The long-awaited ‘new’ Orange Room – reviewed

A few days ago, Will and I made our way down to The Orange Room, which recently reopened under new management. It has long been a favourite haunt of ours, so we came with high expectations and a little fear that the elements that made The Orange Room so great (delicious menu, friendly service, live music, stylish atmosphere) might be missing under different management.

Orange Room on Urbanspoon

We came away reassured, though our experience was somewhat marred by new restauranteur growing pains (more on that later). It was exciting to have a whole new menu to try. The standout was the pistachio-encrusted tuna steak skewers, which were rich and savoury. We also enjoyed the ‘Coquille Saint-Orange Room’ – Scallops in garlic butter and white wine sauce with mushrooms, onions and sizzling gruyere cheese. The potato yam pavé was less to my taste. It’s a layered yam and potato cake with cream, garlic and herbs. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t feel it stood up to the unique flavour of the other dishes.

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There were lots of interesting little flourishes that show the new owners have put in a lot of thought about the experience they want to create at The Orange Room. For example, they are passionate about sourcing local suppliers, so the beer on tap is from Surrey’s Central City Brewery. Because it’s a brand many people are unfamiliar with, The Orange Room offers beer tasters served in diminutive drams no bigger than a shot glass. It’s just enough to tell that, for example, the pale ale isn’t to your taste, but the ‘winter ale’, though unexpectedly pale, is pleasantly smooth with a hint of apricots.

Sampling isn’t yet available for wine or other drinks, but our server hinted that a wine tasting concept could be on the horizon. Given the local focus, we put in a good word for adding Pacific Breeze‘s wines to the list – we visited the Stewardson Ave. ‘Garagiste‘ winery recently as well and were very impressed with both the bold taste of the product and the local story behind it.

The changes made to the ‘old’ Orange Room are subtle but worthwhile improvements. Re-envisioning the Orange Room as a tapas restaurant makes the menu feel more cohesive. The lighting seems brighter, and the decoration has been pared back somewhat. The room itself is the same deep reddish-orange, and the the furniture is the same, yet the space has been gently reworked to provide more kitchen space and better traffic flow among the tables.

Now, about those growing pains… although the menu looked delicious, many items were marked as unavailable, whether sold out or pending supplier relationships. The service was pleasant, but slow. When we went, the kitchen was backlogged with orders and so it took a long time to get our food. We spotted one of the new owners, Zoe Watters, zipping around the tables, working behind the bar and then finally donning a chef’s hat and apron to get things moving behind the scenes. Despite the frantic pace, Zoe took a few minutes to chat with us while we paid the bill and told us that they’ve been much busier than they expected. It seems we were not the only ones hungering for the Orange Room’s return.

All in all, we were pleased with our experience. The problems we encountered were unfortunate, but understandable given that the owners are new to the restaurant business. The Orange Room delivered the goods where it counts, in atmosphere, menu and charm. Live music isn’t currently offered, but we were assured that it was coming soon. With a little more time to work out the kinks, the Orange Room will remain a beloved local eatery. In the meantime, it’s well worth the visit.

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The ultimate lemon meringue pie

Lemon Meringue Pie Again
Image by ♥ he@rt ♥ via Flickr

This is a guest post by Mojgan Fay, who waxes rhapsodic about pie, chocolate and all things sweet. You can find her on Twitter posting as @somethinglemon. As you will see from the post below, she’s also a fan of the citrus!

This leading citrus assembly offers more than an appealing colour, odour, and flavour. It is a staple of summertime picnics and intimate wintertime gatherings. The cool brightly yellow lemon filling with the soft sugary meringue goodness is a perfect compliment to your afternoon tea. This lemon meringue pie can be found at Couzie’s Cafe and Catering on 619 Belmont Street in New Westminster.

I must admit that for me nothing compares to the coziness that’s created by sipping tea with friends and savouring a slice of something lemon. Couzie’s not only makes the best lemon pie there is — freshly made from a family recipe — but also provides a warm and welcoming ambiance, with art-covered walls, perfect for that all-important business lunch meeting, the family Sunday morning brunch, or simply for an afternoon dessert and tea/coffee medley.

Couzie's Cafe and Catering on UrbanspoonJoan Couzelis, owner of Couzie’s and resident of New Westminster, had a vision to make “real food for real people”, and this family affair has definitely reached this goal. Couzie’s offers a collection of paninis served on bread that’s baked daily in the cafe, amongst dessert pies, meat pies, cabbage rolls, soups, and salads. But food isn’t the only thing Joan is passionate about. She consistently contributes to her community. The staff save dimes, nickels, and pennies from their tips and donate that money to local charities and causes.

So the next time you have a craving for something lemon, check out Couzie’s and you just might be hooked.

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Debating History

The Festival of Volunteers took place this past Saturday at Royal City Centre and the anachronistic thrills my co-author Briana referred to here did not disappoint. 

There is something about bagpipe music that just makes me smile -I have no idea what it is. So when I finished my shift at the booth I was volunteering for, it was perfect timing to grab a cup of chai from the Beverage Station in the centre court of the mall and grab a seat and listen to a procession being piped in by a member of the Delta Police Pipe Band. It was quite the sight to see Mayor Wayne Wright in all his finest office accoutrements along with Sir James Douglas, Councillor Jaimie McEvoy, John Irving – all were bedecked in appropriate debating garb. I have to apologize for the quality of these photos – my camera died and these were taken using my cell phone. 

Debate participants are introduced by John Irving
Debate participants are introduced by John Irving

The debate did not disappoint. True to misogynistic form,  Sir James Douglas downplayed his decision to build parliament in Victoria and steal away the capital city moniker from New Westminster, by suggesting that it was simply to restore the declining city of Victoria. He resisted the idea that it had something to do with nepotism and displayed shock when Mayor Wright reminded him of a few of his shadier deals. Both McEvoy and Mayor Wright were well informed and the spluttering James Douglas certainly lost the debate. The assembled crowd snickered and laughed a few times throughout the debate – it was entertaining to see such great pieces of our collective history come alive. 

 

Councillor McEvoy and Mayor Wright look incredulous at Douglas' assertions
Councillor McEvoy and Mayor Wright look incredulous at Douglas' assertions

There was a pretty decent sized crowd assembled, including many members of council:

 

Members of Council look on as the debate occurs
Members of Council look on as the debate occurs

Mayor Wright also took advantage of this debate to remind citizens that New Westminster has big plans for the future of our Fraser River waterfront, and the crowd responded with cheers – I’m anxious to see plans.

Kudos goes to the actors who portrayed the famous Canadians so well and to the city staff and volunteers who organized such a unique mock debate.

 

 

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Huzzah! The Orange Room lives!

It was a dark day in New Westminster when the Orange Room closed. It was one of only a handful of restaurants in New West that one might classify as, well, cool. Amid the plethora of sports bars and diners, The Orange Room was a vital refuge for those among us who enjoyed tapas with a side of live music and local art.

I had given up hope that this favourite restaurant of mine might reopen, but I am happy to report that the Orange Room lives! 

The new owner is Paloma Eguiagaraya, who impulsively offered to buy the restaurant within a week of seeing the note on the door announcing the closure. Another buyer was in the running at the time, aiming to transform The Orange Room into yet another sports bar. 

The New Westminster woman, who has no history in the restaurant business, just couldn’t bear to see the eatery go.

“We’re French and Spanish, so we’re very spontaneous,” said Paloma’s daughter Zoe Watters, who is the new general manager of The Orange Room. 

The new Orange Room will bear the same name and – hopefully – the same community feel. It will also continue the tradition of live music. Regulars should prepare for some big changes, however. The restaurant is currently undergoing renovations, and the menu will be revised to focus on Mediterranean-style tapas.

If the renovations go according to schedule, the Orange Room will reopen in a few weeks.

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Breakfast and Blunch in New West

This is a guest post by Ruth Seeley of No Spin PR.

I’m more likely to go out for breakfast than for any other meal these days. Working from home, it means I can give my day a little ‘shape’ by getting up early, reading, writing, tweeting, pitching, greeting, etc. for three or four hours, then take a shower break and head out to do errands, get some fresh air, and have breakfast.

On bad days this sometimes doesn’t happen till 2 or 3PM, however, so I’ve had to invent a term to cover this late fast-breaking meal. I’m going with ‘blunch’ – deal with it.

Coming Home Café 753 6th St. at 8th (604-288-9850)

Cash only, but kick-ass food, small-portioned, bio-eco-friendly breakfasts. Great organic coffee, multigrain fruit breads, fresh eggs, funky furnishings – definitely worth a visit.

And that’s what I wrote before revisiting it. This morning I had a breakfast sandwich of two scrambled eggs, turkey, brie, and roasted veggies (eggplant, peppers, zucchini, mushrooms) with fruit salad (cantaloupe, red grapes, honeydew melon, dragon fruit, pineapple) and coffee – good KickAss coffee – for $8. I was so impressed I had to have a breakfast square as well, so I could continue to savour the coffee. As they say, ‘Like visiting Grandma if Grandma make KICK ASS Coffee!’ – maybe someone could tighten that slogan up a bit?

I keep trying to buy the cute little leopard print tub chairs from the café owners, but they seem determined to hang onto them. We’ve agreed I’ve got visitation rights though. Open seven days a week.

Heritage Grill on Urbanspoon The Heritage Grill @ 447 Columbia St. (604-759-0819)

Breakfast till noon. Decent coffee (second only to Coming Home Café, actually, in the coffee rankings). Nice breakfast for about $8 – sausages, crispy home fries, properly poached eggs, toast. Blunch at The Heritage Grill offers infinite possibilities: the crab cakes with avocado, apple and cilantro salsa, the roast turkey with cranberry sauce and Brie on ciabbatta, fresh mescalin mix salads with a saucy dill vinaigrette – mmmmmmmm.

Mom's Cafe on Urbanspoon Mom’s Café 821 12th Ave. at Edinburgh (604-524-2088)

Nice folks, including Mom, who nods and smiles and soaks up the sunshine. Mom’s is never crowded, the service is great, there are two tables right in the window and it’s on a quiet part of 12th so you can just sit there and slowly wake up. Breakfast specials (like the Truckers Breakfast, 2 eggs, bacon, toast, home fries) start at $3.25 (till 11AM, coffee or tea included). Best deal in town. Closed Mondays. Phone number’s changed since brochures were printed.

The Two Amelias

Amelia on Urbanspoon Amelia Restaurant @ 640 12th St. (604-522-3288)

Amelia’s has gone considerably upscale since my last visit a year ago, despite the endearingly outdated sign that promises free delivery. Amelia’s doesn’t deliver. It does, however, serve cheap and cheerful breakfasts, including a weekday perogie breakfast for around $6, a bagel breakfast, and real desserts like Mud Pie (should you be interested in taking the high-caffeine, high simple carbs, high fat breakfast route). Last time I was there I was tempted by the Monte Cristo sandwich – not too many places around serve ‘em. Its devotees won’t hear of eating at the other Amelia’s. They sort of sniff when you ask, ‘on 6th?’ Bad coffee.

Amelia Café @ 538 6th St. (604-520-3836)

Sometimes you can’t get into Amelia’s on 6th, which is what first sent me to Jim’s. Great breakfast specials here though if you can wait to eat till 10 or 11AM – I like the French toast, poached eggs and sausage special – with watery coffee, about $6. I try to avoid the coffee here. And there is a Starbucks right across the street.

Jim's Cafe on Urbanspoon Jim’s Café @ 518 6th St. (604-522-1288)

Cheap and cheerful with booths. Standard breakfast/greasy spoon fare. Stick with the traditional breakfasts and you can get in and out of Jim’s in 20 minutes for $6 or $7. Same bad coffee as Amelia Café.

Youngs Cafe on UrbanspoonYoung’s 612 12th St. (604-525-1238)

Classic greasy spoon, mixed Chinese/Canadian menu. Odd assortment of photos of the famous. I sat by Janis Lyn Joplin, B. Jan. 19, 1943. D. Oct. 4, 1970.

See Jim’s, the two Amelia’s, Mom’s.

International House of Pancakes (New Westminster) on UrbanspoonIHOP 514 8th Ave. @ 6th St. (604-521-3212)

I’ve headed to IHOP in mid-afternoon for ‘blunch’ a couple of times when I’ve forgotten to eat, for one reason or another. They make the best Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich I have ever had – with choice of onion rings, French fries, hashed browns and more. Not sure why I’ve headed back to IHOP twice to have one for breakfast, but I have. Whether it’s their specialty pancakes, French Toast, or just a standard bacon/sausage/ham/toast/eggs breakfast, IHOP delivers US-portion sized breakfasts and decent coffee served in carafes. The question is whether you want to pay $15 for breakfast or not, and sit along with Middle Canada (sorry, but if you’re looking for ‘edgy,’ head for The Heritage Grill and pray). Watch out for lineups on Sunday mornings. I prefer to go in mid- to late afternoon so I can have a booth to myself.

Moonrakers Neighbourhood Pub on UrbanspoonMoonraker’s

Again, when it’s more like blunch than breakfast, I sometimes head to Moonraker’s for their Reuben. It’s a fat, juicy smoked meat/pastrami sandwich on a nicely textured rye bread, with just the right amount of gooey Swiss cheese. It may well be the perfect antidote for both #snowmageddon and #fogmageddon. Certainly the little backroom library is charming. You never know what charming little tome you may encounter there. I hadn’t noticed the lingering smell of smoke, but it is a sports bar, so best for when you’re in a world of your own and the rowdiness just seems like background noise.

The Pantry 425 6th St. at 4th (604-421-7115)

Really good waffles – two and a half inches high – with something sinful on top, like ice cream or whipped cream or both – solid, non-intrusive service – decent coffee – a little pricey for what it is, but don’t cross it off your list entirely.

Waffle House on UrbanspoonWaffle House 636 6th St. (604-524-8118)

My visit to the Waffle House was completely unmemorable in terms of food and coffee (I would have either remembered or gone back if either had been good-to-great). What I do recall about my visit there was that it was noisy and crowded.

More New West restaurant listings

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Towards a Wireless City *UPDATED WITH MAP*

SEE OUR CHALLENGE BELOW – TELL US YOUR FAVOURITE WIRELESS CAFE HOTSPOT!

I am one of those people who works better when I have a din of white noise behind me, when I’m in a place with a good feel, surrounded by people but not in demand. For me, coffee and good work go hand in hand, so it’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that I have spent the majority of my university years (both undergrad and post-grad) doing my studying and schoolwork in coffee shops.

When I lived at SFU, I was able to give my business to the locally owned SFU institution Renaissance Coffee and the new organic sustainably-minded joint, Nature’s Garden Organic Deli run by SFU alumni Bill and Doris. What I loved about these places is that they had free wireless internet for patrons, good seating for using a computer, and a friendly atmosphere. Though the food at Renaissance wasn’t my favourite, and their “organic-ness” is in dispute, they were open the latest of the on-campus coffee places and their internet was provided through the SFU wireless system. Nature’s Garden had great organic food, cheap coffee and nice people. In a pinch, I’d frequent the Starbucks at Kensington and Hastings which featured a long study table with several outlets, strong fast internet access (at a steep price), and great white noise.

Now that I live off campus and am a working professional, I still enjoy a good wireless cafe for those times that I’m blogging at T2F or Disadventure, or for when I’m finishing up my thesis work. However, when I’m in New West visiting Will and Briana (also T2F creators), there are no good wireless cafes to go to if you want to support local business.

Now some of you would argue this, citing Blenz at 6th and 6th (a Canadian franchise) which provides free wireless to customers but has no outlets available, and the six Starbucks locations all over the city, which provide wireless internet free for two hours with a valid starbucks card code. However – given this city’s many students, the popular coffee culture, and the increasing popularity and dependence on wireless internet devices, if a New West native like me is unable to identify a good, locally owned wireless internet cafe, I think there aren’t enough to meet the demand. Even the amazing former Yaletownish eatery in New West’s Uptown, The Orange Room, had no internet access for patrons.

Two wireless cafe-finding resources, notably Vancouver.wifimug.org (a user-generated index of wireless cafes in Greater Vancouver that has sadly fallen far out of date) and nodeDB.com show no updated listings of New West wireless cafes. If a student, person traveling on business, or any of the growing throng of Blackberry and iPhone users travelled through New West, they’d find no convenient, social place to connect – either to the internet or to other people. For those who are unfamiliar, let me let you in on the culture of wireless internet that seems to have changed our society: I believe that this lack of connection makes a lasting statement about our community to visitors and residents alike that we are stuck, isolated and unconnected. Sure, that might be dramatic, but New West is perpetually on the precipice of transformation from one-trick ‘historic town’ pony to a multi-dimensional, multi-generational dynamic city. So you say New Westminster is a historic little town which isn’t trying to be the next Silicon Valley – I say check out touristy and historic litle LaConner (with less than 1000 municipal citizens) where my parents live, provides wireless internet to downtown visitors and residents free of charge. The signal in the streets is strong enough to check your e-mail, but step into your favourite bookstore/cafe where they provide broadband wireless and power outlets so you can stop for a bite, a book, and a browse on the internet if you need it.

I greatly appreciate the cafes without plugs or wireless internet, so I can sit and chat with my friends and enjoy the time spent in a nice social environment. But I assure you, it’s not those cafes I keep an index of in my head – it’s the cafes with a strong wireless signal, at least one accessible power outlet, and a reasonable coffee environment that I remember. Since wireless internet became widely available (and as cheap as a one-time $90 wireless router and broadband access at $40/month), many have remarked how wireless internet has improved business for coffee shops and bookstores, even giving them an edge over the big-chain franchises like Starbucks and McDonalds, who charge for internet usage.

“For me, it’s about creating a coffeehouse experience that’s relevant to my customers,” says Jody Hall, who opened Verité Coffee in Madrona six month ago with free Wi-Fi in mind. She estimates that an average of 25 to 30 customers use the service daily. “In today’s culture, wireless is part of our daily lives. I want our coffeehouse to be a place people meet and gather, and if that’s something they need for their meeting, then I want to have that.”

(…)

“What it did for us initially was get the word out about us quickly,” says Michael Prins, owner of Herkimer Coffee, which opened with Wi-Fi available a year ago.

“I think it is a big draw,” says Anya Webb, owner of Fremont Coffee. She suspects she’s stealing at least a little bit of business from the Caffe Ladro across the street (where the Wi-Fi is not free). “It brings people in.”

(Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Wi-fi’s on the (coffee) house, 01/07/04)

There is one main reason that many cafes provide only a signal and not appropriate seating or power outlets – they need or want to limit the number of people like me, who occupy seating for paying customers while using up the internet. However, I encourage the locally-owned coffee shops in New West to reconsider providing free internet access to patrons as part of their business model – both to present a connected, dynamic face to the customer, and also to give them a leg up on the big-chain opposition, making local business ultimately more successful. It’s completely fair game to restrict the signal to paying customers (as Blenz does) to ensure your signal brings the return it is supposed to. Another approach for small cafes is to post signage reserving some seating for non-computer customers during peak hours to ensure seating is available for the non-career internet users in the cafe.


Here’s my standard for a “good” wireless cafe:

– appropriate seating, including chairs and tables or bar-height chairs and counters

– a strong, uncomplicated wireless signal (password or not)

– 1-2 accessible power outlets.

Wireless Internet Cafes in New West:

Blenz Coffee: 6th and 6th (Uptown): Wireless signal; password protected for customers only; plenty of seating but no power outlets

Starbucks Coffee (Multiple Locations: Westminster Centre on 6th Street; E. Columbia & Sherbrooke; Columbia & 6th Ave*; McBride Blvd & 8th Ave. See also Burnaby Crossing, at 10th Ave & 6th Street) Limited/Pay Usage only. Westminster Centre, Royal Square have no power outlets; E.Columbia & Sherbrooke, 6th & Columbia have one or more outlets available. Columbia and 6th Ave’s internet has not been working for the last month. December 2008.

Sounds Promising (listings unverified):

– The Hide Out Cafe: 716 Carnarvon Street (Downtown). Cafe, deli, organic & internet access.

Other free wireless internet sources in New West:

The New Westminster Public Library (6th Avenue at 7th Street) Wireless Internet access is governed by the library’s Internet Access Policy, and is available throughout the building. A table is reserved for laptop users requiring cable internet access, with 4 ethernet cables and power outlets. Ten study carrels are also equipped with power outlets.

What do you think? Share with us your favourite places to chill out and plug in. What do you think about wi-fi users in public cafes? Help T2F assemble an up-to-date list of wireless cafes in New Westminster.

Here’s a map of wireless internet locations so far:


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