Monday, June 29, 2009

Lunch spot goes late night - Mill Creek Cafe

I often make my way to Mill Creek Cafe for lunch during the summer months. My boss is addicted to their fully load salmon salad sandwiches so the trek is made easy. Lately they have been featuring daily lunch specials that are a bit heavier than a sandwich - Persian style chicken skewers with rice and salad, Philly cheese steak sandwiches, Nicoise salad, and Baja Fish tacos, just to name a few.

During the past few months flyers have been up around the restaurant advertising the new evening menu on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights until 9:30PM, as well as their more recently obtained liquor license. A couple weeks ago Zed and I finally made it over for a Friday night meal.

We arrived around 8PM to an empty restaurant, save one table of two, and it didn't appear the place had received many more diners earlier in the evening. The evening menu turned out to be made up of mostly tapas style items meant to share - sliders with a choice of three different topping combos, spring rolls, spiced nuts, a plate of spreads, hummus, etc. There was also a selection of ~three pizzas, baked on the same dough they use for their 7 grain bread (the bread that makes their sandwiches so great at lunch) as well as a few pastas. The special that evening though was Ossobuco - braised veal shank that was served with mashed potatoes and vegetables... both of us decided this was the way to go.

Our server was right to tell us the plate was large, so the giant meal that arrived in front of us 15 minutes later wasn't as much of a surprise. The meat was lovely and tender and perfectly comforting. Along with the mash and roasted veggies though, I was reminded more of a snowy winter evening than a warm spring weekend.

I'm glad, however surprised, that Mill Creek Cafe is venturing into evening territory given their lunch time success. The place is always packed at lunchtime, and even in the morning, with locals and regulars in for a coffee/sandwich/muffin and a glance at the paper. We will likely give Mill Creek another try for dinner, but for now I will stick with the regulars for my mid-day meal.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Brentwood Bay, BC - A little peace and quiet

*Here is a very delayed post about part of our vacation on the Island... After attending Slow Food's Indulgence tonight, I'm hoping to get back to more regular posts again.

Zed and I went to Vancouver Island a few weeks ago, not really for any particular reason, but just to get away for a few days. My first choice is to get near an ocean if I can ("Born by the sea, belong by the sea," as my Nanny always says). We found a great deal at Brentwood Bay Lodge and Spa - if you were there for two nights, one of those nights was free (gotta love the shoulder season). Although the rooms are definitely meant for lounging (see pictures below), we made in out into the quiet and easily walkable town a few times during our stay.

View of Brentwood Bay

Ridiculously lavish room

Breakfast at the Lodge itself was necessary, and we made it down to the Seagrille a couple different mornings. All and all it was fairly good for a "hotel" breakfast, but nothing to necessarily right home about. What was nice about the hotel's restaurant was that they did bring in local eggs, meat, fish, cheese and other items where they could, which did make a huge difference in each dish.

Orange Cinammon French Toast

House Eggs Benny w/ spinach, crab cakes and lemon thyme hollandaise

During one of our scouting missions around the town itself, we ran into a bakery - Breadstuffs - that made some of the best pecan and butter tarts we've ever feasted on. The shells maintained a slight crunch, and the filling was perfectly buttery and rich. Definitely a good thing to accompany a walk by the sea.

Butter Tart and a "Better than pecan pie" slice

We decided to skip dinner at our hotel, opting for Piccolo, an Italian inspired restaurant in the centre of Brentwood Bay. While the decor may have been a bit outdated, the food and setting made up for it. It was also our first encounter with Island local, seasonal cooking, something I was eager to check out after perusing Chowhound boards during the weeks prior to our trip.

That evening I lucked out - the chef had received some ducks that day, turning them into duck confit and seared duck breast. I ended up going with the duck breast while Zed, clearly missing Alberta, went for a steak. The duck breast was fantastic - rich and tender with a nice crisp skin. My only complaint was that the tartar sauce served with the dish was a bit heavy with both the duck and "frites," but in the end I had no problem eating it all anyhow.

Steak w/ roast potatoes and vegetables

Seared duck breast w/ green beans and frites

Brentwood Bay was definitely a great stop over for both food and relaxation (they have a great spa... check out our pedicures below). The best part though, was that while we were laying by the pool in sunny 25 degree heat, a friend phoned us from Edmonton to let us know it was still snowing - definitely a sign of a good getaway.