Monday, January 28, 2008

Snow Day with Dona Cata

How do you deal with the snow? Last Saturday in Vancouver saw a one of our traffic-crippling snow storms (translation: any snow sticking to the road) and gave me an excuse to seek out some Mexican comfort food. Dona Cata has been on my "go to" list ever since it opened last year, and I'm not alone. It won "Best of the Americas" for last year's Van Mag Awards, and made many top 10 lists.

But honestly, it's not about the awards, it's about the honest, no-nonsense soul stirring food.

I hadn't been to Dona Cata since they'd moved down Victoria Drive to their new digs. A shopping trip with my youngest son (Ryan) and the aforementioned snow gave me an excuse to remedy that "problem". The new restaurant from what I can tell is about improving the kitchen area, because there's not much improvement in the front-of-house floorspace.

We sat down just before 3 to a full room, and nary an english-speaking table within earshot. Definitely a good sign. One end of the room featured a large projection screen television on which was a concert video of (apparently) a popular Mexican singer. The cacophony of the video, families conversing in Spanish and the racket of the kitchen brought smiles to our faces. "It's just like our trip!" remarked Ryan, recalling our visit to Puerto Valarta a couple years ago.

Dona Cata is essentially a taco truck ... just without the truck. The majority of the menu is tacos, burritos and that ilk, along with some newer items I've neglected to write down. Tacos are a couple bucks each, with a choice of about 5 or 6 fillings (pork, chicken, lamb, beef ... ) and a selection of 7 or 8 salsas. Our favorite was without a doubt the peanut salsa, with the salsa verde a close second.
Other items are available on the day sheet ... and as luck would have it Saturday was pozole day! I discovered pozole in Puerto Valarta at an all-inclusive resort of all places. Shredded pork and hominy in a spicey broth is a perfect way to fight of the winter woes.

Ryan and I sat in slurp-filled silence as we devoured the bowl, pausing occaisionaly to wipe our chins or finish off a taco.

Total dammage for the pozole, 4 tacos and a couple drinks was about $25. The surreal sensation of eating Mexican while the snow came down was a bonus.

Dona Cata Mexican Foods
5438 Victoria Drive
Vancouver, BC

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dinner at the Diner

Once a week I take the long drive out the Mary-Hill Bypass to visit my sons in Pitt Meadows, take them to dinner and catch up on their lives. Dinner choices in the Pitt are, to say the least, limited. Fast food rules, and apart from a Ph繫 joint and an Indian place we've found, there's little else worth visiting.

My eldest son spends a lot of time with his friends, and Bobby Sox Diner, just up the Lougheed in Maple Ridge, has become a new hang-out. It was "okay" he said ... cheap and cheerful (my words, not his) so it seemed a suitable choice after a few frames of bowling.

We've driven by Bobby Sox a number of times, and I always thought it looked authentic. The sort of place that has been the the area for ages ... standing tall against all comers ... fighting fast food with tradition. Inside, the Naugahyde booths, Formica and chrome countertops, and the requisite Coke fridge all boded well for its pedigree. Sliding into one of the booths I asked the waitress how long they'd been in business.

15 years. Alas, Bobby Sox was once a KFC. So much for nostalgia.

We order: 1 coffee, 2 Cokes, a Reuben, a Monte Cristo and the special of the night - Grilled Turkey, Bacon & Tomato served with a bowl of Split Pea Soup. Other menu offerings included burgers, salads(???) and what my son tells me is a damn fine milkshake. Oddly, I saw no meatloaf or chicken-pot-pie. Its probably just the nostalgia in me, but aren't those are required diner dishes?

Locals file in and out of the place, participating in what is undoubtedly a daily ritual for them. Dinner arrives, and the first thing I notice is that this place knows how to grill a sandwich! Nice crust without a hint of burning and the ingredients inside all perfectly melty. The fries were not as crisp as I like them, but the boys thought they were just "okay." Chalk that one up to preference. The pea soup was nice, but nothing special ... likely a canned base with some freshly crisped bacon added. Having said that, I should have ordered the soup rather than the fries.

The overwhelming favourite was the Grilled Turkey, Bacon & Tomato. The tomato was a nice contrast to the melted meats. The Reuben was "okay" as was the Monte Cristo. Oh, and the coffee was nice and hot and refilled often. So it's not the Mecca of diners, but it's a place I'll visit again when I'm in the mood for Formica , greasy food and good conversation with the boys.

Bobby Sox 50's Diner
22596 Lougheed Highway
Maple Ridge

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I Could Eat

That is my standard response to the question "Are you hungry?"

Food has become a major part of my life, and one day if I feel like spilling my guts I'll explain. For now, all anyone needs to know is that this blog is an outlet for my thoughts and experiences about food. Whether I'm cooking and shopping in Metro Vancouver, fine dining in Portland or drinking wine in Beaune I'll do my best to photograph and share.

Time for lunch ...
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