West Coast Fishing Club - North Island Lodge - Langara Island - Part One

Management at Bert's Electric has been pretty generous about ploughing some of the profits back into entertaining and rewarding their employees. We golf, we fish, we barbeque, we Christmas party, we go to hockey games. So first of all, thanks, bosses! In that spirit, this past weekend a dozen of us (site supervisors, project managers etc.) were flown up to Haida Gwaii for an amazing stay at North Island Lodge, one of three West Coast Fishing Club properties, for fishing, eating, drinking, relaxing and a generally good time (another dozen of us will make the trip in July).
We met at Bert's offices at 6:00 am on Friday and we were fishing by 1:00 pm. Our 2-hour flight from south terminal YVR on a Dash 8 was followed by a 30 minute Sikorski helicopter ride right to the lodge. Once we settled in, they made a  start (and would not stop) of feeding us. We came for the fishing and stayed for the food (well, we stayed for the fishing too). Since this is allegedly a food blog, I intend to provide a blow by blow on the eating activities!
Eggs Benedict with cold smoked salmon. The first of what would be an amazing stream of deliciousness to come out of the kitchen prepared by chef Luke Mussato and his staff of Andy (Buon Giorno!) and Hunter (Who I never actually met...apologies). Perfectly poached eggs with deep yellow yolks and creamy wonderful hollandaise. From that first bite, I knew we were in for some special eats this weekend. But on to the main event and it was not long before we were hauling in the Chinook.
Not to be overlooked in between bites was the fact that we were in such a beautiful place. The weather was generally sombre during our stay but that certainly did not detract from the primal draw of the sea and nature (and it was lovely not to have cellular service for a few days).
By the time our Friday afternoon session had drawn to a close, we all had stories of battles with the feisty salmon and our first few catches. Back at the lodge, they somehow knew we would be hungry and some amazing appetizers awaited us. We quickly learned that the trick was not to eat too much before dinner was served. We learned that that was the trick but never seemed to pull it off.
Seriously, the first thing we faced on getting to the lounge was arancini. I dare you to eat just one! 
A nice selection of cured and smoked fish were served, including baby octopus and even some fruits and vegetables and anything else you could ask for. On the liquid side our folks drank some fine wine and some premium label spirits. And then, the dinner bell rang!
The dining room at North Island Lodge seats about 24 which coincidentally is the number of people the lodge can accommodate (give or take). With a lovely view of the water and the dock, I could happily sit there all day and let these people feed me.
Dinner started with a wonderful Baby Kale Ceasar with among other things, fried capers which added a nice little salty burst.
It was followed by a perfectly cooked strip loin with veggies, Yorkshire Pudding and a demi-glace.
As if this was not enough, the Smoked Sable Fish with Gremolata was subtle and gently flavoured. This required savouring to be truly appreciated. Dessert of course was never missing from the bill of fare.
Enough Tiramisu for two people but still light, sweet and delicious. From here, some of us dragged ourselves to bed  (we shared rooms with views of the water and Langara Island and were gently rocked to sleep in this floating lodge) while others continued the evening in the lounge playing cards, conversing and getting to know other guests and enjoying a nightcap. Stay tuned for part two of this blog post where I will try to continue to cover some highlights of this excellent weekend!

Mr. Tonkatsu

No matter what your gender identification and choice of pronouns, if your surname is Tonkatsu, I am there. When we heard that this Toronto based restaurant had landed in Metro Vancouver, we started making plans to visit. Cursed with a web site that is a little glitchy (at least at the moment), they seem to indicate that there are 2 Toronto locations and now Guildford (Surrey).
As comparisons to Saku on Robson Street are inevitable, Mr Tonkatsu has a similar menu but with a few more choices.
I don't remember Karaage Wings being a choice at Saku but they are among the appetizers here. Served with Japanese Mayo, these were simply battered, juicy and tasty, arriving hot from the fryer.
Also on this menu is Donburi with Soba. We chose the ebi which were tasty enough but not life-changing or anything. I can't use that 'snap' adjective when describing the shrimp except to mention that it was missing. The rest of the dish was nicely put together and I cheated and added a little of their tonkatsu sauce to the rice. Served with miso soup and soba noodles in broth.
The Soba Noodles were the source of some pleasure. Nicely chewy noodles and the broth was fragrant with Konbu.
The main event was the Pork Tenderloin Tonkatsu Set. Steamed rice, cabbage and miso soup are served on the side. Like at Saku, you can have seconds of cabbage, rice or miso. At Saku however, they came around and offered but here, I think you need to ask (not that we needed more). The tenderloin was wonderfully tender and very good. And we loved the katsu sauce with its fruity Worcestershire sauce flavour. The panko breadcrumbs were also quite impressive probably due to the fact that they make their own bread to make the breadcrumbs. Nice!
We also kind of like the little bowl of sesame seeds that they bring you to pound up and add to your katsu sauce. It's good to have something to do while you await your food!
So it's a nice little place. We waited briefly for a table at just after noon on Sunday which is not surprising. Remember to write your name down when you arrive. The staff were quite friendly and attentive. I know I always say that. so maybe it's just because we're so delightful!
For what our opinion is worth, we give Mr Tonkatsu 3 1/2 out of 5.
Mr Tonkatsu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Estrella's

Our continuing exploration of Scout Magazine's, "Never Heard Of It" list brought us to Estrella's in Langley. As far as outward appearance and location go, Estrella's may belong on the list but what they produce in their little kitchen should be heard of and frankly to the privileged few, it is already well known and loved.
Montreal smoked meat is pretty much a specialty of few in Metro Vancouver and these folks do what they do in house and with care. 
We started with their Classic (6 oz) Smoked Meat Sandwich with cheese. This was a treat with their in house brined and smoked brisket served on excellent rye bread with Dijon Mustard. I haven't had a lot of Montreal smoked meat but I can assure you that this was a moist and flavourful treat.
Next up was a Reuben. Also made with the MSM and cheese but this time toasted and with sauerkraut, I have had a few Reubens in my time and this one was a pleasure. The rich meat and cheese with the slightly sour cabbage cutting through the middle made us happy.
On the slightly disappointing side was the Poutine. Not sure why I ordered this as I don't really get the allure of poutine. The components individually were tasty with the gravy being rich (but lumpy ) the fries well fried in decently seasoned oil (but on the limp side even those not covered in gravy) and the cheese was generously applied.
The Cole Slaw on the other hand was very decent. Slightly herby with some nice vinegar dressing. 
Small and to the point, Estrella's has seating for maybe a couple of dozen (?) and offers some other lunch and breakfast items. The folks are friendly and service is quick. Definitely come for the Montreal smoked meat.
For what it's worth, we give Estrella's (for the above mentioned in house made smoked meat!) 4 1/2 out of 5.

Estrella's Montreal Deli & Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Apna Chaat House

Apna Chaat House has been on my radar for a couple of years since I saw a review by "Girl Loves Curry" (Where are you GLC? We need your guidance through the mean streets of Surrey!). More recently, Apna showed up on Scout Magazine's, "Never Heard Of It" list and then most recently was included in the article, "6 Cheap Eats In Surrey That You Need To Try" on the Daily Hive. We had to get there soon before they were overrun by people like us!
Located in a strip mall on Scott Road (of course, everything on Scott Road is in a strip mall) just north of 72nd, this is a unique and dare I say, fun Indian restaurant focusing on street food and generally smaller plates.
Photographs of the menus items are conveniently everywhere including the walls and the menus, which is good as otherwise we wouldn't be able to tell the Kulcha from the Kulche without asking a lot of questions.
Speaking of which, we started with the Chole Kulche. The kulche is a flaky and amazingly light flatbread and this one was stuffed with a spicy mixture of chick peas and potatoes. This was the only thing we had that triggered the sweat response in me. Yes, it was a bit spicy but delicious!
Though they had our beloved Fish Pakora on the menu, we decided to go another direction and tried their Chicken Lollipops. Served crispy and hot with a slightly spicy mayo, this dish was just OK. I have had better wings (these are not wings, of course) and I think our appetites would have been better served trying something that we have never had before. 
Like Vada Pav for example. Here is a nice bit of fusion. BTW, vegetarians can do just fine at Apna Chaat House. This is a deep fried potato dumpling with Indian spices. This is definitely "beyond meat" and very tasty.
It wouldn't seem like a chaat house if we didn't have Punjabi Mixed Chaat. Refreshing and providing a nice contrast to the spicy kulche, this is a room temperature mixture of puffy crackers (I think this is chaat), chutneys, yoghurt, and veggies. We love this!
All this for $35 plus tip! The staff gladly helped us figure our way through the menu. You should definitely put this place on your list of future adventures.
For what it's worth we give Apna Chaat House 4 out of 5.
Apna Chaat House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Surrey Greek Food Festival

Summer and the cultural and food festival season is nearly upon us. We just can't get to them all. Having attended Italian Day on the Drive last year, we opted for the Surrey Geek Food Festival this year. Food, music dancing and costumes are the focal point of this smallish festival and the good news is that it continues through to June the 16th so you have not missed it!
Located at the Greek Orthodox Church at 96th and 132nd, parking is not a challenge if you don't mind walking from AHP Matthew Elementary School, just around the corner on 97th Avenue.
The food is completely prepared by the local Greek community and you can eat in the spacious tent in view of the stage. I realized that Marie had never had Greek food so we had to try some
favorites including...
Calamari. Very tender and tasty. Battered a little heavier (not in a bad way) than we are used to with the Taiwanese or Japanese versions but served with Tzatziki, that lovely mint and yoghurt dip.
We had a Pork Souvlaki Plate. The highlight for me here was the lemon roasted potatoes but a Greek salad with plenty of feta and a couple of lovely olives was very nice also. The pork was tender and just nicely charred in places. Not sure how we felt about the bread.
You have to love Spanakopita.  Flaky phyllo pastry with a savoury spinach filling. No need to say more.
And speaking of phyllo pastry, cover it with honey and nuts and you have a world class dessert. The very bottom layers were a little tough to get through but in their defence, I'm not sure how you would make this for thousands of people and have it just out of the oven perfect. It was rich and wonderfully sweet.
Marie spotted this dessert up on one of their posters. I had never had Loukoumades either and they looked good. Greek Donughts with more honey and sesame seeds. These faired a little better in the mass production being pillowy and sweet and very enjoyable.
The entertainment was top notch also! As long as you're good with the sounds of the bouzoukis there was pleasant background music and occasional dances like the Diaspora Fasolakia  (I could not find a definition for that title that did not involve green beans (?))) in the photo above. Very cute.
Thank you Greek Community for this small peek into your culture.
For everyone else, check their web site and make time to visit!

Golden Sweets & Restaurant

On the painful road from Langley to Newton (64th) I have many times noticed an Indian restaurant in a strip mall seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
One afternoon, with no particular plan for lunch, it seemed like a good idea to stop because, well, is Indian food ever not a good idea?
As usual, we showed little imagination in ordering, starting with the Fish Pakora. There is nothing on an Indian menu that I would not love but we seem to stick to our boring plan. I guess it allows us to compare one place to another. This was a generous serving for $10 and the chutney and what I would call tartar sauce served alongside were very good. We munched down all the onions, cabbage and daikon that were on the plate too! Call it a salad.
Butter Chicken is our next go to. It seems a little to me that Butter Chicken is like Indian food made for Caucasian people but I don't mind. Do you Indo-Canadian people love Butter Chicken also? This one was maybe a touch on the salty side but there was a pretty good amount of chicken making it chicken with sauce instead of sauce with chicken.
We tried their Lamb Biryani which was wonderful. Lots of tender lamb and very flavourful rice.
And of course Naan. This was pretty good and a bit charred which is what we want. It all came to about $40 and we had enough leftovers for my dinner the next day. Good prices and good food! 
I enjoyed the fact that the food was served on Correll Living Ware circa 1970 (?). Do they still make that stuff? It launched me into some reminiscences about my Mother's kitchen.
This is a comfortable enough place and our server was attentive and friendly. Next time consider stopping in instead of just driving by!
For what it's worth, we give Golden Sweets and Restaurant 3 1/2 out of 5.
Golden Sweets & Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Earnest Ice Cream

So I have started listening to a local ice cream food podcast (Yes, there is such a thing. Or at least there was for 3 months in 2017) called Rain City Scoop. This mean of course, that we will be eating much more ice cream in the future (or maybe only for 3 months). That is both a good and bad thing. At least we'll be eating the best ice cream.
Earnest Ice Cream ended up being our first foray into the world of really, really good ice cream at the recommendation of Rain City Scoop. We stopped at the store on Quebec near East Second. I love the look of this place both inside and out.
I am not sure when it became OK to spend $7.50 for an ice cream cone. The folks in the podcast took responsibility for this as millennials and said it may have started with Starbucks (not ice cream but just premium prices). I guess that I don't mind that much as it will keep us from buying ice cream every day and, at least, in this case, it means a very good experience. 
To be fair, the $7.50 was for a double in a waffle cone. This was some spectacular ice cream also. Marie chose Cookies and Cream and Salted Caramel. The available flavours change daily and are made in house. You can check their web site. In lieu of Vanilla, according to the podcast, they have what they call Sweet Cream. Artificial vanilla (99% of all vanilla) is a product which demands a process entirely unfriendly to the environment to produce. So Earnest has gone a different direction.
We also tried the Vegan Chocolate Fudge Sundae. This is not only for vegans but for the 15 to 30 per cent of North Americans who are lactose intolerant. Stop pretending that you are gluten sensitive (unless your doctor has confirmed it) and recognize the very real possibility that lactose may be messing you up. Again talk to your doctor instead of just consulting Web MD. Your stomach and your friends will thank you! I chose Peanut Butter vegan ice cream for my sundae (coconut cream based) and again, spectacular! The sundae was topped off with lots of chocolate sauce, strawberry sauce and nuts and of course, fudge! Again $7.50 but we're not going to eat one every day, are we?
The folks I spoke to here were friendly and enthusiastic about their  product. When you go out for ice cream, make it an experience. For what it's worth we give Earnest Ice Cream 4 1/2 out of 5.
Earnest Ice Cream Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Are you guys eating again? At some point Marie and I became the kind of people who take pictures of everything we eat, whether in a restaura...