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Month: May 2016 Page 1 of 3

Cameron House Records

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Trying to capture a bit of the downtown Toronto’s night, life I decided to walk around Queen street to see where the crowds were gathering. My first stop was the “Cameron house”. It had so much character on the outside that it made you want to explore what was on the inside.

The front of the building attracts with the steely gaze of an ambiguous person in pink. They stare at you from across the street and watch as you enter the threshold. But not before you look up to see the larger than life white ant sculptures crawling around the brick and mortar building. A few came with pincers, and you identified the queen by her size and crown. Some of her drones even made their way inside.

It wasn’t until I left did I notice the quote, “this is paradise”. It was scrawled bold typed against a sunny yellow and sky blue, on the side of the building. Given my time in “Cameron House” and all that I witnessed, I concluded this to be true. This was another unique space in Toronto, that could be translated in so many ways. There were many unexpected elements that you could take what you wanted and leave the rest behind. It was a safe place that meant something to everyone, and something different for everyone. As such this entertainment bar saw a good variety of people, myself included. Yet I did not feel out of place, nor did anyone else seem to.

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The bar was divided into two separate rooms/stages. Both had live musicians performing, here they have local talent performing every night. Tonight, the music each band played, help divide the patrons and each section all the more. A lively swing band up front and a quartet playing mellow folk music at the back. The most notable difference was between those wanting to dance, and those content on sitting and sipping. I fell into the latter category, but appreciated the art and music of both, sharing my time back and forth between the two rooms.

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And like the music and patrons the front and back room differentiated in look. The front of house was more decorative, it had more going on with colours and prints, fibres and textures. Like their spotted tile floor, and a forest of foliage and LED lights surrounding the alcove of the bar.

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The ceiling was most notable for its Renaissance type art. Angels in cloth and cloud, and winged horses. It’s embellishments continued on to the ceiling’s moulding. It gave the feeling of history and the imagining of what was in this space before.

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This contrasted the Mexican themed murals of skeletons dressed in traditional garments flanking both the right and left wall. They wore black or red suits with tassels, ribbons around their neck, patterns down each sleeve and pant leg, and a sombrero to top it all off. They looked jovial playing their musical instrument of choice: guitar, drum, trumpet, and flaming maraca. They seemed to performing for their idol: a women with black flowing hair and a rose tucked behind her left ear, with her face painted, nursing two red ants. This part sort of matched their exterior’s ant theme, if that can be considered a theme.

I entered without the need to pay cover or have my hand stamped, they didn’t even check for ID. I walked in to the live music, and after a pint from their tap, I decided to join right in with everyone else dancing in the centre of the room. With red velvet drapes and a red patterned rug, the stage was towards the back and cramped with musical equipment. The band was mid set and visible in the dark of the bar thanks to several strategically placed spot lights.

The music they played and the crowd they attracted were both positive. It was swing beats and rockabilly classics. The kind of songs you actually known the words too, but don’t know why. Everyone was moving their bodies without judgment, they danced for themselves and because the music compelled it. But sadly the band would end shortly for a break and they weren’t able to get the energy back up again when they return.

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During their intermission I visited the back bar. This is also where their washroom was located. The facilities were a cramped hole of a space graffitied with sharpie and ball point. This seems to be a common trend in most public bar/lounge spaces in Toronto. It looked messy to me, but considering the city’s strong need to tag walls and leave marks and art, this trend made sense.

Back here they had their own smaller bar. It was to the point, less on tap and less on the walls. This made sense given how textured the walls were. It was like someone churned layers of paint on each surface and never bother to smooth it out. Some parts were pointy some were jagged. And with its dark brown colouring, it felt like we were in a cave or a hollowed out tree trunk. Overall the space was dark and more simple, like the music, which had a melancholy ballad sound to it. The mood was mellow, and the patrons were lower in energy, with majority of them in chairs.

 

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.
Admittedly the night life in Toronto is better. More people are out and there are more options. You can actually pub or bar hop. There are plenty of spots, and not all just for teenagers to drink and have an excuse to make passes at one another. There was a night scene for adults that aren’t just dingy pubs. Here, at the “Cameron” they had great live music across two rooms and plenty of beer on tap. They made a nice late night drink and dance spot, for a more mature audience. Those wanting to avoid the bump and grind crowd with some dancing of their own, or some equally acceptable standing still and sitting down. I have never been to a place like this before or even seen anything like it in Vancouver’s abundant club scene. Something of a marvel.

 

CAMERON HOUSE
408 Queen Street West, Toronto ON, M5V 2A7
416-703-0811
cameronhouserecords.com
Cameron House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cabrito

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I was delighted to find out that this would be the destination of my latest dinner. New to commercial drive is “Cabrito”, a modern Spanish tapas restaurant. They pride themselves on using locally sourced produce, Ocean Wise seafood, and non medicated meat. Not only that, but they also boast a fair selection of Spanish wines, and home infused spirits and cocktails.

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Walking up to the venue, I was surprised that I have never seen it before today. The weather was mild and their front of house garage door was open, exposing a fenced in patio. Through the gaps you got a good look at the space, including their eye catching mural splashed across the right wall. An array of 80’s colour, the backdrop to a dark haired gentleman walking his black bull.

Under the mural was a row of tables against a cushioned wall. We were given the corner setting, feeling the wind from the opening and the heat from their lamps. We came early enough for me to snap photos of the space in its simplicity. However tables filled quickly, and a gentle roar of chatter soon too filled the room. I understand their popularity, with the artisanal drinks, this was a lovely place to socialize.

The space was catered towards smaller groupings, however it also included a large family style share table, flanked by high top stools. They allowed for a larger party to be seated across the expanse of the restaurant.

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There was additional seating against the black and white geometric patterned counter, that faced the bar. A seat here gave diners a look into the kitchen’s operations. Tonight, two chefs ready and waiting. Above these would be diners, hung chalkboards shaped like serving paddles, strung on a metal rod line. In coloured chalk they shared the menu in categories from “nibbles & pintxos” to “patisseries”.

The bar was my favourite feature. It had a white slat wall as its backdrop. The slats allowed for the hanging of miniature potted plants, that seem to be suspended in mid air. It and a shelf of books gave the space a homey feel.

The servers each wore a heavy cloth apron to remind guests off their specialty in butchery and meats. This was as good of a cue as many, to order some charcuterie. Their charcuterie choices included combinations of meat and cheeses, and boards of just meat or just cheese. And if you only wanted a taster, you could splurge on some of their finer cuts of meat. This included a hand cured pork leg of 36 months at $20.

We however, found the most value in their “THE” board charcuterie and cheese board. It included 3 meats and 2 cheese, none of which you had a say in. It was chef’s choice and it included some of their rotating cured meats.

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Our assortment came with cured Spanish ham aged 17 months, a red wine cured beef, and a pork and duck salami. For cheese it was a “Manchego”, 12 month aged sheep milk made in La Mancha of Spain; and the “Taleggio”, a cow’s milk semi soft cheese from the Lombardy region in Italy. The extras were a dish of homemade plum jam, some pickles beet halves, and cornishons. The board is served with a bowl of olive oil glazed bread, used as a base. And as expected we ran out of bread, but was happy enough nibbling on each element without bread to distract from its finer tastes.

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The meats were cut thin, each slice was the perfect morsel to melt onto your tongue. They had just enough chew and salt, to allow you to enjoy the spices and natural flavour of the pork, beef, and duck. The cheeses were thick and smokey. With their waxy finish they offered a nice contrasting, starchy chew, to the hams. And the pickled sides helped to break the rich flavours and add some freshness and crunch to the assembly.

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With this, we sipped on two of their more unique cocktails. We were both pleased by the punch and amount of alcohol used, they didn’t skimp.

The “Formentera” was made with their own olive oil infused gin, Rosemary, and black walnut bitters. There was no hiding the presence of the olive oil with its sharp flavour, only heightened by the actual olives on a pick. That, and the oily film that was left on your lip from taking a sip. The martini had a nice after note, thanks to the floral nature of Rosemary. This was such a unique drink, one that complimented what we had, and would have also paired nicely with Italian, like a rich pasta.

The “lavender pisco” was made with el pisco gobernador, egg whites, lavender, lime, and Spanish bitters. By comparison this one was more sweet. It finished light and pretty like a slice of cake, thanks to the foam of the eggs.

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There was plenty on the menu worth exploring. The “Fresh Beet Tartare” was interesting. Topped with a raw quail’s egg, it was an octo twist on beef tartare. When mixed in, the yolk added a creaminess and a nice salty punch to the crunchy cubed beet mix. It wasn’t as flavourful as its traditional raw meat counterpart, but it was a great substitution for those vegetarians who do eat eggs. The pieces of crostini offered a more authentic tartare experience, as you spooned beet on to cracker for a double crunch.

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The “Smoked Patata Brava” was full vegetarian and vegan friendly. It had Kennebec potatoes seasoned in a Piquillo sauce. The cubes of potatoes were chewy and chalky. The spice they were coated in had a nice mild tomato flavour. This made a great side to take in between bites of salami.

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The lamb was only disappointing in its portion for price. Two lamb lollipops served with a warm bean salad and a fennel confit. The lamb was perfectly tender, with just the right amount of fat left to make the meat juicy. It was seasoned with a nice balance of spice, versus the natural lamb’s flavour. You just want to pick the bone clean. The bean was filling with a gritty finish and the fennel added a pickling salt.

We considered dessert, but it all sounded so heavy for all that we had eaten already. Although I was tempted to see what a Spanish creme burlee was all about.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I really enjoyed the setting and there was plenty more of the menu worth exploring, many unique pairings I have yet to try in both cocktail and canapé. Watermelon with goat cheese, bread dough topped with caramelized onion and anchovies, and tuna stuffed with piquillo peppers and rice. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CABRITO
2270 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5N 4B5
604-620-7636
cabrito.ca
Cabrito Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Patois

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I have been gathering recommendations for my trip to Toronto. There is so much to see, and so much more to eat, that I couldn’t hope to do it all. So I have relied on the referrals of others to steer me right.

First on the list was “Patois”, a Caribbean meets Asian, soul food, fusion restaurant. There is nothing like this in Vancouver, and therefore immediately worth my trying.

The restaurant’s name, “Patois”, is Jamaica’s national language. It refers to the blend of traditional speak with English influences. Like the food here, the language it isn’t afraid to take on new cultures and redefine itself.

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Walking in, it was everything I had hoped. A unique decor to describe, a creative cocktail list worth sampling, and food like no other. The restaurant was alive at 8pm. With its garage door entry open, it allowed the warm night air in, and the illusion of a sidewalk patio for those seated out front on high tops.

I was content with grabbing a seat by the bar, as the other tables were full. The bar, in my opinion, was the best seat in the house anyways. My metallic high top chair gave me a behind the scenes look at the bartenders at work. They used exotic ingredients and it was quite the show watching these able-bodied women chop apart a pineapples for its flesh, and crack into coconuts for their juice, but more on that later. The bar was dressed with whole pineapples and jars of the fruit fermenting in water. Wooden tumblers held green lacquer chopsticks, but most were more comfortable with the fork and knife wrapped in a blue lined napkin. The utensils perfectly matched the Chinese style white and blue plates with a painting of a fish on it.

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The wall behind me was my favourite. A selfie worthy backdrop with a tropical theme, it matched the Jamaican influenced and the reggae music playing overhead. It was a wall of soften pink paired with various green palm fronds. It’s beachy vibe and the row of inflated floaties handing from the ceiling would inspire my cocktail choices later on.

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The actual bar itself was healthy with rum and Jamaican beer. Intermingled with the bottles and their jiggers were decorative pieces like a gold pineapple, a green stone bok choy, a durian elephant, and a vase in white and blue to match the dish ware. They were certainly speaking to their Asian influences here and towards the back. In the dining area they decorated the ceiling with Chinese characters and pin yin, along with a sketch of their pineapple mascot smiling and waving in pants. Their logo was similar, a pineapple with the Chinese character for double happiness at its centre. I am obsessed with pineapples right now, so all this just made me like this place even more.

This setting just screamed fun, and the food and crowd screamed back. You can’t help but to happy in such a space and the staff spoke to this. Everyone was so enthusiastic, especially our server. He was buzzing around the room seeing to everyone in his area and the bar. He answered my questions, described items with gusto, and reassured my choice with ease.

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Noting the drink and dinner specials on the wall I inquired about the “Habanero and the giant peach”. With this, the server’s face immediately lit up. He declared it their newest and best cocktail, describing it as a Thai basil mojito made with organic peach and habanero soda from a Toronto based company, and white rum. He was right. One sip, you were hooked. I had two. You get everything the name promised and lots of it. The heat of the chilli and the sweetness of the fruit balanced well the sharp flavour of the rum.

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With the restaurant laying down the tropical vibe, I was also compelled to try their “Coconut and rum”. It was a simple recipe: take one young coconut and to it add a shot of Bacardi Rum. Half the fun was in the show they put on to crack open the fruit.

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The bartenders used a wooden mallet and a tool that had an iron ring at its end. With a few precision pounds of the ring, it was inserted into the flesh of the coconut. With a tug towards you, it made the perfect cap, giving you access to coconut milk and meat. They go the extra mile here and garnish the coconut with a bamboo pick and a tiny drink umbrella. The embellishments worked well to set a tropical tone. You are advised to drink the coconut water down a little before adding in the rum. I though this would be a great way to start a night of drinking as coconut water hydrates. When drink was done, I would not let any of the coconut go to waste, I made sure to scrape all the meat clean and eat it for dessert. Both cocktails were $14 a piece, a little steep, but worth it for unique taste and different experience.

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I started with the “tuna poke” dinner feature. It was albacore tuna, plantain, coconut, and crispy shallot. Topped with chilli slices, cilantro, and a creamy mayo sauce. You ate them with these crispy black sesame rice crackers. It was really fresh and packed full of flavour. My only complaint, there was not enough of it, and at $16, it was a little too much to order another serving; especially when I can try something else.

There was so much to go through and so many creative things to try. Like the “Jamaican patties” with beef, bacon, Swiss cheese fondue and Sriracha. And the “Dirty Fried Rice” that included red Chinese sausage, Cajun spices, peas, and farm eggs. Several tables were ordering the84 Jamaican rub fried chicken with Asian style pickles. The Hong Kong style lobster with jerk butter was especially tempting at $48. Similarly the “jerk chicken chowmein” and the “Jamaican Oxtail” with Plantain Coconut Rice, Chicharron, and Bok Choy were tempting.

But if you couldn’t decide and had enough in your party to share, they offered a taste of almost the entire menu as a sampler platter. The “Whole Shebang” offered the whole menu, including half the lobster for $109.99. It suggested sharing this between 3-4 hungry people. Sadly I was just a one. I contemplated about joining a group, but didn’t want to interrupt anyone to ask.

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As tempting as trying it all sounded, I ended up getting what I thought was the most unique. Something I have yet to see and wondered why it wasn’t more common of a thing. Using Chinese sweet cocktail buns instead of regular white bread rolls they offered a “Chinese “Pineapple” Bun Burger”. It was described was “double patties, an oyster sauce mayo, hickory sticks, and pickled cucumbers”. However the cucumber was replaced with shredded lettuce and I could not taste or feel the crunch of the hickory sticks. What I did make out were the two juicy and meaty patties, though I wished they were more pink in the centre. It was lightly seasoned to allow the flavour of the salty oyster sausage and custard-like sweetness of the bun to shine. The mix of fried shrimp and beet chips were a nice side. Like the traditional burger side fries, they offered a different flavour and a break from the meat and bun. I think this is the first time I have ever had a burger without using ketchup.

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Dessert was also something I wanted to explore, but at this point I was too full from harvesting all the coconut meat. So was disappointed to be missing such original sounding desserts. Like “5 Spice Cheesecake Stuffed French Toast With Rum Raisin Caramel” and “Almond Panna Cotta W/ Chili Rhubarb & Goji Granola”.

 

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.
For so many reasons I would love to come back, and for anyone visiting Toronto I would definitely recommend this gem. Great food and friendly staff in a one of a kind atmosphere. This was one of my favourite restaurants of the trip and a great place to start of the night. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PATOIS
794 Dundas Street West
Toronto ON M6J 1V1
647-350-8999
patoistoronto.com
Patois Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Toronto Trip for one

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Traveling alone for the first time and learning to be content with my own company.

 

I wanted to get away, I wanted to do an eat, pray, love thing, with just the eating part. I had never travelled alone, but figured I was old enough to and should have the experience of doing so. Especially as my idea of having an enjoyable vacation is trying all the trendy food in an area, which can sometimes lead to multiple meals, and much more money spent on food than a normal person would budget. That’s why, to not to burden another, and to not take away from my own enjoyment; I decided it best I do this one alone.

For my first solo trip I wanted it to be in Canada for safety reasons. Canadians are friendlier to travellers, I spoke the language, and carried the currency. I wanted a big city with a big food scene and lots to see. It was either between Toronto or Montreal, but my lack of French frightened me, and I thought it best to stick to a predominantly English speaking population.

For this trip to work, I had to get over my awkwardness of eating alone. To be able to take myself on dates and order enough food for me to try all that I wanted. To get over the fear of being judged, and to learn not to care what others thought. I see dining out as an experience shared with another, and don’t often enter a place asking for a table of one. But I did find it easier to do so during lunch and at more casual restaurants. The weekend and it’s nights became troublesome as it was date night and here I was taking photos with my flash on in any given dark and romantic setting. So the flash soon disappeared for a better tell of lighting, and how what I ate looked under it. That and I didn’t need the extra eyes on me.

Eventually, I avoided venturing alone after dark, not only to protect myself from the cold, but I was scared off by some interesting characters trying to engage after the sun set. Why tempt fate, and the city was more fun on foot, when everything is open, and I am not worried about who is behind the corner. Maybe more travelling alone and earning more courage will allow me to be more fearless at night. And maybe I will never feel that way because I watch to many crime dramas filled with attacks and deaths at dark.

Travelling alone, I also got a lot more done in a day than I thought I would, and walked a lot further than I thought I could. My calves were sore every night and one ankle was swollen in pain. But boy did I have to push forward and burn as many calories as I could. I was eating enough for two, at 4-5 snack-like meals a day. In my upcoming posts, I will be cataloging these meals. All of which I planned in advance, using photos tagged on Instagram and found using its geo tag function and my map app. I was thankful for the ability to use my phone and my data without incurring long distance fees.

Overall I found the whole lonely traveller experience gratifying. I came back with a new found self assurance and self reliance. I could travel alone, and found out that I could be by myself for an extended period of time. Any socializing I needed was spent with the folks I met along this travel. The nice people of Toronto engaging in conversation and directing me to their local, favourite spots. 75% of the time when I mentioned Vancouver the person I was speaking to, has been or has come from there. They were also more than happy to indoctrinate me to their city.

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Below are a few of the sights I found noteworthy, and any cliche musts when travelling to the 6. (The city’s nick name given because the use of the number “6” in both of their area codes.) As well as a few of the ways I found Toronto life contrasted from Vancouver living. I have always heard people describe Vancouver as “slower paced” and “boring”, now I can see why that is. This is not to say that I no longer love my city. Vancouver will always be home, but Toronto sure gave me something to want to go back to.

Having been to Montreal for the first time last year, I found many similarities between the country’s two oldest cities.

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I enjoyed the juxtaposition of old and new buildings intermingling. They spelled out the history of Toronto in steepled roofs, red brick, and rounded archways. A gonging clock tower neck in neck with its neighbouring skyscraper. Copper walls and a teal green roof next to a currently renovating “Saks Fifth Avenue”. By comparison the younger Vancouver felt like a cookie cutter city with similar buildings and copy cat houses, painted in a one toned brush.

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Though at the same time, there were many modern reminders. Their city spelled out in neon lights. A different look for day and night.

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What was once the tallest building in the world, and current Canada’s tallest.

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And the site of Eaton Centre downtown, featuring large billboards and flashing screens. I compared it to Tokyo with its sheer size and glitz. Whereas Vancouver’s busy downtown corner was Robson, and it didn’t have much of any of this going on.

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I also really enjoyed the Eastside street art. Not just graffiti scrawled in a quick tag, but pieces that took time, was done in layers, and was worth of documenting in photo. I wished for more of this on the streets of Vancouver.

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There was so much of it that there was even an alley named “graffiti alley”. It had beautiful pieces covering the entire sides of buildings. Zombies eating eyeballs, and underwater reef with sharks and fish swimming in harmony, and even your childhood favourites like Tom and Jerry at play.

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This culture was so prominent that they had shops dedicated to spray paints and stencils, anything you needed to make your mark on the city.

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It was these colourful murals that had me fond of taking slow walks down alleyways, whereas in downtown Vancouver the only thing you find in any alley is garbage stewing in large bins and the smell of urine.

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What helped their alleys was that in Toronto they were void of refuse bins. All trash is left curb side at the end of each night, and picked up by the men and women employed in such a field, early every morning. It may not have been a nice sight to walk pass at night, but it did make the buildings cleaner throughout the day, and alleys the best place to create some art. Though I couldn’t help but wonder what a garbage strike might look like in the city. Whereas, if it was Vancouver it would have gone unnoticed and hidden in our avoided back alleys.

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Other things I noticed was how few chain restaurants and fast food joints there are. I only saw the one “McDonald’s” and a “KFC” combo with “Taco Time”. There were way less “Starbucks” locations and only a few more “Second Cup” cafes instead. There were more independent restaurants, coffee shops, and boutiques in general. They weren’t “boring” with repetition. Here, you can walk into any restaurant and know it would look different from its neighbour. Especially with the ones that were refurbished on the inside, transforming a once residential home into a trendy eatery.

Here the restaurants may not have cohesive themes, or based on the setting give you an idea of what they would be serving. Yet it all worked and made everyone that entered each threshold feel comfortable. It all meant something to someone, a different experience for everyone. A point that made Toronto all the more inviting and accepting. Whereas in Vancouver all Yaletown restaurants feel the same and you expect the same type of person to frequent them, all Gastown businesses have a certain vibe and their customers do as well. You know what you will find on West 4th and Commercial Drive is no surprise.

And just like all the businesses the people of Toronto are even more original. No man buns, shorts paired with boat shoes, or coiffed hair contrasting an over grown beard. There was not a black Aritzia cowl sweater in sight, no Uggs on feet, and I was the only one wearing lululemon tights as pants. The women were more fashion focused in leather mini skirts and two inch heels. I appreciated the effort, but prefer the casualness of Vancouver. I consider myself lazy maintenance.

Toronto was less green and the folks were less outdoorsy. There were not many bikes on the streets or joggers keeping time. Although there was an abundance of fitness centres and gym classes being advertised. I suspect this is to do with the colder winters and much hotter summers. Whereas Vancouver’s temperate conditions have you enjoying the outdoors earlier and longer.

That an all our green space and places meant to sit and enjoy views. I missed the strip of grass between sidewalk and curb, larger front yards for homes, and the rows of trees that provided shade from the sun and fruit for the birds and squirrels. Toronto city was less scenic.

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Homes were tall and lean houses that seem to meld into one another, all in one cohesive row. The size of one house in Vancouver made two and a half in Toronto. They were differentiated by wire fences and separated by a wash of colour, only to share a common wall. These houses literally looked like you drew a line down the middle to divide them.

Although without the space and place to enjoy nature, Toronto found entertainment in the extracurricular. The had more leisure activities to keep the citizens occupied. Musicals and performance shows were prevalent, attracting attention with flashing lights and splashy theatres.

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They also had more sporting matches to cheer on, between the only baseball and basketball teams in Canada, living here. Both the Raptors and the Bluejays had their own stadiums and swarms of fans. Whereas for Vancouverites, we barely have the Canucks to cheer on. And we never really mourned the loss of our Grizzlies.

Toronto also had the country’s largest aquarium and art gallery. I visited both, but didn’t get time for the museums, like the one dedicated to shoes.

As Canada’s largest for both I was blown away by the aquarium and art gallery. Sadly having experienced the grandeur of each, they have now ruined Vancouver’s representation for me.

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The Vancouver aquarium no longer compared. With “Ripley’s” larger than life tanks that allowed marine life more freedom for free form swimming. In Vancouver the mammals seemed to do laps.

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The aquarium also had a rare collection of sea life: blue lobsters, fancy frilled seahorses, cuttlefish and upside down jelly fish.

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They also had a ceiling to floor jellyfish tank that strobed different frequency of lights. It gave these gelatinous creatures a neon highlight or a glowing outline. This was a popular alcove for selfies.

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What blew me away most, was experience of being surrounded by water and swimming sea life, while keeping dry in a tunnel of glass A conveyor belt moved you along this tunnel. You cranked your head trying to take in the large sharks and giant rays gliding about. They did well to avoid the colony of coral, schools of tropical fish, and the scuba divers scrubbing the tanks free of algae.

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They also had petting pools that ended the tour, similar to Vancouver aquarium’s newest exhibit. These were open tanks that allowed you to pet baby sharks and rays with supervision.

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What they didn’t have was an omnimax theatre or a rainforest tropical zone that included birds, bats, monkeys, and turtles. Everything was in the building so they didn’t have the space for larger marine life like whales, beluga, and dolphins. No sea lions, otters, or penguins either. But the size of the tanks made a difference, and their animals seemed happier.

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The aquarium was a one way route through all the exhibitions and tanks. My pace quicken to avoid the chatter of the kids on class field trips. I would like to visit this place again without the noise. Perhaps they have an aquarium at night feature, where like in Vancouver, adults can enjoy the space with drink in hand. Aquariums do make a great first date destinations.

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I was in a similar awe with the art gallery. I admittedly don’t appreciate art the way those who dedicated their lives to learning it do, or appreciate it for its beauty. I however can admire a piece for their workmanship and an artist’s ability to create. I prefer sculptures and pieces that serve another function for that reason.

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I appreciated the gallery’s ability to make you feel small in its halls. Where its statues and painting were arranged to heighten your experience of them.

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The way things were laid out had equal significance to the piece itself. Some were meant to exist on it own, others brought awe when arranged with common threads. Where as due to space limitations the gallery in Vancouver is simply forced to display pieces, not necessarily arrange them.

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The museum also included an historic tea salon serving snacks and high tea. And a coffee bar with vaulted ceilings and a look past glass and wood for a view of the city.

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Even its spiralling staircase was considered an attraction. A walk up its several flights yielded not only a good work out, but a decent vantage point of the city.

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Aside from the gallery, there was less art installations on the streets. No stacks of cars balancing on a pillar, no adjoining rings by the beach, no metal sculptures of spaceships or a plane, or even painted themed bears greeting you at certain businesses.

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There were some pretty tempting souvenirs at both the aquarium and art gallery gift shops, and plenty of shopping to be done at Eaton Centre. However I had my souvenir sights set on an article of clothing from the only “OVO”, and flagship store. “October’s Very Own” is Drake’s fashion brand, sold in the city the hip hop artist, and proud Canadian, grew up in. What could be more telling of this generation’s pop culture and a quintessential Torontonian take away?

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My prize was a black hoodie with the OVO owl logo embroidered in gold. It was a shame that my experience was spoiled by some pretty snooty teenage boys tending to the racks and cash register. This store is practically a tourist site and they could afford to be more sympathetic of those that travelled all the way for it.

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During this trip I avoided transit, opting to instead walk, to be better able to take in the sights. But I did note that buses drove on rails that added metal grooves to the payment. And that they stopped in the middle of the street. Passengers boarded and got off on a cement islands, only to have to dash to either ends of the crosswalk to continue on with their route. And whereas Vancouver’s trains were railed in the sky, Toronto’s was underground. These underground subways came with bicycle parking to park and go. Whereas Vancouver had plenty of bike lanes all around downtown, to get you to where you need to be.

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I visited Toronto’s Chinatown which had similar restaurants, vendors, and grocery stalls; when compared to Vancouver’s Chinatown. Where they lacked was the depth of Vancouver’s Chinese presence. The town was proud of its more prominent cultural artifacts like pagodas, water gardens, and dragon lined gateways.

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But my favourite area was Kensington Market. Decorative poles marked its entry points through alleys. The one in Chinatown was a red pole topped with a black cat on four paws, claiming a yellow chair. Another pole was topped with a globe surrounded by images of clothes, fish, and meat; just a few things you’d expect from the market place.

The area reminded me of Vancouver’s own Commercial Drive. Eclectic thoughts and ideas coming together in an artisan way, with artists selling artisanal wares. The connecting alley ways allowed for discovery through roaming. And there was much to see with each brightly decorated building.

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There were paper craft stores, spice shacks, a boutique that catered to the occult, several vegan themed cafes, plenty of kitchen supply stores, and even a shop dedicated to Tibetan dance and its paraphernalia. I spent most of my time here, in this village within a city.

 

In general I did notice that Toronto moved fast. With nothing to see and no mountains or waters to admire, you just look straight ahead to your destination. I was obvious as a tourist, with my neck swinging back and forth to take in all the brick and metal. Impeding traffic with my pace, I felt they needed a slow lane for those wanting to take their time and stroll.

I like Vancouver for its patches of green and pools of blue. I like its modern feel and looking up towards it skyscrapers. I can get lost in a mountain range or reflect in a building of glass. I appreciate the laid back nature our city has, and it people’s desire to balance work and life. We enjoy the journey, and not just running to our next destination.

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I like living my day to day in Vancouver, but would prefer to travel to Toronto for leisure. I am looking forward to a return trip, to be able to explore more of its food scene and maybe take in a play or ballet.

 

TORONTO, CANADA

Well Tea

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Feeling unsatisfied from our rushed Richmond night market experience, we sought out snacks at a bubble tea place to quell any remaining hunger. This meal would be filling and cost a fraction of what we paid top dollar for, waiting in line.

There aren’t many restaurants in Vancouver open until 2pm, there are bars and clubs, but what if you just want to sit and eat in a well lit room? Richmond offers many such establishments. They cater to the late nighters who want a nice warm setting to wind down the evening, and a place to enjoy some non alcoholic drinks and banter in.

There is no look in, as the entire exterior is covered in white paper patterned with bamboo leaves and Chinese script. I had visited before, so know what to expect. It hadn’t change all that much, the restaurant was just as I remembered it. A pooling water feature as you entered, seating across two sections with a raised platform, colourful cut outs in wood on the wall, and shadow boxes built into the floor displaying sand and fake greenery at your feet.

The restaurant was low key, a great spot for those looking for a quieter Saturday night. The setting allowed a group of men the ability to play several rounds of “cards against humanity”, as they wrapped up their meal, and I listened on in horror.

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I don’t come to the area often, so chose this as our destination with a specific dish in mind. I knew what I wanted to get my guest to try, so didn’t hesitate when the menu warned my choice would take some time to complete. I have it before and wanted him to experience the novelty of meat and vegetables cooked in a broth that was basically a bubble tea drink. It was a weird combination that raised an eyebrow, but somehow just worked.

This was a single portion of their hotpot with a “Pearl milk tea” broth. It comes with a bowl of steamed rice, a dish of sauce, and some tapioca pearls that you dispense into the pot yourself, so should you choose. The cast iron pot sits on a wooden pedestal that includes a tea light beneath it. The heat of the flame keeps things warm to the last spoonful. Admittedly the dish is best warm, as it’s mostly the soup that you are enjoying. We later agreed that this made a great before bed snack, it warmed our insides like microwaved milk, and helped propel both of us into a comforting night of sleep.

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The hot pot is sweet with tapioca pearls, and savoury with pieces of pork, and fish cake. The pearls had a nice pop to them, giving the dish a freshness from its jelly texture. The bitter of the cabbage comes through quite pronounced, adding an odd herbaceous-ness to the mix. It’s a contrasting flavour profile that just works, but you aren’t sure of it until you find yourself taking in sip after sip and finishing the portion. The broth almost had a cream of mushroom soup quality to it. And with the rice it reminded my guest of risotto. However it was the chunky garlic and chilli sauce that gave more of the boiled ingredients its flavour.

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We also wanted some dessert and leaned towards one of the full box toasts with ice cream, however they were out of hollowed out cubes of bread. So instead we ordered the “Peanut butter condense milk thick toast”. The name was pretty clear and it delivered on all that it promised. Melty peanut butter drizzled over with sweet condense milk. The slice of bread was indeed thick, it was toasted with a crunch, giving it a nice contrast to its chewy and spongey centre. We got this one first and ate it hot, only to wish we had this sweetness to end on.

 

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.
A Taiwanese bubble tea house with all the drinks and snacks you would expect. An easy and inexpensive meal late at night (they open until 1am or 2am). What you wouldn’t expect is the milk tea hot pot, which gives you a new way to enjoy your favourite chewable beverage. An experience worth trying, just to say that you have. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

WELL TEA
4811 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond BC, V6X 3K7
604-278-7268
welltea.ca
Well Tea Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Richmond Night Market

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I made the mistake of choosing a long weekend, and only the second weekend the Richmond night market opened for the season, to visit.

Just driving to the lot, we literally spent 45 minutes waiting in the car. 45 minutes just to move half a block. There was congestion along busy intersections and, as my guest and passenger put it, I nearly “range quit” with the total standstill. The traffic attendants tried their best, but there was utter chaos as drivers couldn’t take simple instruction from a glowing baton.

But eventually we got to our destination and parked in the secondary lot. Stopping here required a trek over rock and gravel; but as rough as it was on the soles of our shoes, it was still a better option and quicker by foot, than trying to lap looking for an empty spot closer to the market.

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At this point, there was no doubt in my mind that we will be paying $20 for their zoom pass. It was already 10pm and I didn’t want to do anymore waiting. Little did I know, it would be all that we would be doing tonight.

The zoom pass allowed you to bypass the lengthy line, and those in wait to pay $2 for admission. The pass cost 10 times more, but on top of shortening your wait, it is also a pre-purchase of 6 additional visits, that were transferable. I deem my time more valuable and therefore am willing to pay $20 to save it. An attendant was selling them by the “non waiting” entry way. This little coloured card allowed 7 entries into the market in total. Each entry was claimed by punching a hole into a dinosaur stamp on the back.

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This year’s theme was “Magical Dino Park”. It included robotic dinosaurs moving their horned heads and spiky tails from side to side, and letting out the occasional “roar”. All while surrounded by lush greenery and perfectly placed spot lights. The voice broadcasted over the sound system advertised the existence of these dinosaurs, and the idea that they would make an ideal backdrop for a selfie.

The voice also suggested a visit to their food pavilion. That since their dinosaurs had such large appetites, they have increased the number of food vendors to over 100 stalls. We complied with his suggestion. Wasting no time, we sped off to their food area to get in as much as we could. We hustled from one stand to another exploring all the options and picking what we wanted. However all this planning and travel, only to run out of time and have to leave unsatisfied, as they start packing up for a 12am close.

This was only my guest’s second visit to this market. He had takoyaki, meat on sticks, and squid, on his list of snacks that he wanted tonight. And apparently everyone else had the same appetite, as we were kept waiting in lines for all thee.

We made the mistake of stopping at the first takoyaki vendor, proving location is ever so important in a business. There were a few others selling seafood in dough, and even one that did the classic Japanese treat in a jumbo version. And I love food that is bigger than it normally is, or smaller than you except it to be. But sadly we stopped at the first stall we saw and had to be content with that.

At this and every other line, you queue up to order and pay, and wait even longer to claim your food. As I waited in these lines I had plenty of time to think. Plenty of time to realize that they have a good thing going on here. This tented food fair was an example of build it and they shall come. They served over priced snacks, that didn’t taste all that great. Average snacks you could easily get from the nearby Aberdeen mall (just to name one place), with no entry fee and less of a struggle to drive to and park. The same style of food for cheaper and at better quality. And there, there wouldn’t be a rush job to accommodate customers, instead they would churn out the best of whatever it was. From hurricane potatoes to curry fish balls, and they offer it all year round during full mall hours.

Yet here we were, one of the many consumers willing to travel all the way to the market and wait in lengthy lines. I guess it was the ambience, that you were paying for. The novelty of being able to walk along stalls and explore. And like drinks at a club, you know you can get a few bottles at the same price as a couple of shots here, but you are here for the atmosphere, and it made all the difference.

It is a convenient walk with all the selection side by side. That is when you aren’t pushing through crowds with your elbows pointed. This also may the closest that some get to explore a more authentic Asian food scene. And then there is the visual feast. You are treated to the show of seeing food grilled, baked, and fried before your very eyes.

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The takoyaki was such an example. Massed produced on cast iron moulds, it is a step by step process that is spelled out behind plexiglass. From pouring the dough to dropping in pieces of octopus, shrimp, scallop, or cheese for the vegetarians.

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These were made to order with the option to mix and match the fillings. We got two of the octopus, two of the scallop, and two of the shrimp. Everything except the cheese as we felt we wouldn’t get our money’s worth with it. They were basically $1 per ball. Although reality was we couldn’t taste the difference from one to the other. The taste was especially hidden as we had more mayo that usual. The squeeze bottle spilled open over our portion, and the clerk asked if we were ok with the amount that came out. It was a benefit to us, more mayo is always a good thing; so we were happy to accept what we were handed as is. Aside from the mayo it was a mushy ball that tasted like pickled vegetables. A hot and gooey mess that was best taken in one gaping mouthful.

At a few of the following stalls there weren’t many, or any lines to order, so you think there wouldn’t be much of a wait. It isn’t until you look down and realize they are calling number “45” and you have “20”, that you realize you are in for a long haul. And often the food does measure up to the time you have spent idle. Especially when you are staring at a cup of shrivelled and skewered mystery meats.

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The “Super BBQ meat” stall had its own corner with two different booths focused on barbecue on a grill. One specialized in meat, the other seafood. We thought we were clever by dividing and conquering, queuing to get something from each of the neighbouring stalls. However both took about the same time, and had us stationed there for over 30 minutes in wait.

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We started at the meat vendor, paying $10 for four skewers, of our choosing. So like the balls above we got to try one of each, and like the balls above, they all basically had the same taste. AAA steak beef, lamb, honey garlic chicken, and prawn. They were all seasoned in the same zesty Indian spice, it came with a grainy and mustardy pungent-ness.

They also had jumbo skewers, and as I mentioned above, I love it when food is bigger or smaller than necessary; but thankfully we skipped this option, as we didn’t need more than the four shrivelled up chunks we got per stick. This was disappointing at $2.25 per skewer, and what felt like a 10 minute wait for each.

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Our order of squid was just as disappointing. They seemed to be dredging and deep frying tentacles in mass quantities, yet it was being seasoned and served cool. But people seemed happy with what they were having, and as a result they ran out of the full deep fried squid on a stick and tentacles skewered.

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We went for the sweet chilli version of deep fried squid, and the sticky mess got everywhere, from my clothes to my hair. I would later wash and a chilli flake would fall out from between damp strands of hair. But it was the sauce that was the only thing to give the chewy, throughly batter bites any real flavour. They were over fried and oily, and after a few I was done with the taste.

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I needed to cleanse the accumulation of grease in my mouth, so stopped at the jerky stall. “BKH Jerky”. I have driven past their store front before and been curious, but what cinched it for me now, was their banner advertising the fact that they have been on “Dragon’s Den” (a reality show where entrepreneurs invest in local Canadian business for both parties to make millions).

They were flipping sheets of reddish meat as you approach the stall. They had regular, curry, or spicy flavoured pork or beef jerky, and the choice of jerky short ribs. I went for the regular beef for the first taste.

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It was a steep price at $7 a slice. I agreed with the customer in front of me in line, but not enough to voice it like he did. The prices were listed on the tent and you know what you are going to get by coming here, so you can’t really be surprised or complain.

The jerky was cut into manageable sized chunks with scissors, for easy on the go eating. It had a nice chewy texture with a sweet sticky glaze. A hearty snack that I would have preferred to rip tiny bites off of on whole sheet of meat. I would definitely considering buying a pack to graze on at home. And it would probably be at a more reasonable in price.

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My guest on the other hand was thirsty. He went for a bubble tea at “Bubble Gallo”, after I convinced him to, over a can of coke. When in Rome… Taro with pearls. It was your standard powdered beverage with milk and tapioca.

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My last food stop was at the “lil fella’s” mini doughnuts truck, to take some desserts home. This was the quickest line I was in, and I got the doughnuts right away. Though they weren’t very busy to begin with and they were closing the market for the night. Also this wouldn’t be what you come to the market for. If you are like me, you look for the unique, the more uncommon the better. You can find mini doughnuts at every fair and the on occasion sporting match.

None the less I was pleased with the speed of delivery. Warm doughnuts meets paper bag and my hand, all at the regular pricing. They were fluffy and crunchy with cinnamon sugar, I got exactly what I expected.

After this we were left with 30 minutes to take in as any of the sales booths as we could. We did this rushed with the announcer reminding us the market would be closing in 30 minutes, every two minutes. We were able to take in the cell phone stands, the anime memorabilia stalls, I stopped to admire jewellery and hum and haa over nail art supplies, and we also found the nut and fruit booth we were in search of.

 

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.
We have our zoom pass, good for 5 more visits, and it is as good enough of a reason as any to come back. If anything, we would visit just to get your money’s worth. We decided it was best to return in summer, to let the season’s beginning die down and the novelty wear thin. Then there will be less people, less lines, less shoving, less waiting; more eating, more shopping, and maybe even a game at their carnival portion. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RICHMOND NIGHT MARKET
8351 River Road, Richmond BC
604-244-8448
richmondnightmarket.com
Richmond Night Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Camping & Duffy Loop Road Trip

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One of the perks of living in Vancouver is being able to enjoy the wilderness that surrounds us. With the warmer weather, my partner planned a two day road trip for us within BC. A weekday trip that would include my first taste of camping in a tent.

Camping isn’t something I would automatically associate with fun, or would it be something I would be clamouring to do. I have my routines and like to keep them. And when it comes to cleaning up before bed and grooming first thing when I wake up, it is hard to do without running water and a vanity.

When I consider camping for leisure, I find it humourous that success and wealth can be defined by having enough to be able to live without a home when you choose to. Camping is trading four walls and a roof for a parachute on rods with a zipper for a door. It is forgoing running water and flushable toilet for squatting in a bush. But none the less, here I was and I was going to make the best of it.

My partner did plan ahead, and made things as comfortable for us as possible. He brought along the memory foam mattress that, then and currently, tops the bed we sleep on every night. It gave it our taste of home, away. This mattress was in place of sleeping bags and the hard ground. We don’t camp enough, or plan to camp enough, to need to invest in the necessary outdoor gear, like sleeping bags. So we picked up provisions, rations, and the cheapest tent that would fit a queen size mattress pad, and off we went.

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Our intended campsite had yet to open for the season, so we found ourselves in the little town of Lillooet, choosing between the two campsite that they had available there.

Lillooet was a once bustling town on the gold rush route, with a now current population of about 2,400. It was one of those places where everyone knew your name, and neighbours had no problem greeting strangers. Where every business closed up shop well before darkness broke, and “A&W” and “Subway” were the only two familiar restaurants. We had the former for dinner and breakfast the next day. It is not the city life that I prefer and am use to, but a nice destination to get away to.

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What I enjoyed most about this sleepy town was it’s old timey looking buildings. This restaurant, hotel, liquor store, and bar was what I imagined a traditional saloon to be. It was just missing a water trough and horses waiting out front.

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We choose a camp site closest to the water, the one that had a view of the Fraser river’s valley and not just the desolate town’s lots: “Fraser Cove”.

After regular operating hours, checking-in is a self serve affair. At their visitor board you fill out their disclaimer and place it, and the asking fee, in an envelope provided. It is then sealed and inserted it into their locked payment mailbox. A spot to pitch our tent was a mere $19, trailers paid more for more amenities.

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We walked the camp site, selecting the lot that would best meet our needs. Most had already been claimed by trailers, and had them hitched up for the night. We took one of the remaining tent sites, away from the gravel and closest to the water’s edge. It included a sandy area to pitch our tent on, a wooden picnic table, and a stone lined fire pit.

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After reading instructions to pull and stretch plastic over poles, and to hammer pegs into place, our first tent was up. We moved in with our mattress and two layers of blankets. But first, we planned to keep ourselves warm by building a fire.

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A few paces away from our designated area, we built our fire. It was a few feet from the running stream, facing the river and the banks on the opposite side. The sun set behind the mountain range leaving a gradient of soft oranges and neon pinks. As the night grew dark we could only make out dots of light in the distance. We began gathering kindling, snapped twigs and branches fallen. But not having enough through foraging, we paid to burn some of the chopped logs, that the site’s caretaker made available to guests at a price.

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We were lucky to have been able to build and burn our camp fire, a hallmark of all camping trips. Only a mere week later all campfires were band with steep penalties and possible jail time. The night was cold, but the warmth of the fire kept things toasty. It was a hard balance of being close enough to be have your cheeks flushed, but far away enough to not have the heat from flames cook your calves.

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Around us the river’s water was rushing, the crickets were chirping, and the fire was crackling. And without all the lights, it all seemed much louder. The stars and the planets in the sky seemed closer and brighter. We hoped to be able to see some of the colour from the northern lights, thinking it was dark and clear enough; however it was not meant to be.

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Over our crackling fire we cooked hot dogs and toasted buns. Then finished the night off with gooey marshmallow between chocolate and graham cracker.

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The camp site had outhouses and a key for a shower with running water and a working toilet. But the trek to it wasn’t an easy one in the dark. We had picked up a head lamp and that helped to navigate our way in pitch black eerieness. But not enough to beat fear of the dark and the unknown within it. So my only option to relieve myself, like most men do. Out in the open with a point and shoot technic. Here I quickly mastered the squat and tilt to avoid urinating on my own foot. We thankfully brought a roll of toilet paper for at least some comfort. All that I used went in a bag to be later discarded. Kind of gross, but I guess this is what it means to be roughing it. And luckily I got over this reservation quick as a night of heavy drinking led to a higher volume of liquid needing to be released.

All our drinking and the absorbed warmth of the fire led to a heavy sleep. It was helped along by the mattress in our tent and the regular blankets we used. (We ended up washing everything when we got home, as it was covered in unavoidable sand.) But the morning after was less pleasant. We were groggy and disoriented. We spent our time packing up, then following it with a quick wipe down in their secured washroom. Then it was back on the road again.

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At this point I will review some of the sights we saw to and from Lillooet.

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Views like these make you feel small. It makes you realize how insignificant you are when compared to the mountains, rivers, forests, and world around you. It helped me put my life into perspective. How my woes and problems are so trivial in the grand scheme of things, because who are we but a speck in this vast planet of ours? Sadness and anger now, doesn’t last; and moments later no one will remember them. Why not focus on the happiness and the beauty around us instead. And luckily, we living in British Columbia are able to have this reminder right in our backyard. I personally came out of this trip more positive and renewed in my belief of self.

But my photos do not do the scenery justice. How can you capture such beauty with an iPhone? It so much more awe inspiring in person and I highly encourage seeing it all for yourself.

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This was a scenic drive, every direction was breath taking. The winding road followed the Fraser River and its path snaked along the mountains. We stopped at the side of the road to take in the scene. We breathed in the air, felt the sun on our skin, and appreciated our ability to have all this before us today.

Our drives also consist of us searching out wildlife in their natural habitat. Seeing animals in a zoo or an aquarium isn’t the same. So we were thrilled to have seen two baby black bear clubs out in the wild. But we did not stay long enough to see their mother.

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In total we saw eight separate deers grazing in the city’s outskirts.

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And a stray llama and a sun bathing marmot. Both were hard to capture in photo.

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We stopped at the beautiful Seton Lake, which had waters that sparkle a turquoise blue. It was most blue on a cloudless and sunny day. This one would be a great one to return to when the weather got warmer and the water more inviting.

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Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Warmer weather and my partners birthday brought us out to nature, to camp. After a certain age you run away from celebration and look instead to recharge, and this was the perfect place to do so. I may not be built for camping, but I can see why people take pleasure in the activity. To be able to disconnect and reconnect with nature and self. To enjoy the beauty in our province and get lost in how small we are compared to it all. I absolutely recommend the Duffy Loop drive, it makes for a budget friendly retreat needing only a full tank and some sunglasses.

Pie Hole

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I was gifted a box of pies, nothing says love and care like a box of pies. I personally would prefer a box of pies over a box of chocolates any day. And why have one big pie when you can have four mini pies? Especially when they offer so many unique flavours to try them in.

The “Pie Hole”, pie company currently doesn’t have their own retail space. You can only get their pies through certain restaurants and/or cafes in which they sell to. You can also order a pie through their website by clicking on drop downs and customizing crust and size. And with 48 hours notice you get a fresh pie to pick up. Although you need to keep in mind that their bakery/kitchen has certain available pick up times, and that they aren’t open on weekends. Luckily pies keep well in the refrigerator, and last longer than you usual cake or doughnut.

Online they offer plenty of pies to choose from in both sweet and savoury varieties. Classic fruit pies like cherry, apple, raspberry, and lemon meringue. And more unique ones, that are exclusive to them like the “raw avocado key lime pie” for vegans, a “maple French toast bacon pie” for those who want to eat their breakfast for dessert, and a bourbon pumpkin pie for those who like some kick with their butter and sugar. For savoury options they had ones featuring beef, chicken, pork, turkey, salmon, and vegetable. “Steak and stout”, “bacon cheeseburger”, “Thai chicken”, “salmon chowder”, “bangers and mash”, and a “Mac and cheese” pie; just to name a few. And if you are looking for even more, they aren’t just pies. They also do ice cream sandwiches with cheese, butter tarts made with Bailey’s; and their own take on the cake pop, but with a golden brown pie at the end of a stick.

The pies I would be trying below were from a pop up shop. I kept them chilled, but they are best warmed up and eaten with ice cream. I sampled a little bit of each because I feel food is best, when you get to taste and compare flavours to see what you like from one to the other.

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I went with the “Apple pear caramel praline” first, as a base comparison, we all know what an apple pie should taste like. But despite all the ingredients in its name, it just tasted like a regular apple pie. I didn’t get any pear chunks, nor could I detect a crunch from the pralines. Although it was still good as it was. This was a classic apple pie with tender chunks of cinnamon and sugar apple slices, a flaky buttery crust, and an extra pop of sugar baked in on top.

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Continuing with least to most adventurous, I then set my attention to the “Blackberry rhubarb” pie. What I confused for shredded coconut, was actually a sprinkling of grated and toasted rhubarb on top of the pie. With this you got both fruit and vegetable flavours in equal balance. You tasted the blackberry with its sweetness. It transition into a tang, complementary to the rhubarb. But you mostly notice the rhubarb for its fibrous chew, it’s crispiness added another textural element, between the squishy berries and the crumbly crust.

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The “Blueberry goat cheese basil pie” was the most original, I wonder how they came up with such a unique combination for ingredients. It was a one of a kind flavour profile that had you going back for more. You can’t figure this one out with one bite. You weren’t sure if you liked it, but were willing to finish the whole pie in order to find out. You got the herbaceous-ness of fragrant basil, the salty tang of rich goat cheese, and the sweetness of juicy blueberries to blanket it all under. The crust also varied a little from that of the apple’s, it was more crumbly like a powdered cookie. Overall this isn’t a taste you would crave, but a great flavour combination you don’t mind trying and finishing; then getting others to try and finish themselves. Although I think the filling would be best in between some sourdough for an artisan sandwich. It was more savoury that sweet for a desert pie. I would recommend this for those who don’t like their desserts sweet, but don’t want to feel left out in the world of after dinner pies.

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I finished on the “Chocolate pecan”, assuming it was the most rich. I was right. It had the same flaky pastry as the apple and blueberry pies, holding a chewy mix of nuts and chocolate. It wasn’t too sweet, a butter tart paste made with chocolate and pecan. It had a good flavour to pair with tea and coffee. Although I would have preferred the filling over a cookie-like crust, for a bar-like dessert. With the current pastry’s crust the dessert was too crumbly in your mouth, and felt chalky against the inside of your cheeks.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I look forward to them having their own store front, but it might be a while considering they have already found success selling through others since 2011. I would like to try their more exotic flavours, and with their miniature pies you feel the pride and accomplishment of eating a whole pie without having to endure its calories. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PIE HOLE
401 Industrial Avenue, Vancouver BC
778-838-8954
vancouverpiehole.com
Pie Hole Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Siegel’s Bagels

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In case you didn’t know, stuffed bagels are a thing, and they are the most efficient and effective way to eat a bagel.

I stumbled upon on them, having over heard a customer order one from the “Siegel’s Bagels” stall at Granville island. I often roam the marketplace in search of something new and different, and here this was today.

I came up closer to the stand’s glass barrier for a better look. Lined up along the side of the stall were the stuffed bagels mingling in with the regular bagels. A few of each were kept warm on a heated oven, and others left room temperature ready for a quick bag and go.

Their bagels are Montreal style bagels, boiled and baked to their ideal chewy texture. They continue to baked them throughout the day in their wood fire oven. They also do miniature bagels, but that requires an order, 24 hours in advance.

With the stuffed bagels could tell you weren’t looking at your regular every day bagels. These were still round like a ring, but now bloated full with various fillings. For savoury they offered a meat and a vegetarian option. A smoked meat or spinach and cheese stuffed bagel. I chose the latter, not liking wilted greens.

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Given how much meat was isolated within folds of the dough, I was surprised it wasn’t more salty. Not surprisingly was the uneven distribution of meat within the dough, though if you eat a bagel width wise you should have some smoked meat in every chew. I found things had enough flavour; but if you wanted more, they also offer their regular flavoured bagels open faced or as a sandwich. And with them you can get candied smoke salmon, cream cheese and lox, tuna melt, and more smoke meat with mustard and a pickle.

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For the sweet stuffed bagels they did fruit fills like raspberry, strawberry, and basically any berry you could make into jam. Today they just had blueberry and it was terrific. It was flat on the sides and bubbly at the centre. It looked like a top hat with slits cut in. This dessert bagel was more buttery and just as easy to chew. The jelly-syrup-like filling made them a great hearty breakfast or an after meal dessert. I would like to try the other flavours if they are as good as this.

 

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.
Not having seen anything like this in the bagel or bread scene, this was certainly worth the call out and blog note. The only place I know of for stuffed bagels in the city, and regular bagels that are worth a try. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SIEGEL’S BAGELS
Granville Island Marketplace
1689 Johnston Street, Vancouver BC
604-685-5670
siegelsbagels.com
Siegel's Bagels Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Granville Island Gelato

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Granville Island has several gelato stalls and many of its restaurants offer ice cream for dessert. Ice cream, sun, and water just work together. And Granville island has no shortage of any.

With several ice cream stands around any corner, you need not be more than 50 feet from a scoop or two. Nothing like cold creamy goodness on any hot and humid day.

The outdoor vendor: “Omi Gelato” is located by the marketplace. As the most convenient spot for ice cream, it is my favourite. In the warm outdoors, surrounded by live musicians performing, and plenty of others with cones in hand; you just can’t help but crave one yourself.

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Today the there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and therefore the line was long. Behind the counter was just the one employee, feverishly scooping and accepting cash for payment. She had been at this for hours and her smile had faded. Shame, as I imagine working with ice cream as being one of the lost enjoyable things to do. It might have been because the queue slowed to a snail’s pace, due to sampling. Everyone wanted to try a few flavours, distributed on tiny plastic shovels. It wasn’t until I got close enough to see the showcase, and all their flavours did I realize the legitimacy of tasting and trying, before you buy. With 18 flavours to choose from, this counter of convenience offered much more.

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All 18 flavours were printed on the sign above the refrigerated showcase, but it’s jut more fun to pick ice cream based on its look. They had the regular and popular flavours of chocolate, vanilla bean, maple walnut, green tea, and mango. And more exciting ones like rocky road, white chocolate raspberry, tiramisu, and a strawberry swirl.

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I went for a double scoop of the blue bubble gum (without actual bubblegum pieces, thankfully), and spumone. “Spumone” is a Italian ice cream made with different colours and flavours. It’s most iconic for containing candied fruits and nuts; and typically is made from: pistachio, chocolate, and vanilla.

Learning what spumone was, my guest was left wanting mine instead of her pistachio single scoop. We both splurged on the waffle cone and found doing so well worth it.

For practicality sake, I do advise not being greedy like me, and just having the one scoop. Even as quickly as I attempted to lick my treat, it melted faster than I could keep up, in the direct sun. As for how each tasted, it’s ice cream, who can say they hate ice cream in a flavour they enjoy?

 

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.
This is one of my favourite places for gelato/ice cream. Not necessarily for the dessert itself or the brevity of flavours they provide, you can get most of them anywhere else. It is more the one of a kind setting and the backdrop you get to enjoy them in. There is no other place like this in Vancouver, a space that offers this many seats, to accommodate everyone; and a view that anyone can appreciate. Blue and green with an ice cream: only in Vancouver, only at Granville island. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PUBLIC MARKET
1661 Duranleau Street, Vancouver BC
604-666-6477
granvilleisland.com/public-market

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