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

Month: August 2017 Page 1 of 3

Le Dîner en Blanc 2017

This is that event that had many locals dressing in white and converging onto one location to have an outdoor dinner together.

This is the Sixth Annual “Le Dîner en Blanc” in Vancouver BC. And the first for any city, outside of Paris (where the tradition originated), to host this event across two separate locations. Two side-by-side parks: Devonian Harbour Park and Harbour Green Park in Vancouver’s West End/Coal Harbour neighbourhood.

As the name suggests, “Le Dîner en Blanc” is a dinner party themed in white. You are invited to a secret location with other attendees to set up a large outdoor gathering like no other. You come dressed in white, toting your own chairs and table of white, with you own food and drink (not necessarily in white). You do this surrounded by a sea of people who also enjoy a good themed dinner party. As you can imagine, this is quite the visual gathering, making it a one of a kind photo op as well.

To watch my video account of this magical night, please visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

I was actually invited as media and thanks to “Camber Communications” and the “Social Concierge”, had a VIP “Le Dîner en Blanc” experience worth blogging about. A great way to take in my first, of hopefully many years, participating.

But first, myself and all other invited media gathered pool side at the Westin Bayshore’s court yard, for a pre-party. Here we got the night started early with drinks and appies.

Moet was poured from within one of their white wicker cabanas. Glasses of red and white offered around every turn.

Any flavoured “Red Bull” energy drink was made into a cocktail and shaken to order. These featured fresh fruit, tiny paper umbrellas, and candy as garnishes.

Servers also came around offering mushroom risotto balls, vegetable spring rolls with a sweet and sour dipping sauce, crispy cheese toast rounds, and shrimp in a citrus vinaigrette served in a shot glass. We ate our fill and by the end they all knew to come to us first so that we could take photos as the ones most excited about the food.

There were also models in costume that posed for photos, naturally, all dressed in white too. They would later reappear through the actual event, welcoming guests in, performing, and generally posing with event goers for photos.

We mixed and mingle here, before walking to the actual site location. And for those who needed it, the “Westin Bayshore” offered event goers the proper coloured sunglasses to better fit in, during the event.

Once again, where the actual event would take place was not actually released by email until a few hours before the start of it. It was well planned, and actually a short walk from the hotel. The hotel was also the location of “Le Dîner en Blanc” after party for those interested.

 

“Devonian Harbour Park” was where we were assigned to go. Although there was an option to be shuttled to the other location, however, look as we might we were never unable to find it. Though I was told that they offered similar styles of music, art, and entertainment at both locations, so you didn’t miss out at one or the another. This location seemed to host sponsored seating and many lengthy group tables.

Media checked in was at the entrance, with a green bracelet on wrist we were directed to the media lounge. A tented area with stand up tables and a light dinner hosted by “Hawksworth catering”. Here, it was a organized free-for- all buffet of cold foods. A vegetable and grain salad, a charcuterie board paired with breads and crackers, various spreadable and crumbly cheeses, fresh cut vegetables with an avocado dip, and a tomato and cheese salad in an Italian vinaigrette. Flanking this line was the offering of both red and wine, and even sparkling wines from two servers. Everyone really enjoyed the scene taking the time to chat and pose for photos with one another. We ate and sip before walking the grounds.

We roamed and watched everyone continue to trickle in, and then scurry to unpack all that they lugged here with them. Many took the extra care to pack centre pieces and candles to really upscale their dining affair. The flicker of the wicks would really elevate things once the sun set.

Having no assigned seating ourselves meant that we were able to take in everything as we explored the grounds by foot. We took in the sounds and skills of musicians performing light hearted melodies on stage. There were several platforms scattered across the park grounds to allow everyone to enjoy some music and they sipped and nibbled. Piano, accordion, fiddle, and acoustics to boot. A few folks even grabbed a partner and danced. An art installation was set up to the left of all the tables. Pieces to stand back and look at, and a live artist recreating a photo in pastel paints to admire. And everyone was able to stay hydrated with complimentary bottles of Evian and sparkling water handed out at two booths.

And of course, there was plenty of photo ups to line up and pose on front of. Many organizations set up branded backdrops and there was a wall of white paper flowers and plastic green foliage by @bloomsandpaper.

When day turned to dusk and the candles were lit, the event grounds felt like a whole other scene. Here it got cold. For those attending next year, I advise bringing a jacket to layer on as the sky darkens.

We would stay for the lighting of the sparklers, a novelty passed out for head tables and those who purchased tickets; and one that I too was able to get my hands on. So bring a lighter next year or be prepared to beg for a flame.

Truth be told, I and many others were probably too busy snapping photos to really appreciate the scene before us. Dots of light danced in the distant as they lit the smiles on a sea faces. What a great way to round out the night. What a one of a kind night. I can’t wait for the one next year!!

If you haven’t been before or done so already, I seriously suggest signing up early and reserving your spot for next year’s event. This one would be hard to beat, but I am sure event organizers will be starting preparations and talks for it as soon as they have wrapped up this one. What a truly unique party to be a party of amounts 6,000 others.

 

DINNER EN BLANC
https://vancouver.dinerenblanc.com

Yard House

The name of this place was enough to peak my interest. I would soon learn that it represented the length of their popular drinking vessels, or at least half of it. They offered beers by the half yard, served in their specialty custom glasses: elongated pints with wide tops and rounded bottoms; but more on that later.

The bar’s entrance even spoke to their claim to fame. Each heavy wood door was dragged opened with lengthy metal handles shaped in the image of this theme.

Inside, the set up was like your typical causal restaurant centred around a bar, chain. Plenty of seats across high tops, booths, and four people tables that can be reassembled to accommodate larger groups. But I was most interested in their bar and impressed by all the beers they have on tap, so grabbed a seat solo there. Each beer came with its own identifying handle and those on rotation were labeled in chalk. They also had a screen dedicated to calling out all their favourite brews. As as soon as I sat with wide eyes, I got immediate attention.

I ended up splitting my time with them between two separate visits. The first for a more leaner dinner and the latter to take advantage of their happy hour specials later at night. In truth, the former led me to coming back for the latter.

For lunch I was craving something fresher and cleaner so went for their “Poke stack”. This was marinated raw ahi tuna served on crispy wontons, in wasabi and soy sauce; served with a quarter avocado on the side. I was impressed by how it looked and that it was delivered by a chef in his pristine whites. However, my meal did not live up to the service or its presentation. The biggest issue was that there was too much soy sauce used. The dish was drowning in it, maybe its just the American palette, but I have been finding that the food I have been eating in Seattle as been seasoned quite salty. It would have been nicer to have both the offering of soy and wasabi on the side, for the diner to adjust the amount as needed. The pickled julienned vegetables were coated in it, and the wontons were soon to soggy because of it. The avocado garnish was helpful in cutting into this, but it wasn’t ripe. It was hard and lacked the creamy texture and telltale taste you’d expect from an avocado. I had to slice it with knife and fork by force. I could have also used more seaweed to generate interest, but given the clientele, I can see their demographic not appreciating it like I would. The second later of fish was a nice surprise, because it doesn’t look like much for $13.75 otherwise. And be warned, you can’t see any of the wasabi, so you don’t exactly know how much of it you are getting until you bite in.

So fast forward, I am back a day later for happy hour. Given the prices, I feel that even if I don’t like what I have, it won’t be too much of a loss to my pocket. And this time I intended on order proper bar eats.

Their happy hour runs from 3-6pm and 10pm to when they close at 11pm. I was here during the latter. And I actually arrived earlier so was forced to wait and watch the clock tick down to 10pm, to be take advantage of their special pricing. However my bartender was able to take my order a little earlier, and place it through the computer right when it hit 10pm.

Their half yard craft and domestic beers are $4 off at this time. Fun to look at, but hard to drink. Luckily I was sitting in a high top and able to hold it to my side and drink from there, with the bottom at hip height. Be warned when you get towards the bottom you want to take it in slow, less you catch an air bubble and spill the beer all over yourself. This was a honey brown that he recommended and I found easy to chug. I intended on finishing my glass, considering I overheard the staff not thinking I could. I did. I spilled some on myself, but was still proud.

My my beer I enjoyed their “Onion ring tower” for $6 instead of $9.85 regularly. Each stacked ring was beer battered with Parmesan, and served with both a chipotle ranch and buttermilk ranch dipping sauce. Although I liked being given the choice, I much preferred the chipotle one with its additional kick. But both were runny and more of an accent than the provider of flavour. The texture of these rings are what I look for in any good onion ring. These were tasty, more crunchy batter than slimy onion centre. Not to mention, I absolutely loved their horse shoe game presentation. Served on a pike, it was as fun to eat as it was delicious. And at $6, you can’t lose. Definitely one to share, as it looked like you get the whole onion skewered.

I also inquired about their “Vampire Taco” based on its unusual name. I was sold on it by the high recommendation of my friendly bartender. To have a taco “vampire style” means it is a wrapped in a grilled, crispy cheese crusted flour tortilla shell. I don’t see the connection to the blood sucking monster, but appreciated its marketing none-the-less. $5 for one instead of $6.65 regularly. It looked like it was just a shell of cheese and plenty of it. However, by this point, I have already learned that cheese from the States just isn’t the same as it is in Canada. Cheese doesn’t seem to have the same flavour and sharpness here than what I am use to at home, and I don’t know why. Either way this was still amazing and something I would recommend. It is a featured item filled with carnitas, bacon chorizo, chipotle, cumin crema, guacamole, roasted garlic and cilantro. And they didn’t cheap out on any of the above.

 

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.
Big chains like this are a guarantee for pleasing larger groups. Plenty on the menu to peak interest and typically good food for the asking price. With a happy hour menu featuring drinks from $1 to $4 off and food from $5-7 I suggest stopping by during those times. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

YARD HOUSE
1501 4th Avenue, Seattle WA, 98101
206-682-2087
yardhouse.com
Yard House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Turkish Hamman experience, Art of Sauna

I don’t often get invites back to places after I write a less than stellar review on them. However the manager of “Art of Sauna” had read my blog and seeing the gaps in my post, wanted to fill in some of them for me today. Mostly, to give me context from her perspective, something I highly appreciate given my career is in sales and business as well. For example, the reason why they don’t have a street facing sign for their building is because they are currently in legality talks with the city of Burnaby to acquire the permit necessary to install their already purchased signage.

If you haven’t already, I suggest reading my original post below to get a better continuity of events to come.

The Art of Sauna

So I was invited back to the “Art of Sauna” two weeks later, coming with the same friend whom I visited with first time. We were going to get a more accurate experience from first hand sources. I was most excited to explore some of the add-on features of the individual saunas, something I had later learned that I missed out on, during my first visit. And to really get a better understanding of the place and how to maximize a visit with them.

A few of the staff remembered me, so already I want to warn of the implications of an event I attend as media. When it comes to anything media related, service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the setting and events, 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, no one can truly interpret the world as you do.

My return coincided with a busy day and I could see they had a substantial loyal following this Sunday afternoon. Many people with duffle bags ready to relax and heal. And here I was with nothing but a purse and the flip flops I forgot the first time around. I wanted to know why these folks were come back again and again, as I doubt it was for the same photo op reasons as myself.

My friend and I met with Ana, the spa’s business consultant and manager at their lounge-bar. This time it was actually open and they had $10 smoothies available for purchasing, as well as iced drinks and power bars. Here, she offered us each a glass of “Kvass”, this is a type of Russian soda, which reminded me of sour plum in flavour and colour. I liked it, my guest not so much.

Ana had first come to the “Art of Sauna” as a customer herself, when they first opened less than a year ago. Where upon reading my blog post, agreed with my assessments (and then some). She felt the same lack of information and customer service I had experienced, and saw the same potential I did. Especially given how they don’t really have any competition in their specific market. There are no other places offering as many different saunas options as they do. She was impressed enough and believed in them enough for her to reach out to the owner, to ask for her current job. It has been three months since she has started, and she has already begun overhauling the place. It was only two weeks since my last visit and I already saw improvements. As I mentioned earlier, the bar was now open, coloured signs now advertised all services at the front desk, and they had a cleaner working non-stop mopping up the wet common areas for safety and sanitation. They were even able to carve out two additional massage rooms that featured Himalayan salt as wall paneling. A great addition, as Himalayan salt clears energy and bacteria, while purifying the air. One of these rooms is already being utilized for Thai massages, which combines regular massages with stretching and yoga components.

In her short time with them Ana has taken their standards higher with sanitation and cleanliness being on the top of her list. She has taken over the half completed repair work and completed it, and is still working tirelessly to overhaul the 12,000 share feet of space. The goal is to maximize all this excess space and offer an amusement park worth of services. They have taken a pause for this, their busy season, but expect to continue construction in between days and nights.

She has given the “Art of Sauna” its spa and massage concept, where as before it was just a place for a good steam. Next to come is a heavier focus on health with the bringing on of an interactive health coach and their integrative health treatments. She is working on inviting in a rotation of doctors to host lectures, and to staff a physiotherapist on site for patient sessions. She understands the time that is needed for the implementation of the above, but recognizes it is worth the wait and is something the lower mainland market is looking for. Meanwhile she is still recruiting the right service team for the spa. Finding those technicians that can deliver on service with professionalism and a smile. We both agreed that this is the natural process of birthing any business.

She rounded out her introduction by proudly declaring that what we are seeing now is nothing, and that they will continue to evolve and improve. Five massage rooms for more treatments to come. The addition of inferred saunas and facials to be added later. Games in the lounge to make them a great hang out place. With a detox program for the cafe, along with more healthy snack options. What I am most excited about is the ability to reserve their TBA “Couple’s room”. A private suite with private amenities, which includes dual massage beds and a private jacuzzi. Something to look forward to and to look into closer to Valentine’s Day, in the upcoming year.

She then toured us around the complex, stopping to share tidbits on each saunas. They are separated by wet on the right, with the ones featuring dry heat on the left. Which one you choose is based on your preference. For example women in menopause tend to prefer the wet saunas, finding them more tolerable. Where as those with lash extensions like myself probably prefer the dry ones, as to not have any water touch and ruin our lashes.

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

 

It is recommend that if you intend to visit them more frequently that you purchase one of their felt hats, they are insulated to help its wearer avoid overheating. These triangular caps aid in regulating your body’s temperature, because as you may know, you loose and take in heat the quickest from the top of your head. The hat allows you to stay in the saunas for longer by helping you absorb less heat, allowing only your body to take in most of it, to further the quickening of the body’s natural sweating process.

The heat and sweating you receive from each sauna helps to cleanse and detoxify as you pores sweat out the “poison”. It also helps your body metabolize quicker, which means eventual weight loss, if not the loss of water weight immediately. But like exercising and really any new experience, you need to build up a tolerance for it. This means getting hot and cooling down in intervals. To eventually be able to stay in any given sauna for longer.

And there are a few types of showers available to help you in the cool down process. It is advised that when you are using the ones with buckets and rope that you don’t have the water hit the top of your head (like I did the first time around). Doing so can cause temperature shock. It is better to have your chin up and to have the water cascade over the front of your body instead, you also absorb the cooling water better this way.

Currently the other public showers are just regular tiled stalls. But the plan is to install Vichy showers that use colour therapy for weight loss and to help improve the workings of certain body systems based on the hue you strobe it on. There is also the intention of installing massaging shower head for added healing.

The “Aroma steam room” is one of Ana’s favourites. In it they utilize pure eucalyptus oil, which is most helpful with the dry air, smoke, and fire that we have been having in our Vancouver air as of late.

She taught us that the “Finnish Sauna” uses Himalayan bricks to help purify. And that it is so effective, that they once use to preform surgeries in dry saunas, to help keep their open patients sanitized.

And speaking of sanitizing. She reassured us that the wet saunas are sanitized daily, seeing as mould and mildew love thriving in humid and moist conditions. Just looking at the rooms and noting the lack of grout, I could tell that they were very thorough with their this process.

After her concise tour we were left to our own devices. We used it to revisit each sauna with a better understanding of their healing properties; and to therefore really appreciate our time within each.

Here we also revisited the “Russian banyk” where for an additional fee you can purchase a bouquet of dried leaves to hit yourself or a friend with. It sounds weird but it actually feels good. This is part of their “venik” treatment, which is very common and popular within the Russian community.

You start by soaking your bushel of leaves in a bucket/container of hot water for 15 minutes. You have you choice your leaves based on their accompanying scent from either oak or eucalyptus. The leaves sit and steep like tea.

After you bring your giant bowl of “tea” into the “banyk”, which happens to be one of their hottest rooms. You can hit yourself with it; or one another, if you bring a friend. You move your way up from feet to neck, smacking away from limb to body with a “twack”. The motion exfoliates and the scent helps your respiratory system. It is advised that this treatment take up to 45 minutes. You get hot from the steam and the heated leaves, then cool down and rehydrate, only to begin again. Although the leaves has been soaking in hot water, compared to your increased body temperature within the “banyk”, it actually really isn’t that hot. The heated leaves touching your skin has a cooling sensation, and I can definitely see its coarse texture removing a layer of skin as you are repeatedly struck (gently, mind you). For an added scent sensation, you pour the leaf soaked water over the sauna’s hot coals to unleash even more of its aroma therapy. When all is said and done, you walk out of the room with leaves every where, and many fragments still stuck to your skin; a showing of a successful treatment had.

We were also treated to “The Art of Sauna”: signature service: the traditional Turkish Hamman. This is a bathing and exfoliating treatment administered in the room with tiled recliners and a matching tiled table. It is in a shared space with the Egyptian sauna. Both are set at the lowest temperature; making them ideal for doing peels, body masks, and clays treatments within.

The Hamman treatment is administered by a gentleman who was the utmost professional. Hakan is popular amongst the clients, with many of his available time slots being fully booked in advance. He is currently the only one who does and can administer this service. So be warned, for those females or males not comfortable with a man in his bathing suit rubbing you with bubbles in your bathing suit, this one might not be for you. Traditionally this is actually carried out with you being in nude, which makes sense considering it is a bath of sorts. And let me tell you, there is nothing more luxurious than another person bathing you. Something that you have do your every day, and typically do in a rush fashion. Something you haven’t had done to you since you were a child, and is as comforting as relaxing as you can remember.

Also know as a foam bath, it is an exfoliating, cleaning, and massage treatment all in one. Once again, if you are looking to request this one, make sure you book it in advance, as walk-in availability is limited, and he is the main reason why many come to the spa in the first place. The process carried out with a textured mit, multiple bars of olive oil soap, a soft cloth, and his skilled hands. A variation on this is the cleopatra massage in the Egyptian sauce, where honey and milk are used to smooth the skin instead. Both treatments are described as being very sensual. I was able to indulge in the former, which proved to be difficult given the fact that I came without a swim suit, and a bikini would be preferred to expose as much skin as possible. But we made it work. He was very polite and an professional in helping me hide my modesty, but to be honest I ain’t that shy. Truth be told I would have preferred it like how the Europeans do, in the nude (which I have experienced before at another spa, but with a woman). But with two separate face cloths I was able to hide my good bits today. One between the legs and the other over the chest.

To start, you are scrubbed more gently. Beginning with your face first, he cups your head in his hands like a child, very nurturing. He then gets you to lay down on the stone tiled table where you are exfoliated feet to neck on your front then again on your back. You get to see all the darkened pieces of skin that is rubbed off by his scrubbing motion. The treatment time is approximately 30 minutes long, but it does take longer the more surface area you have, and the more skin you need to scrub off. I actually exfoliate myself everyday and yet he was still able to remove so much dead skin from me. I was surprised and left feeling softer than I have ever been.

Once the skin is removed he washes you simultaneously with two bars of soap in each hand. With your pores now open you absorb the benefits of the soap, further making your skin all the more supple and soft. Next you are foamed up. To do this he uses a bag-like cloth that is soaped up in a pan of water. He removes it and blows into it to create a balloon. Then ringing in over your body, its foam engulfs you. This is done for your front and back, with the massaging of each part in between. They are shorter massages that have you planning your return trip for more. My favourite was when he rubbed my face and temples, with this odd, but oddly satisfying lshaking move.

During the whole experience he was friendly. He educated you on what he was doing if you were interested. And left you alone if you wanted more of a relaxing treatment.

When he is done, he escorts you to the shower in the corner to rinse off. And clean up of the space is as a pointed hose. My only complaint was I wish it lasted longer and maybe an eye mask, darker light, or something to help you relax further.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
You can definitely make a day out of this. A They are in the repeat business, and given how good you feel walking out, they will be a very successful one. When I came out of the changing room I was still sweaty, but my skin felt plush and firm; silky soft with even the colour of my long time tattoo seeming more vibrant. I smelled like eculytus and oak and I was fully relaxed.
I now understand their name and recognize that hosting all these sauna is an art. It requires the right education and a knowledgable person to guide you through it all. And by the sounds and looks of things, they are going in the right direction to bringing all their clients the VIP treatment that I got today.
I would love to return, but will give them some time, so that during my next visit I can take in even more of their new amenities that was mentioned to me above.

 

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

Mazda CX-9 Review

Over the past week my partner and I have had the pleasure of test driving the “2017 Mazda CX-9”, utilizing it as our daily driver. We ran errands with it, drove it to work, and took cruises up and down the sea to sky highway with it. All to get a good assessment of how it handled and if we could imagine it in our own lives.

In truth, we have tested a few cars prior, and this is the one he was most excited about upon picking it up. And I tend to believe him when it comes to anything automobile related, seeing as his works with various makes and models and they are his passion and expertise. So this review is written heavily in my description of his interpretation.

He described the body of the car as being “Sleek, modern and menacing looking”, “like an angry animal ready to be unleash in the wild”. Apparently all these are great attributes to have for a vehicle to cruise around on the streets with. I unfortunately couldn’t see it. He especially loved the “CX-9’s” “beautiful 20inch wheels”, claiming that are “hard not to notice”. And as any car guy can tell you, how you look in the car is just as important as how it drives.

Although it was the interior with its beige leather seats and wood detailing that had him looking to me with puppy dog eyes asking “can we keep it?” For him the interior was “flawless”, a big compliment for someone who spends his entire day working on cars, and his down time looking at and talking about cars. He described it as “something you would expect from a luxury brand SUV at double the price”. Whereas here everything is within easy reaching distance, designed for the driver’s comfort and their convenience in mind. All wrapped in a modern and chic package. Although we did not make use of the second and third rows of seats, the latter made the “Mazda CX-9” highly practical for those with larger families. Especially if they are planning road trips or need to move, as it has plenty of cargo space, with easy to store seats.

It was only missing one thing on his must have checklist: cooling seats. Although the seats did heat to warm, and with individual knobs you and your driver side passenger are able to have the temperature set just as you want it. He liked the air conditioning to blow at him, and to be directed at his feet. Whereas I want to be submerged in the cooling effects of air conditioning, but not have it aimed directly at me, and typically at a much lower setting. This way we weren’t fighting, but got to have it just as we liked it. In my opinion this is a must for a happy relationship and when considering a lengthy road trip.

As for the engine and the way it handles, he only continued his parade of praise. “Don’t be fooled by the “CX-9’s” smaller 4cylinder turbo engine” he warned. Although the competitors in its class have themselves bigger v6 engines, what keeps “Mazda” in the running is their “skyactiv” technology. He declared that it “is no joke!” Equipped with 310foot pounds of torque, the power delivery is smooth, with plenty of low to mid range power produced by its turbocharger. All this and it still has the best fuel economy in its class.

He especially appreciated the “growl” coming from the engine, each time he put his foot down on the accelerator’s pedal. And with the extra luxury of sound deadening technology in the cabin it really doesn’t sound all that loud, an added feature since this “CX-9’s” predecessor. In fact with all the windows closed you don’t hear much of any of the traffic and noise coming from outside. Ideal for those who appreciate crisp music quality from their satellite radio.

The ride is smooth thanks to how low the suv sits, compare to some of its competitor’s. The result, no need to lower it yourself for that aesthetic, and the vehicle is a lot more planted on the road. This smooth drive is furthered by a sharper steering response, which makes it feels more like you are driving a sedan than a full size 7 seater SUV.

In conclusion he found it very hard to find any flaws to this vehicle. And he did try, so for that, he and I say “well done Mazda!” and thanks for the sweet ride. When can we have it again?

Mazda.ca
#mazdacx9

The Fair at the PNE 2017

The Fair at the Pacific National Coliseum (PNE) is an institution. Every year thousands of us converge onto its grounds to enjoy a day of food and fun out in the sun. What once was an agricultural affair has since evolved into an urban one; all thanks to the community that surrounds it. And with this growth it seems the food component is following right behind.

As a food blogger, I was given an exclusive guided tour of this year’s new foods vendors and some new trendy food items. Which included deep fried chicken feet and crickets for burger toppings.

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.

This is “The Fair’s” 107th year, since they opened their doors in 1910, at the Hastings Park. The food sector was a big part of the park then, just as it is now. However where they use to be exclusively carnival food then, the increasing appetites of Vancouver’s foodies have given many more business owners the opportunity to set up shop now. And it is here that they are able to make much of their earnings, running non stop during the last two weeks of summer.

Many success stories originated at this fair, vendors hosting a booth and being able to expand their business into a year round thing. Their most successful example is “Vina” Vietnamese cuisine. “Vina” started as the park’s first and only pho offering, and they can now be found in many of our mall food courts.

Today we gathered at 9am, well before the arrivals of the crowds when they opened their doors for the day at 11am. I loved the peace before the storm and to be able to film without much distraction.

To watch the vlog version of my PNE food recap, visit the link on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

We started off at “Chicky’s chicken”, marketing their cornbread battered and deep fried chicken’s feet as this year’s “dare to try item”. A wise strategy for bringing in folks who like to have it weird, like me. However, growing up Asian, I am very familiar with consuming chicken feet, thanks to many family dim sum brunches. But here there is no sauce just a grasping claw set upon skewer for optimum visual impact. It worked as it had us snapping photos.

As for its taste it was surprising good, the batter was pretty much what you tasted. However it’s tiny bones were bothersome. You didn’t know what to do with them after you finished sucking skin and cartilage from them. We eventually found ourselves huddled around a garbage can spitting into it sporadically. Not the most enjoyable snack to eat or the most practical on the go.

Next we visited the “Super Foot Long Hot Dogs” stand for something less weird and a lot more rich. This is their “double bacon mac n’ cheese super footlong hotdog”, and it was everything its name promised. However, I still felt like it was missing something. I wished the macaroni was saltier and less mushy, that I was actually able to taste the bacon, and that there was a kick to its overall flavour. The hot dog needed some tang if I was going to attempt a full one, like hot sauce or a spicy relish. I am sure I would have been able to dress it with condiments as normal, had I asked.

At their neighbours next door we were introduced to their newest menu item. I remembered “Steve-O’s public house”, having had their deep fried tequila shots and Oreo churros last year. This year it was all about their “waffle taco”. Here they made their own ice fried cookies and cream curls, and set in into a crispy pressed waffle cone, shaped like a taco. They finished it off with some fresh whipped cream and rainbow coloured sprinkles. And as it sounds, it does not disappoint. Great flavours in a less common application. Although when attempting to eating this as you walk, all grace goes out the window.

This year is the first for “Dumpling Express” they are the only ones in the park to offer Chinese dim sum. Although they also serve many popular Hong Kong style dishes, we only got to try their dumplings. Their shrimp dumplings, pork dumplings and barbecue pork buns were good. I didn’t find anything off about them, other than their pricing. I don’t think I can happily pay for any of it, when I can get better for less at most Chinese-style sit down restaurants. Although for those not familiar with Chinese food and are here to experience something new, this is a good option and a safe environment to do so.

Next we had the highly publicized “Cricket burger and fries” from “Gourmet Burgers”. “Gourmet Burgers” are known for pushing burger boundaries at the Fair. Last year they were offering a gigantic sized burger for those hungry enough, and this year it’s, “do you want bugs with that?” They have taken a traditional burger with patty, tomato, lettuce, onion, and cheese; and to it have added a healthy layer of crispy crickets.

The same goes for their poutine: fries gravy and cheese curds with crickets sprinkled over like a topping. I have had my fair share of insects, so at this point wasn’t phased. It is a good way to get some leaner protein into your diet, especially for those who don’t consume red meat. They didn’t add any flavour to the burger, only lending its texture as a crunch and some graininess to end on. Another one that is fun to try for those unfamiliar.

Next we went for some more traditional carnival eats. This would be my first time trying funnel cake, and there is none better and the Fair than from the booth with the same name. They are a long standing vendor and best known for deep frying up anything sweet and making everything dessert-like with batter and powdered sugar. But today they were taking their traditionally sweet snack and giving it new life as something savoury and more filling like a meal.

They started off with a freshly fried funnel cake, and after its typical sprinkling of powdered sugar; Montreal style cheese curds are sprinkled over and a large scoop of gravy is poured on top. The funnel cake is meant to take the place of fries. It is a tasty combination and fun variation to try if you already like funnel cake. But I would have liked the gravy hotter to get the cheese to a melty and stringy state. Word to the wise: keep in mind of the time as there is a small window to finish it before the heavy gravy causes the funnel cake to go soggy. As it is much better crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The only real downside to this is the mess you make eating with your hands, and having to soap up your sticky gravy fingers afterwards.

Another popular fair treat that is a staple to the park is the “PNE beaver tail”, and another new one for me to try for the first time. This is a sheet of dough, deep fried golden brown and crispy. It is referred to as the “Canadian doughnut” by Americans who have tried it and adapted init to their own version: the “whale’s tails”. But in actuality, it is more like the indigenous bread-like product bannock. In the 19th century the creator of the “beaver tail” copied aboriginal cooking methods and this was the result. Like the funnel cake, I advise eating it fast or be left with a soggy sheet of dough.

They dress up your “beaver tail” as how you like it. I preferred them simple and as they were with cinnamon and sugar, and a squeeze of lemon to finish it off. But for those who like their’s extra: their peanut butter one with “Reese” chocolate is popular, as is the one where they spread on “Nutella” thick and set slices of banana into it.

Our guided tour ended at a double decker bus that has been refurbished into a restaurant of sorts with upper deck seating. Serving out of the bus’s side window kitchen, they offered a twist on the classic British style fish and chips. Crispy battered white fish prepared using Jamaican rubs and spices. However, I didn’t taste much or any of these spices, which is confusing considering the red and green chilli patterned wax paper our meal sat on. It would have been much more exciting to have tasted these flavours, and to be given a unique sauce to pair with this re-imagining of fish and chips; and not just bottled tartar sauce from a push pump jug. A spicy mango salsa or a jerk style BBQ sauce perhaps, something to really hit in on home that you were enjoying Jamaican flavours.

Seeing as we were already on Fair grounds we were able to enjoy the rest of the day, our way. And this included watching the throes of fair goes come rushing in to the now opened park, like a wave. They had musicians ushering them in, playing to welcome them and setting the pace of their speed walk. It would have been nice to ask one where they are rushing off to.

We the enjoyed an ice cream cone from the “Praguery” as we watched the scene above unfold. Here they offer their vanilla soft serve in a freshly baked chimney cake. “Chimney cakes” are a popular Hungarian pastry coiled around rolling-pin shaped moulds, and baked on a rotisserie until golden and crispy on the outside. Here they fill the hollow cone with ice cream and you can unravel it as you eat down. There are several variations available, adding fruits and syrups to elevate the taste. We had the lemon one with a tart lemon spread that made the ice cream and cinnamon sugar cone taste all the more sweeter. A great way to cool down and another something new to try.

I would take a break from the Fair, but head back in the evening for dinner with some friends. My partner and I basically visit the PNE for its food offerings, and what we never fail to miss is the slow cooked offerings at the BBQ pavilion. Award winning barbecue meats and sauces offered up a la carte. Here, the “Gator BBQ” stand continues to be our go-to. I like how all their awards and trophies as set up and staged on a fold out table in front of their booth. They are a reassurance when you are standing patiently in line, almost promising you that you are at the right place and the wait is worth it.

You also get to watch the staff behind the grill heat up and sauce up slabs of ribs to order. (Most of what they serve is slow cooked ahead of time.) They do this while singing and jiving, and really looking like they enjoy what they are doing.

Today four of us shared their “vegetarian nightmare”. A combo that included a healthy order of their ribs, pulled pork, and beef brisket with two sides. Typically the sides are their refried beans and some roasted herb potatoes. But here we substituted beans for corn bread and paid extra to get more of it.

You help yourself to their squeeze bottles of sauces and can be as light or heavy handed with it as you wish. They also have a self serve roll of paper towel for those who eat messy with their hands. The meat was as tender and as succulent as it is every year, and the sauce, the perfect blend of tangy and sweet. The sides offered complimentary breaks and a change of taste. All around as delicious tasting as it is looking. Although we may have over ordered as half of us weren’t as hungry as the other half.

Next to it was “Unroutine poutine”, where they take the Canadian classic of mixing fries with gravy and cheese and to it add a variety of different topping combinations. From bacon to smoked meat, and one for the vegetarians. We had more pulled pork in their “honey garlic pork poutine”, which turned out to be a bad idea. Comparing this portion of pork over these fries to the award winning one above, left this feeling lack lustre. The meat was dry, I didn’t taste any honey or garlic. There wasn’t even enough gravy to call this a poutine. The only way you got any flavour is from the sweetness of the canned pineapple chunks. But at least they were generous with their serving, not that we finished it.

Being stuffed beyond compare we then took to exploring the fair grounds to walk it off. This year their new exhibition includes a showcase on toys, the largest gathering of hockey history memorabilia, and giant mechanical insects that sound and move.

And then there are the PNE traditions of watching the “Super Dogs” literally jump through hoops. Exploring the agricultural forum with farm animals, horse shows, and duck races. And the “market place” is a fan favourite to end the night on, a shopping experience where you get to take home infomercial items at as seen on tv late night specials.

 

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.
Weird and wild at the @pne_playland!
#thefair. Nothing marks the end of summer like a trip to the PNE. If it has to end, at least here in Vancouver we do it with live concerts and a fire and light show every night. Have fun and don’t deny your cravings at the PNE!

 

PNE, THE FAIR
2901 East Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V5K 5J1
604-251-7717
pne.ca

Nue

Knowing I would be coming to Seattle soon, I made sure to plan my trip about visiting “Nue”, a newer restaurant specializing in global street eats. They are one of a handful of Seattle stops that I told myself I couldn’t miss. I had seen their social media presence and with it the availability of some fairly unique dishes I have yet to see offered anywhere else. This includes boiled whole insects, which I assumed was a limited time only menu item; but later learned that they are actuality available all year round. More on that later.

The restaurant is on the kitty corner of a busy street, so not readily noticeable to walk-in traffic. And the same can be said for its exterior, with its narrow bar-patio seats. In fact I walked past it not realizing they were what I took the long trek. And just looking at the entrance you wouldn’t imagine all the wonders that hid within.

Inside the space was a lot more memorable. Red brick and wooden crates were home to bottles of spirits, cans of beer, and an assortment of curiosities. Paper mâché masks, origami flowers, porcelain animals sculptures, and animal skulls; just to name a few. All together it looked like you are staring at a page out of the “I Spy”, the children’s activity book series. All the above and the “Lonely Planet” travel guides spoke to its global influences in decor. The guides were also used as billfold when it came time for the receipt.

As a diner who goes out of her way to discover newness and try novelty, the menu spoke to me. It read like an exploration for those adventurous enough to approach it, and I was just the gal.

For the video account of things to come, please visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei

 

Knowing that I would be pushing my own threshold as a visual and textural diner, I thought it best to have a drink to warm myself up. Once again with an extensive list, that included insect infused liquor, I didn’t know where to begin. So I looked to my knowledgable server who would continue to be patience with my questions and understanding with my photo taking and video recording.

Seeing as the cocktails with tequila and scorpion, vodka with water beetle, and rice wine with cobra didn’t actual have the infused critter in it. And therefore I wasn’t as interested. Other options like the “McNguyen” cocktail made with Vietnamese coffee was nice my speed, of the “kat chai” made with salted plum.

But in the end I went for the “Naranjarita”. This was a sweet and salty cocktail made using
Wahaca Mezca, freshly squeezed orange juice, and an salted tamarind candy straw. The latter was only used to coat one of the two straws, that came semi submerged in the bright orange brew. It served as a good stir stick and had a nice tangy lick to end on. It was better partnered with food, than offered as a standalone diner-drink.

I started with the reason why I was here: to try the very intimidating looking “Thai Mang Da Na”. Even the menu warned it was “for the adventurous”. Three large water nettles boiled and infused with fruit, flowers, candy and salt, for a very intense flavour. I was reassured by my server that there is a proper way to eat them with ease, and that she would give me the tutorial for it. I wouldn’t just be going full-in, crunching down on a hard exoskeleton. Instead, you peel back the shell and pull each off, the same goes for the thin plastic-like wing under it. Next you snap the beetle’s head off at its torso and suck out its internals from its thorax. So you aren’t so much chewing on the insert, as you are sucking out its guts. I was in disbelief, but each tastes as my server promised: a salty apple jolly rancher. It was definitely an apple flavour combined with heavy floral elements. Not gamey or bitter as you would imagine, but more perfum-y and bright. But despite how non threatening it tasted, it felt unnatural. I wasn’t eating for flavour or enjoyment, so I had two and that was enough for me.

Next I was finally trying balut for the first time. “Balut” is a developed duck embryo still in the egg, a Filipino delicacy. This one was seasoned with Vietnamese hot vit lot; which is various spices, pepper, and lime juice. After this experience, I now know why it’s presented still in its shell, I could not get over how gnarly this looked. Inside, it was veiny with a see through membrane. Just past that I swear I made out two black and beady eyes and a yellow beak.

So you crack into it just like you would pealing the shell off a hard boiled egg. But be warned, during the boiling process a soup within the egg gathers and what you get is a sip of duck soup likely to spill out as you crack in. The soup tasted all well and good, but the actual baby buck was off putting. From look and sight, to smell and taste; nothing about this read eat me. I tried, but only got through half. The gamey mush and the little bones that you have to pick out of your mouth were not appealing. Now that I have tried it and can say that I have, I can successfully say this isn’t for me.

The “Grilled Barbarian pig tails” were unison nubs, severed from the base of of the animal. It came with some jerk glaze with cilantro. This was my favourite one of the “weird” foods, because it simply ate like and tasted like sweet and salty short ribs, just with a lot more chewy caramelization on the fatty skin.

Then to follow that all up with, I decided to go for something a lot more comforting to the regular dinner: chicken wings. Wings are a universal yum as most places offer a variation on it. At “Nue”, their wings had an extra wow factor. It is an eye catching tower of wings and drumlets stacked and propped by two skewers Two different flavours come in this presentation. I took the one that was described as being saucy and messy and not as spicy as the other: “Hungarian paprikash jumbo chicken wings”. Sweet and smokey Hungarian paprika, sour cream, caramelized onion, and fresh dill. Topped with crispy fried onions. They had a rich and zesty flavour. The refreshing-ness of the vegetables that was strewn across the plate and the tanginess of the dill helped to balance it. It was tasty with the first wing, but after the third and fourth I got bored of its very specific flavour. This is one I would recommend sharing.

 

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.
What a fun and unique place, with nothing else like it in the city. Best for those looking to expand their eating horizons, with more domestic options for those who rather spend money on something they know they will enjoy. A one or a kind must visit the next time you are in Seattle, with well versed staff prepared to walk you through it all. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

NUE
1519 14th Avenue, Seattle WA, 98122
206-257-0312
nueseattle.com
Nue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Aloha Plates

We came to our must stop for any trip to Seattle, the Japanese and Asian food mart: “Uwajimaya”. We typically visit for their book store, where my partner looks for Japanese import car magazines. Whereas I like shopping their grocery isles looking for unique Japanese treats. However, this time around we didn’t purchase anything from either, so in order to validate our parking, we had a quick bite to eat in their food court.

I have been to “Uwajimaya” a handful of times already, and during each, had never thought to grab anything from their food court. I find the space dingy, and therefore less appealing for food or drink. This was furthered by its tightly packed seating area lit in a florescent orange, not to mention the aged look of a few of the booths. So naturally when having to choose one I gravitated to one of the newer of the few. It was a tie between this or the grilled cheese stand. I passed on the latter as I wanted something more centralized to my locale. So the solution was Hawaiian for lunch.

The booth was definitely more eye catching than its neighbours. With its bold neon sign, still fully lit and new; and its awning designed to look like a hut with thatched roof and Hawaii’s native flower. Within, there was a wall painted to look like an orange sun set, set against blue waters. Here four diners could sit and enjoy the artificial view as they ate. Further within, the staff worked back to back fulfilling their lunch rush.

The cashier planted herself behind the register, shouting out orders. She stood out in her blue and green Hawaiian shirt and her slightly aggressive approach in speedy order taking and food delivery. She was almost robotic with repeated script-like sayings and an over kill of “thank-you’s”, as if to hurry you along. Though I liked how she engaged with everyone who was standing in front of her stand undecided. She called out to them and offered samples of their pulled pork and fried rice dishes.

But I like many others opted for their lunch special instead. This was their sweet style teriyaki chicken with either gyozas or fried chicken. I had the latter as it was cheaper and wanted to avoid chicken with a side of chicken.

As the chicken sat, the sauce pooled around the pieces, and the result was an entree too salty for me. Though they still included a packet of soy with my order, in case it lacked flavour. The rice helped with the saltiness. There was also stewed lettuce for a side, which I was less inclined to try based on look and its hard to break down chunks. Instead, the shredded slaw at the bottom of the chicken was more appetizing and it gave the dish some freshness and crunch. The gyozas were overcooked. Its shell hard and filling dry. I found it not worth finishing.

I also grabbed one of their spam musubis to go. I had thought it was made to order, but based on the oily Saran Wrap that surrounded it, sadly it was pre-prepared. I ate it to go and found it no more than what it was. This was my first time trying this novelty and found it lack lustre. Apparently there should also be egg and mayonnaise in the “correct” way to make this. I think this would have changed my assessment. It would have made this more like a sandwich with the rice as starch and the sauce as spread.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
An alright place to eat at when in this food court. Quick and easy with enough food to fill. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ALOHA PLATES
511 S Weller Street, Seattle WA, 98104
206-624-9156
Aloha Plates Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A meal prepared by The Nomad Cook

After an amazing experience dining in the sky, my friend and I reconnected with the chef who created the menu for the event, and was also the one cooking for us on the day we ascended for dinner: The Nomad Cook, Chef Travis Petersen. He enjoyed our video and media coverage so wanted to do a collaboration with us regarding his private chef services. So tonight we hired his services to help facilitate our garden party themed dinner for five.

To watch the cooking process below unfold and to get a live action of the dishes below, please visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

As his name implies he travels around, which means the possibility of him coming to you. He met us at our locale, where our host of the evening had decorated her garage to look like a presentable party space. A curtain with hand made pom poms strewn in pink, peach, and mints. And a table with fresh cut flowers. We the diners came in florals to fully match our theme. A theme that would transition into our meal to come, as well.

We hired “The Nomad Cook’s ” services for him to cook for us as we to watch the show he put on. But he also does workshops where he teaches you how to prepare a three course meal in two hours, where each person takes part in the physical work of putting together the meal to come. And if you are looking to pair your food with some drinks you can pay extra to hire a bartender, where they supply the mixes and juices, and you bring the liquor.

Other than that our chef of the night has been busy working pop ups, with his latest announced as being a collaboration with the latest Masterchef Canada Champion Chef Trevor Connie. On October 3rd they are bringing the city a Pop Up Dinner in Kitsilano. It is nice to see two local home cooks coming together and collaborating well with one another. The will be bringing patrons a six course tasting menu so hot that they are calling it “TNT”. I have taken the promised menu from their advert, however feel it would have been nicer to have it as a surprise, and instead be drawn in through my curiosity and a well advertised creative theme. Tickets are $125 and you reserve yours by emailing travis@thenomadcook.ca. The one he has arranged in September has already sold out.

1st Course – Hamachi Crudo – Lemon, Puffed Cardamom Rice, Malden Salt
2nd Course – Crusted Digby Scallop – Miso Yolk, Prosciutto, Shiro Dashi, Katsuobushi
3rd Course – Charred Octopus with Andouille Butter
4th Course – Sable Fish – Compressed Jicama & Melon, Brown Butter, Toasted Hazelnuts
5th Course – Rack of Lamb – Raw Young Asparagus, Dates and a Lamb Reduction
6th Course – Beaver Tail Gelato – Cinnamon Sugar Fry Bread

For us he prepared a meal to accommodate a pregnant mother-to-be and one guess that doesn’t like goat cheese. The substitutions were a nice consideration, but it seems easier to just create a new dish for everyone instead of having to make one special.

He had a few things prepared and brought over in a cooler on wheels. He brought any ingredient he needed, simply sourcing the more common herbs and spices from your pantry. He also brings the dish ware in which your four course meal gets plated on. A clever idea to really emphasize the end product, giving you confidence in your investment got the night. Otherwise, as is the case for my kitchen, you are getting a collection of patterns and gaudy colours to present a dinner and service that you have spent at least two bills on.

You supply the cooking surface and heat sauce, mixing bowls, utensils and any other cooking equipment. The chef makes your kitchen his own. He doesn’t ask you where is everything and instead opens cupboards and pulls out drawers until he finds what he needs. He also cleans up after himself. After you have wined and dined, you need not worry about the pile of dishes or messy countertop that was necessary for a successful of the night. Instead you thank him for his time and are left sitting, relaxed with your guests smiling and feeling full.

The 1st Course was “Grilled Portobello Mushroom Nicoise”. A grilled portobello mushroom cap topped with olives, roasted red pepper, grape tomato, fresh basil, and goat cheese. All over on the spot prepared Nicoise Dressing. The dressing is made by mixing red wine vinegar, olive oil, capers, anchovies, garlic, salt and pepper, and chilli flakes together. This was very flavourful and incredibly satisfying.

Here we saw the mushroom caps get scraped then drizzled with oil before taking some time in the oven. And its sauce being mixed together before being poured into the cap like a bowl.

During the whole process, we watched our chef tirelessly, and he endured it with cameras in his face and his actions being slowed by pleas of “wait”, as we stopped him so that we could capture his movements in film (so to speak). Then our chef presented his dish and served it to us, after having us seat ourself. After our photo shoot session of the fresh plate, we ate and The Nomad Cook set about preparing the next course.

I liked this one, it was tasty with flavours assembled like I have never had them before. Hearty too, the mushroom had a nice firm chew, like that of tender squid. As a whole, it is inspiring to know that if we worked and applied ourselves as hard as he did, we could cook like him.

The 2nd Course had pre-made ahi tuna ceviche over crispy sesame wonton crackers. Sadly you could tell that the ceviche wasn’t made to order as the avocado was slightly oxidized and the sauce congealed. Otherwise it just needed some additional sweet and tangy sauce to give it that punch of flavour.

The mother-to-be was avoiding seafood so had an “Asian Mango & Avocado Salad” instead. She got herself a larger serving, but it didn’t really feel like it was an equivalent second course to what we had above.

The 3rd Course was everyone’s favourite. “Crispy Skin Salmon over Squid Ink Noodles on a Roasted Red Pepper and Saffron Veloute”. Here we learned that squid ink noodles aren’t made black, but it is actually any noodle dyed black with the ink from a jar. It gave the noodles a fishy quality. Seeing how long the peppers for the sauce was allowed to simmer and how fragrant it smelled pooled under the neatly spiralled up clump of noodles, you could tell it would be flavourful. We all got excited to see that our chef had brought a jar of ikura (fish roe) with him. However, was quickly disappointed to learn that we wouldn’t get more than four rounds each. The fish that crowned the dish was a generous portion to make up for it, perfectly tender with a just cooked centre. The skin was my favourite part, crispy with caramelization from the butter melted in the pan it was seared in. It definitely filled you up and I wanted more.

The 4th and final course was half a “Port Poached Pear with Vanilla Pastry Cream, Edible Flowers and Cake Crumble”. It was delicious I wanted more more of this too, but was to shy to inquire about another half of pear, hoping he had one extra soaking in port and set to chill in the fridge. Although, I still wished that the dessert was more elaborate. Don’t get me wrong I loved it, but more as a warm up for a more rich dessert to follow. Something more done up to match the occasion and to end dinner on the highest of notes. Though this I would enjoy daily if I could, you felt healthy ending on it. In fact the entire meal gave you the same sentiment.

Overall it was a lovely dinner, and a fun way to meet up with some girlfriends or to enjoy any celebration. The more I age, the more I appreciate good food and the special occasions I create to enjoy them at. This is one such fun event. Not something I could afford on the everyday, but something I would relish being able to do now and again.

​​​​
​​​

THE NOMAD COOK
thenomadcook.ca

Unicorn

I was in Capitol Hill, checking out seattle’s equivalent of Davie street. And found it to be the most fun and inviting area of Seattle that I have visited yet. Rainbow side walks and rainbow flags in every window.

Just seeing the photos of “Unicorn” online, really doesn’t do it justice. There was so much going on that I couldn’t capture it all in one photo, and I can’t begin to describe it all in a few words.

The entrance is as fun as it looks inside: striped like a funky big top. The carnival theme was consistent with their their name spelled out in a circus-y font, and their walls striped in teal, red, or black paired with white. A few booth seats were patterned like a zebra and others were refurbished old roller coaster chairs. The walls were a taxidermist’s dream with stuffed busts of wildlife and safari game calling it their home, it gave new meaning to having all eyes on you. There was so much colour and whimsy, and with the distressed finishes it gave the place so much character and quirk. A photo speaks louder than words in this case, to take a look at the above in awe.

 

Service is unique here. You seat yourself, and walk up to order at the bar, it is there that you also get your ID checked. Every drink was fulfilled by a lone bartender, this Wednesday night, on top of that she took and processed every food order as well. You can either pay as you go or start a tab by leaving your credit card behind the bar. Any food you order isn’t served to you. You linger at the bar for the kitchen to fulfil it, then when it comes to pass, carry it back to your chosen table. This was also the case for all the tables on the lower level as well. It made my bar seat a hub, but still the best seat it the house for immediate drinks and a front and centre view of a bar like no other.

I really wanted to explore more of the food menu, but the space really is more for friends and groups. The constant roar of the room made it hard to enjoy in my solitude. Also their food menu is more greasy snacks to balance all your drinking with. Whereas I wanted something more substantial. Deep fried and cheesy: fully loaded hot dogs, meat and pasta moulded into balls, and plenty of fried carnival favourites.

So I took in their equally fun and colourful drink menu instead. Cocktails and shots all guaranteed to attract your attention and to peak your curiosity. It certainly was the case for my drink choices below. There was a “peep skeet” shot with marshmallow vodka. The “rainbow brite” shot delivered on its assumed colours. And their drop shots were fun variations on sno cones with caramel whiskey, and “unicorn tears” featuring bubblegum vodka and cherry energy drink. Once again drinking alone and with no one to take care of me if I got sloppy (I can see that happening easily here), I stuck to cocktails.

The “Unicorn jizz” was the first on the list and probably the most popular given its quirky and edgy name. It certainly won me over with mango vodka, triple sec, OJ, sour, sprite, and grenadine. It was sweet and refreshing, with the orange juice and sprite shining through, just like a grown up Shirley Temple (ironically).

My next drink was once again chosen by name, when in the states and at a bar called unicorn you might as well get their “Americorn” cocktail with bubble gum vodka, watermelon liquor, sour, and sprite; topped with raspberry vodka. It was a lot stronger with a lot sweeter and artificial flavour. It really wasn’t for me, although I noted how pretty the gradient in its colours looked.

Had I the tolerance or friend support I would have been tempted by the “Adult root beer” with a vanilla vodka and spiked root beer, or “the cereal killer” with fruit loop vodka and a rum-horchata mixed liquor.

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.
Definitely a place I would love to come back to when visiting Seattle with friends. A great vibe and a fun atmosphere. Fun fact: if you ask for it, they have a rhinestone encrusted helmet with a lengthy rod sticking out of it for you to transform into your own unicorn. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

UNICORN
1118 East Pike Street, Seattle WA, 98122
206-325-6492
unicornseattle.com
Unicorn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Damn The Weather

This was one of the places that was recommended to by my host during my stay in Seattle, this and a handful of other restaurants I hoped to explore. Truth be told, I made the trek and this my destination given its quirky name with matching upside down umbrella logo. It felt close to home with Vancouver ideology. The rain and poking fun of it is something Seattle and us Vancouverites share.

The space is mostly its bar, which takes up a half the width of the room with high top stools packed tightly by its counter. I perched up here to enjoy my meal alone. There are also wooden tables and chairs seating four at the other end of the room, for those looking for a more intimate setting with others.

With red brick walls, a mix of tiles and wood under foot, and a series of vintage mirrors used as decor, it reminded me of any little bar-resto-lounge in Vancouver’s Gastown district, in fact the area “Damn the weather” was located in, even mimicked what Gastown feels like. Gastown with its cobble stone paved streets, over handing trees, and light posts with rounded bulbs. Except here the restaurant played 90’s r&b, instead of indie and I loved it.

Once again I sat at their bar so had their bartender serve me. She was skilled not only in her mixology craft, but with in her customer service as well. All night, between filling all of the restaurant’s drink orders she gave me attentive care with humour and quirk.

I asked for recommendations for a cocktail, as when it comes to drinks I don’t have a preference. She refused to recommend one willy nilly, and instead talked me through what I was feeling like. She insisted that their beverage program was good, otherwise she wouldn’t be working here. We agreed with “Bless the weather” being a good start, as something easy to drink that’s refreshing, especially given the sweat I broke walking here. It is made with Cachaca, a distilled spirit made with sugar cane instead of molasses like other spirits (a fact my bartender educated me on). As well as basil, blanc vermouth, lime, and chartreuse. It was as she promised it to be: refreshing, where you definitely got the sweetness from the sugar cane.

Seeing my cup empty to ice, she instinctively followed my first drink with a Fortified wine called “beeryh” (ironically pronounced “beer”). It was described to me as being like a vermouth, and it tasted like raisins. Sweet to start with a back of your throat puckering to end on. I later found out that this was a treat she offered on to me without charge.

As for the food menu it was a small card with limited selections specifically curated for today’s date of August 8th. Yet again I asked for my bartender’s suggestion and she was quick to help validate my selections and narrow down my choices.

The “Smoked salmon pate” was recommend over the beef carpaccio as something they don’t often offer. This version came with blueberries, fennel, and crostini. First glancing at it, the plate wasn’t visually appealing. This was given the pasty peach of the salmon spread paired with the washed out green fennel, and the dark balls that were the blueberries. But its taste held up. It wasn’t an overwhelming salmon flavour, but more like a subdued salmon and cream cheese mix. And when paired with slices of fennel, it gave you pops of tang that lightened the serving. Whereas the blueberries offered sweetness and a change in taste as needed.

She warned me about the “Chicken fat fries” being heavy and hard to finish, and it was just that; but I wanted to try them any how. These were fresh cut potatoes deep fried in chicken grease instead of oil, then garnished with fennel pollen and lemon. I definitely recommend squeezing the lemon segment provided for some brightness to the serving. You immediately taste the heat and the depth that the chicken grease brought on. Luckily I was able to balance it with the refreshing nature of the dish below.

The “Grilled watermelon” with cucumber, feta, chilli, and basil. It wasn’t what I was expecting visually, but I guess when you cook watermelon it turns from pink to yellow, and when you do the same for cucumber it also turned yellow from the heat. Whereas I expected a plate of pink and green fruits and vegetable. The heat of the freshly grilled watermelon gave you an interesting mouth-feel, and its texture surprisingly held up. With the salty crumbled cheese and smoky char it ate like a savoury dish. Although be warned, they are watermelon sections with seeds, so if they aren’t still embedded in the fruit, they are floating around in the juices that pool to the bottom of the plate. I didn’t eat much of the mint, so all together the serving reminded me of a fun summer twist on a Greek salad with the salty feta cheese.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A great little spot full of character, run by staff with just as much personality. A great place to socialize at, or post up and enjoy the it all by your lonesome. I was able to take my time and enjoy my drink in sips long after I was done eating. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DAMN THE WEATHER
116 1st Avenue South, Seattle WA, 98104
206-946-1283
damntheweather.com
Damn The Weather Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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