number of locations of Memphis Blues Barbecue House.

Last week when we were hankering for some barbecue, we decided to visit the Richards Street location of Memphis Blues for lunch.

Barbecue Ribs
Barbecue Ribs

Our visit to Memphis Blues Barbecue House was perfectly timed as they were just pulling the racks of ribs and rib ends out of the pit. What an impressive sight!

Being unfamiliar with the work that the pitmasters do at Memphis Blues we chose to order the Memphis Platter – a massive platter intended to serve 3-5 people. However, it has some of each of their barbecued meats and a sample of each of the side dishes.

This is a good way to sample the entire menu and guarantee a heap of leftovers*.

The Memphis Platter
The Memphis Platter

The Memphis Platter more than covered our lunch needs!

My favourites on the platter were the pork ribs and the brisket. The ribs were cooked so that they were tender to the bite but not melt “fall apart” mushy. The best part of the ribs was the smoke “bark” on each rib. Deep and smoky flavour!! Lots of flavour without being too smoky.

The brisket was also wonderful; ultra tender with enough fat in it to add a great degree of tenderness. Ohhh…so good!!

When I return to Memphis Blues (guaranteed I will be returning!) the ribs and brisket are the two meats I will order again. That being said, I really enjoyed the very moist chicken meat, the slices of smoked sausage and the pulled pork. All very good.

The funniest part about the meal was that when we ordered the platter my lunch companion and I both commented that we probably would not eat the baked beans.

Once the platter arrived at our table and we tasted them, both of us couldn’t stop eating them! They were unbelievably delicious. I suppose three hours in the barbecue pit provides that perfect smoky flavor.

The potato salad was “okay” although I would not order it again. There was nothing wrong with it but it just wasn’t my thing. I did very much like the corn bread and the slaw that comes with the meal. The slaw had a strong peppery snap to it.

Overall our meal at Memphis Blues Barbecue House was excellent. Friendly service, good food and a heap of leftovers. Win-win-win.

I’ll be returning for more.

*We had TWO more full meals from the leftovers we took home from Memphis Blues.

 

The Ovaltine Cafe

There is good stuff happening in the Ovaltine Cafe down near Hastings and Main. Grace, formerly an employee of the original Save on Meats cafe from back when Al Deslauriers was the owner, has taken over the Ovaltine Cafe and is working hard at improving the menu and the quality of the food.


Visiting the Ovaltine Cafe is like taking a trip back in time. It looks like a museum and the server actually told me that he likes working in the Cafe partly because it is like a working museum. He added that he also loves working there because Grace, the owner is the best boss he has ever had.

I visited the cafe recently and had the Southwest Eggs Benedict which had two perfectly soft cooked eggs on ripe avocados all on top of two lightly toasted English muffins.


Yes, the English muffins could have been toasted to be a little more crisp and the hollandaise sauce was a little too thick but the perfection of the eggs and the exquisitely perfect ripeness of the avocado more than made up for that.

And the side of pan fried potatoes … Yummy! A flavour hit with me. Crispy on the outside and so soft inside … Lovely.


My brunch companion had the mac & cheese which was on sale for five dollars. Very nice and firm noodles with the perfect amount of cheddar and ementhal cheese. The mac & cheese was not as creamy as my lunch companion would’ve liked. However the addition of some ground up ketchup flavoured potato chips on top of the mac & cheese was a clever flavour-hit.


To finish up, I had a vanilla milkshake. It was handmade with one of those old-fashioned looking milkshake makers with ice cream and milk. Absolute perfection.


The bottom line, I have no hesitation in recommending you to try the Ovaltine Cafe and I will definitely be returning to try more of their menu including the lunch options.

 

Cabin Cooking; the Porterhouse Steak

I snuck out of town to my cabin again, this time to measure the cabin roof and prep it for a replacement. And of course a trip to the cabin means I’m going to cook meat.

As usual, I headed down to see my local butcher – Greg the Butcher at Meatcraft Urban Butchery in Port Moody on Moody Street just off of St Johns.


Okay, I admit. At just under 22 ounces* this is a pretty massive steak. Enough for three or four people. Or enough for me.

The steak I bought is a new to-me “brand” of beef known as 1846 – a brand that signifies that it is grass-fed beef from a BC ranch, kept out on the range, not fed growth hormones or unnecessary antibiotics, and treated ethically by ranchers who care about the animals.

The bottom line – the steak had wonderful marbling of fat throughout making it extraordinarily tender and flavourful, because as more and more people are realizing, fat equals flavour.


To cook this exquisite piece of meat I did my castiron cooking routine – I put the pan in the oven for about ten minutes so that it was smoking hot. I added a dollop of butter and then lay the steak in the pan, on the melted butter.

I set my timer for 5 minutes and then put the steak, in the pan under the broiler.

As soon as the timer sounded I pulled the pan with the steak out from under the broiler, turned the steak over and put it back under the broiler.


That’s it. I paired it with a handful of heirloom tomatoes and green beans I picked up from a nearby farm, and lunch was ready. An incredibly tender and flavourful steak, cooked to medium rare with a couple vegetables on the side. Life is good.

* At 22 ounces and $27, this steak was more expensive than I typically purchase but WOW it was well worth it!!

Poutine and Banh Mi at The Rivermarket

I was in New Westminster yesterday and jumped at the opportunity to go see what the New West waterfront/Front Street looks like now that the multi-level parkade has been taken down from Begbie Street over to 6th. My first impression is WOW. So much sunshine can now pour onto Front Street.

Of course I also had to eat while I was near the foodie’s paradise we call the Rivermarket.

Banh mi and Poutine
Banh mi and Poutine

I chose two places in the market to grab snacks – first place was Freebird; a joint that does flavourful free-range, hormone-free rotisserie roasted chicken. To perfection.

I had the Banh mi – a Vietnamese style sub sandwich. The sandwich – inside the sandwich – spectacular. Loaded with roasted chicken, crisp cucumber slices, a sprig of cilantro, paper thin carrots and just enough lightly pickled jicama to add a snap to the taste buds. Lovely.

My only complaint was that the bread was not as crisp on the outside as a traditional french baguette. A minor complaint.

Bacon Poutine
Bacon Poutine

The other place I stopped to visit while in the Rivermarket was the classic burger joint, Wally’s Burgers.

Of course since I was having a sub sandwich from Freebird I didn’t need a burger so I ordered a bacon poutine. Oh my.

Ultra crisp strips of smoky bacon lay on top of the cheese curds which hid the very crispy and wonderful fries. There was enough gravy on the poutine to keep them moving but not a slopping mess.

Two wonderful eats on my quick walk through New West’s Rivermarket.

A Blue Goose Organic Ribeye Steak

Before I head out of town I like to stop in and see Greg the Butcher at Port Moody’s Meatcraft Urban Butchery for advice on what quality piece of beef I should take and cook at my cabin.

Before I left for my most recent trip out of town, Greg connected me with a beauty of a little ribeye steak from Blue Goose Organics – a cattle ranch located in the southern Cariboo area of BC.

Blue Goose Organics
Blue Goose Organics

Greg was kind enough to cut down one of their full size ribeye steaks so that I could enjoy this little 7 ounce gem of a steak.

Blue Goose Organic Beef
Blue Goose Organic Beef

And seeing as I do not have a barbecue or a grill at the cabin (weird, right?) I use my classic cast iron cookware cooking technique – turn on the stove broiler, put the cast iron pan on the stove top to get it smoking hot, drop in a tablespoon of butter, and then place the steak in the centre of the pan.

Cast Iron Cooking
Cast Iron Cooking

Put the pan under the broiler, set the timer for 5 minutes and stand back and trust.

Once the timer sounds I pull the pan out, use my kitchen tongs to turn the steak over, place under the broiler for another 5 minutes and let the other side of the ribeye cook.

Ribeye and Veggies
Ribeye and Veggies

Once the 5 minutes is up, I pull the cast iron pan out, take the ribeye steak out of the pan and place it on a plate to rest for a few minutes.

Blue Goose Organic Beef
Blue Goose Organic Beef

With the way Greg the Butcher cuts my steaks, five minutes on each side under the broiler makes for a nearly perfect medium rare steak.

A shake of sea salt, a grind of fresh black pepper, and dinner is ready. Perfect way to spoil myself a little while away.

 

Boston Pizza for Lunch 

I went for a lovely lunch at the Metrotown location of Boston  Pizza today with my mother and my sister.


I had a plate of fettuccine noodles with a wonderfully complex Mediterranean pasta sauce.

The sauce was loaded with grilled red peppers, red onions, spinach, and artichoke hearts, feta cheese, and more. Quite a complex and enjoyable flavoured pasta and sauce.


For dessert we shared the New York style cheesecake which was drenched in a deliciously rich berry sauce and a slice of Chocolate Explosion.


The Chocolate Explosion was incredibly rich and very filling.

I would definitely order these desserts again. Very good lunch choices today.

Banh mi at Pho Holiday

I have been struggling with a serious shoulder injury over the last six weeks, an injury that has made my appetite virtually disappear.

It is totally out of the norm for me but I simply do not have an appetite for food. However, as a result of my loss if appetite I’ve lost quite a bit of weight. Good to lose some weight, but not necessarily a healthy way to lose weight.


As a result of my weight loss, I am now forcing myself to get out of the house and eat more regularly, even if I don’t feel hungry.

Today I visited my favourite pho shop, Pho Holiday and I had their barbecued pork Banh mi (a Vietnamese sub sandwich).

The best part of the sandwich was the French roll holding in all the yummy goodness. Delightful.

Pho Holiday is located at 1054 Austin Ave in Coquitlam – almost directly across from the Safeway on Austin.

Mr Chilli Spices Up East Hastings Street

The south-side of the block of Hastings Street just east of Boundary Road where Mr Chilli is located is a totally non-descript strip of businesses. A couple of used book stores, Comor Sports on the corner, a float tank shop, and well, not much else going on along the block.

Mr Chilli
Mr Chilli

Perhaps a challenging location for a new restaurant to get a start in the marketplace – but the people behind Mr Chilli are not letting their location in this block dampen their enthusiasm for making delicious and SUPER spicy foods.

Inside Mr Chilli
Inside Mr Chilli

While the outside of the Mr Chilli restaurant is rather unassuming, the interior is warm and welcoming with lots of natural wood used in the decor.

And the food? Well, as the interior of the restaurant has a warm appearance, nearly all the food has an incredibly spicy flavour.

They use peppers in nearly every dish. Loads of peppers!

Pepper Sauce
Pepper Sauce

And just in case you find the food to be not spicy enough, they bring extra dishes of sesame oil and pepper sauce to the table!

The starters that were brought to our table were all loaded with peppers – this ChongQing style food is not for the weak.

Appetizers
Appetizers

In the picture above, the dish on the right – the one with the long white rectangles is a good starting place. The white jelly strips are sort of tasteless – until you smear a little of the pepper paste onto them. Then their flavour pops.

The dish to the left is under-cooked chicken in, you guessed it, spicy pepper sauce. Although most of us at the table were nervous about the “under-cooked” chicken, I did try it and found the meat to be incredibly tender and full of flavour.

Pig's Ear
Pig’s Ear

The spicy pig ear (pictured above) was actually quite pleasing to me. Yes, as I bit into the very thinly sliced pig’s ear I could tell that I was biting through cartilage – don’t think about the Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield heavyweight boxing match while eating this one and it will be more enjoyable. I liked it.

Spicy Chicken
Spicy Chicken

But if you want spicy – try the dish quite perfectly named “spicy chicken”. Equal amounts of red peppers with mixed with crispy bits of chicken. I avoided the peppers and enjoyed the crispy nature of the chicken. Yes, once again, there was heat in this dish – loads of heat.

Spicy Fish Tofu in Soup
Spicy Fish Tofu in Soup

One of the real surprise dishes for me was the “Spicy Fish Tofu in Soup”. From what I could tell, the dish was actually made of fish and tofu in soup. A soup of a million peppercorns!

The fish had a very nice texture and as along as I avoided biting right into the peppercorns, it was dinner time hit.

Rice Flavoured Marinated Beef
Rice Flavoured Marinated Beef

The other dish that I found to be very pleasing (I liked all the dishes but these were my two favourites) was the one listed on the menu as “rice-flavoured marinated beef.

From what I can tell, the dish is made from marinated beef mixed with a finely ground rice. Once again, it was the texture of the dish that really was a hit. The beef-rice mixture simply works really well.

Hock Soup
Hock Soup

Some of the other dishes I enjoyed were the Hock Soup” which was described as a favourite of the ladies in China because it is so rich with collagen. Apparently collagen is good for the skin.

It sounds funny to say but the broth was very a thin broth and yet it had many layers of flavour to it making it quite a hit at our table. How can it be a thin broth and yet so full of flavour?

Wonton Soup
Wonton Soup

Someone at our table asked if they had anything less spicy and within minutes a bowl of Wonton Soup arrived. Once again, the broth was thin, not watery, and complex and full of flavour.

The wontons were also wonderful little flavour bombs. The wrappers were like flowing gowns holding the precious morsels of meat in their centres. Creamy and delicate.

My one complaint about Mr Chilli is that if they are looking to entice a non-Chinese speaking/reading clientele into their restaurant their menu really needs have more information on it.

For example, the menu item of “minced pork peas noodle soup” leaves me wondering what to expect if I ordered that dish. That is just one example of many of the questions that I had about the menu.

When I asked the young lady who was serving our table about some of the menu items, she had a very limited ability to explain any of the dishes in much more detail.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and I will be returning to Mr Chilli on Hastings St in Burnaby – with the understanding that it is a restaurant that serves spicy food. After all, it is pretty clear from the name of the place that they have a special relationship with chilli peppers.

Disclosure; this restaurant tasting event was organized by the people who are organizing the Chopstick Festival 2016 – a sort of Dine-Out Vancouver event for Chinese restaurants in Metro Vancouver.  As such, I was not required to pay for the food that I sampled. However, as always, editorial control of what I write on my blog remains with me. 

Chopstick Fest (October 15-30th) explores the idea of a greater Vancouver “Chinatown” that stretches from its traditional and historic roots in Vancouver’s downtown eastside to the now Chinese cultural epicentres of Richmond and Burnaby. With a focus on food and food culture, we seek to embrace the diversity of the greater Vancouver region’s Chinese communities through cuisine.

BC Hop Company Opening in Abbotsford

The BC Hop Company is hoping to quench the thirst for a key ingredient in B.C.’s growing craft beer sector.

BC Hop Company
Hop Vine

In an effort to provide the B.C. industry with a consistent supply of high-quality and local dry hops, the BC Hop Company is building a processing facility in Abbotsford that will include new technologies currently in use in Europe, .

Jati Sidhu, Member of Parliament for Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay, and member of the legislative assembly in B.C. for Abbotsford-Mission Simon Gibson announced $285,000 in funding for the Regional Hops Drying Kiln project through the Growing Forward 2 Canada-British Columbia Agri-Innovation program. The funding commitment was announced at a BeerBQ event at the BC Hop Company with hop fields in full bloom in the background.

The funding will be put towards innovative pieces of equipment that will kiln dry the hops under controlled conditions. The process helps reduce rancidity and the degradation of alpha acids and essential oils improving product colour and cone structure of the dried hops.

The technology is new to Canada and the goal is to produce a superior, world-class product so producers can remain competitive in both the local and international markets.