Greece · Seafood

Naxos – Day two

For breakfast, L suggested we find a cafe randomly, just like people did before the Internet. I felt uneasy about this decision, but I was a good sport and agreed to go old-school. For this post, let’s listen to “Denial.”

We ordered a latte (2.70), a cheese, and a meat pie (3.90). Unfortunately, the latte was too hot, and as a result, the milk tasted off. I worked at Starbucks in my younger days, so I knew the milk was oversteamed. There was too much foam, so it was more of a cappuccino than a latte. 

L’s cheese pastry was tasteless and, for the portion, overpriced. On the other hand, my meat pie was tasty. The filling reminded me of the fried glutinous rice dumplings (ham sui gok) I ordered at dim sum. I would order this again.

L booked a car for two days. First, we checked out historical points of interest, such as the Temple Demeter and a few defunct churches.

For lunch, we planned to drive to a beach in an area known for its seafood. L navigated through the tight, steep one-lane roads that wind along the mountain. I felt a little like I was in a James Bond movie. He was excited to drive, and while the views were breathtaking, seeing all the roadside memorial sites spooked me.

We chose a busy beachside spot and ordered an octopus salad (15), grilled calamari (11), and tzatziki (5).

Our server proudly proclaimed that the squid was the best in Naxos. I loved it! The calamari was silky and smooth, with a nice bouncy texture. I would order this again.

L enjoys octopus more than I do, and he was crazy about the sweet, tender chunks in the salad. Everything was simple but so good. I thought this was one of the best meals we had eaten. 

After lunch, we drove to several villages and other landmarks. We returned to our hotel and stepped out for a Kitron cocktail in Old Town. Afterwards, we did one of my favourite things to do in Naxos: wander around Kastro Castle. Not only did the thick marble walls offer shade from the hot sun, but it was so delightful to get lost in the nooks and alleys of the fortress. At night it offered a different experience, as the castle’s passages became lit with restaurants buzzing with activity. 

For dinner, I wanted something light. We checked out To Soulvlaki, for pork gyros (€3.50) and a mega pint of white wine (€3.30). After eating so many gyros, they all start to taste the same. I did notice the meat was seared, and the portion was more generous than their competition next door, Ya Souvlaki. We left full and eager to start the day again on this glorious island.

Greece · Restaurants · Seafood

Naxos – Day one

Early in the morning, L and I booked a taxi to take us to the ferry to Naxos. When we arrived, a restaurant owner hustled us over to his patio and invited us to stay while we waited for the ferry. Right away, I knew we should continue walking and check out the other cafes. However, he struck up a conversation with L about when our ferry would arrive. His winning sales pitch that we could see our ferry come and only be obligated to purchase a coffee. For this post, let’s listen to Maria Farantouri ‘s “To the Little Wind.”

Our americanos (€5) tasted like instant Nabob coffee. When we gagged down our drinks, L purchased two large cans of Mythos beer (€6) for our ferry ride. I thanked L and noted that we probably could have bought the beers for cheaper at another store. He agreed so good-naturedly that I felt guilty. I really need to stop hen-pecking him over nickels.

We arrived in Naxos and stopped by Ya Souvlaki for gyros on the way to our hotel. We sat by the pier and devoured our pork gyros (€3.50) in minutes. We always eat the fries first because if you eat don’t, the flavour of the meat gets muted by the potatoes.

Usually, I’m full after a gyro, but since we skipped breakfast, I was still hungry. I ordered a lamb skewer (€3.50), and L ordered a chicken skewer (€2.50). Our server told us it would take a while, as the skewers are made fresh. Our skewers came with fries and pita bread. What a wicked price!

The lamb was killer – so juicy and almost grassy in flavour. L said he could taste the flavour of the charcoal in his chicken skewer. When we finished, L left to pay. I knew they were happy with their tip because our server came over with complimentary booze. L didn’t want to drink a shot at noon, so I happily took one for the team.

After we checked into our hotel, we toured around Old Town. We walked over to the Portara, the marble gate of an unfinished temple of Apollo. I had seen pictures of the gate before visiting. I wished I didn’t, as while the marble ruin was unique, it didn’t look nearly as impressive as the online pictures. Instagram filters ruin real life. I guess this is what people feel like on dating apps. 

For our first night, I booked a table at Scirocco, located in the town centre. I relished the over-the-top polite service. I noticed the older British guests were known customers and were given the royal VIP treatment by all the staff. 

I ordered a glass of bubbles that was pretty average (€7). I sipped a white wine with our dinner, which reminded me of citrus (€ 6). When I noticed guests drinking rosé wine (€7), I ordered one for dessert, though it seemed to cause our server some concern. I’m pretty sure the issue is the rosé is typically ordered by the bottle, not by the glass, but an exception was made for me. This was a real Goldilocks moment. The rosé wasn’t too sweet or generic, and it tasted a little like strawberries. I would order this again.

L and I shared an order of Sagankaki (€ 10) and the mixed seafood platter (€30). The fried cheese was crispy and topped with honey and black sesame seeds. The flavour of the toasted sesame and the mild, nutty flavour of the cheese reminded me of a dim sum dish – rice-wrapped Chinese doughnut. I would order this again.

Of the seafood medley, I enjoyed the salmon the most. The creamy lemon sauce paired beautifully with the fatty layers of the salmon. The shrimp was sweet and juicy. I also enjoyed the calamari, as the texture was smooth and firm. The marinated octopus was thick, meaty and succulent. I could tell all the seafood was fresh and not previously frozen because the consistency was unlike what I’m accustomed to in Calgary. 

The service at Sciroco was an easy 10/10, the food was 8/10, and the wine was a 6/10, though the rosé was a 9/10. The dessert was so bad it is not even worthy of a tactfully worded description because it was so piss poor. In any case, Naxos is a hit. 

Greece

Santorini – Day four

We had our second breakfast in a row at Svoronos Bakery. This time, I found the staff unpleasant, except for the barista. I could tell from the staff’s tone and vibe that we were not valued customers. I ordered iced lattes, but we got hot lattes instead. Not a big deal, but there was so much sugar in my drink I couldn’t finish it. My spanakopita was a corner piece, and the end piece of the pastry was hard and gummy. L noticed they charged him two more euros than in our previous visit. For this post, let’s listen to Zorba’s Dance.

After breakfast, we walked down the Karavolades Stairs. There were donkeys you could rent for the ride up or down. I noticed the donkeys roam wherever they wanted to, and L was worried I would be trodden on or kicked by the animals. He would periodically shout out, “Watch it! He’s going kick you.” Every time he warned me, I would freeze up. I know L was only looking out for me, but as the stairs are narrow, there isn’t much I could do but stand there in a panic. I could either back up or tentatively walk past the donkey. We took the cable car up and walked around the top of the Thira, past all the restaurants overlooking the cliffs of Fira. L said he wanted us to have dinner at one of the restaurants for our last night. I took pictures of the names and said I would look each one up before we decided on the restaurant. 

My colleague Congenial left Santorini the day before I arrived, and she told me to check out Obelix. I wished I had listened to her. Instead, we went to Yogi’s second location. Our food took a long time to come. A server dropped off some limp pita and dip, then added the charge to our final bill. I should have realized it wasn’t free. Our gyro wasn’t as fresh as Yogi’s location in the Square. Also, I found the owner surly.

L and I took the public bus to the Museum of Prehistoric Thira. Afterwards, we checked Red Beach and stopped at Anhydrous Winery for a tasting.

For our dinner, I vetoed all the Caldera view restaurants because when I cross-checked the Tripadvisor reviews with Google’s user comments, I saw too much discrepancy. Particularly, I wasn’t keen on the frequency of comments about the general rudeness of the staff at these restaurants. Instead, I booked a table at Parea Tavern, which was recommended by our hotel.

Our table had a view, but more importantly, the service was warm and friendly. We shared the Santorini Salad (€10), Fried Cheese (€9), Calamari (16), a glass of wine (7) and a Mythos (4). 

I was interested in the shrimp spaghetti dish, but I didn’t order it because I wanted something lighter. I saw a woman on a date order it, and I couldn’t stop ogling the jumbo-sized grilled shrimp on her dish. She was doing most of the talking, and her date kept nodding or saying one-word responses. I told L that I noticed she never once talked about her meal. Yes, I was eavesdropping. I stopped staring at her shrimp because she started to glance over at me. 

I adored the Santorini salad. The bread was light and crunchy, seasoned with garlic and salt. The feta cheese was soft and cool. Our bowl was piled high with marinated cucumbers, sweet tomatoes, capers, and lettuce.

The fried cheese was excellent. I loved the delicate batter, with its papery crunch. The cheese itself was smooth, stringy and hot. The marinara sauce was zesty and didn’t overwhelm the cheese’s nutty flavour. I would order this again.

The calamari was tasty, but it tasted like it was cooked in older oil. The cool breeze also prematurely cooled the calamari halfway through our meal. Flavour-wise, I think Meraki uses a higher quality squid. Having said that, Parea’s calamari is better than anything I can get back home. Overall, we were happy with our experience, and looking forward to continuing our vacation in Naxos.

Restaurants

Santorini – Day three

I suggested to L that we check out Svoronos Bakery for breakfast. I read Google reviews about the poor service, so I was interested to experience the outcome. I’m always curious about rudeness. Let’s listen to “Full Catastrophe” by Mikis Theodorakis for this post. 

When we entered the bakery, an employee instantly greeted us in English. She was friendly enough and offered to explain any items to us. However, I saw another older employee give us a dirty look. I heard about the evil eye, but this was the first time I experienced it in Greece. I felt like telling her don’t hate the player, hate the game, but I figured the meaning would be lost in translation.

We asked for two iced lattes (€2), spanakopita (€2) and a random pastry for L (€2). The iced latte was so good. The espresso was rich and thick that no sugar or additional flavouring was needed. L told me that he was informed places like Starbucks and McDonald’s aren’t popular in Greece. I can taste why this is true.

The spanakopita was crunchy on the outside and loaded with warm, creamy spinach filling. I could taste a little dill and feta. Our breakfast was only €8, so I figured it was worth the stink-eye from the matron of the bakery.

 For lunch, we checked out Yogi’s. The pork gyro (€3.60) overflowed with fries, tzatziki, tomatoes and onions. Compared to Nick’s, Yogi’s was more filling and cheaper. However, the flavour of the meat at Nick’s was superior, while Yogi’s had the fluffier, fresher pita. 

I wanted to give L a break from all the organizing and planning, so I booked a Santorini Highlights Tour. Usually, these excursions aren’t his style, but I knew he would enjoy turning his mind off and enjoying the ride. 

Our tour guide Will was spectacular. He livened up our experience by making us comfortable and entertained. He even took cheesy photos of each of us at all the landmarks. I felt like a happy teenager. It always impresses me when I meet someone who excels at their profession. I noticed that everyone left him a well-deserved tip.

Will mentioned to us that one restaurant he recommends is Meraki. So I told him we went there the previous night. He asked how I discovered it, as it is a hidden gem. I didn’t want to bother explaining how I live to eat and hate overpaying, so I changed the subject.

After our excursion, L wanted to go back to Meraki. We ordered a Greek salad (€7), calamari (€10.50), fava (€7), eggplant saganaki (€8.00), Alfa beer (€4.00) and white wine (€4.00, half a litre).

The vegetables in the Greek salad were crunchy and fresh. The feta arrived in a thick slab. The cheese was soft enough to break apart with a gentle poke of my fork and generous enough to be eaten with every ripe piece of tomato. 

The calamari arrived hot and crispy. We both thought the squid was over-salted, but we enjoyed it almost as much as the previous night. 

The eggplant was unique because I wasn’t expecting the overpowering flavour of nutmeg. The eggplant was soft and blended with feta cheese and tomato sauce. I think this dish was overcooked in the oven. The sauce was far too dry.

Our tour guide recommended the fava, which is a famous local product. The texture was soft and wet. I can’t describe what I tasted, as the flavour profile was so unique. 

We were stuffed, and I barely even touched my wine. Still, we left giddy and exhausted from the festivities of the day. If you go to Santorini, I highly recommend booking with Will.

Greece

Santorini – Day two

We landed after midnight in Santorini. After we dropped our luggage at our hotel, we decided to head to the Square for a bite to eat. For this post, let’s listen to Giannis Parios Ikariotiko.

L’s favourite Greek snack is a gyro (YEE-row). I, of course, had already cross-checked each note-worthy eatery in Santorini. So when we walked by all the gyro joints, I was familiar with their Google and Tripadvisor reviews. We picked Nick the Grill because there were some tables open for us. Yogi and Lucky’s were within 300 metres of our table, which are rated higher than Nick’s. 

We each ordered a pork gyro (€3.90) and a Mythos beer (€3.00). I figured the nearby nightclub and bars had just closed because we observed a parade of red-faced, dazed people stumble past. One British gentleman bumbled up to the counter and said some incoherent words. The employee rolled her eyes, handed him a menu, and then helped him select a combo meal. 

After five minutes, our food was ready. The pita was fluffy and crispy on the outside. The pork was sliced thin, juicy and tasted of the grill. I would have preferred a bit more tzatziki, but in hindsight, too much sauce would mask the pronounced flavour of the white onions and meat.

 I can see why L loves gyros so much. You get something far more delicious and fresh for less than the price of a Big Mac. I’m also a fan of Mythos. It’s a clean, light and well-balanced beer. 

The next day, we wandered around Fira and admired the breathtaking views of the blue water and sky. The beauty was almost worth suffering through the crowds of selfie-taking tourists and the annoyance of avoiding the rampant quads speeding through the tightly packed streets. Santorini is stunning, but it is so overcrowded with poorly behaved tourists that I wouldn’t recommend coming here over Athens or Naxos.

For dinner, we dined at Meraki, a restaurant known for authentic and inexpensive seafood. We ordered fried zucchini (€6.50), saganaki (€7), fried squid (€11), and beets (€5). For beverages, L drank Alfa beer (€4.00, 500 ml), and I ordered half a litre of house white wine (€5.00). 

The fried cheese’s exterior was crunchy, and the interior was soft, with a slight chew. The honey was light and sweet, while the nuts added a toastiness to each bite. L enjoyed the saganaki so much that we order this at almost every subsequent dinner. 

The batter on the zucchini was so light it reminded me of tempura. The zucchini tasted like it was just plucked from a garden. The flesh was so sweet and juicy and melted on your tongue. This dish is worth ordering again. 

The calamari was so delicious that L declared it the best he’s ever had. The squid wasn’t heavily battered, which allowed you to enjoy the toothsome texture.

For dessert, we ordered a chocolate biscuit with whipped cream. The dessert was simple and not overly sweet. Our server told us it was homemade and similar to a cookie.

The service was genuinely warm and hospitable. We were treated to raki, their homemade liquor, when we were finished. I thought it was tasty, as the spice reminded me of a cinnamon bun. We enjoyed our food so much that we vowed to come again. Part two of Meraki coming soon…

Greece · Restaurants

Athens – Day one

I met up with L in Athens, Greece. After sampling the food for only 10 days, I can confidently state that the food in Greece surpasses what I’ve consumed as a tourist in Japan, France, and Italy. For this post, let’s listen to “The Children of Piraeus, Never On a Sunday” by Nana Mouskouri

L had already spent time in Athens, so he brought me to his favourite tavern, Old Tavern of Psarras, for a snack and drink before our flight to Santorini. Greece has changed L. He now enjoys tzatziki, olives, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) and feta. I know why because, in Greece, everything tastes better than what we can get in Canada. 

We picked a spot in the shade and ordered two appetizers and a Mythos beer. I never liked yogurt until I tried it in Greece. The tzatziki (€4.50) has a thick, dense velvety texture and a fresh, light flavour. Our dip was zesty and herby from the dill and cucumber, the perfect foil to the warm, salty pita bread. 

The leaves on the dolmades (€4.50) were so soft and warm that even biting into the grape leaves was a sensual experience. The rice mixture was creamy and bright with infused flavour. L mentioned the food goes well with the hot climate. For dessert, L wanted to visit his go-to bakery, Tzatzos S.A

We walked over to Tzatzos and sat on the patio. L ordered two baklavas (€2) and two more beers (€3).

Holy smokes – the baklava at Tzatzos makes everything else I’ve tried before taste like sawdust. The honey was so light and sweet, more like nectar than the heavy stuff I’m used to in Calgary, Savino Pizzeria being the exception. The pistachios and almonds were toasty with a wood-like spice and the layers of phyllo pastry were light and brittle. 

Oh my Zeus, if I can eat this well as a tourist, imagine what you access as a local! L said in the last five days he was in Athens, he never experienced a bad meal. I know when L travels, he doesn’t research where to eat, so I could only expect even greater things to come.

Restaurants

Laurent Cazottes – Vine Arts

My buddy Chen is in town! I invited him to my newest addiction, a spirit tasting ($30) by Juice Imports at Vine Styles. I told Chen this was a rare event, as there are less than 30 bottles of each cuvée in Alberta. For this post, let’s listen to “We’re Are Going to Be Friends” by The White Stripes.

Erik was showcasing seven different spirits and liqueurs from Laurent Cazottes. Located in Tarn, France, Laurent Cozottes is a small farm with only 10-20 hectares of land. Erik told us that “eau de vie” means fruit distillment. He describes eau de vie as wine-like but with the spirit of fruit. Erik has a way with words.

We were treated to Fleurs de Sureau mixed with bubbles (Elderflower Liqueur, $54) for our welcome drink. I found the fragrance unique. Chen enjoyed this refreshing cocktail.

We learned the process the owners of Laurent Cazottes employ is time-consuming and labourious. For example, for the apple eau-de-vie, each fruit is hand quartered, the seeds scooped, destemmed, and made into a delicate cider through a maceration process. Then, a small quantity of the cider is distilled and aged in a glass bulb for years to create a smooth, soft finish with a ton of complexity.

The Pomme Pomme Gueulle (Apple Eau-de-Vie, $108) has a strong scent. Erik said he could smell the essence of the apples. The apple eau-de-vieu is made from 15 varieties of apples from the estate. As I sipped, I felt a warmth in my throat. Erik suggested adding drops of water to change the flavour profile and observe how the oil separates from the water. Erik drinks eau-de-vieu straight up but also recommended serving it with crushed ice and bubbles.

The Reine Claude Dorée (Plum Eau-de-Vie, $89.50) is made from golden green plums. Erik thought this was the most expressive de vie – a powerful floral violet. I enjoyed the full body and rich texture. However, I didn’t finish the entire glass because I felt buzzed. Erik said we could spit out the alcohol, but I whispered to Chen that I don’t drink to just taste but also to feel. Chen snickered and told me to slow down, pointing out that I drank more than him and perhaps I was getting too intoxicated. I responded that he was reminding me of my mother.

The Aetois (Eau-de-Vie Marc de Champagne Jacques Lassaigne, $90) is made from fresh champagne pressed grapes, mixed with water to extract the full flavour from the skin, then fermented for a lengthy period. Erik mentioned the eau-de-vine has a strong chardonnay finish with some fire. Someone else said it was spicy. Mark, Erik’s business partner, said he could taste blueberry. Unfortunately, I didn’t taste what everyone else was describing and began wondering what was wrong with my tastebuds.

The Cedrat (Citrus Liqueur, $63) tasted a little bitter from the pith of the lemons. However, the smell was bright and sunny. Erik told us that the citrus liqueur is aged in barrels and blended with fresh grapefruit. Chen said he could taste the lemon peel. I found the citrus liqueur intense and refreshing.

The Tomates (Tomato Liqueur, $66) is made from 72 varietals of tomatoes from the farm. Chen smelled sundried tomatoes and tased prunes. Erik described this liqueur as having lots of umami with a sweetness to it. He said that everyone’s experience influences what they taste, and what matters most is how the spirit feels and impacts you.

The next tasting was Noix de Pays d’Oc (Walnut Liqueur, $52.50), made with green walnuts, wine and brandy from the farm’s production. I could taste brown sugar. Erik described this liqueur as savoury, rich and supple. Laurent Cazottes uses a solera process for aging and blending this liquor, which produces a higher range of flavours and complexity as all the vintages play together.

We were given a special treat for our last tasting – De Poire Williams, a pear liqueur. I could smell and taste pear. Erik declared that these particular spirits taste alive because of the farming techniques employed. In organic farms, the fruit is far superior, making it a better product. Chen told me he was glad he came; as it was an eye-opening experience.

According to Erik, if stored in a dark place, the eau-de-vie lasts forever. For the lemon and tomato liqueur, you will want to drink it within three weeks, as you will lose some of the freshness. The walnut liqueur can last three months in the fridge.

I learned that Calgarians don’t know how lucky they got it. Typically these liqueurs are only found in the most lavish wine bars in New York. Even if you could get your hands on a bottle at a specialty liquor store, it is twice the amount that sells at Vine Arts.

With the rising cost of groceries, I’m eating out less and entertaining more at home. That’s why I love coming to Erik’s Sunday wine tastings. I can taste incredible wines for an insanely low price and pick out new fun drinks to hopefully impress my guests. After consulting with Erik, I bought the walnut liqueur for an upcoming dinner party and a bottle of Cocchi Rosa to liven up some Italian bubbles I purchased for my forthcoming Stampede party. I also concocted a fruiter, sweeter alternative for the lightweights.

I hear Erik is hosting a traditional wine tasting in two weeks. I’m heartbroken, as I can’t make it on that Sunday. If you are lucky enough to snap a seat, send me a note and tell me what I missed out on.

Beer · Fast Food · Restaurants

Marda Loop Brewery and Flirty Bird

On Friday evening, I tried to get a table at Paper Lantern so L and I could go on banh mi date #12. Unfortunately, I waited too long to make a reservation, and the speakeasy was booked. L suggested we grab a drink and then a chicken sandwich in Marda Loop. In light of rising gas prices, let’s listen to “Gasoline” by Britney Spears.

Our first stop was at Marda Loop Brewery. The patio is more spacious than the brewery itself. I appreciated how the deck was covered overhead and heated.  We picked a Jenkins Grapefruit Ale (HH $5, Regular $7.25) and Casablanca Blond (HH $5, Regular $7) for drinks. L enjoyed his ale and said it was similar to a radler but not as sweet. I thought the ale was crisp with a strong grapefruit-forward flavour.

We shared an order of Street Car Fries (HH $5, Regular $8.50). The only place I know who makes fries this good is Bitter Sisters. The potatoes are hand-cut and fried to a crunchy golden state of perfection. Each order comes with two homemade sauces. We picked garlic aioli and spicy cajun aioli. Both sauces were yummy. The cajun dip reminded me of a creamy McDonald’s bbq sauce. 

We were enjoying ourselves so much that we stayed for another pint. I pondered out loud if I should order a glass of wine. L said not to do it. He asked me why do I always order wine at a pub because I just end up complaining about how bad it is. I disagreed with him and pointed out I enjoy the wine at Dandy Brewery.

I did want a glass of wine, but I didn’t want L to say I told you so if it was only drinkable. I chose a Peach Wheat ($7.25), and L tried the SoCal Raspberry Citrus Wheat Ale ($7.50), which reminded me a little of KoolAid. 

By the time we made it to Flirty Bird, I wasn’t starving, so we just ordered a chicken sandwich. We both ordered the Mild Flirt Sando ($14). If Flirty Bird considers this only mildly spicy, I won’t be trying any of the higher spice levels. L mentioned there were three more levels above what we tried. 

I read somewhere the buns are from Glamorgan Bakery. The bun was soft and buttery, making it easier to squish against the massive slab of boneless chicken breast. Some chicken sandwiches are all about the batter or the sauce. Flirty Bird is all about the meat. The chicken itself was freshly fried and steaming hot. I prefer dark meat, but I noticed the breast wasn’t dry. The batter was thin and light. 

The sando is messy to eat. I used all five napkins as the creamy sauce, hot sauce, and coleslaw dribbled all over my hands. When I tried to compare Flirty Bird to Alumni Sandwiches, L said it irks him that there is always a need to say one restaurant is better than another in the foodie community. He said there is no need to compare, and why not just agree Alumni and Flirty Bird both make good chicken sandwiches? I wish L was this passionate about Vietnamese subs. I’m tempted to start a mission to try all the hot chicken sandwiches in the city, but I have to finish what I started with our 19 banh mi date goal before taking on any more challenges.

Happy Hour · Vegetarian

Vegan Street in Inglewood

After our wine tasting at Brick’s Wine Company, Sunflower and I wanted to grab a drink and bite to eat. As Sunflower is a vegetarian, I suggested Vegan Street. It turns out she’s already visited, and she’s a fan of the margaritas and food. Let’s listen to “Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne for this post.

As I was lugging six bottles of wine, I walked slower than usual. Sunflower offered to take my bag partway, but I told her I could use the exercise as I neglect weights in my daily workout routine. She’s seven years younger than me, so she doesn’t know about the trials we older broads face.

We made it just in time for happy hour. Every day from 3:00-5:00 p.m., Vegan Street offers five-dollar draft beer and tacos and six-dollar margaritas, house wine, and tall beer cans.

Sunflower recommended the Charred Pineapple ($6). Oh man, these vegans don’t mess around with their cocktails. This margarita was even better than Anjeo. My drink was sweet but not sugary. I could taste the roasted pineapple and fresh citrus. I would order this again. This is easily the best margarita in the city.

I ordered two tacos. The No-Fish taco ($5) consisted of beer-battered palm hearts. The smooth, buttery texture and taste mimicked white fish so well that I couldn’t tell it wasn’t fish. I also enjoyed the burst of flavour from the ripe mango and sweet corn garnish. This taco is a winner.

The Korean Fried Chickin was huge, piled high with sweet deep-fried soy curls. This taco was messy to eat – the spicy aioli and kimchi would drip down and plop onto my plate. Of the two, I preferred the palm heart taco because I could still taste the soy in the chickin. The litmus test for vegetarian food is if it even better than what it seeks to imitate.

Sunflower tried three tacos – the No Fish, Asada Portobello, and the Pulled Porque. Of the three, her favourite was the Asada Portobello taco. I’ll have to come back and try this one. I noticed the tacos were all generously stuffed. What makes these tacos stand out are the creative ingredients, such as the grilled pineapple salsa, watermelon radish, and lime crema. When vegetables taste this good, you don’t miss the meat.

Thanks, Sunflower, for treating me to this delicious vegetarian experience. I’m keen to come back again and check out their other dishes. Hitting the Sauce gives Vegan Street to phat thumbs up.

Restaurants

Meinklang Wine Tasting – Bricks Wine Company

Sunflower brought over a beautiful wine from Meinklang for me to try. The next day, I saw Juice Imports was hosting a Meinklang tasting ($20) at Bricks Wine Company. I took this as a sign and snapped up two tickets. For this post, let’s listen to “Hang Me Up To Dry” by Cold War Kids.

A thoughtful employee from Bricks Wine Company called me before the tasting to remind me of a marathon in Inglewood, which shut down several main streets. She suggested a roundabout way to access the wine store. I promptly informed Books, Sunflower’s fiancé, who was dropping us off. I offered to book an Uber back, but Sunflower mentioned that with Covid, Books prefers her not to take public transportation or Uber. He kindly came and got us after the event.

Once we arrived, we sipped on a flute of Prosa, a sparkling rosé. I adore this wine – it’s juicy, bright, yet subtle. I ended up buying two bottles. We sat in a beautiful tasting room, similar in vibe to Vine Arts, where I attended Juice Import’s past wine tastings. I think both venues would be ideal for hosting a team-building event.

We learned that Meinklang is located in Burgenland, Austria, bordering Hungry. Ponds and a lake surround the certified biodynamic family farm. Erik informed us the nearby water takes in the heat and slowly releases it, which helps prevent fluctuation in temperature. He added that it is hard not to like these gentle, charming wines. I agreed, already swooning from the Prosa.

Surprisingly, I was a big fan of the entry-level wines – the Burgenland Weib and Gruner Veltliner. The Burgenland has a unique fragrance. Sunflower thought the wine was scented like lilacs, and she wanted her whole house to smell like it. When asked what he would pair with this wine, Erik, the co-owner of Juice Imports, suggested dill potato salad, smoked trout or mushroom morels. I liked this wine so much that I purchased three bottles.

The Gruner Veltliner was bright and clean. Erik noted there was so much flavour in this light wine, despite being only 11% in alcohol content. He described notes of green apple skins, with texture and freshness to it. Erik mentioned that 60% of the flavour in wine stems from yeast and bacteria rather than the grapes themselves.

Next up was Tag, one of the winery’s “big” wines. Tag is a one-off, meaning Meinklang doesn’t make this wine every year. Erik described this wine as intense but with a softness. This wine woke up my tastebuds with its lip-smacking flavour. Sunflower was a fan – she could taste passionfruit and pineapple, and thought the wine had a bite to it, like a cider.

One of my favourite bottles was Morgen. The fragrance reminded me of roses. The bubbles were tiny, and the flavour was fun to drink. Erik called this a breakfast wine, and said it reminded him of sour cherry. He mentioned this wine is similar to pinot noir in that it is challenging to grow these thin-skinned grapes. I bought a bottle for Sunflower and me to enjoy at a future time.

The next bottle we tasted was Nacht, a rare wine that even Erik hadn’t had the chance to try. The wine smelled like olive oil to me. When Sunflower took a sip, she exclaimed how good it was, similar to mushrooms but in a funky way. Erik described this wine as smelling like cherry blossoms or dank flowers.

I noticed Sunflower appreciated the more unique, expensive bottles. While I enjoyed the experience of the fancier bottles, I preferred the easy pleasantry of the entry-level wines because I could shut my mind off. When I drink, I like to feel the wine rather than think about what I’m tasting. I guess that’s the beauty of a wine tasting, you don’t have to commit to sharing a whole bottle.

The second last wine we tried was the Burgenland Rot. Sunflower said it smelled like her grandmother’s house. Damn girl, we sure had different experiences growing up. Erik informed us this was his number one selling red wine. He described the Burgenland Rot as a soft, gentle, picnic wine. I enjoyed this red wine, but preferred the white wines. For me, it’s a harder challenge to find good white wine at a reasonable price than red wine.

For our last tasting, Erik surprised us with an orange wine from 2018, made with 100% pinot gris grapes. I admired the soft, peachy colour. Sunflower is into orange wines and noted that this older vintage tasted quite different from a newer vintage she recently tried from Meinklang.

There was one interesting fact Erik told us that really got my attention. Fifty percent of Meinklang wines go to Whole Foods for their house wine. The next time I’m in Seattle, I’m picking up some Whole Foods house white wine.

Meinklang wines are now my go-to, not only because the wines are freaking fantastic but also because this winery offers such incredible value. The wines we tried ranged from $26 to $55, with my favourite ones being the entry-level wines. I think it’s a win-win to support producers doing beautiful things for the environment and sustainability that also charge the same price as wineries that produce less delicious unethical wines.

Thank you, Erik, for hosting such a fun tasting, and Sunflower, for being my new wine partner in crime. I look forward to future Juice Import tastings.