Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tasting Plates Main Street - a Foodster Adventure

A while back a blogger I follow posted about a Vancouver Culinary Scavenger Hunt - and I thought that sounded awesome. She had a giveaway to be involved in something similar the following month. I entered, didn't win, then they redrew, and I ultimately won! So stoked. The only catch was that was on a Monday and the event was 2 days later, on a Wednesday. Thankfully we were free that night (or we were free after I moved some things around) and we'd been looking for a date night option, having not celebrated our 4 year wedding anniversary yet. Perfection!

I'll let you in on a secret (as with most of my secrets, it's not really a secret), Paul and I REALLY like being together and dates are our favorite! Even something as simple as going to Home Depot just the two of us can feel like a special date since we're always so surrounded with people - so a time alone out to eat, just the two of us, felt epic. 

We drove downtown that day so that we could have the car and start our date right after work. We travelled up to Main Street to Portland Craft to wait out the hour before the event and to start our date at a place nearby that we'd been wanting to try. I would say that Portland Craft was fine - not amazing, not bad, just fine. The beer was a bit pricey, but the beer I settled on was great - mildly banana flavored (similar to when there is a mild citrus flavor). 

Tasting Plates, Stop 1: Tapas 23

We then walked less then a block to our starting point - Tapas 23. Funny story actually - the Saturday previous I'd been meeting some girlfriends for a birthday brunch - we'd planned to go to Crave on Main Street but discovered that Crave had closed and Tapas 23 had moved in. We were heartbroken as we'd gone to Crave the year before and LOVED it. They have a wonderful patio and they had great food. We decided to try Tapas 23 but after looking at the menu weren't sure what sort of food they did, or what to order, so we left and went down to a Mexican Restaurant on Main Street, El Camino's where I had the best breakfast Nachos of my life. 

When I got the event order from Foodster and saw that Tapas 23 was on the menu I was very excited - I knew that a tasting plate was just the way to experience them! And I was insistent that we would arrive in good time to make sure we got a spot on that lovely patio. Which we did. 

The sign up for the Tasting Plates event started at Tapas 23 - we were signed in, given our instructions and menu and Tasting Plates Passport and then given the option of starting there or going elsewhere. Since we were at the start of the line we started there - and made our way to the patio. 

It was a beautiful sunny evening - warm enough but not too hot. The patio felt, somehow, luxurious. The wait staff was pleasant and efficient. I had an Okanagan Summer Weizen for $6 and Paul also grabbed a favorite beer for a good price. A perfect start to a date.

The tasting plate came out: 
1)  Fire roasted chick peas (pictured second)
2)  Potato crusted wings (achote sauce).
3)  Bombas (braised pork belly).
4)  Bruselas (Brussel sprouts, sweet balsamic, almonds aged cheddar) 

I'll admit I was nervous - these aren't food choices I would normally make but I was VERY pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed everything on the plate! Even the Brussel Sprouts were amazing. Paul, of course, cleaned his plate within seconds, while I took time to eat and enjoy each bite. We were both quite pleased with the start of our adventure. 

The view of the patio

Inside the restaurant from the patio

And with that we were off to lower main street - we were hitting up the places near Broadway next!

Spotted! Miura Waffle Milk Bar and Rosemary Rocksalt, side by side.

Tasting Plates, Stop 2: Miura Waffle Milk Bar

Immediately we were greeted by a friendly server at the door who stamped our passport and sent us into the restaurant. She was friendly and obviously glad to see us. Nice feeling! Miura is a fast food restaurant with an interesting concept - one I've never heard of!

The Tasting Plate:
1) Kachan Karaage Waffle Sando – hor d’oeuvres style: Ginger fried chicken, Asian slaw, & 1000 Island sauce.
2) Teri-Vani Waffle Sando – hor d’oeuvres style: Vanilla ice cream, Whipped cream & Teriyaki sauce.
3) Nori Nachos – Nori chips (fried seaweed), Melted cheese, Tomato salsa & Sour cream
4) Dessert Nachos – Nori chips, Chocolate sauce, Whipped cream & Strawberry

Paul was a big fan of every piece of this and has thought about going back since. Good sign. I did not love the Nori (seaweed) chips but the savory waffle was wonderful (shocking) and the desert waffle was as expected. This seems like a neat option for fast food - though most likely not a normal standby. 

Tasting Plates, Stop 3: Rosemary Rocksalt

The tasting Plate:
1)  Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich on a Rosemary Rocksalt bagel
2)  Lox & Cream Cheese sandwich on a bagel
3)  Sweet Rugolach pastry (variety of flavours)

Rosemary Rocksalt was right next door to Miura and had a really funky feel. We got to pick our Rugolach - from a variety of flavours, and were given the others already prepared. The items were tasty, and intriguing. As we left they handed us a coupon for a free bagel. They were engaged in the event, obviously excited to have people coming by, and had a great product. While on the higher end of the pricing scale for lunch and bagels, I would come here again, for sure. 

Tasting Plates, Stop 4: ShakTea

Our next stop was ShakTea - between Broadway and our next destinations, ShakTea is a place I'd noticed in passing but not considered before. We were in and our in moments (hence the lack of photos, the one below was taken from the Tasting Plates Website!) and not overly impressed. 

 Tasting Plate: (or napkin, as the case was)
1) French earl grey black (hot and caffeinated)
2) Ginger Lemon herbal (hot and non-caffeinated)
3) African dream rooibos (iced and non-caffeinated)
1) Chocolate chilli fudge brownie
2) Matcha date balls (gluten free)

The staff was friendly enough, but the shop was darkly lit. The promised cup of tea was actually one of those really small demo size cups (like how costco serves soup) filled less than 1/3rd full. It was roughly a tablespoon of tea - in our flavour only. They then offered the two sweets (only one though, unless you asked for both) only served on a napkin. 

I love finding new coffee/tea shops and places to meet friends. ShakTea had a real opportunity to convince me (and the 200+ others that would be following) that this was a great place to come back to on my own volition - a plate with the desserts laid out nicely, and an offer for seating would have, honestly, gone a long way. Instead it felt like they were just trying to get us in and out - so that's what we did. 

We got back in our car to head back to the last two stops. Rocky Mountain Flatbread and Main Street Honey Shoppe

Tasting Plates, Stop 5: Rocky Mountain Flatbread

Having Been to Rocky Mountain Flatbread before I assumed I knew what to expect. Rocky Mountain is one of famed glory- Vancouverites love this place and aren't afraid to tell you. I've been once for a friends birthday and once for Dine Out Vancouver; both were good experiences. But this new experience? Not so great. 

The program stated there would be specific assigned seating for Tasting Plates, read: stand in front of the restaurant feeling cheap.

Tasting Plate:
1) Farmers Market Pizza: Topped with local organic balsamic marinated rhubarb and chard from City Farms, three herb nut free pesti & Capriny goat’s cheese.
2) Naturally Meaty: Spicy certified organic beef, sulphate free Italian sausage, ripe tomatoes, green peppers, red onions, asiago cheese & fresh herbs.

In reality, they were out of meat pizza and each slice was the size of less than half a normal slice - my small hands make them look big in this photo. 

There were two tables you could sit at if you wanted to order a drink - look at what their $3 drink menu is! 

Having previously enjoyed this restaurant and knowing it's huge popularity, and assuming that it has chosen to participate in this program, makes me extra disappointed. Not only do I know have a bad taste in my mouth regarding this restaurant - it really did feel quite cheap the way they treated the guests, but it also made me feel like it didn't care how we felt either way - whenever a restaurant gets to a place like that I lose interest in them immediately. As a customer I don't need to be right, or the best thing that's ever happened to you - I do, however, need to be valued.

Tasting Plates, Stop 6: Main Street Honey Shoppe

Thankfully our last stop was quite redemptive. The staff at the shoppe was obviously thrilled to have us in and were knowledgeable about their products. We did samples, and had treats, and were engaged by the experience. That's a win in my books. I've never given the Honey Shopped a second look, in fact we thought about skipping it since it seemed random - I'm so glad we didn't - it was a lovely experience. 

Tasting Plates
1) Honey almond cake; and Cream
2) Cheese Brownie made with Tawari honey from New Zealand.
3) Pure honeycomb from British Columbia, paired with premium cheese on crackers
4) Honey Sampling

Vancouver Foodster has some fun events coming up - including a Tasting Plates Latin American Flavors, coming up June 5th. The tickets aren't super cheap but they are reasonable - assuming the venues are all in to it. It definitely is a fun date night, and since we won the tickets we were very very pleased with our evening. I think if we'd paid the $40/$50 per person that the event cost we'd have been disappointed - we both left hungry and slightly put off (since the two disappointing places had happened near the end). We also left having tried new places that we will try again - and with new ideas. All in all, a definite success - and something worth trying. 

You can read more about this event here.

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