VieAMaggi.com

Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

Month: July 2015

Medina Cafe

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Today we were visiting the newest location of “Medina Cafe”. They were clever enough to have signs on the corner of Richards on the busy street of Robson, directing you to walk down Richards to visit them. Otherwise I wouldn’t have know they were now in the neighbourhood.

You wait by the door, you can only be seated if your full party is present. So like its main location, there is a scramble to call your co-diners over quick, if you are the first to arrive. I left my name on the wait list. I waited hungry. An awkward place between the door and the cabinet that functioned as their hostess booth. No seats, and no place to stand out of the way. You constantly feel like you are hindering the revolving traffic. One of the patrons awkwardly waiting with me urged the host to give him a table, mentioning that the other half of his pair would be here in a matter of seconds. I was in the same boat, it didn’t make a difference. Though the host took the time to assure everyone that the turn around rate was high and that he was doubtful that there will be a wait when our guests would finally join us.

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The space was almost double the size of the original, even with its who shops merged into one structure. It was necessary given the popularity of the place. It also felt busier because at the other location their large space was divided into two halves and the wall down the middle created some much needed privacy. Here, the open room with its closely spaced tables took that option away from you. And on this Wednesday for lunch, the place was busy and the crowd was at a roar.

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The hostess booth was a cabinet with drawers. Its whole set up looked like it belonged in den or study. On the top rested a typewriter, it welcomed guests with its paper fed, its message in mid type. Out of place in our modern world, but it matched well the other antiques adjacent. A stack of dusty encyclopedia-like tomes and a rusty desk lamp. It was the cordless phone and the pad of paper and pen that stood in contrast. It was also here where the white and teal titled foyer floor transitioned to a matte hardwood floor. As you can tell my wait gave me a lot of time to write.

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Their well known waffles were in a showcase, within view area of the front door. Strategic, I feel. After seeing these you wouldn’t think to avoid the wait and go somewhere else. A multi-tier stand tantalizing you from the waiting area. Sadly our full meal and my full belly did not allow me to have any, though considering they are pre-made, I technically could have taken some to go. It’s not like they serve them fresh or warm, or at least that is what I can recall from memory. But, here you are able to dress your liege-style waffles up with a whole slew of different and unique toppings, unlike any at any other waffle shop. You add each one at the cost of $1. Chocolate, Milk Chocolate Lavender, White Chocolate Pistachio Rosewater, Salted Caramel, Raspberry Caramel, Peach & Bourbon Butterscotch, Fig Orange Marmalade, Mixed Berry Compote, Quince Compote, Maple Syrup or Yoghurt. And for $2 you can have Earnest Cardamom Ice Cream with Bittered Sling Plum + Rootbeer Bitters. Some fancy waffles.

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As I mentioned earlier, we were seated between two other very narrow and very closely spaced tables.  I felt like I was in a constant shrug with my shoulders tense, to give others around me some personal bubble space. Maybe Belgium has a different definition of personal space. In front of me was their bar. Wood finished shelves sitting in a brick alcove, numerous bottles lines each one. Above it, a handsomely done copy of their logo; it had a worn wall, faded tee shirt look and print to it. To my right was the kitchen where I couldn’t make out much past their counter window.

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The cuisine was Belgian. Bold flavours, with a warming heat. It is sometimes said that Belgian food is served in the quantity of German cuisine but with the quality of French food. Belgium is best known for its chocolate, waffles, fries and beer, we didn’t get any of those things. Most of the menu felt foreign to me, a lot of it I wanted to try. The house sodas in particular were interesting. House sodas were nonalcoholic drinks with unique ingredients, think a virgin craft cocktail. I had the “Bergamot and buttermilk cream soda”, with Madagascar vanilla, bergamot citrus, buttermilk, and chocolate bitters. There was also the option to add in cardamon infused cachaca for extra. This was the fanciest drink I have ever had. It was seasoned with Indian spices and had a strong resemblance to chai. Fragrant. You got the yoghurt’s colour and its creaminess. And the syrup used offered the beverage some sweetness. I didn’t plan it, but it went well with my un-expectedly spicy brunch. Like milk, it helped to dull the burning heat of my meal below.

I will have to come back to try the “Rose Hip + Jaffa Orange Crush” with Honey, Eucalyptus, Rosewater, Rose Hip, Jaffa Oranges, Cranberry Bitters and the “Hawayij Root Beer Float” with Barley malt, Blackstrap Molasses, Vanilla, Cardamom Ice Cream, Plum + Rootbeer Bitters. Both had the potential to become boozy beverages with the addition of gin or bourbon. The perfect set of drinks to transition from day to night.

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“Paella” with One fried egg, orzo, spicy chorizo, seasonal vegetables, grana padano, avocado, and spicy charred tomato salsa. Orzo is short-cut pasta, shaped like a large grain of rice. It as if you were eating a hybrid of pasta and rice. You get the starchy chew of pasta with the ease of eating from smaller grains of rice. The pasta was cooked tenderly and its texture was enjoyable. The pot was like a vegetable soup stew, with mashed bits of tomato.

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“Tagine”, two poached eggs, spicy merguez sausage; and seasonal vegetables in stew of chickpeas, black olives, and preserved lemon. Served with a side of grilled focaccia for dipping or use with the side of dip included. The creaminess of the sauce was also helpful in cooling off my tongue. It was a little too spicy for my taste. I find chilli sauce distracts me from tasting the food, and enjoying the moment of eating because I am so caught up on how my mouth feels when l it is on fire. I wasn’t sold on the poached egg, or having its runny yolk spill over my already very watery dish. I was like the traditional egg and sausage breakfast, but instead of hash browns there were chickpeas and beans to make things feel more hearty. Overall, as good as it was, I also don’t know how I feel about having this first thing in the day. A lot of spices and flavours to wake up to. Pow! Goodmorning! In your face! Plus given the warmth of the day, maybe something to heat you inside out isn’t a good idea. My guest reminded me that lamb meat is often served in winter for that very reason, it’s ability to heat one from the inside out. It was the reason I got this instead of the “Les Boulettes” with spicy Moroccan Lamb Meatballs.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Considering we were too full for a waffle I will have to come back. And if I arrive first I will have to wait. I enjoy the diversity of the food, familiar ingredients but in a delightfully different presentation. It all felt very authentic. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CAFE MEDINA
780 Richards Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 3A4
604-879-3114
medinacafe.com

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Stripped, ladies & gents wax bar

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Because when you claim to be a lifestyle blogger, no topic is off the table. In your life time how many people do you expect to show your privates too? If you sit and think about the total number, for non sexual reasons so far, you may be surprised.

I have taken a break from laser hair removal. The last place I invested time in, shut down abruptly and I have yet to find a suitable long term replacement, one that I find reputable at a price I can afford. So with that, and no longer willing to invest in the tedious time it takes to pluck and tweeze myself, I have sought out waxing for that smooth down their feeling. A service most women seek during the summer, to save them from a stray curly getting loose from under a skimpy swimsuit bottom. And ask any woman, we all know you don’t get that smooth from shaving. Plus, we don’t shave there to avoid the itchy ingrown and growing in feeling a week after. To have new hair grow back and feeling the need to itch and scratch in an unladylike manner. Been there, done that, and it ain’t pretty. The convenience of a quick shave is not worth any of that hassle.

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When looking for delicate services such as a this, I tend to trust chains. I feel chain shops have to be somewhat decent in order to have multiple locations to serve the public’s growing interest in them. And they must have enough financing to have multiple retail stores stocked with the proper equipment. Meaning no corners cut and no abrupt closures. After all you don’t want to chance it when it comes to having anything to do with down there. A couple of dollars saved is not worth a rash for a month. I always consider my return when I make an investment. And when it comes to my own welfare or potential risk, I don’t think I should have to settle for anything or gamble on a chance.

I made an appointment online. Such services hardly except walk-ins. Plus, once you find a technician you like, you tend to stay with that same person. One more and many less people needing to see your privates that way.

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“Stripped”, the name is catchy, and their logo is cute. The cleanliness of the space and the decor put me at ease. Dust free in bright white, it has that sterile spa feel to it. The establishment seemed very well maintained. My “va jay jay” would be in safe hands here. “Va jay jay”, the cutesy term they used for a woman’s under carriage. Though they also specialized in waxing other body parts, and conducting other services. Though the “va jay jay” was clearly their specialty. They sold the sprays, cleansers, perfumes, and undergarments, all in honour this a part.

I didn’t know one could or would want to wax so many other parts. Their service menu was a list of body parts for women and men. Upper lip, chin, brows, full face, under arms, arms, stomach, back, Derrière; nothing was off the table. For the men, the list was similar, but instead of “bikini” it was “speedo”. It wasn’t a Brazilian but a “manzillian”. I was learning so much new vocabulary just by reading their offers. They even had an option to wax it all for $240 for men and $170 for women. Obviously, larger surface area, more hair, higher the cost.

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I considered get my “va jay jay” bejewelled with their Swarovski elements. I am a sucker for that bling. A star, a heart, or maybe an anchor or a butterfly. But in general that seems unnecessary. Those who visit would be happy with the admittance, and truly only I would enjoy the glitter. Plus if you are going to splurge that feels more like a fancy occasion indulgence. Maybe the first time staying over at a new boyfriend’s place kind of thing, or maybe to be used as an anniversary prop. 

If it is your first time visiting you sign a waiver. Your standard I am not pregnant nor am on any drugs, my skin is ok, and I consent to what I have requested you to do. And here is my name and basic information to prove it. 

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When time, one of the girls brings you to the back. Here you are given time to freshen up with wet wipes. They ask for a front and back clean up job. You then disrobe waist down and prop yourself onto their work bench. A purple cushioned bench, similar to that of a doctor’s examining table. This one too had the ability to adjust the height, but no stir ups.

Today my specialist was this nice younger girl. I explained all my anxieties and she quelled my concerns. She has seen them all and seeing a new vagina is nothing out of the ordinary to her. Her friendly nature made the process less painful, despite having my hair ripped out violently by the roots, from a more sensitive part of my body. She made small talk to put me at ease. Though all her calming words didn’t stop me from sweating and turning red. I was embarrassed, I apologized a lot. So much sweat dripped off of me that it actually bled through the paper covering that they lay on the bench for sanitary reasons. An embarrassment I had to face when I was later asked to flip over. An embarrassment she saved by laying another hand towel under my stomach and pelvis. No judgement here. It was nice not to be judged by such a pretty girl. 

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Waxing is available in hard and soft wax. The former is for sensitive skin and costs more as a result. Given the thinness of my hair and the minimal amount of it, I was best to stick with the standard soft wax. 

Though first things first, accessing your hair. With gloves on she sanitizes your mound. A few quick strokes of an anti fugal oil that acts as a moisturizer (or at least that is what I think I recalled). A test strip is then done to determine effectiveness. Given my situation I signed a waiver that 5-10% of my hair would remain as I had hair at various stages of growth. A situation caused by pervious laser hair removal treatments that never took and tweezing myself over three weeks ago. (They at least need 3-4 weeks of hair growth in order to wax). She had me sit up to point to and see what she was talking about. I have never had someone analyze my pubic hair with me. An interesting experience to say the least. This was work, she wasn’t phased by another new vagina. 

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Once I signed and dated her waiver she went to work quick. With both my legs bowed, my back flat I was told to relax. Not sure how that is possible given the position and it being done on a table. She globed on warm wax and applied a cloth strip over it. With a few rubs to ensure it would pick up every hair and all the wax possible, she pulled without warning. One hand holding down my body and keeping the skin around the area she was working on taunt. Her not doing so would result in popped blood vessels, dark dots at the base of every hair root. I speak from experience, after my first attempt of at home waxing gone wrong. Luckily it was my legs.

As promised, a few of the stray hairs were left standing after the pull of a wax strip, she caught each with a set of tweezers. Tweezing hurt less to have her do it, than me doing it for myself, though I just could have been numb. Before I knew it she was done and asking me to flip over. Yes a Brazilian includes hair removal at the back end. Though I am proud to say she didn’t have much work to do back there. And those were her own words. I don’t know what was worse being belly up and able to watch her tinker, or facing the door and leaving it all to feel. But like I said it didn’t last long and she soon had a towel over my bum telling me after care tips. It was nice that she maintained my modesty whenever she had the chance. I was never unnecessarily exposed.

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No swimming, tanning, or exercising for 24 hours. No problem, I don’t do 2 out of the 3, hell I struggled to spell “exercise”. Given the thinness of my hair she recommend that I visit her after 6 weeks, as it would allow for more even growth. She assured me that even if I had hair grow back soon, that it would not be noticeable. I guess it depends on who is looking, I did have to consider that bikini season was fast approaching. She gave me time to redress and to meet her out side to pay. You do this with the receptionist at the front. My file was created, I would be back to see her.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
I will definitely be incorporating this into my routine. Waxing was quicker than having me doing it myself with a pair of tweezers, and far less painful. And at under $50 for weeks of smoothness and none of the hassle, I deem it worth my drive down and my hard earned money. And apparently the more you wax, the less the hair grows back, and eventually you get the results of laser without the pain, heavy cost, and need to upkeep.
STRIPPED
1016 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1A9
604-681-8660
getstripped.ca

Casa Dolce Gelato & Chocolate

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After a savoury dinner we were hankering for a sweet dessert in “Newport Village”. Our walk took us nearby to “Casa Dolce”, a sky blue and lemon yellow sign marked the spot. We intended just to grab some ice cream, but found their other options equally inciting. I certainly didn’t expect anything this elaborate at a neighbourhood ice cream parlour.

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Right by the door were tubs of gelato and sorbeto, most already dug in to, as we were more than half way through the day. Two glass show cases of pastel shades and neon hues. Bins of velvety looking creams with thick swirls, some were even topped with the flavour they represented. Caramel drizzle over the sea salted caramel gelato, coffee beans with the espresso, and fresh fruit in the raspberry grapefruit sorbet. If you are looking for fruit flavours they had them in both the gelato and the sorbet variety. Strawberry and blueberry gelato. And the less milk and more tart, sorbets in strawberry, grape, and limone. Other popular gelato flavours include cotton candy, pistachio, vanilla, mint chocolate chip, white chocolate raspberry, amaretto cherry, and coconut cream. Most would have been satisfied just limiting their order from here. The cash register separated the frozen treats from the next showcase, it clearly showed where most of their business was made, within the first few feet of the door. The summer’s sun and the customers with their cones in hand were an testament to this. I on the other hand wanted to know all that they offered, to be sure I made the most informed dessert making decision. After all, there were so many things to choose from and I didn’t want to regret not entertaining all of them.

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Walking further in, I noticed they offered savoury snacks as well: breakfast sandwiches, side salads, folded pastries, filled pies, and flour tortilla wraps. It’s nice that they attempted to be that one stop shop for all. Unlike most places, they certainly had the show space for it. Given that everything else was made in house, I can only assume these were as well.

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On the counter were several cake displays with lid, shielding baked goods. Saran engulfed biscotti, sliced cake loafs, half chocolate dipped cookies, almond twists, and parchment wrapped muffins; all travel ready. These went well with the specialty coffees and gourmet teas they also offered on menu. An offering made obvious by the stainless equipment behind the counter, the pyramid of metal tea tins stacked several tiers up, and the grouping of cup and saucers found nearby.

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The chocolate display had various cubed bites, perfectly shaped and evenly spaced morsels. Dark, milk, truffle, and white. You definitely needed time to read all the fillings and carefully make your choice. Popular filings like caramel, coffee, and sea salt. Nut filled? Hazelnut, pecan, almond, and cashews. And some more adult friendly combinations that included rum, gran mariner, and champagne. They even had pretty boxes with contrasting curled ribbon, to package those you wanted to purchase for gifts. I luckily never had the a sweet tooth penchant on chocolate, so kept on moving. Though the thought of their Belgium waffles topped with cream, fruit, or gelato did slow my step.

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I also considered the macaroons at length, but was more enticed by the sign advertising ice cream filled macarons instead. Why have two deserts when you can have it all in one? They were kept in the freezer towards the back of the room. A help yourself door to pre-pint-ed gelato tubs and full ice cream cakes. Buy two 1/2 litre tubs and get one free. And 16 inch round cakes ready for candles and a song, available in several colours and flavours. Their ice cream macaron flavours were the same as their regular macaron selection. Earl grey, pistachio, sea salt caramel, raspberry, coffee, and lemon.

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I have only ever seen ice cream filled macarons in photos, so was excited to be able to try some now. The tough part, what flavour to have as my first? The espresso and mint chocolate chip macaron gelato sandwiches were the winners in that internal debate. The slightly bitter tone of espresso in the gelato was off set by the sweet sugar shell. These were easy to eat, fun with your hands kind of treat. The crunch of the shell offered some texture where the chocolate chips in the mint had none. Would definitely be craving these again, but would like to try the other flavours next time.

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We also ended up getting a scoop of the “Rose chocolate” and the vanilla gelato. I was truly surprised at the portion size, this cup duo was definitely more than “one scoop”. Though you were paying about a dollar more here than at other places, so you were getting your money’s worth.

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We were able to sample several flavours, and as a result “Rose chocolate” was chosen. It had a light flavour, that made for an and airy floral palate cleanser. My guest requested a cup and scoop to match her pink gelato; request she made for me, in consideration of the above photo. The employee was kind enough to oblige and give her both a light and dark pink spoon to use one and discard the other as we liked. Very accommodating. I on the other hand went with a scoop vanilla, all very standard. I hate to say it, but I have never found a flavour I enjoy more than vanilla. Vanilla is never too sweet and always what I expect it to be. Though I was unable to finish my portion, as I under estimated how much ice cream was in the macaron. Here I learned there can be such thing as too much ice cream.

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Eat in or dine out, there are seats available for both. Cushioned booths in doors, metal mesh table and chairs outdoors. We choose the later given the warmth of the evening.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Gelato is the creamiest of all ice creams, it cures all, and nothing replaces it when you have a craving. Who doesn’t like a melted scoop or sticky lick on a warm summer’s day? The only one in the area and definitely worth a visit for all they have to offer. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CASA DOLCE
252 Newport Drive, Port Moody BC, V3H5B9
604-461-7888
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St. James’s Well

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I am often found at “White Pine Beach” during the hotter summer season. And when looking for lunch before or dinner after I find this little plaza in Port Moody offers in all. Today we were visiting the “St. James’s Well pub” for an early dinner.

Happy hour was in full swing. The patio out front was fully seated, and with the sun out, couples were taking full advantage of the unobstructed heat. Inside, many male patrons stood with a glass in hand, bodies huddled around the bar. They were loudly chuckling, casting their eyes on the broadcasted golf tournament above.

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The interior looks and feel like an Irish pub, greens and browns, and everything else you would expect. I have never been to Ireland, but this is what I would imagine a pub in Ireland to look like. It was rustic like a well worn study. A solid stone fireplace towards the back, dark exposed wood all around, and worn-in wooden floor boards beneath. It all felt used and very much lived in. In contrast, the ceiling was painted in bold colours: a deep emerald green and a very berry maroon. The stain glass windows that also functioned as pub signs, added pops of colour, especially as it caught the sun and light streamed in.
In a cabinet there were steins, mugs, and frayed book tomes on display.

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From the rafters hung brass and copper buckets, brown jugs, woven baskets, and rusted pots. On narrow shelves and across the walls there stood and hung various dusty knick knacks. Antique looking metal containers, an old timey telephone, a violin with its bow, and a banjo with all its strings. Photos of old drink ads and black and white stills finished off the scene. The only thing that seemed out of place were the pop songs playing overhead. It was a surprising mix that included Taylor Swift a few times. Surprising, considering the patrons in now were all older men by themselves. I feel the music was more for the younger waitresses dressed in their club attire. It was all very much a neighbourhood bar scene and atmosphere. Attractive women of various shapes and sizes, serving older men who knew them by their names and took the time to catch them up on their lives. Everyone knew everyone and here we were sitting in a corner waiting to be acknowledged.

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We came 15 minutes to 6pm, and was hoping to catch their “h-appy” hour food menu. However the delay between being seated and finally getting service 15 minutes became 3. And by that time I was too sheepish to ask, nor did our serve mention it to us. The menu was your standard pub fare with plenty of Irish influences, we made sure to take advantage of that fact. We also figured that with the restaurant being closer to water, and with a fresh seafood store two doors down, their seafood entrees and appetizers must be good.

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We started with the “Stuffed Yorkies”, $1.75 each, with a minimum order of two. These were their homemade Yorkshire puddings stuffed with hopcott’s roast beef, horseradish, and mayonnaise; served with a side of gravy. This is the traditional way to have them and the way we enjoyed them, but you can also try the Yorkies stuffed with shepard’s pie filling instead. I found the crispy and buttery pastry the best part. These nests were like tiny beef dips. They were filled with smooth sheets of tender beef, perfect for dipping into a communal bowl of homemade gravy. You could taste that the gravy was scratch made using beef drippings. We had plenty of gravy left over, so our server suggested we save it to use in conjunction with the rest of our meal, good idea.

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“Guinness, crab and asparagus soup”. A creamy blend of Guinness stout, crab, potatoes, asparagus, and Parmesan cheese. Different than what I was expecting, though I don’t know what I was expecting. Glad I didn’t get the large sized bowl, but this cup-sized portion instead. The bland colour wasn’t very appetizing. The soup was more like a chowder, heavy, chunky, and creamy past the lumps. It definitely got better as you went, when you grew accustomed to its unique taste. A spoonful was the best when you got crab in the scoop. Whereas the asparagus was a little too chewy and very much wilted. A soup like this would be best paired with a hearty sandwich or a savoury meat pie.

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The “Cheesy crab and chive dip” was my favourite. Baked fresh to order the menu warns it takes 15 minutes to make. It is worth the wait. Gluten free, it is a blend of cheeses, fresh local chives, and crab. You scoop it up using multicoloured tortilla chips. Though the dip was so thick that the chips buckled and broken under its gooey weight. I rathered scoop spoonfuls into my mouth anyways. This appetizer was very pub friendly, easy to eat, and best to share. Even when the dip cooled down it still had me licking my fingers clean.

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The “Chicken pot pie” was ethically sourced from Abbotsford, it is slow cooked with fresh veggies and filled into a puff pastry with shredded chicken breast. We wished they listed the vegetables that would be included on the menu, and shame we didn’t think to ask, as my guest doesn’t like mushrooms, and therefore forced to eat around them. Though the pies were probably preassembled before dinner service. However, from the steam that bellowed out upon first cut, you could tell these pies were baked to order. This was a home style, hearty and creamy pie. It wasn’t too salty, the stewed veggies sat in a nice smooth gravy. You could tastes the real roasted chicken, and the thick sheet of fluffy golden brown pastry gave each bite a little crunch. The serving included a fresh green salad with edible flowers on the side. This was the first time I have seen or heard a pub using such pretty elements. Outside of the real flowers, it was your adverse salad that included various leafs of lettuce, red onions, tomatoes, and red peppers.

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The “Un-paralleled fish and chips using only fresh Oceanside BC cod” advertised “Ultra crisp thin batter”, west coast slaw, and in house made tartar sauce. Sadly the batter wasn’t “ultra crisp” like the menu promised. Instead it was oily and we found it peeling of the fish. And because the piece of fish sat over the fries for too long, the fries too became soggy from too much oil. Nothing a more thorough blotting couldn’t remedy. The fish was as bland as it was unfortunately dry. We wanted it more flaky and moist. But sadly there was not enough dill or zig in the tartar sauce to save the dish. As a result of an unsatisfactory fish, we skipped on the fish burger we were going to get to go, the “Un-paralleled cod burger”, like the fish and chips above, but in burger form with fries on the side.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The food wasn’t perfect, but for pub food it was pretty darn good, and I expect it would be only better after several beers in. They kept the pub roots in their cuisine, but added extras for the clientele, given the nicer area. Additional seasonings, homemade touches, and flowers in side salads. I would have thought the prices would be higher given the neighbourhood, but they were standard and fair. Good price for lots of food. The setting was cozy, they would be a great stop on a rainy winters day. Imagine pie, beer, and soup by their fireplace. A great option to unwind at after work. Though not necessarily for those who live further away, it is quite the drive from my home in Burnaby. The travel time takes too long for more frequent visits, but with the skytrain transfer point being built nearby, I wouldn’t be surprise to see more traffic come through next summer. I hear they also have live band nights. But be warned, if you are making a trip down, stop by earlier in the evening. Because of their location and the residential area surrounding, they do close up earlier. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ST. JAMES WELL
248 Newport Drive, Port Moody BC
604-461-0800
stjameswell.com
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Adesso Bistro

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I didn’t know such a restaurant existed, especially hidden away in a residential area like this. Located downtown, but blocks in, past apartment buildings and town house duplexes. I wouldn’t think to walk in to find this, so I guess it’s one of those places you have to know to go. It sure served its community well.

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The restaurant was a stone building surrounded by creeping green. Its sandwich board out front helps to narrow down your direction. Sun out, fresh air, the patio to the side was the place to be. You could tell by its full capacity, full of happy faces. Everyone was out there, and we were where the only other available seats were: indoors, in dark, in air conditioning. 

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The theme was true Italian, represented in their cuisine with clean and simple flavours, and gracing the room in art and culture. A bronzy shade slathered each wall; over it, rich oil paintings hung. Outdoor scenes, patios with chairs and river side cottages. Towards the back of the room was the kitchen, hidden behind frosted glass. Through a slender gap in the glass you could see orange flames rise from pans and the chefs shuffling in white.

Our server received us with “mademoiselle” and “Monsieur”. He addressed the ladies first, and was attentive to a tee. He took care to reset our dish ware and cutlery after our appetizer, keeping glasses full, and conversation light. You could tell his gentle hand and his full service was from honed experience. 

The menu started with five pages of wines and cocktails, leading to one of food. Shame we all drove and was not in the mind set to pair our meal with the perfect red. This definitely seemed like the place to do so, if you were ever going to. Certainly everyone else that later joined the room, and did so, thought so. 

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Our meal began with complimentary rosemary and herb focaccia slices, served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. Given I had my previous meal’s bad focaccia still fresh in my mind, I could confidently say that this was good focaccia toast. Each piece was perfectly spongy, the oils helped to accentuate the flavour of the herbs.

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We started with the highly recommend “Pizza al fungu” as our shared appetizer. Made with truffle fonduta, roasted mushroom, fontina cheese, and truffle oil. We weren’t the only one in the room ordering based on what we read and what our server said. I overheard him tell another table to order the same pizza. As a result, the room was soon fragrant with the scent of rich truffles. Our server set us up with high expectations, he claimed it to be one of the best pizzas in town. After a taste I believed. Each slice and every bite was loaded with mushrooms. Their squeaky nature gave the otherwise crisp pizza crust a nice chewy texture. The stringy cheese that held everything in place was the second most dominant flavour, it added a mild saltiness to the mix. 

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“Linguini alle vongole”. Linguini pasta with clams, white wine, garlic, and chilli. A light pasta that was heavy with flavour. Each linguini strand was infused with the unique flavour of clams, like it was brought to boil in broth of clam juices. Very fragrant. 

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“Ricotta gnocchi pomodoro”. House made gnocchi in tomato sauce, the vegetarian option. The “grandma padano” cheese the menu mentions comes later. Our server offered it freshly ground, going so for this and another of our red sauce dishes below. He explained his tactic is to take a pause, to allow guests to try the dish as it is before offering salted cheese to hopefully enhance it. From the gnocchi’s supple texture you could tell these dumplings were made fresh. I really enjoyed it partially melted in your mouth texture. 

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“Anatra al forms” Roasted duck, baby roast potatoes, and asparagus. The duck was succulent, served with its own juices and soften potatoes, it reminded me of a stew. Perfectly cooked. 

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The “Ragu di anatra” was the most filling dish on the menu, and definitely the largest portion of our four entrees. Duck ragu, mushroom, tomato sauce, rosemary, and l rigatoni pasta. Finished off with freshly ground granna padano. A hearty bowl of el dente pasta, good but not as unique when compared to the other dishes above. The duck was not the most notable flavour, nor was it the star of the dish. It was the rigatoni that took centre stage.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I feel I need a second visit to be more definitive about this one. The setting was charming, I would love to come back to enjoy their garden-like patio. And the food was good, and they had a three course special that included the perfect wine pairings worth trying. It read like a delicious meal and a good deal. Both are reasons enough to give this one another go. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ADESSO
1906 Haro Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1H7
604-568-9975
adessobistro.net
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The Comedy Mix

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Live comedy, a form of entertainment I don’t take advantage of enough. And thankfully I couldn’t say no to some complimentary passes that came my way. Located in the basement of “Century Plaza Hotel”.

Wednesday’s are their “showcase” nights and Thursday’s their “marquee”. Both shows start at 8:30pm, the only difference between the two days, the $5 extra for Thursday. A steeper fee to visit on a more popular evening. The same goes when they have a more visible comedian in to headline. Though at $10 and $15 for regular evenings the cost is fair, especially as it is about the same price you pay for a movie in theatres. Friday and Saturdays have back to back shows 2.5 hours apart, 8pm and 10:30pm. We were here on a Tuesday. Tuesday’s are their “ProAm” days, where amateur and professional comedians take the stage for 10 minute intervals. Though if you ask most comedians, it is difficult to make a living just on jokes. Most use this fact as a punch line.

Tuesday’s are when the most performers take the stage on any night. We saw over six comedians. Some I found extremely funny, others I respected them for being up there. It must take a lot of nerve to be on centre stage, putting yourself out there for strangers to judge. I know I never could do it myself.

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Tonight’s evening show started at 8:30pm, they start seating 30 minutes before. Bouncers, managers, and a receptionist. This was a very organized affair. The process reminded me that at a night club. You pay, you get your hand stamped, then wait to be I.D. at the door. All in the yellow light of an underground hall.

By the time we entered the room it was pitch black, majority of the seats were filled, and the stage was well lit. We were one of the lasts to enter, and as a result got saddled with two chairs facing the stage most left. Our view also included the staff walking in shadows to and from the kitchen, and the yellow of the buttered popcorn glowing in the corner.

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In the dark room with several tables and chairs, each seat faces the stage and gives you a clear view of who is on it. Be aware of the front row, it is known that this area gives you free rein to be ridiculed. Here the comedians can see you, and they often engage in you, the audience. Depending on their ability to make light of your life, you become a running joke, a part of the act by chance.

Before the show starts wait staff offer the crowd drinks and snacks for a cost and tips. Tips are so important that the host even reminds you to tip well before you leave. I suspect this is how they make most of their money. Here their prices are steeper, a similar markup to the concession at a movie theatre. It might not be the best food, but given they don’t allow outside food and drink you don’t have much of a choice. You get what they have if you like to munch or sip while watching a show. Most items are ones you eat with your hands, it allows for ease in the dark: popcorn, nachos, etc. And to drink, various cocktails with daily specials. The menu is difficult to read in the dark, as it is difficult to attract the attention of a server once the show has begun. I strongly suggest eating and drinking before, like we did, or order one of their drink buckets for enough bottled Coronas sitting in ice to last you the night.

In the almost complete darkness, this definitely isn’t the place where taking photos of your food is appropriate, especially with the need for flash. The food wasn’t anything special anyways, nor were the drinks for that matter. But you are not here to eat, you are here to enjoy some live talent. To be entertained by those with the skill to bring delight through words, and laughter through motion. Once again, it takes courage to do what they do, to put themselves out their like that. I consider the whole thing suspenseful. I am pretty good at putting myself in someone else’s shoes, so the fear I imagine they feel, I feel. How is the audience going to take me? How am I going to do? Will I forget my set?

As for the entertainment factor, a lot of the material is susceptible. Humour varies from person to person. What one chuckles at, another may find offensive. But when one visits a comedy club they should expect to be serenaded with off the cuff quips and plenty of offensive language. Almost nothing is off limits when searching for laughs. Although, sadly I have visited often enough that some of the host’s material was familiar to me. Considering that it must be hard to come up with new material, it is completely understandable. I have only ever seen two different hosts across my several years visiting.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The only down side on an event like this is the time. You never get into the act and then it ends, or you get enthralled with one comedian and the bulb blinks red to tell them their time is done. I never leave satisfied. I never am laughed out.

COMEDY MIX
1015 Burrard Street, Vancouver BC, V67 1Y5
604-684-5050
thecomedymix.com

C-Prime Modern Italian Steak & Wine

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I only find myself at “Century Plaza Hotel” when I attend a comedy show, but I always find myself at their restaurant when I do.

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The name is new, but the feel and the decor of the place is very similar to its last reincarnation. A true hotel lobby bar/lounge feel. A large space, dark with dim lights, coupled with the feeling of regality. I guess the restaurant has to reflect the hotel. After all, you don’t have a country style family restaurant at a 4.5 star establishment in the middle of downtown. You best believe the restaurant has to be 4.5 star to be in a 4.5 star hotel. And so far, setting wise, they were giving us just that. Dark glossy wood furnishings, supple booths, deep seated recliners, and opulent chandeliers. Only what was necessary was present, but each you could be sure was done up with finesse.

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We told our server that we were here to catch the comedy show downstairs, so throughout our meal she kept track of the time for us. She gave us countdown warnings and brought us the bill without asking, all to get us out in time. This is the first time I found a server bringing out the bill, without first asking the guest, a good thing.

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Our meal began with complementary bread and seasonings. It looked more impressive than it actually was. The bread was hard, it’s texture an unenjoyable crumbliness. No matter how hard I tried and how hungry I was, I couldn’t enjoy it. The oil did help to soften the chew, but not enough to do it any good. As for the salt, it just seemed unnecessary. I hope what was left unused doesn’t get tossed out. They gave us a lot of flavoured salt to eat with the focaccia. Do most people dip their bread in oil and salt?

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My guest got the “8oz Snake river wagyu California cut rib eye”. We both expect it marbleized given wagyu’s reputation. “Wagyu” literally means “Japanese cow” and it includes several breeds of cattle. The most desired of these bovine are the ones genetically predisposed to intense marbling and increase of fat. The meat from such wagyu cattle is known for its quality, and commands a high price for it. We were paying quite a bit for our prized steak so was sad to have it turn out the way it did. The flavour was good, it had a great rub that allowed the beef’s natural flavour to shine through. But where was the fat? The morsels did not melt in our mouth. It was worst at the ends, dry and over cooked. Truly we should have sent it back, but we were on a time crunch and that is something I always feel guilty about doing. Though reality is, if you pay for something you expect to get your money’s worth and we did not here.

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As is the case with most steak places, side are separate, at a separate cost. My guest choose the “Truffle French fries”. You could smell the truffle oil and only slightly taste it. Something about truffles that can make the simple fry a worthy companion to the mighty steak. Humously, my guest felt bad asking for a side of ketchup to this side.

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I played it safe with the “Duck breast, wild mushroom and garlic mash with pan jus” and was not disappointed. The duck breast was cooked perfectly, both the pieces were tender and each bite juice. I wish I had more. The taste of duck is so distinct, and you really got it here. “Luscious” is the word we used to perfectly describe it. The meat was as velvety as the whipped smooth potatoes to its side. I would come back just for this.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I liked the setting, a modern steak house. Simple, elegant, sleek. Shame that we only found 50 percent of the food that we paid for any good. I wouldn’t be a posed to giving dinner another shot, and doing so with time for dessert. Neither like or dislike at this point. Don’t deny your cravings.

C-PRIME
Century Plaza Hotel & Spa
1015 Burrard Street, Vancouver BC
604-684-3474
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