Category Archives: Vancouver

The Latest Beer Innovation: The Tasting Room

Beer doesn't just come in bottles or pints anymore

Beer doesn’t just come in bottles or pints anymore

In the beer-drinking world, many of us sophisticated types long ago evolved from the 24-packs of thin, flavourless piss to craft beers of all persuasions. Though sometimes things get a little carried away with the addition of fruits, chocolate and hot peppers. And don’t get me started on IPAs.

The chocolaty  "breakfast" beer and the geek

The chocolaty “breakfast” beer and the geek

The latest trend is the beer-tasting room, where you can stand, or sit at little tables, and savour small glasses (say, five or eight ounces) of beer, usually produced by an attached brewery. Perhaps the only food offered is from independent food trucks at the curb. Want some beer to take home? You’ll probably have to buy a refillable growler.

Vancouver, for instance, features two new tasting rooms. Brassneck Brewery (2148 Main Street) opened this fall with some eight beers to sample, while 33 Acres Brewing (15 West 8 Avenue) has two on tap. I recently visited the latter, which is a nice, bright place to sip a glass of 33 Acres of Life while chatting with friends. It felt more like a modern coffee shop (minus the laptops) than a prototypical pub. It’s all part of a craft beer renaissance in Vancouver, aided by the updating of antiquated liquor laws that allows the licencing of city tasting lounges.

Smaller glasses of onsite-produced beer at 33 Acres' tasting roomSmaller glasses of onsite-produced beer at 33 Acres’ tasting room

Whether tasting rooms are your cup of beer is a matter of preference. Methinks that in big cities, it’s a trend that’s just getting started.

Road Food For Thought: What ever happened to those beer bottle openers in motel bathrooms? Don’t they know all these craft beers don’t have screw tops?

Why do most bottles of Canadian craft beers contain only 331 or 341 millilitres (11 or a little more ounces) of golden liquid, compared with 12 ounces for their American counterparts? The funny thing is, put the same Canadian beer in a can and you suddenly get 12 ounces (355 ml), often for less money. Go figure.

Blow the foam off the Canadian craft beer (right), and it's an ounce short of its American cousin

Blow the foam off the Canadian craft beer (right), and it’s an ounce short of its American cousin

Obviously, American beer has always been cheaper than Canadian suds. But the production and marketing of specialty brews down south has raised the price of some 22-ounce bottles to between $4 and $9 apiece. Guess they’re taking their cue from the specialty coffeehouses.

Vancouver’s Pancake Parade

Jethro’s Fine Grub offers an extensive list of pancakes and French toast on its breakfast menu

It seems pancakes these days fall into two categories: staid and boring or over the top. The former are your typical buttermilk cakes—made in house or out of the package—often hitting your stomach like a lead weight.

The latter are dolled up with flavoured whipped creams and sugar-laden toppings or fillings. Some examples from just one restaurant’s menu: “brown sugar-baked bananas”, “streusel, butterscotch chip and caramel-filled”, “Oreo-filled” “Bailey’s and Kahlua swirled”, “pumpkin-pie filled”, “Frosted Flake cakes.” This is as bad as all those syrup-infused coffees.

How about just putting fresh fruit on top or making something light and flavourful like lemon ricotta cakes, with blueberries? Really, you can’t go wrong with blueberry pancakes. At least, pancake houses could show some creativity that doesn’t put you into a diabetic coma.

To provide some guidance of what can be done to make cakes hot again, here’s what a couple of innovative Vancouver, B.C. cafes are doing. The second featured place does have some sugar bombs in its lineup, and its portions are a little (okay, maybe way) over the top, but I like what it’s doing otherwise.

The *Red Wagon Restaurant is a cozy little diner, with stucco/wood-paneled walls and a slightly grimy texture that fits right into the East Hastings neighbourhood. I could go for the usual eggs and whatever. But is there any choice when I can order a stack of pancakes layered with pulled pork and topped with, get this, Jack Daniels maple syrup? I don’t know why more eateries don’t concoct signature dishes that stand out like this.

And boy, is this one unique—the salty, moist, almost too rich pulled pork perfectly complemented by the syrup’s sweetness. As for the flavourful Jack Daniels, I just hope the alcohol has evaporated before the syrup slides down my throat. After all, it’s scarcely 9 am, and they’ve got this .05 limit in B.C. Nothing like rolling into the day, I say.

How about some pulled pork layered between these  pancakes, with Jack Daniels maple syrup as a sweetener?

How about some pulled pork layered between these pancakes, with Jack Daniels maple syrup as a sweetener?

The Red Wagon Restaurant
2296 East Hastings Street, Vancouver
Weekdays 8 am-9 pm, weekends 9 am-9 pm
The Red Wagon on Urbanspoon

At *Jethro’s Fine Grub, the bottom of the menu contains a warning: Please Eat Responsibly. No kidding. The two-stack banana pancakes, flopping over an enormous platter, weigh in at 2-1/2 pounds. In two years, the waitress says she’s only seen four people finish them, one a woman marathon runner.

There's another monster pancake lurking beneath this banana-studded linker at Jethro's.

There’s another monster pancake lurking beneath this banana-studded lunker at Jethro’s. By the way, this is another customer’s order.

Jethro’s is a clean, bare-bones place, with only about eight tables and usually a lineup if you’re not there early. They do serve omelettes and eggs Benedict, but I’d suggest just going straight to the delicious, unusual French toast and pancake offerings. French toast items include fragrant, thick-cut slices of challah bread or chocolate chip banana bread, both baked in house. The pancake selections range from banana cakes stuffed and topped with caramel, pecans and streusel to ones with a shot of espresso and dark chocolate chips. Okay, those are the sugar bombs. There’s also ones stuffed simply with strawberries or bacon. But likely what’s most requested at Jethro’s is takeout boxes for all the leftovers.

So that I'm not anchored to my chair, I actually opt for Jethro's lovely, much lighter challah-bread French toast.

So that I’m not anchored to my chair, I actually opt for Jethro’s lovely, much lighter challah-bread French toast.

Jethro’s Fine Grub
3420 Dunbar Street and 3455 Fraser Street (cash only at this location), Vancouver
Daily 8 am-4 pm
Jethro's Fine Grub on Urbanspoon

Road Food for Thought: I’m not sure when it happened, but it seems every respectable diner now offers pancakes with real maple syrup, whether it’s from Vermont or Quebec. Though I don’t like it when they pour it on the cakes before serving.

My Best Road Trip Meals of 2012: Part Two

Marathon Mouth chomps down on salmon tacone at Go Fish, Vancouver B.C.

Marathon Mouth chomps down on salmon tacone at Go Fish, Vancouver B.C.

It’s a bit late, but I realize I overlooked a number of categories in my Best Road Trip Meals of 2012 awards and figured I didn’t want to wait perhaps months to post reviews of some stellar places. So here we go with Part Two.

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