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

Month: May 2018 Page 1 of 2

AJ’s Brooklyn Pizza Joint

Today I was invited to a “good ol’ pizza party”, but this isn’t your Pizza Hut or pizza by the slice variety. This is New York style pizza. Pizza made with a “characteristically large hand-tossed, thin crust, that is thick and crisp only along its edges; yet soft, thin, and pliable enough beneath its toppings to be folded in half to eat.” Or so I have read and watched on television. Truth be told, I don’t have much experience with New York style pizza, so I guess this was as close as I can get, until I find myself in the Big Apple. The fact that New York style pizza is served in large slices, is enough of a reason for me to want to go. I love food when it comes to you larger than expected, or even larger than you really need it.

Owner Anthony “AJ” Caridi opened “AJ’s” with his wife. The goal was to “bringing a piece of Brooklyn to Vancouver”. He grew up in New York City, and she Vancouver; specifically the Mount Pleasant area, in which their restaurant resides. So this venture is really a story if them coming together and offering something better together.

AJ spent his childhood visiting his neighbourhood pizzerias. On top of them being great places to eat at, these shops served as a hot spot for the community to hang out at as well. This is what AJ envisioned when he embarked on recreating his childhood. He wanted his own spot to offer delicious pizza by the slice and as a pie; as well as serve as a welcoming place to park yourselves at; and we definitely did just that. And given the location of his first venture, he should have no problem soliciting patrons and engaging the community. He has chosen a prime meeting space within walking distance of transit, on a busy strip.

“AJ’s Brooklyn Pizza Joint” first opened their doors in November, and since then, they have been serving the Brooklyn experience in the form of pizza and a selection of local craft beers on tap. Classic and traditional NYC pizzas are served in all 5 Boroughs of New York: Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, Staten Island, and Manhattan. At AJ’s they use similar ingredients and techniques with house made sauces, and the curst of each is finished with garlic oil, parm, and a brush of olive oil.

All of their pizzas are named after the NYC pizza experience and pizza folk who have given to the scene. In this way AJ is paying respect to them, recognizing their contributions. Much like the featured cement table that centred his joint. Here the slab of cement was carved into. Names of everyone who made this dream and their restaurant a reality, was given a place. Their memory would be literally etched into “AJ Brooklyn Pizza Joint” forever.

The following is a collection of most of their pizzas on menu, but you also have the ability to customize your own. But truly the ones being offered are so good, so why bother customizing your own, when you can trust the skill of their master pizza maker with 9 years of dough tossing experience under her belt?

The highlight of the night, and my new favourite type of pizza has got to be the “Sicilian Square”. It is named after the Italian (Sicilian) immigrants, who first introduced it to the New York City food scene. I love carbs and a good doughy bread, so this one checks all the boxes for me. This is a round pizza cut into square servings. It is over an inch thick, and each piece could be mistaken for a slice of cake, if not for the thick marinara sauce and the stringy cheese pulling from it. The centre is so fluffy, so given its girth it is actually surprising that it is one of the more airiest pizzas on the menu. And apparently the corner pieces are the ones that people fight over, according to AJ. Their “Sicilian Squares” are available in three different varieties, but I recommend the “New York Sicilian: Traditional Cheese” with its simple mozzarella cheese, Sicilian tomato sauce, and fresh basil combination.

In general I like a fresh tasting and light pizza, so I always gravitate to the classic margherita pizza. At AJ’s this is “Grimaldi’s Classic Margherita” with fresh mozzarella, fresh crushed tomato sauce, parm cheese, and fresh basil. The slices for this and all the pizzas to come are as large as your head. The curst is firm but the dough from the tip is limp. Therefore you find yourself folding it in half length wise for a better grip, and your head tilting to meet it for an easier bite.

“John’s Pepperoni Pie” with shredded mozza, pepperoni, and extra virgin olive oil is another classic. Plenty of pepperoni circles ensures you get a spicy and heavily seasoned round in every bite.

“Juno’s Semi Spicy Fun-Guy” has tomato sauce, shredded mozza, hot calabrese, mushrooms, and pepperoncini. This one was another very flavourful pizza, a little on the heavier side with all the punchy ingredients used.

“Suzanne’s Red Pepper Pesto” was a pie named after AJ’s late mother, a tribute to her, with what I assume was her favourite pizza toppings. This is one of their four vegetarian options with a non-red sauce base. I liked the change of flavour the fragrant pesto offered here.

The “Mount Pleasant Veg” was a very well received vegetarian pizza made with garlic oil, shredded mozza, arugula, and artichokes. The collection of textures kept the slices interesting, and the finishing touch of lemon oil gave it an unique taste, one I have never had on pizza.

I was really excited to try the “Totonno’s Capers & Anchovies” pizza. I have always wanted to try anchovies on a pizza and not many places offer it as a topping option in Vancouver, nor would I want to commit to a whole anchovy pizza. So today, in the spirit of sharing, this was the perfect time to check one of my foodie bucket list. Shredded mozza, capers, and anchovies over a red sauce. It was as salty people say it is, furthered by the capers. It is definitely an acquired taste, but one that grows on you when followed by a gulp of beer.

If you are looking for sides or a starter to share before your pizza mains, they also offer salads and a platter of meat and cheese to begin with. The “Classic Caesar Salad” with romaine lettuce, hand-made caesar dressing, and croutons. And the “Arugula with shaved parmesan cheese”, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper.

The “Charcuterie Plate” is a rotating offering of “today’s meat and cheese”, and today it was silken burrata, with ribbons of prosciutto; dressed in olive oil and balsamic with a side of crostini and green olives.

They also offer a limited selection of “Lee’s Donuts” from Granville Island, purchased fresh daily for a sweet snack or dessert. To it, you have the option of adding a scoop of ice cream or gelato. AJ liked the presence of the local doughnutier, and their story and long ties to the community. I guess he saw himself in them, and therefore wanted to align with their collection of cakey rings in maple icing, chocolate, and sprinkles.

 

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 would make a trip down to “AJ’s” anytime I wanted flavourful and zesty pizzas on thin and chewy dough. They are located in such a central area, making them easy to get to whether driving toward downtown, or commuting home for work. They are great fresh and just as good the day after with a bit of toasting. “AJ’s” is a great new addition to Vancouver’s diversifying pizza scene, with history, heart, and plenty of variety to set them apart. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

AJ’s BROOKLYN PIZZA JOINT
325 East Broadway​​​​​​​​​​, Vancouver BC, V5T 1W5​
604-428-5805
ajsbrooklynpizzajoint.com
AJ's Brooklyn Pizza Joint Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Happy Hour at La Taqueria, Hastings

Today I was invited down to the “La Taqueria” on Hastings Street. This is the popular taco shop’s original location, they are now sporting five others around Vancouver, to satisfy your taco needs.

The Hastings branch has been recently renovated, just in time for summer; with a new bar and cocktail program, and some happy hours specials to enjoy them with. Happy Hour runs from 3-6pm every day of the week, and we were here today to take full advantage.

The renovations were time and money well spent. It takes their small hole in the wall and transforms it into a simple and moody bar (in a good way). A few bar stools by the counter, a handful of family style sharing tables and dim lights to set the tone: from drinks with the boys to a dinner date with the girls. Quick and easy dining with an edge.

But really they are more a bar than anything else, especially when you see and try the calibre of cocktails coming out from behind the counter. Take it from a gal who goes ga-ga over a good glass. Don’t let their tiny real estate fool you, with a bevy of herbs and bitters they bring classy cocktails to the sides of tacos and burritos with ease. But if that isn’t for you they also offer beer by the can or bottle, and margaritas on tap. In fact majority of their Happy Hour specials give you the winning combo of one of their tacos or nachos, with one of their popular beverages for less. For example, a Baja taco and a pint runs at $9 during Happy Hour, which saves you around $4. And Margaritas and “Palomas” are $7 between 3-6pm, instead of $10 regularly.

But to be honest, the regularly priced cocktails are the ones I am recommending. Between our party of three we instinctively found and ordered our favourite notes between spicy, strong, and sweet.

I was highly interested in this tropical twist to a classic.Wild Turkey, Piquant & coconut syrup, absinth, angostura, and lemon oil. Sadly, the “Spiced coconut old fashioned” didn’t have as much coconut flavour as I wanted. I had to strain to taste it. I also didn’t get any of the liquorice from the absinth, not that I am complaining about that one. But at least the drink was as strong and as full bodied as I expected from an Old Fashioned.

The “Bad Hombre” is Wild Turkey, Los Siete Misterios Mezcal, chartreuse, ginger, habanero, citrus, and a poblano pepper. It had a warming, back of your throat burn to it, a warming spice that would pair great with any of their dishes, giving it some zip and spice.

The “Sunset” certainly lived up to its name in imagery. Tequilla blanco, Campari, strawberry & peppercorn shrub, and citrus. Despite its fruit punch-like colour, this one was very Tequila forward, with hints of pepperiness. Sweet but with strong alcohol after taste.

The “Shifting sands” was an easy to drink cocktail, like flavoured water: light and breezy. Tio pepe, bercherovka, Cointreau, honey, citrus, and mint. It was mint forward and even more so when you muddied the sprig of green into the drink, which I am recommending.

The “Jalisco after midnight” was my favourite for flavour. El jimandor, reposado, pisco, vermouth, cynar, cacao, and grapefruit oil. A great smokey drink that you sip to savour. It was incredibly smooth with a creamy chocolatey finish.

Hands down, the “Sinner Man” was the most impressive drink of the night. Saffron infused rum, Mexican falernum, lime grapefruit, and cinnamon smoke. The highlight was the cinnamon stick set on fire. The visual of the smoke caught your eye and the scent of the burning stick kept your nose. Be sure to use the singed cinnamon stick as a stir stick after, so that its essence mingles into the cocktail for a more warming note. It was nutty with the spice, and overall easy to drink like a tropical juice.

The sensation of smelling it first, then tasting it for a different experience was used in another drink as well. The “Charros kick” (name pending) was one of two drinks we got a sneak peak taste of. They have yet to hit the regular drink menu, but you should be seeing them make their debut in the week to come. Mesczal tequila, orgeat, almond, and lemon juice. Here, you smelled the almond essence, but never taste it. Similarly, you expect it to be a richer and creamier drink because of its white milky-hue. Instead, it is light and refreshing.

The second, soon to be released cocktail is the “Bonito”, which did not taste like the salty flake with the same name, instead it was more minty, like a mojto made with Beefeater gin and Lillet blanc.

As for food, their seafood tacos continue to be my favourites, and the ones I recommend. Especially the two that featured battered and deep fried fish and shrimp. The trip in the fryer gives the otherwise soften taco some much needed crunch. And as textural eater, it is so important for my month-feel that I get that balance. The “Baja” taco featured tempura beer battered seasonal fish with cabbage, cilantro, salsa mexicana, and chipotle mayo in a
6″ hand made flour tortilla. The “Cabo” taco had the same make up, just replace fish for tempura beer battered prawns.

And if you like your fish fresh, they also have the “Atun” taco. Seared albacore tuna with
wasabi mayo, chili ponzu, cabbage, and pico de gallo on a 6″ hand made flour tortilla. This one was refreshing, sort of like poke or salad with the raw fish and fresh vegetable, except with a dry taco shell that you can eat around.

The other tacos are smaller in size and feature more raw, pickled, and stewed vegetables and meats. I found them less exciting flavour-wise, but their bar of sauces and pickles were perfect in rectifying this. Here, you customize with as little or as much of their salsa verde, chipotle, or habanero sauces in squeeze bottles; as you like.

But when it comes to Happy Hour and sharing, my vote is for the nachos! This serving is definitely not for just one person. The tortilla chips used are what sets this platter apart, that and the fact that they are double baked. The crispier and airier chips are noticeably lighter. They don’t have much flavour to them, but luckily they are top with plenty and layer after layer there is a consistent 1:1 ratio of dressing to chip. Three tiers of corn chips, three different cheeses, refried beans, onions, Jalapeño, sweet corn, sour cream, pico de gallo, and a creamy chipotle sauce. But be warned, the refried bean mixture does contain traces of meat, therefore this is not a vegetarian option.

But if you are ding solo and want that crunch and easy munch, you can order guacamole with some plain chips. They use the same chips as the nachos, but with a chilled lumpy pico de gallo mix to load them up with. In truth, I ordered this by accident, wanting a side of guac for the nachos, not that it needed another condiment, in hindsight.

 

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.
It is a little far for me to travel for tacos, where there are two of their other locations much closer to me. Although neither of them offer the same extent of alcoholic beverages. This locale serves as an actual bar. Lots of effort was put into really transforming the place and the experience. I would stop by just for a drink, when in the neighbourhood. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LA TAQUERIA
322 West Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1K6
604-568-4406
lataqueria.com
La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chinatown Dumpling Masterclass

Today Andrew of @eatswithmao and I were invited to get a behind the scenes look at scratch made dumplings with Judy.

Judy is better known as “ChinatownGirl” or @chinatownjudy. Her nickname was earned through her love of modern Chinese history. This history and the collection of knowledge she has gathered, she shares in the form of guided tours in and around historic Chinatown. These tours are available to anyone, and includes access to historic sights that you may not otherwise get to see. I hope to be able to take this tour one day, and suggest that you do so too; it never hurts to learn something new and to immerse yourself in something different.

But today we were here to enjoy the fruits of her other passion: cooking. Specifically the preparation of authentic Chinese style dumplings. The very dumplings her own Chinese mother taught her how to make when she was a mere child. Since then she has taken this nostalgic learning and improved on it. Skills we would soon witness, yielded from decades of making both traditional and non-traditional dumplings, on a weekly basis.

The cost and the type of dumpling being made varies from class to class and by date. Typically the fee is $127 per person for the 3 hour class. It includes a miniature shopping tour, a drink, and dinner featuring the dumplings you have made with your own two hands. And what you don’t finish, you take home.

All the ingredients for the dumplings are included. The fillings are based on the preference of those attending and what is available at the market on the day. She shops for everything herself, focusing on organic and free range vegetables and meats. She sources from the Chinatown neighbourhood and “Whole Foods”. Though her favourite protein to use is chicken thigh meat. Yet, she has been known to make completely vegetarian and gluten free dumplings, as well as dumplings only using seafood. The most exotic ingredient Judy has featured in her dumplings are venison and wild boar. Both of which were readily available in Honolulu, where she travels back and forth from Vancouver to. She finds time to hosts her dumpling workshops there too. Her fondest memory, being the live demo she ran at “Williamson and Sonoma” Honolulu where she stuffed and pinched dumplings for 80 plus spectators. Luckily she is nimble enough to make 4-5 dumplings in a minute.

Although she did note she prefers smaller class sizes, for a more intimate setting and to prepare smaller quantities of dumplings. Therefore you will not find any of her dumplings available for purchase outside of this demo. So in order to try them for yourself you best sign up for her class. More information on it and the link to do so below.

As was eluded to earlier, the experience actually starts with a taste of Judy’s Historical Chinatown Tour, where she shows you a few grocery stores in the neighbourhood, where you can buy fresh ingredients for your own Cantonese-style home cooking. These are her favourite places for produce, meat, seafood, and herbs within Chinatown. The tour will end at “Sai Woo”, where you will learn how to make the actual dumplings. During this time the class will have the whole restaurant to themselves. Giving everyone the ability to enjoy a hands on experience, at their own pace.

Once back at the restaurant, you start by dawning aprons. They are available for your use during the class. You are able to purchase additional drinks at an additional cost, to sip and enjoy as you learn. I strongly recommend this approach as it makes for a more memorable event.

You will learn what ingredient combinations make for a great filling, then prep said ingredients. Today our dumplings will be filled with a mixture of leek, prawn, green onion, truffles, and ground pork; as they were what was fresh.

But before you get your hands dirty, Judy will walk you through folding the dumpling wrappers. But from here, I will only be summarizing our experience. So consider this the “Coles Notes” version of the class. It is no where as easy or as simple as I am making it look or sound. There is a reason why she is a professional, and why you will be signing up to learn from her years of experience and trained muscle memory.

A round dough wrapper is folded into a triangular cup shape. A small scoop of filling is spooned in. Then egg white is used as a binder to seal shut each pleated dumpling edge. One by one Judy continues the process. Until she has a platter full of ready to be pan fried dumplings.

Next, they are strategically placed onto an oiled, non-stick frying pan. Judy likes using organic avocado oil, as it is good at high temperature cooking, and there are plenty of health benefits in consuming it. (She is all about that fitness, you will see when you meet her in person.)

The pan of dumplings are placed on the stove, it is cooked for a bit, then finished off with a good steam. When hot enough, water is added into the pan. As the water evaporates, the bottom of each dumpling crispens up.

You know it is ready when the dumplings slightly stick to the bottom the pan. You then check it’s readiness by looking for a golden brown finish.

From here, your dumplings are plated and you get a choice of sauces for dipping. Today we would enjoy a light lemon ponzu that gave each dumpling a nice light tang. Chilli oil with a white balsamic, soy sauce, and a lemon mixture are also popular dipping choices. But truly the choice is all yours, and Judy inquires about your preference and taste.

These dumplings taste as good as they look. This is even more so when you witness what goes into them, and take a large part in their preparation. This is truly a unique experience, and a great way to learn more about Chinese culture through its food and socializing with others. I am always looking for a new and different experience, and this is definitely one of them!

 

To learn more about, and to check out both of the experiences Judy host, please visit the link to her page below.

HISTORICAL CHINATOWN TOURS
DUMPLING MASTERCLASS
http://chinatowngirl.ca/

 

#VanScienceSocial Highlights & The New Science Behind Pixar Exhibit!

Today I was invited to a very special night at Science World. The #VanScienceSocial is a event created to get more people talking about science through social media. This has been organized with the belief that “science is exciting and inspiring for everyone, not just scientists”, which is why they are reaching out to local social influencers (such as myself) to help share the brilliant work of scientists and innovators. An endeavour so successful, that on this night, it was the annual event’s third year (my first).

Tonight’s agenda included plenty of exploration and some hands-on science experiments. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make the whole event and did miss out on the opportunity to tinker: making neon led pins. And the behind-the-scenes tour around the dome, including what was behind the giant IMAX screens.

But I made it just in time to their their new flying simulator, “Birdly”. This new addition will cost riders $8 to try. You are strapped in laying flat, you feet are secured, and your hands hold onto the handles of each “wing”. From here you dawn a VR headset with headphones and get immersed into the “Manhattan skyline”. This realistic scene includes King Kong, Mario’s mushroom one ups, and a whole slew of other surprises waiting for those who master simulated flight under the 2 minutes experience time.

In order to see how I fared, the rest of the activities we took part in, and the mischief we got into with the run of a closed to the public Science World, check out the latest video on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

Next, to launch the opening of the latest feature exhibition, “The Science Behind Pixar” we heard a keynote presentation by Ted Mathot, Story Supervisor for the Pixar Animation Studios. He brought with him a 2 minute sneak peak of the up coming “Incredibles 2” full featured animation movie. This was a scene that Ted would dissect in order to enlighten us on all the work that goes into creating an action scene from story board to finish concept.

Ted Mathot is the “story wizard behind movies like Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, Presto and Wall•E!” He would then explore the new feature exhibition with us.

“The Science Behind Pixar” gives attendees a “peek into the Pixar process, to explore the science and technology behind some of your most beloved animated films and their characters.” “The exhibition includes more than 40 interactive elements and each of the exhibition’s eight sections focuses on a particular step in the filmmaking process”. All this gives guests “an insider’s look at the production pipeline and concepts used at Pixar every day.”

This is one of the most engaging exhibits I have enjoyed at science world. There are photo ops with your favourite Pixar characters like Buzz Lightyear from “Toy Story”. Mike and Sully from “Monster’s Inc.”, and Wall•E from the movie of the same name.

Each station allowed you to engage in a part of the animation process from mixing different colours and textures at the “surface” station. To changing the look and dimension of things by wrapping it in different layers. Like a square can be both a di and rubix cube.

My favourites were Edna from “The Incredibles” judging you at the animation station and Dory from “Finding Nemo” teaching you how changing the colour and brightness of lights change the feeling of a seen. Red denotes anger, blue hues sadness, and yellow is often associated with joyfulness.

There were also some great artwork that made for the perfect selfie back drops. Like the “Brave” family portrait mosaic. And a collection of all sorts of monsters from “Monster’s Inc” as a tapestry.

The “Bug’s Life” display allows you to see from the vantage point of a bug, with eyes on the roots of the fake grass and at the base of the artificial cherry blossom tree.

There is so much more to see and do to this exhibit that it is definitely worth a second go, if you have yet to do a first.

We then spent some time snacking on sandwiches, cold cuts, and cookies; while playing with the challenges situated around science world’s atrium.

All the while waiting for the sun to set and the sky to turn dark so that we can better take advantage controlling the dome’s lights with “Oh!”. “Oh1” is an interactive art installation by “Tangible Interaction”. They basically “highjack” the lights of Science World, which allows you to change the pattern of said lights on the dome in real time! This event is only available during summer and if the weather permits (no rain). To see it in action, be sure to watch the tail end of my video above.

In short, there is so much to see and do at Science World this summer, and most of it is not just for kids! To check out what is coming up visit their events link below. https://www.scienceworld.ca/

 

SCIENCE WORLD at TELUS World of Science
1455 Quebec Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 3Z7
scienceworld.ca
#VanScienceSocial

BC Seafood Fest kickoff, aboard Pacific Yacht

Today I was invited down to “Pacific Yacht” to help kick off the launch of BC’s annual Seafood Festival. “Pacific Yacht” is a charter company that allows you to rent and host events and receptions on one of their lovely Yachts. For many, maybe this may be the only chance to get to board such a luxurious sea vessel. They are located on the waterfront, directly in front of the Westin Bayshore Hotel, downtown Vancouver.

This year, the 12th Annual BC Seafood Festival 2018 is being held between June 8th -17th in the Comox Valley. And a handful of media and celebrity chefs, who were participating in the festival, were invited onboard to mix and mingle; surrounded by the bounty of the sea we sat in.

The yacht has three levels, you enter at the first. It is decorated like a parlour with chemise couches, perfectly fluffed up throw pillows; and ritzy decor accents like orchids, acrylic chairs, and faux fur throws. Upon entry, a glass of “Forty Knots” sparking awaits you with a effervescent welcome. From here you are free to explore the vessel and partake in any of the cooking demonstrations or canapés being served.

On the second floor there was a wine tasting table. A collection of whites and reds, carefully curated to pair well with the delicious seafood tastings from Chef Mardy Ra of “Pacific Yacht Charters”.

A Chef from H2 Rotisserie & Bar at The Westin Bayshore was preparing a seafood paella cooking demonstration with a gratuitous amounts of squid, scallops, prawns, clams and chorizo, in a white wine sauce.

 

On the sky deck (the 3rd and highest floor) “Fanny Bay Oyster Bar” was hosting a demonstration on how to shuck and chuck fresh oysters. First you open the shell, next you slice oyster from said shell, then after a quick swallow, you discard the now empty shells over the side of the yacht with a “chuck”.

All the while, a pletora of food was rotated across levels. Small bites so beautiful and so tasty that you couldn’t believe that they were prepared on board this ship

“Smoked salmon on a black rice pancake with a peppered cream”. It reminded me of a upscale bagel and lox; with luscious fresh fish, a chewy base to house it on, and a cooling cream to help bring the two together.

The “Charred octopus on sous vide tartare” was easy to eat with the use of porcelain spoons in its presentation, and given how tender the octopus slice was.

The “Stuffed shiitake mushroom with cashew cream cheese and candied cashew topping” was the only vegetarian option. Super tasty with some crunch thanks to the well toasted cashew. Although I was surprised that they had vegan friendly offerings, considering that this was a festival created to celebrate the fishing/harvesting, preparation, and eating of sealife.

The “fresh crab wonton cup with a honey caramel miso” was like a deconstructed and elevated crab cake. Creamy shredded crab, served in a vessel that gave it some contrast and crunch.

The “Albacore tuna with cucumber, olive oil, and ground pepper” was like eating sashimi, given the creative presentation, that doubled as an easy eating apparatus. Although flavour wise it was unexpectedly more rich and earthy thanks to the fragrant olive oil. Where as you are expecting light flavours and the true taste of the fish to lead the way.

If this was just a smidgen of what one can expect during the seafood festival weekend, I can only imagine the festivities on the actual days. Once again for its 12th year, the festival will be held in the Comox Valley, Vancouver Island, running from June 8 to 17th, 2018. Thanks to the prestige of those participating, #BCSeafoodFest has been established as the ‘must attend’, largest seafood festival in western Canada!

If you aren’t able to dedicated the whole week to seafood, then consider just attending their “Signature Weekend”. It will feature day long events on June 16 and 17, 2018; including the “biggest line-up of renowned guest Chefs and Chef Demonstrations, new and enhanced competitions, incredible seafood & beverage tasting stations, live entertainment and interactive sea-life touch tanks”. Basically, a bevy of sea related activities for families and friends alike, hosted at the Filberg Heritage Lodge & Park in Comox, BC.

And if you can only do either the 16th or the 17th, you can make your decision by either choosing to attend the “Baked n’ Boiled Kitchen Party” on June 16, or the “Bounty! A Brunch Seafood Cookout” on June 17.

For more information on them as well as how you can purchase tickets for everything else, visit the “BC Seafood Festival” website below. https://bcseafoodfestival.com/. New event details will be announced here weekly.

 

#BCSeafoodFest
bcseafoodfestival.com

PACIFIC YACHT CHARTERS
1601 Bayshore Drive, Suite 35, Vancouver BC, V6G 2V4
604-689-1227
pacificyachtcharters.com

Happy Hour at The Pawn Shop

Today I was meeting up a friend for dinner. She admittedly is particular when it comes to eating out, so whenever we do, its at a restaurant that is within her wheelhouse. More often than not it is Mexican, today it would be “Tacos, Tapas, and Tequila” from “The Pawn Shop”.

I first heard of “Pawn Shop” at a mixology competition, where their bartender had participated. Hearing the uniqueness of their name, I made a mental note, wanting to visit them just because of it. Often a funky name leads to a funky restaurant to match, and here they did not disappoint.

We sat on the sectioned off patio up front, given the warmth of the day and the shade the patio provided. Here, the sketches of tacos, dollar bills, gold coins, and skulls that decorated the exterior spackle spoke to what was past this threshold.

The entire restaurant had plenty of colour thanks to the artistically done graffiti-style art that covered a few of the walls in urban stylized faces and monsters, including the tags of the ones (I assumed) that drew it. This style continued on to the shared washroom space where individual stalls were marked by their own luchador in masks in side and out.

The main dining area of the restaurant was a little more muted. Wood, concrete, and metal. Here the words “Eat Tacos” and “We Sell Gold” reminded you of why you were here.

Today we took advantage of Happy Hour, given that our timing correlated. Although, I arrived with only 15 minutes more to take advantage of their deals; so rushed to order. The result: I basically asked for everything off their happy hour specials menu, starting with a drink.

Their “Spiked slush” allowed you to pick your liquor and your juice and they mix together an oz for $4.95. With over seven spirit options to choose from and nine mixes the possibilities are endless. I took our server’s recommendation of partnering the jalapeño tequila with pineapple juice for a salty and sweet tropical punch. Then made it a double for $8.95.

During happy hour all their 4.5inch tacos are $1.25 each. Whereas they are normally $3.95 each. Eating earlier saves you $2.70 per taco. I ordered one of each in order to try them all. At $1.25, even if you don’t like one or two, you aren’t loosing out all that much.

I did this without reading the fine print, therefore surprised my guest (when she arrived a little later) by forcing her to buy a drink in order for us to get the deal. Luckily it doesn’t have to be an alcoholic one. In order to get the $1.25 taco deal you need to order a minimum of three tacos and one beverage. And if you want more tacos at that price it comes with the need to purchase more drinks. For every five tacos at $1.25 that you order, you need to order one drink.

All our tacos were served in the same metal pan, in two parallel lines. The following are their descriptions, in the order of how they appear on the menu.

The “Al Pastor” is achiote braised pork, house slaw, pineapple habanero salsa, onion, cilantro, and sour cream. I was impressed by the amount of meat you are given here. The seasonings is almost sweet, so liked how the sour cream balances this with some tangy cooling.

The “Carnitas” were my favourite and the one I would recommend, given how flavourful it was. Slow cooked pulled pork, house slaw, crispy onions, pickled onion, and chipotle mayo. The meat was tender with no tendon or fat, just juicy chunks of dark meat pulled into shreds. This too was seasoned on the sweeter side, but without sour cream I was left craving more pickled onion for balance.

The “Carne mezclada” has ground beef, bacon, poblano pepper, shredded lettuce, chipotle mayo, green onion, and pico de Gallo. The use of ground beef here reminded us for tex-mex flavoured like Italian spaghetti sauce. Tasty enough, but so watery that eating it was a chore..

The “Chorizo” taco was zesty and full of flavour thanks to its namesake protein. The house made chorizo was served with onion, cilantro, salsa verde, and pickled carrot radish. This was one of the more memorable tacos.

The “Chicken Tinga” was fairly flat by comparison. Shredded spiced chicken, house slaw, green onion, radish, and chipotle mayo. It ate the same from first bite to last. Good as a small taco, but any more the taste gets boring. It could have use something sweet like pineapple or corn for some zip.

The following are all their vegetarian taco options, it was nice to see that they offer three types, for those out there who are vegetarian and would like the opportunity to order and try different flavoured tacos as well. And all you needed to make each vegan is to order each without their cheese or mayo options.

The “Hongo” featured sautéed mixed mushrooms, house slaw, feta, and rojo mayo. There were plenty of mushrooms to make this a hearty taco, but it was the feta that had me going back for the second bite. Together it had a creamy and salty finish to it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t imagine it as tasty of a taco if it weren’t for the non vegan feta cheese topping it.

The “Corn and bean” taco was pretty boring. With black beans, corn, shredded lettuce, red pepper, and chipotle mayo it still left like it was missing something. Clearly this was intended as a vegetarian option, but with out a main ingredient to highlight, it felt like you are eating a side salad between your tortilla shell. In order to keep in vegan friendly, maybe some tofu ground beef?

The “Squash” taco was more interesting, but it wasn’t the texture I was expecting rolled up between a taco shell. Kabocha squash, crispy onions, house slaw, and chimichurri. The mash of orange squash made each bite starchy, it was the dominating taste and texture, leaving me craving something crispy like deep fried shallot, something tangy like pickled onions, and something sweet like a vinaigrette.

 

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.
It is a great spot for some drinks and snacks to share. Easily accessible with funky decor. I was impressed enough by happy hour to wonder what the rest of their menu is like. Street corn, cheese tots, and fried cauliflower, just to name a few things I would go back to try. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

THE PAWN SHOP
1117 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 1M1
604-687-7474
thepawnshopyvr.com
The Pawn Shop YVR Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cloverdale Rodeo 2018

This May long weekend marks the 72nd year of the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair. This world famous rodeo takes place over the Victoria Day long weekend each year. This year it falls on May 18-21st. And this Friday, launch night, I found myself in attendance, to soak up all that country lifestyle.

Tickets for general admission run at $12, kids entries cost $10, passes for just the Midway rides are priced at $35, and general gate and rodeo combo passes are $32. There are also tickets to enter the saloon for sale online, purchasing them here will help you beat the line in person. The saloon functions as a night club and bar, opening until 2am every night of the rodeo. To explore all the entry options further, and to buy your tickets for this weekend visit this following link. https://ev8.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/SEGetEventList?groupCode=CLV&linkID=m-tktldr&fromDesktop=1

This is one of North America’s longest running and most entertaining rodeos. And this weekend, show runners promise more competitions, plenty of live entertainment, and an abundance or food and fun for fans of all ages.

 

 

To skip the reading and watch the highlights visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei for my latest video.

We began our evening exploring the fair grounds. The Fair itself has been running for 130 years (almost as old as the city of Cloverdale itself). Here, there are plenty of rides to entertain kids and adults alike. The classic slides, spinning contraptions, deathly drops, and catapults were all present. Amongst it all were carnival games and tests of luck to attempt. The vendors were very enthusiastic when it came time to have you “step(ping) right up”. These games had you aiming water pistols, throwing darts, shooting arrows, and chucking balls; all in order to win stuffed animals.

 

There were also a handful of exhibits to explore, should you want something slower pace, without an additional cost. Various companies demo-ed their product to new consumers and vendors sold their goods across a series of tents that served as a marketplace of sorts.

Canadian artists sold their work in a collective showcase. And a few even chatted up interested parties as they worked on their next great piece.

The Agridome gave you an up close look at farm animals penned up and available for petting behind chain-link fences. Buffalos, llama, goats. and even reptiles; just to name a few. (To see the all, be sure to check out my video above.)

There were even pony rides available for those who fit into the weight requirement, basically smaller children.

There was also plenty of food and drink offered in stands and from the windows of food trucks. You can either eat and walk, or grab one of the many tables available to sit and eat. There were plenty such tables set up before an open stage. The stage hosting a rotation of live bands preforming as you ate; and mascots to take photos with, and to dance with your children.

The following are just a sliver of the snacks available and what we actually ate. If/when you attend you can expect all the carnival classics like funnel cake, shaved ice, deep fried candy bars, freshly squeezed lemonade, cotton candy, and mini doughnuts. Plus plenty of dishes served in large enough portions for dinner or lunch. The rodeo and fair is an all day event, and at the food pavilion they have all your cravings covered. Greek donairs, stir fried Chinese, mac and cheese with different toppings, savoury crepes, and all the variations of poutine imaginable.

We bought drink tickets in order to purchase cups of beer, cider or wine. Given the theme, $7.50 beers seemed like the best and right choice. Coors was one of their sponsors so we kept with cups of those throughout the night.

The “Fry Guys” stand was frying up fresh cut potatoes, in either straight or curry. We got the latter and dressed it with salt and ketchup as a basic.

“Phat Dogs” hot dog stand had creative dogs that fell short on presentation and promise. This was especially disappointing given their feature on the TV shows “Carnival Eats”, “Eat Street”, and “Anthony Bourdian’s No Reservation”; or so their sign says.

We were most impressed by the BBQ stands. Out of the 3 available, I naturally gravitated to the one showcasing the most trophies won. Here “Prairie Smoke & BBQ” was serving up their prize winning meats and sauces, served up in cardboard boxes. We ordered the “Prairie Feast” which was 1/3 rack of ribs and your choice of two meats and a side. We had the pulled pork and beef brisket with slaw, then smothered it all with their help yourself squeeze bottle of sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. It was as delicious as it looked. So much so that we would later go back to order more as “take out”.

At 7:30pm the rodeo began. The Cloverdale Invitational Rodeo featured the World’s best Cowboys and Cowgirls as they compete for cash prizes in rough stock rodeo events like Saddle Bronc Riding, Bareback Riding, Bull Riding, and Ladies Barrel Racing.

We are no experts on the rodeo, in fact, this was our first time at any, let alone the Cloverdale rodeo. But from what we gathered, the goal of these competitions are to stay on the bucking horse for the set amount of time, with the most style. Doing so with one hand and looking like it is easy earns you the most points. Here, the referees were the real champions. Their job is to “rescue” the riders from off the backs of the horses when their ride time was over. This was done with a grab of the collar from one of the two refs, followed by the rider grabbing them back around the waist. Then with a heave they were pulled off the bucking horses. Competitors need to stay on until the sound of the whistle, falling off after it doesn’t make a difference to the scoring. But not coming straight out of the pen to start does. Having your mount diverting either left or right out the gate disqualifies the rider.

At the end of the round, those awarded the highest scores won. They took a celebratory ride around the pen to announce their win. The above was the same for all those competing in the various riding divisions, the only difference was whether they did it on a bull or a bucking horse, on a saddle or bareback.

The Ladies Barrel Racing had riders on horseback, racing to see how fast they can loop three barrels set up in the formation of a triangle. The winners did it the smoothest with the least amount of time to and from the start gate.

There were also rodeo clowns, but instead of distracting the animals they were engaging the crowd. They threw lollipops into the stands and got everyone excited for the matches to come.

The rodeo portion of the night concluded with a firework display. A flash of light and a boom of sound that seemed to blend into the dusk, as the sky lit up from the lights of the carnival rides.

From here the rest of the Fair is still open and available for exploring. In fact the Fair seemed to get only busier as the night wore on. This was just a recap of all that we engaged in, but there is so much more to this event, and even more to come this long weekend. Be sure to check out the link at the end of this post to note the dates and times of the other rodeo matches, the Roundup Skateboarding Competition and various live musical performances.

In short, the Cloverdale Rodeo is a great family event, with cowboys competing for over $300,000 in prize money and thousands of spectators turning out to enjoy the show and midway attractions. If you have never been, I strongly suggest taking the opportunity to try something new. Engulf yourself in the exciting sport of horse riding and catch yourself cheering as loudly and as enthusiastically as you would at any Canucks or BC Lions game. In a busy year as many as 100,000 people attend the fair, of which close to 20,000 watch the rodeo shows!

 

CLOVERDALE RODEO
6050A 176 Steet, Surrey BC
604-576-9461
www.cloverdalerodeo.com

Match Eatery + Public House, Cascades Langley

Today I was invited down to “Match Eatery” in Langley for the launch party of their newly renovated patio. A new space with extended seating and plenty of ways to soak in the sun, just in time for summer and all this hot weather that we have been getting lately.

The new patio is a convert-able space. Half of it is covered with glass ceilings and heat lamps for when it gets colder at night. The other half is out in the open with water proof cushions and large golf umbrellas for shade. We would grab a seat by the bar, to be near the drinks, and in order to be able to lay eyes on one of the handful of television screens.

The night was christen with a special cooking demo, followed by a three course meal presented by Celebrity Chef Spencer Watts. Spencer is the host of “Fish the Dish”, he is as energetic and engaging in person as he is on Gusto TV. He prepared a live demo of this favourite risotto recipe. Doing so while talking with his hands, and throwing in the odd onomatopoeias as needed. This was all done in front of a camera that was immediately broadcasted to all the television screens situated around the outdoor bar. His completed risotto would later be used in one of our three courses to come.

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 hello 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.

Our night began with some alcoholic beverages. Given that it was National Caesar day, it seemed like a good place to start. Their “Classic caesar” is prepared with Smirnoff vodka, cilantro, Worcestershire Tabasco, blaze beans, pepperoncini pepper, green olive, and a pickled onion. The salty and spicy drink comes with a lot more garnishes here than at other bars.

Our group treated ourselves to a round of shots. A line up of colours for $6 a glass, all made sweet and easy to throw back.

I would later end my meal with a dessert-drink. I don’t normally like or drink coffee, but I make an exception if it is made with booze or excessive amounts of sugar. The “Black Gold” had both. Triple sec, amaretto, baileys, frangelico, and cinnamon. Though I will note that it felt a little odd to drink this coffee hot, out of a straw.

The following items are not available on the regular “Match” menu. They are some unique creations from our guest Chef of the evening. So, unfortunately you will not be able to go into your local “Match” and order any of the following.

The first course was a re-imagined salad with goat cheese, tomato vinaigrette, and beets. Immediately I thought this was dessert. The triangle of cheese looks and tastes like a slice of cheesecake with its creaminess. Taken in with the fresh greens, thin slices of yellow beets, and vinaigrette it was well balanced. As a whole it was an interesting concept, but despite the photogenic plate, I would have preferred this course as a salad with a whole lot more veg and the cheese as a featuring, instead of a main. The goat cheese as a crumble with its graham cracker base toasted and sprinkled over the serving as a dust for some crunch. Or at least served with some crostini or bread as a base, to spread the cheese over.

The mushroom risotto from the demo above made its appearance here. But re-imagined as the filling to a caked and deep fried croquette. It was rich with mushroom and therefore overwhelmed its plate mates. I would have enjoyed it just as is, the risotto at the end of Spenser’s demo. Or maybe as a smaller serving, fried into crispy balls for an easy to share starter. Similarly I would have preferred all the elements of the plate offered up separately, on its own plate. Alone, each element was prepared perfectly, but together they did eat all that cohesively. I translated the assembly as more of a taster, offering diners a sample some of the chef’s favourite dishes. Especially the fragrant squash that melted in your mouth, I could have had a bowl of this for our second course and I would been happy. Sadly the mild nature of the fish and its sweet pineapple salsa was lost on this plate. It couldn’t hope to stand out against the dominant risotto and squash, and therefore was bland by comparison.

Our third course was dessert and it came with a show. Chef Spenser travelled from table to table doling out scoops of his nitro caramel popcorn. Eating a kernel left you with “dragon’s breath”. The liquid nitrogen smoke would escape the caramel coated kernel and travel out your nostrils and/or your pursed lips like that of a dragon breathing smoke. I preferred this alone and not necessarily paired with the lemon curd with chocolate soil and macaron combo that it was served with. Once again everything was good enough on its own, but together they were combative, and unfortunately something/one always looses. Here it was the lemon curd. The sweetness of both the caramel corn and the macaron made the pudding-like dessert very tart by comparison. The dessert as a whole would have been better if the main was a lemon creme burlee with a torched sugar top, and the rest of the elements played a small part as edible garnishes.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
If it wasn’t so far out, you would find me here more often, especially on the patio above, with a drink a hand. But lucky for me there are a handful of “Match” restaurants in BC, and each is typically affiliated with a casino; making them the ideal destination for lunch between hands, or dinner after a successful day at the slots. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MATCH
Cascades Casino Resort
20393 Fraser Highway, Langley BC, V3A 7N2
604-530-2211
matchpub.com
Match Eatery and Public House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tofino in the Infiniti QX80

Every year we use my partner’s birthday as the spring board into road trip season. Early May the sun is out and it is the perfect time to do some exploring in super natural British Columbia! This year we decided on Tofino as our destination. It’s been three years since our last visit and the memory of our time there long ago is still vivid. We went back planning on revisiting the places we remembered, and hoping to discover a few more to add to the list for next rime.

Our vehicle of choice for our little excursion was the Infiniti QX80. A SUV with the room and features to guarantee you a comfortable ride. It proved especially useful on our hour and 40 minute ferry ride there, then back again the day after. Having ridden the ferry numerous times, the magic of being on the deck has long lost its charm. So we spent the travel time in the QX80. Once reclined its front seats made for a comfortable napping place. The cabin of the car kept the warmth in and the noise out. It even did its best to muffle the sounds of the car alarms that went off when the ferry rocked a little more against the waves we were travelling on.

If we had the energy to stay up we could have taken advantage of the entertainment system, sneaking to the back to watch one of two screens attached to the head rests up front.

Admittedly, the reason why we don’t visit Tofino as often as we could, given the proximity of it to Vancouver, is because of the ferry rates. A reservation isn’t necessary, but the guarantee sure is reassuring. This will set you back $21 with the need to check in at least 30 minutes before. The ride itself for two in one vehicle is around $89. And at those prices you still haven’t covered your actual stay in Tofino.

If you are looking for something on the cheaper side you loose that water front view. We opted for this and found ourselves in a laneway Airbnb. It was a studio space with the narrowest washroom. I couldn’t urinate or brush my teeth without banging my elbow against the shower stall. A stall that serves it purpose, but the weight of your full body standing under the facet caused the bottom to give way in a bubble.

Though the rest of the suite was nice. No television, but a couch that pulled out. It functioned as another bed next to the queen tucked into the nook by the window. This was worth staying the night for at $147 a night, although that price was at a discount and the cleaning fee was also as much as the rental itself.

My partner enjoys driving off the beaten path, which allows us to explore more, to discover view points unseen by those less daring. And the utility-ness of the QX80 allowed for this with ease. Given its height, speed bumps and rockier terrain didn’t stop us. From gravel roads to fresh pavement our drive was a pleasant one.

The only hurdle were the more windy roads with 90 degrees turns. The length of the Infiniti QX80 meant turning wasn’t on a dime. It required more motion and more forethought in order to keep the SUV on track. But even at higher speeds the ride was smooth, you didn’t hear the wind hit against the vehicle or the other cars whipping past. Just the sound of insects as they went splat on the windshield.

Our ferry ride took us to Nanaimo. There we drove a little before stopping in Parksville for lunch. Here we stumbled upon “Rod & Gun”, a bar with a long history in Nanaimo. They have served Parksville and the community as one of the longest running bar and restaurant. It has since been declared a historic site. Thanks to the warming sun we were able to sit out on their court yard patio. Plastic chairs and tables partnered with a stone fountain of lion heads spitting water.

There we had a pound of their “Legendary wings”. Panko breaded chicken wings tossed in your choice of sauce. We went for the tried and true honey garlic, taking the menu’s suggestion to pair it with a sleeve of Kokanee beer.

I also got the local burger upon recommendation from out server. Their house made ground chuck beef patty, charbroiled and topped with melted cheese and their “Gun” aioli.

Next came a stop in Port Alberni for some ice cream. I usually get a treat during road trips. I can sleep anywhere, but one of my favourite places for a nap is in a moving car with the sun hitting me. So in order to keep me up as a driving companion, my partner typically bribes me. Today it was a single scoop of ice cream that looked and ate like a double.

We stopped at Coombs country candy for the reason above. Here they make their own homemade sweets, chocolates, and ice creams. My partner would pick up some fudge for himself. The young clerk offered to create a pack of four in any flavour combination he wanted. He got a quarter of caramel, chocolate, vanilla, and maple.

I was having a hard time deciding between their soft serves, vegan friendly gelatos made with coconut milk, or traditional ice cream in some creative and traditional flavours. I was offered samples to make the picking process easier. I was considering the chai and caramel apple before taking the clerk up on her offer of splitting the one scoop into two flavours. I went with rainbow and cotton candy given their bright colours. They weren’t too sweet, more milky than sugar.

There we checked out some future potential camp grounds, deciding that we wanted to return when the weather was better and a lot more stable. On the drive to we were caught in a lot of rain sprinkled with patches of sun. And the Infiniti QX80 helps with such inconsistencies. The wipers have a feature that intuitively starts the swishing as soon as moisture touches the windshield. Although even with a light sprinkle they don’t let up. And it’s a fast swish or none at all. So you find yourself eventually turning off that function.

We eventually hit the Pacific Rim, passing the 49th parallel. From here we would stop by each beach we passed. I found each unique it its view, wildlife, and sand. During our stay, we explored many of the rain forest paths and these beaches, accessible to the public. The following are a few photos of what I found interesting and all that I want to remember.

The first was Florencia Bay beach, which turned out to be a popular stop for surfers. And more so this weekend as Tofino was hosting the Rip Curl surf tournament. More on that later.

Here the tides were receding. Pulling along shells, rock, and bits of marine life in fragments. They reminded me of meteors flying through the sky with their “tails”.

With all the debris, these water droplets washed a shore in throes. These ”little blobs of jelly are a jellyfish-like animal called a sea gooseberry”. As a group, sea gooseberries are called ‘comb jellies’ (Ctenophora) because they swim using rows of pulsating, comb-like ‘hairs’ along their bodies. This would be the only place we would see them.

The next beach too had jellyfish, like all the other beaches to come. It seemed the sand was over run off with an excessive amount of these blue jellyfishes with a “sail”. Closer to the water your found most of them alive. The further you got their dead and dried bodies were stack together like lawn clipping and fallen leaves waiting for disposal. They are the “Velella velella”, also known as the By-the-Wind-Sailors. They are carnivorous animals, related to jellyfish. They do sting, but not enough to harm people. Here they are at varied forms of rest at Wickaninnish beach.

What made this beach stop memorable was the sand, it, the wind, and the heat gave you the feeling of being in a dessert. You needed to cover your nose and mouth during larger gusts. The blowing of the steady wind caused very defined ridges in the sand and knots in my hair.

Long beach was long, like what one might assume given its name. I remembered it by the large earth formation in the middle of the water. During low tide this would be accessible by walking.

Chesterman beach was the first beach that we first watched the sunset in Tofino on, so we found our way back there again.

During our first Tofino visit the tide was so low that we were able to walk to the island home that normally would only be accessible by boat. On this night we didn’t get as much clearance. But we still had a spectacular view. Although it didn’t engulf you as much, given the increased distance between you and the sun that seemed to fall of the edge of the earth.

We would return to Chesterman beach the next day, to be able to enjoy low tide in the day time.

Here we were able to fully experience the wonder of the sea in how it shapes the world. The boulders sculpted by crashing waves and the canals created by running water.

Rocks covered with barnacles and pools teeming with bright green and neon pink sea anemones.

I was most ecstatic to find sand dollars washed ashore. I have seen them dried up in washroom dishes before; but never live, large, and fibrous.

I was also captivated by the starfish clinging under the shade of a rock. It was large, orange, and veiny.

During all our time running around the beach, and me exploring the shore line looking for “treasures” in the form of smooth rounded rocks and shiny ridged shells, we lost track of the waves, and as a result our shoes got soaked. We were doomed to squish around, until my partner decided to utilize one of the added features of our Infiniti QX80. We cranked the rear seat’s heating. Dual vents by your feet, typically used to warm toes on cold days. Now, a dryer set at 32 degrees. Fast forward, an hour later of driving and exploring, and my shoes were dry for a comfortable wear.

From there we also utilized the QX80 as our dining room. The arm rest became a table when we did drive through. And its tailgate a picnic bench we parked ourselves for lunch at the popular “Tacofino” food truck.

But first our patience was tested as we waited in the ever growing line to order and again to pick up. It made us hungrier and the food all the more better.

The chicken and pork gringa. And the tuna, beef, and fish taco. The crispy cheesy tortilla shell had the gooeyness of a quesadilla, but with the crunch of melted cheese over nachos. As for their regular tacos the fresh fish was the best. I have had the same tacos in Vancouver, but for some reason it is just tastes better here. Maybe the fish they use is a whole lot fresher? I also got one of their diablo cookies, but sadly it was burnt to the point that it gave off an acrid taste.

But if the line is too long at “Tacofino”, and you need to satisfy your taco cravings, there are a few you can grab from another nearby concession. “Wild Side Grill” also offers burgers, salads, and poutine. Admittedly their tacos aren’t as memorable, but it served its purpose in our case.

These three “Carnitas Tacos” featured pulled pork, jack cheese, salsa roja, salsa crude, avotillo, and a lime wedge. They were on the watery side and could have used more pop in flavour, and some spice.

Comparatively I much preferred the Baja burger, although retrospectively it too was fairly bland. “Baja beef burger” with jack cheese, pickled jalapeños, crude, lettuce, chipotle mayo, and avotillo. Served with their house punched fries.

My pattern for burgers would not end there, the next day we would head to “Rhino Coffee House” for a breakfast burger of sorts. Seeing @foodology cover it in her latest trip to Tofino, I made sure to swing by during mine.

The goal was the the “Bro Nut”, a great hangover breakfast sandwich that is basically a burger made from a doughnut. Fried egg, mayo, and your choice of bacon, ham, or sausage; tomato, aged cheddar, and lettuce on a homemade savoury doughnut. The doughnut gave the burger a sweet and salty combination, with fresh vegetables to brighten up each bite.

For dessert it was more doughnuts. Another one that was recommended by @foodology was the “Sour cream beer glazed”. There was a foamy quality to the doughnut, reminiscent of beer. A little bitter, to balance all the sweet. The “Cinnamon and sugar beer” doughnut used the same type of dough, just coated in a crunchy layer of cinnamon and sugar. And the “Boston cream” came with an icing smiley and  a fillin of custard cream. The use of dark chocolate gave the doughnut a slight bitter quality, equalized by the eggy custard cream filling.

During our visit, we were also be able to catch the first day of three of the “Rip Curl” sponsored surf competition. This is the first time I got to witness professional surfers riding a wave. Or rather squint at them from a far. There was an announcer giving the audience a play by play to help those follow along. There is no fee to watch you just claim an empty space and face the water. Similarly, beach goers, not here to watch the comparison, can similarly walk across the beach and block your view of the match up.

In short, our trip to Tofino was too short. One sun set isn’t enough, you need at least two to three to remotely feel satiated. I look forward to visiting the island again, and hopefully in a vehicle as comfortable and as accommodating as the Infiniti QX80.

 

#InfinitiQX80
infiniti.ca

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co., wild foraged foods

Today I was invited as the plus one of @pickydiner, tagging along with his invitation to a spring long table dinner at “Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co”. The visit left me wondering why I have never visited any of their locations until today.

This dinner was created to showcase wild foraged foods and their natural health benefits. Vegetation found in BC’s wild that you can collect yourself and prepare yourself. A great bit of knowledge to have in survival situations. But why worry about what you can eat and how to prepare it, when you can simply head down to “Rocky Mountain” and take advantage of Chef Oliver Zaulauf’s expertise. Continue reading to see how he makes these foraged “weeds” more that just palette-able.

Course by course we were given a course on the following foraged foods by Carla Budd, Holistic Registered Nutritionist. Her explanation of the health benefits of the following wild foraged foods, was followed by a feast, showing how you can add them to everyday meals. This was a tasting “Rocky Mountain” pizzas, pastas, salads and cocktails featuring wild greens. Wild greens like catails, wood sorrel, fiddleheads, mustard greens, knotweed, green garlic, wild fennel, wild onion, miners lettuce, onion flowers, and spruce tips.

Carla and her husband own “West Coast Wild Foods”. A local home brewed company “providing quality fresh wild mushrooms, dried wild mushrooms, fresh wild greens, handcrafted BC maple syrup, morels, truffles and other foraged wild foods”. Dinner would feature their wild mushrooms and we would each walk away with a zip lock bag of their dried mushrooms to take home and prepare for ourselves. 

Before we get any further: 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 hello 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 liked the aesthetic of the restaurant. Like the offerings below, it all felt very natural and clean. Wooden tables, stone walls; and living plants providing the ideal backdrop for our long table, given our the theme of our dinner. A feature of luscious moss settled with boxes of dangling and feathered plants. Although there are many ways to dine with them, from their spacious patio up front, equipped with woolen blankets should the temperature turn cold to their family table, adjacent to their carpeted kid’s play area.

Our time was christened with some specialty cocktails. The pink sangria was refreshing and light, like a lemonade, this was easy to drink. This is a great one to have on their patio, out in the sun.

The second cocktail featured spruce tips simmered and strained into a syrup, and then mixed with gin and earl grey. This cocktail was a lot more herbaceous, almost medicinal by comparison. A warming glass, ideal for sipping on with a good book.

Our first course featured a mix of the above mentioned wild mushrooms found within BC, courtesy of “West Coast Wild Foods”. The “Wild mushroom bruschetta” was hearty and filling. Stacked with plenty of ‘shrooms to chew through. Although I could have used something pickled to offset the otherwise one tone flavour. Carla explained how mushrooms are not a plant or an animal, yet they fall into a zone in between. Their presence in cooking helps to fulfill a void in the healthy foods catagory. They provide a great deal of vitamin D and serve as a stand out substitute for those who want more protein in their diet, but don’t want to get it from eating either meat or dairy.

The next course was an un-named salad, set to be released to their summer menu, mid June. Instead of the traditional loose leaves, this one featured mustard greens. According to Carla, mustard greens provide a great source of vitamin K, helpful in building bones. One cup provides 994% of your ideal daily intake, and it gives you more leafy greens goodness than kale. On top of the greens the salad included diced boiled eggs, cheddar cheese shards, cherry tomatoes cut in halves, carrot slices, cucumber chunks, and an edible garnish of wild flowers. The salad had a great mix of textures, all evenly coated in a tangy, orangey vinaigrette. It cools you down as you ate it in, and you felt good about eating it too. My only critique would be more tomatoes or some oranges or apple chunks to brighten up the plate.

By far, the pasta was my favourite dish of the night. Admittedly I don’t like eating greens, but with this dish I didn’t feel like I was getting my necessary, healthy dose. The pesto sauce was made from a grounded mix of knotweed, nettle, fennel fronds, and cattails. It evenly coated each perfectly cooked spiral of noodle and all the roasted vegatable seasoned in salt and pepper. The dish was saucy with a tangy mustardy quality. I couldn’t make out each individual green, but did note the flavours of lemon, mustard, dill, and licorice; and bit into a stem that had the texture of asparagus.

We learned that knotweed is one of the most evasive plants, similar to rhubarb. It grows, shooting up from 1 inch to 10. Consuming it helps to lower cholesterol, and it aids in fighting inflammation. Eating wild fennel gives you plenty of calcium. In appearance, it resembles the very bones and joints of the body that it helps to strengthen. I didn’t know until today that you can safely eat the entire cattail. There is an incredible about starch per acre of cattail. Its pollen is popularly used in pancake batter, offering up anti septic properties. Wood sorrels are known for their lemony flavour. Native tribes used it to make lemonade. Drinking this sour mix helped to tone the stomach, thus strengthening it. It also helps reduce ulcers, while building up your appetite.

The pesto sauce base in this pizza was similar to the pasta above. The herby spread with whole fiddleheads was furthered by the sharp and creamy goat cheese smeared atop. Overall, each slice was salty and herbaceous, with a hint of sweetness from the yellow peppers. A vegetarian offering made heartier with the use of wild mushrooms.

This was a retelling of one of their most popular pizza flavours. The “Reinvented Fig and Brie” featured locally sourced, fresh, cured ham. Its saltiness paired well with the sweetness of the figs, the pepperiness of the wild greens, and the richness of melty brie. We were the firsts to try this new creation, over hearing that their might be a quail egg added on, when it hits the menu mid summer. The dough for both pizzas was crispy and firm, its stiffness reminded me of a stone wheat thin.

Fiddleheads are a type of fern, they are only available in nature for a limited time out of the year. You have an 8 week window to harvest and eat them. Eating them gives you double the antioxidants of blueberries. Green garlic is good as an anti fungal and bacteria agent. And miners lettuce helps to spring clean the body by detoxifying it with vitamins A and B.

Since we have been eating so healthy up to this point, we all thought we deserved to indulge in one of “Rocky Mountain’s” popular chocolate brownies with in-house made vanilla ice cream. The above is only a half serving. This was a chocolate lover’s dream with the sweetness of the chocolate offset by a bit of bitterness. The vanilla bean ice cream was just as rich as the brownie itself. It was a nice cream that was more milky than sugary, as to not overwhelm the diner. Many come in just for this dessert.

 

We started with mushrooms, so it came full circle when we ended our feast with them. Here we rounded off our meal with some soothing mushroom tea. Offered up as a caffeine alternative using changa mushrooms that grow on birch trees. Apparently when you harvest them, they stiffens up, feeling as heavy as a rock. Many believe that the changa is the king of all mushrooms. Here it is brewed together with dandelion, chicory root, orange peel, and cinnamon. It smelled like apple cider with the use of cinnamon, but drank like black coffee in it herbal and dominating taste.

For those interested in tasting and learning more about wild foraged foods, I highly suggest stopping by any of the “Rocky Mountain” locations soon. This series of seasonal menu items does have a limited run.

 

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.
This was a fun way to learn about a new restaurant. A lecture with information that you can apply, with demos that you can sample. So impressed by their brand concept and restaurant culture that I made plans to revisit them again. Next time, bringing a large group of friends to attend one of their make your own pizza workshops. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ROCKY MOUNTAIN FLATBREAD
1876 W 1st Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6J 1G5
604-730-0321
rockymountainflatbread.ca
#WildGreensWednesday
Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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