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Happy Meals: Best Meals of 2010

Ten food lovers dish on their most memorable meal of the past year—from foie gras crème brulée (shockingly delicious) to bistro wonders served by convicts. Dig in!
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Mis Trucos
Spanish tapas at Mis Trucos Shannon Mendes
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Ten food lovers dish on their most memorable meal of the
past year—from foie gras crème brulée (shockingly delicious)
to bistro wonders served by convicts. Dig in!

Bits and Bites

Over the last 15 years, my husband and I have watched our neighbourhood, Davie Village, undergo a mini version of the Vancouver restaurant revolution. Amid the sex shops and dry-cleaners, there’s now a buffet of interesting cuisine served up with enthusiasm and knowledge. True to the personality of Davie, the new restaurants are casual, well priced, and—most important for tapas—open late. One of the great additions is Mis Trucos, where Kris Barnholden serves up true Spanish tapas with a Vancouver chef’s attention to the fresh and local. Earlier this year, I met Pilar Randolph, who heads up Wines from Spain, to talk business and work our way through most of the small plates on the menu. We met at 10 p.m., the proper time for tapas, and started with refreshing fino sherry and savoury white anchovies. An all-Iberian wine list made it easy to find pairings for other delicious classics, like salt cod fritters and braised octopus. Pilar and I enjoyed fabulous tapas and did business on a leisurely Spanish schedule. And yet it didn’t feel like Spain. It felt like Davie.—Barb Philip

Mis Trucos 1141 Davie St., 604-566-3960

 

Garden Wise

It was a meal so remarkable, I often reflect on that night and wonder why Sooke Harbour House hasn’t become an international sensation. This groundbreaking inn, perched on Whiffen Spit, outside Victoria, has followed an intensely local, hyper-seasonal philosophy for 31 years. To salute the beginning of spring, our five-course meal began with roasted onion and wild stinging nettle soup, the latter (surprisingly sweet) spinach-like green being one of the earliest to pop up in the woods. Almost every ingredient on the menu—from the tiny gooseneck barnacles to the bright-green sea lettuce foam—came from local farmers, foragers, and fishers. The rest was handpicked from the inn’s own certified-organic garden. Each plate was a sophisticated riot of colour (red-veined bloody dock, ruby-streaked mustard greens), flavour (peppery calendula petal oil), and fragrance (lemony Mabel Grey geranium in the butternut squash agnolotti). To finish, fennel spun into a birthday sponge cake layered with rhubarb, angelica, and apricot mousse. That’s what I call extreme (and extremely delicious) terroirism.—Alexandra Gill

Sooke Harbour House 1528 Whiffen Spit Rd., Sooke, 250-642-3421. Sookeharbourhouse.com

 

Off with Their Heads

Anyone who’s had the good fortune to go out on a commercial prawn boat, or pull a few traps of their own, knows how satisfying it is to snap off the head of a prawn right out of the water and suck the flesh from the shell. Lots of city restaurants now buy live B.C. spot prawns off the boat during the brief May season. But most of them don’t use the whole critter. Every season Miku serves a special spot prawn menu—salads, sashimi, aburi (lightly scorched) sushi, but best of all, as a group of us found out last year, with the heads deep-fried. Prepared this way, the heads—whiskers stiff, eyes like little black balls, crispy, crunchy, salty, and just a little bit soft inside—make for glorious drinking food. We paired them with Granville Island sake. (Perhaps by this May we’ll pair them with sake made from Cowichan Bay-grown rice, right next to where many of the prawns are trapped.) Even my skeptical guests agreed that heads are yet another good reason to prefer B.C. spots to the tails of Asian tiger prawns.—Christina Burridge

Miku 1055 West Hastings Street., 604-568-3900. Mikurestaurant.com

 

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