Float On Bakeshop on Fraser

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I think this is my new favourite place in Vancouver. It is so cute and I am so jealous of it. There are weekends when Daniel and I are trying to think of a place we could go for brunch where I could have a nice waffle and it’s just a pointless search (see the post “Deacon’s Corner on Main”). It’s particularly frustrating because there are so many good brunch places we could go if I didn’t have the stupid celiac thing to think of. However, my prayers have been answered in Float On. It has pretty dishes and décor; lots of tables and fresh copies of the Georgia Straight so we can read the Savage Love column to each other; and you get your tea in a little pot with a real teacup. The portions are dainty but that’s what I like about it. Also happens to be what Daniel hates about it. I think it’s some nice competition for Gluten Free Epicurean, my other favourite place that’s just down the street. On Saturday we even saw Henrik Sedin’s wife and little boy chillin out and eating cookies there with some other babies. Best of all they make delicious, adorable waffles and crepes that remind me of being in Paris when I was 19 and carefree and ate every flour-based food I could get my hands on.

Saskatoon Round 2: Bottega Trattoria

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Last weekend Saskatoon really won me over with its sunny open skies and green parks and their zoo that had two cougars in the same cage (that’s nuts right?). It helped that this time I stayed in Leah’s nice apartment in University Heights (and not the hotel that we stayed last month when we dropped her off, which was apparently the ‘hood of Saskatoon and a place my mother reacted to like one might react to having lice poured on their head. Combine that with daytime highs of 10 degrees in August and we didn’t get the nicest first impression of Leah’s new hometown. And my parents and I bond over nothing if not our shared obsession with Leah’s happiness, safety, and well-being. Often to the detriment of all three.)

Anyway on Friday night we went to Leah’s Coating Ceremony. It was at a nice hotel by the river and there was a big banquet for all the new vets and their guests to eat before they (the vets) got led out of the room and then led back in again by a guy playing bagpipes and then handed their stethoscopes and embroidered white lab coats (not by the bag piper… by some other people). Leah actually put so much food on her plate that by the time we got to the carving station she had no more space and I had to ask the chef for two pieces of roast beef and then wait for her to eat her way through a couple inches of real estate so I could put her share on her plate. It was a fun evening. Another vet student at our table, this real Saskatchewan cowgirl, kept asking me why I wasn’t eating any of the fancy cupcakes and making fun of me for taking fruit for dessert. Those crazy BC girls and their fad diets!

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On Saturday we ventured downtown, where you would think many businesses should be open and busy, but we couldn’t find a place to eat lunch. If there is a street where all the good restaurants are, we couldn’t find it. The places we did duck in to, just to scan the menu for gluten-freeness, were completely empty. Turns out this is pretty off-putting when deciding whether or not to eat somewhere. We left a place that boasted a 100% gluten-free menu for this very reason (and also for the reason that they had chili in a bread bowl on the menu, which obviously intrigues me. Turns out the “bread bowl” component of this particular dish isn’t gluten-free at all, it’s just regular old wheat bread carved into the shape of a bowl! A funny trick. So really it was like a 98% gluten-free menu, as Leah pointed out. We read on to find their page of sandwiches, which listed a gluten-free bun as a potential option, which suggests not only that there are other options at the 100% gluten-free restaurant but that gluten-free is not the default option, which is what you might assume in a place that says it’s 100% gluten-free. It was more like 72% gluten-free. The hostess did not understand why we were asking her about so many obvious things.)

Sadly this was not the most disconcerting restaurant experience we were going to have that day. We eventually chose to sit down at a place called Bottega Trattoria, which was basically empty but looked nice-ish and new-ish, and not cave-ish. We were sold when the waitress confirmed that they “offered gluten-free options” (not giving away the farm with a “100%” guarantee. Get it? Giving away the farm? We’re in Saskatchewan!), and that they had gf pasta and pizza. So we sat down at one of the very crowded tall wooden tables, and our super beautiful waitress gave us menus (“Ugh she’s so pretty…I want to punch her in the face”-Leah).

We both ordered pasta and hoped for the best. The urban spoon reviews were pretty terrible, only scored 56%, but most of the complaints were about the service, and we really weren’t in the mood to keep searching for what was sure to be a similarly average meal a few blocks away (feeling quite cynical at this point).
While we sat there drinking our waters the owner came over and opened up the big glass garage door beside us, letting in not only the sunshine, but three drunk guys wearing what can only be described as shorteralls, into the restaurant.

Why they were wearing identical hick-costumes, and why they were blind drunk at one in the afternoon, we still don’t know. But we certainly had time to find out, because once they procured the necessary beverages to keep the party going, they swarmed our table and wouldn’t leave.
So just to review: inside the restaurant you have one manager, one server, two paying customers, and three drunk guys in shorteralls. What happened next is as follows:

Guy 1: Hey ladies, what’s up, are you from here? (or something like that) (looks down at empty chair) Can I sit here?
Me: Vancouver, and no!
Guy1: (looks hurt) Hey don’t judge me, gargle blah blah blah, something indignant.
Guy 2: Sorry about him, he’s got no social skills. I used to be a runway model!
Guy 3: And now he’s the king of the rigs! He makes a lot of money, you know.
Guy2: So do you guys want a casual night out, or like a party night? Because I would suggest _____bar for dancing and ______lounge for just like, hanging out. Which one do you want to go to?
Guy1: Are you a redhead?
Guy2: How old do you think I am?
Guy3: Can I sit here?
Leah: I don’t want to eat lunch with you guys…
Guy 2: Let me guess, you’re a teacher.

And so on.
It wasn’t as if anybody was going to mistake them for our friends who just ran into us and were saying hi. We were two normal people, in normal clothes, waiting for our food. They were three hammered guys in shorteralls, standing way too close to our faces. The service staff, which made up the only other bodies in the building, watched this happen and didn’t do a thing about it. When one of them asked again to sit down with us and we again said no thank you, they sat down at the table that was right beside ours. At this point we had been waiting for our food for 40 minutes and there were NO OTHER CUSTOMERS in the restaurant. Leah proposed we exit out of the front window, just like our visitors entered. But we were too tired to find somewhere else to eat. When our food came and we were ready to just be alone and eat our pasta and get out, guy 3 said, a la Kanye to Taylor Swift, “ok I’m gonna let you enjoy your meals, but I need to ask you one question… I have a food truck called “Disco Dogs” and it’s like, doing, really good. Do you think I’d make it in Vancouver?”
Like how would I know? So we didn’t go out for a casual or dancing night, we stayed home so we wouldn’t have to try to find food again.

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Wanna go for a picnic? Alpaca lunch! (My favourite joke)(At the zoo with the two cougars)

And Now, a Terrible Review About a Place You’ll Never Go (The Firestick Cafe in Saskatoon)

It’s important to first put out there, that the food at the Firestick Cafe was pretty good. Not great, but pretty good.

That’s the end of the positive portion of this review. Thanks for stopping by.

I have a million places to put on the blog (like a years worth at least) that I have had on a list, just waiting to be addressed (probably never gonna be addressed though). Haven’t been feeling it. In the back of my mind, for at least a week, was the thought that I would write a comeback post about a fancy/weird 7-course meal I whipped up for Leah’s Vet School Send-off. And then, after that (’cause I’d be on a roll), I would do a snappy little summary of the places we ate while in Saskatoon.

But then we went to the  Firestick Cafe tonight, and my fury (disbelief?) at the terrible service we had just received inspired the end of a good 8-month blog drought.

So the place is only open Saturdays and Sundays, and it is part of a weird little art-farm-“tasting studio” thing. Reservation only. No kids allowed. The menu online looked very good. I thought, hey, here’s an unusual dining experience for the whole family! After a long day of shopping for hangers and windex we all really needed an enjoyable dinner. We Priers live for enjoyable dinners. The last seating is at 6 oclock, which is a bit early, but we were even down for that.

The fact that it didn’t exist on Google Maps should have tipped us off. That fact that is was a good 20 minute drive out of Saskatoon should have tipped us off (because there is nothing… in any direction.. outside of Saskatoon). The fact that, once you arrive, the place is decorated like an Art Knapp’s/that weird magical garden place that Rosie O’Donnell takes Harriet to in Harriet the Spy.. should have tipped us off. That sign on the gate that said their dogs would kill us if we brought our dogs on the property should have tipped us off:

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It was not overly welcoming outside, or inside, the gate. And that is a sign that begs to be photographed.

The first issue (besides that fact that no one greeted us and there is no clear signage as to where the restaurant even is on the property and that when you do find it, it is in an un-heated greenhouse) was that they have no liquor license. You are allowed to bring your own booze, but it doesn’t mention any of this on their website. This wouldn’t be a big deal if we hadn’t all just spent the last 48 hours locked in a car together. Fortunately, the table of 8 beside us knew the drill and had brought with them 8-10 bottles of wine and a 40 of (homemade?) vodka. So we had entertainment.

The previous night for dinner I had selected State and Main, a Browns Socialhouse facsimile for the prairies. Although I initially felt I had let everyone down by making this somewhat pedestrian selection, the food was quite good and our server was very accommodating of my various requests. I believe there is a certain balance that needs to be maintained in order for the diner to feel that they have had a good experience- if the service is impeccable, the food can be slightly sub-par. If the food is amazing, the odd faux pas or rude exchange can easily be forgiven.

When people complain about bad service, I often think to myself, how bad can it be? Their job is just to bring you your food. Why do you need to take it so personally? After over 6 years of serving it is probably remarkable to a lot of people (most likely past coworkers that are consummate professionals) that I still have this stupid opinion. I can usually sympathize with a harried server, as I have been a bad one myself.. for over six years. And I can tell you, the reasons you are mad at your server are usually well out of their control. But then every once in a while I’ll have a really terrible service experience, and it truly does make your food taste bad because the whole night out has been tainted by some server’s indifferent ineptitude.

In my opinion, this was bad. Next-level bad. This was her opener: “are you ready to order?” Fine, we can all handle that. I ordered our appies (pork lettuce wrap things), and then asked for the Santa Fe pizza on the gluten-free crust ($5 extra). To be sure, my dad asks “are those toppings gluten free?” She bluntly says no, only the crust. I said “Yes, I know the crust is gluten free, but are those other particular ingredients also safe? Do you know which toppings are ok?” To which she replies, “No, I don’t know, it says in the allergy part of the menu that we can’t guarantee anything, so, I don’t know which ones are. Do you still want it?” How useless is that? What is the point of offering the gluten-free crust if it is a mystery to everyone that works there whether or not any toppings are gf? I was miffed. But I did still want the pizza.

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It was pretty good. Not $20 good, but still very edible after a long day of Walmart and Sleep Country. While we were eating I asked our server if she could please turn on the space heater that hung over our table. She looked at me blankly and said that it wasn’t plugged in… so she would need someone to help her. Apparently that was a long version of “no.” She eventually came back, but only to give us our check when we still had food in front of us. We were ready to get out of there because we were freezing anyway, she must have known! So that was thoughtful. We practically ran to our truck, we were all so confused and amused and annoyed. I found out my dad tipped $15 on a $90 bill and then I was extra mad. It makes me SO MAD when a 15% tip (or more) is just a given, regardless of your heinous personality. How will she ever learn how to live in the world?

Anyway we drove back into Saskatoon to look for some milkshakes. This is what it looks like outside of town:

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Kind of like Dawson Creek! It’s pretty. Very flat.

If anyone from Firestick should ever read this- the young guy was very friendly. I’m sure if he was our server he would have turned our heater on.

And I know the sign said absolutely NO photography, but I had to. I mean who do you think you are?

Solar Gardens Firestick Cafe on Urbanspoon

WAC: Kelowna Edition

WAC: Kelowna Edition

Kate and I drove to Kelowna last weekend for a little Easter celebration, wedding planning, and to scare the crap out of Megan (who didn’t know I was coming).
Kate was going to pick me up at 11 so we could hit the road and make it to her mom’s for dinner. By 12:30, when she had finished having brunch with some guy (there was a 45 minute wait at the diner! so they waited…), she picked me up, and we made our first stop 5 minutes later at Coquitlam Centre to go to Target, buy some stretch pants and grab some ‘bucks for the road. We pulled out of town around 2.
So then we were driving. Yay! The wind (air conditioning) was blowing through our hair. Next stop: Hope! Was sure at this point everything was going to be smooth sailing and creme eggs. But then we got hungry for lunch. Asked Kate if she’s ever had a burger from Milestones, and she hadn’t, so wouldn’t that be a great lunch! Except for our next exit was Merritt. Forgot that there isn’t anything in Merritt except for three gas stations and a building that has a giant Elvis mural on it. But then I remembered that they have a Dominos, and that last time Daniel and I drove through there (the only time), we saw that Dominos now carries gluten-free pizza crusts. We also saw that they were closed. SO Kate and I were going to try it.
We ordered. I emphasized the required precautions. The girl ignored me. So we went outside and did jumping jacks until our lunch was prepared (I am careful to always stretch and get some brisk exercise at every stop on a road trip. This prevents leg cramps, blood clots, etc. Is akin to getting blood thinners while sitting for days on end in hospital, or always taking the little cup of water offered to you on even the shortest of flights – it’s just good common sense.)
Soon we were back in lovely ginormous truck, munching away on our yummy pizza. Happy. Katie, woeful celiac who feels like she can never find anything to eat and is often forced to cheat and eat gluten when she is drunk, thinks pizza is great. It was that good crust that is in the middle of being thin and fluffy, and it was really greasy and cheesy, so tasted like real take-out pizza. Since my last little health fiasco I have not had any food that wasn’t researched, cooked, measured, and then recorded in a diary myself before consumption, so this was a very special occasion. Noticed Kate was on her way to scarfin down the whole pizza, so decided to help myself to a second piece. Why not? We were road trippin. We were Thelma and Louise. If i’m going to have a second piece, I’m going to pick the one with the most bacon. That piece also happened to be the piece with the LONGEST BLACKEST STRAND OF HAIR BAKED RIGHT INTO THE CHEESE.
We gagged a lot. I threw it out the window, as to not discourage us from eating the rest of the pizza. Which we did, about an hour later when we were able to forget about that sick hair.
We arrived in Kelowna. As we drove up to my Aunty Tanya’s house I took off my seatbelt and crawled under the front seat of the truck so that nobody would see me when we pulled up. Kate hopped out and called Megan outside for her big surprise. Megan (who hadn’t seen her sister since Christmas), stood in the front doorway and said “nooo, it’s wet out there.” So Kate piggy-backed her to the truck and said “open the door I have a surprise for you!” and Meg says (whiny voice) “is it candy?” Then she opened the door and she was so shocked! She was confused. And then she was overcome with tears of joy. Joy because her maid-of-honour-assistant had arrived to grant her wedding wishes! And because her regular maid-of-honour is mostly a (cute) figurehead (just kidding Kate!!!! Best MOH ever.)
The next day I was treated to lunch by the Schlueter Fam at the very adorable El Dorado Hotel. When we sat down, Kate sadly pointed out that while “GF” was marked on the menu, the only items that fell under this category were salads. Upon closer inspection, we found they actually offered gluten free buns, pizza crust, AND fish and chips! And I mean fish AND chips. Not grilled fish and salad, but deep fried fish and deep fried fries.
We decided our best course of action was to order the smoked salmon pizza and a two-piece F’n’C to share. Our food came and the fish looked absolutely 100% like the real regular wonderful beer-battered McCoy. Told Kate she probably shouldn’t eat the ketchup, so she ate all the tarter sauce instead. She was happy with that, she’s learning the ropes. The fries were those good fat ones I haven’t had in so long. And they had a long blondish hair nestled in the bowl with them.
We didn’t let it ruin our trip but like seriously what are the chances?

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How to Have the Most Fun You Can at the PNE

How to Have the Most Fun You Can at the PNE

When I got to Vancouver a couple of weekends ago, I was super lazy and felt like we probably weren’t gonna leave the basement to stop watching The Wire until I had to go back to the island. And then Daniel’s friend O’Shea gave us passes to the PNE! And the PNE has Super Dogs! So we had the best day ever.
Right off the bat, as soon as we walked through the gates, we were approached by a girl selling some kind of lactose free beverage who wanted Daniel to ride a bike in order to turn on a blender. Then we drank the weird smoothie he made by riding the bike really fast. So we were off to a hot start.

The first thing we ate (after watching some cute sheep get wrangled for their fuzz and stumbling upon these amazing drumming kids, seriously, go to the PNE and find them) was a hot fudge sundae (me) and an “elephant ear” (Daniel). My ice cream was weird and grainy, and the fudge left a nice coating of lard in my mouth. Can’t speak for Daniel, but the elephant ear thing looked fairly ridiculous. Giant flat churro thing covered in whipped cream and other stuff, got all over him, he had to sit down to manage it. Your average carnival-y food.

Then we went to see the Super Dogs and got some super salty popcorn, likely covered in gluten-y seasoning (very suspect popcorn, worse than movie theatre popcorn). All I can say about those dogs is that I loved every single one of them and they are SO SMART. They could jump about 9 feet, and dance to weird electro-country, and play a game of hockey that was actually musical chairs (there was even a Zamboni dog that came to take away a “chair” each round).
I had not been to the PNE in approximately 20 years, which, besides being very depressing (I can actually refer to events that took place over two decades ago and know that I was talking and walking around), also left me so impressed with all of the entertainment. We saw the Genghis Khan exhibit, which was thankfully supplemented with commentary by Daniel, who had recently listened to a ten-hour podcast about the Mongols. Don’t know what else to say about that besides that it was both very interesting (the exhibit and his commentary) and very strange (Daniel’s ability to listen to ten-hour podcasts about Mongols). We also sat through a live episode of Family Feud (needless to say, hilarious), and watched some little professional hip-hop dancer kids, saw the prize house, and walked through the weird building full of shopping-channel products.
By this time, we needed to find something more substantial to eat, because Daniel has this thing about feeling like he hasn’t eaten all day until he’s had something with meat in it. Meaning he’d technically been fasting since the day before. Lucky for him there was a RIB-OFF.

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These guys meant business. All of the cooks were just glistening with sweat and hovering over these giant grills all day, and the prices were the same across the board, so every booth could only entice customers by being the absolute most delicious. We went from booth to booth looking for the most competent BBQ-ers, asking around for gluten-free and inspecting for pork-to-bun contact (via the tongs). We finally picked a line-up, settling on the guys that made their own sauce and knew where it was manufactured. We chose a combo of brisket and ribs, with a side of potatoes to wash it all down. It was way messier than the elephant ear. They leave out industrial rolls of paper towels, but they should really just have those showers that they have at the beach where you can rinse your feet.

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Thanks again O’Shea!!! You’re a gentleman and a scholar.

Amrikkos in Nanaimo

Amrikkos in Nanaimo

Last friday my mom, Leah, and I decided to go out for a little girls dinner after doing literally nothing for the whole day. First we went to Michael’s (craft store), for like an hour. That was our big exhausting errand. Then we headed to a tiny Indian restaurant (also the only Indian restaurant, and therefore the best Indian restaurant) on a Friday night at 7:30, which in a lot of cities would be pointless but it’s Nanaimo so we walked right in and got seated. Amrikkos is my favourite Indian food, bar none, although Jolly’s in Kits is also good but their butter chicken can’t hold a candle to Amrikkos (shout out to Jolly’s for making me chickpea naan bread that one time though, that was really nice of you.)

I usually don’t even feel like eating Indian food in this day and age, because about 3 years ago my family hit that HARD. We were cooking up butter chicken and eating naan from superstore like every weekend. Those were the gluten days. After that, I started making my own chicken korma with cashews and peas in it (obsession was re-ignited because BC Ferries temporarily offered a butter chicken entree, which was my favourite freakin thing and they TOOK IT OFF THE MENU. I will never understand them. First the baked potato, and then… Anyway their butter chicken had cashews in it, and came with little naan triangles, and I could polish off one of those babies before we even pulled out of Horseshoe bay.) So after my year of putting cashews into every kind of sauce I could find, I was really off Indian food for a while there. But Amrikkos is a whole other story, and I often forget I even have such delicious options when I am home in the land of no restaurants.
We ate: calamari (possibly the best I have come across in my celiac life), pakoras, veggie korma, butter chicken, rice, and there was naan and the little cheese block thingys for my mom and Leah. I’m back on the train.

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Il Terrazzo, and some other places in Victoria

Il Terrazzo, and some other places in Victoria

This is a post about Il Terrazzo, my family’s number one favorite restaurant in Victoria that we go to every time we go to Victoria. Sometimes we go to Victoria just to go to Il Terrazzo, wandering around downtown aimlessly wondering why we made our reservation for seven when it’s only four and we really want to eat now and WHAT WILL WE DO FOR THREE HOURS UNTIL WE CAN GO TO THERE???
On this particular day, we wasted time before our reservation by:
-going to Mayfair mall, where I made the mistake of purchasing some kind of rice dish with prawns from a booth in the food fair aptly named “Rice,” which I am very thankful I didn’t die from.
-shopping around the downtown/waterfront area until Leah announced “no more shopping time,” so we just walked around and ate some Rogers icecream until it was…. 4:30 (dinner was for 6:30), and then she realized that gee, maybe we could have shopped a little more, only now all the stores are closed because it’s sunday so we have to continue wandering around doing WHATEVER IT IS she thought we were supposed to be doing when we could have been shopping.
-took a picture with Sully
-had a nice bellini on a patio called “il Forno” (I think), which was the reasonable thing to do because we still had an hour to go before dinner and if someone didn’t lay down the law we would have gone back and forth up the same block 9 times, because that’s what we do as a family when we’re on vacation (even on just a day-long one, we panic when we run out of things to do between meals).

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So finally we got to go to Il Terrazzo, and sit in the beautiful outdoor courtyard thing, and be civilized. A side story: one time, I went to Il Terrazzo with my mom and her best friend Louise, a few months after I had been diagnosed with celiac. I had a seafood risotto, which, upon delivery, appeared to be covered with real actual crispy calamari and other amazing crispy seafood things. Obviously I sent it back to the kitchen twice, trying to explain that I can’t eat anything crispy or good ever again, and the waiter just kept bringing it back to me, trying to communicate that it was a rice-flour batter. So I ate it. And it was sooo delicious. Been chasing that dragon ever since.  They don’t have it on the menu anymore. Their single fault. End of side story.

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So this is the bread and tapenade concoction that they bring you while you’re waiting for your appy. If there is ever a time when I feel simultaneously sorry for myself, but also like the luckiest person ever, it is when I am at Il Terrazzo with my family and they bring out that freakin bread. It will bring a tear to your eye, that bread. You just have to sit there with a stiff upper lip and wait for your soup to come, because your family certainly is not going to forgo that bread in your name. If you think your family would? They wouldn’t.

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My soup did come, and it was very tasty. The holy trinity of tomato-basil-olive oil never fails me. I know it’s weird to order soup in the dead-centre of summer, but everyone else is having something and I have already made a scene about the bread and all the other good appys are gluteny and there’s no way I’m gonna order a caesar. Plus, I sometimes like soup. Last time I had the fisherman’s, and it was nice too.

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My choice of entree was very out of character, I had the short ribs with an apple-gorgonzola-walnut risotto. I’d normally have seafood but I’m glad I didn’t. So good, so deadly rich. The meat pretty much comes pre-digested for you, it is that tender.

So that’s Il Terrazzo, a magical place that I never worry about anything, much less gluten (unless they bring me calamari). Our waiter was a gent, there was a tiny fireplace burning beside our table, and we were actually all too grossly full to order dessert (very unusual- see My Dad, PF Changs, “I Still Eat a Lot”).