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

Month: June 2017 Page 2 of 3

Glowbal, Happy Hour update

It was mid afternoon and happy hour was around the corner. We were looking for a spot to drink and snack at, when my guest threw out “Glowbal” as our destination, I graciously agreed. I have been by for their happy hour before and remembered being impressed then. However, today the menu and offers have completely changed, along with being shrunken down to the size of a postcard.

To check out my original visit and what happy hour was like with them then, click the link below.

Glowbal

 

We grabbed a seat at their bar, which in terms of food photography, is a bad idea. The yellow amber glow of the counter have washed out all my photos below, so use a little imagination filter, if you will, add some blue to each. We pretty much ordered their entire happy hour menu, many of which offer bites for $2 plus. It gives you the ability to try only as much as you can eat, but this too doesn’t help much with food photography.

We each had our choice of beer, wine, sangria, and highballs for $5. Martinis went for $8 a glass.

The highlighted feature was a “Buck a shuck”, $1 for an oyster. A few of us grabbed as many as we felt we could slurp down. It was presented on a lovely dish that matched the curvature of an oyster’s shell, filled with ice.

The “Confit duck poutine” was just under $10. Duck confit, gravy, and cheese curds over golden brown fries; served in a cast iron pan. The fries were crispy on the edges and chewy at the centre, good; but I wasn’t a big fan of the gravy that sat in. It was salty and one toned, with not enough cheese curds present to add some depth. Plus, you can never have enough cheese. The duck meat was good, but better in a wrap or between two pieces of bread.

The “Cauliflower nuggets” weren’t much better at $5.95 for the bowl. I liked their crispy breaded texture and how firm the floret was inside, I just didn’t get the balance I needed with the dish from a cooling sauce or a refreshing slaw. Something to break up all that deep fry with. Whereas the joga hot sauce it came with had an intense heat and an unusual tang. The cream from the chicken nuggets below were a pretty good compromise.

The “Buttermilk Parmesan” fried chicken is offered by the piece: $2 per nugget so you craft your own serving size. It had a similar crunch to the cauliflower above, but was far too salty to enjoy alone, or with the dollop of peppercorn lime aioli that each chunk sat on. Here the teriyaki sauce from the dish below made a good dip compliment. I scrounged to gather all the strand of vegetables that were more ornamental on the plate, once again looking for that fresh component. I always make the mistake of ordering only fried appetizers and spend the next bites searching for balance. The chicken meat was at least super tender and tasty. I just wanted it over rice.

The “Mushroom tempura” was my favourite for taste and non-overwhelming flavour. A nice light mushroom chew with equally light breading. At $1.50 each, it is the cheapest thing on their happy hour menu. It is served on a skewer in a bamboo steamer, with kakayaki sauce and togarashi. Props to presentation on this one.

Ordering the rest as one bites made them very underwhelming. The “Braised beef shortrib” came in a spoon for easy eating. At $2.25 each, I expected a healthier chunk of meat and a more full spoon. The meat was good enough, but it was drowning in too much acidic cream.

The ” Beef tartaki” is beef, black garlic, spring onion, and smoked egg yolk; sitting on a flimsy chip, for what should be easy hand to mouth eating. However the chip couldn’t carry the weight of the topping, as well as compete with its flavour. It added crunch, but you expected more, a stiffer tortilla to round out all the strong flavours. This one $2 a chip, although still steep for one bite, felt a bit more worth it given all the ingredients and their rarity.

 

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.
Given that their happy hour menu as drastically changed, my original assessment of them has as well. It is no longer a must for happy hour. I still love the ambience of the place; the friendly, yet casual nature of the staff; and how posh you feel being within its walls. But for happy hour value, I don’t see it. So will recommend them for a great cocktail and catch up destination with a girlfriend or date instead. I will need to come back for a regular service to get the full extent of their food menu and its execution. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

GLOWBAL
590 West Georgia, TELUS Garden
Vancouver, BC V6E 1A3
604-602-0835
glowbalgroup.com/glowbal
Glowbal Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Inspired to taste Canada event

I never knew that there was an award to celebrate Canadian cookbooks until today; when I was invited to the “Inspired to taste Canada” event, hosted by “Taste of Canada awards”; in conjunction with the Hudson’s Bay company. This event was a nation wide celebration of Canadian flavours and the chefs who created them, for a Canadian audience. A travelling show and kitchen that made its way across country, to this, their final stop at the flagship “Hudson’s Bay”, downtown Vancouver.

The event was held on a Saturday, centred around two local British Columbian authors, who have had their books entered as nominees for this year’s awards. However, a last minute change, swapped out Meeru Dhalwala, author of “Vij’s Indian: Cherished Recipes”, for her co-writer and the man’s whose name appears on the cover of the book: Vikram Vij. His opening cooking demo was followed by Denise Marchessault, author of “British Columbia from Scratch”, a cookbook that focuses on the bounty that BC offers.

The event also included sampling booths set up by event sponsors that allowed you to engage in their products through tasting and conversation with their brand specialists. These were scattered around the event area, as a self directed experience; and included canola oil, Cuisinart, Tumeric Teas, Grosche coffee and tea accessories, and Delonghi kitchen appliances.

I came early enough to grab a front row seat to the cooking demonstrations. Their portable kitchen was rigged up with cameras giving attendees an over head look at what was going into pots; and being stirred in pans. Small portions were passed out into the crowd, as both chefs gave abbreviated demonstrations of what it was that their audience was eating. This was the closet I have ever been to being in the audience of a cooking show. It was all prepared with produce from UBC farms, with their recipes coming from the pages of their respective cookbooks.

Vij began his set engaging the audience with salutations and “Namaste”, like he does at his restaurants. Almost everyone received a personalize greeting, as he invited stragglers in closer for a better look. He went on to explain his desire to elevate Indian cuisine back to the level it should be, explaining that it has decreased thanks to food court representations and buffet lines staples. As he presented he educated the audience on his beliefs and his passion for living and loving life. My biggest take away was the need to not measure when it comes to Indian cooking. Which was the opposite of the baking demo to follow. Cooking is from the heart so it’s what you see, taste, and feel that is represented on the plate.

The first dish was a daal curry made with lentils. As we sipped a runny soup, he explained that the word “curry” means sauce in Hindi, and therefore there should not be any assumption that a curry should be thick. It can be saucy. He and this dish affirmed that it is merely a myth that Indian food needs to be spicy. This was mild with plenty of flavours. Flavours from a plethora of spices he kept in metal rounds that he passed around for us, the audience to take in the aroma of.

The next dish was a zucchini and potato stew. Traditionally for Indian cuisine, you start with a lentil curry and then follow it with such a vegetable stew, along side rice and naan. It is here that we learned that Indian cuisine does not use stocks, so relies heavily on onion and garlic to create flavour. And here the potatoes were included to help soak up these flavour. Vij also reassured us that, should we try any of his recipes at home, it need not taste exactly as we have had here, today. Cooking is different from person to person, even if you use the same recipe. It varies based on the heart of the one creating it.

Vij was a passionate speaker, imploring us to eat with our hands for a most sensual experience; and to put our phones down and to step away from our social media addiction. The latter was sort of of ironic, considering as a blogger, I was invited to this event to share my experience and reach with this blog and my social media following.

By comparison Denise Marchessault and the flavours of the desserts she was showcasing today was more demure. Hers was a lovely and gentle end to help cleanse the palette. She spoke with passion for our province and told us how lucky we are to be surrounded by so much produce and wildlife to tap into. And how when she is at cooking conferences she is the envy of other chefs, for that very reason. Something that is poignantly highlighted in her beautifully photographed cookbook: “British Columbia from Scratch”.

The first dessert was a four ingredient custard cream, topped with a raspberry coulis with mixed fresh berries. If trying the recipe at home, she suggested adjusting the topping based on seasonal offerings. Like in fall a nice caramelized poached pear, over the luscious creamy cup would be ideal.

The accompaniment to this was a delicious butter cookie curl. It was crispy and light. I dipped it into the cream to add a contrasting texture to both. Great alone, better together.

During the event if you spent $75 at the bay you got either one of their cookbooks for free. Spend $125 and get both, with the opportunity to have your book personalized by either or both. As media I was lucky to receive a copy of each, and did not hesitate to stand in queue. I was able to engage each chef and have them further make this event as one to remember.

This was certainly a lovely gathering and a great way to highlight our nation’s 150th through its diverse talent and cuisine. Looking forward to the actual awards ceremony.

TASTE CANADA
tastecanada.org
#HBxTasteCanada

Starbucks summer frappes, 2017

I was luckily enough to be given a sneak peak at the two newest frappuccinos to hit “Starbucks” menus all across Canada; on Tuesday, June 20th, 2017. Two new fun and fruity blended drinks, just in time for summer.

But into order to get this elusive first look, I had to skirt into my local “Starbucks” right before closing time. And as soon as they hit the pick up counter and other customers saw what I had that they could not, I could see why the cloak and dagger was necessary. I was given a behind the counter look at the making of both icy drinks, and a tall cup of each to try myself.

To watch the vlog version of this post, and to see the making of these new drinks, visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei by click on the link below.

The first was a mango pineapple, a flavour not unlike the one belonging to the “unicorn frappuccino”, for those who remember the crazy pink and blue drink fad that swept social media a mere couple of mouths ago. In fact both used the same syrup out of an unmarked box. So for those who liked the drink for more than its colour, you can now relive it all summer long with this mango pineapple syrup poured over a blend of ice, milk, and vanilla syrup. It was tasty and tropical, but I think I would have preferred it all blended together for more even sips and flavour. And maybe with the addition of some flavoured whip and more mango syrup drizzled over top for aesthetics, as they do seem to be going that route with their latest, official ombre drinks.

The second was the berry prickly pear in a reddish purple hue. This too was a syrup from a box, poured over blended ice, milk, and vanilla syrup. It tasted more of berry than pear, but muted all together. It was not as sweet as its orange counterpart, but just as refreshing. Once again a quick blend and some cream would have done wonders to perk this one up. Both make wonderfully sweet and summery drinks to cool down with this summer.

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

Assembli

Today I was invited as media to check out a pizza and salad joint with a very appealing concept. This is Vancouver’s first and only restaurant that allows you the ability to customize your meal without consequences.

Customization of all and any ingredients at one flat price. If you didn’t want to budget to have things prepared your way, you didn’t have to here; and neither does the employee behind the counter, having to figure it out. This is a cleaver concept, sure to engage loyalty from an improved customer experience.

They are located on Cambie between 7th and 8th, by West Broadway. Their location makes them a great hub for quickie work lunches and after school meals in a pinch. The neighbourhood was certainly taking advantage of their newer presence, as seen by the rotation of delivery personnel walking in and taking out, during the duration of our visit.

The space is uplifting with vaulted ceilings and a colourful mural. The bold representation of our fair city’s skyline immediately draws your eyes. It includes the Science World globe and the Granville street bridge, which is only a stone’s throw from where we were. An all window front give diners a good look in, while their side table set up outside gives them a little more information on what could be had within. The open space is lined with dark chairs and glossy tables to help yourself to. And a counter of cutlery, condiments, and take out containers to use as you need.

Once again, their menu make them ideal for quick lunches: pizza and salads on the go. Although it may be hard to read the fine descriptive print from the over hanging menu board (one that the owner says she plans to correct shortly)

Many love either pizza or salad, and many more both; so bringing them together and specializing in them under this roof made sense. There is something for everyone, which includes vegans, and anyone with dietary restrictions. With a tofu crumble in place of meat, vegan cheese, and a gluten free pizza dough.

Today we wouldn’t be customizing our meal, but instead relying on their pre-set dishes, ones perfectly crafted to balance textures and taste. All the work is done behind a glass-shielded counter, which gives you a look at the salad topping or pizza rolling process. Many metal buckets of meat, cheeses, sauces, fresh vegetables, and nuts. The staff working behind them are all wearing fun food related tee shirts. “The avocado life choose me”, “just do whatever you want”, and a big image of a button mushroom slice.

They offer traditional salads and ones that are nutrient dense, favourites and classics all on one board. $10.99 for any regular and $12.99 for any large, which includes the custom build salads for the same price. Three ingredients or seven, it is all the same. Add any protein and you don’t get charged $4 for it. Except for fior di latte and vegan cheese for $2.50 more, and $2.99 for gluten-free crust. I almost rather not be given the option of any of the there, and leave the promise that all and any ingredients will be for one set price.

In case you are greedy as I am, and tend to go overboard, they will tell you when too much is enough in a salad, and when another topping will leave your pizza toppling. Adding 12, might not have it cooking as well.

Each pizza is made using their crust brushed in olive oil, before being pressed and baked in individual pods from Italy, these ovens are designed for quick wood fire-like baking. Ideal for their fast-food pizzas. Each 11 inch pizza is one price: $12.99.

They have some pretty interesting ingredients to wade through like quinoa, a curry tomato sauce, blue cheese, anchovies, hard boiled eggs, many raw and roasted vegetables, artichoke, roasted broccoli, celery, blueberry, and walnuts.

I am admittedly not a salad person, I would not order a salad because I don’t want to pay for something that is assembled raw. However, the way these were crafted was well done and worth my reconsideration. There was a great mix of textures and ingredients in each bowl, helping to keep your mouth interested until the last bite. However they looked more appealing in their see-through, take-out container-cups. Here, I just didn’t take one bite to taste and to be able to blog, but I actually went for second bites and larger scoops to enjoy what I was having. But mind you, no where near as much as I preferred the carbs of the pizza below.

This is the “O-mega Brainiac salad” distinct for use of refreshing cucumber and blueberries; along with mixed greens, quinoa, cabbage, beers, avocado salsa, walnuts, and a seed mix. It is normally served with their “glory dressing”, but for us they offered the visual aesthetics of the golden-sun yellow “goddess dressing”. Once again, there was enough going on to keep you interested. Crisp leaves, juicy berries, hearty quinoa, and a velvety sauce to tie it all together. And the “glory” dressing was a nice summery citrus.

The “Sexy hippy” was the salad version of a stew with brown rice, celery, and roasted carrots and potatoes; along with mixed greens, quinoa, bested parsley, apple, and walnuts. This was well tied together with their honey Dijon dressing.

The “Wild cowboy” was like tex-mex in a bowl: mixed greens, romaine, brown rice, mixed bell peppers, black beans, cheddar, corn salsa, and pico de gallo. Ours came with the addition of shredded chicken breast. Served with their southwest dressing. This was my favourite of the salads with the sweet corn and the sharp cheese.

Each pizza is served on a waxy sheet, on it, written in black sharpie is its name and the name of the prep cook that assembled it for you today.

The “Smooth crimini kale” was my favourite. The crispy fried, olive oil tossed kale leaves had me eating all my greens. Sautéed mushroom, mozzarella, artichoke, red onion, and a white pizza sauce. I liked all the layers of cheese in the white sauce, it really made each bite pop. A great smooth cream to match the tender textures of the mushroom and artichoke that sat nestled, embedded within it.

The “All Greek to me” had goat feta, mozzarella, olives, artichoke, roasted red peppers, and olive oil-tossed kale; all on a bed of tomato sauce, drizzle over with balsamic. It also typically comes with genoa salami, but this version did without, and it didn’t need it. There was already so much flavour to go around with the salty olives. Although I did find it very similar to the pizza above, with the use of artichokes and crispy kale.

For those who like some heat on their pizza the “Smoke and fire” did not misrepresent. Spicy with banana peppers and a spicy tomato sauce. And smokey with the use pepperoni and smoked cheddar; along with red onion and mozzarella. It was a little on the salty side, so best paired with a salad or beer.

The “Backyard BBQ” is for those who like a little sweetness on their pizza. Herb-roasted chicken, mozzarella, cheddar, red onion, bell peppers, cilantro, BBQ sauce, and a yogurt and adobo drizzle. The sweet barbecue flavour was most prominent, with a hint of smokiness in the sauce. The sweet grilled pepper offered a refreshing element. Whereas I wanted more from the menu-promised yogurt drizzle.

They also offer superfood smoothies, but we were more interested in dessert. Here they celebrate Calgary based, all natural, small batch gelato purveyors: Fisaco in single serve cups. Bourbon vanilla bean, salted caramel, and dark chocolate caramel sea salt. And the dairy-free strawberry rhubarb, raspberry lime, and mango pineapple.

 

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.
With fresh and wholesome ingredients, they make a great option for everything eating. Especially with their fair prices and the option for $5 happy hour wine and beer, and $10 happy hour pizzas and salads. Not necessary a destination, but a great addition to the neighbourhood, for those living and working in the area. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ASSEMBLI
2325 Cambie Street, Vancouver BC
604-873-1253
assembli.ca
Assembli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dubh Linn Gate, revisit

I am not new to “Dubh Lin Gate”, but what is is their head chef. A new cook at the helm and with him came a new menu and another media event to check things out. I had been once before and had enjoyed the food then, so was curious to see how it would play out under new kitchen management. And what I found was consistency and a solid offering that continued to support their strong Irish beer and whiskey program, along with a slew of mixed drinks and beer cocktails.

To read my original visit review of this Irish pub and my description of its decor, visit the link below.

Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub

 

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.

Not many places offer it, so when I visit I make sure to take advantage and order one of their beer floats. This is the “Crown float” with Magners Irish cider and Guinness foam. A smooth drink with a creamy finish, exactly as I have had and as I expected it to be.

What I didn’t expect was the server looking down at me for the age brought about by the year on my driver’s licence. The exact words were “you are mooorrrreee than okay”, she was referencing my ability to have a drink. It was here that I finally understood why women get bent out of shape about aging, it is because of ignorant comments not meant to hurt, but end up leaving scars. I licked my wounds and made the best of the meal trying to avoid the young waitress in short plaid skirt and heavy eyeliner, less she find me too irrelevant in age to serve.

Most of what we were served was in house made, from scratch; dishes served family style as shared plates that we all picked off it. And the following is the in order in which we received them.

The “Pulled chicken curry” is one that I wouldn’t necessarily expect on the menu of an Irish pub, but it is one I would order again. A whole roasted chicken pulled and mixed with their house made curry sauce. Topped with almonds and cilantro, and served with toasted naan bread. Not traditional, but a great representation pulling on traditional flavours, and lots of it. The curry was a little much on its own, but great with the naan for base. I would have liked it more with some basmati rice and a spoon, although that becomes something even further from what I would expect and order from a bar.

I wanted rice for the “Mushroom and barely croquettes” as well, as the texture of a risotto would have been more enjoyable, less lumpy and stiff than what we got with the barely. These were Arancini style breaded and deep fried balls served with a ranch dressing. They were tasty with a good crisp. The ranch offered changed for the sake of being different, where a nice mushroom soup-like sauce would have been more complimentary.

My favourite was the “Ham hock Mac n’ cheese”, great at a bar with beer. Two Rivers smoked ham hocks mixed with a house made pale aged cheddar cheese sauce, elbow macaroni and green peas. I love peas in pasta and the toasted bread crumbs that topped this version even more. It also came with two slices of sourdough garlic bread, that would have been nicer as fresh bread, for a more comforting chew to match the tender pasta noodles. As for flavour, the salty ham was the central focus. Whereas I wanted more breadcrumbs for their herbaceous flavour and its crunch.

The “Roasted beet salad Arugula salad” was a mix of red, golden, and candy cane beets; some roasted, some pickled. Tossed with a house made rhubarb dressing, walnuts, poached pears and chèvre. It was a refreshing salad with gently dressed crisp greens, soften cubes of beets, and tangy cheese. I liked the sweetness the pear offered, when you were lucky to get a piece on your fork.

The “Chicken parmi” is another I will go back for, but is only available on Sundays from 3pm to close. This is the Australian version of a chicken Parmesan. Breaded chicken breast, deep fried, and topped with house made tomato sauce and melted cheese. Served over fries with a side salad. There was also ham wrapped around the chicken, it added a good amount of salt to the mix, in addition to the melty cheese.

The “7oz AAA flat iron steak” was the chef’s favourite and the one he would recommend most. Pan seared all natural Alberta beef in a pepper corn sauce, served with sautéed mini Yukon potatoes with cabbage, and bacon; and Brussels sprouts. The flat iron is the tender cut of bee from the cow’s shoulder, it was well cooked and well highlighted with the diversity of balanced sides on the plate. Starchy potatoes, fresh sprouts, and a pickled sauerkraut.

The “Hummus and olives” would make a nice snack to nibble on as you sipped. Although I personally could have use more pop in the hummus, an exciting punch of spice to best be taken with the fluffy naan. But a bite of olive after a mouthful of hummus also sufficed.

The “Fish and chips” were wonderful. A 7oz piece of beer battered, flaky Ocean Wise North Pacific cod. Served on a bed of crispy and chewy French fries, and served with their house made tartar and coleslaw. No complaints, it was a solid classic with a dish of tangy sauce and a nice creamy side to help cut into all the deep fry.

The “Brasserie board” also made a great snacking option to pair with drinks for a lighter meal. It was a selection of domestic and Irish cheeses with enough salty, sweet, and tangy elements to craft your perfect bite. On this plate was a Guinness cheddar, chèvre and rondoux, and “Two Rivers” bresaola and ham hock. House made pickled vegetables, pickled egg, apple mustard, chutney, and beer jelly. Enjoyed with not enough “Swiss Bakery” sourdough. I liked the pickled egg represented on the board, having it as part of a charcuterie was new for me.

The “Tacos de carnitas” were a little watery, light and fresh; whereas I am more partial to the heavy and cheesy flavours of tex-mex taco. This was the kind of grab and go snack that kept you and your belly feeling light, but full. Ancho marinated pork butt braised in house with garlic, onions, and lime. Topped with habanero hot sauce, pineapple salsa, and cabbage. The pineapple slaw offered a nice cooling twist, I just wanted more of it, and a cream overtop for some tang.

The “Cider glazed prawn and grapefruit salad” was a refreshing summer salad. Mixed local lettuce with Magners glazed Ocean Wise prawns. Tossed in a house made mint cilantro and citrus dressing. The topped with pumpkin seeds, feta cheese, avocado, and pickled onion. The size of the shrimp was impressive. They were so succulent that I had to enjoy them on their own to appreciate their full sweetness and juicy chew. The tangy grapefruit and salty cheese gave you bursts for flavour with the mint as a delightful accent.

By comparison the “Ham and cheese toastie” was heavier meal. “Two Rivers” nitrate free ham on “Swiss Bakery” sourdough with aged cheddar, creamy apple spread, and a house made piccalilli relish. It was great to see them sourcing from local businesses. The toast had a nice crunch from a thorough grilling. The sandwich had a mostly salty taste with some zesty mustard that oozed out the edges like cream. I missed the sweetness from the apple spread and wanted the tang from the promised relish that was described above. However, I made do with the bold pickle that made for a great palette cleanser to finish on.

The “Crispy cod tacos” utilized the same fish that was featured in the fish and chips above. Beer battered, Ocean Wise North Pacific cod on corn tortillas with guacamole, chilli lime sauce, cilantro, cabbage, and pickled red onions. I preferred this to the pork tacos. The fish was the star of the dish, citrus focused with a creamy smooth guac; giving it lots of flavour.

For dessert we had a “Flourless chocolate cake” that ate like a ganache. A dense and decadent house made cake, prepared gluten free. Served with a caramel sauce, a raspberry compote, and crushed hazelnuts. I would be a bad judge of this as I am not a fan on chocolate-heavy desserts.

I much preferred the “Pot of cheese cake” baked in a mini mason jar with crumbled up graham cracker cookies, and a sour cherry compote. Everything about this delicious. Good separately, but best all together in the perfect dug in bite. Buttery from the crunchy crumble, light and fluffy with the lemon flavoured cream cheese, and sweet and tart with the fresh berries.

 

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.
My original assessment of them still stands. They make 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, with a lengthy drink and food menu offering enough variety for something for everyone. They may have changed, but what I like about them remains the same: their good variety of good food. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DUBH LINN GATE
1601 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 2W5
604-449-1464
vancouver.dubhlinngate.com

Starbucks x Lady GaGa, Cups of Kindness Collection

Available June 13-19th, 2017

 

Another limited edition “Starbucks” beverage meant another visit to their chain of cafes, for this non-coffeee drinker. Their novelty and bold colours is what continues to bring me in season after season. And this time, the added benefit of trying one meant helping a good cause.

Musical performer, Lady GaGa has collaborated with “Starbucks” locations all across Canada for their new “Cups of Kindness Collection”. These three summery chilled drinks, say that with each purchase “Starbucks” will donate 25 cents to the “Born this way foundation”. Taken from their website, the “Born This Way Foundation is committed to supporting the wellness of young people and empowering them to create a kinder and braver world. To achieve these goals (they) leverage rigorous academic research and authentic partnerships in order to provide young people with kinder communities, improved mental health resources, and more positive environments – online and offline”.

Within each cafe, a chalkboard sign advertises these charitable drinks as being “x”, “o”, or “xo”. Given their names it was evident what you were getting, so long as you are familiar with their regular drink menu.

The “Ombré pink refresher” is the best of the bunch, but that is not saying much. Despite its bubble gum pink colouring, it tasted more like a lime mojito with a creaminess to it, thanks to the use of coconut milk. This one can grow on you, but I gave up after few sips, wishing for strawberry; for colour to flavour symmetry.

The “Matcha lemonade” was the one I enjoyed the least. The similarly bitter ingredients don’t mix together all that well. You get too much tart lemonade at the top, and come up with chunky bits of matcha powder at the bottom. I just was left wanting something sweet to finish it out on.

The “Violet Starbucks refresher” wasn’t actually violet in colour. The berries offer nothing more than a darker hue and some pangs of tartness. I wanted to taste more from them than just the watered down smoothie that they were. This and the other two would have faired better as blended frappucchios in my opinion.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Great cause, great colours, poor flavours. I didn’t finish any of them, which is very telling. Sadly, as this fact will probably hurt their week-long fundraising campaign. I wish they did something like this with their regular line of frappes. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

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

Ten Ten Tapas

I was invited to “Ten Ten Tapas” for their patio and new brunch menu launch. However, the weather had different plans. A whole week of sunshine turned to a day of heavy showers by the time event day landed. To not be deterred by Mother Nature, our party was moved indoors. But first getting there.

Located by the water’s edge, a trek is required. Without street signs, sandwich boards, and any directions leading passing pedestrian traffic their way, they have deemed themselves a hidden gem. Their allure would be the view by the water and the strong possibility that a slower turnout would mean a great seat at any time; and the peace you would want dining with them by the water. It is best described as being across the water from Granville Island, with a clear view of the Granville Street bridge. Though shame we had to enjoy it through a pane of glass today.

Given the name you might think them a Japanese restaurant or even Spanish with the word “tapas”. However the restaurant actually has no regional affiliation. The owners are a mother and son team, who have been operating this business for four years now. Hearing them speak you knew they had much passion for what was before us. A trip to Spain a few years back inspired them in this restaurateur venture. They liked the culture and the cuisine and wanted to share their love of the food with their customers. The idea of ordering plenty and sharing everything from the middle of the table. This explains the mish-mash of the dishes below and their assembly together on the menu.

The restaurant is dressed cozy. Red rust walls and a couple of black iron geometric designs to fill up empty space. Including three figurines of men climbing a “rope” tethered to the wall. Their center piece was the chandelier of upside down plastic wine flutes and glasses that paired with the wine bottles lining the back of the booths. Everything was a little dressy, but made more casual with the white sheets of paper lining each table as an additional covering. Perhaps for easy clean up?

During summer they leaned on the appeal of their patio and the sun it saw to attract patrons, to their often the beaten path restaurant. And in winter they brought in traffic through their various events. Live jazz every Friday and Saturday, 10 minute and 10 second talks, hypnotists, paint nights, and even murder mysteries. Many of these things are what I would be interested in, if only I knew about them.

Now, before we get to the food, 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.

Once again we were given a sample of their brunch and lunch menu to try. And I think the experience would have been improved had the dishes not been served as just a tasting, but as its intended portion and size. Mains with their sides for balance. Having had this, my assessment of our meal below probably would have been better. My notes on wanting balance and feeling textures and elements were missing would have easily been corrected given the inclusion of the sides that was intended with the handful of the mains, as the menu described. Instead, I was constantly left wanting more and feeling incomplete as a well rounded diner.

But at least the drinks were good. Like this frozen mojito that tasted like a lime slurpee and the white and red wine sponsored by “Blasted Church”.

We started with breakfast and worked our way to dinner. First their “blackstone eggs benny” with fresh tomato salsa, smoked bacon, and avocado; topped with their house-made hollandaise sauce. Normally it is two perfectly poached eggs, served with oven-roasted potatoes or artisan greens and your choice of English muffin or grilled tomatoes. This taster was delicious, but what’s an egg benny without some starchy potatoes to dip runny yolk into? And what a great runny yolk it was. A beautifully poached egg flavoured with herbaceous chives, and coated in one of the thickest, creamiest, and richest hollandaise sauces I have had. Good, but a little excessive, when I wanted more flavour from the bacon; as I couldn’t even taste it’s saltiness. I could have also used a chewier English muffin and less of the crispy toasted one that required a tedious back and forth sawing motion with a butter knife to cut in to.

Next was an appetizer trio, bringing together three of their more popular offerings from their dinner and lunch menu. “Tiger prawns marinated in olive oil and yuzu with peanut sauce”. If you still thought you were here for authentic Spanish cuisine, this Thai style satay sauce over poached prawns had you correcting yourself. It was a delicious sauce, but I would have rather it over grilled meats. And with these tender prawns, a refreshing citrus vinaigrette instead. Like this, it reminded me of a deconstructed summer roll, and having the whole peanuts sprinkled over raw was overkill for me. They would have been more gentler ground up for texture, as the crunch was needed and appreciated; just like that of the very visual squid ink chips.

The “Mushroom on toast” looked like pate, so I was expecting something a lot richer in flavour and more dense in texture. Instead this was like a whipped butter, smooth and light, but needing something to play the second fiddle too. I felt the toast was the highlight; not the shaved fennel, mushroom duxelle, fennel fronds, or the sea salt like I wanted it to be. It had a barely there mushroom flavour. The fennel would have also been nicer grilled, for some char and smokiness; to add the depth that the plate looked like it would have. This was like salad on toast.

The “Heirloom tomato salad” with baby tomatoes, olive oil, buffalo mozzarella, and baby basil gave me the freshness the dish below was missing. This refreshing flavour was also what I wanted for the shrimp above. But as an appie on it own, I would have liked some sweet balsamic drizzled over top to round out the flavour. The basil was a nice highlight.

The “Pulled pork taquito” isn’t on their regular menu, it is something that they are toying with, that we may see featured in the future. Deep fried with pork butt braised in left over octopus liquid. It was tasty, I just wished for a zesty sauce to pair it with, or a refreshing slaw with some cream on the side. Something to lighten up the plate with. The vegetables surrounding each piece was tasty on its own, but not the best pairing for the deep fry of the rolls.

With the “KFC Krispy fried cauliflower” I also wanted a creamy mayo to dip them in to. More than just the truffle oil, lemon, chillies, and Parmesan that it was seasoned with. I was also expecting a crispy cauliflower floret. Instead what I got was the texture of steamed vegetable, under a thick coating of airy and puffy breading. Not my favourite texture on its own, but much better paired with the ribs below.

“1/2 Baby back ribs”. Slow roasted Canadian ribs, brushed with piquillo pepper glaze; normally served with jicama slaw. The flavour was good, sweet when it looked spicy. Soften meat with a good char, tender with some fat. The side it would have come with, would have helped give it some cooling tang.

And for dessert we had their “House made lemon tart” and “salted chocolate ganache”. The tart was eggy with a buttery cookie-like crust and crumble, and a strong lemon flavour. It was a shame that the meringue was as sweet as it was. I am not a fan of chocolate, but was told that the ganache was delightful with a great texture.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I can’t really give a full assessment of the food as I felt that I had half a plate. But for the space and the place, they definitely do make for a great patio destination. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TEN TEN
1010 Beach Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6E 1T7
604-689-7800
tententapas.com
Ten Ten Tapas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Illumination Night Market, food edition

Today I was invited back to the “Illumination night market”, as part of a “Chinese Bites” media event. This was an offer I just couldn’t refuse, as my VIP blogger pass included access to over 30 of its food vendors. The goal, to try a little bit from each and to help spread the word on the market, and shed some light on each of the participating hawkers. Truth be told, many of the stalls were ones I wouldn’t otherwise consider visiting, if not for this opportunity. So let me give you the highlights, and direct you on where your dollar will be best spent at the “Illumination Night Market”, the food vendor edition.

We were assigned co-companions and in groups of six we worked our way systematically through the food pavilion, crossing off numbered stalls name by name. Our group focused on the need for speed approach, running through the savoury food stands first, then the chilled drinks, ending on sweet desserts. And for our efforts, we were one of the few groups that got through the entire list, trying everything and finishing it all between us.

To watch my vlog of this event, and learn our tips and tricks on avoiding lines and maximizing our time at the market, click the link below.

We arrived early and took advantage of the stalls that were already open before the market did at 7pm. We bee-lined it to the stalls that typically saw a larger turn out, to avoid their would-be lines later.

At the “Hurricane Potato” stand we enjoyed one of their whole potatoes peel and spiraled, spread skewered on a stick, and then deep fried and dressed in our choice of seasonings and sauces. With over 9 different sauce types deciding was difficult. We eventually went for the salty and spicy combination of “Korean spicy” and white cheddar. The enjoyable part about this popular street snack is its chewy yet crispy texture, achieved through its unique presentation and the ability to fry so many edges to a crisp. And the fact that they look like battling swords when crossed, this will forever be one of the more popular street style snacks offered here.

Another one with lengthy lines is the “BBQ Squid’ stall. I love it when vendors name their booth after their most popular menu item, it helps you decide what to order. I mean it must be good if it is their namesake, right? We were able to try a split order of squid tentacles, both fried in oil and barbecued over their grill. Both methods of squid preparation is seasoned the same, but there is a big difference between a chewy grilled tentacle and one that is fried to a crisp. This is one I always get at the market and never seem to grow tired of.

Currently popular in the Vancouver food scene is the taiyaki. A fish shaped pastry filled with various creams and custards then topped with ice cream and biscuits. There are a couple of vendors offering this at “Illumination”. But “Sweet Fish” is the only one dedicated to this sweet treat. Here it is available in red bean, vanilla custard, or chocolate Nutella. We had the former most, and it and all the other flavours come with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This one was hard to share, although equipped with our own plastic containers and metal cutlery, we were easily able to trim it down to size and split it six ways.

One of the more fragrant stands is the one offering “Halal BBQ”. Meet on skewers grilled before your eyes, without a screen or protective barrier between you and the meat. The smoke is blow out into the market lanes, and you can’t help but follow your nose to the sweet scent of spicy meat. We had a split order of chicken and lamb and both were as tender as they were tasty. Definitely my favourite meat on sticks from “Illumination”.

At the “Cheese Potato” stand we ordered their name sake. A warm baked potato dressed with green onion, julienne cucumber, broccoli florets, sausage, bacon bites, and plenty of spices and seasonings; then finished with a healthy ladle of a melted cheddar cheese sauce. It was good, but not memorable. I prefer the traditional fully loaded baked potato with a blackened char, salty shredded cheese, and cooling sour cream. This just lacked the punchy flavours I wanted over a neutral potato base.

The “Porky Fries” stall was misleading with its name. I imagined deep fried pieces of pork, cut up and served like fries in a carton. So the display demos under a protective acrylic did help level set expectations. What you saw was a skewered slab of meat. What you got were thinly cut pieces of breaded and fried pork with spam; available either in a wasabi cream dressing with bonito flakes, with a hot and spicy orange sauce, or seaweed with sweet mayonnaise. Despite your assumption on being able to hold it upright because of the skewer, doing so meant you loss half of your toppings to the group. It is easy to share and eat if laid flat in a carton/plate, but you are handed the stick wrapped in a napkin. As for taste, it was bland, with salty pops thanks to the spam. I was left wanting more cream, something refreshing and light to dip into.

I was not optimistic about the “Spicy Crayfish” stand. Night market eating is all about convenience. Standing up and snacking while you either walk or get shoved by those trying to walk around you. There are tables, but they are often camped out by families, and really not all that convenient if you grab your snack at point A and travel all the way to enjoy it cold at point B. And keep in mind the distance in between is lengthen by the unorganized pedestrian traffic. So how were you going to hold a paper bowl and crack a crustacean with one hand? There are pictorial instructions posted up on the stand, but even then I don’t think it would have been as easy as they make it look. Lucky for us, we approached at a slower time, and the stall owners and staff were able to assist in the cracking part. With gloved hands and simple twists of her wrist, a young clerk was able to pull the shell off the tails, giving us easy ability to slurp sweet crayfish meat into our mouth. They are pretty tasty when you don’t have to do it yourself, but I can see others being dissuaded from ordering this one for its complexity. Maybe they can sell it pre-shelled? Although, admittedly, they are less impressive that way.

At the “Taiwanese Snacks” stand we had their deep fried squid and deep fried chicken nuggets. They both had a similar crunch from the lumpy breading used. Salty and chewy, the squid was made spicy with a pasty chili sauce. I like the sprig of fried crispy basil for its visual attributes, as well as for its ability to change the taste. The chicken nuggets came undressed, they were tasty enough, but given the portion size, a nice sauce to also help change the taste mid way would have been nice.

At the “Lucky House” booth they offered Chinese style dim sum. We had some of their siu mai (steamed pork dumplings). It was good, nothing out of the ordinary, and not my first choice in such a setting. Especially when there are so many Chinese restaurants nearby offering the same thing, and better prepared in a kitchen for less.

At “Dragon Crepe” they offered Chinese style savoury crepes. The method of preparation used was that of a battered crepe. A thin sheet prepared over a heated, cast iron round. But the way it was finished was more like an omelet, cooked thin and folded over with green onion, cilantro, various sauces and crispy pork rinds (I think, I eat everything and didn’t bother to ask). The latter gave the crepe some crunch. I was left wanting more sauce from it, maybe something with a tang similar to ketchup?

The “Yuan’s Chuan Chuan Xiang” booth was here presenting their restaurant located in Aberdeen Centre. They offered stewed meat and vegetable skewers giving customers a “taste of Chengdu”. Meat and seaweed on sticks that are already cooked and kept warm, soaking in a pot of broth. They are brought to a boil to order, then painted over with oil and spices, before being served to you in a cup. I advise being careful with this one, as it does get messy with the potential for drips. As for flavour, it tasted washed out. I would have liked some sauce on the side for dipping into, I wanted more salt, some soy sauce even would have been nice. Otherwise the texture of the meat was water logged, and soggy compared to the nice starchy chew of the thick cuts of seaweed bundled in to kelp knots.

I was a little lost with the “Backyard Cuisine” stand. Its name made me think barbecue, but what they offered was cold noodles, bird’s nest soup with ice wine, and fruit juice out of pineapples. I like their playing of hip hop music though, as it singled them out. From them we tried their cold noodle with seaweed and some seasonings. This was lack lustre, nothing about it stood out or would be worth me revisiting.

 

By comparison the “Chinese Escargot Rice Noodle” stand and their noodle dish had more pop. Although despite its name, the use of snails was not obvious. There was so much going on in this broth of orange that you couldn’t tell ingredients apart let lone isolated the small chunks of snail meat. Just as well, as I am not a fan of them anyways. It was spicy with tongue singing heat, followed by the enjoyable crunch of roasted peanuts and deep fried wonton wrappers. But this I would have enjoyed more in a sit down setting with tissues to wipe the snot from my running nose.

The bubble waffle stand was pretty standard. We got the original, but were left waiting, do that by the time we claimed it, it was no longer crispy on the outside and chewy at the middle. Instead they were hard and unsatisfying.

The “BBQ Corner” stall was an interesting one. They offered barbecued gluten, claiming it as a traditional handmade snack of China (by way of their awning). Just excepting the bundle of skewers, we didn’t know what we were having until we bit in. Instead of stringy meat we got chewy dough that was easier to unravel from stick then chewing off chunks with teeth. I like the texture of carbs, so liked the chewy bounce to this. However, I wish it was seasoned differently. The coating over it gave it a grainy finish, like ground up peanuts. I would have preferred a deep fried coating and this springy chew hiding in the middle. Or the dough served in balls that you can easily pop into our mouth like popcorn.

At the “Naximuyi” stand we tried some pickled meat and vegetable skewers. I haven’t had nothing like this, so didn’t know what to expect and therefore could not be disappointed. It was soupy and tangy with vinegar notes. The lotus root and seaweed looked tastier, so I avoided the washed out meat in exchange for more textured chewing.

The “Sexy Salad” stand was new, and an interesting idea. The girl behind the booth was hustling, earning revenue for the hard sell. She declared their salads a great alternative to all the deep fried and greasy foods of the market. She was charming and knew how to joke around with all those passing by, willing to stop and listen. However, in my humble opinion, the night market is more about pigging out on junk food and salty snacks. If I wanted something healthy, I would be cooking for myself at home. Therefore I don’t believe they were doing too well. However by night’s end I did find myself craving for something sweet, and either their vegetable or fruit salad would have done the trick. The bowl of the latter that we got to try was okay. There wasn’t enough dressing for my taste, and more lettuce than tomato or oranges than I would like. I wanted more from a night market salad, competing against the pageantry and novelty of its neighbouring stalls.

The “BBQ Noodle” stand was more barbecue tofu. Tofu blocks on the grill; and sheets of tofu used to make a wrap, along with green onion, cilantro, an imitation crab stick, and a slice of spam. It tasted exactly as expected. Alright, but I prefer my spam with something more dense to off-set its saltier finish.

The crispy and flakey balls from the “Radish cake” stand were nice. I liked the flag marking the vendor in which it came from, the most. As for flavour, it was ashy and dry. I wanted more punch from the filling to give the shell some more moisture and flavor. A dipping sauce would have been nice here.

“Mama’s Kitchen” specialized in hand-made, home-made dumplings. We had some pre-made gyoza, already pan-fried with a nice crust of char around them. They were tasty and exactly as I expected, no complaints.

We were spoiled at the “Shine Valley Lamb Soup” stall, being able to try two different items off their menu and lots of it. The first a flaky, sweet pastry with a chewy centre.

But the highlight was definitely all the meats that they were non-stop barbecuing off their grill. A grill that stretched the length of the stand. You were kept at an arm’s distance by the plexiglass wall, but still got a good look at the rising flames and the smoke being fanned away. The outcome: some tender and smokey beef and deliciously chewy pork chop. For our connivence, it was all cut up and served piled high on a styrofoam plate. Although I would have preferred to rip meat from bone from the chop.

At the “Bi Bim Rito” booth they made Korean style fried rice portable by stuffing it into a folded wrap, but for those wanting to share, it was easier to order it as a meat and rice dish on a paper plate. Well seasoned rice and chicken served with fresh greens and a drizzle of spicy mayo. I just wished for more sauce through out the wrap, and not just with the first few bites,

The “Szechuan” stand offered us a dish of spicy stewed beef with specks of red chilli. It was spicy and stringy. To enjoy it fully I would have to sit down and order it with some rice and greens on the side.

Their joint “Skewers” stand offered another version of meat on sticks, as well as whole quails split open on the grill. We had a plate of the former and enjoyed them for their thicker cubes of tender meat.

We ended the savoury food portion of our night with a visit to the “Top Wok” stand. They offer two booths worth of pre-made dim sum favourites, kept warm by steam. Due to the pre-made nature of their food, there often isn’t a wait, and therefore no line. We were gifted a generous plate of curry fish balls, peanut butter sauced rice rolls, fried noodles, and glutinous dumplings. They were a great carbo-loaded end to our meal, in case anyone was still hungry. These are all things I like and would order at any dim sum.

The “Fruit Me” booth was a colourful offering of blended fruit juice served within their own husks. Pineapple juice in a pineapple rind and watermelon juice blended in a baby watermelon. They ran out of the former, so we helped ourselves to the latter. It was a refreshing drink, but given the weight and hassle of having to hold a whole watermelon around, you just wanted to drink it and be done with it. Given that there are other stalls serving something similar, I appreciated them trying to stand out with plenty of decorative pieces to attract your attention. A paper flamingo straw and skewer with watermelon balls and marshmallows, a paper umbrella, and a gummy worm. They also offer their other drinks in as interesting vessels. An LED lit, tower high, adult sippy cup. A plastic cup that allows two drink to co-exist separately, but together. And cups that are shaped like upside down light bulbs. It all screamed novelty and fun, just like how their booth was dressed in colours and strung up lights.

Similar, but more simple was the “Ice Garden” stand, they too offer fresh fruit slushes. There were also watermelons and pineapples, but underdressed when compared to the offering above. So instead, we ordered a cup of blended mango slush. It was cool and refreshingly sweet.

And similar to it was the mango slush drink we got from the mango focused stall: “MangoHolic”. But their blended mango slush was much sweeter, and a lot more smoother, with chunks of mango on top.

At “My Tea” they offered various fresh fruit and sparkling teas. The main selling point being the plastic cups they came in. Each included a little heart to place keep the spout for drinking. They also arranged the orange slices in our order to be visible and visual. Otherwise it was just a fizzy citrus drink.

At the “Comebuy” booth they declared their themselves as “the world’s tea shop”. Offering many familiar bubble tea flavours like milk tea, taro milk, and passion fruit. We had the “lychee delight” and enjoyed the light flavour of the rarely seen/used lychee.

And at “Alcool” they offered alcoholic alternatives: mocktails. Although I can see them being far more successful if they could obtain a liquor license and add a shot or two into each of their colourful mixed drinks. However, I can only imagine the price they would charge, and the outcome if any one person got drunk at the crowded night market.

As for the drink we ordered, we weren’t sure of its flavour or even of its taste. I requested it for its colour, or should I say, many colours. For extra theatrics they even added some smoke into the cup for us. It served no other purpose than for visuals, and I was happy for it.

And we finally rounded off our night at the “Snowberry” stall for one of their fruit ice desserts. Half a melon with its fruit balled and stacked in a pyramid surrounding a mountain of ice. It is coated in condense milk for a sweeter, milky finish. We all agreed that this was the right thing to end our night on. Delicious and the perfect palette cleansing refresher.

 

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.
If you are looking for good food this can be a minefield of hit and misses, but more likely you are here for the atmosphere and the feeling of community in eating in such cramped quarters. So try many and have fun playing with your food at the “Illumination” summer night market. And I hope my review of majority of the food vendors was helpful in the above. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

To watch the tour version of my night market review, and to check out all the photo ops set up, visit the link below.

 

ILLUMINATION
12631 Vulcan Way, Richmond BC, V6V 1J7
778-985-5267
summernightmarket.com

Starbucks Reserve

Given that there is a Starbucks on every corner and sometimes even two on the same block, it felt weird to be driving all the way to this one in particular. Although not all of them are the new speciality reserve location. And the one on Main Street would be the very first in Vancouver. I have been meaning to stop by for a visit sooner, (although putting it off, as I am not an avid coffee drinker). However I do like spirits and this would also be the first location in the lower mainland to serve alcohol as well, on top of their still new, overly dressed coffee.

The wine and beers available are not a Starbucks blend. However I can see them moving in that direction eventually. A coffee infused wine, beer brewed with coffee beans? I knew it would be pricy, but went any way for the experience, and to say that I have indulged in the novelty. And with me I brought a guest who knew her way around a “Starbucks” and could tell me what was what. Especially as we planned to drink some of their fancy coffees first. The alcohol service starts after 2pm on weekdays and after 12pm on weekends. Trying to avoid the rush we walked in at 1pm. Although given the popularity of our destination and the fact that it still had that “new car smell”, we found ourselves in one of the nicest “Starbucks”, that was just as busy as any, during “frappy hour” (when it was still going on).

 

To watch the vlog version of our visit, click the link below.

 

The double sided front door, mounted with heavy wood really set the tone of the place. Wood benches and stumps, tropical murals of palm fronds and colourful fauna on canvas, and plenty of glass windows for people watching. It was the causal comfort of a “Starbucks”, but more dressed up, more grown up. The room split off into either directions with couches, benches, and tables for patrons to lounge across. And like at any location you had students studying, meetings commencing, and good friends catching up. Only here, with a lot more photography in between.

There were many things exclusive to this location, so to take advantage of where we were, we decided to try most of them. For our coffee beverages we would order four different blends prepared with four different methods, to get the full experience. Then follow it with three different types of wine and a cider.

Their regular menu is spelled out across a chalkboard to the right of the cash desk. The slow creeping line gives you ample time to look over it. However the expectation is for you to know what you want, or know enough to ask questions to lead yourself to that direction. Ordering was intimating as we knew neither of the above, and behind two cash registers stood five men who did. Luckily they were dedicated to servicing your “Starbucks” needs, each and every one of them friendly. The extra bodies meant they had the ability to connect with their customers fully. We were given an explanation and history lesson on each of the brews currently on rotation. They knew their coffee as they described what they helped us to order in great flavour profile detail. The total set us back just over $30 for four different coffees, prepared four different ways.

The first was the traditional style latte, espresso meets steamed milk. However, this came with a twist, the steamed milk was a house made hazelnut-praline combined with their small-lot espresso. It is more commonly served over iced, but we requested it hot and got it special with some heart-shaped latte art. It tasted like Ferraro Rocher with plenty of rich hazelnut and smooth chocolate flavour, but without the graininess of crunching on actual nuts. Something this tasty came at a cost, and that was 780 calories of “worth it”. It was my favourite out of all our ordered the drinks. And although only available for a limited time (according to their seasonal menu list), I can see me asking for some sort of variation on it during subsequent visits. It was creamy and not too sweet, best taken in warm, through pursed lips.

Our second cup of coffee was the “Malawi Sable Farms”, a coffee with “delicate citrus aromas, cranberry notes and a creamy chocolate finish”. It was prepared using the “Clover” brew. A highly precise machine utilizing a full immersion brewing method that was paired with vacuum extraction. It was created to bring out the flavours and extract as much rich, black coffee out of the freshly ground up beans as possible. To begin, your chosen grounds are poured out into a inset dish, built into the “clover”. Water is added to this and stirred. The machine moves the dish deeper into its belly, then rises it again. This happens a couple of times. What comes out of the hole is a well packed disc of only slightly damp coffee grounds. And out from the other side drips a bitter coffee, compared to the creamy milk-based latte above. My guest told me she liked it and it’s good. I believed her.

The next coffee brewing process is the “siphon”, and it is the most visually stunning. So much so that they created a brew bar where you can post up on bar stools and watch the process unfold. Although there typically a crowd of people and a filled seats to get past. Although if you let the baristas know, they will wait for you to claim a vantage point before brewing your ordered cup. So we did just that. As soon as the group of spectators who were enjoying a demo and a sample finished, we were quick to claim a perch and set up for our own visual treat.

This process too paired full immersion and vacuum filtration to create the perfect cup, in a process that looked like the lighting of a bulb. A flame and its light warmed up a glass coffee pot of water. The reaction causes the water from the pot to rise into the glass vessel outfitted above it. And as soon as it is brought to a boil, the requested coffee grounds are added to the top glass and stirred in by whisk in hand. The blended liquid then drips back down to the original glass pot at the bottom. The finished product is the brewed coffee, which gets poured into a metal pot to be dispense between two mugs as you wish. It is presented to you on a tray, along with cards highlighting the bag of beans you are enjoying. In this case it was the “Peru San Ignacio” blend with “juicy acidity, a lemon-lime citrus and cocoa accents”.

And lastly we watched our final cup of coffee being brewed by the “Chemex”. It was very much like making coffee with a traditional pot, in a mechanical maker, with a coffee filter. Although all of it was much more dressed up, in line with the elegance of this “Reserve Starbucks”. The glass was decorated with a wooden neck and tied off with a leather ribbon.

It promised to yield a reliably balanced, clean cup, using precise pours and a scale to brew the perfect pot. Water from a hot stainless steel kettle is poured bit by bit, over the coffee grounds sitting at the bottom of the paper filter. You allow the brew to breathe in between each round of water. This drip is also served in a metal pot, on a tray, with two mugs. Its place card marked it as the “Rwanda Abakundakawa” blend, which is “bright and citrusy with Mandarin, lemon, and caramel notes”.

Despite our desire to try as much as possible, the experience is actually best when choosing the same bean to brew between the three methods. Each gives the coffee its own finish and therefore trying it between the methods gives you a good account of each.

 

They also serve their coffee with ice cream. The “classic affogato” had two shots of their small-lot espresso poured over vanilla ice cream. And their “cold-brew float” used single-origin cold brew on tap with even more ice cream. We already had more than enough coffee for two, not to mention we were also given sample from the demo earlier, so had to pass. However, either would be enough to have me coming back.

We would drink what we could of each, moving on to a hotter brew as soon as it cooled enough for us to drink without a burn. By the time we were done watching each come to fruition and gathering our trays, the interior seating area was full. Luckily with the beautiful day and a patio that ran the length of the coffee shop, we were able to snag ourselves a table and some bench seats outside.

And now well after 2pm we would switch from day to night: coffee to wine. The latter, a service that just started on June 1, 2017, a day before we visited on June 2nd. The menu listed out options by brand and price. As I predicted they were inflated, with no luck for happy hour pricing. We ordered, spending $50 total, only to realize what we paid for was $12 for a 6oz glass, x3. A white wine, red, sparking, and a pint of cider. No specialty year or unique brews, not even a branded glass to mark the occasion. And without proper bartenders, the pouring of our four alcoholic beverages took longer than it did brewing our “chemex” coffee above. I guess the service is still fairly new, as the clerk had to question what glasses she was to use. We watched her struggle to open the bottles from the mini fridge, then have difficulty discerning where to pour it to within the glass. What she got right was asking for ID. They require two pieces when you pay, then both again when you claim you order at the counter.

Served on a tray for easy travel, we too enjoyed these outside on their patio. It is there we notice the mention of “Starbucks” with their name on the bottle of the ridel marked glass. And on the side, the words “take a moment or three” etched. It was a nice little note to enjoy, as we made attempts to make the most out of expensively priced, average wine.

 

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.
As I am no coffee drinker, let alone connoisseur, I cannot imagine myself making the trip back on a whim. However, for those who are, I can safety recommend them as a great option for any coffee enthusiast. Visit at least once to say that you have. Although, I will be advising the skipping of the wine and saving that craving and money for any of their neighbouring restaurants, where you will get more for what you have to pay to enjoy a drink in a “Starbucks”. After the first try, this novelty does wear off quick. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

STARBUCKS RESERVE
2980 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5T 3G3
604-873-5176
starbucks.ca
Starbucks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hendricks Resto-Lounge

Another “Vancouver Foodster” caesar contribution brought me to “Hendricks” lounge tonight. I would later learn that their name comes from the owner’s appreciation for the legendary musician.

Of note, when it comes to any media related event: 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 the “Westin Grand” hotel on Robson, you might not think to look here for a stand out bar. However, their exterior decals and sidewalk signs do well to draw your attention in that direction.

The ascending staircase to the hotel’s lobby leaves you staring at the stained glass entrance of the lounge and their well stocked bar just behind it. Couches and knee height tables to your left, and proper tables and chairs for eating off to your right.

We choose the former with its stone fireplace and neon quote declaring “love is my drug”. All its extra touches spoke to my lavish craving heart. The crushed velvet speckled couches partnered with the white marble patterned ottomans and leather and golden stump stools. All standing over a gold speckled tanned rug. All together this was a great setting to post up at, to sit and chat with a girlfriend at.

We warmed up with a cocktail. The “Mezcal penicillin” uses Los siete misterios mezcal, port Charlotte islay whiskey, ginger, lemon, grapefruit, and honey. A piece of candied ginger typically crowns the glass, but ours fell in. It was medicinal tasting to start. Sharp and chemically with a smokey finish. Best for sipping. Finishing with the ginger gave you a warming yet sweet note to linger on.

When it came time to order, the menu looked to meet the wants of Vancouverites with locally sourceand and healthy ingredients. We relied heavily on the expertise of our host and bartender for the eventing. He was quick to recommend the cauliflower tater tots, their house burger with the same name and tomato bacon ham, and all the desserts that were a play on old school snack cakes.

We started off with some appetizers he found unique. The “Tuna poke” wasn’t anything new on the Vancouver food scene, but having it on a bar menu was a first for me. Their version uses Haida Gwaii albacore tuna with tomato, jalapeño, scallions, and togarashi spiced guacamole. Eaten with taro chips that proved very brittle for scooping. I wanted something thicker, more solid as a base chip instead. Like the sturdiness and crunch of a corn chip. The citrus lemon flavour was strong, it gave things a tangy note mixed with the aromatic spices. I appreciated the stylization of the dish and its thought, just less so the application.

The “Duck confit rumaki” was another unique one for any bar. Slow roasted duck and water chestnut wrapped in turkey bacon with a side of green apple slaw. I found the meat too salty on its own. You needed the acid and vinegar of the carrots on the side to balance things out. The overpowering flavour of the turkey bacon also out shines the duck, and I just wanted more duck. The duck in a tangy brown sauce. And with it something more substantial like a corn bread wrap or some chewy bread. The chestnut offered some texture and crunch to help balance the otherwise softened plate, but not enough to have me going back for more of it.

And at this point were too full to follow our appetizers with an entree or even dessert. But both and our server who suggested some, gave us a reason to return.

And now for the caesar. The “Hendricks Tandoori Caesar” at tasted like liquid tandoori, as its name promised. To make it they used their own house made “Clamato” juice mixed with a jalapeño and black peppercorn infused tequila. The latter was a blend of clam nectar, tomato juice, HP sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, chili flakes, Cajun seasoning, tandoori masala, wasabi, Cholula hot sauce, tabasco, and perrins. For the the rim they used more tandoori and Cajun spices. And then topped it all off with a pakora fritter and cucumber rose with yogurt raita. The cucumber and cream gave you a necessary, cooling bite between the heat and spice of the drink. This one had depth to it. All the flavours together like this was unique and the concept original. For those who like their drinks full of flavour and spice, this one was definitely for you. In fact they even won the fan favourite award for it.

To watch how this caesar was assembled, click the link below and visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

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 liked the staff, the ambience, and the view of the library across the street more than the food. But for a place to post up and drink at, they made a fine choice. It’s just as shame that they are hidden within this hotel, I could see them garnering more traffic as a stand alone lounge, with sidewalk entry. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

HENDRICKS
433 Robson Street in The Westin Grand
604-647-2521
hendricksrestaurant.com
Hendricks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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