Monday, August 30, 2010

Capital Cocktails & In Search of 'Za - Part 2

Last weekend we found ourselves in Victoria for a family function.  After fulfilling family obligations we were able to sneak away and meet up with our good friends Shelora and Bill.  Shelora writes a great blog called Cooking with a Broad, and is my go-to resource for anything to do with food & drink on Vancouver Island.  Besides, she and Bill are great fun to hang out with, and after spending time with family, fun is often needed.

After a quick visit to Foo (sorry no pictures, it was too dark ... but I'll be visitng this place again to be sure!) we wandered over to the Chateau Victoria, and Clive's Classic Lounge.  What was interesting about this choice was that J & I had stayed at this very hotel not too long ago, had seen Clive's, and had decided to visit another lounge.  I'm glad we came back and may even go so far as to say that Clive's is my favourite watering hole in all of Victoria ... perhaps BC.

From it's name you can deduce that Clive's features the classic art of cocktail making.  Sidecars, Mint Julips, Sazeracs and my fave, the Negroni are created with great care and finesse.  Under the supervision of bartender Shawn Soole the menu is ever changing.  Some nights they pay hommage to a great bar, other's feature a great spirit.  Never a dull moment.  My "flight" of Negroni's explored the different faces this drink can have.  Too bad Clive's is a BC Ferry ride away.

Our second day in Victoria took us to Pizzeria Prima Strada.  I'd heard of this place from Shelora about a year ago, and never managed to make it over to Cook Street to try it out.  Prima Strada uses a traditional wood-fired oven, local Mozzarella di Bufala and a beautifuly rich sauce made simply from Italian plum tomatoes and salt.  Toppings are sourced locally whenever possible. 

The restaurant is a classic neighbourhood pizzeria.  There is a second location on Bridge Street, but the Cook Street location seemed a perfect fit to the vibe of this community.  A very relaxed and informal room.  Again, I found myself wishing Vancouver had something similar.  We started with the Melanzane & Tonno (roasted eggplant caponatina with a local tuna conserva) and a couple glasses of prosecco.  The preserves were served with some dough-points (made with pizza dough) that gave a good indication of the crust we were about have with our pizza.

The pizza was the Salsiccia Piccante, featuring housemade fennel sausage, tomato, mozzarella, and roasted bell peppers.  The pizza was excellent, not over-done with toppings.  I could have enjoyed the sausage on its own.  The crust was just the right chewiness, something that held up when we finished off the last couple of slices a few hours later in the ferry line-up.

I really hadn't planned on writing a sequel to the ah-Beetz post so soon afterwards, if at all. Such great pizza would really make any following pizza reviews pale in comparison. That's not my intent here. I Could Eat is not about ranking one restaurant, or one food against another. Yet I fear that is what I'm about to do.

If forced to choose between the two pizzas, both our votes would go to ah-Beetz.  Both were great pizzas, ah-Beetz was just more to our liking.  Having said that, if I was going out to dinner, I don't know that the single table and no-liquor liscence would get me out to Abbotsford over Victoria.  Still, I sit here waiting for the day that one of these fine establishments decides to make Vancouver its new home.  Even The Heights would be fine by me.


Clive's Classic Lounge
Chateau Victoria Hotel
740 Burdett Avenue
Victoria, BC

Pizzeria Prima Strada
230 Cook Street

Victoria, BC

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Saviour Effect

Ever fealt like you could walk on water? Then this may be the swimming pool for you ..

So you're not technically walking on water, but the effect would be pretty cool at the first party you hosted after installing the Hydrofloor.  Swimming pools take up a lot of floorspace, but with the Hydrofloor the pool you swam in in the morning, can become the floor you dance on at night.  The floors can also be stopped at any point in between creating a safe swimming environment for kids.  And as an added bonus, when the pool is "closed" the floor is insulated so heat loss is minimized.

Now if you could just get Cirque du Soleil to perform "O" for you.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

In Search of 'Za

Is there a better food than pizza? 

Think about it. It features all your basic food groups, you can hold it in your hand and it can include a wide variety of ingedients.  Unfortunately, at least around Metro Vancouver, there's prescious little in the way of "great" pizza.  Most uses sub standard ingredients, super thick dough making a pie that is gummy and tasteless. I rarely order in any more, relying mainly on my grill to satisfy my pizza need..

At it's very best, pizza making is an art, combining baking skills with those of charcuterie and cheese making.  The better the ingredients, the better the pie.  If you don't believe me, ask Terry at ah-Beetz in Abbotsford.  Yep, Abbotsford ... and it's well worth the drive.  Lucky for me, I've been able to make a couple stops on the way to our cabin, but I'd still drive there.  The owner, Terry lived in NYC for a few years and wanted to create high end NY Style pizza back home. ah-Beetz is the fortunate result. (Incidentaly, "ah-Beetz" is slang for "pizza." I'll let you Googler's decide if it's Sicialian or NY slang.)

The sourdough crust is where it all starts.  It's leavened with his own starter and the charring on the crust from his Garland oven (running at 700F) creates a crust with tonnes of flavour and a nice chew.  The sauce is home made from canned plum tomatoes from California, locally sourced herbs ... sweet but not sickeningly so.  It makes a nice foil for the meat: sausages made special for ah-Beetz, and cured meat made by Terry himself.  Ask him what he's got going and you may end up with a sample.  The cheese is often fresh made mozzarella, but typically Grana Padano imported from Italy.

The end result is pizza heaven.  I know it sounds cliche, but you can taste the care he puts into the product.  My only hope is that one day he'll bring his skills closer to town.  A tip if you decide to venture out to Abby for some pizza ... phone ahead, pick up your pizza and head to a nearby park for a picnic.  There's only 1 table in the restaurant anyway.

#3 - 2664 Gladys Avenue

Abbotsford, BC

Monday, August 9, 2010

NIM: Peel n' Stick Trompe L'Oeil

Trompe l'oeil (French for "deceive the eye") is an painting technique that uses realistic images to trick us into believing we seeing something we're not.  Crude examples would include the vines and Grecian columns painted inside your favorite Taverna.  More elaborate examples have windows painted with detailed 3 dimensional scenes where no window exists. 

Couture Deco have introduced a line of decals called Trompe L'oeil (failing marks for naming originality) for those of us without the skill to pull off the real thing.  Designs include bookshelves, escalators (shown left) and even a staircase in the Parisienne catacombs.  Priced at around $200, installation requires "no special skills" ...
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