downtown vancouver

FOOD | Blue Plate Bonanza at Joe Fortes by Jenn Chan

Joe Fortes

 

A century ago you might walk into a diner or cafe for lunch and order a Blue Plate Special.  You would get a reasonably priced meal of meat and some vegetables (no substitutions!) that might have been served on a plate with a blue willow pattern.  The Blue Plate Special became a popular generic term for any inexpensive full meal, usually different each day.

 

Also about a century ago Joe Fortes was Vancouver’s first official lifeguard.  Originally from Trinidad and Tobago the well loved English Bay lifeguard was named Citizen of the Century in 1986.  There is a Joe Fortes Memorial Drinking Fountain in Alexandra Park, a Joe Fortes Branch of the Vancouver Public Library, and a restaurant that bears his name: Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House.

 

My brief research doesn’t indicate whether Joe Fortes ever ate a blue plate special but you, dear reader, have the opportunity to partake of the Blue Plate Bonanza at Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House.  For a limited time five plates are offered every weekday for the very reasonable price of $11.95 per plate.  It’s a beautiful restaurant, plenty of daylight from the skylight and large windows, immense art pieces on the walls that might make you think you are in Impressionist era France, and a popular large rooftop patio that is scheduled to open again April 9th for the warm weather months.

 

Joe Fortes
Joe Fortes
Joe Fortes Blue Plate Bonanza Menu
Blue Plate Bonanza Lunch

 

The Seafood Pot Pie is like a seafood chowder topped with a large puff pastry.  Hearty but not heavy, its individual seafood and vegetable elements retain their flavour and texture nicely.  The golden pastry is tender and flaky enough to be cut easily, not so tender that it crumbles.  This might be a good time to mention that the seafood at Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House is Ocean Wise.  This means that the seafood has been harvested responsibly and is recommended by the Vancouver Aquarium as an ocean friendly seafood choice.

 

Seafood Pot Pie

Seafood Pot Pie

Seafood Pot Pie

 

When trying foods with Thai in the name there’s a slight wariness about the possibility of excessive heat from spices.  I was very happy that the Thai BBQ Chicken was delightfully flavoured without spicy hotness.  The chicken was tender, moist.  The bbq sauce slightly sweet with a faint hint of charcoal from the grilling.  I also liked the rice quite a bit, it too had a slight sweetness.

 

Thai BBQ Chicken

Thai BBQ Chicken

 

The Panko Crusted Haddock takes the original description of a blue plate special (meat with potato and vegetables) and elevates it to a much higher form of special.  Fresh green beans and carrot, potato and some amazingly good haddock.  The crisp panko crust, fresh flaky haddock, and a chunky tomato topping... this dish is worth a return trip.

 

Panko Crusted Haddock

Panko Crusted Haddock

Panko Crusted Haddock

 

Crispy Fried Chicken.  Three words that I love to see on a menu.  When this dish arrived I was surprised at the generous size of the chicken.  I detected a bit of heat in the chicken coating, perhaps black pepper, that Jenn did not notice.  The chicken itself was tender and yummy.  Also on the plate were coleslaw and beans.  I thought the beans had a sweet molasses flavour that was very good.

 

 Crispy Fried Chicken

 Crispy Fried Chicken

 

The West Coast Fish Cakes are made with salmon, cod, trout, haddock, and potato.  The accompanying tartar sauce with a lovely dill component was an excellent companion.  A marvelous combination.  Green beans and carrot round out the dish.  The fish cakes were great and had an excellent meaty fish to potato balance.

 

Westcoast Fish Cakes

Westcoast Fish Cakes

 

The basic Blue Plate menu item is $11.95.  There is an option to add an appetizer or a dessert item.  If you get two courses add $7, if you add both appetizer and dessert add $10.  Speaking of dessert we tried both offerings, Vanilla Crème Brulee and Vanilla Gelato.  The custard of the crème brulee was lightly flavoured, the caramel layer on top had a nice contrasting slightly burnt flavour.  The gelato was bursting with vanilla, not the bland vanilla of supermarket ice cream but the wonderful delicious vanilla of childhood dreams.  This was two scoops of heaven.

 

Vanille Gelato

Vanille Gelato

Vanilla Crème Brûlée

Vanilla Crème Brûlée

 

For the duration of the Blue Plate Bonanza each of the five lunch items is available any day of the week but not weekends.  Once the Bonanza is over the items are still available on the lunch menu but only one dish per day, Monday through Friday.  Don’t fret if you can’t make it to the restaurant between March 12th to 23rd, but you are going to have a difficult time deciding which day of the week you want to visit as each of the offerings is excellent.  Executive chef Wayne Sych deserves praise for the quality menu.  If pressed to pick a favourite I might choose the Panko Crusted Haddock.  Or the West Coast Fish Cakes.  Or....

 

Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House has some new cocktails on the drink menu.  These are available any time, not just during the Blue Plate Bonanza.  From the Fresh & Cool selections Jenn picked the Umeshu Cooler and I the Pompelmocello Collins.  Umeshu is an appealing Japanese liqueur made from ume fruit.  The cooler also has Punt e Mes, fresh lemon and ginger.  Jenn liked this quite a bit.  Served in a rock glass with an enormous ice cube it will likely be a very popular drink when patio season arrives.  My choice,  the Pompelmocello Collins, was like summer in a tall glass.  Sparkly and grapefruity, easy to drink and easy to love.  Also from the Fresh & Cool selections was a drink called Medicinal Purposes.  Made with Grey Goose Poire, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, fresh lime and Fentiman’s tonic this concoction is just what the doctor ordered.  It doesn’t taste like medicine but this light refreshing drink will have you feeling better should you be ailing in any way.  Or just thirsty.  Another category of drinks is Herbs & Spice.  True North is a fruity tasting drink that has Okanagan Spirits Aquavitus in it.  I’ve had shots of Aquavit before at Christmas dinners and it has a strong distinct flavour.  The combination of honey syrup, fresh lemon, lime and orange juice in the True North does much to soften and enhance the Aquavit.  One more drink selection from Herbs & Spice is Delightful Warning.  Aptly named as it has 2.25 oz. of alcohol, this rum based drink has a slight after taste of black licorice for some reason.  I enjoyed it, perhaps a bit too much.  The beer menu has also been refreshed and there are several solid tempting choices from local craft breweries.

 

New Cocktail Menu

New Cocktail Menu

Umeshu Cooler & Pompelmocello Collins

Umeshu Cooler & Pompelmocello Collins

Umeshu Cooler

Umeshu Cooler

New Cocktails | Medicinal Purposes, True North, Delightful Warning

New Cocktails | Medicinal Purposes, True North, Delightful Warning

 

Each of the staff members we talked to were warm, friendly, and more than competent.  Thank you to our server Heather, bartender Mark, and Assistant General Manager Jason for a great dining experience.

 

Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House is located at 777 Thurlow, Vancouver.  Reservations are recommended.  The Blue Plate Bonanza ends March 23, each dish will still be available after that but only on a specific day of the week.

 

 
 

Afternoon Tea Series: Bacchus at Wedgewood Hotel by Jenn Chan

Bacchus

 

The Brut from Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars is a wonderful sparkling white with a dry, citrusy finish. We had been sitting no longer than a few minutes when Mr. Kyle Johnstone, the energetic Bacchus manager, brought us a couple of glasses of Blue Mountain's finest. Sitting in opulence, dark wood panelled grandeur, we sip our sparkling wine and watch our fellow patrons laugh and enjoy their meals. To say the atmosphere is upscale, the drink program amazing and the food way above average wouldn't be putting it firmly enough!

 

Blue Mountain Sparkling Wine

Blue Mountain Sparkling Wine

 

We are at Bacchus to preview their afternoon tea ahead of Mother's Day and decided on the Thunderbolt Darjeeling and Lavender Earl Grey. Mr. Johnstone has been covertly trying every afternoon tea around town to get inspiration for Bacchus' offerings and it shows! The presentation is top notch, the food hearty and plentiful and the tea is magnificent! I found the Thunderbolt Darjeeling more fruity than floral and it's packed with caffeine. There's a bit of a dryness, happily, to it that I found very satisfying and I thoroughly recommend it. For a period of about a decade I would not dry my clothes without a lavender scented dryer sheet. Ditto dish soap requiring a lavender hue. Shampoo, air freshener, body lotion... you get the idea. Having bucked the compulsive trend I still find myself partial to the sweet, soothing smell. The Lavender Earl Grey is as good as it sounds; the perfection that is Earl Grey augmented with the delicious, curative lavender. Worth a trip all on its own!

 

Bacchus Afternoon Tea Menu

Bacchus Afternoon Tea Menu

Thunderbolt Darjeeling & Lavender Earl Grey

Thunderbolt Darjeeling & Lavender Earl Grey

 

Three tiers of deliciousness are then placed in front of us.  Egg salad sandwiches, smoked salmon and cream cheese spirals, tandoori chicken sandwiches, shrimp salad sandwiches and cucumber sandwiches make up the bottom tier. I have had some bad experiences with egg salad. Think of the apprehension you have of tequila the next time you partake after it has done you wrong... this is the hesitation with which I took my first bite, but it was the best I have ever had and quickly disappeared. Smoked salmon is incredible, I think that's universally recognized? Cheese is amongst the best things on Earth and when you combine the two, as one should, the result is a perfect 10/10 sandwich; delicious! Tandoori chicken runs a close second to butter chicken in the hierarchy of Indian food according to Scotty and this sandwich doesn't disappoint. The shrimp salad sandwich was excellent and you can tell the shrimp was very fresh and supple. While I am a self proclaimed carnivore I have to admit that I found the cucumber sandwich very delicious. A cool, crisp and refreshing offering!

 

Afternoon Tea Set

Afternoon Tea Set

Tier 1: Cucumber, Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese, Prawn, Egg Salad, Tandoori Chicken

Tier 1: Cucumber, Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese, Prawn, Egg Salad, Tandoori Chicken

Egg Salad Sandwich & Prawn Sandwich

Egg Salad Sandwich & Prawn Sandwich

Cucumber Sandwiches

Cucumber Sandwiches

 

Tier two boasts a lovely English Fruit Cake, Almond Tart, Lemon Chiffon Cake and Fruit Tart. Fruit cake isn't to be feared. This isn't your aunt realizing her fruit bowl is going bad and using up everything in a "fruit cake" and freezing it to give as Christmas gifts 5 months later. This is fresh, fluffy and sweet fruit cake and I would have eaten a pound of it. Almonds are filled with protein. 21 grams of the stuff per 100 grams onto be exact. Ahhhhhhh so this is how vegans don't waste away to skeletons. I love them and this tart made me want to eat a garbage bag full! The chiffon cake was the perfect sweetness of lemon, not too tart and not diabetes inducing and the fruit tart was delicious and packed with vitamins. Who said dessert wasn't healthy?

 

Tier 2: Mini Bakewell Tart, Seasonal Fruit Tartlet, English Fruit Cake, Lemon Chiffon with White Chocolate Ganache

Tier 2: Mini Bakewell Tart, Seasonal Fruit Tartlet, English Fruit Cake, Lemon Chiffon with White Chocolate Ganache

Mini Bakewell Tarts

 

Tier three, the top tier, is where the Atkins diet goes to die. Carbs, with carbs and some sugar. Scones, eclairs and macarons  with a heavenly Devonshire cream and fruit preserves. I have often waxed poetically about Devonshire cream and Bacchus does it as well if not better than most and it really complimented the fresh scones. Eclairs are luxury donuts, long johns packed with surprises. In this instance a rich cream that was so incredibly thick and fresh, delicious! The macarons were expertly done and the flavours, as is sometimes not the case, were well balanced. I mean at some places you'll see 'rose petal, watermelon, pineapple, crab apple, road apple, lemon, chocolate macarons'? Just stop.

 

Tier 3: Chocolate Éclair, Freshly Baked Scone, Devonshire Cream & Fruit Preserves, Macaron

Tier 3: Chocolate Éclair, Freshly Baked Scone, Devonshire Cream & Fruit Preserves, Macaron

Chocolate Eclair

 

The Wedgewood Hotel is a luxury boutique hotel just off Robson and Burrard in the heart of Downtown Vancouver and across the street from the Supreme Court of BC and the Vancouver Art Gallery. The Bacchus Restaurant, as Wedgewood's prestigious lobby bar, is frequented by lawyers, doctors from the nearby hospital, businessmen, professionals and celebrities. It is an excellent place to people watch, eat and drink or just sidle up to bar and watch the game. I would very highly recommend checking it out and maybe make a night of it, book a room upstairs and go wondering the paradise that is Vancouver!

 

 

Bacchus at Wedgewood
 
Words: Scott Allan
Photos: Jenn Chan