Saaz Indian restaurant first impressions · 7.03.14 by colin newell
Andrea and I have been on the prowl for a great Indian restaurant for a long, long time. I will admit it – we both love the intense flavors and aroma of a great curry – and Victoria B.C. although having pretty comprehensive coverage of many a cuisine, Indian food is not something that we seem to do very well.
Well, that all changed with the arrival of Saaz Restaurant at 535 Yates St. in the lower part of Old Town in Victoria. Tucked in an unassuming old office building is an inviting, old school and rustic space that belies the incredible food within. Sure, we had read a few reviews on Urban Spoon and Trip Adviser – reviews I often take with a grain of salt – but in this case, all of the reviews were overwhelmingly positive and blindingly glowing. OK. We are in.
But let’s back up a step. It was our new Canadian English friends that suggested Saaz, because they, more than us really miss a great curry, the likes of which was pretty commonplace in the old country.
Anyway – after an quick e-mail to Gurpreet, director of operations and affable host – and getting a bit of a background on what the Saaz concept is all about – it became pretty clear that the potential for great food was here. So off we went tonight.
Saaz is a pretty rustic space – that once could have been an old school English pub in another life. The decor is pretty simple, clean lines in dark wood and brick. There are 3 distinct rooms in the space – 2 on the main, 1 upstairs – so there is an option for private parties. It is not all that much to look at – but what the heck. It is not so much about the layout as it is about the food, right? Well everything about the food shone bright. So onto that then!
We started with Mustard masala jackfruit with tomatoes, Curried brussels sprouts, onions and tomatoes, Prawns with garlic, coconut and spices, and Vegetables pakoras… there was 4 of us after all!
The Jackfruit (never had it before) is a cross between chicken and artichoke in texture in a mustard masala that is just hot enough but not overpowering. The pakoras were sublime and the lentil daal that came with the pakoras was immensely satisfying – could have eaten a bowl of this alone. The brussels sprouts would have been right at home with a Christmas Turkey dinner – but here they were on an Indian menu! Perfectly cooked with a little bit of crunch left over – but not overwhelmed by spice and a delightful nutty flavor remaining. The prawns were prepared perfectly, impeccably fresh and well spiced — with a bit more of a bite.
For mains, our team of diners tackled Lamb with garam masala and raw brown sugar (for Andrea) – Chicken Tikka , Chicken in yogurt, ginger, garlic cooked in the traditional clay oven for Sharon, Chicken in Kalonji seeds and spices for Steve and Butter Chicken for me. The rice pilaf served with each main is impeccably prepared, fluffy and light – rice that I cannot reproduce at home. I appreciated the portion sizes – by the time we got to the mains, we were pretty full from sampling appetizers – so it all worked!
I was playing it pretty safe with the Chicken but it was well balanced, presented in a, for me, a perfect portion size – with lots of flavor and authenticity.
Steve’s Chicken in Kalonji was very, very interesting – like most of the night, I was experiencing lots of new flavors. Between the 4 of us we also shared a plate of perfect and warm garlic Naan bread… the perfect compliment to everything else that was in front of us.
For dessert: Rose & Mango Kulfi (Ice Cream) – divine, a luscious and sensuous creaminess and fragrant botanical flavor spectrum that you have never had in a frozen bowl! We also had Gulab Jabun (Indian Doughnuts) in a simple cardamom infused sugar sauce. I would happily die eating these little morsels.
Service was professional, engaged and informative – we loved everything and look forward to coming back for more exploration.
Our friends, Steve and Sharon – who are sticklers for a good Indian feast were 100% satisfied – and that was a relief – because we have been at some of those other places in Victoria that left us somewhat heartbroken.
I wish Saaz and the team the very best and hope they succeed – this is a place that I would encourage everyone to try… and soon!
Saaz is located at 535 Yates St #103, Victoria, BC V8W 1K7 – (778) 433-7229
and their website is – Saaz Restaurant
Padella Bistro - great food in Estevan Village Oak Bay · 14.02.14 by colin newell
On a blustery Valentine’s eve (the night before Valentine’s Day…) Chef Kyle Gignac warmly greets us at our table as we share a delightful dessert of fruit crumble (arguably one of the best I have ever tasted.). We have just concluded a wonderful meal of pasta – I had the spaghetti and clams – Denman Island clams, leek, garlic, white wine, cherry tomato, and parsley. Andrea picked the Funghi & Pappardelle of roasted oyster & button mushrooms, gorgonzola cheese, peas & cream.
Kyle and his wife Zoe O’Doherty, specialize in classic Italian cuisine prepared with the freshest local and seasonal ingredients. And as Kyle proudly points out, everything is prepared from scratch in the kitchen apart from the charcuterie and cheeses. Yes, they have fresh pasta! And what a treat that is.
On the days leading up to the “most romantic day of the year”, Kyle and crew were kept busy prepping over 1000 ravioli available on the Valentine’s Day menu — a menu we had access to on the night before.
Padella (formerly Paprika Bistro) is an intimate combo of rooms suited to very private dining, slightly more formal family style eating or even a private party or event – It is like 5 restaurants in one – they even have a single table room, called the wine room – perfectly suited for a couples privacy or even dining with a small child or two.
The first thing I noticed was the impeccable balance of flavors on the plate – no one component overwhelming any other – where subtlety, often lost in many other places around Victoria – balance and flavor, a more gentle approach to locally sourced components is the star here. Andrea commented on the sweetness of the peas in her pasta – and the contribution that fresh pasta makes to a dish like this.
We actually opened with the Antipasti Plate of assorted cured meats, Island cheese, marinated olives, cornichon, rosemary-apricot mustard – and several bowls of lightly salted focaccia bread. Main portions (for me) are perfectly sized – certainly not overwhelming, I like to be left a bit wanting for something else (like dessert or a glass of port) after a right-sized plate of pasta. And Padella bistro nails it in this regard.
Our host/server, Vincent Vanderheide is also a recently graduated sommelier – and we put him entirely in charge of the wine pairing; Pasqua ‘Villa Borghetti Passimento’, Veneto IGT, IT 2010 for the Charcuterie – a turbo-charged Valpolicella, this wine is pressed from grapes that were partially dried to concentrate flavors before fermentation. Unlike a single Valpolicella, it contains some Merlot in addition to the indigenous Corvina and Croatina, giving it added smoothness within its umbrella of fruitiness and medium body.
For our mains Vincent picked out a Bench 1775 ‘unoaked’ Chardonnay, Okanagan VQA, 2011 – a crisp wine suited to pasta with not overly aggressive sauces.
Dessert was the fruit crumble of seasonal fruits, grains and fresh gelato – served piping hot and sized well for two.
Padella Bistro is not just for lovers on Valentine’s day – but great for any date night anytime of the year – Solo, with a date or friends, I would highly suggest giving this comfortable little bistro a look see. This was the first visit of what I think will be many happy returns (with friends) – who really need to check this place out.
Visit this wonderful bistro on the web at Padella Bistro
Padella Bistro is located at 2524 Estevan Ave. Victoria BC V8R 2S7 250.592.7424
Toni's festive Christmas sausage stuffing · 24.12.13 by colin newell
My sister Toni is our own personal Martha Stewart when it comes to hosting legendary Christmas and birthday parties – and this Christmas is no exception. No one pulls out the stops better than my sister Toni – and from time to time I will feature some of her favorite interpretations of the classics.
Here is her classic sausage stuffing recipe. Serves up with a great Turkey, vegetables and all the trimmings.
1lb sausage meat
1/4 cup butter
1 large onion chopped
1 1/2 cup chopped celery
1 large apple chopped
1/2 cup cubed dried bread
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp sage
1 1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup raisins or craisins
1 1/2 cup pecans
chicken or turkey broth
Brown sausage meat in large skillet with butter, onion, celery &
Add spices and 1/2 of the cubed bread – mix well.
Add raisins & pecans.
Add remainder of dried bread.
You may need to switch to large bowl
or pot for this.
Depending on how moist you want the dressing add some
broth 1/4 cup at time.
The dressing gathers moisture from bird
so I usually only add 1/4 cup of broth.
Taste as you go as you may want to add a little
extra spice. I often add more poultry seasoning.
Transfer the mix to a baking skillet with cover.
Bake your skillet in a 350ºF (175ºC) oven for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes or until crisp on top.
When roasting within a turkey, any stuffing placed in the cavity of the turkey should reach an internal temperature of at least 165°F (74°C). This is very important!
Fall harvest cooking - Slow cooker Chicken Stew with Dumplings · 6.11.13 by colin newell
It is that time of year when it is cold and damp when we arrive at work and dark and wet when we leave work. And what is better than coming home to a steaming hot pot of slow cooked stew!
Only thing you need to do when you get home is whip up the dumplings.
This is a heart warming dish that is perfect for this time of the year – it pairs well with any full bodied Red Wine – like a Cab S.B. – We had a California Sonoma Cab SB that was perfect with this dish. Enjoy and welcome to the Fall home cooking season!
2 kg skinned boneless Chicken thighs
2 cups chopped / diced carrots
2 cups chopped / diced celery
1 chopped onion
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup (low salt)
1 cup water
Cut chicken into large – medium pieces.
Brown (in oil + pork fat if you have it!) chicken in dutch oven or pot seasoning with salt, pepper and thyme
Remove chicken to crock pot
Saute onions carrots celery in Crock pot (that you used for browning chicken)
Place onions, carrots and celery on top of chicken in the Crock pot.
Put all the sliced mushrooms on top of the veg and chicken mixture.
Stir soup, water, thyme and black pepper in a bowl.
Pour soup mixture over the chicken / veg mixture in the crock pot.
Cover and cook on low for 7 – 8 hours.
2 cups of flour – 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (opt) – 4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt – 2 tablespoons butter – 3/4 cup 2% milk (approx.)
In bowl whisk together flour, parsley, baking powder and salt.
Using pastry blender OR two knives cut in butter into coarse crumbs.
Using fork, stir in enough milk to make sticky spoon-able dough.
Leaving space around each, drop by tablespoon full (dough) onto simmering stew.
Cover and cook (without lifting lid) for 15 minutes or until dumplings are not longer doughy underneath.
Grande opening of the Victoria Public Market - why you need to be there. · 11.09.13 by colin newell
Victoria has a colorful and wildly uneven history of farmers and public markets – In fact, there is a pretty comprehensive journal from local historian and journalist Ross Crockford over here. It is a great read and I will borrow a bit from that article here – and the bulk of the sentiment.
Some thoughts in point form. Which I will expand upon…
- Victoria’s downtown needs a year round farmers market
- Why hasn’t there been a year round market all along?
- Even in the 21st Century we need to think about food security
- Buying from the chains is not always cheaper or better for the community
- By all means continue to support satellite, weekend markets and local businesses.
Why a market? So Victoria has the Moss Street market – one of the most notable and recognizable markets in the Victoria area – and it is well traveled – their website is over here – and for a small neighborhood market, it has stood the test of time. The MSM has been open 14 years or so now – and that (to date) is somewhat more stable than initial iterations of the first Victoria Public Market (which according to Ross Crockford) only lasted a few months.
…the owners blamed its failure on public indifference, and competition from Chinese farmers who peddled vegetables door-to-door. In 1878, white farmers successfully petitioned the city to build another indoor market, but the construction was so shoddy that the farmers stayed away.
At the time, Victoria was still something of a wild west and by some of the descriptions from historical references, much of the bureaucracy around the city administering a market was very much like it is today for most business people – difficult.
Even in the late 1800’s many farmers and producers sold their wares directly to retailers, negating the need for a public gathering place for food, services and entertainment.
Moving forward to the 20th Century, Victoria’s market struggled with progress but was re-energized by the
advent of World War (both of them) with issues of food security and patriotism being bandied about.
In the 50’s the final nails in the coffin of the Victoria Public Market was the arrival of chain stores, indifference to what was considered a quaint method of food gathering and a general neglect of the infrastructure.
As Ross Crockford points out in his historic observations, the downtown cores layout of real estate was coveted and public markets seemed contrary to progress – particularly with the advent of the automobile and decline of the street car as the predominant mode of transportation.
Why now? So why haven’t we (as Victoria residents) seen a surviving market through the years? Many European and American cities have had farmers markets that are upwards of a hundred (or in the case of Europe) hundreds and hundreds of years old.
Simple. Victoria never had a downtown population. Until more recently. I can remember scooting around Victoria in the mid seventies (as a young teen) noting that there were no Apartments in the downtown core – and many of the upper “flats” that used to exist in historic buildings on Government, Yates, Pandora and Fisgard avenues (for example) were boarded up or left fallow because of fire regulations.
In 2013, there are condos sprouting up in every corner of the city AND there are no downtown grocery stores (apart from the somewhat distant Yates Market at Quadra and Yates [which serves the area well thank you very much…]).
In the late 50’s and and until the mid sixties, downtown Victoria had an Eaton’s food floor and a Safeway (near the corner of Fort and Douglas) serving the needs of James Bay and Fairfield residents. I can remember as a young child in the 60’s popping into the Eaton’s Food Fair for some groceries (it was a real deal full service grocery then – much like the Woodward’s Food experience at Town and Country) and then hitting the soda fountain nearby for a Coke float. Additionally, the downtown had numerous general stores, like David Spencer Limited (commonly known as Spencer’s) who operated a department store chain – with a location in Victoria that lasted up until demolition to make way for the Eaton Center in the mid-eighties.
Anyway – staying on topic!
Food Security Anyone that says that we needn’t worry about our Island food supply has an agenda that it is not in the best interests of our local communities and neighborhoods. It was an issue in the 20th Century and it is an issue now. Why sell off our farm land for development while at the same time increasing our demand on an imported food supply? We are only one Earthquake or calamity away from pinching off a staggering dependency on food that is trucked and flown in on a scale that should give us pause.
According to food journalist, Don Genova, we produce around 6% of the food stuffs that we consume on Vancouver Island. And when you consider how arable this region is and how much we can actually grow if we put our minds (and shovels) to it… well, it’s shocking.
Chef, farmer and educator, Bill Jones of Deerholme Farm is one of our Island food professionals leading and raising awareness of Island food trends and the need to be cognizant of our fragile food supply – His educational curriculum and food learning program is a great example of how one person (and friends) can educate a lot of people about regional and local food production… and the fun of foraging!
One of my favorite rants on subject (of Island grown food management) was the practice of a very large Island grown food chain that was shipping Island grown produce to Vancouver for sorting… before it shipped it back to the Island… the excuse being “Our Island storage facilities are not big enough…” Give me a break. And people wonder why locally produced fruits and vegetables cost so much at the chains. To their credit, I think they have built a warehouse on Vancouver Island for sorting and storage of Island produce.
Want to contrast food pricing with the Chains? Try this exercise: Head out to one of the small satellite markets or farm vendors like the Root Cellar on McKenzie and Blenkinsop – and tell me their prices are not refreshingly cheaper than Thrifty Foods or Safeway.
Why support local? Why buy local? Creates jobs. Creates an incentive to produce locally. Instills a sense of community. Brings people together. And I am not just talking about farmers – but bakers, brewers, crafts people of all kinds. In a city the size of Victoria, you would think we would have dozens of great bakeries – we don’t but that could change if we stop buying unhealthy factory produced breads from afar.
I should stress that if you live in a neighborhood (or within a km or two of a neighborhood) that features cafes, bakers, brewers or meat markets – by all means support those ahead of your regional or local market! The idea is not to take away business – but to get people to walk to their markets or local businesses and artisans – to mingle and learn and be part of the community.
Historically, markets were built to serve an urban population – As stated, Victoria has not had an urban population (with the necessary density to support a full time public market) until the 21st Century. The time is now.
So we seem to be on the right track. In the last ten years I have seen the arrival of better choices locally, a raised awareness of the importance of a stable local food supply and a passion for “getting it done locally” that simple did not exist in the latter part of the 20th Century. We have come a ways – but we have further to go.
Let’s keep doing what we are doing Victoria has markets, day markets, summer markets, street markets and night markets. We are in the right track. By all means, keep supporting these initiatives – seek them out. Support them.
And by all means come out to the grande opening of the new Victoria Public Market this Saturday and Sunday!
I will be there – and so should you! Here is the link for finding your way to the Victoria Public Market opening on Saturday –
Pork tenderloin on a spinach salad · 31.07.13 by colin newell
Easy to prepare and low in fat.
1 – 500g pork tenderloin
Preheat oven to 450 (F)
Heated a frying pan with a few tablespoons of vegetable oil.
Rub your tenderloin with some pepper, olive oil and garlic salt.
Sear the pork tenderloin on all sides (2 minutes per side) in the pan.
Place the tenderloin in a ceramic baking pan (pan is coated with left over olive oil.)
Spread honey mustard all over the seared tenderloin with a sprig of oregano.
Place in the oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 (F)
Bake for 30 minutes or until core temperature is 165 (F)
Remove from oven – rest for 10 minutes (tented in tinfoil)
Make the salad of your choosing -
Take the tenderloin and slice into thing medallions – serving over salad.