Manolo's Food Blog Manolo Loves the Food!

October 13, 2011


Filed under: Canadian Food,Fish,Food Porn,Restaurant Reviews,Restaurants,Vodka — raincoaster @ 10:30 am
A plethora of BC bounty

A plethora of BC bounty

And that, my friends, is how I like to start a meal: with a half-dozen exquisite bivalves, a Martini, and a good friend (neither of which latter you can see because well, good Martinis are invisible and so are good friends until you need them).

The Martini, in this case, was Elyx vodka, which my pal Jay Jonestells me is the premium offering from Absolut. Normally, of course, one is all about the gin, but one is curious and from time to time one likes to give vodka a chance. Normally, it’s the booze of choice for those who like to get drunk but don’t like to drink, a key ingredient in Cougartinis, a prerequisite to being featured on , and normally I avoid it like the plague. See how tense the thought of such things makes me? I transubstantiated my tenses and persons! One is distraught!

But the Blue Elyx Martini was everything a proper vodka Martini should be: as cold as my ex’s heart, as clear as Fate, as bracing as a letter from the bank. Occasionally one runs across a vodka that actually deserves the adjective “smooth” and Elyx is one of those rare distillates, it was positively Bond Villain-smooth, while at the same time it possessed enough body to assert itself in the company of the two plump, gorgonzola-stuffed olives that lolled wantonly within.

But I was talking about oysters, wasn’t I?

One was.

The Kusshi oysters were the smallest of the lot, only about the size of Manila clams which, for someone from Vancouver, was a bit of culture shock on a plate, ours tending more towards the size and texture of a catcher’s mitt. These were delicate of taste and texture, mild like a sea breeze with a slight, lemony sweetness. Best naked.

One senses a theme. Why yes, it has been a long time since I’ve eaten an oyster…and you?

The moderately-sized Joe’s Gold were creamy and rich, and lemon juice was a good foil for those, if you’re an oyster-foiling sort of person.

The Sawmill Bay beach oysters were BC-sized (and you thought everything was bigger in Texas) and honestly unsubtle of flavour. Horseradish time, methinks. Meaty of texture, slightly liverish of taste, these are the kinds of oysters that put my old roommate off oysters: big enough that she could identify the component parts as they slid down her gullet, having deconstructed many a bivalve in high school biology class. Thank GOD in Ontario we dissected fetal pigs; I don’t run across a lotta fetal pigs in the food-and-bevvie-blogging bizness. In any case, they were delicious, briny, and assertive.

I could live off Martinis and oysters, but you’d get pretty bored with the blog, if I even remained sober enough to type it all up, so there was more, much more:


Goldfish Salmon Pastrami

Goldfish Salmon Pastrami

At a restaurant called Goldfish, I think I could be forgiven for sticking with fish all the way through, and so it came to pass that I ordered the Vodka-Cured (was it sick in the first place?) Salmon Pastrami for an appetizer. Or would that be the fish course? In any case, it came after the Martini-and-Oyster course which I always think of as the Monte Carlo Casino With James Bond on Your Arm course. As do all right-thinking people. Having been deprived of our fine Pacific salmon for several months, and fed insipid, pinkish farmed Atlantic fish, I was happy to see that these thickish slices of Sockeye were as sinisterly red as stigmata. As I’m not a mystic, I have to drop the metaphor there; if any of you know how stigmata taste, drop me a line in the comments; there’s bound to be plenty of interest in that sort of thing, at least in certain circles.

Salmon pastrami. We were talking about salmon pastrami. And it was good. I didn’t know quite what to expect of pastramized salmon, but it was to regular smoked salmon as bacon is to regular slow-cooked pork, assertive but neither over-salted nor over-smoked. The peppery arugula salad was a great counterpoint, with a vinaigrette sharp enough to set off the fatty salmon, a sprinkling of fried potato shards for crunch, and some creme fraiche for richness.


Goldfish Scallops; objects in the blog may be larger than they appear

Goldfish Scallops; objects in the blog may be larger than they appear

Objects in the blog may be huger than they appear. These East Coast scallops (I love it when the manager says “they’re from the East Coast. I KNOW! The East! But they’re actually quite good”) were massive, each almost the size of the palm of my hand, but there was not the slightest bit of toughness in them. They were perfectly prepared and that’s not easy with seafood this thick. Those brown nuggets in the foreground are delicious nubbins of bacon. Yes, yes, bacon has been done to death, but scallops can use the boost in flavour, and this particular bacon was marvelously understated, letting the taste of the meat dominate and bringing a richness and depth to the whole dish that the scallops alone would have lacked. It was served with roasted fingerling potatos, roasted asparagus, and roasted cherry tomatoes, which is the ONLY way to go with cherry tomatoes if you ask me; they’re the Dim Beauty Queens of the vegetable world, but roasting brought out the sweetness and flavours that are usually hidden behind underripe, frosty cuteness. Where was I?

Oh yes, about to rhapsodize about the wine which Jeff recommended for this dish: a white Bordeaux, Château Bauduc 2009 sauvignon blanc/semillon, which is hilarious because my cousin married a Bolduc, although if she gets a discount on this delightful beverage she’s been holding out on me all this time. It’s a buttery, full-bodied wine with moderate oakiness, and went well with both the creamy scallops and the bacon, which is quite a feat if you ask me.

I also had a glass of the Joie, and you’re lucky I can still read my notes from this point on. Joie is one of my favorite wineries, their rose is one of my favorite wines, and some day I will tell you one of my favorite wine stories which has to do with Joie but that’s not today. Today we must put such fripperies aside, as we have one more course to go at the Goldfish Saga. The things I do for you people.

Dessert. Pudding. Afters. Whatever you call it, I haven’t seen much of it since I moved out of my mother’s house at the age of 17. Single women just do not make dessert if they’re not expecting:

a) to seduce someone


b) to have to bring it to a party

and let’s just say it’s been a long time since I’ve brought anything but potato salad to a party. Which explains my love life, but there, I’ve said too much already…


Goldfish Strawberry Panna Cotta

Goldfish Strawberry Panna Cotta

We were talking, or were about to talk, about the Strawberry Panna Cotta on a peanut butter shortbread. Honestly, do you give it ALL ALL CAPITALS or do you recognize the subjugate nature of the shortbread, as a substrate upon which the actual, starred player rests, and lowercase it? I don’t know from capitalization; I’m not German. In any case, howsoever, and whatevs, it was delicious. There was a swirl of balsamic reduction, which catalyzed the volatile elements in the strawberries (and how you dice strawberries that fine, I do not know. Perhaps there is an army of miniature Japanese strawberry-dicing robots somewhere under the counter) and caused the fresh scent to rise, as if we were walking through a strawberry field on a sunny morning. Now, two courses in a row where the main players were round and creamy is perhaps one too many, but je ne regrette rien. Nosiree, je ne regrette strawberry panna cotta pas du tout, no way. The shortbread was beautifully done, although the peanut butter was more theoretical than it should have been. I mean, it was probably safe for the allergic.

And now in my notes I see that I have a recipe for another cocktail . Funny, don’t recall that one…but it does sound lovely. Here it is:

Kiss from a Rose

1 oz Giffard Rose Syrup

1 oz lime juice

1 oz Hendrick’s gin (and no other)

Peach Bitters

Mix and pour over ice.

Hendrick’s, of course, is made with roses as an ingredient, and I’ve always wanted to experiment with rose water and Hendrick’s. This cocktail is sweetish, but not as sweet as a tiki drink, lightly pink, and rather girly. In fact, it goes down dangerously quickly if you don’t remind yourself it’s a third gin, which explains why this is only coming back to me now. All in all, a beverage suitable for my lifelong dream job, White Rahnee of Sarawak. I’ll sip it on the terrace while giving orders to my Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Meantime, you can sip it at Goldfish in Yaletown, and you can read my good friend Heather’s report of the same meal at Blackbook once it’s up.

The things I do for you people.

July 6, 2011

Trends We Hate

Filed under: Restaurants,Top Chef — Twistie @ 9:32 am

Marcel is hurt.

Well, maybe not. He might be smirking all the way to the bank behind that hairy hand and Wolverine ‘do.

All the same, restaurant critic Jonathan Gold’s column for Shine on Yahoo enumerating his ten most-hated recent food trends does include two items that might break Marcel’s heart: sous vide and ‘better living through chemistry.’ Yeah, that last one is Marcel’s beloved molecular gastronomy (or Modernist Cuisine, as practitioners prefer to call it these days).

I have to say I agree on several of the things Gold finds so objectionable. Truffle oil overload and restaurants refusing to leave off a garnish on a plate for fear of destroying their art annoy the snot out of me, too. And while I would actually love a chance to eat something whipped up in the lab by Wylie Dufresne, well, if I never see an other blob of foam sitting like the congealed spittle from a disgruntled waiter on my plate again, it will be far too soon.

I’m tired of cupcakes, too, though the rest of the world now seems to be moving on to pie at long last. Good news for me since pie is one of my all-time fave desserts and the crust is my bitch.

And while we’re at it, could we possibly stop reaching sexual Nirvana at the mere mention of bacon in any context whatsoever? I love bacon as much as the next foodie, but come on people. It’s not Dodo egg omelettes with a side of Triceratops steak. It’s something we can eat every day of the week if we so choose. It’s good with a lot of things, yes, but that doesn’t mean it belongs in every dish from appetizer to dessert to the cheese board unless it’s Battle Bacon on Iron Chef.

Oh, and I’d like to note that bacon soda (no, really, I did try a sip once) is positively the single most disturbing thing I’ve ever put in my mouth? It was accurate, yes, but I couldn’t ditch the flavor or the oily afterfeel for hours, even after eating other things. Never. Again.

So what about you, folks? What trends do you think need to wind up in the dustbin of the nearest greasy spoon? Do you have a passionate defense of inflexibility regarding garnishes or foams? Did you put something in your mouth that you regret as much as I do that bacon soda?

Talk to me, people.

November 13, 2010

Hot Indian Chicken

Filed under: Chicken,Restaurants — raincoaster @ 7:35 pm

Hot Indian Chicken

You want it. You know you want it bad.

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July 28, 2010

Psst – need a fix? (of cheese?)

Filed under: American Food,Restaurants,Sandwiches — Katie R. @ 7:14 am

photo, Maggie Hoffman

Urban Daddy has info on an illicit grilled cheese dealer, operating under the radar out of an apartment in New York’s East Village. Though Urban Daddy reports that the company, called Bread. Butter. Cheese., offers delivery of said hot, gooey, pressed sandwiches, according to BBC’s Facebook page, it is take out only. Which means you’re going to someone’s apartment and paying money for some bread, some butter, and some cheese. Seems a bit of a scam, but I guess, when that jones for a grilled cheese hits and your larder is bare, who you gonna call? Now we know.

March 19, 2009

Heavenly city

Filed under: Coffee,Fish,Restaurants — Mr. Henry @ 3:28 pm

At this instant in Barcelona’s old city Mr. Henry is posting from the wifi at Cafe del Born Nou. Its beamed ceiling reaches as high as Mr. Henry’s spirits. Vintage Joe Cocker is playing on loud speakers without distortion, loud enough to highlight Cocker’s peerless growl but not loud enough to split Mr. Henry’s jet-lagged head. Sparkling cava light and bright in the glass welcomes the arrival of white anchovies on toast, first in a line of tapas that will stretch from evening until night.


Thirty years ago when a callow Mr. Henry first set foot here Barcelona was emerging from under Generalissimo Francisco Franco’ heavy boot. Each plaça exploded with folk singers shouting their long forbidden language. If you spoke Spanish in Catalunya, locals frowned.

Now Catalan cuisine has seized the vanguard. Foam overspreads the culinary world. In one day Mr. Henry has already eaten foam crema catalan and foam tempura soy dipping sauce.

As a mark of confidence in themselves today if you speak Spanish badly or Catalan barely at all, locals smile graciously and respond in beautifully phrased English.


Wandering down the Argenteria Mr. Henry found Café El Magnífico, purveyor of estate coffees so rich and so delicate that not only is their name not a boast, it is a sharp understatement. Its natty proprietor, Salvador Sans, launched into an eloquent disquisition on the virtues of drip coffee over the iniquities of espresso. An acolyte of Bostonian George Howell, “god of coffee,” Salvador argued that espresso method’s heat and pressure not only destroys subtle florals and aromatics but also transforms desirable bitter flavors into harsh metallic ones.

Mr. Henry appreciates the opinions of enlightened iconoclasts especially when their opinions bolster his own. For years he had hidden his preference for drip coffee over espresso fearing that to foist unwanted opinions on friends and relations might spoil their after-dinner happiness. No longer. Drippers unite! Take back the aromatics!


In an act of divine mercy deserving of his name, Salvador telephoned his favorite Catalan restaurant, Taverna del Clínic, to secure a table for the Henry party who passed an evening feasting on sea worms with artichokes, whole squid with its ink intact, and braised rabbit ribs no bigger than the wishbone of a quail. Desserts were created by a chef who in 2006 won best chocalatier in the world. Magnífico.

February 6, 2009

Steak tartare

Filed under: Restaurants,Wine — Mr. Henry @ 7:56 pm

Not for fifteen years has Mr. Henry enjoyed steak tartare.


In the 1990’s finding himself hungry for lunch alone in London’s Soho, he remembered a genuine French bistro where years before he had enjoyed a very good steak tartare, the kind of bistro where middle-aged French waiters make a genuine career out of good service.

“Steak tartare?” said the waiter with a touch of alarm. “Steak tartare?”

“Yes,” replied Mr. Henry assuredly. “You still serve steak tartare here, do you not?”

Oui, monsieur.” Addressing his colleagues sharply he barked, “Steak tartare tout de suite.”

Mr. Henry waited quietly. The day’s International Herald Tribune lay undisturbed by his side. Would it be gauche to open it at the table? Perhaps he should wait until after he had finished eating.

The waiter arrived at tableside with steak properly minced, not ground, and with capers, mustard, lemon, egg and onion. He prepared the tartare quite expertly and Mr. Henry consumed it quite completely.


Restored and content Mr. Henry opened his Herald Tribune. On page one a bold headline cried “Mad Cow Disease Discovered in British Beef.”

This kind of shock takes some time to get over. Impelled by recent reviews of Mr. Henry’s new neighborhood bistro, The West Branch, however, with particular mention of the duck confit salad, the pulled pork panino, and the steak tartare, last Wednesday he strode through its old-time portals on a bold mission to vanquish the perfidious tartare.


Without thinking it through, Mr. Henry automatically ordered a glass of pinot noir which was a tad fruity and absolutely the wrong accompaniment to steak tartare. After the first bite he ordered a cold glass of sauvignon blanc.

White wine with steak? Perfection. Perfect as well, was The West Branch’s tartare recipe that used shallots, not onion, plenty of Dijon mustard, and if the Henry nose is not mistaken, a touch of white wine vinegar.

Save your pinot noir for baked salmon. Vive le vin blanc.

November 4, 2008

Restaurant theory

Filed under: Restaurants — Mr. Henry @ 7:35 am


Charles Darwin often said that “no one could be a good observer unless he was an active theorizer.”

Accordingly, Mr. Henry has been theorizing. Why do so many New Yorkers spend so much money going out to eat?

Americans as a whole do not save. We know there is entirely too much waste in our budgets, but should so much of our budget go to our waists?

The Obama nation, if it comes to pass today, is going to have to cinch it in, brothers and sisters, because the reckoning is near, the reckoning of monthly accounts, that is.

As raincoaster so aptly points out, habitués of restaurants very often don’t have the wherewithal to support such a lifestyle. Night after night, careening towards insolvency, impelled by some hidden Darwinian urge, they push through the portals of fancy eateries.

Are these self-destructive people somehow advancing an agenda, raising their status, or perpetuating the species in ways we cannot see?

Even to observe this calamitous feeding behavior requires a larger dispensable income than Mr. Henry’s own, and requires, as well, an elastic schedule. If you walk the noble hound Pepper no later than 7:00 a.m. every morning, how can you have lingered until midnight in a downtown restaurant? Each night before bed he must also allow enough time to wrestle Mrs. Henry away from the endless presidential election TV extravaganza or whatever news machine that will now takes its place.


Mr. Henry’s theory is that people are searching for knowledge, the same reason Eve ate the apple when in truth she wasn’t particularly hungry. It is curiosity, a desire for hipness, and a struggle for dominance over the pack.

The best restaurants inform the imagination while seducing the palate, a marriage of skilled work and artistic flair. Most restaurants, however, offer only a casual fling – a flirty sauce, sweet and sour, less interesting than ketchup, or else an utterly inappropriate one-night stand like sushi with tabasco.

If you really want to taste the pleasures of life, if you really want to get to know someone new, get together and cook.

August 14, 2008

Continuity and Change on the Upper West Side

Filed under: Restaurants,Take Out — Mr. Henry @ 8:56 am

hair.jpgDoper moved out. For 25 years he sat slumped in the same sunken upholstered chair watching TV, smoking joints and eating take-out. On sunny days he crept out onto the fire escape and talked on the telephone, prattling in a harsh outerborough accent.

At home, Doper never wore clothes.

Hearing the call of the Age of Aquarius, he was a naturalist who went back to the land, which for him meant the Upper West Side between 72nd Street and 96th Street.

During the quarter century he shared the backyard airspace with this hirsute old hippie, Mr. Henry never learned his real name.

Mr. Henry spoke directly to him only once. On a bright and cheerful morning Mr. Henry stepped out onto his tiny porch and was assaulted by the sight of natural man scratching his furry self.

“Couldn’t you put something on?” Mr. Henry asked rhetorically. Doper did not speak. Furrowing his giant uni-brow, he shrank back inside the dark apartment.

Doper did not go to work in any conventional sense. Once in a while he was spotted rifling corner trash cans for books and knicknacks that he displayed for sale on the sidewalk in front of Artie’s Delicatessen on Broadway and 83rd Street. Until ten years ago, every six months or so his aged parents came to straighten up his grotty apartment.

Perhaps because Doper always traveled by bicycle, he managed to maintain an enviably sleek physique despite being in his middle 60’s. Did he subsist exclusively on marijuana, Chinese take-out, and paper bags of birdseed? Will we soon be seeing The Doper Diet at Barnes & Noble?


Perhaps he simply couldn’t stand the yuppification of Broadway.

At the corner of 77th Street a new restaurant is about to open, The West Branch, an offshoot of Tom Valenti’s Ouest which for years has been the only place in this neighborhood to get a really fine restaurant meal.

The West Branch will provide room service to the sleekly renovated hotel On the Ave.


What’s more, next to The West Branch will be a new Fatty Crab, an uptown offshoot of the downtown place famous for Singaporean street food and for not accepting reservations.

Instantly 77th and Broadway, a corner where store after store has foundered, is becoming a destination location for people with appetite and cash.

The Doper moves on.


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