Connor Butler – Restaurant Review

John reviews Connor Butler –

On Thursday night, July 31, 2008, we chose to continue our anniversary celebration by booking a table at Restaurant Connor Butler, a small, relatively new (2 years old) restaurant just over the Granville St. Bridge south of downtown Vancouver.
Since we had booked on the early side, there was lots of opportunity to interact with both the sommelier, Ron Douglas, and with the chef, Connor Butler himself.  It was just the start of an extraordinary evening, rivalling our earlier experience at Cyrus in every respect.

We started with an amuse-bouche which included, among others, an anchovy-stuffed sour cherry, which was quite good.  The others I cannot recall.

Chef Connor was interesting, engaging and animated.  He said he had some items not listed on the menu: foie gras and duck.  Intrigued by the notion of duck and duck, we asked if he could prepare a foie gras appetizer and a duck main, and that we preferred items savory rather than sweet.  And, we would like Sommelier Ron to pair wines for us.

After another bit of amuse, a slice of nicely seared tuna, the appetizers arrived.  The foie was accompanied by sauteed purple potato dice, small bites of bacon and morel mushrooms in a simple pan reduction.  The result was astounding, and this time the morels were in perfect balance (see previous review of Fireside Grill).

Ron brought three wines to sample: an Alsatian Gewurztraminer, a German Riesling Spatlese, and the sweetest, a French desserty wine.  In the end, we went preferred the last one, since it most resembled the traditional Sauterne in terms of sweetness and viscous texture that we like with foie gras.

The main course was seared sliced breast of duck, served with potato puree, garnished with a few sour cherries, citrus supremes, and pickled golden beets.  This was incredibly tasty: the best-cooked duck we’ve ever had, with the potato puree retaining its identity rather than merely dissolving into the pan jus, as sometimes happens.

Ron paired this with a BC Pinot Noir that did justice to all the flavors on the plate, from the succulence of the duck to the vegetal acidity of the beets. 

We finished with a plate of three delicious cheeses from Vancouver Island (where, perversely, Victoria IS and Vancouver IS NOT).  We followed this with a stint at the bar drinking cognac and grappa and chatting with the chef and the sommelier.

Couldn’t have been better.  (John: A+, Mary: A+)

Thursday, July 31, 2008 – VanDusen Botanical Garden


VanDusen Botanical Garden
 Originally uploaded by marymompics


John has said that we seem to have themes to different segments of our trip. First there was the lighthouse section, then the bridge section,  then the Olympic Peninsula section and now the garden section. The VanDusen Botanical Garden is very different from the Butchart Gardens. It’s not all perfect flowers but runs the gamut of everything botanical. Some things are in bloom and some have gone to seed. There are vegetables. Things are labeled (they are not labeled at Butchart Gardens and that is very frustrating.) But it is just as beautiful if not in the same tidy way.
Van Dusen rose

Tonight we are going to dinner at the Connor Butler Restaurant. It specializes in cuisine from the Northwest. We will, of course, mention that we are celebrating our anniversary. You never know what tasty freebies you might get.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008 – Vancouver


Originally uploaded by marymompics

For some reason I didn’t take any pictures today. So even though it looks like I went to some nearby mountain or boarded a helicopter to take this picture, it’s actually just one off the internet. Anyway, that’s Vancouver. The setting is fabulous, the architecture not so much. I also enjoy the blue sky. It’s certainly not blue today.

Once again we arrived by ferry. It must be hard to live on an island and have to pay almost $70 when you and your spouse and your car want to go somewhere else.

We really didn’t do much today except make the trip here and check into the hotel. We ordered some food in and watched So You Think You Can Dance. Another exciting day!

Fireside Grill – Saanich, BC – Dinner 7/28/08


Our hosts at the Gazebo Bed and Breakfast recommended a nearby restaurant in Saanich, BC, the Fireside Grill.  Housed in an attractive, Tudor-style structure, it seemed to offer Creative Northwest-influenced dishes, just what we were seeking.

A new menu had just been introduced that day.  This has not always yielded great results in our experience, but it looked good anyway.  The appetizer page looked especially appealing, so we decided to create our meal from starters alone.

Here’s what we had:

An order of flatbread with the spread of the day.  Nicely toasted and seasoned, the flatbread wedges were served with a blueberry cream cheese.  Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!  Anyone who follows our culinary adventures should know that we’re not fans of sweet things, and we especially avoid sweet spreads (and sweet bagels for that matter).  But we were WRONG.  The fresh cream cheese had some goat cheese mixed in, and the blueberries behaved more as a savory (or should we say savoury?) herb than as a sweet fruit.  A beautiful concoction; we were wowed.

Next, our salads: an organic green salad sprinkled with small roasted pumkinseeds for John, and a roasted red beet, lettuce and goat cheese salad for Mary.  The only quibble was that a mix of beet types would have been even better.

Finally, as our main course, we both had the Organic Foie Gras and Qualicum Beach Scallops, with morel mushrooms and sweet peas.  The foie gras and the scallops were delicious and perfectly cooked (we’re very picky about these).  The sweet peas were a nice addition, again perfectly cooked.  The morels were tasty, but perhaps they could have taken a less aggressive role in the dish.

All in all, an excellent meal.  (John: A-, Mary:A-)

Monday, July 28, 2008 – On to Victoria


Port Angeles ferryOriginally uploaded by marymompics

Today we caught the ferry from Port Angeles, WA to Victoria, BC. We had made a reservation and I am glad we did. There are only three crossings a day and a lot of people had to wait until the next ferry. The trip was pretty uneventful although out in the middle of the Strait of Juan de Fuca the ship rolled a lot.

Since it was too early to check into our B & B, we followed a sign which read, “Centre of the Universe, 1500 m” with an arrow pointing to the right. Well, how can you pass up a sign like that? Especially since I know we are visiting another center of the universe in Idaho. Unfortunately this particular Center of the Universe is closed on Mondays. So we only have a picture of what we know is the real center of our universe.

Center of the Universe

We checked into our inn, the Gazebo Bed and Breakfast. It is run by a very nice Canadian/British couple who were very helpful with things to do, places to go and where to eat. The room is very nice and the gardens around the house are lovely. The downside is that the internet connection is functioning only occasionally which is strange. John hacked into their system but couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Ergo, this post and the ones to follow are being written from Vancouver.

Gazebo Bed and Breakfast


Sunday, July 27, 2008 – Forks, WA SPECIAL EDITION


Mary Clark Rd.Originally uploaded by marymompics

We are riding along on a fairly deserted road near the Olympic National Park when what do we see? A road named Mary Clark Road! Wow! A road named after me. So, of course ,we took it for a short ways. My road had trees and bushes lining it. Also a couple of dirt roads came off of it. Someone had littered. But I am immortalized. How many people have a road. I wonder who she actually is (was).

Mary Clark Rd. 2

Sunday, July 27, 2008 – Olympic National Park

Hoh Rain Forest

Originally uploaded by marymompics

Just a quick post to say that the Hoh Rain Forest in the Olympic National Park is amazing. We took a short hike on the Moss Trail and the scenery was spectacular. There was moss hanging everywhere. It was abundantly green. And everything is gigantic. Trees here grow way bigger because of the conditions. There are spruces that are 300 feet high! And because it is a rain forest, it rained on cue. But the leafy canopy is so thick that few raindrops reach the ground. At Passover John always tells the story of Rabbi Akiba who walked between the rain drops to fool the Romans. In the rain forest it was actually possible!

Saturday, July 26, 2008 – Port Angeles, WA

I’ve been playing catch-up with my blogging as our cottage doesn’t have internet.  If there is one thing I’ve learned on this trip, it’s don’t book a place that doesn’t have internet and always get a king-sized bed.  Our charming cottage has neither but it is clean and cute.  It is also quite isolated and we haven’t had to interact with the other guests  or the hosts much.  We see this as a plus.  Here’s a picture of our cottage, the Morning Dove.

Morning Dove

Today we went to the Olympic National Park and hiked up to the Marymere Falls.  How could we not?  Marymom does Marymere.  Anyway, I have discovered how incredibly out of hiking shape I am.  It was only about 2 miles.  Only the last part was really steep and only a couple hours later I am hurting quite a bit.  I guess tennis muscles don’t help hiking.  Below is a picture of the falls.  The park is enormous with Mount Olympus at the center.  Tomorrow we will go to the Hoh Rain Forest.  It should be fairly dripping with moss and verdant growth.

Marymere waterfall

Lastly, we went to the Arts in Motion fair in downtown Port Angeles.  Two fairs in one week, it has to be a record for us.  There were the usual crafty things to buy, local talent on the stage and fair food but, there was also a sand sculpture contest!  It was great.  We saw these really large sand sculptures made in the shapes of cavemen, babies, musicians and the one that we voted for which was entitled “Jazz,” and was kind of cubist representation of the theme.

Cubist sand art, Port Angeles

We also found out today that there is WiFi in the main lodge of the B & B so we are all set! (except for the queen size bed.)

Friday, July 25, 2008 – Astoria, OR to Port Angeles, WA

EEK! Astoria Bridge

Originally uploaded by marymompics

So to give John a break, I took the wheel for the first part of our journey today. First, I drove up a really steep ramp with a curve in it, then I drove to the really high top of the two lane bridge and then coasted down and across. Yeah, sure I did. John drove and it made me feel sick just to be a passenger.

Most of today was spent getting to Port Angeles, WA. It wasn’t as long a trip as the GPS said it would be but it still took the better part of the day. We broke up the trip by a short stop to look at the Pacific County Courthouse in South Bend, WA, an old locomotive in McCleary, WA and lunch at Gwennie’s in Sequim. There, with what seemed to be the entire senior population of Sequim, we had a fresh Dungeness crab melt with avocado sandwich. It was quite good.

We got to our Hidden Haven B & B at 3PM but our instructions told us that there would be no checking in until 4 PM so we did some wine tasting at the Black Diamond Winery. The wine was mostly forgettable although we did buy a rhubarb wine. Then we stopped at the store to pick up something to cook for dinner, checked in, watched tennis and collapsed.