Our Motto:

Dulcius ex Asperis (sweeter after struggle)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Vancouver Cherry Blossom Time – Could Spring 

Really Be Here?

I originally did this blog post back in 2012 but I just can’t resist posting it again. I have been very remiss in my blog writing but anyone who has ever operated a B&B will know how difficult it is to find time in our busy schedule, particularly during the busy summer season. Sometime around April each year we fling ourselves into the fun whirl of guests, cooking, cleaning, gardening, bookings, chatting with wonderful people, etc. and the summer flies by. Then we take a break with a vacation to somewhere fun on our bucket list (this year we returned to Namibia/Botswana). By the time we get home from our vacation Christmas is upon us and we once again get caught up in a whirl of fun activities. So, here it is February and I’m finally finding a few moments to sit down in front of my computer. We were out for our early morning run today and felt so blessed to see the lovely blur of pink blossoms just peeping out around the stark branches of the cherry trees in the park. I’m not sure what the record is for the earliest that the cherry blossoms appear in Vancouver, but February 9th is seems to be quite early. My 2012 post was in March and the blossoms were in their full glory at that time. Our apologies go out to our friends in Ontario and other parts of Eastern Canada where winter still has such a firm grip, but for us we are happy to say that Spring is here! As well as the cherry blossoms I see leaves on my rose and flowering currant bushes, snowdrops in bloom and tulips/garlic several inches high. The following is a repost of the little bit of research I did on cherry trees back in 2012 (the blossoms today are not yet so full as they are in the 2012 photos included in this post. If you want to experience them fully, come and see us in a couple of weeks!).
Vancouver is blessed with several varieties of cherry trees that put on a continuing display of colour for as much as six or eight weeks every Spring, usually starting as early as February but much later this year.  We understand that the earliest variety, such as we just saw at the park on Victoria Drive, is the Whitcomb Flowering Higan Cherry – Prunus subhirtella “Whitcombii”.  Perhaps not the most spectacular variety but such a welcome sight as our winter fades into spring.  The photo to the right, just a quick snap with my phone camera this morning, is that of the first buds just peeking out.
My absolute favorite variety is the Yoshino – “Akebono” and Somei-yoshino – Prunus x yedoensis.  These gorgeous huge trees, such as you will see in a couple of weeks near Kits Beach or, closer to the Bee & Thistle Guest House, along the 3100 block of Gravely Street, bear huge clumps of pale pink to white blossoms that are nothing short of stunning.  If you are a photo enthusiast or just a fan of amazing natural beauty, don’t miss these beautiful trees.
But, of course, the dearest to our heart is the gorgeous display that appears in front of the Bee & Thistle, our very own Parker Street, as the final triumphant burst of bloom when the late blooming Kanzan – Prumus serrulata “Kwanzan” finally make their appearance.  The photo to the left is Parker street between our guest house and Commercial Drive. Anyone who has been to the Symphony of Fire fireworks display in Vancouver will be familiar with the huge burst of fireworks that constitutes the grande finale, and so the Kanzan is to the Cherry Blossom spectacle!  Large unbelievably deep pink double flowers hang in pendulous clusters then, as the flowers start to fade, rain down on the street and produce a carpet of pink blossom petals!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Bee-View of the Drive - The Daily Catch Food Truck

So....you're staying at the Bee & Thistle Guest House in Vancouver, the sun is shining (hey, it happens - even in Vancouver!), you're feeling like chillin' out on the Drive instead of yet another action packed day visiting all the tourist spots in our lovely city - what would make the day even better?  We think that wandering the Drive, people watching, and sampling from definitely more than one of the multitude of international restaurants in the neighborhood, is essential for at least one day of any real vacation in Vancouver!  And one foodie destination that we would definitely recommend for consideration is the Daily Catch Seafood Truck.

Any "foodie" visiting Vancouver, and probably most of us regular travellers too, would be familiar with the recent trend of numerous food trucks in the downtown core, offering a fantastic variety of gastronomic delights.  So we knew that Comnmercial Drive had really "arrived" when we heard that we were getting our very own food truck! And Fish Store Outside 2not just any food truck, but one with a focus on "west coast", wholesome and eco friendly, not to mention delicious, food!  The truck is usually located near the affiliated Daily Catch Seafood Company at 1418 Commercial Drive, or at a park across the street.  According to their website, the goal of owners Dylan McCulloch and Ryan Johnson was to bring the flavors of the Sunshine Coast to Vancouver by offering fresh, sustainable seafood from both their Commercial Drive store front and subsequently the food truck. What a fantastic idea and a wonderful addition to Commercial Drive!

We chose a sunny Spring afternoon for our first visit to the Daily Catch truck, with the idea of picking up some food and enjoying the afternoon in the nearby park. Lunch for us at the Bee & Thistle often consists of a left over scone or muffin along with a few gulps of coffee, grabbed on the run between Fish Truck Menukitchen duty, chatting with the lovely guests, shopping for food and numerous other little tasks that keep us going from morning till night. So it was a great treat to take time out and just enjoy wonderful food while sitting in the sun in the park! Our most difficult task was deciding what to have to eat because we had heard great things about the fish tacos but the fish & chips also looked delicious. In the end we decided (as we usually do) to have both - an order of halibut fish & chips and one of fish tacos, sharing them so we could try a little bit of each. But we also looked longingly at the chowder and other items on the menu.

After sampling both of these menu items, I still honestly could not recommend one over the other because we really liked both of them. Both were fresh, lightly battered, the fries were crispy and the sauce delicious.  The only thing I do have to say is that we loved the food from the truck, and theFish truck food wonderfully "neighborhood" experience of eating out in the park, so much that we went back another day with our children and grand children. Unfortunately, it was again a very sunny day and the lineup was long, so a couple of us did have a cold and somewhat soggy fish taco.  This was definitely not our experience with our first visit, so we suspect that they were just not quite prepared for the crowds on the second day.
One thing that we found quite intriguing is the very interesting selection of unique vinegar flavors to add that bit of zip to your fries - infusions such as chipotle, dill, rosemary and many others. It would take numerous trips to Fish Truck Vinegarsthe Daily Catch in order to sample them all, but we are quite willing to make it yet another foodie project to add to our list!

Yelpers rate the Daily Catch on Commercial Drive at 4 1/2 stars, Urban Spoon 4 stars and, as for us, we would give it a definite 4 1/2 stars (the 1/2 off is for the cold tacos on our second visit, but we truly suspect that it was an anomaly. We will definitely give them another try, and maybe another and another (well, until I get on my bathroom scale and realize that I have to go back to kale salad and water for a month or two before eating more wonderfully battered and fried, delicious food!).  We would also highly recommend a visit to the Daily Catch Seafood Company shop the next time you have an urge for spot prawns, west coast salmon, or even pickled herring!  Here's a glimpse of the product list from their website: http://dailycatch.org/content/our-100-ocean-wise-product-list-0

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Bee-view of the Drive - The Red Pagoda

This very popular little Vietnamese restaurant is conveniently located only a few blocks from the Bee & Thistle, yet we've never quite got around to reviewing it until recently because we always seemed to get the urge to go Tuesdays, which turns out to be the only day they are not open. We are quite familiar with the restaurant, though, as we have from time to time popped in for a bowl of Pho, a dish that became a favorite comfort food of ours during our trip to Vietnam a few years ago (one of our top travel destinations in the world, by the way!).
Not that we needed any encouragement to visit this little restaurant, but the reviews that we keep seeing definitely continued to pique Pagoda teaour interest, so we were happy to finally find an afternoon recently when we could stop in for lunch again.  We were quickly greeted by a hostess and shown into a cozy booth. A fragrant pot of tea appeared almost immediately, along with their rather extensive menus.
Pagoda phoPagoda sproutsPagoda spring rolls

As always, one of our goals is to sample a variety of dishes, so Michael ordered 3 crispy spring rolls ($5.50), along with a bowl of steaming hot Chicken Pho ($7.95), including the "fixings".

Pagoda stir fry

I am trying my best to include more veggies in my diet, so I opted for a Vegetable Stir Fry with Chicken ($8.95), plus a Salad Roll for an appetizer Pagoda Salad Roll($2.95).  The food was well cooked and in ample portions (I had to bring half of the salad roll home as I couldn't eat it all).

As mentioned previously, the Red Pagoda receives accolades on all of the review websites.  UrbanSpoon gives it 4 1/2 stars, with 89% of their reviewers liking it; 4 stars from Yelpers with 41 reviews; 3 stars on TripAdvisor. (I was amused reading some of the comments regarding such adventurous ingredients as beef tendon and tripe which apparently appear in some of the dishes.)  As for us, we once stumbled into an authentic noodle shop in Ho Chi Minh City frequented only by locals, and had the most amazing Pho ever. This may have developed an unrealistic expectation for Pho that we've never quite been able to meet in a restaurant in Vancouver (but we're quite willing to keep looking!). However, the Pho at the Red Pagoda is good and perhaps as good as any we've had here - we like it. My salad roll was fine, though it was perhaps a bit heavy on rice for me as I'm not a big rice fan, but the dipping sauce was tasty.  I was a bit disappointed in the stir fry, but perhaps that's my fault for not ordering something more adventurous.  I'm not sure we would give this restaurant 4 stars, but an opinion is difficult based on a small sample of dishes when the menu is extensive and offers many other dishes which may be amazing. So many people love the food here, so we would recommend that anyone liking Vietnamese food give the Red Pagoda a try and let us know which dishes we should try next time.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Foodie Tours in Vancouver - A Glimpse of the Fantastic Vancouver Food Scene!

If you love food and you want to see more of the wonderful Vancouver food scene, try a foodie tour! I have to confess that I had no idea such a tour existed until we opened our B&B near Commercial Drive in Vancouver and some of our "foodie" guests started talking about the food tours that they had been on.  I've since been on three of them so far and I LOVE them! What a great way to experience several different restaurants and cuisines, all for approximately the price of only one meal - and we came away completely satisfied from all three tours - no need to go for dinner afterward! Here's a glimpse of the tours that we've taken so far, and we hope to do more!
Vancouver Foodie Tours ($69 per person) - Central Downtown Vancouver area:  Michelle from Vancouver Foodie Tours invited my daughter and me to join her on one of her "Guilty Pleasures" tours, I'm embarrassed to say almost a year ago (after that we got crazy busy at the B&B and I just didn't have time to experience other tours and do this blog until now.) But we definitely have not forgotten what a great experience it was, though I believe one of the destinations on the tour may have changed. We started with Kirin Chinese Restaurant, winner of many awards (unfortunately, I was so enjoying the wonderful dim sum & tea that I forgot to take any photos here). Everything we tasted was wonderful, but the Pork & Prawn Dumplings were especially tasty! After Kirin, we enjoyed a brief wine sampling at a nearby wine shop, then onward to ShuRaku Sake Bar and Bistro, an award winning Japanese Foodie Shakuru TofuIzakayu, and definitely Foodie Shuraku Salmon Tartarone of our favorites!  I was pretty skeptical that I would enjoy Wild Sockeye Salmon Tartar, but it was beautiful to look at and absolutely delicious! We also sampled an agedashi tofu canape (who knew tofu could be gourmet?) and it was all served with an artisan saki brewed right here in Vancouver.
Foodie Shuraku Saki2
Vancouver Foodie Tours also offers a "World's Best Street Eats Tour", so we got a sneak peek sample as we wandered up Granville Street past some of the food carts toward the next stop on the tour, a bar/restaurant owned by one of Canada's Top Chefs, where we sampled a local beer and the pulled pork sandwich which creation won the top chef award. Sadly, this restaurant has since closed.  But don't despair if your favorite food in the world is pulled pork (and whose isn't!?) - the Vancouver Foodie Tours website advises that they have a new destination called "Hubbub", which offers (guess what?) pulled pork sandwich with a beer pairing! We definitely had full tummies by this point, but of course we soldiered bravely on!                                                                                                                                                                     Foodie Bella Gelato bowl
No food tour would be complete without dessert, or at least not one called "Guilty Pleasures", so of course the last stop on our tour was dessert. What better choice than Vancouver's award winning Bella Gelateria - taste buds are saying "yippee!" The photo at the top of this blog post was taken during the little private snoop that we got of their back room where the amazing gelato is created.  After a very informative glimpse into the secrets of creating award winning gelato, we were invited into the shop itself where we were invited to choose from an amazing array of flavors. My choice? Salted caramel, of course!  Delicious!
Vancouver Foodie Tours is ranked #2 on TripAdvisor's Food & Drink "Activities" list and have 8 five star reviews on Yelp. We concur! Michelle was a gracious and informative hostess & tour guide, skillful at initiating lively conversation among her guests, and appears to have an excellent rapport with her restaurant partners.  She is also a wonderful source for the inside scoop on the Vancouver food scene so I love following her on facebook and keeping up on the latest news.  Check out their website at: http://foodietours.ca/.
Taste Vancouver Food Tours ($39.00 per person) - Gastown: Jewel, owner and creator of the Taste Vancouver Food Tours, generously invited us to participate in one of hmjry7u0-her tours, and we enjoyed every moment! Our daughter again joined Michael & me for the tour, accompanied by several tourists and our guide "Gassy Jack". I admit that we were all a little nervous that the tour would be a bit too theatrical and not so much about food, in view of a guide dressed up like a river pilot turned saloon keeper who settled in Vancouver in 1867!  However, we were pleasantly surprised - actor Tom Daley struck a nice balance between a little bit of theatre and an informative tour of food, "bloody" alleys and historic Gastown.
We met at Starbucks near the Pan Pacific Hotel, where we were treated to a little coffee drink and a cranberry bliss bar while we waited. Once Taste Tour Rogue Mac Cheeseeveryone arrived and equipment was distributed, we were off to our first stop - Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar in Waterfront Station, with Gassy Jack providing a running commentary about the waterfront and area along the way. I must say that, even though I've lived in Vancouver for more than 20 years, I learned a lot about Vancouver that I didn't know. Rogue treated us to the ultimate comfort food,  lobster mac & cheese, while we chatted and experienced this lovely historic building.  This definitely seems like a restaurant/pub that I would like to revisit and linger over food and a cold drink some time!
The tour moved along quickly and we were soon off to a nearby pub called Steamworks Brewing Company.  Steamworks has been a fixture in Taste Tour Steamworks VatsVancouver for many years, but it was a reminder to us to again experience old favorites and we enjoyed the atmosphere which was totally buzzing with people, waiters, great looking food rushing by on platters, lots of laughter and great ambiance.  We sampled a craft beer at the bar downstairs with a view of interesting vats and the real workings of a modern brewery. I'm guessing Gassy Jack didn't have anything like this in his 12' x 24' board & batten saloon way back in 1867 (the Globe Saloon was apparently built by eager mill workers in just 24 hours!)!
Again, the stop was brief and we were soon off for quick stops at Rogers Chocolates and Canadian Maple Delights, where we sampled a coupleTaste Tour Brioche pasta of sweet treats before heading over to Brioche, a charming little Italian restaurant tucked away in Gastown.  The service was great and we loved the cozy back room where we enjoyed the sample of Three Cheese Tortellini in a Sicilian Sauce and in-house baked bread. One fun thing about this tour is that you pop into little places along the way, such as a little tea shop for a quick little "cuppa", Fluevog Shoes for a browse,hmjry7u0-a heritage building with a fantastic stamped tin ceiling,  Blood Alley (how scary is that!), a yummy taste of Cheesecake and Gaoler's Mews, another macabre memento of Vancouver's more swashbuckling past.  These little stops don't slow the tour down much, though, as it keeps moving right along.  Next stop was one of Vancouver's hmjry7u0-most well known restaurants, the Water Street Cafe, where we sampled their famous crab cakes (not a huge sample, but tasty). Last, buthmjry7u0- definitely not least as it was our favorite restaurant on the tour, we came to Peckinpah's - a small restaurant/bar that produces big flavors in their Carolina style pulled pork (which we loved) and specialty bourbons (which we didn't get to sample). I don't see any mention of Peckinpah's on Taste Vancouver Food Tours website, so I'm not sure if this stop is still included in their tour. Again, I'm afraid we took this tour some months ago and just didn't get around to writing this blog because we wanted to include one more tour company in the review, so the tour may no longer be exactly as described here, but I'm sure it's still excellent.
In looking at the reviews for this tour, it was a little difficult to compare their reviews to the others that we participated in because Taste Vancouver is listed in TripAdvisor as being in North Vancouver instead of Vancouver, so there isn't a direct comparison. However, they have a good number of reviews, with an average of 4 1/2 stars, so it's quite apparent that their guests have enjoyed their experience. We definitely had a great time and thought the venues were all excellent, plus the amount of Vancouver history & interesting tidbits provided along the way was the best of any of the food tours we attended.  And a special note - I see on their Facebook page that they now sell gift cards through Safeway that offer two tours for $59.00 - what a great deal!
Vancouver Food Tours (Craft Beer 'n Bites Tour - $69.00 per person) - Gastown, and our most recent experienceIt was a long process, but finally in February we managed to find time in our busy vft rogue foodschedule at the Bee & Thistle to sneak away for a few hours and enjoy the one additional food tour that I was really keen to include in my blog post on this subject. The main reason being that it is currently #1 on TripAdvisor under their "Things to Do in Vancouver"/"Food & Drink" category, plus we've had guests tell us how much they enjoyed this tour.  I suspect I know one reason this tour is so popular - it's all about the BEER! What's not to like? Plus there are some yummy snacks included and the venues are all excellent.
It was initially a wee bit disappointing that this tour also started at Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar in the Waterfront Station, but only because we were hoping to experience all new venues and this one had been included in one of our previous tours. However, our disappointment (if you can even call it that) ended whenvft rogue sushi we joined our guide, Carlos, at the table where we were quickly served a flight of three craft beers and not only the lobster mac & cheese we had tasted before, but also their own special chili. One of our party is vegetarian, which I had neglected to advise in advance, but our guide handled it beautifully and our friend was very quickly served a very creative sushi dish that included a little ampule of spicy sauce/dressing (how they get the sauce in the little ampule is a mystery!).  We did have an hour from the time we arrived at Rogue until we were expected at our next venue, so that was quite a bit of time to kill,. However, this was probably due to us having requested a 4:00 tour instead of the usual 5:00 start time, so they had to do some quick arrangements to work it out.  I'm not even going to try to remember which craft beers we tasted at each place (blame it on the beer!), but Carlos kindly summarized them for me in an email and I will attach the list at the end of this section.
Our next stop was the Pourhouse Restaurant on Water Street, which we all agreed we would like to explore further at another time. The inspiration vft pourhouse barfor this restaurant/bar was apparently the wonderfully historic 1910 building and all things turn of the century, including the drinks which have avft pourhouse beers2 classic twist. Even the bartender made us feel like we had stepped back to a time when bartending was an honored craft - he was excellent! I enjoyed reading the "about" the restaurant on their website when researching this post: http://pourhousevancouver.com/about/.
Of course this stop was also focused on special craft beer varieties (well, it IS billed as a BEER and bites tour, which was particularlyvft pourhouse scotch egg appreciated by the male participants of our party), but the food was also very interesting at Pourhouse and had lovely homey flavors that went well with the main event (beer).  Michael usually detests boiled eggs, but he even really liked the Scotch egg (which I loved!). Our vegetarian was treated to a lovely little salad and soup.
vft pourhouse drinkOur guide was very enthusiastic about the pre-prohibition cocktails created and served at Pourhouse, so was keen that we try one of them. We thought we were sharing one drink as a sample, so were a bit surprised when the bartender brought us a full cocktail each - but somehow we didn't protest and the drinks did disappear before we left the restaurant - and it was delicious! One caution - this extra drink did come with approximately a $40 price tag for the four of us, so we do recommend that you are clear about whether you want a sample only or a full cocktail each if you decide to try one of them.  Anyway, Pourhouse is also on our list of places we would like to return to with a group of friends on another day.
Well, I do have to say that we were quite mellow by the time we left Pourhouse and headed over to our last stop, the Portside Pub onvft portside sign Alexander Street, which apparently has 24 craft beer on tap. Whew!  Not sure I needed any more beer, but luckily the guys were quite happy to help us girls out - our heroes!   vft portside food
Portside feels like a truly nautical pub that you might find along the waterfront in any seaside city, with heavy timbers, a long bar & sturdy long tables, model ships and an overall feeling of earthy comfort.  Patrons sit along the bar or companionably elbow to elbow at the tables, enjoying their brew and watching the various sports channels on the big screens.
Once we were comfortably set up with yet another 3 craft beers to taste and our basket of food, our guide Carlos bid us good evening as his part in our adventure was finished. We said goodbye truly feeling like we had spent an evening in the company of a good friend who had shared with us some of his special places in Vancouver.  As mentioned earlier, this is the tour that is currently # one in Vancouver on TripAdvisor in the category "Things to Do in Vancouver"/"Food & Drink". We can definitely see why it would be appreciated by all participants, but especially those who have a special interest in craft beers and pub style food.  Our guide, Carlos, perhaps didn't share as much Vancouver tourist information with us as he would have done otherwise, since all of us were local. But he was personable and knowledgeable about the venues and the food & beers sampled. He very kindly sent us a list of the beers on the tour, which is as follows (no wonder we were mellow!):
  • Phillips Brewery - Phoenix Sun Gold Lager
  • Driftwood Brewery - Fat Tug IPA
  • Pyramid Brewery - Audacious Apricot
  • Red Racer IPA
  • Parallel 49 - Vow of Silence & Gypsy Tears
  • Deschutes Brewery - Chainbreaker White IPA
I usually end my foodie blog posts with a comment about our own experience at the particular restaurant or tour and recommendations for our guests, but I'm having a difficult time doing that in this case. I think that all of these tours were excellent and that each of them would appeal to a slightly different demographic, though many people may like them all, as we did. The "Guilty Pleasures" tour from Vancouver Foodie Tours might appeal particularly to those who would describe themselves as "foodies" and who like to sample world class food in very culturally diverse restaurants in the business/downtown district of Vancouver  (note that this tour company does also offer food truck tours for a completely different look at the Vancouver food scene).  Taste Vancouver Food Tours focuses on Gastown and might be of particular interest to anyone interested in getting some fun insight into Vancouver's history, particularly in the Gastown area, while experiencing excellent restaurants, delectable delights such as chocolates & Canadian maple products, and even glimpsing some interesting Gastown shops. This tour is fast paced and light hearted.  The "Craft Beer & Bites" tour offered by Vancouver Food Tours is much more in depth, spending a substantial amount of time at each of 3 venues, where the guests have an opportunity to sample and discuss some of the best craft beers available in this very foodie/drinkie (is that a word?) city, while at the same time tasting some yummy "gourmet" pub style food. Our recommendation?  Try them all!  (And there are others that we haven't yet tried, but look forward to doing so soon!)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Bee-View of the Drive - Via Tevere Pizzeria

One of the great things about operating a Vancouver B&B in the Commercial Drive neighborhood is that we have such a wonderful array of restaurants to choose from and new ones pop up almost every week.  Via Tevere Pizzeria has been getting such rave reviews ever since it opened that it seemed imperative that we include it in our restaurant reviews as soon as possible, even though it's not exactly on Commercial Drive. It is, however, very conveniently located at 1190 Victoria Drive, only two blocks from the Bee & Thistle.  This wonderful little pizza restaurant has actually been open since March, 2012, but it's been so popular and there have always been such big lineups that we have simply not had the time to give it a try. Many of our guests have brought us back rave reviews, though, sometimes going back several times during a short 3 or 4 day stay with us. We did have one guest recently who wasn't a fan, but food is such a personal choice that there will never be one restaurant that is right for everyone. That's ultimately a good thing, of course, or the vibrant and always changing restaurant scene in Vancouver would not exist!  Fortunately for us, our pace at the Bee & Thistle is a little slower in the winter months so we finally found an evening to stop in and find out what everyone is raving about!
We popped into the pizzeria on a Thursday evening, right after they opened at 5:00, and were fortunate to get there before the lineup had started, so that would be our first recommendation - go early and preferably on a week night.  The restaurant was almost full but we managed to find a table and were happy to be inside via tevere oventhe warm and welcoming little restaurant with the wonderful smells of pizza cooking and the sounds of happy chatter. We are still trying to get back into our pre-Christmas jeans, so we were not very extravagant in our food choices, finally settling for one Capricciosa pizza between us - the most expensive pizza on the menu at $19.00. While waiting for our food and drinks, we chatted with our neighbors at nearby tables and ogled their food. The appetizer call "frittura napolitana" looked particularly appealing - we will definitely have to try those yummy looking fritters next time! One couple with a small child told us that they frequently find themselves dropping by at Via Tevere, as it's become their "go to" eatery in the neighborhood.
Via Tevere's website tells the charming story of how this little pizzeria came to be.  Apparently, the family originated in a small palazzo on a street in the heart of Naples called Via Tevere. Lucky them, they spent many summers on Via Tevere and learned the secrets of the traditional wood-fire cooking method and Neopolitan ingredients. Lucky us, we get to experience a little bit of their summers in Italy by popping into our neighborhood pizzeria!
via tevere pizzaOur pizza arrived and was definitely not a disappointment. Very thin with crispy crust and loaded with generous amounts of proscutto, salami, artichokes, mushrooms and olives - delicious!  Our only regret was that we didn't toss those pre-Christmas jeans in the trash and order two pizzas!  However, in the end we agreed that we were really quite satisfied with half a pizza each and any more would only have been because we didn't want to stop eating!
One of the marvelous things about a neighborhood like Commercial Drive is that your neighbors at the next table are also your neighbors who live only a few streets away from your house, so each dining experience where you are able to chat with the family at the next table is also an experience in building community.  We feel so blessed to living in the small community called "the Drive", even as we live in a relatively big, worldly city. We can choose to remain near our neighborhood and feel like we live in a small town, or we can be downtown in 5 or 10 minutes and at the heart of the hussle and bustle of the shopping and business community!  The second benefit of owning a B&B in a small neighborhood like the Drive is that many of our guests are here to visit their children and/or grand children in the neighborhood so we get to know more and more of our neighbors as we are host and hostess to their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, brothers and sisters.
But, back to our comments regarding Via Tevere Pizzeria.  One of the things we particularly appreciated about Via Tevere, besides the food and the very pleasantVia Tevere Old Sign wait staff, is their efforts to retain the heritage character of their building.  If you approach the restaurant from the south, you will be delighted by the wonderful, faded mural on the exterior wall that is a legacy of an earlier era.  Since we chose to open our B&B in a heritage house, it's pretty easy to guess that we like historic buildings, and this one tells a wonderful little story of Commercial Drive history.
As usual, we couldn't finish a review without checking out the standard review sites, 83% of Urban Spoon reviewers like Via Tevere, and Yelpers rate it four stars. As for us, we definitely liked it a lot - the food was delicious and the lively, friendly atmosphere was fun. We will be going back at our very first opportunity, as well as recommending it to our guests.   We also notice on their website that there are some intriguing little tweets about the t.v. show "You Gotta Eat Here".  Could it be that we will see some of Via Tevere's inside secrets on an upcoming show of this Canadian t.v. series?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Vegan Lemon Scones with Raspberry "Butter"

A Vegan Valentine Treat!
A Vegan Valentine Treat!

With so many people looking for healthy, wholesome food these days, we are finding more and more guests are asking for vegan options. But that's not to say that they don't still love wonderful flavors and home baked pastries, fresh out of the oven! In fact, we find that they are often extremely appreciative of the effort we go to in finding vegan options that work really well and produce excellent baked goods.  Of course, this is a good excuse for one of my favorite activities - pouring over recipe books & blogs, and testing out our own creations on willing guests or my family!
This recipe is one that we adapted from a conventional lemon scone recipe that didn't require any eggs. We found the vegan version to be absolutely delicious! In fact, you could easily serve these scones to your non-vegan friends - I promise you, they won't even notice any difference!
Fun Heart Cookie Cutters
Fun Heart Cookie Cutters
With Valentine's Day fast approaching, we thought it would be would be  fun to prepare them in heart shapes and serve them with pink raspberry butter and a lovely pink rose!
One of our favorite kitchen shops is the Gourmet Warehouse, located very near us on Hastings Street, and they have a wonderful selection of cookie cutters (among other things!). You can find them on line at http://www.gourmetwarehouse.ca/.  Even if you don't need cookie cutters but are a foodie at all, you will love this shop!
So back to the recipe, here goes:

Vegan Lemon Scones

3 cups flour, unbleached
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter substitute (I used Earth Balance)
Zest of 2 lemons
1 cup soy milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice stirred into it
    1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
    2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. Rub in the lemon zest with your fingers (even better flavor if you first rub it into the sugar).
    3. Cut butter substitute into chunks then cut into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter until it is approximately the size of peas.
    4. Stir the lemon juice into the soy milk to "clabber" it, toss with the flour mixture, then turn out onto a floured board and knead just until the dough comes together (4 or 5 times). Pat or roll into a 6" diameter, approximately 1" thick. Cut into 6 wedges or whatever shape you wish with a biscuit or cookie cutter.
Vegan Lemon Scones Raw Edited

      • Bake at 400 F. for approximately 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
      • Allow to cool the drizzle with lemon glaze. Serve with raspberry butter or home made jam. 


1 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
    1. Measure icing sugar into a small bowl. Stir in lemon juice until smooth. It should be thick but soft enough to drizzle. I like to pop it into a baggie, cut the corner off the baggie and use it like a piping bag to squeeze the glaze onto the scones in a pretty cross hatch pattern or whatever pattern you like.
Vegan Lemon Scones Close Edited

Raspberry Butter

1/3 cup fresh raspberries
1/3 cup butter substitute at room temperature (eg. Earth Balance)
1 1/2 tablespoons of icing sugar
Pinch of salt
    1. Place the butter substitute in a bowl & whip with hand mixer. Add raspberries, icing sugar and salt. Continue to beat until smooth. Serve with warm scones.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dine Out Vancouver

I don't think we've ever had a guest at the Bee & Thistle Guest House in Vancouver who didn't love our beautiful city, but even hard core Vancouver fans can understand that some prospective visitors might hesitate to visit in January or February. The words "Canadian winter" may conjure up images of freezing temperatures, snowdrifts, impassable roads, and maybe even an igloo or two if you're very imaginative. This does, of course, bring skiers to Canada in droves to experience our world class ski hills & other winter sport destinations, but can be a bit intimidating for more cautious travelers. However, Canada is a big country and those frosty conditions that exist on our ski hills, in our northern regions and on our prairie provinces are not at all what one would normally experience here in temperate Vancouver! We have been consistently voted as one of the most livable cities in the world for a variety of reasons, one of which is our moderate climate. Yes, we do on occasion experience a small amount of snowfall and occasionally temperatures could dip below the freezing level, but those times are rare and usually quite temporary. More often a visitor would experience a fair amount of rain, with an occasional and very welcome sunny day, but always with the option to visit one of our local ski hills should one wish to frolic a bit in the snow. So, invest in a good rain coat, grab an umbrella and come to Vancouver!   If you're feeling very lazy, a rainy day is a wonderful excuse for a true vacation day curled up with a good book in front of one of the many fireplaces we have in our guest rooms at the Bee & Thistle (always a good thing). But do venture out to explore our numerous cultural events which range from music & theater to such specific events as the upcoming Missions Fest Vancouver January 24 - 27th; visit our museums, art galleries and Granville Island when the lineups are much shorter; join one or more of our wonderful foodie tours (I love them!), or (my favorite) indulge in a week or two of exploring all the wonderful food and drink in one of the most "foodie" cities of the world!

A great way to do this is to take advantage of the wonderful "deals" offered during the Dine Out Vancouver Festival, which takes place all over the city from January 18 to February 3, 2013. If you're planning to come to Vancouver during this period, it's important to make your restaurant selection and bookings early as the favorites always sell out well ahead of time. Check out the menus at the following link link: http://www.dineoutvancouver.com/. Search for your favorite restaurant by name, by price ($18, $28 or $38 for a set menu usually 3 course dinner), by cuisine type, or by area of the city ("East Vancouver" covers most of the area near the Bee & Thistle, but we are also a quick drive or cab ride from those restaurants located in the Downtown, Yaletown, Coal Harbour and other central areas).
An exciting addition to Dine Out Vancouver in the last couple of years is "Street Food City II" event, which is an opportunity to try out our fabulous food trucks! This free event will take place at the Vancouver Art Gallery January 23rd - 27th, 2013. Check out the Dine Out Vancouver website for a list of participating trucks and times. I'm also very interested in the Railtown Culinary Walking Tour on January 25th & February 1st ($35 per person), which explores "some of the great establishments that are setting up in this gritty historic area" - an adventure!

If you're staying with us at the Bee & Thistle on January 31, 2013, the I, Malvolio performance of the The PuSh International Performing Arts Festival is only a block away, and is combined with dinner at one of the newest restaurants on Commercial Drive - Merchant’s Oyster Bar, for $65 per person. The very popular Secret Supper Soiree is unfortunately already sold out, but Edible Canada at the Market is also offering some great events and wine enthusiasts may want to check out the Grape Debate at the Vancouver library on February 1st (find more information on all events on the Dine Out Vancouver website).