Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bistro Cache | 7120 West Saanich Road | Brentwood Bay, BC | 250.652.5044 |


Seniors: they want you off their lawns, they enjoy parking in intersections at the first sign of an ambulance, and they probably like this burger. As my dining partner Mr. Brendan Kergin suggested while we dined at Bistro Cache—only old people enjoy food this bland.

I was turned on to this 100-mile diet focused eatery a couple months ago by a blog reader who described this burger as, ". . . cooked perfectly, with a bit of pink in the middle, and soooo juicy." Such was not the case when I sampled it.

This is a smaller burger, probably in part because it shrinks a little during the flame-grilling process. That same process gives the patty its only strong flavour, and a slightly leathery exterior as well. The interior was about as juicy as your average burger in Victoria, which is to say not very. It certainly wasn't juicy enough to warrant spelling so with four o's. As for pinkness? Not even close: this one's all brown.

Taken as part of the overall package, the flavour of the patty was essentially unnoticeable. Even separately, this beef was strikingly lacking in boldness. I don't know if something in the aging process or style of grilling is to blame (I'm not sure what they grill with, but perhaps using Applewood or something similar would make a difference), but this is pretty boring beef. Certainly not what I expected from grass fed Cobble Hill steers. There is a subtle, clean taste that lingers within the patty, and is rather nice, but its impossible to find once it's slapped between a bun. You'd have better luck locating a duck in a dirt tunnel.

The crusty bun, however, is great if you nibble on it separate from the burger. It has a light, fresh feel that is rather pleasant. It would actually be a wonderful fit if their was a single taste bud tickler in this unit. The only thing that comes close to transforming this burger from food to meal is the saffron mayo.

When you are lucky enough to get a bite of this burger with a generous glob of the wonderful condiment, you really start to see some potential. The saffron mayo is like a kiss from Tinkerbell, and helps separate the flavour of the beef from the rest of the package. That separation allows for just enough dynamism to create a pleasant, albeit shy, burger. Unfortunately, the saffron mayo is used so sparingly that you rarely experience this sensation. Instead, the toasted bun acts like a sponge to a spill—removing any evidence to your tongue that the mayo ever existed as part of this package.

The overwhelming trend throughout our lunch was a feeling that we weren't tasting anything. As Kergin said, even the onion confit was indistinguishable within this burger. Maybe we caught Bistro Cache on a bad day, but I've had few other burgers that have had such a lack of affect, positive or negative, on my senses.

VERDICT: Not far from paper on the flavour excitement scale.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blue Fox Cafe | 919 Fort Street | 250.380.1683

Gourmet Beef Burger

Sometime around. . . ohhhhhh I don't know when, everyone and their dog (dogs barbecue A LOT) started using a BBQ sauce/chipotle mayo condiment mix on their burgers. When I say everyone, I mean an overwhelming number of local restaurants. This has, as many regular readers know, caused much kvetching from yours truly. That's why it's so nice to see a place finally get the mix right.

The green apple BBQ sauce and smoky chipotle mayo in this package cavort together in a way I never knew possible. These condiments compliment each other superbly, and never overwhelm the rest of the unit, as other BBQ sauce/chipotle mixes so often do. The placement of the BBQ sauce is key here, as it is lovingly tucked underneath a blanket of smokehouse bacon, and cheddar and Monterrey jack cheeses. The cheeses are melted to the point where they almost look baked, and their placement helps keep things in check. Apple and cheese flavours go together better than apple and bun: this BBQ sauce wouldn't have the same impact if it was just lingering on the sidelines.

As for the stumpy cracked wheat bun—it's not nearly as atrocious a match for a burger as you'd expect it to be. It may be a little small for the patty that busts out from beneath it, but at least it's fresh and chewy.

The patty itself has a texture and taste that suggest Blue Fox ain't shy with the salt. The strands of beef are not visible as individuals here, but instead form a tight unit that emanates sausagey flavour undertones. The patty does not lean strongly to the flavour of any one seasoning though. Instead it is supported by the comforting, greasy flavour all burgers should have. It's no juice-bomb, but the obvious glut of salt doesn't desertify this lean beef either.

As the flavours and textures intertwine, what you get at Blue Fox is an interesting amalgamation of both pub and hippie styles. Essentially the cafe has tinkered with pub-style just enough to create a burger that overcomes the banality of that genre, without getting too daisies in the barrel about it. Good job.

VERDICT: Blue Fox has single-handedly proven the BBQ sauce/chipotle mayo trend worthwhile. It takes a pretty good burger to do that.

Monday, August 23, 2010

White Spot Giveaway

Message to White Spot PR: Don't send promotional material via Purolator. I would have used this giveaway to help you promote Pirate Pak Day, which helps support Zajac Ranch, but I didn't get your package until today.

Purolator only makes ONE delivery attempt. Couriers deliver during the day, when normal people are either working, at school, or sleeping. I miss courier deliveries 100% of the time, and going to pick up packages in person is a pain in the ass. At least UPS lets you sign a little note saying, "Just leave that package in the bushes mang, I'll find it."

So yah, I wasn't able to pick up this exciting White Spot giveaway package until today, but I have it now, and you dear reader could benefit!

Here's what you have to do in order to win a $25 gift certificate and two coupons for free Pirate Paks: send me a picture depicting burger history in Victoria, or proof that you have donated to a B.C. charity in the last three months ( Most impressive example of one, or both of these things, wins the whole shebang, which will be sent to you via some method other than Purolator.

Get to it Prize Pigs! Picture or proof gets you free White Spot! Exclamation marks!

ps. Despite the frustration in not getting this in time to promote Pirate Pak Day, I would like to thank White Spot for providing the blog with this prize.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Burgers of Our Lives: Archival Material From the Times Colonist

I've made reference to the Times Colonist's best island burger article before, but now, having searched Canadian Newstand, I have the full thing.

So now, from May 5, 2004, I give you the Times Colonist Readers' Choice picks for best burger on the island:

1. J & L Drive-In, 4422 Gertrude St., Port Alberni

2. George's Food Bar, 540 Comox Rd., Courtenay

3. Shakie's Drive-In, West Coast Rd., Jordan River

4. White Spot (multiple Island location)

5. Dockside Cafe, 453 Head St., Victoria

Notables: Dutch Bakery, Victoria; Spitfire Grill, Sidney; Willow's Galley, Victoria; John's Place, Victoria; Ferris' Oyster Bar and Grill, Victoria; Monkey Tree Pub, Victoria; "The Stand" at the ferry terminal on Pender Island; Blue Fox Cafe, Victoria; Genoa Bay Cafe, Genoa Bay; Pluto's, Victoria.

I believe Shakie's and Dockside are both gone now. Genoa Bay Cafe exists, although in a different incarnation. I'm sad to say White Spot is the only place I've sampled in the top five. As for the notables; the Pender Island stand, and the Blue Fox are both good picks. It's hard to criticize this list much, because I wasn't familiar with many of the burgers back then. Also, most of my current favourites didn't exist in 2004.

It is, however, quite easy to blast the tasting panel results that accompanied this article. The burgers for that list seem to have been picked essentially at random. Eric Akis, the writer of the article, says he thought it would be interesting to allow the panel to compare, ". . . a chain restaurant; a diner where you would expect to get a good burger; and a fish and chip shop, where burgers are not the focus."

Here are the results:

1. Fairfield Fish and Chips, 1275 Fairfield Rd., Victoria

2. Milestone's, 812 Wharf St., Victoria

3. Pluto's, 1150 Cook St., Victoria

The article makes it clear that the tasting panel (consisting of Akis, Chef William Haysom, and Laura Agnew—a caterer, and the creator of "As you like it" brand sauces) only went to Milestones, Pluto's, and Fairfield Fish and Chips in their quest to find the best burger on the island. I get that the TC has a budget, and that means they aren't going to go to a dozen places to find a winner, but it would be nice to know that some thought went into narrowing the tasting panel field down to these three choices. Why Milestone's, which isn't a burger chain, and not Red Robin? Why Pluto's over any other diner? In fact Fairfield is the only place Akis gives a reason for picking, saying people have told him it's the burger be-all and end-all for years.

I realise it's kind of fucking lame to be critcising a list that's over half a decade old. I mean who cares right? I pretty much only succeed in looking like some sort of dickhead burger curmudgeon. This is a part of our city's burger history though, and I think it makes sense for this blog to comment on it now, seeing as we weren't around six years ago. Also I'm a dickhead burger curmudgeon.

And I mean seriously, how do you name Milestone's the number two burger in the city, after Haysom says the patty looks like it was mixed in a machine. This doesn't exactly lend integrity to your list.

This quote probably sums up the uselessness of the tasting panel list the best though, and is a telling comment on the nature of burger expectations in Victoria at the time, "Unlike the other burgers we tried, Fairfield Fish and Chips meat patties were also juicy and tender and would have been delicious all on their own." There you have it: a list of the best burgers in Victoria, and only one is juicy. Fucking unbelievable.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pig BBQ Joint: Get in My Belly Burger

Get in My Belly Burger

The latest in a parade of great burgers to step out of the Pig kitchen; the GIMBB isn't the best I've had here, but it's still wonderful.

This burger appears to be a slight variation of the pork belly and egg burger Pig served as a special in July. The GIMBB is egg-free, but it keeps the pork belly and rests everything on a raft of beets and bread and butter pickles. This combo allows it to function as a sort of bizarro-world Aussie burger.

In place of the dijonaise that adorns many of Pig's burgers, the GIMBB has a sort of thin cheese sauce accented with creaaaaaaaaaammmy chunks of . . . I ate it so fast I wasn't even able to pinpoint the variety of cheese.

So not as good as the Beale Street Bully, or the Scramburglar, but still a worthy addition to the Pig stable. I ate this burger on Thursday, and it should be noted that the following day they also had a burger special (the Bacon and Blue Cheese). Two Pig burgers in one week?????????? EXCITING TIMES PEOPLE!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

EdGe Restaurant, Sooke, 6686 Sooke Road, 778.425.3343,


(Lunch Only)

Never has an island burger been sought after with more eager anticipation than this offering from Edge Restaurant in Sooke. I first heard of it just over a year ago, and have been aggravatingly close to making the trip to Sooke countless times since then. So you can imagine the wave of boyish glee that came over me when a former bakery baroness from my past offered me a ride to EdGe, along with her shadowy real-estate photographer friend.

Now is where I'd try to place this burger review in some sort of hackneyed murder-mysteryesque plot line if I had any energy, but I don't, so I'm just going to review this thing and you can make up your own story (involve Perry Mason if you can).

If nothing else, Chef Edward Tuson, formerly of Sooke Harbour House, is an innovator in the realm of burger geometry. With this offering from EdGe, he's created the first one of triangular shape I've ever encountered (a friend who is a sheet metal worker gave him the mould). Aside from being interesting to look at, I'm not sure the triangle shape lends much to this package.

If anything, the need for the patty to be elongated in order to fit the bun from 6-Mile Bakery may hurt this unit. The combination of toppings, along with the thin patty, make this package behave more like a sandwich than a burger. Shredded lettuce, unmelted swiss cheese, and housemade pickles and salami (housemade bacon would usually adorn this unit, but I suppose Tuson's pigs are still growing) are the main culprits in creating the confusion. I suppose it's good to be challenged by a burger every once in a while, but I really went in expecting instant gratification, and that's not what came.

What appeared to my tongue to be a cumin-heavy, Indian inspired spice blend in the patty dominated the flavour of the burger as a whole. In this sense, it was actually somewhat similar in taste to what Sauce offer. The spicing of the patty made the beef behave a little like large crumbs bonded together by just a little fat. It was fine, but I was expecting something with a bolder impact.

Though I wasn't bowled over by this burger, its construction easily showcased Tuson's skill as a chef. Pull a pickle out of this package and eat it separately and you'll notice an intense sweet, vinegary flavour. When mingling with the other ingredients though, the pickles surprisingly lack dominance. This is an obvious example of the chef's ability to balance strong flavours.

Maybe I was just so worked up about this one that I couldn't appreciate it properly. A second date could prove to be a different experience, but on first pass this one wasn't worth the sleepless nights. I expected at least one person in our group to scream out, "THIS IS THE BEST BURGER I'VE EVER HAD!" and that never happened. Oh well, at least the soup was great.

VERDICT: A really nice sandwich, but only manages to be good as a burger. Good works elsewhere, but a chef such as Tuson is capable of better.

Pig is All

Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me, but I was lucky enough to sample the Beale Street Bully Burger at Pig yesterday. It was an absolute triumph: topped with fried bologna, Pig onion "rings", and coleslaw. I don't want to be too reactionary, but even with the bun breaking apart like an arctic ice flow, this is a serious contender for #1 burger in Victoria. I'm so sorry I couldn't capture it on film, but maybe a cellphone pic will eventually appear on Pig's twitter feed.

Speaking of the twitter feed, this special was not mentioned on it yesterday. Perhaps this is an indication that their fabulous burgers are about to become even more elusive. Fridays and Saturdays seem to be usual burger days, so keep that in mind if you're making a trip to Colwood anytime soon.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Random Roadtrip Burger Notes

A few places spotted while on vacation a couple weeks ago:

Beachside Burger in Greenwood, BC

A shack parked alongside highway 3, didn't actually get a close look at it. Didn't appear to be anywhere even remotely close to a beach.

3 and 93 Dairy Bar

At the junction of highway 3 and highway 93. Boasted "BC's Best Burgers". Somehow I find that hard to believe, but maybe I'll be back there someday to check it out.

Kokanee Cove Neighbourhood Pub (aka Moyie Pub in Moyie, BC)

For $10 you can get a burger made from steak trimmings ground in house. I tried to order one, but they were out. Lot's of old booze bottles scattered around the place as ornamentation. Pretty cool place really.