Sunday, January 11, 2009

Rangoli in Vancouver

One of the best things I love about Vancouver is how it's so multi-cultural. You get to meet different types of people, learn about their culture and their food. Up to about 6 years ago, I never tried Indian food even though it's been very accessible. I think the unfamiliarity of it never intrigued me to try it.

The first time I tried Indian food was during cooking school when we had Indian Banquet day. We were split up into groups and each station would cook different Indian dishes, such as chapatis, pakoras, pooris, pork vindaloo, and butter chicken. I can still remember that day, there was a nice Indian lady that was a guest to teach us about traditions of Indian cooking, it's dishes, and the ingredients. That day really opened my eyes to a world that was in front of me, but never explored. The feast, was full of pleasant surprises.

One of my favorite Indian restaurants is a place called Rangoli which is opened by Vikram Vij, who also owns Vij's. It's not your typical Indian restaurants that serve the popular Indian dishes mentioned above. They take it a step further by incorporating local ingredients yet still using Indian ingredients and techniques.

Rangoli is a popular art form in India where sand is used to create beautiful design on the floor. Walking into the restaurant, we see one design for the day.

Rangoli is a small, intimate place. Don't let the size of the restaurant fool you. Although it is small, it is always full and there is always a line up. I love that the restaurant is small because it shows that they care about their food, not just something mass produced.
The dish I had for lunch was Portobello Mushroom and Red Bell Pepper Curry on paneer with beet salad and naan. It was so delicious, I think it's probably one of the best vegetarian dishes I can remember eating. The curry was my favorite. It's jam-packed with flavourful spices, each distinct yet never over powering. The naan was a perfect pair to have with it.

The nice thing about Rangoli's is that you can buy the curries and heat it at home. I think if I still lived in Vancouver, I'd try all that's available.
This meal was one of the highlights of my holiday. The food was amazing, the service was great, and my company was fun. I hope I can visit India some day to explore the food in depth.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cafe Medina's Lavender Latte

This is my first post of the year!!! I spent my holidays in Vancouver and had the best Christmas vacation I can remember. It's now been a week since I've been back and I'm almost over the jetlag and facing the fact that I'm back in reality, but I still can't stop thinking about the lavender latte from Cafe Medina.

In a quiet part of Downtown Vancouver is a small cafe called Cafe Medina. The place can be easily missed if you don't see the discrete sign on the window or on the sidewalk.

The cafe isn't very big, but it does get very busy especially for brunch. It's famous for it's coffee and belgian waffles.

The first time I ate at Cafe Medina was for a Sunday brunch. I needed my morning coffee and the lavender latte on their menu struck me at first glance. I have never heard or tasted lavender in coffee and I was a little curious. I was a little nervous taking my first sip, as I have disliked most things I've tried with lavender.

Before taking my first sip, I took a wiff of the latte, it smelled good. I instantly felt calm. After taking the first sip, I felt like I was in heaven. I've never tasted anything like this before. I felt awake yet relaxed at the same time. The lavender wasn't overpowering as it usually tends to be and the espresso beans used were well roasted and of good quality.

It was a perfect Sunday brunch drink. The next few days, I couldn't stop thinking about it and went out of my way a couple more times to have it in the morning.
The place not only has good food, but also good service. My last visit was for lunch on New Year's Eve and they were to be closed for New Year's Day and the day after, which meant I wouldn't be able to visit them anymore. The servers were so kind and gave me some lavender syrup to bring home.
This place is now one of my favorite places in Vancouver. Weeks later, the food, the service, and the ambiance is still clear in my memory.