Crackle Creme

IMG_9671IMG_9678

With the increasing popularity of “Pokemon Go” (the augmented reality game, where you catch pocket monsters by walking and travelling in real life time), and my love for it and novelty, when I heard they were selling Pokemon themed macarons at “Crackle Creme”, I directed our after dinner dessert destination here.

IMG_9672IMG_9673

Once just known of their specialty flavoured creme burlees in ramekins, they have slowly expanded and slowly carved themselves into a more comprehensive dessert place. And with no surrounding competition, they have been doing a hell of a job. “Crackle Creme” now also offers ice cream, waffles, macarons, and hot beverages.

Nothing is made to order, with all the prep required, but finishing touches are completed before your eyes. The toasting of a room temperature waffle, the scooping of ice cream between two large macaron shells, and the torching of sugar over custard.

IMG_9674IMG_9676

But with an eye catching collection of colourful macaron characters in their window display, I directed my attention there. These are made in partnership with “Gourmand Macaron” to sell exclusively here. Each had its own flavour, not necessarily reflective of its colour or pattern, except the coconut pandan which was a pale green dusted with shredded coconut. Totoro was lavender, his white friend matcha, and the pink version passion fruit. Hello kitty was lemon, Kerropi was also matcha, a minion was mango, and the poop emoji was hazelnut; just to list a few.

IMG_9697IMG_9703

I of course got pikachu which was chocolate ganache filled and a red and white pokeball that matched. I passed on snorlax because I didn’t think it was obvious enough that it was him. The macarons are good, but it is for their image that you get them. So it was sad that despite gingerly removing them from the mini brown paper bag that they were served in, their surfaces got smudged when I went to get a better grip on them. The owner informed me that it was because it was too hot, and the ink used melts. However this happened immediately after I got them and went to pose them for another photo. And because I ordered them more for look than taste, I naturally was disappointed.

IMG_9689IMG_9690

The black soot from the animated movie “Spirited Away” faired better. Its entire surface was engulfed in black sesame seeds, and naturally, black sesame flavoured. I ordered the large version as an ice cream sandwich, and was given a choice of ice cream filling between today’s availability. I went with the original sounding honey lavender. It was a good call as the macaron shell was fairly sweet and the gentle ice cream didn’t add any more sugar to the mix.

IMG_9685IMG_9687

My guest went for one of their leige waffles glistening behind glass. Separated on wire racks they were ready to take a whirl in the oven before being served warm and a la mode. For a less sweet pairing, she went with the hojicha flavoured ice cream, which is roasted green tea. And like my combo, it paired nicely for a mild dessert. The waffle was decent, but you could tell it wasn’t fresh. It didn’t have that spongy springy texture you wanted.

For drinks, they had a self serve water station. It had sprigs of thyme in it, giving the water a floral after taste. It was certainly unique of them, but after my dessert, I just wanted some ice cold, refreshing, tasteless water, to wash it all down. This area is also where you leave your used dish ware and cutlery when done, stacked in plastic trays.

IMG_9677IMG_9667

For seating they have counter top ledges and stools by the windows and against each free wall. We opted for the scenery of the adjacent park, over their walls decorated in pop culture references and framed dog photos.

The patio out front was a space saving narrow plank of wood in front of a few chairs. It wasn’t the most comfortable eating arrangement: to stoop and hover over your plate, but without air conditioning inside, it was still preferred.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I haven’t had their creme burlee since they first opened, so would like to return to revisit how they are now. They also have a lot more flavours on rotation. Thai tea, lychee vodka, Vietnamese coffee with cocoa nibs, baileys, and even a vegan mango coconut; just to name a few. Both them and their macarons also make great gifts, and novelty worth returning for. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CRACKLE CREME
245 Union Street, Vancouver BC, V6A3A1
778-847-8533
cracklecreme.com
Crackle Crème Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Juke

IMG_9631IMG_9642

I had passed by this restaurant before it opened its doors, before I knew its concept, and before, when I thought they would be offering Chinese food. Then and there I knew I wanted to try it once it opened because of their logo. The logo was a hooked chicken feet/claw in mid clench, and that was enough to peak my interest. Marketing and branding go a long way.

My online sleuthing had my guest and I planning a visit before their official opening, before Vancouver’s food crowd knew the wiser, and before they had their liquor licence and were able to serve us alcohol. Yet we weren’t the only ones in today for an earlier dinner. It looked like the neighbourhood and those who happened to past by was drawn in to their wide open, double panelled doors.

What made them the place to visit was that they were the only game in town serving gluten free, deep fried chicken. A fact not readily noticeable, and one worth mentioning on the menu, on a sandwich board, or even a banner wafting in the wind. In a health conscious city like Vancouver, with many folks vocal about their dietary needs, they filled a niche, yet to be claimed. And best of all, gluten free or gluten full, this was some solid chicken. Fried chicken that a voracious diner like myself can appreciate, even with my ability to consume anything without any repercussion, aside from weight gain.

You could tell the building was new. A shiny red tower with a matching bike rack up front, and plenty of glass for a transparent look in. It’s name: “juke” was extended from the side of the building and repeated across its front.

IMG_9640IMG_9634

The restaurant has two entrances on either ends. One lead directly to the kitchens where you could order and take their chicken to go. Several chefs operated out of this windowed box. You watched them stack pieces of their chicken on a drying rack, before boxing it up. These same boxes were also used as decor elements, piled neatly besides some greenery in vases.

On the opposite end of the restaurant, which is the formal entrance, and where we came in from, was their bar. But as I mentioned earlier, they lacked the ability to craft cocktails and offer anything more than mocktails (cockatils with all the sugar and juice, without any of the fun alcohol) and bottled beer today, and therefore I didn’t take much notice of it after our disappointment. We were however invited to return tomorrow.

IMG_9632IMG_9641

I wanted to be seated at one of their booths. They were set towards the back, with a faux alley way as its back drop. It looked like a alley you would walk through as a short cut home through the city. It was framed around the word “chick a dee” in neon green, with a silhouette of a slender women draped over it in neon pink lights. I couldn’t help but imagine this the back alley sign of a gentlemen’s club.

But because we were just a party of two we were given options between a narrow two top sandwiched by a few others, or a share style family high top. We choose the latter preferring more space, even if shared, then being crammed in tight against a row of cushioned seats by the window. Our seats allowed us to sit side by side, which was easier for not only conversation, but when it came to sharing our dishes below as well. I liked all the room it gave and it was all needed, as we found space for our purses on the table. Without coat hooks by the door or bag hooks under the table, and no back support on our stools, we needed a safe place to store our belongings.

IMG_9636IMG_9662

Each table was set with a two bottles of sauces: barbecue and some honey with pour-easy spouts. As well as a stack of two sided coasters. The red side had their chicken claw logo, and the black a profile of a women in her bikini with knees on the ground and hands above her head in seduction. I would later learn that she and her pot belly, male counter part, (in his equivalent of “sexy”) were the restaurant’s secondary logo and theme. The couple graced not only the coasters, but was printed on the wax paper, that their chicken was served on. And repeated used as wallpaper for the restaurant’s single stalled washrooms.

Where the woman was pictured lounging and showcasing with arms stretch across her excellent body (excellent for an outline, and when compared to the male version); The male version was strutting his stuff in a speedo, black socks pulled high, and scruffs or armpit hair. His similar poses purposefully looked less sexy and more funny.

IMG_9638

The menu was an easy read. Snacks, salad, sides, and mains; and only a handful under each category. And best of all, they weren’t just garlic bread and fries, but each side and small plate peaked my curiosity. Grilled mortadella and cheese, fried vegetable for chips with dip, roasted carrots and honey, charred corn, and a radish and bacon pairing; just to name a few from all that I wanted to try.

IMG_9645IMG_9647

We did start with something as unique though. The fried chicken gizzards were the special of the day, and came heavily recommend by our server. They looked and ate like popcorn chicken. With the honey mustard dipping sauce and the well seasoned breading, you couldn’t tell you were eating organ meat, specifically organ meat found in the digestive track of some animals. The dish arriving to the table had us breathing in deep and our mouths watering. It was plenty salty and plenty flavourful even without the dipping sauce, as our first taste. I always recommend trying something as is first, before dipping it into a sauce that changes its taste and texture completely. This mustard did just that, and offered a great taste changer when we were too acclimated to just the gizzards. It was sweet yet spicy with deep pepper. Similarly, the jalapeño peppers and greens too helped to break the flavour, and add in some freshness.

IMG_9658IMG_9660

Seeing as this off the menu special was so good, we tried their whole fish of the day. Based on the menu, it looked like the type of fish was on rotation, with the price being listed as market. Today it was the ocean perch. It was described as being more flavourful than halibut. It was a light and flaky white fish, with minimal bones. Sharp spines you need avoid, but was hard to do, after my guest educated me on some Chinese eating superstitions. Apparently it is bad luck to flip a fish. You commit to starting with one side up and end with the same side, just bones, still up. Luckily with this fish, it was easy to spot the bones and large chunks of flesh came without it.

The fish was accompanied by with some stellar sides. Vegetables so good that they could be their own dish. The corn salsa with charred corn on the cob, used the same corn that was listed as side. It was sweet kernels infused with a smokey after note. Together with the equally charred tomatoes and the luscious cream, it was amazing. I am not a big fan of fish because of the extra work required to pick though bones, but this recipe and this fish would be one worth working for.

IMG_9652IMG_9653

We ordered the “Five pieces of chicken” combo, which came in two, three, five, or ten. You can’t visit and not try their chicken. The chicken was crispy with thick breading and just a little greasy, as is the expectation of a thorough deep fry. With the use gluten free ingredients, it was a little on the bland side. I needed a bit more flavour, especially as I typically enjoy my fried chicken with ketchup. Here we had their in house made barbecue hot sauce and runny honey at our disposal. Although I wasn’t a fan of either condiments. The flavour and dip of the gizzards above was preferred, and I wanted both for the chicken now.

And sadly the side of pork and peanut slaw was no better. (This slaw is another side available on the menu to order as is.) Accompanying fried food, you want something creamy, like our fish had with its corn salsa and dressing. Where as this was crunchy and soggy, salty and tangy. I couldn’t put my finger on the taste, and thought soy sauce? And the pork was not necessary and it only made things saltier. The salad we ordered below, made a more complimentary side to the chicken.

IMG_9649IMG_9651

Given all the deep fried foods we were having, my guest suggested a salad, to balance things out with some greens. Typically, I put my foot down on no salad at the table, but I am glad she got her way today. Because this salad makes it on to my top three salad list, and was actually the dish I liked the most. The secret is in the dressing and there was plenty of it.

This “big salad” came with romain lettuce, watermelon radish, cheddar cheese cubes, avocado, radish, cucumber, tomato, and fennel; in a pomegranate dressing. It was a very fulfilling, rich and hearty with creams and cheese. Its buttermilk flavouring matched well the southern feel that they were cultivating. If I could improve it, it would be to toss in more blocks of cheddar, one per bite would be ideal.

IMG_9665

And when it was time to pack our leftovers to go, it was done so in their “JUKE” green boxes, with identifying wax paper.

Everything was so great as a whole, that I really wanted to try their dessert. But all they had was “peaches and cream doughnut”. And although they sounded fantastic, something that dense and more deep fried now would be too much. We left in search of something lighter instead.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Another new restaurant helping to make the outskirts of Chinatown trendy. Another new option for those in need of gluten free. A great stop to impress your guest and try something new. I definitely want to return to try more sides, their ribs, and the dessert. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

JUKE
182 Keefer Street, Vancouver BC, V5V, 3B3
604-336-5853
jukefriedchicken.com
Juke Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Fair at the PNE 2016

IMG_1408IMG_1422

The Fair at the PNE, 2016

I love going to the Pacific National Exhibition, but not for the rides at Playland, of any of the exhibitions that comes with the general admittance fee. As a lover of novelty and general eating, you can guess that I am here mainly for the food. And today I was determined to taste and try all that is wacky, weird, and noteworthy at the this year’s fair, 2016.

IMG_1413IMG_1418

I haven’t been in years, but was surprised by the price. $17 for general admission, but that is decent considering all that comes with it. Access to the entirety of the park, including the rides and games, at additional ticket costs. Open entry to all the exhibitions, performances, and shows. Superdogs, an angry bird showcase, mechanic dinosaurs that gesture, a magic show deemed “unbelievable”, and the livestock showcase; just to name a few. And they even have concerts with live musicians nightly. This year the line up included “Sheep Dogs”, “Monster Truck”, and “Dru Hill” with “Sisqo”.

IMG_1423IMG_1421

But after reading a list of new foods to try, I set my mission on trying as many of them as I could, though went about it more organically. We explored the space with no map or route in place. Whatever we came across, and whatever tickled our fancy we stopped at as a group, and approached. My guests (who I actually asked to be my first and second wheel on this journey) were willing and able to keep up with my peculiar tastes.

IMG_1425IMG_1426

We first ran into the “mini donut factory”, a large purple stand. They not only offered the classic minis in cinnamon and sugar, but ones coated in chocolate hazelnut, and a red velvet version as well.

IMG_1433

I went for the latter, and they covered the main properties of red velvet: red dough and a cream cheese glaze. But other than that, they were disappointing. They were not made to order fresh, and as a result were tough and chalky. The cream cheese flavour was missing, you could barley see the glaze, let alone taste it. This one is definitely for the novelty and the fact they were served with their holes skewered on a stick. Especially at $6 a stick.

IMG_1432IMG_1430

One of my guests loves a good chicken and waffle combo, and wanted to see how the fair’s version competed with her favourite Vancouver restaurants. It should be good considering it was $11 a plate, and one of the most priciest things we ate at the fair. “Waffles with Benefits” offered more than the traditional chicken and waffles that she got. They also topped their waffles with slow braised pulled pork and a chipotle slaw, hoisin sauce braised beef with sirarcha mayonnaise, and fried chicken with a cheese sauce. They also had sweet waffles to cover your dessert needs. A s’mores waffle with bacon, an apple turnover spoof with braised Granny Smith apples, a seasonal berry compote with whipped cream, and the classic banana and Nutella combo as well.

IMG_1434IMG_1435

But once again we were content with their “traditional chicken and waffles” with a southern fried chicken breast, whipped butter, syrup, and side of gravy. The chicken was certainly worth trying. Flavoured zesty with seasonings, and fried to a crisp. The gravy was just as good with its rich and heart creaminess, dipping the chicken in it, only made both all the better. Whereas the dry waffle was disappointing. You didn’t get that moist sponginess that you wanted to offset the hard crunch of the thick, deep fried chicken breast. And the thin syrup with its stingy portion, was of no help.

IMG_1440IMG_1444

“Ogopogo Concession” lead with the fact that they offered deep fried coffee. These were essentially doughnut-like bites, with the essence of coffee, topped in your choice of a coffee-inspired syrup topping.

Seeing the poster of their “Ogopogo combo” that had a skewer of coffee bites and an ice cap, I went with that, with my photo in mind. I also went for the upgrade and got my bites dressed, only to realize I would not get the combo as how it was pictured because of this. It made sense that only their regular powered sugar bites got this skewered treatment, because with them, you didn’t have the sticky mess of syrup to contend with. But at $10 total, it was sad to not get what I expected.

IMG_1441

There were five different flavour toppings. I went with the “Espresso flake” as recommended by the clerk. Though their salted caramel is what is most popular. They also offered mocha chip, French vanilla, and a sugar and cream option. For each, the base is all the same, the topping is where you get the distinct flavour. This was pretty much a doughnut without the spongy or cakey chew. Lumps of dough flavoured in coffee, with the espresso glaze giving you an additional caffeine kick. It was overly sweet and therefore best shared.

The ice cap was no Timmy’s, it was too sweet on its own, but better in conjunction with the deep fried coffee, that was even sweeter. It was a watery brew that missing that blended ice crunch when you think, ice cap.

IMG_1462IMG_1459

“Deep fried Steve O’s public house” promised that all they offered was always deep fried and always delicious. They fried ice cream in a cup and cookie dough on a stick, but it was their twist on churros and the tequila shot that I was interested in.

IMG_1470IMG_1472

I was a little caught off guard to be handed one churro when I paid $6. It was black like an Oreo cookie, filled with white cream like an Oreo, and dusted with white powdered sugar. For fear of the liquid filling oozing out, it is served to you, flat on a sheet of wax paper. But the heat and moisture had our churro snapping in two prematurely, though this did help us carry it. For ease of travel and eating while standing up, this might have been best served in smaller sticks, stuck in a cup or wrapped like the best bouquet ever. As for the taste it was amazing. The crispness of an churro that you’d expect, with the comforting cookie and cream taste of an Oreo biscuit.

IMG_1477IMG_1475

The “deep fried Tequila” was less true to its name. This was another thing that was basically a doughnut. Dough flavoured in tequila and fried. I smelled the alcohol, but missed tasting. Where was the kick of spirits? It was basically a warm and soggy original flavoured timbit, with a sugar glaze. Maybe here, a tequila infused dipping sauce would have been the best way to give snackers what they expected. Although, I did appreciate the extra effort of sugar rimming the cup and then garnishing it with a lime wedge for that tequila aesthetic. Otherwise, this was two pieces of dough for $7.

IMG_1461IMG_1460

Heading back to savoury we stopped at the “international perogies” stand. Here they offered miniature pillows of potato and cheese, dressed in different sauces and toppings for specific ethnic tastes. The taco was self explanatory: it included ground beef, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and salsa. From India they had butter chicken with sautéed onions topping the perogies. Canada represented with a poutine version that of course included cheese curds and gravy. And for something more familiar, the classic polish version had sausage, bacon, and sautéed onions.

IMG_1469IMG_1464

We went for the “Teriyaki chicken perogies” with its Japanese influences. The actual teriyaki chicken was breaded and fried before being drizzled over by sauces. It was unexpected, but well welcomed. It had a pleasant crunchy texture that offsetted the chewy dumplings and stringy sautéed onions. The was also sirarcha mayo, green onion, and sour cream in the mix. The mayo made it spicier and the sour cream mellowed things out with more cooks g creaminess. This was one of my favourites of the day, and one worth revisiting.

IMG_1491IMG_1493

For those who love a good corn dog and a good fried pickle, this is the baby born from that fusion. “Chicky’s Chicken” offered “the big pickle dog”, amongst other meats on sticks. Their specialty corn dog is a hot dog wiener wrapped in a pickle, further wrapped in corn meal breading, before taking a dip into the deep frier. They were premade and as easy to server as removing one from the tray under the heat lamp, and placing it onto a cardboard dish. You help yourself to either mustard or ketchup, or both. Luckily my guest was as flexible an eater as I am, and we made sure to fully load it.

IMG_1496IMG_1504

This was as thick as corn dogs go. There was no easy way to get an even bite of sausage, pickle, and breading. I ended up nibbling from side to side, and discovering that there was too much pickle to dog ratio. It would have been preferred to stuff a sliver of pickle into the dog, before giving it the corn meal and oil bath. The sour tang of the pickle was far too overwhelming, it made my lips pucker and my mouth give up on finishing it.

IMG_1513IMG_1515

The most coveted treat for me was the “mini doughnut ice pop” from the “cloud 9” food truck. The idea of enjoying doughnuts and milk in my favourite medium, could not be missed. Their little white and blue camper van is best known for its flavoured cotton candy and shaved ice. And we aren’t just talking spun sugar, but flavours like lavender, piña colada, and root beer added in. But here at the fair, they were only selling their pre-made and pre-package Popsicles for $5 a piece.

The clerk was nice enough to remove the wrapper and discard it for me, she even posed for my photos. This is frozen dulce de leche caramel and cinnamon cream with real bits of mini doughnuts. It was delicious. As the texture was icy, it was easy to bite off chunks at a time. It tastes like the bottom of your cereal bowl, after all the cereal has been eaten, and you are left with a pool of cinnamon and sugar sweetened milk. This is one I would also have again.

IMG_1505IMG_1507

And as it is a must, we ordered some of the fair made famous mini doughnuts, taking majority of the bag home for later. There are several stands to pick between when considering mini droughts, but my guest prefers the ones at “those little doughnuts”. The booth itself spoke to the volume of people they must see. Seven separate stations manned by its own individual, with no one need line up tonight.

IMG_1506IMG_1510

We ended up taking majority of the doughnuts home, but everyone knows they are best piping hot and fresh out of the oil. Luckily they are clever enough to anticipate this and print the perfect reheating instructions on each of the paper bags the doughnuts were handed out in. We were able to replicated the crisp dough with soften centre, at home.

IMG_1486IMG_1490

With so much to see and explore, and so much more to do and eat, we only attended one show and even then we didn’t stay for the entirety of it. The magic show promised to be “unbelievable”, but after the first few performances we lost interest because of the dialogue. We realized this was geared towards kids, and as a result, it didn’t held our focus too much.

IMG_1484IMG_1482

Like many auditoriums this one too offered concession. We grabbed a popcorn and some refreshing lemonade (another fair time classic) thinking we’d be in our seats for an extended time. Though the popcorn wasn’t fresh and this wasn’t movie quality butter, so there was no need to hold on to it when we left our seats behind. Sadly, more than 3/4 of the bag went untouched. The lemonade on the other hand was exactly as expected. Slightly sweet, slightly tart, and a great refresher for the hot outdoor.

IMG_1411IMG_1417

We stopped for one carnival game, but passed on all the rides. I don’t enjoy lining up to be in discomfort. And the older I get, the less fun I find the feeling of gravity pulling my body to the ground, or the gut wrenching churn as I am spun in the air, trapped in a metal cage. I have worked so hard and have so much more to lose now, that these rides are all the more scarier. Plus why would I pay good money to feel bad, when I can put it towards eating more and feel better.

IMG_1543IMG_1565

Though I do appreciate the lights of the rides and the carnival at night, so made sure stuck around to watch dusk rise and the lights of them flicker on.

IMG_1569IMG_1545

Even with missing out on many of the exhibits, I still feel like I got my money’s worth. We strolled past dinosaurs stringed off, as they adjusted their mechanic necks and roared. We watched two magic tricks on a grand stage. We shopped half the marketplace and sampled many of their products, imagining what it would be like if we took any of them home. We smelled the distinct odour of the petting farm as we walked past, opting for the scent of the barbecue pavilion instead. And we signed up for a few showstopper offers and got rewarded in swag like card holders, flip flops, lip balm, and battery packs.

IMG_1555IMG_1549

But what I was paying for in the $17 was access to all the novelty food items, and many more that I had to miss. I am planning a return trip and will up date this post after, hopefully having tried their 10lb burger, or the one with Mac and cheese stuffed into its patty. The international poutines that covered the world in ethnic flavours, like butter chicken for India, a marinara sauce for Italy, and teriyaki for Japan. But if you are looking for the real deal poutines, there is also a booth dedicated to the kind that was born out of Quebec, Canada. I also plan on looking into more deep fried desserts like the peanut putter cup sandwiched between two Oreos, and battered before taking a dip into the fry. Or the Oreo funnel cake, and fresh made canolis from a truck. There is also the fair classics: the blooming onion and the beaver tail to enjoy. A “beaver tail” is fried and flatten dough, covered in cinnamon in sugar. I could go on and on, you could visit everyday and still have new things to try for days. That is why it is so sad that they are only open for the two weeks, before labour day and back to school for the summer. Though the employees who work there the two straight weeks, every day, at long hours disagree. They at least have the Monday off as the fair and the rides are not open then.

IMG_1560IMG_1539

So before you head out on your own PNE food fuelled adventure, here are my pro tips. One, bring a backpack or rent a locker to store all your free swag and won prizes in. You don’t want to have lug stuff around, or be like me, pass up on freebies because I didn’t want to have to carry anything. Two, bring along hand sanitizer cause your hands will get sticky from all that your are trying, and if you are like me, your phone will follow. There are washrooms, but you don’t want to have to find one or line up just to rinse your hands. Three, wear sensible shoes, you do a ton of walking, and often it’s just back and forth looking for what you thought was there. You don’t want to be one of those women who wear four inch heels in the hot hot heat, to suffer for beauty and miss out on the exploring aspect of the PNE. And lastly, wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen, it will be a hot next two weeks, and shade or not, you still can burn without direct sunlight hitting you. The hat keeps you cooler, as your scalp is block from absorbing extra warm that extends to your extremities. Also helpful for those with black and dark hair, that attracts extra sunlight. Because the last thing you want is a painful burn, an itchy heat rash, or a trip to the hospital because of heat stroke.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The fair is only around for once a wear. It is the sign that tells you summer is winding down, and you need to make the most of it with them. I most definitely want to return again this season, but to try other foods and see all that I missed this time around. Most of what we had today was fun to taste and try once, but many more don’t need a revisiting. I am happy to have tasted it all, more to say that I have. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PNE, THE FAIR
2901 East Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V5K 5J1
604-251-7717
pne.ca

Icepik Shavery

IMG_9503IMG_9506

This is another one of those dessert spots that was so busy to visit when it first opened. So I have waited until now to try their flavoured ice. Desserts are best when you can enjoy and take your time with them. When you can sit down and take in nibbles, lapping cream off a spoon. Not when you are being wrangled like cattle in small confines, and rushed through your experience, cause someone wants the table after you.

Shaved ice and snow desserts have been all the rage lately. They are basically the Asian equivalent of a sno one with fruit and candy toppings, instead of just sweetened syrup pumped over. You get the chill of ice cream, without all its calories, and its a sweet way to stay hydrated during summer; after all, when it melts it is pretty much like water. Though what sets “Ice Pik” apart from all the others is that they aren’t just grinding up blocks of ice for its snow-like texture. Here they freeze flavoured liquid into creamy blocks, and then it is these blocks that are shaved into ribbons of ice. That is why they refer to their deserts as “snow cream”. So it is not just the toppings flavouring your dessert, the ice has a flavour all its own, as well.

IMG_9507IMG_9509

They don’t have your traditional flavours like chocolate or caramel, but more tropical ones like coconut, mango, and lychee. And more popular Asian flavours like taro, black sesame, earl grey, and green tea. They even had the unique choice of mint. After you decide on your base, you choose what you want to top it. It’s 60 cents for each, with topping categories divided into fruit, pearls (the kind most common in bubble tea), mochi, jelly, and everything else falling under “other”. With all the possible combinations there is plenty to please everyone, and much to keep you interested in returning. They offered fresh papaya, yogurt flavoured popping pearls, rice cakes, almond jelly, corn flakes cereal, and cheesecake bits; just to name a handful out of 25 different options.

IMG_9505IMG_0920

The ice is sheered using blocks taken from their cooler, and inserted into a specialized machine. The employee managing it equips themselves with gloves, and pushes the machine’s handle with one hand, while gripping the cup the ice goes into with the other. The snow that results gets packed in tight and forms a miniature mountain within a cup.

You have a size choice between regular or large, with the main difference being the latter is branded in their blue, with their mascot on it. Their mascot is a penguin wearing a blue scarf around its neck. His image also graced the window out front, as an eye catching decal. This logo on the cup was worth me wanting a regular, despite being hungry enough to desire the large. They should brand the large cup too, how many missed opportunities have they had to upgrade a customer who wants the visual with more food.

Next, the clerk directs the ice cup to fridge and tops it accordingly, as you have requested. It is then finishes it off with either a chocolate or strawberry wafer.

IMG_0918IMG_0919

You now have a choose your own adventure at their “sauce bar”. Four squeeze bottles of chocolate, strawberry, caramel, or condense milk to drizzle over your dessert. Here, you also get to choose your own spoons. They were thick plastic in six different colours. I of course insisted that they match our cups. As my guest put it, these are the kind of spoons you “take home and wash”.

IMG_9515IMG_9512

My first taste was with a more conservative diner, and in order to accommodate her more passive palette, we went for the safe mango ice with strawberries. I insisted on the condense milk drizzle, and lots of it for flavour. Good thing too as the strawberry chunks were tart. We were also lucky that we could go back for as much more of the condense milk as we wanted. At this point strawberries are only becoming in season, hence why the strawberry ice was listed as “coming soon”. The mango ice was sweeter, but not enough to mask the sour of the fruit, and it was also much more milder in flavour, despite its bold hue.

If you can’t decide what ice base to get and what would be complimentary to top it, choose from one of their five different combos.

I was tempted by the taro, mint, and black sesame flavoured ice with its unique toppings. Tempted enough to ask a stranger to take a photo of their’s. Well, actually she is a coworker and her friend who bought it for them to share, was the stranger. Nonetheless, I won’t forget the moment, as this was the first time I literally asked to take a photo of someone else’s food. I get asked if I do a lot, and now I finally have a reason to answer “yes”.

IMG_9521IMG_9520

They went with the “Emperor’s Pik”. Green tea snow cream with papaya chunks, grass jelly, mango jelly, and strawberry wafer. For those who have never had it, “grass jelly” is a brown jello like substance that doesn’t have too strong of a taste on its own, and therefore is commonly found in drinks and desserts, as a textural component. It is made by boiling the aged and slightly oxidized stalks and leaves of a specific plant, and mixing it with potassium carbonate and starch. It has a unique taste that is hard to describe. I personally enjoy it and have found nothing else like it.

So when I was in the neighbourhood again, and given the opportunity, I came back for more of the more exciting flavours, that I missed out on last time.

IMG_0924IMG_0923

This day, I went with the “Penguin Pik” combo. Black sesame snow cream with grass jelly, Oreo crumble, tapioca pearls, and a chocolate wafer. I choose it for the novelty of having all the dark colours in my cup. You could clearly make out the black sesame flavour, but not so much that you couldn’t enjoy the assembly of toppings with it. The Oreo added crispimess, and surprisingly went well with black sesame. The pearls and jelly were more neutral, so offered different textures, instead of a way to change the taste.

IMG_0928IMG_0927

My guest of today, picked and choose his treat from the list. The taro snow cream with red bean and skor bits. Although mid shave they ran out of taro ice to complete the order, so we were given the option to fill the cup with another flavour. I recommend the coconut to his, as a compliment. I liked it’s refreshing milky-ness, where my guest found it too distracting. But he claimed his original combo with taro was one that worked, despite the fact I could not imagine toffee skor candy pieces ever being with taro or red bean any way else. But I guess that is why the choose your own ice menu exists, for everyone to find their perfect combo.

IMG_9518IMG_0930

The cafe is a small space, with seats around the walls and a dance floor worth of space at the centre. Plenty of room to wait in queue, if need be. To match their theme the walls are painted in a baby blue, with one wall stencilled with white snow flakes. The opposing wall is left blank, other than the poster sized adverts publicizing a few of their dessert options.

IMG_0931IMG_0935

Without air conditioning, it especially hot and sticky indoors, luckily you have the option to sit outdoors. Two plastic chairs in front of their window for the first to claim it.

I have visited twice now and there only seems to be just one employee working the evening shift, not that any more was needed. During my first visit, on a weekday, after a 8pm it was so slow that there was no one waiting at the counter to serve. The one employee was working in the back, giving you the option to ding the bell at the desk for assistance. The second time around, it also wasn’t busy, and the crowd that was in was chill enough to not mind a pause. But as such the clerk can only do one order at a time, so you need wait for them to ring you through and take your money, before starting to make your dessert. And this is how they operated one guest after another. And those who cannot wait, won’t if they haven’t given their money first. So as a business, it is better to ring everyone through and have them wait, instead of gambling on the fact that they are willing to remain in queue, and not walk away due to their impatience-ness. For us, we made it all the way here and paid for parking, so weren’t going anywhere. Although there are a few decent bubble tea places nearby, that we could have turned our attention to.

And sadly, during both visits I was never once offered their loyalty punch card, and at this point I had three ices that I could have put towards a free cup. This card could have also brought me back for my fourth and fifth. A missed perk for me and a missed opportunity for sales for them.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A really stand up, delightful treat. No complaints.

 

ICEPIK
1-3377 Kingsway, Vancouver BC, V5R 5K6
778-379-3177
icepikshavery.com
Icepik Shavery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Off The Grid Waffles

IMG_9479IMG_9480

This is one of those places I initially avoided, waiting until the buzz died down, to avoid excessive lines and crowded confines. That, and its mid day hours were hard to coordinate a visit to. But finally I was here at “Off the grid waffles” to try their popular milkshakes with in house made waffle garnish.

Heading to it, you might miss your destination the first time around. They are called “off the grid” for a reason. Located on a quiet block on Kingsway, with no real other restaurants or dessert places in its close proximity. If you made an effort to come out of the way here, you were staying, line or not. But we came early to beat the rush, being the only other table seated mid day, and having our pick of the place.

The restaurant’s awning is planked wood with its name and logo in white. A scalloped circle with neat rows of small crosses at its centre. This was their nouveau way of illustrating that they were waffle joint.

IMG_9481IMG_9485

Stepping in, there was a change in temperature. They had no air conditioning, and the pressing of fresh waffles only made the air inside stickier. They did have two fan blowing at either ends of of the seating area. Their locations help in our seat choosing process. But as a result of the additional heat, everyone ordered a milkshake, and the restaurant boomed with a full crowd by 7pm. A few tables also came with jenga blocks, already stacked up. It gave you the impression that they wanted a lingering crowd.

The restaurant was a clean space. Wood floors and a white check out counter labelled “waffles!” The counter tops had the same wood finishing that the exterior’s awning did. This is where each waffle was pressed and topped as desired.

IMG_9482IMG_9502

Everything was made to order before your eyes. After the clerk takes your order, one of the two other staff members set about preparing it. They do this in the open Cafe, with only the height of the counter giving the process some illusion. But while paying you get a great view of their row of waffle presses and all the containers of ingredients necessary to craft their signature milkshakes.

They don’t just do sweets. They also had pizza waffles available. Any waffle topped with savoury ingredients fell under this category. There was one with grilled chicken breast and another with smoked meat. The classic pepperoni, cheese, and Hawaiian pizza flavours were also represented.

IMG_9499IMG_9501

We went for the “Spicy chicken with bacon pizza waffle”. This was a well done rendition of pizza, and a play on the popular pairing of chicken and waffles, but with bacon bits. A whole waffle worth of pizza was served in a black pan with handles, and topped with a flag of their logo. The fluffy waffle was layered with plenty of chicken, together it had both a great kick from the spicy mayo and a little bit of sweetness from the waffle.

They also had desserts built around and topping their liege style waffles as well. They had a tiramisu waffle, one with chocolate and peppermint, and a cheesecake waffle. And like the pizza ones, they had the classic dessert toppings like banana and Nutella, s’mores, and apple cinnamon. You can also have your waffle plain, or add a scoop of ice cream for extra. But we chose to drink our desserts.

To drink, they offered much of what other cafes did. Coffees, teas, and milk mixes of both. But chances are you were here for their most popular menu option: the milkshake. There were six different flavours available. Each was filled to the brim of a mason jar, topped with whipped cream, drizzled in syrups and sauces, and finished off with their trademark waffle wedge. The assortment and any extras depended on which flavour your ordered. Each version was served on a glass plate, as it was a messy affair of dripping cream, sticky syrup, and powered sugar. The beverages also came with a cookie straw to eat and drink from, and a plastic one in case you finished that one before your drink was done. I appreciated the pageantry of this the most.

IMG_9490IMG_9495

Though choosing which one you wanted was tough. I did so by basing it on what I found the most unique, as is often how I order when bombarded with so much I want to taste and try. I went for the “Maple Bacon” OFG shake. It ended up being more vanilla than maple, though the candied bacon came through in chewy bits. It was sweet and refreshingly creamy.

IMG_9488IMG_9487

My guest went for a more tried and true flavour, the most popular, “Oreo”. Not only did it come with a mound of whipped cream and a thick waffle wedge, like mine did above, but she also got the add on of a whole Oreo cookie. The extras gave the drink texture and made the eating of it more fun, with breaks in tastes and the mixing of complimentary flavours.

Although, as good as these milkshakes were, they are fairly easy to make. All one needs is a blender and the ability to push its buttons. In fact I often make my own milkshakes and decorated them more elaborate as these. And knowing what goes into each one, I would say I like mine just a bit more. However the waffle final touch is something I can’t do at home, and something I do praise them for here.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
They offer solid waffles in savoury or sweet varieties, but their milkshakes are what’s worth coming back for. Their shakes are a nice treat for when you don’t want the extra work of chewing your desserts. Come early to avoid the crowd, because you don’t get the same experience if you decide to take your milkshake on the road. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

OFF THE GRID
2665 Kingsway, Vancouver BC, V5R 5H4
Off The Grid Waffles Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

720 Sweets

IMG_9420IMG_9432

Looking for desserts after dinner, we came to “720”. I have been here before, but not since they introduced their new line of drinks, to compliment their soft serve ice cream parfaits.

The parfaits were pretty much left unchanged, from my first visit, over a year ago. But they did upgrade the menus that they were listed on. They no longer had a frame dedicated to each soft serve cup, with photo and detailed description of what went into it. Instead, the menu was a series of large boards, mounted on the wall behind their cash register. High quality photos with neatly printed options beside them. Five soft serve parfaits, four of which were their tried and true originals. And the fifth, a green tea, replacing the s’mores one that was offered before. The second board listed all their recent additions. Their new signature drinks, pints of ice cream to take home, and ice cream sandwiches.

IMG_9423

Not being able to read the fine print from where I stood, I assumed that their rating system referred to the customer’s favourites. Each item was given 1-5 orange stars out of a possible 5. And I couldn’t decide why they would advertise a certain menu item being only one star. It wasn’t until I started writing this and reviewing my photos, did I realize the stars referred to level of sweetness for both drinks and ice cream. The “1” of the matcha being not sweet at all; and the full “5” of the cotton candy parfait, representing maximum sweetness with spun sugar and caramel corn over iced cream. We really didn’t take this in to account when placing our orders.

The guests with me today have visited on several occasions, and each time they have wanted to try the new “Matcha Meadows” signature drink. And each time they were told that the matcha flavour was not available, that the machine was broken or the blender wasn’t breaking ice properly. And on one occasion, they were even told that they were going to remove the item from the menu completely. But today we were in luck and they took her order. Although it took a while to come.

The drinks have less bells and whistles, but run at 20 cents more than their ice cream counterparts. $6.20 versus $5.95, but with the drink you are paying for the vessel. Each beverage is served in their branded, glass, milk bottle with lid; that you are able to take home with up. This made a great way to pack up what you can’t finish in house.

IMG_9439IMG_9437

The “Matcha Meadows” is made with red bean, matcha powder, whipped cream, and condense milk. My guest who finally got to try this was long awaited treat was disappointed by it. The build up had been so long; between waiting for it to be available and waiting for it to be prepared: it just didn’t seem worth it. It was bland, yet bitter with matcha. It had a watery texture, that was unexpected given the promise of whipped cream to thicken things up. She compared it to a Starbuck’s frappe and was hoping for that consistency, but got something closer to flavoured water instead. It’s only saving grace was that it looked good.

IMG_9447IMG_9445

I was leaning towards the “rose berry blush” signature drink, which I was told was the most popular choice and the fan favourite. However the clerk recommend the “west coast fog” as her personal favourite, and I took it. At its core this was an embellished earl grey tea. Its listing had me interested in the idea of pea shoots paired with Oreo cookie, whipped cream, and brown sugar. I would too regret my beverage, so much so that I didn’t even bother finishing it, or bringing the glass jug home. It was odd that they advertised the drink having pea shoots first and foremost. This unique twist was the reason why I eventually ordered this. But in reality the pea shoots were only used as garnish. Although I did find that its flavour leaching into the drink, lending it its distinct herby flavour to it. Any more and it would be too much to not over whelm. Overall, the drink tasted like a weak coffee, it lacked depth and needed more substance. Tapioca pearls or grass jelly would have been a helpful distraction here. Bluntly put, we were in consensus that the grocery store quality, packaged, powered milk tea would have been a better choice.

We couldn’t understand why this and the other drink took so long to make, it was just a matter of blending all the ingredients together. Where as the ice cream took swirling, topping, and gingerly putting liquid nitrogen into a cup to have it frothing with smoke. And yet those who got the ice cream below were well into finishing their dessert, before we even popped the cap off ours.

IMG_9427IMG_9430

Those who got the ice cream parfaits did it right, and I was envious of them. The “Cloud 9” was a candy coated dream. Vanilla soft serve ice cream, topped with cotton candy, almond pocky, and caramel popcorn. This was quite the eye catcher with the large tuff of freshly spun candy floss protruding from it, as well as the coloured candy corn that topped it. The former was larger than the soft serve cup, itself.

IMG_9434IMG_9433

The “Milk’ee” replaced the “Milky Way”, both started with a milk tea soft serve as its base. This one was topped with a chocolate stick, almonds, caramel boba, and caramel sauce. This is the one I would have gotten, and should have gotten. A classic light flavour for those who like their tea and coffee as frozen cream.

Sadly, with all the recent popularity of liquid nitrogen in drinks and used to make desserts, the novelty of each parfait smoking was a played out novelty. A great visual, but at this point unnecessary. Their customers base now came for the actual ice cream, they were certainly worth a return trip.

In hind sight I wish I tried one of their new ice cream sandwiches. But shame that it was a the commitment of 4 for $14.95. After eating and having drank half my dessert, I couldn’t stomach four ice cream sandwiches. And they didn’t just sell the one, nor are they very travel friendly on a hot summer’s day. Plus when you haven’t enjoyed something so much, you don’t feel much like gambling on anything else (from the menu).

IMG_9421

All ice cream sandwiches were pre-made and pre-wrapped. Each in parchment with its name written in silver felt against black paper. As for the flavours, they were pretty much what was offered as soft serve. Milk tea, matcha, vanilla; and the “classic” which is a milk flavoured ice cream.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Skip the drinks and stick with the ice cream instead. And if you want to try something new, their ice cream sandwiches are a fun way to take your ice cream on the go.

 

720 SWEETS
3278 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6K 2H4
604-620-1172
720sweets.com
720 Sweets Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Raisu

IMG_9336IMG_9413

You know that place with the pretty boxes of square shaped sushi and small bites in bowls? Well this is that place, and that is what we came here for. Before this visit, I haven’t heard much about how they tasted or if they were any good, it was more that these delicate works of art were in limited release and pretty enough to covet. Each service, lunch or dinner, only prepared a certain number of portions. And as it was a first come first serve affair, there was a serious line right when they opened at 5:30pm. I almost missed my destination, if it weren’t for the bodies already in queue 15 minutes to.

IMG_9338IMG_9368

Right at 5:30pm they put out a white cloth banner with their logo over the door’s frame, a symbol inviting you in. Their logo was a rice cooker. It was certainly iconic, and catchy enough to grace everything from their wall, to the menus, napkins; and even stenciled on the egg omelette, in one of our boxes below.

IMG_9340IMG_9344

You walk under the flapping pieces of cloth to enter the threshold, and climb a steep flight of stairs to be greeted by the host at the tip top. He stood in front of a cabinet, displaying some unique collectables. Video game cartridges, vintage consoles, action figures, and robot and car model sets you build yourself. We waited as he sat one table after another, pacing guests with pauses, to allow the servers and the kitchen to work at a steady pace.

IMG_9415IMG_9347

By the entrance was a small cabinet hanging on the wall, instead of housing keys, it was home to several lucky cat figurines. They must all be working, as the bodies continued to enter and business seemed to be booming. We were luckily enough to grab a seat by the bar without any reservations. Apparently on this day, they were booked up for the next two weeks.

IMG_9350IMG_9355

Our high top seats was one of many along the island bar, located in the middle of the dining area. Its four walls surrounded a refrigerated showcase of sake. The full spirits bar was just behind it. The cocktail and sushi bar were on either ends of one another, both sharing the continuous counter. Both were also sat with stools, and decorated with pixelated space invader characters, made out of tile. These little aliens traveled from one end to the other, catching your attention.

IMG_9353IMG_9352

There was additional booth and table seating to our right and left. Behind us was their covered, roof top patio. This was a handsome setting, worth reserving and waiting for. It had more traditional Japanese style seating, with a wooden table and benches built into a continuous fixture. The table sat above a pit. You remove your shoes and replace them with a set of slippers, the restaurant provided a pair, in the cubbies under the benches. You step up and sit on one of their red cushions, allowing your feet to dangle within said pit.

IMG_9412IMG_9356

Our seats, may not have been the most comfortable, but they certainly provided an ample 360 degree view. We saw all the above, as well as the movie they were broadcasting from a projector, on to a brick wall to our right. From where we were seated we got the perfect, unobstructed view of what looked to be a Geisha, doing a striptease for money. There was no volume or subtitles to provide better context of what we were watching.

IMG_9348IMG_9408

Taking it all in, my favourite decorative pieces were the columns of pointed chopsticks on a specialty rack, and the shelf of tea cups in white and blue patterns. Both had a similar theme: Japanese function and form.

IMG_9343IMG_9407

Upon taking my seat, seeing me struggle to find a place for my bag on the floor, our server brought over a felt box to hold it in. It was still on the floor, but at least off the ground, as it sat safety within this box. This was a nice and unexpected touch. Especially as there are no hooks under the counter, and not much room on the stool, to have to share it with your purse.

IMG_9367IMG_9366

The menu was a thick read, luckily I came in knowing what I wanted, and my guests were kind enough to go with my flow. The menu’s first page listed today’s special and mentioned what was coming soon, as an add-on insert, scrawled over coloured photos of Asian faces with 90’s style hair in the background. I am assuming they were well known celebrities that I was just unaware of.

The boxes are the things to get, as they are unique to the restaurant, and are certainly the most visually stunning. They had them either in seafood or vegetarian version, and even a vegan one. The “Sho ka do” bento was the former, a seafood special that featured seasonal flavours and ingredients, “while respecting Japanese tradition”. This was limited to just 15 portions daily, and we were able to get one for ourselves.

IMG_9369IMG_9383

In hindsight we each should have ordered one for ourselves, for our own consumption. With such small tasters this entire box is really meant for just one person. But at $27 a pop, it is fairly pricy for an appetizer’s worth of food. Luckily I came with two others who didn’t mind sharing, and a mother who was more than familiar with having to divide portions fairly. And as a result we were able to try three different items and share the cost. Although my descriptions my not be the most descript, as I had to gather what I could from a mere nibble. But I suggest stopping by and trying them for yourself, for the novelty, any how.

IMG_9370

The “Minced shrimp and scallop, sandwiched with Japanese omelette” was a nice warm ease into dinner. I was most impressed by the searing of their logo on to this fluffy yellow block of egg. Though disappointed that I was unable to taste the seafood that the name mentioned. However the thick sauce it sat in, gave it every bit of taste that it needed.

IMG_9371

The “Snow crab gratin” was baked and served in a burlee ramikin. The baking gave the cheese on top a slightly charred and thoroughly toasted quality, indicative of a good gratin. The twist of using thick udon noodle, instead of the traditional rice or pasta was a nice spin. It still had the warmth and moist sticky texture you expect when enjoying melted cheese over carbs. Though this was a tease to have so little. This is one I could have had as a full entree with garlic toast, cause you can’t go wrong with this much cheese. But once again, where was the seafood?

IMG_9372

The “Cold truffle and salmon caviar egg pudding” had the texture of chill, firm tofu. It was on the saltier side thanks the fish roe, but looked like it should be sweet. Your eyes and brain were fooled. The eggs also gave things a jiggly jello texture and a nice refreshing pop of juice. I have had nothing like it before.

IMG_9373

The “100% wagyu beef meat ball” was not an easy one to split. This was thoroughly cooked beef with the texture of meat loaf.

IMG_9374

“Grilled salmon with kale sauce”. I was pleasantly surprised to not be able to taste the bitterness,or any part of kale in this kale sauce. It was like a watered down pesto with a faint herbaceous-ness to it. The salmon was delicate, its skin offered a nice tough chew and deep smokey flavour.

IMG_9375

“Stewed shrimp and seasonal vegetables” served in fresh orange bowl. The hollowed out orange peel was meant to flavour the ingredients within, and was not for consumption. What sat in it looked like a rounded fish ball, but biting in, it tasted more like a ball made up of root vegetable; not quite taro or daikon, as told by its texture. I was amused by the carrot shaped like a flower and the actual flower petals. Though disappointed by the shrimp that was slightly over cooked.

IMG_9376

“Scallop and fruit sunomono”. “Sunomono” is thinly sliced uncooked vegetables and seafood, marinated in rice vinegar, thus pickling them slightly. It also commonly includes vermicelli. The thick breading on the seafood, and the use of red and yellow peppers reminded me of fast food style sweet and sour.

IMG_9377

The “Three kinds of delicacies” was a name that didn’t really describe anything. It was cryptic and not helpful, considering the menu offered no further explanation for any of the above as well. From what I gathered, this was lots of salad under a pile of three types of seafood. The octopus was clear with its suction cups, and it’s familiar rubber like chew. The yellow thing was more of a mystery. It was salty and had the texture of many egg roes, but look more like an egg omelet.

IMG_9378

“Japanese tai snapper sashimi salad” with apple vinegar jelly. You can taste and see the kale this time. The fish was delicate and needed no side to accentuate it.

All this came with a bowl of rice and miso soup on the side. Our next two dishes also provided miso soup as a side. But not the rice, as it wouldn’t be necessarily. This is considering both dishes had plenty to spare, hidden under fresh fish.

IMG_9384IMG_9385

The “Oceans offerings” sushi box was also in limited release, just 10 servings for lunch and another 10 for dinner. It was $22 for a house special roll worth of rice and ingredients anywhere else. But when you get this, it is clear that you you are paying for the visual spectacle. Each square was pretty, but not all that functional. They were almost impossible to pick up with chopsticks, with out having half of it crumble and fall back into the box. It was described as daily pressed seafood sushi, but without an actual
list, I wasn’t fully sure we were having. This was also too hard to share, so we took turns choosing what we wanted and trying it on behalf of the others.

IMG_9398IMG_9400

The “Deluxe seafood bowl” looked more like a bouquet of flowers with the use of edible blossoms, shishito leaves and purple and green coloured seaweed. The vegetation gave the assemble some colour and a fresh appeal. Each slice of raw fish was gingerly placed so perfect, that removing one would cause the collapse of many others surrounding it. Though as beautiful as it looked, it wasn’t all that practical to eat from this traditional looking Japanese bucket of rice topped with various fish and seafood. Ahi tuna, yellow tail, snow crab, tai snapper, salmon, ikura, sweet shrimp, tuna, salmon, egg, scallop, and fish roe. You weren’t able to access the sushi rice hidden at the bottom. We would have been better off turning it upside down, and dumping it all out on an empty plate, then picking and choosing what we wanted from the pile. The entirety of the sashimi was some of the freshest I have had. It all practically melted in your mouth. But the highlight was definitely the sweet shrimp, and getting to suck the filling out of its head, as is the delicacy.

We contemplated dessert. But seeing a few dishes walk by, we decided to pass. The entrees and appetizers we had looked so good, that the cakes they offered almost seemed too plain by comparison.

IMG_9409IMG_9411

I was surprised by how good the washroom smelled. Not just a chemical clean, but a scent you wouldn’t mind breathing in, like in a guest room. It matched the cottage cozy of the furniture. Everything was sanded down and purposely worn. Distressed counters with old timely knobs on the porcelain sink. They even offered a cabinet of hygienic products for you to use like tooth picks, cotton swabs, and mouth wash. The perfect assortment to fix yourself up after dinner, if you came with a date to impress.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I liked the setting. It was lively with music and the energy of conversation over beautiful plates. We went for all the fancy dishes today, and it left full, but maybe not as satisfied as we could have been, if we had ordered for flavour instead of presentation. I would definitely like to come back for the garlic edamame and the fried shrimp that our server suggested, as the restaurant’s popular dishes. Or any of their giant bowls of udon that everyone was getting, that was larger that their face. Their tonkasu, which is fried pork cutlet, looked just as good too. It comes with a mortar and pestle to grind your spices in, and sprinkle over flattened meat as you decide. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RAISU
2340 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6K 1P1
604-620-1564
raisu.ca
Raisu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cows ice cream

IMG_9233IMG_9235

We were exploring Whistler Village on a warm summer’s day, and looking to cool down we gravitated towards “Cows” for some ice cream. There are a few other places offering ice cream, out of the village, but this was the only one popular enough to have two locations. This meant neither had a lengthy line up, nor was there a need to wait too long. There was but a bridge separating the two locations, and you can literally spot one from the other. They were identical in wares, offering the same flavours from similar freezers, and same merchandise out of a similar gift shop. “Cows” is also the only ice cream parlour that I know, offering this large of an assortment of apparel, accessories, and toys. You would think that considering all this, you would be in for a treat when it comes to their ice cream. But in reality, we were taken in by hype and the dessert was only average. Here, I actually found ice cream that was too sweet for me, and that I didn’t like, and worst didn’t finish.

Though in hindsight, the ice cream scene in Vancouver has spoiled my palette. With the availability of flavours like lemon poppyseed, whiskey hazelnut, and balsamic blueberry; taste trumps and the actual flavour combinations of ingredients are more sought out than the colourful candy that top them, or the embedded pieces of cake that hide within. Or maybe it’s that as I age, my preferences for my favourite dessert has too. I look for more than just sticky and sweet, when it comes to this cooling treat.

IMG_9236IMG_9237

The location we visited was the one we ran across first. A life size cow statue marked its entrance. The store itself was divided in two, we headed left to the white of the ice cream counter; only taking in the bold yellow, pink, and blues of the shopping side. There, there were stacks of neon tees. Most of which had their cartoon cow mascot impersonating popular animated characters. The “cow’s cow” as Dory with fins and a snout, the “cow” as pikachu in yellow and black splotches claiming to be a “pokemoo”, and the cow as Marvel’s avengers, Nintendo’s Mario, and popular ap turned movie: angry birds. Amongst the shelves of folded shirts and hung up onesies were also stuffed cows, cow themed mugs, and pretty much anything they could put their branding on and sell.

IMG_9238IMG_9240

As for the ice cream, the flavours were spread across three refrigeration units. It was hard to choose one without first starting down at a tub, which also listed what went in to each flavour concoction. The additional list was necessary given their not so descriptive flavour names like “moo crunch”, “wowie cowie”, “fluff and udder”, “Moo Henry”, “Moo York cheesecake, and “messie Bessie”. I was definitely seeing the theme here. But if you are not as excited about cow puns, they also had flavours named after the PEI fruit they used, like PEI blueberry, PEI strawberry, and an PEI apple crisp. This homage made sense considering they were established in Prince Edward Island, and have their home office located there. And naturally they had the classics like Oreo, chocolate, peanut butter cup, bubble gum, and pecans with toffee. Judging by the sign that read “today’s flavours, I gather these were on frequent rotation. 30 different tubs today available as a milkshake in plastic cup, or as a sundae in waffle bowl.

IMG_9241IMG_9242

Given that there a bit of a queue after our party of four, I felt too sheepish to ask for samples. Although I wish I had, if I did maybe I would have gotten a flavour I enjoyed more and could have finished. But no samples were offered and I didn’t notice a bin of discarded tasting spoons on the counter, suggesting it. I guess you read each tag above each bin and hoped for the best.

IMG_9245IMG_9249

One of my guest stuck with the most classic of all the classics: the tried and true vanilla ice cream on a waffle cone. We were all disappointed by waffle cones. Where as we wanted light and crisp, we gone dense and stale.

IMG_9246IMG_9257

My partner when for a little extra with the milk chocolate dipped waffle cone. They also had a white chocolate dipped cone, and rainbow sprinkles or crushed peanuts on milk chocolate. In it he had a scoop of their “Brownie Explosion”. This is vanilla ice cream with a chocolate marble swirl, and chunks of brownie pieces. This not only sounded rich, but it was all to rich for me as well. I found it overkill with the additional chocolate cone. Though it was plenty tasty to my partner, whose only regret was that the ice cream got too melty from the heat, before he could finish.

IMG_9239IMG_9258

I too kept it safe with a vanilla base ice cream. The “Birthday cake” had a cake batter base, with blue swirl, and rainbow sprinkles churned it. It tasted like frosting and sugar, best if you are enjoying it as a five year old.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I have been spoiled with so many small batch gourmet ice cream places in Vancouver this was disappointing. Everything was too sweet and lacked any depth of flavour. I recommend this one for younger children, with less discerning palettes. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

COWS
102-4295 Blackcomb Way, Whistler BC, V0N 1B4
604-938-9822
cows.ca
COWS Whistler Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Memphis Blues

IMG_8931IMG_8930

We were in Kelowna and my partner was craving some solid barbecue. His favourite joint is the “Memphis Blues” in Vancouver, so seeing one here today, he bee-lined to it.

Brand wise they were fairly consistent. The same feel and look, but this location was cleaner, and therefore gave you a more dressier feeling. Though a lot of it was to do with the server working her shift today. She was a lot more energetic than most of the staff you encounter behind the desk. Because you are required to pay and order at the counter, most of the employees need not move out from the safe confines of their hip height cubicle. And most don’t. The entire operation is a self serve affair from pouring your own water and pulling your own drink from the fridge, to even collecting your own containers and doggy bagging your leftovers when done. The only time the staff interact with you is to collect your money and deliver your food. But here, the young woman on the floor actually engaged. She greeted, directed, and explained their concept. She even checked in after to ensure everything was alright.

IMG_8932IMG_8933

The restaurant had its walls covered in with southern memorabilia. Street signs, licence plates, novelty tee shirts, and framed photos of blues performers. There was plenty to keep your eyes roving.

Many of the seats were booths, the extra space helped you get comfortable as you go two hands in on ribs and wings. Each table is equipped with a tray of hot sauces and seasoning, and your own roll of paper towel. I can imagine the latter is where most of their cost comes from. We certainly needed our fare share, having to wipe up after saucy bite after bite.

IMG_8934IMG_8936

We were a group of four and got the “Memphis feast” to share. This is their signature platter with a sample of all the variety of barbecued meats they offer, and all the fixins’. This was the recommended way to sample their BBQ. Ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, BBQ chicken, rib ends, and smoked sausage. For sides we had corn bread, slaw, fries, BBQ pit beans, and potato salad. The food comes fast as majority of this is slow cooked ahead of time and kept warm; or in the case of the potato salad, mixed together ahead of time and kept cool.

There was a nice slab of chicken breast and well tender dark thigh meat for those who like either one or the other. And where it lacked flavour, the side of BBQ sauce helped to add some smokey tang. The brisket was a little on the fatty side and the ribs a tad dry, the rib tips were my favourite and a happy medium between both. The sausage was firm yet juicy, and packed full of seasonings. However, it seemed pedestrian by comparison to everything else.

The sides helped to give breaks between all the meaty goodness, especially the creamy potato and slaw. Although, I couldn’t help but want some crisp garlic bread, instead of the spongy and cakey corn bread. The beans were amazing as my only other reference for baked is from a can. They were not waxy or soggy, but had a firm chew and just a hint of sweet BBQ flavouring to compliment the meat with. The fries were the best of the sides. They were seasoned in their own unique herb rub, salty and spicy, and a bit barbecue tang. The only down side was that there was not enough fries for four. My partner would have happily traded all the sides for just more of it.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A classic spot for barbecue. And with various locations, you can easily find one in your larger city. Good food with plenty of leftovers, to relive the experience of the first bite again, at home. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MEMPHIS BLUES
289 Bernard Avenue, Kelowna BC, V1Y 6N2 250-868-3699
memphisbluesbbq.com
Memphis Blues Barbeque House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Owl Pub

IMG_8834IMG_8860

We were caught in a storm on our way to Osoyoos, BC. High winds, heavy rain, a sky of red, and a rainbow behind the clouds to soften it all up. We decided to seek out refuge at “Owl Bar”. It was the only thing that seemed to open in the town after 9pm, that and it came recommended to us by our friends who were locals to the area.

Walking in on a Thursday night, the place was bumping. We grabbed the last table, before there grew a wait for seats after us. The crowd in itself made the dinner before us feel promising.

But with my partner’s parents in tow, I sort of felt out of place, although our destination did seem to host a great variety of people. For me, this would be the venue of choice for a girls night out, a causal party, or any reason to celebrate. The music was thumping and drinks were flowing from the tap. Long term couples on dates, ladies celebrating a stagette in white, and a group of frat guys looking like they wanted to connect with the table of young girls next to them. And here we were, a quiet table of traveler, right in the middle; just looking to enjoy a warm meal, whilst weathering out the storm.

IMG_8858IMG_8838

The set up was like your typical downtown, city pub. A darken room featuring a bar that wrapped about it. The physical bar looked regal with its thick, dark wood counters and matching high top chairs. There were air hockey and pool tables ready for the next contest, and different sporting match broadcasted on every television set. There was even a breathalyzer machine by the door to check your sobriety, at a cost. The corner stage for live performances was left empty today, but there was plenty of danceable hip hop beats playing over head, to utilize the extra space. Notorious B.I.G. comes to memory.

We arrived late, and was delighted to find that they were still serving food after 10pm. We asked to make sure before we parked ourselves, in a small town, you never know. Though sadly, the food took a long while to come. Understandable considering the steady traffic trickling in to capture last call, and the large groups that were seated and still waiting for their food before us. Through in hind sight, the food was certainly worth the wait. Given the setting and the fact that this was a pub in a small town, my hopes weren’t high. But what we got was a lesson that you can’t judge a menu by its bar.

IMG_8859IMG_8855

Each table was set with a Corona beer branded tool box caddy. It was used to house your common condiments like steak sauce and mustard, along with ketchup, vinegar, salt and pepper.

IMG_8845IMG_8846

Every Thursday they have their “steak sandwiches” on special for $8.99 with any drink. The regular price of it any other day is $15.99. I wondered if there was a difference in size or how it was prepared from this day to any other. Either way it was described as a “charbroiled steak with garlic toast”, with an option to add onions and mushrooms for $1 more. Having seen and tried the steak, maybe it was the reason why they were so busy tonight, it was certainly worth coming in and back for.

On all accounts this was surprisingly good. It was well cooked to a perfect medium rare. It is also rare to get a piece of steak this big, in perfect portion to the slice of bread it sat on. It was a thick slab of meat that melted in my guest’s mouth. He was so happy, after expecting a cheap cut with a dipping sauce or jus for flavour. And had he known it would be this good, he would have added on some mashed potatoes as a side for a more complete meal. There was also so much that he, as a grown man couldn’t finish it all himself. The rest of us were more than happy to help. Definitely the best dish of the night.

IMG_8842IMG_8841

The “BBQ chicken wings” were delivered with a sealed wet napkin. It was well needed, as my other guest tackled her meal with her bare hands. A thick coating of breading and an equally generous amount of tangy sauce to coat it.

IMG_8848IMG_8850

This is their “owl chicken burger”, without the crispy onions and pickles it would have normally come with, as per my partner’s preference. Homemade crispy chicken, bacon, smoked cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes, and bacon mayo on a brioche bun. It was a good whole, white meat chicken breast, but lacked flavour on its own. Compared to the other dishes, this was also the least exciting. I had a bite and found it flat, it was missing the crunch that the crispy onions would have provided, as it was intended.

IMG_8843IMG_8844

I was looking for comfort in the “baked mac and cheese” with chorizo and cavatappi noodles. Meat and noodles baked in a homemade cheese sauce, topped with panko bread crumbs, drizzled with hot sauce, and served with a side of garlic toast. This was perfect for the rainy night we were having. Though there was not enough panko for the crunch I was expecting. The hot sauce was focal, but just enough to give things a kick. Similarly, the sausage too added a different level of flavour. To change the taste mid way, I ate the pasta on top of the garlic buttered bread for an open faced sandwich feel.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A little out of the way for me to commit to returning. But if in Osoyoos again, and on a Thursday, I would definitely like to take advantage of the steak special myself. Hands down, the table agreed that this was the best steak for value ever. They also play name that tune on Thursday at 6pm. And their Wednesdays are equally tempting with 35 cent wings. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

OWL PUB
7603 Spartan Drive, Osoyoos BC, V0H 1V7
778-437-3838
owlpubosoyoos.com
Owl Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato