August 29, 2015

Save On Meats Burger - Legendary in Vancouver, So They Say

It is a good hometown burger.

The place bills itself as grinding fresh lean beef that same day since the diner is part of a butcher’s shop, or vice versa, separated by a long wall divide.  The name is confusing Save On Meats since 1957 sounding more like pure butchery.  It is on the seedy side of Vancouver at 43 West Hastings Street, a building that has been there since 1891.   And the 1950s smiling fat pig street neon sign still glows pink at night.

But it couldn’t just be the freshness of the ground lean meat that makes the burger piquant.  Every bite tells you the fat factor is missing.   Which means on its own it would not satiate a discerning palate.  

Carrie the executive chef was kind enough to tell me the recipe for what has been dubbed the “legendary burger” of Vancouver.  Mixed with the ground meat are just three ingredients:
Montreal Steak Spice, Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, and Worcestershire Sauce

As to the proportion – it is up to your taste.  

When you order at the diner, you can build your burger.  You get a check list of what you want added to the burger and bun.  To make it classic, check the SOM Smear – which again I think is made up of the above three ingredients.

You can buy uncooked prepared patties for $2.50 each at the butcher side.

Carrie the executive chef holding an SOM beef patty

See for menu, hours and prices.   

A number of Translink buses pass by or nearby. Tel: 604 569 3568

Lillooet Farmers Market Apple Fritters – Best in Canada!

“Thank you Lord!”

That stretch of two-lane Highway 99 from Pemberton to Lillooet has more twists and turns, up and down steep grades, than you can imagine, alongside a protracted sweep of a cliff without concrete roadside barriers!   One wrong foot-length swerve and it would be a sudden vertical fall to a very deep precipice.  I was totally relieved when the road flattened as I reached the junction of Lillooet, British Columbia. 

About five hours, 156 miles (251 km) from Vancouver via Whistler, I thought this story will be purely Lillooet, but the hair-raising switchbacks where I was forced sometimes to drive in the middle of the road, hoping not to encounter a vehicle the opposite way, made me pray for my dear life.  At some point I can smell my brakes.  Later I learned there have been one too many accidents, some tragic, on that rollercoaster drive.  Next time I go to Lillooet, I will drive via the less strenuous Highway 12 from Lytton. 

Why did I go to Lillooet BC?  I wanted to ride one of Canada’s supposedly best train trips: the Kaoham Shuttle .  But before boarding, I was keen on exploring the Lillooet Farmers’ Market which only happens on Fridays from 8:30 am till 1 pm.  It’s a small market with around 15 vendors: baked goods, jam and jelly preserves, honey, locally grown seasonal produce, hand-crafted baskets, quilts and jewelry, Indian fried or baked buns called bannock, trivets and chopping boards chiseled from cedar, bedding plants, vegetables, annuals and perennials and more.

Barbara Tuemp

But for me the best find was to taste some of the best Apple Fritters in Canada.  Look for Barbara Tuemp’s tent “Artisan Pastries”.  At $2.00 each, a six-inch long blob, Barbara with a Mona Lisa smile, said there is no secret.  She makes them from scratch: a sweet dough or doughnut dough (flour sugar, butter, eggs and yeast); cuts apples grown from her farm, and mixes them with the dough.  “The best apples to use are the ripe Spartan and Empire varieties – they remain crunchy not mushy after deep frying in canola oil.”  Barbara is not a fan of granny smiths – “they are not local to begin with, and they burn easily.”

The Best Apple Fritters in Canada

I think it is the yeast and apple variety that makes Barbara’s Apple Fritters stand out and well-known in the area including Whistler (she used to have a stand in the Farmers’ market there).  Most recipes use baking powder or self-rising flour, and the apples can be all sorts.

Barbara Tuemp's Booth

Hurry as she sells out before noon.  And the last Friday market for 2015 is on October 9th or you have to wait till May next year.  If you want to order Apple Fritters from Barbara, which can only be picked up at the outdoor market, e-mail her at or you can call her at 250 256 4717.   

The Farmers’ Market is on Lillooet’s wide 4-lane Main Street which you will hit once you enter the town.  You won’t miss it as there is only one main road and the open-air market sticks out like a thumb across the post office.
Trivets, Chopping Boards made from Cedar

For more information about Lillooet’s Farmers’ Market, contact Carol Vanderwolf, Farmers’’ Market President and also a vendor (ask for her healthy mustard green chips), via e-mail or you can call her at 250-256-1547

Carol Vanderwolf

Bank machines are nearby and plenty of free street parking.

Next year: don’t miss the two-day market during the Apricot Tsaqwem Festival in July: Friday and Saturday

August 28, 2015

Rocky Mountain High on Mackay's Halo Halo

Eric holding my Halo Halo ice cream in a waffle cone

Way back in the Fall of 2013, driving on Old Highway 1A from Calgary, Alberta towards the magnificent Canadian Rockies , I stopped by  the small town of Cochrane, at a Quiznos Sandwich restaurant, for a reason I could not remember.   Washroom?   Directions?   Certainly not to eat, that I do recall.  The store clerk sensing I was a tourist asked “So you’re here for Mackay’s?”

Mackay’s?  What’s Mackay’s?  The Quiznos clerk gave me the directions to the ice cream parlor, “Over at First Street.”    A 1950s frontage  that started as a road-stop General Store , the inside walls were covered with photos of  its history that goes back to 1948 when a couple James and Christina Mackay, started making ice cream to attract Calgarian day-trippers.  

To my amazement, I noticed on the sign board of ice cream flavors the words “Halo Halo”.  Is that a reference to the Halo Halo icy slushy dessert, so refreshing and cooling in hot tropical Philippines?

Can you see the Halo Halo nameplate?


James Mackay’s  granddaughter Meghan Tayfel who with husband Mark, now manages the company said, “The inspiration for Halo Halo actually came from customer requests.  The Halo Halo is really popular.  We do have a wonderful Filipino community right in Cochrane who come in for it.  Our mixture is a blend of white bean, red mung bean, jackfruit,  palm nut, and coconut gel.  I know there can be some variations to this, but this combination is the most common one we are able to purchase the ingredients for.”

Unlike Filipino-style Halo Halo ice cream where the beans and nuts are tidbits segregate from the base ice cream,  in Mackay’s version the ingredients are ground and blended in.  A superb fusion.  Don’t get me wrong – the Filipino style with more texture is appealing in its own way.

Fast forward to July 2015.  I was in Calgary for the Stampede and I was craving for Mackay’s  after two years of deprivation.  Since Cochrane is at least an hour drive away from SE Calgary, I went instead to one of Calgary Co-op’s supermarkets (which carry a limited line of Mackay’s) and got myself one of the creamiest mango ice creams I have ever licked!  During the week, I made a few stops at Fannie May Fine Chocolates SE to get a double scoop of other flavors.

Driving back to Vancouver, I made a detour to Cochrane and found myself delighted to be back at the original Mackay’s.  But no “Halo Halo” on the sign board.  I anxiously asked the server.   He said it was in the back fridge and will retrieve it.  What a relief!  He later slotted in the Halo Halo nameplate on the sign board.  The Cochrane store also offers Purple Yam (Ube) and occasionally Buko (Young Coconut).

Meghan said, “Some of the original flavors that we still have are the tried and true: maple walnut (#1 in popularity), vanilla (#2) , chocolate (#3), chocolate chip mint (#4), chocolate fudge chunk (#5), cookie dough (#6), strawberry (#7), but also  many others my grandfather made through the years that we still carry:  licorice (not for me), cookies & cream (#9), tiger (orange and black licorice swirl #10), black cherry, butter brickle, and bubblegum (#8).”

What really makes Mackay’s ice cream amazing to the taste buds is its dairy fat content.   Other supermarket brands of ice cream contain 10% - 12% butterfat, whereas Mackay’s ice cream has 16% up to 18% butterfat.  No wonder their mango was so delectable.  If you live in British Columbia, the product is only available over at Salt Spring Island, in Salt Spring Mercantile General Store, main village of Ganges.  The store sells a limited selection in scoops only ($4.25 single; $6.67 double).   Why just Salt Spring?  Why not the city of Vancouver?

Meghan explained, “We would love to be able to introduce MacKay’s to different markets in BC, however, our biggest stumbling block is transport.  Most companies will not carry ice cream due to the requirement to keep it at a constant temperature.   Salt Spring Mercantile store has a unique relationship with a transport company that is willing to do one time drops of our product just for them along with other frozen dessert products the vans already carry.”

If you really crave Mackay’s and would like to bring it home, Meghan recommends, “Anyone going for really long distances, the best way is to pack the ice cream in dry ice.  The one thing you never want to do to ice cream is shock it by exposing it to severe temperature fluctuations.”

While taking a driving break along the Kicking Horse Mountain Pass near the Alberta/British Columbia border, I had to finish my Mackay’s baon of a 500 ml bucket (almost a pint) already soft piƱa colada ice cream (I had it in a cooler with ice cubes).  I thought it needed more kick.

For more information about Mackay’s Ice Cream and where to buy it, see
The ice cream tubs come in 500 ml, 1 liter, 5.7 liter and 11.7 liter sizes.

Where to buy dry ice in Calgary? Call Praxair at 1-800-PRAXAIR.

BTW, the only other ice cream I have developed an obsession for is Tillamook’s Ice Cream (which is also extra creamy) in Tillamook, Oregon, but this is another story (and their cheese!).  None of those overpriced Italian gelatos, so meh meh.

What ice cream brand do you pine for?  Fess up with a comment.