2019 was a delicious year with some great meals in Japan, St. John’s Newfoundland, Kelowna BC, Portugal and Wellington, Ontario.
The giant tempura clams at Tsunahachi in the Keio Department store, Shinjuku, Tokyo was unforgettable. We didn’t have a bad meal in Japan. The Kuromon Ichiba Market in Osaka was a highlight.
In St. John’s, Newfoundland, we had the absolute best tasting menu paired with wine at Raymond’s. The food was glorious but the wine matches knocked it out of the park. At The Merchant Tavern we had the best scallops ever and The Mallard Cottage‘s cornmeal crusted cod cheeks are unforgettable.
We went to Kelowna for our annual wine buying trip and tried the new Home Block at Cedar Creek Winery and had the best calamari we’ve ever had. Can’t wait to go back. This one is bound to get even better.
We spent a week in Portugal. Our best meal was at Volta & Meia in Figueira da Foz http://voltaemeia.com/. Ameijoas a Bulhao Pato combines clams, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, white wine and cilantro. Without doubt, the best clams I’ve ever eaten and we loved the restaurant. And we discovered Serra cheese. I sure wish I’d brought some home because I can’t get it here. Another reason to go back to Portugal.
Lastly we had the best fish taco ever at La Condesa in Wellington, Ontario. Fresh made to order tortillas mean you wait a little longer and then have to order more. Just try to eat only one.
Another great meal at Kissa Tanto proved that Italian and Japanese food is a great fusion.
We started with house made sourdough bread with olive oil and miso butter. If it wasn’t so delicious I’d say we were sorry later when we could barely finish our dessert but we managed somehow.
Research tells me that Namban-zuke is usually a home made dish rarely available in restaurants. Deep fried cod marinated in vinegar, surprisingly refreshing.
Tonno Mantecato was fun to eat and like nothing we’d ever had before. More sourdough bread topped with tobiko, served with smoked potato blended with confit albacore tuna and topped with furikake.
Two dishes I could never do without are the Tajarin, a crave worthy pasta with butter, roasted mushrooms and miso cured egg yolk and the deep fried whole fish with daikon dipping sauce. We’ve had the fish several times and never had the same species twice. This time it was a thorny headed rockfish, small fish so there were 2 in an order. Crazy good and the dipping sauce is even better than last time.
We ordered two side dishes; eggplant with miso besciamella, almonds and parmesan, and squash with miso apples, bagna cauda and walnuts. Not a crumb left.
We were committed to dessert and had both the tiramisu and the yuzu cream. The tiramisu was traditional and good but the yuzu cream was a wonder.
Portugal is a great place for food and wine lovers. The food is simple, fresh and well-priced. The wine’s spectacular.
One of our best days was spent visiting the Duoro wine region. We hired a private guide from Tours By Locals, Richardo Oliveira. He picked us up in Porto and drove us to Pinhao, the town at the junction of the Duoro and Pinhao river. On the 2 hour drive Ricardo entertained us with a history of wine in Portugal. Sure, Portugal is famous for Port wines but they have many great wines that we rarely get to try in North America.
My favourite winery was Quinta da Foz, built at the end of the 18th century. Cristiano, the Director of Wine Tourism took us into the vineyards where the steeply terraced vineyards mean that the vines have to be tended by hand. It looks like back breaking work. In the winery there are beautiful tiles that tell the story of their production. I was amazed to learn that foot stomping the grapes is still the norm in the Duoro. We finished in the tasting room. Every wine was delicious but the Grande Reserva, a field blend from 100+ year old vines was a knockout. I have a couple of bottles in my cellar waiting for a cold winter night to bring some Portuguese sunshine into my life.
A visit to the Duoro wouldn’t be complete without spending some time on the river where you can really appreciate how steep the terraces are. We enjoyed it immensely and our captain, Bruno served us a tasty treat of toasts with cheese and pumpkin, walnut jam from his mother’s farm. The Portuguese are warm and welcoming and somehow keep things very local and personal. I could definitely spend more time in this fascinating wine district.
There are said to be over 1,000 bacalhau recipes in Portugal. Bacalhau, or salt cod is near and dear to my Newfoundland heart. I tried it 7 different ways in my first few days in Porto, each one a delight taking me back to childhood Friday fish dinners.
We never had a bad meal but the fresh grilled fish and potatoes, with olive oil, bread and wine are reliably delicious and reasonable priced.
Our best meal was at Volta & Meia in Figueira da Foz http://voltaemeia.com/. Ameijoas a Bulhao Pato combines clams, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, white wine and cilantro. Without doubt, the best clams I’ve ever eaten and we loved the restaurant. There were 7 of us for dinner and every dish was great. They are part of the Happy Café Network supporting Action for Happiness, a movement creating and promoting happiness and wellbeing in their communities. Great food, a great wine selection with atmosphere and service that makes you want to linger. I give it a big 5 Yums Up.
My final big food experience was the discovery of Serra da Estrela Cheese. A cloth bound, sheep milk cheese, it has a soft gooey paste when young and it won our hearts. We just couldn’t get enough of it. We liked how it was served with a circle carved from the top to make a lid that could be used if you didn’t finish it, an unlikely occurrence.
For our 11th annual Okanagan wine tour we decided to head north to Kelowna and Lake Country.
It was the worst weather we have ever had.
Our 1st stop was Fitzpatrick Vineyards at Greata Ranch to try the award-winning sparkling wines. I bought all 3 and look forward to toasting life with them. The winery is beautiful and they have a restaurant with a fantastic view of the lake.
At Quails’ Gate we did a tasting before lunch. Their Pinot Noir is a star. Lunch was a little uneven but the parmesan fries are still delicious, the mussels perfect and a grilled halloumi was outstanding.
The Hatch was our next stop. It’s a happening place with lots of young people having a good time.
I didn’t like any of the wines, though I think they have some good ones not available to taste.
Our final stop of the day was at Beaumont Estate Winery. One of our group rightly loves the rose. We had such a good time there. They have a set up with drums a stand-up base and a guitar. The owner played guitar, I got my bongo mojo going and Shirley sang and danced. A first for a wine tasting experience. We had a great time.
Our final stop was our 3-bedroom cottage at Falcon Point, Predator Ridge and made dinner at home to enjoy with some of the great wines we had picked up.
Day 2 started at Mission Hills for a Reserve tour and tasting. The tour and tasting were great and the winery and art collection are fantastic. Great wines and the best gift shop I’ve ever seen in a winery.
We headed back across the lake and stopped at Tantalus. Sadly they were sold out of almost everything. I bought some reisling and pinot noir, both signature grapes.
We did a tasting and lunch at the newly renovated Cedar Creek. It will be absolutely fantastic when completed. The new restaurant Home Block had just opened the day before but it was flawless. The French fries were fantastic and the calamari the best I’ve ever tasted.
Our final stop was Sperling Vineyards. A nice simple tasting room with some exceptional reislings.
Day 3 we started in Lake Country at Ex Nihilo, pretty fine Pinot Noir, a bit young to be released, in my opinion but I think it will be delicious in a few years.
Next, Intrigue Wines. Another fantastic gift shop and some of the best value wines in the Okanagan. I’m drinking a glass of their Riesling right now. It gulpable.
Then Gray Monk for tasting and lunch. Terribly slow service at the Lookout Restaurant and OK food.
Final stop Arrowleaf Cellars, they keep winning awards but I’ve never been and still am not a fan.
After a break we took advantage of 50th Parallel’s complimentary shuttle from Predator. What a beautiful winery and Block One restaurant. Lots of great art, super tasting. I didn’t love the pizza but they have a fabulous forno and the warm olives and broccolini, done gomae style was great.
And so another Okanagan wine tour ends.
Pease pudding hot, pease pudding cold, pease pudding on a seafood platter is the bomb.
I’ve seen so many group dinners go wrong that it’s a pleasant surprise when a restaurant pulls it off as well as they did recently at The Fish Exchange in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Twelve of us sat in a private room and the staff did an excellent job. Food and drinks all arrived promptly and were served with good cheer.
We shared some cod tongues to mixed reviews. I loved them but they were maybe a little out of peoples comfort zone. Salt cod fritters were better received.
I had the Captain’s Seafood Feast, a beautiful platter of shrimp, scallops, salmon, halibut, lobster and sale cod fishcake. I was delighted to find some delicious pease pudding on my plate. They only serve it with the seafood feast so I was the only one that had it. Since everyone else wasn’t from Newfoundland and had never had pease pudding I asked if we could have a side order to share. No problem, and they delivered a small dish for everyone to try. The response, as expected was mixed. I could have eaten every bit but I didn’t know everyone well enough.
I would recommend The Fish Exchange for groups for sure.
As much as I loved Raymonds I preferred the more casual fun atmosphere at little sister restaurant The Merchant Tavern. We sat at the large bar that fills the middle of the room and was full of happy people sharing food having fun.
All of the staff were wearing Tshirts with a diagram of a cod fish cuts. Cod is God in Newfoundland and we like to eat all parts. They Cod Napes as a feature appetizer. Napes is attached to the fin and is a delicious sweet and tasty treat.
We shared grilled scallops with a parsnip puree and they were without doubt the best scallops I have ever had.
We both ordered pasta dishes. I had Fennel Tagliatelle and I wouldn’t recommend it. The pasta was too soft and the whole dish a bit too soupy. Perhaps I wasn’t hungry enough.
David had the Monterosso Linquini with bay scallops, mussels, capelin, brocolli and chili flakes and I wasn’t too hungry to give him a little help with that. The pasta was cooked and seasoned perfectly.
They have a great wine and beer list and we had a very good time.
I highly recommend The Merchant Tavern. 4 Yums Up!
We planned our restaurants in St. John’s as soon as we booked our tickets to Newfoundland and were lucky that Raymonds had moved to summer hours and was open on a Monday night.
Go hungry and don’t hold back, do all 7 courses if you can. We jumped right in including wine pairings when they easily adjusted to our pescatarian preference. The famous lamb was tempting though, they have them raised on a small island off the coast and we’d seen them the day before and the setting was idyllic.
Each course was as delicious as you’d expect but there were a few stand outs.
David thought the scallops with fennel, including a fennel powder was the #1 dish and it was as impressive as it looks. The fennel powder was a delightful surprise.
My favourite dish was the pasta with snow crab. The little blackish pasta rolls were made with onion ash and had the perfect bite you want in handmade pasta. The snow crab was so sweet and the texture so perfect, it is etched in my memory forever and i can just about taste it as I write this.
One of the meat courses was replaced with squid and herbs.
The squid was I’ve ever had.
Crispy Skinned Cod
The crispy skin cod with onion puree, a mussel in an onion petal and crispy cod tongue was another winner.
I’m not sure what was the most exciting, each plate delivery or the wine pour and description that competed for our attention. The sommelier realized how keen I was and for a couple of courses poured 2 wines to see which pairing we preferred. And that leads me to the service. It simply could not be better. Everyone working there was fully engaged and keen so share everything they knew.
Good to know, they have 3 seats at their beautiful bar that they don’t reserve and they serve a full menu there. Also I would book in a table in the bar in future, it’s a smaller more intimate room.
I love landing in St. John’s, trying to spot my house or school from the air or checking to see the icebergs outside the harbour. This time I had my eye on Quidi Vidi, the lovely fishing village just over the hill from St. John’s harbour. We were staying at The Inn at Mallard Cottage and had reservations for dinner in the award-winning restaurant. We settled into our wonderful room and headed to the bar for a drink before dinner.
Two musicians with a guitar and an accordion were playing and it was clear we were in for a lovely evening.
We chose the Family menu to try as much as possible. Starting with Blue Mussels with Onion and Tomato, that David declared the best he’d ever had and I couldn’t disagree. The focaccia with carmelized onion butter was so delicious we somehow managed to eat a second order. There must be a separate stomach for bread and butter. The bartender had recommended the Salt Cod Tartare and it was a unique dish. Cod is god in Newfoundland and it must have been one beautiful fish because these little morsels were absolutely perfect with shallot, buttermilk and house made potato chips. Culinary genius.
Lobster Thermidor with mustard cream was delightful and Skin on Cod with confit potatoes equally so.
A gorgeous piece of Halibut was creatively matched up with Garam Masala Chick Peas. Absolutely fabulous.
The family meal didn’t come with the Corn Crusted Cod Cheeks and we couldn’t possibly have eaten them anyway but made it back another night to try them. We’re glad we did because so many people we talked to said they were a personal favourite.
Mallard Cottage and The Inn both exceeded my expectations. I don’t want to stay anywhere else in St. John’s.
It’s always exciting to see what’s new to eat in Prince Edward County, Ontario. Affectionately referred to by locals as “The County” the foodie scene there is continuously improving to keep pace with the wines. My favourite this time was La Condesa in Wellington. The Perch Tacos on hand pressed nixtamal tortillas are the best I’ve ever had. The cocktails are 1st rate too.
This winter David ate at the Bloomfield Public House and raved about the shellfish chowder so I was keen to go there and we had another good meal. The highlight was the butter; browned and fermented we couldn’t get enough of it with the delicious bread. That same bread is used in the really excellent shrimp toast. Although I didn’t love my pasta I’ll definitely go back, I think they’ve got a good thing going. 3 Yums Up!
We had brunch at The Vic Café. The loaded tots and cauliflower crunch bites are both good but the cappuccino is surely the best coffee in the area. 2 Yums Up!
We didn’t visit a single winery this time but did stop by Gillingham Brewery in Hillier and loved the JM Porter, a big chocolate bomb of deliciousness. 3 Yums Up!