Saturday, April 27, 2019

Weekend Ninety-Nine: Highlight with Guests Julie and Michel

This week’s post brings the gang back together on the other side of the water for an early morning brunch at Highlight by Re-Up BBQ in New Westminster.

Michel and I got there just before 9, but they unlocked the doors for us anyway.  Even though it’s pretty new on the scene, we’d already been here once before and there were so many delicious-sounding options that we knew it would take a few visits to eat all the things we wanted to try.
Inside, the clean white and wood interior with black light fixtures and blackboard menus on the walls has a bit of an industrial vibe.  From an interior design point of view, I think they did a nice job without having to spend too much. Overall, it’s pretty minimal, but there are some nice little details that personalize the space and keep it from being stark.

I had been debating for two weeks over whether to order the Chicken and Biscuits or the Crunchy French Toast, and I was no closer to a decision as we sat there with menus in hand.  At Highlight, you place your order at the counter and they bring it out to you when it’s ready, but they came to our table and offered to get our drinks started first, so Michel ordered a coffee while we waited for Catie and Dave to arrive. I’d learned my lesson the last time we were there and had brought my own coffee in a travel mug. There is nothing wrong with the coffee at Highlight, except that when you order a ‘coffee’ you actually receive an Americano ($2.75). I like Americanos as much as the next West Coaster, but not for breakfast. I want a good old fashioned drip coffee, and I want a refill when that one’s done. So, big travel mug solves that problem. (Note from Catie: I couldn't figure out why they didn't come to refill my coffee until Julie told me this... The quality of the coffee was great, but sometimes, especially in the morning, it is about quantity. Do what Julie says, bring a big mug!)

This time Catie and Dave were the out of towners, but they don’t really count as visitors because they previously resided in New West. They arrived a little after 9, and already there were several tables full of people. I think word must be getting out because just a couple of weeks ago there was hardly anyone else there when we went.

After decisions were made, we placed our orders and chatted about jazz and swing dancing until the food came. Michel’s order arrived first, followed shortly after by Dave’s. This is the annoying thing about small eateries with small kitchens. Now two people have delicious food sitting in front of them and they have to decide whether to rudely start eating or to politely wait while their food gets cold.
Obviously they opted to start eating, but the rest of the food arrived  just a couple of minutes later, so I don’t think any divorces will stem from this unfortunate scenario.

Catie ordered an Americano ($2.75) and the Pulled Pork Benny ($15.95), but substituted bacon for the pulled pork, and added cheese – so she pretty much just made up a new dish. (The bacon is smoked in-house by Re-Up BBQ, which makes it hard to pass up.) She found the staff very open to swapping out ingredients and making changes to menu items, which was appreciated. She said that the biscuit was crumbly and delicious, and the cheese was an excellent addition. The hollandaise sauce was good and made better by the cheese.

Dave had the Brisket Hash ($14.95), which Michel had approved the last time we were there, and the waitress had recommended as the best dish on the menu. Instead of going with poached eggs on his hash, Dave had scrambled. He felt the dish could have used the addition of sauce of some kind, as it was a little dry but overall delicious. Without having tried that dish, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that BBQ sauce would be a great accompaniment.

I opted for the Crunchy French Toast with caramelized bananas ($12.95), shredded coconut and crème anglaise. I had no idea what crème anglaise was, but now that I’ve googled it, I know that it’s not, as I assumed, a hipster name for whipped cream (which was also on my plate) but a light custard sauce. I had referred to it during breakfast as mystery sauce, and quite enjoyed it, aside from the fact that it was refrigerator-cold. Food safety aside, I would have liked it better either room temperature or warm, but I’m sure they know what they’re doing. The French toast was made crunchy with a coating of corn flakes. I don’t know that I prefer this to the standard uncoated French toast, but it was an interesting twist and added a textural element that I liked. As with my order of Pulled Pork Pancakes two weeks ago, there was a lot more food than I could eat. Luckily they have biodegradable to-go containers on hand so I can feel like I’m getting a 2-for-1 breakfast deal without the guilt of bringing home a Styrofoam box.

Michel had the Chicken and Biscuits with gravy ($12.95), and he ordered a side of bacon ($3) for us to share. We knew from experience that both the fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits are excellent, so this seemed like a pretty safe bet. Personally, I would have chosen the honey butter sauce over the gravy, but as I mentioned in my previous post, I’m more of a sweet breakfast person. Michel always opts for savoury. He thoroughly enjoyed his meal and his only side note was that the bone-in chicken made it a little difficult to eat. I will judge this for myself next time we’re there. The bacon was good, but a bit on the greasy side for my taste.

By the time we left the restaurant, it was close to full capacity. I’m sure we outstayed our welcome, chatting long after we’d finished eating, but no one hovered over us or made us feel like we should leave. I’ll definitely be back there again in the near future. Highlight is a great addition to Uptown New Westminster, and I selfishly hope it doesn’t get so popular that you have to wait a long time for a table, but I don’t think the odds are in my favour.

Highlight by Re-Up BBQ 538 6th Street, New Westminster.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Weekend Ninety-Eight: Yolks

Since moving to Vancouver, we had seen the Brave Bull steakhouse at Fraser and Hastings become Yolks. We had seen a Yolks food truck near the Stadium-Chinatown Skytrain station too. Many years later, we found them on Broadway, so we decided to go.

It was a busy morning, but we were seated at a shared table with two other brunchers. Listening politely, if discreetly, to their conversation, it seemed that they had had quite the night the night before. They were nearing the end of their meal as we showed up, and they were replaced by another pair of intrepid brunchers just before our meals arrived. It's a busy place, so show up with few people, show up early, or be prepared to share space.

The menu, as one may suspect, heavily features the egg. That being said, there are a few surprises on the menu. Catie ordered a double smoked bacon Benny ($14.50), and I selected the white bean cassoulet ($17.50). We settled in to wait for our food, coffee and OJ in hand.

The cassoulet came with pork belly, a sausage, a roasted tomato, sourdough toast, and two poached eggs. Continuing my bravery from Artisan Bistro, I had the eggs runny. What a great breakfast! The meats were flavourful, the beans were soft, and, overall, the dish was delicious. I will point out that the toast was served dry, so I dipped it in the cassoulet. Tasty!

Catie's benny, on the other hand, was a bit of a mixed bag. The benny and Hollandaise were great and she added grated white cheddar (Mr. Feenie, is this your doing?), which she said livened it up, but the lemon-truffle potatoes were *ahem* just not. Perhaps we're just not fans of truffles. On the other side of the potato, the hash brown patties were delicious. When given a choice between the two, unless you *really*love* truffles, choose the hash brown patties. .

Yolks Vancouver, 546 West Broadway.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Weekend Ninety-Seven: Artisan Bistro

Hello, brunch fans! Today's post was written in several parts.

"The sun is up, the sky is blue, It's beautiful and so are we..."
So we (beautiful, as noted above) six sprang forth from our various
Secret Locations and moseyed to the Artisan Bistro at Broadmead for good
chats and a fine brunch. I began with mint tea which was a treat, as it
was made with fresh mint leaves stuffed into a teapot and covered with
boiling water. It was very refreshing and its pale green tint was so
suitable for St. Patrick's Day!
  This success (minus the pale green tint) continued with "The Bird"
omelette which was stuffed with chicken, candied onions (more, please,
next time!), mozzarella, fresh (unspecified) herbs, spinach, and goat
cheese. It was really good and it came with fried spuds in small squares
(very potatoey-tasting but mine were a bit over-fried) and a choice of whole-grain (yep, had this) or sourdough toast.
House-made ketchup (mild and flavourful) and house-made strawberry-cherry jam (also tasty) came too.
A fine brunch indeed, with an equally fine server, who was fun, efficient and attentive but never overpowering or intrusive (this balance is is a real art in a server!).

    With this my first visit, I began by being surprised and impressed by
the small, cosy feeling of the restaurant. I'd expected a much larger
and anonymous-feeling spot. But a "bistro" is supposed to be a small,
quaint, French-style restaurant that serves moderately-priced food in
a relaxed setting. The aim is "home-cooked" style, with an elegant and
creative twist. Artisan scored on all counts!
    As I never miss a chance to enjoy mushrooms, I picked the mushroom
omelette with fried potatoes and sourdough toast. It turned out to be a
great choice. The toast was hot buttered and crispy, full of flavour. The
potatoes, with skins on, tasted as if they'd just come in from the garden,
and the omelette was all I could have wished. It was done to a turn and
stuffed with gently fried mushrooms, caramelised onions, and pea sprouts.
With enough goat cheese added to smooth out all the flavours and textures.
The dessert course was their home-made jam on the sourdough toast. It was
just enough, not too much, of everything. A perfect brunch.

I enjoyed a delicious Classic Eggs Bennie. It consisted of an egg poached medium to perfection with a delicious slice of ham, served on a generous slice of artisan bread. All amply covered with a very tasty hollandaise sauce. There was a tasty slice of fruit on the side and a glass of fresh orange juice to finish the meal. The service was very good and friendly.

I enjoyed a delicious ham, onion, and cheese omelet with country hash browns and multi grain toast. It was excellent and cooked to perfection. The homemade ketchup is a must. The service was good and the atmosphere was friendly and welcoming.

The Duck Confit Hash caught my eye, and the server recommended it over my other choice, the Huevos Omelette. The eggs were runny, but I was brave, and it turns out, they were quite good. The duck pieces were flavourful, and the Hollandaise was tangy. Thank you server for making the right recommendation for me!

Dave and I had been to Artisan Bistro before. It is a bit of a bustling cafe with parties coming and going but the service is prompt and friendly and I was looking forward to their hollandaise sauce and homemade ketchup. I ordered the half Blackstone Benny. As with our last visit, the hollandaise was superb and the homemade ketchup on the hash browns did not disappoint. The double smoked maple candied bacon is divine!

 Artisan Bistro: 350-777 Royal Oak Drive, Victoria, BC.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Weekend Ninety-Six: Mole

We left our secret location during off hour brunching time with a mission: to eat at Mole (the pandora location). If you know the Victoria brunch scene, you know that Mole is a happenin' place. Most often Mole has a line with wait times that would make your stomach groan. Dave and I wanted to find out why the brunchers so consistently flock to Mole.

Even at the irregular brunch time of 9am on a Monday, Mole was pretty full. A few tables were open and we chose the one near the kitchen. Our server was pleasant and gave good ordering advice. Dave ordered the Tomato Chipotle Sausage Hash ($15) with the addition of Mango salsa ($1.5) and an orange juice ($4). I ordered a half classic eggs benny with traditional hollandaise sauce ($11) and pesto hash browns ($3.5). I also had a coffee ($3).

Dave says the sausages were pleasantly spicy and the mango salsa added some sweetness, however he did note that there were a lot of onions, maybe too many. Dave also notes that the sour dough toast was sour perfection. I enjoyed the classic eggs benny. The hollandaise was super creamy and delicious, but the best part of my meal was the pesto hash browns. I ate them all, then ordered a side of them. So tasty! Dave shared the side of pesto hash browns and agrees, so tasty!

Mole has a delicious brunch menu with friendly servers, but I think the reason the brunchers throng to Mole is the pesto hash browns.

544 Pandora Ave, Victoria BC.
2345 Millstream Rd, Victoria/Langford BC.