Thursday, December 18, 2008

Burgoo - hearty stews for our chilly winter

Simple presentation for simply good food.

Faced with -2 weather in Vancouver (that's the high for the day, and it's not getting warmer anytime soon), Nina and I decided a visit to Burgoo* was called for. It's warm, cozy and friendly and specializes in hearty comfort food: stews, thick soups, grilled-cheese sandwiches and such from around the world. Exposed wooden beams and a small room make it feel pub-ish, without the fire. I've eaten there a few times, and with one exception it's been wonderful. Unfortunately that exception was today.

I was looking forward to their Irish stew, which I've enjoyed before: "Guinness braised lamb with vegetables and homemade dumplings, served over garlic mash potatoes". It's thick and tasty, perfect for a cold, wintry day. Nina suggested we try the Beef Bourguignon instead, and having only had good experiences with their menu, we thought it would probably be fantastic. It was good, but not great.

The meat was tender and flavourful, the vegetables were perfectly done, and as always the mashed potato base (they use it under all their stews) was very good. The accompanying biscuits were wonderful. The service was great, they use cloth napkins (a must, in my opinion), and even the utensils were nice and heavy.

Beef Bourguignon is a traditional French stew made from beef braised in red wine and broth, caramelized onions, carrots and mushrooms, with some tomato paste added to the sauce. The problem with Burgoo's Beef Bourguignon was in the sauce: the entire dish was fairly spicy, enough to drown other flavours, but from black pepper, not from chilis. I've only had it once before, so I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure it's not meant to be spicy. When you cook cracked pepper for any length of time the heat in it really comes out, which is why one adds it to taste near the end of many recipes.

It was unfortunate, and won't stop me from returning. I've tried their Kentucky burgoo, their Irish stew, the French onion soup, the biscuits, and they've all been wonderful. I highly recommend a visit, and if you like black pepper I would even recommend the Beef Bourguignon. There are line-ups at mealtimes, a testament to the quality of food and service, but don't be put off. When it's this nasty and cold (and there's wolves...), we need warm, hearty comfort food. A visit to Burgoo will defiantly give winter the finger while wrapping you in a big warm foodie hug (a bit much?).

For a more comprehensive review, read On the Bone's experience at Burgoo.

* What is a burgoo, you ask? A thick meaty stew. Like chili, there is no set recipe. Burgoo's burgoo (how fun is that?) is "slow cooked meats with lima beans, corn, tomatoes, cabbage and okra served over garlic mash potatoes" and is pretty damn tasty.

A warm and cozy feel to the place helps when it's negative degrees outside.

Thick and hearty, just too peppery.

Wonderful cheese and parsley biscuits.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your observation about the Beef Bourguignon. I've only had that dish at their Point Grey location, but the really strong pepper notes were apparent there too, I don't mind too much black pepper myself, although I know that for Beef Bourguignon it's just wrong. No one in France would make it that way!

Brenton said...

We tried it again, and it wasn't AS peppery. The Irish stew was more peppery than we remembered, though. I wonder if it's just a matter of when in the batch you order their stews. If they start a batch of Bourguignon and it cooks for hours, the pepper will come out a lot more, but if you get a fresh batch it may not.

I asked someone who is more familiar with the dish, and they agree with you: Not how it's usually done in France.