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Month: October 2015 Page 1 of 5

The Pear Tree

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When service decides a return trip.

When looking for a restaurant to impress and one our foodie friendly birthday girl has never been to before, I started searching for places out of dowtown and out of Vancouver. Not many would think of Burnaby when looking for a nice fine dining option. So my search brought me to “The Pear Tree”. They have been in operation since 1998 and they don’t seem to be loosing steam based on what I have read and what I have heard from others.

The exterior looked different from all the other buildings in the neighbourhood, and inside even more so. It was polished and modern with its flat panel front. No worn awnings, no sandwich boards, and no posters plastered on the glass. It was clean and definitely spoke to the sophisticated cuisine being served within.

I arrived early and had some time to kill so found myself visiting their webpage as I waited in their lounge for my guests. The lounge was right by the entry way with a clear view of the hostess stand. It was dimly lit and only slightly brighter than the scene in the dining room, something I noticed when I looked to the other side. Here they housed several of their awards on display. Their chef was a culinary champion with the metals to prove it. He had won a bronzed plate and a silver whisk. And the restaurant he and his wife ran had been awarded a few accolades from Vancouver Magazine over the years. They were both in today, or at least I think so based on my comparing them to their online bios.

I originally came early to drop of a custom made cake in secret, only to be called a few hours before the reservation that, that was against the policy. This isn’t a new thing, but some more advance notice would have been helpful. So there my cake sat in the car melting. But the host/owner arranged one of their desserts to be brought out with a candle after dinner and we would provided the song.

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The dining room was sober in candle light and whispering conversation. This was polite dining in close quarters, and what you would expect from a fine dining establishment. White table cloths, a succulent at every table, cloth napkins, and cutlery I have never seen before. A flat spoon-like flipper with a dent and a cake cutter with our entrées. Though the restaurant revealed its age with the use of carpet and its stains, that is why you don’t often see carpet in a dining room.

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On the walls were large photos related to their name: pear trees. A lone tree in a field and leaves changing colour on a branch. Though no actual pears in any shot. They weren’t the most artistic, so I assume it held sentimental value, maybe even taken by the owners?

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All together things felt like a hotel or someone’s home, especially with the wine cellar and the kitchen adjacent. From where I sat, if I angled myself just right I could see the work that went into each place, how the entire kitchen staff huddled around each completed dish, and waited with baited breath held as the last smudge was wiped clean. It was one of the most quiet and composed kitchens I have ever seen, or maybe I am just too use to “Hell’s Kitchen or “Master Chef” concepts.

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The menu is limited as they specialize and take the time to perfect each plate they put out. If you have dietary restrictions, you can ask for the vegan and vegetarian options, on a separate menu. They offered to split everything into individual servings, knowing we would be sharing, but for the sake of my photos I had us share bites and spoonfuls at a time. After each course new flatware was dispensed. As I mentioned before, we were confused by how they look, but found it easy enough to guess their function.

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Our meal began with bread. Not served in the typical basket for everyone to share. But we each had our own slice served right to our side plates, with the butter in a dish to share. The butter was so perfectly oval, like it was set in a chocolate mould. This was in-house made brioche. Fluffy and moist, it was more like cake.

The items I ordered were recommended by friends who have already been. The three appetizers we choose ended up perfectly balancing each other. And each dish covered salty, sour, creamy, and tangy.

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The “Flamed Gin and ‘Cascade’ Tomato Soup” was served with a chive whipped cream. The two came separated and were brought together at our table, like a show. The plate had the solid dollop of whipped cream sitting over a tender piece of carrot, lone at its centre. The tomato and gin soup was then poured out of a gravy boat, over the cream. The hot soup would then melt the cream down, or you could just stir it in. I appreciated the art and the live table action. The soup itself was refreshing in its light tang. You also got the the sharp gin taste that its description promised. I would have liked a crisp cracker with seeds, or something to nibble on with this.

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Another must try is their “Lobster Cappuccino”. Even its name peaks your interest. It is a lobster bisque foam with Dashi custard and poached lobster pieces. The half soup half beverage is served in a double walled cup with a squid ink chip on the side. This chip is made from tapioca and tasted like crisp saltiness. Together they were a fun take on “biscotti” to go with the “espresso”. The foam was as its name led you to believe, light and airy with tiny bubbles on its surface. It got thick and smooth towards the bottom, where the tender chunks of lobster meat sank. Each drop was full of fishy lobster flavour. The birthday girl liked it so much that she scraped the portion clean.

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“Orange caramelized scallops with double smoked bacon risotto”. A dish so popular that they give you the option of making it an entree portion for more. The saltiness of bacon made a good companion to the mild buttery scallop, but the latter was slightly over cooked. The rice was also a little more watery than I expected, although it’s flavour was still light. This was good as a taster between three people. I don’t think I would have enjoyed a whole portion to myself, I would grow tired of its one tone taste.

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This was my favourite dish of the night. I am not typically a fan of fish, but this “Pan Roasted Lois LakeSteelhead” served with Pomme dauphine and butternut squash was amazing. It was the most buttery piece of fish with a perfectly seared crust I have ever had. It was not the least bit dry, it practically melted. Similarly were each of the tender vegetables surrounding it. I liked the cheesy potato bites the most, or at least that is what they tasted like.

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The “Braised Alberta Lamb Shank” came with Cauliflower Fritters and Eggplant Puree. Like the fish, the lamb was tender to the point that it fell off the bone. The fritters tasted like they were filled with polenta, mashed smooth, but still grainy by nature. The brown meat sauce was the most flavourful, and really hid my ability to taste the cauliflower in the purée; instead the purée simply added cream to the texture.

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The “Twice Cooked ‘Berkshire’ Pork Belly” came with a white bean cassoulet. The pork belly didn’t have enough flavour, just like the bed of rounds that accompanied it. I felt like it could have used a thick gravy instead of another purée. The meat and vegetables were already cream-like. So it was missing some crunch, an element with more chewing involved. Like crispy pork skin, instead of melt in your mouth pig fat. It was also extra dry with the sandy texture of beans and peas together, and could have used another sauce here. Overall we didn’t feel like it was special enough for the price.

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The “Carrot risotto” was off the separate vegetarian menu. It is made with fresh carrot, squash, and celeriac; then topped with shaved grana padano. The texture was smooth like porridge with the promised flavour of carrot in abundance.

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Our entrees also came with a complimentary bowl of pea shoots to share. A bite of this could have easily freshen up any plate, it certainly matched all the ones we had.

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The “Chocolate Ganache” with a crisp nut base, salted caramel, and a scoop of orange chocolate sorbet was our birthday cake substitution. If you don’t like sweet desserts, this one is for you. Rich in dark chocolate and deep in smokey hazelnut. It doesn’t look like anything more than a slim chocolate bar, we judged too soon. It was so decadent that a bite was enough to have you satisfied, we were glad to have to share it. This one would have been nice with tea to wash it down.

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But the sweets did not end there, we were again treated to in house made pear jellies with the billfold. You could taste the freshness in the fruit used. It was a little sweet for most of my guests, so I relished in having more than one piece. It was like biting into a solid pear jello dusted in sugar crystals.

I think the service stiffen and the hospitality grew cold as we began to critique. It is something I personally encourage when I dine with my guest, as I take their comments and make them my own; for a post such as this. However given the smaller venue and the quiter room, I felt that most of what we said could be heard, and offence was taken to it by the two staff that served. When discussing this later, my guests argued that such comments were within their right to make and that it is something typical when dining out. “You critique your meal, you discuss your shared experience”. “It was not like we weren’t enjoying ourselves”, we were just being overly critical for this content. As I am often too honest I will not leave any more of such thoughts here.

I truly did like the place and even more the food. And I would have liked to return again, if not for the service. Given the cold reception towards the end of our meal, I will not be returning. It didn’t help that I accidentally spilled my red drink over their white table cloth and myself, and that I had trouble trying to grab my coat from the unattended hostess booth when trying to leave. I felt like both made a scene. So now I feel a little too sheepish to dare a return trip, lest I be noticed and receive the same cold shoulder again. I truly felt like we weren’t wanted. Like when I accidentally spilled my Caesar on myself and the staff noted but didn’t flinch, it was a little shocking. I had to claim all my guest’s used napkins to dry myself off before some more were handed to me by our server. Though we felt like we earned the right to be here tonight, accident or not. We certainly paid for the time in food. We had three cocktails, three appetizers, four entrees, and one dessert; totalling over $200. It is not often I spend this much on meal, so I would like it to be as special as I can have it, given I can’t afford this place every day.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
As true to many fine dining restaurants, the portions were smaller, but were just as filling. The food was good and the service had its up and downs. Though the lack of concern and my description above won’t have me back in for a second try. But once again this shift in attitude only came after our honest to average comments. It’s hard not to judge solely on the food, as that is what a food blogger does. But this is one of those rare times where the food is great and what should be a return visit isn’t because of the experience. Sad because I had high hopes for this upscale establishment. I wanted this to be a hidden gem in an average Burnaby neighbourhood. The one to have everyone driving out of Vancouver for… Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PEAR TREE
4120 East Hastings Street, Burnaby BC, V5C 2J4
604-299-2772
peartreerestaurant.net
The Pear Tree Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sushi Nanaimo

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For love of cheap nigiri.

I was on a budget and looking for dinner, my guest suggested “Nanaimo sushi”. Apparently this place is known for their quality of fish paired with value friendly prices. To be honest I have passed by the restaurant on occasion, but given its uninventive name, have never stopped to give it a second thought.

Up front is a much needed seating area. Given their popularity there is often wait and this narrow space is necessary for it. It was adjacent to the sushi bar. In true North American sushi crafting fashion, the fogged glass hid stacked tupperware of ingredients and raw fish cut thinly and separated between sheets of wax paper. Behind it five employees worked with their heads down on, all focus on their hands.

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The wait flew by and we were eventually directed to a small and narrow table in the centre of the room. It was uncomfortably tight and we were uncomfortably close to those around us. Though it did give me a good idea of what to get by looking to my neighbours.

The menu was as I though, all the fusion sushi expectations intermingled with all the raw fish classics. All of what we got isn’t anything unique to “Nanaimo Sushi”. Most, if not all, are available at any sushi shop around any corner. But once again it was the price that made this place a winner. As our order was taken and confirmed, our server shouted it to the sushi chefs in Japanese. A nice authentic touch.

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The “Awesome roll” was a California roll topped with green onion and tuna, and your choice of either fish flakes or yam and potato fries. It is then drizzled generously with their creamy and spicy mayo sauce. The thick sauce well complimented the crisp shoe string fries we choose. Both were also the only thing you could really taste. The crab and tuna on rice was more the base and substance for the roll.

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The “Spicy tuna combo” came with spicy tuna roll, spicy tuna sashimi, and a kappa roll. This combo is definitely for the spicy lovers. A healthy portion with more than enough food for one.

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We had to indulge in nigiri as they had one of the best value. $1.00 to $2.75 depending on the seafood selected. Tobiko with quail egg and the Toro (tuna belly) was $1.30. The runny yolk became a sauce of sorts for the juice filled fish eggs. And the tuna belly was incredibly fresh.

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The uni (sea urchin) was $2.50. And the Ikura (salmon roe) was $1.80. I always describe sea urchin an acquired taste. It was musky with a texture like much different than the runny yolk above. It also has an after taste that lingers with you. I found the salmon roe unbearably salty. It made my dipping it into soya sauce a grievous mistake. There was a lot of rice in each piece and we got full quick, my guest mentioned previously asking for less rice to fish ratio.

 

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.
The setting wasn’t anything special, but the food and prices is what will have me coming back. I will definitely be making this a sushi take out and take home choice. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SUSHI NANAIMO
350 Nanaimo Street, Vancouver BC
604-876-9200
Sushi Nanaimo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fratelli bakery

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How I learned why you don’t buy macarons from an Italian bakery.

This is a well known Italian bakery in the area of Commercial Drive and a great stop for some treats on the go. They have everything here and a great window to feature some of it out front. This season it was pumpkin, like everywhere else. The goofy faced pumpkin shaped cookies were eye catching. As were the round shortbread and the Eccles, I ended up getting shopping from here, being so drawn in. But I also took the time to go through all the showcases inside, row by row. Trays upon trays filled with a multitude of cakes, cookies, tarts, biscotti, and many other pastries. Each showcase was well themed, with labelled names and some tiny descriptions, but you basically order with your eyes anyways. On this colder day the glass was moist with condensation, but it didn’t hinder the ogling process much.

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The display case closest to the door had individual desserts like squares and cupcakes. I thought long and hard over the Nainamo bars, chocolate cakes, and peanut butter square. But have always been more partial to pastries with fruit, chocolate drizzle, and whipped cream. The wares of this display spilled over into the next with individual cakes and family sized loaves. Cheesecake, red velvet, lava cakes, lemon puffs, and heavily decorated cupcakes with coloured icing and plastic character cut outs.

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One showcase was filled with whole cakes and full tortes. They just needed a frosting bag for personalization and they were ready to go be someone’s birthday or celebratory cake. Tuxedo cakes with white frosting and chocolate sponge, a lemon raspberry cream cake, a pecan torte, and saint honore which is individual puff pastry rounds held together by whipped cream.

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The next counter had various biscotti and plenty of cookies. Gingerbread biscotti, lemon and almond, blueberry hazelnut, and cranberry pistachio biscotti. I am not a coffee drinker, so although I was interested, I passed on those. Besides there were plenty of cookies to fawn over: shortbread cookies, gluten free options wrapped in plastic, and cookies with plenty of chips. Raspberry almond twists, chocolate chip pecan, a jam filled peanut butter cookie, a chocolate chip made with smarties and another with m&ms.

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Behind all the confectionery were freshly baked grains, all made on the day. This late in the afternoon most of their offerings have been purchased and their shelves now sat bare. I can only imagine the smell and warmth they gave off first thing in the morning. They had olive bread, sourdough buns, rye baguettes, and potato leek rounds, to name a few. And on top of this, there was so much that they offered that it even spilled on to the countertop. Like the cloche-ed dishes shielding gluten free macaroons and bird’s nest cookies. It was so hard for me to narrow it down, and in hind sight I now realize I have made a mistake in a few of my choices.

I didn’t really notice the decor past all the delectables. But above it all were chalkboard drawings of their golden brown baked goods next to a sketch of their community. And a miniature shrine dedicated to soccer with jerseys, a mock cup and soccer balls galore. They even had their own street sign by the entrance.

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When you finally are able to make a decision. You take your turn at the counter and guide the clerk behind it on all that you want. My was a bounce from counter to counter as I was unsure of what I wanted up to the very end of our interaction. I wanted so much, but had a budget to uphold. In the end I went by look and had it all wrapped to go. My goodies were gingerly packaged in a branded box and bound with string. My guests and I each had our own box and took our treats to eat on the bench just outside.

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The “Pink bigne” was as sweet as it looked with its baby pink frosting. Fluffy pastry hiding luscious cream, all topped with a thick slab of icing. The first bite breaking in was the best. It got a little too sweet for me after that. I would have preferred it just as a cream puff dough and custard.

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The “Shortbread espresso chocolate dipped cookie” was a nice one to have after. The bitterness of the espresso evened out chocolate dip and the rich butter cookie. It would have been great with a cup of tea.

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I choose the next great based on how interesting it looked in the window and again in the display case. Given the flakey crust I figured it was similar in texture to a strudel. An “Eccles” is a flaky pastry made with with butter and topped with sugar. This version was filled with currants, almond, and cinnamon. It is often round and as such also called a “Squashed Fly cake”, also because of its speckled surface. It was exactly like the strudel I expected with a richly sweet sticky centre. I would have three more right now.

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Sadly I was suckered in to getting the macarons by their bold colour, and foolishly got one of each too. I should have known you don’t get macarons from an Italian bakery, you get bread. Nutella, salted caramel, chai spiced latte, vanilla earl grey, pistachio, strawberry cream, and lemon. Just looking at them and their inconsistencies, I should have known that they were better to look at than to eat. They taste more like dense and heavy cream filled cookies than the light and crispy macarons they ought to be. I tried one, and I could not bare to endure the sweetness of another. It didn’t have a flavour, only sugar.

 

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.
Just writing this post I am craving a return visit. Being able to zoom in and really take note of all the desserts has me wanting what I missed out on. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

FRATELLI
1795 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC
604-255-8926
fratellibakery.com
Fratelli Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Granville Strip

Now this is a show worth paying cover for!

Disclaimer, as a self proclaimed lifestyle blogger I have vowed to write all that I experience and all that I do. This is my visit to a strip club, one that is newer to the Vancouver night life scene.

So warning, as this IS a post written in review of a strip club, it may include the occasional woman getting naked and the description of what one may do in performance for spectators. However it is written in my perspective, as a celebration of the female body, with the empowerment of these women who performed with them in mind. I saw it more as a show, than the perceived to be lude act, or anything worth writing a letter of complaint about. Trust me, I have kept this very PG and you will only be offended if you imagine and interpret it as such. For obvious reasons there will be no photos to this post, you will just have to take my word on things, and imagine with the help of my descriptive write up. Now let’s begin.

 

Tired of the old club scene? Spice things up with this newest edition to the Granville entertainment district. Nestled amongst night clubs and late night eats this “girls girls girls”  spot gives you just that. And all within easy access and travel from transit. I have been in this space before, but during one of its many reincarnations, like the “Media Club”.

There is an ATM machine just by the entrance, though not that bills were needed. I didn’t see a single five hit a single g-string, let alone a rain of hundreds fall from the sky. Once again mainstream pop culture media, you have steered me wrong.

Bouncers, pat downs and ID checks are obvious occurrences at most clubs and it is no different here. Your age is verified, your photo is taken, and your licence is scanned. The cover is $20, not surprising and not much more than at dance clubs with coat check.

 

Past the heavy double doors it was a comfortable darkness for this two tier strip club. You make out figures but miss features. A preferred way to be, furthered by puffs of smoke from a fog machine.

The stage was obviously the main feature of the room. It had most of the lighting focused on it, with its own spotlights  aided by beams of rainbow coloured strobe light. But even with all these theatrics, the mood felt heavy. No one met eyes and most patrons were still with steady stares. Understandable. I tried to be a bit more cheery and was able to keep a smile up.

For those who have never been, a few such clubs not only see male patrons, but a growing number of females guests as well. Especially since the pole dancing for exercise trend has seen rave reviews and there being an increased acceptance of the activity in the public sphere. I know most women have either taken lessons or a one day work shop to see what the fuss is all about, I being one of them. Tonight there were many girls with their significant others, but many more men in groups with their own table or men sitting solo facing the stage with a drink in hand. Not surprising I guess.

We entered and grabbed a drink to start. It definitely helps for those who are experiencing this for the first time or for those who find being here a stigma. We were lucky enough to find a table, as after 12am most of the seats were taken, and you don’t want to be one of those guys lingering awkwardly by the bar for support. Yet the reserved VIP section to the left of the stage remained empty for the remainder of the night.

 

I referred to our seats as the “lurker section”. Far from the stage, away from public eye, and discrete. From where we sat we could see the entire room and those mingling within it. And from my perch I watched it all. The only downside, our view was blocked when patrons choose to stand and watch any performance on stage. Although we were able the enjoy the private show put on for the table next to ours. I assume they were at one of the high roller tables as it came with its own pole on narrow platform and a girl danced exclusively for them. Although they paid for her time and services, anyone around them, like us, were able to enjoy the show. With limited room she basically danced using the pole for support. She shook and twerked, but mostly made flamboyant spins around it. Given her close proximity to her patron’s faces a spin on the pole with legs in the air could injure someone.

As I watched this particular woman’s hip sway, her hair get flicked back, and her attempt at making a sexy face; I realized she was a normal woman. Looking around, I noticed, the other girls perusing the room were regular women as well. It was sort of empowering. They weren’t particularly fit, some didn’t even have bouncy bottoms, bellowing chests, or even a flat stomach. They were your every day female walking down the street, someone you may not notice as she takes the bus and eats a 99 cent pizza. Yet here, the men were going wild for them all. Being a women, it makes you feel better about yourself, more comfortable in your own skin. Funny, in all places… If these ladies were so confident to bare it all and they were no different than you, what reason did you have to be insecure?

Most of these women didn’t actually get fully nude. They instead dressed provocatively: fish nets, thigh highs, push ups, simmer and sequins, and heels that gave them a five inch lift. But this was nothing more than what young girls will end up showing off this Halloween. They actually had more on than the collage student in her white bra and panties claiming she is an angel because she has wings taped to her back.

The women who danced on stage did strip down. Once again they were regular women in flirty lingerie, with the courage to preform in the most vulnerable of ways. It was like that high school nightmare where you had to stand up in front of your class, but you didn’t realize you had come to school naked. Song after song they took something off until they stood in their birthday suits. But that was near the end of their sets and they weren’t around for much longer after that. They all had the stereotypical stripper names you’d expect, like Mindi Diamonds, Bambi or Jewell.

Between each performance the stage manager would wipe down the pole with ladder and cloth in hand. Sanitary. During this intermission patrons could direct their vision to the dancers grooving in the cages between the first and second levels of the open room.

 

The one exception to my “normal woman” assessment was their head liner. She was built like an athlete with muscular arms and a hard six pack, her back rippled. There was no fat on her, believe me, I could see it all. And boy did she use all those muscles. We weren’t watching a striptease. We were watching a hell of an impressive aerial feat. She was a performer who just happened to do what she did in purple latex, like an acrobat really. With thighs clenched she strikes a pose on the poll high above the stage, and from that height she just lets go. The audience gasp. And at the last minute she clenches again and her steep drop comes to a gentle landing. This was a suicide drop like no other. She kept things suspenseful like this for her whole set.

In her next song she used cloth ropes to twirl herself upside down, round and round faster and faster she spun. Without a running start she was getting the momentum from her own muscular contractions and core. This was a more soulful performance done to a slow jam. She kept moving and wasn’t really still enough to see any of her nakedness. Not that you were looking for it, you were focusing on her death-defying feats. At this point I truly believed that she belonged in Vegas. Especially when the fire came out and she twirled her batons and ate the flames from it. She even had the orange flames glide across her six pack abs.

Throughout her show she waved to the top floor and acknowledged all the women in the audience cheering her on. All eyes were on her and she loved it. She pandered to the crowd, refusing to move on or do more unless they clapped or cheered. I did. It also helped that the DJ announced her wishes and urged the crowd to go into a frenzy over her.

However the performers that followed her weren’t of the same caliber. I pitied the ones to immediately follow, especially when they were trying to dance all sexy-like to Justin Bieber and Da Rude’s “Sandstorm”. It is hard to get into it when they are performing to such pop-tastic songs. It hardly seemed seductive and only made them look cutesy. The main act was definitely worth the $20 cover, but the performances before and after hers felt more like amateur hour. But being a woman, I guess I am there for different reasons. We left shortly after. Our drinks were done, it cost too much to get more, and we have seen the best show of the night in its entirety.

 

You do see men getting rowdy the later the night went and the more they drank. The most drunk of the group engaging in the most rude and most lude of actions. I couldn’t count how many times I saw the tongue between “V” gesture play out. However all the women they were directing this towards handled it in stride. They set the mood and dictate the interactions. Just looking, no touching. They even went so far as to do air high fives. And if their patrons don’t comply, their bouncers were quick to action. Large men dressed all in black with bald heads and muscles the size and look of those heads. They often checked in with the girls to confirm their well being before allowing any private shows to continue. Though I did notice one immature man touch a dancer on the leg then run off.

I also took note of how these working women interacted with one another. They were having fun. In between flirtatious conversations with men they chatted with one another. They tugged at each other’s outfits and complimented one another on a job well done, they were a team. The scene no different than at any other night club, except there was a lot more exposed butt cheeks. Actually, after several shots you end up seeing a lot of everything at night clubs too. This is when ambitions go out the door and you forget to pull up or down on the dress you decided to wear even though it was too tight.

 

This is not my first visit to a strip club, but this is the one I have felt the most comfortable at to date. Though that may be due in part to my age and the company I kept tonight. None-the-less I did not feel unwanted there or like I was being judged. It was like a club, but with more room and friendlier faces. It is the same feeling you get as a woman going to a gay bar. Why would you get any unwanted attention when the focus is on others? And honestly I think a woman would prefer to dance and perform for another woman. Especially if the women were cheering like the ones in the audience today. I even stood in ovation I was so impressed. And we sang along to the music and in general had more fun. Whereas the men were steady and muted, so much so that the announcer had to drag an applause from them. Tonight we showed that we as women were supportive of one another.

 

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? – No.
I am not against such acts. I believe it is a woman’s choice and if she chooses this, who are we to judge? The work is not easy, the job takes a lot of patience, and endurance is a necessity for the role. They definitely deserve to make what they do, if not more, as they are the only ones daring enough to do it. Whereas all I can do is sit in my corner and judge.

 

GRANVILLE STRIP
1050 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 1L5
778-379-0555
thegranvillestrip.com

Off The Rails Brewing

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Another brewery on the Commercial Drive crawl. This was an all black building with its name spray painted in white. By the entrance was a chalkboard of their beers on tap. Without it, you wouldn’t necessarily think this a place you could enter. The board said “welcome” and we walked right in.

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A climb up a set of stairs ended in three paths before you. One lead to their brewing operations with several metal barrels stacked one on top of the other. Another, a private room for patrons to sit and drink in. It was kept dim and decorated with sketches of blossoms.

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And the final room, our destination, was their tasting lounge. The space was clean and fresh. The windows all along the back wall provided ample natural light. And the use of light colours and light wood furniture kept the room bright. White plastic tables and white plastic chairs. A shade as crisp as the fresh coat of paint on the walls. Little lamps gave additional highlight to the black and white photography blown up on large canvases. They told the story of beer through images of the hops required to make it.

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The counter top by the windows and the one at the bar both use the same pale coloured wood. It matched the back board the beer taps were bolted to, but stood in contrast to the black boards the menu was printed on.

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As is the case with most breweries open to the public, they sell more than just beer. They had their own brand of merchandise on display. A shelf of tee shirts, sweat shirts, ball caps, and toques. They even sold their “off the rails” organic beer soap.

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They also had their beers in bottles and their beers in cans, all ready to take out and go in their refrigerated unit by the door. But if you don’t see what you like from there, you can purchase a growler and have it filled straight from their taps. This is most helpful if you are keen on one of their seasonal brews or a batch from the daily tap. “Growlers” is a term used to describe the dark glass jugs you can fill with beer. They are often available in 1 or 2 litres sizes.

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Today there was only the one employee working and the room full of thirsty patrons. All things considering he handled himself with poise and professionalism. He took the time to joke around and paused to chat. I guess you can’t really be too angry if you are lining up for some great craft beers. There were no tabs, he did things by the honour system. When wanting to settle, you report to him on what you had and pay what he asked. It would have been helpful for him to have a cashier so that he didn’t have to hop back and forth from till to tap.

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Their 5oz tasters went for $2 each, so we had one of each. Including the Crazy train IPA, Smoke porter, Hopinonated IPA, and Psyche path lager. And even though these were tasters, the bartender still allowed you to taste before you had to commit.

 

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.
It was nice setting, with a good selection of beers. Brewery hopping in the neighbourhood is a fun idea, and if you decide to, be sure to make this one of your stops. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

OFF THE RAILS
1351 Adanac Street, Vancouver BC, V5L 2C4
604-563-5767
offtherailbrewing.com
Off The Rail Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bomber Brewing

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I had no idea that there were so many breweries within walking distance of Commercial Drive. And I didn’t know that they served their beers out of these breweries. As I discovered them, it dawned on me that they made for great happy hour stops. A nice place to mingle with coworkers after work, a quick drink and a light snack before dinner at home. They are aptly called tasting rooms.

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“Bomber brewery” looked like a factory from the outside: a pale yellow with flashes of red against a blue sky. I appreciated the catchiness of their logo.

Inside there wasn’t much seating room or even a very large bar, especially when considering the size of the building. Though the establishment’s intended purpose was to produce beer.

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A narrow corridor led you into their tasting room. Before you is their four door refrigeration unit. It sold all their beers and ales in neatly organized rows. Six different varieties in cans and in bottles today. The same beers had their bottle label art used as decorative pieces. These framed works of commercial art surrounded their drinking nook. A corner with wood panel booth seats and shelves of board games. We parked ourselves here and whipped out trivia pursuit.

Additional seats were by the bar. The bar was backed by a windowed look into the actual brewery. You could tell by the large stainless steel vats connected by pipe work.

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There were also framed photos depicting a bit of their history in black and white. From hockey teams to beer in barrels. It spoke of their history. This brewery was the shared dream of three friends, each possessing a passion for hockey and beer. From the name of their hockey team to the name of their brewery they saw their dream turn into reality and then some.

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They won the 2015 Vancouver international craft beer award for best “Pilsner”, and had the plaque to prove it. So we had to try that. It was listed with everything else on a blackboard by the entrance. We made this one of four tastes in our beer flight, along with their “Pale ale”, “East van smash”, and “Indian pale ale”. It came on a paddle with each abbreviation scribbled in chalk right on the wood.

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The secondary menu listed what they had for sale in their retail store and what was available to snack on from their pantry. Empty bottles to fill and branded glasses and tee shirts to take home. Hot dogs, pretzels, pickles, pickled eggs, pepperoni, beer nuts, potato chips, and grilled cheese. These were all salty snacks that anyone would enjoy with one of their beers.

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We had their salted pretzel with a side of mustard. It was nothing particularly special, a tough and chewy bread given extra kick from a zesty mustard.

 

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.
It was nice setting, with a good selection of beers. Brewery hopping in the neighbourhood is a fun idea, and if you decide to, be sure to make this one of your stops. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BOMBER BREWING
1488 Adanac Street, Vancouver BC, V5L 3J7
604-428-7457
bomberbrewing.com
Bomber Brewing Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

BierCraft Tap and Tapas Bar

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I have been here before, but we were going on a pub crawl down Commercial Drive and this was listed as stop number two.

It’s yellow stucco exterior and red roof were visible from its street corner. The narrow covered patio would have been nice on a warm day, but with today’s drizzle it was closed. Instead we were able to grab two tables and move them together to provide ourselves with a window watching view.

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As you enter, the bar is the first thing that you see. It pretty much runs the expanse of the building, glowing in a dull orange from the back lit panels and the cylinders of light hanging from above. A seat here gives you a look at their 20 beers on tap and the 100 in bottle. Though most of the shelf space was dedicated to the various glass cups and goblets they used for each specific beer that was requested. I really appreciated their ability to match beer with branded stein.

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We detoured right to the sunken dining area. A step down to a space surrounded in cushioned booths and stone work. It felt like a cozy cabin, especially with the rustic painting of a horse posing in a dry field. And as I mentioned earlier, the slower traffic allowed us to grab two tables to form the perfect window view seat to enjoy our beers and people watch at.

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Even before we ordered or even got the menus we were given a complimentary serving of seasoned popcorn to start. They were preassembled bowls that hit the table as soon as your butt hit the seat. It was real corn kernels popped and dressed in a spicy buffalo flavour. I don’t like cold or room temperature popcorn so I passed on this. I find it stale and the bits get stuck in the most uncomfortable nooks and crannies between my teeth.

The menu was thorough. I was naive in not knowing that there was this much to beer. That there were so many varieties with their own subcategories. They go so far as to acquire rare bottles that come in limited quantities. They had “trappist” beer brewed by their namesake monks: the Trappist, members of the Cistercian order. Interestingly only six breweries in the world are legally allowed to produce said beer. And to do so they would have to do it within the walls of a Trappist abbey, with majority of the profit benefitting social work. Rare indeed. Then there was Belgian “witbier” that is cloudy and unfiltered beers. Pale colour and crisp in flavours. Hops do not play an role in the style or aroma of this type of beer.

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So since they specialize in it, we had to have something Belgium, bypassing the menu on everything else. Belgium strong ales are over 7%, they are known to go well with most food. We had the “St. Feuillien triple” at 8.5%. A pale amber ale described as having a distinct maltiness thanks to its unique combination or aromatic hops, spices, and a second fermentation. And one of my guests had the “Grimbergen blonde”.

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To match we had Belgium fries and Poutine with Belgium fries. The “Belgian fries” were a cone of fresh cut kennebec potato fries served with an Andelouse sauce for dipping. “Andelouse” is a Belgian specialty sauce. It is made from mayonnaise, tomato paste, and peppers like pimientos or roasted bell. You definitely tasted the tomato and mayo blend. Like when you mix ketchup and mayonnaise together, but much blander. The fries were at least good. Crispy on the inside and chewy at its centre.

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The same fries were in their “Poutine”. Belgium fries, Quebec cheese curds, a kronenbourg blanc (beer) and miso gravy, and green onion. It was salty and meaty like I had hopped. Though also light from the beer and salty from the miso. The cheese added another layer to the mix, but it still lacked depth. Wasn’t as satisfying as most meat gravy poutines.

 

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? – No.
I have been to both their location several times. It is one of those pubs I recommend when you are with a larger group and want more than just greasy pub food. The food is solid and chances are everyone will find something that they want. The same can be said for their beer collection. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BIERCRAFT
1191 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5L 3X2
604-245-2437
biercraft.com/commercial
BierCraft Tap and Tapas Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

St. Augustine’s

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Wanting to do some day drinking, we chose “St. Augustine” as our destination. A decision based on having heard great food reviews and knowing they had an extensive selection of beers in bottles and plenty more on tap.

It is located within walking distance from the Broadway connecting skytrain station, which makes it a great drinking stop. On the street corner with new black awnings and a striking logo it’s hard not to miss. An imagine of their namesake saint with a beer rim for a halo. The staff wore the same logo and the same name across their shirts and hoodies as part of their dress code.

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Inside, the pub was spacious with plenty of seats across four top tables and high top bar stools situated along the wall. These walls were either panelled in wood or set in stone. Large black and white photos depicting brewing and drinking were blown up and framed against the former. One photo showed the protesting of prohibition. Another were of the barrels liquor were allowed to develop in. There was even a metal brewing vat that sat in the back corner for display.

The bar was by the entrance and the kitchen past the door beside it. There was nothing remarkable about the latter, other than the use of two large barrels as side tables. They were used to rest the pre-rolled napkins with cutlery, the additional side plates, and the extra table seasonings.

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The bar housed over 60 taps that are constantly changing. Though half of which are hidden behind a column. Handle after handle in an irregular row, each with its own branded and lit label. There was a television screen above the bar with a digital list of their most popular beers, and the amounts they had of it remaining. It listed them as seasonal brews, stouts, coloured ales, or IPAs. Judging by the percentages the “butternut brown” was new at 100%. And the “apparition west coast white ale” was the most popular with only 11% remaining.

As with most bars, there were also plenty of flatscreen televisions set to different sporting channels. They were behind the bar and bolted to the stone columns, framing each set of windows.

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The pub’s name is in celebration of the Patron saint of beers, so it only made sense that we had a few with brunch. I appreciated the description on each one, and the listing of its alcoholic content. “New growth pale ale” at 5% is a British Columbian ale made from regionally harvest ingredients. And the “1-8-7 on a mutha f*** hop” is a 10% IPA. It is described as having a huge tropical aroma from a mosaic hop, in addition to an already monster IPA. Both were great ways to start our day.

We shared a few of their appetizers to get the appetite going. I was with vegetarians, so they are all vegetarian. But they had a lot of other delicious things on the menu as well. Buttermilk fried chicken, a sweet corn and smoked bacon chowder, and soy glazed spare ribs. Many of which included the use of beer in their recipe. Beer battered smoked sausage, brown ale braised beef rib sliders, a beer brined chicken sandwich, and a beer battered ling cod with chips.

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The “Mac and cheese croquettes” were Panko crusted sticks seasoned with parsley, Parmesan, and jalapeño. It was served with a chipotle tomato fondue dipping sauce. Each croquette was perfectly crispy and had just the right amount of gooey cheese to solid macaroni ratio. The ketchup-like dipping sauce was spicy, it had just the right amount of tomato included to balance out the saltiness of the cheese.

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The “Fried Brussels sprouts” did not disappoint, proof that deep frying most things only makes them better. This dish made eating your vegetables fun and made those who doubted the dish believers. Seasoned in lemon, parsley, Parmesan, and pine nuts; there was plenty of flavour for each bulb. The flavour of the acid lemon was the most pronounced.

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The “Falafel plate” was the assembly of Chickpea fritters, hummus, tabbouleh, pickled red onions, pita, and a cumin yogurt. If you are familiar with the cuisine, you know exactly how it tastes. This did not deviate from that. You had a bit of everything, so long as you bought it together. Tangy, creamy, sweet, and savoury all in one bite, all on one plate. The pita was well seasoned which balanced with the great base the hummus provided and the acidity the pickles added. The fritters were the least enjoyable element on the plate as they were a little tough and a lot dry.

 

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.
I was very surprised by how good the food was for a pub. But I shouldn’t have been, as it was 12pm on a weekday and there were already so many people in. Everything we had was good, and everything we had left to order sounded great. Not to mention, that there was so much more beer to explore. Over 60 taps that are constantly changing, you could come back every day for months and not be able to try it all. I could definitely see myself frequenting here. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ST. AUGUSTINE’S
2360 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5N 4B7
604-569-1911
staugustinesvancouver.com
St. Augustine's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bon Macaron Patisserie

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The temptation of trying a place that focused exclusively on macarons was a lure too strong not to succumb to. The name was promising for both its definition and its connection to Parisian baking. They even had their own mascot. A yellow cartoon macaron who wore a beret and dawned a set of white gloves, both well framed his pencil thin moustache. These attributes reminded me of ones a stereotypical French mime would possess, but for this edible pastry.

In the front window was a tower of macarons crafted to resemble the Eiffel Tower. It was certainly eye catching. Rows of blue, white and red to signify the colours of the French flag. It was just to look at, not to eat.

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Inside, in a similar fashion, they used more macarons to recreate more works of art. A macaron Mona Lisa and Van Gogh’s starry night recreated from painted macarons. It really spoke to their skill and the authenticity of their French treat.

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All the macarons were kept behind three glass showcases. There were over 55 different flavours available today. And they were baked in their adjacent kitchen. A narrow room with a glass wall and door that gave you a revealing look into their operations. There were multiple stand mixers, several trays on mobile racks, and two very large fridges to store them all in. Amongst them worked two pastry chefs. As I took my photos, the gentleman working behind the cash desk insisted I was a spy. He did so in humour with his Europe French accent. I denied the accusation and explained what I would be using them for.

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I secretly wished that all their macarons for sale were arranged by colour like a rainbow, or at least in order of flavour profile. There were just so many to go through, and without much organization I found myself revisiting several plates, across several rows, several times. All before finally being able to make my decision, this kept the patient clerk waiting, as it took up both our time. They took the time to evolve what we knew of the basic macaron. So there were many shades and so many new flavour combinations I have never seen, that I now needed to assess. How was I suppose to just choose just six?

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They were also visually different. The “Nutella” macaron came topped with hazelnut chunks. The “bubble gum” had a pink shell with bright blue filling. The “matcha” was a pale green with the word “love” in Japanese painted in edible lime green paint.

They covered the classic and most popular macaron flavours like: Oreo, liquorice, cotton candy, pistachio, coffee, chocolate, lavender, a neon pink rose, and a sky blue earl grey. These were the more familiar flavours, tried and true classics that I have seen at many of the other bakeries, also offering macarons.

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But they also had a few mixed flavours, that they exclusively brought together to make something new. Strawberry verbena, blackberry hazelnut, mint pomegranate, whiskey chocolate, pineapple basil, raspberry basil, chilli chocolate, pear and chocolate, and white chocolate with passion fruit.

There were some savoury macarons like white truffle and pink salt, popcorn, goat cheese and fig, white chocolate and wasabi, and even a bacon favoured one.

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The ones I found most fun was the root beer, and the ones inspired by other desserts. Oreo, red velvet, tiramisu, dulce de leche, carrot cake, and peanut butter and jelly.

They also did well to cover a wide variety of fruit flavours like cantaloupe, strawberry banana, a very berry macaron with mixed berries, raspberry coconut, black current, yuzu (the Japanese citrus fruit), peach Melba, mango orange, and a blue pear that was blue on one side and white on the other. There was even a vegetable macaron flavoured with beet root. And they most definitely covered the very seasonal pumpkin spice.

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Looking around they also had macaron shaped flowers on straw stems, displayed in clay pots. Though they seem to be more of a display, so I didn’t bother to ask for their pricing. They also made and sold their own marshmallows and jars of salted caramel, a similar flavoured as what was used in their salted caramel macaron. The marshmallows came in a packs of three, bundled up with cellophane. I was given a sample of the strawberry, which was light and spongy with a sweet jam-like taste. Today they also had vanilla available.

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They ran out of regular boxes so it was either individual baggies to transport my treat home with, or pay a little more of a gift box available in pink or purple, in a set of six or twelve. I choose the gift box, as half the enjoyment of eating a macaron is the initial bite in and the breaking of the crisp crust to do so. So having them smashed in a flimsy plastic wrapper only impedes that. I paid an extra $3 for this luxury. After the macarons are loaded in, the final touch on the packaging is a looped branded ribbon held in place by their “Bon Macaron” mascot on a round sticker.

However, if you are in need of more macarons to go, you can also transport them in a mini pyramid plastic take out container. It fits 40 macarons for a total of $75.

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I was impressed by their entire macaron line up and the breadth of their selection. I ending up choosing macarons based on their flavours and judged them based on how well their tastes lived up to their names. The “Strawberry banana” tasted most like the very familiar, medicinal banana flavour. It’s potency hid the strawberry. The “Cherry and vanilla” was made dairy free, though you couldn’t tell. Though sadly I didn’t get any of the cherry flavour I expected. The “Pure vanilla” was true to its name. The “Salted caramel was on point with a good ratio of sugary sweetness to salted savouriness. Similarly was the “Bacon”, it too had a salty and sweet quality to it. It definitely got its flavour from bacon salt. This is a great option for those who don’t like sweets but don’t want to miss out on the opportunity of enjoying a crisp macaron. With the “Popcorn” I didn’t taste anything that resembled corn or butter. I just couldn’t find the flavour that I was looking for when I selected it. Overall the macarons didn’t taste fresh, but they did have that nice and crispy initial bite-in texture you expected.

 

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.
There is no other place that offers this many different macarons. Just like picking out scoops of ice cream, picking which macaron flavour you wanted is just as fun. Though sadly you couldn’t sample any of the macarons before committing to it. But now back to the original question I proposed earlier, how do you even choose between over 50 options? Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BON MACARON
2823 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6K 2G6
778-379-6065
bonmacaronpatisserie.com
Bon Macaron Patisserie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bistro Verde at Nordstrom

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The acclaimed “Nordstrom” has opened its doors a month ago and everyone was clamouring to see it. I heard they had a restaurant, and was more interested in that.

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The American department store has found its new home in the old space of “Sears”. And their restaurant was located within it, on the top right corner of the three floor building. With its height came a view overlooking Robson square. But to get to it you were forced to navigate through the store, being tempted as you wove through racks and shifted through their branded clothing and accessories. They also had a bar right at the centre of the building, incase you needed a drink on the way there, or needed a break from all that shopping.

But I digress, this is about the “Bistro Verde”. The entrance was in the men’s wear department. You even had its dapper mannequin, table of folded shirts, and rolling racks framing the entry way.

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The bar is to your left. It is kept dark, in contrast to the well lit kitchen to your right. The kitchen was a sterile looking stainless steel operation with several chefs in white coats and black caps. Like the floor staff, they seem like quite the well oiled machine with all their numbers. It wasn’t very busy and they didn’t have any happy hour specials, but there appeared to be one staff member of every customer present.

The bar was your typical well stocked shelves with bottles lined up in a row. Above them, a display of beer and wine bottles bottoms up. They created a pattern of circles in green, white, and brown. On the bar’s counter there were several mason jars worth of fresh ingredients to be used in cocktails. Celery stalks, lime and lemon wedges, cherries with their stems, crispy fried bacon by the strip, a bowl of fresh fruit, etc. It was such a dynamic looking bar. It had that feel and gave off that energy that made you want to grab a stool by it. It was well designed with a nice avant garde feel to it.

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But in contrast was the rest of the dining area. With its cement column wrapped in matte metal, it’s plain booth seats with faux brown leather, and their black tables with matching black chairs. It looked and felt generic, like what you would find at any other generic chain. Shame, as the rest of the department store was quite glamours and they could have gone the same direction with this. My guest commented that even an extensive chain as “Cactus Club” with its dozens of locations had more personality than this.

Though our server definitely made up for the room’s blasé feel. She definitely came with plenty of personality. Though I originally thought differently judging her and her coworkers on their black long sleeve cotton shirts and their boot cut denim jeans uniform. Like the decor, considering that you are in a designer department store, they were uninspiring. The dress code’s stiffness had most of the staff looking like and moving about like zombies. Though once again, not our server. She was extremely enthusiastic about the menu. She asked if we wanted her opinion, without us asking. We of course took it and heard her go into vivid detail on the dishes she gushed over. She was pure energy and shared it with all her tables. She was attentive and delivered on what you would expect of customer service at “Nordstrom’s”. There were little touches she offered that no one else would think of, like getting our neighbouring table to take their time to smell their drink before they siped it. To enjoy its notes and flavour on all levels. I was seriously reconsidering our conservative meal choice, she was that good of a sales woman. She had us contemplating the “Sake marinaded black cod” from Haida gwaii and the roasted mushroom bruschetta, as those were her favourites. Given the review below, we will be back for them yet. But we stuck with our gut. With the prices asked and it being within a department store we were cautious. We didn’t want to spend as much as they were asking for food we knew nothing about. The plates passing by us looked well presented at least.

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We were given a serving of complimentary bread and olive oil with dried tomato. My guest informed me that this was peasant bread, typical of an Italian country side. It was heavy and doughy with an unbearably difficult chew. I found that no amount of oil soften the bread. I would soon give up.

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Our “safe” meal choice was a “Glazed ham and Manchego cheese sandwich” with Johnston’s ham, mango chutney, baby arugula, and peppercorn aioli, on toasted rustic bread. It was served alongside sea salt fries with a roasted garlic lemon aioli. Knowing we would be sharing, they plated it separately, which was a nice touch. Everything went well together in this sandwich, though remove one element and it was off balance. The salty ham with the sweet chutney, the fresh arugula with the spicy aioli. It was messy, but worthy of licking your fingers clean of.

We thought of ordering a second dish, but found nothing really partnered well with one another. There was also not many vegetarian options considering it name and the use of the word “verde” in it he restaurant’s title. “Green”.

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The “creme brûlée” had a consistency more like custard. Even without the thick layer of brunt sugar I found it too sweet. Vanilla bean, caramelized sugar crust, and fresh raspberries. It was average at best and just ok at worse. Nothing special, nothing worth a second shot at.

As a nice finishing touch our bill came with two chocolate sticks in a “Nordstrom’s” labeled billfold.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
It was a decent stop and the view was an enjoyable one. I do want to return just to try what our server recommended, but other that her nothing about this place stood out. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BISTRO VERDE
Pacific Centre
799 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V7Y 0A4
604-699-2100
Bistro Verde at Nordstrom Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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