Birthday dinner #3 – Locals Restaurant at the Old House

We spent the holidays over on Vancouver Island this year.  There didn’t seem to be too many fine dining choices in the Comox Valley area, but it was recommended we go to Locals Restaurant in Courtenay, so for my official birthday dinner celebration with Hitman that’s where we went.  They’re known for sourcing their food locally whenever they can (hence their name).

It had a very warm and inviting atmosphere.  There was even a fully decorated Christmas tree at the entrance with stools for you to take pictures on.

However, some parts of the service left much to be desired. Read on to find out!

Locals Restaurant: Bison Tartare on Asian Salad Amuse Bouche

We were promptly seated as we had already made reservations.  While we were looking through the menu we were offered an amuse bouche of Bison Tartare on Asian Salad.  It was a bit tart, and I thought that covered any hint of gaminess the bison might have. The salad portion was an interpretation of an “Asian” slaw.

Locals Restaurant: Grains bread with chickpea spread

For the complimentary bread, it was multigrain bread from the local bakery Grains.  Alongside was Locals Restaurant’s house-made chickpea spread.  I wasn’t too fond of the spread as it was too bland for my liking.  Hitman really enjoyed it though and he even tasted hints of cumin in it.

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Birthday dinner #2 – forage

Forage was a restaurant I’ve always wanted to try so I took the opportunity of my birthday to ‘gently suggest’ to Fannypack to take me there on a separate occasion to celebrate (as that is our thing), so that brings us to birthday dinner #2!

As we were quickly told by the extremely attentive server, the plates here are meant to be shared (although you are welcome to hoard it all if you so choose to), so we (I) picked a few items to share.

On another note, Hitman lost these pictures too so the ones here are courtesy of Fannypack also! Lifesaver much??

forage: Kale and Apple Chips

First up the Kale and Apple Chips ($5).  There’s a mix of purple and green kale which created a very aesthetically pleasing presentation.  The chips were salted just right but I did find them a bit greasy as I suspected them to be deep-fried (I roast mine at home).  Found out from Mary’s blog post about Forage as I was writing this that they’re baked in a convection oven so that’s not so bad then.  I would be happier if there were more apple chips though.

forage: Marinated octopus

Next was one of my choices: Marinated octopus ($15) with roasted garlic crostini, gribiche, and pickled yellowfoot chanterelles.

The octopus was extremely tender and flavorful.  I liked to eat them by themselves as I found the gribiche (a sort of egg-based tartar sauce) too tart and overpowering when combined with the delicate octopus.  The gribiche presented itself like your usual egg salad.

Speaking of tart…the pickled chanterelles were quite up there!

forage: Foraged and cultivated mushrooms

I can eat mushrooms all day, so the Foraged and cultivated mushrooms ($12) was of course another one of my picks.  It had a mix of crimini button, chanterelle, shimiji and oyster mushrooms.  Topped with Happy Island goat’s cheese, it was served with caraway rye bread.

I much enjoyed the mushroom-y parts but I did think this was on the salty side.  It was also really rich.

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La Charcuterie Delicatessen and the Sandwich Nazi

After months and months of pestering I finally agreed to take the drive down to Langley to visit the notorious Sandwich Nazi at La Charcuterie Deli.  Hitman’s been there multiple times before and raved of the humor and amount of food you get for less than $10.  Less than $8 to be exact.  But the trade-off is that you have to succumb to the Nazi’s insults, crude humor, and uninvited visuals.  Hitman’s given me a preview to the stuff the Nazi has said during his visits in the past, x-rated and all, and I honestly wasn’t too keen on the uncomfortableness that’s about to ensue.

La Charcuterie Delicatessen exterior

Honestly it was only a 30 minute drive from our place.  It’s located in the middle of an inconspicous industrial area and if you didn’t plan to come here specifically, you wouldn’t even bat an eye, despite the eye-catching and quite lovely exterior paint job.  When we arrived on a weekday afternoon, the parking lot was already almost full.

La Charcuterie Delicatessen sign

As we were entering, a couple was just leaving and the lady warned us “Good luck in there~”.  Great.   Inside we found that there were about 3-4 people ahead of us, with more coming up behind.  You can hear the boisterous voice of the Nazi right away.  He sounded cheerful actually, and was in the middle of making fun of someone’s age.  When he caught sight of us, first thing he said was “I don’t believe in mixed-race marriages.  Unless they’re girl-girl, man-man, or girl-girl-man.”  Followed with a fit of laughter.  Hitman then countered, “Last time I was here, I was with a black guy friend and STILL you said you didn’t believe in mixed-race marriages!!!”.  More laughter.  Apparently the way to deal with the Nazi is to join in the banter.  That’s why the place is always so loud and lively.

La Charcuterie Delicatessen interior

This deli is also a grocery store of sorts selling imported European goods.  But I don’t think people come for the grocery much.  The main attraction has got to be his personality and ginormous sandwiches.

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Bocuse d’Or Test Kitchen Tasting with Chef Alex Chen

Bocuse d'Or Test Kitchen Tasting with Chef Alex Chen

Bocuse d'Or Test Kitchen Tasting with Chef Alex Chen

Wendy was extremely excited to receive an invitation for us to attend an exclusive tasting event for Canada’s entry into the Bocuse d’Or.  For those who haven’t heard of it this biannual competition is an international event held in Lyons, France and will take place on January 29th and 30th this year.  It’s one of the most prestigious awards to win for a chef and the competition has produced insane extravagances such as Spain’s 2005 1 million Euro entry inspired by Salvador Dali; they brought out their fish course in a one meter high crystal egg!  This year Chef Alex Chen of Vancouver earned entry into the competition.  This is no easy feat, since of the 56 countries entering only the top 24 are chosen, and from there the competition is whittled down to just one representative per country, along with their Commis and Coach, to compete in the final event. Chen has previously held posts such as the Four Seasons in Toronto and Chicago and his most recent position as Executive Chef at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which he resigned in order to train for the Bocuse d’Or.

Bocuse d'Or Test Kitchen Tasting with Chef Alex Chen

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Dine Out Vancouver 2013: Judas Goat Taberna

Wendy and I managed to secure a reservation on Dine Out Vancouver‘s opening night this year for one of the more intriguing of the $18 menu hosts; Judas Goat Taberna in Gastown.  For those unfamiliar with the Dine-Out concept, it’s a 17-day annual food festival where many local restaurants set a 3 or more course menu for $18, $28 or $38 per person.  Many of these can be really good deals compared to the restaurant’s usual pricing so it’s a lot of fun for bargain hunters like ourselves.

Dine Out Vancouver 2013: Judas Goat Taberna

Judas Goat turned out to be an interesting choice.  Nestled halfway down Vancouver’s notorious Blood Alley, it’s a tiny 28-seat single room tapas space.  And when I say it seats 28 that’s not 28 seated comfortably…they cram you in there pretty tight.  Thankfully we seemed to get the best seats in the house for the claustrophobic, a wrap-around seat corner next to the open kitchen.  Wendy tried to spot the methods used for cooking in such a small space from her vantage point, and it seemed as though the meals had been prepared elsewhere and then reheated prior to serving (sous-vide) which made sense since we couldn’t see a proper stove back there.

Apparently the atmosphere is normally quite lively in there, but on this particular evening it felt just a little awkward to me.  I think it may have helped if they had turned the music up a notch, but I felt like it was too easy to eaves-drop on conversations at neighbouring tables and vice versa.  And it does draw a crowd so reservations are strongly recommended; we saw some people turned away for lack of reservations while we were eating.  Using the washroom here is a “bit of an adventure” as our server put it, so be prepared to walk down a looong hallway for about half a block if you need the facilities (they are shared with the surrounding shops).

Speck with House Made Apricot Mostarde at Judas Goat Taberna

Our meal was 3 course, so we sampled one each of the appetizers.  The Cured Meat Plate: Speck with House Made Apricot Mostarda came with two thin slices of house made baguette and 4 thinner-than-paper slices of prosciutto (San Daniele if I remember the waitress’ spiel correctly).  Also a few cornichons.  Small but delicious, and fit well with the restaurant’s normal theme of tapas.

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