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Month: July 2017 Page 1 of 3

The Art of Sauna

Integrative health and wellness centre.

My friend invited me to the spa for my birthday, which by the way is a great gift for those who have plenty and want nothing This would be a relaxing afternoon of massages and saunas in Burnaby BC.

However getting there would be the hard part. The spa is not well signed. Located in a smaller, covered plaza; without street signage or its name spelled out across the building, it isn’t something you can easily spot driving by. Thank goodness of google maps. As a business this doesn’t help generate traffic or funds for them, but for us patrons, it meant we had the spa and its amenities all to ourselves today. And therefore it became our personal photo op and film set.

To see the vlog cover of our time here, please visit the link below.

 

What sets the “Art of Sauna” apart from all others is the number of sauna services that they provide. Nine different experiences from nine different cultures, all under one roof. In no specific order: a salt steam room, an Egyptian rasul, Himalayan salt room, aroma steam sauna, dry aroma sauna, Finnish dry sauna, Roman steam room, Turkish Hamman, and Russian Banya.

We brought a Groupon deal for a Swedish massage, which included unlimited access to all of the saunas above. My host had called to make the appointment, requesting a female masseuse for her comfort. However this ask was not recorded, and to her dismay she was offered the services of one of their male masseurs. Luckily the receptionist on today was a trained registered massage therapist and offered to jump in, in his place. I too prefer a woman’s touch, but for the sake of time decided to have my appointment alongside my host’s, accepting the service of the male masseur.

We were given waivers to sign, and after assuming all legal liabilities, were sent to the changing room to disrobe. It is advised that you bring your own bathing suit and some flip flops, however if you forget they can supply you with substitution in one form or another. We brought suits but ended up keeping ourselves decent with a towel around the chest. And we forgot flip flops, but where given the house loaners to use.

We were each given our own locker key to secure our belongings within. The key is more like a bracelet-fob, and with a swipe over the electronic sensor, you lock and unlock your assigned locker with ease. In each locker is a robe and two towels. All three were already showing wear from repeated cleanings (I hope) and use. That is my own major critique of the place. This was such a lovely spa, each of the Sauna rooms well designed and even better maintained, everything about them felt sanitary. It was a shame than this sense of cleanliness and relief didn’t transition into the locker room. I found myself visiting the washroom and looking for the cleanest toilet. A couple before my final choice had visible human waste on the bowl (And we arrived just as soon as they opened at 12pm, so no one had been on them prior). And now here we were dressed in a robe with frayed ends and discoloured spots. If it was once padded and comfortable, it lost all this recognition. The belt to secure it was the worse, as it was stuck in a matted state.

The above is a shame as I feel that this spa has so much potential. However with the mixed messages in sanitation, it is getting no where fast. Given the lack of patrons, I can safely assume that they are not doing well financially, and as a result need to cut corners. And in this case it means lighter cleaning coverage and using your equipment and supplies until they break. Otherwise money can be funnelled to make the spa more attractive for those coming in and staying within. A stand out sign and a lobby deserving of the quality and luxury they were offering just behind it. Although at the same time, when I was done my service, I walked out into the lobby with four employees crowded behind the counter chatting. Whereas they could have one less attendant and a cleaner that services the space continually (As I have seen at the spas within downtown Vancouver).

At least our overall, self directed experience was promising. So back to that and our massage before.

The massage is completed in individual rooms. It is a full body massage, which gives you the ability to cloth or leave your body bare. I went all natural and kept my dignity under the shield of a towel. Most of the work on your glutes is done above the towel, with emphasis on the outer side of the buttocks. No touching is done on it or around the thighs. You are given the ability to customize your treatment from heavier to lighter kneading, and how much additional time is spent on a specific part. I sadly fell asleep for a good portion of this service. I guess it is safe to assume that he was so great at his job that I was completely relaxed and comfortable enough to fall asleep on him. However, I was sad to have missed the sensations of this medium pressure massage, and was only awoken when it was time to re-dress.

I decided to leave the robe after my massage and instead opted to use the white waffle towel available as a wrap. A comfortable idea, but one that had me readjusting it repeatedly as it was quick to come undone. Thankfully there are no video cameras, so it was easy enough to face a corner and rewrap, especially as we were the only ones using the facility for a long time and when someone else joined, it was a couple that kept to themselves.

As I mentioned earlier, you get the run of the place; exploring each room at your leisure. Although I would have like the consideration of a guided tour. We were not spa enthusiast or spa connoisseurs by any means, so didn’t know what we were doing. (The notes I have gathered below were from my research after my visit.) So a suggestion on where to start and a run down on which room would give us the desired benefits would have not only changed the experience, but probably bettered it. It was only after visiting their website (after this visit) did I realize that there were additional treatments within each sauna that we could have added on to our experience. A handful of which I would have gladly paid for to try; like the massage done with a broom. What a missed opportunity for us and for some additional revenue for the spa. Isn’t that the point of Groupons? To lure you in with a coupon deal and have you spending more to supplement this discount, whilst generating repeat business. Alas, another missed opportunity for them.

The below are the different saunas offered and a little about each.

The salt steam room is an enclosed space decorated in black and white tile. On either ends of the room are high-back seats to recline against. Here they use salt infused steam to duplicate the feeling of being in the ocean, which in turn has an healing effect on your respiratory system. The steam is wet, so you walk out drench in fluids that are not necessarily generated by your own body.

The Rasul takes up a smaller space. Two chairs sit covered in and surrounded by shimmering glass tiles. Each of these loungers are heated. They are also more ergonomic that the seats above, designed with comfort and the body’s comfort in mind. It is here that you can enjoy their premium sapropel skin conditioning therapy for extra.

The salt room glows in backlit pinky-orange salt bricks. Here you relax and enjoy the benefits of salt sourced from millions of years old deposits, found deep in the Himalayan mountains. There are many benefits to surrounding yourself with the healing properties of salt. Amongst other things, it is believed that it has an antiseptic property, that also helps to restore electrolytes after the loss of fluids (say from an extended steam from the other rooms).

The aroma steam sauna is the prettiest of all the rooms, tiled in shimmery and iridescent blue, however this too isn’t very visible once the steam is in full force. Centred around a basin you are surrounded by the subtle fragrance of natural oils mixed with the heavy hot steam. The steam is thick and dense, you can hardy see what is in front of you.

The dry aroma sauna is designed to look like a wood cabin, which speaks to the origins of a traditional sauna. It combines dry heat with an herbal scent that wafts through the reclaimed wood.

The Finnish dry sauna is a more classic style sauna, centred around steam created from the pouring of water over hot rocks. This is one of their more spacious sauna rooms, which is enhanced with more backlit Himalayan salt bricks, thus combining the two treatments into one.

The Roman steam room is their hottest sauna with the highest humidity, and it definitely felt like it. Out of the need to breath clear, we were forced to spend the least amount of time here. In this confined space, water condensation on the skin, along with your sweat, helps to relieve the body of its toxins.

The Hammam creates a slow and deep body heating with lower temperatures, but without paying for the service you don’t get to experience it. The space has an authentic feel to it, with its white marble walls and floor, marble table and stone kurnas.

And lastly, the Russian Banya (Russian Sauna) uses high temperatures for rapid body heating, combining heat and steam to do the trick. It features a unique wood broom massage (venik) for extra.

There were also several public showers available for you to hop into and cool down with. I liked the novelty of the wooden bucket with pull string delivery system the most.

Although, I would have preferred a nice pool to soak and rest in, instead. However they did have a lounge area with beach chairs and a faux beach scene to relax within.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
You can definitely make a day out of this. A hidden gem in need of some improvement, but with so much potential I hope they do better in the future and get the following they deserve. Worth checking out with plenty of value if you utilize their Groupon deal.

 

ART OF SAUNA
7818 6th Street, Burnaby BC, V3N 4N8
1-877-224-8034 | 604-484-7944
artofsauna.ca

Benkei Ramen, cold noodle summer menu

The sun is out, it is summer, and it is hot. Therefore, restaurants that typically offer their food heated are looking to creative ways to bring customers through their door. And here at “Benkei Ramen” their strategy is to deploy a summer menu, designed to specifically combat the heat. And today we as media, got a sneak peak at this menu, launching on the first of August. Meat flavoured ice over ramen and chilled vegan soups with a green tea sauce.

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.

I had been to “Benkei” before, so knew what to expect: delicious ramen. But today we weren’t here to try the usual and the popular, but instead, to help spread the word on that which is new and unique to them.

But to read my original visit review, which includes a detailed description of the decor, please visit the link below.

Benkei Ramen

 

We started with a side order of their “Chashu plate”, thick cuts of tender pork sliced to order. They are most popular served over a piping hot bowl of ramen, but considering how we weren’t getting any of the hot stuff today, it was nice to be able to nibble on this specialty here and now. The texture was great, I just could have used more flavour from it as a stand alone dish, over a pile of bean sprouts. Although in retrospect, I could have easily dipped my piece in some table side soy sauce.

We also got to enjoy some of their house made gyozas. They were smaller than others, without the crispy skin, but just as tasty. Stuffed full with meat and garlic, best when dunked generously into their pour yourself bottle of sauce.

To repeat myself, the following will not be available until the first of August, to really celebrate the high of summer.

They have two different wild sockeye salmon donburis. One was regular, the other spicy, and both played off the poke craze. We had the regular version with fresh and lightly seasoned cuts of salmon first. They have been marinated in sake for two hours prior, however, I didn’t really get that from tasting it. Its tangy flavours were well balanced by the refreshing-ness from the heap of green onions crowning it.

We got some heat from the “spicy wild salmon donburi”. Chopped up cubes of fish versus the thin slices above, and with it some shredded seaweed. There is the option to have it not spicy as you are given a choice of the mayo that tops its. Their regular garlic or the spicy mayo for the burning. I found the latter a little too hot for my tastes. Both were scratch made in house.

The “Benkei signature cold ramen” is cold and sour noodles traditionally offered during Japan’s summer months. A dry bowl of chilled ingredients that ate like a salad with crisp textures, juicy bites, and a sweeter vinaigrette. Pork, corn, cherry tomato, chicken, seaweed, cucumber, Japanese ginger, scramble egg cut into shreds, and bean sprouts over cold noodles. The noodles were boiled with sesame and salt, and declared as being healthier, along with the rest of the serving. And there is also a smear of yellow mustard/horseradish for some spice, so should you desire it.

The other cold noodle option was the one I preferred. This is their “Gomadari cold noodles”. “Goma dare” referring to the creamy sesame dressing it came with, and the dressing that made the dish. It gave it flavour, mixing well with the bits of pork, cucumber spears, sweet corn kernels, and seaweed. I would come back for more of this one.

They already have a vegan ramen option, and today they gave us a taste of their new one to come. It is nice that they now have choice for their vegan customers. This is their “Vegan white noodle”, its name self explanatory given the colour of the broth. It is prepared by boiling together apple, celery, carrots, onion, ginger, and garlic for 4-5 hours. The green tea sauce that is drizzled over it to finish, is made from matcha powder. I didn’t really get any of its taste, but appreciated the novelty none-the-less. You wouldn’t be able to tell it was vegan if not for its texture and the fact that the soup was just a little bit more grainy than a pork based broth. As is, it was a little bland for my liking, easily rectified with some additional spice and flavour from the table side caddy offering minced garlic and chilli pepper paste to taste.

For those really looking to beat the heat, they are offering 20 bowls of their ice berg ramen per day. So as with limited quantity offerings, this one is first come first serve. It is a bowl of cold noodles further chilled by the mountain of shaved ice that tops it. Although I would like to point out here, that the restaurant has lovely air conditioning, and therefore is in actuality the ideal setting to enjoy a regular hot bowl of ramen within.

The “ice berg” ramen is light, yet very flavourful. The ice is frozen and shaved chicken soup broth and salt. So that when it melts it doesn’t actually dilute the soup, but instead adds to the already flavourful soy sauce base, changing the dish as you go. The ice also gives the dish a unique crunch. A really unique and fun idea. I just didn’t like the way the chicken came out soggy and chalky in my serving.

 

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 like me, and enjoy your cuisine creative, “Benkei” and their new summer menu is the one to check out. A filing way to cool down with ramen, with vegan friendly options as well. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BENKEI
545 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5Z 0B4
604-568-6178
benkei.eyesunclouded.com

Deighton Cup 2017

I don’t know about you, but I have always wanted to attend a horse race. Not to simply sit in the bleachers and bet on the winning pony, but more for the social event that it is also associated with. If you don’t know what I mean, try googling the “Kentucky Derby”. Impressed? – Well, this is Vancouver’s version of the well known socialite affair.

So when given the chance, I jumped at the opportunity to attend the annual “Deighton Cup”, as media. This would be a day at the track centred around the cheering of and the betting on of professional race horses, or so I thought. I would soon learn that the cup and its day at the Hastings Racetrack was so much more. This is the cup’s 9th year as the summer’s see and be seen affair.

To watch my vlog version of the event, please visit the link below on your desktop.

 

Guests are known for going all out in their outfits and dresses, many with the goal for winning the “Style Stakes Best Dressed” competition” as their incentive. I was one of which today, however was too shy to nominate myself, and not confident enough to have my guest do it on my behalf. I guess there is always next year.

Admission included a lunch hosted by “cocktails and canapés”, offering guests a cold entree, on what should have been a hot and sunny day. Instead we had cold food in the sprinkling rain and it just wasn’t the same. There were three options, including one for vegans. My guest had the ahi tuna poke bowl with rice and raw vegetables. I had their steak over chilled noodles.

But it was the various options for alcoholic beverages, from all of the event’s sponsors that we were most excited about. Vodka sodas from Ciroc, Bulleit whiskey mint juleps, and Piper-Heidsieck champagne by the bottle.

And to further prove that this isn’t just about horses running on a track, they also had an oyster shucking competition in the stands, a first for them. A competition presented by local oyster purveyors: “Fanny Bay Oyster Bar”.

There were also plenty of photo ops, given how much effort you put into your outfit, it is nice to celebrate and remember it across several pictures with elaborate backdrops. A paper flower wall in white and blue, the cup’s branding with Stella Artois in red flowers on a green hedge, and a photo booth with talking bubble props.

Amongst all this were other food vendors offering barbecue from a truck, hot dogs on the grill, and even marshmallows toasted on a stick. There were booths to shop for a new hat or a different tie, tie clips and pins, kerchiefs, and cigars. We found the latter the most relevant to our needs. And indulged in one as we waited for the rain to settle in the smoking lounge.

Truth be told, we only watched a few of the horse races, as we found the event more a drinking and socializing affair. And as a few of their ads read, a place to “come feel like a movie star”…and boy did we. This event is a must try if you have never been. It is definitely something I am looking forward to doing again next year. And maybe this time having the courage to compete in the “Style Stakes Best Dressed”. For the former, I now know the bench mark and those I would need to beat out in order to have a chance. And notably, this is a tough crowd to beat. Fascinators with little golden horses and their jockeys, a suit printed to look like a sandy beach with crystal waters, tiny horses running across a stiff collared shirt, and a palm frond printed dress with matching head piece.

In short a great event, and best of all, partial proceeds from all ticket sales went to benefit “Variety – the Children’s Charity” as well as “imagine1day”.

 

DEIGHTON CUP
deightoncup.com

3 Quarters Full, bao + coffee

I was invited to the media event for “3 Quarters Full”, a newer Taiwanese cafe, downtown. An event organized and ran by the three ladies behind “@foodcouver”, as the plus one to “@porkninjas”.

This cafe has existed for a while now, but due to its locale, I assume that many like myself, have never heard of them. This is mainly because we cannot seen them. They are downtown Vancouver, kiddy corner from Denman. Not being right on the busy street means that they lose out on much of their potential walk-in traffic; those who notice a newer business and decide to walk on in to give them a try.

However being invited to this media event, I found a reason to visit; and now writing this post, an ability to help to spread the word of their cafe and their revamp-ed summer menu.

When it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

The space was on the dressier side, with glow-y bulbs setting a more dramatic tone. The cement floor, lighting crafted from plumbing pipes, and wood tables partnered with metal legs; had a familiar industrial theme; a look that is very quintessential of Vancouver’s current restaurant style. What took away from this was their neighbouring dollar store with the visibility of its neon yellow name against a green awning, from the cafe’s all glass exterior. A minor detail, but location is important, and it is often a factor in deciding the success of a business. Luckily, tourist traffic from the hotel at the end of the block saw their clientele walking past “3 Quarters”, and (probably) grabbing a quick coffee therein. Although they are not your regular purveyors of lattes and nitro brews, here they specialize in popular Taiwanese ice drinks, sweet cakes, and savoury snacks.

They offer diners a sit down menu with light drinks and food, and now even a combo. For $9.50 you get an entree, soup/drink, and their pastry of the month. For more food you can add one a deep fried side dish for $4.95. You choice is between fried tofu, chicken, squid, fish cake, taro ball, or steamed bun. The entree are any one of their “gua bao” or sandwiches. The soups are changed up daily. Most of their drinks are available either hot or cold. And your dessert choice varies from month to month. below are a few items we tried, and they you can choose from, to make your own combo.

I began the tasting by trying each of their specialty drinks, served chilled in decanters for guests to pour ourselves. The “One lemon ice tea” earned its name from the use of a whole lemon in its conception. It was a refreshing sweet tea, and a great accompaniment to the meal to come.

The “Sea salt coffee” jumped on to the cold brew train, offering their interpretation with its salt first flavour. As a non-coffee drinker, my opinion may not the best or the most valid, so I will leave it with, “salty”.

My favourite was the “Winter melon tea” with its sweet, light, and floral notes. This is one I can drink by the jug-full, as there was just something so refreshing about it. The cafe’s owner, took the time to explain how they prepare this beverage from scratch, whereas their competitors take the short cut and purchase the syrup version for this sugary flavour. Here they take a winter melon and cook it down into a sugar, which is then melted down to flavour such drinks. Naturally it costs more, but drinking is believing; and if you get a chance to compare the two, you can tell that the extra charge is certainly worth it.

Next we lined up one by one at their ” gua bao station”, to watch our buns assembled to order. We even got the back story of “baos”, their origin and the significance of their shape. They originate from Taiwan, as a night market snack that you typically have before Chinese New Year. It symbolizes a women’s purse and there for is associated with money and wealth. A lucky symbol with the hope that whosoever has one will earn its attributes.

This version was pork belly, pickled vegetables, and a mix of sugar and peanuts between a soft white bun. They are also available filled with chicken or tofu, But here, the pork is prepared in a pressure cooker for two hours until it is very tender. Anything overcooked and tough would be very noticeable thanks to how pillowy the white bun was. The pickled vegetable gave you tang and the peanuts some crunch. This was a delicious three bites, with an even meat to bread ratio.

We then had more pork in their “Crispy pork sandwich”, a traditional Taiwanese breakfast item, but potentially unappealing for those unfamiliar with the classic. I love a good runny yolk in my sandwich, others feel it has no place between toasted bread. I occasionally have a cucumber slice or two in my sandwiches, others rather it on the side with dip. And then there is the use of the meat product, “pork floss”. Popular in China as a sandwich topping with butter, or as a sprinkling over congee. “Pork floss” is a dried meat with a fluffy texture, similar to softened wool or an unraveled cotton ball. Good if you are familiar, off putting in thought and texture if you are not. Combine all three together and layer them between some dry brown bread, this isn’t for everyone. A fact I was also not shy to mention to the owner when they asked for my feedback. I actually knew what I was getting well before I had my bite, and as someone familar with it, I thought it was well assembled. And I must not be the only one, as this is actually their most popular sandwich choice. More so than their club sandwich, the one with bacon, or their vegetarian option.

And what is a Taiwanese restaurant without some crispy popcorn chicken? Theirs was seasoned with some basil for that extra pop of flavour, along with the more common salt and pepper. Each nib was crispy and flavourful, both lasting long after the chicken cooled.

This month, their “pastry of the month” is the iconic pineapple cake. Like everything else, this too was made in house with pride. Their pineapple cake is one of the better interpretations I have ever had. A cakey cookie with starchy pineapple jelly at its centre. A friend likened it to shortbread, after trying it for the first time. She was easily won over by its one of a kind drier texture and sweet finish.

They also made their own Japanese cheesecake and stamped it with their logo as proof. This was a creamy and silky cheesecake, one that cheesecake fans will definitely appreciate. This is one I can see such fans traveling back for it by the round.

Equally delicious is their “Naidong roll”, which is a pudding-jelly and cream centre rolled into a sheet of spongey cake. Served in slices each flavour was a light accompaniment to either coffee or tea. They are available in Taro, Green tea, Coffee, and Vanilla with a strawberry centre.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – YEs.
Downtown Vancouver is a little far to travel for a snack; which is a shame, as I do like their food, as it reminds me of my delicious childhood. But I consider cafes a convenience and less of a destination, so to travel this far for a sandwich seems a little much. However if/when in the neighbourhood I would not be apposed to stopping by. In fact upon writing this post in the hot of my apartment, I can go for one of their cold winter melon teas right now. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

3 FULL 4
1789 Comox Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1P5
778-865-5578
3 Quarters Full Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bubble Waffle Cafe, Brentwood Mall

I have been meaning to check out this latest edition to Brentwood Mall. Many were excited when they moved in to the old home of “mmm…muffins” within the mall’s food court. (Although I am not familiar with their chain and brand) Brentwood was never really busy to begin with, but it has been seeing a steady decline in businesses and clientele due to the construction that currently surrounds it. The unearthing of ground to build several apartment high rises in the expanding area. Therefore “Bubble Waffle” is a nice edition, and something different to bring customers in, especially as there isn’t anything already like it in the area. And an easy way for those unfamiliar with such Hong Kong style cuisine to give it a try.

They were busy on a Thursday afternoon. Although no one stood in line, there was a wait to fulfill orders from their stand. The rows of empty trays pre-set with a single napkin, straw, chopsticks, and Chinese style soup spoon spoke to this. Therefore their roster of employees behind the counter made sense. Although they mostly looked like family members in how casual they dressed and communicated with one other, and even how they invited more individuals behind the counter to join them in conversation. They spoke Mandarin to one another, and all those that came up to them fitting the part. It had me feeling like I was in a Richmond food court. Naturally their clientele was mostly Chinese, many being drawn to the familiar cuisine and logo.

Their menu is easy to read, each available item made into a combo and depicted in colourful photo. Poster quality images covering every available surface.

Given my familiarity with the cuisine, I gravitated towards the “Hainanese chicken with rice combo for $9.50”, although their “Signature boneless salt baked chicken rice” was a close second. The combo includes your choice of Hong Kong style drink. I went for the coffee and milk tea over flavoured lemon water/tea and Ribena (a black currant syrup flavoured beverage.) The coffee-tea combo drink is great for those who like the flavour of coffee, but not the bitterness of actual coffee.

The food comes to the counter fairly quick. Pre-made chicken with spices on the side, and a chilled drink. It was the made to order waffle that had bodies lingering in wait. Having it “for here” still has your serving being presented in a take out plastic container, the lid covering to keep things warm. Although all of it was served lukewarm, ready for eating, but you it would be best with a longer spin in the microwave.

I expected my serving of chicken over rice to look like, if not close to, what was presented in its menu photo, so was naturally disappointed when the chicken came stacked as rough bits torn from the bird. Not only did the chicken look unappealing, but there was barely enough of it for the serving of rice and excessive scoop of ginger paste to accompany. Although the latter was necessary if you wanted flavour in your food. Underneath it all were two slices of cucumber. I wished that they were pickled, and cut into smaller chunks. They offered the dish its refreshing quality and more of it would have helped. There was also plenty of soy sauce pooled at the bottom, this would have been better in a dish to pour and season as needed, as to not over salt the rice. As for the chicken, I have had my fair share of Hainanese style chicken and sadly this is my least favourite interpretation. It wasn’t bad for regular chicken, just not good enough to considered “Hainanese”. Even with the dryness of the meat itself aside.

I also opted in for their special add on that gives you a bag of bubble waffle for only $1 more. Given their name and claim to fame, this seemed like a good bet. “Bubble waffles” are made with a sweet batter pressed and flipped in a unique cast iron waffle press. The “bubble” comes from its aesthetics and the fact that each round is hollow. They have several flavours that you can choose from, but you can only get the original at the special price. They won’t even let you pay more for the option to customize, it was a hard no when I asked. Shame as the chocolate, green tea, cheesecake, sesame, and Oreo flavours sounded a lot more interesting and exclusive to them, then “original”. I would have gotten the green tea for colour.

I suggest claiming your bubble waffle after your meal, as it makes a great dessert or something to take to-go. This way you enjoy it fresh and soft. By the time I got a hold of my bag (which I asked for with my meal, so that I can take the group photo above), it was cold and each ball snapped off sharply. Although I liked the harder edges around the “bubbles” for their crunch. As a whole, this surprisingly held up when cooled down with its great flavour. Although allowing it to sit in the brown paper bag, had you realizing how greasy of a treat this was.

 

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? – No.
This isn’t a bad food court solution. I feel the other chicken dishes would be similar to what I had above, but would be curious as to how their noodle dishes translated in this fast food setting. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BUBBLE WAFFLE CAFE
Brentwood Mall, 4567 Lougheed Highway, Suite 744K, Burnaby BC
778-379-7345
Bubble Waffles Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sustainability Feast with Ford Canada

I have been working with “Ford Canada” for a while now, loaning their trucks in exchange for a some media coverage, and my honest opinion on them. So today I was thrilled to be invited to a garden dinner, to learn a little more about their vehicles that I have been enjoying. Learning of their work on sustainability, and their drive to help decrease their carbon footprint in the way their manufacture and lead. Something that really doesn’t get a lot of coverage in their advertisements, as their newest slogan simple asks you to “go further” with one of their reliable and heavy duty trucks or SUVs. But how are they as a company planing to go further into a future, a future they are hoping will be just as green? That was what we were here to find out today.

To watch my vlog on this exceptional night please visit the link to my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

Our exclusive evening was sustainability-themed, held at the UBC Farm. A great venue to emphasize how “Ford Canada” takes waste reduction to the core by using renewable resources in their production. Sustainable materials such as food by-products, oversupply, and biomaterials. The feast to come featured a unique menu and edible décor to highlight the food items that are used in the production of Ford vehicles. What a great way to connect something that we do every day to something that we use every day.

Our event included an open bar where growlers of craft beers were being poured alongside glasses of red and white wine. And a custom cocktail was shook to order, featuring Jose Cuervo tequila.

With glasses in hand, we nibbled as servers from “Savoury Chef” catering came around offering wooden chargers topped with various canapés for guests to enjoy. A light rice roll cut into thirds and poke bites scooped into little waffle cups were just two that I tried.

When it came time for dinner we were all gathered around their blue and white decorated long table, punctuated by a flat scree television at its end. This was used to show a series of slides and clips on how Ford uses sustainable bio material in their vehicles, as the best global green brand. This is a title not just for them as car brand, but as the best of all green companies, all around the world. And the accolades continue as they have also earned the recognition as one of the more ethic forward brands, 8 consecutive years running, the most of any automotive brand.

The above they have earned from their manufacturing and the building in which they do it. They installed the largest ever green roof, over their production, the expanse of more than eight football fields. Eight fields worth of living plants and the habitats that exist because of them. Insects and birds, small rodents. They in turn help to reduce the heating and cooling cost to Ford.

More recently Ford invested 4.5 billion in new electrified vehicles. And down the road are looking to offer their audiences a long range SUV that can handle 450km on a single charge. With only 30 minutes needed to gain an 80% charge. Cars that charge faster and drive for longer, a desire that they have for all their electric SUVs. And some with the ability to charge electrified bikes in their storage as well.

They continue to research sustainable biomaterial materials with much success in foam and plastics. A research that began in the 1930’s with Henry Ford himself. He was interested in soy as an alternative, with the first soy panel cars. Soy is still used in their cars today, with soy foam seats finding their way first into their 2008 mustang. And today most of their vehicles have soy foam seats and a few more the soy foam head rests as well.

The following is a few more plant based materials that they have found use for in their manufacturing and production. Wheat straw is used to reinforce plastic once its grounded down, like in the “Ford Flexes” made in Canada. They have been looking to algae for its potential foam use in vehicles, similar to soy. It is easy to reproduce and can be done in the darkness of a black room. One of their newer ventures is utilizing agave to make fibres for plastic. Agave, the common thread between them and “Jose Cuervo”, the feature ingredient in our cocktails above. They even have a partnership with “Heinz” for their left over tomato waste, to use creatively in their coin trays. Dandelions function as substitute for rubber. Bamboo for interiors. They also capture the carbon dioxide waste and take it from plants and their production facilities to make foams and plastics. They do this by mimicking what a plant does. Waste materials becoming performance materials. And they continue to look into the future to do things that most people say you can’t

Normally it’s build Ford tough, but tonight it was built Ford green. Not necessary what their customer base is looking for but something they are passionate about, and something that I commend them for.

We started our lovely garden meal with a “straw smoked sous vide 74 Celsius west coast oyster”, topped with spirulina and a cucumber horseradish mignonette foam. It is notably served on rice husks. The same kind of rice husks that are also used in the wiring of their F150s. Rice husks that now continued to burn and flavour the raw oyster with a smokey and delicate finish. The foam was an aesthetic touch that we choked on when we slurped our oysters down. It was a lovely start from salty to sweet to finish.

Similarly, the next dish was deliciously light, full of flavours and a variety textures. The “Faux soil garden salad” included organic greens, carrot, radish, cucumber, and edamame beans; all coated in a honey thyme vinaigrette. This salad was the most beautiful organization of vegetables I have ever had. Vibrant leaves and roots that paired well together. The ground up nuts and seeds gave the salad some crunch and the “soil” in its name.

I enjoyed the creaminess of the “Roasted, line caught BC sablefish”. A buttery bite paired with more crisp vegetable and some fatty bacon, in a light creamy sauce. Heirloom tomato, sweet corn fricassee, sweet potato, and dashi espuma.

The “Roast pineapple & bamboo shoots rum mousse” with glazed mango was the perfect end. Creamy and foamy mousse over a spongy piece of banana bread loaf. And the mango glaze was just the right amount of sweetness to accent it.

The night was further by the musical stylings of a one man band. “@soundstripemusicco” regaled us with his folk stylings of modern day top 40’s. He knew the Spanish lyrics to “Despacito” and was able to fulfill my request for some hip hop in the mix.

 

Overall a fantastic night in a beautiful setting, surrounded by wonderful old friends and some new one, all for the learning of and appreciation of sustainability, thanks to FORD CANADA.

#FordCanada
#farmtocar
Ford.ca

Panniza, Tsawwassen Mills

We were on route to Point Roberts to pick up a parcel at the letter carrier, so decided to stop at the newer Tsawwassen Mills shoppping mall for brunch. It would just be a food court meal, but I was excited to be able to check out this outlet mall for the first time, even if it was just walking towards the food pavillian. They have built the mall to capture all those taking the ferry to and from the island, and families on vacation were certainly taking advantage of them.

Tsawwassen Mills is built on native land, and is decorative with elaborate pieces of art to reflect this. Every corridor had either a craved out ceiling panel, decorative sculpture, or diorama depicting native culture. All this made it just as much an art gallery as shopping experience; as seen by the visitors taking the time to pose and take photos with each display.

After a walk through the spacious food area, we decided on a vendor that we both have never seen in any food court or been to before: “Panniza”. Here, they customize pizzas, salads, sandwiches and poutines with the slogan “you create, we bake”. Although given the name, you would assume an offering of pressed panninis sandwiches will be in there somewhere. But maybe the “pan” refers to pizza baked on a pan? Like all other pizza?

None-the-less this seemed like the one to try. The first baked to order pizza place in any mall that I have seen. They only make them in individual sized portions, so we got one of those. Each $9.95, unless you want to simply choose two toppings with your cheese and sauce for $7.95. There was a vegetarian option included olives and red peppers, a Mediterranean onewith ingredients like feta and spinach, and the Pilly had steak and mushroom. I was with my more cautious partner so went safe with their take on a Hawaiian pizza, we both believe that pineapple has a place on pizza. Their “Aloha” came with a handful, along with bacon and ham over their pizza sauce and surrounded by mozzarella cheese.

You get a view of everything being crafted to order from your side of the glass. The crust starts of as an already risen ball of dough. It is rolled out over a round mesh pan. As for the toppings, everything is scooped from tubs and mixed together in a metal bowl before being spread out all over the now flattened and sauced up ball of dough. It is then fed through a conveyor belt oven, that by the time it comes out the opposite end, you have a golden brown crust and melty cheese. This must be a very powerful machine as it couldn’t have been more than 30 seconds and everything was fully cooked, the bacon pieces even had a little char to them.

As for how it ate, the crust was like that of any frozen grocery store pizza, that icy and baked to thaw taste and texture. Where as delivery pizza has that fresh chewy crust that makes it more like bread. But keep in mind, this is the only way to have this made to order pizza in a food court setting work. I found the crust alright though, as I enjoy my pizza with ranch and it just becomes bread sticks that way, anyways. Thanks to the mixing before topping, the ingredients had a fairly even distribution, especially the ham rounds that found its way on the sauced and flatten pizza dough first. I liked the springy dough. But did feel the thin crust would have been better prepared quick like this. But once again, with ranch it just tasted like ranch.

We also tried one of their sandwiches, with a vegetarian, burger, and fish option, we went for their “Triple P”. This was three types of pork in a BBQ dressed bun. It came with way too much arugula, making bites slightly bitter, not refreshing as the greens were attended to be. The meat was dry, which would have been glossed over if there was more barbecue sauce and mayonnaise to add tang and flavour. Overall, nothing all that memorable.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A little far to go just for fast food pizza. But as a tourist solution for those already shopping in the area, this is a pretty good food court eat. $21 for all this isn’t bad, an average taste for a decent price. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PANNIZA
52nd Street , Local FC5, Tsawwassen BC, V4M 0B3
604-383-0060
pannizza.com
Pannizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Burger Heaven

We were looking for a lunch spot in New Westminster, and I remembered that “Burger Heaven” had an eating challenge (I am slowly working my way through the city’s food challenges that pit your stomach against a large plate, with a limited time to finish it.) Theirs was a burger stacked with beef patties, that I had originally planned to take on; so when looking for a meal today, I decided to suss out the place before hand. And good thing too, as after this visit, I no longer have the will to return for anymore. It was hard for me to finish my one burger with its one patty, let alone many patties in one oversized handful.

This is definitely one of those places you would consider a “dive”. A little cozy, a lot run down, and a favourite hang out for the neighbourhood. As first timers we didn’t know what to expect walking into the restaurant with the rusted iron gate surrounding it. A twist of black metal bent with purpose, each angle and each curve covered with a fine layer of mildew and dust from the age of the place and the elements. The artistic intent of this didn’t really resemble anything, and the full enclosure made you feel like you were in a prison. We grabbed a seat here, in the covered patio, given the nicer weather. Had we gone inside for a table we would have been greeted by their declaration of having the “best burgers in town”, followed by the eye catching wall of photos running down the length of the restaurant. Many faded and many more dog eared over the years. There were also colourful cartoon murals depicting the restaurant and its clientele with a humourous, sunday morning comic spin.

The menu is a long sheet, listing their varieties of burgers and sandwiches, each with a defining ingredient and a name to match. The “Greek God Burger” had black olives, tzatziki, and feta cheese over their beef patty. The “chicken cordon bleu burger” had its breaded chicken filet topped with ham and melted mozzarella. And they even had one called the “insanity burger”, which is a beef patty with cheese and bacon, between two grilled cheese sandwiches.

We liked the international burger idea so had two of our own. My partner had the “Hawaiian burger”. A teriyaki sauced burger topped with ham, a pineapple ring, lettuce, tomato, onions, and mozzarella. It is served with a side of wedge potatoes for a full meal. The teriyaki sauce was on the saltier side, whereas I would have liked it stickier and thick with more honey, the kind you get at cheap Japanese sushi restaurants. It would have complimented the soggy pineapple better. Although I would have liked a nice charring of the fruit over the grill. This could have done lots to improve the burger’s overall taste. That, and if you trade the drier patty and replaced it with a juicer chicken breast.

I had the “Thai beef burger” with crunchy peanut butter, bacon, green onion, and sweet Thai chilli sauce. I upgraded my fries in exchange for onion rings, which got soggy fast. I was hopeful for the peanut butter as I like savoury with a sweet nut butter. But I didn’t get much of it, or any of the promised Thai flavours that came with the title. Although for more “Thai”, I could have used green papaya in a slaw, in exchange of the lettuce. This would have also helped with the sour tang that I was missing. The beef patty was also very dry in this burger as well, here some ketchup would have done wonders. I managed to track down a bottle inside, after asking for some from our server and having to remind her again.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
We came in excited and left disappointed. We deemed the food overpriced for what we had and cannot see ourselves returning. This isn’t my idea of heaven. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BURGER HEAVEN
77 10th Street, New Westminster, BC V3M 1C4
604-522-8339
burgerheaven.ca
Burger Heaven Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

La Casa Gelato, weird ice cream flavours

With all the new small batch, artisan ice cream places popping up around town, you are only a stone’s throw away from some of the sweet cold stuff. So where do you go? Which one do you visit?

I find myself being drawn to many that use liquid nitrogen to make their creams icy, or utilize its chemical reaction to create smoke and interest in their parfaits. I search out ones with seasonal flavours, and those who put the effort into making their own specialty cones.

However, one ice cream shoppe I continue to find myself coming back to is the “one on Venables”. You may forget its name, but you don’t forget its baby pink exterior, and the fact that they are the only ones in the city to offer over 200 different flavours. Theirs is a room that essentially surrounds you with refrigeration units, filled with buckets of ice creams. Here, you have the ability to explore each showcase to the fullest. We did this by trying all their weird flavours without constraint. Over 20 samples were shared between three, from green onion to curry, durian and black currant. You can taste as many of each as you like, and that was exactly what we did today.

 

To check out the video of this, visit the link below.

Some of the more unique flavours include Vegemite, apple & cheddar, and roasted red pepper with feta. And truly most tasted as its descriptive name promised. Some by way of actual chunks of the promised vegetables or herb. I don’t think the point of these are to enjoy their savoury flavour for dessert, but to try it and say that you have. It certainly was reason enough for us to visit today. And this is why they remain a great destination for ice cream, and are the one to recommend to someone visiting from out of town.

 

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.
Don’t deny your cravings.

 

To read my original visit post, click below.

La Casa Gelato

 

LA CASA GELATO
1033 Venables St, Vancouver BC
604-251-3211
lacasagelato.com

Zend Conscious Lounge

I am not a good a judge of vegan food because of my accessibility to everything, so thankfully my guest was on this one. One thing great about dining with friends is that they help to increase my food experience. As a foodie I love all kinds of food, I eat everything and will trying anything. So when it comes to picking the place, I allow my guest to make the final decision. This is so that there is an increased variety in my writing and that I am not just showcasing that which I prefer, repeatedly.

This was the case for today’s vegan destination. I am an omnivore who has done a stint as a vegetarian, so given the option, I don’t actively choose a vegan restaurant. A shame, considering how many great ones Vancouver has to offer.

This is the only vegan restaurant in Yaletown. It may match the Yaletown lifestyle, but I didn’t feel like it matched the vibe of the area all that much. It was more laid back with a goal of peace and tranquility, as per the “zen” in “Zend”. Similar to the feeling you would get from a like establishment in Main Street or the Commercial Drive area. Whereas many of the other modern restaurants in Yaletown come with a more rambunctious party vibe. Here is was dim lights, warm tones, calming plants, salt crystals, and deep acoustic music. This is more than just a place to eat, the space cultivates and encompasses a lifestyle.

The restaurant focuses on organic, plant based cuisine that is gluten free and nutrient dense. This includes a unique, holistic beverage program: Canada’s first kava bar featuring their “Zend Elixir”. The “Zend Elixir” is a traditional herbal drink utilizing the root plant, kava. It has been consumed ceremoniously for thousands of years in the islands of the South Pacific. It is a shot that promises relaxation and relief from stress. And was marketed as a replacement for alcohol. It doesn’t get you drunk, but it does come with its own effects, which does not include hangovers, calories, caffeine jitters, or anxiety.

There was a warning that came with the order. Your mouth will go numb from the beverage, and the reaction is not an allergic one. It tastes sweet to start, then triggers some bitterness at the back of your throat. Like the fresh and tingly feeling of swallowing a bit of mint toothpaste, or sucking on a strong lozenge. Given the potential for numb-ness, we decided to save drinking this until the end of our meal, less it effected our dishes after it. However the numbness wasn’t to the point of distracting from our meal, in fact I would say that it could have given us an interesting take on it. Like how drinking alcohol makes things more uninhibited and you ore carefree. Having your mouth slightly numb takes away from the texture component of the dish, and allows you to focus more on flavours that you taste instead of feel. 1oz or 2oz shots at a $2 difference. $40 for a 750ml bottle.

Truthfully, as a meat eater, I was already very worried about being unsatisfied by this vegetable only restaurant, and then even more so as I learned that they specialized in raw food preparation. Although the menu does offer many regular bar classics, done a lot more healthier. Some were good for vegan dishes, others made me missed their cream-filled versions. And as a whole, everything tasted mild and nutty, forcing us to pour hot sauce over it for more depth. Everything was raw and naturally sweet, it just needed some spice to give it a more savoury tone, instead of one for dessert.

The “Flatbread pizza feature” was my favourite out of all that we had. The most satisfying, for someone who has no eating restrictions. Mushroom, greens, cashew cheese, and pico de gallo. It could have used more salt for flavour, but that would taken away from how healthy this was. This is one of the closest vegan proximities to a pizza that I have ever had. You could imagine it a regular garden veggie, except the crust was a little too tough to saw through with just knife and fork, thanks to the gluten-free dough. Despite the harmonious flavours of the seasoned marinara sauce, the fresh grilled veggies, and the creamy white dressing, I still found it lacked something. However, was able to claim that something in the pesto sauce from the cheese plate below.

The “Mushroom and fennel soup” of the day came with an olive balsamic vinaigrette. It was surprisingly creamy for a bowlful lacking milk or actual cream, but still very lumpy with a grainy finish. It had a very heavy flavour, and no shortage of earthy mushrooms, but you got more fennel than anything else. Peppery, with an implacable fishiness to it. Therefore it benefited from the side you choose to have with it. Some crusty gluten-free bread to make the soup feel even smoother when dunked in. Or a refreshing side of greens to lighten and brighten up the serving. Or even the starchiness of crispy yam fries, to helped to change the flavour.

The “Quiche” used seasonal vegetables like beets and sweet potato, along with house dried Roma tomatoes, cashew cheese, and almond fat. It is served with a green salad on the side; but the tangy sauerkraut that topped it was the best accompaniment, along with the mild house made ketchup that was more like a ground up salsa. The quiche surprisingly had a texture similar to the traditional baked egg dish. And the cheese on salad was mistakable for actual goat cheese. A nice tacky binder for the raw salad. Along with the heavy shake of sesame seeds, it gave the salad more substance.

It is hard to order this many vegan dishes looking for variety because at the end it is all nuts, like this vegan “cheese board”; that came with nuts on the side of cheese made of nuts. However, they were all house made and incredibly accurate to normal crumbly and stiff cheeses. And even flavoured wonderfully with a different set of spices.

The board comes in a small and large size. Ours included a seasoned nut mix, a pesto spread, and dehydrated seed crackers. I just wish for a more bland base for the “cheeses”. Each type of vegan cheese was fairly spreadable, and not as grainy as you would imagine. The saltier the “cheese”, the better smeared over a thinly sliced piece of apple it was. I kept searching for the same refreshing qualities from the other toppings, and could have benefited greatly from a jelly or some grapes, to perk this heavy assembly up.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
My mind can’t help but compare vegan dishes to that which I know. So I can’t process each as it is: a unique interpretation to stand alone. So when I compare the above to its egg, milk, cheese, bread, and meat counterparts they don’t live up to it. And sadly having shared this much food between two, I found that it all started coming together with the same taste, unavoidable given the similar assembly of nuts and spices used. I am glad to have tried it and be able to speak to and recommend “Zend”, but I myself would not look to be vegan, and therefore cannot see myself craving any of the above again. So in short, okay as an omnivore; and amazing as a vegan restaurant, definitely a step above most that I have been to. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ZEND
1130 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC
778-588-6688
zendlounge.com
Zend Conscious Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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