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Month: December 2016 Page 1 of 2

Meat & Bread for Turducken

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2016 had me crossing off much from my foodie bucket list, and this would end with my first taste of “turducken”. This one term is made by combining the words turkey, duck, and chicken together. And like it is with the word’s origin, the actual food item is exactly as you would expect. It is the stuffing of one protein into another, and then both into a third. An endeavour I have always wanted to undertake myself. But the preparation of such a treat have prevented me from following through. The amount of work, the cost, and the time. I have also looked into purchasing such a creation, and even then the price to pay and the need to bake it myself was more of a commitment than I could bare.

So when I saw that “Meat and Bread” were bringing back their annual turducken sandwich for two days only, I made an effort to cross another off my to-eat list. This effort included waking up early, then lining up in the rain to ensure they didn’t sell out; and that we could enjoy this Christmas treat, dining within their facilities.

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I have been to their other location on Pender, so know of their concept and reputation. A few artisan sandwiches worth the buzz and the trip out for. Making them not only a lunch time connivence, but a destination for food lovers.

We were actually the ones to venture through their threshold first. However turned away, being 25minutes too early, despite their door being propped open and looking all inviting. But not before I was able to lay eyes on all their rounds of roasted meat, tied off, and lined up by the counter. It’s delicious scent followed us out the door. Instead remained the full army of staff, busy preparing up to the very last minute. No doubt they were expecting a busy turn out, and I guess we were proof of that. We walked away a few blocks, only to return right quick, as a line quickly grew 10 minutes to. We would be the third group of people let in, standing in a queue that snaked around the corner and down the interesting block.

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When we were finally able to enter, we immediately tried to claim a table with our sloughed-off coats. However, we were prevented from doing so by the staff member who told us otherwise. His designation was to stand by the door and regulate traffic flow. Similarly there was another employee, on the opposite side of the room, constantly bussing dishes and cleaning the tables. Both of their specific roles ensured a minimal wait and a quick turn around. So instead, we and everyone else, wrapped around the wooden handrail that separated the counter to order from the seats by the window, and waited our turn.

The menu was a listing stencilled on a black painted wall. Today, along with the seasonal special, they were also offering their more familiar BBQ braised beef and meatball sandwiches. We would share the first and the third, without any sides.

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The restaurant was an open space with the entire kitchen and its chef working within plain sight. Their designated space was set to a wall of tile, with a row of knives hanging magnetically on the wall. In front of it and behind sneeze glass, us patrons were treated to a show. One chef slicing the turducken roasts and chopping it into chunks, before ladling a handsome scoop of their homemade gravy over the lot, and then tossing it all together with his gloved hands. He then scoops out a handful for the filling of either sides of a ciabatta bun. Each side of bread is already spread and dressed by his colleague. In this case it is a colourful mix of their butternut squash remoulade, stuffing, and cranberry Cumberland sauce.

To see this process unfold, click the link.

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Each sandwich, when fully assembled, is brought up to the counter for serving. Each placed on a wooden board over wax paper, and then finished off with a large dollop of mustard as its side. A row of them is quick to complete by skilled hands. Then one by one, each customer claim theirs by rendering payment.

When it was our turn, I appreciated the clerk offering us an opportunity to add on a bowl of their tomato soup or potato salad, but we would pass on both, and later regret it.

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We claimed our sandwich boards, and grabbed two seats along the family style banquet table. It was a comfortable sit that ran the length of their restaurant, across from the procession line in which you order and pay from. We preferred it over the bar seats overlooking the prep space; or the narrow two person tables, between the window and queue, that would result in us dining to a rotating line of customer’s buttocks.

Our seats were close to the “M-E-A-T” sign and their single stall washrooms labeled either “meat” or “bread”. Between the two, is a self serve station of water from pitchers with glasses to pour into. There was a similar station by the front door, that also offered customers the ability to take home the restaurant’s special mix of seasoning in jars. They offered you the ability to recreate some of the flavour of their meats that goes in between their bread.

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The “Turducken sandwich” with gravy, butternut squash remoulade, stuffing, and cranberry Cumberland sauce; was like a Christmas meal in one bite. But with each unique flavour battling it out for supremacy, the sandwich was missing a dominant flavour to cohere everything around. A heavier gravy for a more pronounced meaty flavour, or maybe a heavier handed spread of cranberry sweetness, even some salt and cilantro would have helped give the sandwich a better focal point. As a result, we soon got restless with the on tone taste. Something that would have been easily helped by a side of salad or a bowl of soup, like the ones the clerk recommended that we had refused. Not that a sandwich should be crafted needing an accompaniment. The yellow mustard for dipping was a bare minimum and helpful for a few bites. But the second sandwich we shared helped mix things up best. A nice contrasting flavour to go back and forth on. So I guess you can say it the turducken sandwich we waited in line for, and paid $12 for, fell short and we were disappointed. But I still feel it was worth the try that I can now say I have had.

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We were much more impressed by the “Meatball sandwich” for $3 less. It was a hearty handheld with three full sized all-beef meatballs, Parmesan aioli, kale, and gremolata. It was zesty with spices and tangy with cream. Good, but I personally could have used more sweet and salty marinara sauce, maybe even some stringy mozzarella, and for sure three toothpicks to keep the round meatballs in place as I bit now. The latter would have been especially helpful as it was messy meal, and there was more sauce on our hands and smeared over our mouths than expected. But overall a really delicious sandwich, well balanced and lots of flavour because they didn’t cheap out on the meat.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
It isn’t all that convenient for me, and if/when I venture downtown it is typically for a more fulsome meal; however if in the neighbourhood looking to snack, or if I worked downtown, I could see myself frequenting their sandwich shop more often. Especially given their rotating selection of hearty meat subs, easy to eat full meals between bread. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MEAT AND BREAD, Cambie
370 Cambie Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1H7
604-566-9003
meatandbread.ca
Meat & Bread Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

“The Cabin” pop-up at Four Seasons Whistler

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Last year my partner and I started the tradition of going to Whistler on Christmas Day. His family is on the other side of the country and mine doesn’t really celebrate the season. So going out of the city to where there is an abundance of snow and twinkling lights has been a nice little treat for us, something to look forward to on this day of rest. Besides there isn’t much else to do when most of the city is closed on December 25th.

This year I was happy to learn that there would be a pop up lounge running during our visit. A collaboration brought to the ski slopes by the Four Seasons Hotel in Whistler and the Hudson’s Bay Company, the oldest Canadian institution. They opened their doors late December and will remain open until January 2, 2017, with the night of new year eve off. Their goal, to bring a very Canadian experience to all those who visit.

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You roll up to the hotel and it’s valet parking only. A nice perk without a fee, outside tipping. The valet hands you a ticket and you head straight into the hotel’s lobby. “The Cabin” is an event room refurbished on their lower level. A trip down a flight of stairs, past their in house art gallery, dining hall, and kids play area yields your destination.

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The theme begins right as you enter the narrow annex. The staff usher you in, adorned in a Hudson’s Bay striped apron. The iconic pattern tied around their waists. A section of white between blue, green, red, and yellow. The same colouring patterned the backdrop of paintings, found its way across throw pillows, was printed on the coats of the plastic couple walking in a snow globe, and was even loosely represented in the carpet underfoot.

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It all matched the cultivated Canadiana tone and theme, and helped to live up to the “cabin” name and hype. There were ten different tables to sit around, including couches against the windows, high top tables by the front and the bar at the back, and tables with their own inset alcove. Many accommodated larger groups with plenty of space in between each seating area to unload temporarily discarded ski gear.

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There is also outdoor seating situated around roaring fire pits, for those wanting a break from skiing and snowboarding, without the need to disrobe all their gear. Our claimed sofa seat by the window gave us a clear view of this scene, including all the snow covered pine trees that surrounded it.

The rest of the room was decorated with wood, metal, and fur. A rectangular trunk lamp post, a series of chopped branches brought together to form square stools, varnish wood picnic benches, metal antler candle holders on coffee tables, cast iron lamps illuminating the bar, and furry pillows with matching throws resting on the sofas.

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Overlooking the scene was some painted Canadiana. Wild life art set to the back drop of the HBC stripes. Portraits of bears and moose, indigenous people ice fishing and travelling by canoe. And my favourite, a Tim Horton’s cup, framed with broken hockey stick pieces.

My partner found our presence at this food and drink, pop-up, après-ski lounge out of place. We weren’t skiing before, and we didn’t even ski. He found we, without our snow pants or puffy jackets (like the other guests) didn’t belong. But based on our bill, I would beg to differ. We earned the right with our payment, a point I had to push, when he felt guilted to finish up quick, but more on that later.

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I found the staff most helpful. They gave us the treatment you would expect from a restaurant running out of a five star hotel. Our server knew her menu and was able to walk me through it, although she did not make the ordering process any easier, she liked everything. Of note, the menu was bilingual, just like Canada. Printed in both English and French.

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I ordered the “Hot buttered rum” to warm up with. Mount gay xo, spiced buttered rum, boiling water, and nutmeg. It is finished with a cinnamon stir stick and served in a warming HBC striped mug; for $12. Originally I was disappointed to see the mug only half full, but after a sip I could see why the serving was portioned out like this. It is a spiked beverage so thick and so rich that it is like drinking caramelized butter. It even smelled like butter, and left you with that oily slick that wraps your lips after having it. A drink so rich that you can only sip it, and can’t really take in much more than a little every 30 seconds. I found the drink best enjoyed alone than with the food that was to come. Definitely one to try and one I would indulge in again, by any warming fire.

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My less adventurous partner went for a local beer by “Whistler Brewing Company”, the “coastal common lager”. He was sold on it when the server described it as the lightest of all their beers. It was a good beer, but the serving fee for this larger bottle was still steep at $13.

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I was tempted by the “Shaved jamon iberico”, seeing its unique set up by the lounge entrance. This was 30g of Spanish ham, cured for 18 months, and carved right from the leg of the pig. A spectacle you get to enjoy if you grab a front row seat at the unobstructed station. Where a chef with her blade, slices fatty cuts of bold red pork. But at $28 for a tasting portion I was hesitant to commitment. However our Spanish server sold us on its rarity and the fact that it is something special from Spain that you don’t often find in BC.

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It was tasty, a nice buttery finish to compliment the dry herbaceous focaccia side it came with. The pickled vegetables offered a nice tangy break, however I would get more than enough of it from this and its appearance on our second plate.

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Beside the leg of ham was a large round of parmigiano reggiano cheese. It was sourced from BC, and like the ham, carved to order, also at $28. However fun it would have been to see this portion plated, I passed on it for melted cheese instead.

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I assumed the “Raclette cheese” would be cheese served in perpetual warmth of an actual raclette grill. Or at least I would get the pleasure of watching a sheet of melted cheese being sliced off a round of semi-hard cow’s milk cheese, or view a blanket of melted cheese being poured over my plate. But alas, the cheese came already folded in a thick layer over North Arm farm potatoes in purple and their regular pale yellow hue. When severed, it was recommended that I eat it quick as the cheese cools and hardens quite speedily. Though, sadly it’s a lot of cheese and potato to eat all at once, and is best enjoyed when you can take your time with it, along with the side of pickled giardiniera vegetable. Pickled red and green peppers, cauliflower florets, onion, celery, and turnips chunks. Overall it wasn’t bad, but it didn’t have any of the pageantry like the last dish did, which I was hoping for when I ordered it. The edam cheese was pungent and salty over the semi boiled, unseasoned potatoes. You can taste the quality of each element, but all together it wasn’t all that exciting to me. As I mentioned, it would have been nice to have an actual raclette grill table side. Something to keep the cheese warm as you dip bread, starchy potato, and regular boiled vegetable into, at our own leisure This I felt would have been worth the $25 that I had to pay for a cold plate of potato and cheese.

Altogether, these were not the best dishes to eat in place of a meal. However I ordered both thinking that my my partner would share them with me, but he would later refuse to even give things a try (as a picky diner, this isn’t his type of food). And at $25 a plate I wasn’t going to let any of go to waste. So I took my time and cleaned my plate, having never had this much pickled anything in one sitting.

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As more people came in wanting to drink and dine we felt the pressure to leave. Especially as these patrons were forced to stand congregating by the bar, and the servers made a few attempts to clear the table of my half picked through plates. But I held my ground. Other tables were staying longer than we were, and many friends joined them to not even order any more. Another family milked an empty bottle of wine in a bucket of melted ice, and even broke a glass with their feet propped up on the coffee table. I would be paying $100 for my stay with marked up drinks and food, so I figured I had earned my right to sit and enjoy my time here. Our bill came out to about $100, as unbeknownst to us, we were charged $9 for water. A bottle of Avian water I apparently ordered thinking it would be free water, as I selected still over sparkling. Looking back, it was no wonder that, despite it looking like we were done eating our server insisted on filling up our water glasses. Had what happened fully sunk in, I would have insisted that she pour the water from the cup, back into the tall neck Avian bottle, and I take my water to go. But instead we paid and left, spending more than we wanted to for what we had, but not regretting the entirety of it, for the experience of it.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A cozy setting and a unique menu, I just came with the wrong company to fully enjoy it all. Instead I wished I commuted up to Whistler with my fellow food bloggers and foodie friends. To fully enjoy the uniqueness of the offerings in this Canadian cabin, in Whistler, during winter, on Christmas Day. All together hallmarks of something pretty special. When in the area, I definitely recommend checking them out. However do so quick before they close for the season on January 2, 2017. And I suggest dedicating your change to their drinks over the food. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

THE CABIN
Four Seasons Hotel Whistler
4591 Blackcomb Way, Whistler BC, V0N 1B4
fourseasons.com

IK2GO (Italian Kitchen 2 Go)

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After a few heavier days of drinking my body and wallet needed a break. So to recover, my guest invited me to lunch with her at her favourite spot. A kiosk serving pre-made breakfast and lunch options, prepared by neighbouring restaurant, “Italian Kitchen”. This was take-out ready fare for the working professional. Located at the lobby of some office space, between the actual “Italian Kitchen restaurant and “Bluebird” clothing boutique on Alberni Street. Having never worked in the area, I never knew such an option existed. There were no signs on the building’s either exterior entrances, no sandwich boards inviting customers off the street in, there wasn’t even a sign above the actual counter in which they served. Those in the know just knew.

They looked like a convenience store counter with cafe furnishings and much less organization. With no indication on where the line started, you either gathered by the showcase in which you wanted something, or the cash register where the only three employees congregated. And what ended up happening is you are left feeling cheated either way, as you know you are next, but someone who came after you was offered service first. They were ironically disorganized for what is a convenient option where no food court or fast food solution exists nearby. They also serve as a quicker and more inexpensive meal than many, for all those who were employed in the area to take advantage of.

There was a menu posted behind the counter, although it was hard to read and simply much easier to just order based on sight. Basically everything that was displayed before you, behind glass.

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My guest advocated the cold salads. A collection of large bowls with their own serving spoons at the very end. She ordered herself her usual: a large serving of their quinoa salad with grilled chicken as an add on. Although how she received it was not usual, and she insisted it (and they) was much better normally. Her chicken breast addition was reheated on the grill, but came to her still slightly pink at the centre, in a hue that she was less than comfortable with. A sight quite obvious given how it was presented cut up and served over her salad. When she brought it to the clerk’s attention, he asked her what she wanted him to do about it. She gave him the option of putting it back on the grill or microwaving it so that it would no longer be pink. Although we believe the damage had already been done. That there was the possibility that the raw juices of the chicken had dripped on to the serving of quinoa below it. This is because she found herself with stomach problems after we had finished lunch. And of course, being heated up for the third time, when it finally came back, there was no surprise that it was dry and overcooked. Given the reputation of “Italian Kitchen”, a Glowbal group project, I expected better. I expected the staff to atomically offer her a new chicken breast and discard what didn’t meet their standards. Once again this was not the case and my guest was sick because of it.

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As for the quinoa salad itself, I had a spoonful or two and got away unscathed. It was a mix of carrot, olives, parmigiano reggiano, and coloured peppers; coated in a charred peppered vinaigrette. A tasty salad with a texture as varied as its list of ingredients. Although it could have done with a handful less olives though, even chopped up, they overpowered and left things saltier than desired. My guest ended up picking most out, and reassuring me that she has never had it with this many in both the green and maroon variety. Though their briny taste remained and their oils left a fine film over our mouths and lips as we ate.

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I don’t like leafy greens so was happy to set my sights on their tomato and beet salad. And I was even happier to be able to try both in one large serving container. Although both lacked flavour to hold their own, and would have been much nicer as sides to the chicken or salmon that was available as an add on, or even an accompaniment to a more starchy salad.

The “Tomato caprese” had yellow and red tomato, bocconcini, and basil. When offered I was happy to have a balsamic drizzle added overtop. The fruit was colder than I would have liked and the tomato in larger chunks that prevented ease of eating. With both attributes it was hard to get any in one bite. And when you managed to, it lacked flavour. There wasn’t enough basil or cheese to go around. Similarly, the “Beet and goat cheese salad” used two colours of beet and tasted flat. I couldn’t make our any of the grapefruit segments that was listed or much of the citrus vinaigrette. Here some of the extra olives from my guest’s salad found a good home.

Although overall, even with my alternating between bites of the two salads, I quickly got bored of taste and the wateriness of both. I wished I got a small portion as I didn’t finish either, and at $9 I could have gotten better. Better not only else where, but maybe with their some of their other offerings?

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They had other cold salsa that would have been more heartier mains like a broccoli with Parmesan, chickpea, cous cous, and even pasta salad. They also had sandwiches, which were given their own showcase. They were available pre-made, rolled into wraps or built as sandwiches between flaky croissants and ciabatta buns. Truffle prosciutto, Roast beef, Mortadella, Veal Parmesan, and grilled veggie, just to name a few choices.

The flatbread pizza kept warm under heat lamps above the counter. Today there was a smoked salmon and marinara available. If I wasn’t looking to cut down on my carb intake this meal, I would have indulged in one of each.

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And for those who like to round their meal off with some sweets, or maybe for those looking for a pastry with their morning coffee, they had a decent selection to point and order from. Cherry Greek yogurt and apple cinnamon danishes, individually sliced and wrapped loaves, chocolate covered bars, muffins and Rice Krispie squares.

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I had planned to order a smoothie, thinking it would be freshly blended in either berry, banana, or orange; but learned they too were pre-made. They sat waiting to be picked up from the open refrigeration unit, along with the bottles juices, pop, and yogurt parfaits. Looking at the only flavour, a separated and congealed blue berry, I passed.

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Just as well, seeing as there is no available seating area in the lobby of this building. And unlike the others standing in line before and after us, who would later head back to their desks to eat, we would have to take our meal to go. First, we helped ourselves to their counter stocked with cream and sugar, napkins and plastic cutlery; and took everything to “Tierry’s” cafe nearby. There, we took advantage of the warmth of their indoor seating area, by having our lunch with some of their hot beverages.

Of note, according to my guest who is a regular and will continue to be (despite her one of experience today) she suggests coming before the lunch time rush, to avoid a lengthy wait in line and to ensure there is still salmon and chicken left, which tend to be the most popular and sells out fairly quick.

 

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? – No.
Given the price and experience, I much rather spend a few more dollars and enjoy the lunch menu at the actual “Italian Kitchen”. But given the need and niche, I can see why this kiosk exists and why they are so popular. Once again, they offer those in the area a quick and easy lunch time solution. Healthier food at a bearable price. I do not belong to this category of diners. I am from out of town, so when I venture into Vancouver I make it worth my while, with a meal that lives up to my expectations of area. And this is not it. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

IK2GO
In the lobby of the Burrard Building
1049 Alberni Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 1X6
604-629-3436
glowbalgroup.com/ik2go.html
IK2GO Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Bao Place

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I love a good steamed bun. Soft dough hiding meat, vegetable, or even sweet fillings. A whole meal that fits in the palm of your hand, and a great option for busy diners on the go. It’s like the Chinese equivalent of a fast food burger. And the best part, they cost a lot less, perfect for those on a budget, like me before payday. So when a shop dedicated just to homemade buns opened up by my work, I was curious to assess their wares.

The name was pretty explanatory, but if you didn’t get it, their window with coloured photos helped your further along. They advertised that their buns were handmade daily with no MSG, and that there was even free parking at the rear, a rarity along Kingsway, across the street from Metrotown.

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It is a simple shop with limited space, and you don’t need anymore. Yellow walls surrounding a counter to order and pay from, and a couple of tables and stools to eat off of. Each table offered a container of chilli sauce to give your bun a spicy kick. Something I wish I was also able to take with my to-go box of baos. You could eat in, but it’s just as easy to take out and walk as you devour your meal or snack.

The mural highlighting their international journey was the only real piece that gave the space some character. A black and white collage of cityscapes and street vendors selling their buns out of bamboo steamers and on carts. According to it, they had locations serving out of Malaysia, Penang, and Kuala Lumpur.

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The menu is a sheet of paper in an acrylic sign holder. On it they have five regular savoury bun flavours, with two specials written by hand on an adjacent sign. And for dessert, three sweet bun options to accompany a glass of sweetened soy bean milk.

I came as they were about to close so two of the ones I wanted had to be given to me at room temperature. I wasn’t going to eat them right away so was okay with that. Although it is worth noting that there is big difference in softness of bun from it being taken from their steamer versus sitting out. And an equally big difference from steamer versus warmth of a microwave. I also wonder how they told their buns apart, without each having its own differentiating marker. Deciding which to eat first was hard for me, so I decided to split each by hand and let me eyes decide.

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I walked away with 8 buns and 7 flavours across 2 boxes. But if I went for 12 buns, 2 more would be free. I didn’t need that much and at $3.25 for the supreme, 2.75 for the specials, $2.50 for the regulars, and $2.25 for the sweet ones; they did add up.

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The “Pork Delicious” was a regular bun at $2.50. The filling was a round of pork loaf with scallions and jicama (a type of root vegetable). As I find with many steam buns, there could always be a greater filling to steam bun ratio. The pork got a little dull from its one tone taste, so I did prefer its upgraded version below.

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The “Pork supreme” was 75 cents more for the same pork loaf as above, but this one also included was a few cubes of ham and a quarter of an hard boiled egg. It’s larger size reflected this well. This combination ended up being the tastiest of all the buns I purchased, and the one I preferred the most. This was despite its bland colour and the chalkiness of the egg yolk that I didn’t like. I have had similar buns else where and prefer it when the egg used is a preserved one with a bold amber coloured yolk and a saltier flavour.

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The “Curry dynamite” was beef ground pretty fine, seasoned with authentic Malaysian curry. It was a sweeter curry than Indian curry, but more spicy that Japanese sweet curry. It came with a distinct yellow hue that dyed the white bun neon. A unique taste, but also one toned throughout.

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The “BBQ delight” was a popular one according to the clerk. Pork meat seasoned in their house made Chinese BBQ sauce. This was another good interpretation, but once again, I have had better experiences with other buns. Especially with the large chunks of onion and more sauce then tender fatty chunks of meat, like I wanted and expected in this.

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The “Chinese pickle with pork” was a special at $2.75. Salty meat meets tangy pickle. I didn’t prefer the gritty texture or the briny taste. Also found it seasoned with too much black pepper.

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The “Taro” is a dessert bun was not filled with the trademark taro purple colour, in the form paste. This I wish had more filling, and was more of a cream that squeezed out, unlike the custard one below. It could have also afforded to be sweeter with more flavour.

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The “Butttermilk” had a yellow filling made with butter, milk, and eggs for $2.25. A lighter, less sweet bun. The filling was basically a crumbly butter mixture. Felt oily eating it and it wasn’t all that complimentary to the white bun.

 

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? – No.
Sadly, I didn’t like any of their buns, and I really wanted to. I love steam buns and love supporting the one of a kind restaurants, and those who try to make it in another city. But I couldn’t help compare what I have had with what these weren’t. And in the end I seem to be devoted to my regular place a lot more, even if it is out of the way. These just fell short by comparison. And if looking for similar buns in the area, I would easily recommend the ones at “T&T” or their cousin, “Price Smart” instead. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

THE BAO PLACE
4673 Kingsway, Burnaby BC, V5H 2B3
778-712-3228
baoplace.com
Bao Place Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

720 Sweets at T&T Metrotown

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Looking for something greater than your average food court dessert? Well “720 Sweets”, one of the first Vancouver free standing ice cream shops to feature liquid nitrogen in their ice cream, is now more conveniently located at Metrotown Mall in Burnaby. It is worth mentioning (for those who have never tried it), the chemical isn’t used to make the ice cream, but rather embellish and highlight an already decorative dessert.

They are now a little kiosk, at the entrance of the cooked food pavilion within “T&T superstore”, right beside the refrigerated sushi section. And they have moved in, just in time for Christmas. And to celebrate the season and their proximity to Santa and his ice kingdom in the atrium, their soft serve cups are even branded for the occasion. They are the same novelty sundae you love, but as in my case, without the lengthy commute. And often with no line, guarantee chance of free parking, and with plenty of seating across mall benches or within the multiple tabled food court. Here, they have become more of an opportunity treat, as appose to a destination dessert.

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Though given space limitations, and basically the ability for only one employee to man the counter at a time, their offerings are limited. Two different flavours of soft serve with two variations each. A mini fridge of take home pints and a ice cream sandwich flavour or two. I have been by twice and each time now they have been sold out of the latter. Though what bring people their way are their soft serve parfaits anyways.

And as I mentioned, this season you get your dessert in a cup graced with Santa’s face. But don’t get too excited you only get half the size of the cup filled with ice cream. An illusion similar to their use of liquid nitrogen. After you choose your flavour, it is twirled into a smaller cup (half the size of the presentation one). It is is topped accordingly before being inserted into your Santa cup with dry ice from a cooler, at the bottom. The reaction of the dry ice with water causes plumes of wispy white smoke to leak out between the gap of the two cups. It gives the sundae the look of magic and this month, warm breath on a cold night.

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The first time I visited, the clerk working was kind enough to give me options like how much condense milk I wanted and if preferred my almond coarse or in fine chunks. He also encouraged me to take photos and post them on social media with their hashtag. He even went so far as to ask me for my name and addressed me by it during our entire interaction. Great service for something so quick and easy as ice cream in a mall.

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I had the “Milk’ee sundae”. Milk tea flavoured soft serve ice cream with a chocolate wafer, crushed almonds, caramel boba, and a caramel drizzle. The ice cream had a mild milk tea flavour perfectly sweetened by sticky condense milk. I just wish there was a way to have ribbons of it intertwined throughout the sundae, instead of just being enjoyed in your first few bites. After all, slight bitter tea and condense milk are a winning combination. The “pearls” were a nice textural change, chewy as the almonds were crunchy.

My second visit was with a friend, and seeing as we brought a line after us, especially after others saw what we were clamouring to take photos of, the service was at a quicker pace. But this clerk was still kind enough to clear the counter so that we could take unobstructed photos of our finished ice cream sundaes.

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My guest ordered the “Milk’ee Way” sundae, and although it came with the listed almond waffle, crushed almonds, and caramel sauce; he was given caramel boboa instead of the expected caramel popcorn, not that it made much of a difference.

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I had the “Matcha Kinako” this time around. Prepared with Korean ice cake cubes, roasted soy bean powder, and condense milk. The menu listed Oreo pocky sticks, but chocolate was inserted into my dessert instead. Not that either of the variations made a big difference, it just would have been nice to be told that there would be changes; and not find about it after you dug in, and feel you would be petty to bring it up. The matcha was a pronounced flavour. Not sweet, although the condense milk helped with that, but once again I wished for more sweet sticky milk. The matcha flavour only grew sharper with each additional lick. Although the rice cakes were helpful to cut into it when there was no more condense milk at the bottom layers.

 

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.
What better way to reward yourself this winter season, for all your hard work shopping, than a cool treat with a show? They are definitely a stand out from all the frozen yogurts and fast food soft serves in the mall. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

720 SWEETS
2675-4700 Kingsway, Burnaby BC
720sweets.com
720 Sweets Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Starbucks Christmas Frappuccino

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Another season and another unique seasonal Starbucks offering. They certainly know how to bring an infrequent customer, like myself, to their threshold. And being one that doesn’t especially like coffee, their frappuccinos are what does it for me. And this Christmas what they are now brewing is a doozy. Every other like coffee and cookie shop does the gingerbread, sugar cookie, eggnog, and peppermint flavours (and Starbucks has their own versions of the above too); but that I know of, “Starbucks” is the first to envision a drinkable fruit cake. A new frozen drink to celebrate ugly sweater day. Although I can see why it has taken this long for something like this to come to fruition (excuse the pun). The running joke is that no one likes fruitcakes, they are often unspoken for, and left to harden as paperweights, come January. But these drinkable versions are something worth trying. Especially as they are only available for one weekend: from December 15-18th, 2016.

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It is basically a “Hazelnut Crème Frappuccino” with dried fruit pieces and cinnamon mixed in, topped with whipped cream, caramel sauce and matcha power sprinkled over on top. If you like a drink that you have to chew, and at times struggle to suck through a straw, this one is for you. For those who don’t like a chunky drink texture, order it without the fruit pieces; although that does defeat the purpose. I being a fan of chewing, who likes fruit cake and dried fruit in cereal and embedded in bread, this one is up my alley. As for taste, it reminds me of cinnamon in oatmeal, but sweeter with more cream. You definitely get the fruitcake tone and therefore it lives up to its name.

I was lucky enough to have mine come with a knitted hand cozy instead of the regular cardboard one (I know a guy, connections). It is the perfect boundary to keep your hand warm, while allowing you to still enjoy such a chilled beverage in this below 0 weather. Plus, it also makes a one of a kind keepsake.

Once again, the fruitcake frappuccino is only available this weekend, so give it a try before it is discontinued for the season. Don’t deny your Cravings.

 

Starbucks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kissa Tanto

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What better company to enjoy Canada’s best new restaurant, (as voted by readers of “enroute” magazine), than a group of like-minded food bloggers. And today I was in the company of some of the best Vancouver has to offer. Our roster is as follows.

Sherman of Sherman’s Food Adventures
David of Picky Diner
Diana of Foodology
Kristina of Drunken Noms
Areta of Foodgressing

I have been looking forward to tonight, a meal with this group would give me an accurate gage of the food and help me decide whether I would have cast my ballot for “Kissa Tanto” in the prestigious honour they received. On cuisine alone they are definitely a standout. Vancouver is brimming with fushion restaurants serving their favourite mashups, but none quite the same as combining Asian and Italian together.

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It took us over a month’s wait to procure a table during regular dining times. Reservations were tight and they were just that popular (no doubt thanks to a well written magazine article). We were here at 5:30pm, right as the restaurant opened for dinner service, and we weren’t the only ones kept waiting in the cold. All those who also made reservations were here on time, probably to ensure they maximized their seating limit. Ours was 2.5 hours, but they actually gave us an additional 15 minutes. Given how much we ended up eating and drinking the courtesy was warranted and made sense.

Knowing we might cause a scene with portable lights and a staged photo shoot (professional food blogger gear), we requested ourselves a table in the corner. We got the only group seating option, that could only hold six, elbow to elbow. A c-shaped booth, by the washroom corridor, tucked away from most other diners. It was ideal given our needs.

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To watch a video of what it’s like to dine with food bloggers, to witness what I have begun detailing above, and to truly appreciate the work and energy they put in to capturing those photos you drool over, click the link.

The restaurant is a step back in time with its 50’s bar, 70’s furniture, and modern decor pieces that brought it back to this decade. With levelled dining areas split across sections, it gives this open space a more intimate outlook. It was simply dressed without too many baubles. Just a few frames by the kitchen wall and a porcelain cat and collection of glass bottles overlooking our booth.

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It was all very romantic with its dim lights and orange glowing lamps. They did well to set the ambiance, but was a nightmare for our photos. There was one point when the emergency exit lights turned on and better lit up the room; and we all cheered, not needing the use of flash, but this was to be short lived. Luckily Areta always comes prepared with a portable light or two, and being the generous soul that she is, she is more than happy to share. And with Sherman around you have someone willing to hold it up for everyone to get their perfect shot. And that we did.

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The restaurant was ready for a busy rush, each place setting was already equipped with a side plate, cloth napkin, and a set of chopsticks. This would be a first time eating spaghetti and gnocchi with chopsticks. Quite a sensation and realization of the fusion offerings.

Our server was this spirited women with bouncy curls. She was extremely friendly with a great personality. She was patient with all the questions I had, having to take note of the specials not listed on the menu. Each staff member was identified by the “KT” pin in cursive, that they dawn by the collar of their all black outfits. Those who just delivered warm plates from kitchen pass to table were also very accommodating. They often waited for each of us to take our photos before putting anything down, as to not ruin our shot. And our table was bussed between courses, with clean plates and utensils after each round.

As a group, my dining companions are all pretty flexible when it comes to ordering. So I was luckily enough to be given the lead on this task. Although where most of them order what a restaurant is known for, or what is considered a delicacy, I order based on what I deem most out of the ordinary. I am constantly searching for what is most original and what I won’t find else where, this has allowed me to increase my flavour palette and food repertoire. Luckily both of those characteristics overlapped a lot on their menu. Being a sub category of the food subcategory of fusion, a lot of what they offer has not been seen and is not often done, making everything quite unique with well known ingredients and flavours. Like miso ice cream with chocolate cake, pickled daikon over bruschetta, and the pairing of seaweed and olives; to give you a taste of a few.

Below is what we ordered, a mix of unlisted specials of the day, and dishes off their regular menu. Given the former, excuse me if I am mistaken on the notes and descriptions I have taken.

A few of them drank. Coming out of two heavy days of day and night drinking, I held restraint. Just smelling the liquor on their breaths had me heaving.

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The “Four on six sour” was one of their more popular concoctions. A mix of Bourbon, noilly prat amber, charred pineapple, lemongrass shrub, ardberg, and egg white.

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The “Ol’ Satchmo” is made with mezcal, ginger chestnut honey vermouth, green chartreuse, and lemon; with a toasted sesame rim.

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“Tonno manrecato”. Confit albacore Tuna, smoked potato, furikake, bruschetta with tobiko. This was the first dish and a good start. It was visually striking, but my least favourite flavour wise. Cold and tangy, like many Japanese appetizers, light and meant to open up the palette. It certainly cleansed and left you wanting more, something with more substance next. Airy in both taste and texture, with a pronounced soy saltiness to pair with the raw fish.

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The “Octopus salad” was more my speed. Crispy octopus, citrus mayonnaise daikon, radish, basil, and ikura. Not being a fan of leafy greens, I was more than happy by their retelling of this salad. Fresh and fried, hot and cold. The others found the octopus overcooked and chewy, I guess I got the best pieces because I found them the highlight of the dish. The perfect crunch to partner with the juicy root vegetable slices, although without the octopus present in any given bite, the salad was bland on its own.

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There was a debate over the name “Frittelle di melanzane”. These listed garlic eggplant fritters with yuzu gribiche, basil and bonito salt, and shaved katsuo; were round rather than flatten discs. (The things you learn dining with bloggers who have their food vocabulary down pat.) They reminded me of fancier interpretation of takoyaki, especially with the bonito flakes. A ball filled with soften batter, with a mix of textures and flavours over and within. I didn’t necessarily taste the eggplant, but more a pickled flavour with some minty vegetable.

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The “Pork terrine” was another visual plate and one of today’s features, I suspect there was great Japanese influence over this one. Bright pink pickled daikon and nori mustard on bruschetta. Sadly, by the time we got to it, the bread was mush under the salty fishy tasting paste. Interesting, but one I need not repeat.

Next we moved on to some pasta, because what is Italian cuisine without some “Tender to the tooth pastas”, as the menu references it below?

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“Tajarin” is hand made and cut thin spaghetti. Here it is dressed with butter roasted mushrooms and a miso cured yolk. I read the Japanese contributions, but didn’t taste it. Although, not that it mattered, the pasta was delicious either way. Fine threads of tender noodle, with mushroom cooked soft to match. A simple and clean taste with cheese and butter.

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The “Casarecce” pasta was prepared with a pork and sake kasu ragu, and topped with Parmesan. It was a muted tomato sauce that more closely resembled pasta that I am familiar with. With the noodle tubes and its fine crumbles of meat, it gave me childhood flashbacks, happy memories with multiple cans of “Chef Boyardee beefaroni”. But this plate was far superior. No complaints, another classic and delicious pasta worth revisiting.

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The “Lasagne del Giorno” rotated day to day. Our server was able to inform us that today’s version was a pork and winter chanterelle mushroom lasagna, with a miso bechamel and basil cream sauce. The green colour was striking, a break from the traditional red, orange, and yellow version. It was tender noodles flavoured evenly, possibly one of the most enjoyable lasagnas that I ever had. This, I wish I had more of. Overall, I have never had such light pastas, especially from lasagna or anything in a cream sauce.

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For entrees the special of the day was the “Beef cheeks” served with braised tomato and anchovies, and potato Gnocchi kapuchiou guanchia (pork jowel). As Kristina pointed out, it was beef cheeks seasoned with more beef cheeks. Although I enjoyed the melty texture of the meat, the taste left me wanting more. Some spice or additional seasonings, I found this slightly bland in comparison to all that followed. And more gnocchi would have been nice as a base. They were in house made, and you could tell given the quality and perfect spongy chew.

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The “Lamb shoulder” was not lacking in flavour with the use of tosaka seaweed, fregola, anchovy butter, puréed egg yolk, Sicilian olives, and pickled peppers. It was a gathering of rich and pronounced flavours that meshed well together. Although it was a little distracting when you bit down on an olive slice and weren’t expecting the amount of briny salt it came with. The “Scandinavian pasta” was a nice balancing side. Little nibs of pasta with the freshness of the green onion and the creaminess of raw yolk. It offered a nice starchy base for the equally luscious lamb.

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I love the pageantry of a whole fish, and it wasn’t too hard to convince the rest of the table to indulge in it at market price. Sea perch was on the menu today, you pay for its size by pound. $40 was the most and it got us two pounds. Flash fried whole and served with a daikon soy dipping sauce. It was crispy throughout and all you needed for a great presentation. It was difficult to share, but easy enough to dig in and pull out what you wanted. Everything was fried so crispy that fins, tail, and the face of the fish was all up for grabs. You can’t go wrong with any piece, but some did leave a gritty after taste between your teeth.

I was tempted by the availability and exclusivity of white truffles from Northern Italy, having never had truffles in white before. We had the ability to add a gram of it to any dish for $10 or enjoy it in an omelette. The other’s weren’t to keen on the price or an omelette for dinner, so we passed on the offer.

And in true food blogger tradition, when given the option, we ordered all the desserts available. Three on the menu and that is what we had, most of us confirmed without even reading what they were.

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The dessert special was a “Flour-less chocolate cake” served with house made miso-caramel ice cream. The chocolate cake was moist enough, but it was the ice cream that was the stand out. You got pops of salty miso, which made it taste like a slightly different kind of salted caramel ice cream. The creaminess of it helped coat the drier cake in luscious cream.

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I am not a big fan of “Tiramisu”. I don’t like soggy cake or whipping cream, both of which trademarks this dessert. I took a taste, and the others reassured me it was noteworthy. Made with whipped soy, plum wine, and marscapone, it was an interesting way to get the Japanese in on this traditional Italian dessert.

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The “Yuzu cream with seasonal fruit” was a fun take on a panna cotta. Similar velvety texture topped with Sicilian pistachios and an olive oil crumble. Given the richness of the meal looking back, this was the perfect refreshing palette cleanser to end on.

Overall, the desserts were less memorable and less fusion forward that our meal before. Except the miso caramel ice cream everything came up short.

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And Drunken Noms capped of her night with an “Espresso martini” made with Espresso, amaro, vodka, coffee liqueur, and chocolate bitters.

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It is worth noting that it all looks like a lot of food, but when it comes down to it, we were each really only getting 1/6 of the dish, and that was really just a taste. We could have ordered multiples of certain dishes so that each person had a larger serving, but the point when blogging is to try more, for a much fuller review of any menu. And I think we got just that with 3 cocktails, 3 appetizers, 3 pasta dishes, 3 entrees, and 3 desserts; shared six ways.

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Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
They are quintessential Vancouver, unique flavours and ingredients brought together in harmony, similar to the cultural landscape of our city. I can see why they are so well liked, enough to win the title of best new restaurant in Canada 2016, thanks to their fans and the readers of “enroute” magazine. Give this one a try to see what all the buzz is about for yourself. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KISSA TANTO
263 East Pender Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1T8
778-379-8078
kissatanto.com
Kissa Tanto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pizza Hut

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When was the last time you ate fast food pizza in the restaurant it was prepared in? I can tell you why that’s the case.

 

We don’t often get snow in Vancouver, and if we do it usually doesn’t sticks, therefore I truly believe that we as a city aren’t equipped for any amount of snow. We are often caught off guard by the slightest frosty downpour, weather that our brethren on the east side of Canada are accustomed to. Roads don’t get salted in preventative action and walkways aren’t shovelled until someone falls. But my partner, hailing from the east, is all too familiar with winter weather and driving in the snow. He snorts at how Vancouverites exaggerate the conditions, calling a couple of inches the “snowpocalypse”. So despite the flurry of white and everyone else’s fear, we ventured out for dinner during the first snow fall of 2016.

The snow was sticking, and without salt on the streets, it was creating chaos for many without winter tires, or the experience to drive on the slippery white stuff. So after taking an hour to drive home on a 10 minute commute (and I know that is good, many had it much worse), both my partner and I were too tired to do much else. So when considering dinner options, we decided on gambling with the wait and calling for delivery. However, our local “Pizza Hut” wasn’t offering that service on the first day of substantial snow in Burnaby. Between the icy roads and families not wanting to brace the out doors, I could see them being bombarded with dinner time orders. This surge of business is probably what forced them to withdraw their delivery option and focus on those willing to take out. Plus I am sure the snow was impeding their rate of effective delivery as well. So if we, like everyone else, wanted pizza we would have to go get it. And that we did.

Walking in to the restaurant, I thought to myself, “When was the last time you ate your pizza in the actual restaurant you ordered it from?” “When was the last time you chose to “dine in” with fast-food pizza?” Given the setting I could see why any meal from here would be preferable in the comfort of your own home.

Any “Pizza Hut” restaurant stands out by sight alone. It’s structure iconic with the unique shape of its roof, living up to the “Hut” in its name. The angle of the rafters and the position of the support beams in relation to the roof, created a unique series of wall features and windows shapes inside. Brick walls betwixt glass panes. And on each wall segment, historical portraits, that spoke to the age of the place. A dark green carpet was laid underfoot, they matched the evergreen cushions on each booth sectional. Despite there only being one other patron dining in, each table was preset with their logo-ed disposable napkins and a knife and fork. A nice courtesy for those who eat their pizza with utensils, or in the case of my partner, requires a knife to spread butter over the crust, like bread.

Overall, like an aged time capsule of restaurant decor, I can see why not many chose to dine in here. Their dining area isn’t well kept, not surprising considering the amount of delivery orders they do in comparison. In fact they didn’t notice when we walked in and even after when we sat down, and got back up to help ourselves to a menu from their front desk. And this is despite making eye contact and flashing the clerk a smile. Although once it registered that we intended to stay, he was polite and pretty timely about taking our order.

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However taking a look at the laminated sheet menu, my partner pulled out his phone to see what sort of deals they had online instead. And here he found a better deal in the “$15 create a meal”. When we inquired about it the clerk mentioned that it was a delivery special, but not being able to order for delivery through their website, he suggested we ordered it for take out instead. He was able to take our request, and we could wait in their seats for it to be done, before we paid and took it to go.

The “$14.99 DINNER BOX ONLINE DEAL” cost us $15.75 total after taxes. It includes a two topping “PANalicious” pizza, regular breadsticks and marinara sauce, and your choice of five boneless bites chicken nuggets or “cinnaparts” for dessert. I am often weary about chicken and pasta from a fast food pizza place, so often stick with its baked goods instead. We opted for the dessert option, but they were kind enough to throw in a couple of wings for free anyways.

Split across two boxes it was easy to pick up our dinner and head home with it. However, we were surprised by how cooled off everything was when we got to eating. This is with us leaving the restaurant right away and rushing home, only a handful of blocks away. I guess those insulated bags that delivery personnel parcel delivery orders in, make a big difference. None-the-less the food was good and as expected.

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The Breadsticks were more like pita bread, baked crispy and cut with jagged edges. There was the ability to add on cheese for a $1. But the dusting of Parmesan and the tangy marinara sauce on the side made things plenty tasty. I love a good bread and dip option, I just wish that the dough was more soft and chewy, rather than crusty and dry.

The “Panormous” pizza isn’t your traditional round, but a deep dish rectangle with plenty of crust around it four edges. With it, it was like having breadsticks built into your pizza, which left us questioning why we needed more breadstick as a the side to this combo. Although the dough of the pizza was fluffier and exactly what I was looking for when compared to above. The marinara sauce over it was a lot more mild, especially in comparison to the cheese and our choice of ham and pineapple as toppings. You can’t beat a pizza warm or cold, and with both temperatures I enjoy it with a healthy coating of ranch dressing.

The wings were surprisingly good. Enough meat over bone, covered heavily in a sweet honey-barbecue sauce, with the char from a good grilling to match.

The “cinnaparts” delivered on the promise its name suggests. This looked like monkey bread, a lump of oven baked dough that you easily pull apart to take a portion of. They looked like dumplings and tasted like a watered down cinnamon bun with runny icing. A nice way to round off a full course meal a la “Pizza Hut”.

 

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.
Pizza Hut pizza is a staple for me, when craving a greasy pie it has to be the “hut”. I like the taste and texture of their crust the most, which I think is what sets a pizza apart from its competition. This is reason enough to have me going back for more. But hopefully delivery is an option next time, as I don’t see much benefit for dining in at this time. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PIZZA HUT
4775 East Hastings, Burnaby BC, V5C 2K8
605-299-0334
pizzahut.ca
Pizza Hut Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Donnelly Group Toy Drive & Christmas Party

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Today we were participating in the “Donnelly Group’s” annual toy drive. Where we eat, drink, be merry; then shop for new toys for deserving girls and boys. Kids and teens who many not get a Christmas present otherwise. “Donnelly” is the organization that runs many of your favourite party pubs. Bars that you can eat and day drink at, then party and dance within, well into the night. There is one in every area, each with a similar menu and vibe.

Their charitable toy drive has been going on for several years now, but this was the first time I have heard anything about it. And I would not have, if not thanks to media access from the one man who represents the entire Donnelly Group’s public relations. My admission as a blogger allowed me to witness first hand all the good that they do, and all the fun they have doing it. A way for management to add joy to the lives of their staff this busy time of year, and for everyone in turn to help the less fortunate. Hanson of “Nosh & Nibbles” food blog fame, was given the same opportunity, so we went on this journey together.

The event was a two partner. The first day a bit of a Donnelly pub crawl by bus; and the next, a full on Christmas party with Santa, plenty of presents, prizes, canapés, and some festive punches. (More on the latter later)

To skip the read and watch the first part of the event click the link.

Our adventure began on Sunday, we opted to not be driven from destination to destination, but instead, had brunch at “The Bimini” and caught the bus to “Toys R Us”, to shop after. The bus would make three stops before ours, picking up employees and giving them the opportunity to take some in the sights and drinks at each locale.

The “Bimini” pub is two stories, and like all “Donnelly Group” ventures, designed with mingling in mind, under the title of a “public house”. We grabbed two seats on their second floor, with a view of west 4th to stare down at.

To read my more detailed review of just our time at “The Bimini” click the link.

The Bimini for brunch

I walked into brunch skeptical. I haven’t really visited any Donnelly Group pubs in the last few years, after a few not so great meals at a handful of their places. So I was pleasantly surprised by our time here. Take away the good food, the bottomless mimosas for $7 are worth stopping by for, alone.

We took full advantage of their all you can drink mimosa deal. I tried it with grapefruit for the first time and Hanson stuck with the classic combination of orange juice paired with sparkling wine. The first serving comes in a glass, and additional carafes are brought to you as requested. I ended with three refills and Hanson stopped after two.

Of note, during this tour all our food and drink was covered in the form of gift cards. So we ordered what we wanted and it came out like it would for any other customers. But as always, when it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. Though at the end of the day, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

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For food I had the “Farmer’s breakfast”, a hearty plate covering all that you expect from a breakfast platter, but with so much more. A fulsome serving of two eggs your way, chorizo sausage, double smoked bacon, grilled avocado, broccolini, whole wheat toast, and a black bean and goat cheese sauté. It was still a good greasy breakfast, but with the vegetables and greens, you didn’t feel bad about cleaning off your plate.

Hanson ordered the “Fried chicken and waffles”. It came with buttermilk fried chicken, sunny side up eggs, golden waffles, and bourbon maple syrup. Juicy chicken meets fluffy waffles, dipped into tangy barbecue sauce and sweet sticky syrup. Both dish where better than I expected visually and taste wise. I was impressed.

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When time, we were ushered to the yellow school bus, along with all the Donnelly employees, and driven to our next stop. Walking in to the bus, the festive music playing certainly set the mood. I didn’t even know that buses had speakers with the ability to play music, let alone seasonal jiggles and club tracks. In the front seat, you helped yourself to a can of beer, each leg of the trip. Granville island pale ale or a honey lager. You cracked open your can and drank in your seat, while joining in with everyone else belting out Christmas carols. I didn’t know most of the words, but as was the case with everyone else, was tipsy enough that it didn’t matter. And if you were not quite there yet, they offered shots of whiskey poured straight into your mouth. From bottle, through jigger, down open throat. That did it for some.

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At “Toys R Us” we all registered at the “Donnelly” table up front. There we entered our names for a draw that would be done on Tuesday, party night. And we were each given a $50 giftcard to shop with, on behalf of the Donnelly company. If we decided to spend in addition to this amount, what we did give up would be matched by “Donnelly”.

After much consideration Hanson suggested that we purchase toys appropriate for teenagers. I agreed with his judgement call when he brought up the fact, that those giving toys often bypass this age group in support for those who are younger. After a few laps through the store and a couple of visits to their washroom, we ended up in front of the Lego displays. There many Lego set were actually 20% off, and going in this direction would mean that our money would go further. We picked up a few of sets and paid before heading back on the bus. We would bring our toys home to later bring to the party on Tuesday.

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The last stop by bus was “The New Oxford” in Yaletown, or more specifically “Tavern Law”, its basement bar. A walk through the narrow brick walls of “Oxford” and an ascend down a spiralled staircase got us to our destination. As per the expectations of any “Donnelly Group” project, there was a healthy bar that centred. A well stocked showcase that we would later grab two shots by. One was with all the staff in celebration and wish for a “Merry Christmas”.

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Towards the very end of the room were the blinking lights of pinball machines and the loud noises of arcade shooting games, drawing you in. At least enough stimulus to have Hanson inserting a dollar for play.

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Most notable was the neon white “peep show” sign offering itself for 25 cents high above the bar. To the side of it were row and rows of all white mannequin heads. They were positioned facing down towards, like we were the show they were peeping on. Though I just might have been more inebriated and reading too much into this decor piece.

We would later perch ourselves up on a high top table to share a bowl of Moroccan chicken wings. At this point in a drinking spree, any kind of food is good; and even more so if juicy and deep fried like these wings were. I remembered their unique spice rub fondly.

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From here the bus tour ended and we cut ourselves off. So we figured one more last Donnelly bar would be what we needed to round off the afternoon. We travelled by foot to “Cinema” on Granville Street. There, we grabbed a booth at the back and got comfortable for dessert. Like the other two Donnelly projects we visited before, this one also included games and activities that you could engage in with your companion, or maybe a new friend? Either way we were not here for the pool or the television, but fully enjoyed the waxy black booths we were seated in.

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We had the “S’mores jar” with Scotch caramel, chocolate ganache, graham cracker, and marshmallow. I found it too sweet, and that I longed for the crunch of graham cracker, that I couldn’t find. It might have been at the bottom of the jar and I just didn’t dig hard enough. But having trouble getting past the thick later of marshmallow, it didn’t really get much else.

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The “chocolate brownie” with its chewy texture was more my speed. Covered in a chocolate sauce and topped with vanilla ice cream it was a satisfying dessert. And a great way to end our successful day out.

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But the story doesn’t end there. Two days later, we would bring our unwrapped toys to “Republic” night club, for the Donnelly Christmas party. All their public houses and night clubs, all over the lower mainland, were closed for the evening. An opportunity to give all their employees a chance to mix and mingle on a Tuesday night. All establishments, expect “The Republic” which was quick to fill with bodies and triple the amount of toys. Our gifts was our cover and entry ticket.

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To watch the video and skip the rest of the read click the link.

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All the toys were stacked on one another, and it’s slow accumulation creeped it’s way down the left wall of the room. As more people joined the party, more toys were added to the pile. Gathering them all together in this room, really shows how impressive this achievement for the community is. So many kids would have a Merry Christmas, something I took advantage of growing up, because my parents were able to provide for my brother and myself. Truly wonderful.

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The club is two stories divided into three different sections. The top overlooks the bottom from the railing, and windows in the annex. Each area equipped with its own DJ booth and taps and bar. High above, Christmas stars were hung and lit, the club lights strobed in red and green, tinsel wrapped around the banisters, and a full Christmas tree christened the first floor stage. They even had an employee dressed as Santa, but not the kind you would send down a chimney delivering toys.

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In the women’s washroom there was an attendant, I was told there was one in the men’s a well. The one in the ladies’ facilities did a great job. She coo and caa-ed over patrons, like me. Tolerating drunk talk and the need to help with photo taking. In her tray of essentials she had everything to keep your sweaty self looking good. Cotton swabs, hair spray, perfume, and even mouthwash and lollipops. Given the amount of liquor everyone was drinking, I was surprised that the wait to use one of the five washroom stalls didn’t take that long. It was a quick in and out affair, minus the bathroom selfies, because the bathroom certainly had the best and most flattering light in the club.

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Hanson couldn’t make the extended evening of this after 9pm event, so I brought along a girlfriend with an appetite to drink. And after coat checking we went straight to the bar. A glass of wine, a couple of shots, and several highballs after; we still liked their spiked egg nog the best.

They also offered a few appetizers like cream cheese and beet slices, shrimp and cucumber rounds, mini open faced shawarmas, scotch egg halves, and pork belly chunks. As I already learned, the food Donnelly is churning out these days, is something I need to rediscover.

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They had a live musical to start off the night with indie remixes of club favourites on an acoustic guitar. “Bitch better have my money” sung like a slow jam was my favourite. Santa mingled and posed for photos, and had the honour of drawing the name of all prize winners.

The night ended with us dancing and singing until we couldn’t anymore. Leaving the club to find something greasy to sober up on. Then getting lost, to only catch the last skytrain home.

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Tonight was not just an amazing Christmas party, it was that and so much more. Not only was the Donnelly Group able to give their staff, the usual party hosts, a night to be served instead of serve; but they also combined this night of good fortune with helping those less fortunate as well. Hundreds of toys in the hands of kids and teens in need, who in turn will enjoy the season and know that Santa loves them too. And I am so appreciative that I was given a chance to bring more attention to what they do for the community this time of year, and have had a great time taking part as an honorary Donnelly team member. Merry Christmas.

 

Vlog 4.1 Donnelly Pub Crawl and Toy Drive
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=MHadUokD2sQ

Vlog 4.2 Donnelly Christmas Party and Toy Drive
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pFJ62vZgF1Y

The Bimini for brunch

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Today we were participating in the “Donnelly Group’s” annual toy drive. Where we eat, drink, be merry; then shop for new toys for deserving girls and boys, who many not get a Christmas present otherwise. This was an event Hanson from “Nosh & Nibbles” and I gain entry to as bloggers. The idea to view the event and get some good press out there for what it is they do for families during this time of year. But first brunch, before catching the bus to “Toys R Us” to shop after.

We had breakfast at the two storey “Bimini” pub. Like all “Donnelly Group” ventures it is designed with mingling in mind, under the title of a “public house”. The foyer and first level had a waiting area or game pit. A couple of benches in the corner and a few arcade games and a pool table in the centre.

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A narrow corridor and a few steps, opened up to a bar pit with stools, narrow tables that ran the length of the dance floor, and black cushioned booths at the opposite end. With a hardwood floors and vaulted ceilings it was like a great hall. Definitely one of their nicer public houses (this was my first time here, and now I believe I have been to them all).

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We continued to ascend up another half floor into their dining area. With another (now unmanned) bar, high top tables and tan cushioned booths for us to choose from. There was only one other group of patrons sitting up here.

I walked into brunch skeptical. I haven’t really visited any Donnelly Group pubs in the last few years, after a few not so great meals at a handful of their places. So I was pleasantly surprised by our time here. Take away the good food, the bottomless mimosas for $7 are worth stopping by for, alone.

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Their mimosas are available in either grapefruit or orange with sparkling wine. The first comes in a fluted glass and additional carafes are brought out to you as requested. Our server was intuitive enough to spot my ability to drink, and kept them coming without question or judgment. I found them potent, surprising for an all you can drink offer. I ended with three refills and Hanson stopped after two. (Though it’s not a competition)

Of note, our food and drink here was covered in the form of gift cards. So we ordered what we wanted and it came out like it would for any other customer. But as always, when it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. Though at the end of the day, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

I went back and forth on what to get. So much off their one page menu sounded interesting. I was leaning towards the “Hangover burger” with beef chuck patty and fried egg for its name alone. I paused on the “Bacon and egg pizza” because it combines my two favourite breakfast foods with pizza, which is great any time of day. And I actually ordered the “Banana bread French toast” to only run back to our server to retract my request shortly after. I changed my mind on sweet to have savoury for instead. Plus it too had bourbon maple syrup and I would get to taste it off of Hanson’s plate below.

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And good thing I changed my mind because to wet our appetites we were given complimentary bites of their in house made banana bread, dusted over with powered sugar (a courtesy extended to all patrons). I figured this would give me a close idea to how the “Banana bread French toast” would taste like, and I am all about trying new things for taste experience. The bites were moist and delicious, comforting like how your mom makes it, but so much better with professional skill and quality ingredients.

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I ended up with the “Farmer’s breakfast”. This was a hearty plate covering all that you expect from a breakfast platter, but stepped up and with a few extra bells and whistles. A wholesome serving of two eggs your way, chorizo sausage, double smoked bacon, grilled avocado, broccolini, whole wheat toast, and a black bean and goat cheese sauté. Where to begin? Each element on its one was good, but all together as a bite balanced on the toast, it was the best. All the flavours kept me interested, with no two alike there were so many combinations to play with. The goat cheese was a stand out for its sharp flavour and contrast to the onion and tomato it shared a skillet with. The smokiness of the grilled avocado was an interesting interpretation, adding a creamy freshness to the mix. The sausage was spicy and juicy, the bacon crisp and salty. I didn’t touch the vegetables, but appreciated it’s presence for some green on my plate. At $16 not the cheapest breakfast platter, but definitely one deserving of its price tag and one to remember.

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Hanson ordered the “Fried chicken and waffles”, also for $16. It came with buttermilk fried chicken, sunny egg, golden waffles, and bourbon maple syrup. The first time I have had the ability to enjoy a good plate of chicken and waffles with a runny yolk. Eggs are such a quintessential breakfast basic. There was nothing to hate about this plate too. Really juicy white meat, hiding under a thorough deep fry. Yet the chicken wasn’t oily, but instead as light as the fluffy waffle it sat on. The red barbecue sauce was tangy with a hint of spice and the sticky sweet syrup was good but without the heat of bourbon I expected. This dish encompassed all the flavours and all the tastes in a very well balanced plate.

 

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.
Pouring bottomless drinks and shovelling delicious food into my craw, I wondered why there weren’t more people were here for brunch? They are a great spot, with a great view, and best of all food good enough to turn be back on to the Donnelly Group kitchen. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

THE BIMINI
2010 W 4th Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6J 1M9
604-733-7116
donnellygroup.ca/bimini
The Bimini Public House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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