Review of Black Frog Eatery, Gastown Vancouver, BC Canada by Bill Wilkat 2018/12/16

Review of Black Frog Eatery, Gastown Vancouver

108 Cambie Street Vancouver BC Tel: 604-602-0527

Seeing the City and Getting There:

On a recent trip to Vancouver to visit family and friends we discovered the Black Frog Eatery.  Vicki and I decided to take a day by ourselves to just be typical tourists.  Vancouver is a beautiful city, ideally located with breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean on its’ doorstep. Few cities in the world feel as welcoming.  Here’s what we did that day:

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We hopped on the Skytrain to get from Richmond to downtown. It’s ideal way to get around and an all day pass for adults is only $10.25 and $8.00 for seniors. We got off near the waterfront and found our way to the Vancouver Lookout.  From the tower you can get a spectacular view of the scenery and landmarks.  An all day pass for the tower is $14.50 for seniors & $17.50 for adults. Plan to see the sunset if you can.

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How We Discovered the Black Frog:

A short stroll brought us to the corner of Water Street & Cambie and the Gastown Steam Clock.  After taking some of the usual tourist photos & waiting for the steam to blow the whistle, we found our way across the street to the Black Frog Eatery .  Settling in at 1 pm we were warmly welcomed and quickly seated. From our window side table we had an excellent view of the Steam Clock.  I watched tourists posing with the clock as we awaited our order.  See and hear the whistle they waited for at this link: Steam Clock 

We weren’t very hungry and decided to share a club sandwich.  I’m happy to say that the sandwich had real meat—none of that sliced processed cold-cut poultry!  Triple layered with whole wheat and very tasty.  The fries were equally good, and I washed it all down with a local award-winning Kokanee lager. A simple sandwich made correctly–sometimes that’s just perfect.

The ambiance of the Black Frog is definitely that of a pub-style eatery and the decor accentuates that feel.  That’s a good thing, and to me, very comforting.  Lot’s of wood, brick, and pub-style elements all around.  This is absolutely the type of place I’d have lunch if I worked in the area.  Their menu has a good selection to satisfy everyone’s tastes.  Prices are on par with other restaurants offering similar fare.  It’s the type of place that I call “no nonsense and basic good eating”.  Service was prompt, efficient, and the staff knew their menu well.  When we find our way back to Vancouver, I will certainly plan on coming back.

Click on LH Photo Below for Black Frog’s Menu

 

 

Gluten-Free, Lactose-Free Oatmeal-Pecan-Chocolate Chip Cookies by Bill Wilkat 2018/12/15

Gluten-Free, Lactose-Free Oatmeal-Pecan-Chocolate Chip Cookies

Phew! That’s a long title. But, it needs to be, to tell you about all the goodness inside these scrumptious cookies.😁

Makes 30 to 35 Cookies

Christmas is coming, and so are the baked goods. Vicki and I are at it again, baking and making goodies that everybody can enjoy whether you suffer from Celiac disease or not.  And, if you are lactose intolerant,  you can enjoy these as well since they are dairy-free.

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Why Do They Taste So Great?

For many of our Gluten-Free (GF) baked goods, we’ve used America’s Test Kitchen’s (ATK) GF flour blend that results in a wonderfully soft, chewy, decadent cookie.  Rich, and very satisfying and not lacking flavour.  You’ll never know that they’re not regular flour-based cookies–that’s how great they taste.  Chocolate chips and pecans combined with healthy oats to provide an added punch of flavours.  You’ll be salivating once the aroma of baked cookies fills the air.  And, you’ll be craving a second one before you’ve finished the first—enjoy!

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 188 ml (¾ cup) Lactose-Free margarine
  • 188 ml (¾ cup) packed brown sugar
  • 125 ml (½ cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg (use an egg substitute if you want to make these Vegan)
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) water
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) vanilla extract
  • 188 ml (¾ cup) ATK Gluten-Free flour
  • 3 ml (¾ tsp) baking soda
  • 3 ml (¾ tsp) xanthan gum
  • 625 ml (2½ cups) Gluten-Free quick oats
  • 188 ml (¾ cup) semi-sweet Gluten-Free Dairy-Free chocolate chips
  • 188 ml (¾ cup) chopped unsalted pecans

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DIRECTIONS:

  • Using your mixer on medium speed, blend together the margarine, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, water, and vanilla extract until creamy. 
  • Combine flour with baking soda and xanthan gum and add to the creamed mixture; beating on low-speed until blended. 
  • Stir in oats, chocolate chips and chopped pecans.

  • Using a small ice cream scoop (equal to about 30 ml or 2 tbsp) drop dough on non-stick baking sheets; spaced 12 per sheet maximum.
  • Press down the dough to flatten the tops down by about 1/4 of their height.
  • Bake at 180 C (350°F) for 12-15 minutes or until colour is light golden.

Note:

  • For a chewy cookie, under-bake them rather than going to the full cooking time.
  • Check labels carefully when buying your margarine and oats. Lactose-Free margarine is dairy-free–not all margarines are.  Oats are generally GF but they need to be certified as some oats are processed in factories where wheat products might be present and trace amounts can be found in the oats.

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Gluten-Free, Lactose-Free Oatmeal-Pecan-Chocolate Chip Cookies by Bill Wilkat 2018/12/15

GF & LF Oatmeal-Pecan-Chocolate Chip Cookies to die for: Rich, and very satisfying.  You’ll never know that they’re not regular flour-based cookies–that’s how great they taste.  Chocolate chips and pecans combined with healthy oats to provide an added punch of flavours.

  • Author: Bill Wilkat

Ingredients

  • 188 ml (¾ cup) Lactose-Free margarine
  • 188 ml (¾ cup) packed brown sugar
  • 125 ml (½ cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg (use an egg substitute if you want to make these Vegan)
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) water
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) vanilla extract
  • 188 ml (¾ cup) ATK Gluten-Free flour
  • 3 ml (¾ tsp) baking soda
  • 3 ml (¾ tsp) xanthan gum
  • 625 ml (2½ cups) Gluten-Free quick oats
  • 188 ml (¾ cup) semi-sweet Gluten-Free Dairy-Free chocolate chips
  • 188 ml (¾ cup) chopped unsalted pecans

Instructions

  • Using your mixer on medium speed, blend together the margarine, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, water, and vanilla extract until creamy.
  • Combine flour with baking soda and xanthan gum and add to the creamed mixture; beating on low speed until blended.
  • Stir in oats, chocolate chips and chopped pecans.
  • Using a small ice cream scoop (equal to about 30 ml or 2 tbsp) drop dough onto non-stick baking sheets; spaced 12 per sheet maximum.
  • Press down the dough to flatten the tops down by about 1/4 of their height.
  • Bake at 180 C (350°F) for 12-15 minutes or until colour is light golden.

Notes

  • For a chewy cookie, under-bake them rather than going to the full cooking time.
  • Check labels carefully when buying your margarine and oats. Lactose-Free margarine is dairy-free–not all margarines are.  Oats are generally GF but they need to be certified as some oats are processed in factories where wheat products may be present and trace amounts may be found in the oats.
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Making an Inexpensive Pedal Board For Guitar Effects by Bill Wilkat 2018/12/14

Making an Inexpensive Pedal Board For Guitar Effects by Bill Wilkat

For years I’ve owned a number of guitar effects pedals.  Problem is, they are always messy and disorganized when I decided to use them.  This is a common problem that many guitar and bass players have.

So what to do about it?

Simple, get a pedal board.  Well, yes and no.  If it were that easy, many of us would have done it long ago.  But frankly not all the store-bought pedal boards suit our needs.  Some are too small, some are too expensive, and some just not well made.

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What I did:

The first thing I did years back was to purchase a power supply for my array of pedals.  That eliminated the need to buy and replace batteries.  Given that the cost of 9 volt batteries adds up, and rechargeable ones often don’t hold a charge long enough, a power supply was a smart move.

However, some pedals I own don’t use batteries and some only operate on a/c power.  That meant that any board I’d need would also have to accommodate my power supply and wiring requirements.  It also needed to be flexible enough to make changes or additions quickly.  Velcro tape solved the mounting and dismounting of the pedals and was readily available at local hardware stores. But the sizing of the board was difficult.  I concluded that either the board had to be huge and cumbersome, or smaller and more practical to lug around.  Since I rarely use effects other than reverb and overdrive, (and these are often built into our amps), a smaller board was more appealing to me.

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Step one:  My initial instinct is always to repurpose stuff lying around.  The first thing I did was to look around my basement to find suitable materials for the project.  The search turned up two things:

  • A pre-cut section of wire rack shelving (with a right angle return on one end)
  • A left over piece of 1/8” thick plywood.

Step two:  I measured the items and came up with a simple concept to turn them into a pedal board.  This involved arranging the pedals I wanted to use to see if the idea was workable.  Seeing that it was, I quickly cut the plywood into two panels and drilled some holes into them.  I then used some plastic strap ties to secure them to the wire shelf.  The power supply was also attached with strap ties to the bottom of the shelf.  The right angle return created enough room under it to fit the power supply.  It also formed a sloped top when set on the floor.

A/C power supply and power lines attached to underside

Step three:  I purchased Velcro tape for mounting of the pedals.  Watching a few videos on YouTube I soon learned that some people had difficulty getting the Velcro to work properly.  This was due to things like button feet that required removal, or uneven surfaces and textures on the underside of the pedals.  Luckily in my case, all I needed to do was to thoroughly clean the mounting surfaces before installing the tape.  I ran a continuous strip on the upper section and only a partial strip on the lower section.  This gave me the flexibility to mount the pedals I wanted.  On the underside of the pedals, I used shorter tabs of the Velcro; providing holding power, but still allowing easy removal.

Step four:  I ran the required wires and secured them with strap ties.  I then mounted the pedals and plugged them together using jacks and cords as needed.

Step five:  I plugged in my lead cords and was ready to rock!

Naturally, you can choose to make a pedal board entirely out of wood.  Weight reduction  is a consideration so if you go that route, check out some of the current designs and follow their lead.  Like using bars made of strips of wood instead of a solid deck.  An enclosure to carry it in is another consideration, especially if you’re gigging or hauling it around frequently.

My only expense was the Velcro tape (self-adhesive type) as I had everything else already.  You might find that’s the case for you too.  If not, the materials will cost very little. And you can have the wood cut for you at your big box store.  Simply design it for easy assembly at home:  Here’s a nice very low-cost version shown in this video by Scott Breault that I found quite good–thanks Scott–well done!

Bottom Line:  You can make a pedal board more elaborate or as simple as you like.  It largely depends on your needs, skills and what you have handy or how much you are willing to spend.  If you’re not the DIY type, check out some of the options shown below.

Simple Wire Rack Shelf & 1/8″ Thick Plywood Make an Easy Pedal Board

Gluten-Free and Classic French Canadian Tasty Tourtières (Meat pies) by Bill Wilkat 2018/12/13

Gluten-Free and Classic French Canadian Tasty Tourtières (Meat pies)

Makes 2 Pies

Among the things that I associate with Christmas is a savoury Tourtière.  It’s a classic meat pie in French Canadian cuisine and for my money they make the best!  Over the years I’ve eaten them in numerous places like pubs, taverns, and brasseries.  They’ve all been good, but nothing beats homemade.  My wife makes a terrific version and seeing that Christmas is around the corner, we’re sharing it with you now.  I like it along side of my turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

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What’s so special about Tourtières?

Traditionally, Tourtières were made using 3 types of ground meat; pork, beef and veal.  You’ll also find variations made like a stew but they don’t have a bottom crust.  This version is often referred to as a “Lac St. Jean Tourtière” originally from the Saguenay region of Quebec.  That variation has chunks of pork and potato in it.  For me, the classic recipes offered in Quebec brasseries are made with a top and bottom crust, served with a flavourful gravy, fries and vegetables.  A complete and satisfying meal.

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Historically, you can find many different types of meat pies around the globe.  Some historians believe the Quebec Tourtière first featured fowl, and that the name was derived from a bird, (known as the tourterelle), that is now extinct in the province of Quebec.  Listen to an interesting debate at this link for more information.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil
  • 454 kg (1 lb) ground pork
  • 454 kg (1 lb) ground venison
  • 1 potato, peeled and diced
  • 250 ml (1/3 cup) chicken broth
  • 180 ml(1/4 cup) breadcrumbs
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 g (1/4 tsp) ground nutmeg
  • 1 g (1/4 tsp) ground cinnamon
  • 1 g (1/4 tsp) dried savoury
  • 1 g (1/4 tsp) dried sage
  • 1 g (1/4 tsp) dried thyme
  • 1 g (1/4 tsp) dried celery seed
  • 1 g (1/4 tsp) dried allspice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 rolled-out pastry pie dough for crusts, or the Gluten-Free pastry dough for crusts, homemade or store-bought.

NOTE: For homemade pie dough, we use America’s Test Kitchen recipes: see recipes here:  Gluten-Free or Regular

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Using a large skillet, fry the onions and garlic in oil until softened. 
  • Add the meat and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, breaking down the meat and stirring to cook evenly.
  • Season with salt and pepper. 

  • Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring and turning often, for about 45 minutes.
  • Allow to cool; adjust the seasoning & remove bay leaf.
  • Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours until completely chilled.
  • With the rack in the lowest position, pre-heat the oven to 375 °F (190 °C).
  • Line two 9” (230 mm) pie plates with the pastry. 
  • Fill each pie with half the cooled meat mixture.

  • Top each pie with a pastry dough crust.
  • Cut incisions in top crust to release steam/moisture. 
  • Press and seal edge all around with a fork or your fingers.
  • Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until the crust is golden brown.

TIPS:

Each pie uses 454 g (1 lb) ground meat.  That’s the minimum we recommend. You can safely add up to an additional 115 kg (1/4 lb).  So if you prefer, you can use only pork, veal, beef, or a combination of all three.  It’s easy to remember and allows you to make the desired amount of pies. Taste the cooked meat mixture to adjust the seasoning, if needed. We often add a little more since packages of ground meat are not always exactly 454 grams.

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Gluten-Free and Classic French Canadian Tasty Tourtières (Meat pies) by Bill Wilkat 2018/12/13

Gluten-Free and Classic French Canadian Tasty Tourtière (meat pie).  This traditional savoury and delicious pie is an ideal dinner that’s popular during the Christmas holidays but now served year round as well!

  • Author: Bill Wilkat

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil
  • 454 kg (1 lb) ground pork
  • 454 kg (1 lb) ground venison
  • 1 potato, peeled and diced
  • 250 ml (1/3 cup) chicken broth
  • 180 ml(1/4 cup) breadcrumbs
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 g (1/4 tsp) ground nutmeg
  • 1 g (1/4 tsp) ground cinnamon
  • 1 g (1/4 tsp) dried savoury
  • 1 g (1/4 tsp) dried sage
  • 1 g (1/4 tsp) dried thyme
  • 1 g (1/4 tsp) dried celery seed
  • 1 g (1/4 tsp) dried allspice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 rolled-out pastry pie dough for crusts, or the Gluten-Free pastry dough for crusts, homemade or store-bought.

NOTE: For homemade pie dough, we use America’s Test Kitchen recipes: see recipes here:  Gluten-Free or Regular

Instructions

  • Using a large skillet, fry the onions and garlic in oil until softened.
  • Add the meat and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, breaking down the meat and stirring to cook evenly.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring and turning often, for about 45 minutes.
  • Allow to cool; adjust the seasoning & remove bay leaf.
  • Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours until completely chilled.
  • With the rack in the lowest position, pre-heat the oven to 375 °F (190 °C).
  • Line two 9” (230 mm) pie plates with the pastry.
  • Fill each pie with half the cooled meat mixture.
  • Top each pie with a pastry dough crust.
  • Cut incisions in top crust to release steam/moisture.
  • Press and seal edge all around with a fork or your fingers.
  • Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until the crust is golden brown.

Notes

Each pie uses 454 g (1 lb) ground meat.  That’s the minimum we recommend. You can safely add up to an additional 115 kg (1/4 lb).  So if you prefer, you can use only pork, veal, beef, or a combination of all three.  It’s easy to remember and allows you to make the desired amount of pies. Taste the cooked meat mixture to adjust the seasoning, if needed. We often add a little more since packages of ground meat are not always exactly 454 grams.

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Bill’s Quick & Easy Daytona Home-Fried Potatoes by Bill Wilkat 2018/12/09

Bill’s Daytona Home-Fried Potatoes by Bill Wilkat

Bill’s Daytona Home Fries

Makes 2 servings

Years ago we used to enjoy vacationing at Daytona beach Florida—who doesn’t?  During those vacations we stayed at a few different hotels.  One of them was the Pirate’s Cove and had a restaurant overlooking the ocean and they served up some pretty decent meals.  Since we always eat breakfast, I often enjoyed bacon and eggs and home fries.  Among the great tasting menu items were the home fries, and I’ve been replicating them to the best of my ability ever since.  That’s the reason I’ve called them Daytona Home Fried Potatoes.

Why is it quick and easy?

You can make these using leftover potatoes and that works fine, but this recipe includes a quick and easy way to make them from scratch using the microwave.  This is a true time saver and ensures that the potatoes cook through throughly.  It’s also a fantastic last-minute solution for preparing a side dish to accompany steaks, burgers, etc.

I’ve tweaked this recipe over the years and usually use fresh onion and garlic to boost the flavour.  However, if you don’t have them handy, or you’re out on a camping trip, use the powdered stuff in the spice jars—it works equally well.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 medium-sized yellow potatoes, skin on, washed and scrubbed clean.
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp granulated onion powder (unsalted)
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic powder (unsalted)
  • 3 to 4 tbsp catsup (use a squeeze bottle for easy application)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Slice and chop potatoes into uniform size about 3/4” cubes.
  • Put the potatoes into a large soup bowl and loosely cover with clear plastic wrap but adhered all around (the wrap will expand and contract during cooking).
  • Heat the covered potatoes on high for 6 minutes. The plastic wrap will shrink to cling tightly (see photo).

CAUTION:  The bowl and contents will be very hot as will escaping steam—use oven mitts to handle!

  • Stab the potatoes in a couple of locations to loosen the plastic wrap; then carefully remove it (avoiding the steam to prevent burns). Separate any pieces of potatoes that have stuck together.
  • Using a 10 to 12” skillet, add 2 tbsp olive oil and fry the potatoes on medium high until browned on one side; then sprinkle on the paprika and oregano.
  • Flip potatoes and add remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil, and brown evenly.
  • Reduce heat to medium; sprinkle evenly with the onion and garlic powder and flip to coat.

  • Add the catsup using the squeeze bottle and flip the potatoes to coat evenly.
  • Remove from heat and serve with eggs and bacon for a hearty breakfast or with barbecued ribs, steak, etc.

TIPS: 

  • If you use freshly chopped onion, use 1/4 onion per 2 potatoes, and fry for a couple of minutes before adding potatoes. For fresh finely chopped garlic, use one clove per 2 potatoes, a dash more oil as needed, and add before finishing with the catsup to prevent burning it.
  • For the best tasting potatoes, fry in duck fat—the flavour is amazing and incomparable. Bacon fat works well too, but would be my second recommendation.
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Bill’s Daytona Home-Fried Potatoes by Bill Wilkat 2018/12/09

Delectable quick and easy home fried potatoes that are the perfect hearty staple to enjoy at breakfast, lunch or dinner time!

  • Author: Bill Wilkat

Ingredients

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 medium-sized yellow potatoes, skin on, washed and scrubbed clean.
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp granulated onion powder (unsalted)
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic powder (unsalted)
  • 3 to 4 tbsp catsup (use a squeeze bottle for easy application)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Instructions

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Slice and chop potatoes into uniform size about 3/4” cubes.
  • Put the potatoes into a large soup bowl and loosely cover with clear plastic wrap but adhered all around (the wrap will expand and contract during cooking).
  • Heat the covered potatoes on high for 6 minutes. The plastic wrap will shrink to cling tightly (see photo).

CAUTION:  The bowl and contents will be very hot as will escaping steam—use oven mitts to handle!

  • Stab the potatoes in a couple of locations to loosen the plastic wrap; then carefully remove it (avoiding the steam to prevent burns). Separate any pieces of potatoes that have stuck together.
  • Using a 10 to 12” skillet, add 2 tbsp olive oil and fry the potatoes on medium high until browned on one side; then sprinkle on the paprika and oregano.
  • Flip potatoes and add remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil, and brown evenly.
  • Reduce heat to medium; sprinkle evenly with the onion and garlic powder and flip to coat.
  • Add the catsup using the squeeze bottle and flip the potatoes to coat evenly.
  • Remove from heat and serve with eggs and bacon for a hearty breakfast or with barbecued ribs, steak, etc.

 

Notes

TIPS:  If you use freshly chopped onion, use 1/4 onion per 2 potatoes, and fry for a couple of minutes before adding potatoes. For fresh finely chopped garlic, use one clove per 2 potatoes, a dash more oil as needed, and add before finishing with the catsup to prevent burning it.

For the best tasting potatoes, fry in duck fat—the flavour is amazing and incomparable. Bacon fat works well too, but would be my second recommendation.

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Review of Ichiro Japanese Restaurant Steveston BC by Bill Wilkat 2018/12/2

Review of Ichiro Japanese Restaurant Steveston BC

 

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If you find yourself in the picturesque tranquil suburb of Steveston, Richmond British Columbia Canada, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that it’s a great place for tourists to shop or dine.  Learn about an important part of Canada’s history: Once promoted as Salmonopolis Steveston competed with the city of Vancouver for the salmon fishing Industry.  Today, the cannery that was once the heart and soul of the area and it’s growth, is now an interactive museum.

 

The Japanese population was quite dominant in the formative decades of the town (many of them having been born and raised in Canada).  However, Steveston was delivered quite a blow when they were forced to leave their homes during World War 2’s unjustified internment period.  It’s not talked about as much as it should be, and should never have happened.  It’s a shameful part of Canadian history that needs to be remembered; since under the Canadian constitution this sort of thing could happen again due to the “notwithstanding” clause it contains.

 

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Despite that painful period, many came back and today Richmond’s Asian population is prominent in the area although not many are of Japanese descent.  Luckily however, Ichiro Restaurant was launched in 2006 by Japanese owners and they catered to the tastes of the residents as well as visitors, and while the original entrepreneurs are no longer there, the new owners have continued to serve many of the same delicacies.  Careful plating of the food has been a long-standing practice in Asian cuisine and the Japanese excelled at it; as evidenced in the photos posted in this blog, the tradition continues.

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We were a large group of 12 during our visit so there were a variety of Bento boxes ordered as well as Tempura, Sushi, Sashimi, and even a Duck Hot Pot.  Overall I can say the food was good but I was disappointed in a couple of things: the Tempura was served on top of steamed rice and was delayed arriving at our table. As a result, the Tempura batter became soggy where it was in contact with the rice and stuck to it.  I would have preferred to have had my rice in a traditional rice bowl served separately from the Tempura.  In addition, 11 of our dinners were served and almost finished before the 12th and final meal of Duck Hot Pot arrived.  Timely preparation of meals is critical in restaurants but given that the Hot Pot dish was one of the evening’s “specials”, one would expect it would have been served sooner!

The atmosphere and decor of the restaurant was welcoming and the seating was comfortable.  You could also watch the chefs preparing meals behind the counter where there was also countertop seating for up to five diners.  Pricing was a bit above average for a restaurant of this caliber—click here to see the menu.

To Summarize:

We have had better Japanese food over the years, but I would certainly not hesitate to eat at Ichiro again.

Review of the Beach House Port Macquarie NSW AU. By Bill Wilkat 2018/12/3

Review of the Beach House Port Macquarie NSW AU.

There are many places to eat or to grab a relaxed morning cup of coffee like we did when visiting the Beach House in  Port Macquarie.  I loved the outdoor terrace at this place which has retractable fabric roof panels to provide shade or help keep you dry should rain become an issue.  I ordered a Flat White and it was delicious, although they were slow to serve us and we were becoming a bit impatient—coffee should be something that does not take more than 5 minutes to reach your table when a place is not yet busy, as was the case when we were there.

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The view is excellent and we were entertained by watching the Coast Guard conducting exercises off shore with one of their Search and Rescue (SAR) that I’d guess was about a 44 to 50 footer.   Other passing vessels added to the scenery as did the distant mountains completing the backdrop below the blue sky.  A wonderfulplace to simply gaze out and unwind.

Once you’re done with coffee, breakfast, lunch or dinner, take a stroll through this part of town and do some shopping or just enjoy the ambiance of a picturesque seaside town.  After doing some shopping, we drove up to the lookout at Lighthouse Beach which is one of the better places to snap some outstanding coastal vistas with rocky shorelines and beautiful sandy beaches.

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While we didn’t eat there, they do have an interesting menu and a 3.5 to 4 star online rating.

Click here for Menus

How about Lobster with your Christmas Dinner this year?

Review of Douglas Wales Historic Homestead & Winery by Bill Wilkat 2018/11/26

Review of Douglas Wales Historic Homestead & Winery by Bill Wilkat 2018/11/26

Friendly Volunteers will answer all your questions

In the bustling seaside town of Port Macquarie lies one of its’ best kept secrets; an historic site that has been in the business of winemaking for 150 years.  I say “secret” because although many pass by it daily, and they have a sign out front, they are situated beside a public school nestled into the scenery in near anonymity.  That’s just the first surprise as you enter the grounds and park adjacent to an enormously tall copse of bamboo trees that frame the entrance to the old homestead building that welcomes you.  Once inside, you can wander through on a self-guided tour, see some interesting antiques and learn the history of the pioneering Francis family who established this heritage site and launched the vineyard.

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Give the Gift of Wine

The Douglas Vale Conservation Group was formed in 1995 to save the site from demolition after the last family member died in 1993 which was fortunate since it is the oldest winery in Port Macquarie and was once also the largest.  Today you can sample and purchase their wines which include a fortified Port style as well as whites and reds and even a rosé.   The wine is no longer produced on the site but the grapes are still grown in the vineyard. Volunteers look after tours and tastings and welcome visitors so the hours of operation are short (from 10 am to 3 pm).  Donations are also accepted (and greatly appreciated), and there are additional products available to purchase in the tasting shop as well—the prunes in Portobello wine are an ideal compliment to a fine piece of sharp cheddar cheese.

I found the Portobello and the whites more to my liking, and if you like dry reds, you will likely choose one of the reds.  For my tastes, they are more in keeping with the earthy overtones that I’ve found more common to European wines.  I’m not a wine expert but I do know what I like, and since I’m partial to reds that are bold and fruity I’d choose a Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon before a Merlot or a Chianti.  Regardless, I would gladly share a glass of any of the Douglas Vale red wines at dinner with good friends and a juicy rib steak.

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Tall Bamboo Trees Greet Visitors

Tall Bamboo Trees at Entrance

Review of Ricardoes Café Red Restaurant Port Macquarie NSW AU. by Bill Wilkat 2018/11/22

Review of Ricardoes Café Red Restaurant Port Macquarie NSW AU.

Trio of Dips With Turkish Flatbread

Located ten minutes north of Port Macquarie on the Mid North Coast of NSW sits a fun café called Ricardoes that serves up some tasty meals featuring locally grown products in a relaxed atmosphere where you can also shop for fresh strawberries, tomatoes, jams, hot sauces, and much more. They are known for their tomatoes but that’s definitely not the only reason to stop by, as you can see in the following photos.

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After doing some sightseeing in the area, we stopped in for lunch and to snoop in their shop as well.  I ordered the Chicken Caesar wrap and while it was a little large for me, I ate most of it all the same LOL.  I also ordered a coffee (referred to a “flat white” here in Australia), that was nicely presented and that I thoroughly enjoyed—it’s essentially a regular coffee with heated milk, but tastes much more like a Cappuccino.  They served the chicken wrap with some carrot on the side but I think I would have preferred that added to the wrap as well as it complimented the flavours really well.  Ben’s long time delightful friend Cheryl, (our wonderful host and guide during our stay), ordered the Beer Battered Flathead fish and it was very tasty and well prepared.  Ben opted for the Trio of Dips with toasted oil brushed Turkish bread and shared a bit of our plates in place of a full meal—they included an olive tapenade that was too salty for my tastes but the Chutney style and spiced dips were fine and paired well with the Turkish bread.

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My wife Vicki ordered the Battered salt & pepper squid with the Greek salad but asked them to serve it without the feta and balsamic dressing which was to be replaced with a simple oil and vinegar dressing.  However it was served with a far too spicy sweet chilli style dressing instead that spoiled it for her even though the squid was tender and well prepared with a very crunchy coating.

Here’s the main menu to check out:

Despite the small “faux pas” on the salad dressing, the food was otherwise quite good and I’d recommend it for a quick lunch and would not hesitate to eat there again.

Chicken Wrap

NOTE: If you find yourself in this beautiful part of the country, be sure to stop in at places like the Koala Hospital and one of the oldest wineries in the country called the Douglas Vale Historic Homestead (see my review of this winery–click here).

 

 

 

Review: Travelling via Train to Taree 2018/11/19

Review: Travelling via Train to Taree 2018/11/19

So I usually do reviews about restaurants or places where you can buy food like markets, but trains, like planes, serve food and it can be hit or miss, so I will touch upon it today, as well as let you know a little about what it’s like to travel by rail in Australia.

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Many of you have likely ridden the rails in Canada the USA, Europe and elsewhere and will have interesting tales to tell me too—don’t be shy, you can steer me to your blog, or send me an e-mail, as I’d love to hear about your experiences too.

First off, I can say that we all know that nothing is perfect and we’ve experienced a few less than desirable things happen while travelling with my brother Ben who is currently wheelchair bound and unless you’ve found yourself in the same situation, you wouldn’t have any idea how unpleasant it can be at times.  For example while travelling from Katoomba to Sydney’s Central station he often has to sit in the vestibule between cars that is not a controlled environment where you are inhaling unhealthy stinky diesel fumes, and, where you have to deal with passengers embarking and disembarking at each stop along the journey; which takes about 2 hours.  In addition, he often finds that there is no toilet access for him but he can also be stuck in a vestibule that has one with a steady stream of passengers coming and going—not enjoyable by any means.

However, for today’s journey, we were fortunate enough to have been able to ride to Strathfield aboard a car that had a proper spot for wheelchairs and then transferred to a First Class car on the next train to continue our trip to Taree.  One thing I can say is that the crew working on these trains have been extremely helpful in the majority of cases and they are usually ready with the ramps that must be temporarily placed and removed each time Ben has to get on, or off, and most of them are very pleasant and happy to assist us.

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Now, as far as comfort on our leg of the journey from Strathfield to Taree, I can say the seating and tray tables are better than most airlines nowadays as you do have more leg room and the windows are large and appear to be in better condition than on the commuter trains we rode from the Blue Mountains into Sydney.   That may not seem like much but when you are passing by some beautiful landscapes if is detrimental and discouraging to take pictures or shoot some video clips.  Our train car was pleasantly decorated with blue themed carpeting, seat covers and curtains.

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Now, let’s talk about food.  They have an onboard menu that will satisfy most hungry travellers featuring “all-day” breakfast items, as well as both hot and cold fare such as sandwiches, the daily special, sweets, hot and cold beverages as well as beer and wine.   However, don’t expect anything that surpasses a frozen TV style dinner and note that portion sizes are not humongous so if you are a big eater you’ll have to order more items.  One diner described their Stir-Fried Beef lunch: “Well, I can’t really say if it’s beef or not, the rice is not cooked properly and they only good thing is the beans”.   Passengers are also permitted to bring their own meal onboard with the exception of alcohol which must be purchased onboard.

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Seat-side service on this trip was excellent and considering that we travelled “First Class” I was surprised that we had to pay for food and beverages—that differs from what we’d expected.  But, on our return trip 5 days later, seat service was non-existent and the call button did not work for my brother Ben in his wheelchair so I had to go to the Buffet car and place the order at the counter.  That train also broke down and we had to transfer to a commuter train that was “packed to the hilt with passengers” that left us standing for more than an hour with our luggage—an unexpected  and sorry development resulting in us missing our connecting train back to the Blue Mountains. We then boarded another computer train on route to Katoomba and were fortunate to obtain seats on that one as it was full by the time we departed.

Here’s some shots of their menu card:

In this leg of our journey I am pleased to say that the weather was warmer than what we’ve been experiencing in the Blue Mountains which reminded me of the Spring weather we had in Bowmanville back in April with numerous cloudy days, some rain, and/or drizzle, and overnight lows that had me in need of a hot water bottle!  Fair Dinkum (No kidding) as they say here LOL!  Of course, we are heading north partly for that reason, and also to see a different part of the country—it’s far too large a continent to be able to see more than a fraction of the country’s many diversities when it comes to climates, landscapes and animals that are so different than what we have in Canada.  This is what attracts so many tourists to Australia in the first place, and gives it its’ great appeal.  I consider us to be very lucky to be able to have taken this trip off of our bucket list, yet we will still fall short of being able to see everything we’d like to see since 5 weeks is definitely not enough time.  If you plan to make Australia one of your destinations I’d strongly suggest you plan on coming more than once, or finding a way to spend a few months here because you really do need the time.  That’s true of other countries as well.  I recall how my relatives used to travel to Canada from Europe and never grasped the enormity of the continent. They thought they’d be able to hop in the car in Montreal and be in Niagara Falls within an hour’s time LOL!

Also, if you are coming to Australia, do make use of the rail system as driving here is different and while I’ve done it successfully, it’s easier to relax and let others do the driving for you—as long as they are running properly and on time.

All the lookouts have great views!