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Month: November 2017 Page 1 of 3

Xiang Yuan Qiao (Cross Bridge)

I had asked my friend to bring me to a unique spot in Richmond. I hardly get out that far, so when in the city, I want to make sure I am tasting the latest thing. And to see individuals willingly waiting in lines to eat with “Xiang Yuan Qiao” was reassuring.

Its name is in Chinese because this is the reality of Richmond, it translates to “…Cross Bridge”. The name of the restaurant and what they serve comes with an origin story. This heritage is noted on their menu and is seen in aspects of their decor; with even their mascot speaking to this history as well.

The story begins with a husband and wife who are farmers. Every day the husband would cross a bridge in order to tend to their fields. And every day his wife would pack him food and walk it to him when it was time for lunch. However, by the time she got to the field his meal of noodles in soup would be cold. So after much experimenting she found a way to keep her husband’s lunch hot for longer. She boiled the soup and added a thick layer of oil over it. This helped lock in the heat. She also kept all her ingredients separate, to later add in one at a time for the optimal cooking time of each. Soon this entire process was named “cross bridge” (in Chinese). Named after the journey she under took, which eventually led to this creation. Delicious rice-noodles that were eventually popularized in the Yunnan region of China, and what we were here to enjoy today.

The restaurant felt child friendly with its use of bright colours and a cartoon for a mascot. Their featured mural had pagodas on either ends of a body of water, separated by a wooden bridge. A blue sky and pink roses rounded out the rest of their hallmark scene. The same roses creeped around the room with spiralled clouds and butterflies in the wind. Also surrounding us was their mascot communicating with customers through thought and speak bubbles. She was a little girl dressed in red, dawning a traditional Chinese hat. She taught manners when eating out, while hawking gift cards.

The menu was a laminated sheet. It listed all their possible noodles in soup combinations. You choose the only available chicken soup base in either original or spicy, and then your desired protein to cook within it. Yet there were still so many options. I didn’t read it all, but simply stopped when I came across “Pork belly cross bridge rice noodles”, and made it my pick. The chicken broth doesn’t look like it, but it was actually very flavourful. It was a rich soup, one I couldn’t just drink alone. They were quick to absorb into the noodles with the individual ingredients for added texture. Like the tasty pieces of soften pork. I just wished that there was a lot more noodles than miscellaneous ingredients. Although having them separated like this means you don’t have to put everything in, but instead only include what you like.

Each set contains the same vegetables sliced or diced in their own individual sauce dishes. Leafy greens, black fungus, mushroom, bean sprouts, bean curds, and a quail’s egg. And in case you couldn’t guess what to do with it all, each tray comes lined with a how to guide, to ensure an optimal serving for lunch or dinner. Overall, I found the combination tasty enough, but in case you needed more punch, there was a help-yourself condiment bar by the door. Five black bowls filled with minced garlic, green onion, chives, chilli oil, and and sesame oil. You scoop out what you like into a separate dish, or even right into your dining bowl.

The only noticeable difference between my order and my guest was the extra orange oil in her Spicy “Lamb noodles”.

As a noodle in soup dish, i found it no different than other noodle dishes. The theatrics were nice, but the separation of ingredients and the extra oil in the broth served no purpose now, in a sit down setting; except for the great photo op and a reminder of their history.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I liked the idea and the execution that followed. It was a great experience with warming soup and delicious chewy noodles. However, given my proximity to them, it wouldn’t be a destination when they are other like noodle establishments around. Although, none that centred around such a unique dish originating from the Yunnan province dish. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

XIANG YUAN QIAO
Parker Place: 1190-4380 No 3 Road, Richmond BC, V6X 2C2
604-284-0630
Xiang Yuan Qiao Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hopscotch Festival 2017

This year was my first, attending the “22nd Annual Hopscotch Festival”. And 2017 was the largest festival of libations in the event’s history.

I attended the main “Grand Tasting Halll event, held at the PNE Forum. This covered, open space hosted 7,500 aficionados of scotch, craft beer and cider, wine, cocktails, and spirits across two days. Event goers enjoyed the gathering of craft and premium beers, spirits from around the globe, coveted Scotches and whiskies, as well as a selection of wines, and food; all under one roof.

To start, you get checked in and claim your “hopscotch” branded glass. This will be yours to use, and for the vendors to fill as you visit each booth. I learned the hard way that if you break it, to get another will cost you $5. However many vendors pre-pour their tasters into paper or plastic cups. Each cost you tokens, which you got in exchange for money. Each token ran for $1. On average a small glass full of beer cost you one token, some cocktail tasters were two tokens, hard liquor sips were three, and the premium pours ran at four.

The “grand hall” was divided by types of liquor/spirits. You explored at your leisure, isle after isle for you to try and taste. The best ones put effort into their booths, making claims on their signs, adding visual embellishments to their displays, and/or making their pours into cocktails with extra elements. These were the ones I gravitated towards and will make note of in this post.

We made sure to start at the “Hendricks” booth. Their ornate back drop was a crest with twin leopards, entangled snakes, and floating eyes balls, framing a large bottle of their gin. Cocktail glasses and sketches of people drinking were scattered amongst them, to further speak to the brand. It and their table and tools had a steam punk vibe. A bathtub mandolin caught slices of cucumber being shaved for the tonics to come. The table was adorned with the green vegetable, red rose petals, and a series of jars holding the spices and herbs used in the making of their gin. They even had a book in similar style print dedicated to all the cocktails that utilized “Hendricks”. We were early enough and I was lucky enough to be able to snag one of these books, a great addition to any bar.

Here were enjoyed a Negroni made by their “Hendrick’s Cocktail Configurator”. This was a life-sized cocktail art display, designed and built to create the world’s best Negroni with a series of pulleys and levers.

To see it in action, and all that we felt worth noting, check out my vlog coverage on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

 

Next we hit up the “Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky” booth with their “Hello Monkey Trolly”. We were first lured in by their 90’s hip hop and stayed for their SNES console with 8-bit games. We took turns playing a few rounds of Super Mario World, whilst reclining on their orange bean bag chairs.

To drink, we had a smokey penicillin spun in a tumbler with handlebars.

All its luscious greenery had us stopping at the “Bontinst Gin” table. Moss covered its surface, with an abundance of ferns and mushrooms. Here they offered their gin and tonic flavoured with your choice of botanical. I inquired about and went for the rarest, which was apparently the “labrador tea” leaf. It was plucked from a sprig off their display and simply dunked into the liquid, to sit amongst the ice.

There were a few stands offering Caesars with your choice of garnish, but we made “Walter’s” and their collaboration with “Son’s of Vancouver” our stop. “Walters” and their well known brand of tomato and spice mix combined with “Son’s of Vancouver” vodka made for a spicy sip when topped with all their fixings: cucumber, celery, and an olive. I especially enjoyed the sweetness of the “Son’s of Vancouver” amaretto when we got a sample. I noted it for future purchase and consumption.

“Octavia vodka” next door, stopped guests with their model train running around an artificial mountain and tunnel track. Their vodka was distilled six times through charcoal, and therefore just as smooth as their booth hostess promised.

We were intrigued by “Glenfiddich’s” “experimental series” signage, going in to try the bottle that was lit on a pedestal. The recommendation was to take a sip, lick some salt of your hand, then go in for another more sweeter taste.

I really enjoyed “Taynton Bay’s” line of spirits, and that is probably because their slogan and promises that it is “made for drinkers by drinkers”. I wanted to buy a bottle of their “sinferno” after a taste. It reminded me of spiked horchata with the use of cinnamon and sugar. And their “pickled vodka” was most memorable. Tonight they were serving it as part of the mix to a Caesar, but I was insistent on trying it as is, to be able to take in as much of the dill flavour as possible.

We then splurged on four token tasters from the classic malts of Scotland both. A line up that including “Cardhu” and “Talisker”.

Here we took a break from all the hard spirits, with some food. According to my plus on of the night, Chef Juno Kim’s catering was worth trying. During this weekend, he along with Doug Stephen of “Merchant’s Workshop” and “Kris Barnholden” of “Bows + Arrows” were offering a trio of hot dog halves topped their way, which they called a “Hot Dog Showdown”. The “Korean” dog utilized gochujang, prosciutto di parma furikake, charred and pickled onions, and scallions. The toppings were a refreshing tang that perked up the everyday wiener and bun. The “French” hot dog was topped with tartiflette of Riesling, gruyere, leek, and potato. The creamy gravy of this one made it my favourite. And the “Canadian” was creative with its take on the more common condiments. There was a wild mushroom ketchup, pickled ramp aioli, crispy shallots, and cilantro.

At 10 tokens ($10) for the trio it was a little on the pricer side, and as a result we were forced to conserve what little tokens we had left on beer. At 1 token ($1) per cup this would take us the end of our night.

From “Maul Brewing Co.” we tried their coconut IPA and their pineapple flavoured blonde. Both tasted like the fruit they featured.

The new and limited release saison from “Hoyne Brewing Co.” was refreshing.

We stopped at the “Sun Rype” booth, after confirming it was the same company that brings us raisins. Their cider used 100% BC apples from the Okanagan Valley. Naturally it was just like drinking fizzy apple juice.

At “4 Mile Brewing Co.” we tried their English strong ale and their porter that tasted like the rice pudding it was named after.

From “Red Racer” we had their “S’mores Stout”. A dark brew that was rich with all its chocolate and marshmallow notes.

With our last drop drunk, our bellies full, and our cheeks rosy, we walked out. We found having arrived early to drink our fill, before the crowds made it impossible to move about in the hall, a clever strategy.

I will definitely be back next year, and I strongly suggest that you get your tickets when you can too. Starting at $30, they sold down fairly fast. Where else can you find this much variety of spirits, wine, and beer all under one roof, with food to boot? Don’t deny your cravings.

 

HOPSCOTCH
hopscotchfestival.com

Smarty Pantz, virtual reality escape adventure

I have visited “Smarty Pants”, for their logic-focused escape rooms before. They are the only such type of experience in Vancouver to be featured on Canada’s small business investment show, “Dragon’s Den”. Their themed event rooms come with rich backgrounds, hosted by dedicated actors in costume. They focused on the “logic underlying where you are, how you got there and why you’re trying to escape” (as per their website). It is challenging, yet fun. Not scary, but instead you get more of an exciting and nerve racking feeling, as your adventures include a ticking clock.

But today I was invited back to try the next generation of escape room. “Smarty Pantz” is the first in the city to be offering the experience in virtual reality (VR). Currently they only have one game to choose from, but are working to bring you more. And the best part? This escape room needs minimal set up, less resources in props and actors; for just as an engaging time, if not more.

Although there is something to be said for the ability to search for clues in a room set up with booby traps and secret hiding spots, with your own two hands. To read about my original visit and what it is like, click on the link below.

Smarty Pantz, escape rooms

Like all of the other escape room themed establishments, if this is your first time with them, you sign a liability waver before you are ushered in.

The VR experience is the “SS Tiberia 4”. And like the regular rooms it comes with an elaborate back story to better take you into the imaginary world they have concocted. The plot is: you are a team of astronauts floating in space in a malfunctioning spacecraft. Your mission is to stop an asteroid from hurling itself towards the earth, where you and your maximum team of four are the only ones in its way. But first you have to fix your ship.

Other than that you don’t get much more information on your objectives, so it is best you pay attention to your host for clues. And after a quick safety lesson, you are strapped in and geared up. A back pack gets pulled over your shoulders and strapped in around your waist, head gear with goggles get tightened around your head, and remotes are tethered to each of your wrists as you grip two controllers. The latter enact as your virtual hands. Animated fingers that close and grip with a squeeze of a button.

I won’t go into much more detail here, as to not spoil the challenge or ruin the experience for you, that is if you take my advice and go. But I assure you it’s worth your time. I have never experienced anything else like this. Realistic enough to have you walking into walls, and trying to climb on to imaginary crates. Enough that you are given a warning that none of it is real, and that the room is as empty as it was when you first stepped in.

Your host stays within the room to help guide you and steer you in the right direction, should you get stuck. They watch what you are doing and how you perceive it through your VR goggles, on a television monitor.

Sadly one of our party of four with glasses wasn’t able to participate, as she was unable to view the 3D world within her goggles, with and without her glasses. So she sat out and watched our 30 minute trial unfold from the television as well. We could have used a fourth for the brain power, but I suspect watching it is a different kind of fun.

In the end were given multiple do-overs and still managed to fall short at 86% completion. It was mentally and physically challenging and therefore a more engaging and fun time than I originally anticipated.

Hopefully my review is enough to peak your interest and have you heading down to “Smarty Pantz” yourself, to give this space adventure a shot. It is definitely worth your time and your money to try the technology that will be revolutionizing escape rooms for years to come.

 

SMARTY PANTZ
100-289 Abbott Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 2K7
604-974-9293
smartypantz.ca

Boiling Point

The name is familiar, but up to this point I have yet to visit this well known hot pot chain. Typically when I enjoy hot pot, or when I crave it I am all about that bang for my buck. So I direct my attention to the all you can eat chains, but today I left the newest location of “Boiling Point” feeling just as full.

I was invited to this media event, to celebrate their grand opening on Main Street, their first location in Vancouver. Their other three are in Richmond, Surrey, and Burnaby. They have quickly become a fan favourite thanks to their individual sized pots, kept hot. The heat is thanks to the flame underneath, kept safe within their special platform. It stays lit and the soup stays boiling well into your meal. You can ask for more soup and a new fire, to extend the experience if you choose. And eating off a platform at an elevated height for optimum hand to mouth movement is enjoyable in itself.

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 restaurant is very modern. Red brick walls, a series of pipes leading to round light bulbs, and wooden tables and booths. It felt like a cafe you would find in Yaletown. But the steamed up and fogged up windows made them distinctly “Boiling Pot”.

The menu is very easy to navigate. A colourful fold-out listing all their flavoured soups and each and every ingredient that goes into it. A great way to be transparent with their customers and for those with allergies or preferences to be well informed.

To start, we tried each of their four available appetizers. They were ingredients you could find within their pots, highlighted on a plate.

“Spicy fermented tofu”. This is a traditional Taiwanese dish, and a must try according to their descriptive menu. They are proud to acknowledge that each triangle is produced from a certified factory in Taiwan. Their tofu is hand brewed from naturally fermented vegetables and contains no preservatives. It is quite a delicacy, if you can get past the smell of bad breath, and if you like spicy food. A firm texture, coupled with a unique taste, that grows on you. I found myself enjoying it more the second time around.

The “spicy cumin lamb” was the same thin slices of lamb in any hot pot, but here flavoured with cumin. But there was hardly enough spice to call it “spicy”. Which would have been nice with the drizzle of creamy white sauce shown in the menu, that was also missing. When I inquired about it, I was told that is not how they prepare it. Instead, it was tasty and tender, but not what was pictured or what I expected.

The “spicy beef” was like the tender and tasty lamb above, but instead seasoned with their signature Mala sauce. Another not spicy, but super tasty and curly ribbon of meat. Flavour-wise, similar to lamb above.

Also similar in texture was their “garlic pork belly”. Freshly sliced pork belly, topped with garlic, chilli, and soy sauce. More salty and sweet then garlicky.

As for their hot pots, they have 10 different soup bases available. You start by selecting your hot soup, next choosing your spice level for it, and then picking a complimentary add on. The latter is basically a bowl of rice or vermicelli to have with your savoury meal and soup. A bowl of carbs to make it extra filling, with a vessel to eat out of. I found eating straight out of a bubbling pot, sweaty work; not to mention the added low visibility if you are wearing glasses.

During lunch you also get a drink included with your meal. Either an iced green tea or an iced black tea. And for lunch your bill is $1 less. Lunch and dinner portions sizes are the same. There is no actual difference between the two, so you are basically paying a premium for when you decide to dine.

All their soups and sauces are made in their “Central kitchen”, located in Richmond. They are delivered to their four restaurants daily. Another fact they pride themselves on. Which is also why they don’t franchise. The brand wishes to continue controlling every aspect of their food, to ensure quality and brand uniformity. And the plan works. I can attest to how great the soup bases are, I never once reached out for any of the four homemade sauces that sat on each table. Clear jars filled with oils, pastes, and liquids available but not necessary. Everything came already well seasoned and flavourful, to the point where any more would be off-putting.

I myself did not order all these different flavours blow, but I was pretty insistent that those sitting with me couldn’t order the same thing, so that I could try them all. It work, they did and I did.

The “House special” was my favourite for its intensity and complexity of flavours. No two mouthfuls tasted the same between the broth with most depth, and all the ingredients bobbing about, within it. Napa cabbage, fermented tofu, sliced pork, enoki mushroom, kamaboko, meat ball in pork, clam, quail egg, pork blood, pork intestine, nira, tomato, preserved vegetables, and cilantro. Naturally the stinky tofu was fairly pronounced, but only in taste and not in smell. It and the quail’s egg really made this something you have never had before.

The “Korean bean paste” hot pot was spicy, my dining mate who ordered it asked for medium in heat, but it came out tasting a lot more like hot. A bright red pool with bean sprouts, nira, pork belly, kimchi, green zucchini, fish tofu, kamaboko, tempura, rice cake, enoki mushroom, fish fillet, wok noodles, lobster fish ball, crown daisy, seaweed, and Korean paste. It tasted like a Korean barbecue sauce but in soup form, with plenty of familiar Korean ingredients and textures.

I had their newest hot pot: the sweet “milk cream curry”. I had it mild so the curry combined with the cream was more sweet than spicy or savoury. The pot is delivered as a pool of yellow with half of it submerged in a thick blob of sea salt cream. The foam slowly melts into the curry broth the more it boils, or you can simply help it along by stirring things up. This pot had the least amount of ingredients, I found myself digging past all the Napa cabbage in search of a protein or a starch. Sliced pork, vermicelli, enoki mushroom, imitation crab stick, fish ball, dried tofu skin, corn, tempura, mountain yam, and Chinese string bean. There was also not enough vermicelli in the mix (my favourite part) thankfully I was smart enough to order more of it as my complimentary side.

The “Taiwanese spicy” delivered. This soup was served in a larger pot, as a larger serving than the others. Here you couldn’t choose your level of spice, it was heavy on the spice and that was it. I tried some and it had me coughing and tearing up after I inhaled it in too quick. Definitely not for those who like their food mild or even medium. Cabbage, instant noodle, tempura, clam, sliced angus beef, enoki mushroom, cuttlefish rings, fish balls, pork intestine, pork blood, maitake mushroom, fried tofu skin, iced tofu, green onion, and cilantro. It was hard to fully appreciate all these wonderful ingredients past the overwhelming amount of spice. But at least you could make them out based on their textures.

The “Japanese miso” was my second favourite pot, especially with the udon and raw egg that crowning the serving. It was a mild miso soup to fully highlight all the other ingredients. Cabbage, sliced pork, enoki mushroom, clam, soft tofu, fish ball, fish fillet, crab, egg, king oyster mushroom, fried tofu skin, and green onion.

They also had a Thai version that I was interested in. I suspect that this would be reminiscent of Tom Yum. And there was also a tomato based broth for the vegetarians. And for those looking for something more simple you can choose your protein in a more traditional soup base. Lamb, beef, or seafood.

To accompany your hot pot they have a hefty list of drinks. Juices, teas, hot drinks, and soda. I went with a milk tea to help refresh my palette and cool my tongue. I found the “Hokkaido milk tea” just amazing. I would could back just go take this to go. Luckily it comes in a to-go cup, in case you can’t finish and find yourself having to.

For the same reason, their new dessert was a popular way to end your time with them. The “milky soft herbal jelly”. Is also made within their central kitchen. It is prepared in the traditional way, using the Mesona Chinese herb. Then packaged to-go in a portable plastic cup and lid, with label; looking like it could be sold commercially in a grocery store. It included a compartment to keep the pods of milk separate, just waiting for you to peal back their cover and pour them out. The dessert as a whole was very refreshing. It was the perfect slurp of neutral to wash away all the potent seasonings and spices used in your entree. A jelly without a taste, that its tastelessness soon defines it.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I really enjoyed my time with them and tasting all the hot pots they offered. One of my biggest complaints against hot pot is that many broths offered are so flat, so you soon find yourself leaning heavily on sauces to flavour your meal. Here I didn’t touch any of it. And even though it’s not all you can eat, $15 gets you plenty. Majority of us couldn’t finish our shares. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BOILING POINT
4148 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 3P7
604-620-2198
bpgroupusa.com
Boiling Point Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mazda CX-5 Gran Touring review

Given the unpredictable weather of Vancouver in winter, I find driving around in an SUV most comforting. The raised view and the secure feeling of being behind a larger cabin puts the mind at easy, which has you only worrying about everyone else on the road. However, I am more partial to the easier maneuvering of a sedan. So the Mazda CX-5 Gran Touring, a mid size cross over is the perfect blend of both worlds. And for this 2017 edition, Mazda has made a few changes, improving this year’s model overall.

Starting with the exterior, they have redesigned the front grill, lowered the headlights and fog lights, and pushed back the A-pillar; the result is a wider looking profile with more appeal, when compared to its predecessor. And as we know, how we look behind the wheel is just as important as how we feel behind it.

As for the interior, everything you see and touch is new, using high quality materials. With top notch fits and finishes, it reminded my partner of an Audi in design, but keeping with the Mazda nuisances. Overall it looked fantastic, “truly a class above his competitors”, he declared. Elegant when coupled with the fact that the cabin is practically sound proof. You are able to disconnect and enjoy a smooth ride given how peaceful it is within the cabin while driving. A nice benefit when dealing with sloshing water raining down, and the gridiron screeches and honks.

Since this GT model is at the top of its line it comes equipped with many bells and whistles. The power driver’s seat, heated front seats and steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, a proximity key, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure-warning and lane-keeping-assist system, automatic headlights, automatic high-beams, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control, premium audio, and a navigation system. Pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. Every modern amenity you have grown accustom to and look for in a new vehicle purchase, plus a few more to have you feeling like you have been missing out. You don’t have to worry about turning on your head lights or flicking your wipers on with the first drop of rain. To have a more intuitive car, has us one step closer to self-driving vehicle.

Under the hood, the CX-5 is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.5L inline four, producing 187hp, and mated to a 6 speeds automatic transmission. The torque is mostly distributed to the front wheel, but up to 50% of the power goes to the rear when needed; making the cross over capable in all weathers and all terrains. A car you get drive in all seasons.

The chassis is 15 percent stiffer than its predecessor, and thanks to some other tweaks to it and the steering rack; you get a precise and rewarding feedback from your steering, while not sacrificing on the comfort of your ride. Great for long distance drives or ones where you are in a stand still with construction.

In conclusion the Mazda CX-5 is a very enjoyable SUV to drive, with great exterior styling and a quiet interior. Both halves bestow the driver with a sense of luxury, along with all the tech and safety features, to make it one of the best in its class. Thanks for the opportunity Mazda, this was drive to remember.

 

#mazdacx5
mazda.ca

Memory Corner

My guest and I were looking for somewhere to eat within Richmond. The only problem was we were too late for lunch and too early for dinner. So we found ourselves with the need to drive around the city, in search of something that was open, that we liked, and/or were willing to wait until 5pm for (2hours).

This journey led us to “Memory Corner”, which sadly wasn’t our first choice, or even our fourth. But like most other bubble tea places, it had an earlier opening time and a later close with no breaks between lunch and dinner rushes.

Here, parking would be inconvenient if its neighbouring business were in operation. But on this weekend, there were enough free stalls at the back, one of a handful of shared spots in the alley.

This was a smaller cafe with modest decor. Wooden planks lined the bottom half of the walls and surrounded the bar. The top half of the wall was trimmed in black, with inky leaves climbing down towards the floor. Floors, that were tiled with spotted and aged squares. A few keepsakes and seasonal decorations lined the counter and sat on the bar. The smurf figurine and Spongebob sketches gave the place some personality.

We sat at one of their free tables by the window. Like the others, this one carried a laminated sign, asking for your patience. Everything is made fresh to order in the restaurant so it is necessary to wait for your meal, up to 30 minutes during their busier times. With their photo-heavy menu we were able to choose a few dishes to share based on how they looked.

The “Taiwanese meat sauce on rice” came surprisingly quick, which made me think it must have been premade, and simply kept warm in a rice cooker? (Despite the sign). Although it was thoroughly cooked and hot throughout. It was a cross between sticky rice and steamed rice, with plenty of thick beef sauce and chunks of meat for texture. All together it had a sweeter flavour, with the soy sauce, hard boiled egg, and pickle available for a change with tang and salt. This was Taiwanese comfort eating with simple home cook flavours.

The “Taiwanese shrimp pancake” was made with glutinous dough, bean sprouts, and vegetable. The pieces of shrimp were sparsely hidden with in the soggy pancake. It had a chewy and starchy texture that grows on you, the more you eat at it. It was finished with a vinegar-sweet sauce. Over it was the interesting texture that made it memorable. A texture you can’t find anywhere else, accept from our next dish.

“Meat ball in rice wrap”. The same gummy texture as above, but saltier with a fishy sauce and a shredded chicken filling.

The “House specialty lamb hot pot for one” came with rice and sauces. It was mild flavoured with a nice warming broth. The lamb meat was so tender that it fell off the bone. It was seasoned well enough to enjoy as is, and with a dip into the soy sauce and chilli dish.

We also ordered bubble teas to have with our meal, but it came half way through, after all the food and within to-go cups. The problem is that we both ordered drinks from their “potted milk” series, wanting it for its layer of cream and cookie “dirt”, finished off with a sprig of mint. In the plastic sealed cups, it came without this aesthetic. When I brought it to the attention of our servers they simply brought out some mint, which we inserted into our drinks, after we trimmed off the plastic seal ourselves (for this photo). Seeing as we were dining in, I didn’t think we had to clarify that the drinks were for here, especially having ordered them with everything else and dessert, all in one go.

Although I really shouldn’t have expected otherwise, given that there was so much difficulty in placing our drink orders in the first place. It felt like our server found our substitution too complicated. My guest needed to switch out regular milk with lactose-free soy in the original beverage he wanted. But this was not possible, in order to get a lactose-free beverage we had to order one that came listed under the “organic soy milk selection”. Which we did and it was the same difference. We then stressed that we wanted it “potted”. And once again we were disappointed in what actually came. The drinks themselves were just matcha soy milk tea and regular milk tea with grass jelly; topped with cream and Oreo cookie crumbles, that you mix in for an added sweetness and crunch. But you have to constantly stir before you sip, as the two do tend to separate.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
We were planning on having some dessert, and were eyeing the “Ferrero rocher honey toast”, but after such a blasé meal we decided to head somewhere else. There was nothing necessary bad with it, but on the same token there was nothing exciting about it either. Maybe it was that we had our heart set on three other stops before, and that we had to settle. But I cannot see myself driving all the way out to Richmond for this, nor I would not shy away from a return visit, if in the area. It was a meal that grows on you. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MEMORY CORNER
6900 Number 3 Road, Richmond BC, V6Y 2C5
604-284-5434
memorycorner8.com
Memory Corner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nammos Estiatorio

We were on Fraser looking for a suitable happy hour pitstop. Their sandwich board outside had us pausing with $3 high balls, $4 tap beers, and either house red or white at $5. And we quickly found ourselves walking into “Nammos Estiatorio” to take advantage.

The open space was divided by upholstered booths. A pretty simple setting with black framed photos, painted portraits, and Grecian artifacts. We grabbed a booth by the door and quickly ordered before the hour would no longer be so “happy”.

We enjoyed two glasses of wine along with two appetizers to share.

$10 for a regular serving of “kalamari”. But here the crispy battered and fried squid pieces were served with a beet dip instead of the typical tzatziki cream. We were skeptical of the pairing, but quick to try and then go back for second dips. It was chunky and easy to spread, offering the heavy fry a nice refreshing tang.

For $6 we also had the “zucchini chips”. Although it was a vegetable, we found ourselves now with a little too much deep fry and oil in our dishes, and nothing light to cleanse the palette with in between. The chips were crisp, a little plain as is, but well coupled with the tzatziki, that made its appearance here.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Based on the quality of the little taste here, I would definitely like to come back to the restaurant to try a full meal. So for now, it all seems positive. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

NAMMOS ESTIATORIO
3980 Fraser Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 4E4
604-428-6850
nammos.ca
Nammos Estiatorio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bells and Whistles

“Bells and Whistles” is a new bar in the Mount Pleasant area, most memorable for its light hearted feel. Cheery with white walls and bleach wood furniture, it sort of felt like a dressier cafeteria with the picnic tables in the centre of the room. The back wall reminded me of a giant scrabble board with the coloured letter tiles on wooden ledges. They spelled out the various beers on tap, where they were from, and what their alcohol percentage was. A strong presentation, right beside a number of growlers dangling, strung up on a dowel. This visual representation of “100 bottles of beer on the wall”.

Around the corner and following you to the washrooms were black and white pop culture caricatures. Notable hip hop artists, athletes in jerseys, and mascots. Donald Duck, 2pac, and Apu from the Simpsons; to easily name a few.

Like their decor, their menu was just as fun. Some interesting options and fun twist on classics. Ketchup flavoured corn nuts, a pimento cheese dip to have with pretzels, a salad with fried chicken and crispy fried noodles, and a breakfast sandwich available all day long. You know a menu is good when you have trouble deciding on what is the most interesting dish to get and what sounds like the best. And sadly there weren’t any happy hour specials to help in our deciding process this afternoon.

So we gravitated towards their “chilli cheese fries” for its absence as a popular bar offering, on other menus. They used “ball park chilli”, a finer gauge mixture of tomato and ground beef. It was sprinkled across the crispy fries like sand. It was tasty, but I would have liked it messier: more gravy and a gooey cheddar cheese pull. This would make a nice pairing with a pint.

However, I opted for a cocktail and my guest some wine, despite the visual emphasis on beer. My “Espresso martini” was served as a slush with paper umbrella, something a little too unique to miss. Made with strong coffee, absolut vodka, amaro, and honey; making it a great mid day pick me up with bite.

We got just as much punch from the “KFC – Korean fried cauliflower”. A thick batter coating firm florets in a sticky spicy and sweet sauce. Served topped with pickled cucumber, green onion, and cilantro for some freshness. It was a tasty flavour to accompany a refreshing drink, which is available for chicken wings as well.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
They make a fun destination for a casual meet up with a larger group of friends. Plenty to eat and lots to share. And they also offer skeet-ball and basketball shoot-off arcade games in the back, to keep you entertained. I would not be a-posed to a return visit, in order to try more handheld snacks and to drink much more. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BELLS & WHISTLES
3296 Fraser Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 4B9
604-620-7990
bellsandwhistlesyvr.ca
Bells and Whistles Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dan’s Legacy, Chef’s Charity Dinner 2017

Tonight I was invited to attend the fourth annual “Dan’s Legacy”, chef’s charity dinner. This would be a night of fine food and drinks for a worth while cause.

“Dan’s Legacy” was founded by the family and friends of “Dan”, in his loving memory. Their goal is to support those in need, to prevent unnecessary drug overdoses and suicides of young men and women, like Dan. They have been providing “therapeutic counselling and life-skills intervention programs to youth battling mental health and addictions issues resulting from childhood trauma and abuse. These young people, ages 15 to 25, are at significant risk of overdose, self-harm, homelessness, and suicide… In the past three years “Dan’s Legacy” has helped over 150 youths meet their educational, housing and life-goals”.

To give you an example of the need, a $1000 provides 16 sessions for one youth, across four months. This much needed counselling helps get them to the other side. With already much success “Dan’s Legacy” still needs your support, and tonight’s gala was one of their ways of getting it.

To learn more about “Dan’s Legacy” and how you can help, visit their website below. https://danslegacy.com/about-us/story/

Tonight the gala was hosted at the “Vancouver Club”, and there was no better place to exemplify and highlight the prestige of the dinner and the importance of its gathering cause. Established in 1889 the club is a place to dine, play, relax and connect with other professionals working to help shape the West Coast. The building is designated as an “A” class heritage building, described as being “elegant and informal, distinguished and comfortable”.

For the vlog version of the event, please visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei to share in the sights and sounds of the night.

 

Walking up and in to it, the building is impressive with its cement facade, vaulted ceilings, tiled mosaic, and the many little details you might gloss over being taken in by the atmosphere of it all. Dinners here are the kind where you are being served with white gloves and any beverage pour is done with an arm behind the back.

On this Saturday night, all the rooms were reserved, as we were ushered into the grand ball room. There, we mixed and mingled until our emcee of the night came on stage.

In one corner there were tables dedicated to silent auctions. A series of art and experiences to bid on with minimum bids and the need to beat each at $10 increments. Tours of the city, chocolate gift baskets, paintings, and cravings in wood and glass; to name a few. You were also invited to purchase a rose or carnation for either $20, $50, or $100. And depending on your donation you also got a correlating gift for your charitable contribution.

And the night ended with four grand auctions including cruises, flights and a feast cooked for you by firefighters in your own home. Sadly I wasn’t able to participate in this, due to the fact that the bidding climbed high into the thousands.

Around the room sparkling wine flowed and canapés were served on creative platters.

Gorgonzola cream over a square of sweet pear.

A rosette of smoked salmon on a spongy pancake round.

Spicy sausage and kimchi balancing on a wooden top.

Our sit down meal began with Chef and Dr. Theresa Nicassio’s “Yum” signature nori-rice paper wrap. These were vegan sushi roll that were also gluten free. It was created to highlight inclusion and it showed. The textures of the rice paper and nori together were amazing. A great chew that was a nice contrast the crisp julienne vegetables within.

Chef Sean Cousins prepared a “Curry squash veloute. Each dish was presented with just the cedar jelly and pumpkin seed crumble to start. Then one by one servers approached to pour the actual soup over it all. The soup was as buttery as it smelled. Rich and creamy, with the crumble for texture.

Chef Dino Renaerts prepared “Seared scallops” with port hardy side stripe shrimp ravioli, parsley, spinach purée, and sautéed leeks; all in a shellfish reduction. This was a delicious assemble of tender bites, each delicious on its own; and just perfect piled one on top of the other.

Next, Chef Shay Kelly came out with a “slow braised beef bourguignon “pithivier”” prepared with a cauliflower and cipollini onions soubise, Mille-feuilles aux pomme, watercress, and au jus. This was wonderfully juicy pie. Tender strings of beef hiding within a buttery flaky crust. Although the crispy potato cake made with thinly sliced layers of potato was my favourite part of the plate.

And for dessert Chef Saskia Nollen presented a “Japanese yam custard” as the perfect end. A silken pudding paired with crunchy maple pecans, a hard brown butter shortbread, refreshing pomegranate jus, and a sweetened creme fraiche ice cream.

In short, this was a great night and a great way to bring some attention and funds to a worth while cause. Once again if you are interested in how you can get involved with “Dan’s Legacy” check out their website, and be sure to keep an eye out for tickets to this charity dinner next year. Well worth the $250 ticket price, considering the legacy it fosters.

 

Dan’s Legacy Foundation
311 – 815, 5th Avenue, New Westminster, British Columbia V3M 1Y1
CRA Registered Charity #84162 1154 RR0001
www.danslegacy.com

Eat! Harvest

2017 marks “EAT! Vancouver’s” 15th year. A Food + Cooking Festival that has grown and evolved over these years. It is more than just an exhibition hall of vendors, as it once was. Now it is a showcase where industry professionals and foodies alike can come together to enjoy a snack and to share a sip.

This season’s event included seminar talks, cooking courses, and long table dinners; across the week. The theme: culinary collaborations from award-winning chefs, all across Canada and the United States. Local thought-leading professionals coming together to bring event goers delicious meals and tasty treats, all in support of “Project CHEF”.

“Project CHEF is a curriculum-based school program aimed at children from kindergarten to grade seven”. It teaches students about healthy food, starting from the root. Where does food come from? What does healthy food taste like? And how they can prepare and then share such food themselves. The goal is to give children the opportunity to learn how to cook and to contribute to their household at an earlier age. Here, they are learning skills from preparation to clean-up. The hope is that they discover the pleasure and satisfaction in creating meals, and are able to make similar healthy food choices, for themselves, at home.

I was invited to “Eat! Harvest”. A ballroom of tables set up to offer canapé sized appetizers, entree desserts for you to visit systematically, and then return to for all your favourites. On November 10th, 2017 the event ran from 7-10pm, however much of what was offered was given out and chefs retired their tables closer to 9pm. So those planning to attend next year, be sure you come early to try it all.

The event begins with a coat check, a way to free up your hands for all the drinking in one and eating to come, with the other. And before entering the hall, you are handed an empty wine glass. You will continue to pass it across the table towards those representing various vineyards, to try either their white or red.

The food is spread out across tables surrounding the four corners of the room, with additional tables trickling out into the foyer. The following is in the order of how it is listed, on the pamphlet presented at the event; including the chef that made it, and the restaurant they represent.

“Dirt Candy’s” Amanda Cohen brought us “Shanghai shoots with fermented black bean bagna cuada”. It was one of the more abstract looking dishes. A simple start with fresh greens being the vessel for some heavy and salty sauces.

From “Burdock & CO”, Andrea Carlson made a Chanterelle mushrooms with potato cream and smoked shoyu. A shot glass filled with textures that included a nice crunch.

“Cinara’s” Lucais Syme offered up shrimp and salmon sausage. That was flavourful on it own, but best balanced with the sauces and slaw that surrounded it.

Nick Nutting’s “Wolf in the fog” prepared a ling cod cheek with pine mushrooms and wild rice. This was one of the more memorable bites given how refreshing it was and how much you got of it per serving.

“TasteU.S.” brought us their “duck liver pate”. Each pate was so beautifully set in a mould. They looked like little cakes on a cracker, whipped smooth like a savoury mousse.

“Nextjen” was a big hit with a wait to try their “vegan chorizo tacos”. Hamid Salimian and his team were showcasing their line of vegan products in their very spicy and equally tasty tacos with radishes, avocado crema, and pickled onions.

Angus An of “Maenam” had cameras and hosts waiting in line to interview him. The acclaimed chef was presenting a “Mussel and coconut soup” that you took as a shot. Creamy and zingy with lemon grass.

“Canis'” Jeff Jang offered up a “cured tuna tarte”. Chunks of tangy tuna over a light crust, that looked like little pies.

The “Pinnacle Harbourfront Hotel” was hosting, so naturally they had to put on a show. Flanking their back drop and row of chefs were two ice sculptures. On their right, the hotels name carved into a block of ice. And to the left, more impressively, was the upper half of a salmon, springing up from the rushing waves; made from a solid chunk of ice. The latter was a nod to Edmund Lee’s “candied spring salmon” served as an easy bite over a puffed chip.

“Richmond Station’s” Carl Heinrich served a pork and rabbit pate. It was such a treat to watch slices of this brick of meat get cut down then topped delicately with tweezers. It was rich as it melted on your tongue.

“AnnaLena’s” Mike Robbins also offered a pate. But his was a “duck liver pate” with apple gel, and pickled mustards seeds on sourdough. Each bite was easier to pop into your mouth. The sweetness of the apple and the zestiness of the mustard helped to balance out the heaviness of the thick pate.

Another popular table was that of “Fable Kitchen” and their highly recognized chef, Trevor Bird; thanks to his time on “Top Chef Canada”. He gave the people some freshness with his “charred beet and soy truffle with creme fraiche”. A plate that looked like a painting with the deep purple from the beets bleeding in to a pool of green creme.

“Loka’s” Dave Mottershall had chunks of “nduja sausage” ground up into a paste, along with some oil and cream, to be scooped up with squares of bread. This went wonderfully with my red wine.

“Kin’s Farm Market” served you savoury and sweet from their corner table. “Roasted Californian fuyu persimmons with local crimi mushrooms, organicgirl baby kale, and baby spinach”. I am not a fan of leafy greens, but the mix of sweet fruit and earthy mushrooms was an interesting pairing that I went back for. For dessert they gave up little shot glasses of spiced persimmon ice cream topped with dried persimmon chips and crunchy prosciutto sprinkles. Another great collaboration between salty and sweet for a memorable treat.

“Mallard Cottage’s” Todd Perrin prepared “cod creek escabeche”. The fish was hearty, served in thick chunks. I could have done without the chew stem of seaweed that curled over it though.

The “Campagnolo” table was an interactive one. Diners stood in awe watching Robert Belcham slice beautifully fatty cuts of prosciutto from pork hoc. You were able to enjoy them as is or with some green tomato chutney over a crostini.

Nicole Gomes of “Nicole Gourmet” catering prepared “Thai prawn cakes” complimented by a tangy julienne vegetable slaw. This was the one I went back for.

“Chicha’s” Shelome Bouvette offered up a wonderful “coconut scallop ceviche served on a dried plantain chip. It was bright in colour with plenty of flavour and textures to give you variation in each bite. I could have eaten a bag of the sweet and starchy plantain chips on their own.

The charming Makoto Ono of “Mak N Ming” served his “chicken liver mousse” as a cupcake. A savoury “frosting” over a savoury carrot cake base, with slices of root vegetables for sprinkles. This was definitely one of the more eye catching dishes.

“Deer + Almond’s” Mandel Hitzer’s “big trouble in little Winnipeg” was all gone before I had a chance to try any. I was foolish to prioritize taking photos over actually tasting, thinking that each table would have enough food to last the duration of the event (from 6-10pm). In actuality the food was mostly gone by 8pm and many of the chefs were already wrapping up having given out all of their wares.

“Valrhona Chocolates” supplied dessert with their “Orelys pecan pot de creme”. A shot of chocolate taken in with a spoon. Creamy mousse with crunchy nuts, and a dollop of apple gel for additional sweetness. They also had glass bowls of chocolate balls and coins, should you want a little extra chocolate in your pot of chocolate. They are known for their chocolates after all.

Nadege Nourian of “Nagege Patisserie” prepared their “chocolate impulse” cake. A chewy sponge under velvety chocolate and crispy brittle. We made the mistake of biting into the signature card, confusing it for something edible.

 

And last but not least, local company “Recipe Box” was on site, offering attendees and foodies a great keepsake for $65. This was a cook box, as a posed to a cook book. 100 recipes from 50 of the best restaurants in Vancouver. Your favourite Lower Mainland establishments offering you their recipes for you to cook like a chef at home. Beautifully taken photos on one side and how to duplicate the dish on the other. A great gift for a foodie or a souvenir for those visiting Vancouver and relishing in our diverse food scene. And for those attending the event (and for you reading this post) you got 10% off your “Recipe Box” purchase using the promo code: EATVANCOUVER. To get one now, visit their site at https://www.recipeboxyvr.com/shop/

 

 

Overall a fantastic event and a great way to learn more about our fair city’s food scene, coupled with the ability to rub shoulders with some sought after chefs. I strongly recommend signing up early and attending this event for yourself next year. To keep an eye out for ticket sales, check out their link below and be sure to bookmark it. Don’t deny your cravings. http://eat-vancouver.com/

 

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