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

Month: June 2017 Page 1 of 3

Salsa And Agave

After walking all around downtown, looking for the perfect spot for lunch, we finally ended at “Salsa Agave” in Yaletown. We wanted something light and their lunch menu offerings were just the right price.

We grabbed a table on their patio to take advantage of the warmth and their ideal people watching locale. It caught your eye with its neon green and orange painted patio chairs. They were paired with tiled table tops that were sheltered from the sun’s rays by large golf umbrellas. It was a comfortable perch for our mid-afternoon meal.

Their lunch menu was one sheet of coloured photos for easier ordering. Prices varied from $9-11.50. And we started off with a small serving of crunchy tortilla chips and semi spicy dip.

I had the “Chicken enchiladas” covered with a red sauce and slices of avocado. They were good, but definitely benefited from the side of smooth beans and gently flavoured orange rice for substance. They gave the enchiladas more flavour and depth than the dry chicken and grainy tortillas did together. However I could have used more than two slices of avocado, like the photo showed and more vegetables in the mixed rice.

My guest had the soup and sandwich combo. In house made tortilla soup, paired with her choice of torta, which she choose carnitas (pork) for. The sandwich was tasty, the stand out was the chewy bread with its crispy toasted edges, it was the most prominent flavour and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Inside were a fistful of greens, a juicy tomato slice, and mustard for a nice spicy zing. As for the soup, it isn’t the type you would dip a sandwich into. It was best enjoyed on its own to capture all the spicy tomato flavour and its back of the throat spice. I know it is the namesake of the bowl, but I would have preferred it without the shreds of mushy tortilla sunk to the bottom; or better yet to have them on the side (like the jalapeños) to add in as you wanted. And so that they keep their crunch for longer.

For drinks I had a “Michelada”. It is when beer meets a sauce with spices, like a Mexican caesar with tomato juice and a salted rim. You choose your own beer, and it is served with a glass 1/5 filled with their red tomato mix. To it you pour in your beer, then drink. Given the hue I expected an fizzy orange flavour like orange crush. Instead it was a nice lighter alternative to a caesar, and the perfect flavour companion to our meal. Great for those who want to drink, but don’t like the taste of beer. I just found the salt on the rim unnecessary and far too much. It made my face pucker when I drank from the glass the first time.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
They are a quick and easy stop. Tasty enough and priced well, but not a destination, best as a convenience stop. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SALSA AND AGAVE
1205 Pacific Boulevard, Vancouver BC
604-408-4228
salsaandagave.com
Salsa And Agave Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Candy making with Wishing Treats

Today I was invited for a crash course in candy making with the talented, master candy artisan, Alice MacKenzie. This was behind the scenes look at handmade, hard candy courtesy of local sweets purveyor “Wishing Treats”.

From behind glass their skilled artisans transform caramel into any custom design. A great option for party favours with personal ideas, messages, and branding. All their candies are created with 95% organic ingredients, with them continuing to research on transitioning the remaining 5%; but for now they are still using organic alternatives. This means that their candy is vegan and gluten-free; with ingredients like organic sugar, glucose, citric acid from fruit, and natural colouring and flavours.

Not only do they make the candy for you, they can also teach you how to do it too. “Wishing Treats” offer candy making classes, where you become the artisan. Just like what we were here doing today.

To watch the video version of this post, click on the link to my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

We arrived at their Gastown studio to witness the entire process. Everything is made by hand from start to finish. And depending on the difficultly of the design, the time it takes varies; averaging on 45 to 60 minutes. Given our idea, we were here for an hour.

In honour of the upcoming pride season, we decided to make some new, never before seen pride candies to celebrate. The word “PRIDE” in rainbow coloured letters, with a matching rainbow boarder. Candies that ended up being such a hit with the staff, that they decided to make more and offer them commercially. These will be available at the “Wishing Treats” studio starting July 7th, 2017. So this is a first look sneak peak at their upcoming pride candies, perfect for any related celebration or year long support.

Their candy making process is visible for anyone to come in and watch throughout the day. However we visited on a day where we were the only ones in the shop, and were given the ability to step behind the counter to capture our shots.

Our candy artisan began by combining sugar, water, and glucose, and bringing the mixture to boil in a pot, over a heated coil. This part takes about 30 minutes. 30 minutes of stirring and checking, looking for the right thickness and consistency.

In the meanwhile the work counter and necessary equipment used, gets a thin coating of coconut oil. A metal work surface and mental bars that will be used to shape and contain the liquid sugar, once it’s ready to be moulded. The coconut oil is to prevent any sticking, we are working with syrup and sugar after all.

While the sugar mixture continues to boil up, all the colouring and flavours needed are measured and poured out. Today we would be utilizing all the primary colours to make our rainbow. And we decided to flavour it in a sweet raspberry.

Once the syrup is at the perfect consistency, our chosen flavour is poured and mixed in. And then the piping hot sugar mixture is poured out on to the counter. It is contained within the centre of the square, that the four coconut oiled metal bars form.

It is then coloured with our measured out food colouring and kneaded evenly into a solid shade. This is done by a series of flattening motions and palm rolls;then pulling portions of candy from one hand to another, drawing it out like stringy bubble gum.

To keep the soon to be hard candy malleable, its temperature needs to be kept hot. So out artist Alice, works with it right out of the pot. With insulated gloves, her hands are protected from the heat. The mass of candy is then worked over on heated mats, at 180 degree heat.

With all her necessary colours sorted out, she then sets out to create her pattern. A process that she is able to recreate from an idea in her head. Using strips of colour sandwiched by pieces of white, she spells out “P” in red, “R” in orange, “I” in yellow, “D” in green, and “E” in blue.

This block of block letters then gets rolled up in a sheet of the same colours alternating between gaps of white. The result, a sledge hammer sized round of candy. In order to get it down to the smaller size we need, repetitive rolling and pulling is done. One by one smaller rods are pulled out, cut off, and smoothed out to the ideal shape.

From here, some rapid fire chopping takes place. Alice skillfully takes a flat blade to each rod. She mechanically hack rounds to the size of peas.

And what we have is a sea of sweets ready for bagging. What I like about such behind the scenes look on things is how much more appreciative of the food I am. To see all the work, effort, and sheer skill that went into this, made the bag all the more sweeter to try at the end.

This is definitely something worth checking on yourself. Either by visiting and purchasing a bag of their specialty sweets, or enrolling in one of their classes and doing this all your own.

To read my review on their shop and candies, visit the link below.

Wishing Treats

WISHING TREATS
49 West Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1G4
778-379-5891
wishingtreats.com

Honda Civic Hatchback Turbo, test drive

I am not a car person, I have a vehicle to get me from point A to point B, and have only been behind the wheel of two different ones, long enough to get a feel of how they actually handle.

So when I was given the opportunity to test drive a 2017 Honda Civic, hatchback turbo, I jumped at the opportunity; after all my first car was a 1988 Civic. I called him “Rusty” he was brown and old, and as you can surmise, had much of a certain identifying feature to earn him his nick name. He served me well and I never wanted another car, until he was on his last legs and was forced into retirement. So I figured, to be behind the wheel of a newer Civic would be nostalgic, I was wrong. The technology in the 2017 and its features, made it feel like a whole different species, and that’s not even mentioning its exterior.

Now excuse the next part, as I eluded to above, I am no car expert and therefore will be fumbling my way trough the terminology used to describe one. For any car enthusiasts reading this, please considerate it satirical?

The curvature of car and the vents up front helped to make the vehicle more aerodynamic, not to mention giving it a more streamline look. Where as my “Rusty” was a functioning brick. Block, pointy, and as slow looking as it actually was. In retrospect I don’t know why I loved it as much as I did.

Inside, the patchy fabric interior of my ’88 Civic looked grungy compared to the matted leather of the hatchback. And don’t even get me comparing how each smelled.

The 2017 had plenty of cargo space thanks to the hatchback. It was practical, reminiscent of the Civic hatchbacks from the 90’s. It is small and agile, perfect for driving in big city centres. And best of all, its fuel economy is amazing, we spent a week cruising unnecessary and it only cost it $50 for our efforts. This was given the power you get from its turbo engine, which was surprising considering it isn’t a top of the line model; and the fact that it was automatic not manual.

In fact the hatchback was automatic everything; it had every modern convenience, and then some extras that I didn’t know existed. (My current vehicle is a 2002. It has a cassette tape player and a 8 CD changer in the trunk.) With “Rusty”, you had cracking handles, to literally wind down each windows, and were forced to pull a knob up to unlock each door. With the hatchback it was a mere push of a button for most things.

This is the only photo I have of that Civic: my partner working hard to fix yet another issue that arose with it. Brown interior in a brown car…

Here is a stock photo for reference.

So to get this 2017 model for a week meant I enjoyed all its modern comforts and improved handling for a week. And there is nothing like trying a new Honda Civic to reset your previous expectations on the brand and name.

 

@hondacanada
#hondacivic.
honda.ca

Acura RDX test drive

I am shopping for a new vehicle. It has been five years with my current and after three rear ends, one side swipe, and numerous parking violations, it is time for an upgrade. A new vehicle with less mileage and less issues.

So when shopping for car with a great resell value, along with nice handling and look, my partner decided it should be an Acura. So when given the chance, we jumped at being able to try out the Acura RDX for a week. My partner wants a larger vehicle to be able to transport materials with, and I wanted a more compact and easy to park car, so this smaller SUV was a good compromise.

My partner was most giddy about picking her up for the week, taking multiple photos at the Honda Canada regional offices as soon as he was handed the keys. As a result, he has offered a lot of insight on this post.

The RDX drove more like a car than an SUV. Its power and handling gave you an amazing drive. It didn’t felt blocky or choppy like you would expect with an suv. This included transmission shifts that were both smooth and crisp.

As for its appearance, the headlights looked really menacing (I am told this is a good thing), with all the projectors lining up next to the other. inside. It is one of those vehicle you were proud to be seen in. And with the modern conveniences of satellite radio and cooling seats, it was a vehicle you wanted to get in to.

Not many people get such an opportunity to try before they buy, as thoroughly as we were given. So we took the RDX through the ringer. And what we found was a sense of confidence in the Acura badge. We might not get this exact model, but she was most helpful in helping us narrow down our search. Thank you Acura Canada.

 

@acurardx
acura.ca

Richmond Night Market 2017

I love novelty, and therefore I love the Richmond night market for its offering of impractical and excessive food and drink. Beautiful snacks and decadent desserts marketed in the name of novel. All targeted towards those like me: lured in with the need to eat with our eyes. So on this trip, we made it our mission to search our all that is unique at this year’s summer night market.

I have also compiled this list into an 8 minute YouTube video on my channel: MaggiMei. So be sure to check out my virtual tour of the most Instagram-able eats at this year’s Richmond summer night market.

This is my first trip to this night market of the season. It has already been four weekends into the series, so all the vendors are out and all are working in their grove. My friends and I arrived 45 minutes before opening, hoping to be allowed in a hair earlier, in order to get in position and avoid the lines that would soon come with the hours to follow. However the security guards and employees in yellow duck shirts were on high alert, no one allowed in right until 7pm. We waited behind rails with everyone else.

The market is easy enough to get to with traffic attendants, plenty of signs, and ample parking in a spacious lot. General admission entry is $3.75, but if you want to cut down some of the time and know you will be back again before the summer’s end, I suggest grabbing one of their zoom passes. This is $25 ticket that gives you 7 admissions to use all summer. through to early fall; until the market packs up for the year. You only save $1.25 in the long run, but it is well worth it when you factor in the cost of your time and the need for you to spend it waiting in a longer line.

We went straight to the food vendors, walking past all the isle, stopping at any of the stalls that peaked our interest. The first that caught my eye was the “Hand Made Senbei” stall. “Senbei” is Japanese style rice crackers, and here they make yours to order using a hand cranked press. Two metal plates squish batter, your choice of seafood, seasonings, spices, and shredded seaweed together, and baked it into a crispy sheet. We went with the shrimp and it was laid down and squished down, shell and all. You also get a choice of size from an 8×11 or 11×14. Naturally, I went with the rule that bigger is better and ended up biting off more than I can chew, literally. The end product is great for show, but troublesome to eat. You snap off shards with your teeth and are felt holding much more to go. We ended up snapping pieces down to size and saving the rest for later in a baggie. As for how it tasted, I loved it. It was crispy and salty with the flavour of shrimp and seaweed throughout. I was most amazed at how those four pieces of shrimp seemed to disappear within this sheet.

At the “Fish Stick” stall they took what they were selling and named their booth literal-like. Chunks of white fish, battered and deep fried then skewered on sticks. There were a number of ways they could be dressed for flavour, we went for the teri-mayo and had no regrets. The classic deep fried and creamy combo was amazing.

The surprise favourite was the “pho fries” from the “Fries and Things” booth. They offered different toppings on fresh cut fries like garlic butter and truffle. But the pho was the most unique of their five options, and it tasted just like the Vietnamese noodle soup. From its grounds of beef, the bean sprouts, green onion, parsley, and the salty and sweet brown sauce.

Based on its social media foot print, the “Deep Fried” stall was the fan favourite of the summer, or at least for selfies. Their signature item was a fried to order churro curl planted in a scoop of ice cream and topped with various cereals and sweets. Then it and its cup are placed on the back of a plastic inflatable flamingo. The intended purpose of this flamingo was for use in a pool, however this way for show, seemed to please people just fine. We went all out and got their rainbow churro, which is a golden brown and crispy churro further coated in melted chocolate then dipped in rainbow sprinkles. Truth be told, I was expecting and wanted a churro made with rainbow coloured batter. Maybe someone can get on that for next year?

From the same stall, we much preferred the deep fried mozzarella sticks, coated in a layer of crushed up Doritos. It was everything I expected and all that I wanted. Plenty of chewy, stringy cheese under a thick layer of zesty chips.

The “Teppan Bossam” stand offered Korean fusion style, flame seared pork belly. The barbecuing of this was quite the visual. The flames on it jumped into the air, unannounced it was quite the scare. Thick cuts of pork allowed to sizzle to a sear, then chopped up and served on a bed of lettuce with a side of dipping sauce. From three different flavours we went barbecue. The first few cuts were the perfect balance of meat to fat, although the last three were worth skipping as it was all gristle.

From “Bao Bar” we had one of their Asian style ice cream sandwiches. Deep fried, sweet, white buns fried to a golden brown and made to sandwich a brick of ice cream. Ice cream in flavours like matcha, Vietnamese iced coffee, earl grey, and durian. As is often the case, we went for the most unique of the lot, the toasted soy milk ice cream served with a Chinese doughnut. I just wish one was in proportion to the other. I liked the ice cream just fine, but my guests did not. Although I didn’t enjoy it any more with the chewy doughnut.

I appreciated the ingenuity of “sippy tea”. Their flavoured milk teas are served in plastic, resealable drink pouches. They seemed to be fairly popular, as only 30 minutes in to market open and they were already out of their “Thai coconut” flavour, which just so happened to be the one I was gunning for. But instead we got the “chai coconut” and were very happy with it. It was a great brew, the flavour of a stand out spicy chai, but with the mildness of a milk tea. And the best part, I didn’t feel constrained to finish it all in one go. I was able to free my hands for the food to come, by re-sealing the bag of tea and dropping it into my purse.

At this point we were looking for something with more substance, and stopped at the “Benkei ramen” stand to get two bowls of noodles. I enjoyed being able the watch the two men behind the counter multitasking. Preparing the noodles, stirring the broth, grilling the corn, searing the meat, slicing the perfectly soft boiled egg, and then bringing them all together in a cardboard cup, topped with seasonings to finish. It was a tasty bowl, I would purchase from any restaurant. I just wish I had more of it, given the price we paid.

I remembered the “raindrop cake” stall from last year, and this year they are back offering their translucent jellies, ideal for those looking for a lighter dessert. And now they also come with cherry blossoms at their centres, making it all so much more picturesque, almost like a paper weight. Served with powdered soybean and cane syrup for dipping into, and sweetening to your preference.

At the “Mango fever stall” we grabbed their last “mango Mille crepe”. A pre-made cake with layers of dough and cream, topped with fresh cut mango chunks to order. I am not a big fan of the dessert in the first place so didn’t find this all worth revisiting. You could tell that it wasn’t fresh, not than any version of this complicated cake is served that way. This really took away from the would be lightness of the cake.

And lastly we ended our night at the popsicle stall. Here, they pour flavoured juice into specialty rose shaped ice cube trays, and then froze them with a popsicle stick in place. The result: one of the most attention attracting items at the market. Although flavour wise it was nothing special, almost watered down.

Having eaten our fill, we then took our time exploring the rest of the market; with vendors offering socks, jewellery, cell phone cases, and swords.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
There are so many new stalls this year that I can definitely see myself returning soon to try more of which didn’t make this list. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

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

Kaya, summer tasting menu

I have been to “Kaya, Malay Bistro” a handful of times now, since their opening in 2012. Hailing from Brunei, I find Malaysian cuisine homey, so have admittedly visited most of the Malaysian restaurants in the lower mainland. This one is not only the most convenient for me, but I find each time I visit they seem to have introduced something new to their menu or to the way they host.

Today it was the addition of happy hour with a $4 menu. This is now available Monday to Fridays from 5-7pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 12-3pm. $4 tapas and beers including calamari, roti, curry somosas, vegetarian spring rolls, satay, and more. This means that they offer more than most places also hosting happy hour, although they might not be your traditional choice.

They also have the option of all you can eat on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30-2:30pm at $18.95 a person. With over 29 savoury items, including desserts to choose from; this is definitely a good deal. Vegetarian items, noodles and rice, tapas, and meat dishes.

But today, we as media were invited to try an exclusive and new tasting menu. But first, the 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.

We were given the full experience of their new tasting menu, in celebration of their 5th anniversary. This is a set list of eight dishes brought together at a set price of $38 per person. A couple of them new menu items, but majority familiar favourites, that you would have ordered anyways. This menu (pictured) would not be regularly advertised in house or offered as an add on when you are seated. The only way to have the following for yourself is to come in knowing about it, due to its extensive coverage on social media; by us food bloggers and social media influencers. A very clever way to bring new bodies in through a new channel and to monitor our combined social influencer and blogger reach.

But not only that, “Kaya” is willing to double down and offer their new social media friends an additional 50% off on this tasting menu. All you have to do is follow them on their social media channels at @kayamalay on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and like one of their photos to be able to reference the deal. This would make the already affordable menu, $38 for 2 people, for an 8 course meal. My photos below are reflective of this deal of two can dine for $38. Although in order to maintain the quality of such an elaborate set, only 10 servings will be prepared daily, so to get yours, come early and make your reservations quick to capitalize. This will be running from today (June 24) to August 31, 2017. So if you love it, you can come back and enjoy it over and over again until the summer’s end. And if you didn’t, it would have cost you $20 to try something new, well worth the experience points.

The business major in me loved the idea, of them having a way to track our reach. Restaurants and PR teams invite us in to eat and cover their restaurants and events and we in turn have footage for our various media channels, making it a symbiotic relationship. And now there would be a way to track the success of this partnership. So let’s see how well this works. If you are reading this, go!

And since you are already saving so much, I strongly suggest ordering a share size bowl of rice; as I reference wanting a base a couple of times below.

Once again all the the dishes to follow are presented for two to share, catalogued as we received them. We started with the “Acar Awak”, which is pickled vegetables in a spicy and sour dressing. I often describe it as being like salsa and kimchi combined, however this is a variation that I am not use to. This version wasn’t spicy, it was less saucy and more water-logged, and the pineapple was a interesting add on. Its tangy-ness is ideal as a side dish, instead of a meal starter. I suggest leaving this one the side to nibble on in conjunction with all the dishes below. Especially with the deep fried and heavier spiced dishes.

The “coconut and cumin king prawn soup” was a great dish to warm up with. It is easy to sip with plenty of strong flavours. Each spoonful left you with a deep tickle at the back of your throat, one that continued to warm and linger. It was warming where as its chunks of the tomato. button mushroom, and half prawn offered some cooling elements. They were also nice to nibble on for a change in texture.

The “Satay chicken” did not disappoint. Charcoal grilled, marinated skewers served with a chunky peanut dip. This is a classic that I have ordered from them before, that is exactly as I expect it to be. Tender and tasty chicken with a great smoke char, only exemplified by the nutty peanut buttery sauce.

The “Roti canai” was a little bland by comparison, but only because all that came before it were such stand outs. Hand rolled, layered flat bread with a curry sauce for dipping. The roti was nice and chewy with light folded layers.

For entrees we had a dish of deep fried “mini soft shell crab”. They were easy to eat with a quick pop in your mouth. They were sautéed with fresh onion, garlic, shallots, mild chilli and fresh Indian black peppercorn. Each bundle was fairly flavourful, but I would have still liked a sauce to help balance the oils of the thorough deep fry, and to change its taste mid way. It is here the pickled vegetable from above was most helpful. The idea of a sweet chilli sauce, a dressing with wine, or even a wedge of lemon were thrown out by the group.

The “seafood bouillabaisse in Assam curry sauce” had prawn, fish, mussel, and cuttlefish; all swimming in a spicy turmeric and coconut sauce. Seasoned with tamarind, galangal, lemongrass and ginger. It wasn’t the Assam flavour I had and remembered from my trip to Malaysia a few months back, but I still found it a great retelling. As a bouillabaisse, I wanted some crispy bread to have it with, but some rice here would have done wonders. I ended up drinking down all the sauce, as I enjoyed it that much.

The “Sambal chilli trio” was another that would have been improved having it over a bowl of steamed white rice. It is a mix of stir fried okra, eggplant, and green beans with shrimp, tomato, and shrimp; all in a belacan paste. The vegetables were kept crisp with a nice texture to chew on. No complaints.

And for dessert we ended the meal with their “Pandan cheese panna cotta”. It was a great idea and something I was very excited for, as I don’t see much pandan offered in the city. However, there is such as thing as too much pandan flavouring. It gave the dessert a great colour, but I found it combated too much against the cheesy and already rich flavour of the panna cotta. I wanted light and creamy from this, whereas this was more dense like a mousse. The fresh strawberry slice helped to lighten up the dish, but there was not enough of it to ration with each and every bite. However, I like pandan so much that I would have and order it again.

Not included in the menu, but is on their list of fruity, non-alcoholic drinks is their refreshing “Ginger citrus soda”. I had one to help cool off with. Hand pressed lemon, lime and orange; shaken with fresh juices and soda with your choice of mint or basil. I went mint for a more mojito-esque feel.

And thus ends our social media menu tasting. Once again a great deal, one that I recommend taking advantage of and trying for yourself.

To get a better feel of the decor and setting of place (as it really hasn’t changed) and/or to get a glimpse of how “Kalay” was four years ago, check on my first visit review by clicking on the link below.

Kaya Malay Bistro

 

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.
Not many Malaysian restaurants in the city, and their fusion approach keeps things modern and creative. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KAYA
1063 West Broadway, Vancouver BC
604-229-5872
kayamalay.com
Kaya Malay Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Earnest Ice cream, Mount Pleasant

“Earnest ice cream” is now a staple in Vancouver. Often after dinner, when you want to end on a sweet note, I find myself heading in their direction. And with multiple locations and a rumour with a new one to come, you can easily satisfy your small batch, artisan ice cream craving in a pinch. This is certainly the case when in the Olympic Village area.

They are often with lines, and even go so far as out the door and down the block. But when you have an “Earnest” craving no other ice cream will do, so we hunkered down and got in queue, along with the others who held the same sentiment. Luckily this location comes with ample space and a built in partition to separate the traffic exiting with their treat and the ones entering for a scoop or two. When you enter you join the line heading towards the counter on the right. For those not wanting to wait, you can cut the time in half by picking up a pint to go. The glass jars in their freezer were easier to grab and go.

The old red brick and vaulted ceiling of the place gives it character. And the wood framed chalkboard menu and their ice cream flavours hung on a clothes line are all familiar sights from their original Fraser location. They even have their trademark swirl print etched on the glass that separated their kitchen from the dining area. At this location they share an industrial kitchen with “Cartems Donuterie”; wherein they bake doughnuts and cookies and offer some here as well. The cookies may also be crumbled up for sundaes, and the doughnuts done up a la mode for a more substantial dessert. However both are easier enjoyed sitting down. And despite their being triple the seating area compared to the original location, it is still a struggle to find a place to perch; even the benches outside are often occupied. I find it easiest to grab a cone to go and take the opportunity to enjoy it by the waterside nearby.

They seem to have more flavours available here and a longer wait in line means you get to read through them all and make your choice well before you reach the counter. You can also sample here as well, but given the lengthier wait it is typically limited to the just the one metal scoop’s worth. If you are like me, you tend to try the seasoning offer and settle for your usual in a cone or a cup at the end. I find their ice creams so rich and fulfilling that I never want more than one scoop.

Weaving through the queue also gives you time to check out their merchandise for sale. Baby onesies and tees with their name and logo printed on them. I picked up one of their enamel pins with their swirled ice cream in a cone logo.

On one visit my friends and I had their london fog, matcha, and seriously chocolate. The first was just like the creamy tea. The matcha a rich flavour neither bitter or two sweet. And the last, a chocolate lover’s dream.

And on another visit we had the whisky hazelnut and their vegan raspberry. No complaints either time. The whiskey hazelnut is equal parts chewing and licking. Whole chunks of hazelnuts make this one more like a meal. Where as the the raspberry was much more light and watery by comparison.

 

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 serve ice cream, which is enough of a reason to come back. And serving delicious ice cream means coming back sooner and more often than later. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

EARNEST
1829 Quebec Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 4E4
778-379-0697
earnesticecream.com
Earnest Ice Cream Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Wallflower, vegan menu

The car-free day on Main Street drove us further from our intended vegan destination. I truly believe that such days actually increase oil consumption and gas emission, instead of its intent to decrease it. Especially by those who know not of it, circulating the neighbourhood trying to find parking and getting caught up in additional traffic congestion. This was my case. And being stalled in two pile ups had us travelling further down Main Street destination, towards downtown. (Majority of the vegan friendly restaurants seem to be located on Main.)

As I made mention to earlier, I was dining with my vegan friend and therefore we wanted a destination with a healthy set of options for her. When I am with her I actually eat vegan too, not only to increase my palette but to give this blog some breath in coverage. So although where we ended up wasn’t strictly vegan, we ended up staying within that section of their menu.

“Wallflower” is an older diner. A lengthy space kept dark despite the bright of day on the other side of the entrance door. Wood floors, wood tables, and wooden walls give the room a yellow glow. More so when the amber bulbs of light reflect off it. The right hand wall is a nod to their name: a mural of flowers drawn in black and white, highlighted by a string of dangling lights. It draws your eye down the length of the restaurant, landing on their inclusive washroom door and their logo of a fork surrounded by a seven petal-ed bloom. The latter also found its way on a tank and baseball tee hanging up for sale. It is always a sign of a popular restaurant, when they sell gift shop merchandise.

Given the decor I didn’t expect much, a casual diner with easy comfort food. Although my expectations did increase when I noticed the “You gotta eat here” sticker, notifying their mention and mark on the television series of the same name. And when we finally got to eat, nothing disappointed, even as vegan. Although we didn’t do healthy vegan, more junk food vegan; which if I had to, I could see myself being vegan off of this stuff.

The “hummus and eggplant dip” was amazing, the textures of both were velvety smooth. Complimentary to one another, yet distinctively different. For $10 you got a lot of each and a large round of gluten free focaccia to scoop it up with. Given the lack of gluten, I did find the bread fairly dry and crumbly, but nothing an extra generous heap of dip couldn’t rectify. I would come back for both.

With the “lightning fries” I couldn’t believe it wasn’t cheese. One of the reasons I could never be vegan is, I love cheese far too much. However, if all cheese substitutes were this good, being vegan would be less of a challenge. This was their version of chilli cheese fries with vegan chilli, a vegan cheese sauce, salsa, olives, and jalapeño. The fries were well prepared, offering a nice starchy chewy to balance glops of salsa off of. No complaints, so good that we even used our sliders below to sop up extra cheese and chilli up with. As a note, they should seriously make chilli cheese tofu burgers.

The “BBQ tofu sliders” were like sloppy joes. Over stuffed buns where you were guaranteed to get reddish orange sauce all over your fingers and all across your mouth. They were super tasty with the texture of ground beef from tofu crumbles. They were perfect bite with the creamy apple fennel coleslaw to follow.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I was really impressed with everything that we had. Not one item felt like I was being limited in options. They were vegan dishes, and not just good for a vegan dish, but genuinely delicious as a stand out plate. I would like to return to see what the rest of the menu is like. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

WALLFLOWER
2420 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5T 3E2
604-568-7554
thewallflowermoderndiner.com
The Wallflower Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pacific Poke

Today I was invited to a “Vancity Tastes” event, bringing attention to yet another poke restaurant in Vancouver. Although “Pacific Poke” is one of the newest at a mere 6 months old, and they have something all the others do not: lineage.

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.

Their head chef and sous chef have 30 years between them, in the fine dining restaurant industry. They themselves understand that poke places are now a dime a dozen, but they believe that what they are doing is approaching it with a slightly different perspective. They are adapting their fine dining techniques and using it to source out the best ingredients, to elevate something as simple as raw vegetable and fish over rice. They set their standards high and put detail into their bowls. The prices vary between $13-14, with the option to customize your own.

The restaurant is set up as a quick eat and go. Tables and white painted chairs on the right, with bar style seating looking out the windows up front. You begin your journey at their service counter on the left. With many more customers taking out than dining in.

They serve from cafeteria style metal containers organized like a conveyor belt operation, assembled before you behind their glass protected counter. Like similar fast food concepts you follow the employee along, watching them add ingredients onto your order; but here they use a healthy sized ice cream scoop to add dollops over your chosen base.

With options like brown rice, quinoa, and leafy greens they definitely have health in mind, and are in trend with many of the health conscious folk in Vancouver. I am not one of those, as I believe poke is best enjoyed with good old fashioned white sushi rice and plenty of mayo and sauces; both well offered in “Pacific Poke’s” bowls. As for the other ingredients, they fillet their fish in house and prepare everything from scratch: every seasoning and every squeeze bottle of sauce.

For those wanting to choose their own poke adventure, you work your way across the counter choosing its size, base, proteins, sauces, and toppings. You pay more to get more in any category.

You begin by choosing your size, a regular is $12 and the large is $14. The regular includes two proteins and three toppings, and the large gives you three proteins and four toppings. But for those who like things done their way, you can take the classics poke route with a choice between organic brown rice or traditional sushi rice. Or you can go the healthier route with a quinoa salad base or a kale salad base.

The list of proteins includes salmon, spicy salmon, spicy tuna, ahi tuna, a creamy crab and shrimp mix, and negitoro. They will also be adding in seasonal selections now and again.

For sauces they have just as much choice, and you can mix a few together. Sesame miso, a citrus dressing, pacific ponzu, a classic sesame shoyu, wasabi dressing, a spicy sauce, and a super spicy sauce.

And lastly the topping list is double. Cucumber and jicama, tomato kimchi, pickled red onion, sprouts, spicy seaweed, beets and basil, jalapeño salads, organic seaweed salad, fresh wasabi peas, avocado nori, and tobiko. Here is where they stand out from their competition some more. Not just shredded and julienned raw vegetables, but a specialty mix of seasoned vegetables and spices for house made salads, salsas, and slaws.

Despite all of the above, given the combined pedigree of their chefs, I wouldn’t bother attempting to make my own bowl. Again, they have over 30 years fine dining experience, so clearly know what they are doing when it comes to combing flavour profiles. I can attest to this, as I liked all their three chef inspired, fish-ful poke bowls. They also have a vegetarian one, but we didn’t bother trying it, considering traditional poke centres around good fresh fish.

Each bowl came well thought out. All three had a great ratio of fish to vegetable, and both over rice. An assembly of various textures and plenty of balancing favours. The fish was at the perfect, slightly chilled temperature. And there was plenty of cream to fully coat it all. It was hard, but I did single out a favourite between the three that we tried. (All of the chef’s specials, minus the vegetarian option.)

“The Main” was my favourite. Salmon, spicy tuna, crab and shrimp, jicama, cucumber, avocado nori, sesame miso sauce, lime and yuzu juice, green onion, and fresh herbs. A little spicy at some bites, warming with ginger in others, and tangy with pickled vegetables throughout. The seaweed was the highlight, best when partnered with a chunk of fish.

“The Keefer” had a half chewy rice and a half leafy vegetable base. This definitely made things feel lighter and more healthier. Ahi and albacore tuna negitoro, avocado nori, fresh wasabi peas, mixed herbs, classic sesame shoyu, wasabi dressing, and lime juice. It was more tangy from the citrus juice, with the wasabi peas adding a unique flavour to the mix.

And for those who like more spice in their poke, “The Cali” is for you. Although I did find the spicy sauce a tad overwhelming as it hid all the other ingredients behind its sharp and tangy flavour. Spicy salmon, crab and shrimp, avocado nori, pickled red onion, sprouts, and the spicy sauce.

And for those who wanted their poke even more portable, they also offer their blend of vegetable mixes and seasoned proteins as a sandwich, grilled and pressed between two panini buns. A half order went for $5.80 and the full $9.80.

The “salmon” one included crab and shrimp, pickled red onion, avocado nori, spicy sauce, and tomato kimchi. It tasted like what was in their bowls, except, substitute rice for bread.

The “tuna” was pretty much the same, except for a change in protein and a sub for the spicy sauce with the more complementary wasabi dressing to tuna and sprouts instead of the kimchi.

And to match all these bold colours and flavours, they offer three in house made drinks. Each complimentary to the bowls before us. A refreshing yuzu lemon tea, a pleasant strawberry green tea, and the coco pandan that was so rich that it drank more like a dessert than a beverage with your meal.

 

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.
They are certainly better than a handful of the pokes I have had in Vancouver, but without trying all of them, I cannot rank them the best. However this does currently does land in my top two. The experience of their chefs and their dedication to gourmet and healthy bowls certainly shows. Don’t deny your cravings

 

PACIFIC POKE
625 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 2V4
604-559-5304
Pacific Poke Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ban Chok Dee Thai Cuisine

I like novelty. If you have ever seen my Instagram page or heard me talk, you know I will spend good money to satisfy my need for novel. So I am happy to have discovered “Ban chok dee”, as this place gets me. They know food is more than just what you taste, but also about how your other sense experiences it before it hits your tongue. Taking all this into consideration has made “Ban chok dee” one of my favourite restaurants. However, sadly they aren’t a stone’s throw away.

I don’t often drive to Langley for a restaurant. But as one of the Vancouver Foodster caesar Challenge competitors, I was obligated to take the drive out as a judge for the month long competition. I strategically choose a statutory holiday day for my visit, to avoid the rush hour traffic driving into the city. However what I and the restaurant didn’t expect was the turn out they would get for the very same reason.

We had made reservations, but given the utter chaos of their dining room, due the unexpected number of patrons wanting to dine with them, and the fact that they were short staffed; we were given the entire patio to dine and photograph on, whilst being asked for our patience. With free parking and no where else to be, we took our time and enjoyed their hospitality.

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. 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.

We started off with their caesar entry, however had to first wait for everything needed, to craft the most complicated caesar I have ever witnessed the making of, being moved from the kitchen and bar to a table on the patio. But it was well worth the trouble and the wait. To get the explanation behind the cocktail and watch it’s assembly, only made you appreciate it all the more. There was lots of work put into this and they certainly deserved to win the competition as first place for judge’s favourite.

I highly recommend watching the creation of their “TYG Caesar” by clicking the link below.

The “TYG Caesar” is a cocktail inspired by the heat and flavours of Thai style Tom Yum soup. They found a way to represent their culture and their cuisine in this Canadian classic.

There are a few elements to this offering. The first, a “Spiced Bacon Caesar Sphere” made using molecular gastronomy, sprinkled with dried spiced prawns and smoked bacon bits. The process includes taking a liquid and making it into a semi-solid jelly state, before popping it into your mouth to unleash the “bubble” like a wave of flavour and drink.

The drink itself is a mix of chilli and herb infused Absolute Vodka, Maekhong (Thai whiskey), tobacco, horseradish, Worcestershire, black pepper, thai chili sauce, lemongrass, galangal, lime juice, lime leaf, and mixed Caesar spices. The cocktail is mixed together then poured into a bottle, presented with the sphere and a fully garnished glass. This is so that you can fully see and appreciate all the green of the fresh celery and pickled bean, and note the frozen tomato juice sphere and the ice balls frozen with herbs; before covering it all with an emptying pour of the bottle.

And the finishing skewer is just as intricate. Lime, cornichons, chilli pepper, red pepper, green olive, and a crispy shrimp wrapped in noodle. The prawns are from one of their appetizers. Deep fried and marinated jumbo prawn wrapped in crispy yellow noodles.

You are immediately impressed by this show of labour, the amount of work needed just to set it up. Though when it came time to actually start drinking you didn’t know where to begin. The whole display left you feeling overwhelmed, but deliciously so.

Despite the caesar eating like a meal, we then followed it with a full six course meal.

Their “Stuffed chicken wings” are marinated with Thai spices and normally stuffed with sautéed shredded vegetables, vermercilli noodles, egg, ginger, and garlic. However the version we had utilized “rice berry”. A special ingredient they were doing a tasting of as part of their fresh sheet.

“Riceberry” is a newly registered rice variety from Thailand. A deep purple whole grain rice with a soft and palatable after taste. Riceberry has been the most popular brown rice known for health promoting properties. This and the molecular gastronomy in our drink above, was a good tell of the owner and head chef’s dedication to learning and expanding her culinary expertise. More on that later.

The rice was stuffed into a chicken wing, then steamed and deep fried to a golden brown. It is served with a sweet chilli peanut sauce on the side. The rice added substance and a starchy chew. A good contrast for the crispy skinned chicken. The sauce gave your bites a sweet, yet tart and garlicky add on.

The “Chor muang dumplings” came with it as a side. They were a visual treat, set in moulds to shape them like flowers. The colouring of green and purple were achieved through natural food dyes, however I could not taste from what, past their dominant filling. These are traditional Thai dumplings filled with palm sugar, chicken, onion, cilantro, pepper, garlic, roasted peanuts, and aromatic Thai spices. And then drizzled with garlic oil as a final touch. The flavour of the shrimp paste came through with onion as an after note. It wasn’t my favourite, given the chalky texture of the sugar and ground up peanuts married with the perfectly sticky dumpling shell.

“Gaeng kua batel leaf over rice berry”. Scallop with basil and rice berry in a yellow curry made with coconut milk. This was a sublimely creamy curry, but too salty for my liking. Shame, as the flavours were solid and this is the kind of curry you would normally lick your plate clean of. I even liked the texture of the stewed basil and I typically avoid wilted greens. But the scallop was the star of the dish. It was cooked perfectly and deserving of its crowning perch.

The “Tuna tatare” was a little too salty with the smear of soy, and a little too tangy with all the citrus used. Also the edges of the fish itself was a little dry, whereas I wanted more raw and refreshing from the cut.

My guest was most excited about the “Curried noodles (Kai soi chicken)”, under the street food category of their many. Apparently not many places make this and they do it very well here. Chiangmai style egg noodles and curry with tender chicken, cilantro, red onion, green onion, chilli oil and lime. Stacked like a tower with a chicken drum lollipop anchoring the noodles, its sauce is poured at your table, over the dish before you eat. This ensures that the noodles stay as crispy as possible for as long as possible. Although the sauce quickly moistens it, for a nice starchy chewy. The curry is slightly spicy and just a bit sweet.

For dessert we were treated to their tropical twist on a classic: “Coconut creme brûlée”. Tropical and extra creamy from the coconut milk used, and served with a caramelized Bosc pear for a nice soften texture. It was fairly sweet, so having the torched sugar topping was a little overkill.

Most of what we had above was either not on the menu or offered with a slight variation, prompting me to return the next time I was in Langley; for a more everyday look at this popular Thai restaurant. Once again the place was busy, line ups and a wait, even on a Monday. Which made sense, considering most of everything else was closed before 6pm. Luckily I made a reservation and got our group a table for six inside.

On this visit, they were once again competing in a “Vanfoodster” challenge, this time for best chicken wings in the city. However with their head chef having the day off, they were not offering it on the menu today. So we made due with more classic Thai dishes instead.

This time I tried their “Stuffed chicken wings”, the regular way. And I preferred them stuffed with sautéed shredded vegetables, vermicelli noodles, egg, ginger, and garlic instead. It offered the perfect chewy texture to contrast the crispness of the fried chicken skin. And it was even better with the sweet and tangy plum sauce for dipping.

Although my favourite sauce of the meal went to the thick and creamy dish of peanut sauce partnered with the order of “Chicken satay”. Grilled tender, marinated chicken in traditional Thai spices, broiled and served with peanuts and a peanut and cucumber plum sauce.

The “Seasoned lettuce wraps” was a build yourself scoop of minced chicken, beef or pork; stir fried with fresh lime leaves, onion, garlic, spices, and roasted cashews. The mix was a little watery and when brought together on a still wet from the wash leaf. It was a little too watery for what should be crisp from the lettuce and crunchy from the fried noodles and roasted cashews. My guest who ordered it found it just fine and tasty enough, I thought it too spicy for my liking.

The “Sweet and sour stir fry” was exactly as expected with your choice protein between beef, chicken, or pork; sautéed with sweet pineapple, juicy tomatoes, fresh zucchini, crunchy carrots, fragrant green onions, and crispy red and green bell peppers. All generously coated in their thick and syrupy, house made, sweet and sour sauce. I appreciated the larger serving of rice, for the ideal base to something so tasty.

“Gang gong pineapple curry” was a rich and creamy mix of large prawns, pineapples chunks, red and green bell peppers, and fresh basil leaves in a red curry with coconut milk

They of course had a traditional Pad Thai, pan fried rice noodles in a tamarind sauce, with chicken or prawn, egg, tofu, green onions, and bean sprouts, topped with ground peanuts. No complaints from the one who ordered it. It was as excepted; and as a large enough serving to take home leftovers for a second meal.

The “Pad si eu” is stir fried wide rice noodles in oyster sauce with egg, carrot, cabbage, and broccoli; with your choice of chicken, beef, or pork. Plenty of flavour and as expected.

The “Thai fried rice” is fried rice made using Thai spices, egg, onion, red and green bell pepper, and sweet basil. The rice had a texture more soft than crisp. With it I ordered beef, but found it a little dry. I also felt I needed a Main with the rice, as there wasn’t enough to keep me satisfied within. Better as a side than a main.

 

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.
There is not much food diversity in Langley compared to Vancouver. One of restaurants at this calibre are rare. So to find such a gem, but to have to drive great distances from Burnaby to it, puts me in a bind. I really appreciate all the work that goes into everything on the menu, the care and love shows. I can see why they are so popular in this community. Possibly my new favourite Thai place to recommend, if not for the commute. I wish they opened up a new location in Vancouver. Don’t deny your cravings

 

Ban Chok Dee
Douglas Plaza, 20563 Douglas Crescent, Langley BC, V3A4B6
778-278-3088
banchokdee.com
Ban Chok Dee Thai Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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