Dishing up Easy Recipes and Forkin' Fun
Travels and Eats: Lisa Visits Vancouver and Langara

Travels and Eats: Lisa Visits Vancouver and Langara

When Lisa told me she was heading to a fishing lodge for four days, naturally I was skeptical. Not only has my sis never seen rod and reel, but she also isn’t in possession of sea legs. Imagine my shock when she came home proclaiming herself an above average angler. Yes, she said that. Don’t believe me? Read on.

Lisa started her trip by heading to Vancouver, where, fear not, she made time to fit in scrumptious meals and snacks. First stop was lunch at Motomachi Shokudo, which according to Lisa, is home to Vancouver’s best ramen. She ordered the Bamboo Charcoal Miso Ramen, an authentic ramen bowl with a broth that was flavorful but not too rich, with a slightly smoky flavor. The noodle texture was perfection – firm, but chewy. As well, the bowl was filled with fresh corn, crisp sprouts, green onions and thinly sliced daikon. You know what I say to that? Sign me up.

While the ramen was filling, count on Lisa to fit in a few snacks between lunch and dinner. She hit Revolver Coffee in Gastown for some killer local coffee in a super cool atmosphere. She downed the Tasting Flight of espresso, four different espresso shots. Can you say, “buzzed”? What was hyped up Lisa to do? Search out ice cream, of course. She headed to Soft Peaks where she ordered up the Honeycomb Peak Organic Milk Soft Serve, expertly topped with a piece of local honeycomb. Well, she classified this as “beyond words delicious,” but allow me to put more words to it – this soft serve is incredibly smooth and creamy, rich but not too sweet. If that doesn’t sell it enough for you, at the bottom of the waffle cone are cereal flakes. Yes, run, don’t walk, to Soft Peaks.

Think Lisa was too full for dinner? Not my sis with the hollow leg and not my sis when she has a chance to dine at Chef Umberto Menghi’s spot, Giardino Restaurant. Lisa has a bit of a history with him (no, not that kind), a culinary history. About ten years ago, she went to Villa Delia, Chef Menghi’s cooking school in Tuscany, where under the tutelage of his sister, she learned how to make, as she puts it, “the world’s greatest lasagna.” So, needless to say, going to Giardino, Lisa’s hopes were high. She wasn’t disappointed, starting with the Mixed Artisan Lettuce with fresh apple, pumpkin seeds and a tart lemon and olive oil dressing. She followed that fresh and flavorful salad with the Classic Lasagne al Forno (just like she had in Tuscany all those years ago), layers of rich meat, creamy béchamel and fresh pasta noodles.

Every bite was chock full of authentic and awe-inspiring Italian cooking. Does Lisa stop there? No, Siree. For dessert, she devoured the Almond Cannoli, a perfectly crispy shell filled with a zesty and smooth ricotta lemon cream and accompanied by a refreshingly tart blood orange sorbet. How do you say, “Time to stop eating, Lisa,” in Italian? Happy and still full, Lisa woke the next day excited for her excursion to Langara Island Lodge, which included a quick flight from Vancouver to Masset, followed by an incredible 20 minute helicopter ride to the lodge. Now, we all know that Lisa gets around, so when she called this “Canada at its best,” I listen up. The location was outstanding, the accommodations and service were top notch. In the beautiful, cozy lodge, the fire was always ablaze and the hugely talented executive chef Marc-Andre Dubois was creating five star food and cocktails. As you’d expect, B.C. fish and shellfish were the main focus of the dinner menus, but this kitchen created one seasonal dish after the next that made you want to lick your plate (Lisa added this reference to our cookbook Lick Your Plate – shameless, no?). What sort of stuff was she eating when she wasn’t reeling ‘em in? Grilled Stone Fruit Salad with baby arugula and homemade ricotta cheese, Beef Short Ribs served with a cauliflower puree and topped with chimichurri, pan-seared halibut topped with prawns and served with fresh corn and locally grown morels, to name a few. All dinners were served with wine pairings (Lisa never met a wine she didn’t like) and desserts were endless goodness, from salted caramel pot de crème to a chocolate matcha tart. Oh yes, and baskets of freshly baked cookies were always found around the lodge. Really roughing it, she was.

Now, for what you’ve all been waiting for, the adventures of Lisa the Fisher Queen. Every morning she went out fishing at 8:30am (note: all other guests in the lodge began at 6:00am and fished until 7:30pm) with Chris Kettles, a most kind, patient and skilled guide. He was knowledgeable, teaching Lisa the ABC’s of fishing, including a lesson on bait, hooks, reels and finally, how to net. As Lisa said, “His encouragement from day one had us hooked.” She’s punny, right? While out on the waters (some rougher than others – and in that case, she was glad to be sporting the unbelievable ReliefBand) food and drink, such as breakfast sandwiches and amazing coffee, were delivered to the boat in the event that two hours passed without sustenance. As for the fishing, the experience exceeded all of Lisa’s expectations – sea lions came and stole her catch (she did come home minus one Chinook salmon), orcas (aka killer whales!!!!) took giant bites out of her Coho salmon and she had a final catch total of 88 pounds. Yes, that’s 88 pounds more than I’ve ever caught and she came home with half of it, including halibut, Chinook salmon, Ling cod and Pacific cod. The other half will follow in months to come after it has been smoked, candied and peppercorn crusted. My kinda’ mail.

So, can’t deny Lisa left Langara Lodge a Big Fish. And, leave it to her to fit in one final Vancouver meal before heading back to Toronto. Where’d she chow down? Nightingale Restaurant, a hub of inspiring eats. Lisa started with a kale salad with shaved fennel, chickpeas and topped with ricotta salata and fresh toasty breadcrumbs. The salad was dressed with a creamy garlic dressing. She said she needs to create something like this “perfect salad” for Bite Me More, so stay tuned.

Next, she had tender and tasty braised meatballs filled with pine nuts and Parmesan and smothered in a San Marzano tomato sauce. Also on her fork was English pea and buratta tortelloni served in an arugula pesto that was delicious and rich, full of flavor and fantastic-ness. Her final dish was a pizza of black truffles, creamed leeks, fontina, mozzarella and ricotta salata. If you’ve never had creamed leeks on your pizza, it’s nirvana when paired with fontina cheese. While Lisa bemoaned that she had very little room left in her tummy, she did manage to make the peanut butter and jelly ice cream sandwich disappear within minutes.

And that my friends, was Lisa’s travels to Vancouver and Langara Lodge, where she was happy as a clam and oft heard saying, “Good things come to those who bait.”