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

Month: April 2018 Page 1 of 3

Silk Lounge

Today I was invited to “Silk”, a new lounge that is like nothing you have ever seen. Four and half years in the making, and all that time was well spent, considering the reaction of those in attendance tonight. A collection of hand picked elements came together to transport you into an exotic fairytale. Fresh blooms perfuming the air, buddha head statues adding mystic, crystalized embellishments for a bit of glam, and bevy of colourful textiles and purple highlights to bring it all together. Even the rivets keeping the booth seats together were purposefully patterned, together they spelled out “S-I-L-K” all around the room. This was the level of detail that we were able to appreciate. But don’t just take my word for it. Here the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is absolutely true.

I definitely spent more time photographing the scene and myself within, as apposed to eating or drinking. And no doubt you would do the same if you visit. In fact, I want to come back during the day to literally capture the decor in a whole new light.

Here there is no “bad” seat. The dining areas is sectioned off-ed with string curtains and differing design elements to create visual interest. This ensures everyone is able to be engulfed in this wonderland of colours and patterns.

Even the washrooms were heavily decorated. The hall leading to it was lined with candles, fresh flowers bobbing in pools of water, and lights softened by coloured fabric. Within each individual washroom was a rainbow chandelier crafted from gems in every colour, the result: a multi-coloured rain casting over you as you did your business, in one of the cleanest restaurant washrooms that I have every visited. An important fact considering that they are a lounge with an expansive bar.

We grabbed one of the floor-level tables, towards the back of the restaurant. Removing our shoes, we would sit cross legged on flattened, embroidered cushions for the remainder of the night. From here we were served a collection of their appetizers, a handful of their entrees to share, ending on desserts.

“Silk” offers French style cooking prepared with spices and seasonings familiar in Indian cuisine. They pride themselves on preparing everything from scratch, in house. Like all the cheeses for their savouries and all the chocolate in their desserts. This is done from farm to table, with all their ingredients organically and locally sourced within BC, if/when the season permits. A point of pride and something necessary for creating good food when you are Gary (the owner), and have grown up working on farms for over 20 years. Utilizing this knowledge, Gary wanted to share the traditional Indian recipes he grew up with. Delicious portions prepared with hand ground spices. He found that there was nothing like this being offered in Vancouver, so took it upon himself to fill the gap; offering modern twists to his mother’s recipes.

Chatting more with him, I was able to tell that he is a very genuine and humble restauranteur, which are the very characteristics he has passed along to each member of his team working tonight. This is also seen in his decision to open a lounge with a more private setting. The goal was to host smaller seatings, in order to cater to each customer more intimately. To be able to look after them and to engage them fully.

And in order to do so and ensure everything is at its absolute freshest, evenings and early mornings are spent preparing for the dinner service. A commitment that they intend to keep, and have to, given that there is no refrigerator in their kitchen. The menu reflects this commitment to quality, with the cost of premium ingredients reflected in the pricing. Appetizers that eat more like tapas plates with 4-5 bites, range from $12-20; and entrees that have you wishing for a more run from $20-35.

They have been open since February of 2018, and on this day in April we were here to help celebrate their grand opening, starting with some drinks.

“The silhouette” was their welcome drink. A shaken cocktail made with chambord black raspberry liquor, Cointreau, vodka, fresh orange juice, and agave syrup; then topped with ginger ale and fresh orange juice, and served over fresh ice. This was so easy to drink: sweet and refreshing like a juice.

“Sangria”. A blend of brandy, snapps, wine, and fresh diced fruit. Available in red and white.

“In house Old Fashion.”. The “Silk” version is made with black barred tequila aged for 12 months, and distilled in the style of bourbon or scotch. This gives the cocktail cinnamon-y undertones, balanced by the inclusion of agave syrup. It is finished off with a flame zest-ed orange peel.

“Mojito”. A shaken drink mixed with white Caribbean rum, lime juice, and fresh organic mint.

“Kumbh kaali mirch”. These organic, locally sourced mushroom caps are vegan and gluten free. They are seasoned with fresh ginger, garlic, and hand milled black peppers. Each round was juicy with spicy notes, but more of a dull heat that rises slowly.

The “Steak bites” were the table’s favourite. Served with a brandy demi-glace and a few slices of their organic grain baguette. The beef was tender, easy to chew through with its pinky centre. The bread was made in house, spongy and soft, it just needed some in house made butter to complete it.

The “Basil chicken tikka” is the one I liked the least. I found the free range chicken thigh marinated in a ginger, garlic, and basil rub; dry and flat. Where the other items didn’t need the sauce that it came with, here my piece of chicken took a generous dip.

I was much more impressed by the “Prawns diablo”. Lemon butter and wine marinaded prawns served with some organic chilli and more organic grain baguette. Not everyone tried the bread, not realizing it was made in house, therefore I wished the servers had highlighted this. As for the prawns, they had a little heat in them, if you needed more you could get a mouthful from the innocent looking chillies to its side.

The “Stuffed jalapeños and rancttera sauce” is another vegan friendly dish that is gluten free. Here, organic jalapeños are stuffed with cashews, walnuts, spinach, and grilled guajillo peppers, then topped off with a house made rancttera sauce. They weren’t as spicy as the prawns above. A slightly firm pepper, grilled crisp with a cheesy taste. This was a nut made cheese without the crumbly texture of crushed nuts. It is best eaten after a drag through the tangy sauce smear on the plate.

“Paneer tikka”. Handmade paneer (Indian cheese) slow cooked in a traditional clay tandoor oven. This too is vegan and gluten free. In the dark of the lounge it looked like grilled pineapple so I was surprised when it tasted like cottage cheese with the texture of ricotta. Good, but I felt like it need more, the dip helped but I wanted something richer to give this more muted dish some kick.

Overall the appetizers were easy to share, but I would have liked a base like rice or naan to go with them; something to make them more complete. Given their presentation I wouldn’t necessarily order them with drinks in this lounge setting. With their bold flavours they ate like a meal, and not like tapas.

We would see to my craving of rice and naan during our round of entrees. Little did we know, they actually offer three types of roti, each a different taste and texture based on the type of grain used to make it by hand. Had we known, we would have tried all three. If you are expecting doughy and fluffy naan, this isn’t. It tasted healthy with that tell-a-tale dry and firm whole grain characteristic.

The vegetarian and gluten free “Spinach paneer” utilized the same in house made cheese that we had above, but in this dish my original concerns of plain cheese is addressed. This is a traditional Indian cheese dish cooked with spinach. The creamy spinach paste engulfed the soften cubes, offering a texture more like a stew. Great with the side of rice. This was done more like traditional Indian style cuisine than a fusion with French cooking.

I find “Butter chicken” is always a good tell of Indian cuisine, as every Indian restaurant offers their own rendition of it. Here, this traditional Indian curry is made with organic cream, fresh tomato purée, and organic butter. This was the leanest butter chicken I have ever had, like all of their dishes thus far, nothing was overly rich. Great, considering this is a lounge and the thinking is that you will spend most of your time drinking. With these dishes, you were full without feel bloated

The “Rack of lamb” is the showstopper. A pistachio crusted rack of local grass fed lamb, in a pomegranate jus, served with a seasonal organic vegetable ratatouille and potato purée. The lamb was done right, tender with pink and bits of gristle. The pistachio crust offered a nice crunch, and the jus was the gravy you wanted to coat your creamy mashed potatoes in. The vegetable ratatouille rounded the serving off with some freshness. My only complaint is that I had to share.

For dessert the cheesecake is the one to get. This too is made from in house made cheese, available in three fruit flavours. Each slice is made with organic milks and housemade fruit jellies, served with fresh fruit and a brandy goat cheese caramel. Depending on the fruit it adds a different texture to the cake. Each came with some of their unique caramel sauce. The caramel wasn’t overly sweet, but more milky like a watered down dulce de leche (in a good way). You are able to mix in the caramel to add some sweetness to cake.

The kiwi flavoured had an extra texture with the kiwi seeds baked in. Think a poppy seed muffin, but as a denser cake. It is nothing like you have ever tasted, let alone cheesecake. Original, different, good.

The mango was the most refreshing flavour, its puree helped to make this the fluffiest cake, in texture.

But I like the texture of the strawberry one the most, it was most firm and most like a new york style cheese cake. As for the taste, it was like melted strawberry pocky with this yogurt-like sauce.

 

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 liked that they offered a full menu of food, but given their location and the setting, I am more likely to recommend them as an after dinner spot. A great place to stop by after dinner or after work, to pick at some French style Indian tapas. Or better yet, stop by for a cocktail and one of their cakes to end your night on a high note. My only apprehension would be their location, a walk away from easy transit, in a neighbourhood most rather not walk through at night. Although still worthy of checking out thanks to a team of great staff and an Instagram worthy space that you won’t soon forget. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SILK
132 Powell Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1G1
778-379-6900
silkdinnerlounge.com
Silk Dinner Lounge and Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Trattoria Burnaby

“Trattoria” is my go to for foolproof Italian. Their menu serves all with plenty of comfortable options, for those who prefer familiarity; and a few twists to keep more adventurous diners engaged as well. Today we were invited to their third location in Burnaby, to try a few of the new items to hit their spring menu.

To read up on my original visit to this location and get a little more detail on the decor, click the link below.

Trattoria Italian Kitchen

 

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.

They are now offering four new salads, including a salad with beets and one with chicken parmesan as the protein. But the one to get is definitely the “Tonnato salad”. It features seared ahi tuna, artichokes, pepperonata, fregola castelvetrano olives, and pinenuts; all coated in a limoncello purée. The result is vinegary fish fresh with bright citrus pops, balanced by the pepperiness from the crisp greens underneath. It makes for a great zesty lunch; or as in our case, the perfect starter to kick start your appetite with.

We ordered the meat and cheese platter for the luscious burrata and fresh prosciutto featured. A shareable collection of prosciutto di parma, pesto, marinated tomatoes, and forno bread. You pick and pry pieces to craft your ideal bite.

“Mussels” prepared with nduja (spicy, spreadable pork salumi from Italy), fennel sausage, saffron, white wine, garlic, and fresh herbs; served with forno bread. I found it a little over whelming with the sausage and pork spread, I would have preferred it just with the the salt and citrus to allow the flavour of the seafood to show through. The bread was also a little too tough for my liking, even with a soak in broth I still found it stiff.

The “Crab and lobster ravioli” is perfect if you are craving a smaller portion that satisfies fully. Sundried tomato pesto, mint, and basil gremolata; smothering crab heavy squares. The best time to order this is during pasta Tuesdays when it is offered at a discount, although come early because they don’t take reservations and they do tend to sell out of this one.

They also have a handful of new pizzas on menu, and we sunk our teeth into two of them. I preferred the nduja and fennel sausage and their flavouring on the “Abruzo pizza” here. They partnered better alongside the freshness of broccolini and the smokiness of the scamorza (talian, spun paste cow’s milk cheese). The pizza was a nice mix of spicy and salty, with a multitude of textures for enjoyable eating, thanks to the mix of toppings. Although, I could have skipped the saltiness of castelvetrano olives. Baked whole, I found them distracting to the otherwise cohesive theme of the pizza.

Where I craved some more freshness, I got it from the “Gamberi genovese” pizza. Creamy mascarpone pesto, juicy soleggiate tomatoes, prawn, fatty Macedonian feta, sweet red onion, and peppery arugula. The only thing I would suggest is grilling the prawns, not only to give it some colour in a char, but also to give some more stand out flavour. I wasn’t expecting it to come out raw and pale looking. Nor did I enjoy the acrid flavour of the burnt pizza crust. Although having said all that, this was still my favourite of the two pies.

Don’t forget to save room for dessert. The newest addition to dessert menu is the “Salted caramel budino”. Butterscotch custard cream with salted caramel sauce, and a amaretti cookie crumble topping. This was a little too sweet for me, but perfect for those who love to end their meal on a richer morsel. My favourite part was the cookie topping giving the silken pudding a nice crunch to chew through.

Not a new menu item, but one of their hallmark desserts, that shouldn’t be missed, is the “Zeppole al cioccolato”. Italian style doughnuts with chocolate, gianduja, and vanilla creme anglaise. Typically each ball is filled with so much liquid chocolate that taking a bite has it squirting all down your face.

 

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.
New menu items mean new reasons to visit. As this is the closest location to my house, I make them my destination when I want italian food I don’t have to think about. Pizzas and pastas that you know you will like. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TRATTORIA
102 – 4501 Kingsway, Burnaby BC, V5H 2A9
604 424 8779
glowbalgroup.com/trattoria

Pearl Castle, Taiwanese Beef Noodle Colossal

Enjoy Vancouver’s largest Taiwanese Beef Boodle for charity!

“Pearl Castle” is one of the first Taiwanese style restaurants to hit the lower mainland many years ago. Its original opening helped to introduce and popularize bubble tea and Taiwanese cafe style cuisine to Vancouverites. Since then it is still fondly known as one of the best Taiwanese restaurants in the city, winning many awards for its food and drink. Today I was at its original location at Richmond’s Continental Centre, here to try the city’s largest bowl of beef noodle soup. It is authentically made by chefs hailing from Taiwan. So if one of their regular sized bowls is good, imagine how much better a bigger bowl must be!?

This spectacle is made possible by @foodicure (sister brand to @chinesebites). Their goal is to create awareness and earn funds for local charities by leveraging social media and how we exchange information across its various platforms. The are partnering with over 100 restaurants in the city to create dishes that are photo worthy and sure to cause a viral sensation. “The Beef Noodle Colossal” is only the first of such initiatives. The goal is to launch 3-4 like dishes every month.

 

This large bowl is 3-4 times the size of a regular bowl of beef noodle. It is served with a set of wooden chopsticks and a matching spoon; larger than usual utensil. It is within proportion to the bowl and its mound of noodle and soup within. You are getting 3x the tender chunks of premium beef, 4x the flat chewy noodles, and 3.5x the deliciously rich beef broth. You also get more of the baby bok choy; but if you are like me, you end up scooping it out and discarding it because you hate the taste and texture.

For every bowl purchased 10% of its sales go to benefit “Canadian Blood Services” and the “Greater Vancouver Food Bank”. They are available only for a limited run, so be sure to head down and try them before they are retired.

You can choose from 3 different versions. The original “House special beef noodle” is the classic version, and the one I like the most. Fun Fact: my first taste of beef noodle was from a “Pearl Castle”, and since then it has become one of my favourite noodle dishes. A regular bowl of beef noodle costs $10.99, you pay $29.99 for the colossal. So you are saving about $9 if you decide to get a bigger bowl to split it between 3-4 friends.

The “Tomato beef noodle” is made with a tangy tomato and beef broth. It includes plenty of onions and tomato wedges for $12.99 for a regular bowl. The colossal version is $32.99, thus saving you about $12.50 for a 3-4 serving bowl.

And lastly you have the “Extreme spicy beef noodle” that really isn’t all that spicy. However if you end up completing the entire serving in one sitting, the heat does creep up on you. For a normal portion this chilli infused soup is $13.99, the colossal size is $32.99. So here you are saving about $16 if you go big.

 

To watch myself, @pekopekolife, and @monkeyeatsworld tackle all three flavours, attempting to finish a giant bowl each, click on the link to watch the latest video on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

If going big is your jam, and you like the idea of helping your community one bite at a time, I suggest heading down to “Pearl Castle” and ordering one of these bowls for yourself; or maybe to share between you and a friend. It was made available starting April 20, 2018; and will continued to be offered until allotted quantities sell out. So don’t miss out, and don’t deny your cravings.

 

PEARL CASTLE
Continental Centre
1128-3779 Sexsmith Road, Richmond BC, V6X 3Z9
604-270-3939
pearlcastle.com
Pearl Castle Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Grocery and Specialty Food Trade Show 2018

This year I attended the “Grocery & Specialty Food West” (GSFW) for the very first time. “It is Canada’s premier western grocery trade show”. It brings together retailers and manufacturers from all across Canada to discover new innovations within the industry. There is a focus on networking and building relationships, with the trade show being dedicated to helping owners and distributors grow their business. And here I was a fly on the wall, absorbing it all. My media pass gave me access to the convention centre floor, where I got a glimpse of a few interesting products that will soon hit grocery store shelves. I also had the ability to inquire a little more about the ones that already have, that I knew little about. Most informative was the ability to try tasters and take samples home. Naturally with over 140 booths I won’t be able to cover it all, instead I plan to highlight most of what drew my attention and I found interesting.

 

 

But for a more comprehensive look at the trade show, check out the latest video on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei. It includes a lot more of the vendors, as well as all that we got to sample.

The show is best known for showcasing the latest in grocery industry trends including “international flavours, local, organic, health and wellness, artisanal and more”. And it has long since established itself as a trusted “epicenter”, where thousands of key decision-making retailers and manufacturers come together to discover new insights and new products, while engaging in conversation.

Every year they invite a handful of food bloggers and food focused professionals to help judge all the vendors presenting, isolating the top 10 based on product, packaging, and innovation. They are literally showcased for easy viewing behind locked glass shelves, as you enter. Then the judges went through each product, analyzing the details narrowing down their pick. All ten would later be displayed as winners, the following day of the 2 day expo.

One of the big winners was this $10 portable grill, which looks like a cardboard box. It is naturally a one time use item, made with convenience in mind. It burns for about 30 minutes and when you are done with it, you simply burn it down to discard. This is the one I will be looking for on grocery shelves, probably in the barbecue section.

Fatso peanut butter would be one of them. It had my vote with its eye catching packaging. It takes peanut butter and transforms it into a healthy spread with chia seeds and avocado and coconut oil.

Jump Starter yogurt mix did something similar. They made yogurt tastier with a variety of fruit compotes to choose from, and even healthier with a chia seed mix. They offered it as a meal replacement and a great start to your day.

Continuing on the trend of building on something that is already a staple, is Trace bottled water. Despite its black colour this just tastes like water. Trace adds vitamins and nutrients into their bottles, without adding flavour.

This honey company adds collagen and swallow’s nest into their honey. It is launched as a beauty product where you eat a little bit of it daily and earns their health benefits. This is done rather than ineffectively slathering it on to your face like a cream with no effect.

Nature Valley added two new snacking options. A new flavour to further their line of sweet and salty granola bars, in the popular salted caramel flavour. And individually wrapped biscuits made with coconut butter.

New cereals to look forward to are Cheerios in peanut butter and Chex in blueberry. Not pictured and another to look out for is the Oreo cereal, which is like eating cookies and cream in little rings for breakfast.

I liked how playful Swift’s new ham loaf looked with bits of mac and cheese speckling it.

We were treated to hot dogs from Schneiders, featuring their jumbo juicy dogs and their spicy Sicilian wiener. We dressed it with condiments from Heinz, including their two new barbecue sauces. The Carolina vinegar style tangy BBQ sauce, and the Memphis style sweet and spicy BBQ sauce.

At the Heinz booth you can try all their new sauces using pretzel sticks, but i found it more telling to try it with other products, that other vendors offered.

For instance Cavendish’s new line of frozen potato products went best with Heinz’s garlic aioli. Cavendish was sampling their thin cut French fries, herbed hashbrowns, and cottage fries.

Easy to pop into your mouth is OMG’s cookie, chcolate, and nut clustures. Their newest flavour is a peanut butter pretzel cluster.

Tim Hortons are bringing more of their brand of coffees and teas to the populous as brewing pods and tea bags for self steeping.

 

Milk to Go was making their bottled milks even more convenient. By pasteurizing it, each bootle is now able to live and not go bad, out of the refrigerator.

Better With is already in stores, but this would be the first time I got to try it. It is hard to try something new when you have to commit to a whole pint, so getting a taste here was nice. And let me tell you, all you need is a lick to get you hooked. I am not a fan of strawberry ice cream, but that is the one I would recommend, thanks to its real fruit flavour.

Chocolate ice cream bars combines the best of both worlds, and will be ideal during those hotter summer days.

And in anticipation of the heat to come, all your favourite ice cream brands were launching their new flavours, or reminding you of all the ones they have and can offer. Nestle had a tasty Oreo Drumstick with Oreo cookie cone and cookies, and cream ice cream under a chocolate cookie cap. Haagen Dazs has a new almond ice cream bar in dairy free cream. And Magnum showcased their collection of decadent ice cream bars in raspberry, almond, caramel, and cookies and cream.

Old Dutch is back with black packaging and new flavours like pulled pork and sour cream and bacon potato chips.

As a fan of Cheemo perogie, in all their cheese filled flavours, I was happy to see them offering pizza flavoured perogies for sampling. It tasted like pizza pocket filling in a doughy shell.

 

Once again there was a lot more to see and taste, and a ton more I could have written in my coverage, but I will be leaving it here; instead I invite you to watch my video for a fuller perspective.

For more information on this trade show and to look forward to next year’s, check out their website: https://gsfshow.cfig.ca/

 

Sai Woo

Dinner and a history lesson at Sai Woo.

Today I was invited to Sai Woo for a chance to taste their spring menu. It has been a while since my last visit and today I was curious to see if my original assessment and thoughts could be turned around. And with a new chef and their new management team this was definitely the case.

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

I was pleased to see that the boarding and the necessary tunnelling to get to the restaurant’s once blocked off entrance was now clear. A welcoming walkway led your eyes and your feet to their threshold. A red “brick” road protected by a dragon. But it is their LED rooster that attracts attention and marks their location, with his red and yellow wings spanned. We would later learn that this was an exact duplicate of the original sign that once graced the original “Sai Woo”, the restaurant and the name that this second generation establishment was modelled after.

This has got to be my most informative and interesting dinner to date. We got to sit down with the owner Sally, and boy howdy did she know her Chinatown history. With it and her storytelling, @eatwithmao and I engaged. She has been a restaurateur for over 18 years, beginning her tenure in Yaletown. She got in early predicting that the area would boom, it did. Now this was her next premonition, and once again she got in early as one of the first new restaurants in the evolving Chinatown landscape. Her goal was to bring back the neon dinner and dancing era that made it so “glamourous”.

The building was originally in bad shape when she purchased it in January of 2013. Previously it was the old “New Town Bakery” and restaurant, which has since moved one store down. A lot of work went into making this new restaurant “old” again. It began with peeling back layers and revealing the original wood, cement, and high ceilings with skylight. All that existed when it was “Sai Woo Chop Suey” from 1925 to 1959. In fact the same wood that you would have walked on in 1925, from threshold to the isle between tables, has been uncovered and revitalized.

They continued to build on the history by adding found items to their decor. Sally managed to salvage art pieces from the historic centre above then. Wooden cinema seats, traditional drums used in parades, calligraphy framed into art, stone guardian lions, etc. Most notable was the “Wooden Phoenix” carving that once hung in the “Marco Polo” night club. It was originally commissioned to advertise the club’s “china dolls” drink service. Who knew it would eventually get back to the neighbourhood it once came from.

My favourite were the props from Bruce Lee movies. The prayer papers hanging above the staircase that took you down to their basement, and from the ceiling of the communal washroom space. The carved wooden moon gate also came from a Bruce Lee movie. It is currently being used to frame a projection of the very Bruce Lee movie it was originally a prop in.

All these restored artifacts gave the place so much more history, and they made the spot all the more special. I just wished there was a way for the restaurant to showcase this better. I was lucky to be able to chat up the restaurant’s owner for the background information; but for all those who didn’t get the chance to, they are missing out on so much interesting knowledge and history. Knowing all the above makes me love “Sai Woo” more. It makes me want to talk about it. It makes me want to recommend it to those visiting from out of town. To be able to take friend down here myself and to teach them these tidbits.

Although, aside from these artifacts, the restaurant is less outwardly Chinese inspired. This speaks to their menu of Asian staples made more approachable to the Canadian appetite. It looks and feels like a wine bar, which was perfect given we were here during happy hour.

The “Coco Harvey Lowe” is a freshly tapped young coconut shaken with dark rum. After the drink has been drunk, borrow the “Coco Jack” from the bar, to be able to get every last morsel of that young coconut meat within. It is a sickle shaped hand tool that you use to peel the flesh within the coconut, much like peeling fruit, but backwards.

The end result of their “Smoking Gun” cocktail looked and tasted much like an old fashion. Except here literal smoke was added to it, for a smoke flavour and aroma. El dorado 12 year old rum, bitters, brown sugar, oak, and tea smoke. The drink is assembled before you. The mixed cocktail is poured into their skull shaped glass, bottled up with smoke. A few tips back and forth to infuse the essence of the smoke, before the finished product is poured out over a giant square ice cube,

As for the food menu, it is helmed by Chef Isaac, who has made “Sai Woo” his residency for over five years. His creativity has cause the menu to evolve, so for those who have have’t visited recently, doing so will give you a whole other experience. He takes inspiration from all over Asia; picking flavours and techniques from Korea, China, Vietnam, and Taiwan; but putting his own defining spin to things. His take on Asian fusion is as bold in flavour as it is in its presentation.

 

We started with a “Smoke beef tartar” made with fermented garlic, fukkake, and bonito flakes. The tartar is slightly torched and spicy with a wasabi mayo dressing. The hiccama topping it is pickled with a Vietnamese fish sauce for a vinegary tang. And the crispy cracker topping it offered a neutral base and some crunch. All together this covered all the textures and tastes that I was looking for. You break everything up, then bring it back together for the prefect bit. It was one of the more creative dishes that we had this night, but sadly it is not on the menu regularly.

By contrast the “Beat Terrine” made a great palette cleanser; something more mild and refreshing to have in between plates, in order to refresh. Shame, we only got one such dish to fulfill such a role; especially given how punchy everything else was below. Szechuan spiced beet terrine, goats cheese espuma, honey beet purée, and shaved vegetables.

The “Taiwanese Pancake” was an item that was still on the drawing board, another one we got to taste that isn’t on the menu. Instead of using the traditional green onion pancake that is typical of this wrap, here they fold their Chinese five spice pork and mozzarella with a house made roti. I wanted to taste the cheese, to have more of it to help balance out the stronger spices seasoning the pork. I also wanted a cream based sauce to bring it all together, instead what was here was the same watery and tangy sauce that flavoured the tartar above. The extra liquid made the roti soggy, if you didn’t inhale it. Here, a thicker bread product or a 2:1 ratio of it and the filling would have help to dull the overwhelming flavour of the wrap, furthered by the overly fragrant herbs. This was my least favourite dish of the night.

By comparison, was their “Korean garlic chicken” served with a gastrique, pickled vegetable, and scallions. There is good reason why this is their best selling dish. This crunchy white meat chicken nuggets would have been ideal with the roti above. I find such strong flavours need a carb heavy base to sit atop of, or else invest in more cocktails to balance out the saltiness.

The “Saiwoo lettuce wrap” was a great carb alternative, and a better balanced dish. There was plenty of vegetable and sauces laid out to craft your perfect bite. Fermented soy bean paste, shallots, pickled vegetable, house made kimchi and leaf lettuce brought together to support the feature protein of the week. Today it was a spicy korean pork so good, that I could have eaten a plate of it as is.

The “Vietnamese noodle bowl” is one that I could enjoy any day, at any time. Sous vide chicken, pickled vegetable, fresh lettuce and house made spring rolls over a bed of vermicelli. I found this a great up scale version on the classic bowl, with the perfectly crispy spring rolls being my favourite part.

For dessert we had their “Lemon pavlova”. What looked like luscious cream was starchy and hard, with a chalky finish that sticks to your teeth. The flavour is nice enough, but we left it wondering if this was the intention: chewing through it like gum and having to pick your teeth clean after. Instead, ate the strawberry compote, matcha crumble, and mango purée as it. All three would have gone wonderfully with a nice oil based sponge cake instead.

 

The “Grand mariner semi fredo marquee” is for chocolate lovers. A decadent brick of mouse given some brightness with strawberry gel and meringue.

After the meal above, I wanted to end in something much lighter. An angel food cake, jello, something to cleanse the palette, and not eat like another meal. There is a reason why after Chinese food majority of the desserts available at a Chinese restaurant is simple and not sweet. Red bean soup or orange slices. The desserts are good if you came in just for them, but to finish on them was a little much.

Overall, each dish held up on its own, but all together like this, we found it a little overwhelming. Many of the flavours of what we had ran parallel to one another. So much so that you tired of the taste of Korean spices and Vietnamese fish sauce. If we had balanced out our order with one of their fried rice dishes and/or another vegatable platter, it would have been different and ideal. But as a customer wanting to order a few dishes and trying them for the first time how would you know? Especially if the servers are not trained to guide you on this culinary journey. If they haven’t tried much of the menu themselves or have the know-how to suggest and recommend, your experience with “Sai Woo” could very well be tarnished.

Therefore I recommend the menu being arranged like a grid of four. Where you choose an item from each “box” to craft the perfect pairing between dishes. Something from the “spicy” box, one from the “tangy”, one from the “refreshing” category, and one from a group that would/could serve as a “base” for each of the above. And even what dessert to order if you are feel like a “sweet” or “refreshing” tastes to end your meal. A fool-proof way to complete your meal.

Another thing I would change is the lighting. It is a shame that the restaurant is kept so dark. I understand it is to foster the night life vibe, but they have a great lounge space down stairs where you could cultivate this at instead. A red room with curtained ceiling, seat cushions and benches that allow you to literally lounge. There is even a sliding door equipped with an eye slot that allows you to assess who it is you were letting in, before granting them entry. This was the ideal setting for many of their customer who came in after dinner else, looking for a space to sip cocktails and keep the night going. Although after speaking to restaurant management, I do think they see this opportunity themselves. They disclosed the possibility of introducing a lounge menu with $8 drinks and plates.

And instead I would make the main dining area more like a restaurant, giving each table better overhead lighting to full appreciate the beauty of the dishes above. We were lucky to have come in early and to snag the only table by the window; but the deeper into the restaurant you go, the darker things get, and it is no wonder that much of their clientele this friday night only came to drink. “Sai Woo” feels more like a social bar once the sun goes down.

 

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.
This is my favourite type of restaurant to write about. An establishment with plenty of character, run by people with so much enthusiasm and heart. There was nothing easy about what they were doing, nothing about their decor or menu spoke to an “easy win”, they were taking dining to another level and willing to take the risks necessarily to set themselves apart. With a little more finesse and continuos improvements, like they have been doing, I can clearly picture their upward trajectory. After all there is no other restaurant in Chinatown with this much history, that alone is worth coming in to see. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SAI WOO
158 East Pender Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1T3
604-568-1117
saiwoo.ca
Sai Woo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Riz, big bowl poke challenge

Today I was at “Riz sushi and poke bar” to pit myself against Vancouver’s latest eating challenge. This one is high steaks with high rewards, and it is definitely not for the faint of heart.

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

Situated on East Broadway, on the corner of Renfrew Street; you only need to spot “Mr. Sub”, the long standing sandwich on the corner, to locate “Riz” as their neighbour. The name “Riz” speaks to the rice that unifies the two main staples that make up their menu: sushi and poke. This is assumed by the rice kernel mascot marking their spot. But this was the name that the current owners inherited. Their predecessor was also a sushi restauranteur. In fact they kept a lot of what was already established, including the decor and Yelp reviews, but with some minor adjustments, they were able to make it their own.

Their Japanese zen garden mural is one of a kind. The addition of hip hop’s elite speaks to the owner’s previous life as club promoters and their appreciation for the music. An affinity I shared, giving me much appreciation for the scene before me. Here, Drake sat on the roof of a building, much like off his album: “Views”. The Wu Tang Clan left their mark, carving their trademark “W” on to a post the bridge. The “Dog Father” guarded said bridge. Eminem could be seen fishing, with Biggie Smalls wading in the water; bobbing beside Tu Pac, resting on a pool noodle. Most notable was Kayne making out with Kayne, as Jay-Z stared jaw gaping.

As for their Yelp reviews, that required a lot more work. They inherited the lower rating from previous managemeny and have been working their way from 2 to 3 stars, slowly. Their placemats had DJ Khaled asking you to give them a hand.

New “Riz” was formally just a catering business, supplying sushi and party platters to local grocers like “Meinhardt” and “Nesters”, local hotels, and plenty of television and movie sets. They have been doing this for two years, until they expanded their venture to the include a restaurant, which opened in January of 2018. This was something the community had been asking for, those who remembered it back went they went to high school in the area, and craved for that taste of nostalgia. Eventually they want to take their business in the direction of grab and go corner stores, like those in Asia. Pre-made meals and cup noodles for those looking for more connivence in their life.

 

 

Once again I was here for their “Big Poke Bowl Challenge”, the first poke eating challenge to hit Vancouver. It officially starts on April 25th, 2018 and wraps up on May 31st, so be sure to check them out during this limited run.

 

To skip the reading and watch me and @athenasweets be the very first people in the city to team and take on this challenge, check out my latest video on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

The goal is to devour a 10 pound bowl of fresh seafood, vegetable, and rice in under 30 minutes. But thankfully this is a team challenge, so bring your hungriest friend to undertake this daunting trial with you. It will cost you $120 to attempt it, and win or lose you both get a lot of premium poke for only $60 each. But if you do finish you get two $60 gift cards, which pretty much covers the cost of the challenge. And your names get entered into a draw to win a trip for two to Vegas, travel and expenses paid for. (There are some black out days, but a free trip is a free trip.)

A regular bowl of poke with 2 scoops of either tuna or salmon is $10.50, 3 scoops run at $13.00. Therefore you are pretty much getting 14 regular bowls for the price of 10. (We did the math, because I am all about that value.) Despite being able to mix your types of fish in a regular bowl of poke, in order to keep it simple you can only choose to have your two pounds of fish in either salon, tuna, or ahi for the challenge.

Being able to watch the big bowl being crafted before my eyes, and being able to go at it, I can tell you first hand how great the ratio of fish and veg to rice this was. The biggest gripe of mine when it comes to poke is the lack of topping for all the filler rice they provide. At “Riz”, big or small bowl, this is one thing they are conscious of. Here, you will never be left with a mound of un-sauced and un-eaten white sushi rice. It is also worth noting that the big bowl is ideal for catering and parties. It probably feeds a good 20 people, and you can customize it however you like (if you are just taking out or ordering normally).

The “Giant bowl challenge” version consists of crab, cucumber, edamame, wakame (seaweed salad), pickled ginger, 2lbs of either salmon or tuna, masago (fish roe), fried shallot & garlic, and your choice of sauce. The picture above is it before the sauces and toppings are added, with them the scale would have read 10lbs.

As for how it tasted, it was delicious, a serving of poke I would gladly revisit. Great fresh flavours coming together. I just advise mixing it thoroughly, less you eat all the salmon in the first few bites, or stumble onto a mouthful of pickled ginger. But I won’t go into any detail about how the challenge went, and instead, invite you to check out my video above.

For those looking for more manageable servings. “Riz” also offers a delicious aburi poke. The first I have ever heard of and had. Sushi rice, cucumber, edamame, wakame, crab salad, 3 scoops of salmon, yuzu citrus ponzu tempura crunch, and masago. As you can see, they lightly torch the raw salmon, covered in a spicy miso and habanero aioli. The result is a wonderfully flavoured rice bowl. Creamy and slightly warm with the thick coating of sauces, coupled with spiced tones and refreshing vegetable. This is the one I would stop for on my way home from work (it is on my route, and relatively healthier than most of the stuff I am known to consume).

I also fully recommend their “Onsen egg” as a nice appetizer. It was the perfect side to our poke. Having it is like completing a burger with a side of fries. Here, it is fish over rice with a soft boiled egg in a light daikon broth.

 

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.
If a chance to eat an enormous amount of food and win a contest for it, is not reason enough to visit; then come for their deliciously seasoned and incredibly taste aburi poke bowl, the only one in the city, that I know of. “Win the challenge and a trip to Vegas, or win your next potluck!” Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RIZ
2887 East Broadway, Vancouver BC
604-215-9799
rizsushi.com
Riz Sushi Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Murder on the Improv Express

I am only familiar with improv though the television show “Who’s line is it anyways”, originally hosted by Drew Carey, staring Canadian funny man Colin Mochrie (who coincidentally will be performing at Vancouver Theatre Sport in the near future).

So when I was invited to check out their latest production, “Murder on the Improv Express”, I jumped at the opportunity. Being familiar with the book turned movie, which this performance was based on, made it all more engaging. You know what is going on, but with all the twists and ad libbing, you are still kept guessing.

The show promises to be “A Killer Comedy” running from April 12 through May 26, 2018 at the Neil Macrae Bar & Lounge, in The Improv Centre on Granville Island. Each show is completely different as the audience helps to build the story. Several scenes and each character’s personality is crafted through the suggestions audience members shout out. And the improv artists make plenty of attempts to engage their viewers. So really, you could watch serval performances and get a different out come and experience each time.

The show is an “improvised whodunit” set in the 1930’s. The host/narrator starts the scene off by explaining a few how to’s. He sets up the stage where himself and six other characters are on a train, trying to find out who killed their victim (a member from the audience chosen at random). The background to it is described as “a glamourous era when Art Deco was in vogue and anyone who was anyone travelled ‘abroad’ on luxury liners or trains. The best chefs, servers, and bartenders were recruited to cater to these elite travellers. Prohibition had just ended and classic cocktails were crafted and served to this sophisticated clientele.”

Due to the fact that the way the events unfolded followed a pseudo-script/storyline some of the improv themes you just had to guess at. Like when the characters tried to start a new scene with the exact phrase that the last character spoke in the scene before. And when one character had to guess the secret word that another character was hiding by sorting through their clues made out of puns.

Without giving any of it away, I can tell you I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I didn’t expect to laugh as much as I did. Nor did I expect the plot line to hold up as well as it did. But the frame work of a play, surrounding improv within each scene was well done.

For those who wish to be more engrossed with the performance and possibly play a role in, I suggest getting tickets for the tables up front. There, the audience members were asked to participate by making noises and lending themselves to the backdrop of the scene. And those times where they audience couldn’t catch on or weren’t participating as the host had hoped, the “actors” made jokes and worked it into the performance with hilarious consequences.

These tables are also the best places to catch a drink at. Sitting at them gives you plenty of room to store your drinks. Drinks from the Vancouver TheatreSports’ Bar. And as they will tell you, drinking and laughing go naturally together.

To christen the show and in homage to the great cocktails of the period, the bar is offering two “Killer Cocktails”. Both are priced at $8.75 for a single and $12.75 for a double, and are only available during the show’s run.

The “Corpse Reviver” is based on a classic 1930’s hangover cure, joking that “it’ll bring you back to life” with gin, lemon-lime juice, and a splash of soda.

The “Prohibition Pleaser” was in reflection of the times where people couldn’t drink before 1933, but were still able to find a way. This was the sweeter of the two cocktails. It looked, smelled, and tasted like was alcohol-free with the feature of Glayva Liqueur shaken with Amaretto and cranberry juice.

Straws were available for both, but rest assured we were told that they were of the biodegradable kind.

Another favourite libation of the era was champagne. So they also offered piccolo-sized bottles of Henkell Rose bubbly at $9.75; in addition to their regular menu of wines, spirits and beer. It was mandatorily poured into glasses out of its miniature bottle.

Overall this was a great show and a great experience. I definitely recommend checking out the performance yourself. For tickets visit the link before May 26th, 2018.

 

VANCOUVER THEATRE SPORTS
Neil Macrae Bar & Lounge
1502 Duranleau Street, Granville Island
vtsl.com

Innocent Ice Cream Sandwiches

With the weather getting better, ice cream season is right around the corner. And today I was invited to try “Innocent ice cream” on Main Street. But this isn’t just any ice cream shoppe, they specialize in sandwiching their in house made ice creams with their in house made cookies.

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

Three years ago this brainchild started out as a ice cream sandwich cart, pedalling around English Bay. With much encouragement from a happy and growing customer base, they turned a portable store on wheels to a brick and mortar shop. Opening June of last year, their bicycle with a frozen refrigerator box strapped to it is now parked outside, as a landmark. Although every summer it rides again with plenty of event bookings to keep them busy.

Their logo is their pet Boston Terrier dressed in a black and white spotted cow suit, with horns. It comes stamped on their paper cups used to house scoops of ice cream, on stickers used to seal packages up ice cream sandwiches, and on their merchandise sold at cost: a tank, tee, and tote. He even comes out to their events, when allowed to.

Their name refers to their great vegan friendly ice cream options, and all their cookies being gluten-free. It is run by a mother-daughter team. The mom grew up making hand cranked ice cream and cookies with her mom, and now it is passing this legacy on to her daughter, as well as plenty of hungry customers.

Their showcase of 16 different ice creams is a collection curated from the feedback of said customers. It is ever being updated with new seasonal offerings and fan favourites. Six of which are always on rotation, and 5-6 are always vegan; the rest are best sellers and always available. But one thing that hasn’t changed is their prices. They have been the same since they began this journey three years ago. For the ladies of “Innocent” it is about the experience and having an approachable product, which includes a reasonable price.

It is worth noting, that the ability to converse with the owner in person, is one of the many ways that makes their ice cream extra special. You know your purchase is helping someone in your community. And the appreciation for your visit is felt as soon as you enter their threshold.

You order off the menu board, hung above the counter. It is easy to compare the listed flavour and match it with its colourful tray, behind the glass. You can see to the bottom of the metal container when it comes to the more popular ones.

As I mentioned earlier, flavours rotate with different bases all year round. This early spring it was “spiced chai” and “coconut rose” that hit the block. During this visit we got to sample and enjoy them and other coconut based vegan ice cream flavours like lemon meringue, salted bourbon chocolate, and cappuccino. The coconut rose was the most popular, and the one that sells out every day; and I can see why with just a taster. It is a beautiful flavour: the lightness of sorbet, but with the creaminess of milk. You get just enough rose flavour to highlight the luscious coconut milk base.

All of their 5-6 vegan flavours use beet sugar which is fully vegan. Whereas some cane sugars are filtered through bone char to get the colour out. Their goal is to source as natural of a product as possible, leaving you with the feeling of enjoying a healthy and clean treat.

The current list of ice cream made from cream and milk were maple walnut, mint chip, matcha, wild cherry, banana, salted caramel, coffee, vanilla, chocolate, raspberry white chocolate, and spiced cheesecake. The “Spiced cheese cake” tasted like pumpkin pie thanks to the spices, but with a cream cheese base. And the “Banana” was flavoured more like a smoothie, instead of the antibiotics of my childhood.

As I mentioned earlier, the cookies are also made in house. Each one of their five flavours gluten free. Oatmeal, peanut butter, white chocolate chip, double chocolate, chocolate chip. They were so good that we asked if they were available for purchase alone. Unfortunately not, but if you call ahead, they can make an exception for you, with enough notice.

Their menu lists all their offerings, and also suggests their favourite cookie and ice cream pairing. Or you can choose your cookie and make your own ice cream sandwich by, but here I will strongly suggest that you leave it to the experts. They have tried and tested many variations, and have come out with some fun and complimentary ice cream sandwich combinations. Like the “Canadian” which is a oatmeal cookies with maple walnut ice cream. The “Electric” had chocolate chip cookie sandwiching coffee ice cream. And the “Kong” was a double chocolate cookie with banana ice cream together.

In the end we narrowed down our choices to three, served as miniatures in their ice cream sandwich flight. You can also get any cookie and ice cream combo you want as a whole, but I prefer tasting and trying instead of committing to one larger flavour.

Although if I could only choose one ice cream sandwich, hands down it would be the “Fairytale” with raspberry white chocolate ice cream sandwiched between a white chocolate cookie. This was everyone’s favourite of the evening, and there is a reason why this is their best seller. It was traditionally sweet with a candy feel and taste.

The “Cherry bomb” was double chocolate cookies sandwiching their wild cherry ice cream. The cherry ice cream had so much tang and brightness to it. It and its tartness was balanced by the rich chocolatey and chewy cookie base.

Matcha is one of my favourite ice cream flavours, so even though it didn’t have a preset sandwich combination, I decided to give it a try paired with their white chocolate chip cookie, and it was successful. Here, the pairing of bitter and sweet balanced each other out, allowing you to enjoy the delicious flavour of matcha with a chewy milky cookie.

And if you don’t want the carbs, you can just get a a scoop of their ice cream as is. It can be served in three different cup sizes. But honestly if you come all the way for “Innocent Ice cream” you want to try it in its intended state: with cookies, as it is their specialty. And for those who are always on the go, you can get one of their pints travel ready. It is any flavour and cookie of your choosing layered within the cardboard pint.

 

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.
A solid dessert spot, located in an area where none other like it exists. A great place for vegans and those who are gluten intolerant, to be able to fully enjoy themselves with a full array of options. And best of all, run by owners who are part of the community that you live in and want to support. With rotating ice cream flavours and plans to make ice creams for dogs, there is plenty of reason to revisit. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for “Innocent” and how creative can their passion project get. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

INNOCENT ICE CREAM
4895 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 1V3
604-879-8584
innocenticecream.com
Innocent Ice Cream Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Range Rover Velar P380 HSE R-Dynamic

When we first laid eyes on the Velar back in September, at the luxury car weekend, it was love at first sight. Since then we have been counting down the weeks until we could get behind its wheel. This thirst was furthered after watching an episode of the “Grand Tour”, where James May choose it as his SUV, when enduring a challenge in Canada’s wilderness. That episode was a double delight for us: a vehicle we lusted over, with its coverage filmed in our own backyard. Fast forward, (with some sleuthing) we would later learn that the very vehicle used in the show was the one we would be driving this week. Another icing on our Range Rover cake!

Even though it slots under the “compact luxury crossover” class, the Velar is actually bigger than its in class competitors. Its proportions are pleasing to look at, everything flows seamlessly, making it, arguably the most stylish SUV on the market today. It has a sleek low roof line, flush door handles, and slimmed down LED headlights and taillights. It possesses the overall look of luxury with the associated value.

Inside, the Velar is just as spectacular. When my partner first took the driver’s seat, he spent a good 10 minutes in awe. Just sitting and admiring how modern and sleek it all was, and how the leather felt against his skin. He especially enjoyed how he looked amongst it all, a view enjoyed from the reflection of the rear view mirror. And with the right song playing on the “Meridians” sounds system, it was a scene out of a commercial.

The interior is quite roomy, considering that it is a compact crossover. There is enough room for two full size adults in the back, and the trunk is of a decent transporting size. Though one thing we wished that the Velar had, was more front storage spaces. More compartments to house all the essentials you would want at the handy as you drove. Tools and trinkets that you would need during an extended drive or road trip. It did have three cup holders, but the centre glove box was very small and therefore pretty ineffective. Above it, you can find two 10-inch touch screens. The upper screen handles most of the infotainment and connectivity features, while the bottom one deals in climate controls and driving modes.

Range Rover offers two engine types for the Velar: a 180-hp 2.0-litre turbo diesel, and a 380-hp 3.0-litre supercharged V6 that has been used in other Range Rover and Jaguar vehicles. If you haven’t figure it out yet, the name “P380” comes from the number of horsepower it makes. Range Rover claims that their Velar can sprint 0-100km in 5.7sec, which really isn’t too shabby considering the SUV weighs over 4600lbs . The Velar uses a 8 speed automatic transmission. We mostly drove in the r-dynamic mode (the sportiest mode) and because of it, the shifts were crisp and fast. But there is some negative feedback regarding how jumpy and unpredictable the transmission response can be at times.

The Velar’s body and seating positions are lower than that of the other Range Rovers. We did not test the off road capabilities of the Velar, but believe it would do just fine knowing it has electronic differential and adjustable air suspension, giving it some extra ground clearance. I mean, we don’t expect the Velar to conquer Everest or to perform in the same league as a Jeep Rubicon. But on pavement, the Velar drives like a dream. The suspension might be on the stiffer side for some, but it didn’t really bother us. As we mentioned earlier, we drove all week on R-dynamic mode and the Velar felt more like a big sporty sedan than a compact SUV. The steering was light, but accurate. It was easy to steer the nose into a corner, and the massive 265 wide 22inch tires gave the Velar plenty of grip.

In conclusion driving the Range Rover Velar P380 HSE R-Dynamic was a premium experience. It turned heads and got us looks of jealousy everywhere we rode within it. It handles like a sport car, but can also take on any surprises the road may throw your way. It was just a shame, that we only discovered the massaging front seat features on our last day with it. Had I known, I would been caught sitting in the parkade of our apartment building, just enjoying a deep tissue lumbar release. Having said all this: luxury, comfort, power, and prestige comes at a price. The base model of the Velar starts at $62000, by comparison the model we tested was over 90k. It may not be cheap, but given all that you get and how it made us feel, in our opinion it was totally worth it. Had I the capital, this very one would be in my possession now. Thank you for the drive Range Rover, looking forward to a road trip this summer with the Velar, and another chance to get behind its wheel again.

 

RANGE ROVER VELAR
landrover.ca

Halo Top ice cream in Canada

“Halo Top” ice cream has recently hit Canadian grocery shelves, specifically the refrigerated section of your “Real Canadian SuperStore” and “Save On Foods”; and people have been going crazy for them. So I decided to visit both, across several locations, in order collect all the available flavours to conduct my own taste test. The goal was to see why did “Halo Top’s” reputation proceed them.

First it needs to be noted that “Halo Top” is clever for only offering certain flavours in certain countries; and that within each country, only certain flavours are available at certain grocery chains. They are the “frozen dairy dessert” brand known for their deliciousness despite their lower calorie count. But don’t be fooled like me, the numbers on the cardboard cup is not the total calorie count for the entire 473ml pint, but only for a fraction of it. For example the “Birthday Cake” flavour has the lowest calorie count at 80 calories. The 80 calories are for every 125ml serving. It also only has 6g of sugar per that 125ml serving. Great, but if you are like me, limiting yourself to half a cup of ice cream would be hard, so be prepared to do some math to see how many calories you actually have to work off.

Although, if you are like me, calories and having to count them, isn’t actually something you think about, is the ice cream still worth getting, for its flavour alone? Continuing reading to see if these $8 pints are worth checking out for yourself. And if so, which one should you be trying?

To watch the vlog version of this ice creamy review, visit my YouTube Channel: MaggiMei for my latest video.

 

To be honest when I originally filmed my review, versus my assessment here, my opinion of the below has changed. Maybe I was hungry in my video and should have eaten something more solid, before endeavouring on 6 pints of ice cream first thing in the morning. Or maybe I just enjoy ice cream more later at night. But whatever the reason, my second go at them all was better. I liked them more and now would more likely purchase my favourite flavours, even at the $8 price tag. And once again, I don’t calorie count, but if I did I would probably swear by these pints.

The first flavour I tried ended up being my favourite. “Mint Chip” had the perfect balance of refreshing mint versus bitter dark chocolatey chips, all bound together in a sweet vanilla ice cream base. It makes for a great palette refresher, or that dessert to perk you up after a heavier meal. My first bite had me finishing 3/4 of the same pint in one sitting, and I could have kept going if I didn’t catch myself. And it was because of this reaction did I decided to go out and gather all the other flavours, to see if they were just as good.

The “Birthday Cake” is a vanilla base ice cream that tastes like frosting and cake batter, with the sprinkles you’d expect from such a cake, mixed in. I personally could have used more sprinkles, but to keep it at 6g of sugar and 80 calories for a 125ml serving, sacrifices had to made.

“Sea Salt Caramel” was your classic flavour. Plenty of caramel in ribbons, woven through out the french vanilla ice cream base. Must like caramel and sugar, as this is definitely on the sweeter side.

Similar in flavour and sweetness was the “Pancakes & Waffles”. Except subtract caramel for maple syrup. It was a smokey sweetness with bits of batter to chew through. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wished for some saltiness to balance things out. But I guess that would be their Chicken and Waffles flavour?

The “Peanut Butter Swirl” delivered on its name. As a peanut butter lover I found the taste was spot on, especially when you hit the actual swirls of peanut butter hidden throughout the more mild peanut butter flavoured ice cream (in comparison). I would have liked some crushed nuts in this one, as I prefer my peanut butter chunky. Or maybe some brittle to give it a textural chew. I would also love to see this flavour remixed with some jam for a peanut butter and jelly collab, or does that already exist?

The “Candy Bar” pint had the highest calorie count at 100, it also had the most going on within its cardboard cup. A malted chocolate base with swirls of fudge and crushed up peanuts. It was like having a hot chocolate sundae, minus the whipped cream and cherry on top. I liked the inconsistent spoonfuls and the bit of texture from chewing the tiny specks of peanuts sprinkled throughout.

 

Overall a great ice cream brand to check out, and now available at your local grocery stores at the right time. The weather is getting warmer and people are starting to consider their beach bodies. So being able to fully enjoy ice cream at a fraction of the calories is surely worth the extra cost right?

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