Monday, February 27, 2012

Finding "craft beer" at The Public House

I read in a couple different spots that The Public House, the newest venture from Oil City Hospitality, was making some sort of effort beer wise (a reader of commented that they had some Tree Brewing on their list, and Sharon mentioned Mack's stopover a few weeks ago). So, after a long Friday last week, we stopped in our way home.

There was a hockey game that evening, but even with seven televisions around the room (and those are just the ones I counted from my seat), the place wasn't overly busy, and in the end we found it a bit cold and impersonal. Serious effort has been made decor wise to make the place feel "homey". A floor to ceiling bookshelf is featured on the west wall, and opposite is a chalkboard that features daily 'specials' (ie. $4 shots and the like). But in the end it felt empty and more ready for late night crowds than anything else. We grabbed a table next to the giant bookshelf and checked out the beer menu.

After glancing over the list, we decided fairly quickly on Tree Brewing's Hop Head IPA, a relatively hoppy brew from Kelowna. Overall, we were certainly impressed that they made the effort to add Yellowhead Brewing and Aprikat to the menu, along with a couple well selected brews like Blanche de Chambly and Affligem. We were disappointed, however, that their "Feature Craft" was simply a beer pulled from the regular menu for weeknight price specials, which means no rotating tap(s) or bottles.

What we wish they would change, is the way the brews are listed. I don't think it's fair to call brews like Rolling Rock, Bud, Stella Artois and others "craft beer", because they're not. Many of the brands on The Public House's list are owned and brewed by Anheuser-Busch/InBev, which means there's little substance to most of them beyond marketing ploys. Just like AB-InBev's marketing, we found parts of the beer menu misleading, implying diversity where there isn't much to be found.

In a pinch, we would certainly return to The Public House. It's great to see a chain that focuses so much on night life including some flavourful beer on their list. That said, I'd love for them to move beyond big brews and feature more real craft beer, and maybe even make Yellowhead's or Alley Kat's brew(s) their house beer, instead of Bud and Bud Light. With Mercer Tavern opening in the spring (I'm clearly expecting/hoping for great things), here's hoping The Public House will step it up.

*I wanted to mention that I did a quick post-work stopover at Transcend a few weeks ago. While they may not have a giant selection, Transcend Jasper has a tidy group of well selected bottles and a couple taps that change fairly frequently. Last time I was there it was Brewmaster's super hoppy Roughneck IPA, and more recently they had Pike Brewing's roasty, bitter XXXXX Stout ($7.5 per pint). Best of all, they're open until 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays for evening enjoyment.

We've also hit up the Jasper Ave. Remedy a few times for casual, late evening drinks. They've got a good selection of bottles (I've been sticking with Brooklyn Brewery's Brown Ale for the most part) and they've just installed some taps. Plus, they're open until midnight seven days per week.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bua Thai

Bua Thai was the very first Thai restaurant I ever visited. When I first started at Folk Fest five years ago, my boss, who had spent much of the winter in Thailand, took me for lunch. From then on it was difficult to forget the coconut laced sauces and rice, or the perfectly cooked shrimp and sweet noodles. So just before the shop re-opened back in early January, Rachel and I took a break from our errands and walked the couple blocks to Bua Thai for lunch.

When we arrived around 1pm, they were still busy with office workers taking advantage of their lunch specials (there's about eight of them, priced around $13-14) and free parking. Nevertheless we were quickly shown to a two top table close to the kitchen. Ultimately we decided to forgo the lunch menu, opting to share some items from the regular menu - the papaya and carrot salad (Som Tam $10.5), a curry containing shrimp and Thai eggplant (Phat Phed Kung $19.95), and veggie noodles (Phat Thai Jai $13.95).

Our favourite dish of the day ended up being the papaya and carrot salad. It was full of garlic and peanuts, and had a lovely sweet, savoury, spicy balance. We also thoroughly enjoyed the curry, particularly the perfectly cooked shrimp and crunchy eggplant. And the Pad Thai easily satisfied our noodle craving that had started earlier in the day.

While Bua Thai is usually just a summer stop, I'm hoping visits during the rest of the year will be a bit more frequent.

Bua Thai
10049 113 Street
Bua Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Rachel and I are slowly (and I mean slowly) working our way around some of the lunch specials/lunch hours in the area on Mondays when the retail portion of the shop is closed. Last week we stopped at Wild Tangerine for 'Asian Po-boys' ($12-15), and a couple weeks ago, we ventured to Gabbana for their $5 Monday/Tuesday lunch special (unfortunately a let down, with super sweet sauces and a server run off her feet). We've also heard rumours of a $10 lunch special at Cibo that we're hoping to take advantage of soon (they're closed on Mondays which is making a visit difficult). Other suggestions in downtown/Oliver would be much appreciated!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

More from the kitchen

We haven't been eating out much lately, save a trip to Bua Thai earlier in the month and a late night post chocolate and coffee tasting falafel from La Shish this past weekend. I've got a post on the former soon, but I gobbled up that falafel so quickly that picture taking didn't stand a chance.

But back to the kitchen... I made three recipes recently that I thought were worth mentioning. Slow Cooked Carne Adovada from David Tanis' Heart of the ArtichokeBreton Buckwheat cake with Fleur de Sel from David Lebovitz's Sweet Life in Paris, and Buttermilk Roast Chicken from Smitten Kitchen.

Carne Adovada

The David Tanis recipe certainly needs some work, mostly due to his suggested cooking time and temperature - 350 degrees for 1.5 hours. I'm hoping a lower, slower cooking time will benefit the final tenderness of the pork shoulder. The chile paste/sauce, however, is perfect.

The pork shoulder. On sale earlier in the month from Serben.

We couldn't find the dried New Mexican red chiles at Paraiso Tropical, so we substituted Ancho chiles, as per Chowhound's suggestion. Removing the seeds from 6oz. of dried chiles is a tedious job (and we were finding seeds everywhere afterward), but it was worth it. The resulting sauce was smoky and slightly spicy, and worked beautifully in a taco and in a roll for lunch the next day.

Breton Buckwheat Cake

This past week my mum and Nanny hosted a mid-week lunch, and the Breton Buckwheat Cake was Rachel's answer to my dessert dilemma. Our main ended up being the kale and bean stew from Smitten Kitchen, which worked well for my vegetarian/Coeliac cousin, along with bannock made by my aunt. The super buttery, nutty buckwheat cake turned out to be a lovely finish to the hearty meal (and just in case you're wondering about the above mentioned Coeliac cousin, I brought her a couple peanut butter cups from the shop in lieu).

The final piece.

Buttermilk Roast Chicken

And finally, the buttermilk roast chicken. This recipe comes together in no time, with the chicken simply hanging out in the fridge for 24-48 hours. We ended up brining the chicken for just 24 hours, and the flavour was incredible. We enjoyed our chicken with some rice, spinach and a bottle of Brüton's sparkly Lilith for a quick mid-week meal. At the end of the night, even if you don't choose to use the tin foil to line the baking dish, clean up is easy.

We're still looking forward to checking out some new-to-us restaurants in Oliver, particularly Cibo, Bistro India, the newly located CoCoDi and Café Beirut. Until that happens, I'm happily making my way through some of EPL's cookbook collection and online recipes bookmarked long ago.