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

Month: January 2017 Page 1 of 3

Fortune Terrance, dim sum

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After seeing many photos online of cute animal pastries and ones where steamed buns spittle a little; I have been searching for a place to get my hands on these playful dim sum dishes myself. My search yielded “Fortune Terrance” in Richmond, across the street from the Olympic Oval. But a meal here comes at a steep price.

According to fellow food bloggers, they have claimed that this restaurant serves the most expensive dim sum plates in Canada. We would go in ourselves, and confirm this to be true. We filmed our entire experience from playing with our food to grading how it tasted. To skip the reading, click the link for the video.

When calling for a reservation, I was treated to one of the nicest table reserving experiences, for a Chinese restaurant. A moment that was short lived and would set me up for disappointment during brunch. The hostess was bilingual, she spoke with patience and kindness in her voice. She took the time to confirm my information and sounded like she was truly appreciative of my business. Sadly one the day of, her service would not past the hostess booth.

Aside from the patterned decals and the matching wooden shutters, there really isn’t much to the exterior. Nothing indicating what you will be getting within, nothing to invite those walking past to learn more. However, walking through the threshold, the lavishness of the place engulfs at you. Embellishments you’d expect given the restaurant’s pricy reputation.

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A life size stone horse guards the front door, Chinese artifacts and art surround you in detailed stone and shiny lacquered wood, and the ceiling is one that won’t be outdone. All above the dining room are domes stencilled with orange koi fish, some of them cast patterns of the fish that they hold. Their display is projected on the floor in a play of shadow and light. Paper butterflies dangle from fine string, surrounded by chandeliers that look like upside down wedding cakes meant to illuminate. It all didn’t really match cohesively, but each itself, did add a sense of opulence to the overall scene.

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But what really captures your eye is the screen towards the back of the room. It is the length of four round tables. With it, the room was set up like a theatre. Tables in rows, and everyone with view of the screen. It was like the restaurant was constantly ready for an emergency wedding with it, and the purple satin covered seats held in place with a decorative circle pin. The screen plays scenes of blue rippling waters, white dewy sands, palm tree in silhouette, and neon coloured sunsets( on a continuous loop. Once again, lovely features, but I don’t know how well put together it is to everything else decorating the room.

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The menu was a check-box list. Majority of its options offered little description. Given that, and that we were here for the novelty dishes I saw online, I whipped out my phone and proceeded to order with Instagram instead. I showed our server photos and she pointed their names out on the menu. However, she couldn’t understand my request for more unique items, or really anything else I had asked for.

When offered tea I asked for oolong, but when it came, it tasted like and was clearly marked as jasmine. I took it with no complaints, as you have to pick your battles at a Chinese restaurant. And I instead decided to later take issue with the plate of buns that was suppose to be shaped like little turtles (as I ordered it via photo), but came out as regular miniature pineapple buns. After our server directed my query to the manger. He was pleasant enough, and explained that they are only available during special occasions. My rebuttal was that I only wanted them for their shape, a point I stressed to our server through our communication barrier. He eventually removed the dish and didn’t charge us for it afterwards. I got the outcome I desired, however, had I brought up the first mistake, I feel I wouldn’t have gotten any traction from the second. I would simply be labelled a fussy customer, and given even less warmth than what was already directed towards us. Service at a Chinese restaurant is stereotypically, all function and speed, without the desire to humanize.

As for the food, as a visual diner and a lover of novelty, this had me squealing. However as a food blogger and one who has eaten her fair share of dim sum, the taste felt me wanting more.

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Our “Baked egg yolk paste bun” dessert came first. We should have ordered it after we submitted our list of savoury starts. Although I wish it would be intuitive of the kitchen and staff to serve this to us at the end of our meal. After all, it was odd to start the service with something sweeter, but given that steam buns are best warm, we had no choice but to eat them first.

This is a variation of filled steamed buns come with eyes at $6.80 for three. The intention is, using one of your chopsticks, you poke a hole in the bun where its mouth should be. And from here you are able to squeeze the bun and have its insides spill out, as if the bun is throwing up. Immature, yet cute. This was our favourite dish for flavour as much as fun. We enjoyed the taste of the egg yolk and it’s gritty texture, in the otherwise smooth runny custard filling. And the warm dough was airy and chewy, an ideal housing for the lava of neon orange hiding within.

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The “steamed taro and BBQ pork roll” sounded good on paper, but proved disappointing in look and taste. Especially given the price of $6.80 for two. The sauce of the filling was too sweet, and there wasn’t enough meat to white bun ratio. And what made the dish stand out wasn’t all that good. Their use of pork belly combined with taro paste and steamed up made for a one tone bite. Fatty meat and mashed starch have you craving for something more solid.

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I ordered the “Steamed okra and crab meat dumplings” at $8.80, for their look alone. They were like green tortellini made using glutinous rice flour instead of the traditional white flour used in Italian pasta making. Despite the hue, the shell had no flavour, and with the seafood filling and very little okra, it reminded me of a not as tasty ha gao (shrimp dumpling).

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Another order based on unique colouring was the “Snow fungus and fish paste rice roll” at $9.80. Once again the purple glutinous rice wrapping was all for show, without any actual flavour. My guest found it bland overall, but I decided it tasted like it ought to and that it was best and necessary when dipped into the side of sweet soy sauce.

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The “Deep fried potato bun” is $7.80. They are shaped like cute little hedgehogs, but more croquette than bun. Biting in, it had a great flaky and buttery crust. Although having to chew through it, I found things too oily. And despite the surprise of a purple potato filling, it really didn’t have much taste. It wasn’t sweet or salty, just textures that you could do without. It was also fairly dry, maybe a nice honey based sauce would have helped in all of the above?

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The “Almond soufflé” at $8.80 was the one featured all over their Instagram presence. It was a mountain on a plate, with the texture of fluffy and eggy meringue. When presented, a server cuts into it using cooking shears, and you eat it with clawing hands. Peeling the top layer back uncovers a softer centre, some syrup is injected at its centre for additional sweetness. This portion reminded me of a gentle custard. It was a nice surprise, but made you realize what you were missing from the rest of the soufflé. There was not enough sweetness to properly flavour the bland dessert. Maybe a well of syrup, or a drizzle of condense milk to self pour or dip would have helped?

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The “Jelly fish in Sichuan spicy sauce” isn’t all that special or all that common on a dim sum table. But my guest had never tried the delicacy, so we gave him the opportunity to do so today at the steep price of $12.80 for the plate. It is anything special or different compared when to other Chinese restaurants. It is served cold, with the tell tale half gelatine, half cartilage texture one expects from the aquatic animal. The sweet chilli sauce gives it its flavour.

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Given all the sweeter dessert and pastries we ordered, we finished our meal off with the more savoury “Steam pork rib and taro in garlic sauce” for $7.80. Sadly it was one of the worst interpretations of the dish I have had. The meat was extra fatty pieces, served in an as oily sauce. Altogether it was too much and not at all enjoyable.

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As is often the case with Chinese restaurants, our server didn’t check in, no eye contact is ever made, and employees move about the room with only speed in mind. Therefore, we were left feeling forgotten. Napkins, more tea, some water, and the bill was a struggle to retrieve. And when it finally came time to pay our $66.66 dues, there was complications. We had ask to split the amount between two cards, and the manager didn’t believe our math. Before he accepted our payment, he was brazen enough to ask if the amount we cited included tips. It did, which made me reflect how I hate how tipping is expected and no longer has a relation to quality of food, service from staff, or overall enjoyment of the stay. It was at least nice to discover that we were given a lunch hour discount for coming in earlier.

 

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.
I have had my fun, and don’t see the need to return. The food left much to be desired and was even more disappointing given the price. However, as the only place I know offering such Instagram-able dishes, I would have to recommend them as the only option…. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

FORTUNE TERRACE
#130-6200 River Road, Richmond BC, V7C 0B1
604-285-8980
Fortune Terrace Chinese Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Darumaya, Japanese market

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There is no hiding it, my heart belongs in Japan. A country, where my love of novelty eats and limited edition flavours play out in Kit Kat biscuits and Pocky sticks. Where I can have chocolates, candies, and cookies flavoured like cheese, wasabi, pumpkin, or even sake.

The local Asian specialty chains can only do so much in satiating my cravings, so I was delighted to have discovered this Japanese market in Richmond. It obviously won’t have the same selection I would be able to get from anywhere in Japan, but it certainly had enough novelty, and plenty you can’t find regularly in BC, to have me filling my arms today.

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The market was shelf upon self of shiny cellophane packaging printed with bold kanji, cartoon animals, and anime mascots. Majority of which is full of preservatives for an elongated shelf life. Chocolate covered rice crackers, non alcoholic beer, dried apricot candies, bags of seaweed and spices to flavour your plain rice with, and packets of seasonings to make your own Japanese style curry.

Many of which isn’t translated, but with enough coloured photos on the box or bag, and a hefty amount of assuming, you can pretty much figure out most of it yourself. But for those packages that don’t make it easy for you to guess what flavour they hold within, the clerk behind the cash counter is more than happy to help. I ended up leaving with six bags of chips, four of which she graciously translated and for me. And when I asked about one of their clearance snacks she went so far as to open it up for us to try. This was some bonafide good service, none that I would except from a small shop, nor any I would hope to get at any grocery store.

With a limited budget and a limited time, I walked out with just some chips. But I made note that they also sell traditional Japanese rice cakes desserts, in house rolled and sliced sushi and sashimi, and even freshly imported cuts of marble wagyu beef.

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My chips were by Japanese brand, “Calbee”. I remember having some freshly made from the “Calbee” stand alone store in Harajuku. A batch of plain chips that was fried to order, drizzled over with melted milk chocolate, and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. To relive that memory with me, click the link for the post on “Calbee Plus” in Japan.

Calbee Plus

They didn’t have that option here, and it certainly wasn’t fresh or regular I was getting in each bag, but it something worth trying at $2.29 for a small serving. According to the clerk the chip flavours are as follows: Black pepper, Dashi soy sauce, Fish egg and cheese mentago, Honey and butter, Cheese and butter, and Seaweed and mentago. I used these chips and nine other bags supplemented from “T&T” to do a 15 bag chip tasting for my YouTube Channel: MaggiMei. To watch the informative video click the link.

 

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 wish there were more markets like this closer to my home; but if ever in the area, or in Richmond, you would definitely see me back here again. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DARUMAYA
#1715-4700 McClelland Road, Richmond BC, V6X 0M6
604-273-0131

The Emerald

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Fellow food blogger and drink enthusiast, “Picky Diner” has been going on about this supper club. This is one of his favourites spots in the city for happy hour, and I can now see why. After a handful of failed attempts to visit together, including stopping by on a Monday when they are closed, we finally made it through the green door tonight.

However the one drink he said I HAD to try, they were out of. They didn’t have the ingredients needed to make it, and two others I wanted in substitution. Naturally, this continued state of disappointment, did give the start to our time here a sour note. To be out of absinthe, home brew Kahlua, and ice cream for all their dessert cocktails seemed like poor planning; especially given that this was early on a Thursday night, and majority of their business was yet to come on the following weekend. And going into it under stocked didn’t seem like a good way to be.

Through the carved green door was a red room with red walls and red carpeted floors that led up a flight of stairs. On either sides of this corridor were mirrored tiles reflecting the entirety of the tier crystal chandelier that drip downwards, by three.

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There was a distinct smell to the space. A musty and dusty scent that matched the historic look and age of the curated place. The space is divided across two rooms. An ornate door dividing the proper dining room from the laid back lounge. From dining tables to couches paired with coffee tables. During, this happy hour, there weren’t too many in the know, so the place was relatively empty. We were able to sprawl ourselves across a couple of couches, us four facing one another in avid conversation.

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The bar was set to a backdrop of large black stones and thick mortar. The shelves surrounding it was well stock with various clear liquors and clean glassware. It looked like a scene out of a 1970’s James James Bond movie. The sexy home bar to a sexy 007. It had an old school Las Vegas cool theme that continued throughout the rest the “living room”. Cloth curtains, metallic lamp shades, black leather couches, and geometric art prints. It all felt comfy, like the actual heart of someone’s home.

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Once again they were out of the “must try” “Death in The Afternoon” with absinthe. And I was denied a “Homebrew White Russian” as they were also out of the home brewed Kahlua, central to the drink. With two “no’s” I decided to skip right to dessert with a spiked cocktail, however was again disappointed. The lack of non-freezer burn ice cream held them back, and having only vanilla had me missing out. Just as well, it had me refocusing on the cocktail list, taking advantage of the the 50% off happy hour discount between 5-7pm.

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Although the bartender was able to accommodate “Raymond’s sushi adventure’s” request for some sort of spiked ice cream float. What he came back with was a mix of cherry brandy and port, topped with the afore mentioned freezer burnt vanilla ice cream. Raymond liked it enough to finish it.

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I eventually went for the alcohol heavy “Blueberry tea”, made with amaretto and grand mariner, and orange pekoe, with a touch cinnamon. The liquor is served separate from the tea, you dispense one into another, yourself. I didn’t get any of the blueberry fruit flavour, but it was sweet on sweet with fruit tea and sugary amaretto.

The “Whiskey / Bourbon Sour” is a classic. Here you have the option to choose between Jameson Irish Whiskey or Wild Turkey Kentucky Bourbon, with the Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice, Egg Whites, Angostura Bitters, and Simple Syrup.

The “Penicillin” is made with Jameson Irish Whiskey, Islay Whiskey, Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice, and Honey Ginger Syrup.

The “Twinkly Eyed” is Absolut Elyx Vodka, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, and Champagne.

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The “NY Sour” is a creative spin on a whiskey sour. You just replace egg whites with a red wine float. Jameson Irish Whiskey, Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice, Raw Cane Sugar, and a Claret Float.

The “Lavender 75” is lavender infused gin, fresh lemon juice, and champagne.

As a supper club, on top of a healthy cocktail selection, they also offer decent options for food.

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I was especially impressed by the “crispy fried cauliflower”, a $5 happy hour plate worth every penny. Each floret was fried crispy and dipped into a sweeter peanut satay sauce. The sauce starts off like Nutella in look and nut taste.

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The “Sliders” are another happy house special at $10 for three. Three beef patties with lettuce, tomato, cheddar and a pickle between three mini brioche bun. A nice two biter. Good, but not memorable.

 

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.
This was a very nice spot, one I would definitely like to revisit for its setting and its 50% off cocktails again. A great destination for after work sips with coworkers or an after dinner drink with a love interest. A really cool place to bring Simone impress. I certainly was. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

THE EMERALD
555 Gore Ave Vancouver BC, V6A 2Z6
604-559-8477
emeraldsupperclub.com
The Emerald Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nando’s Richmond Garden City

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As a business major and a food blogger that reviews setting and service, on top of the meal had; I enjoy any media event that allows me to learn more about a business first hand. My blog isn’t a research piece on what I read about online. It is a review and the recall of what I have saw and learned first hand. So, to interact with a business owner and discover another reason to visit a restaurant, outside of just good chicken, is worth my time and candor. And today, being being able to meet and see the enthusiasm on the face of the Nando’s CEO’s, and to hear him speak the mantra of his company with such passion was inspiring. I left, not only with my belly fed, but my heart filled with all the good work this chicken chain does for the community in South Africa, that they grew up in.

As a disclaimer, 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. But as always, 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.

Truth be told, this is my first taste of “Nando’s” chicken, the popular Portagese style chicken chain. My partner frequents them, but I have never found myself dining in or grabbing lunch from any of their food court presences. I guess with all the one of a kind options and all the other more dressed up dine in chains, this never came up as an option. I don’t immediately look to them as the date night choice, or a girl’s night out venue. They are more, one of those places you need to try and end up going back to, because you develop a craving for.

So not only was today the opportunity to try them for the first time, but it was a chance to visit their newest dine-in location, now open in North Richmond. They are one of the draws slowly expanding the area, along with other big box stores like Walmart, Bed & Bath, and DSW.

Only ever seeing their food court kiosk, I was immensely impressed by the decor of this flagship location. This large corner restaurant beckoned you forth with their promise of their “peri peri chicken” right in the exterior’s tag line. And tonight their chicken mascot made them all the more welcoming. I love a mascot, but am always too shy to take advantage of the photo op or to give it the hug I want to deep down inside.

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Every “Nando” restaurant is designed differently. They are a chain that doesn’t want to feel like a chain. And this location certainly sets them apart, you get the South African feel with the warm colour pallet. Green and red upholstered cushions, pale blue and white tiles, and geometric shapes painted in green. Twine and coloured string wove its way around a wooden framework, encompassing one of their many seating areas. The vaulted ceilings were hung with wicker and linen lampshades, clam shell lights with metal structures soften by threads. A contrast of soft with hard, the common with something unique.

We would later learn that the above, and majority of their distinct decor pieces are hand made by local African artists, a similar story with the chillies used in their trademark peri peri sauce.

Their African bird’s eye chilli is the product of farmers in Africa and an essential ingredient in the “Nando’s Peri Peri sauce”. The story behind these distinct chillies is that they are grown to keep elephants away from farm land and from eating crops. Apparently the mammals stave away from the heat of these spicy red peppers. So the farmers keep their crop and “Nando’s” pays them for growing it at the boarders of their fields. The grilled chicken company is conscious of the community they grew up in and want to give back to it.

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Those who attended the event, and I were given a corner with a lengthy family style table. A piece of furniture important to note, as the “Nando’s” meal centre around the family and their goal is to bring everyone together over good food. Keeping on this trend, they ensure that none of their restaurants have television sets to distract from dialog. And most of their newer location have the necessity of sinks outside of the washroom. This for ease of hand washing and cleaning, because take it from me, eating chicken wings can get messy, and cleaning meat from bone is a two handed job. The sink provides an easy solution.

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Continuing to consider the ease of the customer, there are a few perks dining-in allows you to take advantage of. They have plenty of bottled sauces for you to take to use at your tables. There is a high tech soda machine, giving you the option to choose your drink or to mix it all together with a touch of the screen. Over 10 choices more than your regular line up at any fast food joint. And this includes the regular and sugar free versions of your favourite pop and carbonated fruit juices. There is also a soft serve machine. It dispensed a strawberry cream that we ended up gingerly piping into glasses for a DIY ice cream float. This is probably not a standard offering, but one you should adventure if given the ability.

We were offered an assembly of shareable appetizers and large family style serving plates to pick off of.

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The “mixed olives” is a mix of green and black olives dresses up with garlic, pepper, and chilli.

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The “peri-peri nuts” was almonds, cashew, and macadamias seasoned in their trademark flavours.

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The “Roasted red pepper dip” was flavourful with spices and spicy with the use of chillies. It had a tang flavour that was slightly sweet.

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The “Hummus with pita” was your regular chunky chickpea dip, but served with a “Nando” only twist. It comes with a tiny bottle of peri peri drizzle, that you pour over for just your right amount of peppery goodness. With both dips I wished for a fluffier pita bread, something more substantial than the dry limp one we made due with here.

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The difference between “Portuguese garlic bread” and regular garlic bread is the type of bun used. These are baked Portuguese buns coated in a garlic and herb spread.

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All their “flame-grilled wings” are served whole, with the drum and tip included. They are seasoned in the same flavours as their chicken parts. We tried the lemon herb in mild and a hot with their peri peri sauce. Each lean wing had a nice smokey flavour. But I prefer a fattier piece with juicy flavour and a sticky sauce. Overall I rather their dark meat chicken parts, and recommend going for some instead of the wings.

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Our large group shared a hefty portion of chicken legs and thighs. Once again, available to us in a mild lemon herb, and this time medium and hot peri peri sauce. On an interesting note, the pieces often appear squished because they flatten the chicken used and season it using less marinade.

I am partial to dark meat because it is juicy and tender and this delivered. But it was very telling how many used the bottles sauces on the side to pick up the flavour of the chicken, even though there was sauce already poured over it.

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To make your meal more well rounded they offer a few sides to accompany it. Pick and choose from list that includes garlic mashed potatoes, macho peas, salad, sweet potatoes; or fries, potato wedges, and vegetables seasoned in their peri peri spices.

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I liked the spiced rice and coleslaw for my sides the best.

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To end the meal we are given a “Portuguese egg tart”. It was a creamy custard surrounded by a smokey flaky pastry. I was blown away by how good it was. Dare I say, the best I have had? I would go back just for a dozen of these. That and to try their “wing roulette”. A fun game where you pick a wing and hope that it’s not the extra hot one that you end up with. I love being offered a different way to experience my food.

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As an extra little bonus, we were treated to a make your own peri peri sauce workshop, we were given a demo and the opportunity to see how our mix faired against their trademark blend. In ended in a mini competition, judged by their CEO. Sadly I did not win, as my batch was made with an excess of oil.

 

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.
This was quite the introduction to the Nando’s brand. And like I said, theirs isn’t the restaurant you would think of when looking for a date night option, or a place to hang out with friends at. But they are definitely a good casual space to gather your extended family within. Because once you had your first taste, its one of a kind flavour is one that you will want to revisit. And with food court presences and several locations around two it is easy to not deny that craving. This location is a little far for me, but with its amazing setting and its own soft serve ice cream machine, it is the one I would recommend.

 

NANDO’S
Richmond Garden City
Unit 1005, Building F, 4711 McClelland Road, Richmond BC
604-244-8004
nandos.ca
Nando's Garden City Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cupcakes at Metrotown

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“Cupcakes” is the name and valid description of one of the oldest, long standing cupcake shops in the city. As far as I can remember, it is the first shoppe dedicated to just cupcakes. As proven by the fact that they actually got to use the word “cupcakes” as their name.

But as with anything that has been out a while, the brand has slowly gotten stale (pun intended). The product is pretty, but it hasn’t changed, it hasn’t adapted or made any attempts to set itself apart from its related competition. Nothing to rally against the newer bakeries also dedicated to cupcakes, and the shoppes that sell cupcakes amongst other things.

And although you might be lured in by their pretty colours and the ease they provide for an occasion treat, there is nothing bringing you back to explore more, season after season. Where repeat business is innovation.

To read my first visit and review of “Cupcakes” click the link.

Cupcakes

And after years of selling either chocolate or vanilla cupcakes, topped with either chocolate or vanilla frosting (amongst other classic flavours like cheesecake, coconut, and mint) they haven’t progressed. This isn’t until last summer when their downtown location started incorporating their cupcakes into milkshakes and ice cream cones. A new way to consume their treat whist beating the summer’s heat. To read more about their new ice cream line, cones, and shakes; click the link.

Cupcakes on Thurlow, the ice cream

And this year, under the helm of a new marketing director, we should continue to see more newness to freshen the brand, more improvements to renew the faith in all those who remained loyal. And maybe enough to bring back consumers like me, who rather make the effort to go source out something more unique.

What has brought me by as of late is the Halloween themed cake pops with spooky faces, the cookie wreaths and trees piled up to celebrate the winter season; and these seasonal cupcakes with more Asian inspired flavours, just in time for Chinese New Year.

For the longest time I have been saying that “Cupcakes” has to expand their flavour profile. To mix flavours and dabble with more exotic ingredients. And with the three cupcakes below, it looks like they have finally done it. Although, it is worth noting that the following flavours are already common place at most bakeries and/patisseries. But hey better late than never.

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The “black sesame” was proudly made with real black sesame flown in from Japan. It’s iconic flavour appearing lightly in both the cake base and its frosting.

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The “matcha” could have used more matcha flavouring. Either a stronger dose or maybe a double up with matcha cake topped with matcha frosting. Whereas this is a matcha green tea cake with cream cheese frosting. Complimentary, but the cream cheese lead me more down the road of cheesecake than the bitter flavour of tea.

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The “mango” cupcake was a refreshing one, although listed as being made with 100% real passion fruit purée. I guess the thinking is that it was close enough in sweetness, colour, and tang of mango; and it was actually in season. Either way, this was my favourite of the three.

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It is also worth noting that each cupcake and all their cupcakes in general, aren’t as sweet as they use to be; a fact confirmed by the marketing director herself. Just one of those improvements I mentioned, that is likely to bring people back to this fairly iconic brand. And now that they are noticeably not as sweet as the once were, its means you can actually finish the one you start, and enjoy it with a beverage like tea.

 

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.
If they keep up on this seasonal excitement I can’t wait to see what the upcoming holidays and occasions may bring. A cinnamon heart cupcake for valentines or a chocolate overestimate strawberry? For Easter, a marshmallow peep cupcake dyed the same bright yellow, or maybe some hot cross cupcakes. The ideas are endless. This will definitely be that thing that makes them so unique that it will have you coming back and often. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CUPCAKES
4700 Kingsway, Unit 1136A, Metropolis At Metrotown, Burnaby BC, V5H 4M1
604-451-1400
originalcupcakes.com
Cupcakes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Klaus’ Kaffee Haus

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I was invited to this new cafe for its opening media event. I normally don’t accept such offers as I don’t drink coffee and cannot appreciate the generosity like someone who does. However this was an Austrian cafe, ran by an Austrian family, serving traditional Austrian coffee and food; all very unique to the Vancouver food scene, and a cuisine that would be new to me. I would go in with questions and leave with a little more knowledge on Austrian culture.

As a disclaimer, 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. But as always, 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.

Located in Chinatown, I don’t exactly picture them when I reflect on the area. There aren’t too many cafes modern cafes in Chinatown and I could see their wares being more popular somewhere like railway town or Gastown, for that rainy day coffee shop vibe. However, they were one of the many newer restaurants moving in to the area, creating a block of must try eats on Pender Street.

The exterior isn’t exactly eye catching. They opened in October 2016, and were still waiting on an awning to shield it’s all white exterior. The red sign in the window and the small sandwich board offered little information. You could easily miss it, if not looking for it. I recalled passing by a few times before this visit and never thinking of stepping in. Peering in, its bright lights make for great food photography, but not necessarily the vibe of a cozy cafe for a quick sit and a warm beverage. Or that mellow study spot where you can sip and take notes at. And either would be their target demographic considering their menu.

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Walking in, it looks like their decor accommodates and takes influences from Chinatown. The ceiling is lined with red cloth banners, a familiar in Chinese celebration. Although for all I know, this could be very indicative of the Austrian culture as well. Their shelf of Chinese artifacts is a little more forward though. Oversized bamboo steamers stacked high, paper fans spread wide, Chinese characters on planters and printed on tea sets, painted porcelain dish ware, and window box displays. Although the lowest shelf showcased items more familiar to Austrian cuisine, and it foreshadow one of the things we would be trying today: fondue.

We grabbed a couple of stools by the front window, or rather the front sheet of plexi-glass. I image that the intention of this removal wall is a pull away front that opens out to the sidewalk. Possibly an appealing feature for any cafe during warmer weather. However, maybe not necessarily in this area surrounded by grocery store hawkers broadcasting their wares through shouts, and the slabs of meat or fish on ice visible from the neighbouring butcher and fish shop windows. But today it was “closed”, but not sealed so that the cold winter wind would waft in tickle us with its bites.

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I appreciated the pristine menu behind the counter to order, and the overall cleanliness of the cafe. The menu’s clear black and red print was visible and easy to read. However for the novice, the menu still needed much clarification. Despite the descriptions, I still didn’t have much luck navigating the coffee listing, given my lack of experience in the bean brew. A new name for a different drink that varied between one or two shots of espresso, hot or cold milk, or to have whip or none.

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According to the owner, I presume “Klauss” who I spoke to, Austria is known for its coffee scene. Apparently the country showcases over 250 varieties, unique to them as how they make it. But here they are only able to offer a handful. I took the his suggestion, and tried his daily drink, the “Einspanner”, a double espresso with stretched hot water, topped with a dollop of whipped cream. I liked the fact that the cream was clearly made fresh and it was a nice visual treat.

My other coffee choice was something more in my wheelhouse. Coffee with a scoop of ice cream. The “Wiener eiskaffee” had a scoop of vanilla ice cream, cold milk, kaffee, and whipped cream. It was like dessert for the start of your day. I requested it in one of their branded mugs. Like on their business cards and loyalty stamp cards it featured the owner’s face in black sketch. A jolly man with a round face and ear to ear grin.

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There was a stack of them on the counter, which I presume were for sale as a souvenir of your experience? Or maybe a clever way to advertise their social media if you captured your drink with them.

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As for the food they were all once “grandmother’s recipes”. The “Krautstrudel” was offered two ways. First there was a savoury, filled with a bacon and cabbage. I was worried about the potential sogginess of the leafy greens being baked in flaky pastry, but it had a nice chew that matched that of the salty bacon. A mild flavour to accompany a more robust beverage.

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The apple strudel used a similar pastry to house sliced apples in cinnamon and sugar. I got to it a little cold and can suggest its best taken warm. As expected in taste and texture.

If you are looking for more snackable eats they also offer traditional Austrian sandwiches accompanied my green and potato salads. I was curious over the differentiation of “European ham”, and what schicken speck and Hungarian salami was like. But the rest of the ingredients between Vienna loaf, multigrain, and German marble rye was fairly familiar.

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What was new to the menu was the ability to try their traditional Austrian fondue. It is a cross between the principles and ingredients of Chinese hot pot, and the equipment used in french cheese or chocolate fondue. But the array of raw meats and vegetables are cooked in bubbling canola oil and served with a chipotle mayo-like sauce instead. The process took a while as the pot was small, like the heat source that struggled to keep it warm. With a narrow top, only a few picks pierced could take a swim in oil. I sadly did not get to try any of the meat, as I was weary over it being properly cooked. But I did taste a semi raw nugget potato with no issue.

 

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.
Being foreign to traditional Austrian cuisine, I do not know what to make of this one. I would not expect any of what I had, and without an introduction and the ability to ask questions, I may have been even more confused. After all there is no other Austrian anything in the city, to compare this too. Not doing some research and not knowing any better will have you thinking that they were trying their hand at fusion and coming out raw. A try for experience sake and to say that you have. And a repeat only if you like what you had. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KLAUS KAFFEE HAUS
291 East Pender Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1T8
778-379-6735
klauskaffeehaus.com
Klaus's Kaffee Haus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub

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Today I was happy to attend a media preview arranged by fellow and local food blogger, “Pork Ninjas“. I love events like these at pubs like these. As you don’t often think of a bar or a pub for a full meal; so to gain the opportunity to try most of what they have, and have your opinion swayed, is not an opportunity I turn down.

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As a disclaimer, 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. But as always, 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.

The pub is easily accessible from the Main Street skytrain, for those wanting to drink a little more than they should. However, if you are driving you will have a harder time, they don’t have their own lot and it is slim pickings for street parking with all the neighbouring residential homes. Therefore, many find themselves parking at the adjacent Mcdonalds for a quick cheat solution.

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“Dubh Linn Gate” is a traditional Irish pub with seats across two floors. It has a comfortable friendliness awaiting you past the stain glass windows on its two front doors. Theirs was a warm and cozy setting cultivated by a fire in the hearth, and shelves of knick knacks for that lived in home feel. Bits and bobs like an antique looking cast iron kettle, beer jugs, miniature barrels, cloth books without their dust jackets, silver candlestick holders, brass and tin cups, pewter beer steins, and a violin; amongst so many other things.

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We were given our own little seating area, by the front windows. Our own alcove away from the double floors of the main bar. Where, it was a corridor with the physical pour bar on your left and rows of seating across bar stools, stand up tables, high tops, and black cushion booths to your right. On one end there were more windows, and the other a large screen playing the latest sporting match.

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Reading over the menu, it isn’t surprising that they have a healthy option of Irish beers, domestic ones on tap, and those imported in bottles; as well as a list of creative cocktails, and three pages of single malt scotch, followed by whiskey. But when in an pub you order beer, and when in an Irish pub, you order an Irish beer flight. This one includes Guinness, Murphy’s, Smithwick’s, and Kilkenny on a four hole paddle.

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The “Maple Kale Chicken Salad” was baby kale tossed in their maple and mustard dressing, with chicken that is brined in beer for 24 hours and marinaded with herbs, roasted butternut squash in maple syrup, roasted walnuts, dried cherries, and house made yam chips. There was a healthy amount of everything, well seasoned with flavour from the tangy vinaigrette. The best bites were the ones with the firm, sweet yam and drops of chewy cranberry. Overall, it is a flavour I would revisit.

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The grown in BC “Brussel Sprouts” were my favourite appetizer. Pan fried in butter with bacon and lemon juice, then topped with Dubliner cheese before being broiled. A great way to eat your vegetables without the feeling that you are. “Dubliner” is a robust aged cow’s milk cheese with a similar texture to cheddar, but with a slightly nutty and sweet taste. The sprouts were best enjoyed warm, before the pool of oil they sat in cooled. Each bulb was crispy and cheesy, with plenty of garlic.

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The “Black Pudding Toasties” wasn’t the most attractive looking plate. It is pan fried black pudding (aka blood sausage) that is pitch black in colour, looking like burnt cookies. Served crispy and chewy on a grilled sourdough baguette, accompanied by their house made caramelized onion spread, tobacco onion, and mustard. “Tobacco onions” is a topping the bar has created and coined based on its end resulting texture. Sliced onions are dredged in a flour mixture with cayenne and paprika, then fried. The outcome is crispy fried onions that look like tobacco leaves. The toasties tasted as little less burnt then they look, which was relieved by the mustard dressing. It and the hard to chew through bread didn’t make this the most appealing dish for me. But definitely an interesting first experience though.

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The “Scotch Egg” came oozing with the perfect creamy golden yolk. This is their custom Guinness banger sausage wrapped around a soft boiled egg. Breaded and fried, and served with their piccalilli relish. It had the perfect blend of texture with a mild curry flavour and the freshness of chives.

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The “Steak and Guinness pie” arrived piping hot, steam rising from a golden brown flaky crust. It was served warm and kept warm thanks to the skillet it arrived in. Beef round top slow cooked in a healthy amount of Guinness, for a gooey stew with potatoes and mushroom. The flavour was good, but there could have been more pie filling. I wanted thicker heartier chunks, and maybe some carrots or pies to lighten things. Even some sour cream to mix in to the brown gravy would have helped.

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This is the “Boxty benny”. Instead of using the traditional English muffin for this eggs Benedict, they take a twist on the traditional potato boxy, making it more into a muffin for the base instead. Over it is their house cured steelhead salmon, hollandaise sauce, and capers. Served with a side of salad and potatoes, for a very filling breakfast/brunch. The boxty base was more buttery and starch than what would have been a soft and airy English muffin. A great contrast to the creamy salmon and the luscious hollandaise. The evenly baked potato and a fresh greens with pear on the side was a nice break in between flavourful benny bites.

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Similarly was the “traditional fry up”. A breakfast platter that was as the menu described it, “lots of food on one plate”. House cured peameal bacon, blood pudding, breakfast bangers from “Two Rivers”, baked beans, a grilled Roma tomato, salad with poached pears, two fried eggs, and sourdough from “Swiss bakery”. It had everything you wanted from a solid first meal of the day. The juicy sausage with a mild growing spice, and sweetened bake beans were huge step up from the hot dog and baked bean dinners I grew up with. The egg offered a nice gravy with its runny yolk, and the tomato provided good balance, furthered by the pear and salad to finish off the plate with some freshness. However, the bacon could have been missed. It tasted more like a dried out flattened slab of chicken than by salty, crispy bacon I am use to and prefer.

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The “Main St. Meat Loaf” is made with a combination of pork and beef, seasoned with mirepoix and thyme, and given a fluffier texture with milk soaked bread chunks churned in. The loaf is served over creamy mashed potatoes and mushy peas, sitting in a pool of thick onion gravy. I wasn’t a fans of the loaf’s texture. Despite how firm the meat brick looked, it was mushy, like chewing through soggy fabric. If was also fairly bland, it needed the sauce on top, but there wasn’t enough of it to cover all of the loaf. A dish of it on the side would have been much appreciated, or at least some more salt and pepper to taste. Overall there was too much of one texture on this plate. Everything was too soft: the meat, the whipped potatoes, and the mashed peas; all furthered by the lumpy gravy. Although I did prefer the garlicky sides to the featured meat. I kept craving more crunch, maybe some more crisp tobacco onions, or a handful of those yam chips from the salad to start.

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The “Central Burger” had the addition of pulled pork over their homemade patty, covered in the nutty Dubliner cheese. Between it and two buns are tobacco onions and cucumber pickles, dressed in chipotle mayo and a barbecue sauce. It was a meaty beef patty with the addition of the unique pickles giving it a distinct taste. The garlic mayo on the side offered a nice change of flavour for both the fries and the burger. It was difficult to keep all the ingredients under the bun, which is typically a sign of a good burger.

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For the vegetations they had a veggie burger with their house made patty, consisting of navy beans, chickpeas, mushroom, carrots zucchini, sprouts, tomato, butter lettuce, and toasted spices. It is served on a toasted brioche dressed with chipotle mayo and salsa verde. There was enough vegetables to keep things interesting in texture, and the spicy curry flavour within the patty help differentiate things. It wasn’t my favourite flavour, but a solid option for those without many others off this menu.

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The “Lamb Shank” was slow braised and served over a pearl barley risotto in its own jus. It was cooked tender with a bold freshness from the mint. The risotto offered a nice chewy base, cooked in shallots, white wine, butter, and herbs. However all together, it really was a flavour I didn’t get too excited for. It was bland and could have used crisp green beans or chunks of Roma tomato to give it more of a home cook warmth.

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And for dessert, their “Central Sundae” is one I would go back for. This is a childhood classic, made for adults. Guinness, Baileys, and caramel ice cream all made in house and topped with their in house made caramel and chocolate sauces. Then dressed with a homemade Irish lace cookie, whipped cream, sprinkles, and a cherry to finish it off. I could have used more ice cream and less of the whipped variety. But the crunch of the toffee and nuts was my favourite part. You wouldn’t imagine something this good or this elaborate at a pub. I was delightfully surprised. However, my biggest gripe was its presentation. It looked great, but it was hard to curate the perfect bite (ensuring you get a bit of everything on your spoon) when the glass is so deep and your spoon had to match its length. You really have to dig down for any hope of an even bite. And this sundae was best when you had a bite of everything in your mouth.

 

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.
A great place for a big group gathering, to watch any game or to celebrate and catch up with friends. They offer a great alternative to all the popular casual chains out there. A lengthy drink and food menu offering enough variety for something for everyone. Once again, I wouldn’t think to come here for a meal, so would have missed out if not for this eye opening media event. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DUBH LINN GATE
1601 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 2W5
604-449-1464
vancouver.dubhlinngate.com
Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Montana’s, Rib Fest

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My partner wanted ribs and after a few disappointing dinners out for some, we finally went to “Montanan’s to guarantee him his fix. Walking up to the place he complained how hungry he was and how he could smell the scent of the meat he wanted to eat. But it was busy this Saturday night that we would not get to eat any of it anytime soon. We didn’t think of making reservations, so when we came at 7pm we found ourselves having to waiting until 8pm to be seated. Although they were able to take our names and our number to call us when our table was ready.

The restaurant was as I remembered it the handful of times I was ever in the area and wanted something cheap and meaty. A cabin motif, perfectly reflecting the rugged outdoor Canadian lifestyle. Wood logs, hockey jerseys, canoes and paddles, and antlers crafted to form a chandelier.

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In the end our wait earned us a great booth table towards the back. Here, tables were pre-set with parchment paper and a glass of crayons for those with children and the need to keep them occupied. Kids that wanted to could draw, my partner was one such kid. Though, sadly we discovered that the crayons available for use were sitting in a shot glass of tobacco sauce. Imagine a child holding on to one of these crayons, then realizing it is wet, instinctively going to lick their hands dry, only to discover an awful burn in their mouths. We brought it to the attention of our server.

He eventually found a green crayon on the floor and went to work. This kept him busy as we waited longer than usual for our food. Given the busy service and the popular time and day, I could have expected as much. Our server was late to take our food order as she was expected to be one of three staff members needed to sing the birthday song (more on that below). And when we finally had our order taken, it took over 45 minutes for it to actually arrive.

But despite the rush and stress our server and majority of the others within ear shot held their composure and remained friendly. They were identified by their casual dress code. Their jeans and flannel look matched the country vibe of the restaurant well. Our server’s energetic disposition was contagious. Everything was a positive yes. I could see why there were so many large groups celebrating birthdays here tonight. It was fun and causal.

For each birthday person, the staff rung musical triangles and called attention to them and their table. First comes an announcement, followed by the singing of their own rendition of happy birthday, or rather a birthday chant. And to make this even more in to a spectacle the birthday boy or girl gets to wear a helmet of stuffed antlers on their head.

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When it came time to order, we were excited to learn that their “rib fest” was back. It advertised mouth watering, sauced up, and fall off the bone ribs. They featured three options with sides. But my partner went with the classic 6 rib in their “Rib n’ wing combo”. It gave you a choice of sauce for their famous ribs, and on their four double dusted chicken wings. He went with the honey garlic over his ribs and the chipotle honey for the wings. For sides it was the Mexican corn, fries, and in house baked corn bread.

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The ribs were tender, but we missed the traditional BBQ sauce flavouring. The honey garlic he had instead lacked kick. The chipotle honey gave the wings more flavour, but wasn’t necessarily complimentary to its thick breading. It would have been better left as a dry rub seasoned with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper. The sides were pretty standard, chewy fries and a cup of corn that tasted like salsa with the coloured peppers.

I was looking for something a little lighter and gravitated towards the “chicken waffle club sandwich”. Southern fried chicken breast with maple sriracha, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and two strips of double smoked bacon. All between two flame grilled Belgian sugar waffles.

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This was a saucy burger that made a mess. Therefore the more I allowed it to sit, the more the soggy the bottom waffle got. It’s run off pooled at the bottom of the skillet it was served in. It also turned a portion of the side potatoes to mush. But worst off was the lettuce in the sandwich that was quick to follow, aided by the mayo and saucy. Sandwich crafting 101, you don’t put mayo and lettuce together. As for the flavour, this was one of the best seasoned chicken breast in waffles I have had. The crispy chicken with saucy spreads and chilli spice, between sweet waffle really gave the sandwich its own identity. As my partner’s first taste of chicken and waffles, he liked what he had here, especially the mix of textures.

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For the side I upgraded my choice of fries or one of two salads for their “ultimate appy”. The in “house seasoned Montana’s Chippers”. The regular entree version is seasoned with savoury dill and served with their in house made honey dill dip. This was just salted. The chips where perfectly crispy, offering a great side, better than fried.

As I mentioned earlier, between our two hands on either entrees we made quite the mess. We went through a mound of napkins and had to ask for more. Therefore were grateful to been provided wet wipes at the beginning so that we could do a quick clean up before switching from two hands to picking off the mess with fork and knife.

 

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.
It definitely satisfies the craving for classic eats at great prices. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MONTANA’S
2929 Barnet Hwy, Unit 1046, Coquitlam BC, V3B 5R5
604-472-7772
montanas.ca
Montana's Cookhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wild Sweets, Chinese New Year collection 2017

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Chinese New Year is right around the corner. And with another gifting celebration comes its correspondingly themed treats. Chocolate is a popular idea, especially when topped with rooster medallions and filled with popular Chinese inspired ingredients and flavours. This is exactly the thoughtfulness expected from “Wild Sweets”. And today I was invited to a their media event to explore their chocolate showcase for Chinese New Year 2017, the year of the rooster.

For a recap of my first visit to the factory and store front of Dominique and Cindy, celebrity and award winning chocolatiers click the link and read for a description of their operations and their chocolate focused mentality.

Wild Sweets

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As is the case with all media events I attend: 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. But as always, 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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The stage was set with their chocolate feature. A giant abstract rooster, who lacked eyes and had a small head and beak, but made up for it with his robust plumage. A series of spiky feathers pointing all across his puffed up chest and pointed tail. It certainly was a conversation starter. The tall, all chocolate, centre piece on a table of red boxes with golden print.

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The “2017 Lunar Limited Edition Year of the Rooster Chocolate Art collections” was divided into two. Memorable by their cakey-cookie bases or chewy creamy centres. They sought to do a modern East meets West thing, bringing Chinese traditions and flavours together with the European-French techniques. As per their website’s description, “The collection features specific sweet ingredients for their symbolism in Chinese traditions”, like prosperity, good fortune, longevity, and wealth. With Mandarin orange, pomelo, chestnut, ginger, lemon, mango, black sesame, green tea, and kumquat. All great flavours and characteristics to ring in the new year with. Each chocolate morsel is hand painted with the traditional lucky red and gold colouring, each with its own identifying artistic patterns. And then packaged in more red and gold, ready for gifting. After all, Chinese etiquette dictates that you never go to another’s home empty handed, and chocolate or food is more accepted than a handful of money outside a red envelope.

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The “Year of the Rooster” collection is soft ganache made with different fruit-based liquid caramels for a contrasting textural element. The box features “Pomelo Fruit Caramel Ganache & Ginger Lemon Honey Nut Cream”, “Apricot Vanilla Bean Caramel Ganache & Cubed Sticky Rice Cake”, and “Kumquat Orange Caramel Ganache & Citrus Honey Nut Cream”.

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We tried the “Chestnut Vanilla Bean Caramel Ganache & Organic roasted chestnuts” and indeed got the sticky caramel and sweet fruit flavours promised by its description. Although the sticky rice cake filled one would have been an interesting sensation. Sticky rice is exactly as it sounds, a staple in Chinese cuisines savoury or sweet. Here they found a way to include it in chocolate for its iconic glunetious texture.

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My favourite visually was the “2017 Year of the Rooster Chocolate Art Bouchées Series”. These were bites of cookie and cake enrobed in quality chocolate. The use of the cake was even thought out, purposely done to symbolize “rising fortune”. Each chocolate puck had three textural elements to it. The base or “dough” that is a buttery French cookie. A layer of flavoured caramel nut jam, made with either nuts of seeds. And finally a soft ganache layer made with different fruit-based liquid caramels. After their bath in dark chocolate, they are finished with a disc of almond paste featuring a rooster head design painted with edible metallic paint. This would be the one to bring to impress.

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Biting into the “Lychee Longan Caramel Ganache, Sablé cookie & Black Sesame Nut Jam” one, it reminded me of a brownie, heavy and dense with a texture that gets caught in your teeth as you pull away. It had substance, and enough of them would have made a great dessert on the plate. The other flavours are as follows: “Mandarin Orange Caramel Ganache, Sablé cookie & Coconut Nut Jam”; “Peach Persimmon Caramel Ganache, Sablé cookie & Almond Nut Jam”; and Mango Green Tea Caramel Ganache, Sablé cookie & Peanut Nut Jam”

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We were also treated to some non Chinese New Year specific, but just as interesting chocolate bites. Similarly to the one above, they were desserts transformed into bites of chocolate. The crowd favourite and standout was the macaron ones. “Fruit Macaron Series N°10”. This is yet another fusing of two different principles into one unique treat. The “Wild Sweets” version of the popular French classic cookie “Macaron” as a ‘Choco-Minis’ bouchée. A snack known for being devouring in two or more snack sized bites.

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Two halves of the macaron are processed in two different ways. The bottom half is crushed and mixed with almond paste to become a biscuit base. The filling is a fruit ganache. It is covered in their bean to bar chocolate, before being topped with the other half of the macaron shell that maintains its crispy and light texture. This is definitely something unique to “Wild Sweets”. Layers of contrasting texture are what we got from our green “Coconut milk Lime zest Ganache”, followed by a fragrant citrus bouquet. The other available flavours are “Passion fruit Ganache”, “Mango fruit Ganache”, and “Raspberry fruit Ganache”

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The “Crispy Biscuit Series N°14″ was another one I liked for its texture”. You identified them through their topping of metallic pearl sprinkles. It delivered on its named promise and ate like a chocolate covered cookie with a light crunch. Here Dominique and Cindy reimagined classic cakes in this ‘Choco-Minis’ bouchée style. They based each off an original cake. The “French Financier”, a moist roasted hazelnut and brown butter chocolate cake. The “American Brownie”, a rich chocolate butter cake. And the “Italian Frangipane”, a moist almond paste cake flavoured with citrus zest. Each square of moist cake is topped with a layer of roasted nut butter praline cream, and mixed with a crispy lace crêpe cookies. Once again their goal was to create depth in each bite with the use of textures and tastes.

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We tried the “Citrus frangipane raspberry jelly crispy peanut praline”. This quickly became my favourite. Less chocolate, and even more like a cookie. The crispy peanut wafers reminded me of the “crispy crunch” chocolate and peanut butter bar, definitely a recommend if you like peanut butter as much as I do.

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The “Fudge Nut Brownie Series N°12” was distinct with his pops of neon in its painted splatter design. A moist cake base topped with pieces of roasted nuts for a richer flavour and crunchier texture. Followed by a layer of smooth ganache made with chocolate and various fresh fruit purée liquid caramels. And finally coated in their bean to bar dark chocolate.

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We tried the “Walnut Brownie & Apple Kalamansi Caramel Ganache” and it tasted like an apple pie brownie. I wanted this flavour regurgitated as a full sized dessert. The other flavours include a “Hazelnut Brownie & Orange Zest Caramel Ganache”, a “Pecan Brownie & Cassis (Black Currant) Caramel Ganache”, and an “Almond Brownie & Apricot Passion Caramel Ganache”.

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The “Sablé Florentines Series N°11” could be identified by the wisps of orange, red, and silver metallic paint. Here they took the dessert “Tarte Chocolat”, down to a bouchée for a snack sized bite. Their version is based on the original recipe, but with a few twists. It starts off with their Sablé Breton as a base, a classic French butter cookie made with ground up and roasted almonds. It is topped with a layer of “Florentines”: honey, dried fruits and nuts baked into a cookie. The third layer of ganache is added before everything is coated in dark chocolate.

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We had the “Vanilla Bean Ganache”. And were surprised by the amount of chocolate mousse stuffed and the chewy stickiness of a fruity nought-like base hiding within. The other flavours are “Dark Espresso Ganache”, “Hazelnut Butter Ganache”, and Salted Caramel Ganache.

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The “Caramel Nut Jam Series N°13” had a paint brush stroke swiped across it. This was their take on a pecan pie. Instead of regular pie dough they use a Sablé Breton, like above, but made with ground roasted almonds. It is filled with a layer of “Caramel Jam”: a mix of a sugar, butter, eggs and nuts. The third layer is a silky smooth ganache, made with not only their bean-to-bar chocolate, but various liquors as well. Right before it is coated in dark chocolate, like all the others.

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We sunk our teeth into the “Almond Caramel Jam & Amoretto Ganache”, and there was no mistaking the zing of the liquor. A flavour I appreciated and often miss from other liquor infused or even liquor filled chocolates. The other flavours include a “Walnut Caramel Jam & Kahlua Ganache”, a “Pecan Caramel Jam & Bourbon Ganache”, and a “HazelnutCaramel Jam & Grand Marnier Ganache”. This is one where I wish I got to taste one of each.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I am not a big fan of chocolates, so cannot see myself making the commute out here regularly for myself. However given how unique each of these chocolate sets were, they are definitely a brand I would recommend and a box I would give. Truly one for those who love chocolate and have a sweet tooth. Or if you are like me, you can still appreciate them for their resemblance to bites of cakes and chunks of cookies, rather than just cubes of chocolate. Once again, a great gift to bestow upon your Chinese New Year host. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

WILD SWEETS
Unit 2145 – 12191 Hammersmith Way, Richmond BC, V7A 5H2
604-765-9507
dcduby.com
Wild Sweets Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Blackbird: Dine Out 2017

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“Dine Out”, Vancouver’s annual food showcase brings diners out to try restaurants they might not otherwise get to, at prices they can afford. Either $20, $30, or $40 for a three course meal.

It has started now and during its two week run, if you are looking to participate and take advantage of some especially cheap eats, may I recommend, “Blackbird”? I love a good deal that doesn’t diminish the quality for a better cost. And tonight I got it with their dine out menu. Their goal is to present diners with the best menu for $20, I haven’t tried any others, but honestly, they have their work cut out for them with the below.

As this was a menu preview, when it comes to a plating and portion size, things may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will typically be top notch. Although I was assured that what we got for dinner was exactly what would be severed consistently for everyone. As always, I will paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, 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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I have said it in my past posts, and it holds true here. When I walked into my first Donnelly public house I soon learned what they were. A great place to drink, but not necessarily the one you could go to for a satisfying menu. However this has changed. They have now picked up their game when it comes to brunch, lunch, and dinner. They have hired new chefs, who have brought in the need to go fresh and bold, and it shows.

But what still holds true is the energy of the place. As per all Donnelly projects, the building was rowdy on this Wednesday night. The type of scene that requires a deep belly shout from across the table, or talking through text. One that is lively and pumps you up with energy, just by association. Located downtown, many of the local businesses trickle in to take advantage of happy hour. And we were in the thick of it, trying to have a nice three course meal. However, by the time our food came, the crowd dispersed and the dim lights and the utensils tied with straw bows made them a fairly romantic dining destination.

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Each Donnelly restaurant’s Dine Out menu starts out and ends the same: a soup or salad, and two different desserts to choose from. Where they get restaurant specific is with their entrees. You have a choice of three at any: gnocchi or shepard’s pie, and the third one that the restaurant calls their own. Here it was a chicken and waffle combo. The strategy is a clever way of keeping diners coming back for more and trying out other public houses to see what they offer. Although at $20 for dinner, it is a good enough reason to stop by more than once anyways. Especially as these plates weren’t all that different from what their pubs normally serve all year round. Not any smaller, no substitutions, just a good representation of their kitchen. In fact the Shepard’s pie below is off their dinner menu and the chicken and waffles from brunch. One of the reasons why I don’t like visiting restaurants during Dine Out is the falsified look you are given of a restaurant serving more people on a smaller budget. However that doesn’t seem to be an issue here.

With each menu option there are wine pairings you can take advantage of: $5 and $6 for red or white in a 3oz pour. This was another way to be able to taste more at a discounted price.

The first course choice was between a soup or salad. I typically go for the former, and justify it with the thinking that I can make the latter myself. However, was surprised that I actually like the salad better and would order it, if given the chance again.

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It was a “Chopped winter salad” with kale, red beets, red onion, Granny Smith apples, white cheddar, and candied almonds; all in a sherry vinaigrette. I don’t like the texture of leafy greens, so the crisp nature of the kale was appealing in this. It paired well with all the other ingredients cubed up. Crunchy nuts, juicy fruit, and starchy cheese. I just could have used more of the delightful combination of salty cheese, sweet nuts, and tangy fruit.

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The “Wild mushroom chowder” had Yukon gold potatoes, crispy sage, and truffle. You could smell the intensity of the truffle oil as soon as it arrived. It gave the soup some depth, but at the same time some additional oil that it didn’t necessarily need. Where I expected creamy, the soup was more runny. With a gentle film of oil left on your lips after every sip. Some bread or a crumbled cracker would have helped thicken the chowder. There was potato, but their larger size made them an awkward chew. Smaller cuts that fit on to the spoon, ones that could easily be taken in with a mouth of soup would have been nicer.

The choice between entrees was more difficult. Each had its merit and each the preferred choice in its own way. In fact, our group was split on which we’d like most and would order again.

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The “Shepard’s pie” was a unanimous “yum” when we all first tried it. Braised lamb, carrots, and celery; in a red wine gravy. Served topped with whipped fluffy mashed potato in a miniature cast iron cauldron. What a really fun way to present pie and keep everything warmer for longer. Thick stew with garlic potatoes that just melts in you mouth, according to “Foodgressing“. This was so tasty, that even my guest who doesn’t like lamb found this entree to be her favourite. By comparison the side salad was less appealing, and therefore left by the wayside. Although it would have made a nice fresh break in the heavier main, had it been needed.

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I was leaning more in the direction of the “Ricotta gnocchi” for my favourite. This was a simple mix of lemon, tomato sauce, capers, arugula, and Parmesan cheese; and it was so good. The perfect part creamy, part starchy texture with the peppery freshness of the greens and the salty sharpness of the freshly grated cheese. If you wanted more punch in this pasta you can ask for double smoked bacon or mushroom for the addition of $2. But it was plenty tasty as is.

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“Fried chicken & waffles” is always a popular choice and the one only available at “Blackbird’s” Dine Out menu. Crispy fried white meat chicken breast served over a gruyere waffle with hot sauce and a thyme honey drizzle. The chicken was well seasoned with over 12 spices for a rising heat, a great texture to rival the crunch of the buttery waffle. It had some sugar from the honey drip and could have used some more. But what was missing was a savoury sauce for the typical execution of chicken and waffles, a sweet and salty combo. Some gravy for a dip and to help with some missing moisture?

For dessert there was a white cake and a chocolate cake to pick between. And here it is simply by preference. Both cakes were equally moist and just as light and spongy as the other. The difference was the gentle flavours, as both were even topped with similar light cream.

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The “Poached pear tres leche” would be my choice. As the name already explains, this is a golden cake made with three types of dairy; topped with sweet cream, candied almonds, and mint. A nice ease out of a satisfying menu. Nothing too sweet, just the perfect cap. The pear giving you a bit of freshness with the herbaceous-ness of the mint tagging along.

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For the chocolate lovers, option two was a “Fresh baked double chocolate brownie”. Topped with vanilla whipped cream and a salted caramel sauce. This was also only slightly sweet, with a mild milk chocolate flavour, even with the thick pieces of chocolate chunks baked into the brownie. It was also a nice gentle end to finish on. All you wanted was some ice cream with it, and you can; for $2 more you get a scoop of vanilla gelato on top.

Though I would suggest funnelling the cost to a drink pairing instead. For $7 more you can get 1oz of the amaro, suggested with the tres leche. We were given a taste of the “Harvey’s Bristol cream sherry” suggested for the brownie. It was creamy and smooth, easy to drink with a bit of kick. This was a great pairing with either desserts. At 2oz you get a little more here, but still not enough. This is a bottle I will be trying to find at the liquor store for my own collection.

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And speaking of liquor, when walking into a Donnelly public house, I suggest getting a drink. Their brand is known for their lively demeanour and most of the time it starts with taking advantage of their drink menu. Here they pour everything imaginable, with dedicated and rotating taps, and even a bar just for whiskey. They also mix plenty of traditional cocktails, and have a handful that they call their own, as “Ours”.

The “Rose all day” is served in a coupe glass with absolut vodka, watermelon, mint, basil, lemon juice, and simple syrup. A great refreshing drink for those who want to socialize with a drink, but not have to feel it.

The tall glass of pink was the “P.S. I love you”. Made with Phillips stump gin, pimm’s no. 1 cup, strawberry, ginger beer, lemon, cucumber, and mint. Its flavour as more ginger forward, with only a faint hint of the strawberry you wanted.

The “Endless summer” was a pale yellow cocktail made with Havana club 3 year rum, luxardo maraschino, pineapple juice, falernum, lime juice, and rosemary. It didn’t taste much like pineapple or even very tropical. Just a refreshing drink with some bite.

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After all the sugar we went for flights of beers, letting our more knowledgable bartender choose for us. A three cup paddle with me wanting a fourth, but given their narrow standing tables, it might just have to do with the lack of circumference for a longer paddle and another glass.

 

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 absolutely a recommend for me. Once again they are gunning for the best $20 menu, and considering price for amount and quality of food they are doing very well. A fast food value meal with a small burger, fries, and a watery fountain drink is a couple dollars under $20. Why not skip your daily coffee and get this meal that will satisfy and last. And if you love it, you can go back and take advantage of the discounted price until February 5th. Fellow food blogger, “Pork Ninjas” was so impressed that she will be doing just that. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BLACKBIRD
905 Dunsmuir Street, Vancouver BC, V6C 1A8
604-899-4456
donnellygroup.ca/the-blackbird
The Blackbird Public House & Oyster Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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