Monday, August 1, 2011

Recipe: Rebar's Red Lentil Greek Soup

I made this soup the other day and I was blown away by how easy and delicious it was! Defiantly a nice easy go to soup I will keep in my collection! I think the biggest thing that makes this soup so good is all the fresh herbs and lemon juice so make sure you don't skimp on those! Fresh does make a huge difference!

2 cups red lentils
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 tsp salt
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
1 tsp cracked pepper
1/4 tsp red chile flakes
1 tbsp minced rosemary
2 tbsp minced oregano
2 bay leaves
8 cups vegetable stock
zest of 1/2 lemon
juice of 2 lemons
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tsp minced rosemary cracked pepper to taste

Rince lentils thoroughly in a colander under cold running water. Set aside to drain. Heat oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat and saute onion with 1 tsp salt until translucent. Add garlic, carrot, pepper, chilies, herbs, bay leaves and remaining salt. Stir well and saute until the carrots are just tender. Add rinsed lentils and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered until the lentils are soft and falling apart (This didn't take long about 15-20 minutes). If you like, the soup can be pureed or left as is. If you choose to puree, remove the bay leaves first!

Season the soup with lemon zest, lemon juice and more salt and pepper to taste (I didn't find I needed it though and the feta adds more salt). Before serving, stir together the feta cheese, rosemary and cracked pepper. Sprinkle over hot bowls of soup and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Baja Surf Grill - 535 Yates St

Another Groupon, and another restaurant to check out! I went with a friend that mentioned they were interested in checking it out as well on a Saturday night. We entered just as they were opening and had our choice of seating. The inside was really neat looking with all dark wood and plants, it almost had a Balinese look to it, the day was nice and sunny so we opted for the back patio. Wasn't quite what we expected, just a few metal tables in an alleyway that also had some homeless people hanging out.

Out waitress was ok but wasn't that impressed when I just had water. We decided to share a few plates trying the Taquitos, Traditional Baja Tacos and the Tropical Crunch Roll. I had checked out the menu online before hand and it's a confusing mix of Mexican and Sushi-fusion. It's like the people that opened the restaurant couldn't decide what they wanted to cook so just did both. That's ok though as I do enjoy both types of food and it's fun to try something different. I thought we'd get our dishes separately but they ended up all coming at the same time. I started with the Taquitos which were tequila soaked raisins with a chipotle cream cheese wrapper in tortilla fingers. Never had taquitos like this before, they were ok but I barely could taste the cream cheese and overall didn't have much flavour. They seemed like something someone would through together as an appie to take to someones house.

I love fish tacos so I was excited to try the Traditional Baja Taco which was tempura battered fish, salsa, shredded cabbage and baja aioli. I was pretty disappointed. The battered fish wasn't anything special and I felt like the tempura batter didn't go well with everything else. I couldn't even taste the salsa or aioli and the cabbage had a harsh bitter taste. It seems like such a simple dish and it's something I have made at home with no experience and have had better.

The Tropical Crunch Roll wasn't much better. Panko crusted and fried California roll toped with diced mango and tobiko with chipotle mayo and sweet sauce. The roll was very bland considering everything it had on it and the sauce didn't add much flavour and punch as it should have. I enjoyed trying something new but they just couldn't pull it together. I saw the mango on top but couldn't taste it in any of the bites.

This may be a nice place to go for a drink and hang out and grab a few bites if you're drinking, but I wouldn't go here as a destination for the food.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Zambris - 820 Yates St

I've been wanting to eat at Zambris long before they moved to their new location in the Atrium building and last weekend I finally had a chance when my lovely fiance took me out for lunch.
Luckily it wasn't too busy and we were seated right away beside the window. The main dining room wasn't very big, mostly taken over by the big bar. There was an outdoor patio that wasn't open yet as well as seating inside the Atrium and a room that was closed off. They were having a private event which seemed to be people they knew watching a soccer game as cheers from the room kept erupting.

We were given a bottle of water on the table which I appreciated, though considering their glasses were the size of shot glasses it was pretty much neccesary. We also got a basket with fresh crusty bread and some tasty olives which was really nice.

There were a lot of things on the menu that tempted me so it was hard to decide but I knew I was craving pasta so I ordered the Penne with Peas and Gorgonzola which I had been eying on the menu for awhile.

To start we shared the Arrabbiata pizza which had spicy pickled peppers, smoked cheese and tomato sauce. This is not something I would normally order but I really enjoyed it and think it strongly competes with the Pizzeria Prima Strada pizzas, I may have even liked it a little more. The crust was wood fire oven cooked and was perfect, very light and tasty! The sauce was delicious and I really enjoyed the combination of the spicy peppers and smoky cheese.

I also really enjoyed the pasta, the penne was cooked to perfection, though if it wasn't I would be very disapointed. The sauce was nice and had the perfect amount of gorgonzola so that it wasn't too over powering. The peas tasted fresh and went really well with the sauce.

We also saw Peter Zambri in the kitchen so it was good to know this is a family run business that is always there making sure their standards are maintained.

It was a perfect lunch, the only negative being it was so good I ate too much! I can't wait to go back and try many other dishes on the menu! Plus I didn't have a chance to try the Tiramisu and I know I won't be let down!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Spice Jammer - it ain't so Jammin'! - 852 Fort St

I had been to Spice Jammer before but had found it quite expensive so when I saw a Groupon come up I knew it was a deal worth taking advantage of.
We headed down on a Saturday night, and if you didn't know about the restaurant already it's easy to miss and even harder to know if it's open with it's dark front windows and then weird seating area. The front has around six fancy chairs beside a bar and then a hallway leading to the dining area. There is no sign so it's confusing when you arrive to know where to wait to be seated as there wasn't anyone waiting to greet us. We moved up towards the dining room and were told to take a seat while a table was being cleaned. We waited about 5 minutes or so and a server lead us to our table.
We promptly were served water and asked if we had any questions about the menu. Our server informed us that she was new but would answer any of our questions. I was trying to decide whether to get a vegetarian dish or one with prawns so I asked her if the Butter Prawns came with vegetables because I didn't want just sauce and prawns and she said yes it did but she didn't know which ones. I said that was fine and ordered it with rice to share and a vegetable samosa. James ordered a vegetable and a beef samosa as well as Beef Vindaloo and an order or naan bread. We also both ordered chai teas to drink.
As we sat and waited we listened as another server explained to her table that they are a African-Indian based restaurant as opposed to Punjabi style so while you will find similar dishes to other Indian restaurants, the spices and preparation may be different, and that everything is cooked to order so it does take longer. She went over a lot on the menu and seemed very helpful... wish we'd gotten her! We also noticed other tables around us get complimentary baskets of pampadums even though they'd been seated after us.
Our server came back and informed us that they were out of vegetable samosas and would we like meat ones or naan bread instead? I said no as I am a vegetarian but she never asked James if he wanted to switch his. I should have at this point been tipped off when she asked if we wanted to order naan. So I decided not to get anything else as that was all I wanted and she came back a minute later and said she'd convinced them to make some more. She earned points for this and we were happy, though I found it interesting that they were suddenly able to make them when we wouldn't order something else in their place.
The table next to us was also particularly annoying. It was an older group so I was surprised when they pulled out a laptop and proceeded to show some sort of clips to the people at the table. The dining room became quiet as everyone could hear the sound and just stared at the table. I found this really rude and it just added to the frustration that night.
At this point we had been there quite awhile when eventually the better waitress came over and refilled our water glasses and asked if we'd gotten pampadums so we told her we hadn't and were still waiting on our chai teas. She said she'd look into that right away for us.
We waited some more and eventually the pampadums came but still no tea. We waited even longer, I didn't check my watch but maybe 1/2 hour. She said the tea was brewing but really it doesn't take that long. Eventually just before the samosas come out we each get our own tea pot of chai. I did like that we each got a pot of tea versus just one glass and at $2.50 this was a good deal. We had to add our own sugar but at least it allowed us to adjust the sweetness to the level we liked.
The samosas were very good, crisp on the outside and a nice filling on the inside that was complimented well with the tamarid sauce it came with.
I should have ordered more then one because the wait for our main courses was even longer. The server had said it was a crazy night but dining room wasn't completely full though they did keep turning over tables quickly I noticed. The room wasn't very big so my guess was they aren't used to being this busy.
We waited a very long time and eventually our food came, minus the naan. We waited some more and it never came and by the time the waitress checked on us we were partway into our meal. We told her her error and James also asked for some raita to go with his vindaloo. You'd think since she'd made an error she would be quick to get us our naan bread but as we ate more of our meal it never came, though the table beside ours did get some. Also with all the waiting you would assume it was cooked fresh and came out right away. Well the warm dinner plates they brought out sat for 10 minutes before we even got our food so they were cold by the time it came and then the food was only lukewarm itself and quickly became cold.
The portion wasn't that large for $19 without rice, while the food did have good flavours it certainly didn't justify the price.
When our plates were cleared we still hadn't recieved the raita or naan so we told our 4th different server about this. He said he would check on it so we made sure he was clear we didn't want it anymore in case they tried to now bring it out. No apology was made at this point it.
He came back and asked if we had a Groupon and went and got our bill. He came to the table with the bill open and announced the total. I found this very strange, but whatever. So we look at the bill and luckily the two items we didn't get weren't charged but there was an extra charge of $2 for vegetables added to my Butter Prawns. The waitress had told me they were included and if she was going to add them to the bill when she found out they weren't she should have let me know. Also for the amount of vegetables in it it didn't justify the extra charge either making my dish now a ridiculous $21. We also noticed that James' suspicion about his dish was correct and he had gotten the Bhunna Beef instead of the Vindaloo he had ordered, though at least this was cheaper! Also because of the mix up with the food I would have thought they would have maybe comped our drinks or something for the bad service which they didn't. I always tip but this was my last straw and I figured for the extra they charged us that was what their tip would have been. I am sure glad I had a Groupon otherwise I would have been even more upset to pay almost $60 for that meal.
This place has some good food, but with the extremely high prices and bad service I know this was my last time and I won't be back.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Savory Seattle!

Well I'm a day late getting at least one post in April but I was off on another adventure for half the month which brings me to this blog post!
Before jetting off to Hawaii we spent a few days in Seattle and hit as many food spots as our stomach could handle!
We took the Clipper down and luckily we had a lot smoother ride then previous trips, though I'd still never go on it without my trusty Gravol!

View from our hotel!

We arrived just after 9pm and had a great location to explore the city from. Just down the street from us were a few Tom Douglas restaurants which we'd heard many good reviews on so we decided to pick Dahlia Lounge for our first stop.
We were starving so we started out with the Dahlia Bakery Bread with house made butter with fennel salt. The bread was very good and the butter had a great fresh creaminess to it with the fennel salt adding some nice flavour.
For my main I had the Vegetarian Thai Bento Box. I notice that it's not on the menu now so I'll have to try and remember what was in it.

Luckily I had a picture! I was overall let down with this meal, with four different components nothing stood out to me. Everything was ok but for a thai bento box nothing had stand out flavour. The green curry on tofu was bland and had no spice or flavour. The thai style rice was good but nothing special, and the papaya salad was bland.
James luckily took a risk and tried something he doesn't often have, duck, and was not let down!

As we ate out meal we saw waiter after waiter go by with paper bags being shaken and dumped out onto plates at almost every table. We knew what they were having and this was one of the main reason we chose to go here. Tom Douglas is famous for his house made donuts and of course we had to try them!

These did not let me down! Served with vanilla marscarpone and seasonal jam they were perfect little fluffy balls of goodness!

We ended up coming back the next morning as their restaurant across the street Lola had a long wait and they had the same breakfast menu.

This time I was not let down at all! I had read a recommendation for the French Toast on another blog so I decided to go with that. It came with a pistachio ricotta that was amazing! I subed Parmesan potatoes for bacon and those were perfect as well! Very salty but it was a nice contrast to the sweetness of the French Toast. I usually go for savory breakfast dish but this was a perfect balance of the two.

James had the eggs benedict but this time it was his turn to be let down. He said it was ok but overall wasn't blown away and felt that the greens overwhelmed the dish.

That afternoon we explored the city and went on a great Underground Tour which I highly recommend to anyone visiting the city!
We decided to have an early dinner as our friend Perry was joining us that night so we went to P.F. Changs for their happy hour special.
We arrived around 4-5pm and were surprised to find a very busy restaurant and had to wait about 15 minutes to be seated. Our waiter was great, very energetic and friendly without making you feel totally creeped out.
We tried some drink specials, I had the Asian Pear Mojito which was very good. To eat we had to start off with the Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps which we'd had before and were the main reason we came.

These are one of my favourite things and I can never find a vegetarian version so I am always excited when I get a chance to have them again.

Then we tried a variety of Steamed Dumplings and I had the Mahi Mahi Taco and Tuna Tataki Crisps.

They were all very good and we enjoyed being able to try little bites at a great price. Our dishes came out one at a time which worked well for us as we didn't want to be overwhelmed with all the dishes at once. I guess this wasn't ok with the management though as the manager came over to apologize and comped our drinks! Well ok I'll take that! I was very impressed by this as we hadn't every complained and in fact told him we preferred it that way. We were on a limited budget as well so this definitely helped!

We also went down to Pike Place Market that day and had to check out the famous Piroshky Piroshky. The line up was long but moved quickly and we had some coffee from the first Starbucks to keep us going on that very cold day!

We also stopped by french bakery Le Panier and had some amazing macaroons! I have seen pictures of this little treats all over lately it seems to be a new food fad but I'd never tried them. These were amazing, they don't look like much, bright coloured mini sandwiches, but they sure packed a lot of flavour!

That night we met up with Perry and check out Shorty's. Half bar serving hot dogs and nachos from behind the bar and the other half pinball arcade.

The next day we had to stop by Top Pot Doughnuts as it was around the corner and Obama has been there so you know it's good right? The doughnuts were great I tried the apple fritter which was huge and a traditional old fashioned style one with raspberry frosting. Obama didn't let us down, these doughnuts were great!

From there we went to the Experience Music Project so the boys could check it out. The building is very cool but I'd been here before a few times and for the price I was a little let down and bored this time.

That afternoon we decided to check out the other Tom Douglas restaurant on our block Serious Pie for their happy hour.
It wasn't as busy here which is good as it's very small inside and we were told it's communal seating so we may have strangers seated beside us. The tables fit about 8 people so I thought it seemed a little crowded for the communal concept, luckily it never got that busy and we had the table to ourselves. One of the waiters was very snobby about informing us of this and rudely grabbed our menus off our table later, I was not impressed at all. The other server was ok but overall I was very let down with the service here.
Since it was only $5 for the mini pizzas we each tried two different ones. We all ended up getting the Yukon Gold Potato pizza and I also tried the Chantrelle Mushroom pizza.

Both pizzas were very good I really enjoyed the crusts and unique toppings. I wished maybe I'd ordered a different combination though as these two were drier pizzas and I wish I'd had a different flavour combination. The potato pizza was very good not something I had ever tried before. The mushroom pizza was good too but the cheese almost melted to the pizza in a plastic like way and didn't have any creaminess. Comparing it to the Funghi pizza at Pizzeria Primi Strata in Victoria that one wins hands down. Though I think I may like the crust slightly more at Serious Pie as it was a little thicker and chewier.

That night I joined the boys for a screening of Kevin Smith's Red State and a Q&A. My iphone 4 has really impressed me with the photos it's been taking and I really enjoy using Camera+ to edit my photos but it let me down here. When Kevin was on stage we were only a few rows back and no matter what I tried I could not get a good shot that wasn't blown out by the light.
This as good as I could get so you'll just have to take my word it's him!

That's Perry asking his question, very exciting! I really enjoyed the movie and was glad it wasn't as scary and gruesome as I was afraid it would be. :)

That night we finally got into the other Tom Douglas restaurant on the block Lola. We joined up with some of Perry's friends that were also at the show and got to the restaurant just before closing but the staff was very good at accommodating our group. Since we had a large group we decided to share the Lola spreads and the boys had some kebabs. The spreads were great and it was good to get to try a variety, my favourites were the tzatziki, fava skordalia and roasted sweet red pepper. We were kept supplied with grilled pita bread and even when we were all stuffed there was still spread left.
We wanted to let the others experience the doughnuts as well but unfortunately they were sold out so the waitress recommended the Loukoumathes which were different doughnuts with cinnamon, honey and walnuts and they were just as amazing, a great alternative!

It was a perfect end to our gastronomic journey. Seattle has a great restaurant scene and I can't wait to go back and try something new next time!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sauce Restaurant & Lounge - 1245 Wharf Street

Dine Around Town was ending and I knew I had to get in at least one more restaurant so I called on my downtown co-workers again to join me. I'd checked out quite a few menus and Sauce isn't one I thought to check out immediately as it's in the bar/tourist area I tend to avoid. I had heard some good things though and it was close to the office so it seemed like a good time to check it out.

Again this is one of those restaurants that doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. It's dark with leather seats inside, and the menu wants to be tapas I think? The online menu is way too confusing with way too many categories. Entrees, Sauce Plates, Favourites? I just don't understand it, so I was glad we'd already decided on the Dine Around menu.

We made reservations for 6pm on a Saturday but upon entering we were only one of a handful of tables. It was early though and by the time we left it was quite busy.
The drink menu looked pretty good, lots of choices at decent prices and some twists on classic cocktails. I had a hard time deciding but I ended up splitting a small pitcher of the White Peach Sangria which for $18 was a pretty good deal as we both got 2 full glasses out of it. Though it was a steal I'm not sure I'd get it again, there wasn't much flavour and I couldn't really taste any peach or wine.

The server was good, attentive but not pushy or overbearing. The kind where you kind of forget about the server, not because they aren't checking on you. Does that make sense?

We each got a different starter so we could each try a bite. I had the $30 menu and started with the "Phyllo Wrapped Brie" which came with red onion jam, roasted garlic bulb, toasted flatbread. It was a good size for a starter I was afraid could be very filling, it also helped to be sharing! It wasn't anything special I could have done this at home but it was still a nice treat. Someone else had the "Strawberry Stilton Salad" which wasn't my favourite but that's only because the stilton was too strong for me, I'm not a big blue cheese fan. We also tried the "Crab & Artichoke Dip" which was ok but I'm glad I hadn't ordered it as it was a little too artichoke-y and acidic for me. And the other person had a mushroom on crostini dish which was actually my favourite.

For the main I had the "Sesame Crusted Tuna" which came with some zucchini, red pepper and baby bok choy which was all cooked very well and we were able to trade the roasted potatoes for mashed which were delicious! My friend had the regular potatoes and she didn't end up finishing them so defiantly a smart move on the switch! The sauce was underneath the tuna which is nice as it didn't make it soggy and you could choose the amount you wanted. It was nice had a sweet flavour that went well with the sesame crusted tuna. I've never had this before but it's something I've always wanted to try and I wasn't let down. The sesame crust was great and the tuna looked like it was cooked perfectly. Going from the crunch on the outside to the raw tuna in the middle is a little strange at first, but if you are used to eating sushi it's something you'd enjoy. This is something I would go back for. I read a lot of reviews on urbanspoon and many people recommended the tuna tataki which I am now intrigued to go back and try now as well.

For dessert I had the "Skor Cheesecake" which was ok. The cheesecake was a little sour for me and could have used more chunks rather then dust of skor pieces, though I did manage to finish the whole thing. My friends had the "Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie" which we all really enjoyed, and the "Flourless Chocolate Torte" which was nice and light but very rich.

I enjoyed my experience here and while there were a few misses they were small ones and overall it was a great meal. I think this would be a good place to go on a date and order a bunch of the small plates to share, so Sauce I may be back!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pizzeria Prima Strada - 2960 Bridge Street & 230 Cook Street

I've been to Pizzeria Prima Strada quite a few times now and have wanted to write about it but just never got around to it. With the steal of a deal $20 Dine Around Town menu I figured it was the perfect time for another trip back.

I've been to the Cook St location twice before the new location opened and I always found it to be very busy. The first time I tried it as take out which I don't recommend. This pizza is best eaten straight out of the wood fire oven. By the time it got home the thin crust was getting cold and the benefits of the wood oven were lost.

Luckily we saw the potential and went back to try it again. The pizzas are a good size for gourment pizza, about 6 large slices so it can easily be shared leaving room for gelato!

They import the flour from Naples and use many local ingredients which is what makes them stand out from other wood oven or gourmet pizza restaurants. And since the Bridge St location is just a short drive from my house it's hard to not resist going there too often, this pizza is a special treat.

I really like their Bridge St location, though it is not similar to other places in Victoria and I can see the style not being everyones taste. First it's hard to find if you don't see the sign, it's in the first building when you turn off Gorge onto Bridge, set in the back of an industrial building. There is no big sign and most of the parking is reserved for other businesses. The bonus though is there's almost always street parking and it's free. Inside it's an open kitchen with a mix of long wood tables and smaller ones. Sometimes 3 different groups may be sharing the same table which seems strange at first but there's usually enough space that you don't feel invaded. Most times we've arrived before it got too busy and was able to get our own table for two, though the table beside is close enough that I'm sure it's not much different then sitting at the big table.

Our server arrived at our table promptly and I appreciated her asking first if we were interested in wine and then describing each of the features, I probably wouldn't have had a glass if it's wasn't her description of the white wine "a citrus start with a kiwi finish" it sounded interesting so I was intrigued to try it. I have no idea what it's called but I really enjoyed it. I don't know if I really picked up on the kiwi finish but I'll say it was nice and refreshing!

To start I had the "Melanzane & Tonno roasted eggplant caponatina, local tuna conserva". Don't worry I had no idea what it was either so I asked the server. It's cooked tuna soaked in olive oil with roasted vegetable tapanade and flat bread sticks. I still didn't really know what to expect and was a little nervous as I'm not a big eggplant fan but I was very happy with my choice once I tried it. The eggplant was barely noticeable among the other small diced and roasted veg that tasted amazing with the tuna and tasty flat bread. I've been trying to branch out and try fancier things and this was definitely one of those times where I was very happy that I did. Honestly I could have just had that and been happy. The only downside was that our pizza came while I was finishing the last few bites which was a little annoying as I would have liked time to sit between courses.

The pizza was the full size of the "Funghi" which I've had before and really enjoyed. It has porcini cream, roasted mushrooms, roasted onions, fresh thyme, mozzarella and pecorino and it is amazing! For a girl that used to despise mushrooms growing up I am very proud to say I enjoyed it. The cream mixed with the mushrooms and caramelized onions it just amazing. I've tried the Margherita pizza before which was good but I found a little too subtle in flavours. This pizza is a perfect mix, lots of flavour but I don't find it too overwhelming or rich. The crust is a perfect mix of thin crispy oven baked with a nice chewy crust. I was still pretty full from my appy so I was only able to finish about half knowing I still had dessert to go.

For the dessert they had 3 choices, for the pizza and dessert you also had a choice of their feature special which luckily for me was the "Tiramisu" tonight. Yum it was perfect! The coffee wasn't too strong, the cream was amazing and the cake/lady fingers weren't soggy. I also had a bite of James' "Tartufo" which was a change from the menu online. It was chocolate hazelnut gelato with a vanilla centre rolled in cocoa powder. It was really good as well, very smooth and creamy!

I highly recommend Pizzeria Prima Strada, they are doing something different in town and they are doing it well. Plus I enjoy it because it's almost like casual fine dining.

I forgot my phone so my attempt to start taking pictures of my meals out was foiled again. Usually though I am too excited to start eating it and forget to take a picture before I finish it! Plus you don't want to look like the weirdo in the restaurant taking pictures of their food. I wonder if the other food bloggers try and keep it discreet or just go full out and have a photo shoot?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Veneto Restaurant Review - 1450 douglas st

I figured I am past due for another restaurant review and since it's Dine Around time in Victoria now feels like a good time to start telling you all about my dining adventures!

Why I chose Veneto...

I used to work downtown and everyday I passed by the Rialto... I've seen it transform from a crack shack to a beautiful hotel. Being the foodie that I am I was curious about Veneto but never got around to checking it out so when I saw it on the Dine Around list I thought here's the perfect chance. But then I read the menu and saw "Chocolate and Peanut Butter Crème Brûlée" and I was sold!! Creme Brulee plus chocolate and peanut butter? That sounded like my dream dessert! They also have a tasty sounding soup "Creole Onion and Sharp White Cheddar Soup" and a prawn main "Grilled Smoked Chili Shrimp with smoked chili butter and creamy polenta cake".

So I invited my downtown coworkers to join James and I on Friday night. The inside of the restaurant is very nice, marble bar and sleek wood panel walls. It feels like a classy joint that I don't belong in which I hate about a lot of restaurants in Victoria but I've learned to not care and remember I am a paying customer too.

When I arrived my friends immediately notified me that the menu had changed and a moment of panic set in that there wouldn't be a pesco-veg friendly main anymore. Luckily the soup and prawn dish remained the same.... but it was my chocolate and peanut butter creme brulee that was missing. It was replaced with a chocolate and peanut butter brownie with bananas and toffee sauce or a Kahlua creme brulee with a mini donut. I relaxed, I could live with one of those choices but I was disappointed that they decided to change their menu.

Veneto is know for it's bartenders and I was intrigued by the idea of a fancy cocktail, but looking at the drink menu honestly it was all a little too confusing for me. We ended up sticking with some white Mission Hill wine which was nice and light and refreshing with the sweetness I enjoy.

I checked out their regular menu and it was a little confusing as well. It seems like they want to be a tapa bar, and maybe I just don't know because I haven't been to many, but I didn't feel like the menu was presenting that theme. They had a starter section, a main section and then their tapas section. What I didn't like with the tapas section was that it is broken down into different proteins and then you got a trio of them. There didn't seem to be any mixing and matching and they all sounded like a meal on their own. Maybe I'd have to come back to try it to understand but it didn't appeal to me.

The soup came out first in a small bowl and my first thought was, that's it? I then remembered this is a three course meal so it's nice to not get an over sized portion. The soup was pretty good, not amazing or mindblowing, but pretty good. I'm not sure what I thought of the croutons they were half soggy from sitting in the soup and there wasn't anything special to them. I did feel satisfied when I finished though and the size was just right.

After waiting just the right amount of time between courses our main arrived. The prawns were big and cooked perfectly. I really like the chili sauce on it that paired well with the polenta. The veg that came with it wasn't too exciting just some small squash pieces but they were more there for balance and presentation then anything.

The dessert though was probably the biggest let down. Considering what a brownie/chocolate/peanut butter fan I was my exceptions were high. It came with two triangles of brownie on top of sliced banana, ice cream and toffee sauce. The toffee sauce was probably the best part, but I thought the bananas were going to be cooked so I didn't really understand what the raw ones were supposed to add. I would have just left them if James hadn't eaten them. The brownie wasn't great... it was ok... a little dry, nothing exciting. I could taste the peanut butter but it was very subtle. I would take a Moxie's brownie any day over this. I tried James' creme brulee, again it was ok, I did like the Kahlua flavor but the custard seemed a little different, maybe thinner, and the donut was dry.

But full of wine and good laughs with friends I left Veneto on a high and I remembered the taste of the prawn dish throughout the night so I can't say it was a bad experience. The service was very good as well, quick to refill glasses and take orders without being too in your face. Will I be back there anytime soon? Probably not, but I'm glad I tried it.

I hope to get to a few more restaurants before Dine Around ends and there's a few places I've been to recently that I feel deserve to be highlighted so hopefully I will get to blogging some more!!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Creamy Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup

I haven't posted many recipes in awhile and over the holidays I actually cooked something, mostly myself so thought I'd share the delicious recipe!!

It's a modified version I found for Hearty Hot or Cold Roasted Tomato Soup on the website.

Creamy Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup

2 pounds Roma (plum) tomatoes, quartered
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 cloves garlic
1 quart vegetable stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup heavy cream
salt and ground black pepper to taste


Place the tomato halves, cut side down, on a baking tray with the garlic cloves. Drizzle with the oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 375 degrees F (195 degrees C) for 1 hour. Watch them though they may need more or less time depending on your oven. The tomatoes should be soft and blistering and the garlic should turn a light brown but make sure they don't burn.

Carefully peel as much of the tomato skin as you can off. Then snip the ends off the garlic cloves, and squeeze the insides into the bowl of a food processor along with the entire contents of the baking tray including the juices. Add stock, basil, and vinegar; blend until smooth then add the heavy cream. Now let it simmer for about half an hour to let the flavours develop and let the cream thicken. If you find you'd like it thicker in a bowl combine 1 tbs cornstarch and 1-2 tbs of cold water to create a slurry then add that to the soup and let it simmer and thicken.

Season and serve! It taste good with fresh Parmesan on top!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Out with 2010 and in with 2011!!

Well it's time for a year in perspective... was 2010 a good year? Was it everything I expected? After 2009, 2010 could only be better... and while it was still a year of recovery some pretty great and even amazing things did happen so I will say yes 2010, you were good to me.

It was the year I got engaged, in Las Vegas, so you can't get much better then that. I also got a new car, with power steering too!! James got on track and finished his second level of school and signed up for his third and final year. We jetted off to Hawaii to celebrate my 28th birthday and 3 wonderful years together. I reconnected with some old friends and disconnected with others, but in the end everything worked out as it was meant to.

I started kicking my butt into shape and working out on a regular basis as well as eating better. I started to feel a lot better and lost 15lbs. I took a bit of a break in December but I plan to get back on track and have done a few work outs already. The first one reminded me how long it had been and my plan for 2011 is to stay on the same path.

What will 2011 bring? Usually I'm thinking about my next trip, and even though I said this last year too, this year will hopefully be one of saving. I've built up a few debts in 2010 and I am planning towards a big adventure in 2012, so this year will be about working towards those big goals.