Posts Tagged local
I went to La Taqueria ages ago, but revisited it this past week and was reminded I still hadn’t written about it. It is one of those places, like Meat & Bread, that deserves to be written about right away after vising it; I’m just a slow blogger! Nevertheless, my first visit was so memorable that I could never forget how awesome it was, anyway.
The Chemist and I went here for a quick lunch, and I didn’t expect that it would be so small. It’s really not a sit-down restaurant, although there are tables and a counter to sit at. Most people would grab their order and go; still, all the tables were full when we went in, and so we sat at the counter.
I wasn’t too savvy at ordering here, and they are very fast-paced. So I ended up with two pescado tacos. No complaints here though, really; I really enjoyed the fish. It was moist and topped with a tasty pico de gallo and some sort of lime-spiked sour cream that both made the flavour “pop”. Of course I topped it with one of the salsas provided (and pickled onions, because I love pickled things) but, even without them, thought it was something I would order again – even though I normally hate sour cream. My only other complaint would be that I wished I’d actually thought through my order before asking, so I could have been a good food blogger and ordered four different types of tacos.
De Lengua: ★★★★★
Definitely, definitely my favourite. I am someone who likes eating offal (so animal livers, kidneys, hearts, etc. – they are all extremely nutrient dense!), but even if I had not known this was beef tongue, I would have loved it. It was tender and delicious all by its lonesome. The condiments, as usual, take it over the top. The raw onions gave it a nice bite, and the salsa verde added a kick and acidity that went well with the soft beef tongue.
Get this! If not for the name, I doubt anyone could tell that this was beef tongue. One of the shopkeepers came over and asked us what our favourite taco was, and this was the one I told him. The Chemist also thought so, so I know I’m not just crazy.
De Cachete: ★★★★★
The beef cheeks are a very close second favourite to the beef tongue, for me. Again, you wouldn’t know these are beef cheeks unless someone actually told you (or unless you know Spanish). I think it’s the condiments that made the tongue my favourite, since the de cachete actually had more flavour carrying through the beef alone than did the de lengua. Maybe because it was fattier? It was amazing, though you could taste the oil on your lips sometimes (which was not so amazing). I thought it could benefit from some chili powder or cumin or maybe some salt, since the cilantro and onion on top didn’t add too much extra flavour or dimension. I added a generous amount of salsa, which made it (in my opinion) worthy of five stars.
Al Pastor: ★★★☆☆
The Chemist ordered this! I normally don’t eat pork for a variety of reasons. At first glance, this looked really spicy. I mean, look at it; it’s red and everything! It was marinated with some spices, unlike some of the beef tacos, but tasted more like pungent tomato sauce. The onion was overshadowed by the pork, which – aside from tomatoes – tasted like bacon. This is totally understandable, of course; it is still pork. Still, the smokiness was quite strong and seemed to outdo any sweetness that might have come from the small amount of chopped pineapple or any bite from the raw onion. It was really good, nevertheless; The Chemist did end up adding salsa halfway through eating it.
Isn’t that fun to say? Machacha. This was a special of the day, and looked really similar to the taco with beef cheeks, only a little darker in colour. It was good, if a little bit drier than the other two beef tacos. This is the one taco that the Chemist added a lot of salsa to – one of the hotter salsas, too. It was supposedly slow-roasted, but didn’t really taste like it. It was a bit tougher, and tasted leaner than the de cachete. I would still, by far, opt for this over my least favourite flavour (the Rajas Con Crema Taco, which is like an assault of sour cream, blegh). It still lost out to the pescado, though, and was the one I would deem “most in need of salsa”.
Overall, I loved eating here! As I have mentioned, I have revisited it since my initial visit. I really like the atmosphere – not only “authentic”, what with all the Spanish being spoken behind the counter, but so friendly! – and the food is almost always great. The restaurant is bright, colourful, and really adds to the “cheerful” ambiance… even on rainy days (of which there are plenty). I also love that I am able to take my gluten-free friends here – the wait staff and manager have told me that their tacos are 100% corn-based. (The only things on the menu that contain wheat are the quesadillas… which I actually haven’t seen anyone order yet. Their tacos are just too good!) I am also a huge fan – as mentioned in other posts – of restaurants that go to the trouble of sourcing out local and free-range meats. Many restaurants that place on emphasis on quality, locally-sourced ingredients seem to follow through with that theme and produce quality, great-tasting dishes… and La Taqueria is definitely one of them.
Service: N/A (but the counter attendants are definitely friendly, for the most part!)
As of now, writing this, there are 71 blogger reviews (173 total reviews) for the original Meat & Bread location on Cambie, in Gastown… the majority of which are positive, or just flat-out glowing reviews. Well, here’s another to add to that pile, and another satisfied diner voting “Like it!” on Urbanspoon.com.
I think Mijune over at the Follow Me Foodie blog was spot on with her take on the place and its food: “Was it worth the wait? Yes. Did it live up to expectations? Yes. But was it the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life? Not exactly.” But hey, I’ve had some pretty good sandwiches! I am, an amazing chef after all. (Kidding! Well, sort of kidding. Heh.)
When a friend suggested heading here for lunch one day to catch up, it only seemed right to agree and go see what all the fuss was about. Yes, there is certainly a lot of hype around Meat and Bread and its supposedly amazing sandwiches. And I have to say, they are amazing. Seriously. So amazing, apparently, that this is one of the few restaurants (if I can call it that) that I’ve blogged about on the day of visiting (instead of days or weeks later…). Before I say anything else:please go here if you’re visiting Vancouver. Or if you’re anywhere near Gastown and have a grumbling gut. Or if you’re not either of those things. Just go here.
Perhaps it is overhyped – but it’s hard to argue (at least, in my opinion) that the food isn’t good quality. My friend – I am calling him the Chemist – and I did wait in line (ehh for 20 minutes or so?) because we went directly in the middle of ‘lunch hour’, but the sandwiches were worth it. Everyone says the porchetta is to die for, and the Chemist stood by that and ordered it for himself. I’m going to assume it was as good as all the other times he’s been here before, since there were no complaints from him! Chopped up roasted pork with crispy pork skin and salsa verde – straightforward but delicious is the formula here, it seems.
I’ve never been a pork person; my mother never cooked it for my family as I grew up, probably because my father thought it “unhealthy”. Well, to that I say: puh-leeze, pork is perfectly healthy. Especially the stuff they serve at Meat and Bread – this is local, non-medicated pork. Good stuff, people. The rest of the meats and cheeses are supposedly also either local or organic or both, with pastured beef and free-range chicken – if those are on the menu for the day. Just my luck, actually, that beef was on the menu on this particular day. I went with the Fraser Valley beef chuck roll, cumin spice, salsa criolla, chimchurri, and arugula. How’s that name for a mouthful? The sandwiches are a mouthful, too, obviously… a tasty mouthful… Well, needless to say, it was awesome. I think I know where Guy Fieri’s coming from when, in his episode that featured this place, he said “I can’t even remember my name” after taking the first bite of his sandwich. The beef chuck was moist and tender, not stringy; the high quality of the stuff is obvious, and it was cooked to perfection to achieve that whole “melt-in-your-mouth” texture. It was a great sandwich – and probably the only way I’d ever eat arugula. (I hate arugula by itself. I couldn’t taste it here. WIN-WIN.) Looking back, I think my only complaint would be that I couldn’t taste any cumin spice?! The chimchurri was pretty powerful, though unbelievably tasty. Whatever the salsa was, it wasn’t noticeable. But if I haven’t already made my point clear: the sandwich was still delicious.
There is something to be said for the ciabatta, too! The ciabatta are crispy (and taste buttery… although they don’t butter them!) and don’t detract from the sandwich contents. There’s just enough bread to hold all that flavourful meat and accompanying sauce together – which is definitely what you want, considering that these are pricey sandwiches at $7 or $8 a pop, depending on what you get! Although I think the sandwiches are probably all great and I love the whole “simple” concept (which, don’t get me wrong, Meat and Bread pulls off extremely well, what with placing focus on menu item quality as opposed to quantity), I think the only thing on their menu I would change would be to offer something else instead of a grilled cheese sandwich as one of the four options. Oh, and I’d pull the salad from the menu. Yes, so says the reformed salad-lover who has taken a year to realise that ordering salads at restaurants is a waste of money (pretty much). (I did not come to Meat and Bread for a salad…) But I digress…
Again, as Mijune rightfully concluded: Meat and Bread may not have “the best sandwiches EVER”, it definitely dominates the whole “gourmet sandwich” niche and really delivers in terms of taste. Personally, I love the emphasis on quality meats and think that the seemingly high price-tag is totally worth it for what you get. Would I return or recommend this place to others? Count on it.
Meat and Bread, I’ll be back.
Let’s face it: Whether or not you choose to acknowledge it, the organic movement has been growing and becoming increasingly popular over the years, so much so that organic markets have popped up and dozens upon dozens of studies have been released detailing how much better organic food is for you, or how much better it tastes, etc. In many ways, it’s easy to see how it’s much better for you — its being “pesticide/herbicide/insecticide-free” definitely helping with that aspect. As for tasting better, however… That is a claim that is still very much “in the air” and up for debate. Even if it’s one day proven that organic food doesn’t taste any better than food made with conventionally grown ingredients, one thing is very clear to me: The food at Aphrodite’s tastes amazing.
Emme and I first heard about Aphrodite’s a little over a month ago, and already we’ve been there three times… Our first impression of it was definitely that it was another sort of trendy “hippie” place that served healthy food, a bit like the Naam [only cleaner and with obviously much better service]. However, I wouldn’t look at it as such anymore. Now, I just can’t help but think of it as a great place to eat — lunch or dinner. Décor is actually pretty tasteful and trendy, with some artwork that’s clearly “local” and some that’s from decades past. The paper maché figurines hanging from the ceiling give the restaurant more of a “homey” feel (and in no way come across as tacky), as does the tiled floor and fact that the kitchen is rather open and only hidden behind a big blackboard with specials and pies written on it.
On our first visit, Emme had actually just had a late breakfast and wasn’t too hungry for lunch, and so instead sipped on a Caffè Latte and ordered a cinnamon roll to nibble on. The latte was good, of course — though there is only so much you can say about it. It was hearty, warm, and satisfying, as all properly done caffè lattes should be. The Cinnamon Roll was fantastic. I think you can tell that just by looking at the picture, almost! It was ginormous, and amazing value for what you dish out to get it. The nuts in the swirls gave it a nice crunch, and the exterior had a nice crispness while the interior was soft, gooey with delicious layers of cinnamon and sugar, and just full of deliciousness. They may have the word “pie” in their name, but clearly they’ve got other baked goods down pat, too.
I was starving, and actually having a hard time choosing from their large selection of delicious-sounding dishes, but settled on the Harvest Vegetarian Chili, partially because I’ve had a huge craving for spicy foods lately and partially just because I’ve always loved chili anyway. The chili came out steaming hot and fresh, with equally fresh salad and bread. The salad greens were crunchy, crisp, and delicious. The grated carrot, beets, and sprouts reminded me a bit of the Naam, but somehow just seemed much classier here. In any case, the salad provided a great way to escape the spice of the chili and cool down between bites. Oh, but the chili… It was a dream come true. Hearty, delicious, spicy but not overly so, and full of nutritious goodness in the forms of beans and veggies… It was just amazing. I love this chili. I would get it if I went back. And again. And again. Even though there are so many other items on the menu that definitely hold great promise.
As if the fabulous chili wasn’t already enough to talk about, I could probably also go on for quite a while about the fabulous bread, too. It is fluffy but hearty at the same time, and the best bread I have eaten in a while. Don’t skip the butter, in this case. If you need to feel better about spreading it, just know that it’s organic, from grass-fed cows, local, etc. etc. And… butter makes everything better. Even bread that is fantastic on its own.
Emme still didn’t have much of an appetite on our next visit, and just got the Caramelized Leek and Lentil Soup with a side of the amazing, freshly-baked bread. This soup is delicious as well though. [I apologize for overusing that word, but I’m finding repetition especially necessary in this post.] It is light, but definitely does not skimp at all on the flavour and is still very filling because of the lentils. Do not let its plain appearance fool you: a wonderful blend of complex flavours is what you’ll get when you order this seemingly bland dish. How do I know this when I didn’t order it, myself? Because I did actually get it, too. Obviously the bread did not disappoint the second time around, as well.
Recently, Emme has shifted from drinking coffee to drinking chai tea more, and ordered the Chai Latte to go with her bread and soup. It was also great, according to Emme… though she hasn’t tasted enough chai lattes at different places to rank it relative to anything. The least that can be said is that yes, like everything else at Aphrodite’s, the lattes are good too. [East is East probably still has the best chai tea, though! That is one thing Emme said, although this one was very good.]
On our most recent visit, Emme ordered something off of their “Fresh Sheet” for dinner: the Potato-Crusted Wild Coho Salmon. (I, with my supposedly unquenchable thirst hunger for spicy things, was boring and got the awesome chili again.) It may not look like a very pretty dish, but both Emme and I can vouch for it: It was, like everything else on the menu seems to be, amazing. The salmon was cooked perfectly, the crust was indeed nice and crunchy and was a very refreshing take on your typical bread-crumby or panko crust. The beurre blanc sauce was what really made it special, though. It was amazing. Oh, and yes, of course all of the “seasonal organic vegetables” were cooked perfectly as well, maintaining some crispness and all of their flavour. The salad that came as a part of the meal was also fantastic, with fresh veggies and a “to-die-for” house dressing. The meal came with a slice of pie, so Emme decided on a slice of Apple Blackberry Pie. Neither of us have actually tasted it yet – we were stuffed after our dinners! – so I can’t comment on the quality of the pies at Aphrodite’s, but… Well, everything else is amazing, and I’ve read and heard lots of great things about the pies here, so I imagine it will be outstanding! Actually, I’ve also gotten a [ginormous] Raspberry Millet Muffin from Aphrodite’s as well, and that was delicious. It was huge, but I went through it pretty quickly. The millet give it a nice crunch! And as far as I can tell, all of their baked treats taste great without being too sweet, and are also great in terms of value and bang for your buck.
Our dining experiences here have all been pleasant, even when you exclude the quality of the food. The service is super friendly, and even though the waiters are all very laid-back in their work, they are extremely attentive and routinely check up on you to make sure that your water glass is full, that you have everything you need, and that your meal is nothing short of amazing. We’ve only once had a little trouble getting the bill, but that was an extremely busy evening where the place was starting to get an overflow of customers lining up. Otherwise, service is personable, upbeat, quick, and pleasant. Food is out relatively quickly and is consistently delicious.
The ambiance isn’t bad, either. The country-style décor that exudes a homey feeling, and the place has two dining rooms which allows diners to spread out a bit. Even if you eat here when it’s full, you will most likely find that you don’t feel cramped, or that you can’t hear the people at your table talking to you. The atmosphere is very relaxed, and makes for a peaceful and enjoyable meal. Also, the bill shouldn’t knock you out of the water too much. Some dishes may seem a little expensive, but at least know that you are certainly getting what you pay for when you come to Aphrodite’s. A higher price here is merely indicative of higher quality, and quality is what you will get.
Whether you’re a fanatic about only buying organic and/or local food or not, I would definitely recommend you pay Aphrodite’s a visit. You won’t regret it.