Vancouver Food Cart Fest 2013

If you’re at all familiar with the food scene in Vancouver, you’re probably aware that this post is long overdue, since the food cart festival is a summer event. (And obviously for good reason, what with all the rain we get). I actually visited the festival in September with Sam and Pickles, when all of us had returned from our summer travels, so this post is actually only four months in the making. What with school and work and life in general, it can be a bit difficult to keep on top of things…that’s my excuse, anyways.

Despite the burgeoning food cart scene in Vancouver, I often find it difficult to seek out the specific ones that catch my interest. Many of them are open for a limited time during the day, or only at a specific location that is out of the way of my usual commute. Well, thank goodness for the food cart festival, then, which conveniently gathers Vancouver’s most popular food carts in one area so that folks like me can get to pig out to our hearts’ content. In 2013, the festival was hosted in a lot right by False Creek, which made it easily accessible by SkyTrain for us car-less folk.

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The three of us split up to consider our options, and Sam ended up with a Sourdough Pepperjack Cheese Sandwich ($8) from Mom’s Grilled Cheese. She had tomatoes and double smoked bacon added to her sandwich for $0.50 and $1.50, respectively. She quite enjoyed her sandwich, as the bread was fried up nicely on the griddle, making it crispy but not too greasy. Meanwhile, the sandwich itself was quite hot, so the cheese had that perfected melted consistency that we all look for in a grilled cheese sandwich. The sandwich is also served with chips, which were stuffed at the bottom of the paper cone, making the chips themselves soggy. Sam noted that she’d had the sandwich and chips served on a plate before, which was much better, as the chips didn’t get soggy. Still, the tomatoes and bacon nicely enhanced her sandwich, making it an enjoyable meal. Sam also indulged in a Ginger Mint Lemonade ($2.75), also from Mom’s, which tasted mostly of ginger with only a slight tint of lemon. It also had a slight enjoyable fizziness, and was an enjoyable drink for the very hot day that we were enduring.

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Meanwhile, Pickles and I wandered over to Yolk’s Breakfast. I’d wanted to try Yolk’s for a while, but simply never had the chance to. I’ve now had their food twice, once here and once at the actual restaurant now open on Hastings Street, but there was a time when I used to drool over some other fortunate soul’s Instagrammed chicken and waffles or soft-poached egg sandwich.

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The wait was long and arduous, but we finally received our orders and, luckily enough, found a shaded table to sit down and munch. Pickles had the Chicken and Waffles, which didn’t look super pretty but definitely did the job. The chicken was crispy, juicy, and flavourful, and came in large pieces. I’m a big fan of fried chicken (and pretty much every other deep-fried food), and I often find that I get more batter than actual chicken, but that certainly wasn’t the case here. The waffle itself was nice and buttery, but a little too soft for her liking, although it might have been softened by the hot weather and the fact that it took us a while to find a table to sit at. But then again, Pickles was fresh from her trip to Belgium at this point, so perhaps her waffle standards were a bit too high.

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Meanwhile, I had an item that I’d longed for for quite a while, a Poached Free-Range Egg Sandwich ($7.50). They have a beautiful flowchart where you can customize your sandwich, and I had mine with hand-carved honey ham, fresh spinach, dijon, hollandaise, one poached egg, all on an English muffin. There were quite a few flavours going on here: the saltiness from the ham, the tartness from the hollandaise, and a nice, comforting savouriness from the egg yolk. The English muffin was soft to begin with, and only got softer once I broke the egg yolk. This resulted in a super messy sandwich to eat, although it wasn’t a huge problem once I decided to fork-and-knife it. Breakfast sandwiches are my favourite type of sandwich, and this one was certainly yummy, but I’m not really sure if this particular combination was worth the hype that often accompanies any talk about Yolk’s.

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It’s just not breakfast without potatoes, and at Yolk’s these come in the form of a Truffle-Lemon Hash Brown Skewer ($3.50). At first bite, my hash browns were quite tart, with a very strong lemon flavour, but after that, the flavour seemed to mellow out, which was good. I think I waited too long to eat mine, as they got quite soggy, but other than that, these potatoes did an excellent job.

After finishing our food, the three of us took a nice walk along False Creek and enjoyed the sunshine. This was back in September, mind you, when Vancouver was enjoying sunny weather rather than the dreary, foggy dampness that we’re enduring now. Summer is always a season I look forward to, but the food cart festival definitely adds to an already perfect time of year.

Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck
800 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC

Mom's Grilled Cheese Truck on Urbanspoon

Yolk’s Breakfast
Vancouver, BC

Yolk's Breakfast on Urbanspoon


Baxter’s

Following Monica Ali’s Brick Lane, the second of our class presentations revolved around Sarah Waters’s 2002 novel Fingersmith. I never considered myself a huge fan of Victorian novels, since the sheer length of the books always deterred me from reading them. Still, one book that will always remain close to my heart is Dickens’s Great Expectations. I don’t know what it is about that book, but something about the complex plot and Pip’s unrequited love for Estella set against the backdrop of industrial London is simply so memorable. In any case, Fingersmith reminded me a great deal of Great Expectations, but of course with a modern twist. I guess “twist” is the key word when it comes to Fingersmith

Luckily enough, Fingersmith is largely set in the Borough, which was a quick walk from our accommodations. We had the chance to walk down Lant Street, which figures prominently in the novel, and was also the home of Charles Dickens. Once we were done exploring the world of Fingersmith, we were set loose in the Borough Market to procure our lunches.

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The market is situated right beside Southwark Cathedral. I think that the thing that most struck me about London, and Europe in general, is just how old everything is. Living in Vancouver, everything is relatively new, while in London, you can still see remnants of Roman architecture, which is just astounding. The idea that you can still casually walk along the street where Dickens used to live just boggled my mind. We visited many churches and cathedrals during our stay in Europe, and the beauty of the buildings is just breathtaking. I’m not a religious person by any means, but I do think that religious buildings are often the most beautiful, whether it be a church or a mosque or a Buddhist temple.

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The Borough Market offers a wide variety of stalls to choose from. After some hopeful wandering, I stopped in front of Baxter’s. I’ve mentioned my affinity for “exotic meats” before, and I’d just realized that I’d never tried wild boar before. Also, I was quite hungry, and it was a dreary, rainy day, and I was in the mood for something warm and filling. Baxter’s appeared to be family-run, and everyone was friendly and helpful when answering my questions.

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I decided on the Wild Boar Sausage (£6), which comes in two sizes: small or large, of which I got the latter. Basically the only difference between the two sizes is whether you get one or two sausages. The sausages come enveloped in a ciabatta bun, accompanied by some arugula (or, as the Brits say, “rocket”) and onions. This was my first time having wild boar, and, as expected, it was quite similar to pork, with a slight gameyness. The sausage itself was meaty, with some chunks of tasty fat and a bit of spice to alleviate the richness of the meat. I would have preferred the bun to have been toasted slightly, as there was nothing special about it, but the sausage was so flavourful that it really didn’t need much. They also added a dash of peppercorn sauce, which just enhanced the flavours. And, of course, the veggies also helped to cut the richness of the sausage. This was definitely one of the most satisfying meals I had in London, especially when eaten outside while ducking to avoid the rain. I also had an Iced Earl Grey Tea from another stall in the market, which was flavoured with a mint leaf and lemon. I liked how the tea wasn’t overly sweetened, which is often the case with iced tea.

DSCN0738After a satisfying meal and a lazy, relaxed afternoon of shopping, we had quite an evening to look forward to: seeing Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. Despite never having seen the musical itself, I’ve been a fan of the music since the eighth grade, due to some influence from my brother and a couple of friends. So I was incredibly excited to see it for myself. And although I adore listening to the soundtrack from the original Broadway cast, seeing it on stage is just another experience altogether. The two leads were immensely talented, and the plot of the play is just so fast-paced and jam-packed with musical numbers that you never have the chance to feel bored. Out of my three theatre experiences in London (the other two being Pride and Prejudice in Regent’s Park and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Rose Theatre), this was by far my favourite.

This is a bit of a digression, but I’ve also read Gregory Maguire’s original novel, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, off of which the musical is based. The novel’s universe is vastly different from the musical, with the novel delving more into the serious issues briefly explored in the musical. Personally, I enjoy the musical more, as the novel is a bit dense and difficult to understand, but it’s good, although not essential, to have knowledge of both works.

In any case, I realize this post was only minimally about the food, but I just felt the need to recount one of my favourite days that I got to spend in London: a yummy lunch, shopping amid the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, and then getting to see a musical. What could be better?

Baxter’s
8 Southwark Street
London, UK SE1 1TL

Baxter's Cafe on Urbanspoon


The Wallflower

I’m having trouble thinking of a decent, clever preamble for this one–so let’s just jump right into it. It was a typical July day in Vancouver (raining, dreary, cold)–Lamb was visiting from Korea, and Pickles had just returned from her trip to Europe. (So jealous!) Originally, GoddWong had wanted to eat at The Foundation for our lunch–but of course, we got there and the restaurant was full. Not wanting to wait, the four of us just walked across the street to The Wallflower. The Wallflower, too, was quite packed, but somehow the four of us managed to snag a table.

The restaurant was quite busy and the servers obviously overworked. It took us a lot longer than we’d have liked to be given menus and have our orders taken. The food also took quite a while, and while it was nice to enjoy each others’ company, it was a little stuffy inside and the tables were quite close together. Sometimes this can be a pleasant experience…and sometimes, it isn’t. Anyways, moving on to the food…

GoddWong, being the healthy person she is, had the Spinach Salad, which came with spinach, strawberries and balsamic vinegar. She chose to add grilled tofu, but opted out of the goat cheese. In the end, she didn’t really enjoy her salad, as the spinach was soggy and quite oily. To me, the vegetables also didn’t look very fresh. As far as a salad goes, I don’t care as long as the veggies are fresh–and this salad was disappointing.

 

Lamb chose the Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich, with a side of fries (you can also opt for soup or salad). The sandwich was served on garlic toast, with swiss cheese, onions, mushrooms, and peppers. Overall, she thought it was a good sandwich, but not something she would get again. The bread was hard, and the bread-to-filling ratio was off. Dipping the sandwich in the provided au jus softened the bread considerably, but made it a little too salty. She thought that the meat, cheese, and pepper complemented each other well, though. The fries were mediocre, being dry and neither greasy nor salty. They tasted baked, not fried, but were much too dry.

Pickles was debating between the eggs benny and the Shrimp Bacon Avocado Wrap, and eventually decided on the latter. In addition to the shrimp, bacon, and avocado, the wrap was served with a side salad and also included guacamole, lettuce, and tomato. The wrap was generic and quite bland, since it included no sauce. It was quite large, but very dry. The shrimp was rather disappointing, since it was the tiny, frozen, watery kind. Still, the bacon was crispy and the avocado soft and creamy. The side salad was fresh and not overdressed.

There were quite a few options for bennys, but I just opted for the classic Benny, with the typical English muffin, ham, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce. It was quite a rainy, dreary summer day (oh, Vancouver) and I wasn’t feeling very adventurous. This version was nothing spectacular. The eggs were runny as they should be, but the hollandaise sauce was a little too thin and a little too bland. I enjoyed the side salad though, which was the same as Pickles’s above. The best part of my meal, however, was the hash browns. They tasted real and were satisfying crispy, but not too greasy.

In the end, I felt like I enjoyed my lunch at The Wallflower–although that was probably due to the excellent company I had rather than the food. The restaurant seemed severely understaffed, and the food was nothing spectacular. In fact, the four of us didn’t feel that the food was anything great–(obviously, since my favourite part of my meal was the hash browns). I think this would be a good place to go if you have a larger group of people, since there are quite a few options on the menu, and there are even vegan options to accomodate a variety of diners. However, next time, I would prefer to wait for a table at The Foundation.

The Wallflower
2420 Main Street
Vancouver, BC

The Wallflower on Urbanspoon


Meat & Bread

Cindy usually doesn’t mind if I pick a venue for lunch, but she seemed a little skeptical about my choice of Meat & Bread. Actually, I was a little skeptical as well. Although I’d heard rave reviews of the place, I remained indifferent before my first visit–after all, how good can a simple sandwich be? Still, Cindy and I both trekked off to see for ourselves.

First of all, the restaurant was packed. A good sign–there was a considerable lineup and an eclectic mix of clientele. I think of it as a good sign when there’s a diverse clientele since it usually means that the food is universally appealing and not just catering to a certain crowd. That day there were some middle-aged couples, a forty-something mother with her three preteen children and a hipster couple. Cindy and I immediately joined the lineup and perused the menu (helpfully and clearly displayed as seen here) while we waited. We ordered our sandwiches (and, in Cindy’s case, some salad), and sat down beside other hungry diners. This definitely isn’t the place to go if you enjoy your privacy–we were literally brushing elbows with strangers. It was a little uncomfortable if you’re claustrophobic like I am, but the atmosphere is definitely an enjoyable one.

Cindy opted for the Porchetta–savoury, fatty pork with salsa verde. Within minutes, her skepticism about Meat & Bread vanished. The bread had subtle hints of sourdough flavour, but wasn’t overbearing. She felt that the bread was soft and chewy, and complemented the meat well. And the pork–it was crispy, tender, and flavourful, and a little reminiscent of Chinese barbecue pork, but not in a bad way. The salsa verde just improved an already delicious sandwich, adding hits of garlic and herbs. I don’t normally gush about much of anything (well, except my tendency to act like a little girl whenever I see Andrew Garfield), but this was one amazing sandwich.

I debated for a while but ultimately decided on the Lamb Shoulder, which was the daily special. I’m a sucker for any kind of special–I always feel like that if something is the daily special, then that day is the only time I can get it (even though clearly this is not the case). Plus, I love lamb–if I see it on a menu, I will usually order it (same goes for duck). In any case, the lamb here was a great choice–it was tender, juicy and meaty. Although gamy (which is expected from lamb), the meat was also fatty and rich. Still, I didn’t tire of the richness as I usually do. The crunch from the greens kept the sandwich from being monotonous and mushy, and the bread was similarly subtle but delicious. I’m not a huge fan of sandwiches but this one was a winner.

Two items is not nearly enough to comprise an entire blog entry. So, bless her heart, Cindy ordered the Quinoa Salad as well. This was my first time having quinoa (and my first time saying the word itself correctly as well). I tend to shy away from anything healthy, but the quinoa was light, fresh, and not too mushy. The flavours and consistency were both well brought out by the preparation. The strongest flavour present was that of apples–light, crisp, sweet and refreshing.I thought this was a perfect complement to the sandwiches we’d had, which didn’t feel healthy (but were delicious all the same)–in comparison to our rich, heavy sandwiches, the quinoa was deliciously light and refreshing.

So thank you to Meat and Bread for reversing my thoughts on sandwiches. I’ve always had an aversion to sandwiches (so much so that when I brought one for lunch one day, Pickles immediately declared me to be an impostor)–I avoid Subway and Quizno’s like the plague. But Meat and Bread. Any good restaurant is one that only has a few menu items–after all, doesn’t this mean that they focus on being exceptional at a few things rather than having a broad but weak range? Although Meat and Bread isn’t for everyone, I was definitely won over.

Meat & Bread
370 Cambie Street
Vancouver, BC

Meat & Bread on Urbanspoon


Burgoo

This Reading Week I decided to document all my spending, since I’ve been trying to cut back. Turns out I only spent 60ish dollars! Funny thing is, the only real lasting purchase I made was nail polish–the rest of the money was spent on food…anyways, we (meaning me, Samantha, and co.) made it out to Burgoo, the Main Street location.

Burgoo is very…hm…cozy. By that I mean the tables are very close together, and the lights are slightly dim, but in a cozy way, not dark in that cool, trendy way (ie. Joeys, Cactus Club). I liked it, but it was slightly difficult to maneuver between the tables as we were being seated and as we were leaving. I was kind of scared I would knock over someone’s soup…since that’s what most people had (including myself).

That was a clumsy segue…but anyways, I had the French Onion Soup. I really like the way the dishes are presented here (looks like a piece of art!). This was a pretty generous portion at only $8. I figured for $8 it wouldn’t be enough to fill me up, so I also ordered the biscuits, but that turned out to be too much food. So technically I would have been content on a meal for around $10 at a nice restaurant. Sweet. Anyways, this had pretty much everything I want in a French onion soup: gooey cheese on the top, and a rich broth below with sweet onions and soggy croutons. (I LOVE croutons. Seriously. I eat them as a snack). By the time I was more than three quarters done though, the soup was quite salty and I couldn’t really make myself have many more of it. But that’s happened pretty much every other time I’ve had French onion soup, so no big deal. I really enjoyed this and wouldn’t mind having it a second time on my next visit.

So as mentioned above, I also ordered the Burgoo Biscuits. The menu describes them as warm Cheddar and parsley biscuits. They weren’t as warm as I would have liked them, and I didn’t really think the accompanying butter? margarine? was necessary. They were still quite pleasant to eat though, and definitely had that homey, comfort food quality that I’m sure Burgoo strives for. Yum!

Jeri had the Tastier Chicken Sandwich, which comes with a choice of salad (either caesar, spinach, or winter greens). She chose the greens. The sandwich consisted of roasted chicken, melted brie, apple, red onions, and other greens. She thought it was too bland. But then again, the only cheese  she can tolerate is cheddar…so she ended up scraping all the brie off her sandwich. Sam had the same sandwich and thought it wasn’t too bland. Her salad came dressed in a garlicky house vinaigrette (?). She ended up putting some of the vinaigrette on the sandwich to add some flavour.

Yvonne had the Soup and Sandwich combo with the Crab Bisque and the BLTCG (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Cheddar, and Guacamole), respectively. The sandwich was stuffed with ingredients and therefore a bit difficult to eat, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. She found the avocado to be overwhelmingly creamy and thought the sandwich would have benefitted from the use of more salt. She let me try a little of the bisque and it was spicier than I expected. Again, there was an abundance of crab meat in the soup–they don’t skimp out on the ingredients here. We were all impressed with the size of the sandwich as well as the accompanying soup–definitely a good deal for $15.

Hui had the Macaroni and More. In addition to the usual mac & cheese goodness, this also included breadcrumbs, bits of bacon, and peas. This was quite a big portion and full of ingredients as well. I usually find that mac and cheese is one of those foods you get sick of pretty quickly, but Hui managed to finish this. (Very impressive for a girl her size!) There’s not much to say about this, except I guess I’m not so sure that it’s worth $13. It was definitely good and warm and comforting and all, but I wouldn’t say it was one of the better values on the menu, especially if you’re like me and get sick of mac & cheese very quickly. Plus for $15 you could enjoy both a soup and sandwich…also, all the sandwiches alone (which actually come with salad) were priced under $15, so if I had to choose, I think I would pick the sandwich instead. To each their own though, I suppose. To summarize, it was an enjoyable dish, but not as great a value as the other items on the menu, in my opinion.

So Sam had the Sandwich and Soup Combo with the Tastier Chicken (same as above) and the Boston Clam Chowder as the soup. The chowder was very filling and contained lots of seafood besides the clam, like baby scallops. There were also potatoes, bacon, and onions. It was not too salty and as a whole it was above average and again, a good value. She enjoyed the sandwich more than Jeri, probably because she kept the brie.

So to summarize! As a whole we enjoyed our experience at Burgoo and would probably want to try the other locations as well. The service was quite friendly and the bill was brought to us in one of those circular dim sum steamers, which was a nice touch. Overall, we found Burgoo to be a good value.

Burgoo
3096 Main St
Vancouver, BC

Burgoo (Main Street) on Urbanspoon