Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Sweet Sisterly Seattle Weekend

Seven, nine, two hundred and twenty-six point five.  These were respectively, the number of gastro-locales visited, hours spent in the wonderful Emerald City, as well as the accumulated number of kilometers traveled.  We strolled (the wonderful streets of downtown Seattle), we ate (more accurately, gorged) and we conquered (the surprisingly short border waits).

top row (from left to right):

1 - Our wonderful Trader Joe's haul
2 - Coconut Cream Pie Bites, Dahlia Bakery
3- Beef and Onion Piroshky, Piroshky Piroshky
4 - Top Pot doughnuts
5 - The ever lovable Pike Place Market

bottom row (from left to right): 

6 - Combo vermicelli with grilled pork, chicken, shrimp, spring rolls, Green Leaf
7 - Macarons, Le Panier Very French Bakery
8 - 'World's Best Mac n Cheese', Beecher's Handmade Cheese
9 - Flagship, basil and tomato grilled cheese, Beecher's Handmade Cheese
10 - Pizza with sweet fennel sausage, roasted peppers, provolone, Serious Pie

** I apologize for the inconveniently small photos as the layout of my template would not allow for bigger photos! Sorry!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ensemble (CLOSED)

Oh, that ginger cocktail...

Living in a city with such an enriched and vibrant culinary scene, the buzz surrounding restaurant openings, closings and visits from renowned food personalities (hello, Guy Fieri!) travel faster than you can say, "..what already?" It's most definitely an increasingly competitive industry out there - kudos to those who have been able to sustain and succumb to Vancouver culinary standards while my most sincerest condolences are sent to those who weren't so lucky, so to speak...!

On this Friday night, I, along with a few other dining companions, ventured to one of the newest and hottest dining spots in town - Ensemble.  The mastermind behind this relatively newly-opened restaurant is none other than Dale MacKay, Canada's first Top Chef Canada winner.  He has quite the impressive culinary background having previously worked as the Executive Chef of the late Lumiere and db bistro moderne, as well as working alongside celebrity chef and renown television personality Chef Gordon Ramsay.  Perhaps a product of his winnings, here, Dale aims to showcase his ability to utilize classic French techniques of cooking to Pacific Northwest ingredients.


Cornmeal Crusted Scallops
- accompanied with a tamarind date puree and topped with cauliflower
- I thoroughly enjoyed the delicate and unique pairings of this dish - although I wish the scallops were a bit bigger but they were, nonetheless, very fresh and juicy

Pulled Pork Sandwich (Top Chef winner)
- for the $10 price tag, and given the size of the other plates - this burger had great value!
- it was generously filled with tender, saucy, pulled pork (how a pulled pork sandwich ought to be) with quite a pronounced smokey flavour and aroma
-sided with a deep fried pickle and a piece of very sweet watermelon - this was quite satisfying!

I was also able to sample some of my dining companion's (who likes to go by the initials of J.B) Sweet and Sour Eggplant,Vancouver Island Mussels, as well as the Potato Gnocchi.  The Eggplant was quite the aesthetic pleaser and fared quite well on the taste buds, too.  The baba ghanoush, yogurt and tomato complemented the sweet Asian flavours of the eggplant, which was also cooked perfectly.  The Mussels were the least favourite and devoid of any praise.  There was barely any broth and I expected a more prominent curry flavour.  Although the portion was generous, the mussels were teeny tiny.  The fries were good, but the Mussels were definitely an overall letdown.  Of the three things sampled from what J.B had ordered, the Potato Gnocchi was most satisfying.  Paired with a tomato butter sauce and olives, the Gnocchi was perfectly seared, chewy and executed very well.

I also strongly enjoyed their Ginger Gimlet (so much that I had 2, for the night).  It's a cocktail composed of tanqueray gin, house ginger lime cordial, and topped with a kaffir lime leaf.  It was wonderfully refreshing with just the right proportions of ingredients and bursting with a soothing gingery taste. 

the amazing Ginger Gimlet

Prompt and informative




The decor is modern and contemporary, the room was actually quite dark while the noise level was louder than expected, especially given that every table was occupied.

Overall: 7.7/10

Yay: Come here for a little taste of Dale MacKay's inventive winning creations...and that ginger cocktail! Mmm! The portion sizes are perfect for sampling a variety of dishes.

Nay: The place didn't "wow" me as much as I thought it would but for some reason, it was what I had expected.  There is definitely room for improvement.