Ucluelet: Jiggers

September 22, 2008

After a long day of kayaking in Barkley Sound around the Broken Islands Group, we wanted a substantial meal. As we drove back to the kayak HQ, Ben, our tour guide pointed out Jiggers along the side of the road.

“That’s the best fish and chips in the world,” he proclaimed as we drove by a little white truck. It was enough of an endorsement for us. We were tired, hungry and damn it we burned a lot of calories that day and deserved some deep fried comfort food. Besides, we had not yet tried West Coast fish and chips during our vacation and didn’t want to think much about where we should find dinner.

By the time we cleaned ourselves up and walked back to the fish fry joint, they had run out of cod but still had my favourite fried fish: halibut. Instead of getting two separate meals, H and I shared a two-piece platter which came with bed of fries, coleslaw and a hearty glob of tartar sauce.

Although I enjoy a good coleslaw once in a while, it’s rarely something worth raving about and unfortunately, Jiggers’ creamy version was no different. I suspect it was just a store-bought dressing poured over shredded cabbage, but I didn’t mind. I didn’t go there for coleslaw.  We went for french fries and fresh fried fish and that’s where they excelled. Our two pieces of fresh halibut were gigantic and covered in a lightly herbed batter. Even better, the fish was not greasy. Jiggers did a fine job of allowing the oil to drip off before serving.

To top it all off, Jiggers remembered they sell fish and chips. Unlike Chippy’s here in Toronto, they weren’t soggy potato clumps at the bottom of a cardboard box. Lightly seasoned and crispy throughout the meal even after a generous spray of malt vinegar, the french fries were the best fries I’ve had in a long time. Jiggers won me over. They may not have the “best fish and chips in the world,” but they’re the best I’ve had in a long time.

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Vancouver: Cafe D’Lite

September 8, 2008

When I told my friend Mike that I was going to Vancouver, the first thing he said is that I had to go try the Hainanese chicken at Cafe D’Lite. “This restaurant is the only thing i miss about vancouber, nay CANADA!” he later wrote in an e-mail. He now lives in Hong Kong and unlike me, prefers it to the Great White North. We may disagree on our preferred country of residence, but we usually agree on food so I knew I had to try the place.

It was Helena’s first experience with Malaysian and Singaporean food and I think she was a little apprehensive. We ordered the highly-recommended Hainanese chicken, seafood laksa and a plate of choy. I wish I could tell you what kind of choy it was, but I’m still learning the differences. Unlike other Hainan chicken dishes I’ve had, the dish arrived boneless, a plus for the Caucasian girl who doesn’t like bones. I loved the side dish of wasabi and sweet soy sauce and as always, the ginger rice was a welcome change from the standard white rice. Helena preferred the laksa over the chicken. Laksa is a beautiful noodle soup dish of seafood in a coconut curry broth. I wasn’t impressed with the from-frozen-shrimp or fake crab but the soup itself was delicious. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Overall: 7.5 out of 10 tofu puffs
In conclusion: I can think of at least 65 other Canadian dining establishments I would miss more than this place, but I admit this Hainanese chicken is pretty damn good.

Vancouver: Japadog

September 3, 2008

As predicted, Vancouver has been about food just as much (if not more) as it’s been about enjoying the view. Near the top of my food destination list was a humble hot dog stand called Japadog. It sits at the corner of Haro and Burrand streets and it looks just like an average-looking street meat stand except there’s almost always an eager crowd waiting for its food and a handful of uniformed staff. If the crowd is absent, you’ll be able to recognize it since it’s adorned with colourful signs depicting its offerings.

While you can order a plain ole bratwurst, all beef or veggie dog, Japadog’s main draws are their Japanese takes on the all-American treat: Misomayo, Orashi and Terimayo. We got the Orashi and Misomayo (pictured above).

Helena’s choice of Orashi was a pork bratwurst sausage with a pile of grated radish, green onion and special soy sauce. Though tasty, she says the soy sauce wasn’t present enough and there too much grated radish which made the hot dog far too mushy. I was assured by another customer that my choice of Misomayo was smart as it was, he claimed, the best of the lot. After waiting for 10 minutes to sink my teeth into it, my turkey hot dog was served with radish sprouts, miso-sesame sauce and Japamayo. I’m a sucker for almost anything “miso-sesame” but add mayonnaise into the mix and I’m hooked. Five dollars* for a hot dog is a pretty penny spent, but for a one-of-a-kind experience it was worth it.

*NB: After taking the above photo, I took other photos of Helena eating her dog during which a gust of wind blew my hot dog on to the sidewalk. Tragedy. Of course, I had to get another one so I basically paid $10 for this Japanese hot dog.

Overall: 7 out of 10 weiners
In conclusion: A quirky street meat experience that beats any other hot dog on the street.

Glorious day of gluttony

August 25, 2008

To say that Saturday was about food is an understatement.

A little after 10 in the morning, four of us piled into my car and headed west down the Queen Elizabeth Way. We had been talking about Lobsterfest 2008 at Caroline Cellars for more than a week. Nothing was going to stop us, not construction nor hangovers.

Since we were already going to the Niagara region, we stopped in on the Winona Peach Festival just outside (now part of?) Hamilton. I don’t know what I was expecting from a small town fruit festival, but it wasn’t what I got. Instead, there were midway rides, multiple food stands and random booths selling everything from financial services to fake Crocs. Ninety percent of the booths had nothing to do with peaches which was disappointing. But as Jennie said, it was like being at the Ex without the annoying tweens, so it was actually fun. Of course, we managed to eat our way out of there with (canned) fruit ice cream sundaes, ribbon chips, mini panzerotti, Pop Shoppe pop and baskets of peaches. And this was just the appetizer to Lobsterfest’s main event.

After burning off calories with a walk around Niagara-On-The-Lake, we finally made our way to Caroline Cellars. Run by the Lakeit family, it’s a relatively new winery in the region. My friend Justine is one of the said Lakeits and she introduced us some of their offerings. I admit I’ve never been properly schooled in the world of wine outside reading (and watching) Sideways, so I’m often intimidated by wine environments. Thankfully, everyone at the winery was super friendly and laid back, far different from the pretentious stereotype I associate wine with. I left with a bottle of 2006 sauvignon blanc, a 2006 syrah for my parents and a 2006 blackberry wine which is the first fruit wine I’ve had. The blackberry wine was also the gold medal winner at the 2008 All Canadian Wine Championships. Delicious.

After tasting wines, we headed around the back to the marquee tent. Music blared and well over 100 people were already dancing, drinking or happily eating. Since we ran into friends and had a group of eight, we opted to get the value meal for gluttons: 12 lobsters for $110–and that’s including the self-help table of sides: fresh corn on the cob, salad, pasta salad and magnificent potatoes. You can’t beat that price. Without lobster shell crackers, we gnawed our way through the dark orange shells. Lobster doesn’t have to be complex. So naturally sweet, butter isn’t even necessary. It was delightful. With wine in one hand, good friends around the table and the sun setting to the west, it was quite possibly the perfect meal.