Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Eating Sustainably in Vancouver

C restaurant
The view from my table.
Whole wheat bread and chewy nori seaweed rolls with sweet butter sprinkled with large crystal sea salt on top.
Creamy soup with creme fraiche, smoked bacon bits, chives and I think there might have been some fish in there somewhere, but it was not something you could taste.
Local caught seared Albacore Tuna Nicoise.

When I asked my friends here where could I go and eat local food they had to scratch their heads a bit. Turns out that there are quite a few places that have a real commitment to supporting farmers, focusing on seasonal ingredients and only serving humanely raised meat and sustainably caught seafood.

Obvious in 5 days my experience of these places was very limited and the more I explored the more places I discovered there were. When ever I write about restaurants it's with the understanding that I often eat by myself and usually only go once. It also means that if I bother to write about them that no matter what my criticisms are if I didn't like them I wouldn't be writing about them .

The grand daddy of sustainability in Vancouver is Raincity Grill now has two siblings NU and C. I ate at Raincity and C. Both these restaurants have amazing locations and rigorously sourced ingredients.

In both instances I sat outside, the interior of C is sleek, modern with funny, fuzzy gray covered chairs. Raincity's interior is dark with a low ceiling giving it a clubby feel with big modern art tryptic at the end of the room to give it a touch of color and focus.

My friend Jim hates the room I found it cozy if a little in need of a freshening up. Again as I sat outside overlooking the park and the sea I was very happy. The service at C was pretty inconsistent it took about 20 minutes to get my weak, luke warm coffee, but my food came soon after and was presented with much fanfare. To be fare the main waitress was training a new staff member so maybe that was what was going on?

I'm not sure I need each dish to be explained to me in detail. I ordered it based on the description on the menu and think I can figure out what I'm eating as I go along. The Soup at C was beautiful, but bland, it was supposed to be a seafood bisque, but lacked any seafood flavor or punch. My salad seared tuna nicoise was stunning in it's presentation, the tuna perfectly rare, but I question why in early May you would bother to have pale tomatoes in a salad that doesn't need them also wouldn't some local asparagus have been a better choice then the equally out of season green beans? I loved the thin sliced fried fingerlings tossed in the salad and as much as I love olives and was happy to eat the generous amount in the salad it made the quenelle of tapenade on the side of the plate seem redundant. My favorite touch was the buns made with Nori seaweed and the dish of sweet butter strewn with large crystal sea salt.

Raincity's food is equally fancy in it's presentation and of a similar high quality. My wild caught local Salmon was perfectly cooked and the creamed celery a perfect counterpoint. For the most part I found the plate composition at Raincity to be way to fussy for my liking, and the entree portions to be way to small, we shared an appetizer and I didn't eat dessert and went home hungry (my ordering was obviously off, in part because I am trying to diet so this is indeed partly my own fault, nonetheless I did think the entree portions where on the small side compared to similar NYC restaurants) . I think the best strategy for eating here would be to have one of the tasting menus - the regional Vegetarian tasting menu at $48 seems like a great choice.

The waitress at Raincity was wonderful! Both C and Raincity are wonderful special occasion restaurants that offer smart, tasty food with stunning views of Vancouver.

What I was really hankering for in Vancouver was a place with a grass fed burger for around $12, some place that wasn't fussy or fancy or going to break the bank, but still cared about supporting farmers and serving ingredients with integrity. So I was very excited to discover (thanks to my friend Matt) Two Chefs and a Table.

I went with my friend Alex for brunch, and immediately fell in love with the funky small house the corner turned restaurant. The rooms has exposed beams, funny crystal chandlers, lots of windows and generous sized tables. At the extreme east end of Vancouver's gas town I was relieved to see it was not packed or a scene for Sunday brunch.

Alex had a chicken and spinach omelet, served with lots of homes fries and white toast (she was a little put off by the white bread, an option would have been nice) I had a brilliant tourtière ( a traditional French Canadian meat pie) served with a lovely salad with two poached eggs with deep orange yolks. Yummy. I wish I was staying longer so I could have tried out lunch.

OK I'm at the airport and need to run.

I love to travel and am terribly smitten with the Pacific Northwest yet it's always great to go home to New York my favorite city on the planet.

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